Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Two Zero Four: Weinstein

A story that remains a mystery---

A friend of a friend, someone who teaches Law and History at one of the non-Oxbridge British universities, is as they say "taking advice" in a post-Weinstein matter. He's consulting his solicitors over what amounts to a forced retirement at his job.

He's sixty-ish, I think, so he'd have had another ten years of teaching. Right now he's been suspended and the university administration is orchestrating a forced retirement. He's resisting and is, as best I can tell, planning to sue over the university's failure to follow its own procedures and give him the process written into his contract. My understanding is that it's all based on accusations of "inappropriate conduct", though I have no specifics.

He's at a British university and he's a bachelor, so the first thought his friends here had--- that I had, too ---was that this was about handsome young undergraduate males. That would be the usual British thing, no? But I suppose it could be girls. I know nothing of his preferences or kinks. He's a private enough man, and he did practice law for a while, so he's been trained to discretion. My friends and I agree that it's not particularly relevant what his tastes are, and it doesn't matter to us which team he plays for. We'd probably like to know, though, if only for purposes of gossip.

We have no clue what the specific accusations are. Part of his legal argument is in fact that he's never been given specifics or a chance to refute them.  I can't comment on what he's supposed to have done.  He seems ready for a legal action, for whatever that's worth. All I can do--- all his friends can do ---is watch from the transatlantic sidelines.

I note the story because this is the first brush I've had with the post-Weinstein era.  I was once a mid-semester replacement for a faculty member who'd taken to showing up drunk for his lectures and who'd drunkenly crashed a university vehicle while driving to some official meeting.  But I've never known anyone who was accused of "inappropriate conduct", whatever that might be.

The person in question should be financially okay even if he is forcibly retired. My understanding is that he'll have a pension from his university and that he has a fair amount of land and investments in Pennsylvania (where he's originally from). I'm not so much worried about him as I am intrigued with what the accusations are and what level of process he's entitled to under British law and his own contract.

I've always said that my own love life has been based on conduct as inappropriate as I can manage for these last few decades.  I'm not surprised that in the post-Weinstein world I'll have yet another level of  social disdain attached to me.

Two Zero Three: De Bourgh

It's been a sombre year. So very little good has happened, and many of us here in what used to be the American republic are emotionally exhausted. In the wake of the Weinstein scandal, in a post-Weinstein world, it's harder and harder to write about sex. We no longer see sex as something that's exciting or fun. Sex is no longer wicked in the fun way. Everything I've seen in the past few months has described sex only in terms of power and coercion. Every single article I've read about the future of sex has been written by a woman who's taken it as a given that flirtation and seduction, especially if done at any location vaguely connected with work or school, is inherently oppressive and disgusting.

The only person I know of who's still enjoying herself having sex is my friend in London Town, who wrote me about her Christmas plans while visiting family in the States:

Had a nice visit with my former professor (including naughty sex on the floor of an empty classroom at my old university while he was supposedly administering the final exam to a class of his students) en route and am now in the hills of New England deciding if I want to take either of my out-of-the-blue marriage proposals seriously. I'm leaning towards no. Though I am making plans to visit the very wealthy, powerful, never-married (and really not at all bad-looking) 70-year-old at one of his houses before I head back to London. But I honestly think it would probably be a disaster.

She also had this to say about the social hierarchies of air travel:

Regarding air travel, first class is better than business class. However, many airlines only have either first OR business class these days. British Airways is somewhat unusual in having four classes on many of its flights: economy, premium economy, business, and first.

That was in response to a note of mine speculating that one of her Older, Moneyed Gentlemen would've paid for her first-class flight from LDN to BOS. I'd wondered if first-class or business class was the more exclusive these days. That's not something I'm likely to know.  I have the idea that she once flew to some kind of rendezvous in Singapore (professional? romantic?) in one of those 0.10% masters-of-the-global-economy quasi-cabins that airlines like Emirates and Singapore reserve for the global elite. Now of course I saw the first "Emmanuelle" film many a year ago, so my only question is whether she did the Young Sylvia Kristel-on-the-Concorde thing in joining the Mile-High Club. The in-flight amenities and cuisine I couldn't care less about. It's only the carnal uses of the flight time that I care about.

Anyway...I do wonder if she'll give me a call from wherever she is in New England. I like her, and of course I enjoy hearing her stories. But I forever feel utterly de bas en haut around her. Socially, intellectually, sexually. I mean, she's never played Lady Catherine de Bourgh around me, but I can't help imputing condescension on her part. I have a very keen sense of class distinctions and rank-hierarchy, and a very heightened sense of self-loathing. Let's be clear. I could never be part of any of her Encounters or Stories on the grounds of my looks, poverty, social ineptitude, and possible sexual incompetence. Even if I had an invitation, I'd never take the risk of total humiliation.

I used to think that I was rather good at creating fantasy scenarios via telephone. I was actually quite proud of the craft. I think it was listening to my  friend in London Town talk about men and their fantasies--- her even more than listening to Ms. Flox do the same thing at her various blogs  ---that persuaded me that anything I might create or fancy would be trivial, jejune, and pathetic. So that's just one less thing I can risk doing, and certainly one less thing I can believe gives me any value.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Two Zero Two: Events

Now, then... my ex-Bloomsbury friend wrote me from London Town today to say that:

When I was an undergrad, I had an enormous crush on one of my classics professors. An ancient historian, he was about thirty and good-looking, as well as funny, brilliant, and charismatic. I often thought about trying to seduce him, but I was inexperienced (an 18-year-old virgin when I met him) and I wouldn't have known how to begin.

Finally slept with him--nearly two decades later. He arranged to give a talk in the UK to see me. Apparently, he had a crush on me back then as well, and he's been sexually obsessed with me ever since. He had lots of photos of me on his phone, including ones that I hadn't realized he took when I spoke at BU several years ago. How funny. Anyway, I can highly recommend decades of sexual tension as an aphrodisiac.

Spent last night in a suite at the Ritz with a different lover.  We went down to the private club and casino in the basement just to check it out, but it is horribly tacky so we left and went to Brooks's around the corner for champagne in chilled silver tankards. I have a serious thing for champagne in chilled silver tankards. We actually forgot to pay on the way out (though it's a club and they have his info so it's not really that big a deal because they can bill him later) but he popped into today to pay only to find out that some old codger had paid for our champagne on the basis that he thought we were so sweet and young and in love and it reminded him of his courtship back in the day. His eyesight must be truly terrible. If only he had known that he was watching a middle-aged married man with his mistress who is 17 years his junior. Anyway, we had a lovely four-course meal in the Ritz dining room, with a truffle course, and I picked a fantastic Amarone. Jacob Rees-Mogg was dining at the table next to us and he and his companion had crepes suzette for desert. Fun to watch.

This lover has been approached for a rather high office, which he doesn't think he wants, though he did say he would take it if I would be willing to marry him and be Lady X. I don't think I am, though.

And I didn't mention that I spent the night before that with a different lover/friend: the 76-year-old retired senior judge I've known for eight years. I tell him about all the other lovers. He actually managed to come twice in under an hour (without any pharmaceutical aid). Mind you, the Ritz man managed NINE times between 4PM and 10AM...he says it's never been like that with anyone else. I'm deeply relieved that I have two nights off before my next date on Friday, which is with a well-known architectural critic.

The retired judge approves of this one because he's not married, not especially gay, and age-appropriate and would fit in with my social circle (in fact we have quite a few friends in common). 

I'm reasonably sure she's telling the absolute truth here.

I've known her since...well...since she probably was eighteen or nineteen. I don't doubt that some older faculty person could be sexually obsessed with her for eighteen years. That seems to be something she could induce. Mind you, I'm not jealous here. No jealousy. But there's no small amount of envy regarding the social circles she moves in. I mean...I'd like to go to Brooks's (they'd never let me through the door), and I'm seriously, painfully envious of the whole chilled-silver-tankard-of-champagne thing. Though I might've used a silver tankard to bash Jacob Rees-Mogg in the head just on antifa principle. Or aesthetic principle. Jacob Rees-Mogg really is ruining all my Oxbridge fantasies. Aloysius the Bear would certainly not approve of him.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Two Zero One: Envy

It's been a while since I've posted here, and I do apologise for that. I enjoy writing here, and I enjoy hearing from any ghosts out across the aether who might have anything constructive to say. But this year has not been a year where people talk about sex and romance. This is a year of political anger--- something I share, of course. But it's possible to hate the current American regime and all its vile right-wing supporters and still want to flirt and laugh and enjoy sex and romance. It's still possible to talk about the intricacies of sex and romance, to want to construct and live out fantasies. Or so I tell myself.

I am beset with JED again--- Jealousy Envy Depression. Mostly envy, I think. Envy is the most painful of the Seven Deadly Sins. Envy is the only one of the Deadly Sins that fails to make the sinner feel better while he's committing it. Even Anger has its moments of rage-exaltation. Envy only and ever makes the sinner feel worse.

Envy is my own Deadly Sin, the fault that I've never been able to escape. I'm not sure what exactly I want from it. The ability to tell good stories, certainly. The ability to amass stories that are as good as those other people have to tell. The belief that I'm as good as others. I certainly want those things, and Envy haunts me every day.

Let's consider a small story told me by a lovely blonde New Zealand girl---

If i wait til late in the night, i get lazy and just use a Lelo on my clit...if i have more time then yes - fingers in my ass, too... 

honestly...i was so fucking drunk, i didn't know what i was doing. i just needed to feel so full, i had a corona bottle in my cunt and fingers in my ass, i was alone and drunk and high and i came so hard, over and over. my sheets were a mess in the morning. but at the time, i needed it. i think i needed to prove i was all i needed, i could make myself feel everything i needed...

i filled up the corona bottle with water from the bathroom and sat drinking it, tasting my own cunt and rubbing my clit, even though i had just cum.

i remember that night so well...

I do envy her that story. It's powerful enough, and it makes a lovely fantasy vision. And there's no equivalent for anyone male. She has her selection of Lelo vibrators--- charges them via USB port on her iPad 2 ---and her Corona bottle, carefully cleaned and wrapped in silk in her bedroom dresser. There's no male equivalent for that. She's able to have powerful and shattering moments all on her own. There's no male way to experience anything like that, no male way to be able to give oneself the belief that you could make yourself "feel everything I needed". 

There's certainly no way for me to feel sexually self-sufficient--- or sexually equal to someone like her either in terms of sensations or experiences that can be the raw material for stories. 

She writes that  I have quite a few Lelo toys - and these come in nice, plain black boxes -- so i usually keep my toys in the little bags they come in, in the original boxes -- stacked at the back of my bedside drawer. I'm male, and a gentleman of a certain age and background. I can't say anything equivalent or have any of the same kinds of experiences. 

And I'm eaten up with Envy that my experiences will never be as good as anyone else's.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Two Zero Zero: Silence

I've been thinking about how the voices out in the night have fallen silent, one by one.

There was a time not so many years ago when my phone rang late at night and lovely young voices were there to tell me stories and be there until long after midnight. I understand that the current social stereotype is that Millennials would rather take an arrow to the knee than actually talk on the phone, but I miss those voices. I miss the days when you could have long conversations, when the telephone was the tool for flirtations and seduction.

I'm a storyteller. That's what I've always been. I've made my living by telling stories, by constructing narratives. It's how I've made my career, and it's how I've enticed lovers into my life. Without stories, without the ability to tell stories, my life would be empty.

All the those late-night conversations are missed. Books, films, music, lives, hopes--- the conversations would wander from topic to topic 'til dawn. They'd take long detours into flirtation and seduction, and we'd construct long, intricate fantasies. We'd tell one another about lovers in the past, about adventures and encounters, and of course about all the things we wanted to do with future lovers--- places, people, positions, wardrobes and costumes and accessories. We'd create scenarios and imagine what we'd do with one another.  It occurs to me that those days are over. It's not just the lack of voices on the other end of the phone.  It's that fantasies have fallen out of favour. Fantasies are now regarded with suspicion and a kind of disdain.

I can't imagine telling a lovely girl about any of my fantasies these days. To tell her would be a kind of aggression, the gender warriors would say--- something that demands her attention and response, something that imposes on her time.

I can't imagine taking the risk of telling a lovely girl about my fantasies.  It's all too easy nowadays to imagine not just mockery, but political disdain. The current wisdom is that no one can just have fantasies, that all fantasies must be judged in some social-political context. Why take the risk? Why end up stammering out political apologies?

Letting someone know about your fantasies also risks being pigeonholed--- of being regarded as someone who likes only the things in the fantasies. If you enjoy a particular scenario or genre,  then you risk being tagged as being nothing but someone with mere repetition compulsion.

There was a time not so many years ago when exchanging fantasies was a key part of flirtation and seduction. These days, that's far too risky to do. My own take is that these days one's sexual fantasies are judged far more harshly than they've ever been. One's fantasies may be "problematic" on political grounds. They can be mocked as inept, jejune, boring--- or as signs of weakness.

It's easier to remain silent. Say nothing, ask nothing, admit nothing, reveal nothing. Silence is always the default procedure.  

Saturday, July 8, 2017

One Nine Nine: Default Mode

It's been months since I was here, and I do apologise. This has been a bad year. It's been a bad year for what used to be the American republic, and it's been a bad year for me here in my own life. I haven't had the energy to write here, and somehow nothing personal, nothing individual or sexual, seems important these days.

Nonetheless, let's consider the current versions of certain Arbitrary Social Rules.

We live in the age of what a friend of mine in Los Angeles calls "the triumph of the autistic". What he means by that is that the social world is increasingly coming to accept "no social interaction" as the default mode. You can see that in things like the replacement of phone calls by texting or even the replacement of email by apps like Slack. The default mode increasing involves doing everything possible to lessen any need for long conversations or contacts that require any ability to read and interpret social nuance.  Social rituals are increasingly seen as too exhausting, as demands and impositions, as aggressions.  Hell is other people: that's the new default belief.

My friend in Los Angeles calls this "the triumph of the autistic". He relates it to an age where tech sociopaths are regarded as culture heroes, where writers like Nick Land tell us that in the era of tech and Singularity dreams, only the autistic can cut free of human messiness and grasp the new world of tech.  My own preference is to call this the Age of the Armoured Monad. I've been using that term for a while, largely to refer to the Gender Wars--- though I think it does have a wider application. The era is one where the world is made up of individuals with no real social links or obligations, where friendship and romance are seen as proletarianization, as being forced to "perform emotional labour", as being imposed on. Even speaking to someone can be instantly construed as a "demand for time and attention" that's illegitimate. There's an app of some kind that's being marketed now that provides an immediate cash value for each and every act of "emotional labour" one might perform. Listening to a friend's troubles? Well, here's a dollar value taken from the hourly rates of therapists.  Meeting a lonely friend for coffee? Well, here's a dollar value based on...what? Value of foregone time? Rates for "girlfriend experience" level escorts? Offering reassurance and verbal support? Well, that can be calculated, too.  I expect the same app also provides dollar values for things like cooking dinner for a friend/lover. All I can see it that the app is a weapon in a knife-fight for moral advantage in a relationship, and a good reason never to ask anyone for anything.

Remember: the default choice is always no contact, no interaction.

Let's think for a minute about the new social rules, shall we?

If you're out with someone---- well, you shouldn't be. Being out with someone, asking someone out, is an imposition on their time and energy. It's a demand, and you shouldn't be making it. Even if the other person willingly goes with you, it was an aggressive thing even to ask.

If you are out with someone, well... do not walk alongside them. That can be construed as expecting them to pay attention to you or, worse, expecting them to hold hands or allow an arm to be put round them. Do not walk behind them. That's lurking and menacing. Walk ahead of them. Walk ahead of the, and don't look back--- that's a demand for attention and feeling "entitled" to look back and find them still there.  Walk ahead, and keep walking. Say nothing. That's key--- say nothing.

Needless to say, never suggest a destination. Never suggest a route. That's assuming that you can take charge. Never stop to look at anything--- you're imposing your likes and interests on someone else. Certainly make no suggestions for drinks or menu items--- that's only an attempt to flaunt your dominance and your allegedly superior knowledge.

Undertake no acts of social courtesy. Open no doors, carry no bags or packages, take no coats. That can be construed as a ploy for later repayment in one form or another.

If you are at, say, a cafe or a bar, always sit so that you're against the wall and the other person has a clear path to the door, a clear path away from you. Never, ever get between them and an exit. Never sit directly across from them.  Never put your hands on the table. That can be construed as a demand to hold hands.  Never look directly at them. Eye contact is aggressive, a challenge. At the very least, eye contact is a demand for attention, and asking for attention is always and ever forbidden.

When possible, always sit at right angles to the person you're with. Look off into the middle distance. Do nothing that can be taken as an expectation that they'll pay attention to you.

In conversation, well... Some rules are very clear.  Never be the one who introduces a topic. Never, ever change the topic. Never initiate a conversation, never close out a conversation--- who are you to do those things? Never, never disagree with someone's opinion on anything. Never state your own opinion in any positive way. Both things are aggressive, acts of attempted domination. Never contradict anyone, never say that the other person is wrong. That's always and ever "gaslighting", and  doing that shows that you're a dangerous psychopath.

Never call. That's absolutely forbidden. A phone call imposes not just on someone else's time,  it also forces them to deal with someone else's nuances and emotional meanings both spoken and unspoken. Never text. Texts are intrusive and demand a response. Texting someone more than once a day is a clear sign of dangerous tendencies regarding obsession and control. Asking someone to make and keep an appointment is always a demand for control over their time.

Remember--- do nothing that can be construed as a demand for time or attention. Ask for nothing that can be called "emotional labour". Do nothing that can be construed as an attempt to direct, shape, or guide a conversation or an evening--- that's asserting an entitlement to control. Ditto for asserting an opinion or raising a topic.

Remember--- you shouldn't be there. That's key. You shouldn't be there. That you're there with someone else at all is a clear imposition on their time and energy. Social interaction is always and ever a kind of exploitation. Any social exchange is an act of reducing someone to proletarian status. Any social contact requires others to read your emotional state and unspoken meanings and cues--- in other words, to expend time and energy on you. You, quite simply, are making illegitimate demands just by being there.

The default mode is always no contact, no interaction. Remember that. This is an age of armoured monads. Social interaction depletes your stock of time, energy, and attention.  Any contact is, at root, illegitimate. Accept that and stay well inside your own armour.

Friday, April 28, 2017

One Nine Eight: Triumph

It's been two months since I've written here, something for which I do apologise. These past few months haven't been a good time for thinking about the sorts of things I'd like to write about. For all the obvious reasons, there's a very dystopian feel to life right now, and there's an ugly undercurrent to social interaction.

Some of that may have been building for a while, of course. Even before the current political nightmare began, the gender wars have made social interaction a minefield. I grew up in an earlier time, at the flood of Sixties and Seventies attitudes towards sex and relationships, and perhaps I'm simply too conditioned by earlier mores to deal with the gender wars.

What have we learned, though? What are the new rules? A friend in northern California calls the gender wars "the triumph of the autistic", by which he means the triumph of an attitude that disdains social obligations, is suspicious of all interaction, and requires almost robotic responses instead of social cues. What we've learned is this--- all social contact is suspect and dangerous. We have learned these things:

Never speak first. Never initiate contact. Never ask for anything, never expect anything. Any initiation is a kind of aggression. Any act that requires the attention of another person is an act of aggression. Asking for anything is aggression. Any expectation of reciprocity or social obligation is aggression and oppressive.  You are not allowed to do or say anything that calls for a response from another person. Anything that requires a response from another person is an act of aggression.

Despite a half century's worth of advice about relationships, "communication" is oppressive. To tell someone that you're attracted to them is aggression. To discuss what you'd like to try sexually or what you enjoy sexually is regarded as demanding and oppressive. Having fantasies about someone is a sign that you are complicit in a violation of consent. Telling someone they're in your fantasies is an act of non-consensual sex and a kind of psychic violence.

No compliment is actually complimentary. All compliments are forms of oppression. All compliments are acts of power--- you are arrogating to yourself the right to say something about another person.

Never disagree, never contradict, never correct, never debate. All those things are acts of oppressive power or gaslighting. Any discussion of principles at all is an act of coercion.

Say nothing. Make no suggestions. Never initiate. Never ask. Never touch. Never look. Never disagree. These are the things we've learned.

Nothing is acceptable, nothing can ever be any good, if it has any flaws in it, or if it can be presented as in any way problematic.

Everything is to be "interrogated"--- i.e., to be shown to be morally corrupt and evil.  Nothing is ever good enough to be an acceptable social organization. Nothing ever can be good enough.

My friend calls this "the triumph of the autistic".  I think of it as the triumph of the armoured monad. The age of the gender wars is an age that wishes that sex would never happen, since that calls for social interactions and linkages, since it calls for all the messiness of human emotion and human dreams to be foregrounded.

The new age is one where armoured, atomized individuals hide from one another, desperately afraid of one another. What's the old saying--- everything is about sex except sex, which is about power....? We've taken that to heart in a way that's ugly and sad.

It's been an awful last six months. And now we're angered and made afraid by even the thought of interaction.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

One Nine Seven: Community

I was going to write tonight about a question posed by a friend on mine in Ohio. She suggested that I write about what each partner learns in age-disparate relationships, about what each takes away from the relationship. That's a topic that interests both of us, since we've each been in a number of age-disparate affairs. 

That was my plan--- to write about the Young Companions I've been with and what we've learned from each other. Then I turned on the news a day or two ago and discovered the scandal that seems to have canceled Milo Yiannopoulos' career. In case you haven't been following the news, Milo is what the press likes to call a "provocateur"--- a nasty piece of alt-right work, a gay man who devotes himself to praising the Trump regime and attacking the usual list of groups and people on the alt-right's hate lists. He was always destined to have a short career. Sooner or later his right-wing audience was going to grow bored with him and turn on him. Being the alt-right's gay court jester is far too like being one of the Jewish musicians the death camp guards briefly spared so they could have dinner music. Anyway--- Milo's ship hit the rocks over the weekend. Someone found footage of him that suggested that he approved of  sex with underage boys or at least thought that age-disparate gay relations were potentially acceptable. The right wing, as the saying goes, was okay with misogyny, racism, anti-Semitism,  and disdain for trans people, but found pederasty to be a bridge too far. 

I don't propose to comment on the scandal itself or even on Milo's pose as a defender of some version of free speech. I wonder, though, if there's something to be learned from the way he responded to accusations of being in favor of child molestation. He stumbled about trying to explain that in the gay world "boys" could be males in their twenties, that he really didn't mean that sex with thirteen year olds was acceptable, and that he regretted his own "imprecise phrasing". I wonder, though, if he'd have done better by simply saying something like When I was sixteen or seventeen, I had older lovers, some much older, and many of them are good memories. They taught me how to be a proud gay man, they taught me about the history and culture of  the gay world, they taught me how to be a lover and how to be in love. I feel gratitude and affection and respect and admiration for the men who mentored me and loved me and gave me stability and acceptance and letting it go at that: full stop.  I have no idea if he could have said something like that with honesty, but let's assume that he could. Saying something like that and nothing more, with no bitchy games of snark and no bitchy-transgressive poses--- would that have saved  his dignity and possibly his career? And how would a statement like that have been parsed out over the web?

I'm old enough to remember articles and novels about age-disparate gay relationships that argued that they were or could be a good thing. I can remember novels and articles that argued that this was how a gay culture, a gay world, was kept alive over time--- by mentoring relationships and love affairs. Again, I'm not commenting on whether those arguments are right or wrong. I'm only noting that once upon a time, back in my undergraduate days, the arguments were posed in serious journals and by serious gay advocacy groups. There are any number of strands there if you want to follow them up--- the desire to be (as Edmund White wrote) a community and not a syndrome;  the desire to preserve a separate community; a desire for the exchange of sex and knowledge; the whole idea of "recruitment". You can't make a argument these days for a sexualized mentoring relationship, whether gay of straight--- the issues of power immediately intrude. Anyone who argues for an "Athenian" kind of relationship between men and mid-teen boys is automatically seen as arguing for exploitation and violation. 

Again, I have no idea about the weight of arguments pro and con; that's not relevant to asking how the idea of a sexualized mentoring relationship was posed back in the 1960s and 1970s and how it became rejected--- or asking whether or not Milo Yiannopoulos could have salvaged something of his dignity if he'd made a very brief, cold statement saying that he didn't regret the older lovers of his past and let it go. Which of course takes us back to the idea of a lovely girl making the same basic statement about her own older lovers. Would the response to her be different to the response to the hypothetical statement Milo might've made? Would the response be more or less hostile?  Which factions would support her or condemn her?

I do hope you'll think about that. We'll come back soon enough to the issue of what each party learns in an age-disparate  relationship. That is something I want to address, though. And it is something I'd like to hear from you about, any of you out of out there reading this.

Monday, February 20, 2017

One Nine Six: Metrics

I've tried to write here without sex and romance as slightly distanced, slightly academic issues. No one male these days can write anything about sex that might be taken as "narcissism". But tonight's entry is about me, and about overcoming fears.

A very lovely friend messaged me a few days ago with a very direct request. She wanted to know a particular number in my life. She's Kiwi, and so she's very, very direct. There are only four numbers in my life that I'd worry about. I knew she wouldn't ask about my salary. She wouldn't do that, and I wouldn't have to tell her that she probably makes at least twice what I do (who doesn't?). She knows my age to the day; I've never hidden that from her. She knows the tally of my sexual partners. That only leaves one thing, doesn't it?  Her question was very simple, and not one any girl has ever asked me directly before. It's a question that I've avoided thinking about all my life. I sat on the edge of the bed with my iPad  and watched my hands tremble. At my age, I have very few comforting illusions or  blissful bits of ignorance left; I wasn't sure I needed to lose this one.

But I did remember something. I remembered about loyalty and trust and facing my demons. My lovely Wellington girl had written me not long before to say that if she had to describe me to her friends, she'd say Handsome, smart, passionate, loyal, brave, clever, mine.  And she'd always told me I need my man to be brave. I was brave, once upon a time. And I wasn't going to be the sad figure sitting on his bed and having the shakes. I wouldn't be that figure. That's not the image I want to leave behind. My friend said that she was sure that every boy went searching for the number when he was about fifteen, which isn't true at all. I'd spent my life avoiding the whole topic. I called that dignity or having contempt for silly beliefs, but it was only a lack of courage.

Oh, I did my due diligence. I am a trained historian and researcher. I took my iPad and did some quick and basic research. Yes, there are studies on the issue. However not? I found the numbers based on studies in North America, Western Europe, and Australia-New Zealand.  Now, afterwards,  I can sit here and grin ruefully. I was saying that the "average" result was whatever-whatever, and it struck me that...hmmm--- do I mean average or mode? Or mean?....and that I couldn't for the life of me remember my long-ago statistics classes or what each of those things was or did. So I just said "average". Why not? All the average results fell in a reasonably narrow range. I made a note of that. Let's remember--- I have been desperately competitive about test results since I was five years old. I have spent most of my life agonizing over test scores and defining myself by my scores.  So I knew what I was competing against.

The next part of the story is the embarrassing part. You know what it is. There on the bed with a notepad, a red sharpie, and a cheap green plastic grade-school ruler. So we took measurements. Different bases, different positions, different angles.  Made notes. And looked at the numbers.  I typed out a message on my iPad to my friend in Wellington, took a breath, and hit Send.

I spent the day at my desk, disoriented and abstracted. Yes, I imagined a bell curve in my head. And...I knew where I fell on it.  I was comfortably on the right side of the bell curve. Not the right-hand tail, not even close to that. But the place on the bell curve was...acceptable. Acceptable. Not awful. Nothing shameful. I told myself that--- nothing to be ashamed of.  I was nonetheless scared all day. It felt all too like waiting for grades as an undergraduate or sitting outside a parent's room in a hospital and waiting for a verdict.  My hands kept trembling.

About 18h30 that evening I checked my phone for email. She'd answered, and it began, Thank you for being brave. And you're perfect for me.  The answer was everything I'd been too afraid to hope for: love, acceptance, trust, delight. All of that was there. For the record, now: I very nearly cried. That's the really embarrassing part--- not that I looked ridiculous taking the measurements, but that I ever doubted her.

Remember this. I was afraid to know the number at fifteen. I was afraid to know the number at thirty and far beyond. I didn't have to be--- I never had to be afraid. I don't know why I thought I ever had to be. No lover in all those years had ever laughed or mocked or told me I was lacking. But I spent all those years afraid of my own flesh, and I never needed to that. I had lovers, mind you, but I'd shied away from so many possibilities out of fear. So many times I'd run away from things I could've had if I hadn't been afraid of being mocked.

Remember this, too. That here so late in my life, a very lovely blonde girl half my age told me that I was valued and valuable, and that I was brave enough to be her man. If she messaged me tomorrow and told me to get my passport and laptop and a single carry-on and that she'd have a ticket to Wellington waiting for me, I'd throw over my so-called career and be gone--- Poof! Gone like Keyser Soze.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

One Nine Five: Mediation

I apologise for being away so long. The last few months have been hard; the next four years are all to likely to be a dreadful time. It seems that we live in a time when we should be talking about the politics of Resistance rather than about the social intricacies of sex and romance. I am, as I told you when we began, rather on the Left. I have nothing in common with the new regime in America, and I find the new regime illegitimate, corrupt, bigoted, and appalling. I have hoped that the remaining Free World--- let's say NATO ---would invoke the "responsibility to protect"  doctrine in international law and undertake armed humanitarian intervention. I have hoped and prayed for the skies above Washington to fill with Dutch and Danish and French paratroops and for the members of the new regime to face trial. If you think I wouldn't welcome that, you're very wrong. I don't want to live in a bad re-make of "Shadow on the Land" (1969).

Nonetheless, I set out a few years ago to write here about sex and romance and the social games we play around those two topics. I want to keep writing, even if I have to make myself look away from politics and make myself look for topics that don't leave me emotionally drained.

A friend in London Town tells me that I should continue to write about the idea of "emotional labour". She writes---

About the emotional labour thing-- It resonates with me at the moment because I have just been spending three weeks with a good female friend/colleague. With her, the emotional labour is equally shared, and we are very good about taking turns. It has been refreshing--which has made me aware of how one-sided most of my relationships with men are and have been in terms of that emotional work. Not the case in all of those relationships, of course, but definitely the vast majority.

 If you're having to mediate someone else's emotional responses to the world, you are essentially, and often necessarily, putting your own feelings second. It's not necessarily a bad thing, as you say--indeed, it's very important. it's just something that does tend to be a bit gendered in its provision (like, say, house-work and buying holiday gifts) and perhaps often goes unrecognized by the beneficiaries. It's one of the reasons why there is that cliche of the man who becomes depressed approximately 1-3 months after breaking up with his girlfriend/wife, having initially been pleased about the breakup. It's also why many divorced men, who have become used to someone providing for their emotional needs, tend to quickly get attached again, where women will more often rely on their female friends for their emotional needs for a good while following a divorce while they figure out what they want from a future partnership. These are generalizations, of course.  But in my own experience, most women, and a very few men, do it naturally. Unsurprisingly, these men I know who do know to share the giving and receiving of emotional support are particularly dear, long-term friends.

I was thinking about what I expect from girls in a relationship. Validation, certainly. I do expect a lover to make me feel valued and valuable. I do understand my friend's invocation of the cliche of male depression a month or so after a break-up, even if the man himself initiated it. You realise one night that there's no one to talk to, no one on the other end of the phone, no one there across a table. One of the very worst things about a break-up isn't so much the anger and bitterness, or even the sexual deprivation. It's the silence on the phone, the lack of another voice.  That's what I've always hated most after a relationship ends--- the silence. There's no one to talk to late at night, no one to go with for coffee at a late-night cafe.  There's silence where there used to be conversation, and that's an incredibly empty sensation.  This isn't just about the loss of pillow talk and flirtation. It's about living in a space where it's possible not to hear another living human voice for weeks. 

This goes to the social pressures that keep men from having male friends who'd function as a support network. Male friends may help you bury that inconvenient body, but they're not people to whom you'd turn for emotional support. 

So...where does that leave us? What are we to think of the need for a partner as someone who'll provide support and solace and defense against emotional upheavals? What are we to think of the very different networks men and women construct for friendship? And...are we still allowed to think that one of the key parts of a relationship is having a partner who will act to make you feel better or keep the outside world at bay?