Sunday, May 30, 2004


Yesterday was a perfect Couch Potato Day... no, wait, is there anything less animated than a potato? Potatoes grow, at least... how about a trilobyte, which does nothing but emit faint prehistoric traces of radioactivity? And if I was sitting in my Grandmother's Art-Linkletter-approved pick-me-up adjust-o-matic chair instead of on a couch? Okay, so it was my Recliner Fossil Day.

Anyway, I spent about twelve solid hours in front of the television yesterday, moving only to eat and pee. And during that twelve hours I experienced (among other gems) an entire decade of VH1's I Love the 80s and I Love the 80s Strikes Back. It was terribly entertaining, watching the whole decade go by again (though really, once was enough). In the middle of this marathon, VH1 interrupted the 80s only once, to air it's stupidest nostalgia show, The Best Week Ever, in which the same talking heads one knows and loves from I Love the 70s and I Love the 80s (not to mention the upcoming and inevitable I Love the 90s series) debate and comment on last week's "newsworthy" events.

But it is the talking-head commentary I enjoy on these shows, not the nostalgia. I am not much given to nostalgia as a rule; I am generally amused to be reminded of some of the silly trends and favorite songs of a past era, but I don't get any special thrill out of it. The celebrities and comedians commenting on the nostaligia, however, I love.

Well, not all of them... seeing a bunch of baby pop-stars like Pink and the youngest (and damn-prettiest) Hanson boy, who were wearing Huggies and learning to tie their shoes during most of the 80s, chatting on about "Oh, I remember L.A. Gear," and "Oh, I remember Rainbow Brite," and "Oh, I remember Chia Pets," was actually kind of irritating. But the rest of the people, those who are in my age-group, or who were actually celebrities during the 80s, these were rather entertaining.

And there is no shortage of such shows, particularly on VH1 and E!... I find, however, that I prefer the nostalgia type to the "countdown" type. For example, Caroline and I once watched all five hours of VH1's 100 Hottest Hotties, and while we of course enjoyed the commentary and the film clips, and of course agreed with each other, we found ourselves disagreeing with the producers' ranking of hotness... I'm sorry, but Orlando Bloom (ranked #76!) is waaaaaaaay hotter than 50Cent (#8, if you can believe it)!

I mean, if you like bullet-scarred torsos and silver teeth and mean expressions and prison tattoos... for every kink there is a community. But can there really be people so woefully benighted as to think that this terrifying plug-ugly is hotter than the incredibly beautiful Orlando Bloom, with his classic bone-structure and deadly shoulders and perfect skin and fabulous hair and hot brown eyes? I don't get it. AAUUGGHH!!

I beg your pardon, I get a little worked up sometimes.

So obviously the unranked shows are preferable, as they are less controversial to one's sensibilities... but how great a job is that, being a talking head on one of these shows? As I sit there watching, I wonder what I would find to say about the various fads and phenomena of three previous decades. What would I wear? And what would be the little title under my name? (Know-it-All? Fashion Goddess? Celebutante? Grand High Muckety-Muck?) A most tantalizing fantasy.

Scene: Miss Marlénè Manners (Irrelevant Nobody) perched elegantly in a director's chair, my legs crossed at the knee as I lean slightly toward the interviewer, sliding a confidential glance at the camera, and therefore the audience, every now and again; wearing something simple, a raw silk blouse the color of tomato bisque with cream pearls and just a hint of shoulder-pads; I lift a perfectly manicured hand, nails painted the same color as the blouse, to smooth back a severe auburn bob and reveal delicate antique girandole earrings. I hold up a pair of those odd little huarache sandals made of some mysterious clear rubber material that were really popular in the mid-80s, and speak: Oh, yes, I remember Jellies! What was that about? "Oh, look, Mom, a pair of surprisingly expensive shoes made out of a nontraditional, uncomfortable, and inappropriately fragile material! I must have four pair!" What were we thinking? Then I titter in a self-deprecating manner, as if I myself had been guilty of wearing Jellies... though in fact they didn't come in my size and I wouldn't have been able to carry them off if they had.

So that's my new dream, to be a talking head on a fauxstalgia show. I wonder what the educational and experiential prerequisites are? Public speaking and a stint of television celebrity two decades ago, or guitar lessons and a one-hit-wonder pop single, perhaps a journalism degree and my own column in The New York Times Entertainment section? I'd better get to work on one of those so I'll be ready for VH1's I Love the [Whatever We End Up Calling This Decade Once It's Over]s, most likely already in production and scheduled for release in the summer of 2010.

Oh, baby, dream your dream.

Friday, May 28, 2004


Allergies and depression! Does life get any better? I can't breathe, the pressure in my sinuses is so intense that it feels like my teeth are being pushed out of my jaw, I am mired in an incredible lethargy (the usual doldrums of depression intensified by exhaustion from my three-day manic episode), and I just want to crawl in a hole and die. Wheeee!

Actually, it's not as bad today as it was earlier in the week. Wednesday, when I finished my six hours of suffering at work, I was so groggy I barely managed to drive home, and once there I pretty much passed out for three and a half hours, totally missing my GSR meeting. When I did wake up, I was so disoriented that I thought it was Sunday morning: but I could not figure out why my nephew was awake at 8:30 on a Sunday morning, nor yet why he was telling me that dinner was ready. How could dinner be ready on Sunday morning? And why am I already dressed? It just didn't make any sense.

Anyway, when I finally realized that it was the allergies that were making me so groggy, and not just lack of sleep or a new downswing in my depression, I took recourse into my stash of Sudafed and am now feeling much better. I am light-headed and rather stupid-feeling, a little bit sleepy, and still short of breath, but I know what time it is and where I'm supposed to be, I'm not suffocating or dizzy or on the verge of passing out. And that's an improvement.

So yesterday was the ninth anniversary of my sobriety. Caroline took me out to dinner last night and gave me a really gorgeous set of jewelry she made, a six-foot lariat necklace and matching four-inch earrings of peacock pearls and faceted opalite; my friend Tom sent me a congratulatory email; but other than that, I haven't really celebrated the date.

Nine years seems like a long time, though. Long enough to actually forget what martinis taste like. And in a few weeks, it will be the eighth anniversary of my celibacy... if nine years of sobriety seems like a long time, you can imagine what eight years of celibacy feels like: long enough to actually forget what cock tastes like.

Such language I'm using today! I'm going to blame it on the Sudafed. I don't really have anything else to say today, and if I did it would probably just be to bitch about celibacy and use more filthy words, so I guess I'll just sign off. Have a lovely weekend!

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Under Advisement #2

Wedding Woes

The following pleas for advice are plagiarized adapted from "Annie's Mailbox," written by Marcy Sugar and Kathy Mitchell, which appeared in The Oakland Tribune (and other fine periodicals across the nation) on Tuesday, May 25, 2004. You can read the original here; I thought Marcy and Kathy's advice was great, they offer kind advice in conveniently-sized doses, but I had more to say on the subject (and I have more space in which to say it), so here we go:
    Dear Annie Marlénè: My husband and I were married recently, after we each lost our first spouses at a young age. We had a wonderful wedding and invited a lot of people to help us celebrate our joyous occasion.

    Most people were exceptionally generous with their gifts, but there were several guests who never honored our union with so much as a card, let alone a gift. I am not a materialistic person and would be appreciative of the smallest gesture from any of our guests, but no gesture at all? These are people whom I see on an ongoing basis, and, quite honestly, I almost don't like them anymore.

    What can I do to enjoy their company in the future when the fact that they never gave us a wedding present or card is always lurking in the back of my mind?

    — Confounded Bride

    Dear Confounded: Before I get to your problem, Confounded Bride, I'm going to get up on my soapbox about gay marriage. Aside from the legal question (which is not really a question, because there is no reason based in law to deny marriage rights based on gender), I don't think it's very likely that I will fall in love with someone with whom I will want to spend the rest of my life; but if I did, and he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me, and we were "allowed" by the government to get married, and we decided to indeed get married, would I get any payback from all my inumerable relatives for whom I have spent lavishly on wedding gifts? Will my cousins cluster 'round, helping with the flowers and the food for my nuptial reception, as I have done at theirs? Not bloody likely.

    So I guess, Confounded, I don't feel a great deal of sympathy for your problem. And lacking that sympathy, you will not be surprised to hear me tell you that you are indeed materialistic and you need to get over it. Your friends showed up at your wedding, they witnessed it; perhaps they even danced, and toasted your happiness — that is a "gesture," and that is all they are really obliged to do. Their lack of gifting, or even carding, is not necessarily a reflection on whether or not they like you or wish you well... it just means they don't observe the same wedding-gift paradigm as you. So just get over it, okay?

    Try seeing it from their point of view: many people think of wedding gifts as necessary only in first weddings... and as you said, this is both your and your husband's second marriage. You probably have a home, and china, and sheets, and all the other material objects that young newlyweds are assumed to need as they start out into adult life together. Your friends probably assumed, as is the case in so many second weddings, that gifts weren't really necessary; you aren't young people starting out in adulthood together, nor are you divorcees recently fleeced by rabid attorneys and starting over from scratch... you are young widoweds who probably still have all the towels and toasters and chafing dishes you need, left over from your first trips down the aisle.

    So lighten up, Confounded. Your few giftless friends simply assumed that you didn't need another waffle iron or crystal cake-stand, and that turning up at the church and the reception to, as you put it, "help us celebrate our joyous occasion" was all that was required of them.

    You seem to think that even a small material object like a card or a houseplant is required, and that assumption does indeed make you materialistic; and I believe from the tone of your letter that materialism isn't a trait you value in yourself. So just forgive and forget, and remember all of us who will probably never get so much as a pillow sham no matter how legally married we are.

    — Trust your (slightly bitter) Auntie

    Dear Annie Marlénè: I am getting married in August. I asked my brother's wife, "Marge," to stand up in the wedding, and now I am regretting the decision.

    Marge is less than enthusiastic about the event, has made wisecracks about being a bridesmaid and does not feel she should have to pay for her gown. When I confront her, she backpedals, swears she really wants to do this and reassures me that it's all right.

    I don't think so.

    I'm becoming depressed over Marge's attitude, and the thought of her participating makes me queasy. How do I gently release her from this task without bringing down the wrath of my family? I want my wedding party to include only those people who are truly happy for me.

    — A Bride-To-Be in Alaska

    Dear Alaskan: You need to lighten up, too. Like so many brides-to-be, you are getting all wound up about your wedding plans and it's making you unhappy. Trust me, if it weren't Marge's attitude upsetting you, it would be something else threatening to mar the perfection of Your Special Day... and trust this, too: as you get closer to the date, more and more things will pop up and threaten to mar that perfection.

    Here's the thing: there is no such thing as a planned perfect day... you can have a perfect day, or you can have a perfectly-planned day, but you cannot plan a perfect day. It can't be done. Magazines and soap-operas will try to convince you that it can, but Trust Your Auntie, you can't plan perfection... it just happens or not, on its own schedule.

    It's terribly sad when brides (and their mothers and family and friends, as often as not) get their panties in such a bunch trying to make the day perfect that they don't even enjoy themselves. In trying to create the Perfect Special Day, they end up having nervous breakdowns, crushing their parents in debt, and making enemies among their families and friends.

    So many weddings are ruined by the bride's attempts to make the wedding perfect that I think there should be a twelve-step program for it. The problem is that a lot of women start dreaming about their weddings when they're small children, and they build up The Perfect Wedding in their minds to mythical proportions of importance and meaning; and then when they manage to snare a man and get the chance to act out this long-cherished fantasy, they start behaving exactly like the small children who first created the fantasy, demanding their own way in spite of all reality and rationality. This is just plain wrong. So don't do it!

    A wedding is a tradition, a ceremony and a party that has profound meaning and which you will probably remember all your life. But that's all it is. It is not the most important day of your life, and it is certainly of relatively little importance to any of the other people involved, so getting your panties in a bunch over the details is a monumental waste of time and energy. You're making yourself queasy and depressed about something you can't control (be it your sister-in-law's attitude or your caterer's sudden flu or your dressmaker's inability to find the kind of trim you want on your gown), and there's no reason to do this to yourself.

    But to get back to your individual problem, you want to know how to get Marge out of the wedding party without hurting her feelings or angering your family. I'm sorry to say, you can't, really. Sometimes in a wedding you have to do the politic thing rather than the thing you want. See, the bride isn't the only one who has a stake in this proceeding... there are sisters and brothers and best friends and parents and extended families all involved. If your family thinks that Marge should be in your wedding party, you will probably have to just suck it up and have Marge in your wedding party, for the sake of peace in the family.

    However, as Marcy and Kathy told you, you will need to have a heart-to-heart talk with Marge about your expectations for your bridesmaids... that they need to be supportive and helpful and pay for their own dresses. Make sure of course that all of your other bridesmaids are also being supportive and helpful and paying for their own dresses.

    (On a side-note, I don't think you should expect your bridesmaids to pay for their dresses; I know it's "done" but it's kind of tacky... and if you do expect your bridesmaids to buy their own dresses, you'd better make damn sure the dress is something they can wear again, and you had also better cough up some really jazzy bridesmaids' gifts.)

    Think of it this way: You and your bridesmaids are working on a project together, the same as a project at work. In a work project, you will undoubtedly get saddled with your boss's favorite, who will be a thorn in your side, but you have to just deal with it... you can nevertheless ask the thorn in your side to please help rather than hinder. You can and should make some exceptions and allowances for your brother's wife, but she should be told (as gently and diplomatically as possible) that her attitude is bringing you down and adding unneeded stress to The Project. It's all about communication.

    Just don't expect Marge to feel the same way about your wedding as you do. If she's even half as bitter and cynical about weddings as I am, she'll never enter into the spirit of the thing. Don't expect anybody else (not even your groom) to care as much about this as you do. And you really shouldn't care so much, either — it's obviously not doing you any good.

    So my overall message remains... lighten up fer chrissakes. August is months away. A lot worse is going to happen before then. But eventually it will all be over with... and you'll still be you, and he'll still be him, and everyone will still be themselves, and all the toes you stepped on before and during your wedding will still hurt. (Besides, three months is plenty of time to engineer an "accident" for Marge... she can't put a damper on your wedding if she's laid up in a body-cast, now can she?)

    Trust your (evilly chuckling) Auntie
PS: I was just now talking to my co-worker JB about the Confounded Bride, and she was rather more sympathetic than I; of course, she would be — the reason I asked her opinion is because she recently married for the second time and would have better insight on the second-wedding/gift paradigm... anyway, she felt that if she and her husband had gone to all the trouble to have the party, the guests could go to the trouble to pony up a prezzie of some kind. It's part of the social contract. But she would not let the lack of gifts color her dealings with these friends.

JB's Advice: Don't invite those deadbeats to your next wedding. That'll show 'em!

I think I will be asking JB to join me on these Under Advisement outings in the future... how many advice columnists squabble with each other in print?

Monday, May 24, 2004

Laugh Until You Pee

My depression has totally jumped the tracks in the last month or so, no longer limiting itself to the weeks immediately preceding an equinox... I am now having manic and depressive swings several times a day. Some days are more depressive than manic, some days are more manic than depressive. And either way, I'm horny all the time... a budding bipolar disorder may be socially and emotionally difficult; but as far as intensely pleasurable orgasms go, I feel pretty well recompensed for my nuttiness... twice a day, yet.

The last few days have seen me more manic than usual. I fidget a lot, only able to sit still when I force myself or when I am overcome by a wave of sleepie-weepies (that feeling of being so tired that you want to cry) that passes in a few minutes. I get bored easily, and anxious, and irritable, sometimes all at once. I feel short of breath quite frequently, too.

But on the other hand, I am finding things screamingly funny that ordinarily might only inspire a smirk. For example, Friday night while I was engaged in my envelope-stuffing (an ideal pastime for a fidgety manic episode), I watched Legally Blonde II: Red, White and Blonde on VHS and laughed longer and harder at the hackneyed cliches disguised as humor than I did the first time I saw it, in the theater.

And yesterday, at the Royal Grand Ducal Council's "Divas vs Knights" show, I laughed so much and so hard that I gave myself a sinus headache, a sore throat, and a tarnished reputation... one of the gift-baskets that were auctioned contained margarita mix, margarita glasses, a pound of coffee, two coffee mugs, two porn DVDs, and a nightlight — the nightlight struck me so funny that I actually screamed and snorted, for so long and so loudly that all eyes in the room eventually swiveled to me before I was able to stifle myself. When another basket came up containing (among other things) condoms and popcorn, I had to excuse myself to the restroom as tears ran down my face and hysterical giggles strangled in my throat.

My question for myself is whether or not this hysteria (insterspersed with despondency) is really a bad thing. I'm kind of enjoying this intensity of laughter that has characterized my manic days, not to mention the intensity of orgasms. But I could do without the fidgeting, and I could definitely do without the despondency... so I guess I have to do something about it.

I'm first going to try herbs and acupuncture, which have helped several of my friends; but I have to wait until my checking account recovers from my recent bouts of depression-shopping. That ivory ball (see below) pushed my secondary credit card over the limit, and I got behind on my car-payment; having made my minimum payments and doubled-up car payment, I am now completely broke until next payday, ten days from now (at which time I have to cough up for my annual gym membership and a new pair of glasses, as well as my usual car insurance, cable bill, and more credit-card payments). Such a tangled web I weave when I allow myself to go into debt.

By then, I may have evened out again, or I may be depressed again, or I may still be manic. That's the hardest part of this newest bipolar stuff, I can't tell what's going to happen next and can't plan around it.

Oh, well. In the meantime I am going to re-watch all of the comedies I have on VHS that didn't make me really laugh the first time, and enjoy the hell out of them.

PS: I finally got my comments back... I had forgotten my YACCS password, and my email server was tossing their here's-your-password emails into the SPAM pile for some reason... anyway, they're back online so feel free — encouraged, even — to use them!

Friday, May 21, 2004

Random Thoughts

I was thinking last night, while trying to relax my envelope-stuffing-clenched shoulders so I could go to sleep, about the arguments for and against Creationism. This started when I saw an ad for some religious show that comes on Channel 52 during the dead hours, in which the preacher (who looks a lot like a septuagenarian Howdy Doody) would show that the Big Bang could not have been an accident, it had God's handprints all over it. I had heard a similar statement from my father and had a good long argument with him about it (a scientific-type argument, not a father/son-type argument) from which we both gained greater perspective.

Certain Christian types, you see, are starting to adapt themselves to the proofs of Science... no longer able to credibly deny the findings of science (the Big Bang and the formation of planets all the way down to the process of evolution), they are instead trying to coopt them, trying to say that all of this glorious happenstance proves the existence of God... the argument is that if one little element had been out of place, none of this would have happened, and therefore it was designed to happen as it did by a Greater Intelligence.

It's too bad that these people don't take to the study of logic with the same zeal. They're setting up the syllogism "Each element of creation is required, and one element out of place would have destroyed it; each element of creation did happen; therefore God created it." But the rules of logic don't allow for a syllogistic conclusion that is not contained in the two premises. In plain English, they're taking the conclusion for granted and trying to fit the argument to the conclusion... when by the rules of logic and scientific method you have to go the other way, fitting the conclusion to the argument.

It is true that, had the Earth formed a few hundred miles in either direction from where it did form, life as we understand it could not have come into existence. If there had been a slight change in temperature in the Sun four billion years ago, life as we understand it could not have come into existence. If one little asteroid had neglected to nudge our moon a few inches further out into space, life as we understand it could not have come into existence. But that doesn't mean anything. To make something of it assumes that life as we understand it was the desired conclusion. If any one of those things had not happened or happened differently, an entirely different chain of events would have come to pass, but we wouldn't be here to observe it... something else would.

It all comes down to the concept of Infinity, a concept that is difficult to grasp. But with only the merest fingerhold on that concept, you can posit that the Reality that we are experiencing is only one of an infinite number of possible realities. If time is eternal in both directions, and space is eternal in all directions, and possible dimensions are eternal in number, and the existence of the universe is eternal, there is no need for a beginning, no need for a primal force to set it all in motion... but nor is there an impossibility of a primal force. It can go either way.

The existence or nonexistence of God in all this science is like a quadratic equation... there are always two possible answers... (x=0 or x=7) and (y=0 or y=3), with 7 and 3 being variable examples. Zero is always a possibility. To say that a discernible pattern proves there is a God is to throw out the possiblity of x and y equaling zero, which you simply cannot do.

Which brings us back to faith. You cannot prove or disprove the existence of God because you cannot define what God is with any scienctific proof. You can only believe or not believe. It is my opinion and belief that God wanted it that way, for the same reason that he allowed us Free Will — but I do not pretend to know what that reason is. I believe that God set the Universe in motion in order to see what happened, because I can comprehend a God of scientific curiosity. I believe that human life is different from animal life in that we can comprehend God; but I don't believe that the comprehension of God is the purpose of God setting the whole thing in motion. That argues a megalomania that I can't comprehend.

But these are beliefs based on my own comprehension; I can't prove any of it... and to even try to prove it would be entering the realm of science and leaving the realm of faith. These things are not mutually exclusive, but they do not meet anywhere... the same way that France and China are not mutually exclusive of each other, but neither do they share any borders. You can have faith, and you can have science, both at the same time... but they cannot be conjoined. That is not their purpose. Science is an exercise of the mind that seeks to observe and define the material world; faith in an exercise of the spirit that seeks to understand and wonder at the immaterial world.

So, these are the things I think about when I'm lying awake in bed at night. If I'm lucky... sometimes I think about what I should have done at work the day before, or what I have to get at the store tomorrow, or what I'm going to wear to the next Living Sober Follies some months from now. My brain is a strange and unsettling place, especially when I'm trying to shut it up so I can go to sleep.

Speaking of which, I feel the need to take a small nap before I resume my envelope-stuffing (which I am fortunately able to do at home so I didn't have to go to the office today). All this cogitation has tired me out.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Jesus Christ in a Sidecar

Have you ever started a little web project, a cute idea to fill in those moments at the office where you have to stop your work and do something else before your mind snaps and you turn into a gibbering idiot? And has that cute little side-project ever gotten completely out of control, growing exponentially the more you try to finish it? Has that out-of-control monstrous side-project become so consuming and complicated that you end up back-burnering the real-work project from which you were only supposed to be taking a "little break"?

I always have to have such side-projects when I'm trying to write meeting-minutes... after poring over my slapdash notes and trying to encapsulate the random and often completely unrelated comments of our executive body into a coherent description of the discussion, I then have to write that encapsulated description down in a way that is both readily accessible to the meanest intelligence and mentions no names... well, you'd go nuts, too, if you didn't have something else to do at the same time. Usually I blog, or shop online, or play cards, or something... it keeps me from pulling my hair out and climbing a clock-tower with a rifle.

This time I thought I'd do a little web-design, using some of the nifty little gizmos I discovered in Miscrosoft FrontPage while working on my office's website. It has long seemed to me that my readers and other casual passersby might enjoy a gallery of the beefcake pix I use to punctuate my posts. A nice idea, no?

No. First of all, I have over 500 images stored on my web domain. And then I couldn't just randomly throw those images into galleries... first I had to classify them: a lot of them were Abercrombie & Fitch catalog pictures, and I had a lot of Versace ads, too. But that only took up two hundred of the images... the rest had to go somewhere, so I thought out three more categories, Fashion (for all the images from fashion ads and layouts), Vintage/Fine-Art (for the ones that were painted or old), and Physique/Erotic (for all the rest of them).

And what about my own pictures, me and my friends and all of that? And what about these galleries with hundreds of pictures in them, shouldn't I break them up so they'll load some time during the course of a human lifespan? Soon my five pages became fourteen pages, all indexed and cross-linked. And what about logos? What about tables of content? What about page-titles and indices all that jazz?

So here I am, four days later, completely sick of this project and having to stop or go even more insane than writing the meeting-minutes was making me. Some of the galleries have room for more additions, but I am not going to add to them anytime real soon (unless I have something worse to avoid in the office).

Anway, for your delectation and entertainment, the newest feature of

Let me know what you think. After all that work, I require a little praise.

Hugs and kisses!

Saturday, May 15, 2004

Under Advisement #1

Longtime readers may be aware of my small, bushel-hidden dream of someday being an advice columnist: it seems to me that I have a God-given talent for running other people's lives, which exists in exact inverse ratio to my ability to run my own. And since my own life is about as well-run as Rome under the Visigoths right now, I find the urge to advise growing strong.

I have in the past lifted other columnists' letters in order to try my hand at advising, and it occurs to me that this could very easily become a regular feature... if only I do it regularly. And so I am going to start reproducing letters that I find in advice columns that strike my interest, and give a little advice of my own (unless I get cease-and-desist orders from the publishers, in which case I'll find some other source).

The following was lifted from Margo Howard's column, "Dear Prudence" (I didn't realize that was a Beatles song until I performed a websearch just now), which appeared in the Oakland Tribune yesterday. The correspondent touched my heart, and I found myself wanting to write back to him... and unlike my usual rationale for stealing letters, that the original advisor's advice was somewhat lacking, I totally agreed with Ms. Howard's take on the situation (in fact I found her advice unusually entertaining)... I only wanted to give it the twist of my own personal experience, and to express myself without the spatial restraints that newspaper columnists must labor under. So here we go:
    Dear Prudie Marlénè: Until I was seventeen years old, I was gay, but I wasn't happy like I am now. I was always depressed and lonely and had the typical issues of growing up gay. I even acted the part. Instead of creating the stereotype, I let the stereotype create me — right down to talking effeminately.

    My parents caught on to this, cornered me and told me I wasn't allowed to be gay. My mother's reasoning was that she wanted grandchildren because my brother has learning disabilities and because she takes pride in me being the good son. I didn't say much, because I just wanted the awkward situation to pass, but afterward I was mad at them.

    But, as I thought about it, I wanted to be straight. I wanted that "perfect" life with a wife and children produced from a loving relationship. Also I loved my friendships with girls, one in particular. So, I effectively stopped checking guys out and stopped myself from finding any male attractive. Then I started dating one of my best friends. I fell in love, and through that love, I became sexually attracted to her. It was amazing. For the first time ever in my life, I actually liked who I was.

    The aspects of her body are what I find attractive, whereas before, if I turned my head to look at a girl walking by, it was because I liked her outfit. I'm still with this girl (three years now; we're at different colleges), and I love her deeply and find her sexually attractive.

    I still occasionally look at gay porn or have sexual dreams involving men, but I don't consider myself to be gay anymore. I'm happy and I like where my life is going, but what I'd like to know is whether changing my sexual attraction was a good thing.

    Happily Straight Now

    Dear HSN: Oh, baby darling, where to begin? I'm happy that you're happy, but if you were really happy you wouldn't be writing to "Dear Prudence Under Advisement," now would you? Miss Marlénè suspects that you are confused, and trying terribly hard to convince yourself of something you know isn't quite true.

    But before we begin: please, please do not marry and knock up this girl trying to prove that you're straight. You can't imagine how much unhappiness this will cause you, her, and your offspring later on down the road. By all means, love her and have sex with her; by all means marry her, if she'll have you as you are; and if everything works out after a couple or four years, start thinking about having those "children produced from a loving relationship" — but you have to be completely honest with this woman you say you love about your sexuality. She has to know, before you walk down that aisle, and long before she starts ruining her figure with children, that you find men sexually attractive. It is absolutely criminal to go into a marriage and start creating a family when one of the partners doesn't know something that important about the other.

    That said, let's back up and talk about your early experience of gay life. You felt depressed, you felt lonely, you had issues. Well, darling, so does everyone else. Even the straight kids. But you convinced yourself that the reason you felt lonely and depressed is because you were gay... not because you had parents you could not talk to about your feelings, not because you were excluded from the teenage mating rituals that engrossed your peers, not because you were young and inexperienced and raging with hormones that make every emotional twinge and tickle feel like an operatic cataclysm. You focused on the thing that made you different and blamed that, instead of coming to understand that all who are different are made to feel this way by a conformist society. You would have felt just as lonely and depressed if you had been different in any other way, if you were morbidly obese or remarkably ugly or a conjoined twin.

    And now, about your parents: I expect they mean well, but I'm afraid your parents are dumbasses. It isn't their prerogative to dictate your sexuality, nor is it their right to demand grandchildren of you. They should be proud of your behavior, your honesty and honor and goodness, rather than your ability to reproduce; I mean, what if you were straight and sterile, would they love you less?

    Your parents gave you life and raised you, at some considerable effort and expense no doubt, and for that they deserve your respect, your love, nice presents on holidays, and even your help someday down the line when they can't take care of themselves: but it is your life that you're leading, not theirs. I think it's terribly sweet of you to wish to conciliate your parents to this degree, I could tell from the tone of your letter that you're a classic people-pleaser, but you have to decide about your sexuality for yourself without pandering to their prejudices.

    Then there's your learning-disabled brother. Are we talking about a slight case of dyslexia or are we talking about Down Syndrome? Either way, you're parents (if they weren't dumbasses) should understand that even people with Down Syndrome can have perfectly healthy children... they may need help raising them, but they can certainly pass on a family's name just as easily as you can.

    That's another thing that I've been hearing a lot lately... passing on the family name. What a crock of crap that is! What the hell difference does a name make? I can imagine a title like a marquisate or baronetcy carrying some weight, or a very old noble name like Medici or Rothschild being carried on; but for most of us rank-and-file types, there are plenty of other people running around with our names, some of them born with them and some of them making them up for whatever reason. My family name fills two pages of the local phone book, and though the branch I sit on has run to the distaff side and I am the last male to carry my grandfather's name, there are plenty more of that name out there. The whole carrying-on-the-name thing is a pseudo-aristocratic affectation and the stupidest argument I've ever heard for polluting the planet with more children. And even if you did have children, they might all be girls, or queers, or sterile, and so what would have been the point of your noble sacrifice?

    But to get back to the main point, most psychologists agree that you cannot change your sexual orientation. That's a simple fact that you're going to have to deal with. But discovering what, exactly, your sexual orientation is... that's a little tougher. People tend to think in black-and-white, straight-or-gay terms. If you are effeminate you are gay, if you're not you're straight; but in reality, it's much more complicated than that. You can ignore one attraction for another, people in monogamous relationships do it all the time when they refrain from cheating on their spouses. But the attraction is there, you can't stop it... you can only stuff it away and lie to yourself about it, which is so not healthy.

    It seems to me that you're bisexual, as most of us are to some degree (though Kinsey's findings have been exposed as painfully unscientific, they can be used as a rule-of-thumb, and it deserves notice that no one has yet disproved the Kinsey Scale). You are strongly attracted to men, so strongly that this attraction emerged first in your budding sexual awareness; but out of social pressure you have turned to look at women, and have discovered to your surprise that the female of the species is not without allure.

    The thing is, HSN, you are not straight, not by a long shot. Just because you are attracted to one girl whom you love, the fact remains that you are still attracted to men, guys you don't even know, much less love — you dream about them and fantasize about them (I assume you were masturbating to the gay porn), and that makes you at the very least bisexual, if not a great big 'Mo who can get it up for a girl under the right emotional circumstances.

    If you are happy in a heterosexual relationship, that's fine; being in a heterosexual relationsip, in this society, is a hell of a lot easier than finding happiness in homosexual relationships... it can be done, millions of homosexuals experience happy homosexual relationships every day, but it's not as easy as pretending to be happy with what "everyone else" is happy with. You will find, if you investigate the matter scientifically, that a lot of the straights are pretending to be happy, too.

    At any rate, whichever way you slice it, you are still attracted to men, and it is apparent to me that if your parents were more supportive of your individuality instead of pressuring you to lock-step into their heterosexual paradigm, you may never have felt it necessary to explore your heterosexual attractions in the first place. I believe that the happiness you feel now is the relief of no longer swimming against the current. By caving into the pressure of your family and our society, you have found a safe harbor from the storm. You can't stay in harbor forever, though, if it's not your harbor.

    And trust me, I know whereof I speak... let me tell you a little story: when Miss Marlénè was a young boy, she felt lonely and depressed like you, HSN, and she had issues, too... lots of them (hell, she still does). I was effeminate from the get-go, an absolute paragon of the fairy stereotype practically from birth... my first steps were mincing, my first words were lisped. When I reached puberty, I began to find men and boys mightily attractive, girls not so much, and therefore surmised that I was gay... I didn't know exactly what it meant, but there it was. People teased me for being effeminate, in fact my effeminacy made my life a living hell; but I defended and clung to my effeminacy and later to my homosexuality because they were true things about me.

    If I wasn't really a homosexual, I would have had no reason whatever to put myself through all the torture entailed in growing up gay... the same torture you experienced, HSN. Why go through all of that if it wasn't something that came from inside of you? Why take on effeminate mannerisms unless you are trying (however misguidedly) to fit your deepest homosexual attractions into the boy-girl paradigm of heterosexual society by trying to become more like a girl? Stereotypes come from somewhere, darling.

    Moving along... my parents and stepparents and grandparents were not thrilled by my gayness, but at least they were kind about it. They wanted me to be happy, but the only understanding they had of happiness was the things that made them happy: family life, getting married, straight sex, having kids, and so on. They could not (and in Grandmother's case, still cannot) understand that this homosexuality of mine is not a choice I made, it was something that came installed and can't be changed. Being open about it was my choice, being a happily out gay man instead of an unhappily closeted homosexual was my choice, but the sexuality itself was hardwired.

    My church was also kind, it condemned homosexuality but considered it more of an illness than a perversion, and so the homosexual was more to be pitied than censured... "So sad that you're going to Hell, but we'll pray for you," and that sort of thing. But with all this gentleness and good intention, I felt pressured to be straight instead of what I was. My friends were all heterosexual, too, and everyone on television was straight, and everyone in books and magazines to which I had access were straight. So I was all alone, the sole gay person in my world, and it was very very lonely there.

    When I was seventeen, and all my friends had boyfriends and girlfriends and were sexually involved with each other, making plans for the future that involved engagements and marriages and children, I finally got too tired of being left out of all the fun: and so I started dating my best friend (just as you did, HSN). I didn't tell myself I was all of a sudden straight instead of gay, and my friend knew I was not straight instead of gay; but with a little side-step into bisexuality I did suddenly fit into the social paradigm... I had a girlfriend, someone to hold hands with at the movies, someone to dance with at dances, someone to make out with at makeout parties, someone to take to the prom... someone to point at and say "this is my girlfriend," just like all the other guys had. I fit in for the first time in my life, and it was heaven.

    And yes, I was surprised to find myself sexually attracted to my friend, even though she had not one masculine characteristic: she was small, voluptuous, pretty, feminine, nurturing... not like any boy I had found attractive. Though I was afraid to go to the extreme of genital sexual contact with her, we nevertheless engaged in sexual behavior; she could give me a hard-on, and I could give her whatever the female equivalent of a hard-on is, and we were perfectly capable of consummating our attraction in the usual manner.

    But really, darling, at seventeen (and twenty) you can get a hard-on in any number of circumstances... but you can't build your life on that. I was afraid that if we had real genital sex, my friend and I, we would no longer be playing at a straight relationship, we'd be having one; and I thought she deserved better than that. I loved her too much to make her the means of proving that I could be a "real man" by screwing and possibly even impregnating her. So we broke up (but remained friends), and she fell in love with and got involved with an actual heterosexual man who eventually married her and gave her two beautiful children, the things she most wanted in the world.

    And when I got out of high school and found the gay world waiting for me, I found what I truly wanted. Sure it hasn't been an entirely happy trip, I have not found love yet... I haven't even found particularly good sex. But I knew the first time I stepped into the gay bar and found the rest of My People that I had made the right choice. It was true, it was where I belonged. It was my harbor.

    Would I have been happier if I had consummated my relationship with my friend, gone on and married her and raised a family with her? Perhaps, but I doubt it. Eventually, the relief of finally fitting in would wear off, and the strong first sexuality would have reasserted itself. I would have begun fantasizing about men, as you do now HSN, and then maybe started having sex with men, and then what would become of my relationship with my wife? Especially if she'd never known about this queer side of my psyche? Well, the advice columns are filled with women who married a man and found out later that he was bisexual, or into cross-dressing, or had a penchant for sheep. It's not fair to your girlfriend or your future children to hide your true nature.

    If you are truly bisexual, HSN, it's completely possible that you can marry your sweetheart and not later wish to leave her for a man... the whole point of marrying someone for life is to exclude sexual contact with others, be they women or men. And I know a lot of people who married young and stayed married and happy for all their long lives. But for God's sake, don't marry her trying to prove that you are really bisexual or "straight." Marry her only if you can be completely honest with her, only if you can accept each other, warts and all, and only if you really believe you will be happy spending your whole entire freaking life with her. I can't stress that enough.

    Here's what I'd do, if I were you, HSN: sit down and think about what you want out of life, without consideration for what others want. Imagine that your parents and your brother were gone from this earth and had no opinion on what you did; imagine that you lived in a world where a homosexual was just as welcome and supported as a heterosexual; imagine that your sweetheart could be any gender at all and still be the person you love... what would you do? Imagine that the "perfect" life with a wife and children that you desire isn't really perfect, but merely one of many choices in life and perhaps the most common thing that people do; imagine that you could have anything you wanted without anybody getting hurt. What would you do then?

    Think about it for a long time, HSN. At least five years. Then make up your mind what you want, and follow through with honor and honesty. Because it is clear to me that you're not sure, and the worst thing you can do is to move forward into building a life with someone else when you're not sure. You're very young, and there is a lot of life out there to live, don't go and make a lot of misguided mistakes at the very beginning. Be careful, be completely honest at all times, don't do anything with lasting repurcussions unless your positively absolutely certain that you want those repercussions, and you will eventually find happiness.

    Trust your Auntie
If you have a problem you'd like to discuss, or if you come across an advice column you think I'd be able to plagiarize adapt, please send it along to me at If you have any comments about my advice, leave them in the comments box below. Thanks!

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Puzzling Behavior

So, let's see... I have about $85 in my checking account, I haven't paid anything to my credit cards or my savings account this period, I'm going to be late with my car payment, and it's a whole week until payday... so what do I do? I plunk $125 onto my credit card (the one that still has room on it) for this thing:

It's a Chinese ivory puzzle-ball, but the ball itself isn't a puzzle, it's not something you can take apart and put back together... the puzzle is how do you carve ten concentric spheres out of a solid piece of ivory without breaking the outer spheres?

I actually know how this is done, because my stepfather used to make similar things, but out of soft wood instead of ivory; basically, you drill conical holes from the surface to the center of the ball, and then using tiny steel wire tools, similar to the things your dentist uses (in fact my stepfather did use an antique tartar-scraper), you simply chisel away perpendicularly from the holes, very very carefully, until you've loosed the inner spheres; then you pull the surfaces of the inner spheres into the space created by the drilled holes, and carve those surfaces with fretwork designs.

I've always been fascinated by intricate hollow things that were carved out of single pieces of something, be it soft wood or ivory or solid granite. I've seen ivory balls like this in many places, of different sizes and intricacies, and have always wanted one. And this one is special, I've never seen one with more little spheres, each with two more spheres inside, studded about the surface. It would have cost a great deal more if the outside spheres were all intact, but one was missing and two are held in with Scotch tape as the rim of ivory holding them in has been chipped.

I don't think it's very old, the outer carving is a little crude, so it's probably from after World War II, though the color of the ivory suggests it's from before the Sixties when China reopened for limited trade with the West. But then, I am by no means an expert on ivory carvings, it could be ten years old and was simply handled a great deal.

As unendingly interesting as all this is, I am still surprised at myself for buying this object. I simply can't afford it right now, and I am trying to limit my spending to things I actually use or have some need for... and I have absolutely no need for a Chinese ivory puzzle-ball. I don't even collect such things, as a rule... I have a good many Chinese antiques, but these are all family pieces, not bought things. I guess it does tie into my dead-animals collection, as I'm sure the elephant whose tusk this came from didn't survive the experience, but it's not a fashion accessory (like my armadillo purse or my fox wraps), nor is it in the shape of the animal from which it was made (like my harp-playing turtle or my inflated puffer-fish).

My coworker JB, with whom I had wandered into the antique shop on our way to dinner, suggests that I might be able to return it for store credit and buy gifts instead... gifts for others are a far more forgivable frivolity than pricey purchases for onesself. But then I wouldn't have this fascinating little object to puzzle over.

I don't know what to do. Fortunately, I have some reimbursement checks from work and from my father that I haven't cashed yet, which should cover my student loan payment that's due tomorrow (with a little left over), so if I lay low with the spending for the next seven days, taking my lunch to work instead of buying it, and rereading old books instead of getting new ones, I should be okay.

Nevertheless, my continuing fiscal irresponsibility is starting to make me a little nervous. I spend my money as fast as I make it, and sometimes even faster... I have one credit card charged almost to the limit, and another one about halfway there, about $5,500 worth of interest-bearing debt (not to mention my student loan or my car loan). I can never keep anything in my savings account, as soon as I get it up to about $500, something spectacular comes along like taxes or dental work or new brakes to empty it.

My only emergency reserve is the remaining value on the junk I've bought in the last few years, I'm sure I could raise a quick few hundred just on the books I have packed up, not mentioning the ones on my shelves, nor to mention the clothes and videos and other such I have lying about. I could also realize a few thousand on my jewelry collection if I gave up everything but my most treasured favorites, as I got pretty good prices on most of it and could quite likely resell it for the same amount.

But of course I'd hate to have to do that... it would have to be a serious emergency to make me part with the least of my babies. In the meantime, I am simply going to have to take sterner measures with limiting my spending. No more jewelry, no more furs, no more fucking ivory puzzle balls until I get my credit cards paid down and at least enough in my savings account to cover a root-canal or a new set of tires.

How terribly, terribly bleak. And it seems these financial megrims always hit me in the late spring or early summer. The rest of the time I just sing a happy tra-la and keep on spending. Must be something about the weather.

Or, now I think about it, I also get the Mating Urge about this time of year, and since the Mating Urge has been regularly frustrated this last decade or more, I take out my frustrations in my one remaining addiction, shopping. This puzzle-ball may very well be the fruit of my frustration over my Yahoo! Personals guy not writing back to me. And the heart-angst that led me to respond to that ad, the romantic yearning that leads me to throw my fear of rejection to the wind, is probably the same angst and yearning that made me spend more than nine hundred dollars in the last seven days.

Whatever the reason, if I'm going to return the puzzle-ball, I'd better do it before I get too attached to it. It is awfully cute, and I have long wanted one. But then, this is awfully cute, and I've always wanted one:

PS: By the bye, in honor of Blogger's new 'do, I've made some much-needed changes around here; aside from creating a new logo (didja even notice?), I've also redone my Home and Gallery pages, and updated my About page. Go have a look! (And here is the old logo, in case you hadn't noticed the difference)

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

A young man's fancy turns to thoughts of...

Fancy? I'm a little thrown by this new Blogger look. I like it, but it's so different, and it always takes me a little time to adapt to change. Especially visual change; Blogger has changed its editing page format two or three times, and it's front page once, since I started using it, but I haven't changed my page format once since I launched the rest of my site eons and eons ago.

So anyway... after my bitching about how useless personal ads were (two posts down), I got an ad in my email (when I was on Yahoo! Personals three years ago, I got signed up for Matches by Mail, and have received two emails a week ever since, each bearing five "matches" to the rather vague search criteria I left behind way back when) that piqued my interest, a guy with beautiful eyes and a sweet smile who had intriguing things to say about himself. So I followed the link and was even more impressed once I'd read all of his profile.

It took me two and a half days to get from that first initial thrill of interest to actually writing to him. First, I had to talk myself into responding to the ad and get an outside opinion on the profile (Caroline thinks he's perfect); then I had to create a profile of my own, which took quite a lot of effort and introspection; then I had to talk myself into paying for the Yahoo! Personals service, which was required if I wanted to respond to the ad, and decide how long a period I wanted to commit myself to (it's $20 a month, or $45 a quarter, or $100 a year... I went middle-of-the-road and chose a quarter); then I had to actually pay for it, getting all involved in my Yahoo! Wallet, none of the passwords for which I remember from the last time I used it; then I had to pick out five photos to include in the profile, scouring through the pitiful handful of digital photographs I possess of myself out of drag to find a few in which I don't look like an underbaked ham; and finally I had to formulate the response itself, then write out an incredibly long email that expressed my interest and would hopefully engage his.

Having accomplished all of that, I of course became somewhat emotionally involved in the possible outcomes, getting all in a flutter to hear back from him. When, shortly after I sent the introductory message, my interest's profile became unavailable, I immediately jumped to the worst conclusions: he was so offended by my response, he took his ad down; or else he was busy rewriting his ad and refining his requirements to specifically exclude freaks like me; or he was just lying low hoping I would go away. It turns out he was adding newer photographs, and the profile was unavailable while the censors at Yahoo! gave the pix a once-over to make sure they were decent.

He still hasn't written back, though, and I am now engaged in deciding how long to wait before admitting to myself that he's not going to write back, and making myself move on to other profiles. It is not the best of netiquette, but still perfectly acceptable, to merely ignore personal ad emails to which you do not wish to respond. Caroline, when I put this problem to her at the gym yesterday, advocated giving him a month, with a reminder email once a week, just in case he responds to persistence. I'm not so sure — I'm thinking a week is long enough, and I'm disinclined to write a second email... it seems pushy and needy (on the other hand, Caroline wonders what I have to lose... if he already doesn't like me, coming off as pushy and needy can't hurt my position).

In the meantime, I have been assiduously browsing through the Yahoo! Personals profiles, seeing what all is out there. I've altered my original search criteria (men between the ages of 25 and 40, within 15 miles of my home) to include more people and geographical areas (21 to 50, within 25 miles), and have read literally hundreds of ads. Aside from running across several people I already know, I have not found anyone that strikes me as much as that first guy did.

I have, however, compiled a short "List of Bafflements," recurring themes and phrases that mystify me. For example:

Outdoorsy: What is so damned special about outside? A good eighty percent of the men whose profiles I read profess to enjoy being outside and doing things out-of-doors. I don't really understand that. I mean, I am not averse to the outdoors, it's everywhere, so I try to keep on good terms with it. I love to walk around Lake Merritt, I like walking in the woods, traipsing about a residential or retail neighborhood is a frequent pastime, sometimes a beach or a park is a nice place to hang out, and every now and again I enjoy sitting out in my back yard. But I can't stand for the sun to touch my skin, I'm allergic to god-knows-how-many plants and trees, and the air isn't any fresher out there than it is in my bedroom with a window open. So what's the attraction? Even given that a person likes for the sun to touch him or isn't allergic to things, why do so many people prefer the outdoors over the indoors to such an extent that they cite this preference as a self-defining characteristic? I don't think it ever occurred to me that I prefer the indoors to the outdoors until I found myself confronted by so many Outdoorsy Guys in the personal ads. Baffling.

Sincere: What, exactly, is sincerity? Do so many people lack sincerity that one has to be very up-front about requiring it from potential new acquaintances? I can't think of a single person in my life who would strike me as being more sincere than anyone else; nor can I think of anyone I know who is insincere. To me, "sincere" is just a word you use at the end of a letter (Sincerely yours), or as an emphasizing modifier in a sentence (I sincerely hope you aren't planning to eat my last brownie). I guess I don't understand what these particular guys mean by "sincere," since it's not a word I use, so I find it very... Baffling.

Quality: This one sounds a lot like old-fashioned snobbery (reminiscent of the Victorian term for the upper classes, "The Quality"), but again I think I am not grasping exactly what these guys are getting at when they request a "quality man." And I have to wonder, am I a quality man? How will I know, if I don't know exactly what they mean by "quality"? Do they judge quality by income? by address? by education? by looks? by intellect? by ambition? or what? "Quality" is such a nebulous word, it can mean so many different things. Baffling.

Anyway, these are really failures of my own understanding, so I am trying to not be discouraged by all this outdoorsiness, sincerity, and quality. I also have to let go of the height thing and the age thing and the Living in San Francisco thing (the Bay Bridge isn't that great an obstacle, though it is, indeed, an obstacle)... and of course the race thing. I am allowed erotic preferences, certainly, but I think I need to be a lot more open-minded about whom I contact, and why I am in Yahoo! Personals, what I am trying to accomplish there. Do I not state in my own profile that I am looking for all kinds of contact, with no expectation about what sorts of relationships develop? Am I not sincere when I say this?

Besides, I am going to have to make a lot of contact in the next three months in order to get my $45-worth.

In closing, for your entertainment and edification, here is a link to my personal profile. Comments are, as always, welcome.

Saturday, May 8, 2004

The Crazy 88

I'm still reeling from our Kill Bill double-feature yesterday... Caroline and I watched Volume 1 on DVD and then jetted down to the UA Shattuck to see Volume 2, with only enough time in between to drive to Berkeley and find our seats. I hesitate to use the word "overkill" in this context, but that's kind of what it was. Just a bit much violence when taken all together. I have to say, though, both were excellent films... I simply advocate coming down off the first one before seeing the second one. Have a meal or a nap or some pleasant experience to cleanse the palate of all those fountains of blood.

What I found most surprising, though, was how wildly different the two films were in matters of style. Vol. 1 was visually amazing, although really there was more blood spraying in more places than I could really handle. Does blood really shower about like that? The cinematography was exquisite, and the anime sequence was quite arresting; the characters were a trifle two-dimensional, but they all had sympathetic sides... yet the sympathetic characteristics were always overbalanced by the violence and cruelty of the character. Just when you started liking someone or feeling sorry for her, she'd turn around and do something really awful.

The second volume was an entirely different style of film. Not only was the aesthetic more old-school, blending old Kung-Fu flicks and spaghetti westerns into the gritty, grainy mix, but the storyline was more character-driven. The insane violence of the first part was replaced here with real motives and interesting characterizations. It was more satisfying to me as a film... though Caroline found the stylish violence and music-video pacing in the first part more satifsying than the rather meditative and comparatively bloodless flavor of the second.

Still, I found the two together a bit overwhelming. I've never seen a Tarantino film before (with the exception of From Dusk 'til Dawn, which was a waste of everyone's time), I have always suspected him of being a little too much for me to bear, and am surprised by how much I did like these two. I guess I ought to look up his earlier classics, Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs, and see what that's all about.

But not right now. Right now I am going to think happy, pretty thoughts. And I am going to do some laundry (I'm out of socks and undershirts again). Then I have a Court function in Hayward tonight (Mama P's 69th birthday at Club Rumor), and then a big family do tomorrow for Mother's Day.

Have a lovely weekend!

Tuesday, May 4, 2004

What A Queen Wants

I've recently reopened my mind (as you may have previously read) to the possibility of dating. I haven't really given this topic much concentrated thought since I deleted all of my online personal ads about three years ago; but as I have perused and/or contributed friendship and dating profiles lately (on Queer Day, Friendster, and Yahoo!) I see that very little has changed since then. It's the same guys (or guys who look very much the same) saying the same things and wanting the same things.

It appears that every ad has a deal-breaker in it... either they love the outdoors and sports, or they drink and drug, or they insist on dancing, or they are too ugly or too good-looking, or they belong to some crackbrain religion, or they love Madonna and/or Celine Dion and/or Mariah Carey, or they have cats, or they can't spell, or they have a penchant for sushi, or they live on the other side of the planet, or something.

Am I being too finicky? Outside the strictures of personal ads online, I find that most of the men to whom I have been attracted possessed two or more of the abovementioned deal-breakers. Shiloh, for example, loves the outdoors and has cats, is notably better-looking than I (not to mention a lot younger), craves sushi more than any other form of food, and prefers the late-career jazzy scatting Ella over the mid-career big-band songbook Ella... yet I nevertheless fell ass-over-teakettle for Shiloh.

On the other hand, Shiloh didn't work out the way I wanted, so maybe I should have paid more attention to the deal-breakers before I fell in love. I wouldn't trade the experience of falling in love with him, mind you, I learned far too much from that relationship to count it an all-around failure... but among the things I learned, wasn't there something about compatibility?

The problem with online ads is the necessary objectification of the subject... when you're looking at a fuzzy webcam picture and an arbitrary list of characteristics, there is no physical or spiritual sense of the person that would override the potential deal-breakers... no animal attraction to balance out the intellectual objectification. All you can work with is whether or not you think your objectified qualifications are compatible with his objectified qualifications.

And how accurate are those objectified qualifications, anyway? When a person chooses a picture to put in the ad, he usually picks something that resembles what he looks like in his own head... which often has little resemblance to what he'll look like across the table from you, in broad daylight, perhaps after a long day at work. When he describes himself, he will describe the person he sees in the mirror, or the person he sees in his mind's eye; again, that person may or may not be the person you actually meet for coffee someday.

Another problem, of course, is how one formulates one's own objectification. You have to practice a good deal of self-assessment, first; then you have to present your findings in the restricted formats of the personal ad... but not only do you have to attempt to accurately describe the Product that is you, in as few words as possible, but you have to sell it, too. I for one find that very difficult — in the final analysis, I'm not so sure that I would date me, so how can I possibly begin to convince someone else to do it?

Then, finally, once one has managed to objectify oneself and learned to interpret the self-objectification of others, one has to objectify What One Wants. What characteristics do I find attractive in a man? What kind of a man do I think I want? What characteristics are definite deal-breakers, and which ones are only potential deal-breakers?

Physical characteristics are fairly easy, because all you have to do is consult your cock: Mr. Manhood (yes, my penis has a name... his first name is Sebastian, but in respect I always call him Mr. Manhood) likes small waists, pretty eyes, smooth skin, and flippy hair; Mr. Manhood does not like obesity, mean mouths, blotchy skin, or back hair. There are always exceptions, of course, and Mr. Manhood doesn't have a particular type he requires... but he knows what he likes when he sees it, and he relays that information to me without demur. All fairly simple and straightforward.

But the internal characteristics are a puzzle. When I look at all the men to whom I have been attracted, I can't really find any definite characteristic that they all have in common; and like I pointed out before, a physical attraction can override any number of deal-breaking internal characteristics.

And even with the characteristics I know I like, it's hard to express them. For example, I am always attracted to vulnerability... but not necessarily emotional vulnerability. Sometimes a slightly weak chin, unconsciously pleading eyes, a certain need for attention in the voice, a little sadness around the mouth is enough; but pouring out your feelings all over the place is too much. I like a man to be intelligent enough to assimilate and synthesize ideas quickly, educated enough to be able to catch at least two-thirds of my references without my having to explain everything as I go; but I don't like hopped-up intellectuals who read nothing but nonfiction and spout out the sayings of the saints and demigods of pop academia... the minute you start talking about literary theory or quoting some hip Anglo-Buddhist philosopher, I'm out of there.

Kindness is a must-have, and consideration, and generosity... but what person doesn't believe himself to be kind, considerate, and generous? Even when they are brutal, thoughtless, and selfish? Furthermore, I like men who aren't boring; but what man thinks that the things I find boring really are boring? If they were boring to him, he wouldn't be interested in them, now would he? Conversely, people who describe themselves as boring quite often are not boring, they are only boring by the standards of the dominant paradigm: a circuit-dancing gym-bunny party-boy would find my lifestyle of quiet enthusiasms and intricately communicated observations extremely boring, as I would find his excitement-focused event-a-minute hoppity-hop lifestyle unbearably tedious.

Well, the thing is that I don't find personal ads useful in meeting people (and wasn't that such a long time getting around to a point). But then, as I have recently shared, meeting people in person isn't so terribly efficacious for me, either.

So what do you think? Those of my readers who have partners, how did you find him/her and how much role did animal attraction play versus the role of intellectual objectification? Those who have found romance or at least nifty new friends in the personal ads, how'd you do it? Tell me! That's what the comment box is for, you know.

Saturday, May 1, 2004

Me Day

Yesterday I got in the car and headed out to the office for a quiet Friday of minute-writing and note-transcribing. I knew I had to get my nails done at some time or other during the course of the day, so that they would be fresh-filled and smooth for the Living Sober Spring Follies (tonight!), and while I drove down the hill I considered whether I should stop and get my nails done on the way and be late to work, or if I should leave work early to get my nails done before going to the gym, or if I should take an offsite lunch-hour from work in the middle of the day. And suddenly it occurred to me, "I'm not going to work today!"

I had to justify this sudden idea somewhat, so I thought about how much sick leave and comp time I have saved up, and thought about how I haven't been accomplishing much this week and what would make today any different, and thought about how nobody else was going to be in today and nobody was expecting me and nobody needed me for anything in particular... but the real reason was that I simply couldn't bear the idea of wasting another beautiful day (and it was gorgeous out yesterday) sitting at my desk doing nothing. So I took a Personal Necessity Day... because I personally needed to have some Me Time.

So I parked the car, got some cash, and went to get my nails done. While I was having my acrylics filled in, I toyed with the idea of adding a pedicure to the bill, as pedicures are pretty much the ne plus ultra of personal pampering. But I don't like the idea of strange women touching my feet, nor do I care for the image of sitting high up in a vibrating throne while little Asian women crouch below, so I decided against it.

Afterward I window-shopped my way up Lakeshore Avenue, stopping for a long time at The Juniper Tree, purveyors of luxurious scented girly things, bath salts and lotions and perfumes and candles and jewelry and little satin makeup bags and so on and so forth, so I could get some nice hand-cream that would perhaps mask the smell of fresh acrylic on my hands. I stop in there often searching for gifts, as they have the most interesting little tchotchkes like sculptured soaps and poodle-shaped purses and feathered fans, but this time I concentrated on Me, opening and sniffing pretty much every vial and bottle and jar in the shop (except those that were labeled as containing substances to which I am allergic, like lavender or freesia or hibiscus).

I ended up buying a 3.5-ounce tube of L'épi de Provence verbena hand crème with 20% shea butter (whatever the hell that is, but it smells delicious and has accented Es in it), and a tiny 1-ounce bottle of the most divine fragrance, called Voluspa #4, which contains essences of white linden, blond tabac absolute, fresh-cut tuberose, red grapefruit, and tonka bean (whatever the hell that is) and comes in an adorable embroidered sage-green satin sachet-bag with a matching green crystal heart charm at the end of the drawstring.

I have never been much of a scent-wearer, as I am allergic to several commercially-produced colognes and never smell good in the ones to which I am not allergic. But since I adore odors and fragrances I will often try on something promising and wait a little while to see how it smells on me, disappointed when it ends up smelling like detergent or musk or gin; then summer before last I was out shopping on Union Square (collecting shopping-bags, really, but I made a small purchase for each one) and found the most exquisite scent at Sephora which smelled even better on me than it did in the bottle, called Fleurs de Chocolat Lucia, made up of chocolate and orange essences. Ever since, I have been attracted to these out-of-the-way perfumes made of pure essences without musks or chemicals or allergens. They tend to be rather expensive, so I don't have a lot of them, but I appreciate the ones I have greatly... even though I still seldom wear them.

But to return to the story, I continued on up the street, smelling wonderfully of verbena and linden and whatnot (with only the tiniest undertone of drying acrylic), stopping off here and there in a favorite shop or investigating a new shop I've never seen before, traveling the lengths of the parralel shopping districts of Lakeshore and Grand Avenues. I ended up buying a couple of blouses at my favorite consignment shop, Collectible Designs, and a couple of books at my favorite used bookstore, Walden's Pond, before I started suffering a bit from hunger. On the way back to the car to drop off my purchases, I started weighing my lunch options... but discarded almost all of them because they were sit-down restaurants and I hate eating in sit-down restaurants alone. So I decided to get into the car and drive over to Piedmont Avenue for a mortadella-on-rosemary-focaccia sandwich at A.G. Ferrari Delicatessen and to continue my lovely window-shopping in another venue.

The sandwich was absolutely delicious, as was the peach iced tea and hazelnut meringue cookie I had with it. Then I worked both sides of the street, stopping in pretty much every shop on the way. I bought a CZ ring in once place, a diamonte crescent-moon brooch in another, and touched and sniffed and fondled a lot of lovely things in between. I spent a total of two hours there, finally getting tired of walking and looking at things around 4:30. I had an appointment to meet Caroline at her house at 5:15 in order to change the light bulbs in her bed-sitting room, which are just out of her reach when standing on a barstool, and I intended to go to the gym afterward, so I thought I would take the extra time and stop in the office to check the answering machine and email to see if I'd missed anything while running delinquent in the streets.

I had a moment of fright when I found there were eight messages on the machine, but once I listened to them and realized they were all for other people, and if I had been there in the office all the time I would have had to write all those messages down instead of just forwarding the voice-mails, as well as explaining to the callers why the person they were trying to reach isn't there on Fridays (I'm the only one who does work on Friday), I knew I had done the right thing in staying away.

So after that I changed Caroline's lightbulbs and chatted with her for a while, then went to the gym and performed my twenty minutes on the elliptical machine and twenty minutes on the treadmill (with a potty-break in between), watching the surpising amount of eye-candy that was in the gym that day. Then I stopped at Boston Market to pick up dinner, went home and ate with Grandmother, then ran out to Walnut Creek for an AA meeting that I don't normally attend but where I always meet many of my friends. Then I spent some time with my protege (who will be premiering at the Living Sober Follies tonight!), and got home a little before midnight.

And as I lay in bed going over the many simple pleasures of the day, I vowed to do this sort of thing more often. I get so wrapped up in my Have-to-do's, my job and errands and Court shows and service committments and obligations and chores, I forget to just let loose and enjoy myself a little bit... not to hide in my room with a movie or a book but to go out and see people and try new things and feel many sensations. And as I started to drift off into a very deep sleep, I remembered to thank God for such a wonderful day, and the sudden inspiration to have Me Day instead of just wasting my time at work as usual.

I still smelled really nice, too.