Most of you probably are, but since a relatively small number of people would admit that to themselves I’m going to have to keep typing for a while.
My goal is to prove that you are either gay or superficial. If you are a woman under the age of 40 it is almost a given that you are at least a little bit gay, but that’s a whole other topic.
Wait, all women are gay?
Well, a lot of younger women are at least a little bisexual these days, and for good reason. It’s not exactly a secret that western culture is highly advanced in the art of objectifying women, and most of us grow up watching the same smutty TV shows. Whether you are a man or a woman you have been programmed your entire life to see women as seductive and alluring, and you probably like that. Go on, admit it.
I might be guessing at the cause, which is how I do my science, but it does seem that bisexuality among women is almost universal in certain segments of western civilization. I literally don’t think I have ever known a girl who did not know a girl, if you know what I mean. Not a single one.
But there are attractive men on the TeeVee too!
Sure there are. I am positive that there are gay men who weren’t all that attracted to other dudes until they saw Alec Baldwin with his top off, though this seems to be a lot less common. Partly it could be that men are less likely to admit they have those feelings, or it could be that there are a lot more perky tits than glorious woodlands positively portrayed on naked chests.
But that’s not the point. The numbers don’t matter, and I’ve done very little research. I have to finish this post before the water for my Mac & Cheese boils. The point is just that conditioning is a factor in sexuality. Lots of people were born gay, and lots of people became titilated by something when they were younger which helped shape their sexual identity.
I don’t think you know what point you were trying to make
I’m working my way across an expansive desert of partly coherent rambling on my way to the oasis of having a point. Along the way there may be secondary points, and in this case I just wanted to remind you that conditioning is a thing that exists, because it will come in handy later. To get to the other point (about you being superficial, or gay– or both!), we’re going to have to look at the difference between sex and love.
What is love?
Baby don’t hurt me.
Defining love seems hard, but hardness seems to be one of the defining characteristics for most people. I am refering to things like nipples and penises, good and hard, ready for action. You can’t really claim to love somebody if erections aren’t involved, right?
But why not? Ugly people fall in love all the time, and if your partner recieved horrible burns covering 90% of their body I should hope your immediate reaction would not be to leave them. If your partner does catch fire you should at least put them out, but ideally you would consider sticking around even longer than that, because love is supposed to be all-conquering, not skin deep, all you need, etc. All that wholesome stuff.
What’s really important is that you trust and care for each other, you have compatible goals and ambitions, and you like to spend time together. Attraction is one of the ways people develop an interest in one another and come to know each other fondly, but it’s not the basis of love. A real, loving relationship is as much about loyalty as anything else. You have decided to elevate somebody to be one of the most important people in your life, and that’s meaningful. It’s also valuable, and worth working hard to maintain.
What if I’m religious?
Then you are reminding me that there are many different types of assholes. Oh, not all religious people are assholes, but the ones who would bring that up in a conversation like this probably are.
I’ve always found it a bit odd that religious people have sex at all, other than to procreate. Most of them do, you know; they have sex just for fun. But having sex for fun seems to kind of throw out the whole idea that there is something unnatural about having fun sex.
What if I prefer dudes/chicks for non-superficial reasons?
You mean that you are attracted to a personality type more closely associated with one gender, regardless of appearance. In that case you might not be superficial, but you are probably ignorant if you think that there are no men out there who exude feminine characteristics, or women who wear work boots and will use them to kick the snot out of you if you call them girlie.
So you’re saying everybody is gay
No, I’m saying everybody could go either way, or they are an asshole.
Take me for example. I happen to be an asshole in a number of ways, but in this particular blog post we’re using “asshole” to mean “superficial” because it makes for a better title. I am a sometimes very superficial person, and Alec Baldwin never worked his magic on me. Maybe because I was self-conscious about my own body growing up and I never thought men were supposed to be considered attractive, or maybe because most of the movies I saw with dicks in them were awkward comedies.
My girlfriend is really, very good looking, let me tell you. But that’s not why I love her. It’s a big part of why I bothered getting to know her, but love is more than that. It’s all that stuff I was talking about before– loyalty, trust, shared goals– and it’s wonderful.
If you only want to maintain that kind of a relationship with a person you find aesthetically appealing, well, that sounds pretty superficial. If the only reason you think you don’t love people of your own gender is that you are not as attracted to them, there is almost nothing separating you from a person who would leave their partner because they got fat, or had their face smushed up a bit by a Smart car.
I’m not suggesting that you suck it up and turn gay to prove you’re not superficial. Most gay and lesbian couples are superficial, too, excluding an entire gender based on their sexual preferences. The point is either that we are all assholes, or that sexual preference is just a sexual preference, and in the latter case it might be worth taking inventory of how small a thing that actually is. It’s about as important as prefering girls with cool boots or guys with no back hair, when you really stop to think about it.
Part of each section in my ebook on death will present a kind of unusual but plausible death scenario through fiction, as a way of trying to realize very surreal moments and bring context to the ideas I am exploring. This particular piece won’t fit into the book in the end, but it’s still a curious look at what one man might think and feel in his final moments. I am publishing it here to combat my habit of simply never publishing things.
I remember thinking that it was rather inglorious, the way he pointed the block out to me by the tip of his axe. As if I hadn’t noticed it yet, hadn’t been staring at it the whole walk out there. That’s where it happens, I thought. You can trust that I had examined the whole scene thoroughly.
It wasn’t what I had expected, but I figure this is one of those things that is never the way one expects. I thought it would be overcast, for example, which is a strange thing to assume the world would do for a man, but it was clear and sunny, somewhat to my chagrin. I thought, for no sensible reason, that there would be risers in place in the case that anybody wanted to watch, but there was a very high wall around the area to discourage that very thing. I noticed the slightest bit of hilltop visibly peeking over the wall to the west, but nobody had come to see me off. I had thought it would be a bigger deal, I guess.
I followed the line he drew for me from axe-tip to wood block. I noted, now that I was close enough to get a real glimpse of it, that the block itself was new and unscarred. Another surprise which made me slightly more uncomfortable. I think I felt a little embarrassed to know that I was going to ruin the thing, and somebody would have to either clean or dispose of it. I wished I knew which. I wanted to ask. I searched my mind for other misconceptions I might have had.
“There,” he said bluntly, still pointing with the axe. I realized I was meant to assume the position, not just marvel at the state of things for a bit.
I dropped to my knees automatically. It’s amazing what a sense of authority you give to these people. All of the kind folks involved in the whole process, as you meet them in the months leading up to your date. You learn to trust them, and even grow fond of them. You have no reason not to trust them, after all, since they make no attempt to hide that their goal in the end is to kill you. They don’t want to do it, but they have their role to play. That’s just the way it is. The executioner, more than anyone, commands respect and obedience. You don’t want to disappoint this person. If he told me to do it myself I would probably at least give it a go, so powerful was his command.
As I found myself straddling the block I realized that I had missed something of an opportunity. I had planned to prolong this moment a little, and make it my own. I had a speech prepared and everything. I considered getting back up and pointing out that I had made a mistake, but I felt the blade then on my back. He was already lining up his cut. He was probably looking forward to getting off work soon. Besides, it wouldn’t work very well without an audience.
I had elected, by the way, to be bisected at about the waist. When they told me I could choose the method of my destruction I wanted to be creative, and I figured it wouldn’t make much of a difference in the end, but when the moment came I forgot why I ever liked that particular idea. I probably would have changed my mind if that were an option, but I felt foolish enough as it was and didn’t want to be a bother. I have found that my part in the process is just to be as accomodating as possible to make things easier for my collaborators.
I felt the blade tap me lightly on the back twice in very rapid succession, and I remember thinking that it was much faster than I’d have done it. I thought the practice strokes would be a whole ceremony, honestly, but it was just bip, bip, blap!
Blap is not a perfect representation of the sound that it made, at all, but it’s the best I’ve got. There was a loud cracking noise, which was my spine, then the relatively dull and quiet sound of the blade penetrating and pummeling the wood. I thought it would sound different, but then, I hadn’t necessarily thought that I would hear it either way.
The severing of my spinal cord did not kill me. In fact, I remained alive and conscious for an entire forty and six seconds, though it seemed shorter than that. Shorter, yes, I agree that one would think it would go the other way, feeling long and agonizing, but apparently my cognitive function was not at a peak just then and I failed to really absorb the finest of details. It went by in a snap.
I remember a couple of things, though. I remember thinking I was kicking my feet and turning my body on the block, but I realize this couldn’t possibly be the explanation. I imagine that I was probably kicking with my entrails, which is silly but not particularly funny. More likely I just arched the remainder of my spine a little and snaked my way off to about a 20 degree angle.
I remember, too, that a bit of something came up in my throat, and I sputtered a little and choked the rest back down. It came almost immediately out the bottom of my torso instead, with a splash I actually heard above the muted noise and ringing ears of my trauma. I guess that was an easier path for it to take in the end, but my body was in a horrible moment of confusion, as one might expect. Nothing felt right. I hadn’t thought about this in advance at all.
The last thing I remember is feeling extremely tired. After nearly four years of trying to prepare myself for this moment, it came down to those final few seconds before I really got it. As the life fell out of me I felt comforted to be going to sleep.
I should say sometimes, because in a great many cases it can seem like a very stupid overreaction, and that isn’t very nice at all. Other times though people who kill themselves are fully aware of what they are doing and why, and for them it isn’t always tragic.
In writing for my book on death I have been doing an unattractive amount of reading about and looking at all manner of morbid things, but the subject of suicide has surprisingly been the most uplifting and positive area of research. Really. It can be absolutely inspirational.
As I am starting to write the section on suicide I am coming to realize that it is probably one of the most important parts of the book. The conclusion I keep coming to about death is that it really isn’t that big of a deal, and a lot of those who have killed themselves seemed to understand this point very well.
The music probably helps make it seem more beautiful, but I think the images speak for themselves. I have seen a lot of people burn to death, intentionally and otherwise, and what I can tell you about that business is that it typically takes a lot longer than you might expect; people live a long time while on fire and they are often conscious, so to see a monk stay in his meditative pose, never flinch or utter a noise, is fairly stunning.
In my reading I have also come across what is for me the single most interesting and potentially the most elucidating writing about death, written by a paraplegic man who saw no reason to continue living and who documented his road to finally taking his own life. The website is Two Arms and a Head: The Death of a Newly Paraplegic Philosopher.
Then I thought maybe it was my habit not to kill myself. Like James said, habits run deep and are highly general. Crease a piece of paper and it will acquire the habit of being folded, its fibers will take on that habit. All I have ever done has been to live. I have only ever pushed myself upwards or toward goals. I think part preparing for killing myself has been to acquire habits that push me towards it.
For me it’s unfortunate that the author is gone, because I liked reading his story, but that’s my own selfish thing to deal with. This is one of the cases where it would be very hard to argue that he did not weigh and fully understand his situation and what he wanted to do about it, so I don’t think it’s sad at all.
He wrote, after cutting into an artery in his stomach:
What can I say? Life has been everything to me. Was it good or bad? It was just life, everything was in it.
Which would have been fantastic last words, but he went one for another six paragraphs or so. Yeah, death can take a while, but in this case, too, it did not seem to be an unpleasant moment.
So, I’m writing a thing about death. I use the word “thing” here because it evolved from an article to an ebook, and then to a longer, more traditional book. By the time you read this post it will probably have volumes. This seems to speak to the fact that I am somewhat interested in death.
The only downside to writing a book (or a thing) about death is that you have to do a bunch of research on it, and if you are me the first idea you have is to watch as many videos as you can of people dying horrifically.
Which is icky.
Through this research I’ve gleaned a bit more about death, and my book does have a point, but for this post my conclusion is just going to be that in addition to being icky, death is sort of weird.
More to the point, my perception of death seems weird. Without going into too much detail about the videos I’ve been watching, I have found that I treat the subjects of these films as dead long before they would agree with me, and in fact at a time when they could still have managed to form a counter argument against that point. Once I’ve identified the person who is going to die, they might as well be dead. They become meat. It seems cold and desensitized, but is probably some sort of coping mechanism.
The reason it’s interesting to me is that it doesn’t work that way in my mind when it comes to fiction. I knew Anya was going to die in the series finale of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, for example, but I still found the tension of waiting for the moment quite difficult.
I’ve also seen footage of animals being slaughtered, which makes me deeply sad, and converts me to a vegetarian for at least an hour or two.
But when it comes to real, actual human beings, I am able to identify that a person is about to die, and then it doesn’t seem to bother me much at all. Beyond being, you know, icky.
I don’t think it’s as simple as the fact that I don’t know these random people as well as I knew Anya (who I got to know intimately in my time), because I don’t know the animals, either. People often say that the sight of animals in distress is more difficult to watch because they are helpless, but the people I’ve been watching die aren’t in positions of power, either.
Maybe it is the very fact that it’s real, and that I can relate so much to other human beings, which forces my brain to disconnect from it and treat it as surreal. There’s nothing I can do, after all. Maybe the logic of knowing that videos are things that have already happened kicks in here, but not when I’ve suspended my disbelief to watch fiction.
In either case, I am treating reality as less real.
Which is why I’m happy with the conclusion to this post being that death is icky and weird.
Cement is such a grim choice in flooring. You only choose cement for the rooms people never really go into. You put on your slippers and bring a flashlight when you venture into the cement-floored rooms of your home.
“Hey, you ready man?”
Ugh. Pffffaaaawww. No. Go away.
I bet every last room in this place has a cement floor. Maybe there’s a staff lounge or something with a carpet, but even then it’ll be one of those blue-gray carpets, short and stiff, made with plastic from recycled pill bottles. 60% post-consumer materials; may contain despair.
Oh man, great song idea.
“Eddie, come on.”
Don thinks he’s cool enough to wear a girl’s jacket. It’s leather with a built-in belt, silver trim, and oversized metal buttons. It looks pretty badass on his girlfriends, but Don just kind of looks like a space lesbian. He’s a son of a bitch. I should answer him, but I’m not ready just yet and he’s unlikely to accept that. It’s best that we ignore him for now, I think.
As for me, I’m wearing a hoodie with a picture of a diamond on it, as a statement on materialism which I’ve not really thought through just yet. Nobody gets it, including me, but that’s fine. This woman who works here asked if it was my birthstone. I said yes.
“Your people await, brosef.”
“Like five of them,” I say with a weird snorting noise because I am so totally that guy right now. He fucking baited me. Wah.
“Don’t be such a bitch, Danny Bonadouchebag,” says the fratboy demon possessing David Bowie’s vagina’s coat. “More like twelve hundred, and half of them want to fuck you because they think it’s neat you’re such an idiot, so let’s swing our dicks around a bit and buy ourselves new systems.”
I hope he means skeletal systems. I feel like poo. A literal poo, big and floppy. Imagine a poo trying to stand up – it’s completely ridiculous. Now I’ve got you imagining an anthropomorphic poo. I should have said that I feel like a ragdoll, but for some reason ragdolls are all girls to me, while poo is gender-neutral.
I have to go now. Will you come with me?
“Dude.” Don stops and asks me, “Aren’t you forgetting something?”
“Oh. I thought it would be out there.”
“Not on this tour, Michael Jacksoff.”
There used to be a guy who would carry my guitar around for me. We never really spoke. I had another guy for speaking; an agent guy. If ever my guitar guy did something wrong I’d just tell my agent guy to explain it to him, and for the most part I managed to avoid direct contact. I still have my agent guy, but I guess he fired the guitar guy. I’ll have to call my accountant guy later to ask why I can’t afford to have minions anymore, then fire him and laugh ironically.
Ah, there she is: my adequately red and sufficiently Beyoncé-shaped guitar. She doesn’t have a name, but I consider all guitars to be girls, like ragdolls. Though, a guitar is also a phallic symbol, so perhaps my guitar is having a gender crisis. Maybe I should introduce him to my hermaphroditic poo.
Some asshole from a band I’d never heard of once explained to me that the strings on my guitar didn’t have enough action. Don’t worry, I thought he had made that term up, too, but as it turns out, action has something to do with the distance between the neck of the guitar and the strings and how hard you have to press them. I told my agent to tell my guitar guy to lower the action even more, out of spite. Now my guitar sounds terrible and my hands are slightly softer. Win/win.
Oh no. I can hear them. At the end of this long, cement hallway there are two large, metal doors, and beyond those there is a harem of sorts. A cacophonous, writhing mass of teenage girls and their ugly little boyfriends. All of them waiting for me, so that they might get my attention by singing the wrong lyrics out of key, clapping off the beat, or yelling in my face during quiet moments of scripted emotional vulnerability.
You may not have picked up on this, but I don’t really want to be here right now.
The last time I talked about my synaesthesia it was all about the way it enhances the experience of listening to music. However, its most commonly discussed effect is that it can really improve a person’s memory. Not so much for me though, and in fact, it can mess with my ability to recall certain types of information.
My memory is okay, but I can be pretty hit or miss when it comes to long-term memory, especially when dealing with things like dates and numbers. Often when synaesthetes talk about their experiences they can seem to have near savant-like abilities to recall information, but if I’m slightly autistic we can be sure it’s not in any high-functioning sort of way.
It’s really all about the sense I get when I try to recall the information. A lot of numbers have very similar feelings for me.
For example, my dad’s birthday is either March 12th or 14th, and I forget this absolutely every year. I’m totally sure that it’s not the 13th though, because 13 is a kind of forest green, while 12 and 14 are both murky brown colors–virtually indistinguishable.
The same is true of my mother’s birthday, which is either the 11th or 16th of April. They are both very white and crystaline, but 11 has a very slight blue tint, while 16 has a pale, purple glow. They are close enough for me that I confuse them all the time.
Which brings me to the point of this post, which you may now have guessed. Mom, when is your birthday? It’s the 11th, right? RIGHT?
The most important lesson I had to learn to make the transition from a person who wanted to be a writer into a person who could almost, kind of, sometimes pay his bills by writing, was that I really couldn’t afford to be too precious about my work.
I used to labor over every word I wrote, and as a result I would very rarely see my projects come to completion. The idea I had to get into my head was that it’s probably better to spend a little time writing a lot of things, than to spend a lot of time writing a single blog post or short story. Not every piece I write is going to be some sort of a masterwork.
That isn’t to say that I think it’s a good idea to write poorly, or that I should just slam my face into the keyboard and hope for the best. If I can have a bit of confidence in my ability to write though, to keep from second guessing myself, and if I can let go of my ego, I can more easily publish my work, say goodbye, and move on to something else.
It’s possible that spending an hour or more writing this post would add a clever turn of phrase or two, but I don’t really need to say anything more than I have at this point, and the next hour could be better spent writing articles for my other sites.
In the long run this can only help me improve as a writer. If not because it conditions me to get things right the first time, then by virtue of the fact that I’m writing three articles instead of one and potentially learning three tiems as much as I go.
The room was quiet. He lay motionless atop a sea of rigid, heavy blankets. His body was dead weight settled into a depression at the center of the maelstrom, laid out flat on his back with his arms folded across his chest. His face bore no expression, and his eyes were closed, unmoving behind relaxed lids.
He was wide awake.
No thoughts troubled him. His mind imagined nothing, and the world around him bore no consideration. All was silent to him, and he was at peace. He lay awake and unthinking for several hours more, as he had done all morning. He had no intention of moving again.
Eventually the sound of a distant vacuum cleaner occurred to him, but only briefly before he dismissed it. Unimportant. He paid the sound no mind as it grew louder and drew nearer.
He was soon vaguely aware that somebody was knocking at a door. Probably the door to his room. He didn’t care. Under normal circumstances he would have found the incessant knocking irritating, but whether it stopped or continued on eternally now made no difference to him.
The pressure in the room changed, and his eyelids drew minutely tighter. He knew then that the door had been opened, and this displeased him, but he quickly put it out of his mind. Unburdened again by thought, he let himself relax once more.
Suddenly the world was darker. He considered opening his eyes to investigate, but he realized it was likely that whoever had opened the door was now standing over him, blocking the light. A welcome change, he decided, and silently thanked his benefactor for the new darkness.
“Mister Tucker?” He heard, and recognized the shy voice of Amber Varro.
“Tucker?” She was nearly whispering. “Are you all right?”
Amber looked down at the man she had previously found so charmingly awkward and approachable, and she hesitated to bother him further. She thought to touch his arm and gently wake him, but something about him now made her uncomfortable, and she thought she should leave. However, she continued to study him, and then noticed something that made her start.
Tucker heard Amber’s timid gasp, followed by the dull thud of something dropping to the floor. Thinking she may have fallen, he opened his eyes in concern, but saw that she stood now at the foot of the bed with her back to him.
“Oh my god!” She panted into her hands. With her back turned she had not noticed Tucker’s eyes on her. Her mind raced, stricken with panic. She began to hyperventilate. Quietly she knelt to pick up the freshly laundered blanket she had dropped, needing to in some way control the dreadful situation she found herself in. Falling to her knees, she closed her eyes for a moment and leaned on her hands to compose herself.
After a moment, she rose back to her feet and took a deep breath, then looked out into the hallway through the open door. Her eyes were beginning to fill with tears, but she remained steady. She stared out the doorway as if waiting for somebody to come and help her, but there was nobody.
She couldn’t help herself, and began to sob, feeling alone and helpless against the gravity of the situation.
“You’re upset,” came Tucker’s voice from behind her, startling Amber and nearly causing her to fall over backwards. Tucker reached out with one arm to stabilize her.
She turned to look at him, a hand clasped over her mouth and tears now streaming from her wide eyes. She dropped her hand to speak, but only managed a pathetic grunt. Her lips curled into a smile and she began to laugh uncontrollably.
“You’re alive!” She squeaked, “Oh my fucking god! Oh my god!”
Tucker stood completely still and gave no reaction.
“I just saw you, and… you were so fast asleep! I really thought you were dead!” She explained herself, still a bundle of giddy nerves. “I thought you were dead! I was so sure, I was going to get somebody, or call for somebody, and I didn’t know what to do!”
He stared into her eyes as they darted about his face, and puzzled over her words. She seemed oddly concerned with his health. He wondered if she was attracted to him.
He wondered, if she wasn’t attracted to him, if she would try to stop him anyway. He thought she would probably go along with it to avoid a confrontation with him. At the very least, she’d be too embarrassed to scream.
“Tucker?” Her face turned to concern. “You’re doing it again.”
He blinked, and quickly turned away from her. Suddenly he felt sick. What are you doing? His head jerked back up, and he stumbled towards Amber, who in turn took two sharp steps backward.