I’ve alluded to this story, but I’ve never actually told it, so here it is in relative detail. When I was in high school, the most beautiful girl in the world hit on me, and I didn’t notice/believe it because I was too shy to do anything about it. Huh… that was less detail than I thought.
We’re going to say her name was Becky, because it very well may have been. Even if she were born with Rebecca, it would have said “Becky” on her letter jacket. Becky was a cheerleader, not only that, but she was exactly the sort of girl your nostalgic heart pictures when I say “She was a cheerleader” with the exception of the hair. Oh she had the requisite blonde hair. She wouldn’t be the girl your nostalgic heart pictures when I say “She was a cheerleader” if her eyes weren’t a sparkling blue and if her hair wasn’t a light and fair blonde. It was just, hers was cut into a short dutchboy style hair cut. There was nothing so odd about that, as it was1993-94 (a period scientists would later call “The Early to Mid-90s) such things were deemed acceptable. And as she was exactly the sort of girl your nostalgic heart pictures when I say “She was a cheerleader” it wouldn’t really have mattered if it weren’t acceptable, I’m pretty sure if that was how she wanted to cut her hair, she would have either way.
Becky and I were in an English class together, creative writing if you must know. Those of you who went to CVHS will remember the East Building, and will understand what that means. The tile floors, rather than carpet, the bare concrete breeze block walls, and so on. Just giving those of you who never set foot in that benighted hellhole an idea. Miss Greely was okay, and the class was okay, and it was creative writing so that was pretty easy and so on…
What happened was that I had chosen a desk, and right next to me, the most beautiful girl in the world chose the desk that was basically the closest you could get to the door while still sitting in one of those demonic plastic chair/desk combinations with the black streaks in the brown resin to make it look as though the surface had once come from a tree. The joke was on them of course, as it had come from a tree, just during the Paleozoic era. I had guessed that the seat nearest the door was her goal, and I sympathized. First day of class, the first day of school, she had worn her cheerleader costume and I had pegged her for someone trying for an easy A and a “Get Out of Stupid English Requirements” card. She had some nervous energy, and if I were a worse writer, this is where I would make comparisons to lithe jungle cats or some bullshit. Not going to though, because what she looked like was more magnificent than all the tigers and jaguars and ocelots in the world. She was the sort of girl your nostalgic heart pictures when I say “She was a cheerleader” and she was the most beautiful girl in the world. I’m not going to discuss legs, or skin, or style, because I already told you. She was the most beautiful girl in the world, that’s what you need to know. And he had nervous energy because he all did. I could sympathize with her desire to get out of that room, I had a pretty strong desire to be free of the whole school.
What ended up happening that first day was that we broke into small groups, me and Becky and another boy who is so unimportant to this story that I won’t even bother telling you his name was Phil. We were supposed to talk about the last thing each of us had read and why we either liked or disliked the main character. I was expecting to hear about how Miss Woodhouse had fallen for Mister Darcy in whatever bit of tat she’d read. Phil had read a sports book, about the big game or the guy who won the big game or GOD I DON’T CARE! God love him, he’d actually read a book once, but he was badly matched and I said he wasn’t important to the story.
I explained about The Dark Half, and how George Stark might be the hero of the book, even though really it’s Thad, but it could have been George. Beck surprised me a bit by relating how she’d read a detective story from the thirties. It wasn’t her usual reading material (As I had suspected, the Woodhouse/Darcy situation was more her speed) but the amorality of the hero fascinated her and she ended up liking the book quite a bit. While Phil tried to add comments here and there, he was rather lost in a talk of detective stories and movies that had dead actors who didn’t even have the good graces to be shot in color. It had was a pretty enjoyable conversation, even if it probably contains more in my head than it did in reality.
I didn’t really think much more about it, even when we chatted a bit the next day. I mean, yes, I thought about Becky because you think about the most beautiful girl in the world when she’s not there. But I still had this idea of spheres of existence in those days. Even if we talked every day, and even though we talked about a lot of different things that people around us didn’t talk about, and even if and even if. She was a cheerleader and I was… not. I wasn’t a jock, nor an achiever, nor… well, a lot of things. I was never a member of any group or subgroup. If you’ve ever seen me at a place where there are a lot of people, you might notice I talk to one group, then talk to another group, and then another, and it almost doesn’t matter which group it is because I can walk into any group and have a conversation. What I haven’t always been able to do though it approach any member of any group and ask them out. She had a boyfriend for a while, and then she didn’t and I still didn’t ask her out because she and not knowing if she was interested and she was exactly the sort of girl your nostalgic heart pictures when I say “She was a cheerleader” and must have had better offers. So instead she was a girl I talked to in creative writing class. It sort of goes deeper than that though, and with hindsight, of course I can see that.
See, I made her a couple of tapes. Now, if you’re some sort of god damn kid who can git offa mah damn lahn, you probably don’t get what that means. I don’t care what you’ve been told, making a CD, or a Spotify playlist, or whatever the hell you kids do now is… IT! IS! NOT! THE! SAME! Making a tape was a complex process where a pair of complementary programs have to be produced. You have to ride the rises, and gently lower them into the lows, each song has to flow into the next and follow the theme you’ve decided on and then it has to be recorded live onto a tape. It was a skill! It was a highly valued skill too, as people sometimes asked me to make tapes for them to give to other people. Anyway, I made her a tape when she broke up with her boyfriend, full of sad songs on the one side and gradually rising into happier songs on the other. And the second tape I made was one on a theme she had asked for and I’m not going to tell you what that is because it’s private.
She asked for the second tape though, she requested a theme, she wanted me to make another thing for her like the thing I’d made before that she’d enjoyed. I mean… yeah.. you’re right. Looking back, I can see it, I can see she liked the way I put music together and that I had good taste in tunes. What? Why are you looking at me like that?
So a few years go by, and she’s in college or something, I don’t really know. I never actually hung out with her, or anything like that. She was the most beautiful girl in the world, but we just sat next to each other in class. Or so I’d thought. It would still be a while before I’d learn about the syndrome that affects pretty girls, where so many people get intimidated by their beauty that they can actually end up with poor self esteem and a bad sense of self worth. She had a friend that I knew, I wouldn’t call this other person a friend because I was and am pretty selective with that word. It doesn’t matter, because she and I met somewhere and that was when she gave me the lowdown. Becky got mentioned, and how she was at MSU or U of M or EMU or wherever it was she went to school and how she was engaged to a guy and then her friend laughed a little and said the phrase that still haunts me to this day.
“She had the biggest crush on you.” Friend said, like it wasn’t ripping my heart out or anything.
“Pardon?” I asked.
“She thought you were cute, and smart and funny.” Friend said as if she wasn’t yanking the other organs out, strewing them on the floor in a gaudy cascade of blood and offal. She kept yanking, hoping that if she found the liver she could devour it and gain all my power. “She was like, totally in love with you, but she didn’t think you were that into her. You never asked for her phone number, or asked her out, she thought maybe you weren’t into the cheerleader type. You should have asked her out, she totally would have gone with you.”
“Well it does no one any good to tell me that now.” I explained. “You could have said something.”
“Would you have believed me?” She asked, biting into my liver and smiling at me with her gore covered visage.
So there you have it, I had no idea anyone was into me in high school until well after it was over. I realized that Becky had a similar problem, not knowing that the guy she really liked was into her too. I mean… I made her two tapes, in some cultures that binds our souls with invisible silken threads that even the gods cannot break, though they look down on us with jealous malice. In the culture of high school though, she thought me aloof and I thought her beyond me.
I have no moral for this, or it’s so deeply woven into the tapestry of the story that if I were to simply hand it to you the whole tale would unravel. Either way, I’m done talking about it for now.
The further along I get in this losing weight and getting healthy thing, the more I want to curb stomp anyone who says “Just eat less and exercise more.” or “Just do more cardio.” Or “Just…” anything. You get that a lot on the internet, lots of self-satisfied fit people who have never known actual fatness, or depression, or glandular dysfunctions, or any number of things. They’ll give you a lot of “Just” answers, like that’s all you need.
Just exercise more, never a word on how to start, or what you should do at your skill level. Just exercise. That, as advice, is useless, since it addresses nothing and often leaves a person feeling even more defeated than before. I get it, you’re a busy person and you don’t have time to step by step someone, but if you just parrot off the same bullshit again then you might as well have just kept your mouth shut.
Besides, there is no such thing as “Just” in this world. As I’ve said a few times, I have made a lot of progress in the last few years. This was not “Just” anything. There was no “Just” to a single thing I’ve done. Every single step, every single motion, has been a struggle.
Saying “Just eat less” makes it sound like making a radical change in my diet was something I tossed off in an afternoon. Like I just sat down and said “Right, no more cases of Coca Cola for me.” and then I just never drank any after that. What I’m about to say is going to shock and dismay many of you, but it wasn’t quite that easy. Took a lot of forward and backward motions, a lot of struggle.
Likewise, “Just exercise more” make me want to come at you with a blade. Again, we need a list of follow-up questions for that. How does one get over the crushing depression? I mean, you’re supposed to exercise to get over depression, but you can’t exercise because you’re too depressed… so they tell you to “just” exercise… and you know that results in the question how can you not see how dead these fish are? And there are more questions. What’s a good beginner level? Where do you go where fit people won’t harass and bully someone not as fit as them? How do I not get discouraged and give up? And more besides.
There is no just, just is a myth. This was a lot of work and the work feels unending.
Stop this “Just” nonsense.
Just stop it! See? Sounds stupid, right?
Genghis Khan’s empire stretched from Iran to Korea. He basically got all of China and most of Russia and his name was actually Temujin, but we’ll ignore that for now. The larger issue is, if he’d had cellphones he’d have gotten a lot more done. With cell net technology, he could have expanded to encompass all of Eurasia. And he would have used Text messaging if available. He not only would he have texted while riding a horse, he would have taken bitchin’ selfies and photo bombed them with the head of some dude he just chopped off.
You know why? Because there was nothing in that man’s life that wasn’t totally bitchin’! ALSO! Because he was a brilliant man who used all the technology, organizational skill and leadership techniques that were at his fingertips. He wouldn’t have pretended that this or that tech was a fad, or below him. He would have used it to the fullest extent and pretending that he wouldn’t is just ignorant bullshit. George Washington would have used Twitter (more likely Thomas Paine would have run the official Revolutionary Army’s Twitter account) to tell the French how much is sucked freezing to death at Valley Forge, The Impressionists would have had a Facebook Group, and if the Algonquin Round Table could have utilized whatever the hell Google is calling their videochat service this week, you can bet your ass they would have.
You aren’t even a Luddite! THAT was a reaction to mill owners being dickheads, and not the machines that actually powered the mills. Their complaint was one of economics and not technophobia. If anything, the Luddites were just an early trade union. The only reason any of these people went without these things is that they hadn’t been invented yet and if Eilmer of Malmesbury had gotten his glider to work a little better, or Hero of Alexandria hadn’t been killed, maybe it would have all kicked off sooner!
Pretending some kind of superiority, either moral or intellectual, because “These damn kids” are ahead of the technological curve and you don’t like it, is just bullshit. And if y’all don’t know who Eilmer of Malmesbury is, then how can you claim to be intellectually superior to anyone? My CAT knows who Eilmer of Malmesbury is. That ain’t a deep cut, that’s just basic aviation history son.
Can we talk about this “You’re an Inspiration… Fatty” bullshit for a moment?
Okay, got all that? What we have here is “fit” people bullying “not fit” people (air quotes because the idea of fitness is rarely what you think it is). That really is it. The tone of every single one of these is “Oh, look at you, you fatty, actually trying to do something… that’s adorable!” Gosh, why don’t out of shape people go to the gym more? Could it be because fit people shame and degrade them at every turn? Maybe? Calling someone “Fatty” over and over again is not something a friendly person does, it’s what a bully does. If not to insult or degrade, then why use the insulting term? Why start off in a way that’s going to make it sound like an insult, which it is, if you want someone to feel good? Not only that, but loading up on the stereotypes that you just assume someone conforms to…. fuck off forever and die by the hands of an angry mob of china dolls. When you praise an overweight person for running and explain that each step is paying off another chocolate bar, I have to ask, do you praise a black person for speaking so well? I mean, you have the most worthless piece of shit imaginable, and the only thing they can do to make themselves feel better it to point out that someone else isn’t in peak physical condition. Sometimes they try to pretend they’re putting a positive spin on it, but that’s just so much more bullshit and you know it.
That got off to a nasty start, but I know bullying when I see it and when I see it, the red mist comes a rushin’ in and all I can do is be mean.
Let’s talk about my personal journey for a second, okay? I used to be in super good shape, and the gods weren’t just kind when they sculpted my features. Quite frankly, they were showing off at that point. I was lithe and sexy and your girlfriend wanted to do me so hard it hurt a little when she looked at me. Your boyfriend wanted me too, don’t pretend my hotness didn’t transcend gender or preference. I was looked on by straight men as someone who could turn them, alright?
And then something happened in my early to middle 20s. Let’s call it depression because that’s an easy enough single-word concept for people to get right about now. So I drank a lot of pop to stave off the darkness, and eat a lot of food to fill up the emptiness inside. The only emotions I had were “tired” or “horny” or “angry” and I was just lucky they were socially acceptable for a man to feel. After a while, someone I loved left me because she couldn’t take watching me destroy myself anymore. There were other reasons, but I’m not going to expose my whole being to you right now. Point is, I decided I needed to do something and came up with a multi-stage
rocket to take out London plan to get back to my idea of humanity.
Now here is the important part – Your idea of why a person should get fit is not my idea. In fact, unless you know me really well, you probably have no idea how my mind works or what it’s given reasons for things are.
I don’t much give a fuck about my body image. It’s a sack of meat to carry around my brain, and as such isn’t that important to me. My body image issues are things I know are ultimately cosmetic. Looking good isn’t an issue for me. If nothing else, I’m a white American male. Men aren’t “chubby”, we’re “Cuddly” and we aren’t “skinny” either, we get to be “Lithe” and when we start to go gray at the temples that shit is “Distinguished” because we go from “Fuckable” to “Fuckable for different reasons” in this world. That’s not everyone’s experience, but we’re talking about my personal journey.
So body image is out. Do I want to be able to “Do more stuff without getting winded” or some such thing? No. I’m actually fairly active. I work in retail, I walk for 8 hours a day. That was stage 2: Get a job, move around. Nailed it, I’m still on the floor, but now I’m management. I have mild asthma, so I get winded no matter what, but I always tried to run anyway because that’s what you do when you’re young. I still run sometimes, but I make sure to take it a little easier.
Do I want to be stronger? More manly? Physically able to defend myself? Some other bit of patriarchal bullshit? No. I was killing it when I was fit. I learned like, a dozen martial arts, some of them involving swords, knives and sticks. I know three different forms of sword fighting (Kendo, Fencing, Broadsword) I can do Boxing, Judo, Karate Kung-Fu, Greco-Roman Wrestling, and so on and so on. Worse yet, because I was a small kid, most the things I know work even if you’re out of shape or don’t have much muscle mass. I know where it hurts, and I know how to hit there, because when you’re little you just want the fight over as soon as possible. And I’ve been carrying a knife of some kind all the time since I was 18, along with a pocket handkerchief, eye drops and a time telling device (it sounds less weird if you lump it together as a group). So what I’m saying is, basically, the only reason I haven’t killed you is because I don’t want you dead yet.
So why did I buy the dumbbells? Why did I walk at a brisk pace through the park all last summer? Why am I doing these stupid exercises? I am trying to stay alive! Not health wise. Me, my father, my grandfather, his father before him and so on since Ask and Embla have all been far healthier than any three horses. Despite the rotund Nero Wolfe like appearance, my heart pounds in an easy, regular beat that neither work nor drugs has ever been able to get out of rhythm. My lungs are strong and healthy, my liver and kidneys are awesome, and my bowels could make the most delicious sausage you ever ate. Remember, the gods weren’t proud of their work, they were smug.
No, the only problem I have is that when my parents had the party, they forgot to invite a couple of fairies. As a result, one spurned fairy brought dyslexia, the other brought ADD, and the third fairy (who hadn’t been invited to my sister’s party either and was getting pissed by now) gifted me with depression. It put the good looks, the brains, the charm, and the ability to shoot fire from my finger tips into something of a tailspin.
Now, the only thing my doctor was willing to prescribe, since my depression was the “sit quietly in the corner in a dull gray fog” variety and not the actual self-harming variety was exercise. That was all well and good when I was in a dull fog, because you might as well have told me all I had to do was fly to the moon under my own power and I would never be sad again. However, when I had gone through Stages 1-3 I actually started having enough energy to be suicidal. So I said “Oh shit! I’d best put in a 4b or something and buy some motha fuckin dumbbells or some shit.” because I’m still not comfortable enough around people to exercise in front of them. I have that planned for Stage 7, but I’m not enthusiastic about it. Of course, I wasn’t thrilled with the idea of “Go shopping for groceries all by yourself” which was Stage 1, but now that I’ve done it for a couple of years I like it.
So if you see me, one fine spring day, marching down a path with a dumbbell in each hand pumping away with a determined look in my eye… keep your fucking thoughts to yourself. Your input is neither required, nor desired. I am not doing this to get thin, I don’t need encouragement, I’m working this one out on my own. I know I don’t look that fat now, but we’re in Stage 5 and by Stage 5 I should look like I look now. I’ve lost 5 pant sizes since stage 1, even though I weigh EXACTLY the same. Also, these dumbbells are heavy and if I hit you with one, you will cry.
I am doing this to fight off depression, and having this part of my personal journey pointed out to me by someone who has absolutely ZERO idea what it took to just get here feels like bullying. I dealt with a lot of bullies growing up, and I found that putting their face into the ground and making them cry for their mother was an easy way to not get bothered anymore. Remember, I’m carrying heavy metal weights and I am armed with a good sharp knife. Nod, smile, give a thumbs up if you must acknowledge the fact that we have passed each other, but basically leave me the fuck alone. I’m not in a good place, and you probably don’t spend a lot of time thinking “Will I sound helpful here, or will I sound like a condescending asshole” and as such you are always the later.
I am not your inspiration, I’m not even my inspiration, I am just a pile of meat trying to convince it’s brain that there are better things out there than self destruction. I don’t want your encouragement, I’m doing that on my own. I don’t want your advice, I looked this shit up and I know what I’m doing. I really don’t want you trying to offer helpful criticism of my method of working out. I am walking with weights because that is what I have decided to do today. Trying to tell me there are better ways to work out, without understanding my goal (and you didn’t even know that Stage 1 was “Go to the grocery store and buy groceries by yourself” so shut up) feels like you just stopped a stranger to tell them they’re wrong for not doing what you’re doing. I don’t wish to sound mean, or nasty, but there is literally no nice way to put this… I will fucking cut you. I would fucking cut you if you approached me and told me my hair was too long or that my Poly lifestyle was against the made-up laws of the god you made up yesterday and I will tear into you if you try and explain that I’m working on my own shit in a manner that isn’t approved of by you or whatever guru you’re following this week.
Worse yet, I might not cut you. I might just tear into you verbally, and I’ve got 30 fucking years of old books, filled with acidic comments and flowery language that can make you feel about two inches high. I’m not well, I haven’t been well and I’m probably not going to be well for some time. And as for trying to “Encourage” some other “Fatty” as you jog though your life, god help you if you decide to “Encourage” someone like me who is only at Stage 2. I was extremely nasty at Stage 2, it would be embarrassing to see one you genetic lottery winners with a face full of gravel while some “Fatty” explains through what I would be willing to swear in court was “Merely an interpretive dance” that there is a hell of a lot of “Muscle” that you can’t see under all that “Fat” and a fair few of us had to learn how to fight because some asshole like you picked us as the thing you’d stand on to make yourself feel taller for that day.
AND! If you are one of those people, like me, who is fighting the good fight, trying to get over your own brain chemistry and an addiction that science told me this week was more powerful than cocaine or heroin, all I can say to you is fight on. Don’t let the bastards win! Even someone like me who physically won the genetic lottery can fall from grace. It happens, and each of these Stages was super hard. Stage One was practically paralyzing the first time. Stage Two was incredibly hard and I thought I’d gotten done with Stage 3 four, fucking, times, before I actually was ready to move onto Stage 4. You will slip, you will fall, or at least you will if you’re anything like me. I slipped up, fell down, gave up and tried again. Just try. Fuck what Yoda said, you fucking TRY all you can.
Six months ago, I was at Nino Salvagio, which is a local grocery store. Kind of a highish end fruit and international market, you know the sort of place. It’s not really important, but you need to understand that it’s not a corporate place, it’s local. Now I was getting a few things and I saw… her.
She was beautiful, even though there were several things she had going on that aren’t to my tastes. Dreadlocks always look weird to me on blonde girls. Almost… contrived? She had gauges in her ears, which is fine, but not something I’ve ever been fond of. There were scars on her arm, a remnant no doubt of an earlier cutting habit. A few bad tattoos and some misbegotten make-up, and a sullen slouch completed the look. And through all that, she was beautiful. Jaw dropping, heart aching, mind ceasing, utter beauty. The sort of beauty you’d talk about until she became some kind of legend, and when people saw her they’d say “Okay, so one time reality has it over legend.”
Through what seemed to be a considerable amount of effort, she had tried her best to negate what the dvergar that assembled people that day gave her, and all that came to was that she was stunning. Not in a Venus in Blue Jeans kind of way, but in a “Why did you bother fighting it?” kind of way. There was nothing short of going at her face with a straight razor and a hammer that would do anything to hide the perfection of her features. And I’m guessing she hated every moment of it.
I didn’t talk to her about it, of course I didn’t. People say that sometimes “So I talked to her.” But no, they usually didn’t. If they did, they didn’t get an honest answer anyway. She wasn’t going to talk to someone nearly twice her age about her life choices. Had I asked, I would have gotten a few non-committal answers and she would have run to her phone and tweeted “OMG some gross old man just tried to hit on me, or shame me about my tats I don’t know #fuckoffoldman” Because that’s how these interactions really go, I know. I have had to give nosey fuckers non-answers when they try to ask me questions that they have no right to.
I understand, I was an attractive child. From infancy I had the sort of face that made people think I was up to something. At the age of two I had perfected the little lop sided grin that says “I’m going to get away with it, and you’re going to let me get away with it because look at this face.” I grew from an adorable infant to a beautiful child. Some teenage girls clustered around me one day, talking about how beautiful I was, how dark and black my eyes were and so on. I would have been in with a chance if I hadn’t been four at the time. That was what life was like. I was a good looking child.
No one much wanted to listen to me, (besides a few people) I guess, they’d have rathered I was quiet and attractive and did what I was told. I had different ideas, more self-directed. I was adored by many, but also deeply frustrating because I wouldn’t do the “good things” people had planned for me. There comes a problem though, even though I was adored, I could never really trust anyone. No one wanted to listen, they wanted control or at best to be liked by me and my prettiness. I am, several people said, easy to like in a strange way.
I’m good as many things. I can paint, and sing, and draw, and cook, and listen, and write, and make love, and identify songs and why a place might be playing them on Fourth of July Weekend. I do some of these well, and some of them less well. The problem is, there are some people who never let me know I wasn’t doing something well. I was smart enough to identify bullshit when I heard it as a child. For example, I am shit at making clay sculptures. I have one that I keep, to remind me of how shitty I am at it. It’s a good thing I do too, because otherwise people would still be telling me how great I am at making clay sculptures.
Now sure, if I practiced, and worked at it, I could become good at clay. I’m not interested though, I don’t like it enough and I don’t care. Sign of genius that, quitting something because I wasn’t instantly good at it. I was interested to learn that last year, before I thought I was just kind of lazy because I didn’t want to work at things I wasn’t good at. Writing is something I can be good at, even though I tend to entertain myself through my writing too much. I sacrifice flow and readability for the sake of something I find fun. As you well know, I can often go on irritating tangents and fill paragraphs with things that only connect for me and links. However, sometimes I let it burn because I like it burned, so there. Most of this paragraph was filler, but I like the filler. It’s good filler, and I won’t hear a word against it.
I’m pretty sure I was making some kind of point here. Allow us to wallow past the point and into this little pool of thought that’s sort of bubbled over from the main stream. Lay on your back and just float for a moment…
I try to be honest, and posts like this one are an attempt at the sort of honesty I’m talking about. I try to give you an idea of what being inside my head is like. And yeah, this is what it’s like. The sudden gear changes, the references to old books, movies and music, because melody haunts my reverie. Some things are so obscure, and the connections change so quickly, I won’t remember why I thought A was connected to B when I read this later. Syd likes the honesty, it baffles a lot of other people. Some people are always looking for a duplicity that doesn’t exist, and that sort of depresses me because I’m always doing my best to be honest. I’m not good at dishonesty, unless I dedicate myself to it, and then I can’t even stand to be around the asshole that it forces me to become. So I go for the honest thing, because it’s easier and nobler and I can. I know other people lie though, because they do.
Back to the story (about this girl named Blah Blah Blah that adored me)
It always leaves me wondering, how much of any compliment is real. It becomes more complicated when people compliment me for things that are automatic for me. I do some things without thinking and other people are all “Holy shit! You did that thing!” and I’m standing there saying “Yeah… I have pretensions to being a person and in order to maintain the facade I have to do shit like this.” It deeply complicates the matter when 80% of the things people have said to me have been either A) Bullshit or B) Stupid.
Did I mention this above? Screw it, I’ve gone this far and I’m not re-reading this thing again. People will offer empty compliments to attractive people. I often have trouble knowing if I told a funny joke, or if the person I’m talking to just thinks I’m cute. Is my painting any good, or were certain people blinded by desire and as such said they liked the horrible splotches of mangled color? I don’t know if I like the paintings that much myself and around the 30th re-write, or the 90th re-read, everything looks like shitty half formed ideas put together by someone as smelly as a monkey with a typewriter, but not as bright. You can’t trust anything anyone says after a while, and when you’re also smart enough to understand what’s going on you quickly start to feel like you’re on an island about two feet by two feet… and the water is rising. At some point we’ll talk about depression, but not today.
I can understand that girl’s problem and her attempt as a solution though. I would assume she has some intelligence and doesn’t want to just be pretty. She had no choice, but she wants more. She’d like to be thought of as a person, an individual, maybe even someone with a thought and an idea. It’s harder for girls, because society still wants women to be ornamental baby makers. Guys can have thoughts, but no one ever really listens or understands. They just try to keep up as best they can and act impressed when he says a big word. If I could do what that girl did, I just might.
There isn’t much I can do, if I leave off showering I just get smelly. I don’t like being really smelly. My hair actually gets more manageable and gets really shiny on the third or fourth day, so that can be worse. If I don’t shave, I just get rugged stubble. It takes a week to get to the just too much stubble to be sexy, but not enough for a beard which is a different kink all together. I can’t do a lot of other things without running afoul of the honesty issue. I can’t say the weight issue came about because of that. The weight and other things came because of an already discussed depression issue. I’m working on that though.
That’s what can happen sometimes though, people just want to look at you, but not talk or listen to you. It can become deeply frustrating, and can lead to a beautiful young person trying to uglify themselves in various ways. Just so they can try to be taken seriously, even though I’m sure this young woman’s activities are already begin dismissed as “A Phase” by people who were never quite as pretty and probably not as smart. Maybe I’m projecting, but if we’ve gone this far then why not? Who are all these posts about anyway?
I think the other reason I never went to try and uglify myself is that in all honesty I have always had to fight stupid shit. From the age of five, when I first worked out people where bullshitting me about my skills, I decided to just fight through it. If I was going to deal with stupid people saying stupid shit then so be it. Before I’d read enough, or understood enough to know what was going on, I’d picked fighting as the way to go. I’d decided on the natural as my way forward, doing things without aid would be the standard I would carry into battle. My combat is more subtle now, but I still do it the same. I’m not taking diet pills to try and slim my waist. I’m working out and trying like hell to avoid the things that made me fat. I’m not putting on make-up to hide or accentuate things, I just want people to be able to take them straight on. I say this with no complaint about people doing it another way. This is the way *I* have to do it, this is the way that I feel is most honest for *ME* in this instance.
I have always been aware enough of the privilege that these midnight black eyes, long lashes, tumbling ravenesque locks (and so on) bring to not wish to not be what I am though. Of course, I’m also aware enough of the privilege this level of intelligence brings as well. I wouldn’t want to be ugly anymore than I’d want to be stupid or lame or deaf or unable to taste sweet things. I know that the cross I’m talking about is less to bear than some people’s, but while I’m talking about myself, I’m also thinking of that poor girl.
I don’t think she has the strength to really fight. She’s putting up a good front, but I fear this battle may be beyond her. Does she have the resources to fight for her own identity? Can she maintain against the pressure? It’s different for girls, they’re given so much more pressure than boys, and the pressure I felt at her age was enormous. I haven’t seen her lately, I hope she got a job where she fits in better, where she can get away. I still think about her, like I think of so many I have seen.
You wanted to know what it was like in here. Now you have one more piece of the puzzle. When you work the whole thing out, let me know. I’m curious to see if it’s a barn or the Space Shuttle Endeavor.
Probably it’ll turn out to be The Pillar of Cheese in the Shape of Jane Austen.
Scientists say that complaining is a part of life. It’s unavoidable, because it’s a necessary part of existence. It’s chemical, people MUST complain about things. If you have nothing to complain about, life ends, so you must find whatever tiny irritant exists to have something to complain about.
Now, we’re supposed to hate hipsters, despise them in fact. We’re supposed to call them shit stains on the underpants of humanity and complete wastes of space for being the total shit stains on the underpants of humanity and complete wastes of space that they are. BUT WAIT! Just hang on a moment, give me a few minutes of your time and let me tell you about how Hipsters changed my mind about life, the universe and everything.
In 2008, Polaroid (or what remained of it) announced it would no longer be making instant film. The hipsters, true to their rather worthless form, treated this as the sign that the apocalypse had begun. They rushed to LiveJournal and tumblr and bitched and moaned about how unfair it was. Oh the howls, oh the moans, of the gnashing of teeth and wailing into the wind my dears, my darlings.
“Oh shut the fuck up!” cried many a denizen of this fine internet.
“First World Problems!” Declared others in a firm and steady voice.
BUT! If I may, allow us to examine this from another angle, I think you may see that actually these hipsters carry with them the promise of heaven.
YEAH! I said it. Promise of Heaven.
Think about this for a moment, if you will. Or rather, dig if you will the picture…
This life is a sad veil of tears, yeah? But there are, in mythology, beings called messengers or envoys. These beings enjoy a more joyous and perfect life. In Greek, the word used to describe such perfect creatures is ángelos. They bring us glad tidings, they bring us hope. We can look towards these creatures, some beautiful, some hideous, some both, and know that perfection can be achieved.
Now consider this for a moment. There are mortals who enjoy lives so encapsulated by bliss, so crystalline and flawless, so utterly and completely perfect that the only thing, THE ONLY THING, that they have to complain about is that an economically unviable product, from a bankrupt company, was no longer going be to available for their use. The rest of their time is spent liking things before they were cool, buying albums they bought on itunes a months ago on vinyl, and growing their facial hair. We’re still complaining about pain, physical pain. We complain about crippling depression, bigotry, sickness, and the simple basic difficulty of getting over the betrayal of loved ones. We are too much of this earth, every too much in the sun.
While we concern ourselves of these base and low concerns, these… these… these plaid clad angels with ugly horn rim glasses and handle bar mustaches walk among us. Yes, you might argue that there is a reason people stopped having handle bar mustaches, but they disagree and besides it took her so much effort to grow. Who are we to disagree? They are, as I said angels, walking abroad among us in this world.
YES! Brothers and Sisters! I say unto you, that these angels are a promise of a better world! One where the only thing we have to worry about is Polaroid film and someone, somewhere, liking something before we liked it. They are a PROMISE my dears, my darlings. They live in a world of unutterable beauty, of inexcusable perfection. They are our angels.
In point of fact, they’re better than angels. Real Angels are like… Wheels of Fire! With a giant eye looking out from the middle. If one of those showed up, you’d think Sauron had just showed up and you’d just sit there trying to scream, but no words would come out. At least with a Hipster you know the reason you’re not saying anything is because you’re biting back a lot of comments.
I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking this is satire, that I’m being comical. That’s a reasonable supposition, particularly if you’ve read me before, but no! I’m being serious.
The world is a beautiful and glorious place, and all I had to do was to look at it like these mindless creatures, who are so far above that even thought is beyond them. They live in a jewel of perfection of a world, and we just need to work hard and achieve that level for everyone. There is a place so beautiful it causes rancor and endless cynicism for its inhabitants. Don’t you see? We no longer need the gods, we don’t need to look forward to heaven. We, and these beautifully hideous creatures, we can form such a place.
My dears, my darling, do you know what that’s worth? Heaven can be a place on earth. They say in Heaven, love comes first. In 2010, The Impossible Project started producing new lines of Polaroid Cameras and film for the old cameras. Heaven, my dears, my darlings, is a place on earth.
I will forever find comfort in these beautiful, mad, frightfully stupid bastards. You can too. Maybe you were afraid before, I’m not afraid anymore.
It should be said, when I explained this to Syd she opened a browser and brought up this image…
So, maybe it’s not a universal theory.
We sat at the counter and ate and drank. “Did you make the spaghetti sauce?” she said.
“Yeah. A secret recipe I got off the back of the tomato paste can.”
“And the salad dressing? Is there honey in it?”
“Yep. Got that from my mother.”
She shook her head. “Fighter, lover, gourmet cook? Amazing.”
“Nope. I’ll take the fighter, lover, but the gourmet cook is a sexist remark.”
“If you’d cooked this no one would say you were a gourmet cook. It’s because I’m a man. A man who cooks and is interested in it is called a gourmet. A woman is called a housewife. Now eat the goddamned spaghetti.” I said.
She did. Me too.
Promised Land – By Robert B. Parker (1976)
There is something you are taught in therapy, I have been told. I myself have never had more than a brief fling with therapy (it becoming obvious quite quickly that it actually wasn’t me that had the problem the one time I went in for real) but I have been told and I have read a lot. You’re not supposed to make “You Statements” when you talk about something bothering you, but rather “I Statements”. It’s not supposed to be “You do this to annoy me!” but instead go for “I am annoyed by this.” which brings charges that therapy makes people selfish, because they talk more about themselves than other people. I’m often thrown by this, because the complaint often becomes “She just talks about herself and doesn’t want to gossip anymore.” or “They won’t just sit and listen to me anymore!” and I check out of the conversation from there. As a result, I’m going to try to use a lot of I Statements here, because I want to talk about how a thing effects me as well as others.
I’ve listened to a lot of Men’s Rights stuff over the last few years, and almost agreed with some of it. The problem is that they often loose me the more they talk, see if you can see where I’m going with this little playlet.
MRA – Men aren’t allowed to be what they want in this society!
Me – Okay, you’ve almost got something of a point there. (Let’s see what you do with it)
MRA – We’re as trapped as women by the expectations of modern life.
Me – Here! Here! (Why can’t a man wear a dress?)
MRA – Which is why feminism needs to go away!
Me – I’m sorry?
MRA – Women need to get back into the kitchen and remember their place!
Me – Wha-Huh?
MRA – And then men can be MEN again!
Me – What in the seven levels of hell are you talking about?
MRA – Bitches won’t date me! I’m Unwillingly Celibate!
Me – Um….
MRA – I mean, I open doors and everything.
Me – Okay, you need to shut up now or I will beat you to death with this small decorative elephant that a relative gave me as a memento of their trip to Mexico. Why a brass elephant from Mexico, I’ve always wondered, but I will kill you with it.
MRA – You’re just saying that because *URK*!
Me – *thump* Muthafucka! *thump* I did say. *thumpthumpthump*
NOW! Why was I even listening to this person at the start? It has to do with the quote I started with. A person starting with that phrase can go one of two ways, you can either go towards some idea of gender equality, or towards the idea that you should be handed “hot bitches” free with every oil change. I am not going to go into the whole argument here, but if you shower and if you open doors because you’re polite (instead of making a speech about chivalry and how now people OWE YOU for being a decent person) then things will actually go easier for you. It’s not that women love jerks, if they did, they’d go for some of you self-professed Nice Guys.
That’s not even what I called you all here to discuss!
I cook, I have always cooked, ever since I was a child I have cooked. When I have cooked, there have always been people who have treated this like it’s some kind of magic. As if I stood back away from the stove, rolled up my sleeves and yelled “Ala-ca-muthafuckin-ZAM!” and with a brilliant yellow flash (which would mean there was sodium in the mixture) there was suddenly food. Even people who themselves knew how to cook treated this mystical skill of mine like something I learned at the foot of Wong Fei Hung. Because I was a male, cooking, it was regarded as an odd and noteworthy event.
I was quite old before I realized that I actually could cook quite well, enviably well in fact. That it wasn’t just people reacting to the notion of a male-child applying the mystic roots and ancient flames to ingredients in order to create food from non-edible matter. The concept of a male cooking has become less noteworthy over the last twenty years or so, but well into my early twenties it was still an odd and interesting thing to talk about. That I was basically the only one in our house that did the cooking, was often seen as weird and frankly wrong.
Now, Syd can cook some. In that she can cook some things, when she puts her mind to it. I suppose if she had to cook all the time, she would probably be good at it, but she doesn’t need to. Holly could just about toast bread and spread peanut butter on it without burning the house down. She was more than happy to let me do the cooking, because she had no interest at all. In fact, most the women I’ve dated haven’t had much use for the notion of cooking, allowing someone else to do it as much as possible. Just a thing, like so many others. Women I have dated have many a similarity. ANYWAY. I get annoyed at the idea though, that because I cook I am performing magic. It’s bad enough when I actually do something magical, like make a marshmallow. It’s doubly annoying when someone treats any application of heat to food like I’ve performed some kind of goddamned miracle and should have statues erected in my fabulous honor. (Note, I’m not saying cancel the statue, it’s a great statue, but honor my skills as a world-class lover, not as someone who can cook.)
The latest kerfuffle Penny Arcade got into actually reminds and prompts me on this. The problem with all gender issues boils down to the cooking thing for me. Sexual identity means something to me, because all identity issues mean something to me. How you identify yourself is important, because without self-identity where are you? What you decide to be, who you are, how you act, how you present yourself to the world, it all has an impact. Sometimes it’s changing everything about you (even fixing physical errors you were stuck with by the cheap dvergar laborers that the gods hire for people construction) and sometimes it’s just doing what you feel most comfortable with.
Cooking should not be considered some kind of transsexual affair, and I should not be considered a hero for doing it. And yet, I was by people who thought they were admiring me. I often got treated like I was some brave pioneer, throwing off the yoke of gender identity roles while… I dunno, cooking without an apron. I have never worn an apron, I don’t tuck a towel into my belt either. I just keep a hand towel on the stove and this isn’t important. I was actually called “Pretty Brave” by someone who was well meaning and thought they were delivering a compliment. When asked to elaborate, they said some people would “call you queer for doing that” and that “it’s kinda gay for a guy to cook” but that I made it “look masculine”. I almost felt bad killing that person and leaving their body in a peat bog but it was the only way people will learn! Now remember, that was supposed to be a compliment. It didn’t feel like one at the time, and the person began to see how I felt about it as the interview continued.
No one has ever tried to insult me, or threaten me because I canoodle in the kitchen (cooks have VERY big knives) but they do belittle the event with this notion of gender normativism. It’s deeply insulting to think that only a woman is really supposed to cook, and it harms both me and the woman not cooking to say so. That, if I may conclude where I intended to begin, is why I still need feminism. Yeah, it’s not as big as other people’s, but I’m a cis-gendered middle class white male. If I don’t like something you do or say to me, I’m still legally allowed to burn your house down (unless you are an upper-class white male) because, you know, privilege. That’s just it though, as a therapeutic tool, this has to be about me, not about you. Still though, it’s a sign, one that comes even up to the cis-gendered middle class white guy level that says “Shit’s still broken!” and asks us to fix it. The deeper we go, the more problems we’re going to find, and if this one made it to the surface…
When I’m still being applauded for being a man that cooks, and rape culture is still a thing that people pretend doesn’t exist, and gender stereotypes are still rigidly enforced… can any of us say we’re truly free? There are eight million stories in the Naked
City Internet, this is one of them.
“ I starved to death in 1916. … Logically I was dead; a man can’t live on dry grass. Actually I went on breathing.”
— Nero Wolfe (Over My Dead Body)
“I worry about you. About you doing something stupid and permanent.”
“Have I given you reason to worry about me?”
“A thousand things.”
I didn’t tell her that I knew where her mind had been, that I could smell her sadness, feel her desperation like movement of the air. That when she was near, I could practically taste the danger she seemed to be in. There wasn’t time, and I didn’t have the words to articulate it without sounding ridiculous.
Because we’ve all been there, right?
For about a year and a half, I toyed with the idea of a post called “On the Subject of my Impending Suicide.” Wherein I would explain that I wasn’t planning anything, but that some days it felt inevitable. It kept coming up as an idea, as a thought, as a backup if everything else went wrong and I had no other recourse. It’s good to have a plan, even one that requires you to end your own life. I couldn’t come up with anything that seemed right, that wouldn’t be too painful. Also, I absolutely didn’t want to fuck it up. The last thing I wanted was to have an “attempt” to explain. I also didn’t want to do it in such a way that it gave the message “See what you made me do.” Because I was going to do it on my own, for me.
I got a captcha one day that has stuck with me for whatever reason.
I remember it because A) the idea of hiring out your self-destruction seemed like a turn on the old irony wheel and B) I knew people who had done/were doing it. You may remember that in September of 2009, I posted some photographs of a place called Flat Rock. I was visiting that town for what I had decided was the last time. I was there for the funeral of my cousin, who had engaged in his own Hired Self-Destruction. That sounds nicer than saying “He killed himself in a way that was indirect enough that people wouldn’t accuse him of committing suicide.” Because that’s what Craig did, let us not bullshit ourselves. He had hit rock bottom, and there was no one to help him out, or he wasn’t able to ask for help, or… whatever. He packed on about 100 pounds to what had already been pushing 300. When he was laid to rest, they didn’t cross his arms over his chest because his limbs literally couldn’t be made to sit like that.
This was just about the apex of bad times. You might remember if you were there. A couple of months later, a relationship fell apart, we had to move to pokey little apartment, and we were feeling a little bereft. Friends who would have helped lived too far away, people who lived nearby fell away from us in droves. Syd did not react to the situation well, and some members of her family reacted by saying “Quit being such a selfish little bitch and let me score points of your depression! Can’t you see your suicidal state of mind is ALL ABOUT ME?” I have few good things to say about certain people, and I won’t spoil a cheerful post like this by going into that. Suffice to say, I had to help her carry the load. When you tell someone you’re not going to leave them alone, and you’re not going to let them kill themselves, you’ve got to stand by that or what are you?
I think Syd helped me carry my load, but I felt like I was doing most of it on my own. That’s probably my warped perspective, because I didn’t even really have my parents to talk to and she can at least sort of talk to her mother and father about certain things. Not everything, but some things. I couldn’t talk to anyone about anything. My parents were going through… they had their own bullshit to deal with. I’d always been the emotional booster anyway, everyone came to me with their issues, and I would either help them solve those problems or distract them.
I felt on my own in a way I’d never felt alone. Not as lonely as those last six months with Syd and Holly. We weren’t lonely, not like that, and Fancy willing we will never feel that lonely again. I’d gotten used to being internal from the time I was a child. Living in a house of tension had prepared me, doing it with twice the people ready to explode made steel out of the iron.
Internal. I’d spent some time simply sitting and looking at the internet, saying nothing, doing little, making myself small and inoffensive. Hard way to live, but it was one that didn’t seem to break any rules. Syd’s suicidal thoughts kept coming to my mind, that she had plans and ideas, and knew what to do. I’d had no idea, just a vague wish for it all to be over.
And then Hol left, and I knew if I did anything dramatic it would look like I was trying to blame Hol, which isn’t what it was about. I just wanted things not to be the way they were. I didn’t want to feel the emptiness I had felt. I never felt fear, or sadness, or shame, just nothing. As the Rockbiter said “A hole would have been something, this was nothing.”
I came to a conclusion. This has to end. Either with the death of the body, or the death of this existence. One way or another, this has to end. Syd had come to the same conclusion, although we never articulated it in such a fashion. Neither of us chose the first route, and we concentrated on the second.
Syd got the lap-band operation. That was hard, painful, and a complete and utter change in the eating habits she’d formerly known. If anyone wants to call it an easy way out, I will gleefully puke up half eaten Arby’s in their car so they can share in the joy I felt. They can slurp on clear broth for a month, then extend the thrill of actually having broth that was cloudy! OOOOO! You can’t actually see the cats through the soup anymore. That was no more easy than going on a starvation diet is easy, or suddenly having to avoid anything with gluten is easy. It was hard, and it was painful, and we’re still going through it. But we’re doing it together, and we’re going to get there. She has had to destroy the person she was, in order to become the person she is becoming.
I got a job. Because we had only one car, if I was working when Syd would be at work, I had to walk. Two Miles. Rain, heat, sun, cold, snow, wind, monkeys, custard… I walked to work and got there on time. Syd would get me on her way home and I’d take my lunch break taking her home and coming back. If I was working in the morning, I would drive Syd to work, come home, get my lunch, drive to work, work eight hours, drive home, pet the cats, drive to Syd’s work, pick her up, bring her home, cook dinner, and try to come up with the energy to explain to people why I didn’t seem to be writing anything anymore.
If you want to talk about a period of Hired Self-Destruction, then that was is. Physically, I was in torment. Mentally, I was pretty badly depressed and I had no patience for the bullshit that dealing with people brought upon me. I had to bend my will toward the idea of patience, to dealing with people without hitting them. I had to work harder in that year and a half than I’d ever worked. Remember, I was still holding up Syd a lot of the time, or at least felt like I was. And I was cooking every day, or trying to. I was destroying myself, and I was basically employing my employer for the task.
And then the clouds actually broke. Later than I thought they would, but THEY DID BREAK is the important part. I thought they’d break with my second store, but that place was in a neighborhood that was as close as it could be to the ghetto while still being patrolled by the police. For a while there, I felt like I was piled on more than ever. I had a feeling my Self-Destruction was going to be a complete job. But that was actually a good thing. It caused me to do something I hadn’t thought about before. It caused me to prove I could take the extra weight. If I could strive through this morass, then I could do anything… right? I grew stronger, and it was then that I’d realized how weak I’d been, how dependent. But here was the thing, I could take the weight.
And then we got the car, and then the I heard about the new store opening, and I started to make a plan. And it was about that time I realized what had happened. I’d basically completed the Self-Destruction project and had somewhere along the line begun the rebuilding process. Making a plan was a sure sign that one is done being destroyed and that one is ready to build again. I got the car, I got the job, I got some shoes so I can go running, I’m going to buy some dumbbells, and I’ve got plans to make some art again. The shoes and the pass to Stony Creek were step 3, and I’ve got 7 more steps to go as far as I can figure. I’m making progress though. I am moving forward. We’re going to be okay again… or at last. I can’t tell yet.
Stephen Fry made an admission recently, that he’d attempted suicide last year, and it got me thinking about this. It got me thinking because I feel like I did commit suicide. I killed the person I had been, I just went on breathing like Nero Wolfe, and that gave me enough time to build up this person I’m becoming. Sort of building on the ruins, but still… building. I had to go through this period though, just to manage to get through.
Hired Self-Destruction. Sweet Fancy’s Mousey, that’s a stupid phrase.
“Whoso would be a man, must be a nonconformist. He who would gather immortal palms must not be hindered by the name of goodness, but must explore it if it be goodness. Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind. Absolve you to yourself, and you shall have the suffrage of the world.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson
That sounds good, but I grew up in the 90s, when everyone was trying to take ol’ Ralphie at his word and found that non-conformity became the conformist view.
This space, that space, they keep looking at me.
And I keep not writing anything.
I want to.
I have thoughts,
Things I want to say.
The longer I go without writing things down,
The harder it is to put things down.
And then it takes longer to put things down
And then it gets harder.
And the cycle continues.
Ands nothing gets out and nothing gets put down and one day we’ll talk about why there are never any people in my photographs…