Posted by: jamesotis | September 4, 2008

The I-Liff (or, what most couples need)

For the locals, no, not the Avenue. The Meaning of Liff and The Deeper Meaning of Liff, by John Lloyd and the late, great Douglas Adams, were books with a purpose: To expand the English vocabulary to include those experiences which hitherto had no word to describe them. Thus, to quote Adams:

“So, the vaguely uncomfortable feeling you got from sitting on a seat which is warm from somebody else’s bottom is just as real as the one you get when a rogue giant elephant charges out of the bush at you, but hitherto only the latter actually has a word for it. Now they both have words. The first one is ‘shoeburyness,’ and the second, of course, is ‘fear.'”

Liff it’s self is defined as: LIFF (n.)
A book, the contents of which are totally belied by its cover. For instance, any book the dust jacket of which bears the words. ‘This book will change your life’.


Loir, my girlfriend, and I share a problem common to humanity: The average woman is comfortable talking about her feelings and is very much aware of them, while the average male falls distinctly short on both accounts. Granted she will go so far as to cover my mouth whenever I, in her own words, “start to intelectualize”, i.e. to make observations, hypotheses and chase tangential mental rabbits regarding a given subject. By no small irony, she has a Master’s Degree and I an ecclectic collection of technical and trade certifications. Further so, her chosen field is counseling and psychotherapy. Fo gigure.

I have a distinct advantage in my knowledge of the human body, it’s function and use. Loir has little idea that many of her and my own bits exist, let alone their names and significance. I am very body-aware, she might miss sitting on the remote until the cable channel changes it’s self without warning. And the same exact words apply to my knowledge of emotion: If it’s obvious and on-my-sleeve I may know it’s name, properties and significance, but otherwise I’m clueless.

So enter the I-Liff. Combine the I-Ching with the Meaning of Liff and suddenly *gasp* what all straight, and several gay, couples I know need: a resource for teaching males words for their emotions, desires, “feelings” and other typically non-physical signs and symptoms. Give the various experiences names, describe and if need be (please) model what it’s like and give examples of the little beasties native habitat.

No more the twee words common only in our childhood homes or circle of friends. (We all have ’em. My family has called zuchinnis “ken-zukis” and strawberries “bajous” for as long as I can remember.) No more feeling helpless, confused and somewhat ill-at-ease as one’s partner seems to know what one is feeling or indeed that one is emoting at all before self awareness kicks in. No toughy *ahem* touchy-feely classes on how to use what one doesn’t understand (bad flashbacks to Mom trying to teach me to drive stickshift). Just a basic map with an appropriate legend. Before learning how to appropriately handle our emotions we need to learn what they are called and how they, and we, behave.


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