Surrender

kveikurI’m never been much for podcasts. I can’t tell if that’s my own biases against being introduced to a new medium or a problem with the medium itself. Did people dismiss early cinema as nothing more than a novelty because they hadn’t yet seen what it could become? It’s quite possible. A lot of podcasts, to me, sound like a bunch of friends shooting the shit. That’s it. I’m sorry, but you need to have more than that if you want me to listen to it. I don’t even have that many friends and I think listening to other people and their friends talk about nothing is boring. Seriously, I don’t get it: What is the appeal of listening to people you don’t know go on random comedic tangents for an hour or more without ever coming to a point? I’m not trying to be dismissive here, but I honestly do not understand why people like some of this crap. This American Life is about people’s lives, and the stories are organized around a theme. Savage Love is relationship advice. WTF With Marc Maron is interviews, although he opens with a story. Even with a podcast, there has to be a point.

Maybe I’m weird, but I like to think of everything as a potential learning experience. Even if I’m just going down the street for a burger, I feel like I’m cheating myself if I’m not looking for a chance to be enriched, entertained, or educated. A lot of new media doesn’t do it for me: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube. That probably does have more to do with the fact that those platforms are relatively new, but I don’t particularly like any of them, which means that I’m kind of an old fuddy-duddy even though I’m in my 20s. I’m getting left behind, but admittedly, it is by my choice. Since I’m straying into well-trod territory here, let me shift gears and talk about a story that is constantly updating: LGBT equality. Specifically, let’s talk about the wide world of sports. More and more athletes are coming out, and while very few of them are doing so at the professional level, it’s only a matter of time. I think what’s holding us back is that even though there are parallels between the gay rights movement and the civil rights movement, there are some differences, and we have to acknowledge that as well.

There is something very primal about sexuality that race and possibly even gender don’t touch. It’s not something that you can often tell just by looking at someone, and that confuses a lot of people. More importantly, it causes a lot of LGBT people to think that there is something special about them if you can’t tell just by looking at them. Sometimes you can, but that’s not the point. It’s been such a lazy stereotype for so long that gay men aren’t into sports that now that we are learning that some of our athletes are gay, we need to stop acting like it’s that big of a shock. Yes, some gay men love sports. And some straight men love fashion. Could you seriously not have figured that out on your own? It’s ironic that sports are typically held up as a bastion of masculinity, because really, what is gayer than slapping on tight pants and shoulder pads and slamming into other guys for a while? Football’s pretty gay too, come to think of it.

I’ve learned by now that people will never leave you alone if you let them do it on their terms. This does not mean that you have to shut everyone out for fear that they will hurt you, only that you have to own your own words and actions, whatever they are. As I’ve probably said before, I have a million regrets. But I’m not sorry for anything. I just don’t have the time. You can roll your eyes when I say that I’m the greatest human being who ever lived, but as far as I’m concerned, I am, and who are you to tell me I’m wrong? It’s all about living in the present, not that I’m all that good at that. I spend most of my time brooding in my room. The only person I can name who hated humanity more than I do is Bill Hicks, and he died at 32 because he didn’t take very good care of his body. I’ve heard multiple people quote George Carlin as saying, “Life is not measured by the number of breaths you take, but by the number of moments that leave you breathless.” Bullshit. Carlin didn’t say that. That’s from a chain email that somebody claimed was written by him. He would never have said something so trite and meaningless.

I have decided that there is one thing about California that I’m going to miss when I eventually get out of here, and that’s In-N-Out Burger. There is no other fast food chain that compares to it. It’s not the best burger around, just the best burger you can get for under $10. Double-double animal style, there is no competition. New York has Five Guys, but aside from the fries, there’s nothing too remarkable about them, and I say that as somebody who used to eat there pretty regularly. We all have our fast food, I suppose.

I’m not a very good judge of what will take off and what doesn’t. This blog has never climbed very far about 1,000 hits per month, and even then very briefly. Whatever. What I have to say these days doesn’t quite fit into this format, and maybe that’s for the best. Because I want to push outward. I want to find out just what I can get away with and what I’m capable of. And when that’s done, I want time to watch season two of Orphan Black. I go at my own pace, is what I’m trying to say. Don’t try to stop me.

Dream in Red

way he looks

I’ve come to a realization lately that, as realizations often do, seems obvious in retrospect. See, I’ve met a lot of people in my lifetime who have made me feel insecure, and for the longest time, I thought it was something I just needed to get over. But it isn’t. People who make others feel insecure are usually projecting their own insecurities, be it consciously or subconsciously. The people you should want to be around aren’t people who are like you, but people about whom you really don’t care whether or not they’re like you. I thought about this while seeing The Way He Looks, a Brazilian coming-of-age drama about a blind teen who realizes he is gay and falls in love with the new boy in class. I won’t spoil things for you, except to say that everything ends happily, which is not unusual for this kind of film. I’ve railed against this subgenre before, but somehow, this one got through my defenses. And I think I know why.

I tend to tiptoe around going into too much detail about my own experiences in high school on this blog. It’s not so much that I get off on being withholding as that I don’t generally find it relevant to what I have to say here. But I don’t mind saying that this film bears no resemblance to my own experiences. I spent most of my time in high school crushing on straight friends. That’s a staple of many a young homo’s story, and a lot of gay fiction plays into that by having the shy, nerdy protagonist get assigned to tutor the captain of the football team and…you know the rest. In real life, this almost never happens. I’m not saying that the captain of the football team is never gay, only that the odds that he will fall for his shy, nerdy math tutor and find his feelings reciprocated are infinitesimal. I almost got angry at The Way He Looks for presenting a story that is so goddamned warm and fuzzy, but then I realized that that’s not fair. There are teens getting thrown out of their houses for being gay, but there are also teens whose biggest fear is just that the boy they like is more interested in the cute girl in class and their stories matter, too.

I’m about a decade older than the characters in this film. I remember very clearly what being that age was like. So when I see a film like Shelter or Summer Storm, I get kinda pissy because what they present is a fantasy, nothing more. Yes, it would be nice to be pushed out of the closet by a handsome surfer who takes you by the hand and helps you to realize that everything will be okay and that this thing you’ve just learned about yourself changes nothing. Yes, it would be nice to realize that you are gay and then have your straight best friend instantly forgive you for getting overly physical and cockblocking him earlier. But that never happens and you know it. Stories like that of Leonardo and Gabriel (the guys in The Way He Looks) do happen occasionally. They’re nowhere near as rare as they used to be, but I suspect that they did happen even when I was a teen. Some people lead charmed lives, and others just know how to roll with the punches. I’m not sure if either of those can be applied to me, but hey, I don’t begrudge those to whom they can.

I’m realizing that I won’t keep in touch with everyone I know over here when I move back to New York. And I’m okay with that. You don’t have to stay friends with somebody forever in order to say that they had a meaningful impact on your life. A lot of the people I hang out with these days are California types. They’re the kinds of people who can exist only in a certain region, and since they live in that region, that’s okay. But there are folks who live in California and like California who transcend their region. And then there’s me. I’m not a California type. At the moment, I’m a New York type, but I talk about that enough already. I made the decision long ago not to pursue a career in academia. Some people never leave the college campus. I go back less and less with each passing year.

You have to be judicious in deciding who is really worthy of your time. Sometimes, that hews dangerously close to cruelty. It’s weird, because I complain a lot about how my friends never hit me up and ask how I’m doing. Most of the time, I’m the one who has to initiate any interaction. Somehow, I still feel like I’d be in a better place if I could drop a few more of them from my mental Facebook feed. It’s not even that I hate them, just that I hung out with them to vent my frustrations, and since I’m very, very slowly learning to deal with some of those frustrations, I think they’d be better off if I cut them loose. Why do you think I update this blog so often? If I had more people to listen to me in real life, I wouldn’t have written hundreds of thousands of words here. But all that barking madness has to go somewhere.

I try not to look at what I’m doing these days as “finding myself”. Maybe part of the reason that my parents were so frustrated with my progress when I lived with them was that I wasn’t rushing along and wasn’t doing nothing; I was moving, just very incrementally. In a way, that’s more aggravating than going nowhere. Then again, maybe not.

Bad Day

As I write this, I’m feeling a little bit more “in my head” than usual. I’m not sure what to do about that. My first impulse when this happens is to travel to the ends of the Earth and, I don’t know, look around or something, but that is unfeasible for reasons that should be fairly obvious. I had a night like that my second semester in grad school. I couldn’t sleep, so I left my apartment and just started walking. Eventually, I turned back, getting to bed around three in the morning. You ever feel like you’re just being pulled apart at the seams? It’s like there are two yous, one of whom wants to go far away and live a completely different life and the other of whom wants to stay right where he is? Grad school was like that a lot of the time. A lot of my life right now is like that. If I can save up the money, I will absolutely spend a week or two in NYC early next year. I need to see that city again. I had to leave so suddenly, and my parents still don’t seem to have fully accepted that I have every intention of moving back there someday. Maybe someday long after that, I’ll leave and find a place in rural New England. I don’t know. I’m not purely a city boy.

I still spend a ridiculous amount of time on YouTube. It’s hard to stop. The videos are usually not that long, and once you’ve clicked on one, it’s almost impossible not to sit there for five minutes, then click on the next. But I am definitely getting bored with some of them. It’s funny: Coming out of the closet is supposed to liberate you and make you feel like you can be whoever you want to be, but so many people, after doing that, seem to adopt a prepackaged identity that comes with the label “gay”. And you had better believe that they are the same people who say that they don’t believe in labels because they’re constricting. What’s so scary about labels, though? They tell you what a person is, not who they are. It’s not that a person’s sexuality is the first thing you need to know about them, but it’s pretty hard to say that you know a person well if you don’t have an inkling as to their gender identity, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, politics, etc. They’re facets of your identity, nothing more, nothing less. But sexuality and gender identity trip a lot of people up because they are so damned political. You can say it’s only a part of you, but when people are trying to take away your rights, it becomes a very big part.

will & rjThe thing about YouTube is how closely it is starting to resemble other forms of media. Everybody on TV is pretty, and wouldn’t you know it, most of the successful YouTubers I know of are conventionally attractive. If they’re not movie star beautiful, most of them are at least cute. Maybe people like that are more inclined to go on camera in the first place. I don’t know. What I do know is that a lot of YouTubers are starting to appropriate the tropes that make certain TV shows and movies successful. I’ll bet dollars to doughnuts that some of the vloggers out there rehearse some of their shots or even retake them if stuff doesn’t go right. It’s not surprising. Since YouTube is, for so many people, a form of escape, it makes sense that a lot of the people who do it care more about putting on a show than they do about being honest. But I take issue with some of them presenting what they do as a raw and unfiltered look at their day-to-day lives. Most people’s daily lives are boring. I can’t even imagine what daily vlogs from me would look like, and I’m interesting.

I am immediately suspicious of anyone who considers themselves a go-getter. Anyone who thinks that the secret to success is pursuing what you want as aggressively as possible is probably a douchebag. I had to turn down a prospective living situation a little while before finding the new place because the dude asked me not only what time I get up in the morning, but whether I used a hair dryer or any other hygienic appliances. Unless you are sleeping in the bathroom, that really shouldn’t be an issue, should it? I suppose a light sleeper could be awoken by somebody using a hair dryer in the next room, but even that seems like a bit of a stretch.

Anyway, the dude also added me on Facebook because he wanted to get to know me better. Um, no thanks, dude. I sent you a link to my LinkedIn profile because you said that a link to a social media profile would help on your Craigslist ad. I rather pointedly didn’t want you to seek out my FB profile, and I thought you’d get the hint. To give you an idea of what kind of guy he was, he listed The Secret as one of his favorite books and Fight Club as one of his favorite films. Ugh. (I like Fight Club, actually, but you see my point.) Basically, he struck me as a real-life version of the douchey businessman whose car Walter sets on fire in season one of Breaking Bad. (The dude who had “KENWINS” as his license plate, because everything is about winning to these assholes.) His profile picture was a professional looking shot of him giving a big, wide smile in front of a white background. He probably gets up every morning and accomplishes a whole lot of absolutely nothing. Fuck that guy.

I don’t have a conclusion here. You gotta find the people you can be you around, I guess.

Trouble Will Find Me

I’ve been watching some commencement videos on YouTube lately. There’s that Neil Gaiman one I’ve posted multiple times and can practically recite from memory. There’s Stephen Colbert’s—which is fairly cliche, actually, but contains one salient point about how achieving your dreams doesn’t mean you “won”. And then there’s Steve Jobs’, which is characteristically direct and essentially says that you won’t be around forever, so do what you need to do. The Gaiman one and the Jobs one are probably my favorites so far, but I’d also give a shout-out to David Foster Wallace and Bill Watterson, both of whose speeches I have posted or quoted before. Jim Carrey’s speech is also on YouTube. I don’t feel like watching that.

Because I harp on this conflict so much, let me just say that my parents, for my money, have already lost. Their arguments are getting increasingly desperate anyway. I think they know they’re holding me back, because what they’re doing is throwing a tantrum. Dan Savage said that after LGBT kids come out to their parents, they typically throw a shitfit that lasts about a year. For that time, the kid in question has to be the adult in the relationship, because their parents are just angry that they can’t have everything their way. I guess this is, in a metaphorical sense, my coming out. I’ve been out for years now, but it’s only fairly recently that I’ve started pushing back. No, I’m not going to go to the doctor for regular checkups if I don’t feel like it, and the fact that I don’t like discussing my health with you does not mean that I need a lecture about the importance of having a good healthcare plan. This is the only way they know how to relate to me. What a shame.

Some people lose their edge as they get older. Some people never had any to begin with. If there is one hope that I have, it’s that I never lose whatever I have that rubs people the wrong way. A friend of mine described me as having a “difficult” personality. No, I don’t, and I’m not even sure what that means anyway. Another described me as having a “polarizing” personality, and that, I can live with. I don’t believe in destiny. I think it’s people who make our own way, and even if there are forces in the universe that are beyond our comprehension, the way that they make their presence known is less in showing us the path than occasionally meeting us halfway. Change takes time. You can resolve to turn over a new leaf, but habits are hard to break. I spend marginally less time dicking on my laptop before getting out of bed every morning than I used to. I’d like to say that I’ll be back at 100% soon, but I doubt it. Besides, dicking around on your laptop can be fun.

I sometimes bring my checkbook with me when I go to look at apartments. The last person to offer me an apartment on the spot was Psycho Queens Guy, so in retrospect, maybe that’s not such a good idea. But I keep doing it because I keep wondering if the problem is just that I’m not assertive enough. The people at my new job all seem to think I don’t talk much, which is true about 95% of the time. The people at my previous job thought the same thing. I don’t know how to say things in a way that people will understand. A lot of the time, they just don’t get it. And if there’s one thing my enemies all have in common, it’s that they think they’re on my side.

I got very angry at a dude whose place I wanted to look at a few days ago. I called him up after seeing his Craigslist posting and, before he had even asked my name or set up a time for me to come look at the place, began bombarding me with questions about where I worked, how much money I made, how old I was, etc. When I told him the general location of the restaurant I work in, he asked me to be more specific. I guess he thought he was helping me determine whether or not I really needed the place, but after a while, I began to wonder if he actually wanted to rent the place to anyone. Because I kind of think meeting somebody in person is the best way to determine whether or not they’re right for something. When I told him I lived with my parents, he told me I should just stay with them because that’s free rent. I don’t have to explain why that upset me, do I? The kicker was that I realized very early in the call that I had looked at another room in this guy’s house several months ago. He was a total dick then, too, giving me misleading directions so that I arrived two hours late and giving the place to somebody else because I took a day or two to get back to him with my credit score. Fuck him.

I still go to the movies pretty regularly. I saw Gone Girl and enjoyed it, although I found the ending a bit of a stretch. (SPOILERS, naturally.) Yes, the Nancy Graces of the world would probably jump on that case and milk it for all it’s worth, but the Jon Stewarts and John Olivers would likely point out all of the things about Crazy Amy’s story that don’t fit. Because when you really think about it, there’s a LOT that didn’t fit. Maybe I’m just averse to endings where everything is “back to normal”, even if “normal” is actually really fucked up. Change happens no matter what. And normal is not what most people think it is.

Always wondered about this.

Always wondered about this.

Mixed Nuts

There’s an article I read a while back that I can’t seem to locate again. It was an absolutely gorgeous and off-the-hook rant by a gay guy who was sick to death of all the flaming faggots on Grindr, Craigslist, and OKCupid who can’t stop talking about how masculine they are. I’ve addressed this topic before. The term “straight-acting” needs to be hit on the head with a shovel and thrown into an unmarked grave. Please stop defining yourself in terms of what you aren’t. Just stop. And anyway, why is that all that unique? I probably know more straight musical theater queens than gay musical theater queens, and believe me, I know a lot of musical theater queens. If you were really straight-acting, you wouldn’t be hyper-masculine, but somewhat masculine with a few feminine traits thrown in. Because that’s how straight guys are.

Hate the show, but I will concede that some of the cast members were/are quite talented.

Hate the show, but I will concede that some of the cast members were/are quite talented.

I think what really drives me nuts about the whole thing is how selective supposedly “straight-acting” gay guys are. They might wear stylish underwear, use product on their hair, and hang out almost exclusively with other gay guys (with a couple of token straight men thrown in for balance) and still talk about how they’re “not like those other gays”. Because as long as there is one stereotype that you don’t conform to, you can’t be stereotypical, right? Honestly, I don’t get it. If people don’t know you’re gay until you tell them, does that make you less gay than all those other gays? It’s gotten so prevalent that any day now, I expect to hear somebody say, “I love fashion and Glee. I’m totally not like all those other gays!”

In case it’s not obvious, online dating is getting to me. Really, really, really getting to me. On the plus side, it has provided me with some killer masturbatory fodder.

I try to resist the urge to be a troll, believe it or not, but sometimes, my mouth gets the better of me. People tell me they admire me for speaking my mind, but the thing nobody tells you about that is that speaking your mind, admirable or not, can really get you in trouble sometimes. And sometimes, it’s not even that admirable. I don’t know what I’m accomplishing by messaging random guys on online dating sites to let them know I find their profiles obnoxious. Seriously, why would anyone do that except to be an asshole? It’s not like they’re going to stop being an asshole just because I told them they’re being an asshole. (Who am I to judge other people’s assholery, you ask? Why, I’m the Robot King, the biggest asshole of them all.)

There was a time when I might have gotten a little thrill out of people telling me, “Wow, you’re gay? I had no idea!” But I grew out of that a long, long time ago, and even then, it wasn’t really the core of my identity. I do generally prefer the conventionally masculine men to femme ones, but that’s a preference, not a hard and fast rule, and trust me, there are a LOT of exceptions. Essentially, people want to have it both ways. They want to believe that there is something different and special about them, but they still want to feel like they’re just one of the guys. But you aren’t straight, dude. You may act straight, but some straight guys aren’t straight-acting, which is part of the reason that word is so poisonous. It feeds into an ideal that the reality can never possibly match. You can always be just a little more masculine, can’t you? And really, what is gayer than a man working overtime to affirm his masculinity?

Ian McKellen was right when he said that there are good gays and bad gays. Of course, he wasn’t the first person to say that, but the whole “We’re not so different” thing doesn’t ever get old, does it? The one thing that online dating has caused me to contemplate is just how many of these people I know in real life. Being the introverted misanthrope that I am, I don’t generally go out of my way to learn about the lives of my coworkers, colleagues, friends, family members, sex partners, or anyone who isn’t me. So it’s possible that I knew a lot of people like the morons I run into on the internet when I was in college or high school. Then again, it’s possible that I didn’t. I didn’t hang out in a lot of the popular hangout spots when I was in college. I didn’t join any fraternities. So maybe I actually did manage to avoid a lot of the douchebags. (Not that all frat boys are dbags, just a lot of them. The ones I knew were generally okay.)

I don’t understand this obsession with coming out. You do it once, and then you move on. Yes, Harvey Milk did say that the most important thing any queer person could do was come out, but it’s really the context that matters, isn’t it? You’re not doing it so you can admire everyone’s surprised faces and you aren’t doing it so that you can keep declaring your sexuality over and over again every day of your life, but so that people can see you as a normal individual and not some alien freak. Don’t play it up, don’t play it down, just play it. And with that out of the way, I think I’ll take a few days off of blogging. Enjoy this funny video. If you’re a D&D geek like me, it should be right up your alley. Just don’t get me started on bottom shame.