So Tell Me ... What's The Weather Like on YOUR Planet?

29 January, 2015

Followup on Venting a Bit and Invisibility

I actually went and read through all the thread comments after the comment I linked on the other blog post I mentioned yesterday, and one of the subthreads of discussion bugged me enough to make another post.

Okay so: two positions were put forth by people, which were "women are barraged by unwanted attention so maybe don't contribute to the firehose" and "women want to be hit on but only by the ones we want" and...

I don't exist in the middle of this.  I'm sort of at both/neither.

One of the reasons I feel invisibled by a lot of the discussion I've seen around this is that my actual preference in attraction is the nerdguys (see also the "Where are all the geeky boys with nice shoulders?" complaint).

And that that doesn't mean that I am universally and undiscriminately interested in such.

Another one of the reasons is that basically all the positive relationships I've had with men were ones where I was the pursuer.  (There may be exceptions but I can't think of one right now.)  Partly because I am in fact interested in the geek type and the geek subtypes I tend to find appealing are less likely to approach.)

So all of these conversations that just assume that women can wait and be approached by someone they want fail in several directions, and all of these conversations that assume that women do get relationships, somehow, magically happening, without asking, those assume that people like me don't exist.

(Which makes me entirely unsympathetic to the "I have to approach people!"  Yes, it's hard, and if you want to have a relationship with that person over there the only sure shot you get is going and seeing if that's possible somehow.  At least that's the reality I've got to work with, and when I see people complaining about it it feels a bit like seeing people complain that if they try to put things in midair they fall down.)

But I'm not the timid sort who never got approached.  Not entirely.  I would rather have been that than what I got, I think.

What I got was approached by bullies using sexuality as a weapon, by people who felt entitled to my attention, by people who thought that social association of any sort was consent to a romantic relationship, and by people who don't respect boundaries, understand no, or figure out that maybe pinning someone down on a couch and trying to pry their clothes off might be crossing the line before trying it.

So my emotional response is not so much "Don't approach me if I don't find you hot" but "The ones who I find hot don't approach me; the ones who do approach me want to abuse me".

(Plus, of course, that strangers aren't hot to me, and I can't imagine how they would be, so there are whole chunks of cultural somethingorother that are wholly beyond my comprehension.)

28 January, 2015

Just Venting A Bit

The problem with coming across things through link roundups is that it's often too late to join the conversation.  Which leaves me wanting to reply to this comment and not sure how to do it and so I'm taking it off here.  (Initial post worth reading, but I'm sort of wanting to poke the comment, which is #35 by someone whose handle is trazan.)

I had no meaningful connections with anyone. The problem wasn’t feminism, but toxic masculinity growing up. The culture (of boys) in my school was not democratic. I’d say values were fascist. You cannot tell someone their comment really hurt. Hurting is the point. It is dangerous to show weakness or be vulnerable. At the time I thought pupils in school were like inmates in prison. I wasn’t insane and I still had enormous trouble in contact with girls.

Reminds me of my experiences, yeah.  Though I wouldn't say "enormous trouble in contact with girls" regarding myself - I had enormous trouble in contact with people my age.  I was the sort of nerdy kid who could talk to adults and was hopeless at my own age.  I didn't listen to the right music, I didn't know the right jokes, I didn't wear the right clothes, and on top of that I was socially anxious, withdrawn, depressed.

I learned dissociation as a skill in junior high school.  Because the alternative was being bullied to tears and seeing the victory on their faces.  I also stayed late - for Math Team, or with manufactured reasons - and worked in the school store so that I wouldn't have to get on the school bus.  I would rather wait for the activity bus or just walk the two miles home (a mile of that along a state highway with no sidewalks, by the way) than deal with humans.  Particularly those humans.

They only got physical once.  I put the perp on the floor of the bus, and afterwards my sharp elbows became Our Little Joke, right?  We're all in this together, ha ha ha, we'll stay a foot or two away from you because bitches are crazy amirite, and nothing else changed.  Did I mention?  That bullying was sexual.  The 'got physical' was copping a feel.

On the other side of the gender line, I was invited to a party once.  A slumber party.  Packed up my things, delighted that there was someone who was being kind to me for once.

The address didn't exist.  I wonder which of the neighboring houses belonged to that person, whether they and their friends watched out the window to see if they could spot a forlorn figure with a pillow clutched close, wandering up and down the sidewalk checking to see if there was that house number, somewhere, in the world.  Eventually we gave up and my parents took me home.

The next school day... I figured that she would ask me where the fuck I was.  And I was planning to apologise, to say that I couldn't find the house.  Because it was probably my fault I missed the party, right?

I had one friend at that age, a boy.  We hung out together primarily because neither of us had anyone else, and because as geeky kids we had enough in common to, for example, go play Tetris.  And it was nice to have someone to sit and eat lunch with.  (Always at the same spots at the same table, me with my back to the wall, because for all that we were the lowest kids on the local totem pole he wasn't paranoid enough to put his back to a wall.)

Then I figured out that he thought I was romantically interested in him.  Which I wasn't.  And I didn't know how to correct his notion that 'we hang out and play Tetris' and 'we go do things sometimes' meant 'we are an item'.  He didn't touch me.  He never asked.  We had a whole additional relationship that existed solely in his head that he never, ever, ever explicitly told me about, and it turns out that that was as bad as the active bullies, because I'd thought we were at least some level of friends.

And I was desperately lonely.  I hadn't felt socially comfortable in my old school - this was not long after moving - but I did have friends there, and I missed them.  I missed the boy I fancied all through elementary school particularly, because he wasn't, at least in my head, anything like that.  (And the couple of times we managed contact after that, he didn't show any signs of being like that.)  But that was nothing to the gaping isolation and the outright hostility and the bafflement about why it was like that.

I never did figure out what was wrong with me.

There were shy girls. Maybe for some of them, school was a living nightmare.


This is one of the things that's gotten me about a lot of the "I had a terrible time in [junior] high school posts".  Obviously.  Discussions set off by the infamous comment 171 have had a lot of "[junior] high school is hell for shy nerdy guys" stuff going on where I'm going, "... yes?"

And then these guys describe stuff that's about 80% my exact experience - down to the emotional-sexual frustration and the fear of being caught at it. (And here's a thing: when I was fourteen, fifteen? I was creepy.  I stared at people I fancied and I was so sure I was being subtle and I really, really wasn't.  But I knew they'd never want me - they were otherwise involved, I was too much younger than they were - being an accelerated student works a real hash on stuff related to sexual development at times - and anyway there was that nebulous Something Wrong With Me that I could never pin down and meant I couldn't approach anyone.)

But I look at the stories and I say "That's basically me".  With less physical violence, in the cases where the stories have physical violence.  With more sexual assault to make up for it.  (And I'm not sure about the deliberate emotional abuse angle, both because that's harder to evaluate fairly and because it's the sort of thing people don't talk about.)

Only it's not me.  Because it's a Male Story, and it's so very much tangled up in being a Male Story, with that particularly apparently Male desire for sex/relationship snarling things up as if nobody female has that sort of thing going on.  (As if nobody female was ever asked "Please stop staring at me."  Um.  Guess I'm not, again.  I'm often not.)

But these narratives often come out as "This is a super-specially male narrative" - trazan doesn't do this, actually, even with the 'you know, maybe things were awful for girls in a similar position to mine when I was a boy', because he's being personal, not universalising, and is at least considering the possibility that there might, out there, be stories like mine.

But I wish for a bit that the experience could be degendered a bit in the social narrative.  "I was lonely and pining and had no friends and was afraid of terrible social consequences if I tried to change that" doesn't depend on gender presentation.  At all.

(And I'm tired of the myth that this stuff doesn't happen to girls.  That sex is just easy and simple for girls and women to navigate and be satisfied with.  Every time I see - and there's one or two of these dirtbags in the comment thread above the comment that pinged me here - "women have total freedom and get all the satisfying sex they want, so male insecurities are wholly justified" - I just.  I just.

I need a respite from this noise
The distant roar of static oceans
Give me a haven from this bedlam
And let my senses rust away

Let the wind erase me
Like the memory of a kiss
Let these waters take me
Away from all of this...

- Assemblage 23, "Let the wind erase me"

I just.)

26 August, 2014

A Personal History Of Games

(Apparently I'm down to 'I make a post once a year or so'. I should work on that... this last year has been really shit for my being able to keep up with my posting anywhere.)

I was, in my wanderings around the internets, linked to this article on the history of the video game industry. About which I have a lot of odd thoughts.

Scene: the early to mid 80s. I am at a friend's house, and I am playing Pac-Man. I love Pac-Man. I suspect, secretly, that I bore her, because I want to play Pac-Man, or Jumpman Junior, or other games, rather than the sorts of things she wants to do. Sometimes I deliberately suggest other things, even if I'd rather turn on the computer, because I don't want to make it sound like the only reason I come to play is because of the games.

Scene: mid to late 80s. We have Brickles - a Mac version of Breakout - and I am extremely good at it. A single game can last over an hour.

My father knew the people who did Space War! and we have a copy of that. He has stories about playing it with one of the members of the Grateful Dead. At that time, I didn't know who he was talking about well enough to find it impressive.

We get the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy game. And the clue book. I get scolded for revealing all the clues with the highlighter pen, but the book was as interesting to read as the game was fun to play.

Scene: maybe the late 80s? I am at my aunt's house, and my (male) cousin has an Atari. He is playing Pitfall. I am rapt; the idea of computer games is immensely compelling to me. My brother has a turn. I do not. Quietly, whenever we plan a visit to that part of the family, I hope that I might have a chance to get a go at the Atari. Sometimes, I get a turn at Spy Hunter, but never enough to get good at it; we don't visit often, and clearly, the Atari is for the boys.

Eventually, my cousin gets a Nintendo, and the Atari - and its crate of games - comes to us. I discover Joust.

Scene: early 90s. I have a friend with some of the King's Quest games and Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego?, who doesn't mind that sometimes I want to play.

My brother has a friend with a Nintendo and one of the Super Mario Brothers games. Sometimes I wheedle my way into playing with them.

The one friend I have at school after my neighbour friends move away is just as painfully nerdy as I am. Unfortunately, he thinks that being interested in playing Tetris together means we're dating.

Scene: 1993. The whole family is trying to figure out Myst. We never really manage it.

Scene: mid-nineties. My brother wins a colour-screen Game Gear and Sonic the Hedgehog in a raffle, because my brother is the sort of person who wins raffles. He gives me his old Game Boy for Christmas. I promptly learn how to beat Super Mario World all the way through and then get the option to beat it on hard. Then I do the same thing for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game.

When my brother gets a Nintendo and is playing Mortal Kombat I sometimes lurk in the background and watch him play with his friends.

It never occurs to me to ask my parents to get me a game that I would like to play.

Girls don't play video games, you know.

06 June, 2013

So, the Barbie thing.

Googling "Quiet dignity" "Barbie" does not in fact turn up a new toy line, but rather references to the latest tempest in a teapot among organised science fiction writing/fandom/thing, such as this one, which quotes a rather interesting bit, a part of which is:

She has always been a role model for young girls, and has remained popular with millions of them throughout their entire lives, because she maintained her quiet dignity the way a woman should.

("Role model" is kind of an interesting phrase, isn't it?)

But anyway, the thing that came to my mind when I saw that going around (with its associated "She's a nice girl, she doesn't dress slutty, she doesn't complain to Ken about having things tough, and so on" rhetoric) was that Barbie is quiet because she is made of plastic.

This isn't a far-fetched thing to read when a science fiction writer talks about this kind of thing, it's not like robot housewives aren't a staple in genre and even in the surrounding culture.

A woman should be quiet.

Like an inanimate thing.

A toy, to be specific.

Made out of a manufactured substance.

"The way a woman should."

Dear Unfortunate Implications Fairy: do you think C. J. Henderson noticed your visit at all?  That was a very generous gift you provided.

18 May, 2013


Little white pills.
(One and a half of them -
I cut them with a kitchen knife every other day.)

Little white pills
Treating to the numbers
(I never knew to notice but
Maybe when you're fifteen you don't pay the right sort of attention
Or maybe
The kid with the dissociation problem
Is not the best at body awareness.
Ya think?)
They checked my throat,
Little pen marks and a tape measure,
And told me
"Little white pills, one and a half of them."

I stopped taking them
It didn't seem to matter.

When I had doctors
I would tell them
"I took little white pills,
One and a half of them.
I want you to find the numbers."
They found the numbers,
And sent me on my way.

I argued with one,
"These are the wrong numbers.
Here are my printouts.
This is what the new standards are,"
And she told me
My numbers were fine.
The one time they weren't,
She checked again,
And they'd changed.

Sometime in my late twenties
I found a bentwood cane
In an antique shop.
"Necessary tools should be beautiful," I said.
It was about the right height,
Red and knobbly and wonderful.
I didn't usually need it
But it was nice to have.

I took little white pills
For a while
They made me feel stoned
When I changed my dose
But the world didn't hurt so much
In my mind
And that was nice.
I had to stop
When I was pregnant

My knees never recovered
From the pregnancy
And stairs were hard.

I got a new doctor
And I said to him
"I had little white pills
One and a half of them
And I want you to check my numbers."
And he did.

And he said, "I don't treat numbers,
But your numbers
(The lab would say they're fine
Like your other doctor did)
They aren't good.
I would give you little white pills
Just for this
But look --
This other number --
Those are antibodies
And they shouldn't be there."

And he gave me little white pills.
Half of one a day, to start,
And I went home with a scrip
And told everyone I knew
"I have an autoimmune disease!"
And some of them understood
Why I was so happy.

One day
There was a truckful of rocks to unload
And I took the kids outside
And I helped
Because I had little white pills.

The little white pills
Don't change my body
Into a body that isn't nonconsensually suicidal
But they start to take away its weapons
And I didn't notice
All the ways I felt better
Until the little white pills
Went away.

And then I noticed
That my knees hurt again.
That I was so tired
Too tired to think.
I noticed
All the things I knew before.
(Fatigue, depression,
My appetite is gone because
My metabolism is fucked
It didn't go long enough
For my fingernails to shatter
But I bet when they grow a little more
They will.)

I noticed I needed that
Bentwood cane
And I hadn't remembered
The last time
I needed it to make it through a day.

"I need new little white pills,"
I said
While trying not to want to die
In a body that was trying to kill me
Because somehow
Having it all come back
The chills
The acne down my jaw
The way the pain kept me awake
And my ankles felt like tennis balls
Of flaking, brittle skin
With the fatigue
And all
(At least my heart didn't go flipping out
Like it was doing before I got
Little white pills
This time
That scared the fuck out of me
And I couldn't say
"I think I'm going to die"
I have kids
I can't leave them like this
I couldn't even tell the doctor
Which was stupid
But it was all the same damn thing
My life a ruin for a lack
Of little white pills
I suppose
But I digress)
It broke me
And I could barely get out of bed
The day I was going to see the doctor
Who could give me
Little white pills.

(My grandmother took the pills
I don't know if they were little and white
I wonder sometimes
If that was why--
Or part of why--
But no matter.)

He gave me little white pills
I gave him blood
To check my numbers
He said "I'll call if they're really bad"
And I took my scrip
And yelled at the pharmacist
Until they gave me
Little white pills
Just one at a time
To replace
The ones that didn't work.

Today I had to have a beer
To make the pain stop.
I will take my little white pill
And hope
To be more than a little better than I was

01 March, 2013

Runnin' Down a Dream

Last night I dreamed my teacher told me to get to know a goddess.

I thought that was interesting, so I did a little research.  (The goddess in question has an odd intellectual presence in my life, so it's not totally random....)

That research was increasingly interesting.

And then I turned up that in her native territory, it is customary to burn offerings for her the first Friday of the month.

And I looked at the calendar....

So then I started looking up what gets burned.  "Herbs", the internet tells me.  I grumble a lot.

Then Little Foot comes home from the grocery store and hands me a pot of basil.

(I looked it up.  Basil does grow there.)

I don't even know, man.

So I got my liege's assistance with applied pyromania and set up a little something.

Religion is weird.

21 February, 2013

The Yellow Wood

I was thinking about this before I read Dver's post on Choice, but I think I have it articulable now.

People talk about the price that comes of doing intense spirit-work, the obligations and taboos that accrue if one pursues that as a lifework.  And it gets talked about because there are people who will treat their community's medium as a public service, who are enraged that the local witch needs to pay the electric bill, who are consumed by fits of jealousy and want to know why someone else can pierce the veils between worlds and bring back messages and not them.

And a while back when people were talking about god-slavery as a practice/calling, there was one coming in with a great deal of, "Well clearly my gods do this much more seriously than yours," as if there is only one way to do it, and only a particular set and flavor of framework for devotion (one tending towards the ascetic, the henotheistic, the heavily taboo-bound) was relevant.  (I was a touch nonplussed by running into subbier-than-thou-by-proxy, but such is the nature of religion at times?)

But everywhere is a complicated network of choices, and I can trace back through mine, and see each decision, each angle, even at times when there was no choice possible, no other option: to do otherwise would be a betrayal of myself or my vows or some other principle I held dear.

I recall a night looking Neb.y in the eye and seeing before me the grand fork, one way towards Little Foot and family and the life I was urgently trying to build and had been seeking for a long time, the other towards ecstasy and transformation and vast unknowable deeps on the far side of the dark.

I reached into the future and put my arms around my child, and I said, "You cannot have this."

And the god laughed at me, a long and hearty laugh, and He said, "Prove it."

So I did.

And that has made all the difference.