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.