Apologies Are Easy

I screwed up in an essay I wrote last week, and apologized for it yesterday.  I apologize a lot in this blog; that’s not because I screw up disproportionately, but because I feel no shame about apologizing.
And for that, I can thank my family.
My Mom, Dad, and Uncle Tommy taught me that the apology was but one half of a transaction.  The other half was where the person I’d wronged swallowed the anger and hurt they felt, and accepted the apology, and promised not to bring this up again unless it was absolutely necessary.  (Because if I’d apologized every time I’d left the peanut butter out where the dog could get at it, and the dog had now eaten seven jars of peanut butter, it’s time to bring up past sins in an attempt to fix future dog-related peanut butter poop disasters.)
So for me, an apology is something that’s rightfully owed.  And as it turns out, apologies are terribly helpful in real life.
What an apology means to most people is, “I acknowledge you were hurt by something stupid I did, and I feel bad about hurting you.”  When you give that sort of powerful acknowledgement, it often doesn’t matter what you did – the person feels respected, and heard, and so the inciting incident is forgotten.  (Maybe not right away, but the anger evaporates and the respect they garnered for you remains.)
So apologizing has helped me a lot.  Being able to go “My bad, I’m sorry” and have it be a trivial thing has let me get along with a lot of people.  Because I’m outspoken, and occasionally arrogant, and if I wasn’t able to go, “Yeah, I shouldn’t have done that” at the drop of a hat, then my career probably would have cratered.
But other families taught different lessons.  The lesson they taught was that apologizing handed your family a club to use for as long as they cared to.  An apology was a sign of weakness, and to apologize was to expose your tender underbelly.  So to apologize meant that your family would forever enumerate your sins, because hey, you admitted this was wrong, this means we’ve got a free ticket to always remind you of how stupid you were.
And for people like that, apologies come hard.  To apologize is, in a very real sense, to give up a part of yourself for all time.  So they apologize only when social pressure and evidence heaps up to the point where an apology gets squeezed out of them.
And that’s harmful, in the long run.  Because yeah, there are occasional jerks out there, like their family, who treat every excuse with sneering triumph, raising the apology like a trophy and hoisting it to all.  But most people?  They get the apology, they make a note to be a little wary of you in the future, and move on.  And if you’re sufficiently nice and/or competent going forward, that apology will slough off like a scab.
Whereas I’ve seen the folks who can’t apologize, and good Lord their whole lives are shaped by it.  Their world seems like a constant assault on Normandy Beach, piling up excuses for when they need them, angry denials, shifting blame elsewhere because good God it can’t possibly be that they did wrong.
And it seems like so much work.
I’ll freely admit when I’m wrong.  That, I believe, is a strength.  And I’m really happy my family had the wisdom to guide me in the proper direction on that.

Sorry, Sex Workers.

As an essayist, you take aim at certain people, and find others get caught in the line of fire.  So it was when I wrote my essay, You Weren’t “Nice,” You Idiot, You Were BORING, which fired (correctly) at the sort of idiot who subsumes his entire personality in an attempt to get laid and then bitterly blames all women when his magnificently terrible plan backfires.  And in it, I said this:

You never respected those women the way you claim. If you did, you wouldn’t be writing vitriolic essays years later on what stupid whores they were.
Sorry, buddy. You were the stupid whore. You sacrificed your self-esteem, your opinions, and your labor, masquerading as someone you weren’t in a vain attempt to entice a client into your boudoir… and you couldn’t even manage to do that.

To which some people correctly pointed out that whoah, yeah, you’re using the language that those guys use, but that language is pretty mean to sex workers.
Aaaaand guilty.
So just to be clear: I’m sex-positive.  I’ve got lots of friends who do sex work of one sort or another, whether that’s camgirling or pro-Dommeing or even stripping (which is the source of an endless debate on whether stripping counts as “sex work,” but hey, for me it’s sexish work).  And for me, what they do is just another job – society places the accent on the “sex,” but I personally plop that accent firmly on the “work.”  Many love it, some are lukewarm on it but like the money, and some are looking for a better employer or a different line of work altogether.
As far as I’m concerned, yes, they’re selling their body, but so is the guy who scrubs toilets at McDonald’s, and often for less money.  I’m only really worried if someone’s stuck in a job they consider to be personally humiliating – to which the obvious rejoinder is “But sex work is inherently degrading!” to which I reply, “…and standing behind the McDonald’s counter while customers flick fries at you is empowering?”
To me, a lot of work is degrading.  It’s just that society only gives a crap if it’s degrading in a way that we disagree with.  If your boss at your “traditional” job yells and belittles you, and tells you that you should be grateful just to have a job, now go read the telemarketing script to angry customers in an attempt to rip them off, well, hey, that’s fine.  That dude’s a job creator!  He’s bringing lightness and profit to the world!  You should thank him for your paycheck!
But if someone decides to make money by taking their top off, whether they personally enjoy that or not, then suddenly that’s a horrible despicable thing that should be stopped.
Nah. I’m against workers feeling degraded, and I think pillorying sex work often obscures the very real problem that workers can be – and are routinely! – degraded in non-sexual ways.  And those workers, regardless of their career, should feel free to get out of those humiliations.
To me, if you’re okay with what you do, and nobody’s getting hurt, then I’m cool – and I think society should be, too.
(Which is why I’m not okay with the involuntary sex workers, of whom there are an unfortunate percentage out there, and as such I support whatever laws we as a society can create to quash this sort of abuse.  But I think, much like drug laws, that driving the process underground with humiliation and illegality merely encourages the process.  We can disagree in good faith on “What sort of laws/environment makes for the safest possible place for sex workers to function,” of course, but my end goal is that nobody’s enslaved to any job that they do not want.)
That said, I wouldn’t recommend sex work as a career to most people.  I liken it to professional football – it’s a body-based job where you can rake in a lot of money early on in your career, but chances that you’ll be earning that same cash in your mid-fifties is slim.*  (Not non-existent – fuck yeah, Nina Hartley! – but slim.)  If you are smart enough to get in, save a stockpile of cash, and transition out to another (possibly related) career so you’re set for life, then I say go for it – but between society’s shaming of sex work and the number of people who can’t plan financially, that’s often difficult to do.  It’s not bad work, but it takes considerable jiggering to make a career of it, if that distinction can be made.
Regardless, when I wrote “You were a stupid whore,” I intended to place the emphasis on the word “stupid” – as in, “You made all of these sacrifices in an attempt to sell yourself, and you sacrificed the wrong things.”  But thanks to surfing a lot of anti-sex-worker sentiment, what may have come across to a lot of people was the word “stupid whore,” as if whoring itself was so awful that the only people who would get involved in it were stupid.
Nah.  I know a lot of very smart women who sell their body on a regular basis.  I’m proud to know them.  And I’m sorry I tarred y’all with a bad brush.
* – Some would also say that, like football, the risk of a career-ending injury for sex workers is unacceptably high.  That depends on the type of work.  Not all sex workers engage in sexual contact – a lot of Dommes barely touch their clients, and many camgirls don’t come within a thousand miles of their clients.  So that parallel can be accurate, but is not invariably accurate.

The Bees Are Back In Town (With Video)

We had thought the cold snap killed our remaining hive of bees.  Turns out it didn’t, though we haven’t had the time to do a full hive inspection yet.
But we did have another hive, dead from last year after the queen died and our requeening attempt failed, and so we ordered a box of bees from Queen Right Colonies.
NOTE: When you get the notification that “your bees are in,” you are on deadline.  The bees have been trapped in a box for a week as they’ve made the cross-country trip from California, dying off slowly, eating only syrup from a can for nutrients. You wait another week to pick up your bees, they’ll be dead.  You wait a couple of days, the hive will be weak.
And so, when I got a call from Queen Right on Saturday saying, “Hey, we sent an email on Wednesday, are you coming to pick them up?” there was an oh shit moment.  Because today was Gini’s birthday party, and our friends Jeremiah and Laura had come in for the weekend, and could we abandon them for three hours in a mad rush to drive down to Amish country to get our bees in time?
Then I realized: Wait.  Jeremiah and Laura are into crazy shit like this.
Then I said: “Hey, do you guys want to come down with me to pick up my bees?”
Yay for good friends!
So after some discussion of what to do – they had a two-year-old girl, and could we trust her not to get stung or panic while we navigated through swarms of bees to get to the pickup area? – Gini stayed at home to take a long luxurious birthday bath, and we headed down.  Everything went fine; little Lois was a champ.  (As was her mother, who is terrified of insects but fascinated by the process.)  And we got a box of bees, and then I got to ask Jeremiah the question he’s been waiting to hear all his life:
“Hey, do you want to put the bees in the hive?”
Oh, the joy on that man’s face.
His wife took the video.  And shaking 10,000 bees into a box looks like this:

Am I Too Grumpy Online?

In real life, I sing songs to my dog all the time: “A pet to the dog, and I’m too late – you give dogs a bad name,” I sing as Shasta runs away from me to try to play “Catch the dog.”  Gini’s continually giving me a cocked eyebrow as I’m doing some goofy monologue to our puppy.
I’m also telling terrible puns pretty much 24/7.  We were out to breakfast the other day, and discovered our friend Laura had never had Eggs Benedict.  Jeremiah her husband said he’d have to whip out the cooking equipment and make his own special version for her.  I told him he’d better have chrome plates.  Why, he asked?
Because there’s no plate like chrome for the Hollandaise.
Astoundingly, they did not hit me.
But if you look at my blog, it’s all “Here’s a condemnation of ‘nice guy’ culture, here’s an analysis of an opening chapter, oh Christ what the fuck did they do on Game of Thrones, here’s Yet Another Serious Analysis of Polyamory.”  And I worry that maybe my blog makes me seem to be a grim and kinda complainy guy, the sort of grouch who lives to just carp at things, whereas I think most of my friends know me as “That doof who sends me otter videos.”
It gets slightly better on my Twitter account, where I get to say silly things in 140 characters, but even then I do a lot of GRAH SOCIAL INJUSTICE linking.
It’s a concern, because I have unfriended people for being relentlessly grim.  I’m sure they’re fun in real life, but their feed consists entirely of negative reactions to things – this movie was awful, this news item is heartbreaking, these people are racist morons, and while they’re rarely incorrect eventually I shriek, “Don’t you ever enjoy anything?”
They probably do.  I assume they’re not curled up in a hole searching out awful things to say.  But what they present as their electronic persona is unremittingly bleak, a constant stream of anger and complaint and All That Is Wrong With The World – and while they have the absolute right to do that, I also have the absolute right to say, “I can’t deal with the all-anger channel” and sign off.
It’s a matter of taste.  And I personally don’t wanna come off as Mr. Omni-Downer in my blog, continually dissecting all the awful things in the world, never talking about all the fizzy awesomeness of the world we live in.  But I though I can fret about how I come off, I can’t actually diagnose it, because I’m me.  Blog-me – the dude you’re talking to right now – is an entirely different person, a sort of avatar – I send him out into the world with a flurry of posts, and people have Very Firm opinions on him, and in most cases I actually have no idea what those opinions are.
As I’ve said many times, there’s a disjunct between Who I Am and Who I Come Off As In This Blog, an inescapable schism, and though I try to make it an accurate reflection there’s always gonna be some distortions.  I can’t blog 24/7.  I wouldn’t want to blog 24/7.  So there’s gaps, and movies I meant to review, and funny anecdotes I didn’t bother to share, and all that falls through some hole in the world where I actually, you know, live my life.
And I have zero idea how I’m perceived.  I get some nice feedback, but that’s from fans.  And if I’ve learned anything from Kitchen Nightmares, it’s that dissatisfied customers don’t write you an elaborate letter stating their complaints… they just don’t come back.
All I can do is hope that people realize I can be both contemplative and goofy, and that my writings convey some of the full spectrum of me – from depressive despair to HEY CAPTAIN AMERICA WAS AWESOME, and that people think of Blog-Me as someone who’d be fun to talk to.  And I hope that when I talk about the problems with the world, I also convey that there’s also a lot of wonder in it at all that people are as kick-ass as they actually are, that I think the average person is actually really fascinating, and that puns and bad songs about dogs are a vital portion of a balanced breakfast.
I don’t know what you think of me.  But I’d like to think that you think that I’m a positive person, if that makes any sense.  A positive person who ponders.
I could live with that alliteration.

I Know I've Written These Essays, But Do You Remember What They Are?

So in the wake of my “You Weren’t Nice, You Idiot, You Were BORING” post, I’m aswarm with requests from bland guys asking, “So how do I make myself sufficiently interesting that women will want to date me?” And I know I’ve written at least half-a-dozen essays on the topics of:

  • Here’s how to be interesting to other people;
  • Here’s how to talk to women you’d like to date to maximize your chances of her being interested.

…but I can’t find a one of them this morning.  But you!  Maybe you read one!  And remember the title, or a Googlable key-phrase that will link me back to one of my writings so I can hand it off to one of these guys!
(Who need the help.  Seriously.  It’s hard for someone who’s socially awkward to learn how to not be, and any help I can hand to them, I will.)
So can you lend a weasel a hand, and possibly help make someone’s life better, by reminding me of what I actually said?