I’ve found dating in the modern era no easy task. I work at home and don’t drink, so I don’t meet people in the office or at bars, which seems to be how everyone I know finds new relationships. I don’t go to church either. My friends have joked that I’m going to have to marry a Jehovah’s Witness because they’re the only ones showing up at my door. The internet dating scene is dead within driving distance of where I live. Because I don’t smoke, drink, do drugs or consider myself a Glenn Beck fanatic, I have little in common with my neighbors.
We have a sizable liberal population because it’s still California, but they’re all part of one cult or another. Americanized versions of eastern religions. I saw a Buddhist monk in full robes talking on his cellphone getting into a convertible sports car and peeling out of the parking lot, tires squealing. In my old apartment, my landlord made me pay a hundred dollars more than everyone else because I wasn’t Buddhist. He didn’t see it as religious discrimination because the other tenants were vague pseudo-monks whose religious practices involved not having a job. And here I picked agnosticism because I thought it was the laziest religion and now I find out there’s religions that get you out of having a job. Yet it didn’t preclude them from living in a regular apartment filled with modern appliances and electronics. Because how can you become enlightened without a washer and dryer, car, smart phone, computer, etcetera? My old neighbor was pseudo-Hindu and claims his guru taught him how to create corn. “FH, you mean grow corn, right?” No, I mean create corn. He sees where there is no corn and then there is corn. Oddly, it’s not a superpower that can be demonstrated. That would be too flashy.
When I was 8, I was such a ladies man. I had all the great lines (from movies) and the kind of confidence you can only have when you’re too stupid to know you’ve got no clue what you’re talking about. That’s why the dumbest experts you’ll ever meet are so confident about it. The kind of people who say things like “There’s absolutely no way this can catch on fire,” right before the fire. The day after I met my best friend’s sister, we were engaged. Until, in a move generally associated with the rich girl’s parents in movies about teen romances between the upper class and lower class, her father informed her that she couldn’t marry me because I was poor. Again, remember that we were 8 and 7. Very few engagements last long on their own at that age, much less require a classist intervention. I didn’t find out until a little later when my best friend told me what his dad had said.
I think that guy hated me. Partly because I threw up a lot around him, which unnerved him, and partly because even at that age I was kind of a socialist. He wasn’t a bad guy. Just another lower upper class, new money, southern Californian father with 2 kids living on the side of a golf course trying to eek out the American dream. They had a series of family photos that I think should be in a museum. The saddest and most obvious fake half-smiles even in the wedding photos. Nothing like sad wedding photos. I generally tend to think of life in song lyrics and when I think of them I think of the song “Cath…” by Death Cab for Cutie.
“Cath, she stands with a well-intentioned man
But she can’t relax with his hands on the small of her back
And as the flash bulbs burst
She holds a smile like someone would hold a crying child.”
So, years after all that my hormones kicked in. Suddenly it wasn’t pretend. It became the roller coaster of terror and public humiliation people always said it was. And why is it that when you’re a teenager, the time you care most what other people think of you, is the time when you’re a complete wreck. It’s all body odor and hair and bad breath and poor skin complexion and clumsiness. And sure, it’s worth it for the lucky ones who emerge from their cocoon as butterflies (you’re Scarlett Johansson’s and Ryan Gosling’s), but for the rest of us that ended up as moths, it was not worth it. I went through all that torment and physical mutation to be 5′ 5″? Screw you genetics.
It’s funny though. Looking back on those early crushes makes it so clear to me that being straight or gay isn’t a choice. How much of it is genetic or environmental or parenting or chance is up in the air, but it’s certainly no choice. When I was 2 I used to haul around a picture of a woman in a red dress I found in a catalog. My mom joked it must have been my wife from my last life. My interest showed up long before my hormones did. So this idea that there’s millions of people choosing to be gay is so ridiculous to me.
There’s some scenes in the movie Bruno with Sacha Baron Cohen that feature a real “pray the gay away” sort of conversion center. The guy in charge of this place was basically saying that even though women might seem stupid and annoying you have to put up with them because you’re supposed to. It was a very odd “somebody has to do the laundry and cook the food,” kind of outlook. Unhealthy on so many levels. More appropriate thinking for the 19th century.
It’s always been easy for the idiots to divide us all up. Men and women are physically and mentally different. So people with an agenda can say that each gender has a role to fill. The problem is that it’s not really true and, beyond that, it’s tough to fill out the role when your society assigned it to you. There’s masculine women and feminine men and a million variations on the common theme. Where does a woman who doesn’t want children fit in? Or a guy who wants to be a stay at home dad? The irony is that the people pressing hardest for us to all play the parts we were given are the people most unhappy in their roles.
A similar argument is applied to gay marriage. Marriage is between a man and a woman because they can create life. So an infertile straight couple shouldn’t be able to get married? What about people who can have children, but have no intention to do so? If it’s religious tradition, and there can be only one true God, then we have to figure out whose right first before anyone can get married, otherwise we might be marrying heathens. Some politicians say it’s a slippery slope that could lead to polygamy or bestiality. I see it as a slippery slope saying that any two consenting adults can’t get married.
The argument is ancient. It’s tradition. You have to keep with tradition. Segregation and slavery were tradition. Burning witches and heretics was tradition. Just because people have been doing it forever, doesn’t mean it was ever right.
Most of my life I was raised by a single mother, so I’ve had more female friends than male for most of my life. In fact, I had rather few male friends until a few years ago when I found the current collective of fellow internet nerds to which I belong. Growing up I actually really hated being a guy. Judging from my home town and most of my early experiences, I thought at some point all boys transformed into drunks when they became men and violence was part of being a dad. I was always frightened of patriarchal figures (hence, why I threw up all the time around my best friend’s dad even though he was harmless.) I didn’t really understand how my mom could still love me in spite of what I was.
But we left all that dysfunction behind and eventually settled in California. What a different atmosphere. People saw domestic violence as a crime out here. How progressive. As I grew up, I also saw that women can be really terrible people too. So I came to the realization that it wasn’t a gender issue at all. Human beings all have the potential to be kind or cruel, smart or stupid.
During my childhood I also saw the slow collapse of a lot of old gender stereotypes/barriers. A big part of that was computers. It created a whole generation of nerds and geeks who shed many of the gender stereotypes. A subculture formed that said you didn’t need to know how to fix a car or throw a football or beat up a rival to be a man. A higher value placed on men who could think than on those with physical strength. Cooperation over competition. Understanding over domination.
The only real downside is that, as the gender roles broke down, a lot of the negatives bled through. There’s an epidemic of boys who are getting eating disorders and body image issues in high school. I know it’s hard to feel like you’ve much of a chance with the physical standards these days. Abdominal muscles? What would I even use them for? That seems like a lot of work to generate muscles that serve no purpose. A while ago in the supermarket, I remember seeing a Men’s Health magazine with Jeremy Renner on the cover with his shirt off that said I could look like him in 4 weeks. Unless 4 weeks is the time it takes to transplant a human brain, then no, that’s not happening.
It was clear that corporations were preying on women’s insecurities, so what was the solution? Prey on everyone’s insecurities. The cure for the disease was infecting more people so now everyone’s officially diseased.
Still, we’re all in it together now. Except gay people. Because legally recognized love is reserved for a man and a woman, like my aforementioned best friend’s parents. And lots of women still get paid less than their male counterparts. And many of the major religions still discriminate against women and gays being clergy. Or even members if they’re gay. And despite all this America is still one of the best places to be female or gay in the world, which is disturbing.
Well, at least, corporate America finally agrees that no matter what your gender, race or sexual preference is, you’re unattractive and no one will ever be able to love you without their entire product line. That’s certainly a type of progress…
The perfect example of this is the medication Latisse. It’s used to lengthen eyelashes for women. Side effects include change in eye color, eye pain, eyelashes so long they become in-grown and scratch the cornea, and blindness. Yes, blindness. For eyelashes. I’ve never even met a guy who cares about a woman’s eyelashes.
For men, there’s the hair growth pill Propecia, which causes impotence and the commercial says pregnant women shouldn’t touch a broken capsule. Anything that could hurt a fetus through skin contact with the mother is not going in my mouth.
The lesson here is that we all need to be less shallow and superficial. Now I need to go back to exercising because I have to lose 10 pounds by Friday.