I’m going to stop being so transactional. This means that I’m not going to be as pissy as usual when your comments don’t come as frequently as they used to.
Well. Hold on. Right now I spend half my time reading science journals and I can’t help pausing when I see a paper about social media (you’d be surprised how many people get tenure looking at Instagram nonstop to conclude we shouldn’t look at Instagram nonstop). I read a paper that says that you can tell how good an influencer is, not by how many followers they have, but by how many comments they have.
Melissa says I didn’t need to read a research paper to know that. She said anybody who uses social media knows that.
What the hell. I should be the queen of comments. I have the only remaining blog readers in the universe. WHERE ARE MY COMMENTS?
Wait. No. Fine. It doesn’t matter because I’m not thinking transactionally anymore. I’m thinking that friends are just friends because it’s nice to have friends. Or commenters.
In the writing group I run, I am usually busy being struck by the genius of my own feedback, but then Jaclyn joined and she kept having comments that were better than mine. Especially on topics of poetic line breaks and endings. So I did what all good workshop leaders do: I paid her to be my editor.
But then Tatiana told me that my blog posts didn’t have the same snappy endings they used to have. I was surprised she told me that. Only real friends tell friends their blog posts are failing, and I thought Tatiana was a transactional friend, because I charged her when she asked me to talk to her daughter. Fuck. I love her daughter. She uses they for everyone and dressed for Mardi Gras during all of March.
Tatiana said, “Where’s Melissa?”
Fuck. I look back and think things really started going downhill with Melissa when she wouldn’t let me pay her anymore. I started sending her gifts, but it became clear that I cared more about gift-wrapping than gift-giving.
You know how we have love languages for relationships? Well, I have a friendship language, and it’s money. If I can’t pay you then I can’t be your friend.
Tatiana is not the only person who asked about Melissa. Becca asked if Melissa is sick. I guess like, as in the bubonic plague, because Melissa hasn’t edited for a while.
Maybe I just wanted to have Jaclyn’s poetic rhythms in my life. Part of her pink-haired, soft-voiced quirkiness is that she always says, “What I really loved about this piece is…”
Melissa doesn’t tell me what she loves.
I sent her a post this morning and this is what she said: “You’re using your kids as a crutch. You’re not being vulnerable.”
I sent her another, and she said: “It’s not very relatable that you’re mad you can’t edit your own Wikipedia page. It sounds like a tantrum. And the more it sounds like a tantrum the more the reader thinks Wikipedia is just doing its job. If you want to rant about Wikipedia editors being all guys, then go write about ChatGPT instead.”
Melissa is talking about how she sent me a tweet about an experiment Daniel Munro did where he asked ChatGPT for a list of philosophers and ChatGPT sent a list of male philosophers. So the person asked why the list did not include women. ChatGPT apologized and sent a list of women philosophers. Then the person asked why there are only Western women on the list. ChatGPT added non-Westerners. Then the person went back to the original question, and ChatGPT learned nothing, and sent a list of Western men.
I want to hate ChatGPT, but I don’t. Because I am doing research at Harvard and I skipped a bunch of steps to get here, so I’m doing all sorts of things I’ve never done before, and ChatGPT has been my teacher.
For example, I asked ChatGPT how to write a grant proposal for research about autistic mothers. I took parts of the proposal I liked and asked more specific questions to fix the parts of the proposal I didn’t like. Then I put all those answers to specific questions together, and that’s how I learned to write a grant proposal.
I asked ChatGPT to write a letter to me, telling me I’m a great friend and I don’t need to pay people to be my friends. Just so I could see what it would sound like. It was a nice letter.
But the email I got from Melissa was much nicer. She said she doesn’t need me to do anything except write and send to her. She reminded me we’re both so happy when she is editing my blog.
I think I understand. Because I do not want anything from my kids except to let me be in their lives and love them. I think this might be what Melissa means. I think she might have been telling me this for a long time.
I don’t think I have felt this from someone as strongly, ever, as I have felt it from Melissa. My brothers love me, but they feel obligated to love me. That’s what family is. That, and the constant nagging fear that one day they’ll find me living in a dumpster.
The thing is, I don’t know if I could stand the pain of feeling this kind of love from Melissa if I didn’t need her to edit my blog posts.
I just checked to see if ChatGPT has anything to say about love and of course it told me to go find someone real to love, which made me love ChatGPT even more, because I want to be friends with someone who will never love me back. And I hate myself for that.
I am so grateful that Jaclyn gives her heart to critiques in the writing workshop, even though no one is paying her. And I’m so grateful that Tatiana cares so much about my blog posts, even though I just remembered I also made her pay me to talk to her. And I’m so grateful Melissa threw out the blog post where I scream about not being able to write my own Wikipedia page.
Because also, there’s someone on Wikipedia who has gone to bat for me. Over and over again, for the last decade.
It’s Agent 86. I don’t know who this person is, but I spend a lot of time on the Talk page since I got banned from the real page. So I see all the times Agent 86 used their authority to prevent people from deleting my page. If I could have paid Agent 86, believe me, I would have. But I didn’t. They are just a person doing what feels right.
I think that’s what I am seeing now about friendship. Money is what we add when the experience of things just feeling right is not quite enough.