The Power of Argument

I got the book Mysterious Skin for my mother last Christmas. That, for those who don’t know, is a deeply depressing, fucked up little novel about two boys who are molested by their Little League coach and grow up to damaged and broken. One channels his trauma into hallucinations about alien abduction, the other becomes a gay hustler and eventually sleeps with just about every john in both Kansas and New York. (It was made into a movie with Joseph Gordon-Levitt getting naked to play the hustler, in case anyone cares.) My mother is a churchgoing Catholic in her late fifties, so it’s understandable that she wondered why I had got it for her. What was it about that book that made me think of her? The answer was quite simple: When I buy gifts, I like to get people something that they might not have thought of trying without me. It doesn’t always work, but I search for things that are, as Mysterious Skin is, roughly halfway between the things I like and the things they like. The instant I saw the film that September, I knew I wanted to read the book and buy it for my mother. I don’t regret that choice.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt gets naked in this movie. Just FYI.

No, he doesn’t go full frontal. But you get to see everything else.

Life is getting more complicated, which is annoying, as I’ve always favored simplicity. Recently, I had a sort-of argument with my mother over my change in travel plans. It was nothing, just a little dust-up over my forced change in travel plans brought about by Robert and Felix deciding they want the room back. As I write this, I’m back in California, having decided to fly back here for a couple weeks rather than hanging around New York to figure out my housing situation. Currently, I have several prospects. Hopefully, the Student Housing people will be able to help me out, although I won’t find out until Wednesday. I don’t want a repeat of this fall’s events, in which I packed my things into a storage locker before leaving on vacation, then waited until I returned two days before classes began to start looking for an apartment because dammit, I needed a break. It helps that this time, I have over four weeks off class rather than two. So I guess I’ll fly back to NY a little earlier than planned to get a jump-start on things. It might help.

I think more people need to understand that arguing is not pointless if you do it for the right reason. Trying to change the other person’s view? Wrong, wrong, wrong. Trying to understand why they think what they think? That never gets old. I get tired of being surrounded by like-minded people after a while, as I am secure enough in my own beliefs (mostly) that I don’t need them constantly reinforced. We need to have more healthy arguments. There hasn’t been a Republican President I’ve cared for since Eisenhower, yet just under 50% of the country continues to vote that way. Why is that?

It might be accurate to describe me as cynical, but not in quite the way that that word is normally used. It’s not that I try to keep my expectations low so that I can’t be disappointed, but that I keep trying to lower my expectations to the point that reality will actually meet them. Perhaps that sounds grim and dire, but it doesn’t have to be. Many people have to learn the value of patience before they can have what they want. I try not to set ultimatums. It’s easy to say, “So-and-so didn’t return my phone call, so they’re not my friend anymore.” Maybe that sounds petty, but when you haven’t talked to anyone except your parents and coworkers for the past two weeks, you start to wonder if everyone else has just forgotten you exist. And usually, making a connection requires just a touch more effort than I had originally intended to give. Like I said, I try not to set too many preconditions.

The only rule that I have ever found that seems to consistently help me build strong relationships with friends and family is to focus on sharing rather than just getting what you want. Something about how you have to let go of control in order to get a little back, or something something valuable life lessons whatever something something. I used to be so fixated on my own enrichment that all else became secondary. When I wasn’t reading, writing, or watching one of the movies or TV shows that was held in high esteem by my fellow aesthetes, I was thinking about going home so that I could do just that. Even when I was doing one of those things, I was distracted by what I was going to read, write, or watch after that. My family thought I was distant and cranky. In reality, I was trying to carve out space for myself.

It took me a long time to figure out why I was so rude to my mother in high school. She would ask me about my day while we were at dinner and I would snap at her. All I could think about was my homework, my extracurricular activities, my friends, or something else that didn’t involve her. My mother, you see, had always been a part of my life, and barring a sudden tragedy, will continue to be for a while. But academia, my hobbies, and my friends will go away if I don’t hold on. Try not to hold on too tight.

This video has nothing to do with anything. Just thought you should know that, as if his friendship with Dumbledore didn’t make it clear, Snape is very gay-friendly.


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