The Watchtower of Destruction: The Ferrett's Journal
Below are the 10 most recent journal entries recorded in the "The Ferrett" journal:
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The Annual Christmas Tradition: What Was Your Favorite Present?|
Every year on Christmas, I ask the same question, because I love Christmas and want to know the answer:
What’s the best thing you got for Christmas this year?
Mine’s an interesting one. I’m supposed to get a large table saw, but that got delayed at Amazon, so I probably won’t see that until after the New Year. (Though the note my wife wrote me explaining why my Christmas Tree was empty? Epic, totally epic.) My Dad got me Superman vs. Muhammad Ali, which stirred up all sorts of childhood memories. And of course, there’s this new tattoo.
But the best thing I got for Christmas?
Christmas Eve was looking pretty messy come that morning, with family-related stress, uprooted changes in scheduling, and snappishness everywhere. I was anticipating a tense showdown of an evening, with sadness and tears and meanness…
…And what I got was a beautiful evening with cherished moments with my godchildren, and relaxation, and an unexpected reconciliation with an ex on the eve, and the perfect end to one of my favorite comedy series ever. Christmas was giving, and happiness, and even some quality snuggling with the wife, and was all the sweeter when I was expecting nothing.
So. What was the best thing you got for Christmas? Tell me! Tell me now.
(Long-term readers who are wondering what happened to the other Christmas tradition, the one with cheesecake photos, can see why that’s been discontinued in an essay over on my kink-blog at FetLife. It’s not an unhappy thing, I assure you.)
Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.
This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/453861.html. You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.
I’ve been texting a lot of people on Christmas – hi! Hello! Miss you, Merry Christmas!
And what I’ve gotten back a few times is, “I am getting soooooo drunk to deal with my relatives.”
I’m super-lucky. I like my relatives. My Mom’s a hoot. My Dad is a great conversationalist. I look forward to spending time with them.
But I also like my chosen family. The Meyers are wonderful. My friends are wonderful. Not a bad one in the bunch. (If they were, they wouldn’t be my friends – but that’s certainly not true for everyone, as Lord knows a lot of people hate their families and then choose friends who are just as much trouble as their relatives.)
This isn’t bragging; it’s gratitude. I didn’t choose my Mother, or my Father, or my Uncle Tommy, or Grampa and Gramma and Grammy. I just got them. And they, in turn, gave me one hell of a model as to how to build my life, so when I found someone as special as Gini I figured out how to keep her.
That’s luck. That’s what gratitude is for. You can be happy at the work you’ve put in – and Lord knows I’ve spent years massaging my psyche to be a better person – but the bedrock of almost any successful work is a layer of luck, and I had that.
Christmas seems a pretty appropriate time to celebrate that luck. And to thank all my friends, the ones with good families and the ones without. I miss you all terribly. I love you all deeply.
Thanks for being here.
Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.
This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/453392.html. You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.
There Should Have Come A Cold Funeral|
There should have been a cold funeral that day. Umbrellas. Mourners. A coffin.
And Rebecca, come back from whatever town she was working in now. She should have been in her early thirties, having left the confusion of her twenties behind, having finally steered herself into a career that made her happy, the chaos of her early-twenties love life subsided as she found more stable forms of happiness. (Her love life would have been supremely chaotic; this, I am assured off.)
That funeral should have been an inconvenience for her. They rarely come at good times. I imagine her wrangling a day off, maybe asking Mom and Dad for some help with the airline fees, flying home to Cleveland on some red-eye filled with memories and finding people to cover for her.
And I imagine her at my funeral.
I imagine how she would have thought of me. I don’t think we would have been close, at least not closer than the friends and drinking buddies she would have acquired in college; I’d be that old guy with the weird hats and the terrible puns, a comforting mainstay at Christmas and Thanksgiving and all the other visits back home, not so much a friend as just someone who’d always been in her life. Whenever we met we’d share a beer and I’d ask her how things were going, and we’d make small talk about how grown she was, and I’d probably make some hideous comment that would embarrass her.
Yet Uncle Ferrett would be dead.
I imagine her at my grave, trying to think of our history together. It would be sadness, grief, but more than that it would feel like the closing of a chapter to her; here was a man who was there at her home at least twice a month, a fixture of the family, that goofy guy who went out of his way to humiliate her as a teen when she had a sad excess of dignity, and cheered her on harder than anyone else outside her “official” relatives. And she had moved on from me, feeling a little guilty about that – but she’d gotten entangled in her own life, hadn’t she? Wasn’t that what you did when you get older? And Uncle Ferrett seemed to do fine by himself, had always seemed satisfied with whatever attention she’d chosen to give, and now his heart had finally given out.
And she would feel, strangely, more like an adult at my passing. Someone who had comforted her as a teen would be gone, another peg knocked out from under her; not that she had leaned on me in decades, of course, but somehow she’d always felt like she could, if the emergency came. And now the world for her was a little less protected, and she would have to stand a little taller, because Uncle Ferrett – that bastion of her childhood – was gone.
I see her saying goodbye – not just to me, but to that chapter of her life. I see her squaring her shoulders, recognizing that the world will be a little colder from now on. I see her turning away from me, under the umbrella, someone she loved holding her shoulders, and it fades to black. As it should. I’m not there any longer.
That’s how it should have gone.
That’s how it should have gone.
Yet here I am, listening to the “Annie” soundtrack while I work, and suddenly I wonder what Rebecca would have thought of it – this mop-topped girl who looks so much like her singing her heart out, winning the affection of everyone around her. She would have seen it.
What would she have thought?
It probably wouldn’t have had much of an impact on her. But it might have. She might have taken to singing Hard-Knock Life for us. Or she might have shrugged and said “That’s lame!” and moved on; she always had a way of confounding expectations.
Yet I want to know.
And all I can think of today is the first thing she said after the doctors came in with that final diagnosis, the one where they told her the tumors were back and that she would have to go back to CHOP for chemotherapy, and she turned to me as sunny as anything to ask, “Will Uncle Ferrett be with me?”
She expected that I would always be with her. She never questioned that I would not be by her side.
And I was. I was there until the final moments of her life and after, holding her leg and weeping.
But it shouldn’t have been that way.
There should have been a cold funeral where she and I parted ways, and I should have been in that coffin, and some days I don’t understand the way anything works any more.
Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.
This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/453280.html. You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.
The Cold, Hugless Dystopia of the Future: I’ve Been There|
I once complained about a stranger touching my goddaughter’s belly without consent, and suggested that perhaps young children should be given the option to refuse hugs and kisses unless they wanted them.
“WITNESS THE STERILE FUTURE OF MANKIND,” some commentors overreacted. “IF WE DO NOT FORCE OUR CHILDREN TO HUG THE ONES WE HAVE DESIGNATED AS LOVABLE, WHAT WILL BECOME OF SOCIETY? WHAT SORT OF LOVELESS WORLD WILL WE GENERATE, IF WE START PUTTING UP ALL THESE CONSENT-BARRIERS TO INTIMACY?”
At first I thought these people were crazy, leaping from “May I hug you?” to “The crumbling of kindness as we all know it” in a single bound, but then I realized: *I’m a science-fiction writer*. (Seriously, man, with a book coming out and everything.) It’s my hobby, spending hours dreaming of alternative futures – and most people don’t turn themselves into flabby prunes in the shower as they imagine the ramifications of cheap light-speed engines. So it’s no surprise that your average person would be absolutely terrible at envisioning a world with the comparatively tiny change of inserting a “Is it okay if I touch you?” in between the desire to hug someone and actually flinging your arms around them.
And I may be slightly snarky here, but that fear? Is very real. It’s hard for people to get behind a new world without having a good idea of what it looks like. If you’re a touchy-feely person who’s used to touching without consent and having it go mostly okay for you, a place where you have to ask all the time can seem legitimately off-putting and alien.
But the good news is, I’ve actually visited that world! And if you’re a social conservative, I’ve visited the worst possible version of that world for you – a liberal dystopia where all of the stuff you consider insanity festers! It’s a place with a tribunal that judges you, should you step out of line. It’s a place with supremely strict rules.
It is the Geeky Kink Event, held once a year in New Jersey.
Now, if you don’t know the GKE, it’s infamously strict as BDSM conventions go. In a world where people have legitimate shoe fetishes and leather fetishes – as in, they can’t get off unless those elements are present – the running gag is that GKE has “a consent fetish.” They’re super-strict about all consent stuff.
How strict? Well, I am told by insiders that a staffer was let go because he touched another staffer without asking first. What kind of touch? He apparently squeezed her shoulder.*
And when I say there’s “a tribunal,” I’m not kidding: there is a large playspace where people gather, and should you violate anyone’s consent there, at least one drunk person I know got yanked out and hauled before a group of people who pronounced judgment on him.
And as I have noted before, they screen their attendees against the sex offender list, which caused some debate last time as to whether that’s fair – and I’m giving y’all a heads-up right now that this essay is not the place to debate whether the GKE is correct in having all of these strict criteria. They have it, it’s a successful con for them, and if you’d like to complain about whether this isn’t something you’d attend, take that shit to another thread, because that’s not the point I’m trying to make today.
My point is this: The GKE is not a democracy as you know it. It’s the PC fascism that FOX News viewers fear. This is your worst-case scenario of liberals being oversensitive to the needs of the most zealous complainers, a weekend where the victim will be wholeheartedly believed if they speak up, and a world where you had best watch your fucking step because by God, they expect you to behave according to their rules.
And yet that convention had more happy hugs than the opening of “Love, Actually.”
Everywhere I looked, people were hugging, snuggling, kissing, purring. You would have thought this was a convention entirely composed of thigmophiles, folks constantly holding hands everywhere.
As it turns out, people like to touch one another. Even asexuals like to snuggle. Touching is a natural human urge, and affection will squirt out no matter what rules you have in place. There will be hugs in the future of consent, I assure you.
The only different was this: before each hug, there was a pause as people held their arms open and asked, “May I?” And in most cases, the answer was an enthusiastic “Yes!” and amazing full-body glomps occurred.
Sometimes the answer was “No, I’m not feeling it,” in which case there were no hugs. Or a quick negotiation down to a handshake. Yet there wasn’t a disdain there, as people feared – nobody I saw was like like, “Eeew, you want a hug? From me?” The asking was perfectly okay, as long as you were okay with the answer.
And even more importantly, not everyone asked all the time. Husbands still were free to hug their wives, the consent implied by years of intimacy. The woman I spent three hours cuddling and talking with the night before? I held her hand the next morning without an explicit consent, and no GKE cops showed up to yank me away from her.
The difference was that if there was any major uncertainty, you defaulted to asking. And on the rare occasion you thought everything was okay and accidentally hugged someone who didn’t want it, you acknowledged you screwed up and apologized profusely.
It’s not a big change, really. I know all this “consent” stuff can look like some sort of PC nightmare to the novice, a bureaucratic land where you must fill out a 27B-6 form before advancing to the “holding hands” stage.
Really, though, it’s just a slight change where you ask politely. And I think the “asking politely” may actually amp the number of hugs given, because there’s no downside for asking. You’re not a creeper for wanting something, as long as you express it in the correct ways. And as such, the socially awkward like me who may want a hug but don’t know how to get it now have an easy avenue to get their hug on.
I know these societal changes can be scary, if you can’t see what they look like. But I assure you that people’s need for physical affection won’t be exterminated or shamed in this new consent world we’re trying to build. Yes, it may be a little awkward at first to go, “Can I hug you?” and have the answer be “No.” But that’s not the creation of new awkwardness: it’s the transfer of awkwardness from the huggee to the hugger, because I assure you that some of the people you hugged probably didn’t want a hug, and had to tolerate one from you.
It’s not a massive crime, what you did. But if we can make people’s lives a little nicer by asking first, then why not do it?
The world will not stop hugging. The world likes hugs. The only difference is that if someone doesn’t want your hug in this moment, they are now not obligated to receive it.
The good news is that you may get more hugs from people asking to hug you, and so the world won’t change all that much. Not even in one of the strictest consent cultures I know of.
* – This is something I have heard from two reliable sources, but have not verified personally. However, it says something about GKE that I believe it wholly. And once again, should this thread break out into a series of whether they are justified in this culture, I will swing the banhammer, for that is a distraction from the point I am trying to make.
Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.
This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/453058.html. You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.
My Heart Will, In Fact, Go On: Medical Update|
After spending three weeks in a heart monitor for a running test, the results are in:
I’m a whiner.
No, the awesome news is that I have all of these random chest pains and big thumpy heart-moments, and they’re my heart working normally as far as they can tell. What I suspect has happened is that after you’ve had triple-bypass surgery and almost died, you start paying a lot more attention to every bodily tick involving your heart rhythm. But they say it’s fine. So let’s hope it’s fine.
I also had advanced genetic testing that shows that my body was destined to have a heart attack. My diet was sucktacular, which didn’t help, but my body is a factory of churning out top-of-the-charts particles that are pretty much guaranteed to clog the arteries. Even if I had a perfectly healthy diet, I’d need to be on suppressant drugs in order to not seize up and die. Thank you, modern medicine.
So yeah. Being a carnetarian didn’t help, but my body has some genetic quirks that makes a heart attack all but a certainty. I’d be more upset about this if we didn’t live in an age that’s designed to compensate for this fairly easily. We are, and that’s good.
Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.
This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/452765.html. You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.
Six Hours Of Tattooing (No Pictures)|
So yesterday, I sat down with Jason Hager to do a tattoo portrait of my beloved goddaughter Rebecca, who passed away of brain cancer on her sixth birthday. And I was nervous. Because I’d never had a tattoo before, and this was a significant one.
What would the pain be like?
I have a weird relationship to pain. When I bruised myself as a young child, I went shrieking to my Gramma, who scolded me and said, “Stop fussing! We Lucases have high pain tolerances.” Which struck me as being a really jerky thing to say for years, not at all comforting, until I walked around for four days with a burst appendix.
Well, no. “Walking around” might have been an understatement. “Moshing in the Rise Against pit with a burst appendix” might be more accurate.
So after I almost died because, well, I actually do have such a high pain tolerance that it almost killed me (cue ten days in the hospital after they pressure-washed my insides), I’ve been a little weirder about that. Because I didn’t have a realistic clue of how I’d do with stabby-needles.
And my artist told me, “Yeah, some people pass out. Usually in the first fifteen minutes. They don’t go all the way down, they just kinda swoon.” And since I’d been doing it for forty-five minutes at that point, I joked, “Well, I guess I’m a badass.”
The needle was actually not bad at all. It hurt, but it was a manageable hurt. As a beekeeper who gets stung two or three times a season, I’d liken the pain to about 5% of a bee sting. Or, if I was to be more accurate, like rubbing scratchy sand up against a moderately-bad sunburn; I wouldn’t seek it out, but it’s tolerable. I sat in the chair, pleased I was tolerating things so well.
But this was a long portrait – about six hours of sitting. And around hour five, my body started to reject it. Which was bizarre, because it wasn’t actually painful per se. I wouldn’t have thought it, but the cumulative effect of the needle had triggered my body’s defenses, and now it was reacting like a swarm of insects coming to the defense. People said it was the endorphins wearing off, but I never felt any endorphins; the pain didn’t shock me with adrenaline or anything. It’s just that this constant irritation had heaped up, and my body was jerking in response to the stimulation against my will. I’ve had far worse pain – ask me about projectile-vomiting twelve hours after the major abdominal surgery of having my appendix out – but my body had become hypersensitized, and every mild tweak in my left arm pulled focus, zooming my body’s attention in on that, going, “SEE THAT?!?? IT HAPPENED AGAIN!”
Fortunately, by the time my body started shivering – it didn’t help that the studio was cold – Jason said, “Hang on, just getting to the white highlights.” And twenty minutes later, we were done.
I spent the evening incoherent. We ran out and got scarfed some food, but I’m told this was akin to subspace, a BDSM phenomenon where after a beating the body drops into a pleasant floating sensation – but for me, I could not concentrate on anything, my attention jittering about. I wandered around twitching from text to text, drunk on air, chemically unhindered but still jolted so that I said weird things to just about everybody.
(God help you if I had a crush on you and you texted me last night. God. Help. You.)
I should have requested aftercare – another classic technique in the BDSM zones consisting of the careful application of chocolate, warmth, and cuddles – but a) my brain was an anthill, and b) thanks to bad scheduling issues, Gini had to drive down an hour to pick me up and then sit on an uncomfortable chair in the tattoo studio for two hours, so I was loathe to call in favors, and c) my arm was aching and I didn’t feel like I needed touch, even though when I sunk into her arms this morning it was like drinking water. So things got worse.
It wasn’t bad – certainly less troublesome than a bad drunk night. I’m mostly chronicling it because I haven’t experienced this before, and I don’t know if I’ll get another tattoo. This was $550, an affordable artwork – but right now, Rebecca will be with me until the end of the days, and that’s good.
I’ll post pictures when it’s more healed. And when I am, honestly. But a part of her is with me now, and that’s good.
Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.
This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/452423.html. You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.
In Which I Discover I Am Totally Wrong About Sports|
As someone who is quite thoroughly Not A Sports Guy, I always figured it would take me about two years’ worth of effort to properly appreciate any given sport.
The reason I say this is because one day, I was watching the Magic: the Gathering Pro Tour on streaming TV with my daughter Erin. The Pro Tour is where professional Magic players – yes, such creatures exist – get together to shuffle up decks of collectible fantasy cards and play a strategy game against each other for a prize pool of $250,000. And it’s a big enough thing now that there’s professional coverage, with commentary.
And the Pro Tour is an especially fun time for Magic players, because they have just released a new set of about 300 cards, all of which do different things, and so there are new strategies that nobody but the pros have foreseen.
I was watching with Erin, who was perplexed – she’s played games of Magic with her Dad, but never been to a tournament – and so I went, “Oooh! This is exciting because this guy’s trying to make a Maze’s End deck work.”
“If you get all ten lands of a certain type into play, you win. It’s a pretty dubious strategy, honestly. Getting ten lands is a big hurdle. So his whole strategy is going to revolve around trying to gum up the ground, drawing out the game for as long as possible.”
“But you’ve never seen this deck.”
“But I know that’s how it has to work. And the other guy, well, he has to apply more pressure, because the longer the game goes, the worse it gets for him. So he has to commit lots to the board in order to try to kill the other guy before he ‘goes off’ and wins.”
“Okay. That makes sense. So he just goes all-in and tries to kill the guy?”
“No. That’s first-level thinking. If he commits too much to the board, and this guy plays with board-sweepers that destroys all of his guys, then he loses on the spot! And this Maze’s End guy almost certainly plays with board-sweepers because of that – well, he might not, his mana base is stretched thin as it is. But so this other guy has to attack as quickly as possible, without putting down so much that he can’t recover if this Maze’s End deck – which we don’t know what cards are in it for sure – wipes out everything on the field.”
Erin looked at me admiringly.
“Well!” she said. “I think we know where all your sports knowledge went!”
And the truth is, when I watch Magic, I’m watching with probably 70% of the skill of a professional Magic player. I’m not nearly good enough to play in PTQs – because the skill level of a Magic pro player is incredibly high – but I have edited what’s widely acknowledged as the best book on Magic strategy ever written, and was thanked by the author for fact-checking him and suggesting improvements. So when I watch Magic, I do so as though I am playing – what card would I play next? What’s my line of attack here? Oh, he did something different, he’s better than me, what am I missing?
And I assumed that sports fandom was the same thing.
I’d played football videogames, and was immediately baffled by the massive number of plays I could select from. There were 150 options, each presumably for a different situation to favor different player strengths, and I didn’t understand them. I knew the basic rules, but what I needed to know to properly savor the game was to know which huddle was correct based on the game state, and which strategy was most likely to achieve the immediate objective.
If I knew all those strategies, then I could enjoy the game the way that others did. I’d be able to anticipate the next play, to take full appreciation of just how difficult making that pass work was, and….
…well, that was a lot of work. Magic, I’ve picked up incidentally over seventeen years or so. I didn’t play football, or baseball, so my ability to understand its nuts and bolts had been accidentally hampered. If I had, then I’d know when you needed to use the ol’ knuckleball and the infield squeeze. And then I’d enjoy the game the way it was meant to be played.
Imagine my surprise when my friends Nathan and Ian told me that probably 60% of the baseball fans had practically no more knowledge than I did right now.
They just liked going out on a sunny day and watching their team win.
But, they assured me, it was true. Most fans don’t get the fine bits of football they way I do Magic. They have a couple of people they root for, and maybe some guys on their fantasy league they’re hoping get in the yards, and of course GO OUR TEAM. But do most people understand the reasons for the 150 plays that can be made? Do they watch the field as though they were the coach, determining what the next play should be?
No. They’re just happy to watch muscular men smashing into each other, and cheering when someone makes a great catch.
I’m still a little weirded by this, actually. I assumed that football fandom was akin to an apprenticeship, where one packed in the knowledge so one got the payoff. But no, Nathan referenced XKCD’s story generation cartoon, where people go to games to see narratives played out (even as they don’t understand all of the factors that go into those narratives), or to enjoy the weather, or to BEAT THOSE GUYS.
I have no reason to think he’s wrong, but man. That’s weird to me. And Ian said, “No, you could learn everything you need to know to enjoy sports in maybe a month.”
And my answer, which makes me feel even more freakish, was “No. I couldn’t learn everything I needed to know to enjoy sports in a month. But I’ve just learned how I enjoy things is totally at odds with the normal crowd.”
Once again, Ferrett is a freak.
Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.
This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/452282.html. You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.
I’m Soaking In It: On Flirting|
I am, apparently, a very flirty guy. I’m told by women that I have a habit of sending playful signals that tell them that I am, if not actively interested, at least amenable to smooching.
I don’t necessarily mind this, but there are days I would like to know exactly what the hell I’m doing.
For I rarely intend to flirt. It’s just sort of this radio signal I emit, occasionally broadcasting at women I didn’t actually have any interest in, which makes things awkward on occasion. I suspect it’s even more awkward for the women who have negative interest in me, who I don’t necessarily intend to smother in flirt-pollen… but as noted, I have zero idea how to turn it off if I’m comfortable around you. So, you know, sorry about that.
Yet the truth remains I am not cloistered in my usual straight-jacket of social anxiety, then I am probably exuding some flirtiness. At least according to the women I deal with.
I’ve tried to break it down, but the interesting thing about being naturally flirty is that it also makes one remarkably oblivious to being flirted at. The only flirt-receptors I completely, 100% get are the moves that I don’t do – if someone repeatedly touches my arm, I know that it is on like Donkey Kong. Or they’re Southern. I’ve been repeatedly convinced a Southern Girl totally wants this Ferrett-bod, and have prepared to make my excuses as to why this coupling would be unwise at this moment in time, and then saw them interact with someone else and had that deflating realization of Oh, okay.
(Because it’s nice to be attractive to someone, even if they’re not your type. I’m always baffled when dudes are all like, “WHAT IF THAT GAY GUY LIKES ME?!??” as if merely being the target of someone’s affection will corrode your sexuality. I’ve been flattered by some attentions, expressed respectfully, even as I did not reciprocate.)
But anyway, like many people, women will flirt with me and I’ll just be obliviously happy. “How friendly they are!” I think. “What lovely people, to compliment me so effusively! What a brotherly gesture, to kiss me on the cheek! What wondrous companionship, that she’s touching my… oh, wait.”
Which, again, is often compounded by the fact that they’re getting my flirtatious signals, and now we are caught in an inadvertent feedback loop. Thankfully, I like people on the whole, so I’ve rarely inadvertently stumbled into smooching with people I’m opposed to – but it’s sort of like being caught in a warm summer storm: pleasant, a little moist, but this might have been enjoyable if I’d known it was incoming.
Then again, I know flirt-blindness is a chronic thing. I like Neil Gaiman’s idea of inviting someone to a seduction. “Wear the kind of clothes you would like to be seduced in.”
But my point is, it’s disconcerting to be exuding an aura that you have no idea where the kill-switch is located. I’m doing something. I don’t know what the mechanics of it are, I can’t give you advice on it, it’s just… there. Whether I want it or not. And it’s a positive thing on the whole, but there are days I wish I at least knew how this process worked so I could excuse or refine it.
Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.
This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/452056.html. You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.
The Worst Thing About Bad Transitions|
I’ve mentioned before that polyamory should start with a series of a genteel negotiations, but more often begins with a dramasplosion of cheating and boundary violations that settles down into “Well, actually, I’m… more okay with you fucking them than I thought I was.”
That isn’t fun. It isn’t fair. But quite often, the need for polyamory just sort of surges out and surprises everyone. It happens so often it’s a pretty identifiable pattern.
Yet it gets worse when they’re not really okay with what happened, and you still need whatever triggered the cheating.
The central problem with polyamory is that yes, it’s about loving all your partners. But self-love counts, too: you can’t keep yourself trapped in a relationship that’s destroying your soul just because it makes someone else happy.
And so though it’s severely counterintuitive, sometimes the best way to show love in a poly relationship is by an abrupt breakup. You love them. You love them so much that you realize that the relationship you’re able to have right now cannot possibly make both of you happy. And when you have talked enough to realize that this is indeed the inevitable conclusion, the kindest thing you can possibly do for everyone involved is to end that relationship as quickly as possible.
What frequently happens in the beginnings of “polyamory” is that the partner cheats because they have a need – often it’s D/s, finding that online master who they have hot email exchanges with. (And yes, an emotional/sexual commitment without a physical component is cheating in most monogamous relationships. It’s still giving a part of your heart to someone else.)
The relationship is uncovered. Hearts are broken. The cheated-upon partner feels shattered, because here is their husband/wife exchanging intimacies with another person – intimacies they cannot fathom, because they don’t get this whole BDSM thing, they feel icky about hitting their partner, they have an actual negative interest in going to any kind of club.
Yet as it turns out, once uncorked, it turns out their husband/wife really fucking needs this shit. They have for years. They’ve been quietly starving for this experience all along, and now that they’ve had a taste of what fulfills them, they realize how shitty their life is going to be without it.
And that’s the toughest thing of all. To say, “Yes, I cheated on you to get this thing. That’s inexcusable, and condemnable, and I owe it to you to do better. I want you in my life more than anything… Yet for all of that, I still need this thing.”
Because yeah. Here’s one partner, tattered and shamed, hungering for two things: BDSM, and their vanilla partner. And here’s the cuckolded partner, stung seriously because BDSM has come to symbolize everything that’s wrong with their marriage, and yet their partner is telling them that they can’t live without the thing that just shattered their heart.
Sometimes they bridge that gap. Sometimes, the cheated-upon partner is extremely fucking brave and manages to transition to a working polyamory where they get their needs met too, and a healthy newer relationship blossoms.
But more often, it falls apart, because the BDSM is now this hot-button, where the partner says “NO. You had BDSM once, and that was what made you cheat on me. We’re never having BDSM because I don’t want it, and it made you crazy, and this isn’t anything we’re discussing.” And the cheater becomes a penitent monk, having glimpsed the promised lands just long enough to ache to the end of their days.
Or relationship shambles along a different power dynamic, with the new partner saying “I’m getting this BDSM or I’m leaving you,” and so the cheated-upon partner’s ego implodes and they stay at home, feeling like shit that they can’t give their lovers the thing they need so badly, sacrificing their self-esteem on the altar of keeping their loved one in their lives. Just endless lonely nights at the apartment, imagining what they’re doing that you can’t give.
It’s actually a mercy if they break up. But they often don’t. Sometimes, they shamble to the grave hand-in-hand, one of them having given up something vital to keep the other.
That’s understandable. And it’s sad. Because the saddest thing in not just poly, but relationships everywhere, is where one partner has to lop off the best parts of their lives in order to stay with the person they love.
And when it starts with the sin of cheating, it’s so much harder to compromise. So much harder.
Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.
This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/451680.html. You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.
How Not To Weaponize Your Desires|
When I wrote about how The Fish In The Pond Are Not For You To Eat, I argued that it wasn’t wrong to put filters in place to screen people out of your dating pool because you don’t think they’ll make you happy.
And it isn’t wrong. You don’t have to date everyone.
The problem is that some of your filters can get weaponized.
Which is to say that if someone said, “Sorry, I don’t date people who won’t meet me at a munch first,” the potential dater might see that as a silly hurdle to jump, and refuse to do so- but it probably wouldn’t get their hackles up.
But if someone said, “Sorry, I don’t date trans women,” the hackles would start to rise.
And if someone said, “Sorry, I don’t date fat women,” the hackles would be up and teeth firmly bared.
Thing is, under the right circumstances, all of these can be valid filtering criteria. Yes, some are behaviors, while some are inherent traits, but all of them can be things that someone would not want in a partner.
I’m a straight dude.+ Very few rational people would expect me to date a gay man, because they acknowledge that’s not where my kinks lie.
Likewise, it’s entirely legitimate if someone isn’t attracted to fat people! (And mind you, I speak as one. Check my pics; you’ll find an abundance of adipose.) Nobody is obligated to find anyone else desirable; “attraction” is an ephemeral thing that’s not fully under most people’s control. If someone doesn’t get turned on by fat people, it’s as unfair to them to demand that they must date you as it would be for a gay guy to demand to date me.
The desire for skinny people frequently gets weaponized into insults at fat people. And that shit is *trouble*.
You can see some of that in the FetLife comments to my fish in the pond post.
RIGHT: “If someone doesn’t want to meet me at a munch, they are likely to lack the characteristics I want in a partner.”
WRONG: “If someone doesn’t want to meet me at a munch, they’re probably some furtive creeper. Something’s wrong with a dude like that.”
Aaaaaaand weaponization is complete. We have now taken a desire on our part, and turned its absence into a character flaw that should be corrected.
The thing I didn’t mention in my previous essay is, “Would I meet up with a first date at a munch?” And the answer’s no. I’m not particularly good at meeting strangers. And I’d have some valid concerns about going to a munch to get to know a potential date, and finding that she didn’t have the time to talk to me.
The fact that I would not go does not indicate an objective flaw in me. It means that I have certain priorities and desires of my own, and they don’t mesh with yours.
But that’s how you weaponize a filter: you make it into something objectively wrong with everyone who has that trait. It’s not that you don’t find fat people attractive: it’s that fat is evidence of some slovenly laziness, and walking around with all that weight is an offense they’re perpetrating upon the world. (This fat dude is a workaholic who spends fourteen-hour days writing and programming. Lazy, I ain’t. And my wife, who is fifty pounds overweight, did three triathalons this summer.)
And so some of those filters get really tricky. Because many people do use them as legitimate filters – as in, “I’m not usually attracted to super-skinny women, so I generally refuse dates from them because I know that doesn’t do it for me personally. But I think they’re fine people, and they don’t need to ‘eat a sammich’.”
Yet many more people do use those filters as weapons. They don’t like skinny, so shit, why aren’t those women fattening up? They find trans people unsettling, so shit, why don’t those people give it up? They don’t find brats appealing, so what the fuck is wrong with brats?++
The core trait of all of these weaponizations is “I have a preference, and the hubris to demand that the world must bend to my desires.”
So it gets really hard to put up some sorts of filters, because you try to say “Sorry, fat people aren’t my thing,” and what people hear is that hurricane roar of condemnation that fat people are bad, fat people are wrong, fat people are all horrible failures at life who should be shunned by every righteous person that every idiot with a weaponized filter spews, and they assume you’re just another hater. When you’re not a hater, you’re just someone who finds that trait not to be a turnon.
(This would be a good time to reference @Manic_pixie’s excellent essay Don’t Tell People Why You’re Rejecting Them. Often, it’s kinder not to get into specifics. Also, despite what either side may say, nobody owes anyone any explanation as to why you don’t want to date them.)
How do you fix this? Well, you can go to lengths not to weaponize your own filters. Just because you want something doesn’t mean that other people are somehow deficient in lacking that quality.
More importantly, when you speak, speak with the knowledge that the default is often to assume that this lack is a character defect, and specifically correct that. Seinfeld made a running gag out of “Not that there’s anything wrong with that,” but that sort of caveat is often necessary. When you say “I don’t like old men,” you may well mean it in the sense that this is a personal preference, but the weaponized elderly-haters around you are taking this as agreement that yeah, all those old dudes are just wastes of flesh. Putting that disagreement in there helps stop the spread, even as it often feels ludicrous.
And then apply that filter thoughtfully. One of the problems with dislikes is that you’ve settled upon them long ago, and they’ve crystallized. After a while, you start snap-dismissing people because they don’t fit a very elaborate set of criteria, and that snap-dismissal often leads to irritation – goddammit, yet another person who failed to fulfill my needs!
Yet just as you’re not here to fulfill their desires, they’re not here to fulfill yours. Them failing to live up to your standards doesn’t make your standards objectively good, it just means that they’re not compatible with what you need. That doesn’t make them failures at life, it just makes them not good dating material for you – and the minute you start conflating “Not good for me” with “Bad at life,” you have written your preferences into the fabric of the universe.
And that’s always a sin.
+ – This isn’t strictly true, but it might as well be. I’ve written about the difficulties I have in finding dudes to date in a fairly explicit post over on Fet, making me effectively straight if not actually so, and one of the problem is that I’m not attracted to men who look like me. I see all the me I can get in the mirrors, man. If I’m gonna be dating a guy and taking some radically new genitalia for a spin, my partner’s body needs to be radically different from what I’m actually toting around.
++ – It gets super-tricky when you do actually believe it’s a character flaw and it’s a character flaw that someone’s chosen to believe – what the hell do you do when you think that believing in MRA/feminism/Republican/Democrat/libertarian/Christian/atheist/brat/flying Spaghetti Monster issues is, in fact, something that’s perpetrating injustice upon the world and needs to be corrected? What happens when a group is in fact carrying out subtle wrongs upon the world thanks to their philosophy? But that’s an essay for another time, kids.
Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.
This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/451555.html. You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.
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