A New Friend

I can’t really claim credit for this idea, but I’m excited to share my take on it here. One of the things that gets me down when I travel is there aren’t many pictures of myself. That’s not horrible. How many pictures of me do I really need? But I also travel alone, so taking pictures of myself means they pretty much have to be staged somehow. I have to set up a tripod, figure out the timer, all that stuff. Never mind that I don’t get to take pictures of anyone else.

I have a week off and I’m planning on doing a little bit of local traveling so all these thoughts have come to the forefront again. It’s easy to get down about it. Someone recently shared with me this website: http://www.postcardsfromgoat.com. I thought it was a super cute idea. It’s kind of like that thing where people put a URL on dollar bills and people log in and track them. I liked it because it was a cute stuffed animal, and people were treating it as though it was going on these adventures with them.

So I thought about it and tried to think of what I might like to do that was similar. I wanted to get a cute stuffed animal that I could take with me on my travels and take pictures of. While I’ve always been very fond of my stuffed toys, and felt they should have meaning, I didn’t know where I could get one I wanted locally, so I found one online.

It’s a koala. I think I’m going to call him Kip. He’s very soft, and adorable to the max. I hope we have many fun adventures together. While he’s not a person, I think it’s a very good substitute.

IMG_0360

 

Me & Kip

Me & Kip

Ready to Roll

Sometimes I think I’m an idiot. I get all anxious about things and forget that I’m actually really smart, and can really problem solve if I want to. So I have my new (used) car and I think I’ve finally put it through all its shakedown cruises. I know it’s quirks. I’m confident in driving it. So I can take it on a little road trip, right? Oops, shouldn’t have thought of that. Here are some doubts, fears and things to be anxious about. Traveling alone. What if something goes wrong? Fears fears fears worries fears worries…

Or…or I could use the fleshy thing inside my skull to help mitigate those concerns. That’s what I decided to do today. I ended up spending a pretty substantial amount of money, but in the grander scheme of things, it had to be done. If it helps me do the things I want to do in life, then it’s worth every penny.

Actually, I had started this process when I first brought my car home. I decided that I drive a lot and with two cars now, AAA is probably well worth the money. I think it was like $80 for a year of roadside assistance and up to 200 miles of towing. Done. That’s a no brainer in my opinion. But then I stopped. As though AAA would solve all of my concerns. It helped with the big ones, but I was still worried.

Today I put together the beginnings of a kit for my car that basically just makes me feel better. There are still some things I want to add, but all the stuff I got represented a pretty substantial chunk of change, so I’ll add in other things as I can. Anyway, here’s the spread:

spread

I’ll do a rundown of everything I got, rough costs and why I got it. From top to bottom:

  • 1 quart Castrol GTX 10W-30 motor oil ($6.50): Look, my car is 25 years old. It burns oil at some rate. Unless it’s hemorrhaging oil so badly that I need a tow, a quart of the good stuff gives me peace of mind.
  • 8-Gauge Booster Cables ($24): To be perfectly honest, I’m surprised I didn’t already have a set of these. I got the nice 8-Gauge ones even though they were about $10 more because why not?
  • Hydrogen Peroxide ($1.50): Tried and true.
  • Bactine ($8.30): The stuff you didn’t want mom to spray on your scrapes as a kid. Between this and the hydrogen peroxide, I feel confident that any minor scrapes or injuries will be no problem.
  • Shop Gloves ($17): Have you ever tried to work on a car with bare hands? It’s a pain in the ass. Worse if you’re near part of the engine that’s warm or hot. Save the bactine and hydrogen peroxide for injuries that can’t be avoided.
  • 50FT Nylon Braided Rope ($7): Rope is one of those things that’s really versatile for its cost. Just a silly thing NOT to have.
  • Mini-can of WD-40 ($3): I’d rank WD-40 right underneath duct tape in the list of handy tools to have. On an older car that has a lot of seized or rusted bolts/parts, WD-40 is going to be the difference between cursing for 2 hours and sitting and waiting for 2 hours.
  • First-Aid Kit ($14): Normally I don’t like pre-packaged first-aid kits because you don’t know what’s in them, or what the quality is, but this was pretty cheap, had some things I didn’t want to buy separately and just seemed like a nice addition to my kit. It includes:
    • (2) Butterfly bandages
    • (1) Medical tape 1/2″ x 10 yards
    • (3) Knuckle Bandages
    • (5) 1 x 3″ Bandages
    • (1) Conforming Gauze
    • (2) Sterile gauze dressing
    • (3) Antiseptic towelettes
    • (2) Triple antibiotic ointment
    • (2) 200mg ibuprofen tablets
    • (2) 25mg diphenhydramine tablets
    • (2) Anti-Bite sting/itch relief
    • (11) Moleskin blister patches
    • (2) Alcohol swabs
    • (1) Splinter picker / tick removal forceps
    • (3) Safety pins
  • Stoke Firestarting Kit ($11): I’ve always kept a box of matches in the car. I was actually going to buy a tube of the weatherproof matches for my kit here, but saw this and thought it was a better option. It’s a waterproof steel tube with a flint striker, several pieces of flint and tinder. Why do I prefer this? Because even if all of it got soaked the flint striker will still create a good spark. I tried it out with a cotton ball just to see how easy it was. Answer? Extremely easy.
  • Emergency Poncho ($2): Silly thing to not have. Small, cheap, easy and the difference between being wet and unhappy and dry and much better.
  • USB Car Charger ($13): These things are so cheap nowadays. With cellphones that have batteries that don’t last very long, it helps that while you’re car is running, you know your phone is topped off. I actually use this exact same one with my PV power station. It works great and has 1.5 amp and 2.1 amp ports for phones and tablets respectively.
  • Heavy Duty Weatherproof Duct Tape ($10): Don’t cheap out on this. Don’t get the imitation ones. Get the brand name 3M stuff.
  • Roll of Gauze 2″ x 2.5 yards ($3): Cheap thing to have that has many uses. This stuff works great on larger scrapes where a band-aid won’t do.
  • Antibiotic Band-Aids ($4): Self explanatory.
  • LED Flashlight ($24): Very bright. Weatherproof. Drop/shock proof. Two brightness settings. 1 AA alkaline battery. LED bulbs don’t burn out. They’re much brighter. Make sure you get a flashlight that takes alkaline batteries (the fewer the better). Why? Because you can store alkalines for a long time. They’re cheaper and easier to find than lithium which some fancy flashlights take. A Maglight is probably also a good choice here, but I don’t know if they have LED versions. I love my mini-mag, but the xenon bulbs it uses burn out too often.

So is this kit complete? Not quite. I’m very satisfied with what I have here, and would feel safe going out with it. Some things that I’d probably also just throw in the trunk would be my ratchet set and a towel. For the kit, I’d also like to have a nice leatherman multi-tool. I didn’t see any that I liked at the camping store today, so I’ll probably look online. I’m also going to look into some kind of non-perishable food to keep in the kit. I’ve heard almonds are good for that. If I wanted to be super prepared, I guess I could get some MRE-style pre-packaged storable meals. I’m also going to get another pack of bungee cords. I have some in my primary car that I got before a camping trip some years ago. They are way more useful than I initially thought! I’m not sure but I might also get a second crow bar as well. I bought one for my Subaru last winter because I had to have some way of knocking the ice off from the wheel wells. Best. Purchase. Ever.

I’d also really like to have some kind of water purification system available to me. They had so many options at the camping store, but that’s out of my realm of expertise. My brother is a pretty serious wilderness/backwoods person, and I know he’s done water purification things before, so I’m going to ask him about it.

Longer term things to think about? I really would like to get a gun. It’s something I’ve thought about for a really long time. I don’t want anything insane, basically one step above a BB gun would be preferable. I’m very partial to the Walther PPK .22LR. One thing people don’t realize is that guns are loud. Sometimes just shooting one can be enough to scare away a bear or moose or whatever. Obviously there’s a lot more involved in getting a gun, and I’d need to learn to shoot it, but I’m pretty sure it’s something I want to do.

Pictures

I really don’t have many pictures of myself, and virtually none that I like. It’s been this way for years. I also never really got into the whole selfie culture. That’s what tripods and timers are for. My mom always came down on me saying how much she liked pictures of me and that I was just being silly for dismissing them. I’m sure she wishes there were more pictures of me.

I don’t like mirrors either. I just never really liked myself I guess. That’s part of something that I’m really trying to change. I want to be me and be happy about that. I didn’t even know that was a thing actually. Being yourself and being happy about it? Wow…what a novel idea! It’s definitely a foreign concept, or at the very least, not something that comes to me naturally. That was the past though. I understand that how I’ve been isn’t what most people experience. That would be fine if it wasn’t also causing me so much distress.

I had an idea over the weekend though. Maybe I could hire someone (a professional photographer maybe?) to take some pictures of me with my car. My prediction of the outcome would be that although the pictures themselves would probably be very good, I’d still hate the person I saw in them. So I’m wondering what comes first here. Should I take the pictures now and hope that because they’re of me with something I love and am proud of that I’ll grow to be ok with myself in them? Or should I wait until I’m truly happy with who I am and how I look?

Deep down I have a sense that nothing would make me happier than having pictures of the real me with my car. Hadley the real me. Smiling a genuine smile. Genuinely proud of who she is, what she’s done and where she’s going. Oh I can almost feel it.

Plan

It’s no secret (well, it should be no secret) that I’m struggling. Struggling to get myself moving on a life path that’s suited to me. Struggling to understand who and what I am. Struggling to just figure out a reason to continue living past 30 on some days. This isn’t really a new concept for me. I’ve known that I’ve been struggling for a while. What’s new is that I feel like I may have the opportunity to actually do something about it. Unfortunately, it may require some bold actions. I thought of a plan today to get the ball rolling towards this end.

The best plans are simple. That’s good, because this one is pretty darn simple. It’s got two basic parts. Phase one is to stop talking about it, stop thinking about it and just go out and find myself a 1986 Toyota MR2. Red would be nice, even if it does anger police. Why this car? I’m not entirely sure. It speaks to me. It’s impractical. It’s mid-engine. It’s a Toyota. Other favorites I had in mind were convertibles, because they’re just so darn fun, like an early 1990s Alfa Romeo Spider. Beautiful car. Unique car. But it just doesn’t speak to me in the same way the Toyota does. I can get a convertible any time. The mid-engine sports car isn’t something you see every day.

It was always some car. Really, the car itself doesn’t even matter. It’s a symbol. A symbol of me breaking free from the life I found myself stuck in. I didn’t ask to be in this position, it just sort of happened. That’s no way to live your life. It’s symbolic of me saying that I don’t need to do what’s “prescribed” to me. I don’t need to live the life my parents did, or my siblings do, or my friends do. That’s convenient because I wasn’t doing a very good job of living it anyway. It’s symbolic of me saying that I’m not going to continue sitting on my hands waiting for tomorrow. Tomorrow that never seems to come. I’ve stagnated horribly. I’ve done everything I was supposed to do, everything I should’ve done, everything I could’ve done. I’ve worked harder in the past 8 years than anyone should ever have to, and what do I have to show for it? An apartment. A car. A job I hate. No friends. No relationships. No hope of any of that changing. Should I just keep dying that slow death? No, I’m sorry, but I’ve held up more than my fair share of the societal bargain, and I haven’t seen anywhere near enough reciprocation to really continue bothering anymore.

Phase two is somewhat more difficult, but likely far more important. Once I have the car, I’ll get it all fixed up if necessary to make it 100% roadworthy. I’ll detail it myself. Make it as close to showroom new as possible. If there’s one thing I’ve always taken pride in, it’s keeping my cars super clean. Harder to do with a daily driver, but still, there’s nothing quite like the look and feel of a freshly Armour-All-ed dashboard and steering wheel. I haven’t mentioned much about it here, because it’s still a pretty scary notion to me, but I am going through a pretty deep phase of self discovery. One I arguably should’ve had the opportunity to go through far sooner in life, but at least it’s happening at all.

With my newly acquired MR2 in hand, my plan is to take as much time off work as I possibly can. Hopefully sometime this summer (obviously pending getting my hands on an MR2 first thing in the spring). I then throw a minimal number of things into the car and drive to Provincetown, MA. I don’t know what I expect to find there. Hopefully myself. Hopefully some acceptance. Hopefully some understanding. Hopefully some hope that a future worth living is possible for me perhaps in a manner that I didn’t even know was possible.

This plan is about as far “out of character” for me as I can get. I’ve done my best to save money feverishly over the past few years with the expectation of…well, I’m not sure. All that saving hasn’t even led to that much money anyway. Buying a house? Why? So I can continue to live a life in debt to others? So I can continue to have no friends and no relationships? So I can do what’s “fiscally responsible” to prepare for my retirement? Fuck. That. I genuinely never expect to retire anyway. Like I said, even in high school I told people I didn’t expect to live past 30. No, I’m afraid I’ve put off living my life for far longer than I should have. I see other people living. My friends, my siblings, extended family. I’m not living. I’m in a perpetual state of dying. I can accept that my life might not contain things that so many others do. A house. A partner. A family. Respectable job. What I can’t accept is continuing to half-assedly attempt to acquire those things.

I don’t think I could ever lead that successful life. I think I might have a sliver of a chance at leading my successful life, but at this point in time, bold action is required. I want to be ready to take that action.

Bringing Back Color

Yikes. Aside from my web server meltdown a week or so ago, updates around here have been pretty scarce. Fortunately, there’s a justifiable and good reason for that. I’m not sure I want to write about it directly yet, but it’s worth making some kind of note about what’s been happening here.

I suppose it should go without saying that when you discover something about yourself that’s as deep and far reaching as your own sexuality (or in my case, asexuality), it kind of shakes things up. If you can think of an emotion or thought, chances are good that I had it when I was in the process of figuring all that stuff out this past August. Ultimately, it ended up being relieving, and helped to quell an extremely turbulent and unsettled aspect of my life. What it also did was activate a kind of reset switch.

When you spend so long (in my case two decades) in one track, trying again and again to make things work, and failing repeatedly, you start to become very narrowly focused. You’re in a tunnel, and the light at the end gets smaller and smaller as the walls close in. There’s less and less room to maneuver around. It’s constricting and suffocating. It feels like things will only get worse, and there doesn’t seem to really be any point. I was down to basically nothing when that reset switch activated.

Suddenly there were choices. There were options. The tunnel was gone. Remember that feeling from way back when? You didn’t need to bury that! Remember those few times when there seemed to be a really happy you who just did what made you happy? You can be that person all the time! You’re the same person now that in kindergarten insisted to your parents that you wanted those shoes. Never mind that they weren’t meant for me. I would wear them, I did wear them, I loved them. You’ve spent so long hiding, and perfecting your hiding skills, that the real you became but a distant memory, almost unreal.

Outside of the tunnel, life feels like it’s worth living. Like I can make decisions that are best for me. I don’t have to hide anymore. The best analogy I can come up with (both literally and figuratively actually) is that where my life was once filled with color, it slowly became drained until it was nothing but greyscale. Colors are bright, noticeable. Greyscale is subdued, quiet and safe. I can bring all those colors back. I want to bring them back.

I understand now that so many of my thoughts were really aimed at wishing that I was someone that I’m not. Someone that my limited understanding led me to believe I could never be. If I couldn’t be that person, then I guess I’ll just be no one. Because I was no one, I didn’t have any intrinsic value. I had to create value at all times. I ran myself ragged trying to push harder and harder to create value. If I’m not valuable, then I’m not worthy of being here. I have to create value! I needed to invent. I needed to write. I needed to constantly learn new, complex and widely varying skills and not only be proficient, but masterful of them. I needed to create, build and design, and I needed to do it nonstop. I lasted longer doing that than anyone should have to because I felt I had no choice. It was either create that value, or drive off into oblivion like in the movie, Vanishing Point.

To be perfectly honest, I think I did arrive at somewhat of a crossroads. I was simply too exhausted to create value anymore. If I couldn’t walk that path anymore, I had to walk the other one. That scared me. It scared me enough to admit I needed help. That help led to asexuality and my reset.

Those aren’t the only two paths I have to choose from. I may not be that someone I wished to be, but that person has value because they exist. They exist because they are me. What I’ve learned is that, while far from easy, it actually is possible to become that person. No matter how difficult that may be, I have to believe that it’s a better choice than choosing between being no one, and driving off into oblivion.

 

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.

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.