Not my role

December 23, 2018

I can't be a teacher to her; that's not my role, I'm her father.

That was my Chinese teacher Dennis's response when one of us asked whether he'd taught his daugher Chinese. He's a great teacher, so when we learned she didn't grow up speaking Mandarin, it was only natural we'd be curious. Especially because she's about our age, though we'd never met her 😊

Dennis's response didn't make sense at first but now it does. I used to think it would be great to work with my wife, or start a business with friends. But these days, especially because I now believe most companies need a single CEO whose decisions are final, and because the last thing I want to do when I come home is fight about business with the person I love most—I don't want those things. They should be separate, like meat and dairy. Come to think of it, that's not all the Jews got right—money is indeed dirty—something you wash your hands after handling and wipe on the doormat, not bring into the house.

And yet, this idea of role confusion comes up all the time. I watched Always be my Maybe last night, and a central plot point in that movie was the confusion between a business associate, and a marital partner. Marriages should never be foremost about money and fame. Dennis probably finds that obvious.

How I see it:

  • Friends are people you spend time with because you like. The best friendships are based on equality, trust, and sharing. Families are similar; little socialist units based on sharing and equality.
  • Business associates band together for profit and (hopefully) mutual advantage. I don't haggle with my family over who's taking what percent of the restaurant bill, but then, I don't transact tens of thousands of dollars with them, or play office politics, either.
  • Marriages are based on intimacy, support, and partnership. Maybe a little bit of competition, and a little bit of "business", but never as the main thing.
  • Expert/beginner is another: doctor/patient, teacher/student, trainer/client. Caroline often says going to IKEA is the ultimate test of a marriage; maybe that's because nobody's sure who's the expert and who's the beginner?

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