On Morbs

rule one: do not attempt to be happy. if you do not make this attempt you will forget what sadness is. forget loneliness.

I’d like to be a snake and live in a ditch.

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In the land of mothballs and clothes hangers

It’s really exhausting being nonbinary, like you’ll go shopping and in the stores the cashiers will say “have a nice day ladies!” But you use up so much energy hating yourself three different ways and the rest of the world at least five, and you get so tired of not saying anything, and of being too scared and polite to say anything. You get tired of forcing yourself not to care.

I realize it could be much worse. That’s where the fear comes from. People say if you want to be out you have to keep coming out day after day, and it’s true. I hide, and berate myself for it, because I don’t have the bravery to invite anything worse. I have a tendency, in my own head at least, toward melodrama; I am a grand tragedy hiding from the presumptive cruelty of the world. In fact I’ve never experienced any of that cruelty because of the circumstances of my birth. I’m uncomfortable in this closet, but I don’t want to leave, and that’s what makes me angry. I’m not fighting at all. I’m tacitly encouraging the status quo because I’m afraid.

This is what occupies my mind in restaurants and clothing stores. It’s a tiring litany, and by now an extremely familiar one, but always I ask myself “is it worth it to correct them?” and always the answer is “no, no, not having to explain is worth more.”

A Guide for the Purpose of Deterring Unwanted Conversational Partners

Sometimes, someone will wish to talk to you when you do not wish to talk to them. My solution is to be faultlessly polite, evasive, and condescending. A guide for this purpose follows:

1. Answer questions concisely and pointlessly. Reply to the letter of a question rather than the spirit, which will be to make you reveal information about yourself. Volunteer nothing, and provide no hooks on which they can hang another question. If your ambusher is forced continually to jump from topic to topic, they will eventually become too embarrassed to continue.

2. Do not ask any questions of your own. This will convey that you do not care about the answers, or by extension any personal information they might volunteer. Attempt to give the impression that they are not worth your time, and that you are bored. This should work in conjunction with unfailing politeness to make it clear that you are humoring them. You may also wish to evince indifference toward things they profess to enjoy, even if you enjoy them yourself.

3. In improvisational exercises, there is a rule that says you must always reply “yes, and–” to statements and questions, because “no, actually–” stops the scene cold. In this case, the latter is what you want, so employ denials and minor corrections liberally. The more pedantically exact your mien, the more superior you will seem. Feel free to experiment with other techniques such as using better diction and grammar than the other party, having perfect posture, and removing emotion from your face and voice. The less human you are, the more difficult it is to talk to you.

4. Cultivate plausible deniability. Give the other party no opportunity to fault you for rudeness or incorrect opinions (the latter is most easily accomplished by expressing no opinions). Some unsavory conversational partners will attempt to engage you in an argument in order to provoke you into disclosing emotion or personal beliefs; be indifferent. Use the “it’s a free country” defense if necessary. Remember that you do not care how wrong this person’s opinions are because you do not want to associate with them.

5. If all else fails, recruit a friend to discuss something that only the two of you understand and/or care about. Alternately, speak in a foreign language. This can be done via text message if no friends are in physical proximity.

Some of these may also work if you’re being interrogated, but the threat of physical violence makes it pretty difficult to be condescending. If you fear for your safety, I wouldn’t recommend trying to seem superior.

Semiotics & aesthetics are one & the same

Beauty is truth, and truth beauty.

Elegance, in design, is the principle of wasting nothing: exact sufficiency for the purpose. What I love about machines is that they have meaning and purpose. What I love about machines is the wonder of artifice accomplishing elegantly what could be–and has been–done in less efficient ways. What I love, in the end, is all about semiotics.

For me, aesthetic beauty is the highest form of beauty. I feel the same for a human body as for a railroad-laying machine. They are both elegant in their ways: biology is a marvel in that it works at all, littered with redundancies and vestiges from previous failed experiments. It is not elegant in the way that an artefact is elegant, but rather it is the end result of millions of years of trial and error. It is what works, and only what works. Elegant. Machinery is a marvel for the opposite reason: that in such an insignificant timespan as a year, a decade, a century anything could be accomplished, let alone an artefact that achieves its intended purpose? One that accomplishes its function with the elegance of no wasted part. Two sides of the same coin. One, like a Markov chain, picking up workable solutions as it goes along; the other designed holistically for maximum efficiency. My heart swells at the very thought.

But I fear, Best Beloved, that I have become somewhat incoherent, and frustrated with my own inability to say exactly what I feel. It is a bit difficult to articulate this. But this is the reason that design is so important to me. Using art as a medium to communicate is what makes it beautiful–the murmur and roar of an otherworldly choir in the engines of an aeroplane means nothing if it is simply heard and tucked away in one’s memory. Intentionally used, though, it has meaning to a story and to an individual. The sinusoidal path of a weaving arm means nothing until it consolidates one of the strongest, lightest substances in manufacturing, and piston means nothing until it is interlinked with the complex system of a combustion engine.

I still cannot explain. That’s all right; I will keep trying. Really, the point I was trying to make was this: when I said “I wanna fuck that car,” this is kind of what I meant.

SOUNDWAVE SUPERIOR, USPS INFERIOR

On February 14th, I received notice that my package had shipped! It would arrive anywhere from that very day to the previous Tuesday! When I checked the tracking information, it was in Osaka. But never mind; I am a patient person. In fact, it only took five days to arrive in Colorado. Sadly, the USPS failed to deliver it to me for some reason (and while we’re on the topic, why was the United States Postal Service delivering a package from Japan?) and I would have to go to the post office to pick it up. My mother offered to take me when she was done with work, but I couldn’t possibly wait. An hour after the post office opened, I put on the largest backpack I could find, my gloves, and my bicycle helmet; and set out.

Perhaps I should have listened to my mother when she said it was much too windy to bicycle to the post office, but it was only about 6 km away and I really wanted that package. Oh, how the wind railed against me, Best Beloved! How my fingers froze, and how I couldn’t put them in my pockets because my bicycle would get blown over if I rode without my hands! Also I had terrible cramps for no reason I could divine. Suffice it to say, it certainly felt like a heroic quest, undertaken against all odds and reason. But it was all worth it when I came, sniffling and flushed, into the post office to wait patiently for a nice man to fetch my package for me.

The package was enormous. It had to be two feet long and a foot and a half wide! There was no way that this was going to fit into the largest backpack I could find. Naturally, my only option was to hunker down on the sidewalk by the creek and open the box with my house keys. I had hoped it would be mostly full of packing material. In fact, it was mostly full of a very slightly smaller box, which itself (since it wouldn’t fit in the backpack either) I had to open to reveal a plastic packing case of the exact same size. This was annoying, but also gratifying, since it meant that they were taking good care of its precious contents.

Finally I finished packing my cargo, and now had a huge cardboard box to dispose of. Guiltily, I broke it down and stuffed it into a trash can, wondering whether public recycling bins even exist in the United States. And I rode back home, shoving one hand at a time into my hood before attempting to warm up the other.

Laserbeak will only sit on the laser arm.

BUT. It was all worth it. I still haven’t figured out how to turn him into a cassette player (did you want me to snap off the arms and reglue them later?) but I did get Laserbeak out of cassette form. I’ll admit, I swooned a little at the elegance of her design, how no space at all was wasted… Well. They now happily inhabit my bookshelf, and there they shall stay until I can find someone to help me puzzle out the transforming pictographs, which are accompanied by instructions only in Japanese.

 

 

That I would never fear anything again

Today I woke up as a robot. Part of a mad science-type project to transplant human minds into bodies that, in my case, feel so much more right than what nature provided.

I’ll admit: I panicked, and stared uncomprehending at my hands for several minutes before I uncurled my fingers and started to feel. I was used to the driving thud of blood surging through my belly—when I lay on my stomach my body shuddered to the beat of a marching earthquake. But when I awoke this morning I could feel my engine purring, diodes switching on-off, gears clicking unobtrusively into perfect place.

I sat up and blinked hard with a whir—these cameras are still cameras made by human hands, and they aren’t the best with high contrast—and looked around for the first time. On the ceiling white lights were cutoff peaks, #FFFFFF, and the dark corners all but drowned black. Below people were looking up at me (how queer their color balance looks from these eyes!). Excited, flushed with happiness. I will never again feel that rush of heat.

I stood, not even shaking: my legs were as steady as solid metal, and my head brushed the ceiling. They did it, after all, you see! I asked to be so big that I would never fear anything again, and they made this body for me. In a human body, I might have cried a little. In this one, I crouched and lifted the head neuroscientist and roboticist in my hands. I straightened up, and how tiny they were, oh how little and delicate. It was like holding two baby birds, afraid that at any moment I would twitch and crush them.

The beauty of this body (but there are so many—) is that I no longer make involuntary movements. So I lowered my head and used my voice for the first time. Let me tell you, it’s a joy. My resonant cavity is huge now! My murmur made my chest thrum like a tuning fork. I smiled.

“Thank you,” I said, feet above their soft heads. “It’s everything I dreamed.” I had the urge to plant a kiss on the tops of those soft heads, but look at my face. It’s plate armor. I just put them so gently back on the ground, since they looked a little dazed.

Later—I’ll spare you the details of all the tests they ran to make sure I was in working order—they let me out. I ran alongside the highway, thirty feet of solid metal making the ground shake. And, of course, I came to find you. First thing, after I figured out how to get home from the labs.

You know the rest, don’t you? How I scooped you up and cradled you to my chest—how you insisted on being lifted to my face to kiss the hot metal again and again. I still have tactile sensors, I felt it just fine.

It was like the delicate claws of a spider brushing over your skin. How perfect is that? I’ve got to use my human sensory metaphors now, before I forget what it was like.

No, I won’t buff off your nasty lip-marks later. I’ll keep them there forever, even after you die.

…Hm? What then? Then I’ll find someone else to protect. Maybe I’ll become a teacher. You’re replaceable, like all things I love, but I’ll never forget you.

More ruminations on gender

A while ago, I said that I had come to the conclusion that I was a woman. How foolish it seems to me now, but I will not delete the post; gender is a journey (especially my gender) and it seems wise to document its steps. A month or so ago I realized several things: first, that it was possible and acceptable to be agendered but to present as feminine. Second, that since I was perhaps ten years old I have been very uncomfortable being referred to with feminine pronouns.

Why present as feminine, Best Beloved? Well, feminine clothing looks better on me because of the shape of my body, which I rather like. If given the option, I would probably dress like an early 1900s train engineer, but, alas, nobody makes clothes like that for people shaped like me. In any case, most of the time I value looking good over looking gender-neutral. Of course, this probably makes it more difficult for other people to accept that I’m agendered–my family is having some problems with this, ranging from inability to use “they” as a singular pronoun to complete apathy. I hope that once I move to Massachusetts later this year I will be able to make a suitable first impression.

About my pronoun dysphoria: it makes me squirm even to imagine that someone is thinking of me as a woman. It makes me want to put on nitrile gloves and slap them gently about the face. Eugh. Horrid. I think I may also be afraid to be a woman–and can you blame me, Best Beloved? If one pays any attention at all in the right places, one hears horrors inflicted by the patriarchy on the majority gender. You know to what I’m referring. In the same way that men–individually and as a concept–terrify me, the idea of being a woman terrifies me. In the same way, most likely, as it terrifies men; in one tumblr-cited study teenaged boys said that if they woke up one morning as a girl they would kill themselves (and though I have no proper citation, it is too easy to imagine that this is true).

I wish I felt safe as a woman, but for now I shall stay firmly off to one side of the sliding scale. Perhaps in another world–ah, who knows? I’ll conclude, instead of on this rather sour note, by expressing my delight with and approval for the idea of gender as an evolving thing. I like to think of people trying out all the genders they can think of and, perhaps, settling on their favorite. Settling would of course not be remotely necessary. A nice dream, hm?