Control

I had a anger flareup this evening. It was not directly related to my sexuality so it probably does not belong on this blog, but oh well.

The short story is that I had plans and was told to abandon them out of consideration for another’s needs. That put me in a position of debt, which made me grumpy. Any relationship in the world is going to have these kinds of conflicts, but my tolerance for them is small. So it is better that I am alone.

Framing this as a control issue is not wrong, but my angry insight this evening is that this was as much about autonomy as it is about control. There are many situations where I am happy to defer to the wishes of others. But I am not willing to have my autonomy limited. I was raised in an emotionally difficult environment. I have been gaslit many times. It won’t happen again.

This makes it difficult to stay in relationship and it makes it difficult to sustain employment. I started a short-term contract recently and have been struggling with the bureaucracy and the institution. Everywhere I look there are rules, rules, rules: no peeing on the floor, no picking my nose in public, and most obnoxiously holding the company line even when I strongly disagree with that line. But thems the tradeoffs. If you don’t follow the rules you don’t get paid.

Toeing the line is difficult enough in the workplace, and I think I have decided that I won’t put up with it in my personal relationships. Thus it is highly likely that I will be alone for the rest of my life, and that’s okay.

If I had one goal in life, it was to avoid ending up like my father. (Gee. That’s original.) He was (and probably still is) an angry, depressive man who — as far as I could tell — had zero friends, and thus put all of the burdens of human relationship onto his spouse. He grew more and more paranoid and got to the point where he could not work any more, but did not believe in psychiatry.

I thought I would be different, but as I age I am becoming more and more like him. (Gee. That’s original too.) I am angry and anxious to the point where it is difficult to hold down a job, and indeed this short-term contract may well be the last employment I ever have. I have few friends and am doing my level best to alienate the ones that remain. I demand control of situations and pretend I want autonomy, then stomp off when other people defy my wishes. I’m too cheap to go into therapy and too stubborn to go on SSRIs. The parallels are striking.

But I never married, and I never had kids. I avoided that much. If nothing else, the cycle ends with me.

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Craigslist and Internalized Homophobia

My delightful commentariat agreed that broke neurotic homos looking for love ought to try Craigslist, so I hopped on the site closest to Lurkville and took a look-see. Oy vey. I wish I owned a closet so that I could have run screaming back into it, slamming the door shut behind me.

I’m trying to disentangle the antipathy I felt while browsing the site. I returned a second time as research (not “research”) for this entry, and it is still a mess. Expect this blog entry to be even less coherent than usual.

I don’t know what else I was expecting, but clearly the m4m sections of Craigslist are oriented towards hookups. (Even the “strictly platonic” sections aren’t.) That’s one strike, but I get the feeling that it is unavoidable in the m4m universe.

There are a few people looking for less hookup-y setups, and they stick out like sore thumbs. I find myself wondering whether these people are aware of what Craigslist is for, which is unfair because Craigslist is supposed to be for relationships, not just hookups.

Most of the posters want stats and pics. Stats I can deal with (sort of — my stats are underwhelming). Pics? Although pictures and even Youtube video of me exist on the Internet, I am pretty paranoid about not having my face on the Information Superhighway, whether in a gay context or otherwise. To my knowledge I have never taken a selfie. Clearly this is a dealbreaker when looking for looooooove; everybody (including me!) wants some idea of what they are getting into when answering a personals ad.

But there are pics and there are pics. Many of these Internet strangers want pictures of private body parts, and/or pictures where the subjects are immodestly dressed. Some people even post pictures on their profiles which contain both their faces and their immodestly-dressed bodies. That seems insane to me. But again it seems par for the course.

None of this is surprising. What surprised me was how much antipathy I felt browsing the profiles, even for people who ticked some of my boxes. I don’t like drama, and human relationships are full of drama. When I read a hookup ad my anxieties turned towards creepy people and disease. When I read a non-hookup ad they turned towards irritations and arguments. This is some combination of misanthropy, homophobia and rationalization, but it surprised me nonetheless.

Then there were the long disclaimers about no-shows and creeps and “endless emails”, which made participating in this community feel like an enormous amount of hassle. I have enough hassle these days looking for work and trying to find roommates; my tolerance for dealing with strangers is exhausted.

Most of these people are not creeps. When I get out of my head enough to interact with others, it occurs to me that most people are mostly good most of the time. There are probably several people who would make good friends and reasonable sexual partners. But everybody has drama, and I just don’t want to get involved with that drama.

On the positive side, I did run across ads that reflected some of my own perversions. These people were not looking for people like me, but it is somewhat comforting to know that I am not the only deviant in town.

But (and this is where my confessions get particularly uncomfortable) even though I want to see other people’s pictures and even though I appreciate that other people are looking for similar things to what I fantasize about, I feel deep fear about other people knowing that I am looking for these things. Being recognised on such sites by people I know in my daily life would be embarrassing, to say the least. Let’s call it what it is: internalized homophobia. I can rationalize this by saying that I don’t want it to affect my next job (there is some chance I would be teaching, and my students or administration could come across these activities), but I do not know how much I believe that. Certainly people can and do get fired from their jobs for their personal lives, but there are also lots of people in similar positions who actively look for looooooove on the Internets. Honestly, I would be embarrassed to post an explicit ad on Craigslist, and that is evidence enough that I should stay away.

I hate this. I hate these vacillations. I may be in a space now where I rationally and emotionally understand that I ought to be alone, but the part of me that feels lonely and craves human touch refuses to concede defeat. I’m over 30; by now my libido should have shrivelled up and left me in peace.

If nothing else, I think that Craigslist is probably the wrong forum for me. I doubt there is a right forum. In the past I have considered OKCupid, but I doubt that would work any better. Being on that site would still involve posting pictures and interacting with other human beings.

Straight Pill

From time to time I read memes with questions like “If there was a pill that could make you straight, would you take it?”

I think my answer is “no”, but probably not for the usual reasons. In a previous episode I expressed gratitude that I was not straight, because our hypersexualized culture is tough on straight men. I also expressed a wish to be asexual instead. So if the question was “would I take a pill that could make me asexual”, the answer ought to be “yes” even though in practice such pills exist and I do not take them.

That is part of the problem with this hypothetical. Pills get expensive, and Big Pharma is all about the chronic disease management over full cure model. There probably would not be a single pill to make me straight; instead I would probably have to sign up for a lifetime of prescriptions.

Maybe more importantly, I have always felt fairly adamant that I do not want to have kids, and being straight increases the risk of such an outcome considerably. (One would think that getting the snip would reduce it, but in my case I think the snip got botched.)

But in some sense, I guess I would not take such a pill because I believe that some aspects of sexuality are functions of choice, and I have not made those choices. Whatever else I am, it is pretty apparent that I am not a Kinsey 6. The only sexual experiences I have had with another person were with a woman, and the sex itself was usually pleasant enough (although there were many aspects of that relationship that were less than fine). In some parallel universe I have exactly the same sexuality I do in this universe, but I have been married off to some nice girl and dutifully had enough kids to satisfy the grandparents (although whether my parallel universe spouse and kids are happy is quite another story).

Even without a pill, I could probably live a life that is considerably straighter than I do now, but I have decided not to. Instead I read too many gay blogs and too much LBGTQ literature, and I associate too much with other deviants.

Would being straight leave an empty space in my existence that would have to be filled with something else? Possibly. Certainly I have squandered a lot of time and energy towards my homosexuality. I just wish there were guarantees that instead of sex I would fill that empty space with more worthwhile pursuits. There are a lot of other interesting pasttimes in this world.

Third Wheel

If I could choose, what would the structure of my sexual life be?

There seems to be some spectrum of commitment when it comes to sexual intimacy. On the one extreme is committed monogamous marriage for life with no exceptions. On the other is anonymous sex in public washrooms. I feel many sexually active people (even straight people) have relationships that exist between these extremes.

We have some vocabulary to describe these middle grounds, but it is pretty sparse. Bless the poly people, who are working hard on this problem. Some of the terms I am aware of include:

  • friends with benefits
  • pillow friends
  • secondary/tertiary relationship members
  • fuck buddies
  • spouse swappers
  • swingers
  • adulterers
  • pieces on the side
  • mistresses
  • casual daters
  • no-strings-attached relationship members
  • summer romance participants

Many of these terms are pejorative, but that is not the biggest problem. The biggest problem is that few of them are stable states. Their failure modes tend to be either heading towards long-term committed relationships or to breaking off contact.

I want something in between. I don’t want a series of anonymous partners who do not form emotional connections with me. I also have zero interest in marriage or its substitutes, where others are obligated to stay with me when it is not fun any more. I do not want to combine finances and I do not want to have kids. But it would be nice to have people in my life who are friendly towards me, whose company I enjoyed, whom I found attractive and who wanted to enjoy sex with me precisely as long as it was worthwhile for them. Such relationships would probably last on the order of a year or three — not a few weeks, and not a few decades. I do not want a large number of sexual partners, but I am not committed to monogamy either.

Is such a thing possible?

I have my doubts, because most of the ideas we have around sexual relationships either focus on having many sexual partners (whom we may or may not care for emotionally) or focus on getting married as the “win” state. People who start out casually dating with no-strings-attached relationships often find themselves in trouble when one party is happy with keeping the relationship casual and the other is wondering whether the relationship “has a future”. Then come the ultimatums, because the long term goal of dating is supposedly to move towards marriage (or close relatives like civil partnerships).

One way around this problem would be to be a third wheel. Maybe there are couples out there who are already in committed relationships, but for some reason are not happy with strict monogamy. Maybe they have discordant sex drives. Maybe an otherwise straight man is struggling with same sex attraction, but doesn’t want to break up the marriage. Maybe both partners are tops, or bottoms, or in some other state where the other partner cannot meet all the sexual needs. Maybe they feel that two sexual partners is just not enough.

I think a common strategy among such couples is to become progressively unhappy and then eventually break up. That is a bad state. Another strategy is to bring in “guest stars”, who sometimes get treated like props or extras rather than as members of the relationship.

I think of third-wheel status as being a relatively stable, medium-term relationship in which all parties are aware of the third wheel and give explicit approval to it. The goal of the third wheel is not to become part of the primary household, and it is not to be a homewrecker and steal away one of the primary partners. For the most part, the primary partners meet each other’s emotional, material and financial needs, but one or more members shares an emotional and sexual connection with the third wheel.

I do not know how I would fare in such a relationship. Probably navigating jealousy issues between the primary partners would be too much. But such a setup might work better for me than trying to find an exclusive partner with no desires for marriage.

As I write this, it occurs to me that what I am describing is a subset of polyamorous secondary relationships. So if I am serious about pursuing this (hint: probably not) that would be the place to start.

This probably counts as Shocking Disclosure of Sexual Perversion #4.

I wish I could express these wishes with more clarity and fewer words. I also wish it was more socially acceptable to express preferences for relationship structures in the middle of the spectrum.

Two Months In

Don’t worry. I doubt this will become a monthly feature. But some additional thoughts have been rattling around about this experiment:

  • I think I have firmly established the theme of this blog as “Old Lurker is a prude and unbelievably neurotic”.

  • I have started dipping my toes into more controversial topics, and it has not been going well. But things will likely get rockier in coming months.

  • It is fairly apparent to me that this is not going to be a “forever blog”. I am running out of things to write already. I expect the shelf life to be six months or so.

  • On the one hand, I am upset that I have not grown my audience this month. On the other hand, who cares? There is lots of great blog product out there; I have little to offer that makes me stand out from the crowd.

Slow Walk

To say that Lurkville Pride was tough this year would be accurate. I have never felt that enthusiastic about Pride overall (internalized homophobia?) and as previously documented I had several bad experiences. But there was one positive that may be worth documenting, and (surprise, surprise) it arose because I overcame my social anxiety long enough to think about somebody else.

The context was Lurkville’s Pride march, which consisted of walking from City Hall for one entire block, all the way to a local park. While waiting for the event to start, I milled around with a few people I knew from the LGBTQ community centre. At the periphery of our group stood an older gentleman. His dress was not particularly rainbowesque (for example, he was not wearing one of the cheap dollar store leis the organizers were passing around) and he was standing by himself. I did not know whether he was a participant in the event or just an innocent bystander.

It turns out he was a participant. The community centre was passing out ridiculous signs for us to hold while we walked, so we passed one to this fellow and he accepted it. Then we started walking.

It turns out that this fellow was fairly elderly and fairly slow. The rest of the marchers were leaving him behind. Then I made the one good decision I have all Pride: I slowed down too, and walked with him at his pace.

We started talking. He told me that this was far from his first Pride; he had been participating in Pride marches since the early 1970s. He had a picture taken of himself with a big GAY PRIDE sign. He told me what brought him to Lurkville, and how his family farm had been appropriated by the government. It was not a long march, but I learned a lot.

The fact is that this man was an elder. It is because he was brave and came out in the 1970s that I enjoy relative ease as a non-straight person today. And there are so few elders left. He is 73, which means he was in his 30s during the plague years. But he survived. Far too few did. Now many of those who survived the plague are dying of old age. But for now he is still here and still being visible.

I am sorry that the group left him behind. I am glad he did not have to walk completely alone.

Of course, I screw up everything I do, and this was no exception. I did not learn the man’s name, and I probably would not recognise him again were we to meet. But I am grateful that he marched, and I am grateful that I was able to spend time with him.

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.

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).

Jane’s Walks Weekend

Maybe the closest thing I have to a religious holiday is Jane’s Walk weekend. This is held on the first weekend in May. A bunch of people (sometimes city planners, but sometimes regular citizens) get together to conduct walking tours about some aspect of where they live. Sometimes the walks are historical tours (I tend to like these). Sometimes they are led by activists (and thus tend to be boring and preachy). Some walks get repeated year after year, and some show up once and disappear forevermore.

Some of the more memorable walks I have attended include:

  • A history of old factories from the 1800s.
  • A birdwatching expedition in a local park.
  • The history of aforementioned local park, where I learned the purpose of the park is to be the local storm sewer(!)
  • A neighbourhood tour where the guide pointed out old family houses of founders (and the families that had 18 kids)
  • A graveyard tour where I found out the histories of some people who are now street names.

Jane’s Walks are named after Jane Jacobs, the thinker and activist who is best known for The Death and Life of Great American Cities. That book is pretty good, but a lot of her subsequent work is super-interesting but more obscure. She wrote a book called Systems of Survival which frames societal conflict as a struggle between two ethical systems: Commerce and Guardians. That book broke my mind. Her writing does that a lot. Like many of the great thinkers in this world, she is interesting even when she is wrong. It is well worth exploring her back catalogue.

Anyways, lots of people (especially urban planners) worship at the altar of Jane Jacobs, and in her honour (?) they set up this Jane’s Walks thing. I like the walks because they address the problem of beginner’s mind: all too often we live in a place and take it for granted, without investigating its history or places of interest. Then some friends come to visit, and they are amazed by all the neat things where we live. We only “see the sights” when others come to visit, and rarely when we are on our own. Jane’s walks offer opportunities to revisit the places we live with new eyes. At their best they teach me new things and offer context for why the place I live ended up where it is. At their worst they are boring and preachy, but at least I get outside instead of sitting in front of my computer all day.

I guess this is a big old advertisement for you to go on some Jane’s Walks this weekend? Am I really that much of a sellout? Yes, I guess I am.