Posted by: itneverrainsinseattle | February 9, 2010

Talk to Me

A friend recently sent me an e-mail and closed with the words, “I’m your huckleberry.” And I knew that I had here someone who speaks my language. Which is awesome.

Two of my Long Term Relationships were with women who had studied Russian language — one of whom I met because we were both in a Russian lit class together, the other of whom started studying Russian because I studied it (how cool is that?) — which gave us a common, secret language.

Oh sure, Russian is not a “secret” language, per se… except, how many people do you know who speak Russian? We could exchange quick questions or comments without anyone else (for the most part) being able to decipher exactly what was going on. Very handy at get-togethers or negotiations or the like. (Remember the movie Die Hard? “Schieß auf das fenster!” And yes, I studied German, too, so it was cool for me to intercept that little message before it was explained in English. It felt like I was an “insider.”) It wasn’t something we did often, really. In fact, it was rather rare. But it was there. It was a large piece of land in our common ground.

Penny does not speak Russian. For a while, I thought it was a shame that we didn’t share that kind of secret language that I’ve shared with past paramours… but it has since occurred to me that we do share a secret language. It’s the language that comes from similar cultural references — being the same age, growing up in the same part of the country, going to the same university, participating in the same extra-curriculars, and other common experiences.  It’s knowing what “Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra” means.

All lasting relationships must, by nature, be built upon some common ground. But the best of them, it seems to me, share a secret language. Stephen King explores this idea somewhat in his novel, Lisey’s Story. It’s the little phrases that contain a thousand words-worth of meaning. The little gestures that may have no significance to anyone else, but touch the heart of your beloved.

My aforementioned Long Term Relationship with Natalie began to fall apart when certain subjects became verboten. What good is sharing a secret language when you’ve agreed not to speak? Fellow blogger Jolene talks about how her husband neglected to share with her his own secret language… effectively keeping it a secret from her, instead of with her.

And part of the writing on the wall with my soon-to-be-Ex-wife came in the form of her deciding not to continue building our common, secret language. By deciding not to go to movies with me, or go to concerts, or read the same books, or continue building any new common experiences beyond the mundane. Languages are constantly refreshed, or they become irrelevant and whither. So, too, relationships.

I’ve begun connecting with new friends as a result of this blog, and I find it interesting that many of these new connections are born of sharing a language beyond the mundane. Be it the “nerdspeak” I share with a few of you, or the movie/literary references with another, or the parlance of writingdom or kickboxing or parenthood or academia with still others… and the common, secret language of profound heartbreak (and determination!) with most.

I look forward, in future romantic relationships, to allowing a new secret language to grow. Maybe it will include dance, or rock climbing, or photography, or travel. A new way of kissing, or new way to say, “Yes!” Maybe we’ll learn sign language even as we learn to read each others mood.

When I realized that I was giving up on my relationship with Penny, I thought of it in these terms: I can no longer try to hold up both ends of the conversation. It’s a metaphor, but it works. Relationships — romantic or otherwise — are a conversation. But as my conversation with Penny is playing itself out… there are still new conversations to enjoy.

Here’s to new conversations, with new friends and lovers, in languages that haven’t even been invented yet….



  1. Count me in. I like secret conversations. As long as I can have them in my bathrobe. 😉

    And on a more serious note, I know what you mean. Sam was really good at us having our own secret language, our secret conversations, at us tuning out the rest of the world and it just being us even in a room full of people. The problem was that he didn’t want the whole package, only me, and even then only once in a while. Still, it’s missed.

    Not sure if I will get to that place with the new guy. We have enough trouble with the togetherness…but still I hope.

    So glad I have you!

    PS. I only eat cook chocolate pudding. Maybe I should bring it?

  2. I love this. It really sums up what I loved about the first guy I ever fell in love with – I just felt that he spoke my language. More recently, I felt that way with the Toyboy, and it’s made me re-evaluate my expectations. If there are more guys out there like this than just the one… well, then that’s what I want.

  3. I have had 4 notable exes, of which 3 are relevant to this discussion. My high school boyfriend (who I reconnected with and disconnected from more recently) said something pretty profound to me once. He said, “sex and communication are the same; when one goes, so does the other”. Sounds like Penny killed.

    My X of 7 years in Tibet used to kick ass at word association board games like Taboo as a result of spending that many years together. Enough that our friends wouldn’t let us be on the same team anymore!

    And Grey (if you have read back that far), well we had ridiculous sex but I could *never* talk to that guy about anything without him judging, criticizing, biting my head off and that made left me so conflicted inside. I’m glad that’s over!

  4. *Sounds like Penny killed both.

  5. Awesome, insightful post. It makes me smile as I begin to think of all the little phrases in the secret language D and I share. Honestly, that’s one of the things that I mourned the most when my first marriage ended. But it’s so rewarding to find someone else to share a code with.

  6. “Darmok” is over-rated, and it reminds me of the Gorn episode of ST:TOS. “The Inner Light” and “Yesterday’s Enterprise” are the best episodes, IMHO — I’ve probably seen those 6 times each. My son and I have been (re-)watching ST:TNG lately, though I skip the crap episodes (which is most of the first, second, and seventh seasons).

    At my work, there’s occassional ST:TNG phrases flung about since it’s a shared history. I often use “You’re smart; make us go” when requesting help. Someone also said “Darmok when the walls came down” the other day, but I forget the context. “Captain, I sense that he’s XXX” for something completely obvious.

    • I mentioned elsewhere my recent ex was fluent in my mother tongue, and we teased each other. It became a ritual when making up or making a rough patch light-hearted!

      My Exxxx met me in Madrid more than two years after our break up. She was fluent in Spanish by then. I never got used to her speaking to me in nothing but English…it just did not click!

      On to my Nerd side :

      …I immediately new it was a Start Trek you Referenced!

      One of my favorites, I think is the episode with the “Nanites”. The Nanites the ones that used the term “ugly bags of mostly water” to refer to humans. 😉

      “Because the human body is made up of 90% (or more) water” According to Data’s explanation to captain Picard!

      Most recently BSG (Battle Star Galactica) pulled the best stun ever in Sci-fi , not by coming up with an entire alien language, but rather an entirely new three letter word that can go uncensored on TV, therefore allow their characters to swear on prime time TV!

      isn’t that “fraking” hilarious?


      The Prequel to BSG, Caprica (the home world) started this spring ’10 ! It takes place 50 years before the cylon attack wipes out the 12 human Colonies.

      [Only 50,000 humans survive who then journey trough space led by BSG to find the lost 13th Colony (Earth) as told in BSG episodes]

      I Love Sci-fi. If you haven’t catch District Nine, a South African Film you should. It is a critique some say, of the Apartheid System of that nations recent past; and or the Nazi’s in WWII. Check out the Alien language…ever saw the movie “The God’s must be crazy?” (Also South African I believe)…get ready.

  7. Great post – and thanks for the shout-out. Ironically, I felt as though Pete and I DID have sort of a secret language – phrases that only we knew what they meant, funny jokes that were only shared between us, but I suppose it’s not that ironic, either, because best friends also tend to share “secret languages” and that’s what we were – and are – friends, not truly husband/wife, in the common sense of the phrase, or the way a husband and wife should interrelate and act…anyway, good read, and so true, I hope to find someone I share a secret language with too 🙂

  8. Great post and an excellent lesson for all of us who have ex’s and stbx’s (soon-to-be-ex’s) and even for those who have never been married. Communication and shared experiences (both positive and negative) form the bonds that keep a relationship growing and changing.

  9. Taed – when I was a kid and my brother wanted me to shut up/stop bugging him/stop doing anything, I always got a “Thank you, Commander!”. I unfortunately told my boyfriend about that and now I get it from him too…

    That same brother also asked my beau that if it comes to this, he prefers if a ring comes along with a simple.. “ENGAGE!” Now THAT’S dork love. 😉

  10. It’s funny that Ms. Behavior mentions the game Taboo… I played with friends over the summer and the girls were all shocked and disappointed (we were on the opposing team) at these two brothers who could say one completely unrelated word and get the Taboo word. They could say things like “summer” and get that the Taboo word was “spagetti”. Obviously they have a pretty deep “secret language”.

    I like to think us girls can communicate with each other via facial expressions and eye contact- especially when there are men in the room. I can look at my friend T and say “Oh no he DIDN’T!” without saying a word.

  11. this is so true…there is definitely a secret language that is shared among two people in a committed relationship, even if that secret language isn’t verbal. it’s still there…

  12. What kills me is that our language changes over time. To remain connected, you have to keep changing your language in the same content that your partner does. Is this possible for most humans?

  13. I completely want to hug you for this post. So sweet and so true.

  14. […] Because, the next chapter does, in fact, begin with yours truly starting a conversation with a beautiful young woman who is smart and sexy, and who speaks my language. […]

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