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.

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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.

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.

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.