When Will Beards Die?

Robert (the dear!) from The Corporate Slave recently reported on the demise of the man-bun. That should come as no surprise. Fashion trends come and go. What surprises me is that beards have managed to stay fashionable for so long. From what I can tell, it has been well over 10 years since the young cubs started sporting whiskers.

I’m pretty sure nobody sported beards in the 1950s. People got shaggy in the 1960s and 1970s, but the yuppies picked up their razors in the 1980s. Even the clones sported moustaches, not beards. It seems we are overdue for a follicular crash. Year after year I expect enthusiasm for facial hair to diminish, but it hasn’t happened yet. What gives?

I doubt this trend is permanent. Homeless people and bikers will always sport beards, but sooner or later I expect mainstream society to lose its penchant for facial hair. Big Razor cannot be held at bay indefinitely. For those of us with predelictions towards facial hair, it will be a sad time. Source material for Fearsome’s “Beard of the Day” posts will dry up. Bearish types will no longer be able to pass in polite society.

We can try to resist the backlash, but the fickle forces of fashion are not to be denied.

On Being a Freak

I attended the Pride-themed open house at the Lurkville LGBTQ centre this weekend. What a mistake. I should have skipped it.

The day before, I had eaten way too much and not gotten enough sleep, so my weight was up and my resilience was down. Naturally there were giant trays of sweets, which is a problem since I am obsessive around (free) food to the point where I cannot focus on anything else. It was a beautiful day outside, and I did not want to spend it indoors. And there was to be speechifying by politicians, including some politicians I am fairly grumpy with these days. These were not factors positively correlated with having a good time.

But some combination of guilt (over not being visible enough) and gluttony (giant trays of sweets) compelled me to attend. What a mistake.

The gluttony and the sleep deprivation and the nice weather and the politicians were all problems, but they were not the worst part. The worst part was my social anxiety. I felt like an outcast. There were so many strangers in the space.

I always thought I was a really strong introvert, but I was deluding myself. When I am around people I know I never stop yapping. When I run into people I like I will change plans on a whim to spend time talking with them. I often spend days at a time by myself, and then I feel lonely, not energised. These are not introvert behaviours.

But it is true that I am painfully shy to the point of distress. In the past I have been called upon to canvas for political campaigns, and I just can’t do it. The act of going up to a stranger’s door and knocking on it drains me like you wouldn’t believe. Even calling a stranger to book a meeting space makes me quake. Parties are painful at the best of times, and parties filled with strangers drive my anxiety up to 11.

Having participated in the community centre’s events for a few years, I knew several of the people at the open house. But there were over a dozen strangers there. My rational mind was telling me to walk up to people and introduce myself, and my body was having none of it.

I do not know for certain what is behind this social anxiety. However, I have my suspicions: namely, I am a freak. I have a thin skin, so rejection hurts, but in my core I feel that I am an unacceptable human being. Introducing myself to a stranger feels like an imposition, and like a vampire I must not invade the personal space of others unless I am explicitly invited (and like a vampire, I then proceed to dominate their attention and drain their psychic energy).

I feel that some element of this (but not everything) has to do with the LGBTQ aspects of my personality. When people are in the closet, they often worry about how their friends and family will react when and if they disclose their sexuality or gender identity. They worry about social rejection. They know that their LGBTQ identity puts them in the minority, and they are aware that bigots exist in the world. In short, they worry that they are freaks and will be treated like freaks.

Maybe this fear is changing for LGB kids these days, who grow up in a sufficiently tolerant society that being gay is accepted. In some high school subcultures being sexually diverse seems to be some kind of competition, to the point where it is the straight kids who feel left out. But I think people of older generations (and most transfolk) still struggle with acceptance.

I remember how anxious I felt the first time I went to the LGBTQ community centre. I had known and associated with several LGBTQ people in the past, both online and off. But I had not participated in many explicitly LBGTQ activities. I remember worrying that the environment would be highly sexualized (it wasn’t). I remember worrying that I wouldn’t be the right kind of LGBTQ person, that I was not fabulous enough, that my cultural norms and personal prudishness would be in conflict with the “real” LGBTQ people, the ones who belonged at the centre. Stepping into that space for the first time was scary.

That is why my social anxiety at the open house was so awful. I could sense that other people were anxious about being in the space as well. Several people stood in the corners, not talking to anybody and looking uncomfortable. I am pretty sure that several of those people had come to the community centre for the first time. As somebody who had participated in the centre for some time, my job was to be a gracious host, to introduce myself and get to know these newcomers and introduce them to some of the people I knew. And I completely and utterly fell down on the job. I was so obsessed about my own social anxiety that I didn’t bother helping other people feel welcome no matter who they were or how freakish they felt. And I bet a bunch of those people had a terrible time at the open house, and went home vowing never to return. Then I complain about people not participating in LBGTQ-specific activities the way they used to in the good old days.

Here is the dirty secret: I think we all feel like freaks. Even the well-integrated LBG kids feel like outcasts. We are all too skinny or too fat or too hairy or not hairy enough or too butch or too femme or too androgynous or too tall or too short or we wear the wrong clothes or we have the wrong fetishes or we are HIV positive or we are attracted to the wrong people or we have the wrong attitudes or we are into drag or we are repulsed by drag or our voices are too faggy or we’re not rich enough or we don’t like rainbows or we’re too old or we have wrinkles or we’re of the wrong social class or we came out too late in life or we like the opposite sex sometimes or… or… or…

Here is the other dirty secret: we may all be freaks, but it doesn’t matter. IT DOESN’T MATTER. You don’t have to be the right kind of LGBTQ person to be welcome in this community centre, or in the broader community. Even if you don’t feel as if you fit in, you still belong. Once you step over the threshold of entering the community centre, you are a member of the community centre’s community and you should be welcomed as such. Maybe not everybody will like you. Maybe you won’t like everybody. There is still a good chance that you will find a place here and that you will fit in. But if those of us who are already here don’t integrate you and help you feel that you are welcome, then we have failed. And this weekend I failed hard.

Forty minutes into the open house I left. Some politicians I am grumpy with entered the space, and I could feel my anger levels rising, so I used that as an excuse to leave. I wish I had skipped the event entirely. My presence there did more harm than good.

The Heart Wants What the Heart Wants

For better or for worse, I have been heavily influenced by Daniel Kahneman’s characterization of System 1 vs System 2 thinking. Thus I tend to model my brain as a “lizard brain” (emotional, sublogical, fast at pattern matching) vs a “logical brain” (capable of logic and reason, although more often used to rationalize bad decisions made by my lizard brain). I do not know whether this model is correct, but I find it useful in thinking about sexual attraction.

To put it briefly, I believe that the heart wants what the heart wants. Sexual desire is much more a function of our lizard brain than our logical one, and the ability of our logical brains to reshape those desires is limited. Otherwise, conversion therapy would work better than it does. I think that sometimes sexual attraction can be reshaped, but I am not sure it is because we rationally convince ourselves to change.

I also believe that somehow we imprint on the things we find sexually desireable. Maybe we have some choice in this and maybe we don’t. I believe the objects of our sexual attractions can (and often are) culturally determined. I am confident that there are people in the world who have imprinted on Sleestaks, from Land of the Lost. But Sleestaks did not exist before 1974. Consider the people who would have otherwise been attracted to Sleestaks, but came of age before 1974. What did they find attractive? Nothing? Or did they imprint on something else?

If you agree that the heart wants what the heart wants, then blaming people for having the wrong sexual preferences is kind of stupid, because that attraction sits in the subrational lizard brain, and there is little that people can do to change it.

Unfortunately, this causes all kinds of awkwardness, because we live in a society where we expect logical brains to prevail. People get hurt when others don’t find them attractive, and that makes our logical brains upset.

This is as good a point at any for Shocking Disclosure of Sexual Perversion #2: secondary sex characteristics. I tend to find guys who exhibit lots of secondary sex characteristics — body hair, facial hair, big muscles, broad shoulders, deep resonant voices, even male pattern balding — sexually attractive. If Tumblr is to be believed, I am not the only one with this perversion.

The dark side of this is: “straight-acting”. On the whole gay men who are “straight-acting” are prized more highly than gay men who are not, and many people express this preference in their dating profiles (“no femmes!”). It is a common criticism that gay men who gravitate towards “straight-acting” are expressing internal homophobia, and that gay men who are well-adjusted are attracted to less masculine men. In recent times this criticism has been extended to transmen (“Transmen are men, so if you are attracted to cis men but not transmen then you are transphobic.”)

The irony, of course, is that lots of homosexuals (myself included) are not particularly “straight-acting”. So a lot of people who are looking for love get rejected a lot because they cannot fit somebody else’s masculine ideal, and a lot of perfectly innocent straight men have to deal with the discomfort of being lusted after by homosexuals.

Is it true that the heart wants what the heart wants? Should we accept that the widespread preference for “straight-acting” men a function of our subrational lizard brains? Or should we accept that this preference is hurtful, and that gay men who prefer “straight-acting” men sometimes end up falling in love with effeminate gay men instead, that this preference for “straight-acting” men is harmful and not okay and needs to be moderated? And isn’t it funny that many of those who are most vehemently against conversion therapy are those who are most adamant that being attracted to “straight-acting” men is homophobic and unacceptable?

I don’t think I am presenting a false dichotomy. There is a genuine tension here. But it also seems that both sides of this argument are true to some degree. Disentangling these sides is the difficult part.

Awkward Questions

Some questions feel taboo. Some questions feel inappropriate. I find myself wanting to know the answers to personal questions that are inappropriate/awkward to ask. For all of the moaning I do about communicating openly and honestly, I sure have hangups.

Here are a few of the things I wish I knew the answers to, but which I am too reticent to ask. The pattern that these all concern me and my status with others is no accident. Partly this is because I am self-obsessed, and partly this is because asking status-related questions appears to be part of the taboo.

  • How many people notice that I am a cheapskate? A glutton? To what extent does this hurt my reputation?
  • In what ways am I difficult to tolerate? (I think I know part of the answer to this).
  • Do others find my attempts to be funny helpful? Irritating? Would they prefer that I stop?
  • To what extent am I sensorially offensive to others? Do I smell? What smells? Is my “homeless chic” style offputting?
  • Some people I would have expected to read/comment on my two blogs do not appear to do so. Are they unaware of these blogs? Are they aware but bored? Do they actively wish to avoid reading what I write?
  • To what extent is my sexuality obvious to others, even if I have not discussed the topic with them?
  • To what extent do I have the gay accent? (Or, to put it more crudely, to what extent is my voice faggy?)
  • Who dislikes me? Why? What would I have to do to make amends?
  • Who thinks I dislike them? Why?
  • Who thinks I like them? Why?
  • What set of people would consider me a friend?
  • Why do others agree to socialize with me?
  • Have I been any person’s object of sexual interest in the last decade?
  • What did I actually do wrong in that job interview? What is the real reason you don’t want me for the job?
  • Can I be forgiven for the many bad things I do/have done? What would that look like? (Who would be doing the forgiving?)
  • Has anybody benefited from my existence in this world? Has there been net benefit? What about when you take opportunity cost into account? What marginal effect would there be (positive or negative) if I was to remain alive another year? Another five years? Another ten years?
  • How much do others judge me for being unemployed?
  • For how long after my death will I be remembered? What will I be remembered for, if anything?

Although I am putting these questions on the internet, I am not expecting answers. They are awkward to answer, and I doubt I want the emotional fallout of hearing the truth. This may go some distance towards explaining the taboo.

It is somewhat surprising that most of these questions could in principle be answered. (The future-oriented ones are different, of course.)

But even if I am not looking for answers to these questions I think it is interesting to note the phenomenon. Who knows? Maybe this will become semi-regular feature.

Dangerous Weather

After 16 months of winter, Lurkville is finally starting to show signs of spring. The weather has gotten warm enough that people are dressing immodestly, exposing shins and elbows. Occasionally one glimpses kneecaps.

These wanton displays of flesh might not be so bad if certain Lurkville residents were not so attractive. From time to time I get into trouble because of this. I will be minding my own business cycling down the road when I glimpse some fellow sporting shapely calves and a salt-and-pepper beard. Or worse, somebody who has carelessly left the top button of his shirt undone, exposing a tuft of magnificant chest hair for all to see. Such spectacles invoke impure thoughts and lecherous glances, which in turn makes cycling downright dangerous. Are these people trying to get me into an accident?

As if that is not bad enough, the sunshine and tree pollen are clearly interfering with my hormonal balances. From time to time I find myself repressing the urge to assault pulchritudious pedestrians with all kinds of objectifying and socially inappropriate greetings: “Hey gorgeous!”, “You are awfully pretty!”, etc. Thus far I have held these urges at bay, but this is a dangerous and possible untenable situation. Some people believe that beautiful people have it easy in this world, but I imagine that being assailed by catcalls gets really tiring really quickly. The last thing I want to do is add to the barrage.

Something ought to be done. I propose that all the beautiful people be forced to wear burqas so that I am not tempted by impure thoughts. Sure: one might argue that I am responsible for keeping my own lustful impulses in check, but that is silly. It is certainly more just and fair if everybody else in the world compensates for my moral failings, sweltering under uncomfortable swathes of cloth, barely able to see out of their eye-meshes, solely to ensure I am not exposed to inappropriate visual stimulation. Alas, I expect this sensible proposal is doomed. The sunscreen-industrial complex would never allow it.


To take a break from the firehose of LBGTQ-themed reading material I usually consume, I went to the library and signed out Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War, published in 1974. I was expecting a nice heteronormative science fiction war memoir, and it started off really well. There were boy soldiers and girl soldiers and mandatory bed pairings for everybody. But by the middle of the book the homosexual agenda reared its ugly head, and three quarters of the way through things got intense.

It’s probably just confirmation bias (or the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon?), but it seems that I rarely pick up reading material without running into something LGBTQ-themed. Modern science fiction and fantasy is obsessed with including LGB (and increasingly T) characters. But even classic literary literature often (sometimes?) includes surprising cameos by The Gays, or at the very least surprising references to homosexuality.

I do not know that all this homosexuality is necessarily a bad thing. And I am sure that if I looked hard enough I could find some red-blooded exclusively heterosexual fiction. It’s just surprising, given that our existence was supposedly whitewashed out of history.

At the same time, I am not convinced that exclusively-straight fiction is a problem. As uncomfortable as it may be to contemplate, straight people exist in the world, and they deserve to have adventures too regardless of whether we make guest appearances. Furthermore they have the right to write about their bizarre sexual practices, and if that makes us squeamish we should close our eyes or skip over those parts. I feel uncomfortable with the notion that exclusively heteronormative literature is somehow deficient or politically incorrect.

Incidentally, I feel this way about other attitudes that we find offputting. Asimov is still a great writer, even though his sexism really rubs me the wrong way. I do have my limits (Stories of the East by W. Somerset Maugham was one of the most flamboyantly racist books I have ever read) but in general I love old writers and old writing and old ideas, and stories from the past have a lot to offer even if the writings are socially and politically incorrect now.

Incidentally, The Forever War is pretty great. It is definitely worth a read.

Antisocial Networking

When I first got involved with a local LGBTQ community centre, part of my not-so-secret homosexual agenda was to interact socially with some homosexuals, in the semi-secret hope that one day I might find a sex partner. That has not really worked out. I ought not to be surprised that nobody is interested in being my sex partner (seriously: who was I trying to kid?) but I am somewhat surprised that I have not had more social interaction.

Outside of Pride celebrations, it seems that few people come out to LGBTQ-themed events. Trans groups get okay attendance, and there is a games night that is reasonably popular, but other groups are sparsely attended. Sometimes I wonder whether Lurkville should bother having an LBGTQ community centre at all. (It should, of course, if only because the trans community needs more safe spaces.)

For a long time I blamed integration and assimilation. For the most part, this culture is more accepting of LBGTQ people than it was in the past, so there is less pressure for people who identify on the spectrum to form their own isolated social groups. Gay people party and socialize with their straight friends readily, and thus feel no compelling need to socialize at their LBGTQ community centre.

To some degree I also figured that it was also bad marketing on the part of the community centre (which is my fault, of course; if I cared enough I could do some publicity, but I don’t).

I think there are other factors, though. One is that we have outsourced our dating/hookup lives to the apps: Grindr, Scruff, Tinder, Her, Bumble and so on. When we are looking for love we assume everybody else is on the Internet. Before the Internet people had to find each other in other ways, which often meant gay bars and dances. Those scenes are disappearing now.

Honestly, gay bars and dances are not really my scene either. I feel the best way to build community is via shared effort, so I take quilting bees and barn raisings over boring parties and loud music any day of the week. But the apps seem worse still, in a really pernicious way. Gay bars and dances are sexualized spaces, but at least there are things to do (dancing, talking) other than trying to find a partner.

With the apps, the focus is on dating/hooking up. It feels like a constant job interview. There is little room for socially interacting with people you do not feel sexually attracted to. And when somebody decides that they are not sexually interested in you, things get awkward. Maybe they stop responding to your chats. Maybe they say something unkind to make you go away. At least at a social gathering you can talk and dance, and if you are not interested in your prey/predator then you have a plausible excuse for doing something else. Or you can have a good conversation and get on with your lives. (I guess Walter did that recently via a dating app, but that seems rare.) The dating apps seem much more stark. In principle you can use the apps to find platonic friends, but I have a feeling most people do not use the apps that way, and that changes the social norms.

Also, to me the apps seem backwards, because my sexuality is backwards. Call me a naif if you want, but in the hypothetical universe where I get laid I would like to get laid with somebody I like as a person. Looks are a part of that, but they are not everything, and it is possible to find people attractive who do not match one’s physical ideals.

Oddly enough, I think the BDSM community addresses this problem better than the LBGTQ community does. The BDSMers are famous for “munches”, which I presume are less sexualized than play parties, and give BDSMers opportunities to meet others who share their kinks and might be interested in setting up a scene (following the long contractual negotiations, of course). I feel the LGBTQ community tries to organize along similar lines, but for the most part it is not working out. And yet many of us lament how difficult it is to find nice people online. There is a disconnect here.

Chechnya and Trusting Charities

A few weeks ago Avaaz psychologically manipulated me into caring about the plight of gays in Chechnya, who are reportedly under attack by their government. (Maybe you would prefer another news source, and isn’t that an interesting phenomenon in itself?)

First Avaaz sent a petition, and when that was successful they followed up (as they frequently do) with a plea for funds.

I will attempt to avoid a long screed against Avaaz here. Suffice to say that I mistrust the organization, even as I recognise that it is sometimes effective and sometimes useful. It already tracks which of its many petitions I sign. I would have no interest in giving it access to my credit card information even if I owned a credit card.

Furthermore Avaaz conveniently obscures details about how these funds will be use. In their appeal (which I am deliberately not linking to), they write:

This is how we save lives: funding for safe houses, transportation, and legal representation, plus media coverage and campaigns against horrific laws.

Sounds good, no? Too bad they do not specify with whom they are partnering for these safe houses, transportation, and legal representation. Are they handling these things themselves? Are they partnering with Russian LGBT Network, which appears to be the primary source for these allegations? This is what Avaaz wants you to think, but of course they tack on the clause “plus media coverage and campaigns against horrific laws” which is coded language for “your donation will fund Avaaz campaigns”. What fraction of my donation will go to gays in Chechnya? What fraction will go to Avaaz psychops campaigns?

If I do not trust Avaaz with my money, and if for whatever reason I would like to throw money at this situation, then where should I send those funds?

  • The Russian LGBT Network would appear to be the natural recipient, but it is not clear to me how to give them money, and in their news release they state that “people and organizations all over the world are collecting money”, which suggests that they are not collecting money themselves? (EDIT: No, wait. I’m an idiot. So much for this entry.)
  • There is a group in Poland called Campaign Against Homophobia which claims to be raising money for the cause on behalf of ILGA Europe, which is collecting money itself.
  • In Canada there is a group called Rainbow Railroad which sent out a news release calling for donations (and seems to have a lot of presence on social media otherwise). They have a branch plant in the USA which exists solely to funnel them money, which I guess is convenient. But they have a staff of three, and as of this point they claim to have helped two people emigrate, and somebody (maybe not them) have gotten 37 people into safe houses.

There are a bunch of problems here. Firstly, I do not know who is legit and who isn’t. When these kinds of tragedies make the news, unscrupulous organizations spring up to funnel our well-intentioned dollars into their own pockets. So I am left to evaluate individual charities by myself. There are some sniff tests (looking for established histories, seeing what other campaigns they have engaged in, seeing whether they are associated with brands I trust more) but I am not smart enough to avoid getting suckered.

Secondly, there are large chains of indirections happening here. The Polish group claims to be affiliated with IGLA Europe, which claims to be working with the Russian LGBT Network, which claims to be helping people on the ground. How many middlemen are there? How many of them are taking their cut? Is this necessary?

Thirdly, it is not clear that any of these organizations is particularly effective. Is the best response to this crisis getting people out of the country? It is certainly expensive, and I do not want people being tortured so that we can save a few dollars (I am decidedly not an effective altruist) but given that there is a crisis, what is the best strategy for keeping people safe? Maybe local safe houses are a better strategies than emigration?

It’s a confusing mess. But real life is always a confusing mess, and that is not a good excuse for paralysis. I have the luxury of deciding whether to donate money or not, and to whom. But choosing not to donate does not make the situation disappear.

I guess a lot of my anger has to do with the nature of the nonprofit sector. We all think that nonprofit organizations exist to solve problems in the world that the market is bad at solving. But because nonprofits work in unprofitable areas they are obsessed with survival, which means being obsessed with obtaining and retaining donors. When they pull at the right heartstrings and find a cause that gets traction, they have a lot of incentive to grab as many donors as they can (I believe the technical term is “marks”) and bleed them dry. Furthermore, funding takes precedence over the causes these nonprofits supposedly exist to alleviate. The end result is that nonprofits engage in a lot of irritating and unethical behaviours as they attempt to “do good”. Sketchy recruitment practices are just the beginning. Let’s not even get into the perverse incentives that are involved. (I used to work in this sector. I could go on and on about this.)

But these nonprofits are claiming to help gays in Chechnya, so they have my attention. At this point I am leaning towards giving money to the Rainbow Railroad people, but mostly because it is most convenient for me to funnel funds to them. Will this help? I have my doubts.

Sidebar: Tugging at Heartstrings

I know this entry is already too long, but may I talk about motivations for a moment?

I live in a bubble where my choice to be LBGTQ does not make much difference one way or the other. But the gays make for a convenient political target, and LGBTQ people all over the world face personal and societal prosecution, largely because other people are using them to further their own political agendas. The ways that social norms are changing is causing its own turmoil, but this pales next to the political manipulation.

But let’s be clear: I care about the Chechnya situation primarily because Avaaz sent me an email. There is a lot of persecution going on in other areas of the world that do not make the news. There are people from Ghana, Cameroon, Iraq, and many other places who face persecution too, but I do not write them cheques. Thank goodness governments have some mandate to grant refugee status to people who are not making the news.

The demons of apathy vs emotional connection vs effective altruism are at constant war within me. The effective altruist side chastises me for not buying bednets. Then the emotional connection side takes over and reminds me that quantitative metrics are prone to gaming. Then the apathetic side reminds me that I am a nihilist, and all of this research is a waste of time. Around and around and around it goes. Even if I donate I end up feeling dissatisfied.

The primary accomplishments of throwing a little money at the Chechnya situation are to make me feel better, and to signal my virtue by bragging to you. Neither of these helps people in Chechnya much.

Avaaz carefully crafted its appeal to psychologically manipulate me into having an emotional reaction, and in doing so it is diverting my attention from other LGBTQ causes that would benefit from my attention more. The crackdown in Chechnya sounds awful, but it also seems as if there is precious little I can do about it, regardless of Avaaz’s claims to the contrary.

One Month In

It has been about one month since I gave into temptation and started this blog. Results this far have been mixed. Some observations:

  • The early entries were tough slogging because I had no readers. Now I have a few readers, which is sometimes comforting and sometimes overwhelming. My original hope for this blog was about 100 page views per post and a core of 10 regular commenters or so. Those goals were foolish (only the most popular blogs get 10 regular commenters) and I am well short of them, but perhaps this is about the level of celebrity I can handle.

  • The blog has been taking up far too much of my mental real estate. Not only has my real blog suffered, but other things in my life are losing ground as well (especially looking for work, although I am sure I would find other ways to procrastinate on that if I was not blogging).

  • One unsettling thing I have discovered is that there are so many bloggers I am not reading. I thought I was following a good number of people: I have 391 feeds in my RSS reader, although several of them are not blogs and many of them are defunct. But I have taken a peek at several new blogs during the past month, and I feel pressure to subscribe to them too. But I have to limit myself, or I will spend several hours a day just reading RSS feeds instead of doing other things in my life. If I could dip in and out of blogs better, this would be less of a problem, but I have a bad habit of being a completist. I cannot do that, however. This is entertainment, not work.

  • This is not a wholly new observation, but there are perfectly nice people I feel I ought to follow more closely, but whom I don’t. Not every blog is to everyone’s tastes, and that is okay. Maybe I will pay occasional visits to those blogs. But I still feel guilty.

  • I am probably running short on topics. I do not know how you daily bloggers manage. I don’t particularly want to be a daily blog, but I don’t want to repeat the same five entries over and overagain either. Perhaps it is time to sign a service agreement with the Muses or the Skanks. Or perhaps it is time to drop down to one or two entries a week instead of three or four.

  • I thought this blog would offer a chance for me to reinvent myself, but that is not going so well. I thought I could be witty and sassy, but it is not working. It is taking all of my self control to avoid sinking into bathos. I do not like my persona here.

  • I also thought I would be more forthcoming on topics of sexuality on this blog. Mostly what I have learned is that I am such a prude that even Puritans and right-wing Evangelicals find me uptight. There is some chance I will be more salacious in future entries, but there is a bigger chance that I am going to lose my small audience for voicing some fairly unpopular views.

  • Related to the above, I feel much more constrained in what I can and cannot write than I thought I would be. That is a surprise, but it ought not to be.

  • It is proving difficult to decide what is appropriate blog fodder for this blog and what is appropriate for my real blog. My real blog is going to become rather dour if I reserve all the fun entries for this one.

  • I am surprised at how entertaining certain entries were to compose. I am pretty happy with the Serial Blogonomy post, even though it got no response. The Cheating is a Bad Gamble entry also turned out okay.

  • I am surprised by the composition of my blog commenters so far, but pleasantly surprised. You are all delightful people.

  • I would still like to grow my audience, but it is clear that I am bad at this. Maybe things will continue to grow organically, or maybe not.

  • I do not know how long I will continue this experiment. Ideally I would be able to enjoy the blogosphere without succumbing completely. If I continue to fail at that I may have to drop this hobby. If I am getting repetitive or feeling like blogging is a chore I should quit.

Treated Like an Infant

I am in the process of reading Heads in Beds: A Reckless Memoir of Hotels, Hustles, and So-Called Hospitality by Jacob Tomsky. This book has reminded me that the proverb is false. You can buy happiness, of a sort. The hotel industry is all about taking care of your childish needs and making you feel as if you are special, so long as you have a sufficiently large budget. I am a cheapskate on a relatively tight budget, so the idea of participating in the service industry with its endless upsells and service charges and tips is horrifying and oppressive. But if you are rich enough that the price is no object, you can be treated very well.

Pop psychology teaches us that we all crave our infancy, because that was the one time when others unconditionally loved us and cared for us. Then we spend the rest of our lives trying to recreate those conditions, with little success. Eventually we learn that nobody else in the world really cares whether we do well or poorly, and that others are too busy attending to their own neuroses to put up with ours. This is probably for the best (have you seen how stressed and tired parents of young children are? Parents sacrifice a lot to provide that unconditional love) but it does not mean we stop looking.

(And of course, some of us don’t get that unconditional love as children. That tends to mess us up mightily. I think the Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) framework reflects this.)

Many of us (myself included) are subconsciously looking for unconditional and complete caring. Some part of us wants to be as self-centred as infants, and find partners who will love us and care for us no matter how needy and unreasonable we are. This tends not to work out.

But if we are rich enough we can get part of the way there. We can live in hotels and get many of our needs met with a smile. Did we trash our room? Housekeepers will clean up after us. Do we feel like some food in the middle of the night? A game of chess? A furry companion? For the right price, all of these things can be made available. Depending on how far we want to regress, we can have others change our nappies and provide us with milk-laden boobs if we so desire.

Unfortunately, as far as I can tell even this is unsatisfactory. We can get unconditional service, but not unconditional love. The love and good treatment are very conditional indeed — as soon the money stops flowing so does the service. People can pretend to like us or even love us, but that seems psychologically harmful as well, because then people cannot distinguish the people who genuinely care for them from those who pretend to care for the money.

On a shallower level, maybe being infantilized is harmful in itself, especially when it is prolonged and the recipients take it for granted. We hear enough awful stories about former child stars and spoiled celebrities getting into real trouble when they suddenly learn that they can’t always get their way and that actions have consequences.

On the other hand, it sure would be nice not to have to worry about money. And on days like today when I am feeling unhappy and stuck, it sure would be nice to be pampered. Even some time with a cuddle-friendly cat or dog would help (to say nothing of some time with a cuddle-friendly human).