October 7, 2010
Things are still very, very, very hard for LGBTQ youth. But the real bullying, I think, happens when there's a combination of factors in place. Being gay and being on the football team affords you the option to keep your mouth shut until you can get to college or to another city and, as YouTube tells us, it gets better. It's not easy, but at least you see your young athletic body reflected in the aesthetic of the websites that promote gay men's culture. And if you come from a New Jersey high school with a ten-year-old Gay-Straight Alliance, you at least probably know that there are places for you in this world.
It's the weirdos, people. It's the geeky, nerdy, odd, socially wacked-out boys who want to wear nail polish but aren't quite pulling it off with that swagger some have. It's the kids who can't make friends, who can't talk to people, who suffer from crippling social anxiety, who attract bullying like magnets well into college. It's the boys who lisp and mince pretty much from birth, but it's also the boys who wear sweatpants to ninth grade and interrupt class with weird vocal sound effects they don't even notice they're making. It's not the girls on the softball team so much as the girls with the acne and the doughy round faces who hide behind their stringy hair and play Halo.
I've been to middle school and high school, and it seems to me like the very hardest thing to be in this world is very weird and not extraordinarily smart. If you like fantasy games and aren't also a math genius, the road ahead is extremely tough. And trust me, people will call you faggot and dyke along with every other slur they can throw at you just to show you that you're a reject, an outcast, that you are reviled. Inherently homophobic? Sure. But gay kids are far from the only victims.
So yes, reach out to the kids getting bullied and being called gay. Some of them really are gay, or will turn out to be gay. But plenty of them are not; plenty of them are just different. Maybe their parents are hoarders or schizophrenics or just shy social phobics hiding from the world in a dark domicile. Things are tough at home, love is scarce, and there are few places for these kids. The internet offers a kind of connection to the world, but an imperfect one at best. And there's no magical Castro or Chelsea or Park Slope for all the weirdos of the world to move to and find love.
So weirdos, let me tell you, as a person mercilessly mocked throughout elementary and well into middle school: it gets better. It does. You will find people like you, who like the things you like and share your interests. You will get dates and gain freedom and transport yourself to LARPing events and comedy clubs and Ren Faires and other places where freak flags fly freely. And you may never fit in at your high school, and you may never feel like society fully accepts you or speaks your language, but you will learn how to express yourself safely and comfortably, and you will be celebrated. You will make a life you love. And you will be happy, because you'll have bucked the narcotic pull of conformity and chosen the kind of life you wanted. That's far more than most people get to do.
September 13, 2010
* I still get a lot of hits on this post about Junot Diaz's novel. The post is obviously not a sincere request that he translate his dialogue into English. It is a hilarious anecdote about my gringa mother. I'm not some talk-dirty-to-me-in-English-or-go-home tea party Minuteman fucking asshole, as evidenced by the fact that I have actually learned Spanish. La intención es ser chistoso, ¿me entiendes? If you sincerely think that the post is a good opportunity to lecture me on why non-translated bilingual prose is an important and fully intentional statement about culture, you can sóplalo. Con la boca. La boca estúpida.
*In a related story, my live-in manfriend (aka husband) is playing a game called Red Dead Redemption. I call it Grand Theft Wagon. Incidentally, the game has lots of non-subtitled non-translated Spanish. It's pretty cool! Except you can't choose to join the anti-government rebels and you are forced to do a bunch of brutal missions for the oppressive military dictator. Still, ¡hay tanto español!
* I went to Jerusalem. The Dome of the Rock is essentially attached to the Western Wall which is about five feet away from the fifth Station of the Cross. Nuns bump into Arabs who in turn bump into Hasidim in the tiny alleyways. That's three of the holiest sites in the whole world, all right there. Is Jerusalem perfect? Far, far from it. But I for one believe in the peace process. And I know that we can handle an Islamic cultural center near the World Trade Center site. And by "we" I mean New Yorkers, who are accustomed to having neighbors from different cultures and who know that ALL OF LOWER MANHATTAN is pretty darn close to the World Trade Center site. That includes Islamic centers that already exist. And strip clubs. And leather bars. It's all right there, folks.
* I heard one opponent of the Islamic cultural center shout: "It's a Trojan Horse!" That'd be a pretty fucking shitty Trojan Horse, what with all this press and controversy. If some dude with monocle and a handlebar mustache wants to build the American Jesus Center for Puppies and Rainbows in lower Manhattan, that's when it's time to get suspicious.
July 15, 2010
One thing I realized is that getting up early, walking briskly to yoga class, then eating salad and grains for breakfast feels GOOD. Also, staying out late with your friends, talking about comedy and drinking lotsa beers feels GOOD. Why do we always pit one against the other? We're strong humans; when we don't try to deny any part of ourselves, we can thrive in balance and always be celebrating.
I also realized something about myself, about how I seek people, how I talk to people, and what I do for a living (see above ("telling jokes")). I long to be known. I'm not sayin' known as in famous. I mean like, I have a deep deep desire to tell people who I am. I want others to know what I think, how I think, what I've been through, how I operate. I've worked hard to overcome so much in my mind and heart; I've macheted through the jungles of trauma and panic and depression and I've found a way -- one of many many ways -- all the way out. I want to share the conclusions I've worked for because I think other people might need to know this stuff, and I know others have wisdom that I lack and desperately need. In everything I do, every interaction I have, I try to be as honest and open and revealing about myself as I can be in the hopes that this frame of mind can bring about an exchange that can lead to more growth, more truth, more happiness for everybody involved. Is it arrogant? Maybe. I ain't sayin' I'm RIGHT, though. I'm just sayin', this is what I got. Let's start from a big place, a deep place, a place where you can begin to trust me because I'm being honest about where I'm coming from. And let's go from there.
I'm just sayin'.
June 20, 2010
I'm scared to give my ego over to that hum within me; unfortunately it's the only part that knows how to write.
June 7, 2010
1. Some dude named "Kord" is described as being compulsive about email, checking constantly and always being distracted by it. They liken this to drug addiction, or perhaps food or sex addiction. To me, in this guy's case, it's actually more like gambling addiction. Several times in his life, this Kord dude, who is in the business of starting start-ups (or doing start-ups or making start-ups or launching start-ups or whatever the gerund is), has received an email offering to buy his company/product for over a million bucks. So, by my thinking, just like the gambler who returns to the slot machines obsessively with the memory of the one time he hit the jackpot, Kord is conditioned to constantly check his email. It's called intermittent reinforcement, or reinforcement on a variable-ratio schedule. Look, I Googled it for you.
2. I seriously question the definition of "multitasker" throughout the article. The researchers seem to label people "multitaskers" if those people self-report to be always checking too many input sources, constantly getting distracted by online stimuli, or compulsively looking at the various messages on their mobile devices. The thing is, I'm not sure those people would call themselves "multitaskers." The article then goes on to point out that these self-defined "multitaskers" tend to suck at the actual practice of multitasking. I, however, turn out to be really really good at it. I would never define myself as somebody who must constantly check email or texts or fifty different websites, but I would definitely describe myself as somebody who is good at multitasking. So the definition of terms thing is a thing here, people.
3. Finally, there's this gem:
Researchers say there is an evolutionary rationale for the pressure this barrage puts on the brain. The lower-brain functions alert humans to danger, like a nearby lion, overriding goals like building a hut. In the modern world, the chime of incoming e-mail can override the goal of writing a business plan or playing catch with the children.
Ahh, popular science journalism's take on evolutionary bio and psych! Do you ever get old? No you don't!!!!
In this particular example, we can see a common problem: by implying that primitive man needed to be able to arrest his hut-building instantly lest he be eaten by a lion, the writer inadvertently suggests that this time in human history - hut-building days - was the origin of this distraction-prone tendency. Like perhaps only 2% of humans had the mutation that allowed them to get distracted appropriately, thus beating out all the other humans who would become lion meat while trying to thatch their roofs. Of course, that's ridiculous. Lizards get thrown off their rock-sitting or eyeball-licking or even boots-knocking by the introduction of a threat. The distraction thing is an old, old, OLD-ASS mechanism, and our ability to remain relatively focused on more and more complex tasks (and to return to whatever task got interrupted) is what developed on top of that, over thousands of years. Not every step of our cognitive evolution happened after Homo sapiens started lumbering around; not even close.
Of course, that's not exactly what the article is saying, but I would argue that it's a common problem in our popular thinking about evolution to figure out some lion-based reason we humans do something or have something or feel something, and then kind of vaguely give it a "well there you go then."
And that's just not sciencey enough.