Hawley Smoot

"Never tell the same lie twice." —Garak, after hearing The Boy Who Cried Wolf

“Never tell the same lie twice.” —Garak, after hearing “The Boy Who Cried Wolf”

I got a new job. It’s okay so far. I work at an Italian restaurant. I work the same schedule every week, which is evenings Thursday through Sunday. That is, unsurprisingly, already starting to cut into my social life. I’m not quite sure what to do about that, but I have no intention of quitting my job anytime soon. I dunno, maybe I’ll just have to get used to going out late or something. I don’t go to bars much, but they’re open until 2 or so, so I could always meet up with my friends after work is done. That, or just get used to meeting with them in the morning or early afternoon or on weeknights. There’s probably a solution here, but it will take some tinkering. This place is family-owned, which places it in stark contrast to the last place I worked. It’s a small crew here, which means everything is friendly and informal (they don’t even make me wear gloves when handling food), but it also means that I can’t just take a day off whenever I please. If they can find another person to work as busboy or dishwasher (I’m currently doing both), maybe they’ll be more flexible with scheduling. Until then, I’m working more hours than I did at the coffee shop, which also means I’m making more. I guess that’s progress.

I find myself wondering a lot how much timing has to do with my opinion of somebody. The thing about being in your twenties is that so much of your life feels like a series of missed connections. I like to think that if you really have a connection with somebody, you’ll find a way to make the relationship work, regardless of just what kind of relationship it is. But sometimes my practical concerns clash with my more idealistic ones. My needs are fairly simple, but most of the time, it still feels like my crazy thoughts and desires are just stacked up on top of each other and I’m just a vessel for whatever bizarre ambition has found its way into my subconscious this time. On the outside, I probably look more focuses and stable. Former NBA player John Amaechi’s mother once asked him, “Would you recognize your soul in the dark?” I love that question. Can people ever really change? I maintain that they can, but I acknowledge that the difference between becoming somebody else and simply maturing into a better version of yourself is vague and subjective at best, completely arbitrary at worst.

It happens sometimes that people from my past come floating back into my life. Somebody from high school messaged me on a dating site not too long ago, except his profile was blank, so I couldn’t figure out who he was. I went digging through old yearbooks and shit to try to piece it together, and I have a strong hunch, but I’m only 80% sure. I had a friend in college who basically stopped returning my calls after being very close to me for years. Still hard to explain it, really, but I think what was going through his head was that I wanted more from him than he was willing to provide, and since he had a girlfriend and a nice circle of friends who, when push came to shove, seemed to like him way more than they liked me, he wondered why he even bothered with me at all. So I’m not sure if I’ll ever see him again. I’m not sure if I want to either, but I wonder if he ever grew out of his selfishness. Because it’s still on him, you see. I wanted to be his friend and nothing more. It’s not my fault that he couldn’t go there with me.

It’s been my experience that anybody who excuses their asshole behavior with “I’m a straight-shooter, I tell it like it is” or words to that effect is really just an asshole. I’m a notorious asshole, and even I’ve never said anything like that. I’m actually not confrontational at all; I just don’t see why I should have to explain myself to other people. Because when you get right up in somebody’s face over something, it usually says more about you than it does about them, even if what they said is legitimately offensive.

I’ve seen a fair amount of talk on the internet lately about women and how they are portrayed in the media. Geena Davis wrote a fascinating piece about simple methods that screenwriters can use to level the playing field a little. It’s especially powerful coming from her, as she is a very talented actress for whom roles seem to have dried up once she reached a certain age. Well, I suppose it’s possible that she took time off to raise her family, but there’s no denying that few women in Hollywood ever remain commercially viable for very long past the age of 40. John Travolta still gets work despite being over the hill, but the women playing Tom Cruise’s love interests are typically in their 30s even though he is over 50. Seriously, how does that work? Why the hell are a few facelifts and a hairpiece all it takes to keep an actor’s career strong but not enough for an actress? Geena Davis is still pretty, not that that should be the only thing determining whether or not she gets to have a career. Oh, well. I wish her well in her feminist work.

I noticed something after starting up on season six of 30 Rock: Jenna is absolutely killing it. For whatever reason, I never found her as funny as Tracy until now, even though they’re both stuck-up prima donnas. Maybe I had some deep-seated sexism, I don’t know. All I know is that I’m loving the hell out of it.

Joanna Newsom is really something. I wish she were more famous.

Things I Hate Doing, Part 7

5. Getting Old

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but nobody watches television anymore. Seriously, do you watch TV? Of course you don’t, because you’re on the internet. And the internet is the only valid means of media distribution right now. Even if you do watch TV, it’s probably on the internet. And you’d rather watch internet anyway. But seriously, at least one study has shown that kids these days recognize YouTube personalities more easily than movie stars. That’s not actually that surprising for anyone who spends much time on YouTube. Tyler Oakley has 4.5 million subscribers, last I checked. How many people saw the last Sin City movie? (Okay, maybe that’s an unfair example, because that movie really tanked. I mean, it’s not like I was going to see it, but I thought it would have at least cracked $20 million.)

L to R: douchebag, douchebag, douchebag

L to R: douchebag, douchebag, douchebag

The point is that YouTube and social media are, as much as it pains me to say it, becoming as popular a means of consumption as the ones I grew up with. That might not necessarily be a bad thing, but it does leave me feeling a little out of place. A lot of YouTube personalities are around my age or younger. (If we broaden it to stuff like Vine, you get people like Nash Grier. Fuck that guy.) The average YouTube subscriber is almost certainly younger than I am. Of course, the majority of YouTubers are a walking case for eugenics, but that could just be an illustration of Sturgeon’s Law. I still remember shrugging when I realized that podcasting was becoming a popular medium. There are a few that I listen to, but overall, it just doesn’t interest me. I already read books, watch TV and movies, and occasionally see plays or concerts. I don’t need to be an expert on all forms of media. And sometimes, I think that the real problem is just the way that we let the 18-24 year-old demographic dictate the direction of our culture. Maybe that’s because they don’t know any better, which makes them easier to manipulate. But what do I know? I’m a blogger. Who the fuck reads blogs anymore?

4. Having Neuroses

It occurred to me recently that I have only once or twice in my lifetime had anything resembling a stable home life. From my well-documented issues with my parents and occasionally the rest of my my family to my also well-documented roommate issues, building a home that is worth returning to every evening definitely seems to be one of my weak points. I’m not sure what to do about that, but the result is that I have any number of habits and insecurities that I can’t stop myself from having but hate myself for. The best living situation I’ve had so far is that one spot I stayed in Manhattan for the latter half of my time there. The landlord did have one weird rule requiring us to pay our rent in cash (I think he’d gotten stung by somebody passing him bad checks before) which meant that once a month, I had to walk down to Wells Fargo, withdraw a large amount of money, then walk back with it in my pocket, but if that’s your biggest complaint, you’re probably doing okay. The only answer here, I suppose, is what RuPaul would say: learn to love yourself. But I could really use a leg up.

3. Not Being Able to Express Myself

cloverfieldI would like to take this instance to sort of defend J.J. Abrams. Most of my nerd friends don’t much like him. I can see why: Most of what he does is just a rehash of other stuff. Cloverfield was basically Godzilla-minus-Godzilla-plus-found-footage-gimmick. Still a decent movie, in my opinion. Super 8 tried really hard to be E.T., but abrupt ending aside, it wasn’t too bad. And then there’s his Star Trek films. Into Darkness had…issues, but it didn’t make me angry, which is saying something. Honestly, what is the harm in rehashing old shit just with a shinier presentation? It’s not going to be particularly good, but it’s not exactly harmful either.

I know I rag on Steven Moffat all the time, but bear with me: In The Day of the Doctor, he added a sub-regeneration between Doctors 8 and 9, now leaving it to us to debate whether Peter Capaldi is really the 12th or the 13th Doctor. Except that there is no debate: He’s the 12th Doctor. You could maybe call John Hurt Doctor 8.5, but that’s exactly what pisses me off. Why did we need to see what happened between Doctors 8 and 9? Even if the only reason they came up with him is that they couldn’t get Eccleston back, the rationale for doing this seems to be that nobody explicitly said there wasn’t a sub-regeneration between Doctors 8 and 9. And that’s not a good reason for doing anything. But as usual, nobody will listen to me. So, you know, I’ll keep howling into the wind.

2. Being Out of Touch from the Moment I Was Born

Let’s return to YouTube for a second. I probably spend more time on there than I should, but the thing is, I’ve been yelling at those damn kids to get off my lawn since I actually was a kid. So I might be able to offer a little bit of perspective on the whole thing. When I was in middle school, one of my best friends told me that XXX was an awesome movie and that he couldn’t wait to see it again. He was a great guy, and probably does not feel the same way about the movie today. Then again, let’s be careful as to what we will excuse in children as a result of their age. Even when I was sixteen, I did not yell “fag” as indiscriminately as Nash Grier does. Never mind that, I didn’t even do that when I was ten. And his apologies are all half-assed “I’m sorry, I didn’t know what I was saying” nonsense. Yes, you did. If you can use the internet, you can go to Wikipedia and read about the AIDS epidemic. I was lucky enough to have missed it, but I’ve seen The Normal Heart, and let me tell you, that shit is terrifying. You have to at least try to learn from your mistakes. Try.

1. I Don’t Know What to Call This One, So I’ll Just Get Right Into

I think part of the issue here is that YouTube and social media cut out the middleman. Miley Cyrus may be headed for a meltdown, but that’s just because she’s surrounded by agents, producers, and possibly friends and family telling her that what she’s doing is a good career choice. Is it better when anyone with a camera can just upload a video and let the world hear their unfiltered thoughts? I’m not sure if I can make that call, but I expect YouTube, Vine, and all that other shit to become a lot more like the music and movie industries in the coming years. They’re too lucrative not to. If you’re a big star on YouTube, you are legitimately a celebrity, even if nobody over 35 has any idea who you are. How long do you think the current model will last? It’s already changing: The big stars on YouTube get bussed around at conventions, assigned a security detail, and mobbed by screaming girls if they dare to step out alone. So really, the content hasn’t changed, just the medium.

It's nothing new, really.

It’s nothing new.

There are some child and teen stars who grow up to be well-adjusted people. Mara Wilson was one. She’s a talented writer, an accomplished humanitarian, and as far as I can tell, a nice lady. In her case, that’s probably because she was blessed with a supportive family and smart enough to get out when she realized that Hollywood was through with her. If there is one thing that separates the flash-in-the-pan stars from the ones who just might stick around, it’s the ability to recognize that all of this attention can’t last forever. If you want to stay relevant, you have to be willing to change with the times. Joan Rivers stayed relevant for five decades in showbiz. Regardless of whether you find her funny, that’s some kind of miracle. Her jokes didn’t change all that much, it was just that she never took anything for granted. Smart woman, that one.

When I was in college, some people suggested I start a YouTube channel or something similar instead of writing a blog. I guess they just wanted to hear and see me instead of reading me. I’m glad I didn’t. Even if I had, I would certainly never have gotten all that famous or popular. Because I’m a weirdo. But I like to keep my ear to the ground, and I flatter myself that I have a clearer idea of what’s going on in pop culture than many so-called experts. Let’s face it, nobody is going to know who most of these people are in another twenty years.

The Harder They Come

mr rogers

I know it sounds dramatic, but there are times when I feel like the whole world is conspiring against me. I’m not sure how else to put it. I had my first round of interviews recently at a fast food chain that shall remain nameless, but prides itself on being not like all those other fast food chains. I was friendly, professional, and enthusiastic, but they told me that I really should have researched the company and its grand corporate vision (such as getting as much of its food locally and organically as possible) more before coming in. I dunno, I guess I thought knowing what they served would be enough. However, they did call me back in for a second round. As a side note, I’d like to ask: Does anybody besides me still dress up for job interviews. I was raised to believe that even if the place had a casual dress code, you should wear something that’s at least one step up from that (i.e. a dress shirt and jeans) to look presentable. I interviewed for two jobs last week, and in both cases, there was another interviewee who was in street clothes. WTF?

I didn’t really want the other job. It was at a clothing store that you’ve all heard of but which shall likewise remain nameless. The other interviewee was a high school senior who seemed nice enough and was clearly more interested in the company than I was. So I don’t really begrudge them for giving her the job. But the fast food chain—man, did that one piss me off. I’m still not entirely sure why. I know rejection comes with the territory, but is there such thing as being too good for a job? The first interview went fine, setting aside my lack of knowledge about the company. The assistant manager seemed like a swell guy. At the second interview, the general manager told me that the first one didn’t really “count” as he had been out of town and the assistant manager had just gone ahead without him. The other interviewee was a nineteen year-old college student who sat there with her hands neatly folded reciting a few basic facts about the company and otherwise being perfectly bland and pleasant. I had done my homework and knew practically everything about that company, but that didn’t help. I couldn’t be bland if I tried.

I can’t be certain if the other candidates at these two interviews got the job, but I’m pretty sure they did. And that pisses me off. I’m a hard worker. I’m smart, capable, punctual, even friendly when I have to be. But there is something about me that rubs people the wrong way, and I just don’t know what to do about it. Do hiring managers look for people who just go through the motions and don’t rock the boat? I guess they do. Because that doesn’t describe me, never has, never will. It’s why I started this blog. If I had more friends, a cushy job, and Daniel Radcliffe begging me for a date, maybe I wouldn’t need it. But I don’t, so I do.

I had an interview a few months ago at a store that sells kitchen appliances. I can’t remember if I’ve told this story before, so just bear with me. I shop at another location of this store, so I already knew a fair amount about them and what they do. I could not have given a better interview. I had an answer for every question. I was on-point, made eye contact, and clearly wanted the job. I could even see the managers scribbling positive notes about me as I talked. As I left, one of them even said something to the effect of, “I’m sure we’ll be seeing you again soon.” Fuck you. They didn’t even get back to me. I called back a few weeks later and finally got my response. What did the other person do? At first, I thought maybe they’d gone down on the managers, but now I’m starting to think that they were hollow and dead-eyed, like the lady who probably got hired over me at the fast food chain. Somebody just kill me so that I can move forward in life.

I looked at an apartment lately. It could not have possibly gone any better. The apartment was perfect, the location was perfect, I was perfect. Any guesses as to whether or not I got the place? I’m at a loss here, people. My prospective roommates seemed nice. I chatted with them about my living habits and job and asked them about theirs. I even petted their fucking dog. But they gave it to somebody else. Always to somebody else. I’m someone else to someone else, so why can’t I ever get lucky?

Since I have to relate everything to Doctor Who, I would just like to say that “Listen” really wasn’t that good. Like everything Moffat does, it was circular cleverness that ultimately amounted to nothing much. So Clara helps the Doctor overcome a childhood fear. Why couldn’t he do that by himself? Why does everything in Moffatworld revolve around the main character? The Sherlock Holmes of canon was not “a high-functioning sociopath”, not even fucking close. He admitted when he was wrong. But Cumberbatch’s Holmes is never wrong about anything. And yeah, I suppose you could argue that helping the Doctor gave Clara the strength to talk to Danny again, but I kinda feel like she could have done that anyway. I wish like hell Moffat/Gatiss would stop reinventing and re-imagining old stories and come up with something new already. And that’s all that I have to say about that.

When I take over the world, I’ll have everyone who displeases me tossed into an active volcano. So be nice to me, okay?

These Days

They say that as you get older, you don’t change so much as distill. A lot of the people I knew in high school just bore me these days. I saw Y Tu Mama Tambien when I was fourteen and didn’t get much out of it. The explicit sex wasn’t a problem (for me, it was kind of a turn-on to see Diego Luna and Gael Garcia Bernal going at it), but I just couldn’t feel engaged by the main characters. They just seemed like a pair of sex-obsessed dirtbags. Of course, that’s what most teenagers are, but it took me a while to appreciate that. Even though I was a teenager myself at the time, I somehow couldn’t identify with it. That did change over time, however. Looking back, I think it’s a fine film. It’s weird to think that you could drift apart from your best friend until you realize that you don’t have all that much in common anymore, but it’s happened to me at least a few times so far. And I don’t even have that many friends.

I think the reason I find myself drifting away from some of these people is that I see so many of them “settling down”. I put that in quotes because to some people, that seems to mean finding somebody they want to marry, as if all you have to do is find somebody you want to spend the rest of your life with and then you can spend it with them. But once you’ve found the person you want to spend the rest of your life with, you have to actually spend the rest of your life with them. Deciding that you want to spend the rest of your life with them is only the first step. I always get bugged when I hear people talk about their relationship as something that is going to last the ages, because so far, it’s lasted a couple of fights, maybe a handful of personal and professional setbacks, and that’s it. I’ve said it before, but my future husband had better be tough as nails. It’s not even so much about whether he’ll be able to handle me as whether or not we’ll be able to spend all that time together and not get bored. Seriously, let’s take it one step at a time.

I hate the expression “follow your bliss”. Joseph Campbell originated it, I think, and he’s the one who wrote about the hero’s journey and how certain storytelling tropes can be found in every culture and shit. I know what he means; I just hate the sound of it. It seems almost fatalistic, and I am not a fatalist. There is no “meant to be”, there is only what is and what isn’t. This might seem at odds with my own spiritual beliefs, which are more pantheistic than atheistic, but I don’t think it is. If there is a God, He doesn’t have a plan for you. It’s not a simple as just living the life that was preordained. Instead, you just have to live the best life you can, and maybe if you’re lucky, the Flying Spaghetti Monster will meet you halfway on occasion.

Let’s talk, for a second, about In-N-Out Burger. Actually, let’s talk about Chick Fil-A. A few years ago, CEO Dan Cathy stirred up controversy when he said that he did not support gay marriage. You might reasonably ask what gay marriage has to do with fast food, but that’s exactly the point: Who the fuck asked him what his views on gay marriage were? Obviously, you can continue to eat there even if you don’t share his views, but that leads us to my next point: I really like In-N-Out. It’s the only fast food chain that I patronize on anything more than a once-in-a-blue-moon basis (I honestly can’t remember the last time I ate at McDonald’s or Burger King), but something tells me I don’t share the CEO’s views. The Texas-based family that founded it is, I believe fundamentalist Christian, and if you look on the bottom of their drink cups, you will notice the words “John 3:16” printed on there. But that’s irrelevant. None of the chief executives have, to my knowledge, issued any public statements on gay marriage. They also pay their employees a good starting wage. So even though I brought this up, I think I’ll just call it off. Because nothing beats a double-double animal style.

When my father had cancer, he would take me along to support groups because I was a toddler and there was nowhere else he could leave me. He would tell everybody there that I was “shy”. I don’t think I am. Socially awkward, maybe even withdrawn, but not shy. In the right setting, I can be the life of the party. Ask anybody who’s ever gotten a real conversation out of me. But not when surrounded by people with metal voices and/or missing limbs and shit (my father used to be a smoker). He said that what he got out of this was a sense of perspective: surrounding himself with people who were even more fucked up than he was made him feel better about his own situation. I feel like that’s why I’m on OKCupid. Nobody ever gets everything they want, but I have a nasty feeling that I’m not going to get to be with one of the jocks that I spent all of high school (and most of college and, yes, probably the years after that) lusting after. I suppose I can live with that, but it’s nice to know that there are some folks who are interested in me whose interest I don’t return. Hey, I’m allowed to have standards, too. I just have to figure out what’s reasonable.

Bloons

shelterThere is something to be said for comfort food. I’ve spent a lot of time on this blog criticizing certain YouTubers, along with various films and other pop cultural artifacts that I feel portray the LGBT experience in a sanitized light. My churchgoing, progressive Catholic mother really liked Dallas Buyers Club, a film that takes an important story about AIDS and prejudice and filters it through the perspective of a straight character whose real-life counterpart was almost certainly bisexual. She also liked Shelter, one of those sweet coming-of-age dramas that makes coming out seem like simultaneously the most important thing a gay person can do and not that big of a deal. I suppose in a sense it is. But that doesn’t make the film any more true-to-life. Would that all of our coming out experiences could be spurred by meeting a handsome, slightly-older gentleman who is already out and inexplicably attracted to us. Thing is, it’s all I can do not to watch that movie over and over.

You can’t really convince people that they’re wrong. All you can convince them is of is that whatever they want from you, they’re not getting. Sometimes that’s enough. Alec Guinness said that people should strive to be useful rather than happy, as true happiness is the sort of thing that you’ll experience no more than a handful of times in your life. I agree with that sentiment. I’m not very good at being happy-go-lucky, nor am I any good at convincing people. But I am good at work. And I have a lot of it to do.

I find that blogging is useful for tying together the disparate strands of my thinking. In that sense, it’s therapeutic. I don’t have very much to distract myself. When I was in grad school, I hung out with a grand total of two friends over the course of a five-week winter break. That’s a pretty long time to be all on your own, even if you’re seeing family in there, too. My mother worries that I’m spending too much time alone. She doesn’t seem to realize that I’m only doing that because I don’t have any other options. And it’s not like time spent with her and Dad is an improvement. But you can’t make people who are intent on seeing you one way see you the other way. People won’t learn. Unless you make them.

I used to hate myself for needing to check my FB and email constantly. These days, I’m starting to realize that it isn’t my fault. What the hell else am I supposed to fill the gap with, exactly? I’m not usually proud of myself for not doing things, but I am proud of myself for not owning a smartphone. My father has offered to buy me one multiple times and when I went to buy a new cell phone after stupidly allowing my old one to go through the wash last year, the salesman told me that even his grandmother has a smartphone. I’m so glad I don’t. I’m also glad that there are no nude photos of me, although I am not for a minute judging people who take nude selfies. Sometimes I leave my phone behind when I go out. Technology is fine, but mostly from a distance.

There is a YouTuber I’ve been following for a while now who baffles me. He’s a gay marine who, about a year ago, broke off his engagement upon finding out that his fiancé was cheating, took down all the videos that they had done together, and disappeared from YouTube for several months. A few months after returning, he had a new boyfriend and was making videos with him. When that ended, he swore he wouldn’t let that get him down. Back in April, he posted a FB status saying that he was going to focus on himself for a while and let his love life take care of itself. Not three months later, he had moved in with his new boyfriend. We all know someone like this, don’t we?

I’m starting to think that there are differences between Red Staters and Blue Staters that run deeper than mere politics. Russ is a liberal atheist, but he’s a kid from rural Indiana (I think), and as such, there is something parochial about his thinking that I don’t think I’ll ever be able to fully wrap my head around. I roll my eyes when I hear people say that they don’t have a problem with the gays but don’t trust Obama and his socialized medicine. It’s the 21st century, guys. Get with it.

I’m not sure what I’m trying to make myself into, but I’m very convinced that it’s different from what I am and what people believe me to be. Somebody will have to trust me, not just support me. But whether they do or don’t, I’m not going to change.

That probably sounded like a conclusion, but it wasn’t. I have one more thing to say: I can’t remember where I first heard that when you catch up with old friends, the years just melt away. Turns out that’s true. When I saw a bunch of my high school friends recently, it was amazing how quickly we fell into our old rhythms. I’m really not a theater person anymore, but any good cast, as the cliché goes, will eventually develop a sense of family. And you can’t ever completely outgrow that. I haven’t seen a show at my high school since everybody I knew there graduated. I have no intention of returning anytime soon. If they want to give me an award for being a distinguished alum someday, maybe, but that’s about it. Right now, I’m trying to get better at being idle. Even then, I’m still fairly productive.