A few days ago, a post calling for scripts for queerplatonic/aromantic relationships popped up on Tumblr and into my feeds. The first time I saw it, my visceral, immediate reaction was to be uncomfortable and unhappy with it. I didn’t particularly want to rain on anyone’s parade, so I ignored it.
The second time I saw it, I passed it around to my partners and see what they thought, and I got unhappy responses from them, too. So I started trying to pin down why.
The thing is, this bothers me because it’s trying to get around actually communicating with your friend or your partner*. It’s trying to use actions to imply your feelings without putting them into words, and in trying to set up widely accepted scripts it’s trying to achieve a context in which your partner will know what you want without having to ask for it.
And I get why. Words are scary! Having a conversation that outlines where things are going is scary! It seems like it would be great if we didn’t have to talk about our emotions all the time, if we could just act in a prescribed set of ways and “know” that the person we’re trying to communicate with would get it without us having to say a word. Because the thing is, when you put your feelings into words and get them explicitly out there, you run the risk of rejection or of the other person not feeling the same way.
But the other problem is that scripts fail all the time, and they fail BECAUSE nonverbal communication is always going to be more ambiguous than verbal communication. For one thing, it’s really vulnerable to wishful thinking, where you read things that aren’t really there into someone’s actions because you want them to be there. You’re not directly asking for what you want, so if the other person really isn’t interested, they’re more likely to misinterpret what you’re doing because they’re not paying attention, and they’re not giving your actions nearly as much emotional significance as you are.
If they do notice what you’re doing and correctly figure out what you want, and they’re still not interested, that puts them in a hell of a bind–they have to deal with the awkward situation of you saying over and over again “I’d like to be in a Relationship with you!” without being able to stop it. Think about it–if they say “I’m so sorry but I’m not interested” when you haven’t actually declared an interest, they look kind of crazy, right? Which is what is so attractive about relying on scripts without verbalizing what you want, after all–you’re trying to avoid rejection, and this lets you do that. But it’s really fucking unkind and awful to the object of your affections to do that, because it puts them into a really nasty situation. You don’t want to be that kind of an asshole, do you? No? Then use your words about what you want and get the emotion out in the air, so you can both decide what’s best for each of you.
The other reason that the post makes me uncomfortable is that I don’t want scripts to tell my partners how much they mean to me with actions. I can do that perfectly well already, because I know what they like and what makes them happy, and that is specific to each of them. One of my partners would really love it if I took them hiking or if I came home with an awesome new dog toy to show off and mess with. The other one loves science fiction shows and knitting really complicated patterns, so I might buy her a cool Ravelry pattern or sit down for a Babylon 5 marathon with her.
Having scripts would make no sense because if I had to show my affection within a prescribed set of actions and gifts, I wouldn’t be able to modify them to the specific people I’m trying to be affectionate to in the first place! And in fact this is true of all relationships, romantic or not–gifts that acknowledge the interests and desires of the person receiving the gift are much more romantic than ones that don’t understand a partner’s tastes, for example. Removing specificity from the system seems like a bad way to show my partners that I care.
And finally, this bothers me because hell, I’m uncomfortable with the entire society-mandated cultural complex surrounding romance. The whole reason I don’t identify as romantic, full stop, is that the process by which I attach to someone is slow and a bit complicated and a little different, not that I think attachment and affection really differ between established romantic relationships and mine. One of the thing I love about my relationships is that they’ve progressed in a manner that lets both me and my partners check in with our own comfort levels and modify things to suit us, without having to worry whether this is working according to the “rules.” There are no rules or pressures except what makes all of us happy, and that’s awesome! So given all that, given that the lack of “rules” is what I really love about this and what has made it work for me…
….why in the hell would I want to introduce a new set of scripts to either align to or move in opposition to in the first place?
*I’m here using “partner” as a shorthand for “friend” or “person I would like to be my partner” because those are long and unwieldy, but I mean all of them. You can also read “in a relationship” as “closer friends” if you like.