One of the weird things that has changed as I’ve gotten older is that I’ve started to make friends with people not in my age bracket. As a child, I made friends with other kids in my grade and that was about it. As a teenager, I started to make friends with some of my parents and even teachers, but it’s not until now that I’ve started to party with people who are at completely different stages in their lives than I am. Some of the people in my grad program are married. At least one has kids. I feel so weird talking to them. “I have a wife and a career,” they say. “Terrific,” I say. “I have a DVD collection.”
I’ve learned by now that the only way to truly get to know someone is to sit down, eat dinner with them, and then build up trust over a period of time. At the same time, I can’t help but feel a little out of place on occasion. A couple weeks ago, one of my professors called me into her office to tell me, in veiled language, that I wasn’t pulling my weight around here. I told her, as politely as I could, to go fuck herself. That helped, but what I’m concerned about is the subtle contradiction in some of what people say to me. At orientation, we were assured that we would be fine, that these next eleven months or so would fly by, and so on. When my professor asked to talk to me, she told me that she found this to be a very friendly environment, and she hoped I’d be able to fit in. Is it just me, or is that incredibly passive-aggressive? I don’t work to fit in. As far as I’m concerned, any environment in which one is constantly fighting to be understood is not a healthy environment. Which one is it–am I going to be fine or not? I’m not going to beg and plead just to be a part of this “friendly” atmosphere. If I fail to make it through (and I won’t), it’s the fault of the people around me, not me.
I’ve been following the controversy surrounding Daniel Tosh’s rape jokes from a distance. I’m not going to throw my hat in the ring with this piece, mainly because there’s nothing I can say that hasn’t been said already, and also because I never followed his career and honestly don’t give a shit what happens to him in the first place. (I found these three articles pretty enlightening, though.) All I’ll say is what Louis C.K. said about it: basically, that everyone needs to relax. (I’d embed the video, but I still can’t figure out how to do that for Daily Show videos. If you’ve got a couple minutes, however, click on the link. It’s a great interview.) I tend to butt heads with my feminist friends due to my horrible sense of humor. The stereotype that feminists can’t take a joke has a basis in truth. If I make jokes about dead babies or puppy torture, they laugh it off. If I make a joke about bulimia, they forget everything they know about my sense of humor and assume I’m serious. What’s more, everyone else cheers them on because they’re the embattled, beleaguered Women standing up against chauvinist pigs like Me. It accomplishes nothing except to make self-righteous dicks feel good about themselves. More importantly, it makes me feel like shit. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned from my feminist friends, it’s that it’s never a good idea to tell somebody that their feelings don’t matter. They may be getting offended for good reason or out of hypersensitivity, but either way, we do have an obligation to shut the fuck up and listen until the whole situation is sorted out. For the sake of assholes making rape jokes everywhere, let’s all agree to at least hear the other side out before tagging them as a bunch of bigots. It’s the least we can do.
It’s been my experience that most of the time, when somebody says “How could you possibly understand how I feel?”, they’re just putting themself up on a pedestal. There are certain things that you can’t understand unless you’ve gone through it yourself: coming out of the closet, being pregnant, kicking a drug habit, and so on. But it would be pointless not to try. No, I have never been raped, but I have been both stalked and physically harassed. If I’d been a little less assertive, I might very well have been raped. So even though I am not a woman, I am at least partially qualified to speak about the culture of objectification that they have to deal with every day. Not every woman is. Some enjoy being objectified. Some blind themselves to it. “Well-behaved women rarely make history,” said feminist Laurel Thatcher Ulrich (about whom I know nothing except that she said that, because I heard the quote somewhere and Googled it just now for purposes of this post). That’s true, but there is a certain point at which one really needs to shut the fuck up and let the men say their piece. Usually, it’s when the men show a willingness to listen. Straight men of the world, please don’t be afraid to speak your minds. Odds are that what you have to say is valid. You run the world, but you also, as Dan Savage said, run the 7-11s. You get the power. We get to have fun.
For purposes of anyone who is curious, I’m going to describe what it feels like to come out of the closet as best I can. Virtually everyone has to stand up to their parents and teachers at some point, telling them that they’re not into sports like their macho father wants them to be, that they don’t believe in God like their deeply religious community wants them to, or maybe even that they do believe in God despite having a totally secular upbringing. Whatever the circumstance, everyone has to decide for themselves who they are, and throwing off the yoke that has been around their neck up until that point is never fun. Coming out is simply the most extreme form of that. There are few things more primal than one’s sexual urges, so admitting to same-sex attractions in a deeply heteronormative community is something that no one should have to go through. The upside is that you only have to do it once. So how about it, straight men? Come out of the closet and tell us what you really think.