Nonsexual Nonromantic Relationships, Pt. 3

In part one, I talked about why we should be talking about the subject of nonsexual nonromantic relationships.  In part two, I talked about my friend the copilot and what our relationship has been like in the abstract.  In this post, I’m going to continue on that subject while trying to ground the discussion in more of the day-to-day specifics, which may lead to this post being either more illustrative or more boring.  But, here it is, for what it’s worth.

Back when the two of us lived on campus, we did a lot of things together, like going university cafeteria together and netflixing episodes of Avatar: the Last Airbender together and making each other read/listen to things, from various blogposts to excerpts from our assigned readings.  I made her sit beside me for reassurance as I played Amnesia and let her play Civ III on my laptop a few times.  My car was in better shape than hers, so I usually drove whenever we wanted to go somewhere together (at least when it came to short trips, like to Walgreens), and she would ride shotgun — hence why I’ve dubbed her the copilot.  The trips to Walgreens were a common thing, and I vaguely remember her joking about “friends with benefits” when she let me use her Walgreens rewards points.

Also she’s the chief reason I ever stepped out of my dorm room to do anything ever.

She’s the energetic social one with ideas and initiative and enthusiasm to get things going; I like to plan things out and see them through once someone else has gotten the ball rolling.  We’re weirdly compatible that way.  Not all the ways, but a lot of ways.

When we walk beside each other, the copilot apparently has a smaller personal space bubble than I do, which I generally don’t notice until I realize I’m compensating by moving away and she keeps drifting toward me until I’m driven off the sidewalk.  Besides the fact that I find it kind of funny, I mention this both because it was a recurring problem and because, as relationship problems go, this one was pretty harmless and easily dealt with.  It’s important to take big problems in a relationship seriously, but it’s also worthwhile to recognize when problems aren’t big ones for you, and to know how to handle them accordingly (– in this case, it’s just a matter of me saying “Hey!” and making us both move over).

Back at the dorm, she had this corkboard that she had extra space on, and so one day when I was ticked off (in general, not at her), I scribbled an angry vent note and pinned it on the board.  And then I started doing that whenever I had a complaint and she wasn’t around for me to complain to, and she added some of her own as well, and we started calling it the complaint board.  Highly recommended, if you get anything out of that.

We talked about our schoolwork a lot, of course.  In one of my classes, I had to read an essay that included an excerpt of stunningly bad writing, the kind you can’t get through while keeping a straight face, and after sharing it with her the first time, I used to threaten to bring it out again whenever I didn’t like what she was doing, prompting her to bury her face in her pillow and start wailing about how bad it is.

We’re both big nerds, as mentioned, but I’m the slightly mathier one, being an economics minor, which is what led to us once doing a cost-benefit analysis to figure out whether or not she should quit her job.

I know I already talked about how different we are, but, some more little stories:

One time the copilot mentioned her Myers-Briggs personality type to someone (ENFP) while I was around, and I remarked, “Wow, I’m the complete opposite of that,” so she turned and looked at me, surprised, and said something like, “What, you’re ISTJ?  Noooo, you– …You are.  You totally are.”

This was not the only incident of its sort.  I still gleefully remember when she was talking about star signs — the copilot is much more into astrology than I am — and as she was talking to someone else, she got on this tangent complaining about how she, a Cancer, sometimes gets mistaken for a Virgo.  She was very insulted by this.  “Virgos are so boring.  I could never be friends with a Virgo.”  And she went on like that for a while, with me grinning at her like the Cheshire cat, until I had to butt in with “What do you think I am?”

Her expression soured with belated realization, and there was only a short pause before she asked, in an almost disappointed tone of voice, “You’re a Virgo, aren’t you?”

Apparently her rule against being friends with Virgos does have its exceptions.

Most people, though, never get past the general stick-in-the-mud impression.  One day, after realizing how many people she interacts with have some severe misconceptions about me, she looked at me with a startled look of realization on her face and told me, “You know, you’re very misunderstood,” and I could only laugh because, yes, I know.  In the same way that she was a source of rare empathy for me, I was a source of rare stability for her, of a kind she still doesn’t have much of in her life.  We balance each other and are a place of rest for each other.

Still, I want to avoid talking too generally here, since this is probably an area where showing is more useful than telling.  I mean, I could tell you the copilot is a “carefree spirit” and other vague characterization terms like that, or I could tell you that she walked around her room in her underwear frequently enough that after a while I stopped being shocked by it.  I could tell you we cared about each other through thick and thin or I could tell you about me crying on her shoulder so hard that I left a bunch of snot on her sleeve, which I apologized for, and she told me almost smiling, “It’s okay.  I cried on you back when we barely knew each other.”  I could tell you about us having deep intellectual discussions about relationship norms and hierarchies but I should also tell you that I remember us wondering aloud what the phrase “serious relationship” meant, and what made a relationship “serious”, and then one of us asking “Is our relationship ‘serious’?” and then us snickering to each other about it because, in a way, yes, it was, but also, we weren’t taking this distinction very seriously at all.

For a time, we used to go on walks together, sometimes through one of the city’s graveyards that was close to campus.  That was where I first told her I was thinking about identifying as ace. That was… over a year ago now?  Gosh.

Neither of us lives on campus anymore, sometimes she’s not even in the same city as me, and we don’t see each other as much.  Last schoolyear she did come to visit me a few times though — and that’s the kind of occasion when you drop everything and make time to go out, because the copilot’s in town.

Most recently, she came over to my place and told me about the good and the bad of the kink event she’d attended.  She’d brought some rope with her, too, purchased at the event, and she showed me how to do some simple knots, leading to us tying up each other’s arms while lounging around the living room.  Not the most traditional friendship activity, I guess.

I remember when we used to have each other read/proofread each other’s writing and stay up talking to each other and go to late weekend breakfast with each other, and I value that in a friendship, but mostly what I value in my relationship with the copilot is the absence of what I have to deal with from most other people and the presence of confidence that we’re both on the same page in our understandings of how oppressions and cultures and economies work.  I like being able to trust that someone either already understands my reasoning or is willing to hear me out.  To me, that’s more important than being friends with someone who’s fun or has a good sense of humor.

Lucky for me, though, she just so happens to be those things too.

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8 responses to “Nonsexual Nonromantic Relationships, Pt. 3

  • Breakingthewordcage

    The Complaints Board idea is fantastically wonderful.

  • keithernet

    Your readers knew when you started your 3-part story that you weren’t sure where you were going with it. This was a genuinely warm and touching
    story of friendship and trust in a relationship. Thank you for sharing your story and thoughts! (It’s always kind of courageous to put one’s life out for the public to see, imo!)

  • luvtheheaven

    You mentioning the personality types thing inspired me to finally bother to look up my own. I’m almost a tie between your type, ISTJ (I’m a 73% match to it), and the one I’m actually closest to – I’m a 76% match to ISFJ. ;) In case you were interested. Lol. I think it’s cool that you and I are pretty similar in that respect, not that I’m surprised, given how much your blog posts always resonate with me.

    Your friendship here with your “the co-pilot”, all 3 posts… well I agree with keithernet. This was very nice to read about. I’m jealous of what you have, honestly. ;) And thank you for sharing it! I appreciate it.

  • autophage

    It’s really tempting to say, my friendship with my copilot started with… But that’s not the point of this, is it?

    After about a year knowing each other, my copilot told me a secret of hers, and I found it hard to cope with. It conflicted severely with my worldview, made me uncomfortable to look at her. I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t talk about it with anyone else because I was unwilling to share what had been told to me in confidence. I took a week to think about it and in the end, I realised that I valued our friendship more than I cared about what she’d told me. We exchanged some emails, worked it out. In the end, the whole affair made our relationship stronger.

    She’s the only person I’m comfortable telling, ‘love you.’ She says the same to me, and we both know exactly what the other means. We can snuggle on the couch. She falls asleep on me. We have pet names for each other. I’m not sure, but I think these things aren’t considered part of the standard ‘friends’ model.

    Sometimes, when we’re talking, we’ll come to the exact same conclusion or say the exact same thing at the same time. She laughs and calls us ‘brain-twins’ and I really can’t disagree. When my brother was sent away to a camp for troubled boys, she’s the one I cried all over.

    We write together. I liked writing before I met her but it’s different now because she wants to read what I write. When she shows me part of her writing I feel so happy inside because she trusts me with that bit of herself. I write things for her. She says I make her happy too. We improve each other.

    The funny thing is that we’re quite different. I’m ace and she’s pan. I come from a Christian background and she’s sort of Wiccan. She likes to touch people and I’m touch-averse. She talks a lot and I talk hardly at all. But when we’re around each other, all these things even out and we’re a we, not singular anymore.

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