I was talking with a good friend this morning when I realized how significant emojis had become in my texting life. This was especially true in my last relationship. I remember how once we’d begun the descent into separation and were treading on unsteady ground, I’d often make it mean something if he would put a purple heart at the end of his message and how my body would tense up when he didn’t.
It’s funny how much power a little symbol can have. Can you relate?
My friend mentioned how she has trained some of the men in her life to use emojis. Let’s face it, men can tend to be one-word wonders when it comes to communicating. The male species is wired for the ‘bottom line’ as it were and the ‘bottom line’ is generally pretty simple.
Emojis can be a great way to bridge the divide between men and women. For instance, when I receive a one-word message from a man without an emoji like a heart or some flowers in response to something I’ve said, I might have a hard time clearly understanding what he means. However, when he adds a heart-- especially that coveted purple heart,💜 and flowers, 💐 it softens the sparseness of the communication.
I have also experienced something I’d like to call an ‘emoji trauma.’ What do I mean by this? In a relationship I was in with a man, we used the tulip, yes the innocuous pink tulip as a signal that I should not respond when he texted me. Our arrangement was that he might write, “Thinking of you 🌷” and the power of the tulip emoji told me that this was a moment for a one-way communication; that I should not respond, even with an emoji like namaste hands, 🙏 or a rose🌹...
Ah, the power of the tulip 🌷.
The tulip created a boundary. We’d set up this structure so he would feel safe to reach out to me and know that he would not be obliged to engage deeply. I’d asked him for this; it was a kind of a bridge to let me know he was caring about me even though his capacity for connection was limited at the time.
It was a practical arrangement which worked for a while. Ultimately, it became painful for me and I realized that I actually wanted to be in a relationship with the kind of person who has the capacity to be present with me even if he’s not fully available, or if only for a moment with a word or a little emoji. This doesn’t seem like too much to ask and in this grand experiment called life, I’m learning as I go. We all are.
I am now reframing the sweet little tulip. Why we picked the tulip to symbolize this strong boundary rather than a skull and crossbones or something darker, I do not know.
I’ve started using the tulip again in a more friendly, casual way. It feels good to release the poor little tulip from her prison and to include her as a thing of beauty and joy once again.