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.”
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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.

Clarifications on healthy love, or, an argument against love

“Sometimes I miss you the way someone drowning remembers air.”—Tom Seibles

How romantic! I am rather against romanticism, as an aesthetic and a philosophy, and I don’t feel I did justice to it in my poem of earlier today (about an hour ago). My point is that to depend emotionally on a single person, with that obsessive, devoted, consuming love the poets like so much is unhealthy in the extreme, for both parties. It’s often held up as the highest ideal of love, two people who can’t possibly get enough of each other, and who wither apart. This would be fine, I suppose, if this could continue in stasis forever and neither of them wanted to have any other friends. But this so rarely happens; usually instead one person is obsessively desirous of the other’s time and attention, and sees it as an affront when it is not given (see: “Dislike is not a crime”). It can be seen as flattering that anyone cares so much, but it’s also emotionally draining, and extremely frustrating when one cannot spend time with other friends because of an accusation that deserved attention is being somehow stolen from the needer.

This isn’t necessarily even about abuse, depending on your definition. Emotional abuse is deliberate manipulation of others, even without the intent to hurt, and some who need manipulate their needed unconsciously. My main point is that it would be so much better to be with someone because you like them, not just because you love them. Love is what comes out of Stockholm Syndrome–it’s very hard not to love your parents, even if you dislike them, or anyone with whom you have spent a sufficient amount of time. Liking comes from kindred ways of thought, and friend chemistry or what-have-you. It’s much more personal than love. You can need anyone, and often those who need do: latch onto whoever has a strong foundation and will spend time with them.

Thus do I exhort: if you do have a need (a Need?) try to fill it with someone who genuinely likes you. Sadly, the Need often comes about because you don’t think anyone genuinely likes you. This is not true, in nearly every case. Thus do I exhort, Best Beloved: do not look for love. Look for liking, and let love alight where it may.

If your body just really wants you to have sex, I can’t help you. Maybe find someone else with the same problem? In case you haven’t noticed, I’ve never had any practical solutions to any problem that normal people have.

Meditations on healthy love

I’ve long known that love based on need will only hurt. Worse, it rots like a gangrenous wound, poisoning the body till it reaches the figurative heart. This may be poetic interpretation but I know that it’s true— it hurts to be needed ’cause it’s a chain that any decent person won’t pull too hard. You’re confined like a dog to the yard and unable to distinguish your pain from the pain of needing you and fearing that someday you’ll rise, and turn your face toward the sunset with the dawn in your eyes.

I’ve seen too many cases of need, of greed that makes another person one’s own. I’ve been that person possessed and I’ve felt the unrest that made me test that chain. I’ve seen the crater it leaves when you scoop yourself out of another person to stand on your two feet again, and I’ve seen that when you stand to look down you watch your keeper cry in the dirt, who sees you as a haloed crown over a guillotine. Don’t cut me off, don’t sever the umbilical cord, anything but leave me with my own soul and the knowledge I’m not whole, I might never be whole.

Yes, it hurts, but turn your face to the sun and find someone who loves you as you. Not as a distant star but as a body, not half a binary system that will consume all the planets around you when it implodes like you know it will. Not needed, but wanted. Not vaunted, but known for the twisted hilarious sparking wildfire you are. If need is a cold dusty moon, let your longing be the stellar fire. Let your life be full of burning stars that altogether, not each individually, light it up blue as truth, as blindness, as a mercy kill.

Don’t let yourself be taken for granted, and held for granted for years and years. You don’t fear it yet, but you will. That hold is warmer by far than sitting lonely on a stoop, but don’t stoop to that once you know you’re drowning by owning. Use the song that lives inside you to tell them they’re wrong to hide you under layers and layers of frantic tissue paper love, thinking you won’t be able to sit up.

Sit up. Find your sun, and leave the deep lake where the water whispers, things will be better someday.

Platte

I live in an apartment complex about half a kilometer from the Platte River, and as Colorado is famously outdoorsy there is an extensive network of bicycle and jogging trails. Quite naturally, there is one along the Platte. It seems extraordinary to me that the city should have spent so much money and effort creating such a place, but the culture of Denver and environs is very much conducive to projects of this type. The Platte trail is a lovely park with many shade trees, the delightful scummy smell peculiar to small rivers, and sunny cottonwood seeds drifting through the air.

Moreover, we passed perhaps hundreds of bicyclists in the ten miles we rode: professionals with slim thighs and advertisement-plastered shirts, the slow but game elderly, whole families matching their pace to young children, and several amputees (one of whom was performing the very exciting feat of bicycling quite fast without legs). Along the trail were gardens, bridges, highway crossings, and several signs for cafés (we are planning this weekend to visit Lucile’s Creole Breakfast Restaurant). At Nixon’s Coffee House, a mere mile from our apartment, several dozen bicyclists sat with their tiny water bottles (sometimes several apiece) and tiny saddle bags, chatting and cooling off over iced coffee.

What really struck me was that here there is a significant, cohesive bicycling culture. I think it does owe largely to Colorado’s cultural tendency to view outdoor activities as preferable, partially owing to its tourism industry, and this in turn is because of its preponderance of mountains and other sorts of gorgeous scenery. I believe it is different in this way from Utah, which suffers from a sad dichotomy: wherever there are great populated areas, there is much less exciting wilderness, and wherever the exciting wilderness is (the south) no settlements are anywhere nearby. Utah’s wilderness is inhospitable, but in Colorado it has been carefully preserved as it was settled. Here, it seems that people make more of an effort to enjoy and be part of nature. In Utah it is a pastime, but here it is just life.

Dislike is not a crime

A few days ago my friend expressed great frustration to me at their ex’s unwillingness to talk to them, and their inability to do anything to mitigate this. I have been used to express sympathy for this plight, but for whatever reason, in this particular case I was unable to do so. Perhaps it is because I have experienced this from the other side–I have been extremely unwilling to interact with certain others because they make me uncomfortable, or because I do not like them. I have been terse, I have ignored, but I have never let vitriol escape my lips. This is not rudeness, but politeness to myself and others (for would it not be less polite to tell them to piss off?). My friend, however, complained that the object of their continued affections did not talk to them except by outside initiation. To me, this seems an absurdly privileged view, as it assumes that having attention paid to one is a right.

I wonder, Best Beloved, whether you have noticed the recent–or ancient, as it may be–trend of martyrdom as impressive and laudable. Suffering is particularly in fashion right now; we glamorize the mentally ill, the poor, those incapable of helping themselves, and most especially those who put others before themselves to their own detriment. This has become so deeply ingrained that we criticize those people who value their own happiness as paramount instead of making themselves available for use by others. I am one of those people, and it frustrates me endlessly that one is often forced by convention to associate (closely even, at times) with people one dislikes, else risk being labelled ‘toxic,’ ‘bitch,’ or simply bearing the full emotional brunt of someone else’s unhappiness.

Dislike is not a crime. Others’ perception of my dislike of them as a heinous insult is flattering, to be sure (how much they care about my opinions!) but I have no obligation to like anyone, nor to put myself in their way if that will decrease my happiness significantly. As I am somewhat angry, allow me to reiterate: nobody has the right to your time unless you have made a contract to give it to them. Nobody has to right to receive conversation, support, or favor from you. Human interaction is a privilege to be earned, not a natural right.

On Emotional Intelligence

Intelligence, as a concept, is largely based on pattern recognition and the ability to learn quickly by deduction and example. This is, indeed, the entire basis of IQ tests. Then is it not so that a truly intelligent person should be socially and emotionally, as well as academically, adept? Social systems follow definite, if usually nonverbalized, roles (mores) and emotional expression follows consistent, if subtle, patterns. For example, it is almost always possible to deduce whether one’s friend is angry with one, and even that the reason is one’s recent assassination of her ex-girlfriend (for whatever it may be worth, I’m sorry; I don’t choose my commissions). This is a trivial example, though–such obvious cues are easy to register. More nuanced are the ways people say, or do not say, what they are thinking; the ways they say what others want to hear or deliberately deliver bad news; and the ways and ways they inflect their speech with voice and body.  It takes clever pattern recognition and deduction to pick up on and interpret all these cues–likely moreso than, say, understanding mathematical problems that have been drilled into one’s head.

This is, essentially, the most intuitive form of intelligence because humans have evolved and trained one another to understand social cues without conscious thought. A person who is emotionally intelligent understands their own emotions as well as the emotions of others, and can use this to motivate themself (forgive the awkward construction on behalf of my indecision as to which gender-neutral singular pronoun to use) or others, the latter of which quality is oftentimes called charisma. Why, then, does it seem that there are so many more charismatic people than academically intelligent people? Or does it? At first I thought that our society might have higher standards for academic intelligence, but I realized that this, like all standards, is relative. The more emotionally intelligent we become as a whole, the more charismatic one must be to stand out–and this is as it should be. Yet the perfect intellect excels both in conscious and in unconscious pattern recognition.

Hackneyed as the sentiment has become in recent times, I think that emotional intelligence is by far the more important of the two. Not every job requires a lot of conscious thought or pattern recognition, but all require unconscious intelligence in the form of human interaction. Our society is at its root (aha, I made a pun!) social, and we all must participate to be of any use to the human race. And if you have no desire to be of use to the human race, Best Beloved, we shall simply have to agree to disagree on this subject.