Wednesday, November 18, 2015

One Six Three: Brown Leaves

There's a blogger at Wordpress who calls himself Romantic Dominant, and who calls his blog A Faded Romantic. I rather enjoy reading him, and I do follow him on social media. He's a fine writer, and I suspect that he and I are much of an age, although I'll add that I'm sure he's been far more successful in life than I've been.  I enjoy reading his thoughts on age and loss and his valedictories to those who've been his friends and mentors down the years. Here on a night in a month of fallen leaves, I will recommend him to you.

November is a birthday month for me. I'm far past the stage in life where I could conceivably look forward to birthdays, mind you. November is a time for reflecting on losses and how faces and names recede into the mists. November is a time for walking down city streets at night and looking at empty shop windows and hoping that you won't see your own reflection, and that ghost girls won't appear in the glass and fade away again.

Novembers so late in one's life make you all-too-aware of loss and decay. A lovely young friend wrote me from somewhere in Great Britain the other night to tell me she'd dreamed of dancing with me on a hotel roof looking down on city lights. She wanted, she said, to wake up in my arms in  beach house somewhere on the coast of Portugal. Lovely thoughts, and I do treasure her. But in November such things make me look in the mirror and realize that I've lost the ability--- or at least the will ---to do those things.

I no longer trust my body. I no longer have faith in it. I no longer think I can be touched, or allow myself to be touched or seen. I've never thought of myself as handsome or physically attractive, but I have thought I could make myself seem at least acceptable. Or that I could employ enough distraction to have my physical self go unnoticed. Tonight, here in what may be a bleak November, I can look in windows as I pass and think that I'll never feel safe again in any situation where flesh and touch are required, or where I have to believe that the fleshly me isn't open to derision.

Kissing ghost girls, or offering caresses: those things I'd do. But I can't allow my flesh to be seen, touched, tasted. I can't allow anyone close to unclothed flesh. I can't allow it; I can't risk it. Flesh, or at least the flesh I'm inside, would be repulsive and unclean.

Here in this November, so close to my birthday, I can't risk being touched or seen.  Standing on city streets, looking into windows, all I can hope is that the ghost girls won't appear, that the creature in the glass will be able to hide away from his own flesh and all things fleshly.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

One Six Two: Audiences

I'm used to telling stories. It's what I do, really. It's what I've always done in the course of my professional life--- craft and present an account of the world. I've always said that whatever charm I may have comes from the stories I tell.  I've spent more than a few nights sitting across tables or just down the bar, telling lovely girls about...things. Books and films I know,  of course--- I can always talk about that. I can tell stories about lives and adventures, too. It's something I'm not bad at. 

I listen, too. That's been a skill of mine down the years, too. I'm someone strangers on trains or at hotel bars in distant cities will randomly unburden themselves to. 

Earlier this week I ran across an article at one of the hipper websites, an article that asked how certain people fared when trying to introduce themselves to potential hook-ups or simply trying to hook up with someone. It's a given that intensity is never a good thing at those moments. It's also a given that you should try never to make a potential hook-up feel uncomfortable, let alone threatened. And it's not always people like me--- roués of a certain age, older admirers of young companions ---who seem threatening.

The article had interviews with several twentysomething women who were "activists"--- feminists of various kind ---about the perils of hooking up. The interview that was either saddest or funniest was with a woman who was a self-described "anti-rape activist", someone who worked with victims, who advocated for safety and consent. You can't mock her. Here's someone who works with victims of a violent crime, who is trying to make the world a better, safer place. But her account of Tinder dates was funny in that way that leaves you cringing. 

I've never been on a Tinder date. I don't use dating apps, for all the reasons you can probably imagine. I've no idea what the dynamics are on a Tinder date. I'm pretty sure, though, that opening the meeting by doing a lecture about the idea of "consent culture" and "yes means yes" may come across as something that's a bit hostile.  My own procedure is to make anyone I'm meeting for the first time feel appreciated and comfortable. That may be simply what the gender warriors call "grooming", but it's also basic courtesy. I suppose there's a difference between "passion" and "intensity"--- one is attractive, one is off-putting. It helps to know where the boundary falls.

The woman interviewed recounted a story about going on a Tinder date with someone she'd found interesting and attractive and explaining to him what she did and then lecturing on "rape culture" and consent. At some point the boy pushed his chair away and held up his hands. He said somewhat ruefully that he really wasn't used to being made to feel that he was the bad guy until much later in any relationship and excused himself. The woman was deeply angry in the interview and accused the boy of having been some clueless dude-bro who probably only had sex with women after getting them too drunk to move. 

I can understand her bitterness. A Tinder date is probably an awkward enough thing to begin with. And having someone walk away after you've described the things you're most passionate about hurts. But I have to sympathize more with the boy. It's not that hearing a girl discuss feminism is a sign that you won't be getting laid; it's not that at all. But after her initial presentation, you would have to feel uncomfortable. I'd be hesitant to flirt at all, certainly hesitant to do anything that might seem to risk violating or presuming consent. I'd probably assume that any gestures I might make would risk not just rejection--- after all, that's built into any romantic or potentially romantic situation ---but would be taken as a sign of villainy, of being a bad person. On an ordinary night, sitting across a table over a glass of wine, I'd think that there was hostility in the air and I'd have to ask myself why I was there. The girl across the table might see herself as being an impassioned advocate of things that needed to be in place in society. I'd feel like I was now very much caught in a kind of inquisition, that I'd have to prove myself not just attractive or charming, but...not evil.

Simply enough, I'd feel exhausted and suspect. My first inclination would be to leave. I would feel very much like I'd been accused of something--- not informed about something or taught about something, but accused of something. And I'd feel a kind of pre-emptive exhaustion at having to deal with someone who was injecting too much intensity into what I'd hoped would be all about social pleasantries and tentative flirtation.

Well, passion is one thing. But intensity--- particularly social or political intensity ---is never good on a first date. Probably not on a first morning-after, either.