40 Days and 40 Nights

Heads up: this is a self-indulgent entry, as if the rest of my entries aren’t. Reader discretion is advised.

The job was supposed to be easy: surf the Internet and monitor some blogs, monitoring them for infractions of the American Psychiatric Association’s blogging guidelines. Who wouldn’t jump at that opportunity, especially given that I read blogs all the time anyways?

The job was supposed to be easy, but I screwed it up. I got emotionally involved. First I took a genuine interest in the erudite and witty blog entries. Then one day I left a comment. Then I started commenting regularly. By the time I was let go from the contract I was checking my blogs several times a day, hoping to receive some intermittent reward for whatever idiot dictum I happened to leave on someone’s blog that day. Sometimes I would check a blog ten or twenty times a day, even though I knew full well the blogger in question had a real job and would not respond to comments until the evening.

And then things fell apart. A combination of unemployment and exhaustion and certain stressors I shall not document here hurtled me into a boring existential crisis. Is my life worth living? (Not really) Do I make anything better for anybody, even a little bit? (Nice qualifier there, bud) Is this balanced out by all the bad stuff I do? (Not a chance) Am I willing to do anything to improve the situation? (Nope) Am I willing to do anything to terminate the situation? (Not yet, apparently, but maybe I am getting closer) Blah, blah, blah. Those of you who have been there know what I am talking about, and those of you who haven’t likely don’t get it at all. All I know is that checking blogs compulsively was not helping, and also the comments I was leaving were getting snarkier and more passive-aggressive and more controlling. So I took a break.

The original intention was to take a break from blogs altogether. That lasted four days. The next intention was to refrain from commenting. I didn’t know how much of a break would be appropriate until I remembered Internet rumours that it takes 21 days to break a habit. I settled on keeping my big yapper shut for 40 days and 40 nights. That was long enough for God to cleanse the world of sinners (Noah and his family excepted) and for Jesus to wander the desert, so it ought to be long enough for me.

Forty days came and forty days went. I did find myself checking blogs less frequently, which was a relief. I wish I could say that I became more productive, but I didn’t. I was also relieved to note that life went on. Few people missed me and fewer people cared. The blogs I followed kept pumping out entries and for the most part people kept leaving good comments. Once again I was reminded people were better off without me than with me. That is a comfort.

I was tempted to break the silence on several occasions. Once in a while I thought of something clever to write. Often I fought the urge to tell people they were being wrong on the Internet. Those urges were irritating but I was better off for resisting them. The few times I felt genuinely bad were when people were suffering. In particular, CB’s cat Phoebe died and I did not say anything. I almost said something, but then my web browser ate my comment instead of posting it. I interpreted that as a sign and kept my silence. I still feel bad about that. Other bad things have happened too. Erik got gay-bashed. RJ lost some friends. John Gray is going through some mysterious marital troubles that feel like a punch in the gut.

I broke my silence on Dr Spo’s blog yesterday. It was a dumb throwaway comment. I should have kept my mouth shut. I don’t know what happens next. The fast worked; posting daily comments feels less compelling now. Maintaining silence would be golden, but I doubt it will happen. Maybe I go back to leaving unwelcome commentary just as I did before.

It is summertime in Lurkistan now. I would prefer being outside to being on my computer. Local elections are coming up in Lurkville, and I have stupidly promised to get involved with them. At some point I will need to earn money again. It would be better to put blogs on hold for a while. I won’t, but I should.

Being on the Internet has taught me that you can stomp off in a huff once. Do it a second time and people stop taking you seriously. I have used up my chance. But sooner or later, it is inevitable that I will disappear again — maybe temporarily, maybe permanently, but probably without warning. I am nothing if not unreliable.

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Sex and Vaginas

In a recent comment on his blog, poor Steven expressed confusion about the relationship between vaginas and sex. To be specific, he asked: “ewwww what do vaginas have to do with sex?”

Although I am saddened by poor Steven’s ignorance, I can’t say I am surprised. He grew up in a socialist country, and I can only imagine that comprehensive sex education was not high on the agenda. For all I know the poor fellow fell into homosexuality because he was taught that it is an effective form of birth control. As responsible bloggers and wannabe sex educators, it is our duty to fill in the gaps in his knowledge. Thus, here is an explanation of how vaginas relate to sex:

Sometimes when a man and a woman love each other very much or have too much to drink, they rub their bodies together in a special dance. While they are dancing the man often puts his penis in the woman’s vagina (that is, he puts his wee-wee in her hoo-haw) and rubs it around a lot. Just as the Bible tells us, the man spurts his seeds into the fertile fields of the woman’s womb. Then the man and woman become a Mommy and Daddy, because a little baby grows in the woman and is born. Yes, that’s correct — it’s very much like when you planted sunflower seeds in the garden last year and they grew into flowers, or the time you accidentally ate watermelon pips and watermelon plants sprouted out your nose.

Sometimes the Mommy and Daddy love each other enough to do more special dances, which is how brothers and sisters are made. But then Mommy decides she doesn’t love Daddy anymore, and thanks to the crooked lawyers and crooked judges who think fathers do not deserve any rights to their own g-ddamn children, Daddy gets to spend over half his salary in alimony and child support for the next two decades while getting to visit his own g-ddamn children once every other weekend. So is it any surprise Daddy is drinking wine out of a box in his windowless basement apartment, finding himself on the Internet looking at pictures of other Daddies and wondering if there might be something wrong with him? No, I didn’t think so.

So that, Steven, is where babies come from, and also how sex relates to vaginas.

Blood and Meaning

Sometimes I eat too many potatoes and start worrying that my existence has been completely irrelevant. Then I start flailing around trying to justify my existence, with little success.

When I leave jobs or volunteer positions, I am easily replaced, and everybody ends up happier and more productive than they were before. My interpersonal relationships end in flames, because I am a difficult and controlling person (when you find me frustrating when I leave comments on your blogs, you don’t know the half of it). People end up happier when I am out of the picture than when I am in it, and there is little question that when I am deceased I won’t be remembered for long.

The one straw of hope I have clung to is blood donation. Because I am pathetic and have done nothing fun for the past 17 years, I have donated blood on a regular basis. Unlike employment or volunteering or education, giving blood is a non-rival activity in that by donating blood I am not really prohibiting anybody else from doing the same. (Contrast that with a job, where my employment means somebody more qualified and less obnoxious is prohibited from taking my place.) And maybe some of my blood has helped others recover from surgeries or something.

Hooray, I guess. Given the number of cookies I scarf down every time I donate, these blood units have cost the blood collection service quite a lot. But maybe a few dozen litres of blood is worth more than hundreds of dollars in cookies.

Of course, the minute I touch my lips to another man’s penis that all comes to an end, because men who give blowjobs to men (among other naughty acts) are prohibited from donating blood. Then my life is forfeit.

In the past I tried making bargains around this. I told myself that once I had completed a certain number of donations then I would have completed my “tours of duty” and could touch my lips to the penises of other men. That number started at 50, then became 75, then became 100. I think I am up to donation 110 or 112 now. It isn’t enough. It will never be enough, because I take and take and don’t give anything else back.

More Dating Advice

Here is some more dating advice, courtesy of cartoonist Lynda Barry. It is an excerpt from her book “Everything vol 1”, on page 136. The comic is entitled: “Finding Your Perfect Love-Mate for Women Only”. I have retained the original spelling and punctuation.

What shall we talk about

Once you’ve “broken the ice” you want to make “sure” not to “blow it”. Alot of women go “wrong” right after they meet a fellow by wanting to talk about doing their hair, their periods, their complexion problems. NIX, gals!! Other girls try to “pal” around with Mr Right by talking about “boy” topics, like salami, trains, cigars, the space needle. NO-NO, sweets. Lissen up. Remember:

  1. Let him pick the conversational topic. Try to figure out just what you think he’ll say then timidly say it first, as if you “aren’t sure”

  2. Stare at him while he talks. When you talk look at your hands, embarrassed. Interrupt him to feel his muscle. If you have to p, hold it.

  3. If he is smart you might try to “impress” him by being smart also. If he is dumb keep feeling his muscles.

Opioid Users and Homosexuals

Another podcast, another blog entry. This time I was listening to interviews of people involved in the opioid crisis. One interview in particular stood out. An advocate/activist named Garth Mullins was talking about how many people around him have died due to overdose. He said he stopped counting at fifty.

He talked about these deaths being a public policy issue. He talked about the stigma of drug use, and and advocated medical-grade heroin as a first step at reducing the number of deaths. He called for a more true representation of opioid users, as opposed to the stereotypes portrayed in the media.

If this reminds you of the HIV/AIDS epidemic of the 1980s and 1990s, this is no accident. Mullins was active in the 1990s and remembers the toll that AIDS took on the population of drug users. He said that the current crisis is worse. He also praised ACT-UP as an effective organization for advocating around the AIDS crisis, and wished that drug users could organize as effectively.

Reflecting on the opioid crisis as compared to the HIV crisis among homosexuals stirred up a lot of ugly thoughts within me. Through my previous job, I have had some contact with those addicted to drugs. My former co-workers were all saints and treated addicts with dignity and respect even as they were smashing things up and stealing things. But I am a monster, and my tolerance for addict shenanigans has diminished over the years.

Intellectually I understand that addicts are people like the rest of us, that many of them got into drugs as a form of self-medication, that an astonishing number of them have suffered adverse childhood experiences that have scarred them for life. Intellectually I understand that addicts resort to desperate measures to feed their addictions, and that they would not be smashing things up and engaging in petty theft if they had better alternatives. Furthermore, I suffer from a number of embarrassing and damaging compulsive behaviours myself, so I ought to be the first person in line to offer compassion to others struggling with their addictions. But I don’t, and maybe the reason I don’t is as simple as the ways I see myself reflected in the bad life choices so many addicts make.

My experiences with addicts have not been positive. In particular crystal meth has been incredibly irritating to deal with. I do not like associating with addicts and I am not willing to share accomodations with them. I am a bigot, and when statistics about death tolls come out I sometimes find myself reacting callously instead of with concern and sympathy.

I think you can see where I am going here. I have heard and read many, many heartbreaking stories about the stigma of being gay during the HIV crisis. The callousness with which “regular people” ignored the crisis and did not care one bit about the toll this disease took on the gay population provokes outrage these days. Among many, Ronald Reagan is a villanous figure because of how he dragged his feet on action around AIDS. Many gay men felt that the rest of the world hated them and were utterly indifferent whether they lived or died, because perceptions of reckless, compulsive behaviour amongst homosexuals was seen as the cause of the AIDS crisis. Many members of my tiny readership experienced this stigma firsthand. Thinking about the way gay men were stigmatized in the 1980s makes many people in the mainstream really angry today.

But all of the same arguments I offer for disliking addicts were used against homosexuals as well. The analogy is not perfect, and maybe it is tone-deaf to make the analogy at all. But I see direct connections between the way society treated gay men during the AIDS crisis of the 1980s, and the way we (in particular me) treat the drug user population during the opioid crisis now. We can quibble about the details, but in my mind there is little difference.

Then I look at my hard-hearted, uncaring stance on the issue, and I realize that I probably held that same stance during the 1980s. I am part of the problem, and I am very likely on the wrong side of history. But that does not reduce my antipathy towards dealing or living with drug addicts. I do not know what to do about that.

Trans Day of Visibility

The International Trans Day of Visibility was yesterday, and naturally I missed commemmorating it. Given that it is April Fool’s, today is a bad day to catch up, but I will post this anyways.

I am not trans myself, although I feel dysphoria about my body in minor mundane ways. I have met several trans people through the Lurkville LGBTQ+ centre. I doubt any of them would consider me a friend, but it has been good for me (yay privilege).

I firmly believe that trans people are going through the same thing that lesbians and gays faced twenty years ago.

I know that I have been transphobic in the past — not in the sense that I hated trans people but in the sense that I feared them and did not understand them. Participating in LGBTQ+ activities has helped a lot. So it is clear to me that trans visibility makes a difference.

I think a lot of gay and bisexual men feel threatened by the trans community. In the 1950s and 1960s there was a lot of conflation between gay men and crossdressing. People thought gay men dressed as women to have sex with other men. The backlash against that reminds me of the contempt many bearish types have towards twinks, or the contempt many gay men have towards women, or the contempt gay men feel towards bisexuals. This is not okay. I wish cisgendered gay and bisexual men could be confident enough in their identities that they did not feel threatened when other people expressed their identities in different ways.

I am guessing that many people would still consider me transphobic. I harbour concerns about the modern trans movement just as I harbour concerns about the modern gay movement. I am hoping this does not prevent me from being an ally to the extent I am able.

I am glad that trans people are visible in my community. I want them to be safe and have fulfilling lives, just as I wish this for others. I hope I have done more good than harm in commemmorating this day. I don’t know that I have much more to say than that.

How to Find a Boyfriend

The usual disclaimers apply. I still smell like an ignorant bitch, because I am an ignorant bitch (and it’s not time for the monthly bath yet).

It seems that few in my loyal readership appreciate the dating apps either. What can we do? Here is a foolproof way to find a boyfriend. I have never known it to fail. I have never known it to succeed, either, but let’s not focus on that part.

  1. Make a list of all your straight women friends.
  2. Tell each and every one of them that you are single and in the market for a boyfriend.
  3. Ask them to get you in touch with any eligible bachelors in their social circles who are nice and might be compatible.
  4. Meet the people they suggest and see whether you click.

That’s it.

Why should we expect that this would work any better than the Internet sites and dating apps?

  • Any results you get will be pre-screened. You may still need to kiss some frogs (what your straight women friends think make good matches might differ from what you think, and also some people who seem like good guys are actually jerks) but presumably your straight women friends will not actively recommend bad candidates.
  • This is a stereotype, but many women think it is romantic to play matchmaker, and often think gay couples are “cute”.
  • The candidates that you get are more likely to share your values and cultural values, because you and they are in adjacent social circles.
  • Your women friends know something about you and your personality, and will likely take that into consideration when suggesting matches.
  • Your women friends will not be focused on looks as the sole determining factor when finding a candidate. That makes it pretty different from photo-centric Internet dating.
  • The candidates you get are more likely to be close to you geographically.
  • You are unlikely to be overwhelmed with hundreds of candidates. That makes each match you are recommended a little more precious, because your women friends do not have dozens of more candidates lined up for you to meet.
  • Word will get out that you are looking for a boyfriend, and that word might reach your potential partner. For that matter, word might reach that guy who has had a crush on you for a long time but has been too shy to say anything.
  • There will be fewer dick pics.
  • This breaks the idea that the burden of finding a boyfriend rests solely on your shoulders. It seems to me that matchmaking used to be more of a community affair, and it seems to me that our modern individualized world misses some of that.
  • Just like you, some of your connections might be wary of internet dating, and they might not be on the dating apps at all. This can expand your pool of candidates even if you use this as a complement to finding troo wuv on Grindr.
  • This is the same strategy of “networking” that every job counsellor in the world recommends in order to find a job. Furthermore, in the world of job searching this strategy works much better than answering job ads.
  • By letting all your straight women friends know, you are engaging in a parallel search, as opposed to a linear one.
  • The candidates your friends match you with will feel some pressure to get to know you, as opposed to meeting just for sex.

Is it important to tell all your straight female friends? I think so. You don’t know which of them enjoy playing matchmaker and which ones don’t. I also feel it is important to open and upfront about what you want. Not to get too woo on you, but you are telling the universe that you are ready for a boyfriend. That sets something important in your psychology and it lets your community know that you are not cowering in a closet.

Why limit your matchmakers to only straight women friends? This is a tough one. Your lesbian friends might have better connections in the LGBTQ+ community, but they might also resent the idea of playing matchmaker. I would play this by ear.

I would avoid turning to either straight or gay male friends to find you a boyfriend. Both straight and gay men have big egos. The straight men might be grossed out by gay sex, and also they will presume that you are making passes at them. The gay men will be offended that you are passing them over, regardless of their own relationship status. Again, this is a matter of judgement, but I would be wary.

Should you sketch out the requirements you have for your next boyfriend? I don’t think so. If there are real dealbreakers maybe you mention them, but once you start getting picky with your requirements (no peeing on the floor, not a serial killer, etc) then matchmaking seems like more like a job than something fun. It is probably better to filter the candidates yourself when you get connected with them.

Is it important to give every candidate they suggest a chance? I think your bias should be towards meeting everybody, unless it is absolutely obvious this is a terrible match. Don’t be too picky. Nothing says your first meeting needs to be a formal date. Even if you are not particularly attracted to the candidate, you might meet somebody you can be friends with, and you can recommend potential boyfriends to each other.

Could this blow up and be a disaster? Boy howdy yes. But it seems to me to be a sounder approach than internet dating. How is internet dating working out for you?

How to Not Find a Boyfriend

I realize that I am retreading old ground with this post, and I should not be writing about this given that I don’t actually have profiles on any dating apps. Furthermore I come across as an old fuddy-duddy who happens to smell like an ignorant bitch. So be it. It is time to stop hiding my true nature.

In light of my New Years resolutions, I have been spending too much time contemplating the subject of boyfriends, and in particular how one goes about obtaining one. The more I reflect on the dating apps and websites the more I despair. They might be okay for hookups, but it seems that they are structured incorrectly for finding boyfriends.

I think of a hookup as a person with whom one has a few sexual encounters, and with whom the connection is primarily sexual. There is usually a sexual component to boyfriendship as well, but also boyfriends form longer-term emotional connections and (I hope!) enjoy each other’s company outside the bedroom.

The problem is that we conflate sexual attraction with other forms of compatibility. Internet dating seems to optimize for the wrong thing.

Photos

Most dating sites are photo-centric. When browsing through profiles photos feature prominently. Those with nice photos get more attention and those who have poor photos (or worse, no photos) lose out. Tinder seems to be the natural evolution of this.

I understand how we got here, but it is messed up. Because photos matter so much some people game the system. People post photos that are years old, when they were younger and/or fitter. People take photos at particular angles using particular lighting to make themselves look better.

Photos are a surprisingly low-bandwidth medium. Most of us are not just attracted to a static picture of how somebody looks. We also are drawn to the way people move, the way they interact with us, the way they speak. Photos don’t convey any of that. Even videos lose a lot of information.

Let’s say that somebody looks gorgeous on their dating profile, and furthermore that they are that gorgeous in real life. So what? If they have beautiful outsides but ugly insides then they are not good boyfriend material, and a proper dating app would filter that out. If their looks were to fade then there needs to be some other connection that keeps you together.

But if somebody does not look good then we swipe left and are done with them. Do we actually bother to read their profiles or initiate chat?

Too many fish

Maybe the paradox of choice is not a real phenomenon, but I still believe in it, and it seems to be a big problem on dating sites. I don’t want to be matched with 100 different people. It is actively harmful to have that many matches, because if I find somebody who is fairly compatible with me but has some flaws, then it is easy to discard that person and keep looking for Mr. Perfect (who, incidentally, does not exist). Everybody comes with irritations. In successful long-term relationships, people work through those irritations and live together. But if there are plenty of fish in the sea, then why not keep fishing?

In addition to fish, there is the problem of frogs. All of the dating sites claim to have algorithms that will find your dream boyfriend quickly. Do any of these algorithms really work? If so, why are you bombarded with dozens of possible candidates? Why do you get messaged by so many poor candidates immediately? These systems reward those who blast out messages and come-ons to as many people as possible, which lower the overall quality of the results.

For what it is worth, I believe that we are headed straight towards a psychological profiling dystopia, and that it may well become possible to algorithmically find Mr. Right. But I do not think we are there yet, and I am not sure I want to live in a world where such a thing is possible.

I think dating sites fool us into thinking that we can optimize for an ideal boyfriend in ways that are unrealistic. We are granted all these options and think we need to filter for an optimal candidate in that group. Finding the fifth-best candidate or the tenth-best candidate means we lose out somehow.

I think dating sites promote this perception, but that it is pretty dangerous. Let’s switch contexts to see why. Consider coworkers. Unless we are in hiring positions, we usually do not have much say in selecting our coworkers. Some coworkers we like, some coworkers irritate us, and some coworkers we hate. But unless our workplaces are toxic, we tend to get along with many of our coworkers “well enough”, in the sense that we would rather keep our jobs with these coworkers rather than leave. Our coworkers have foibles; we adjust to them or we discover we can’t.

I claim that we do not need ideal, top-of-the-line coworkers in order to feel comfortable in our work environments. If our coworkers are mostly good and mostly easy to get along with, then we do okay. Better coworkers can definitely make a difference over worse ones, but as long as our coworkers are above a certain threshold then we are fine.

We don’t apply the same standards to finding boyfriends. Why? I can understand that our thresholds for boyfriendship are higher than our thresholds for coworkership, but so long as the threshold is met then it seems entirely reasonable that we can be happy. There are a lot of arranged marriages in the world. I am sure a bunch of them are terrible, but I think a lot of them aren’t, and it is worth asking why that might be the case. Maybe low expectations are a factor. Maybe shared cultural and class values are a factor. Maybe there are other factors that could apply to our culture.

Dating doesn’t scale

I feel that trying to evaluate and match strangers algorithmically is much less efficient than what humans do naturally. Think about it: people are very efficient at sizing each other up in person. If you put 100 potential dating partners in a room and structure activities so that they naturally mingle, these people will quickly filter out people who do not interest them and will quickly gravitate towards people they like. Some of the criteria by which people will filter others will be as dumb as the ones dating sites use (namely, looks) but it will happen a lot faster.

Instead of promoting these group meetups, dating sites want us to evaluate candidates one by one. Furthermore, they expect us to meet strangers on the Internet (!) and then jump to boyfriend status with only a few dates in between. That’s insane. No matter so many of us are sick of kissing frogs. First we swipe left on good candidates who might not give a good first impression, and then we are expected to spend time evaluating the remaining candidates one by one. That’s terrible! Nobody wants to spend an hour drinking coffee with somebody whom they can tell will not work out within minutes. And if you find somebody who is promising early, then there is some temptation to keep looking just in case the overall dating pool is good and you will quickly find somebody better.

Frankly, I feel that we focus on meeting strangers too much. I understand that we have taboos that prohibit us from hooking up with people who are too close to us, because maybe we will mix our genes and have babies with genetic problems. But as far as I can tell, we did not stray that far outside our social circles when finding marriage partners in the past. Even if we did not know our future boyfriends beforehand, we often had known of them, or members of our own social circles knew them.

I think we are poisoned by the idea that somewhere in the world is Mr Right, and surely he is a handsome stranger in shining armor, and without some third party service catering to desperate singles we would have no chance of finding him. That is a narrative that serves the interests of the dating sites, not the interests of those seeking boyfriends.

I also think we are poisoned because technology turns us into lonely introverts staring at screens. We get most of our other entertainment sitting alone by ourselves, so why would we not organize our love lives in the same way? (The answer is: because this does not work well.)

Counterexamples

The dating sites are not stupid. They understand my banal criticisms and go out of their way to claim that they match on more than photos. They claim to limit your options to the very best matches for you. They say the right things, but I have my doubts about whether they follow through.

There are some dating sites that cater to niches. They hope that by appealing to Christians, or Jews, or environmentalists, or hairy men, they will make it easier for like-minded people to find each other. Maybe this is the case if the aspects they filter on happen to be the aspects that are most relevant to you finding a successful boyfriend.

Unfortunately, the most popular websites for men to find boyfriends tend to skew heavily towards hookups. I am sure there are some marriage-minded gay dating sites out there, but they may face the opposite problem of having too many fish: without a critical mass of users it may be very difficult to find anybody who is an appropriate match.

There are high-end dating services that advertise themselves as “exclusive”. They charge lots of money and (in addition to their algorithms) claim to screen out inappropriate people (namely: people without money). I guess this is a good filter for social class, but these companies have a clear incentive to keep you on the hook as long as you will keep paying their fees. I wish I knew whether they were more successful than average dating sites at leading to actual boyfriends.

I had a lot of hope for OK Cupid. I liked its statistical approach to matching people, and I had hopes that it was not as photo-centric as other sites. My enthusiasm has waned since the site was bought out by match.com, however.

There are some dating sites that offer interactions other than one on one messaging. Some dating sites have forums. That might be a good way to evaluate others in group settings.

But the biggest counterexample to my argument is that everybody uses online dating now, and somehow it works. People really do find boyfriends online. So clearly I am missing something. What am I missing? Is it just a numbers game? Or do these dating sites work for some reason I am overlooking?

Personally I think there must be a better approach. Furthermore I think I have a sense of what one better approach might be.

Gay Dance

Even as I harangue poor Steven to stay on his farm (*), I exploit the advantages of city living. The Lurkville LBGTQ+ community centre put on a 70s themed dance, and I decided to go.

I bought the ticket last week, but that was as much for financial support (a whopping $3) as anything else. I was not sure I wanted to attend. First of all, a wise doctor once advised me to beware loose women and social dancing, and by attending this function I would put that in jeopardy. Also, the music at dances is too loud and hurts my ears. Also, I never went to dances as a youngster. I avoided going on certain field trips because I knew dances would be involved. I worried about proximity to alcohol and I worried about how dancing is linked to mating rituals and sex. Also, I don’t know how to dance and I have no sense of rhythm and the best I can do is the white-guy two-step.

I think the first time I tried dancing was at a workplace party five years ago. I did not want to go up, but my co-workers encouraged me to try. I tried, and it was not awful, but I felt very self-conscious.

Thus I have always felt awkward about dances, and about dancing. On the other hand I unironically love 70s disco, and have been deeply ashamed of my own self-consciousness around dance. I have been at outdoor events where others were dancing. I admired those people. I especially admired when people who were not typical dancers got up and moved their bodies. But I would always feel self-consicous, and would not join in.

So the afternoon of the dance I asked myself a question. Did I really want to go? I decided that I did. But even as I said it I knew my motives were not pure. I had read enough literature about the 1970s and 1980s party scene to know that others went to dances in order to hook up. I knew that this dance was put on as a throwback to dances held in the 1970s and 1980s in Lurkville, before there were gay bars in the area. I knew some of my motivations were predatory, and that I was hoping I would spy some luscious manflesh to be my prey.

As it turns out there was some luscious manflesh on display, and some luscious womanflesh too. But — surprise, surprise — none of it had any interest in me. The crowd definitely skewed older; I may be old but I was probably in the youngest quintile there. As it turns out this wasn’t really a dance but more of a dinner — the organizers had catered a LOT of food: sandwiches and pulled pork and salads and desserts. When I arrived, people were eating and not dancing, even though the DJ was spinning tunes. Naturally I ate too, because I am a gluttonous pig who has no self-control.

I did not know many people there. But one of the people I did know is quite the free spirit. He said he wanted to dance, but that he would wait until some others were out dancing already. I pointed out that if everybody thought the way he did nobody would dance all night, and I challenged him to get on the dance floor. Then he challenged me to get on the dance floor. So I did. The free spirit started waving his arms and legs around, and I kept my arms to my sides and did the white-guy two-step, bobbing my head occasionally. And like magic, other people followed the free spirit’s lead. The dance floor began to fill up.

I felt self-conscious but this was stupid. I eat out of garbage cans; what right do I have to feel self-conscious about anything? So I closed my eyes. I let the banal lyrics and grooving basslines wash over me. I tried to let go and let the music move my body. And my body started to move.

There was no dramatic transformation. Mostly I stuck to the white-guy two-step, with a few side-steps for flair. I tried to use my arms more during choruses, which sort of worked. The important part was that I was letting the music tell my body what to do.

Meanwhile, other people were dancing and enjoying themselves. That was magic. Oddly, it was mostly the older people who got up, and mostly for the classics everybody recognised. Gloria Gaynor’s “I Am What I Am” brought the crowds, with many people mouthing the lyrics as they danced. A group of bluehairs (literally — one of them had a blue hair rinse) shook their heads no no no, and then got up to shake their septuagenerian booties for a couple of numbers. There was a man in his eighties wearing a suit and tie, whom (I think) was there with his wife. They sat and watched for a long time, and eventually they came up for a dance as well.

Most of the youngsters stayed glued to their chairs. There was one young woman whose head was bobbing. I sensed that she wanted to dance, but also didn’t want to. That could have been me. That was me at all those other events where I felt too self-conscious to move my body. I felt so bad for her. But by the end of the evening she had gotten up too, dancing in a circle with a trio of youngsters who had arrived in amazing 70s vintagewear.

I kept moving my body. I probably danced (or should I say, “danced”) for three out of the four hours the dance floor was active. For some unfathomable reason, the dance floor cleared when Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition” was spinning, but as a wannabe rationalist I love that song (and its amazing video) so I kept going. I could sense that I looked like an idiot, and that people were staring, and I didn’t care.

The wise doctor was not wrong. Social dancing is strong magic. I have read many accounts of the 70s pre-AIDS nightlife, of people going to dance clubs and dancing and dancing. I thought all those metaphors of freedom and energy were proxies for lust. But no. Independent of the mating rituals and the sex, dancing itself feels like a form of freedom. It feels like the essence of embodiment. As I moved my body I tried to appreciate that despite my increasing aches and pains, my joints still work and my body is still capable of movement. I thought of the ticket collector at the dance, who was barely able to walk today because her hip was giving her too much trouble, and I gave thanks (to whom?) that I am not yet dealing with chronic pain.

Like other strong magic, I can sense how dangerous social dancing is. I can easily see how it could lead to loose women or worse. I got lucky. Although alcohol was consumed at the event it did not seem to be the focus. Similarly, there was little danger of sex at the event (at least not for me). If I had been braver a few decades earlier, I could be in real trouble now. But I got lucky.

Would it be wise for me to go to future dances? Am I going to become a circuit party devotee? I don’t know. I could see this becoming an expensive habit, and I could also see myself being a coward the next time I am faced with the challenge of dancing in front of others. There is talk about this dance becoming a regular event; that could be very bad for me.

I think part of the reason I was able to overcome my inhibitions was because this was an LBGTQ+ dance. I don’t know how I feel about that.

There were other disconcerting aspects to the event. One thought is quite off-topic, but as it is heavy on my mind I will write it down. Earlier in the day I ran into a former co-worker who was really struggling. He was dealing with a lot of wrist pain and despite this was recently kicked off of disability (yay bureaucracy). He was broke, and talked me into giving him $10 so he could buy meat. Meanwhile, during the event I was horrified to see many of the catering leftovers go into the trash. Forget starving children in Africa; the disparities between those who have too much and those who have too little are readily apparent right here in Lurkville. (Of course, who am I to talk? I am a gluttonous pig who has no self-control around food.)

(*) I am pretty sure that everybody who follows my blog also follows his, but if not then read this: http://sooo-this-is-me.blogspot.ca/2018/03/my-little-girl.html

New Years Resolutions

I guess I should get around to making some New Year’s resolutions, huh? Maybe some unrealistically ambitious goals will cleanse our collective palates.

No doubt this set of resolutions is not very comprehensive. I hope I do not cause too much harm by missing some.

Probably I will forget these resolutions by February, and I will go back to my miserable ways.

Health

This past year has been a bad one for health concerns. These resolutions address a few of them:

  • That Shawn and his symbiote Fearsome get some relief from their shoulder troubles. They try to put on an optimistic face on it, but I get the sense that they are in bad chronic pain.

  • That Blobby heals well from screwing up his thumb.

  • That RTG get some relief from his arthritis (and the other medical ailments he faces).

  • That the new medications work, and Dr. Spo gets his blood pressure under control.

Relationships

The heart is a lonely hunter. Here are some of my resolutions around relationships:

  • That people who are looking for nice boyfriends find them. Steven from sooo-this-is-me, RJ, Walter and CB come to mind, but I am sure there are others as well.

  • That Michael54 settle into his new life post-divorce and discover himself.

Other things

  • That JP and Guido get through their renovations of the new cafe, and that Guido manages to juggle both cafes well.