Saturday, June 27, 2009

Figuring out the hidden subtext

I've been having this ongoing sidebar conversation with my new not-yet-but-soon-to-be girlfriend, who spends two hours a day (on average) chatting with me by IM (mostly) or phone. She insists we're not in a relationship and never will be -- which is already ludicrous, because first of all, you don't spend two hours a day talking to the same guy (and signing off your IM chats with hugs and kisses: xoxoxox) unless there's something more than friendship going on, and second of all you don't spend all night in bed hugging someone (although there was no sex) without at least something going on. But she is adamant that we certainly are not in a relationship. I know she's wrong, however, based on some interesting word choices she has made in chats.

She has consistently said (rarely, but consistently) that she is "afraid" of me. This is a surprising statement coming from a hard-driving, successful, aggressive professional woman (age 30) -- a superstar in the professional services arm of the software giant she works for -- who is almost never afraid of anything. I can't even imagine her being afraid of any human being in the world. It's ludicrous. Why would she say she's afraid of me? I'm the most non-threatening geek ever.

The short answer is, she has nothing to fear from me except involvement (in a serious relationship). That's absolutely the only thing she fears.

Something else she likes to say a lot is that "We're doomed." Now bear in mind, this is a lady who has consistently told me she does not need me, although she likes me. We've never even come close to making a commitment (of any kind) to each other, and she won't admit that we're more than just friends. I said to her once, when we were kissing (with her tongue down my throat), "Let's be a couple." She immediately drew back. "No," she said. "Let's not."

So why would she say "We're doomed"? What's doomed? Our non-relationship? The relationship that (according to her) we don't have is doomed?

Consider two people who really, really like each other's (online) company and like to chat at all hours. Maybe that's the essence of the relationship and it's just a friendship. According to my lady-friend, that's exactly what we have. Well, do you refer (in future tense) to that kind of friendship as "doomed"? Because of what, exactly? Doomed how? Why?

The only thing that can be doomed is the love affair that she is pretending won't' develop between us. She is scared spitless of that -- of falling in love, losing control. She is afraid of becoming emotionally invested in a relationship. For one reason or another, she imagines that it might fail and she'll get hurt. Therefore "we're doomed."

These word choices, "afraid" and "doomed", are very telling. They're orthogonal (semantically) to ordinary notions of friendship. They only make sense in a context of commitment and emotional investment. The fact that she chose those words means she has strong feelings, positive feelings, about us -- and she's afraid of what that may mean. She knows she could be falling in love. She knows this is about more than casual conversations and online chats. This is real. It's a real relationship forming.

So I guess the point is, consider the subtext. Don't ever expect a woman to say what she means and only what she means, because there's always a deeper meaning underneath the surface meaning of the words. The choice of words can tell you a lot about motivations and inner conflict. My girl is conflicted. But clearly it's for good reasons. She knows what she's afraid to say out loud: I might be The One.

1 comment: