So I ran into a little problem with ming the other day.
Not the very tall retired basketball player Yao Ming. I mean the other kind of ming, names.
I have this very dear friend, William. We're very close. He's visited my home, hung out with my wife and ageplaying poly family.
This past year or so has been a turbulent time for him, too. He's been going through some big things in his life, both good and bad. I've been super happy to be there for him, as a confidant, sounding board, advisor, and witness to joy.
I'm not the only one, too. My girlfriend Squee has been there for him too, as has our friend Matti. We have this little private Skype chat going on where we talk all the time. I jokingly (and not so jokingly) named it the Team William Pit Crew. (And then subsequently renamed it to the Team William and Matti Pit Crew - because that's how we roll. Sound of revving engines.)
Anyhow, this has meant a lot to William. He said as much the other day when he said this to all of us in the pit crew:
Can I add you guys as brothers or sisters or something in Fetlife? I feel connected and proud to have you as part of my life :-)
And that was sweet, and good and kind of a red-alert problem for me. Why?
I'm funny about names and labels and such. Funny in a bunch of different directions. First, there's my basic philosophical disconnect with them. There's this Japanese saying I'm very fond of quoting, "The finger that points at the moon is not the moon." Spacey often says this in a less ineffable way, "A label is just a placeholder for a conversation." The name of something is not the thing itself.
I said as much to William yesterday, on the phone. Take the word "water".
"Water" isn't water. It's just sounds. The way water feels splashing on your face, the way it smells when you walk next to it, the sound of it rushing over rocks, or its taste when you swallow it as you swim in it, those are all more "water" than "water" is. The word is not the thing itself.
Second, "brother" is for me, a reserved word of sorts. I've got one brother. You know him - we do that podcast together. For me "Brother" is as much a name I hold for him as a title, or a descriptor. It's kind of a big deal for me, because although I don't throw this around a lot, he is a polyamorous partner of mine, and my relationship with him is one of the most special things in my entire life. I've only got the one, and he's the only one I want.
But I was touched that William felt that way. And I do feel similarly. Over the time I've known him we've become like family. Which I suggested as a label to him. We've done one another many kindnesses, and are always happy to see and talk to one another, to spend time. I've got this amazing present he gave me in my office here at home, it's literally a giant box of spoons, for when I'm out of them. I'm very grateful for him, and happy for the world to know it. He feels much the same.
Skype was being very funny to us the past few days and kind of eating up the instant messages between us. He got around it by giving me a call yesterday, and we spent a good long time on the phone talking about this. He was understanding, and we dug into philosophy, connection, care, validation, and how the world sees us. We had a great conversation, and I told him it would be my gratitude if he didn't mind.
Which he didn't.
Family is like that.