theferrett: (Meazel)

About six months ago, I started painting my nails pretty colors.  This has been a matter of some debate amongst my friends.  I used to send pictures of my pretty pretty princess nails to everyone, and then a friend of mine told me, “I’m glad they make you happy, but I really don’t like your nails, so please stop sending me photos whenever you get a manicure.”

Fair enough.  Not everyone has to like what I do.

I’ve also had someone on Fet go, “Well, you’re a submissive, so we’re not really compatible…” and I went, “Wait, when did I ever say I was a submissive?”  Turns out that “having pretty pretty princess nails” == “Automatically submissive” to some.

Ironically, for me, my nails are a sign of confidence and strength.  See, I’d been a life-long nail-biter, sometimes chewing my nails bloody. The first order of business after I’d lost all eight of my front teeth to gum disease was finding a way to bite my nails with my eye-teeth… which I did.  It drove Gini nuts, but I was weak, a slave to the satisfaction of feeling my nails crunch underneath my incisors.

Then, one day, I discovered that some of my girlfriends really liked scratching.  Like, deep, bloody, scratching.  So in prep for a weekend away, I grew my nails out.  Which was a real test of my willpower – I kept finding my fingers in my mouth, having drifted up there thanks to years of habit, and I’d have to yank them away angrily.  Every ten minutes, I’d start to bite my nails, and then I’d remember that I was trying something new and I’d stop.

And lo!  After forty years of biting and chewing and grazing, I managed to stop a bad habit.  It was amazing.  (And so was the sex. Goooo, Skinner Box!)

So when I had my long nails, it was deeply and bizarrely empowering to me.  Not only were they a sign of the sadistic experimentations I was going through, but it was a sign of new-found willpower.  It felt good, because here I was, a man of 42, and my nails were the sign that I was still changing my life in bold ways.  I did not have to succumb to the stasis of middle age.  I could quash old bad habits and find new pleasures – a fact made physically manifest whenever I went to type and discovered my nails clattering on the keyboard.

Then a girlfriend said, “Wait, you’ve never had a manicure?  Oh my God, it’s luxurious.”  And when I was in town, she took me to her manicurist, and I got taken straight back to my childhood. Because I realized, in that parlor….

…I could have the WORLD Magazine nails.

I wrote an essay on how eight-year-old me longed to have artwork on his fingertips, and to me that’s still one of the strongest memories of my childhood – wanting something that was perfectly reasonable, yet being told by literally everyone I knew that having colorful nails was not an option for me.  The pictures of those fingernails were so detailed, it was like carrying a museum on your right hand, and why wouldn’t you want that?  But that’s not what boys do.

Boys wear olive colors, and gray , and black.  They wear identical suits, and if you’re lucky, you can have a different kind of shirt collar.  And after that, I sort of gave up.  I wore nothing but black shirts and slacks for years, and now that I look back at it it’s probably all related to being told that boys don’t get to have the fun colors.

So when Jen took me to the manicurist and I realized that I was a grown-up now, and I could dive into the damn ball-pit if I wanted, it was freeing.  Intoxicating.  I could be exactly what I wanted to be, and eight-year-old me did a goddamned victory lap.  My nails would be as colorful as I wanted.

And it wasn’t due to rebellion.  I wasn’t doing this because “Society says I must do X, so I will do Y to show them.”  It was because I wanted to sport bold, tropical colors, and for the first time in a long time I was able to just do what I wanted.  (Which is an entirely different thing than rebelling, though it looks pretty much the same from the outside.)

I call them my pretty pretty princess nails, which is a bit of rebellion – I know boys aren’t supposed to have these things, so I might as well embrace the genderfloomp and take pride in it.  To me, they’re a sign of who I’ve become – which is, to say, an older fatter man who nevertheless has the evolutionary potential of a teenager.  The nails reflect a changing sexuality, a greater willpower, a willingness to reinvestigate old, closed-off avenue.  Who I am now isn’t who I was five years ago, and what does that mean for who I might be a decade from now?  The future is vibrating with all sorts of awesome, and I see that awesome reflected in my shiny shiny nails.

Now, the nails also carry a sadness in them, because I recognize that they’re a significant sign of privilege.  I work at home, so I don’t have to worry about the office.  I’m a middle-aged white dude in a respectable income bracket in a liberal area of Ohio, so I can get away with this shit; if I was a teenaged kid in Arkansas or a senior citizen in a nursing home, this would all be off the table.  This is all something I get to do because society has decided that I’m a person who should be able to buck the system and not get his ass beat for it, which I recognize.

(That’s what you do with privilege, man.  Recognize.  And work when you can to change the system.  All it takes.)

The thing is, part of the issue is that in this society, women are the only ones who should decorate themselves.  And you see men increasingly want to peacock a little, and when they do, they are so fucking terrified.  Take a look at the descriptions behind this new nail polish for men - oh, sorry, nail armor.  (Or “War Paint.”)  They have to cloak this urge to have colors in all sorts of misguided and cancerous masculinity – men who beat other men use this!  It’s a long tradition among warriors!  Our colors are chrome and steel and military, so people won’t fucking mock you!

It’s sad, because the truth is, you’re gonna get mocked anyway.  Just admit that you want to be pretty.  You want to have flair.  You want to stand out.  And that’s all cool, man.  But when you have to cloak this not feminine, but human desire to decorate yourself in such negations as “No self respecting man should ever have to buy cotton balls” (and then pay $3.95 for something that should cost two bucks tops down at CVS), then you have failed.

Be what you wanna be.  Not everyone likes my nails.  I do.

I’m cool with that.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

I was talking to a friend the other day, and she thanked me for blogging openly about my polyamorous relationships.

“I started reading your relationship essays not long after I started dating seriously,” she told me.  “I was a late bloomer, and reading them helped me short-circuit some of the stupidity I might have had.  Instead, I got to make completely different mistakes.  It’s like having a huge ‘include’ statement in the process of What Not To Do.”

“So I’m like a programming library,” I said.

“A very nice and eloquent library,” she agreed.

I don’t know if the comparison is really true – I think my library’s a little bloated and redundant – but that is why I write about polyamory and relationships in general: I make the mistakes so you don’t have to.

I’m not wise.  I have made, and continue to make, a lot of insanely stupid mistakes.  I say hurtful things, ignore signs I shouldn’t, destroy my lovers.  And when I’m standing among the wreckage of my own idiocy, often my sole consolation is, maybe I can stop someone else from doing that.  So I write that up, in the hopes that at least one person will learn from what I did.

And I‘m still making those mistakes.  I often joke that I have three hobbies – polyamory, programming, and writing – and all three put me in touch with my dysfunctional past.  I’ll be upgrading some piece of code on StarCityGames.com and think, “What idiot wrote this inefficient, buggy code?”  And then I’ll go, “Oh, that was me,” and take a quiet moment to meditate on what an idiot I was four years ago, and how much better I am now, and how the code I’m writing now will look like complete shit to the me of four years in the future.

What you see in my blog?  Is not the total of who I am.  It is, instead, a total of the lessons learned.  And I fuck up in monstrous ways that don’t necessarily teach me anything new, and opening up those mistakes to the public would just humiliate the people involved, and so I don’t blog about it.  My writings are an attempt, in many ways, to teach myself, to analyze the errors and see if I can distill it down to an essay that I might remember later.

So my blog, I think, is a library.  Include it, raid it, call the functions in it that you need.  The library is mostly bug-free, and I’ll let you know if I’ve applied a patch. Enough people have benefited from it over the years that I’m pretty sure it works on certain operating systems.  I’m proud it exists, and if you ever have any questions on poly, I’ll try to answer them for you.  Maybe I can head you off at the pass.  And that’s the library.

But the me itself is a frail, human thing, prone to stumbling about in the dark like everyone else, and please don’t make the mistake of thinking this structure I’ve created to help guide you is me.

I am not the library.  The library is the result of me.  It’s a distinction I want you to recognize, because on any given day you could be a lot smarter than I am.  And if I’m very lucky, maybe you’ll teach me a lesson.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

I don’t consider myself a ‘Bad Dude’ nor a ‘Nice Guy’ but I can spot a bruised ego and bad writing when I see it. I hate labels because they put limits on people. Your premise that ‘Nice Guys’ don’t get sex is ignorant. Then again, I consider the source. By the way, 1990′s Hawaiian shirts, a goatee, fedora, fingernail polish, and back hair don’t make you a ‘Bad Ass’ dude. What they do make you is just like your writing? Out of touch and needing to be noticed…

Now, that’s the sort of comment that leaves me a little stung, but not for the reasons you’d think.

It was left on the FetLife cross-post of my “Why Nice Guys Don’t Get Sex: Reason #1 In An Infinite Series” essay, and that sort of furious essay reminds me of middle school.  Now, I don’t begrudge a few angry comments; after all, that post was about a behavior I find odious (and took aim at), and made some generalizations that could sting if you were caught in the cross-fire, so I don’t mind a few slams back. It’s only fair, after all.

(My favorite is the guy who claimed that women are having sex with all those assholes only because you’re such a wonderful guy, they know they don’t deserve you, and so they close their eyes and fantasize about you guiltily the entire time they’re banging jerks.  Um, I’m sure that happens often.)

But the angry comment here, when analyzed, is pretty detailed.  See, my default profile pic on FetLife doesn’t even have me wearing a hat.  Nor does it display my sad, thatchy abundance of back hair.  So to leave this comment, the guy had to go through all of my pictures, specifically taking stock of all my many flaws, just so he could leave a comment that was meant to be personal and cutting.

He failed, sadly.  They usually do.  If he’d read any of my writing or my status updates (which he probably didn’t do because that would be too time-consuming), he’d have known that I don’t consider myself a Badass at all.  I’m a neurotic train wreck who occasional partakes in ritualized acts of violence for sexualized pleasure, sure!  But note that I don’t call myself a Dom, or a Master.  I don’t swagger much, except occasionally when it comes to rejoicing in my fireplay skills (and even that’s mostly out of a vaguely surprised “I did it!”).  In fact, most of my writing is about me fucking up in some way, using it as an example to talk about How Not To Do This.

So it’s like, “Dude, if you were going to do the research, you should have done it all the way.”  There are plenty of ways you could have hurt my feelings – you just didn’t dig deep enough.

(Which is what most insults are, weirdly.  If you look at what people are picking on you about, it usually reflects what they’re most terrified of being.  Dude is probably very concerned about his badass status, and as such thought that trying to remove mine would be devastating.)

What wounds me is the time.  I see a lot of dipshit writings on the Internet that I disagree with.  If motivated, occasionally I’ll even argue them in the comments.  But it would take a lot to get me to do research to try to find personalized ways to insult them. I’ve spent time looking up links to defang someone’s argument, absolutely, but spending time rooting through their profile to try to find the things that I think would hurt them?

That’s mean.  And yet here’s the guy, taking time to do craft a personalized insult to a stranger.  The actual insult doesn’t hurt; the intent does.  It makes me wonder whether what I wrote was actually that bad, causing a self-reflection that’s troubling… And yeah, I probably could have written it better.  I’ll get ‘em next time, tiger.

Yet there’s that pathetic attempt.  Someone took a shot at me, and missed.  And I wonder if that’s how Superman feels as the bullets bounce off him, going, “Do they really mean to do that?  Do they know what they’re trying to do?”

Not that I’m Superman, of course.  More like Jimmy Olsen; occasionally lucky, given more adventures than he truly deserves, but a little too cocky to be a true hero.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

If I have a female friend, usually there’s some mild attraction, since the reasons I would want someone as a friend have a lot of overlap with the reasons I’d want them as a lover.

Not always.  But the thing is, I’m intensely sapiosexual – which is to say I value people’s thoughts over their bodies.  (I have attractions to women who I literally do not know what they look like, but hoo boy can they express themselves.)  So for me, friendship is in a very real way a form of attraction.  I don’t necessarily share the fundamentals of that attraction with them (most of my female friends don’t want to know), but it’s there, a constant backbeat of desire.

And yes, it gets tiring on occasion, all these silly crushes fulminating in my mind.  I don’t know how to turn it off.  Attraction is as attraction does; the most I can do is not follow up.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

Last year, my “daughter-knifes-her-father-out-of-love” story “My Father’s Wounds” was published at Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and I was pleasantly surprised when I found several people suggesting it as worthy on the SFWA leaderboards come Nebula Awards time.  Just in case you’ve forgotten the lead:

Father carries the knife, because I asked him to—but he keeps turning to look at me, earnestly, as if he hopes I’ll take it back.

It’s hard to believe he knows I’ll stab him with that knife. Even harder to believe he’s eager for me to do it. But that’s my father; he thinks the world of his precious daughter. He’s thin yet unbowed in his ascetic gray Blacksmith robes as he leads me up through a cold forest to the Anvil.

It doesn’t matter whether my father will live once I stab him. That’s not the point. The point is all the questions that no one thinks to ask after we’ve healed their fathers, their soldiers, their daughters. Nobody questions our magic, except for us, the loyal priests and priestesses of Aelana.

We can’t stop asking. We can’t sleep for asking.

Anyway, Beneath Ceaseless Skies is holding a poll to see which stories make it into “The Best Of Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Year Three,” and if you think it’s worthy, then you should probably go vote.  And if you don’t vote, there’s a lot of other Very Cool stories over at Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and reading them would probably be a very enjoyable use of your time.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

Whenever someone bitches about how stupid the creators are for producing a terrible movie, I think of Star Wars.  Not Star Wars, the global sensation that’s been around for thirty years – but Star Wars, the over-budget mess in mid-production, staffed by no-name actors, directed by the guy who’d had only one decent movie in the can.

If you read the interviews with the actors, they all went out after filming every day and got hammered.  And why not?  By day, you’re reading terrible, stilted dialog while the director screams at you: “Faster!  And more intense!”  You don’t see the special effects; you’re on a wooden screen, knowing the studio wants to shut this production down.  You don’t hear the John Williams music doing half the emotional work for you.  All you know is that this crazy maniac is telling you that all your attempts to emote lines like “How could I be so stupid? He’s nowhere in sight. Blast it!” aren’t sufficient while idiots in white plated armor are firing imaginary guns at you.

Why wouldn’t you drink?

Why wouldn’t you think this movie was the end of your career?

And even then, you’re wrong.  I know you’re thinking, “Well, it was all a success after that,” but… The movie that George Lucas directed did bomb.  The unsung hero of Star Wars is the film editor, who realized the initial cut was about twenty minutes too long, and went back and sped up the film to helter-skelter speeds – because the minute you had a second to pause and think about things, the whole thing fell apart.  The initial few cuts were legendary failures, and everyone in Hollywood was kissing George Lucas’ career goodbye.

The reason I say this is because I work in a couple of creative fields – I write stories, and I handle Magic: the Gathering cards as my day job.  And whenever something isn’t particularly, there’s this entitled, sneering reaction from the fans.  They leave comments over and over again with the same basic premise: “God, you’re so fucking stupid.  Fixing it’s so easy.  Why didn’t you just do X?”

Because it’s not that simple when you’re in the middle of the damn thing, that’s why.

Look, if we could all write glorious stories of magnificent heartbreak every time, we would.  But the creative process is really very complicated.  You’re complaining with the fresh sight of retrospect.  Scott Kurtz, author of webcomic PVP, once said that you couldn’t really critique a webcomic until you’d done one.  At the time, I disagreed strongly.  Once I had a year of producing a webcomic under my belt, well, I wasn’t so certain.

It’s not that you can’t critique – hell, you absolutely should.  I spent this week slamming Prometheus for failing absolutely on all but an allegorical level.  But when you critique, you shouldn’t take the attitude that the creative process is simple… And particularly not if you’ve never made anything and thrown your darling out to a crowd of angry, ungrateful people to be savaged.

When the project is done, it’s easy to look back and see what could have done better.  But in the middle of things, when you’re looking at a half-blank slate and the world is full of ten thousand choices, it’s hard to fathom that this one choice is the critical one.  Or perhaps – and this is the thing that the people who think “it’s simple” never get – that you made a hundred very good choices, more than most people ever do, enough to catapult your film/book/card game/music past the realms of “stuff that no one pays attention to” and into the realm of “good enough to for many people to like” – and in the process of making those hundred choices absolutely correctly, the one that stopped it from being pure genius got by you.

And maybe – just maybe – it’s possible that as a creator, you make a film/book/card game/music that absolutely satisfies you, but doesn’t hit anyone else’s good points.  That happens.  A lot.  And if you’re sitting there squalling because the creator should have “known better,” then maybe you should try creating stuff that’s perfect for you, and see the horrifying variance in reactions when your “perfect” product hits the shelves.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t criticize.  If Promethus sucks, well, it failed.  If something I write doesn’t win every award, well, it’s worthwhile to point out why my stories didn’t pan out.  But what you should not do is to treat the whole thing as a big ball of rage, as if we purposely set out to annoy you when making it.

We didn’t.  We wanted to make beauty.  Something got in the way, and we’re sorry… But if this was as easy as you think, then everyone would do it.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

It is remarkably easy to convince your child that Santa exists.  After all, the child trusts you implicitly – why wouldn’t they take your word when you tell them there’s a red-suited jolly guy who brings them presents via a venison-powered transportation system?

Still, it’s a little declasse to do victory laps around the block, yelling, “See?  I convinced Virginia that yes, there is a Santa Claus!  What wondrous proof that Santa exists!”

Yet people do it.  They do it all the damn time, particularly when it’s about ex-boyfriends or arguments they’re having with soon-to-be ex-girlfriends.

The reason I’m writing this essay is something a friend of mine wrote a while ago: “The high road sure is a frustrating bitch, sometimes. Luckily, there’s all that rewarding moral superiority.”  That stuck with me, because I worry that’s how I come off when I tell people, “I try not to blog about the arguments I’m having with my lovers” – as if the reason I avoid airing my dirty laundry in public is because I’m just naturally superior.

No, it’s because I’ve learned the feedback you get is nonsensical and misleading.

There’s one of three reasons people read what you write on the Internet:

1)  They’ve come to trust your opinion enough to want to know what you have to say.  (Thankfully, this is the most common reason.)
2)  They think you’re a fascinating train wreck, and want to see what sort of dysfunction you’re up to this week.
3)  They think you’re an active hazard, and your blog is a lighthouse warning of what deplorable fuckeries you plan on committing.

Now, in the case of #1, you’ve built up a big ol’ well of trust to draw from.  People have showed up because you’re either a good friend who they like, or because you’ve dropped enough truth-bombs that they’ve become a fan of your blogsmithery.  In either case, whenever you post that Facebook status, you are talking to people swimming in a deep pool of “Benefit of the Doubt.”

In other words, you’re talking to an audience that is on your side already.  And as long as whatever you write doesn’t insult them directly, well hey, all your complaints are gonna sound good!  I mean, if I’m in an argument and dash off some Chinese fortune cookie complaint like, oh, “You can’t have true love without true trust,” then twenty people will like it on Facebook and the comment threads with my friends will be about how yes, true love needs a partner who believes in you.

But like all advice, that’s good in a vacuum.  What if my wife’s complaint is that I’m spending all my free nights with a single girl she has never authorized, a girl who she knows is deeply attracted to me?  What if she’s come home to find us cuddled up on the couch, knowing that I’ve been texting her at mysterious times and never letting Gini see what I wrote… And then, aggrieved after she’s been haranguing me for more detail on what’s going on, I flee to my Twitter and write angrily about her neediness and lack of belief in me?

NOTE: This has not happened.  But if it damn well did, then my complaint of “You can’t have love without trust” becomes an obfuscated complaint of, “Gini doesn’t trust me when I’m doing sketchy things.”

But hey!  I write the posts, so I get to frame how all this turns out.  And I’m talking to a veeeeery Santa-friendly audience.  They all vouch for my status as a Good Guy.  And what I get are tons of attaboys, and you keep dropping that wisdom, and lots of positive feedback for something that I could well be completely wrong on in the first place.

In other words, what I get when I post about my troubles to the Internet is an echo chamber, telling me how wonderfully correct I am.  It’s the kid, hanging the stockings by the fireplace.  Because relationships are relative things – it’s right in the fucking word, people – any complaint I have, no matter how fucktastically incorrect, can be extracted and made to be true for someone.

“The beautiful thing about being a grown-up is that you get to choose your own family.” – Charlie Manson

“When all else fails, you just have to believe in yourself.” – Jenny McCarthy, head of the anti-vaccine movement

“When you find the right person, you have to follow your heart.” – Britney Spears

See?  All true for someone… But not the people I’ve attributed them to.

And what’ll happen if I keep posting discussions on what’s wrong with my girlfriends?  Some of the #1s will automatically take my side, whereas many others will quietly slide into the #2s (train wreck) and the #3s (uses your blog as a warning).  But they won’t post, generally.  Why would they?  Your blog/Facebook/Twitter is generally a positive space, unless you’ve been so psychodramatic that you’ve actually edged out all the #1s and now the #2s and #3s are in the majority.

(NOTE: This sad state can be assumed if you’re in high school.  Everyone’s nutty in high school.  Be prepared to be flayed alive, should you complain.)

So when you do post, what do you actually accomplish?  You get a feeling of moral correctness that is not at all justified.  You get friends, using this as an excuse to tell you how wonderfully wise you are.  You get some people quietly stepping away, not wanting to be on the train that’s rapidly heading for another collision.  And you piss off the person you’re posting about, at which point they often post their own interpretations of what’s wrong with your relationship, which gets their own cascades of “Attaboys” and “You go, girl!” and “Santa loves me, this I know, for my friend she told me so!”

What you do not get:

  • Actual wisdom.
  • Forward movement with your relationship.
  • Presents from Santa.

As such, I try not to post about a personal foible until it’s so dead that nobody even thinks about it any more… And usually, I make damn sure that it’s clear that I was the one at fault.  Because otherwise, what I get is a big ol’ tide of supportive nothing.

Don’t get me wrong, pals.  I appreciate your being on my side.  But I want that to be because I’m on the side of genuine truth and justice, not just because I sound good.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

Earlier this week, Gawker said, “We have a mole inside Fox News! You can look forward to months of evil inside scoops, provided by our hidden secret mole inside Fox News!”

Then, the next day: “They found him.  He’s fired.”

Whether you think it’s awesome or terrible that someone inside a corporation would leak info, I’m shocked at Gawker’s incompetence. Did they think the Mole wouldn’t be caught right away once he hit the front page of Gawker?

Why did no one at Gawker say, “Look, Fox Mole, this is some awesome shit. But you’re going to get caught the moment we start publishing this. So here’s what you do: write a month’s worth of embarrassing scandals in advance. Send us all the dirt, but we won’t publish it. Then, when we’ve got a nice juicy backlog, we’ll flip the switch and you’ll probably get fired, like, the day after we post it. But then you’ll have accomplished your mission.”

It’s like, dude, if you’d had an ounce of patience or forethought, you could have done some real damage. As it was, yes, you probably squirrelled away quite a bit, but even a month-old look at the daily view of Fox News, with verifiable claims, would have been enlightening.

Maybe the mole was so hot to leave he needed this published now. But more likely, I think it’s just Gawker blowing an opportunity.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

I’m too tired today for a real post, so let’s have a linkdump of silly stuff that I’ve been meaning to bring to your attention.

The first is the most recent – our girlfriend Bec brought my attention to Epic Rap Battles of History (or, as those in the know call it, “EPUH WHA BAUHS HITTUHRY!”), of which I think these are the three best:

Darth Vader vs. Hitler

Justin Bieber vs. Beethoven

Dr. Seuss vs. Shakespeare

Of the three, I think the winners are Hitler, Beethoven, and a very close call on Shakespeare, who was being thrashed thoroughly in the first round until he staged an epic comeback in the second half.  (Though I do wonder how classicist Kat Howard would weigh in.)

Another weird video for your pleasure: Vytautas Mineral Water is Earth’s Juice! Sent to me by my pal George Galuschak, I’m not sure whether to thank him or slap him. Then again, I’m pretty sure George would GIVE NEGATIVE FUCK!

Lastly, when I was very sick (which explains the extraordinarily unkempt hair even by my standards), I began emulating emoticons for the amusement of my friends. Why shouldn’t you share this wonderment?

semicolon-parentheses

colon-parentheses

colon-P

colon-0

Okay, that third one should probably be :p and not ;p, but as I said. I was very sick.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

So my friend Kat blogged today about appearing competent on the Internet.  She, like many, is cautious about what personal details she puts out on the net, because as a semi-public figure she doesn’t want to come across as whiny or idiotic.  As she says, “Here’s the thing about the Internet: it’s public, and it’s permanent….So I behave like I know that people are watching me, and most of the time that’s fine.”

Then she muses upon the things we lose by only blogging about the things that look good.

I don’t blog about the things that look good.

I air my worst aspects simply for the reasons she mentions: if I don’t write honestly about what I’m going through, people will think that they’re alone.  So I go to great pains to exhume some of my worst moments and put them out there for public consumption.

As a chronic depressive, I think it’s important to send the message to my fellow sufferers that yes, you can have this level of crazy pent in your head and still find a way to function.

As a writer, I think it’s important to send the message that even someone at my level of career gets a lot of rejections, and getting here took a lot of ass-in-seat writing.

As a polyamorous married man, I think it’s important to send the message that a lot of married couples deal with jealousy and squabbling and still manage to love each other very much.

These are all noble goals, and yet Kat’s fears are well-known.  Opening veins in public spaces comes with a cost, and that cost is pretty awkward sometimes.

Because writing is a static thing, and you are (I hope) an evolving person.  There are essays I wrote back in 2003 that I’d be embarrassed to admit to today.  I’ve evolved considerably in how I feel about race, about politics, about feminism – and yet the ignorant shit I wrote almost a decade ago is still on the record.

You don’t escape that.  People, by and large, don’t accept that semi-public figures can change their minds.  And so I know people who’ve read an awful essay I wrote five years ago, and think, “What a thoughtless sexist asshole,” and that’s who I am to them now and forever.  There are places where my name is reviled for stances I’d no longer take, and in many cases have actively backed off from.  People have actively tried to talk my girlfriends out of dating me, because they know what a jerk I am – they know this from a handful of essays they’ve read, but that’s enough to know I’m toxic enough that anyone who dates me must have no self-respect.

Which is fine.  But that’s what happens.  Write once, read forever.

For every person who gets what I’m trying to do, there are an equal number of people who have written me off as a drama queen.  They see my blog as a way of screaming for attention, rather than as a method of sharing.  And for every nice comment I get, there are the links I stumble across where people I’ve never met discuss their mutual loathing of me.

And then there are the days where people have gotten so used to me discussing my feelings in a public space that they forget that this is a very scary thing to do, and I’ll post something somewhere, and a long debate will break out on the intimate details of my personal life – as if my life were a football game.  That’s always a little unsettling.

Then there’s the cost of dating.  Being with me means being in the public circle.  Some of my lovers want more time on-stage, some want less time on-stage, and all of them want to be presented in the way they deem ideal… so The Blog is always an issue in relationships, a quiet thing to be constantly negotiated.

This is not to say that I haven’t done some good.  But the danger of talking about yourself as though you haven’t got your shit entirely together is that many will see you as a walking train wreck.  One post can cause years of trouble.  Some people never forgive for one post… Even if that post was written badly on a stressful day and you didn’t say what you meant.

I blog openly because I believe being honest about my inner turmoil makes it easier for people to see that even quote-unquote “successful” people can still have issues, and work past them.  Otherwise, all you see are the results, and you come to think that the people Up There can’t possibly have anything in common with you.  (Not that I’m a huge celebrity, but I’ve had some accomplishments.)

Most days, I’ll stand behind that approach.  But some days, if I’d known what would be involved, I might not have gone down this path.

It’s a performance that I can no longer step away from.  This blog and I are me, and if I deleted my public presence, there would still be forum threads in spaces going, “What the hell did that attention-seeking idiot do now?  I guess he’s trying to make people feel sorry for him.”

I deal.  It’s not for everyone.

In fact, I think it’s not for most.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

In a Facebook discussion, a friend of mine said that, surprisingly enough, she didn’t want to have sex with someone who’d increased his penis size via irradiated cadaver tissue implants.  She said, and I quote, it would be “creepy to be intimate with the skin of more than one person.”  Which, hey, if you don’t want to suck the nuclear zombie cock, that’s your business.

On the other hand, my mouth is full of irradiated dead men’s bones.  They flayed my gums open and dumped in bone chips scavenged from corpses (WARNING: post full of pictures) in order to build up my gum tissue enough that they could put in implants.  And, as I noted, women are far more likely to kiss me than they are to make intimate contact with Little Elvis, more’s the pity.

So.  Because I am stupidly curious about such things, which is creepier?  Kissing a guy with dead bones in his mouth, or sexing up a guy with nuclear dead men in his cock?  State your opinion, and your justification!  I want to know.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

If I ever see Ferrett, I will punch him in the fucking face.

As a blogger, I’ve received three death threats in my time.  I think two of them might have been serious.

But that’s the problem, isn’t it?  I think.  Ego-surfing your name and finding someone who’s said they want their friends to hold you down while they kick you, well… you have to parse that.

(And that’s not even a death threat.  Just good ol’ physical violence.  I’ve gotten maybe one or two of those a year.)

You know they’re probably not serious.  Probably.  So you read the rest of the post, maybe check a couple other of their writings, just to see if they’re prone to overstatement.  If you’re lucky, you see a couple of other ha-ha things where they’ve made other oversized threats to other people, and you realize that they probably aren’t kicking people randomly, and this five minutes of your day has been rightfully spent.

But you wonder.  You have to expend a little bit of brainpower, because this stranger you’ve never heard of has just popped this mental image of you, in a hotel stairway, being held down while some furious guy kicks your ribs until they shatter.  It’s the kind of thing that makes your blood run a little cold that day, even if it turns out it’s just a big ol’ laugh, because the next time you think, “Yeah, I’m going to go to the convention and have a great time!” you flash to that image and wonder: Is that guy gonna be there?

It’s a little sliver in the skin.  It saps the fun from the convention, because now there’s this element of concern that maybe you’ve misread this dude’s sense of humor – and it’s always a dude – and he’s gonna snap and fuck you up.  It’s what I think of as “the insurance conundrum” – almost nobody buys home insurance because they think, “Aw, man, now I get to set my house on fire.”  They buy it because the consequences of not having insurance should that happen are Really Fucking Bad.  It’s not a big risk, miniscule even, and maybe you can get by without it…

…but if you’re wrong, Very Bad Shit happens.

So when you get that shock of a stranger writing in exact detail where he’d like to insert the knife into your body – yeah, you betcher fur I remember that post – you do your damndest to shake it off.  But your options are limited.  Tracking some random dude on the Internet back to his real life lair is difficult at best, and the cops won’t do shit even if they find him, and what if your attempt to get him in trouble metastasizes his anger and really pushes him over the edge?

It’s just a joke, right?  He didn’t mean it.  He was just talking shit among friends.

That’s what you tell yourself.  And you move on.

Mostly.

Look, don’t fucking tell me I don’t have thick skin.  Or that I can’t take a joke.  I’ve been involved in my own Internet shitstorms, the posts where I was the chewtoy of the day for something stupid I said, the one where hundreds of blog posts got written about what a clueless idiot I am.  I’m still posting.  I don’t mind people despising me, or mocking me, or even saying, “I don’t want this asshole near me, he’s not welcome in my spaces.”  That’s their right.

But those death threats?  I worried.  A low-grade worry, but enough that I never told Gini until now because I didn’t want her to worry.  And as a guy who’s pretty comfortable standing in the line of fire, I have to tell you that there were days my fingers hovered over the keys, and I remembered that guy with the knife… and the mental effort involved in going, “That was probably nothing” was enough to make me think, Maybe I shouldn’t blog.

I’m a dude.  That’s a privilege on the Internet, because if you’re a woman, well, in my experience you’re likely to pull far more death threats and physical violence fantasies per audience unit than guys.  And once you achieve a critical mass, chances are good you may get lovely little threats of rape, too.  It’s a game that asshole men play to try to shut uppity women down, and the sad thing is that it works.  A lot.

Which is why I was so heartened when Wizards permanently banned Lucas Florent from professional Magic events, for posting that he planned to “rape” Helene Bergeot, Director of Organized Play for Wizards, over some of the changes to the Pro Tour.  But I had a friend on Facebook who asked:

“Please don’t let anyone think I want to encourage people to say stupid things.  Did he intend to carry out his ‘threat’? Almost certainly not… Rape is a word that is charged with emotion for understandable reasons, but to give him a life ban for writing one idiotic comment in a forum seems like an over-reaction to me.”

Except it’s really not.  On the one level, you can force someone to wonder: “Is this just someone’s sense of humor?  Am I really in danger?” and then have that vague, continuing concern of “If I keep speaking up, maybe some day I’ll discover that I’m wrong, and when I do it’s going to leave lifelong scars.”

Or you can say, “You have the right to free speech; we have the right not to want to deal with you for your stupid fucking statements that make it harder for the people we like to stand up and speak.  This is not a democracy – and if you feel like threatening people even in jest, well, you don’t get to play in our reindeer games.  Because if we have to choose who’s going to be made uncomfortable, guess what?  It’s you, asshole.”

Maybe Lucas didn’t mean it.  Probably he didn’t.  But maybe it’s better for everyone else at Wizards that their employees don’t have to try to decide for themselves who meant it and who didn’t.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

A couple of people have complained about me moving my more sexual essays to FetLife.  They don’t want to start a new account, they don’t like the ads, they don’t want to potentially get messages from skeevy people.  All of which are valid complaints.

The answer is, “Then don’t read.”  I’m not trying to advertise FetLife or anything, but the essays I’m writing there are of a different quality.

Let me explain: the essays I write for this blog here are polished for public consumption.  I spend a bit of time on not just the content, but on how it’ll be perceived, making sure that they’re good enough that if a stranger who loathed me read it (which is pretty much a given) that my meaning would still be clear.  I check them for clarity and correctness.  When I fail to be clear (as I have with the Gay In YA post, which I’m still considering), it bothers me considerably.

There’s a lot of time and effort put into the posts here.  Because I am, fundamentally, writing for an audience.

FetLife essays, however, are where I’m tracking an increasingly changing sexual landscape, where I’m not quite sure what I’m doing.  I’m starting to experiment with dominance, with being more open about my sexuality (not just reciting what I’m doing in a humorous way, as I’ve always done, but actually acknowledging the turn-on).  I’m opening up new territories.

That’s fucking difficult enough to do by itself, let alone without having a bunch of strangers walking in and going, “Hey, why don’t you stick to movie reviews?” or “That’s a sick thought, you shouldn’t have it” or “Me and my seventy friends over here have analyzed your desires and we’re all having a coffee klatch about what’s wrong with you.”

I’m not excusing myself from the idea of being politically correct, mind you – but as Poppy Brite said, “I’m still figuring it out for myself, and I’d like to be able to chronicle these things without feeling guilty about it.”  It’s easier to write about such things in a place that’s specifically designed for exploring such areas.

And you don’t have to read it.  I’ve been asked to remind the people who don’t read FetLife a whole lot when I’ve updated, so they can go look.  This is not me taunting you, this is me reacting in response to some people’s requests.  And I’m happy to put up breadcrumbs.

I’m not saying you can’t come view it.  You can.  Come get an account, friend me – I’m a friend-slut, I just want to know who you are – but what I’m doing over there is, at its core, very different from what I’m doing here.  It’s a smaller stage for a different audience, and purchasing the tickets is cheap…

…But just realize it’s a different venue.  I’m learning.  I’m going to make more mistakes as I learn more lessons.  And it’s my right not to want to broadcast those mistakes to an indifferent crowd.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

As with all my crazy-sexy essays, given that my sexuality’s in a bit of a state of flux (as chronicled here), I’ve posted this one on FetLife.  The obligatory excerpt:

I was talking to LucidMoon the other day about Sybians, the Death Star of sex toys. Supposedly you mount the most frigid, repressed, born-again woman on one of these babies for ten minutes and she’ll stagger off of it with her hair down in tangles, shuddering with delight, having renounced Jesus for the joys of electricity and kinky goddamned science.

I’ve thought about getting one myself, and unfortunately I am in the middle-class financial value of “It’s not that you CAN’T afford it, it’s that you SHOULDN’T.” I mean, I could shell out $1400 for what looks like a gymnast’s horse designed by horny satyrs… But should I? Would we use it enough? Would my wife divorce me, figuring that the hobby horse of doom is a lot cheaper than I am and more satisfying to boot?

And really, where would we put it when the kids came by? It’s hard enough hiding the whips and chains in our closet in a box marked “YAHTZEE.” They’ve gone to play a board game before, and discovered what Mommy and Stepdaddy like to do, and been scarred.

But no. The real reason I want a Sybian is….

Anyway, you know where FetLife is if you wanna go look.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

Yesterday, I posted about an argument I had with Gini.  The nature of the argument was irrelevant to the main point of the post, which is sometimes you need to use external markers to figure out when you’re out of line.

Yet that didn’t stop people from posting comments debating who was right in the argument.

The response was predictable; Gini felt she had to tell her side of the story, and people said, “Oh, I hate it when folks do that,” and Gini claimed she didn’t do that,  and while Gini was a good sport about it she still spent a good five minutes at lunch composing comments on her cell phone because dammit, someone’s wrong on the Internet.

This is why you never public-blog about your arguments.

At least not while they’re live.  Or freshly dead.  Or still rotting.  Basically, you only want to blog about your arguments long after the argument has passed that “stinking dead possum by the side of the road” stage and has passed into the “flat mat of faintly disturbing animal hair that is crawling with ants” stage.  If there’s any doubt at all who’s correct, then shut your yap.

I wrote about this a long time ago in one of my best essays, “I Aimed The Internet At Your Heart,” which talked about how to blog intimate emotions and still avoid emotional drama in your personal life.  What I said then was this:

“When you open up your relationship to the world, you’re calling sides. It’s getting comments from sympathizers, making people feel bad for you, confirming your point of view. Oh, you don’t think that you’re doing that – you’re just trying to get alternate opinions – but you are.

“And your partner will feel slighted. He won’t say as much to you any more, because he knows that your army of friends is against him. Let’s assume that you’re right, and that he is utterly and undeniably wrong. (It’s not very fucking likely, but it could be true.) It’s hard enough to hear that you’re an asshole when you know you are – but how many people are going to listen when a bunch of anonymous people you don’t even know are chiming in with a happy chorus of, ‘God, yes, that guy’s a dickhead?’”

Now, this didn’t do any damage, simply because Gini and I are experienced enough that we knew this would happen.  (And as a purposeful viewpoint exercise, I wrote it full-on from my perspective so you’d see how I felt when I apologized, instead of presenting both sides.  But it would have happened regardless.)  I read the essay to Gini before I posted it, as I do all essays about our arguments (another helpful trick), and she approved.

Yet if it had been something that mattered, well, this would have just exacerbated it. We’d still be fighting.

Here’s the deal: last week, Beavis and Butthead Do America was on, and I Twitter-posted how Gini was crazy because she didn’t think it was a good movie.  Later on, as an experiment, Gini posted how Beavis and Butthead Do America was an awful movie and how I was wrong.  We both got about the same number of replies.

The lesson here is that what will happen nine times out of ten when you complain about something is that the people who agree with you will post “FUCK YES THAT’S ANNOYING” and the people who don’t will wait for another thread.  Who wants to walk into someone’s journal and go, “Hey, you’re wrong here, this is fine” and get beset on by helpful friends?

There are times you may want to ask for help – when you think you’re in a bad relationship, and are considering getting out.  That’s fine.  That’s what friends-locks and filters are for.  (And generally, if you’re asking the question, you know the answer deep down already.)  But if you’re intending to stay, then find some other way to vent.

Because people will have opinions on what you do.  They’re not necessarily right.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

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