Your Second Love Language Is Always Scripted.

Your first love language is always empowering when you speak it.  If you feel better when your sweetie waltzes through the door with a fresh bouquet of roses in their hand, then you feel like a savior when you buy them roses.
You feel the satisfaction because you map your own desires onto them.  You go “Wow, I’d feel great if they brought me roses, so they must feel great!  And I’m a great person for doing this!”
Which works, as long as your lover’s spirits are actually raised by roses.
My wife wants the house cleaned.
Which is weird: my love languages are very verbal and very gifty, whereas Gini’s are silent and practical.  Did you pay the fucking bills?  Did you clean the fucking house?  Yeah?  Then you love me.
Cleaning the kitchen doesn’t feel like love.  It feels like some sort of weird performance art.  Here she is, upset and needing roses, and I’m in the other room washing crusty oatmeal out of a dish.
It feels fake.
Trick is, speaking a new love language always feels fake.  You’re not doing something that makes you feel loved, so you’re going through the motions – acting on something that leaves you emotionless.
It feels scripted and passionless.  That’s because it is scripted and passionless.  When you’ve got a partner who speaks a different love language than you do, you can’t improvise your way into their heart; they have to tell you, precisely, what to do, and then you carry it out.
Shit, if you could speak their language naturally, they wouldn’t have to script it out for you.
If you’re not a hugger, hugging someone who’s crying feels stiff and terrible.  If you’re not a talker, then practicing active feedback while your lover unloads their emotions all over your face feels like a scripted exercise.  If you’re not a gift person, then opening up your wallet at Wal-Mart has you wondering, How’s this stupid trinket going to work?
And this is where a lot of relationships fall apart, because people start conflating their own emotional satisfaction with their partner’s satisfaction – “I don’t feel good about leaving them alone in a room when they’re upset.  So this can’t be good.”  They may even get offended that their partner would ask them to do this silly thing, because this silly thing doesn’t matter and why can’t they be smart enough to want the things that really mean love?
The end result is that they flip out and fall back on their old go-tos – you know, the ones that make them feel good and leave their partner cold – and hey, amazingly, it doesn’t work out.
But if you can spend a few months sitting with the awkwardness of performance mode, you’ll eventually get to see that they are satisfied.  Lots of people walk away before seeing their partner’s relieved smile enough times to internalize that yes, this performative act actually makes them feel better.
Years later, washing the dishes isn’t a romantic act for me.  I wouldn’t say I feel romance pounding in my veins when I sweep the floor.
But I know my wife.  I know when she wakes, she’ll realize I spent twenty minutes tidying up, and I’ll see that silly smile on her face.  And even though this would do nothing for me, I’ve stuck with it long enough to recognize what it does for her, and so we’ve managed to cobble together a bilingual love that lasts.
That only happened, however, because we both spent several weeks working off of each others’ scripts – feeling uncertain, feeling unsettled, feeling like this can’t possibly be the right thing to do.
Only time showed that it was.  Now we know.  And now we speak fluently, if not natively, and that makes the difference on days when Gini needs not a hug, but a nice kitchen.

Viewing Star Wars A Different Way. The Best Way.

The third showing of of the new Star Wars shouldn’t be more special than the first.  After all, for the first showing, our family got tattoos.
But the third time we saw the movie, we had an unexpected guest – a random kid.
I saw the kid shuffle past me – eight years old tops, clutching his Darth Vader doll to his chest.  He bounced in the seat between his Mom and Dad, doing that thing that young kids do of explaining the old Star Wars films to his parents as though he was reliving the movies just by talking about them again.
Clearly, it was his first time seeing the film he’d been dying to see.
And as the reels rolled, that kid tried his best to be polite – he kept his voice low, and the only reason I heard him is I was two seats down.  Gini, three seats down, only heard him once.
But he was reacting through the whole damn film.
He made a choked squee when the credits rolled – he knew the words “Luke Skywalker.”  He laughed at the right snark lines.  He cheered for BB-8.  He burst out with a quiet “That’s the Millennium Falcon!” when it came on screen, explaining to his mother what the Millennium Falcon was even though yes, Mommy clearly knew.
And near the end, when the dark stuff happened, he moaned in terror.  He cried, out, once, at a very bad moment – and that’s when Gini heard him, and that’s when Mommy had to hug him and Daddy had to pat him on the head and tell him things would be all right.
Because he was young.  He didn’t know.  He was willing to let the movie take him wherever it wanted him to do, and he was not jaded, he just surfed down it with no expectations…
And every since one of his reactions tracked to mine.  When I pumped the fist, here was this small child biting his knuckles.  When I feared for our heroes, he squirmed.  As I fell in love with these new characters, so did I.
In that darkened theater, he was me.
He was seven-year-old Ferrett, falling in love with R2 and Threepio for the first time, reaching out to be Luke, frightened of Vader – at some point, my parents took me to the theater for the first time and saw me fall in love with a series that would last forever.
That was not a movie I saw; it was a window, opened up to 1977 when that great celluloid rolled somewhere in Norwalk, Connecticut, and young Ferrett’s eyes flew open with amazement – and they never closed.  Ever.
He was me.  I was him.  We were all immersed in that great love of fandom, that structural fandom where you see something and it becomes a part of who you are, so deep that when my wife suggested I get the New Jedi Order permanently inked on my flesh, we didn’t even blink because Star Wars was in my bones, it was in my brain, it was in my heart…
Why not my skin?
And we were linked, he and I.  He’d never know me, but I knew him, and he would know this.
He would carry this love.  I could see it in his eyes, glazed with the reflections of great stars.
When the credits rolled, the boy sat there reverently, watching the credits.  I tapped what I presumed was his father’s arm and said, “Hey.  I just wanted to tell you… that boy’s reactions made that film for me.”
He smiled.
“Funny thing is, these were the films we watched when we were kids,” he said, encompassing his wife with a gesture.  “But six months ago, we started playing the films for him in preparation for this day, and… he loves it.  He loves it more than we do.”
He does.  And he did.  And, God willing, he will.
Thanks, kid.
May the Force be with you.

"What's This Social Network Do For Me When I Get Bored?": A Follow-Up On Siren

A couple of days ago, I wrote about the fascinating new dating app Siren – designed by women, to encourage safe conversations with potential paramours. And what’s emerged from Siren is a question I need to ask of all future social applications:
“What’s this social network do for me when I get bored?”
Let’s say that it’s 11:00 at night and I’m not quite ready to go to bed – I’m just twiddling around killing another twenty minutes. You know; the sad state of modern life.
If I’m on OKCupid, I can set the filter to “worldwide” and see everyone who’s 99% compatible with me. I can answer another 100 questions. I can take some of their quizzes. I can look at my visitors, and ponder what algorithms OKC uses to devise their match percentages. There’s tons of stuff to distract me.
If it’s FetLife, I can go perv on people’s pictures. I can read people’s posts and status updates. I can join a group. I can see who’s attending the next event. I can check what’s hit Kinky and Popular.
And if it’s Facebook, God, if it’s Facebook I can check my Facebook email or tune into the endless stream or search for old high school buddies or join a group or like a page or start a flame war, or something.
On Siren, I can… answer the question of the day. And see what other people answered to the question of the day.
And then I can wait 24 hours for the next question of the day.
It’s not quite as dull as all that, as you can go back and look at past QOTDs…but there’s essentially one interesting central event that everything coalesces around, and that only happens once every 24 hours.
In terms of “What’s this social network do for me when I’m bored?”, Siren’s answer is “It occupies me precisely as long as the QOTD does, and assuming I’ve checked out past QOTDs, it puts me into ‘wait’ mode.”
And as such, Siren’s in a tenuous position. Maybe it winds up occupying a central place in my life because I stumble across some cuties and we start Siren-mailing back-and-forth… But then that’s not Siren, that’s just email, and any social network worth its salt has a form of email in it.
Or, as is more likely to happen – and as past friends have already told me have happened – they forget to answer one QOTD, and then they forget to go back, and Siren becomes another app you used to use and maybe remember vaguely when Facebook, Twitter, Fet, and OKC have run out of things to give you.
The big question for Siren is, “What happens when I want to interact more regularly with people?” – and if this is a dinner conversation, as Siren wants to be, the problem is that it’s a dinner where one person asks one question and then you all quietly shuffle home when s/he’s done.
Which is not to say this can’t be fixed; a couple of other hotspots to allow for more interaction could fix this. Gimme, say, two other events firing regularly where I have more opportunity to see what’s going on, and that probably solves like 90% of the retention issue. (It still presents a stumbling block for users who want to get maniacal about checking every hour on the hour, but I don’t know how critical “core” users are to getting an app’s word out.)
As it is, I kinda like Siren right now, but the lack of people and the lack of stuff to do is getting to me. The “What now?” issue can be fixed easily, and since the founders seem to be responsive to feedback, it might be. And the user base will grow when it does that – and a solid user base is almost anyone’s killer app, as God, lots of people hate Facebook, but everyone’s there.
It’s still evolving. Let’s hope it evolves into something that helps me kill time in those moments I’m waiting for the bus, because right now, other apps are my huckleberry.

Clap Harder For Tinkerbell

One of my favorite monologues in the history of theater comes from Christopher Durang, in the play ‘Denity Crisis, wherein a character talks about attending a performance of Peter Pan when she was eight years old:
“You remember how in the second act Tinkerbell drinks some poison that peter is about to drink in order to save him? And then Peter turns to the audience and he says that ‘Tinkerbell is going to die because not enough people believe in fairies. But if all of you clap your hands real hard to show that you do believe in fairies, maybe she won’t die.’ So, we all started to clap. I clapped so long and so hard that my palms hurt and they even started to bleed I clapped so hard. Then suddenly the actress playing Peter Pan turned to the audience and she said, ‘That wasn’t enough. You did not clap hard enough. Tinkerbell is dead.’ And then we all started to cry.”
…I may like twisted things.
But the point is, a friend of mine yesterday posted a snippet from an essay that said this:
“A person who uses the term ‘damaged’ to describe themselves is pigeonholing themselves into a trap of never wanting to heal. People don’t get ‘damaged.’ People get HURT. Hurt can heal.”
When I read this, what I I heard people was clapping very hard for a Tinkerbell who’d never get up.
For me, some wounds don’t heal – and it’s not for lack of trying. I know this, because I have had wounds that have healed up miraculously when I’ve applied effort to them, but…
Others have never been fixed. Despite decades of therapy, communication,and change.
Parts of me are broken, and that’s not because I didn’t want to fix them.
So for me, this advice is a lot like telling a paraplegic, “If you can’t walk, that’s because you didn’t try hard enough.” I think irreparable psychological damage happens. I think broken happens.
But I also think workarounds also happen. If you ask people what would happen if they got confined to a wheelchair, a lot of people say they’d end their lives. But most don’t. Most soldier on, and lots find ways to have satisfying lives around that central damage.
But for me – and keep that “for me” firmly in mind – while irreparable psychological damage happens and broke happens, then workarounds also happen. Workarounds are wonderful. Workarounds make you grow into newer and better places in life – places you might not have explored without the damage.
They find other strengths to keep functioning around that central loss – and to me, in a way, that’s even more miraculous than healing.
Yet when I said that to my friend, he responded very forcefully that I was wrong. He’d been through some terrible shit in his lifetime, also working with all sorts of psychological wounds – and he needed to believe that he could heal everything to get through the tremendous pains he’d had in life. And you know what?
He’s not wrong.
Maybe he can.
My journey is not everyone else’s – which, I think, is the worst and most callous error you can make. I think it’s true for me that I can’t heal every wound by willpower alone, but maybe he can – and if so, good for him.
And if it turns out he can’t heal every wound by pouring willpower into it…. So what? What he’s got is a philosophy that keeps him pushing forward. What that message is saying, at its core, is “Don’t give up” – and that’s not a bad message for people working through difficult issues.
I’m not giving up, either. I’m taking a different approach, and if he has to interpret my differing results as giving up, well – I don’t care. Not because I’m blowing him off, but because I’m happy for him that he’s found a philosophy that empowers him… even if that same philosophy would disempower me.
We’re all different, man. The reason that Christopher Durang monologue resonates with me is because it illustrates how different pasts can lead to different results. For me, I had a play in my past where I clapped until my palms bled, and we still buried Tinkerbell.
For my friend, maybe he got her back. Maybe most people do.
Maybe my experience is not theirs.
And that’s why I didn’t argue. He’s got something that works for him, for now, and maybe in a few years he’ll come around to my way of thinking. Or maybe I’ll come around to his.
But as long as we’re both fighting to improve our mental resilience and stability, he’s my brother. And I support him in finding whatever works for him.
Just as I support finding whatever works for me.

The Men Who Turn Down Sex.

Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert says “Access to sex is strictly controlled by the women.”
Maybe if you’re Scott Adams. I’ve turned down sex.
And I don’t think I’m unusual in that; I’ve turned down sex because I was in other commitments at the time, I’ve turned down sex because I was tired, I’ve turned down sex because I found the woman unattractive.
I’m not gonna say I turn down sex all the time, but… it happens.
Yet I think there’s this narrative in Western Society that men are these poon-seeking beasts who would hump a dead moose in a bathroom if you slapped a lady-mask on it. Every guy? Wants every girl. All the time. The “Harry met Sally” model, if you will.
And because we’re saturated in that concept of men being sex-crazed beasts, we obscure the times when men do turn down sex. If a guy doesn’t want to have sex with a willing girl, there’s something wrong with him – that guy’s clearly a pussy, right? Or the girl must have something so terminally wrong with her that it’s actually a defect in her character – she’s too ugly, she’s too loose, she’s too something.
If you’re saving yourself for marriage, you’re some kind of brainwashed religious nut.
If you’re too tired and just want to get some sleep, you must be low on testosterone, it’s a medical condition.
If you’re a demisexual who’s only turned on by personality and a mere body doesn’t flip your switches without context, man, that’s crazy.
Because we all know a real guy would fuck a rolling donut if he got the chance, amiright?
What’s happening here is that there’s a narrative that “women control the sex”… And so the times men control the sex get quietly erased. Either there’s a good excuse why the guy shouldn’t have had sex, or the refusal is presented as a man with a problem.
Which would be fine on some level, except this narrative of “women are the gateway to sex, and they’re always *stopping* us” leads to resentment from certain strains of men. They’re taught that women are like some sort of stingy stockbroker millionaire who could pay their mortgage but just won’t – and as a result, women become an obstacle. The reason they’re not having sex? Women. Women are selfish, women are hypercritical…
Women are the problem.
And that leads to a stagnation among that strain of men. They don’t ask the necessary questions like, “What do I bring to the table? What makes me compelling enough to have sex with? How can I improve myself to make the women I find attractive attracted to me in return?”
No. It just degrades into a seething feeling that women somehow owe them sex, and all the times the men don’t want to have sex with someone are, well, different. Somehow.
All that is in quiet opposition to a more sane model that says, “People turn down sex for all sorts of reasons, and nobody is obligated to have sex with you.” I suspect if Scott Adams were societally obliged to have sex with all the gay men who were attracted to him, he’d suddenly switch to the traditional woman’s perspective and complain that he didn’t want to get pounded in the butt by Chuck Tingle.
None of this is to erase the very real reality that women do turn down sex more, of course. They do. But that might not be because women don’t want sex, it might be a combination of “a random guy is likely to suck in bed” and “I’m worried this guy might get too attached and start stalking me.”
But that doesn’t matter. It should be okay if women want sex for different reasons than men do, or even want sex less. The point is that everyone should be able to turn down sex for whatever reason they desire, and that should not turned into some sort of battle scenario where “The person who turns down sex is controlling the supply of a resource that should be FREE TO ALL!”
I get the frustration. There are all sorts of people I’d like to have sex with who don’t want to have sex with me. That happens.
But I think for most men, if they look at it honestly, there are people they turned down sex with as well – because they were the wrong gender, because they were the wrong body type, because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Phrasing these refusals as “controlling access” implies that your body is like a computer, where every resource should be available to the collective unless there are good reasons to restrict it.  Whereas the truth is that your body is owned by a conscious human being, and you are not an unmoderated comments section where any idiot can come in and do whatever they please whenever they want.
It’s not wrong when you turn down sex. And it shouldn’t be wrong for anyone else.