Imaginary Friends
December 15, 2003 5:34 PM   Subscribe

Do any of you -- as adults -- have imaginary friends? [more inside.]

I'm not sure I should admit this, but I've had them all my life. Now these aren't the kind of imaginary friends that I believe are real. I know they are imaginary. Usually, these creations have been shared between me and a close friends. We talk in their voices, make up stories about them, etc.

My closest friend for many years now is my wife, and we have a whole pantheon of imaginary friends. Some of them have been "alive" for so long now that they seem like real people. We are very emotionally invested in them, and when we talk to each other on the phone, we often ask to speak to the characters too.

As I'm nearing 40, I doubt this trend will ever end. I'm not worried about it or anything. It's harmless, really fun, and it brings us closer together. It gives us a mythology that's shared by us alone (which is why I won't go into any details about the imaginary friends, except to say that one is a dinosaur that lives in our bed).

But I am curious as to whether other adults do this too. The only other case I know of was recently exposed on an episode of This American Life about two grownup sisters who have an imaginary duck called Duki.

http://www.thislife.org/pages/archives/archive03.html(search on the page for Duki)
posted by grumblebee to Human Relations (20 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
don't worry -- all religious people do
posted by matteo at 5:38 PM on December 15, 2003


matteo -- so do all people who participate in the MeFi "community"....there's an awful lot of faith involved in participating in these conversations. For all we know, all these screen names could be aliases for a 30-year-old fat guy living in his basement.

Anyway, back in my more random Discordian days, I was a strong advocate of the civil rights of imaginary people. Why shouldn't someone be granted a social security number, be allowed to vote, or be able to obtain citizenship of a country merely because they don't exist?
posted by oissubke at 5:46 PM on December 15, 2003


I know you were joking, matteo, but presumbly religious people BELIEVE that their imaginary friends are real, which is different from what I'm talking about. Which is more akin to acting or improv.
posted by grumblebee at 5:47 PM on December 15, 2003


I think it's fun--maybe i need one?
posted by amberglow at 6:09 PM on December 15, 2003


A pair of characters in Douglas Coupland's latest novel share this same kind of personal mythology.
posted by GeekAnimator at 6:10 PM on December 15, 2003


We're living here in a constelation of digital ghosts. What is an imaginary friend in this context? I'm not snarking on the question, I think it's a good one. I want to know how many people living in the US today don't live 90% of their lives in their heads. Imaginary friends seems kind of Brady Bunch compared to society-level imaginariums like the current US.
posted by squirrel at 6:10 PM on December 15, 2003


If you're talking about characters, I think I know what you mean. With my friends and especially with my partner, there are characters we become. And you're right, it's mostly just a fun thing, but I think important bonding goes on. You're both agreeing to make your shared reality superior to all others, if even for a moment. The comment I made above was more about imaginary friends as a symptom of isolation, not as bonding.

I'm going back to the sandwiches thread now.
posted by squirrel at 6:19 PM on December 15, 2003


Hey grumblebee. Check out Douglas Coupland's newest novel, Hey Nostradamus!. Although ostensibly 'about' school shootings, it's not, really. It's also not his best work. But regardless, what's important is that two of the most sympathetic characters in the novel (husband and wife) have a set of imaginary friends very much like the ones you describe. Coupland paints it as something lovely, natural, and not-at-all twisted.

He's a fantastic writer - if you like Hey Nostradamus, do read his best books - Generation X, Girlfriend in a Coma, and Microserfs.
posted by Marquis at 6:55 PM on December 15, 2003


Thanks, I've been meaning to check out his work for some time now.
posted by grumblebee at 7:10 PM on December 15, 2003


Seems perfectly normal to me. Everyone creates their own world, and intimacy is about sharing that world with someone else.

For the socially acceptable version of talking to imaginary friends, you can watch people have conversations with their pets.
posted by fuzz at 7:25 PM on December 15, 2003


/me will have to check out Coupland's work as well as he recognizes Girlfriend in a Coma as a Smiths song (but they probably stole the phrase from him?)
posted by thebabelfish at 7:35 PM on December 15, 2003


Other way around, thebabelfish, but it's more of a tribute. Smiths references abound in GiaC.
posted by Vidiot at 10:32 PM on December 15, 2003


"I know you were joking, matteo"

no I wasn't. religion is a perfect example. imaginary friends can really comfort somebody --whether they "live" on earth or in the sky.
same goes for angels
posted by matteo at 1:18 AM on December 16, 2003


For all we know, all these screen names could be aliases for a 30-year-old fat guy living in his basement.

As opposed to 17,000 30-year old fat guys? Because...
posted by biffa at 2:05 AM on December 16, 2003


I'm not thirty, I'm not a man, and if you just called me FAT then you made a very big mistake, BUDDY.

Also... "one is a dinosaur that lives in our bed"
Rrroowr..
posted by degnarra at 3:56 AM on December 16, 2003


As opposed to 17,000 30-year old fat guys? Because...

...the fat guy's getting carpal-tunnel syndrome from all that typing?

Yes, I'm lowering the tone. Neither the place nor the time. Forum for helping people with genuine questions, I know, I know.
posted by backOfYourMind at 5:05 AM on December 16, 2003


Sometimes I think all my friends have been imaginary. -- Calvin & Hobbes
posted by furiousthought at 7:25 AM on December 16, 2003


I'm not thirty, I'm not a man, and if you just called me FAT then you made a very big mistake, BUDDY.

Of course, some are more committed to staying in character than others.
posted by biffa at 7:44 AM on December 16, 2003


I had imaginary friends until sometime during college. Their identity would shift every once in a while, but it was always someone with which I could hold a mental conversation about my day. I'm not sure why it changed, but these days, I constantly tell myself little mental stories, instead. Sometimes they involve original characters, other times it's characters from books/movies/whatever. I don't share them with anyone, per se, but I have been occasionally surprised to find that some of my close friends apparently have very similar stories going on.

And I talk constantly to my cats, in both languages that I speak. They seem to take it in stride, being naturally superior creatures.
posted by vorfeed at 1:36 PM on December 16, 2003


Yeah, I have a sort of imaginary friend/alter-ego/fictional character who I'm quite fond of. She evolved out of an old online nickname from about 10 years ago, and I've written stories as well as given readings/performances with her narrative voice. One of the things I miss about my ex is that he adored my alter-ego so much that he created one of his own. -- they (the alter-egos/imaginary friends) used to send each other postcards (my bf and I were in a long distance relationship for three years), and one year for Xmas one of the gifts I gave him was a long elaborate story I'd written with all of us as characters, set during a historical period/event that I've been researching for a play I'm writing.
posted by scody at 2:31 PM on December 17, 2003


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