Once in a Lifetime

 

I’ve never made friends quickly. You all should know that by now. At my previous job, my boss told me that I seemed to have put up a shell around myself. That’s not entirely true, but he meant well. I heard recently that he walked out of the store he’d been transferred to because the district manager is a total bitch. I flatter myself that I might have started a bit of a trend by walking out when I did. I wasn’t the first person to walk out, but still. They started a dangerous precedent by pushing good people out, and anyway, I didn’t come here to gloat. I’ve learned by now that what they say about living well being the best revenge is true. It doesn’t mean that the bad guy always gets his comeuppance. Oftentimes, they kinda just drift away. Most of the time, they never learn their lesson. They go on being shitty, and the most you can hope for is that the people around them realize what shits they are and keep their distance. But they don’t ever just go away.

It was a big decision when I decided to be a blogger instead of a vlogger or whatever. I have a very animated speaking style and a rather distinctive voice, but I would prefer not to go on camera. I don’t like having my picture taken. Sometimes I think I might have fit right in in one of those cultures where they believe that having your picture taken robs you of your soul or something like that. Then again, maybe not. I’m not a Luddite (it’s actually a common myth that the Luddites were anti-technology, but never mind); I just try to resist the temptation of going with trends. That’s why I’ve always felt so out of my own time. I know that we all like to think of ourselves as special snowflakes, and that’s great. But there are a lot of people out there who don’t think of themselves as ordinary who, to my eyes, appear rather conventional. I don’t believe that’s entirely subjective. I think that most people are boring, and that interesting people come in all shapes and sizes. There’s nothing wrong with being boring, I suppose. It’s all in what you want out of life.

cybermenIt’s frustrating, working in a medium that doesn’t provide you with any immediate gauge as to what people think. Actually, I think that might be a strength. Facebook has the “like” button, and actually, so does this blog. But it’s not like there are message boards where people discuss my stuff at length. If they did, I probably wouldn’t read it because I need my headspace. That’s the problem with the internet: it’s all just nerds with opinions. I still don’t understand why so many Whovians hate “Nightmare in Silver” so much. I remain convinced that it’s the best Cybermen storyline since “Earthshock”, not that the competition is particularly steep. It’s definitely overstuffed and yeah, the kids are kind of annoying, but it also has some arresting visuals, a great performance by Matt Smith, and some of the snappiest dialogue the show ever produced. (“I trust the Doctor.” “Are you saying he knows what he’s doing?” “I’m not sure I’d go that far.”) For once, the Cybermen act like Cybermen (sort of proto-Borg, although I don’t know if there’s any truth to the rumor that they inspired the Borg) rather than substitute Daleks. Go Gaiman.

There’s nobody I agree with 100% of the time. This leads me to believe that nobody is right 100% of the time except for me. But seriously, I do believe that there is such a thing as absolute truth. I believe in subjectivity as well; I just think that while most human beings might, on some level, be more or less the same, that doesn’t mean you have to get along with everyone, and it’s okay to think somebody’s a shithead if they’ve wronged you. I guarantee that there are folks out there who think I’m a shithead, although I think most of them are shitheads too, so I guess it kind of evens out. There’s no bigger waste of time, in my opinion, than trying to make friends with everyone. A lot of my idols probably wouldn’t have much to say to me if they met me. Then again, maybe they would and I just need to get a little bit better at making overtures.

I’ve always believed that endings aren’t bad so long as you get to end things on your own terms. I talked to an asshole on an online dating site just now who couldn’t believe that I choose to work in retail and customer service jobs despite having degrees from two of the best universities in the world. Well, I am a smart motherfucker. Right now, I need my headspace, that’s all. You can’t get back at everyone who has hurt you. Robert, the near-sociopath who screwed me out of my living situation about two years ago, is probably living quite comfortably now. Whether or not he’s happy is debatable. I’m not very happy, but it’s all in how you define happiness, isn’t it?

In case it’s not obvious, I’m signing off here. I’ve cranked out these last few posts in what could be considered a binge (albeit the tamest binge in the entire history of the word) because sometimes, you just want to get it over with. Oh no, don’t take that the wrong way. I’m glad I did this shit. I used to think that you needed to have all your shit figured out before you ended something, but it turns out you don’t. Is death the only part where that happens? I don’t know. But it’s not as scary as it looks. Not that I plan on doing it anytime soon.

I’ll leave you with something silly. I’m still kind of a funnyman despite spending most of my time here sharing Deep Thoughts. See ya around.

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.

In the Morning

I said when I left New York for California that I was going into what I thought of as an exile. It’s been over a year since that happened, and it really wasn’t my choice. I’ve never been able to uproot myself completely. I had a very awkward experience my freshman year of college when I returned to my high school to see the improv club perform and ended up performing in the show. It wasn’t like I was trying to pass myself off as a student, so I don’t suppose there was anything wrong with it, but man, did it ever feel weird. When I was in grad school, I frequently found myself wishing that I could pop by California for just a few hours or the same way that I spent many weekends in my first year of college at my parents’ house and still revisit my college town on occasion. (I’m not always there just to walk around. I have friends over there and sometimes, there’s a movie showing that isn’t available where I live.) I’m starting to worry that some of the people I hang out with are a bit too much like me. So maybe it’s time to get out of this town.

It’s probably better to feel as if you are leaving shit behind rather than getting out just to get away from all this stuff. And I definitely won’t be able to move back to NYC anytime soon, for reasons both financial and otherwise. What I know for certain is that I’m getting tired of this shit. I’m tired of this wussy climate. I’m tired of having to commute sometimes several hours in order to spend time with a friend. I’m tired of being reminded of shit that I did growing up but don’t really care about anymore. I don’t know if my high school has reunions, but if it does, I’m never going to one. That’s a promise.

A lot of my coworkers at the coffee shop knew each other previously. I didn’t know anyone there when I walked in and was older than most of them anyway, if only by a few years. I can’t help that I prefer to hold myself at kind of a distance from the LGBT community. I hate it when people say, “Being gay is only a small part of who I am” because no, it isn’t; I just think that it’s a mistake to define yourself in terms of how well you do or don’t fit in with a particular group. It is one thing to look at certain issues through rainbow-colored lenses and quite another to make everything about gender and sexuality. The former is not only fine but vital and perhaps even inevitable. The latter is dull. Dull, dull, dull. And I know I’ve talked about this before but that doesn’t make it any less true.

I worried for a long time about how I was going to keep in touch with all my friends when we lived on opposite sides of the country. The obvious answer to that is that sometimes people drift apart. The ones that don’t stay in contact via Skype or social media or Pony Express or telegraph or whatever the hell else you’ve got. And I think the rocky quality of my social life up until this point is due to the fear that my friends will forget me if I don’t stay in constant contact with them. One of my best friends from college is getting his Ph.D in condensed matter physics at Urbana-Champaign Illinois. I haven’t seen him in over three years, but you had better believe I want to see him again. I hope he feels the same way about me. Because we haven’t talked in a while.

Maybe the frustration here is that I can’t seem to distinguish between people who are really important to me and people who are only kind of important. It’s okay, I guess, to have friendly acquaintances with whom you exchange Christmas cards but don’t actually see much if at all, but then again, writing Christmas cards sounds like a real drag. My parents sit down to do them every year around December and…God no, I don’t want to go there.

There are a lot of nice people in the world, but as for people I would actually want to get to know, the list is rather short. Someday, I might like to meet my heroes, but of course, there’s nothing that says I should have to be friends with them. When I leave this state for good, perhaps it will feel necessary more than anything else. I’m not itching to get out of here, but the fact remains that I never really liked it all that much to begin with. And I might return periodically for the holidays and whatnot, but don’t count on it. Because people need to reach out to me from time to time, and while I didn’t write this to point fingers at anyone, I think some of them could try a little harder on that front. Of course, the ones I’d really want to see this probably aren’t the ones reading it. So it goes.

It should not come as news to most of you that reading YouTube comments is a bad idea. I still do it sometimes for reasons I can’t begin to fathom. After reading way more of them than any reasonable person should, I have concluded that most people are fucking idiots, and that most of the racist/misogynistic stuff attacking Obama/Anita Sarkeesian/Nelson Mandela/Dora the Explorer/whoever the fuck the trolls are after these days are left by a small group of people with diagnosable mental disorders brought together by a shared need to live in a bigoted fantasy rather than the real world. It’s pretty much the only way I can maintain my faith in humanity. Not that there was much of that to begin with.

 

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.

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.