muckefuck: (zhongkui)
[ profile] bitterlawngnome OK, tell me all the things. Everything you wanted to talk about but didn't.
I know I brought this on myself, but that is one tall-ass order.

About a dozen years ago, there was an Incident involving this journal. In my entry, I mentioned in passing having sex with [ profile] monshu. One of the Friends reading this complained, others jumped in to defend me, and it all got kind of messy. This all brought it to the attention of the Old Man, who was so mortified he decided he wouldn't come along to an upcoming get-together featuring several of the people involved. As I result, I resolved to avoid directly mentioning our sexual relations here. It seemed like a small price to pay for marital harmony, but at the time I couldn't foresee the turn they would take--how his prostate cancer would turn our sex life upside down, leading us to open our relationship (which had never been completely closed), and all the complications that engendered.

For instance, that whole sorry affair with le Ragoton? It was an affair, a Seitensprung which got out of hand. I think many people were able to read between the lines and see that, but because of my self-imposed restriction, I couldn't discuss any of that openly. Which meant, among other things, that I couldn't ever tell anyone how absolutely amazing [ profile] monshu was about it. Naturally, he was hurt, but instead of reproaching me with his pain, he concentrated on soothing my much deeper distress. No one would knew about that would ever have wondered how I could've gone to the lengths I did to take care of him over the last couple years.

I ended up having to censor a whole important part of my life. I'd look with envy at [ profile] thatdarnotter and his incredibly candid, explicit posts, wishing I could follow that example. But, apart from the brief existence of Bruizr, I never had a good forum online, one with people I trusted but which [ profile] monshu didn't have access to. (In later days, I learned that he seldom logged in to read LJ, so I could be a bit more daring in friends-locked post. But I still followed the rule of never posting anything I wasn't prepared to have get back to him.) Now LJ is a ghost town and FB is the very last place I would think about discussing anything this personal and sensitive.

The other big thing I suppressed here was talk about issues with work. I mean, sure, I've complained a lot about issues with my workplace, but I've got more fundamental issues with the whole business of holding a job. Somewhere not too long ago I saw an article which asked the question, "Are you just roleplaying your job?" and I was like OMG YES! Because that is very much how I feel: I come in and pretend to work and I'm good enough at it that they really pay me. I'm ashamed by this, but not ashamed enough to stop doing it.

My lack of ambition has always been a disappointment to [ profile] monshu. At some point, he must have made a conscious decision to set it aside since there was enough else he liked about me and the relationship. He was a terrific mentor and I know it can't have pleased him to see me stagnating as a paraprofessional while he watched his employees go on to bigger and better things. I wonder how things might have turned out differently if I'd ever had the courage to confront this contradiction head on, but it was a box of snakes I simply didn't want to open.

These aren't by any means "all the things", but those are the two really big ones. After all, sex, career--those are major components to most people's existence. For some, they even become their complete raison d'être, but I've never been in that category and I hope to keep it that way.
muckefuck: (zhongkui)
So, the run-in:

I was waiting for the elevator. There was an older man in an electric geri chair and a younger woman with him. She was wearing plastic gloves, so I thought she was a nurse or CNA despite not wearing scrubs. I greeted them and the man engaged me in conversation. "I'm on four. Where are you staying?" I explained that it was my husband who was in residence; he took that in stride, like most people do.

In any case, the elevator arrived (after I showed them how you sometimes have to push the button again to get it to open) and the man manœuvred the chair into it. I started to step in, but the woman said, "Is there going to be enough room? I need a certain amount of room to do things." This kicked off a confusing exchange between the two--the man encouraging her to come in, the woman protesting, until finally I muttered, "This is ridiculous. I'll take the next one" and walked out.

She stepped in, turned to me, and said, "It's interesting that you call it 'ridiculous' when you're gay." It took me a moment to realise what had even happened. I stepped forward and held the door. "Did you just make a thing of me being gay? Why would you even do that?" Turns out she felt personally attacked by my comment (even though it was directed at the situation, not any particular person) and felt--she explained--fully justified in attacking me in return. "I have OCD!" she screamed. Fine, okay, but then maybe have a plan for the utterly foreseeable event of having to share an elevator? And maybe communicate that to the people around you so they have some idea what the hell's going on? If she had simply said, "I'm sorry, I don't feel comfortable sharing an elevator," I would've been like, whatever, and waited.

Instead, she created a situation where she felt she had to say, "I'm not homophobic!" because she'd just demonstrated the opposite. I get that she was feeling embarrassed and uncomfortable. But when you've spent all of a minute with somebody and your mind goes right to, "How can I use the one thing I know about this person against them?" that doesn't say much for your character, does it? The poor guy in the chair was trying to calm things, but neither of us was listening. I could see that nothing I might say would make things better for anyone, released the door, and then stood there fuming, hoping that would be the last I would ever see of her in my life.
muckefuck: (zhongkui)
There's a bullying streak in me that I'm not at all proud of. I'm not sure how much of it I picked up at home (from my older brother and my father) and how much from my peers but it's been a part of my personality since at least primary school. It most often manifests itself as "taking the joke too far".

Today I took a joke too far with one of my coworkers. He's a vocal Cubs fan, so I enjoy rubbing my Cardinals' loyalty in his face. We generally always make a minute or two when we meet to give each other the business about this or something else. Today, that all went terribly wrong.

I was sitting on a bench in the corridor outside my office taking a break to check my social media and I heard a tremendous THUMP on the wall behind me. I looked around the corner and found said coworker grinning at the water fountain. I wasn't amused. "That was super mature, you know," I told him. But then we exchanged a few friendlier words and I went back to work and forgot all about it.

A couple hours later, I was coming back from lunch and saw him ahead of me on the path wearing his Cubs cap. So I rushed up behind him and snatched it off his head. He made no attempt to chase me, so we continued toward the building, chatting all the way. I kept about ten-foot away from him at all times, just in case, and mocked him about the dampness of the sweatband. "The joke's one you if you ever try to put it on," he told me, smiling.

As we got nearer the building, I spied a post and ran up to it to perch the hat on top. And this is where things took a heinous turn. I was standing near him and he asked me to fetch the hat. "I think it looks good up there," I said. Suddenly anger flashed in his eyes and he said, "I'm not fucking around any more, go get my shit." "Calm down," I said, but since I didn't make an immediate move toward the post, he grabbed my hand and wrenched my mobile phone out of it.

He demanded again that I get the hat. I insisted he return the phone first. "My phone is a lot more valuable than your hat." "As far as I'm concerned, they're the same. What if I just threw this away and broke it?" This is the phone I carry with me always, since it's my primary means of contacting [ profile] monshu when I'm not at the hospital with him. So I stood my ground. He gave me the phone, I retrieved the hat and tossed it at him before walking directly back to my desk without a further word.

My best guess is that my playground behaviour triggered some ugly old memories in him and he responded in kind instead of how would be appropriate for an adult with a job to lose. His jibe about reporting me to the head of personnel for "harassment" (flung out seconds before he snapped) began to weigh on me, so I wrote up an account of the incident, just in case. I hadn't intended to report it myself, but I ended up saying something without naming him because I found myself so jumpy I was looking around corners whenever I left my desk.

We agreed it would be best to give him the weekend to cool down. I suspect he probably needs a little time to deal with why his reaction was so disproportionate anyway. At the moment, I don't feel physically safe being in close quarters with him. If I'd had any idea this was a possible outcome, I never would've started something, but people carry around so much psychic baggage that I should know it's always a possible outcome.
muckefuck: (zhongkui)
I'm trying to do what I can to make sure this doesn't go down in my memory as the Weekend I Missed C2E2. (Rather counterproductive, I suppose, committing that to writing here.) Last year, I cared not a jot, but [ profile] monshu's relations were in town late in the summer exhibiting at Wizard World and that was a lark, so when they said they'd be back again, I made plans to stop by. But then we heard nothing from them until late Friday evening I got a message from his niece offering me passes.

But it'd been a long week and I'd already made plans to sleep in. I still felt like going, just...not then. But Sunday was set aside for gaming. As the hours crept by on Saturday, it became apparent that I'd made my choice and it was in direct opposition to my recent resolution to Do The Thing instead of sitting at home questioning whether I should've Done The Thing.

Still, I'd made my peace with this. Then Sunday came around, I walked to JB's...and found that as I was ordering my torta de pescado at the place on the corner, the only other player slated to be there had cancelled. At that moment, I considered cancelling, too, and making a desperate effort to see if I could still line up pass and make the long trek to McCormick. But JB was saying, "We'll find a game to play, don't you worry!" and it was too easy to avoid saying "no".

Ironically, the game he chose was a "two-player LARP" called 183, which is based on a short story about two clairvoyants falling in love. One can see several possible futures; the other only one--and it's one in which the couple separates 183 days after their first date. It makes for an intense two hours. There's a warm-up phase in which you discuss your past loves, and then you collaborate on a series of five scenes which together sketch the arch of the relationship from beginning to end.

Was it a better way to spend the afternoon than in a noisy hall surrounded by cosplayers and hawkers? I'd have to be the character who can see many futures to answer that, but I played the other. Honestly, the chief difference between the two possibilities is that with more stimulation around me I would've been less distracted by the notion of what the other choice would've been like. Maybe I'd be less melancholy-tired now and more plumb exhausted. Who's to say?
muckefuck: (zhongkui)
Ich hatte vorgehabt, heute mit dem [ profile] itchwoot rumzubummeln, doch meine tückische Eingeweide stimmten nicht zu. Ich war bereit trotzdem weiterzumachen, dann hab ich aber rausgefunden, dass er nur bis 16 Uhr frei hatte, was bedeutet, dass wir nicht nach Wicker Park hätte fahren können, um Ramen zu schlürfen und in Läden rumzugucken. Aufgrund all dessen haben wir uns abgesprochen, die Verabredung bis Donnerstag zu verschieben. Ich frage mich, ob wir tatsächlich treffen werden, weil er am folgenden Tag wegfliegt, aber ich will nicht zu viel drüber denken. Wir haben schon vor einer Woche einen wunderschönen Nachmittag zusammengebracht und damit kann ich mich halt gern abfinden.
muckefuck: (zhongkui)
I slept a full unbroken eight hours last night. This is something that never happens. When I woke up, I remember saying to myself as I prepared to check the clock, "I hope it's at least four a.m." and it was already after six. So I just decided to get up and start the day. I'm feeling a little drowsy now, but nothing worse than on a typical day.

This was compensation for a rough night Sunday. I woke up about 2 a.m. and could not get a handle on my anxiety. I think it was some combination of having napped in the afternoon (something I normally avoid on Sundays for just this reason) and having watched 28 Weeks Later when I got up. It was ultimately more action movie than horror film, I thought, but there are some truly disturbing scenes in it that I had trouble shaking out of my head.

But of course once you're awake for whatever reason, that's the invitation for whatever underlying anxieties you have to come out and play. Right now, those include health anxieties (why isn't this sore throat going away?), work anxieties (do I need to have a come-to-Jesus talk with my difficult direct report?), family anxieties (have I got everyone covered for Christmas?), and I don't know what all else. It's those times when I really regret not spending more time learning to meditate.
Nov. 16th, 2015 04:32 pm

Le naturel

muckefuck: (zhongkui)
My emotional reactions to the attacks in Paris and everything they've stirred up are complex and messy and probably not something I should be trying to sort through in public. But, fuck it, this is LiveJournal, so who's reading this anyway? Somehow I managed not to hear about what happened until I was seated at the dinner table. I hadn't checked social media before leaving work and had to deal with condo nonsense the moment I arrived home, so it was only once that had settled down and I was sipping soup with the Old Man that he brought the conversation around to the events of the day.

My first reaction was to grab my iPhone and scan the news reports. I immediately felt sick to my stomach. It was a stronger sensation than reading the news from Beirut a day earlier. Then my heart sank as I thought, "This is not what they need." Beirut for me is like an elegant and accomplished person who suffered a terrible tragedy years ago and has been struggling ever since to get back on their feet again. Paris, on the other hand, is someone so powerful and celebrated that they should be well insulated from those problems.

But why should they get off easier than Madrid or New York City? No real reason at all. And it's not like the city is any stranger to political massacres either. The last one of this magnitude wasn't carried out by non-state actors but by the French state. None of this was in the forefront of my mind as the attacks were still in progress; they came bubbling up the next day as I began to sift through the news updates and the shitpile of responses and responses to responses.

Far from consoling me, the "flood of solidarity" only depressed me further. I don't know if I'd noticed before just how problematic expressions of support can be. Their value consists of their authenticity, but the mediation of a prefab platform very easily gives them the appearance of something else. I felt less like I was witnessing an outpouring of genuine emotion and more just the workings of habitus. Explanations of why a particular person felt strongly connected to Paris or the French in general read like a form of social positioning (since naturally these connexions are far more characteristic of some socioeconomic tiers and segments of society than others).

It got worse when Facebook released an app similar to the one propagated around the time of the same-sex marriage decision which allowed one to overlay profile pics with the Tricolore. With a "gesture of support" only two clicks away, my Wall began to fill up with doctored selfies. Could you find a better metaphor for making a distant tragedy all about yourself? A couple days later and I still see a trickle of Friends playing catchup. Which makes me wonder: How will they know when it's time to stop draping themselves in the flag? Which cool kids do they look to for their cue on that?

Naturally it took very little time before people began pointing out the disparity in reactions between Paris and Beirut, or Ankara a month earlier, or any other place east of Alsace that had been bombed or shot-up. This quickly became it's own kind of tedious posturing and attention-policing, whatever valid observations lay behind it. The covertly-politicised calls not to politicise the tragedy blended in with the overt politicisations and I just had to get away from it all.

What is the "proper" response in this situation? I don't know. I don't know that there is one, to be honest. People respond how they're going to respond, in a way you can largely predict based on their class background and their ideological poles. Is that a surprise? Is that cause for handwringing and headshaking? Isn't that just as determined a response as any other?
muckefuck: (zhongkui)
One of the local organisations is hosting its annual Stand Against Racism and staff are being encouraged to attend, something I don't recall in previous years. But there's a special urgency this time since only last week racist graffiti was found written on the walls of my workplace and the big boss is anxious about the optics.

Does that sound cynical? It's hard not to be about these sorts of things. In principle, I find nothing wrong with concerned individuals rallying together for a cause. I know some networking always goes on at these things and boring meetings in church basements and dowdy storefronts simply don't have the same appeal. Plus it must cheer some POCs to see a bunch of White people holding supportive signs. I know if I'd seen a Stand Against Homophobia back in the day it would've done me good.

But that was when I was more idealistic and the sheer intractable vastness of the issues didn't intimidate me so much. When I look back over the progress of LGBTQ rights in my lifetime, I see a huge advance for assimilationists (like me) and small steps for the rest. It seems like a similar situation for POCs: somewhat better conditions for those already in the middle class, same old story for those shut out of it.

In order to encourage ongoing engagement, today's rally will feature "selfie signs" where we're all encouraged to write "how you stand against racism in your daily life". Is there anything I could write which isn't flat-out embarrassing? Yeah, I engage people in discussions of racial issues online. I'm sure that's done so much palpable good for victims of institutional racism in this country.

Maybe if I turn up and there are a significant number of POCs present, this will feel like something more than just a guilt-freeing exercise for Good White Liberals. But not much more.
muckefuck: (zhongkui)
Two trips to Hyde Park within a month's time, this has to be some sort of a record. The weirdest part is that I didn't see any of my old pals either time. (Sorry, guys!) It was amazing. As many time's as I've experienced the weather shifts that accompany movement from one part of this town to another, I'm still caught out at times. I thought about taking the Garfield bus to the Reg to save a little time, but I decided it was too nice a day and walked 57th instead. I was very quickly too warm in a camel hair blazer. Daffodils were out. Meanwhile, back home, the Old Man said he considered sitting on the porch but it was "too cold".

What was I doing back at a place whose dust I'd long since shaken from my feet? Attending the opening reception for their new exhibition in queer life at UofC as an honoured guest. It's almost two years to the day since a fresh-faced undergraduate came to my house to take my oral history of my years there. I barely recognised her all made up with her butch short do. I barely recognised anyone, to be honest. I thought some of the folks I overlapped with would be there, but everyone I met seemed to be earlier or later.

Not that that was bad. The curator (my ex-neighbour--who proclaimed this in the middle of her remarks when she suddenly spotted me in the crowd) introduced me to someone on the basis that we "gave the two longest interviews" but then moderated that dubious distinction by mentioning that we'd both done the most to try to encourage people who were closeted to share their stories (sadly, with very little success). I ended up having pizza at the Med with him, his best bud, his interviewer, my interviewer, and her friend.

What struck me most about the conversation was just how different his experience of the university was from mine only eight years later. He came to the College from a huge public school in upstate New York expecting a much more tolerant environment than back home and was disappointed; I came from a private school in St Louis expecting the same and found it. What happened in the meantime? The AIDS crisis and the politicisation of gay men in the USA.

He and his bud both told great stories. At one point, Gabby asked his friend to tell us his "most outrageous" one and his friend immediately started questioning what he meant. I leapt in to say, "This is a UofC conversation after all! Define your terms. There are many continua of 'outrageousness'." He took up the challenge by relating a terrific anecdote about an "orgy" involving Gabby (which of course led to a terminological debate--one Gabby lost--concerning what constitutes an "orgy").

People were surprisingly willing to exchange information, and I may even be coming back Alumni Weekend for the big do in a penthouse by the lake. Seems a couple that I vaguely remember from my summer as a houseboy bought (or inherited it) from the estate of the professors I was working for and have kept up their tradition of hosting annual shindigs. Now that would be a nostalgia trip to rival any I could have in the old library.
muckefuck: (zhongkui)
I feel weary, Maybe, as [ profile] bitterlawngnome suggests, I've just been on social media too long and I've run out of things to say or (since that's not really possible) the motivation to say them. During the most stressful phase of [ profile] monshu's recovery I thought it was chiefly a matter of Not Enough Spoons, but he's almost "back to normal" (whatever that means) these days and yet I still find it an effort to post. Or reach out to someone. Or do anything, really, besides sitting in front of a screen and passively consuming media.

The weather isn't helping. When it snowed Monday, I was actually thrilled. It was a perfect snow--wet, fluffy, and everywhere. Riding in on the bus, I forced myself to look out the window and memorise every detail since I expected it would be eight months or more before I'd have this pleasure again. When I woke up this morning, however, and saw the whiteness covering the ground my reaction was, "Seriously?" It was gone by midday, but my stroll to the bank was still blustery and annoying. Worse, the cold seems to be aggravating my podagra, which began acting up on Wednesday and shows no signs of easing off yet.

Nevertheless, there have been some pleasures this week. Blondie is coming in two weeks and told me he needed to speak with me right away. When I called last night, he confessed that he was hoping to stay only five days "but I knew you wouldn't forgive me if I came to Chicago without seeing you". He's wrong; I'd forgive him. I'd be disappointed, but I'd forgive him. Instead I was touched by his solicitiousness and assured him we'd find plenty of time to get together in the interstices of his conference schedule. Wednesday I had an appointment with a specialist and everything about it went as well as it could've. I may finally have a treatment plan for a problem that's been nagging me for two-and-a-half years already.

Still, I need to do more to move outside of myself. I can feel myself retreating at work again, which is a bad idea when we're in the middle of a major reorganisation. I have a role in redefining what my position here will be like for years to come and, since I don't currently have any plans to move on, it behooves me to take an active one. But most days I can barely bring myself to care.
Jan. 31st, 2015 10:15 pm


muckefuck: (zhongkui)
Today I once again came to the realisation that someone I thought might be a friend isn't. I posted a general announcement of [ profile] monshu's upcoming surgery to Fakebook and over fifty people responded, many of them asking to be added to the e-mail list I'm maintaining for sending out updates. (Yeah, I'm old school that way.) He wasn't one of them. Now, I'm savvy enough to know what a "lossy" channel that is; there's a hundred reasons why someone might have missed one of your posts there and, thus, no reason to read too much into it. But it brought to mind the brief and unsatisfying exchange we had last December when I had tried to breach the subject with him, but once he heard that I wasn't going to be around during the holidays (when he'd be passing through), it seemed he couldn't end the conversation quickly enough.

So I did what I do when this happens and got pouty for about ten minutes. Then I mentally slapped myself and refocused on those aforementioned 50+ who *did* respond and sat down to compile the list. There were some surprises. I really can't imagine, for instance, that the former coworker I haven't seen in something like a year and was never close to is really interested in more details than I'll be making public online anyway, so I'm just going to assume she misunderstood my solicitation and leave her off.

Oh, and since I guess there are some people following me here who haven't heard through some other channel: a debulking procedure has been scheduled for next Tuesday. It will be outpatient, but I'm expecting he'll be admitted overnight for observation all the same. Are we anxious? A little, but mostly we just want the damn thing over with. We're really not going to know where things stand until they slice him open and poke around. Then maybe I'll finally be able to work with a planning horizon of more than a week for a change.
muckefuck: (zhongkui)
You could say I've lost a friend over the fallout from the Charlie Hebdo murders.[*] You could, but it wouldn't be accurate on either count.

You can tell the second part is false by how quickly the discussion became personal. I'm not sure we even differ that substantially, given that he's also opposed to increased dissemination of the offensive cartoons. I'd hardly begun to explain my position before he took me to task for "never EVER agreeing" with anything he's posted on his Wall. So the politics is simply the trigger; the real issue goes deeper.

How deep it goes is hinted at by the fact that his contention is demonstrably false. I know this is a sore point with him so in the past I've made a point of liking and commenting positively on his posts where possible. The fact that he's never noticed (and can't be bothered to check even after repeated urgings[**]) is evidence for the falsity of the first part of the proposition: I'm not "losing a friend", I'm finding out that I either never had one or lost him long ago.

His parting shot to me was that he's "not interested in disagreeing civilly", and I personally don't see how any friendship can survive that. I can see making certain issues off limits--there will always be some things that cut a lot closer to the bone for one person than another. But that's entirely different from holding the other person's ideas in complete contempt. From my own experience, I know that when someone's views inspire violent intolerance in me, then the chance of making or maintaining a personal connexion is nil.

In the end, it all comes down to charity. Like most geeks, I used to have a range of litmus tests for friendship. But over time, what I've come to realise is that ultimately it all comes down to goodwill. Either this is a person you're willing to extend the benefit of the doubt to even when they feel they're deeply in the wrong in a particular situation or they aren't. And if they aren't, then at most they're a friendly acquaintance.

So this guy isn't a friend. He's someone I once felt a connexion with because we both love languages and big furry men. Despite living in the same city, we only see each other rarely and then by chance, so this shouldn't bother me and it's only my tendency toward sentimentality that makes it do that. At least I can take pride in how dispassionately I handled it: no outbursts, no ultimatum, no snappy putdowns. Just a shrug before getting up from the computer to do something rewarding.

[*] Not only am I not talking about anyone here on LJ, I don't think I'm talking about someone anyone here even knows. Calm down people!
[**] Ready for irony overload? His career is "journalist".
muckefuck: (zhongkui)
It's interesting to see how different people take serious news. Some just listen numbly. Some assume you must need comfort and immediately become very solicitous. Some laugh it off. Some find a way to make it all about themselves.

I've seen enough of these different reactions over the year that none of them really surprises me any more. This weekend I got to see two more of them. After writing my previous post, I felt restless. [ profile] monshu hadn't gotten up like he usually does, so there was no one in the house to talk to and I decide to wander over to Touché just to remind people I exist. I saw only a handful I knew and was getting ready to come right back home when I turned a corner and ran into Diego.

I couldn't think of decent transition to the topic, so after a few minutes of pleasantries I artlessly blurted out, "[ profile] monshu has cancer." "Oh no!" he responded and answered my elaborations with heartfelt but restrained expressions of sympathy. When we ran into him at the grocery store today, he made a point of telling the Old Man he'd been informed and wishing him well. I tried to make light of all the medical appointments we had ahead of us, but he misunderstood my intention (as did the GWO, so the fault was clearly mine) and made what can only be described as a friendly threat.

Then this morning we met up with Scruffy for brunch. He didn't notice anything amiss as he drove us over to Nookies, so it wasn't until we were all seated in a corner booth that he asked [ profile] monshu, "So how have you been?" We shared a meaningful glance and then he laid it all on him. Scruffy took it all in without saying much of anything and then almost immediately changed the subject. As we were parting, we clumsily explained that, if we did have a Hogmanay celebration this year, it would likely be a small affair. "Well, just let me know," he said before leaving to meet a friend.

I don't fault him for not having the same response as Diego. They're entirely different people--both very smart but, to quote Scruffy (in reference to me), "Smart in different ways." He's a mathematician and a former professional comedian, so while he can talk about difficult subjects, it's always with a fair amount of emotional reserve. Culture plays a role as well (he's from Cincinnati; Diego is Californian) and possibly age. Many men, particularly those somewhat older than me, aren't adept at discussing life-or-death matters.

For my part, I'm trying to keep the whole process from becoming too rote. I'm impatient for this just to be a thing everyone knows (or, better, a thing nobody really needs to know, because we're just living with it the same way he lives with hypertension or I live with gout). But then I think I'm getting ahead of myself, viewing things as more settled and certain than they actually.
muckefuck: (zhongkui)
A straightboy housewarming is a perverse place to spend Gay Pride. And this really was a straightboy affair. Yeah, they weren't the only ones there, but they definitely set the tone. And these are straightsboys from a "White ethnic" neighbourhood in Chicago, so like worlds away from the straight people I normally hang with. It was like briefly revisiting my high school days (at a Catholic prep school in suburban St Louis in the 80s). One of them now lives in Ravenswood, and it was amusing to see him have much the same reaction to some of the off-colour humour. Let's just say I've had my share of racist, sexist, and homophobic remarks for a while.

Not to say they weren't all "great guys". I mean, if my buddy Tam had to hide a body, I'm sure they'd all turn up to help him out, no questions asked. But if being party to a conversation between two guys about "eating pussy" isn't weird enough, just wait until one of them turns a throwaway remark into a gay innuendo and then does his impression of a sultry homo come-on. It's not like I never step out of my liberal bubble long enough to encountre this sort of thing, it's just that I'm used to seeing it come from tradesmen twenty years my senior and not friends of a friend fifteen years younger than me at a house party.

Now, I know it's extremely gauche to rag on someone's hospitality, but none of you will meet this guy and there's also a rule of etiquette which says that you don't claim a guest's dinner hour without feeding them. He even included in his invite a plea for RSVPs so he could get a head count for the food. At least a dozen people there, and we had (a) a nine-by-nine pan of Italian sausage with onions and peppers; (b) a bowl of corn chips with some dips; and (c) a vodkainated watermelon. There were also some grapes and a cake there. Why? Because I brought them. I suspected I should bring along something sufficient to feed me, but nothing at the grocery store spoke to me.

So I was put into the uncomfortable position of having to decide between staying at a gathering I was enjoying and striking out in search of some food so I could fall asleep tonight. Being me, I split the difference and left too late to find any place open nearby or to eat something in time to go to bed before midnight. (I wolfed down some pasta and potatoes when I got in an hour and a half ago.) A shame, but not a tragedy. Next time I'll know.

It's not like I didn't do anything appropriate to make the occasion. I thought I was feeling only the usual dragginess this morning until the Old Man complained of food poisoning, which of course was all I needed to believe I'd been poisoned, too. So I spent the morning malingering and watching Nigel Finch's Stonewall. It holds up well, but I was surprised at what I had forgotten in twenty years--such as almost the entire Mattachine Society storyline. In particular, Finch fantasises a conversation between the leader of that gradualist, assimilationist movement and the drag queen character he credits with kicking off the riots and it's a gem.

I read the book by Martin Duberman on which the film is based. He was criticised for flattening all of the disparate voices in the accounts he gathered with a blandly consistent authorial tone, and that's valid. But the testimonies themselves are fascinating. One detail that has always stuck with me is from an antiestablishment radical (who may have been the model for the movie's protagonist). He talks of having a circle of activist friends from his involvement in the Civil Rights movement and finding that, when he asked them to participate in the first gay pride march a year after the riots, every one of them begged off.

The lesson I drew from that is that, ultimately, you can never completely trust your professed allies. I'm very glad that--to a person--all of my straight friends nowadays vocally support full equality for LGBTs. Some of them have even done what that activist's friends didn't do and marched in protests or otherwise actively campaigned. But I can never shake the feeling that if push really came to shove, they would find some way of justifying not putting their livelihoods on the line for me.

And I doubt I'm alone in that. I wouldn't be in the least surprised to hear a female friend say that she feels the same way about men, no matter how active they are in promoting feminism. Or to hear a similar sentiment from one of my Jewish friends. I hope I'm wrong. But then, I hope I'm wrong about a lot of my own shortcomings, despite having been proved otherwise many times already.
muckefuck: (zhongkui)
[ profile] clintswan came through with the Derby pies, BDA came through with the mint, and the rest of the guests just came through. Every month now I go through the same tiresome cycle of self-pity before I allow myself to get just a little bit excited about who might be there. At its heart, it's self-preservation; after all, I've had evenings where everyone I wanted to see stayed away and I was left killing time with someone I wasn't keen on and wondering what I should be doing to do to attract the kind of people who attract me. So when I say it was a good turnout, I mean in more ways than one. Everyone there last night was a solid guy. Glancing around the table, I was reminded of a jumble of small confidences and kind favours which summed to something greater.

So when we finally made it to the bar and plunged into that silly world of surfaces, I felt insulated against its triviality and pettiness. Twice I heard myself say to someone, "Oh, so-and-so hates me." Not as a complaint, mind you, but as an FYI. One of those times was at the back bar, chatting with an acquaintance of an acquaintance and seeing a pair of familiar names in his e-mail as he scrolled through seeking a fetish picture. Later I regretted badmouthing ottr4bear--or at least the appearance of having done so. Big Tim was filling me on his unhappy history with someone I've known casually for damn near twenty years now and, basically, it came down to him not knowing when to shut his big mouth. I really don't want to be that guy; I've betrayed confidences before because it made a good story and nothing of lasting worth ever came of it.

Find the good people and do what you can to keep them around. Sounds so simple, right? But nothing in my life has been harder than that. It's an ongoing project and I've taken several months off from it; time to go at it again with gusto.
muckefuck: (zhongkui)
9 o'clock last night I was feeling awfully sorry for myself. I had cake on the table, a Sazerac assembly line laid out on the counter, and no guests. The two people who had told me they were on their way were, frankly, the two I was least interested in seeing--Coleman and Stumbles. I questioned again whether any of this was even worth the effort when I had to put so much energy into encouraging people to come in return for vague promises more often broken or just silence. I had bleak visions of struggling to make conversation with my two guests and spending the rest of the week nibbling away at a fancy cake I needn't've baked.

By the time the doorbell rang a few minutes later, I'd forced myself to reconsider. Instead of lamenting that only the social misfits in my set could be relied upon to come to my gatherings, I should be regarding them as true friends for making the effort to come out in the latest of many winter snowstorms. In was in this frame of mind that I went to the door prepared to play the grateful host and when I opened it I found...Scruffy? Scruffy, who invariably RSVPs and never comes empty-handed. "Think fast!" he said, hurling a package of Ferrero-Rocher at me.

Coleman was next (which was less than ideal, given the Scruffy finds him no more tolerable than most people), but he was followed in quick succession by Big Time, his supposed sociopath of a roommate, and the ginger half of the JET boys. By the time Stumbles had wandered into the room (true to form, he had inexplicably forgotten the buzzer but found both doors unlocked), things were well underway, with some of the gang on their second Sazeracs. They proved so popular I think I'm going to have to ensure I have the makings at all times (which I pretty much do anyway).

When Twilight Santa made it his business to urge Scruffy to make an appointment for a colonoscopy now that he's turned 50. From there, the conversation drifted to the subject of serial killers. Since BT was present, we also touched on gay porn again. Scruffy kept dangerously flinging bonbons at everyone and had to be scolded not to stab the remains of the cake in an attempt to find the coin no one had ended up with. Without [ profile] clintswan to hurry me, I was able to change leisurely before heading out to the bar.

In short, a success. I seem to have met my aim of making BT into a social acquaintance without the need of Graysong as an intermediary. He even confided in me a bit at the bar after piling four more drinks onto the three I crafted for him. He has a wide circle and I can only hope he's singing my praises among it. So self-esteem crisis averted--until the next one.
muckefuck: (zhongkui)
I'm still trying to sort out a debate I stumbled into the other day over "homophobia". It concerned a blowhard celebrity, which is bad enough. And it took place on Facebook, which is worse. I suppose YouTube is a less suitable place to attempt any sort of reasonable discussion, but not by much. I'm still not sure I understand the core of the disagreement but today another possibility occurred to me. It would certainly help to explain why we all got so worked up about what is ultimately a rather trivial matter.

Some people have summed up the difference between liberalism and conservatism as whether you think people are basically good or basically evil. Liberals, so the common wisdom goes, think most people (with the exception of some truly hopeless cases with severe untreatable disorders) would be good if given the chance. Their poor choices are the consequence of a lack of opportunity and a deficit of skills. Address these deficits and they'll be free to live up to their full natural potential. Conservatives, on the other hand, believe in the concept of Original Sin (even if the non-Christians among them aren't comfortable with that terminology). People are born subject to evil desires which, unless ring-fenced with an objective morality, will ultimately overpower them and lead society to ruin.

(I expect proponents of both philosophies are bristling at what could fairly be called an oversimplification bordering on caricature. But just wait.)

There's another split, however, which I think cuts across this divide, and that concerns the degree of control we have in this situation. In its most negative form, it manifests as theistic fatalism (on the conservative side) or social determinism (on the liberal side). More positively, it's the philosophy of self-actualisation bzw. Objectivism. The reason I think it spans the divide is because it's linked to privilege. Studies show that those who have experienced less discrimination often overestimate the degree to which they are responsible for their own achievements. On the conservative side, this is the smugness of the person born on third base who thinks they've hit a triple. On the liberal, it's the smugness of the Good Liberal who's done such an outstanding job of raising their consciousness.

So here's where I'm going with this: Just as those born with less privilege are cynical about the role ability rather than luck plays in getting ahead, they also tend to be cynical about how well people have really overcome their own prejudices. They take as a given that our society is racist, sexist, homophobic, classist, ablist, etc. and thus we, as products of this society, are steeped in these prejudices to the point where it's a lifelong struggle to overcome them. That's why they're not shocked when someone prominent is outed as having said or done horribly bigoted things in private; they assume it's generally the case and most people simply don't get caught out.

Since my homosexuality is the chief (and practically only) source of my own privilege deficit, it's here where my cynicism shows itself most plainly. I'm genuinely pleased at how much LGBTQ acceptance has advanced over the course of my lifetime; we're farther along than I ever hoped when I first came out. But as with any sweeping trend, not everyone's commitment is comparable and the latest (and often most vocal) converts are often the most superficial as well. I see this all the time in supposedly "pro-gay" humour (such as many of the images and videoclips circulated on the occasional of the Sochi Olympics) that makes use of every camp stereotype and queer trope in the playbook--the same fag jokes I grew up with, just repackaged and relabeled.

So that's why when a famous actor (or whoever) who's been outspoken in his support of same-sex marriage is revealed to have used homophobic slurs like "cocksucking faggot", I'm not especially surprised or shocked. And if some pundits call him a "homophobic bigot" on account of that, I don't have much of a problem with it. And when ordinary people (who just happen to be straight) object to this label and denounce the unfairness and inaccuracy of it (even while protesting too much that they're by no means defending his "un-PC" remarks, mind you), I find myself questioning their motives. Well, not so much questioning, as I feel I know what their ulterior purpose is: To preserve the acceptability of this sort of low-level homophobia in their own milieux. Their reaction would be much the same (in kind, although not necessarily in degree) if someone they liked had said something bigoted against people of a particular gender or race or class or what have you.

And it's bullshit. If you spent as much time combatting your imbibed homophobia (or racism or sexism or classism) as you did fighting the suggestion that you're as subject to it as the rest of us (yes, even us homos--that's why internalised homophobia is a thing), just imagine how much further along we'd be. And if those who are dedicated to fighting these biases didn't have to expend so much energy reassuring supposed allies that, yes, we know, you're one of the good ones, not like those awful bigots (in Russia or the South or Downstate--you know, wherever is far enough to be a comfortable distance away)--well, the mind just boggles.

So the next time you find yourself in the position of defending someone who's made comments even you admit are offensive, ask yourself: Why am I doing this? Do I know what concerning trolling looks like and am I willing to admit when I'm indulging in it? And the next time I'm confronted with this, hopefully I'll have a better notion of which buttons of mine are being pushed and why and make more intelligent decisions about how many spoons I'm willing to lay down.
muckefuck: (zhongkui)
Once again, there is discord within the ranks of the Science Fiction Writers' Association. And once again, I've gone and read up on it much more than I needed to. I don't recommend you do the same. The arguments aren't very edifying (same old garbled nonsense confusing editorial oversight with censorship and failing to grasp that the house organ of a professional organisation is not the same thing as New Worlds, let alone the world at large) and the pièce de resistance is a petition so wrongheaded and ill-composed that it's appalling to think anyone involved in it has ever been paid for copy in their lives. Reading the list of signatories is simply depressing. They include some Very Big Names, leading to some public teeth-gnashing about heroes falling off pedestals and such.

Even more depressing is the fact that these writers, in their time (someone calculated their median age at about 73), were among the more progressive voices in SF/F. So if there's any insight I've managed to extract from this clusterfuck, it's regarding the perils of ossifying in my views. I know, much easier said than done--particularly if I've got any ambitions of being preemptive about it and not waiting for a dozen people to tell me it's time to go home and sleep off my stupor.
muckefuck: (zhongkui)
Yesterday, in the wake of the return of the dreaded Polar Vortex (best nickname so far: "The tEmpire Strikes Back"), I suspected getting a seat on the shuttle home might be a problem, so I walked up to the stop before mine. Within a couple minutes, I had at least a dozen people lined behind me. By the time the shuttle arrived, it was nearly twice that. I wish I could say everyone got on, but as we were driving off I heard a young woman cry, "Wait, he's going to leave them all there? That's so mean!" and saw about ten people still lined up outside.

Here's the thing though: This is the same woman who stopped halfway down the aisle when she got on so she could stay near the door. Chatting with her friend, she was completely oblivious to the pile up of people behind her until someone pointed it out. Once they did, she only moved a few steps closer to the back and continued to block people from moving back. When the bus left, there were empty seats on either side of her and standing room for at least a half dozen.

So I had to bite my tongue not to say anything rude. Clearly she hadn't meant to prevent anyone from enjoying the same warmth and comfort as her. When confronted with the disparity, she was openly dismayed. What she wasn't capable of doing, however, was making the link between her actions and their deprivation. After all, she wasn't the one driving the bus.

It struck me soon afterwards that this would be a useful metaphor the next time I'm trying to explain to someone how an action can be discriminatory in practice regardless of the intentions of the actor.
muckefuck: (zhongkui)
Today I was looking forward to a leisurely lunch full of conversation with [ profile] zompist. Unfortunately, fate had other plans, as he was forced to cancel abruptly. Then, out of the blue, I got a message that [ profile] niemandsrose was only steps away, so as compensation I had a brief tea break full of conversation instead. We ended up talking about phone etiquette and how calling someone is so unusual in some circles that "every call is like the 3 a.m. call".

I chuckled uncomfortably, because [ profile] zompist had actually rung me the evening before to confirm our lunch date and my reaction was, "Who the hell is calling at this hour?" "This hour" was 8:50 p.m. To be fair, I was watching Mizoguchi's Ugetsu and it was reaching its climax. To be fair to Zomp, however, how could he possibly have anticipated that? I let the machine get it and checked afterwards. The polite thing to do at that point would've been to return the call. Instead, I sent an e-mail basically teasing him for indulging in an old-fashioned courtesy.

I owned up to some of my issues around phone calls, including my frequent inexplicable resistance to making them. For instance, months ago now I collected a phone number from a friend of a friend who does bodywork and despite being reminded every night when I crawl into bed just how ridiculously tense the muscles in my back have gotten I have not been able to bring myself to ring him. Sunday I promised the Old Man (whose also looking for a masseur) I'd make the call. Then I forgot all about it.

Ironically, part of the reason was that I ended up touching base with my mother about a phone call she'd been fighting for more than a year. I offered to make it for her, but instead she asked [ profile] bunj because it related to something he's been working with her on. Now--to the relief of all--things are rolling again. It just never occurred to her that she could allow herself to ask someone to do that for her.

I shared this with [ profile] niemandsrose and she came back with, "Your parents are divorced, right?" Because ideally, she continued, you form relationships with someone who can step in and do the things you can't when you reach an impasse like this. Of course, if at any point the Old Man had said, "Give me the phone number and I'll call the massage therapist" I would've refused and sworn to do it myself--and most likely would've followed through at that point, since the shame of failure would've been too much to bear.

It all brought home to me again how determined I am to NOT be my mother. So not only did I finally put through the call (Dammit! Foiled by voicemail!), but I went online and dealt with a couple more things I'd been putting off (such as finding and purchasing a handmade furoshiki for my sister--thank you, Etsy!). I wish I could say it felt good, but it doesn't really; it's always perversely nerve-wracking and I have to find something else to do to calm down afterwards. (Like write a navel-gazing LJ entry.)


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