Thursday, December 27, 2012

To Every Blog, There is a Season

(That might be in the Gnostic Gospels somewhere.)  I didn't mysteriously die or go off the grid; I'm just terrible at goodbyes.  Yep, I'm wrapping up this blog, which is very hard for me to say, despite the ephemeral nature of online ventures.  Since 2007, Asexy Beast has been a big part of my life and my personal identity, but I think it's time to move on to some other projects now.  When I started out, this was the only asexual blog (that I knew English...) that consistently updated.  Now, you are not limited by a lack of asexual writings online, but only by your time to read them all.  The landscape has changed in my own life as well.  I want to be real about the fact that asexuality is not the same priority for me that it was in 2007.  Since I will most likely be out as asexual for the rest of my life, I suppose that my relationship with the identity will change as the years pass.  At first, I felt very uncomfortable with the fact that asexuality was not so paramount in my mind anymore, but I think it's something that happens to a lot of queer people at this stage in our journeys of self-discovery.  Do I still have more to say about asexuality?  Always...but I want to take a step back and figure out what I want to use my (sadly, limited) time to write about at this point in my life.  It might be asexuality-related, and it might not be.  I may post here about future projects.

Still, let's keep in touch.  You can always reach me at a gmail address called sanfranciscoemily.

I'm working on collecting posts for a "best of Asexy Beast", so if you have a favorite post, let me know!  Thank you for being such kind, civil, and intelligent readers.  You will always be the frosting on my glittery purple cake.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Karen, actually preferring to be single on a bus.

If it's been a while since I've posted, it was probably sometime in the late Cretaceous period that I last posted about movies.  I used to consider myself a movie buff and would watch movies multiple times a week; now I rarely watch them.  I'm not entirely sure why this is.  While most of my all-time favorite movies revolve around straight white men, part of me was getting tired of this narrow range of stories.  Even when I attempted to watch films that centered on women, too often they involved the woman in question giving up everything for a man.  When I was challenged to come up with "feminist films" for a recent screening, I couldn't think of any at all.

However.  Of the movies I do watch, many of them are Spanish-language.  Since I'm always trying to improve my Spanish, I will watch any Spanish film that seems remotely interesting.  This led to me watching Karen Cries on the Bus, which is Colombian, and compared to other movies I've seen lately, refreshingly feminist.  I say this because it diverges from the narratives of "woman seeking man" and "woman doesn't think she needs a man, but she really does".  While it's not anti-feminist to seek men, I think the near-total ubiquity of these tropes means that showing other woman-centered stories can be a feminist act.

Karen Cries on the Bus lacks plot (it's like they know me), but shows the day-to-day life of Karen as she tries to cultivate an identity for herself after leaving a loveless marriage. At first, she doesn't really know how to do anything independently, and the film charts her successes and failures in building a new life.  There have been other movies on the same topic, but the ending was a total departure from anything Hollywood would have done.  **Major spoilers**  Instead of moving to Argentina with a new man she starts dating, Karen decides to stay in Colombia by herself.  While I can see how this might seem depressing to some viewers, personally I was thinking, "you go, Karen".  She had learned enough about herself to know that she was still susceptible to getting lost in her relationships with men, and she didn't want to go down that road again.  I don't know any other films where someone chooses to be single in a situation like Karen's.  **End spoilers for "Karen"**

I recommend it.  

[Haircuts always represent new beginnings--we get it!]

The other movie I've seen most recently was Albert Nobbs, which garnered some discussion on AVEN.  **Minor spoilers will follow**  Albert is a woman (or perhaps a genderqueer or trans person) who began presenting as male in order to get employment in 19th century Ireland.  What I found somewhat unique about the film was that there was another character, Hubert, who was also a woman presenting as male.  She "finds out" Albert, and then confides to him that she is also female (pronouns are tough here).  Albert seems to really admire Hubert, because he has a wife and just generally seems a lot happier and freer than Albert does.  While Albert's gender status seems to get in the way of relationships, Hubert doesn't seem to have a problem with his.  Albert does seem asexual in some ways, but I am not convinced that he is.  I think he just feels a much greater anxiety over his "secret" than Hubert does.  It also seems like years of isolation have greatly impaired his social functioning.

**Major spoilers will follow**

What's cliche about the movie is that Albert dies in the end.  This always seems to be a statement that gender-nonconforming people have no future and no place in this world (which, of course, makes me cringe).  However, Hubert lives, and seems to be thriving even after the death of his wife.  It seems like he'll be successful at wooing the woman who rejected Albert for being too stiff and unemotional.  Are we supposed to think that Hubert is somehow ambushing heterosexual women?  I don't know.  I wouldn't blame him, given his social climate, for staying in the closet.

**End spoilers**

To finally conclude, I think that Albert Nobbs, while it got mixed reviews, is a great film to discuss with folks who are interested in gender issues.  Make it a double-feature with Tomboy, which would also have some good discussion fodder.  Someone's going to fall asleep, though.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Remote Intimacy

In Relocations, an awesome book, Karen Tongson writes about "remote intimacy", a term she credits to Jennifer Terry.  (Terry defined it as the "transmission of sentiments through designed uses and creative appropriations of telemediating devices".)  Wish I had page numbers, but I read it as an ebook and every page was Page 1.  Ain't technology grand?  You've probably experienced remote intimacy, even if you don't know the term.  The classic example is listening to a favorite song and feeling like somewhere out there, another person is listening to the same song and loving it, too.  It can also be experienced in groups, as in that scene from The Perks of Being a Wallflower that launched 10,000 "infinite" tattoos. The kids in that book, who presumably live in some uncool suburb, listen to the Smiths together and "feel infinite".  (The Smiths seem to have launched a disproportionately high number of remote intimacy moments.)  Tongson writes:

"...Listening as remote intimacy brings people, things, and concepts together, even if suburban space and time dictates their dispersal and isolation."

and in greater detail:

"In a pre-digital age, remote intimacies were practiced through the shared consumption (or some would say overconsumption) of broadcast television and popular music, as well as by "hanging out" live, at differently situated chains or even at amusement venues like Knott's [Berry Farm, a southern California theme park].  Sometimes the resonance of these activities and of these shared popular objects is only discovered belatedly, thus recreating intimacies in the present based on the shared, remote gestures--some experienced in isolation--in the past.  I would venture to describe such asynchronous echoes as remote intimacies across time."

Remote intimacy is especially important to the suburbs, because it can take away the inferiority of being in "a suburb of [some larger city]", allowing people to connect with faraway places that might have more in common with their own.  For instance, Tongson describes how music connects Birmingham, England with Riveside, California.  By identifying with a place like Birmingham, you can escape the feeling of living in a "lesser version" of LA.

But remote intimacy is older than this implies; predating recorded film and sound.  In her notes to the book, Tongson uses a quote about how morning prayers connect people with millions of unseen others doing the same thing.  It's one reason why these rituals are so powerful.  You feel remote intimacy with people across time (because your ancestors did the same thing) and in the present time, with people across the world.

Of course, the internet has caused remote intimacy to take up a much more prominent place in many of our lives.  The interesting thing is, Tongson never says that remote intimacy is an inferior copy of other intimacies, or that it is unhealthy in some way.  (This is how people alone in their rooms with music or the internet tend to be perceived.)  To Tongson, it is a way through which people fight isolation, rather than a way to become more isolated.  When talking about intimacy, relationships are always privileged, but they are not the only place to find intimacy.  I think it would be hard for most people to get by on remote intimacy alone.  But these little moments of connection?  They matter.

Friday, August 10, 2012

The most amazing event in history!

While riding the London tube, I saw this advertisement for an online dating site:

It reads: "The most amazing event in the history of the world will happen in London this summer.  Plus there's that Stratford thing too.  Falling in love.  Nothing on earth can match the feeling."

I saw the ad multiple times during my stay in London, and had some time to think about it during long tube journeys.  It plays on a common trope in American (and obviously, British) culture--that falling in love is a completely unique and rarefied experience.  There is nothing else like it.  I've always felt compelled to say that I "fell in love" with music, maybe to show that I do experience a full range of emotion.  Although, maybe I don't, and maybe that's fine.  I can find people attractive, have crushes and romantic feelings, and love people, but I have never in my life felt obsessed with another person.

But we all have certain things we can't experience.   For instance, I don't have synesthesia.  Since I first heard of synesthesia, I've thought that having it would be very interesting (although I know it can be problematic for people who have it).  However, no one places value judgements on people without synesthesia.  People who don't fall in love, though...that's another story.  Most people seem to accept the fact that some asexuals don't fall in love, but non-asexuals who don't fall in love tend to be portrayed as either callous manipulators or immature people who are scared of commitment.  In asexual visibility literature, it is often emphasized that asexuals can fall in love "just like anyone else".  I think this just perpetuates the idea that "falling in love", out of all other emotions, is put on a pedestal, and that people who aren't ace all fall in love (which is untrue).  No one ever says that "asexuals can make friends just like anyone else".  (And this might actually be relevant as well, since on coming out I've been asked if I prefer to be alone in all cases.)

While I don't have the authority to talk about falling in love with someone from personal experience, I can speak to the messages that I hear about it.  Whether or not they're true, we all hear them, sometimes every day or more, and repeated exposure to ideas affects us.

The idea that people in love recede from the larger world is problematic.  It relates to the idea that we are all broken up into completely independent nuclear family units, and this kind of thinking has really had a negative impact on social policy in America.  I don't think it's a good thing that people in love are expected to completely withdraw from their friends, communities, and families of origin.  It's not good for the people in the couple either, as their support networks may no longer be there once the honeymoon period is over.  Being in love may feel like being on drugs, but people are also encouraged to act like that's the case.  Back when marriage was largely a financial arrangement, did people fall in love like they do today?  Did they experience the feelings but just ignore them?  Maybe they had "falling in love" feelings towards friends, as described in Surpassing the Love of Men.

Right now I'm listening to a totally unrelated book called The Lost City of Z, which is about explorers in the Amazon (spoiler: they're racist).  Some indigenous people were described as being so far from civilization that they "didn't even have a concept of romantic love!"  It was like that fact was the ultimate exoticism.  But to me it makes no less sense than our society does.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Oh, To Be Queer in the Suburbs

I've lived in the suburbs for most of my life.  Often, people have asked me "Which do you like better--the East or West Coast?"  But between the suburban towns that I lived in on both coasts, the main difference is probably the climate.  Until a certain book made me question it, I took this view of suburbia, which is shared by many both inside and outside it:  That the suburbs are a tragic, boring, isolating place where creative people experience "aesthetic peril*".  At the same time, I accepted the view of cities as superior and unique.  I never thought about the fact that "great world cities" are grouped together based on many similarities.  And a lot of what makes cities "great" tends to be based on Eurocentric standards.

Enter the book Relocations.  It might actually make me feel slightly better about living in the suburbs, which is no small feat.  The author, Karen Tongson, writes that for too long, studies of queer life have privileged the city, even though many queer people (especially women and people of color) live in the suburbs.  The prevailing idea is that after coming out, queer people need to migrate to the city or risk the sad and irrelevant life described earlier.  That queer people might choose to stay in the suburbs, or actually migrate from cities to suburbs, is rarely examined.  

While there is no city with an asexual community on par with San Francisco or New York's gay communities, I accepted the same narrative of suburban to urban migration.  I always pictured myself living in a city, since it was what seemed "normal" for a young, single person from the suburbs.  It's true that the suburban demographics are changing.  They're no longer places that are solely composed of heterosexual couples with kids.  However, while there may be a certain number of people "like me" in the suburbs, the difference is that they're less visible than they might be in the city.  When I visit a vegan anarchist cafe (as I did in London), I can assume that many of the people present share some of my interests, whatever their age or appearance.  At a Starbucks in the suburbs, there is no way to guess about the interests of anyone present.  While in my personal experience it's harder to meet new people in the suburbs, its lack of niche activity might actually yield a more diverse group of friends for the suburban person, which is something that I value.

Tongson writes that there is something fundamentally queer about the suburbs' odd juxtapositions of time periods, architectures, forgotten histories, and groups of people.  While the suburbs are usually seen as boring, in many ways they're also very strange, surreal places.  One of my biggest problems with the suburbs is being seen as culturally irrelevant.  After all, cities are promoted as the site of alternative culture, and suburbs the place where people escape from it.  And this is why, according to Tongson, suburban queers of color love the Smiths (I could not believe that this was A Thing, but apparently it is).  While I am white, I could relate to this British pop admiration, although maybe for slightly different reasons than the ones Tongson posits.  We love bands from unlikely places, such as Manchester, because they show that you don't have to come from new York or LA to be relevant.  (I have always loved the fact that Yo La Tengo is from Hoboken, New Jersey.)  While some bands could be from anywhere, the Smiths are very grounded in what Tongson would call "the imaginary" of Manchester.  To suburban Americans, a place like Manchester is exotic, but at the same time, we can relate to it in a way that we can't relate to, say, London or Paris.  We do have suburban culture, although it is so overlooked and devalued (by residents and city folk alike), that it has a hard time thriving.  In some ways, the cultural wasteland of the suburbs is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

"Driving in your car through lonely stretches of Southern California or elsewhere.  Driving in your car with someone else, with significant others (not necessarily lovers--or are they?).  Rollin' deep with your homies, sisters or bros, real or conjured, desperately seeking excitement elsewhere, somewhere, but realizing that it might just be all about the ride, the inevitably aimless transport of accidental reverie--and all about who you're riding with."  --last page of Relocations

(*this term is from Relocations.)

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Traveling Alone: Tips for the anxious and socially awkward

Here it is at last!  My epic post about traveling alone, with tips from my experience.  These tips are directed towards people similar to myself, admittedly--folks who've had no experience traveling alone, who worry they might be lonely, bored, or anxious, and for whom meeting new people isn't really their "thing".  There are a million blog posts about traveling solo.  A lot of them include good safety tips that are relevant for everyone, so I'm not going to delve deeply into safety here.  And while there are traveling-alone tips out there for introverts, what I found wasn't very useful for me.  Yes, I'm introverted, but I'm not neurotypical.  There certainly aren't many travel tips written by us, so that's why I wanted to add my voice to the topic.  You know I love a numbered list, so let's get into it!

Yes.  I know.  It's long.
  1. Expect to feel self-conscious, especially as a newbie.  In relation to trips with others, alone I felt like I stood out much more--like I was wearing the wrong clothes, and everyone was noticing my accent.  In general, I was more attuned to the environment, which can be both positive (wow, a fox!) and negative (no one else is wearing a t-shirt!).  So, expect some level of discomfort.  I had moments of terror (like, uh, being locked inside the building where I was staying...Hellllp?!) and thinking "I can't do this!"  But don't expect this discomfort to make you have a terrible time or regret going.  
  2. Have a project (real or fake).  You can bring a creative project on your trip, or start an entirely new one.  Having that extra sense of purpose can be helpful.  Examples include photography, painting, sketching, reading a book you haven't had time for, or even a volunteer project.  While in the UK, one of my projects was writing this post.  It can be fun to get into character a little (no need to have acting experience).  Like, if you're new to eating in restaurants by yourself, you can become a restaurant critic taking notes, writing reviews, and posting them online.  Sometimes when I've been at shows alone, I pretend I'm a music journalist, even though I never actually write anything.  For some reason, it makes me feel less awkward.
  3. Keep a record.  Sort of related to the first one, but specifically, keep a journal, either on paper or online.  Traveling alone is a great opportunity to learn new things about yourself and the world, and so it can be valuable to record these observations.  It also gives you something to do while sitting in parks, cafes, trains, etc.  Oscar Wilde thought reading his own diary on the train was entertaining; maybe the same will hold true for you.
  4. Check in with those you left behind.  Not all day, every day, but set aside a little time to write some missives to your homies.  They'll want to know you're safe and having a good time.  And it's nice to hear from someone who loves you.
  5. Abandon perfection.  This applies to life in general, but when you're alone and far from home, it can be easier to get stuck inside your head.  What's in my head?  Extreme perfectionism, which is why I try to heed this advice.  Of course you want to have the perfect trip--you have limited time and you want every moment to count.  But you can still have an awesome, memorable trip even if there are some bad moments.  In addition, you won't become a different person just because you're traveling.  I sometimes get tired very easily, and I while I want to "go go go" and see everything, at times I need to give myself a break.  In short, don't put too much pressure on yourself.  If this is your first time traveling alone, try to view it as a learning, skill-building experience.
  6. Be a little consistent.  Travel is the time to try new things, but don't abandon all your usual habits (especially the self-care ones!).  For instance, I tended to feel more anxious when I was alone in my hotel room at the end of the day, and so I would read some of the blogs that I was used to reading back home.  There was comfort in those familiar voices.  Find a cafe/restaurant/pub/etc near your lodgings at which to be a "regular" and go there often.  (Cafes usually have bulletin boards with lots of local events as well.)
  7. Stay in one place.  Why did I decide to come to Manchester for only two days, again?  I don't regret it (I even met one of my Livejournal friends!), but such a short stay made it impossible to ever get my bearings.  If you avoid city-hopping, it's also easier to get involved with local social activities, and to actually attend the upcoming events that you hear about.
  8. Meet people in advance.  If you, like me, are not very outgoing, meet people (or join a group) from your destination online, before you get there.  Think about it:  Locals, especially urban people, won't have any real reason to befriend you unless you have shared interests (or are incredibly charming).  In London, I learned that while in theory, striking up conversations with strangers was a great idea, in practice it was less so.  A couple of strangers tried conversing with me, but I had too much trouble quickly transitioning into random conversation.  I need a few moments to mentally prepare myself and decide if I even want to talk.  By that time, though, the stranger is usually saying, "Sorry, I won't disturb you".  When I say, "No, really, you're not," they have probably already assumed that I'm quietly plotting their murder.  So yeah, I like meeting people in advance.  Just be honest with yourself about your level of social comfort, and start from there.
  9. Respect your body.  Don't be like me:  Hungry, dehydrated, sunburned, and extremely sore of foot.  If you think carrying a reusable water bottle is too unwieldy, Vapur.  Although the carabiner broke after a day (so you know they're not paying me to write this), the bottle itself is durable, and becomes very light and small when empty.  Carry snacks with you, and bring the most comfortable shoes possible (as long as they blend in with your locale).  I find that on trips, I do a ton of walking, and it wasn't until the last two days of my trip that I felt used to it.
  10. Master auto-timer on your camera.  I hate asking random people to take my picture, because not only am I paranoid that they'll steal my camera, I just feel goofy.  So if I'm in a place that's not too busy, I'll prop my camera on a wall and take a picture on auto-timer.  See, I can prove I was here!  (Okay, someone could also steal my camera this way, but paranoia isn't always logical.)
  11. Hey, you might enjoy being alone.  If you travel alone, and yet meet up with others at points along your journey, it really is the best of both worlds.  You get some social interaction, and yet you can still do what you want, on your own time.  If I wanted to do some odd or esoteric activities, I didn't need to "sell" them to a travel companion, I just went and did them.  Nor did I have to adhere to the schedule of another person.  It's totally different from the day-to-day life that most of us live, and it can be a really nice change.

[Image: Ily losing their umbrella at St. Cuthbert's Cemetery, Edinburgh]

Bonus item: Stuff to do at night, solo!  For shy and fatigued people.  My main concern about traveling alone was always "what to do at night".  I don't like going to bars or clubs (the "nightlife" standbys) alone.  So, here are some ideas for stuff to do by night:
    • Film festivals.  Seriously, most people's friends don't want to see strange indie films.  There will be many other people by themselves.
    • Theater.  Same, especially at smaller venues.  
    • Museums.  Many are open late at least one night a week.
    • Read a book and go to bed early.  No shame in that. 
    • Walking tours.  This actually felt like one of the more awkward things I did alone, but it's worth trying out.
    • Chores.  If you have to do laundry or something, doing it at night will free up time to do more things during the day.
I hate to end on "chores", but to paraphrase Belle and Sebastian, a list needs to end somewhere.  While I was quite worried about traveling alone, I'm glad I tried it.  If I don't travel far afield in the future, it will probably be for environmental reasons rather than lack of companionship.  That's definitely progress for me.  Also, it was probably a good idea that I made my maiden voyage to an English-speaking country where I'd already briefly lived.  Three weeks in Mongolia would have been much harder.  Maybe next time...

Friday, July 13, 2012

World Pride: Contaminating You With Asexiness

I feel like I should talk about World Pride (which took place in London last weekend), but it seems like words are failing me.  It was just awesome, simple as that.  The feel was pretty different from San Francisco Pride, although not necessarily in a good or bad way.  Due to budget issues, all floats had been cancelled, and so every group was on foot.  The asexuals n' friends got jumbled up with roller derby people on skates, as well as a transgender support group.  Someone behind me was yelling, "Trannies forever! Trannies for life!" for the entire parade (you go girl!).  But I like that smaller groups didn't get drowned out so easily by the huge floats (although we might have almost drowned in the sporadic bursts of rain).  It also seemed like fewer people came as spectators.  I was handing out flyers for the majority of the march, and got the feeling that most of the people were of the "Oh, I was shopping at H&M and just decided to come and look at this pride parade" type.  However this made the crowd remarkably more sober, and I saw many more people (compared to SF) actually reading and considering our literature.  Some people's faces had looks of confusion and even disgust.  I heard a few comments to "keep away from the asexuals!" as if our orientation was contagious (oh come on, it's pride, we're all recruiting!).  But as usual, others seemed genuinely interested and curious.

[Image: Aces gearing up to march in the parade.  You can see our lovely banner and placards.]

So, y'all, I just met a whole bunch of really nice, welcoming, and just plain awesome and asexy people.  It never fails to amaze me how with so many aces, I feel like I can tell them some hella personal shit (as we might say back here in NorCal), even if I don't know them very well at all.  I found myself sitting around a table with a couple of aces, telling them something I had never said to anyone before in my life, and feeling totally comfortable.  There was a moment when a bunch of us were attempting to "go out" on a Saturday night, and we ended up in front of a crowded club with loud music.  We were all tired after a long day, and started making numerous excuses about how we were hungry, sore, wanting to sit, etc.  It struck me as really funny because it was stereotypically asexual, but in that moment, I just felt so much affection for those people.  Because it's not a group where folks are trying to "be cool" or pressuring others to do so.  I've felt that with asexuals here in the US, and across the world, it didn't change.  

(Also, I've wondered why asexuals in the UK seem more interested and/or successful in "hooking up" romantically with each other than many in the US.  Well, they do have their meetups in a place that sells pints for 2 pounds.  And those bad boys are potent, let me tell you.  Now, maybe alcohol is not the only reason, and maybe my perceptions are off.  But I don't think I've ever been hugged by more people in a single night than I was in that pub!)

Maybe words didn't fail me after all.  There's more to tell, but for now, this will have to do.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

This one's for all you losers...

...and I address you as "losers" lovingly and with admiration, as Judith Halberstam does in the book The Art of Queer Failure.  I was skeptical at first, since the book and its references (Finding Nemo, Dude, Where's My Car? as well as academic sources) seemed weird, random, and unlikely.  However, I'm kind of weird and random myself, so Queer Failure and I ended up getting along well for the most part.  While I don't think the book necessarily forms a cohesive whole, the parts are valuable.  The general premise is potentially life-changing, and I don't say that lightly.  Halberstam writes that based on what we symbolize in society, queers fail.  In fact, we're so good at failing that we turn it into an art form and even a way of life.  Failure isn't something to run away from (says Halberstam), but to embrace, as can be seen in the phrase "good at failing".  Rather than a success/failure binary (another binary?  Will it ever end?), where success is good and failure bad, now I can better see that both have something to offer.  While success can provide comfort and social status, failure can open up new ways of learning and of knowing.

Failure also needs to be recognized, in some cases, as something that is imposed from outside.  For instance, Occupy is consistently portrayed as a failure in my local media--the term "moribund" in particular comes to mind.  However, I've found it very successful as a way for politically-minded people to find community.

"...There is something powerful in being wrong, in losing, in failing, and that all our failures combined might just be enough, if we practice them well, to bring down the winner" (127).

Our current mode of success/failure is closely tied to our economic system, as Queer Failure mentions.  For one person to succeed, others must fail.  In fact many of us are set up to fail, since while we all want to "win", this is impossible.  Halberstam quotes Guy Hocquenghem:  "Capitalism turns its homosexuals into failed normal people [exactly what I believed I was, pre-asexuality], just as it turns its working class into an imitation of the middle class" (103). In this social framework, I'm already so far behind that I may never win.  Either I acknowledge that, or I try to pretend that I'm someone who can navigate this world with more ease than I actually can.  Maybe if we deny failure, then we give it more power than it really deserves; it becomes too scary to ever risk.  For so long, I've been trying to figure out some philosophy of life under which I could succeed, or somehow alchemize my losses into wins.  It's been extremely exhausting.  Perhaps it's the labeling--"succeed", "fail", "win", "lose" that needs to go, in favor of more dynamic, personalized language.

"You don't learn from a situation where you do something well. You enjoy it and you give yourself credit, but you don't really learn from that. You learn from trial and error, trial and error, all the time."
--Suzanne Farrell.  Quote seen on the wall of a dance studio.  Failure central, amirite?

Friday, June 29, 2012

"Too Nice to Go Alone"

Greetings from London!
Asexuals met so far:  4
Portions of vegan haggis eaten: 1 (in Edinburgh, yum yum)
People in suits:  About 5 million
People in jeans and t-shirts:  1 (uh...even the most stylish peeps have off-days, right?)

While I've felt lucky to hang out with a lot of cool people so far (old friends, internet friends, and strangers--but not for long-- alike), I've spent most of my time alone, and have been doing a bunch of thinking on the topic.  I'm working on my post of practical travel tips, which will be published after I get back home.  But I've also been thinking about some of the psychological stuff behind "how to be alone".  For more of that, read on!

Today, for instance, I knew that I shouldn't be walking much more, as my legs felt like two pillars of wood.  But I needed dinner, so I decided to look at the Vegan London map and go to whichever restaurant was closest to my lodgings.  I identified the place, although from its website, it looked fancier than what I'd typically choose.  Although it might have been slightly outside my budget, what I immediately said to myself was, "this is too nice for one person".  And I knew that the moment I had that thought, I wanted to analyze it further.

As I walked to the Tube (having changed out of my jeans and t-shirt), I started to understand my reaction.  American culture doesn't discourage splurging on yourself a bit, however, it does encourage the insecurities of single people.  I didn't want to feel out of place, perhaps among couples dining in a traditionally "romantic" atmosphere.  Since I rarely go to fancier restaurants, I wasn't sure what to expect, and that fact made me wish I'd had company.  And if the place ended up being really special, I'd have no one to share the memory with.  However, these normal concerns (at least, the normal concerns of a chronically anxious person) can become a self-fulfilling prophecy where being single is not only viewed as being an inferior state, but actually becomes that state.

Had I not left my comfort zone and gone to the slightly fancy restaurant, it would have always remained, in the back of my mind, something outside my reach...something for other people and not for me.  There would have been a sense of denial, however small, that with enough similar instances would build over time.  I would feel like, being single, I was missing out.

What I realized from this experience is that "this is too nice for one person"-type thoughts are always preemptive.  I can't imagine an instance when, while actually doing something, I've thought "this is way too much fun for one person".  I've wished that I had company, but that's different, as it's not perpetuating the idea that I somehow don't deserve to have a good time.  Like when I got to the restaurant, I wasn't thinking that it was "too nice" for me to be alone there.  In fact, there was another person eating alone!  While I wasn't thrilled to be by myself, doing the activity anyway served to demystify it quite a bit.

And tomorrow, the search for good meals under 5 pounds continues...*wink*

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Genius Loci Returns!

I have no excuse...while I have a Tumblr (Tumblog?), I rarely update it.  When I do, the main thing I post is pictures of vegan food that I make; I only do the occasional ace-related reblog.  For a couple of reasons, I haven't felt very creative lately, including in the kitchen.  But today while I was taking a walk, a couple of things gelled together in my head (don't you just love it when that happens)?  So, here you have it...another continuation of the thoughts from this post.  I also have a "place" tag here, although it's not very populous yet.

A couple of days ago, I was talking to a woman who's training as a psychologist.  She mentioned that sharing novel experiences with your partner is one of the main ways we get a "falling in love" feeling.  When you associate a certain place or activity only with your partner, they start to become more special to you.

Randomly enough, this made me start thinking about my love of London.  In London, I had many novel experiences, and I think this is part of what caused me to love it so much.  I had a lot of new realizations about my life, including that I was asexual.  The concept of unique associations also holds true.  Immediately after returning from London in 2005, I had an episode of major depression for the first time.  So I came to associate London with a "simpler time" when I was unburdened by serious mental health issues.  As you're seeing, none of this has anything to do with the city itself.  Maybe this can shed some light on why so many people fall in love with folks who seem "wrong for them" or just completely random.

But that's not to say there's any formula for love, either of people or of place.  I had plenty of novel and meaningful experiences in Walla Walla, Washington, but I disliked it for three years, only coming to feel positively about it in my fourth and last year of living there.

In a couple of weeks, I'm going back to London, for the first time since 2005.  I have no idea whether I'll love it as much as I once did, or whether it'll just seem like another place, albeit a very interesting one.  There are definitely pros and cons to each outcome.  I've been meaning to go back for years, but World Pride finally got me off my butt.  I'm looking forward to meeting many, many asexuals.  And since I might actually have internet access, maybe there will be some reports from the field!

This is also much longer than any trip I've ever taken by myself, but traveling alone is a single-person skill that I want to develop.  So, we'll see how that goes.  After 3 weeks of travel, hopefully I'll have some tips for any other folks embarking on similar journeys.

(Thanks for the comments, Ally!  I meant to respond but time got the better of me.  I remember you mentioning that you also love London, so hey!)

Saturday, May 12, 2012

The HAP: Summer Edition!

It's starting to feel like summer here in the Bay Area, which makes young women's minds turn to...leg hair.  Of course.  The Hobbit Acceptance Project, by the way, is almost a year old now.  I can finally say that my leg and armpit hair look normal to part of my body, rather than some hideous alien invader.  But this did take quite a while--at least six months.

I don't feel comfortable being hairy at work...maybe there are some jobs where it would be seen as okay, but mine wouldn't be counted among those.  The past couple of weekends, I did have hairy legs on display, to no incident.  That said though, if you can't have hairy legs at an Occupy picnic, a feminist meeting, or a vegan-cheese-buying expedition, where can you have them?  Being hairy does require more thought for me.  Some days I struggle with more anxiety than others, and can feel like everyone is staring at me.  I have to check in with myself about how much I want to stand out or blend in, based on my emotional state and the nature of the day's activities.

And here's a post about someone doing a similar project, although theirs is called "The Experiment".  Like this person, I was also told by a well-meaning relative to delay shaving my legs, since "once you start, you can't stop!"  Free choice, eh?  I think I was around 13.  Maybe for the next generation, we can move into, "Well, if you don't want kids to make fun of you, you might want to shave, but once you're an adult, it'll be easier to do what you want."  It's probably a good thing that I shaved as a teen, since the last thing I needed was one more reason to be bullied.

Elsewhere on the 'net, I heard a woman mention that reading stories from genderqueer people helped her to accept her body hair.  To that I can say: Indeed.  Reading the blog My Gender is Kittens, where the writer documents what they call a "femme beard", helped me move towards accepting my own.  Believe it or not, I don't have any kind of mustache.  But if you do...Majestic Legay.  Style icon right there.

"It feels like the most femme thing for's like resistance to the shame that I was made to feel because I had hair on my face...this mustache for me is a form of resistance...It's been a process of healing."
 --Majestic Legay

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Whipping Girl

"Too much gender for one man to handle, when I all need is a one-night scandal."
--Akon...sort of

Let me tell you, pop-cultural blogs are eyestrain inducing, since we have to read or watch things and then blog about them.  Recently I got a job (hurrah!) which for some reason made me get an eye exam.  A few years ago, I was told I had 20/15 vision, which is "better" than 20/20.  But now, when I covered up one of my eyes, everything was blurry!  So seems like the universe is conspiring against me when it comes to blogging more regularly.  Although now I'm actually using a wireless keyboard, with my back to the screen.  God bless technology.  Well, sort of.

Anyway, this is the long way of saying that I'm sad I have to take frequent eye-breaks from my reading of Whipping Girl (which I can't yet do with my back to the book).  It's really fierce and intelligent.  Julia Serano is very persuasive; if I was having a debate tournament, I would definitely want her on my side. 

[Image: Cover of the book Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity]

One point the book has made so far is that rather than "smashing the gender binary" (which I've admitted I would like to do), what we really need to smash is gender entitlement.  I don't want everyone to be androgynous, which is how, Serano tells me, "smashing the binary" can be interpreted.  What I want is for the binary to not be so rigidly policed, so that people aren't judged for their gender expression, however they identify.  The gender binary has caused me a lot of pain, to the point that I don't want to be associated with it.  But when I speak about my distaste for the binary, I speak for myself alone. 

This book might also illuminate to me why, while I feel genderqueer, I can't give up identifying as a woman.  I see myself as a "genderqueer woman".  Maybe this is too contradictory to be accepted by most, even though some would say it's possible to have more than one gender.  The truth comes out in my discomfort with being referred to as a woman alone, by people who aren't aware of my complicated feelings about my gender.  However, I am treated as a woman.  My femininity is silly and frivolous, and my masculinity is some sort of aberration because it co-exists with my femininity.  But why this scarcity mentality when it comes to gender?  I want it all...the gender I was assigned/raised as, and then some.

(PS to Fellmama-- There's PLENTY more to discuss about this book, if you're game...I haven't even gotten into the feminism parts at all.  I'd be interested to know your thoughts!)

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

TW: The F-word, British for cigarettes

Hello!  It's been a while, hasn't it?  And it's been an especially long while since I've done any book reviews.  This weekend I picked up a book called Why Are Faggots So Afraid of Faggots?  The subtitle is important:  "Flaming Challenges to Masculinity, Objectification, and the Desire to Conform".  I'd read the other two anthologies by Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore (Nobody Passes and That's Revolting), and enjoyed them, so I wanted to give this one a try as well.  I'm only on the second essay, but I can tell that the book is going to be educational and thought-provoking (although, it should be said, some of the content is sexually explicit, if that bothers you).

[Image: The cover of the book]

The first essay is about a cruising website called Dads and Lads.  Now that, I cannot relate to, but it did have some things to say that mirrored my own experience with online dating:

Worse yet, [the dropdown menu] suggests there's something wrong with anyone or anything that doesn't fit into those clear-cut, self-explanatory, "natural" options.  Sure, you can express in your profile's personal statements the scope of your sexual tastes and practices as fully and with as much imagination as the text field's character limit will accommodate.  But when you first encounter that dropdown, when you first look at the choices available and note that there are none with which you cleanly correspond, there is a moment of creeping doubt, of uncertainty, of a nagging sense that there is something wrong with you.  You should be one or the other.  (D. Travers Scott, "Imagining a Faggoty Web", 6)

and also:

The example of this humble and by now much-maligned dropdown menu is an illustration of how the web is not neutral.  The technologies that constitute the online experience did not appear out of thin air or descend from Olympus as gifts from the gods.  They are not separate from culture, somehow innocent and pure, but as deeply intertwined with culture as an episode of The Hills.  The design and functioning of online technologies is far from immune to racism, sexism, homophobia, and other social ills.  (7)

It hadn't really occurred to me that people with more well-known orientations might have the same dropdown menu problem that I do (apparently I haven't been spending enough time on Dads and Lads).  But dropdown menus seem to function similarly to those pants you try on in the dressing room.  They don't fit, so you must be too fat.  We seem to have this habit of blaming ourselves first, and once we've done that, it can be hard to see other options.  If you want to be pissed off about dropdown menus, I'll stand behind you.  It might seem "small", but you have a right to be frustrated about people who will sacrifice human diversity for some dating algorithm.  

Although they may be different from my own life experience, reading these sorts of anti-assimilationist queer accounts often feels very refreshing to me.  I feel like asexuals, myself included, are often hesitant to take up space.  Like the "flaming faggots" in this anthology, we're often told that no one wants to hear about our sexuality.  With gay men, the perception is that there's too much to tell, and with asexuals, there is presumably not enough.  I would like to be flamboyantly asexual, although I'm still trying to figure out what that is.  Books like this remind me that there's value in that attempt.  As the introduction states, "Existing simultaneously outside queer and straight norms is liberating and constantly exciting in ways I had never anticipated".  This sense of liberation and excitement is what I wish for us.

Expect a part 2 to this post!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Self-Love: Lessons from yoga & bad, bad cats

It's been almost a year since I first decided to be kinder to myself. I had been, as bell hooks puts it, an "emotional terrorist" (to myself) for much too long. I've written before about why self-love is important (check the tag), and I think it's especially important for people who are often told that there's something deeply wrong with them (like asexuals). The #1 thing I've learned about self-love is that it's a practice. It's not like loving another person, where one day, you might suddenly realize "I love them", and then from that point forward, you experience that love. One thing I like about yoga is that in classes, the teachers often refer a lot to "your practice", emphasizing that yoga is more of a process than something goal-oriented (like being able to do a certain pose).  Self-love is like that.

For years, I've felt like I was fighting in an army, constantly trying to improve myself, but in some way, also at war with myself.  I thought that if I improved myself enough, I would like myself.  But now I see that it's the other way around.  "Negative motivation" know, stuff like, "Work harder, you lazy slacker!" has never worked for me, and never will.  Even if it "works" in the moment, you end up internalizing a lot of truly crappy ideas about yourself.  I had the idea that if I didn't keep myself "in line", I'd somehow devolve into accomplishing nothing.  But structure, which I need in order to achieve my goals, is not the same as having a mini-drill sergeant inside my head. 

[Image: Shadow and Smokey, two fluffy kittens looking cute on a chair]

I also learned some lessons from cats.  I love animals in general, but definitely have a soft spot for cats.  From ages 6-19, I had a cat names Shadow.  As a child, I had few human friends.  Shadow, who would greet me at the door and then follow me around the house, helped me feel less lonely.  However, he definitely had an attitude problem.  He chewed up a large quantity of my clothes, had a habit of biting people's noses, and would pee on objects that had foolishly been left on the floor.  Every night, he would commandeer my pillow, leaving me with only a few square inches to put my head.  But I didn't have the heart to move him.

Sometimes I would get pissed off at Shadow...chewing my favorite sweater was a memorable misdeed of his.  But, it was hard to be mad at him for more than a day.  I wasn't in denial of his faults (some of them were even kind of hilarious) but I loved him anyway.  For me, it was easy to love Shadow unconditionally.  It's much harder to love myself that way, but it's what I'm aiming for.  Thanks, Shadow (and fellow bad cats Smokey, Steve, Thomas, and Rosie).

This is getting long, but I wanted to say something about the phrase "Self love is radical!"  I've heard it a lot, but it's never really explained.  If it is indeed radical, then what makes it so?  Maybe I'll try to do this in a future post.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Situational Friends, Part 2: Success!

Remember my situational friends? Recently, I've come out to two of them--people that happen to be ones I'd like to get to know better. One person discovered I was asexual through Facebook, which is a-ok with me. The other asked me about some of my activism experiences, and it only made sense to bring up the stuff I've done with asexual visibility. I gave them both AVEN pamphlets, and they seemed interested without making a huge deal about it. Success, I'd say!

And related, something I've realized about coming out as asexual (that is unique to lesser-known orientations): It really helps to mention, as early as possible, that you are not the only asexual in the world. As obvious as it may be to readers of this blog, many people will not be aware of the fact. Well-meaning but uninformed people may assume, unless they're told otherwise, that "asexual" is a word you made up to describe only yourself. Of course, if this was the case, it would still be worthy of respect, although sadly, that respect might be harder to get. Most people have no idea that asexuals have online communities and meetups. They're often very fascinated by this, and not in a bad way. When I've talked to people about my various interactions with other asexuals, they start seeing asexuality as more of "a thing". There's power in numbers, but those numbers don't necessarily have to be in the room with you. Sometimes just mentioning them is enough.

/Captain Obvious, signing out. But before I do, here's a link I found that's quite relevant to my last post on dating: Hi, I'm single, but I'm genderqueer and you don't know what that means. The title alone is just...yes. Awesome.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Yearly Thoughts on Dating (Oy)

I'm putting this question out there: If you're not attracted to anyone, how do you choose who you're supposed to date?

Marinate on that one for a moment.

Every so often, I reassess the question, "Should I date?" Many asexuals do. I want to have some kind of life partner, and I've had no luck achieving this without dating. No matter how convincing the idea may seem though, my answer always ends up being "no". In fact, as time goes by, I only come up with more reasons not to date. I'd be willing to date someone specific, but don't like the idea of dating random people. I've been on online dating sites, the prime source of random people to date, and feel very put off by the supermarket-like feel of them. In my interactions with people from these sites, they were trying to judge me, and draw some specific conclusion, extremely quickly. I can understand why, since dating is a numbers game, but I couldn't help feeling like the process was so artificial. Then there's the whole "when to disclose asexuality" issue. Once in a while I go back on OKCupid, where I have an inactive profile, but I'm just like, "Oy. What am I thinking?"

However, this creates a contradiction: it's almost impossible for me to find a specific person to date when attraction is absent. Since I have experienced romantic attraction, however briefly and/or pointlessly, I'm able to know what I'd be "missing" in a relationship without it. I've tried to see if, in the event that I met more people, I might develop romantic feelings for someone. But I just ended up developing these feelings for someone whom I could never actually date. Maybe in time, after meeting many more people, I could find one person that I might have mutual romantic feelings with (numbers game!). Still, I wouldn't bet any money on it.

Nor do I know how to figure out what gender(s) to date, which makes online dating even harder than it already is. I don't think I would feel comfortable dating someone who is not committed to challenging gender roles (now, there's a tall order). I feel like dating would activate a bunch of gender dysphoria that I might otherwise be able to avoid. The thought of being seen as someone's "girlfriend", or as being in a heterosexual relationship, makes me feel a little sick. As described in this article, I do tend to see dating as "a threat to my gender identity". While I have a hard time choosing an exact label for my gender identity, I know what it is and isn't, and I feel strongly about it and its "integrity".

Like any social skill, dating takes practice. Practice that, as you know, I've never had. I don't think it's "too late" to start now. Because despite prevailing myths, people start dating at many different ages and there isn't some arbitrary age where you're "too old". What I don't know is whether it's worth the effort, and the huge amount of anxiety around dealing with people who may not respect my sexuality and gender.

Yes, my yearly thoughts ended up being mostly complaints; that's just how it goes sometimes. But this is also a minority report, in a way. I do want some kind of life partner, but (GASP!) it's not the most important thing to me, at least right now. That this could be a goal of only moderate importance is basically unknown to our culture. But of course, it's part of many people's lived experiences, asexual and also not asexual.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Had this dream last night

I pick up a young adult novel from a bookshelf; the cover looks interesting so I read the blurb on the back. It says that there are two asexual characters, and at least one of them is not a stereotype. I eagerly start reading, but then I wake up before the asexual characters are introduced! Of course, this was quite frustrating and my day began on a disappointing note.

(Has anyone read this or this? I want to obtain these and blog about them.)

Wednesday, March 7, 2012


Aiiieee, I've fallen prey to that curse which haunts the life of every unpaid blogger..."real life" (but the internet is my liiiife) busyness. So I pulled this one out of the drafts pile for ya.

It changes every five minutes, and has already changed since I started drafting this post. But in one recently captured moment, these were the real-life people listed as asexual on Wikipedia: Edward Gorey, Keri Hulme, Bradford Cox, Emilie Autumn, Morrissey, Janeane Garofalo, Paul Erdős, Mike Skinner (The Streets) and T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia). I've always taken an interest in possible asexual role models, so I do watch the Wikipedia list with interest.

And aside from Hulme, these people all have some striking similarities. Their asexuality is either mentioned once and never again, it is quite vague, or both. I was inspired to write this post after an AVENite's comment made me wonder what Mike Skinner had actually said about being asexual. I always enjoyed his music as The Streets, so of course I was curious. On the whole of the internet, I found this one Twitter posting:

"I am asexual. you could think of me as the cliff richard of geezer urban beat poetry."

Now, I have no idea if this is a joke or if it means Skinner really identifies as asexual (apparently, the Wikipedia editors ended up agreeing with me). How can we possibly know from one out-of-context Tweet? And while Emile Autumn has actually come out as asexual, she's only mentioned it, to my knowledge, in one interview. Same with Edward Gorey and Bradford Cox.

With out gay celebrities, there is usually some ongoing story--of being closeted, of coming out, of seeking fulfilling relationships. Where is the story for asexual celebrities? It would lead me to think that their asexuality isn't very important to their lives, which is diametrically opposed to myself and many asexuals of my acquaintance. Maybe they don't want to better known for being asexual than for their work. Perhaps asexuality is deemed as something that wouldn't be interesting to the public, but when I talk about asexuality to people they're usually somewhat intrigued.

That said, interviewers don't exactly try to draw out lots of information on their subjects' possible asexuality. Take this interview with Kim Deal (definite role model material):

Interviewer: The last time I interviewed you, the piece got hundreds of comments and a lot of them were about how both lesbians and gay men are attracted to you. I have to ask, do you have a gay bone in your body?

Deal: [Thinks] You know what? I'm just so…asexual, I wish I had a gay bone.

Interviewer: That's so wierd [sic]. You don't seem asexual. Does it seem weird to you that both are attracted to you?

Perhaps only an asexual would jump on that. Anyway, going back to people's stories, celebrities tend to be much more sexualized than average people, especially musicians and actors. Maybe this is one reason why they might want to keep asexuality more private, although I can see an equally compelling argument for speaking out about it in greater detail. Keri Hulme has remained the only famous ace who has mentioned that there are other asexuals besides short, that asexuality is a "thing". For most "regular" people on the street, naming our asexuality makes us realize that we're not the only ones. I wonder if the same holds true for celebrities.

[The Streets, "Fit But You Know It". Hurting my head trying to discern some kind of asexual content.]

Saturday, February 25, 2012


"He's very sexy-ugly."
--Kissing Jessica Stein

Lately I've been thinking about "ugly" and "beautiful". (More like, I spent one day thinking about it intensely--Jan 10th, according to the original post date-- then couldn't finish the post, so kept on thinking by default.) First there was this piece by Mia Mingus, which has been circulating on Tumblr. Some excerpts:

We all run from the ugly. And the farther we run from it, the more we stigmatize it and the more power we give beauty. Our communities are obsessed with being beautiful and gorgeous and hot. What would it mean if we were ugly?...What if we let go of being beautiful, stopped chasing “pretty,” stopped sucking in and shrinking and spending enormous amounts of money and time on things that don’t make us magnificent?...There is magnificence in our ugliness. There is power in it, far greater than beauty can ever wield...I would rather you be magnificent, than beautiful, any day of the week. I would rather you be ugly—magnificently ugly.

Then I read these posts by Definatalie (who is also an excellent artist!) Her concept of "ugly femme" is pretty badass to me, and it looks like some other folks are starting to run with it. It seems like embracing ugliness could be freeing, but I hesitate to label myself as such. For so long, I thought that my lack of conventional attractiveness was somehow causing my lack of sexual interest. And beauty is often moralized--ugly people tend to be those whom we dislike. Ugly tends to imply repulsion, and I don't think it pains anyone to look upon me. However, I appreciate the transgressive power of saying "I am ugly". Like "queer", it seems like "ugly" is a political label. Just like queer speaks to the pain that heteronormativity has caused, ugly speaks to the suffering created by rigid beauty ideals. It's another attempt to reclaim a phrase that has been used against us.

I am a person who mostly gets called "cute". I like wearing unusual clothes, so comments about my appearance are, 99% of the time, about my clothes and/or hair, rather than my overall beauty or lack thereof. Sometimes when I look at old paintings, I see a woman who kind of looks like me. But I don't see that woman in movies, on TV, or in magazines. Sometimes I think I'm beautiful, and some individuals might think so, but the societal juggernaut doesn't. We're told that "everyone is beautiful in their own way" and yet we're also told that in order to be beautiful we need to be thinner, more feminine, less hairy, have a different skin color, etc. Basically, the messages out there about beauty are confusing. Maybe I would have been considered a great beauty in 1812, or in some other culture, but that seems neither here nor there.

And when I do get called "beautiful", it's never in a context where I can appreciate it. It never matches up with my own concept of what's beautiful about my appearance or myself more generally. When I was around 12, I found myself alone in a room with the older son of some acquaintance of my parents'. He was a stranger to me, and I didn't have anything to say to him. But suddenly, he piped up with a comment about how beautiful I was. He could probably see the discomfort on my face, and guessed that I "probably wasn't interested in boys yet" (heterosexism starts early). Feeling vaguely afraid for my safety, I excused myself and went to hide elsewhere in the house. His statement may have been true to him, but it sounded so false to me. Whatever kind of beauty he was foisting on me in that moment, I didn't want it.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Loneliness: Alternate Narrative

"At the end of his life, he went to Bolivia in search of the 'center that irradiates the energy of space', but he died in Peru, alone and in total poverty."
--Excerpt from a biographical blurb on Simón Rodríguez, a Venezuelan poet, from here.

"Oh no, not another learning experience!" --bumper sticker

Some people are prone to loneliness, and I've always been one of them. When I was younger, I was the stereotypical mildly autistic child who "yearned to connect with others--but didn't know how!" Now, my social skills are better, but I still tend towards loneliness. In the anime series Honey and Clover, one of the characters says that loneliness is like a tide, moving in and out in the course of one's life. A while ago, I said that I wanted to see more loneliness depicted in pop culture. Honey and Clover is one of the more eloquent depictions that I've seen. It manages to achieve a few moments of actual profundity.

[Image: Characters from Honey and Clover]

The dominant narrative about loneliness is that it must be avoided at all costs, and that it might even kill you. I've found neither of these things to be true. It seems like loneliness is a cyclical, inevitable part of life, especially for people with certain temperaments. As a younger asexual, I was very concerned about being lonely due to my orientation. But the thing was...I'd been plenty lonely while I still identified as straight. It didn't kill me as a fake heterosexual, and it won't kill me as an asexual. I was worried about loneliness in the future. But it will come, and pass, and come again, regardless of my orientation.

When I read the blurb about Simón Rodríguez, I seized on the words "die alone", since that can be such a scary-sounding thing. But it didn't sound like his biggest problem. A lot of the poets in the compilation died in unusual/dramatic ways. Dying alone, one of the tamer ones, seemed oddly fitting. While there's a lot of joyful poetry, something about that medium just seems to correspond to loneliness. Loneliness, not to be confused with depression, is one of the primary motivators of my creativity. It makes me want to reach out and express myself, which I tend to do through writing. Lonely times, for me, have often been times of discovery. They're times when I have no choice but to look inside myself, and good things can come from that.

This post feels weird to write, and may feel weird to read. There's this American idea (although I doubt it's uniquely American) that bad feelings need to be completely obliterated in order for us to have satisfying lives. But I feel like this idea sets up an impossible goal that only makes us feel worse. Loneliness sometimes beats the alternative. In Hello, Cruel World, Kate Bornstein writes: "I hate being lonely, but loneliness would be a better feeling for me than, say, hopelessness. To my way of thinking, anger and loneliness are a lot closer to being free to live the kind of life that I'd want to stay alive in (95)". Of course, everyone experiences emotions differently. For instance, while many people enjoy feeling excited, I don't, because it feels too similar to anxiety. Most of us have probably felt lonely at some point. Do you think there's anything positive about loneliness?

(Here's a discussion on the topic that's already happened; it has some good thoughts and even an Aztec Camera reference! I'd still like to have our own, though...)

Friday, February 3, 2012

Whatever Happened to "People"?

So, I have something like 5 drafts of different posts, but I'm being a huge perfectionist about them. Sometimes I go through phases where everything I try to blog about sounds "weird" to me. Maybe some of you other bloggers can relate. Anyway, I'll try to get over that and post something anyway. As you know, nothing warms my heart like a detailed inquiry into the words and phrases that many people take for granted. "Falling in love", "relationships", and "just friends", for instance.

So here is a brief observation...a trend, if you will, that I've noticed since I've gotten involved with Occupy. Whenever folks want to be taken more seriously, they cease to be "people" and become either "families" or "men and women". For instance, I never hear about "keeping people in their homes", but always "keeping families in their homes". I don't hear about "union workers", but "union men and women". It seems as though social justice movements feel that folks will be more emotionally affected by "families". Why? Is it because everyone has warm feelings towards their family? (no). Or is it because families involve innocent children? (Aren't children also included in "people"?) The truth is, while everyone is part of some family, a lot of people live alone, or with people to whom they're not related. They also face foreclosure.

And of course, not everyone is a man or a woman. According to the Asexual Awareness Week census, a sizable number of asexuals have a gender identity that's somewhere outside the binary. While "men and women" has a more oratorical feel, I don't think it has any advantages over "people". So, I say, bring back "people" and include more of us, even genderqueer orphans.

Now, this might sound totally inconsequential, but little language changes DO have an impact on the public consciousness. Just ask Frank Luntz, who freaks me out and impresses me at the same time.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Heart Yorslf?

A few reminders:

1. Isn't it fun to come across a vanity plate that reminds you of something you've been blogging about?

[Image: Car license plate that reads "<3 YORSLF"]

Happens all the time, amirite? Spotted in the...Whole Foods parking lot. (Seriously, click on that link.)

2. If you haven't already done so, check out Sciatrix's compilation of links on the House TV episode debacle. I'm glad she put them all together in one place.

3. Carnival of Aces is still happening! Deadline for posts is coming up in a few days--this month's theme is re/presentation.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

So, whatever happened with the Hobbit Acceptance Project?

The Hobbit Acceptance Project continues apace. I guess these sorts of things never truly end. Since the start of the project in June, I've only shaved my legs and armpits a couple of times. Mostly to wear a bathing suit and to wear a dress at a fancy restaurant, things I was still not comfortable doing while hairy. I decided to take a tip from Beth Terry and obtain an old-school safety razor for the times that I did want to shave. One reason I don't like shaving is because I don't want to support companies that bombard me with "smooth legs = beauty!" advertising. So, shaving with an antique is one solution to that, although it's not as user-friendly as the plastic multi-blade models. While I'd heard horror stories of people cutting themselves with safety razors, I haven't had that problem. If anything, I cut myself less.

Anyway, I'm a lot more comfortable "going out with stubble" on my legs now, as I mentioned in my first post on body hair. I barely notice the stubble now. When I do shave my legs or armpits, they look strange to me. My loyal following of Hairy Pits Club has shown me that like all hobbits, I'm hairier than 99% of the female population (although I think some of this has to do with self-selection...not everyone chooses to post their pits online). No, I don't have a hormone imbalance or anything...this is just how I roll. I've decided that I can't abide my armpits in a total state of nature, and that's okay. If you check out Hairy Pits Club, you'll see people actually having fun with their armpits. Dying them rainbow colors, even. This inspired me. I learned that there were actually a range of armpit hair modification options. You could shave them, trim them, dye them, buzz them, braid them (I'm not that hairy), etc.

On a related note, I liked this post a lot. I don't agree with it, but it made me think more deeply about my own stance. I do agree with the commenters who say it's impossible to eschew femininity entirely, even if one tries. If I spent my life in a gray sweatsuit, people would view my body, hear my voice, and ascribe femininity to me. So I agree with those who are saying: Keep what you genuinely like about femininity (not only what you get socially rewarded for) and toss out what you don't like. I like glittery eyeshadow, the color pink, and wearing jewelery. I don't like dieting, talking about dieting, wearing high heels, "control" garments, etc. I don't like to leave my body hair entirely to its own devices, but I don't like shaving, either. I think I'll just let the two battle it out. It's not as exciting as Middle Earth, but it's something.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Coming out to those "situational friends"...or not.

You may have a few of them: Situational friends. People whom you primarily see within the context of one activity. I've had many of them from work, classes, groups, volunteer activities, and Occupy. I see these people a lot, in some cases more frequently than I see my close friends. But no matter how much we chat, they still don't know a lot of personal stuff about me. (In fact, I'm a champ at knowing people for a really long time and having them know almost nothing about me as a person. I don't even know how I do it.)

This is on my mind, because at the last Occupy meeting, someone mentioned that "half of the working group is out [as gay]." I cynically thought, "I can't come out because everyone would make fun of me". Even though I've come out to positive responses a bunch of times, and I'm a big proponent of the action in general, it doesn't stop being scary. Although I doubt anyone cares what my orientation is, suddenly it felt like the elephant in the room to me. I am, indeed, the only person in that group who is not either out as gay or in a long-term heterosexual couple.

Situational friends can be the hardest people to come out to. The level of emotional investment is fairly low, and yet you still have to spend a lot of time with them, making things difficult if their reaction is negative. Situational friendships also often take place in groups, and it's much harder (and in my experience, not the best idea) to come out to a crowd. I don't want to come out, at the wrong time, just for its own sake. I won't lie about my sexuality--the one time a situational friend asked me, "Are you straight?" I said, "No, I'm asexual". But that rarely comes up. No one EVER asks me annoying stuff like, "do you have a boyfriend?" or "why are you single?" As aggravating as those questions (and the assumptions behind them) are, I'm left with no real segues.

It makes me bemoan the fact that there's no way to successfully drop hints about being asexual. I think it's that lack of cultural context that makes coming out so hard and so formal-seeming a lot of the time. In my experience, no one says "by the way, I'm gay" to their situational friends. They mention a girlfriend, wife, boyfriend, husband, or someone they find attractive (of course, there's room for misinterpretation here, too...another place where bisexuals easily share our experience). I can't say "that person is cute" without having people think I'm straight or gay. I think that's why I never told my friends about my rare crushes, even though I cultivated them (sometimes) in order to fit in.

If someone knows me for 10 years, they'll see that I never date or have sex, and they might start to realize that I'm "different" somehow. But even in the case of these sticky situational friends, I don't think I'm going to wait quite that long.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Occupy Isolation!

The Occupy movement gets addressed from a lot of angles, but the one most relevant to this blog is community-building. I sort of wanted to get involved with Occupy, but the groups in bigger nearby cities seemed really overwhelming. The prospect of being smooshed in a huge crowd of strangers made me feel too unsafe. So, idly, I searched for "Occupy [my town]" online, and found that we were actually having a meeting. I was truly surprised, because this is a small, boring, apolitical, relatively conservative suburban town. Since then I've become pretty involved with our small occupation, even though we only meet for a couple of hours each week. And at this point, the most notable result of our occupation has been a burgeoning sense of local community.

I'm not saying that everyone in the group is my new BFF, or that we're all going to get along 100% of the time (that's not what community is, anyway). Nor do I know what this occupation is going to look like a few months from now. But the fact remains: This is the first time, in the 3 years I've lived here, that I've ever experienced community in my town. Through Occupy, I'm able to sit down with a group of people who were strangers to me in October, and work with them to try and change things for the better. I've met neighbors, and around town, I've ran into people that I know. This is a big deal, because it's something that I doubted would ever happen. I've always felt very isolated here, like the world was happening outside my town, and I was missing most of it. Occupy gives me some hope that this is not the case. If we can create community here, of all places, then maybe change is truly possible.

Although there is that asexual issue...up next.

(And last, here is some utterly shameless self-promotion for my zine, because it's been a while. If you're ever thinking, "Well, I'd sure like to hear what Ily has to say on some non-asexual topics", here's your chance. It's both serious and funny, like this blog tries to be.)