Like You Do

The only valuable thing I’ve learned from this ninny is that gay men can be boring dudebros just as easily as straight men.

I’m having trouble adjusting my living habits to my work schedule. I’m starting to work mornings, which is good, as it means that my skill level is increasing and will hopefully result in a greater share of tips and more hours in the long run. Problem is, I still have this problem where I can’t seem to get to sleep before midnight no matter how tired I am. It’s my head. Specifically, it’s the voices that live up there. They’re a pretty noisy bunch, as I have said on many prior occasions. I’m not a person who can just make snap judgments and roll with what happens. I need time to plan. (That way, I’m ready to curl up into a ball and cry when the Flying Spaghetti Monster inevitably thwarts my plans.) But seriously, I just don’t thrive when new shit is getting thrown at me every minute. I need to be able to go to my room and lock the door (which I always do even though nobody ever barges in) and spend six hours staring at my computer or lying under my desk in order to figure out where to go from here. My plans tend to function better in the long term than the short term. I just don’t work well when people are demanding to know what I’m doing.

My boss pulled me aside to let me know that my some of my coworkers don’t like me very much. He didn’t phrase it that way; he just said I seem kind of closed off and might want to consider being a bit friendlier with the people I work with. Boy, do I not find that surprising. Friendly is not my default setting, never has been, never will be. You should meet my father, who can smile and chat with most people he meets. If his father were still around, you could meet him, a man who could take 45 minutes just to go down the street and buy milk. My grandfather could strike up a conversation with anyone. Some people just think that way. “Oh look, a person! I should totally be friends with them!” they evidently say to themselves. It is my job, I believe, to educate them on the wonders of misanthropy.

Before somebody mentions it, this is one of those posts where I don’t really have an overarching theme. On some days, I do, but today, I have only a shitload of random thoughts. If you want to understand just how deliriously sex-negative some elements of our culture are, watch the clip below. It’s a compilation of scenes from the short-lived TV series, The Secret Life of the American Teenager. There is a line in this clip so mind-numbingly ridiculous that to even hint at it would spoil the fun. And here’s the kicker: IT’S ALL FROM THE SAME EPISODE. I…I just don’t know what to say to something like that. This show was produced by the same woman responsible for 7th Heaven, a godawful series in which an insultingly perfect white Christian family learns thuddingly obvious (and extremely moralistic) life lessons. Totally different from this show, of course.

Actually, I think I do have a theme going here. Mainly, I’m just frustrated with that feeling of being over the hump. I’ve never had a job quite like this one before. I’ve had retail jobs and food service jobs, but never one this…intense. My canvassing job was more stressful, but since I wasn’t in it for the money, I feel like it doesn’t count. My psychotic ex-roommate was fired from two jobs in the course of one week. At one, he lasted only an hour. My goal, when starting at the coffee shop, was to last more than an hour. I succeeded, and even if I make a fool of myself by shouting at a customer or fighting with a coworker or doing something else that I very well might do if pushed, the worst thing they can do is fire me. That’s fine. I was never married to this thing to begin with.

When I moved to Queens last August, I was thinking of starting over. I had finished my education and was trying to get started professionally. But then shit happened and now I’m here. I don’t subscribe to that “everything happens for a reason” fatalism. As far as I’m concerned, I still think the ideal turn of events would have been for me never to have moved in with that psychopath in the first place. But the fact remains that shit had been on a downhill slide for a while leading up to that. My social life was uneventful, my job search was getting more and more desperate, blog traffic was in the toilet, and somewhere along the line, my computer broke down. Traffic seems to be picking up. That’s nice. But this blog isn’t my life. Try not to confuse one with the other.

Some people see life as one big chess game. I see it as an argument. This is fitting, as I usually win arguments. When I lose, it’s not so much that I’m wrong as that I’m outmaneuvered. Some people know how to play off of others’ emotions with words. They construct an argument that sounds convincing, but is totally meaningless. Those people are my enemies. I have never been very good at winning in the short term. I just tough it out in the hopes that people will come around eventually. Because it’s not really about winning; it’s about who is left standing. I’m still here.

hawkeye

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Looking for Inner Peace

There is a point at which the fight against marginalization turns into an addiction. Most people who have had to grapple with feeling “different” have had to face the possibility that maybe they really are. For me, the quest for acceptance and normalization (to use a loaded word) is less about assimilating into society as a whole than about realizing that everyone else is just as crazy as I am. I’m not out to make myself exactly like everyone else; I just recognize that the whole point of fitting in is to understand that we really aren’t so different, even if we’re not all exactly the same. Where am I going with this? Let me explain.

I hear a lot of misogynistic bullshit these days about how feminism is destroying the American family. You can dress it up however you want, but that’s all it is. Mainly, what’s hurting us is this deeply held conviction that so many of our, well, primarily religious and right-wing friends have that the only way to live is to marry somebody of the opposite gender at a young age and have monogamous sex with them for the rest of your life (after saving yourself for marriage, then eschewing contraception because we all know both of those things are sinful sinful sinful). Their logic is purely circular. Why must we do things this way? Well, because we always have, obviously. What’s that you say? Polygamy and even gay marriage have all been practiced at some point in world history before now? All the more reason we should ban those things, because they were the hallmarks of less-civilized societies. Basically, just don’t disagree with us. Because God always agrees with us about everything always. Even when the Bible contradicts us, because then you’re just not interpreting it selectively enough correctly.

In a way, the reason why we need gay marriage and perhaps even polygamous marriage to be legal in this country is to shake things up for straight, monogamous people. I believe that no relationship is automatically superior to any other, provided that the participants are consenting adults. Period. End of discussion. No, seriously, that’s all there is to it. Spare me this nonsense about how allowing people to follow their hearts undermines the fabric of society. Society is an arbitrary construct. You’re just jealous of people who are living more freely and openly than you are. There might be something about the Y chromosome that makes the male sex drive somehow more immediate and animalistic than the female sex drive, but that doesn’t mean that sex is less important to women or that they can’t initiate it; it just means that men and women might have subtly different points of view when it comes to how they approach sex. But to boil that down to “women want commitment, men just want sex” is idiotic, reductive fucking nonsense.

Dan Savage, one of my idols and someone whose praises I sing around here pretty often, gets dinged a lot for supposedly hating asexuals/bisexuals/transgender people/women/Christians/whoever. It’s all nonsense. Dan has a long history of being blunt. He has told off asexuals for going on dates with sexual people and failing to disclose that they aren’t interested in a sexual relationship. I think that’s fair. Sex and dating, for most people, are inextricably intertwined, and if you don’t see it that way, that’s fine, but it’s on you to inform the other party of that. Being straight might not be “the norm” so much as the default, but there’s nothing wrong or even heteronormative about assuming somebody is straight unless given reason to think otherwise. It’s numbers, nothing more. People are individuals. Making assumptions isn’t bad, just don’t hold onto your assumptions even after someone has corrected you, that’s all.

Basically, what I’m saying here is that everyone is responsible for standing up for themselves. When I was a teenager, I read my fair share of shitty gay teen romances because that’s what I needed to escape. Those books bear little-to-no resemblance to real life, and the only difference between them and Twilight or whatever teen girls are eating up today is that they don’t shy away from the sex. It’s funny: we spend so much time telling men to act like men and women to act like women that when bigots are confronted with a couple that upsets that paradigm, their only response is to deny that party’s right to even exist. If the only valid sex is penis-in-vagina intercourse, then why do bigots care at all what gay people do? Shouldn’t they just shrug and say, “Well, I don’t approve, but whatever“?

I don’t know if anyone else here is watching Looking, the HBO show about gay guys in San Francisco, but the last episode was phenomenal. Basically, it was a two-character play about young lovers getting to know each other. It starts off with randy sex, then moves to getting-to-know-you shit like exchanging coming out stories and talking about HIV and topping vs. bottoming. If you believe, as I do, that there is universality in specificity, then you should relate to that. You may not have dealt with those issues yourself, but certainly you can recognize the basic beats of a budding relationship. A straight or lesbian couple is not likely to deal with exactly those same issues. The words are different. The music is the same. And Richie is the most perfect fictional boyfriend I have ever seen. I can’t remember the last time I wished a fictional character were real that hard. I want to have his babies.

I...I...*fans self*

*fans self*

Since I’ve run out of things to say about sex and gender and stuff, I’ll just say that for a guy whose stuff seems aimed primarily at kids, Weird Al is still pretty funny. His act has not gotten stale. I haven’t moved on from that part of my life, not entirely.

The Dreamlife of Angels

Let us talk for a second about Millenials. I don’t know who the voice of our generation is, nor am I convinced that we need one. Watching last week’s Bill Maher (or was it the week before?), I found myself rolling my eyes at his and P.J. O’Rourke’s glorification of the Baby Boomers. The Baby Boomers weren’t the greatest generation. (The Greatest Generation wasn’t the greatest generation, but never mind.) It’s always dangerous to go making blanket generalizations about millions of people just because they all happened to be born in the same era, but Maher actually did make one or two good points. I’ve never bought that “spare the rod, spoil the child” idiocy, but I do think that a smack upside the head can teach a misbehaving child a lesson better than making them sit in a corner can. Beyond that, I think he pretty much missed the mark.

The Baby Boomers gave us Bob Dylan. Good for them. Or rather, good for Bob. I like Bob. It took me a while to get used to his voice, but he is a killer songwriter and wrote lyrics that invited a wide range of equally fair interpretations. Normally, I like Bill Maher and find P.J. O’Rourke pretty funny. (One of my favorite humorists and Baby Boomers is Dave Barry, whom I have mentioned previously and whose unpretentious humor and small-c conservatism faintly echo O’Rourke’s.) I guess what I’m really not one for is nostalgia. We don’t need to hear about how great everything was in the Good Ole Days. We certainly don’t need to hear about how you pulled yourself up by the bootstraps and got your education in the school of hard knocks. There is a thin line between tough love and abuse. My parents did not shy away from spanking. Their parents would wash their mouths out with soap if they caught them swearing. Anything harsher than that, I do not and will never approve of.

Whenever somebody older than I am tells me I have it easy, I say, “Good. That means you did your job.” It’s a relative term, anyway. Yes, I have the internet and a cell phone, but I’m also trying to fight global warming, which, if left unchecked, could destroy the planet on a level that even nuclear winter couldn’t touch. Good times, huh? I don’t even plan on having children, but I still see the value in making shit easier for my generation’s children. Who the fuck knows what they’ll have to contend with, alien invasion? Hell, I wanna be around to see that.

Sup.

Sup.

I don’t know if I’ve made this clear enough yet, but I’m tired most of the time. I roll out of bed every morning and think, “Oh fuck, it’s this shit again.” It wouldn’t be so exhausting if it weren’t for the fact that there is no reset button. You just keep going until you hopefully get to something better. I have a part-time job in which they schedule me for five hour-plus shifts so that I will get only a ten minute break the whole time and frequently have to leave my home two hours before the shift begins to make it there on time. Getting another job would present challenges all on its own, as two part-time jobs take up more energy than one full-time job. You have to coordinate the schedules with each other, learn two different skill sets and get to know two different groups of people, and figure out how you’re going to get from one to the other. If the Baby Boomers spent the whole day flipping burgers, at least it was all they had to do. Show some respect, guys.

It takes a lot of time to become comfortable in your own skin. I’m still working on it. There is a lot of shit bouncing around inside my skull, and I would like to make it settle down. But I can’t just grow up and become the person everyone wants me to be. I can’t get a second job and start working it when my current one still leaves me feeling run over half the time. Seriously, have you ever worked in a coffee shop? You’re on your feet the whole time, you have to balance a zillion different duties at once, and you don’t get paid very well. I’ll put what I’m going through up against any fucking Baby Boomer’s stories about having to walk five miles to school uphill both ways. The quarter-life crisis is a real thing, but I don’t think that’s what I’m going through. (Technically, it should be the third-life crisis, as people tend to experience it in their mid-twenties, but never mind.) It’s not so much that I’m wondering what the fuck I’m doing with my life as that I’m just trying to get the damn thing off the ground. I’ve never been much for nostalgia, so I can’t reminisce about the Good Ole Days. I never got to experience them. My childhood was unhappy and anxious. It’s what I got for being “gifted”.

It’s not possible to say everything you’re trying to say in a single blog post, so I’ll just say that it’s getting harder and harder for me to find time to watch The Daily Show. Maybe it’s because I’m not as enamored of Jon Stewart’s humor as I used to be (why does he keep harping on all of this Chicago pizza vs. New York pizza nonsense?), maybe it’s because I’m not able to integrate it into my morning routine as smoothly as I used to. All I know is that what I wrote almost two years ago is still true: The hardest part always is getting started.

What comes after that is only slightly easier.

Things I Hate Doing, Part 6

6. Waiting

January and February tend to be the shitty months when it comes to movies. I used to go to the movies fairly regularly. Last year, I saw Thor, Ender’s Game, Life of Pi, Pacific Rim, Much Ado About Nothing, Catching Fire, Upstream Color, At Berkeley, Zero Dark Thirty, Django Unchained, GravityBlue Jasmine, 12 Years a Slave, and possibly one or two others that I’m forgetting. What is there to see now? I might see Inside Llewyn Davis if I can find a theater that’s still showing it. I would almost certainly like Her. The Lego Movie is supposed to be good, even if I’m not exactly pumped about it. And then there’s Frozen, which all of my musical theater and Disney friends are gushing about it. I’ll probably see it eventually.

Next month, The Grand Budapest Hotel comes out. Who wants to see that? If you didn’t raise your hand, something is wrong with you. A few weeks later, Veronica Mars comes out. You are not a proper geek if you are not excited for that. And a little after that, it’s Captain America. And while Game of Thrones is not a movie, it starts up again in early April. Fuck. Yes. What am I supposed to do until then? I don’t know. I guess I’ll just keep working my way through Elementary, Deep Space Nine, and The X-Files. There just ain’t much else out there right now, as far as entertainment is concerned.

5. Dealing With People

I’m pretty much always stressed out these days. This is hardly unusual, what with dealing with my employment and housing situation and all that. What’s really annoying is that even though I have so much free time on my hands, clearing enough space to focus on something like health care or just reading a good book remains tantalizingly difficult. So you can understand how much I hate it when people start fucking that up with all of their real world shit. Why, just this week, I was scheduled to work over 20 hours. Then I came into work and found out that my boss had cancelled one of my shifts because a drop in revenue had forced him to do so. For a guy with my limited income and prospects, that’s kind of a big deal. So instead of talking about that, I’ll talk about literature. What I went to grad school to study was essentially the intersection between science and policy. My goal was to become an analyst, so that I could explain heady concepts like climate change to the average Joe so that hopefully, they would be inspired to take action. My literary goals are somewhat the same.

"Penis."

“Penis.”

William Shakespeare is widely regarded as the most important writer in the English language. He also loved a good dick joke. Seriously, when I can’t figure out what something in one of his plays means, I just assume it’s sexual. 99% of the time, I’m right. I’ve always had difficulty merging the highbrow with the lowbrow. When I was in eighth grade, I spent most of my spring break watching Shoah, a nine-and-a-half hour documentary about the Holocaust. It was good stuff, but slow and very, very heavy. Some kids made fun of me for shit like that. I liked high art, even as I never forgot the value of a good stoner comedy. But these days, it seems you can be only one or the other: an average Joe, or an elitist. And that’s a problem. Who says you can’t be both?

4. Having Too Many Options

Anyone who has ever had the whole day to themselves knows what this is like. You can watch anything on Netflix, so what the fuck do you want to watch? Spotify has thousands of songs and artists you’ve never gotten around to listening to, so where the fuck to begin? Circling back to the whole discussion about literature, I would like to share with you one of my favorite pieces by one of America’s great humorists, a man who never tried to be anything other than charmingly immature. I am, of course, referring to Dave Barry.

Good title.

Good title.

3. Looking for an Apartment

It looks like I’m going to have to start up on that again, and let me tell you, I am not exactly leaping at the chance. What kind of roommate am I going to end up with this time? A schizophrenic shapeshifter? A mad scientist who keeps severed body parts in the fridge and performs experiments on unwilling prostitutes? A sane, reasonable person who pays rent on time and stays the fuck out of my way? HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! That last one was a joke, obviously. Boy, sometimes I just crack myself up.

This video has nothing to do with anything.

2. Listening to People

This sort of ties in with #5. The main point here is that I hate people who hear only what they want to hear. One guy at my job just got promoted to shift lead. I’d say good for him, except I don’t like him all that much and everyone else seems to. You know the feeling. He’s friendly and enthusiastic, but kind of an asshole. Even before he made shift lead, he was prone to bossing me around. Whereas my managers and the other shift leaders will ask nicely when they want something, he just tells me to do it, and if I challenge him, then of course, I’m holding everyone up and not being a team player. Eventually, his inflated sense of self-importance will most likely bite him in the ass. It’s not like I never need any of the more-experienced/higher-ranking employees to correct me on shit, only that I prefer it when they wait for me to ask for help first as opposed to jumping in to answer a customer’s question that I actually knew the answer to just because it took me a second to remember. It’s not your store, dude, and I know the customers almost as well as you do. So, you know, show some respect.

1. Letting Go

I’m talking about revenge, which, unfortunately, most of us don’t get to exact. Steve Martin has the right idea, though. I mean, yes, forgiving and being nice is all well and good, but why try that when you can take over the world?

Call Me By My True Name

I think we need to retire the phrase “check your privilege”. It doesn’t mean anything. It’s nothing more than a backhanded way to tell somebody that their opinion is less valid because they are in the majority. Privilege exists, but there is no way to check it. My existence is my existence, and if I were a wealthy, straight, white, Christian male, I would not be any more able to separate those aspects of my existence from who I am than I would if I were a poor, gay, black, Jewish female. Generally speaking, I would be inclined to take the latter’s word over the former where matters of discrimination are concerned. But ultimately, you don’t speak for anyone except yourself.

I have a tendency to dwell on old conflicts. I might have even mentioned this one before, but if you want to, click on this link and scroll down to my second comment, where you will see me get pummeled by the other commenters for, as far as I can tell, daring to suggest that the readership for 50 Shades of Grey is predominately female. To this day, I have no idea why this is offensive.

It is always a bad idea to get offended on behalf of someone else. That’s why I stood my ground. The other commenters wanted me to stop bashing 50 Shades of Grey, yet none of them made even the slightest attempt to defend it. At one point, one of them even claimed that by implying that women are sexually repressed, I’m slut-shaming and driving the book’s sales up even higher. Dude…do you even live on planet Earth? From a very early age, women in virtually all cultures are socialized to be ashamed of their bodies. Almost every woman alive has had to deal with sexual repression at some point or another. So if it’s all the same to you, I will continue to associate sexual repression with being female. Because reality.

The most troubling accusation in the whole thread is the claim that gendered language perpetuates violence against women. Last time I checked, the words “he” and “she” are gendered, and everyone still uses them. I do not believe that gender neutrality is the best antidote for sexism. I believe that men and women are different in ways that go beyond what we are socialized to do and say. I also believe that there is nothing wrong with this. “Different but equal” does not mean “separate but equal”. It’s time we understood that.

I think the real reason people were so angry at me is that I pointed a finger not just at the book, but the readers. The readers, however, are part of it, too. The whole point of art is that the artist and their audience are engaged in an active dialogue. If I believe that a book is not only abominably written, but glamorizing sexism, I have to ask why so many female readers (and I’ll be dollars to fucking doughnuts that 50 Shades of Grey‘s readership is almost exclusively female) would be complicit in something like that. Art doesn’t exist in a vacuum. If somebody wrote a book in which a Gary Stu got into an abusive relationship with Christina Grey, it would not sell one one-hundredth as well. And you damn well know it.

There is nothing sexist about saying that women can do better. Anyone who says that I should just lay off the readership has no idea how the world works. I’m not a fan of Larry the Cable Guy. He used to do mediocre comedy under the name of Dan Whitney, and now he does awful comedy that caters to the prejudices of only the most stereotypical of rednecks. Dan, from what I’ve heard, is a really nice guy. That doesn’t excuse his shitty comedy, but it does make you wonder how much blame he deserves for essentially just going with what works. In all the mania over 50 Shades of Grey, the person I’m least angry at is the author. I can’t say the same about Twilight.

You’re not going to get anywhere in life if you can’t give anyone the benefit of the doubt. The reason I still think about this argument months later is that everyone made up their mind about me the instant I used to word “estrogen”. My attempts to clarify came off as nothing more than “the lady doth protest too much”. But if the clarification makes more sense than the original statement, go with the clarification. I don’t think the original statement was all that sexist anyway. Roger Sterling says worse things every week on Mad Men. I think my views on gender are a little bit more evolved than his.

There was an incident some months ago in which Amanda Palmer wrote an open letter to Sinead O’Connor criticizing her for her open letter to Miley Cyrus. Basically, Sinead thinks Miley needs to realize that she is being exploited and stop exposing her body to make people like her, and Amanda thinks Sinead should stop slut-shaming. Amanda Palmer is full of shit. I’m a casual fan of her and a huge fan of her husband, but supporting women doesn’t mean supporting everything a woman does. And I don’t support reading 50 Shades of Grey. If that makes me a horrible person, so be it.