There’s a ton of new vocabulary for people to absorb these days when it comes to dating: asexuality, demisexuality, aromantic, graysexual, saposexuality, and so forth.
And people who are unfamiliar with these labels often mock the abundance of labels: “Everyone’s a special snowflake now!”
It’s just the opposite, though.
The problem with labels is that they never fit properly. I’m polyamorous, but what do I have in common with the preening couples who date “secondaries” callously, vetoing other beloved partners for trivial needs? I’m Christian, but what do I have in common with those people who send their gay kids to electroshock therapy?
Those labels always have some ugly overlap. There’s always going to be some idiot claiming they’re “demisexual” in ways that make you retch. Cue fights about the One True Demisexuality… which nobody ever wins, because sexuality is so personal that no label common enough for people to have heard about it could ever apply.
But all these aces and graysexuals and sapiosexuals aren’t trying to be special snowflakes – those labels are, in fact, the opposite.
When someone clasps a label to their chest, they’re often clinging to it like a liferaft.
Because they’ve had these feelings for a long time – feeling like a freak, because they don’t see their emotional reality reflected anywhere. They don’t find it in movies, they don’t see their friends doing it, they’re wandering alone wondering what the hell all these weird emotions feel. Why are they so different?
Then they stumble across The Label. And you know what The Label means?
Somebody else feels this way.
And in many ways, the label’s not them trying to be a special snowflake, it’s them being so fucking relieved that enough other people felt this way that somebody had to make up a name for it.
There’s an abundance of labels these days. That’s because the Internet makes it so easy to have like call to like. In the old days, you may have been the only demisexual person in your town – but now you can find enclaves of them helping each other, informal communities answering questions. And ninety-nine times out of a hundred, it’s not that these people chose a label because it was trendy, it’s because they finally got to look around and see someone like them.
They don’t want to be special.
They just want not to be alone.
And in those cases, the label is not a label. It’s a sign left behind by friendly trailblazers, a post sticking up saying “SOMEONE’S BEEN HERE BEFORE.” And even just knowing there’s a pathway is encouraging, because it means that someone got to happiness from here and you can too.
The label’s the beacon.
And it’s not perfect, but by god is it better than wandering alone.
I don’t know how many people will attend in the Christmas rush – but if you’re in the Cleveland area this Saturday and feel like watching Julie Andrews in heart-swooningly close detail on our Ultra 4k television, we are hosting the sing-a-long this Saturday afternoon.
My Uncle Tommy did volunteer work in Greenwich Village back in the early 1980s, when I was a teenager. He brought me along to help, which made me feel very grown up; I was eleven, and yet here I was stamping envelopes, doing data entry, working in an office.
I loved my co-workers.
They were all really funny guys, flamboyant, and they treated me like a grownup – which was to say they made jokes I didn’t get, and didn’t footnote. After the volunteering shift we’d all go out to a bar, and they’d sneak me into the corner – very grown up – and they’d drink beers and tell theatrical stories while my uncle gave me a roll of quarters and I played Donkey Kong Junior.
I loved them. They were bold, unashamed of their lisps – which was critical to a kid who’d been to vocal therapy to lower his squeaky voice – and they all dressed super-well.
I did not realize they were probably gay until I was almost thirty. That’s when someone said, “Man, the AIDS epidemic totally destroyed the gays in Greenwich Village,” and I thought, “Man, I hope all of my Uncle’s old buddies from Greenwich Village are okay WAIT WHAT”
I had all the pieces. But nobody had specifically called them gay. And I didn’t think that I was the sort of kid who hung around with gay dudes while I was eleven, so even though I had all these facts – a pretty much all-male volunteer squad in Greenwich Village, the stereotypical gay voice, flamboyance, great dressers all – they never coalesced into “Teenaged Ferrett hung around with gay dudes.”
(I called up my Uncle Tommy to confirm they were gay. They were. My Uncle was not, but he apparently did very well with the few women who volunteered with the organization.)
Yet that’s how life happens sometimes: you can have all the pieces, and not put them together because nobody gave you the word. I’ve had friends who took years to realize their Grampaw wasn’t allowed to be alone with them because he was a pederast. I’ve known folks who didn’t realize their parents were swingers despite copious evidence because it never occurred to them their parents could be swingers.
Sometimes you can be bathed in evidence of a plain fact and not recognize it because you don’t believe you’re the sort of person that fact applies to. I was just an ordinary kid from the suburbs, and at the time “gay people” were this wild minority – I didn’t think of myself as the sort of kid who had wild adventures with Greenwich Village Queens, let alone of myself as the sort of kid who’d idolize them. Likewise, my friends had ordinary childhoods with loving parents and the concept that their mom and dad were those swinger people just didn’t fit the mold.
You can have all these pieces lying about, unassembled. Until someone gives you a name. Until someone tells you that yes, you are that sort of person, you just didn’t think of yourself as that person until now.
Does anyone who had a good upbringing think of themselves as “the sort of person who gets raped”?
I see people confused by delayed accusations: Yes, they were raped, but how could it take them time to recognize what happened to them? And much like my gay buddies as a kid, they had all the evidence but it didn’t seem, somehow, to apply to them. This wasn’t a Hollywood rape where a stranger barged into their house – this was a friend, someone they loved, and maybe they said very nice and kind things before and after the assault. Maybe they still like their rapist, or want to like them.
They had all these pieces of evidence – mainly, the fact that they didn’t want to have sex, and yet someone did things to them against their will – but that doesn’t make sense because they’re not the sort of person who’s a rape victim, and they feel terrible a lot but this hasn’t destroyed every last happiness in their life like everyone tells them it should, and so they know something bad has happened but that word “rape” doesn’t seem to apply because they’re not that sort of person.
Until all the evidences finally click into place and they realize that, sadly, they are.
Which is not to say that every person who gets raped is unaware; some are. The most toxic misunderstanding of rape is that there can be only one “accepted” reaction to it, and anything else indicates that the rape didn’t really take place.
Alas, people have all sorts of different reactions to life-changing trauma; look at any funeral, where some people withdraw into silence, and others need all their friends to party with them, and still others need to vent angrily about the injustice. There’s no singular script to grief, which means there’s no “right” way to do it.
But some rape victims get slammed by people because they should have known what happened right away. “Why didn’t they know?” And the answer is, for those people, that their vision of themselves did not encapsulate the sad concept of “I can get raped,” and as such they had all of these pieces of evidence lying around unassembled, waiting for that one key that would tie them all together.
It could be argued that they should have known. And they probably would have known, if it was someone else this happened to. But some times you’re blind to the events of your life simply because the evidence contradicts who you think you know who you are, and waking up to the person you actually are takes some time.
Especially when that person isn’t someone you ultimately want to identify yourself as.
In the weeks since the election, “Analyzing the Trump voter” has become the whip we Democrats use to flagellate each other. There have been thousands of articles analyzing The Trump Voter – they voted for Trump because they were afraid for their jobs, except studies show The Trump Voter was well-off and hence racist! The Trump Voter slavishly believed what Donald had to say about building the wall, except no, The Trump Voter took what Donald had to say figuratively and not literally! The Trump Voter wants to build a plan, but The Trump Voter wants to tear everything down, The Trump Voter would be dismayed and/or enthused when Obamacare’s benefits are repealed without replacement…
And Jesus, no wonder The Trump Voter is terrifying. The Trump Voter is this terrifyingly contradictory amalgam of stories that no Democrat can make sense of.
Because there’s not one unified Trump Voter.
The Trump Voter is an uneasy coalition, like any Presidential voting bloc. There wasn’t The Obama Voter in 2008 either – there were uneasy conservatives who couldn’t quite pull the lever for a ticket that included Sarah Palin, and heartbroken, and shaky racists who still thought Obama would give them the best hope for their business, and sick people who hoped Obama would deliver on his promises of health care, and cults of personality who just loved the way Obama talked.
There was never an Obama Voter – just endless, loosely-affiliated groups who happened to pull the same lever.
And when we Democrats talk about The Trump Voter, we talk about it like there’s only one reason someone could vote for Trump, and we must find it or die.
Which is a one-way ticket to absolute despair if your asshole Uncle at Thanksgiving is the worst kind of Trump voter who voted out of pure spite.
Truth is, there’s a hundred reasons people voted for Trump. Some stemmed from “I don’t trust Hillary.” Some stemmed from the fact that people in rural countries felt like the Democrats were ignoring them – and even then, the reasons they felt ignored varied from group to group. Some stemmed from the belief that Trump would bring back manufacturing, some stemmed from a despairing nihilism to try anything other than what we’ve been doing, some stemmed from pure-D-fucking racism, some stemmed from the delight of hearing a politician say the impolitic, some stemmed from the idea that Trump was less war-crazy than Hillary….
And everyone has a pet theory as to Why Trump Won, and most of them seem to involve The Trump Voter – almost half the electorate swayed by a single issue.
You know why that line of thinking sucks?
Because that implies we have to find an idea that sways 48% of the country, as opposed to 2%.
Because if 2% of the country had voted differently, Hillary would be in charge. And the poisonous rhetoric of The Trump Voter means that if your asshole uncle wore his MAGA cap at the Thanksgiving table and flung mashed potatoes at you while yelling “SUCK IT LIBTARD,” well, then that voter represents all Trump voters and we might as well give up.
Look. The honest truth is that 49 out of 50 Trump voters can be utterly unreachable. They can be cloistered in their Fox News bubble, reading fake news on Facebook, completely unswayable.
All you have to do is find the 1 out of 50 who might listen to reason.
And you’re not gonna find that voter if you’re thinking everyone who voted for Trump is the same as the worst of them. The truth is, there were Trump voters who voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012. There were black and hispanic voters who voted for Trump – and they did so in greater numbers than they did for Romney.
There are Trump voters who might be persuaded back, with the right efforts. But you have to find their reason! You can’t just one-size-fits all The Trump Voter and go, “Your reason for voting Trump is *spins the Trump Voter wheel* RUSSIAN PROPAGANDA LET ME EDUCATE YOU” and move forward –
– no, you actually have to do the hard work of listening instead of shoehorning.
(Even though, it should be said that I firmly subscribe to the Cinemax Theory of Racism.)
And yes. It’s exhausting. Because the truth is, a conversion rate of 1 out of 50 feels more like hunting for a job than it does engaging in political rhetoric. And it’s probably more like 1 out of 200, because the people who are enthusiastic enough to go engage online in politics in these are pretty set in their ways; I’d bet dollars to delicious donuts that most of the reachable Trump voters are going to be converted, if at all, in quiet conversations away from the thundrous trash-fire arguments of the Internet.
But to have a hope of converting them, you have to give up the idea that 47.5% of the country went crazy in the exact same way. They didn’t. They had a hundred different reasons for voting, and if you assume that every Trump voter pulled that lever out of KKK-style racism, or redneck job-terror, or Russian propaganda brainwashing, then you’re quietly buying into that idea that politics is all about reaching everyone and if that one Trump voter is an asshole than you might just as well give up.
But we can be smart enough to hold two truths up at the same time:
- Yes, most Trump voters won’t change their minds no matter what we do. There are unreachable voters, and it’s a waste of time to try to talk to the people who’ve proven hostile to our best intents.
- Yet if we could have persuaded one out of fifty of them, we would have won the election. And we can win the next election.
And yes, there’s the alternate theory that if we Democrats had rallied our base better in red states, we also would have won. Again, that’s not a contradiction of the “one in fifty” theory; that’s another tactic we can use. Because just like there’s not one mythical Trump Voter, there’s not one mythical Path to Victory.
Smart people can fight on multiple fronts. And God, in this dark time, we Democrats need to be smarter.
Alas, I am slightly late with my Annual Greed List – the large (and, yes, uncut) list of things I desire for Christmas. Why do I do this? If you’re really interested, here’s a brief history of the Greed List.
The briefer version, however, is that I think “What you want” is a reflection of “Who you are” at this moment – your music, your hobbies, your fandoms, help define who you are as a person. I find it fascinating as a history, watching how what I’ve desired has mutated – for example, the list used to be heavy on physical Things, which then changed slowly into digital objects as MP3s and iTunes became big, and this year thanks to the gigantic television we bought, I’m back to wanting Things again.
(And it allows me to chronicle strange bumps in my desires; for example, this list contains not one single book. Why? Is it because I stopped loving books? No! It is because I just got off a book tour for Fix, and I am so overflowing with books I need to run down my pile.)
And while I guess I could just shove my Amazon Wishlist at you and run, why bother? I want you to know who I am in this moment, and so I not only list what I want, but explain why I want it.
So. Here’s what I’d like for this gallumphing holiday season.
Review My Books.
So as of today, I have officially written three books:
If you haven’t bought them yet, obviously buying them is a good thing for me. But if you have, and you haven’t left a review somewhere – whether that’s at Amazon, Goodreads, or Barnes and Noble –
Well, authors are hungry for reviews. Every review helps shape the retailers’ recommendation engines, and enough reviews (even negative ones) makes it far more likely that Amazon or Barnes and Noble will recommend that author’s book to someone else. So even if it’s a two-star review of “Didn’t hook me,” well, actually, that helps.
So you wanna get me a gift that costs you nothing aside from five minutes of time? If you’ve read my book, rate my book somewhere. Which you can do for literally any other author you like!
PlayStation 4 Charging Station ($15.99)
It’s rare that my top money-gift is so affordable and so practical, but here’s how it is:
The charging station we have for our current PS4 controllers is crap. They’re two little balls you have to a) plug into the controller, and b) seat in the charging station, which means the balls inevitably aren’t seated right and it doesn’t charge.
Which would be a hassle just for gaming, but alas, our DVD player is also our PS4 which means that we’re continually going to watch a movie and finding the “remote” dead. We need a design for charging that isn’t frickin’ stupid, which this is, so I want this. Or something very much like it that doesn’t suck.
iTunes $30 Gift Card To Buy In The Heights ($15.99) and Weird Romance ($9.99)
So anyone who’s been following me this year will know of my great affection for Hamilton – the best thing that happened in 2016 was winning the Hamilton lottery and getting front-row seats to see the original cast performing.
And the guy who wrote Hamilton is called Lin-Manuel Miranda, and he’s had a hell of a year. He also wrote the soundtrack to Disney’s new film Moana, which is ridiculously hummable.
But the trick is that Disney hired Lin-Manual before Hamilton even debuted on Broadway! And normally, “Disney hires a Broadway writer” would be a step up in your career, but Hamilton had hit so big that most people assumed they’d hired him because “the writer of Hamilton” would help promote their film.
Which brings us to our grand conclusion – which is to say Disney hired Lin-Manuel based solely on the strength of his first Broadway musical, “In The Heights,” which I could use on my iTunes, stat.
In addition! The directors of Moana are famed for filming The Little Mermaid – which was the debut of Disney’s greatest songwriters Ashman and Mencken, who wrote Little Shop of Horrors, The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin. And their first Broadway musical, Weird Romance, is finally available on iTunes, which I would also love to hear.
So basically, a bunch of debut musicals from people I love.
Craaaaaazy Socks ($10 or less)
My current “Wacky Socks” collection includes Spock socks, Bacon socks, Fallout socks, Apollo 13 socks, and Reindeer socks.
You wanna get me crazy socks? You go right ahead.
The Last Guardian on PS4 ($59.99)
The annoying thing about being locked into one gaming platform for years is that you miss the classics that appear only on one game system. And for years, people have raved about games like Ico and Shadow of the Colossus, which were supposedly these great moody experiences that people remembered forever – but they were on the PlayStation, and I am an Xbox kid.
But now the guys who did Ico and Shadow of the Colossus have a game out for the new PS4! And it’s supposedly awesome, with you breaking out of a prison to find a gigantic barn-sized bird, and you have to befriend and train the bird to survive, and it’s weird and crazy and lovely from the previews. Apparently, you basically find a mega-dog and try to make it your friend.
I would like this game.
Dungeon World ($18.99)
This is a pen-and-paper RPG that’s kind of like Dungeons and Dragons, but is focused on roleplaying instead of hack-and-slashing, which is what the latest D&D hammers on. In most RPGs the Dungeon Master sets up the adventure – mapping out the castle you’ll be storming, all the people you’ll be talking to, et cetera.
In Dungeon World, you cooperatively get together to create a campaign together, agreeing on what the coolest thing that could happen is. And that requires people to move away from “I beat what the DM throws at us” and towards “We create a story with triumphs and dramatic setbacks.”
How do they do that? I do not know. ButI wish to find out.
Corner Gas: The Movie ($16.99)
This is the conclusion to the Canadian Seinfeld, a gloriously goofy show set in Dog River which I adore. This is a national treasure of a show about nothing – and while I know there’s no great storyline to conclude (Corner Gas was infamously hostile to running storylines), I’d like to spend one last ninety minutes in the company with these absolutely lovable dorks.
Final Fantasy XV, PS4 ($59.99)
Here’s an interesting fact: Aside from Final Fantasy X, I haven’t really liked any Final Fantasy Games. They’re all beautiful, and complicated in all the ways I want them simple (five million ways to configure a character!) and simple in all the ways I want them complicated (you’re stuck on a linear story and can’t deviate from it!).
But the reviews say that FFXV isn’t quite a normal Final Fantasy game; apparently, it’s four guys driving around on a big fantasy road trip, doing errands and becoming closer friends. I’m willing to take a chance on that – especially because even if the game isn’t such great shakes, it’ll look great on my big TV.
Avatar on Blu-Ray ($19.96)
Speaking of dumb things that look beautiful, one of the joys of our massive hi-def TV is that movies really pop when you show them on Blu-Ray. And Avatar is a movie that isn’t very good, but it is absolutely visually stunning, I want to see how it looks on The Magnificence.
Router Table ($159.99)
Yes, I’m still doing woodworking! Though not in November, alas, thanks to a whole bunch of hideous news. But we hope to keep wooding things up, and to do that we’ll need a table to stick my new router in. Which I am very much happy with.
Gone With The Wind Blu-Ray ($12.11)
So this is one of the greatest visual spectacles ever filmed, and we have one of the greatest screens ever created. We need to see the Burning of Atlanta on our big screen.
The Godfather Blu-Ray ($22.00)
Again, another visually spectacular movie. I only really need the first movie (my shameful cinema opinion is that Godfather II is severely overrated), but damn will this look nice on my gigantor TV.
Dr. Strangelove Blu-Ray ($22.49)
I have been on such a Stanley Kubrick kick lately, it’s ridiculous. And this isn’t my favorite of his films, but it is beautiful and I want to rewatch it with all the extras that only come with the Criterion collections (which do phenomenal behind-the-scenes restorations with loads of interviews).
Watch Dogs 2 for PS4 ($59.99)
This is getting decent reviews – basically, “Hi, this is a clone of Grand Theft Auto with a few tweaks.” But that’s not a bad thing! In Grand Theft Auto, you run around a city and cause mayhem with guns and cars, and that is a fun formula on a day when you’re pissed off about things. It doesn’t have to be genius – it just has to have a few running firefights.
All good readers will know the problem: You’re talking to your friends, and there is That Embarrassed Pause in the conversation. And you realize you just used a word you’ve read often, but never heard spoken out loud.
“…is that the way it’s pronounced?” you ask.
“Nope,” they say.
Which, for us bookworms, is a constant peril. We know how the words sound in our head. But that’s stupidly not the way words should be.
My personal nightmare? “Bouquet.” That word is the sole reason I do not speak French to this day, because it is a stupid word that I still maintain should be pronounced “boo-kwet.” I was in fifth grade, and they expected me to know foreign vowels? Unfair.
But I had my friend Jim who staunchly pronounced it “annie-hill-ate” because, confoundingly, Star Trek had an episode with a cool title – “Operation: Annihilate!” – yet nobody in the episode actually spoke of annihilating anything.
So, beloved readers, share your embarrassment: What word did you stumble over?
So Christmas is coming up, and so is my Annual Greed List, where I make a list of everything that I currently want to find in my stocking. Which started out as a way for my family to help understand their terminally-nerdy son, and actually has evolved into a interesting tracking of my habits over the years.
(For example, I can look back over past Greed Lists and chart the demise of physical music CDs, see how the roleplaying market crashed and was revived through Kickstarter, see the hobbies I started and got bored by. It’s great.)
Which leads me to ask: What cool-yet-affordable things should be on my Greed List this year? Which RPGs are cannot-miss, which videogames are so cool that I cannot live without them, which geeky trinkets are so stellar that I must have them beneath my tree this year?
What has escaped my nerdy eye? Please! Tell me, so I can compile The List properly.