Depression

I wrote this post some time ago. I held off publishing it because it was deeply personal, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to. After thinking about it, I’ve decided that it’s worth putting out there because these kinds of things need to be allowed in the open air without judgement or shame.


Admitting to myself and others that I am asexual has been a really big boost in my life. For the first time ever, I feel ok about things that have historically caused so much internal pain. Even though I first considered it in December of 2013, I shelved it immediately for one reason: depression. Six months ago, when I first went back to my doctor (for the second time in 3 years), I told her everything I was feeling, and how much I wanted help, but insisted it wasn’t depression. She disagreed. That was what I got help for the last time, and this was it all over again. In fact, in her estimation, things I was saying this time were much worse. It all seemed the same to me.

The only reason I even went in was because I felt like I was out of options. I felt like I was just one minor piece of bad news, one tiny hiccup, one bad thought away from god only knows what. I’ve never really had any problems with hurting myself, or planning to. Not physically anyway. Scorched-earthing everything else though? Oh you had better believe that was all on the table. That was the real problem; I didn’t know what I was going to do. Hurting myself? Pfft, that would’ve been easy and dumb. That would just hurt the handful of people who cared about me, and depressed or not, I didn’t want that. I knew I was capable of much worse. I just didn’t know what that would be.  I did do almost daily self-diagnostics asking, “hrm, does killing myself sound like a good idea today? No? Ok, that’s good.” That might seem morbid, but that’s what I did. I still run that test sometimes.

Now, six frustrating months of antidepressants and therapy later, I’m just barely seeing some light through the haze. I can see now that for the past 4, or possibly even 8 years, depression has been a major part of my life. Sure it’s waxed and waned, but it’s always been there. Let me tell you something about depression; It’s a voice that tells you shit that sounds absolutely real. You do not question those things. They are truth. Anyone who suggests to you that those things might not be real must be lying. Depression will convince you completely that you are fucked, that nothing and no one can help you, and you will believe it. I did. Sometimes I still do.

While I consider myself at present to be mostly out of depression (though it’s a fucking thin line), I’m hyper-aware of any change in mood or thoughts. That’s the thing about depression. It got you once, it knows it can get you again. So it just sits there, waiting for you. Waiting for you to start to panic at one negative thought. Waiting for just one tiny slip up. Then it’s in. Like an abusive partner, it tells you it will care for you, it won’t hurt you. But that’s all it does. Once it’s in, it just starts feeding you bullshit, and you will believe it. The more you believe it, the more bullshit it can get away with feeding you. And on and on and on.

I’m at least fortunate enough to know its game, but I have to say, that doesn’t make it any easier to stop it. It’s unreal how convincing it can be. I still have a limited tool set to make some space between its bullshit and myself. I’m working really hard on that. Medication is like an EMP blast that just comes in and forces that space open. I hate the idea of taking medication, but when you’re in the position I was in, you need that EMP blast to make that initial space. But it’s up to me to keep that space open, and to not let those electrical conduits to reform. I can feel them trying to reform all the time.

I don’t know how my story with this ends. It could go any way at this point. I don’t know why I’m writing this either. I don’t think depressed me would’ve believed the things I’m saying here. I don’t know if I can say anything that will help others going through the same thing. I could say, “Get help! Blast that space open! Do whatever it takes!” but I know that’s not good enough. In fact, if you’re going through this, I don’t think there’s anything I can say. I bottomed out and became so afraid of myself that it’s honestly like I went to the doctor to get help for someone else. I can’t even tell you you’re not alone.

I guess all I can say is talk to someone. Someone you trust, or someone you don’t even know (like a completely new doctor, like I did). Talk to someone and just explain how you’re feeling. You don’t have to call it depression. You don’t even have to believe the things you’re saying. You don’t have to explain all your feelings either. If there are some that you want to keep buried, that’s fine. God knows I did. Just talk to someone about how you’re feeling. This puts at least some information into the hands of someone who isn’t listening to depression’s bullshit. Either they will be able to help you directly or find someone who can.

Good luck. To all of us.

The Most Important Thing

I am not a big fan of the idea of a bucket list. It’s definitely a good idea to have goals, and things you’re working towards, but putting it into a big list like that has the potential to cause problems. There’s a concept in the hiking and climbing world of “peak bagging”. The idea being that you just climb mountains in some group or category and check them off a list. As I recall, the community’s feelings on this are mixed. Some think it’s a fine thing to do as a challenge. Others see it as cheapening an experience of climbing and exploring nature.

I myself engaged in something similar to “peak bagging” a few summers ago with my cycling. Early in the season, I declared I was going to ride 2000 miles. The number was mostly arbitrary, but based a bit on what I had done previously, and what I felt I could do if I focused on it. In the end, I did achieve that goal. Unfortunately, after reflecting on that summer and the rides I did, I was far from satisfied. To ride that much, with the schedule I had, meant that every possible free night, weekend and good weather time slot needed to be devoted to a ride. I passed up doing other things on weekends saying, “oh, no can do, gotta ride this weekend.” The rides I was doing weren’t even that fun either. I had one ride that was a relatively straightforward perfect metric century. It was far from the most exciting ride, but I just kept doing it. Over and over. Sixty more miles on the tally each time.

The following summer, I really regretted doing that. I was proud to have ridden so much, but the cost felt too high. I wasn’t riding for the love of the sport, and the enjoyment of going places by bike, but for the miles. Instead of trying to find the highest mile rides, I started doing rides that were just fun and interesting, regardless of how many miles they were. At the end of the summer, I hadn’t ridden 2000 miles, but I did have some good memories of fun rides. I was also able to diversify the stuff I did because I didn’t feel like I had to ride all the time. It was much more relaxing.

A part of me now wants to think that of course it’s ok to do those fun rides now, I’ve already proven that I can put up big mileage numbers. Saying that isn’t really fair to me though. I know I’m a good rider. I didn’t need to put up 2000 miles to prove it. No one does. If you love the sport, then you’ll be good. It’s as simple as that. You’ll be good enough for you. Also, you never know when you might start having health problems that really limit how much you can do. This past year, I was going through (still kind of am) some things that made good sleep hard to come by. Basically, I wouldn’t know whether or not on any given Saturday I’d get enough sleep to do a real ride, so it was hard to plan things in advance. If I planned something, then didn’t get enough sleep, what was I supposed to do? Those difficulties, combined with the unpredictability of the weather meant I didn’t get nearly as many miles this summer. I didn’t even get to ride in the century ride. It was good to know that the miles aren’t the most important thing. If you’re enjoying the rides, and enjoying the sport, that’s the most important thing.

 

Privileges (Not the POSIX Kind)

Somewhere along the line I first encountered the concept of “privilege.” For the purposes of this post, privilege is defined as receiving preferential, unearned benefits simply by belonging to some group. You can go looking around the internet for these lists, and there are quite a few of them; Male privilege, heterosexual privilege, white privilege (big one), cis-gender privilege, the lists go on and on. I’ll be the very first to say that this concept of privileges is very likely true and something worth being aware of. What I won’t agree with how important being aware of privileges is. Talking to some people, you’d think they do nothing but go through their days keenly aware of all the privileges they’re missing out on. That seems like kind of a weird way to go through your daily life to me. I certainly grew up with certain privileges, like being white, but I absolutely lacked others.

My family was definitely in the bottom third of the town economically speaking. Did I spend my days focused on that? No. I did my best to be my best regardless. The times when I was forced to show my hand of being poorer than many of my schoolmates, I did what I could to give the metaphorical middle finger to the system. Oh, you wanted that paper typed up? Well, my family can’t afford a computer, so I’ll either use a goddamn 20 year old typewriter to type the paper, or I’ll hand write it in super small, super neat handwriting. I actually had teachers complain about this all the way up until high school. Too bad. I didn’t know about the concept of privilege then, but even if I did, what would it have changed? Would those teachers still want papers typed? Probably. I think I would’ve behaved the same way.

My problem with the concept of privilege is that everyone has certain privilege, and everyone lacks certain privilege. Everyone. So while it’s a nice thing to be aware of, I don’t see how it can be much of anything other than a wash in the end. It also seems very focused on outward appearances. I did my best to visually fit in with my wealthier peers as a kid, and I did a pretty good job. Ostensibly you wouldn’t be able to accurately tell about my “privilege” or lack thereof. Additionally, some of the lists of privileges are so narrow minded and themselves almost stereotypical. One of those lists is what actually spawned this post. I don’t know how generally “good” or “bad” this list is, I only know that reading it pissed me off. So if it’s actually considered a shitty list, I apologize. Also, I’m not saying that none of these things happen, I’m merely trying to point out how they’re not anywhere near as clear-cut as they seem. If anything, many of them are one-off examples of random people having sexist opinions. That’s not an example of privilege, that’s an example of asshattery, and that’s something anyone can have.

Here are a few of the examples of “Male Privilege” that really upset me:

  • You can be a careless driver and not have people blame it on your sex
    • Is this 1965 or 2014? I (and many others) assume careless drivers are just generic asshats or people from Boston.
  • Work comfortably (or walk down a public street) without the fear of sexual harassment
    • I’ve been sexually harassed. I didn’t even know what it was. No one told me I could be sexually harassed, and no one would’ve believed me if I said I was. I’ve been jeered at for any number of reasons by people when I’m just walking around. Asshattery isn’t limited to one sex.
  • Go on a date with a stranger without the fear of being raped
    • Yup. Because men never have this fear. Thanks for discounting my experience!
  • You can decide not to have children and not have your masculinity questioned
    • What? In what world? If I so much as choose not to have, or don’t desire sex, I’m shamed all to shit. I’m not a “real man”. Give me a fucking break.
  • Most political representatives share your sex, particularly the higher-ups
    • Because that really matters doesn’t it? I’d much, much rather political representatives share my socioeconomic status. Hell has a better chance of freezing over.
  • You can ask for the “person in charge” and will likely be greeted by a member of your sex
    • Who the fuck cares? I want to talk to the person in charge. Either they’re in charge and they can solve my problem or they can’t. If they can’t, they’re useless to me. Do I give a fuck that it’s a man or a woman? NO!
  • If you’re not conventionally attractive (or in shape), you don’t have to worry as much about that negatively affecting your potential
    • Jeez. Potential for what? Jobs, dates? I’m not “conventionally” attractive because of my short height. Is that right? No, but it is what it is.
  • You can go to a car dealership or mechanic and assume you’ll get a fair deal and not be taken advantage of
    • Here’s a tip for you: if you walk into a car dealer or a mechanic, you should always assume you’re going to be taken advantage of. Regardless of your sex.
  • Expressions and conventional language reflects your sex (e.g., mailman, “all men are created equal”)
    • Language is language. It’s imperfect. It evolves. There are much more important things and causes to become upset about. We should be (and I am) thankful that I speak a language that doesn’t have gendered noun classes.

This was really just a fairly quick riff on this annoying list. I’m not saying that all or any of these are bullshit, but I’ve seen so few of these first hand, or even heard about them happening. As can be seen in many of my responses, I don’t receive many of these “privileges for being male” at all, and in some cases, saying that I do is hugely dismissive of my experience. That’s why these privilege lists are so moot. The subset of people you’re describing either being denied or receiving certain privileges is so small. This list does as much to stereotype men as it does to stereotype women, and that helps no one.

I guess what I’d prefer to see instead of the idea of privilege is constructive ideas. Privilege divides. Construction unites. If someone came up to me and said, “Hey, you know, many women have a fear when they go on a date with someone new that they’ll be raped or sexually assaulted. Do you ever feel that way?”, they’re trying to include me and my experience in that discussion. It’s not about gender. It’s about a problem (rape and sexual assault) that anyone can be the victim of and that NO ONE should be the victim of. Sometimes that is in my mind. I sure as shit try to make any first date with someone new as public as possible, for both our benefits. I have other fears in that situation too. She’ll laugh at me for how I dress. She’ll expect some physical acknowledgement at the end of the date (like a hug, or kiss) or she won’t want to see me again. She’ll call me a creep (for damn near any reason).

This harkens back to a post I wrote about feminism. Great idea. Tends to be divisive. Dividing is easy, and I’m so tired of it. The ONLY way we move forward as people is to unite and see ourselves in others. You break down dividing barriers (male/female, white/non-white, heterosexual/non-heterosexual, human/Gelgamek) by focusing on the commonalities, and the common experiences, not highlighting the differences, and problems.

It’s Time to Grow Up, Kids

Well, I can’t actually believe I feel the need to take space here to write about this, but I do. I came across this article today, read it, and then held my breath to dive into the comments section. Yes, I know it’s the internet, and comment sections on the internet are like the wild west (worse?) from long ago. But this was The Guardian, a paper I like, and one that attracts generally far above average commentators as far as the internet goes. On the whole, I wasn’t disappointed. To me, gay marriage was always a non issue. I was never able to figure out a way to logically argue against it. There were a few comments though that left me head scratching. Was this person for real, or were they just doing their best to rile people up?

Marriage is a right to the extent that it relates to our freedom of association. The ability for us to form relationships with whomever we choose, be they sexual realtionships or not. We used to have laws against adultery and fornication and the like. A person was not legally allowed to form a sexual relationship with somebody they were not married to. These days, those prohibitions are gone. You can screw as much as you like, with or without a marriage certificate. You can also get married by a preacher in a private ceremony, without the need for the civil authorities to recognize it. 

The fact is that marriage has always been considered a union between a man and a woman. In olden times it also included polygamous male-female relationships. That was never accepted in this country. When our constitution was formed marriage was an understood right, but it didn’t mean to include polygamy and certainly not gay marriage. So… yes… you have the right to marry, but the definition of marriage is to marry a person of the opposite sex.

If you want to change that – amend the constitution! At the very least get 9 dumbos up on SCOTUS to rule that you are a protected class.

In order for me to maintain my sanity, I have to assume that this person is trolling. I just can’t get my mind around the arguments against it. Even if I switch into religious mode, I still can’t do it. That said, I do have a problem with all this. It’s a problem I’ve never seen raised anywhere else, so I’m going to raise it here.

I have a problem with gay marriage. I have a problem with “straight” marriage. I have a problem with the civil/legal/whatever concept of marriage. I don’t feel that the government should bestow any kinds of benefits or preferential treatment to those who chose to participate in a legal union like marriage. The reason why not is the same reason gay marriage has arisen as a “debatable” issue in the first place. If you want to get married, fine. Marry your girlfriend. Marry your boyfriend. Two men. Two women. Man and toaster. Woman and jet ski. Man and woman and Gelgamek. I do not care. But the instant the government starts offering preferential treatment or benefits (especially financial or tax benefits) to those who marry, it is obligated to provide those same benefits to ANYONE who marries ANYONE or ANYTHING else for ANY reason. It’s only fair.

It’s certainly possible that we collectively decide, hey, this is getting a bit ridiculous. Man and woman, woman and woman, man and man, we could handle that, but we can’t handle man and toaster, or woman and jet ski. If we collectively arrived at that point, that would be fine, but we would have to remove all civil benefits, laws or preferential treatment attached to the concept of marriage. This is actually my preference, and I’ll get to more on that in a second. This wouldn’t mean marriage is meaningless. If a man and woman got married in that world, they could still have a religious or secular ceremony of their choosing. All their friends and family could acknowledge the union. Really very little would change.

Why do I go beyond gay marriage and take it to such an extreme? Because today it’s gay marriage we’re fighting for, but tomorrow who knows what we’ll have to fight for. I’m going to shout out here to asexuals, and the different types of unions we form or don’t form as the case may be. I likely won’t ever get married, for a myriad of reasons, some of which are related to asexual spectrum things. Other asexuals are also aromantic, and may not form any types of unions at all. Hell, there are other regular vanilla heterosexual people who don’t want to get married either. Should we all lose out on benefits of being married? I say no.

There are so many different potential benefits marriage affords those who participate in it. See a list here. Now why shouldn’t say an aromantic person with a queerplatonic partner be allowed those same types of benefits? Because they’re not “married”? Maybe they’ve lived together for 15 years. They do everything together. They rely on each other for companionship, emotional support, financial stability, etc. How is it ok to deny them some or all of the rights that a married couple, who share all the same attributes enjoys? Hint: it’s not ok.

Do you really think with the fight we’ve had to go through, and are still bafflingly going through, regarding gay marriage that solo aromatics or queerplatonic partnerships stand a chance? Pardon the language, but fuck no! Asexuality isn’t even considered a “real” orientation (or even known). That’s the problem. That’s the point I’m trying to make. We have to make this separation between what government and civil benefits people (alone, married, gay, straight, black, blue, white or green) can get and the concept of marriage.

Naturally, the same tired tropes will be trotted out, “You’re cheapening the tradition of marriage!” Believe me, there’s nothing I could do to cheapen the tradition of marriage more than high divorce rates and Kim Kardashian haven’t already done. The thing is, you are still allowed to marry whoever you want, however you want. If that all lines up as a “traditional” marriage, that’s totally cool! I’m not going to give you a hard time about that, and neither will anyone else. The government just doesn’t get to step in and offer some kind of different treatment to you for that. As individuals, you and your spouse can apply for those benefits, but so can all other individuals. If that becomes too complex, or irks you the wrong way that two gay men are getting those same benefits (as individuals), then we can go the easy route and eliminate all those benefits completely. If you can’t play nice, you get nothing at all.

That about wraps up all I have to say about this topic, which again, I cannot believe I even feel I have to write about it. To be perfectly honest, I’m shocked that we as a country are still struggling with this. Exactly how immature, illogical, unreasonable and uncompassionate are we?

Albatross Mk-1

It occurred to me that I had spent so much work building something over the past year, and I never once mentioned it on this blog! Some time ago, in the earlier days of this blog, I mentioned all my work on a model solar power project to charge AA batteries. I also mentioned work I had been doing on thermoelectric power systems. I documented many of those experiments and circuits here.

Well late this past winter, I finally jumped on my biggest project yet: A full scale 50-watt photovoltaic power station. I had been dreaming about building something like this for a very long time. Unlike my mini charger, this one would actually be practically useful. I went through many plans and eventually settled on one and then built it. I’m hoping to add many more posts that document some of the finer details of the project, along with how I’ve tested it, what I power with it, things I’ve learned about it, etc. But before I ever get into any of that, I obviously have to show you what it looks like!

The Albatross Mk-1

The Albatross Mk-1

I’ve dubbed this thing the Albatross Mk-1. My overarching vision is to have a company that builds these smaller scale practical power systems for everybody. There are other companies out there that build things like this, but they’re expensive, and when you look over the specs, they’re performance is seriously lacking (in my opinion). So I built this beautiful contraption. There are some rough spots (duct tape where I don’t have a proper mounting bracket yet), but overall, it’s well put together and boy is it functional! Let me go over the basic components identified in the photo.

  1. Samlex PST-300-12 Pure Sine Wave Inverter: This is a really premium quality inverter. This is what takes the 12 VDC from my battery (7) and converts it into 120 VAC wall-socket-style power up to 300 watts. Because it’s pure sine wave, it’s identical to wall outlet power. It may even be cleaner. This costs a bit extra (not that much) but it means I can run anything I want with it and not have to worry about damaging expensive electronics. Modified sine wave inverters can cause problems in basically any electrical device that depends on the voltage waveform being a pure sine wave.
  2. 15-Amp DC Circuit Breaker: This was an addition I made in place of a standard fuse for the inverter. It allows up to 15 amps (I believe it actually trips around 18-20) to go to my inverter. The fact that it’s also basically a switch allows me to safely connect the inverter to the battery without any sparking. Yes, the 15 amp limit is limiting the output on my 300 watt inverter to somewhere around 180 watts, but for my applications so far, that has been amply sufficient. With some beefier cabling, the 300 watt limit could easily be reached.
  3. 12 VDC Automotive Socket: This was a recent addition. I use the system to charge things like my cell phone, or my tablet. They don’t take much power, so going through the inverter, and then transforming the 120 VAC back down to 5 VDC for the USB charge power doesn’t make sense. This socket allows me to charge devices as long as I have whatever car adapter is required.
  4. Genasun 65W MPPT Charge Controller with 5 amp LVD output: This is my favorite component. I actually opened it up when I got it to see inside. It’s so simple, but it does so, so much. Cheaper charge controllers use pulse width modulation (PWM) in order to taper the charge to the battery when it’s getting closer to full. This is fine, and works well. MPPT stands for maximum power point tracking. Basically what this means is that the controller can sense what kind of power is coming in from the panel. Am I getting a strong voltage right now? Ok, how about we drop that voltage a bit and get some extra current. This typically only happens when the panel is cooler, but it means awesome things like I can charge from my 50W panel at up to 3.5 amps. The panel is only short-circuit rated for 2.78 amps. That’s what MPPT is getting me. I love this device! It also has a 5 amp LVD (low voltage dropout) output. This is where I hooked in the 12 VDC automotive socket. The socket is dumb and will have no problem killing my battery (bad!). The LVD makes sure that if the battery gets too low, power is cut.
  5. 100 amp shunt: This is basically a very precise resistor that is used by a power meter (not pictured) to calculate the power going into and out of the battery. It’s like an odometer for the battery. The shunt itself is pretty simple. Two brass posts, connected by a piece of metal. I’ll have another post later dedicated to the power meter itself.
  6. Panel Kill Switch: I didn’t actually end up needing this as much as I thought I would. It’s just an inline switch coming from the panel going into the controller. The panel is always making power. Sometimes I need that power to stop if I’m working on the base station. The switch allows me to do that without necessarily undoing any wiring.
  7. 34 AH (24h rate) Sun-Xtender Sealed AGM Battery: This battery seems small in amp hours, but I have been so impressed with it. It’s a solid rock in my system (literally, it weighs 30 lbs). The AGM means that there’s no liquid, so it’s safe to use indoors. It may vent, but very little. At 50% DOD it will last 1000 cycles (impressive). I typically discharge only 25-30% so it’ll probably last 5 solid years.
  8. PV Cable: There’s nothing too special about this, but I did want to point it out. This is actually specially designed cable for PV applications. The idea is that this wiring needs to be able to stand up to wild temperature swings (baking in the sun vs. freezing at night) and not fail. I can absolutely attest to this. There were times when the panel and cabling that was outside were literally frozen solid in ice. This summer? They look totally fine, and they bake in the sun. Worth the money (~1$/foot).

A, B, and C are just pointing to some 4-amp quick blow fuses. These fuses serve two purposes. First, they’re there to make sure that the line in question never has more than 4 amps on it. The panel can’t even do this, so that shouldn’t be a problem, but it’s a safety thing. Second, and more importantly, the fuses are there in case two wires coming from the battery are accidentally short circuited. The battery can easily dump dozens or hundreds of amps in mere seconds. These fuses will easily prevent that from happening.

Believe it or not, in all this, I’ve only barely scratched the surface of this system. You’ll notice I didn’t even picture the power meter or panel itself. Those two things are certainly worth posts of their own, and will be soon to follow. I hope you enjoyed this and maybe got some ideas for yourself if you’re building something like this!

How I Experience Mangoes

When I first identified as asexual, I struggled with lots of different things. Suddenly I was looking critically at my feelings without the social contexts in which I’d viewed them in the past. Deep down, it was like a sudden ‘snap’. I knew this was me, but at the surface, there was so much turbulence. One of the things that’s helped to calm some of that turbulence is thinking about how I experience asexuality, rather than asking if I experience asexuality. This was a very useful and helpful shift in my thinking perspective, so I wanted to share it (and specifically my personal experiences and thoughts) so that others might be able to shift their thinking as well.

You can read all the definitions about this stuff (as I did) until the cows come home. You can read other people’s experiences (as I did) until there’s peace on earth. After all that though, you’ll still be left wondering, “am I understanding that definition right?” or, “my experience only matches up to this person’s experience about 86%. Is that enough?” This is all thinking in the mode of do I experience it, rather than how I experience it.

Admittedly, if you’re starting from square zero, you’re going to have to do some of that do mode thinking. By all means, read definitions, read articles, read first-hand experiences, talk to people on forums, etc. That should get you facing in the right direction to figure yourself out. It honestly took me a while to find that one thing that caused my ‘snap’. If you’re curious, it was this (of all things). I don’t know what it will be for you. It might be the first thing, or the hundredth thing. Once I had my ‘snap’ moment, more and more things started to make sense and I started understanding other articles and definitions more clearly.

Even though I had hit that deep down ‘snap’ moment, I still felt unconvinced. Maybe this is just my personality, but I felt like I needed more. This was a HUGE shift in my life. Questioning my sexuality? That wasn’t something I did. I never even thought about it. I never felt like a sexual person (#youmightbeasexualif #oblivious). I guess I wanted to be absolutely sure (pro tip: you can never be absolutely sure about shit like this).

That whole endeavor was a losing proposition. Now, I think about how I experience asexuality. That’s much easier. I experience it every day, all the time, because it’s me. What does it mean?

  • For me, it means I don’t feel things in a sexual context. I can objectively recognize them (yup, that girl is what people consider hot, those breasts appear well proportioned, etc), but I don’t feel those things. Feeling here is not arousal, though it could be. I suspect you’d know it if you felt it. Gut instinct perhaps?
  • I don’t form (or attempt to form in my case) relationships based on sexual factors. Feeling that someone is “hot” isn’t something that happens for me, so it’s not part of the factors involved in forming that relationship. If I had to place the tag of “sexual attraction” on something it would be this. Feeling in that sexual context about someone and being attracted to them on that basis. Things that are important to me? She looks cute. To me this means “different” (hard to describe). I’ve noticed that anything different will do. Odd hair color, more androgynous. Lots of things like that. Outside of looks, there’s just a hand-wavy kind of mental “connection” where we’re on the same page. This is harder to judge, and I’ve misjudged it horribly in the past.
  • As I’ve said many times, as far as the physical act of sex is concerned, I’m curious about it. There are certainly big chunks that are just totally off the table for me, but I’m still curious about the major things. I’d definitely balk at a relationship with another asexual if sex wasn’t going to be involved at all, because I feel like this curiosity has to be satiated. That said, if she were willing to satisfy that curiosity (perhaps on both our parts?), that would probably be approaching my ideal relationship 🙂
  • When I was younger, I experienced a number of “punctuated equilibrium” moments where I suddenly became aware of things friends and other people my age were doing that was just so far beyond my experience at that time, I didn’t know what to do with it. I felt pretty horrible about it. Surprisingly, even to this day I still experience those “punctuated equilibrium” moments from time to time.
  • “Normal”, “straight” porn does jack shit for me. For the longest time, I saw other asexual people saying things like this, and I didn’t get it. Then I realized that I’d always completely avoided that kind of porn. I don’t even remember the last time I saw it. It’s definitely the bulk of the porn out there though, and apparently what most straight people are going for.
  • Kind of a funny one, but I’ve never understood the problem with women going topless. I just don’t get boobs. I’ve never touched a boob, and I don’t really care if I never do. They’re utilitarian, a persistent example of sexual dimorphism, and honestly, they look annoying. I’m glad I don’t have boobs. Apparently, lots of straight guys (and gay women) really dig ’em.
  • In college, whenever I saw some girls out sunbathing in the courtyard or on the green, my first thought wasn’t “omg, they are so hot”, my thought was more like, “man, I wish I had the confidence to lie out in the sun like that, it looks comfortable.”
  • I have “weird” things that make me interested in people. As I said before, I do have a type of “cute” that can do it for me, but there are other things that would just make a person seem awesome to me (especially from a relationship perspective). One of these things was if I ever saw a young woman driving a Porsche 944. I don’t know what it is, but I see a lot of those around, but it’s always some guy driving them. Why not some young woman? I would so want to meet her and chat! I told my friend about this and she scoffed saying it was “too specific” and had no bearing on a relationship anyway. Well, for me it does, and it would rank far higher than “nice boobs” or a “hot body”.

This isn’t meant to be a list for you to relate to and say, “oh I get all of that, maybe I’m asexual”. I mean if that does happen for you, cool, but if not, it doesn’t really mean anything. These are simply descriptions of how I personally experience asexuality. They’re probably pretty unique and specific (just like my experience of life). My hope is that by making this list, maybe you will start to think about the “how I experience” rather than the “do I experience”. Hopefully, that will allow you to build a better understanding of yourself, and what being asexual (or not) means to you!

Stop the Shame

You know what needs to stop? Well, a lot of things, but in particular stereotyping, laughing at and shaming shy, introverted, inexperienced (sexually, romantically, etc) young men. Why is this so acceptable? I’m here to say that it isn’t ok, and it needs to stop.

Now this is absolutely not to say that other groups or people don’t experience these things, in fact, I’m sure they do. But I am a shy, introverted, inexperienced young man, so I can only authentically speak from that position. My hope though is that any other people that experience these things can relate, and take solace in the fact that someone (me) is standing up and saying it’s not ok.

I shouldn’t have to do this, but I will. I’m a shy, introverted young man. I’ve never had a girlfriend before, or really anything of the sort. I used to have much bigger problems with social anxiety, but I’ve come a really long way. Sure, I’m still working on it, but I’m always improving, and I’m happy about my improvement and where I am today. Anyone who says they have no problems is either in denial or lying. I’m very independent. I take care of my health, eat well, exercise, work hard at my job, have hobbies (even if they aren’t always very social), keep my house clean, manage my money well, and generally do everything any responsible adult should do. In my view, I’m basically a normal, hard-working adult. There are lots of us!

So why then do I need to put up with people stereotyping what a 26 year old male virgin who’s never been in a relationship looks like? Think I’m socially inept? Wrong. I’m not perfect, sure, but out and about, you’d be hard pressed to notice any difference. Think I must be flawed in some irreconcilable way because no one has been in a relationship with me? First of all, no. Second of all, that’s a pretty narrow view of why someone might not have had a relationship before. Maybe I put more effort into friendships. Oh right, I do. I’ve had a series of long-lasting, extremely close friendships since I was in middle school. Think I spend all my time alone in my parents’ basement? Fuck this stereotype. I’ve been totally independent of my parents since I graduated from college, and while in college, I was pretty damn independent too. “Neckbeards”, pathetic losers who can’t get laid, creepy loners, and on and on, it’s unacceptable. It needs to stop.

If we look specifically at the stance our culture takes on later-in-life male virginity, I say it’s fucking bullshit. It doesn’t make you less of a person. It doesn’t even make you less of a man (this is so fucked up I can’t even begin to get into it). It basically means nothing. It’s like some guys have long hair, some guys have short hair, and some guys have no hair. It doesn’t say shit about their worth as a person, or as a man. It just means different guys have different hair. If I didn’t tell you I was a virgin, you’d never even know. So why would you harbor a different opinion of a man if he said he was? That’s what a young man (or anyone really) gets for being honest. I think people who would harbor a different opinion about someone for that reason needs to take a serious look at themselves. They need to really think about why they feel that way, because they’re the ones who are in the wrong.

I don’t know whether to chalk it up to culture’s compulsory sexuality, especially compulsory male sexuality, or what. I do know that since I  have discovered asexuality for myself, I feel safer and freer to be myself (which is how everyone should feel). I’m definitely not saying that’s why I’m a 26 year old virgin (though it is certainly a big factor). The universe is a random and chaotic place. Who could say why? But why I am, or why someone else is (or isn’t) doesn’t mean a fucking thing. Neither I nor anyone else has to justify ourselves to you or anyone else.

Puzzle Pieces That Don’t Fit

[x-posted here from tumblr-land]

I’d seen a few of these ‘carnival of aces’ blog posts kicking around over the past few months and thought that many of them were pretty good. Then I thought, hey, I like writing, I write stuff all the time, I could write one of those things. The topic for September appears to be “Asexuals, Advocacy, and Allies” and while this isn’t a topic I’m particularly interested in or passionate about, it’s a chance to write. I like the idea of flexing my writing muscles. It reminds of me of debate club in high school. The best debates were the ones where you personally despised the position for which you were arguing. Heh, I guess I’m a weirdo.

I only started openly identifying as asexual a few months ago (after about a 6 month journey to get to that point). In retrospect though, it’s clear I had always been…something. It took a while for me to become self-aware enough to look at myself honestly. Please understand that my perspective on this topic comes from that history. A history of presuming I was heterosexual because to me, my experience felt “normal” and I was told that “normal” was heterosexual, so that was how I labeled my experience.

At the risk of dating myself, I haven’t been a student on a college or high school campus since 2010, so the more typical concept of a LGBTQIA + allies club/organization isn’t something I encounter in my day to day life. That said, I understand the point of those groups, and I’m sure they exist outside of college campuses. I’m just not near one right now. I do reside in a state (VT) that is (one would hope, and I expect is) pretty tolerant of all GSRMs though.

My apologies for that lengthy intro. Let’s get into this, shall we?

I’ll start by being brutally honest. Until I started looking into all this and self reflecting, I would’ve said the “A” in LGBTQA stood for “Allies”. Don’t worry, I always got all the other letters right. I’m pretty sure I’ve only ever personally met LGB people though. The thing is, I never explicitly considered myself an ally. I simply considered myself NOT to be an ignorant jackass. My view of life pretty much from high school on was that, “Just being is hard for everyone. If you’re not actively hurting me, or my right to be me (whoever that was), I have no problem with you.” Somewhere hard-coded deep within myself, I considered LGBTQA people to be such a non-issue, I never even really thought about it.

Over the years, I had a few gay friends, likely at least one questioning friend, and a disaster of a “date” with a young bisexual woman. In retrospect, I guess you could’ve referred to me as an “ally”, though I certainly never felt like it. I was an “ally” to those people as much as I was an “ally” to any of my other friends. We were friends. I wanted to be the same supportive person to all my friends simply because they were my friends. If you want to refer to that as a “good ally”, I think that would be appropriate. It’s just not the term I would’ve used at the time.

I think in a way (especially in my younger years) the concept of an LGBTQA ally bothered me. I was always the “puzzle piece that didn’t fit”. If you can think of the vector, chances were I had taken crap from it at some point. From sexual harassment (from both male and female classmates) in high school,  to random jeering and heckling while I was going about my day in college, and everything in between, I’ve put up with a lot. Through all that, I never felt like I had an ally. No one (least of all me) could say how I was different, or why I so frequently seemed to be the recipient of such negativity. If I didn’t have an ally, why should anyone else?

Trust me when I say that I understand how horrible that might sound, but I felt so alone during that time. It felt like those negative attacks would never end, and they never did. I had to graduate and move away to get peace. Was this directly because I was asexual? No. I wasn’t identifying that way at the time, but I was different in visibly obvious ways that were likely the result of my asexuality (and introversion too). Again, it all seemed normal to me. This was how I had always been.

What about an alternate past? What about a past in which I did know I was asexual and identified that way. What about a past in which I did join LGBTQA groups (assuming they were accepting)? Would that have helped? I think it would have helped. The help wouldn’t have been because I would’ve had the “allies” I felt I didn’t have before, but because I was a part of something where my “difference” was clearer and didn’t matter. Having a group of support (even if indirect) to fall back on would’ve been massively helpful. Having that acceptance from others would’ve been helpful.

Getting younger me to that alternate past would’ve been extremely difficult, and I’ve known about asexuality since I was 15! This is where I think advocacy comes into play. If LGBTQA groups in high school or college had been more vocal about the wider variety of orientations and feelings, I could’ve started my introspective journey much earlier. That probably would’ve spared me from many uncomfortable moments and difficult situations. Instead of resenting groups like my high school’s gay-straight alliance, I could’ve joined them, and strengthened their entire cause through greater diversity. Whenever they did their advocacy events, I felt like I was sitting on the sidelines. My experience, which should’ve been included, wasn’t. No one was speaking for me, and I was clearly different, and struggling alone.

Knowing what I know now, about myself, about allies, about asexuality, I don’t think I ever personally experienced someone you could describe as an ally with one exception. One teacher, my high school shop teacher, who was also a great mentor to me, was the one who called out a girl in class for sexually harassing me. If he hadn’t said anything, I certainly wouldn’t have. Unfortunately I was sexually harassed again in that same class a few more times (by different people), and outside of his watch.

Ultimately, if I or anyone else doesn’t know what they are, they’re going to feel exactly like I did. They’re going to struggle exactly like I did. They’re going to resent the very people and groups with whom they should be allying themselves, just like I did. That’s why I think that advocacy is where efforts should be aimed. Without advocacy, any allies you are fortunate enough to find are going to be be sporadic, no matter how well-intentioned, like my shop teacher. If there’s knowledge and advocacy, especially in existing LGBTQA groups, good allies will follow necessarily.

As for me, allies are a bit of a moot point at this point in my life. I’m older, independent, and am battle-hardned so to speak (complete with unfortunate scars). I don’t feel like their existence in my life now would serve any useful purpose. I would love it if no one else had to go through what I did though.

 

There you have it. Thanks for reading! I enjoyed writing this and hope that it provides an interesting take on the subject as well as  adds diversity to the carnival.

 

Friendly Bike Tips

I’m a pretty avid bicyclist. I’ve ridden thousands of miles over the past few years all over the place, and in Canada too. I’ve commuted to work on my bike, and ridden in very remote isolated roads. In most of my time riding before moving to VT though, I was riding on back roads with very little traffic.

Now though, I frequently need to ride through the capital city of Montpelier. Sometimes that’s my destination, other times I’m passing through on my way to somewhere else. Montpelier isn’t exactly a bustling metropolis. In fact, it’s the smallest state capital. It has two main streets: Main Street, and State Street. These streets are joined together at a somewhat odd intersection with a pretty normal light. The thing about Montpelier, and truthfully much of Vermont, is that there aren’t many options for detours or bypasses. You have limited options when going through somewhere. In Montpelier, this pretty much means that depending on which direction you’re coming from and where you’re headed, you’ll have to end up on Main and/or State street.

Not really a big deal. Like I said, it’s a small city (only about half the population and physical size of the little dumpy town where I grew up). They’re constantly trying to promote what a “great city” it is for bicyclists. There isn’t much they have to “do” though, because it’s so small, and relatively busy that people can’t drive fast through it anyway. There are crosswalks, pedestrians, slow moving cars moving through the intersection, etc. It’s more dangerous as a driver honestly, but I’ll get to that in a minute.

I don’t know about everyone else, but when I was a little kid, probably in elementary school, we had a bike safety course. Of course, right? Truth be told, we probably had a few. A bike is the fastest, easiest way for a kid to get around before s/he can drive, so knowing how to ride safely was obviously something relevant to little kids. It was pretty basic stuff. Hand signals, riding with traffic, stopping, etc. Basically (and most state laws I’m aware of codify this), as a bicyclist, you’re afforded all the rights, rules and responsibilities of a motor vehicle operator except where such rights, rules and responsibilities simply cannot apply due to the physical nature of bicycling. For example, I have the “right” to ride my bike up to 50mph in a 50mph speed zone. Unless it’s downhill, it’s pretty unlikely I’m going to be doing that.

What’s more important is that bicyclists follow other traffic rules. As a motorist first, and a bicyclist second, some of the idiotic things I see frustrate me to no end.

Look, I know stopping on a bike is inconvenient. Is it really necessary for you to come to a complete stop at a stop sign? Probably not, but you should absolutely slow down and look around. That does two things. One, it makes you aware of the current traffic in the intersection. Two, as a motorist in that intersection, when I see you looking around, I can be pretty sure you’re aware of me. We’re both have an understanding of the situation, and can easily proceed safely.

Do not pass stopped cars on the right. I see this again and again. I even had one moron hit my mirror while I was waiting at a traffic light. It is so fucking dangerous. Not only are you riding on my right, a place I’m not expecting to see any other cars, but you’re riding in a narrow space with parallel parked cars on the other side! What if one of them opens a door in front of you? You can’t swerve left, because I’m there. If you don’t want to wait in line with the other cars at the light, fucking dismount, and walk your bike on the sidewalk and cross in the crosswalk with the pedestrians.

Obey marked lanes!! When you decide to ride diagonally the wrong way across the turning lane at an intersection, I don’t know what the fuck you’re doing. You didn’t hand signal. You’re just riding in some unknown pattern. It doesn’t matter that you’re “just zipping over there real quick”. A car can kill you like a bug! There’s a reason for traffic pattern rules. We all know (or should know) the same rules. This lets us anticipate what other drivers will and won’t be doing. If everyone just did what they thought they could because it would be “real quick” things would be “real shitty” for everyone…kind of like in Boston.

As a motorist, if I hit your dumb ass, it’s almost assuredly going to be “my fault”. I don’t want to hit you. I’m keeping as alert as I can possibly be to minimize that risk, but somewhere along the way, you need to behave in a predictable, rational manner. Otherwise you could get hurt!

When I’m riding my bike through downtown, I always stop, or nearly stop at all stop signs. I try to make myself as car-like as possible, especially on state street. They recently painted these bicycle symbol chevrons all down the street. Apparently they mean that bicyclists can take the full lane. This makes sense because both sides of the road have parallel parked cars, and in-road crosswalk posts. This often leaves drivers little room to pass bicyclists safely. Honestly though, I did that before the markings were there. With all the stuff going on on that street, it’s hard to break 25mph. Much of the time you’re going substantially less than that. Most bicyclists should be able to keep up, at least in the very slowest sections.

Taking the lane like that can feel weird. I admit I didn’t for the longest time because I just lacked the confidence. Once you build that confidence though, taking the lane makes you massively more visible to drivers. And honestly, even if you’re not quite keeping up with the flow of traffic, taking the lane means the person behind you won’t try to pass you. They may get frustrated by this, so you should exit the lane as soon as you can safely do so, but not before. If you feel that them passing you would be unsafe, remain in the lane. I so rarely see bicyclists do this, and I wish they would. I promise that most drivers in all but the most bike-unfriendly places won’t even notice. They may even appreciate it.

Every time I see a bicyclist following traffic rules, I feel all warm inside. All the motorists who see him/her will have a positive image of how bicyclists are. Every time I see a bicyclist running stop signs, or passing on the fucking right, a part of me dies. When you do that–when you do stupid shit that pisses motorists off (and rightly so)–I and other bicyclists have to deal with their negative attitudes toward us later. Maybe they decide not to give me any extra room when they fly past me. Maybe they decide not to make it easier for me by letting me go first through a 4-way stop, even if they were there first. Maybe they decide to yell things or throw shit at me when they pass me. As a traffic rule non-abiding bicyclist, you own some of the blame when those things happen to me or anyone else.

The roads can be safe and enjoyed by everyone, but we all have to do our part. If you wouldn’t do something in a car, don’t do it with a bike.

Writing My Vacation

For the next two weeks I’ll be on vacation from work. I hate the newspeak work “staycation” but that’s basically what will be happening. Much like the past few years, I haven’t really been in a good enough position mentally to plan, much less go on any substantial vacation. After the debacle last year where I waited and waited until I finally snapped at work I knew this year what I had to avoid. So about a month ago I just scheduled two weeks in the end of September with some vague notions of what I might want to do. One of the things I’m really hoping to do is get some really great writing done for this blog! I’m also hoping to try again at writing my book.

I came up with the basic idea for the story way, way back in 2005. I was still writing a lot even back then, but it was mostly blog posts and poems. So many poems. Eventually, I stopped writing poems. I don’t know why I stopped, it was like my brain shut off to doing it. At the time though, I did try to just jump in head first and write the story. This was probably in early 2006. I got a solid chapter in and then things really degraded for me. Between a tumultuous last year of high school, and a painful first year at college, the story was the last thing on my mind.

I mostly forgot about it until this past winter. It just sort of popped into my head. Seems like quite a few things have been randomly popping into my head over the past year. Anyway, I don’t know why, but it just seemed like a good idea to really think about the story again. Could I really take this idea and convert it into an actual novel? I managed to find the original copy of the story I had started almost 10 years before and looked it over. It was pretty bad, but bad or not, it jumpstarted my memory of what I had wanted to write. I grabbed my laptop, sat on the couch and just brain dumped a few thousand words. I started describing the characters. A few of the terms. The history and description of this future world I had envisioned. Then things naturally progressed into a plot. By the time I was done, I had what felt like a solid outline of a story I that was cool, and something I would want to write. I hadn’t noticed, but during the brain dump, the main character turned out to be so much like me. Or at least, how I imagine my ideal self.

With outline in hand, I decided to take a crack at writing the story. I mean, everything was done, all I had to do was write it. I am a good writer. I know I’m a good writer. I’ve had people telling me my writing was really good for almost a decade. Yet when it came to writing this, a story I genuinely believed in, and felt such relief from my daily life just imagining it, I completely psyched myself out:

“You’ve never written anything this big or complex.”

“You’re not a writer. You’re just like every idiot fan-fic writer on the internet who thinks they’re the best thing since sliced bread.”

“You don’t know how to write a book.”

“Everybody thinks they can write, most of them can’t. You’re no different.”

…and so on.

If I talked to you the way I talk to myself, I guarantee you would take a swing at my asshole face. I don’t care if you’re the biggest pacifist since Gandhi. I don’t know why I talk to myself like that, or why I listen (and I do). I started writing the story, but I couldn’t shake those stupid thoughts. Writing became a chore, rather than something I enjoyed. It literally became the best sleep aid I’ve ever used. I started obsessing over word counting, and reading things I wrote the next day and thinking they were absolute juvenile trash. Though I started with a set schedule, and even planned on giving my dad the first few chapters by the end of February, within a few weeks, I went from writing 3-4 nights a week to 1 night a week, and soon to none.

Naturally, I blamed myself. After all, I was the one who failed to write it. Those criticizing thoughts were coming from my head, not anyone else’s. So the whole thing ground to a halt. I’ve worked really hard on myself in the intervening months. Really hard. If I myself had told me in February, that I’d feel the way I do now, and am ready to start writing this thing again, past me would’ve scoffed and thrown some kind of hot liquid in present me’s face. I’m very hopeful that a break in routine will help me get the jump on writing the story, and my unhelpful thoughts. I even treated myself to a new laptop (replacing one from 2006) as a symbol of my belief in myself that “yes, you can write this. I do believe in you.” I don’t have enough cheerleaders like that in my life. The least I can do is try to be one for myself. I also feel more relaxed writing on a laptop because it’s lighter, and I can sit with it anywhere. Sitting at my computer at a desk just feels like work.

So here’s to my vacation. Let’s see what great stuff gets written.