I Am Not Celebrating My Birthday This Year

Long-term readers will know what a horrible birthday slut I am: I tell everyone weeks in advance about my birthday, I make up large and unwieldy Greed Lists, and it all culminates in a week-long orgasmic spasm of birthday celebration where large parties are held underneath a canopy of fireworks.
And I don’t feel like that this time around, which should tell you how bad things are at La Casa McJuddMetz.
I’ll probably push off the celebration to my book release parties in October, which will help.  But now?  In the light of Rebecca’s death, I’m feeling very introverted and not at all up to people.  Which is sad.  This is literally the first time in 45 years I haven’t had a big sloppy birthday party, and I hope it’s not some harbinger of the second half of my life.
In the meantime, if you feel like wishing me a happy birthday sometime between now and the Big Day on July 3rd, you can do it by ordering an advance copy of my upcoming novel, which if you’re pissed at Amazon for their recent shenanigans, well, Powell’s and B&N stock it.  Or you can donate to the CureSearch for Children’s Cancer in Rebecca Meyer’s name.
Or just send me some private happiness.  I like happiness.

The Axis of Awkward: A Psychological Theory

My friend Mishell Baker thinks the introvert/extrovert scale isn’t quite enough.  She thinks there needs to be three scales, none of which have anything to do with liking people:

  • Introvert/Extrovert: Are you drained, or recharged, by hanging around people?  (Introverts are drained.)
  • Shy/Gregarious: How you deal with strangers and acquaintances – will you huddle in the corner, or march right up and say hello?
  • Awkward/Charming: How do you come off once you’re comfortable with people?  (Everyone’s at least a little awkward when they’re uncomfortable, so shy people get the hose here in new situations.)

And I think that’s a pretty respectable set of axes to work off of, because the three are entirely different skills.  I know that I’m charming once I’ve gotten to know people, but I am criminally shy, and as a result I won’t talk to people I don’t know well unless specifically invited.
Basically, I’m an introvert/shy/charming person, which means that once you get me in a room where I’m comfortable I’ll usually come off quite well, and then retreat to my lurky-place after a few hours.  But we’ve all known extrovert/gregarious/awkward people, who have no idea that they’re not particularly wanted in this conversation but boy howdy are they confident about inserting themselves into it.
Which is a problem with this trifold axis: it’s one internal measurement that doesn’t matter at all to your friends but matters to you deeply in terms of how you have to husband your energy, one objective measurement, and one measurement that’s determined entirely of an average of how people react to you.  And you may misrepresent yourself on that awkward/charming axis.  Internally I see myself as awkward, but I’ve gotten enough positive feedback over the years to know that most of the time I come off okay.  But a lot of people see themselves as “charming” when they are not.
Mishell also points out the living hell of the extrovert/shy lifestyle, where you absolutely need people around to function but are too nervous to talk to them.  The gregarious introvert, on the other hand, sometimes gets a rep as “weird and moody” because hey, they walked up to you and started a conversation, and now they’re retreating to their office and slamming the door now that their introvert batteries are drained.
The other interesting thing here is how on one level this trifecta is as utterly useless as simplified as a Meyers-Briggs exam, and yet on another level it’s a good shorthand for crystallizing some concepts you may not yet have internalized.  I know my life got better when I started recognizing that “introvert” did not mean “hates people,” and I think adding the range of “shy/gregarious” to the mix focuses my attention on the ways that I need to interact.  Being introvert/shy/charming, I know that I have to plan out parties in advance so that someone I know is there to introduce me around, and introduce me enthusiastically enough that other people will want to talk to me.  Once that ice is broken, I’m okay until about 1:00 a.m., at which point I’m going to run out of fuel and crash.
And that’s okay.  That’s just knowing how I work as a person.
Maybe there are other useful axes, but I think past a certain point the axes pile up and you get more accuracy at the expense of usefulness – which is to say that it becomes one of those indecipherable “geek codes” where someone’s a WMAKTRMA2BLP that summarizes every fandom they’re excited about and yet nobody knows what the fuck it means but them.  I think you could have one more useful axis on this trifecta, but it’d have to be an axis that doesn’t intersect the others at all.  And hell, maybe it’s useful as-is.
In any case, I know I’m introverted/shy/charming.  That helps me know what I need to do to come off as well as I possibly can.  It works.

This May Be The Best Way To Get Cleveland's Sports Teams To Stop Sucking

From the Cuyahoga County email:

Cleveland is the only city in the country with three major sports teams that hasn’t won a championship in the last 50 years, and second place, Oakland, isn’t even close because they won a World Series 25 years ago. And each year, Cuyahoga County taxpayers provide millions of dollars to benefit our three major sports facilities and the teams that play there.
That’s why I recently announced that I will be submitting legislation to County Council to establish a “Win Tax” bonus that links 20% of public funding for our sports facilities to how a team performs on-the-field. No fans wear their hearts on their sleeves like Browns, Cavs, and Indians fans, and it’s important that we create financial incentives that to ensure the teams that perform well each season are rewarded.
We’re going to continue discussing this issue in the weeks ahead, and I hope you’ll share your thoughts with me. Visit my Facebook page or Tweet @EdFitzGeraldCE to let me know what you think.

I gotta say, I don’t care about sports but I think this is a great idea.  From my non-sportsing perspective, all I ever see is “Oh, we got close this year” followed by “Our team’s owners sold off all the good players, what the fuck?” And considering that my taxes go to subsidizing huge investments that are supposedly tourist attractions, I’d like some incentive that the owners want to win.
I know nothing more of the Win Tax beyond what’s been stated here, and obviously legislation is all about the fine details.  But I like the idea of it.  And I’m curious what sports fans think.

My Wife And I Discuss Pacific Rim

ME: “…And then Angie left this comment: ‘Yeah, the movie started and I was all “why don’t they just….how come they don’t…” and Ferrett said, “you are going to have to stop thinking if you’re going to enjoy this movie”. And I did. And i did.'”
GINI: “I don’t know why Angie thought Pacific Rim had issues. I mean, creating a giant wall that’s actually shorter than the monsters they’re trying to keep out?  At what kind of cost and expense?  How could that ever go wrong?”
ME: “Well, Guillermo del Toro is a Mexican director.  One suspects subtext.”
GINI (ponders): “Wow. I hadn’t considered that.”
ME: “Of course, it then follows that Del Toro thinks the best solution to American’s immigration problem is to suit up in giant SWAT team outfits and punch Mexicans in the face.”
GINI: “No, that’s a stopgap solution. Del Toro thinks the best solution is to nuke the border.”
ME (ponders): “…I love you.”
GINI: “I know.”

It's Interesting, How I Work

People don’t think I’m an introvert.  But it is true.
Partially, that’s because people don’t get introverts.  They think, “Oh, introverts don’t like people,” but in truth, we introverts like people like tennis players love playing tennis: it’s great fun for an hour.  Maybe if you’re into it, you can go all afternoon.  But the idea of playing tennis twelve hours a day, seven days a week is fucking exhausting, a seemingly superhuman feat of endurance, and at some point you have to go plop in front of the couch and rest up for the next match.
It’s not that we don’t like people; it’s just that being around you involves putting out effort.  And so we have to utilize our socialization sparingly.
But that’s also partially because I seem comfortable at conventions and large parties.  I have zero problems speaking impromptu before large crowds.  In fact, I remember a friend of mine drunkenly accosting me at a convention, poking me in the arm jovially and saying, “You know, you are a liar.”
“How did I lie?” I asked, shocked.
You said,” he told me, sloshing his drink at me, “That you were lonely at conventions, and that anyone should feel free to say hello to you.  And here you are!”  He pointed at the four people I was engaged with in happy conversations, the pretty woman who was hugging me because I’d told her snuggles made me feel better.  “Every time I have seen you at this con, you have been surrounded by people!”
This was true.
It was also a sign of desperation.
I got really pissy at someone last week because they said, “Ferrett always makes himself look good in his essays.”  That was probably the maddest at any comment I’ve gotten in the last month, and that’s a month of dealing with douchy Alpha Male Men’s Rights Advocates popping by to pick fights.  Because I’m always shocked when people don’t get it.
This whole blog is basically spackling over some rather deep psychological flaws.
Because, yeah, I am lonely at conventions.  I freeze when asked to talk to strangers.  I freeze when asked to talk to friends, as unless you say “hello” to me I’m not only convinced that you don’t remember me, but I am convinced you probably do remember me and dislike me intensely.  I am totally dysfunctional when it comes to speaking to new people.
Yet I have a blog.
And I yammer on on various topics, and invite people into my little huddled cave of conversation here – a place I control, and can leave whenever I see fit, a perfect place for a socially anxious introvert – and slowly, by discussing my personal life with flair and consistency, y’all feel like you come to know me.
So when I go to conventions, people know me far more than they would if I actually had to meet them in person.  They wave me over to join them, because we’ve exchanged comments, and because they know from essays like this just how fucking neurotic I am, and even though I’ve only said hello to them once briefly at a con in 2011, we are now friends on some level that brings me comfort.
I am lonely at conventions.  But because I have a large online presence, it compensates.  I broadcast to the world, “Oh, hey, guys, if you see me please say hello because I’m stupidly paranoid,” and some people are kind enough to have heard my announcements and as such go out of their way to invite me out specifically, and then I can be happy and bouncy and tell my silly stories.
Yet that trick doesn’t work with people who don’t follow me.  There’s a Big-Name Author who I’ve met at conventions at least ten times, who taught a class I attended, who has never been anything other than kind and courteous to me in real life – and yet I can’t talk to him because he doesn’t follow me on Twitter, and as such I’m just this schlub to him, and even though he’s occasionally even waved hello at me, talking to him without him initiating the conversation is like trying to push past a wall of my own terrors.
My friends have ribbed me for this.  They are correct to.  Because really, why should I be afraid to talk to this guy?
Because he hasn’t interacted with me in the format of my choosing.
And that, my friends, is why I get a little pissy when people go, “Oh, Ferrett always makes himself look awesome.”  Even if I did do that – and I think the simplest Google search will pull up several instances of me being a total asshole – anyone who’s been reading me for a while knows that honestly, The Blog is my very introverted and skewed way of interacting with the world.  It’s not a bad thing, the blog – in fact, it’s a total positive for me on the whole, because I’ve tried to get around my social anxieties for thirty-plus years and have determined that like many deeply-embedded issues, it’s easier to do an end-run around the central problem than try to demolish a mountain with a sledgehammer.
Yet still.  The blog is basically an admission of failure.  You could call this whole thing FERRETT’S OVERCOMPENSATION, and you wouldn’t be too wrong.  Thankfully, I’ve got a nice voice, and a lot of people seem to think what I say is generally sensible and/or entertaining, so it works.
But behind the scenes?  You don’t have to look too far to see the duct tape and baling wire holding my personality together.  The blog’s brought a lot of benefits, but like a lot of showmen, if I was a quote-unquote “normal” person without problems, I wouldn’t need this stage at all.
The stage is a benefit.  But it’d be awfully nice just to be able to walk up to someone I’d met once, and never met again, and do that salesman’s-confidence trick of going, “Hi, I’m Ferrett, we met once in Birmingham?” without having to psych myself up for an hour first.
As it is: I have this.  And thank you, thank you, for stepping aboard.