Fuck Destiny. Try Work.

Occasionally, someone asks me, “Do you feel that Gini’s your soul mate? You’ve been dizzyingly, rapturously in love for fifteen years – and isn’t that destiny?”

Fuck no it isn’t.

Now, Gini and I liked each other a lot, which was the key to why we managed to somehow forge a connection over the Internets. We had a similar, if evil, sense of humor. We shared the same concept of fairness. We both liked fucking a whole lot.

But when we got together, man did we have a lot to work on.

Yeah, we live in an idyllic wonderland these days – but don’t ever forget we built this fucking thing, brick by brick. If you’d seen us a year after our marriage, you would have thought we were headed for divorce. Hell, at one point Gini flat-out told me she didn’t love me any more, and we spent six months figuring out what to do when that happened.

We fought until dawn sometimes, screaming as we slowly tried to determine how to be kind to each other without sacrificing the things that let us function.

And slowly, we learned each other’s secret language of love. She learned I needed warm, Sunday morning snuggles; I learned she needed clean kitchens. We picked up on the signals that told us when we felt justified but were acting like utter choads. We learned how to apologize without clogging up the joint with denials, defenses, and backpeddling.

After about three years, it got good.

After about six, it got fantastic, and has yet to stop improving.

At fifteen, it’s bliss. It’s our refuge. It’s probably the best thing we’ve achieved together.

But if you tell me that “destiny” brought us together, you’re telling me that destiny did the work. Fuck that fickle bitch. Destiny maybe put us in the same chat room together – or maybe that was her slacker brother Chance – and so I’ll be eternally grateful to someone out there. But when I was seething with neurotic jealousy and Gini was squashing her feelings so deep down even she didn’t know how furious she was, where the hell was destiny?

No. We did this. And I shudder to think of what would have happened if I’d waited for cloud-castles to float by bearing my soul-mate on a sweet tide of incense and pheromones.

Fuck that. My castle started with two people, two shovels, and a quarry that would have broken a sane man’s back. Look at our hands: they’re full of callouses, our fingernails crusted with dirt and blood, and some days the west wing collapses and we walk out with these tools we built ourselves to prop the fucking thing up again.

This is no dream. This is hard work.

And it is glorious.

The Family That Gets A Tattoo Together, Stays Together.

I met my wife in a Star Wars chat room.

I did not see her as someone I ever thought I would romance.

This is because she was married, and I was engaged, and as such we happily kept to the main topic of the Compuserve forums: arguing relentlessly about anything we damn well felt like.  There was a lot of Star Wars debate (did Luke truly fall to the Dark Side, were ysalamiri a dumb idea, why the hell did they have to fly through the trench for twenty miles to get to the exhaust port, couldn’t they just have started like 2000 meters away?)…

…and there was a lot of political debate, couched in Star Wars hokum so it wouldn’t get moved to another thread.  (“The Saudis, who have absolutely no reason to lower the price of oil to help our national economy out, live in a desert as dry as Tatooine.”)

But mostly, there was a love of Star Wars.  And my future wife and I savaged each other in snarling debates for years, long enough that she got a divorce and my fiancee walked out and one day we realized we were in love.

So we got married.  (And I moved to Alaska, which is a different story.)

So Star Wars bonds us.  We had Luke and Leia on top of our wedding cake.  (We have an OTP that defies canon, what can I say?)  And with the new Star Wars coming out, Gini was thinking of getting a tattoo.

And I told her, We should both get a tattoo.  Together.

Of course we agreed this was a great idea.

But the funny thing is, a few weeks ago we got this new huge Ultra-HD 70″ television, which our eldest daughter helped us set up.  The first film we watched? Star Wars in Blu-Ray, of course.

And what I discovered, much to my thrill, is that though she’s in her late twenties, my eldest daughter is as much a Star Wars nerd as I am.  There are activities I think we all share with our parents that we like because it reminds us of family – but without the family there, it’s just sort of Something You Do On Summer Vacations.  I mean, maybe your Dad read Winnie the Pooh to you as a kid and you loved that warm feeling of being in his lap, but there’s a difference between loving that experience and reading Winnie the Pooh over and over again when you’re a grownup.

Whereas our kid?  She kept pointing out all the tiny details, squeeing at stuff only someone who’d watched this damn film too many times would see.  She was as into it as we were, and it was a glory to behold.

We mentioned the tattoo.

She was in.

And then there was our youngest daughter, who we knew also had the Star Wars love when she waited to show her partner Star Wars at our house.  Her partner enjoyed it enough, but my younger kid’s constantly squeezing her hand and going “HERE IT COMES, NO THIS IS THE BEST PART” probably was a distraction.

Youngest daughter is overseas right now on a college trip, but she’s coming back to town in September.  But we Facebook-messaged her.

She was in.

And so plans are tenuous, but the plan is to go in the week the new Star Wars movie releases and get four Star Wars tattoos together, as a family.  We’re not coordinated enough to get matching tattoos, which I think is appropriate – we’re a raucous bunch, we disagree, and us having all the same style would never fly.

Yet if all goes well, the four of us will ink our special bond permanently. We love Star Wars.  We love each other.  And the movie may suck and suck big-time, but we’ll watch it in the biggest theater in Cleveland with flesh still aching from the needle, knowing that nothing can take our bond away from us.

We survived Phantom Menace.  We’ll get through this.

And whenever I look at my tattoo, I’ll think of my wife, and my kids, and the dream we lived together.

Let’s hope this works.

My Crumbling Empire: On Depression, And Social Networks

Yesterday, I saw a dear friend of mine for lunch. We had some lovely burgers, chatted amiably, and when she left I slumped into my chair and stared numbly at the wall for half an hour, drained to the point of paralysis.

I am normally an introvert, which is to say that I love people, but it takes me energy to spend time in their company.

When I’m in Seasonal Affective Disorder, as I am now, talking to people takes so much energy that I have to schedule social engagements like I would workouts. You can’t just go out and run a ten-mile; you gotta build in warmup and recovery time.

Normally, I’m a super social person. I text probably twenty people during the course of a day, merrily exchange @s on Twitter, flirt on FetLife. I have Woodworking Wednesdays, and Roleplaying Tuesdays, and guests over almost every weekend.

My SAD is really fucking with me right now, in a fundamental way. Right now, “answering a text” involves mental labor. My phone buzzes, and rather than going, “Oooh, who is it?” like I normally do, I flinch with a sagging “Oh, man, I have to respond to that.”

And the thing is, it’s costing me. I usually have an excellent support network of friends who tell me happy things and distract me when I’m bored. (For a depressive introvert, in fact, I have a thoroughly vibrant social life.) But weeks have passed, and some folks have quite correctly decided that I’m not being a particularly good friend, and so why waste time on me when I’ll respond erratically if at all?

So I’ve been losing people I like to talk to. In theory. In practice, I want to talk to few people now, and sporadically, but I still like these people, I just… am pretty limited at the moment.

And here comes the annoying part where people tell me, “Well, if they can’t deal with you cutting out on them because you’re depressed, they’re not true friends and they don’t matter!” And that is such, such stinking bullshit.

First off, by defining the only friends worth having as “people who will stay with you for long periods where you don’t reciprocate their interest,” you’re dismissing the need for casual friends. Yes, it’s lovely to have that Deep Friend who will hold your hand when you’re having open-heart surgery – but it’s also good to have a wide, shallow network of people to go catch a movie with.

Depressives tend to fetishize the “TRUE FRIEND,” without realizing that casual engagements are equally worth having, because sometimes you just want to get out of the house and get a drink with someone who makes you laugh. Having multiple people you get together with sporadically enrichens your social life, makes you more resilient to life’s inevitable bumps (what if your One True Friend moves away?), and increases the chances of meeting someone who does get your weird-ass social rhythms

Furthermore, I think it becomes seriously toxic to view the “True Friend” as “someone who’s okay to neglect.” It may be that you have to neglect people to keep your sanity intact, as I am right now, but it’s not a good thing that I do this. It’s me not returning texts, it’s me canceling out on social engagements, it’s me not reaching out to people I love –

And I think that going, “Well, True Friends endure the dismal friendships you give them!” does a disservice to the concept of friendship going both ways. Yes, a True Friend will understand when you’re going through a bad patch – but if you are a True Friend in return, then you’ll do what you can to make your friends feel valued even during your deep funks.

The True Friend myth often seems to dismiss the notion that friendship is a two-way street, treating the True Friend as a toy and not a human. “Here, I’m going to toss you under my bed for weeks at a time and not pay attention to you – but now that I want you, come out and play!”

Friendships include maintenance. Maintenance I don’t necessarily have the energy to give right now. And perhaps a lot of the people I talk to understand that withdrawal, but it’s also a not-incorrect move to go “Ferrett’s not talking to me much, so I’m not going to prioritize him the way I used to.”

And so I think of my social network as a crumbling empire – at the core, I’m still talking to my closest friends. But expanding out in rings from that are a bunch of text-flirts and buddies and acquaintances whose company I genuinely enjoy who I’m unable to respond to in a timely fashion…

…and they’re slowly backing off from me. The social network I have is fraying. And when I eventually recover from this sudden depression – if I do – then some people I’ll start texting again and they’ll just be happy to hear from me. Others, I’ll restart up with, with a permanently damaged friendship: they now know that I can drop out of sight, and as such they won’t trust me with too much of their affection.

Still others I’ll lose entirely. We’ll be friendly when we see each other, but that potential for a deeper relationship will have been lost in this absence, where they shrug and figure they’ll hug me and say hello when we’re in the area, but now quietly vow to make absolutely no effort to get in touch.

I can’t say I blame any of them. I’ve got my own issues. This is how my issues affect theirs. And they have to move to protect themselves in the way they see fit.

I just wish I was a little less broken inside. But this isn’t my fault; it’s bad chemistry, some rogue DNA producing a toxic chemical stew that triggers stress reactions.

It’s not my fault. But I still have to live with the consequences.

On Classifying Assholes

For years, I double-dipped the chip. At every party I went to.

But then again, I came from a family that routinely traded bites at every meal, and I was not the most conducive to picking up on social cues, and I have a constitution like a horse where I can eat a sandwich that’s been sitting on the counter for three days and have zero ill effects.

It was not until that Infamous Seinfeld Episode where George gets into a fight with his girlfriend’s brother that I realized, reluctantly, that I was in fact that asshole.

And my enlightenment did not come flaring on at once like a firework, either. I had discussions with friends. They told me it was rude, and I dismissed them going, “Nah, it couldn’t be. Seinfeld overreacts to things. It’s comedy!”  I watched people at parties, monitoring the dip bowl out of the corner of my eye, not believing that people would care about such a thing.

Slowly, I came around. And by the time Mythbusters disproved the double-dipping theory from a semi-scientific standpoint, I’d come to realize that even if it might not necessarily be harmful, it was the sort of thing that people fucking hated and maybe I shouldn’t do it.

That ignorance did not somehow erase my asshole nature over the years of double-dipping.  I was an asshole at parties, and no doubt grossed out lots of people, and possibly even gave a few sensitive people food poisoning, I dunno.  Don’t like to think about that much.

But that ignorance (and, ultimately, resistance) did not remove the fact that I was doing asshole things, and needed to stop.  I felt justified in what I was doing for a bit, in the fact that I felt people were oversensitive – but this stemmed from the fact that at the time, I frequently felt that I could argue people out of their feelings, where adding enough confrontation to an uncomfortable event would somehow make people come away thinking well of me.

…Which was another asshole thing I did.

Maybe double-dipping the chip isn’t such an awful thing, in the scheme of life. On the other hand, I balance that fussiness against the ease of me not double-dipping the chip.  If someone kicked up a fuss about, say, the disgusting nature of using forks to eat food, I’d look at a lifetime of eating spaghetti with chopsticks and go Nah, you be you.

But double-dipping the chip? I can get by snapping my larger potato chips in half. It’s a small price to pay to not be an asshole.

Now, you may think the point of this essay is a heartwarming sentiment where I tell you really, isn’t political correctness like double-dipping the chip?  And though I actually believe that, this essay’s about something else:

Classifying assholes.

There’s a lot of resistance in the community to classifying assholes, because there’s this sense if you do then you excuse asshole behavior.  But the truth is, I was a correctable asshole.  (At least when it came to double-dipping.)  I acted out of ignorance, and when I dismissed other people’s opinions on the matter it was because I came from such a different background that I couldn’t initially believe this was an actual concern a large number of people held.

Eventually, I came to realize that even if it didn’t bother me personally, it did distress lots of others.  So I changed my behavior.

Yet there are other assholes who won’t change their behavior, no matter how much evidence they gather that this is, in fact, A Thing.  They’ll in fact take some dim pride from the idea that they’re making A Stand against some insane fussiness – or they’re just selfish jerks who like the taste of the double-dip.

(Or – even worse – they’ll double-dip when they think no one’s looking.)

Anyway, the point is that people really fucking hate classifying assholes, because in some ways it’s a lot easier to believe that an asshole is a lifelong status – you’re born one, and once you’ve revealed yourself as one, you’ll remainan asshole until the day you die.  If someone did an asshole thing, fuck them, brand them, and expel them.

Yet some assholes can, in fact, change, and become not-assholes.

This argument frequently gets slurred into “Well, you want to excuse asshole behavior!  You want to keep assholes around!”  And no.  It’s entirely  legitimate to expel all sorts of assholes.  Regardless of my reasons for double-dipping the chip, it would have been a very wise decision to keep me out of your fancy dinner party to impress your boss.  And depending on the flagrancy of the circumstance, if you held a party for a bunch of immunodeficient people, it would be an equally wise move not to invite Ferrett The Double-Dipper, for their fear that I might now just double-dip in secret would kind of ruin the party for them.

Regardless of the move, sometimes you bar assholes, and sometimes you bar them for life.  This is rational behavior.  Far better to chuck one jerk out than to have twenty people cringing and waiting for the double-dip-hammer to fall.

Yet what happens is that people take that logic and go, “Well, we’re barring assholes because they’re going to be assholes forever.”  Which is not true.  You’re barring people because they have a history of distressing and/or hurting other people’s feelings, and perhaps they have changed, but you are no longer willing to put you and your friends at the risk of discovering that in fact they haven’t.

Which is a more nuanced position, but it’s also truer.  Sometimes, people learn from their mistakes. Even if they fight that initial wave of feedback.

But sometimes people don’t learn from their mistakes, and you only discover that after you’ve put other people in the line of asshole fire.  So you take the more protective approach, and that’s good.

This is all a fancy way of saying this: it is possible to both allow for the possibility of change, and to also be unwilling to take the risk of discovering whether this supposed reform is genuine.  I think you can say, “Maybe they’re different now,” and even not be surprised in the least when you hear this person has since gone to numerous parties and didn’t double-dip at all, and still go, “They have burned their bridges here.”

I think both extremes of that position are harmful.  I think branding someone a double-dipping demon for life actually suppresses the potential for change, as it’s kind of like criminals when they get out of lockup: if everyone treats you like you’re gonna steal their shit, then eventually you just give up trying to improve yourself.

Yet I’m also unwilling to tell people, “No, man, you should feel entirely comfortable letting my friend Dave The Former Drug-Addicted Kleptomaniac stay at your apartment next to your freshly-purchased big screen television!”  Even if Dave does nothing, it’s hard to sleep easy at night knowing that your television might be walking out the door. Every bump startles you wide awake.  Why would I want you to feel that way?

Yet maybe someone can sleep well at night, and I can allow them to take that chance. Maybe Dave has actually improved. Maybe he can start over again someplace else.

Dave’s gotta live with his sins, now, though, and there’s some places that won’t allow him back.  But that doesn’t mean he’s an asshole now, and it doesn’t mean the places that allow him in are necessarily harboring criminals.  It means you don’t know because you don’t want to find out, and good for you.  I can support both Dave’s potential improvement and your safety, and there’s no contradiction.

In conclusion: I really don’t double-dip the chip any more. But I wouldn’t blame you if I caught you watching me closely.  The best I can offer is apologies and a string of unbroken non-double-dipping for the last decade or so.

And that may be the first and last instance of an episode of Seinfeld actually teaching someone how to be a kinder person.

Hey, Reviewers, Come Get My Book, Because I’m Too Sad To Bring It To Ya.

Twitter makes me do weird things.

See, technically, I think more people pay attention to me on Twitter, so it’s where I do all my announcements.  Plus, it’s fast – RETWEET, SENTENCE OF SNARKY COMMENTARY, DONE – so if something big breaks, I tend to ZOMG in real time on Twitter and hey!

Problem is, Twitter has the memory of a goldfish.  You are not expected to read everything that pops into your Twitter feed; Twitter is an endless IRC chat, where you scroll back as far as you feel comfortable with.  Of all the social networks, Twitter is the most understanding of your busy time schedule – didn’t see what happened three hours ago?  It’s okay, you weren’t supposed to.  Twitter is only really active when you’re looking at it, and the rest of the time you can forget it.

That may seem odd, and somewhat alien, to many of you reading this here blog.  “But I read everything here!” you say. “I feel vaguely guilty if I don’t catch up!”  And yeah, that’s what happens when people spend their lunch break committing long-ass essays to WordPress instead of Twitter’s CLICK, RETWEET.

Which means that making an announcement on Twitter is like throwing a rock into a pond – a big splash at the moment of impact, but a couple of hours later nobody knows anything happened.  And so for big announcements, I feel the urge to commit them to my (more permanent) blog, just so anyone who wants to keep up on the Whirlwind Life Of Ferrett can do so.

But if you saw it on Twitter already, I must seem relentlessly self-promoting.  But I’m not trying to look like a dick, honest.  I’m just trying to navigate two social media networks with differing concepts of permanence.

Anyway – Jesus, I run long – the sequel to my book Flex, The Flux, is now available on Netgalley, where if you are a reviewer you can go and request a digital copy.  If you’re someone who has a blog of note and doesn’t have a Netgalley account, lemme know and I’ll hook you up. I’m pretty proud of this sequel, which I think is way better than Flex, so go get y’selves excited.

Also, I’m gearing up for another blog-tour, so if you’re a podcaster who wants a yappy guest, or a person with a middlin’ audience who’d be all like “Wow, I want a Ferrett on my site!” then contact me and let’s talk.

However, I should add that right now, I am dealing with a massive and very off-season bout of Seasonal Affective Disorder, where depression is hitting me very hard at an unusual time.  (Long-time readers will know I usually get zapped in the spring.)  This is untimely to say the least, since I should be contacting everyone to get them riled up about SEQUEL SEQUEL SEQUEL, and I have yet to muster the energy to even put a page up on my own damn site.

So apologies if I have seemed distant. I’m struggling to just get the effort up to work and then write the sequel to The Flux, and everything else is a lot of trouble. I’ll be fine, I usually am, and Gini is monitoring the situation – but if you’re excited for the impending sequel, then you can help out by mentioning a) how you liked Flex, or b) that you’re excited about The Flux, or c) both.

Or d) Do neither! I’ll be fine.  You are not the arm of my Great Marketing Machine, and I only ask you to do stuff if you’re really psyched to.

But!  If you are a reviewer, you can go get The Flux now.  And if you’re excited, I suggest you do so.

Message ends.

Bernie Sanders Is My Quarterback, And I Hate It

I’m really starting to hate rooting for Bernie Sanders.

Not because I dislike Bernie’s politics – I do, intensely, so much so that I’m a regular donor to his campaign.  Nor is it because of the way he’s getting hammered by the Black Lives Matter movement – he’s moving to try to acknowledge black people’s concerns, and if he can’t manage it properly, well, as I said before, he probably doesn’t deserve to be the Democratic candidate.

But I want Bernie to get the nomination.  And as such, I’m following all the stupid headlines that tell me who’s ahead.

“Who’s ahead” should be the least interesting thing about this goddamned campaign.

I hate the way that the news (and now Twitter) treats elections like a sport – BERNIE IS AHEAD BY 4 PERCENTAGE POINTS IN THE SECOND QUARTER OF POLLING, CAN HE PULL IT OUT?  Because in emphasizing the victories and defeats and “Can Bernie win?”, what gets lost are the reasons that Bernie is popular in the first place.

What’s the difference between Bernie and Hillary?  Hillary has more money. Bernie has a better social network. Hillary has better numbers against Trump. Bernie has finally pulled ahead in New Hampshire.

What the fuck do any of them have to say on the issues?

Doesn’t matter.  What matters is their position in the polls, not their position on today’s concerns.

And slowly, we boil away the difference until we’re more concerned with DAT VICTORY, and the story is not “Bernie Sanders is making a push to reduce student loan debts,” but “Bernie Sanders is gaining momentum!”

Which is exactly what happens in sports. As someone who doesn’t follow sports, I know Cleveland lost in basketball, heartbreakingly, at the last moment – but I don’t know why.  There were doubtlessly many mechanisms that went into the reasons why Cleveland wasn’t favored in the finals, but those very important reasons why Cleveland’s skills mattered (or didn’t) got obscured by the WE WON GAME 1 ZOMG NOBODY SAW THIS COMING and NOOO WE LOST GAME 3.

And in being concerned for Bernie Sanders, I feel that victory-tide washing over me – ZOMG HE SCORED – and that emphasis on the reasons he scored being buried deep in the lede.

I wish the emphasis was on how these people’s policies differed.  I wish when they discussed Bernie Sanders vs. Hillary, it’d be “Hillary wants to do this, Bernie wants to do this – which is more likely to succeed?”

Instead, what’d we get with the recent Republican debate? TRUMP WON. WHAT DOES THAT MEAN FOR TRUMP?

No.  What I’d like to know is, “If Trump wins, what’s that mean for us?”  And I don’t see enough of that analysis on any candidate.

I Need A Different Phrase To Describe A Different “Jump The Shark.”

Basically, I want a phrase that indicates “the moment I stop automatically buying things from this creator, and start waiting for reviews.”

I asked this question on Twitter yesterday, and got a wide variety of responses: “M. Night’d” was a popular one, except that I don’t feel M. Night was ever someone who built up a base of solid movies to begin with.  He had one great movie, and then Unbreakable had some serious flaws, and that was it.  And I’m not talking the sort of hype that comes from ZOMG TRUE DETECTIVE SEASON 1 WAS SO GOOD WAIT WHAT HAPPENED, but rather someone who was on the top of their game for several years, and now is starting to falter.

Likewise, “Crystal Skulled” came up a lot – but I have yet to be convinced that there will be any good Indiana Jones movies ever again.  And this phrase should encapsulate the fact that the creator is still capable of producing magnificent work – it’s just that now, after a long string of unbroken beauty, they’re creating crappy stuff along with the good ones.

The phrase that comes to mind is “Pixar,” because Inside/Out was really magnificent after the mediocrity of Brave and the absolute face-shocker of Cars 2.  But saying “They got Pixared” doesn’t quite convey it, because a lot of people love Pixar, and “They Cars 2ed” sounds like they’re producing absolute crap for all eternity.

So. Suggestions?