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.

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?

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.

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.

Let Me Tell You About Online Dating

I often like to imagine saying things in the same way some movie dialog happened. That way I can convey the same humor or effect the movie was trying to have. So with that, if you recall the scene from Office Space where Peter Gibbons is a having his meeting with the consultants, he says, “let me tell you about TPS reports…”

Well, “let me tell you about online dating…”

I found a website a while ago called Dr. Nerd Love. Initially I was intrigued by the site. It seemed to have realistic advice about dating, relationships and related material in a way that appealed not just to “nerds” but to anyone who might have struggled with that stuff. So I read a bunch of the articles, and eventually came to realize it was just pickup artist tricks with a nicer spin. To be clear, he offers some good advice. If you read the material with that in mind, you might be able to get something out of it.

But there was one article that I felt was so disconnected from reality I feel like I just have to take it apart piece by piece. It was an article about online dating. Each point he made seemed painfully obvious to me, and also wrong. The title of the article was “Why Women Don’t Respond“.

 

it’s a zombie profile

For those who don’t know, a zombie profile is one where the person hasn’t been online for a long time, and probably won’t ever be coming back. Naturally, messages sent there don’t stand much chance at getting a response. The solution? Don’t message zombie profiles. Who does this anyway? Most online dating sites I’ve seen show you when the person last signed on. If it hasn’t been in the past week, just don’t bother. I find this advice silly because is there anyone out there who really thinks dead profile #238 will somehow see the notification of your beautiful message and sign back in? This advice isn’t helpful. I’ve never written to a zombie profile and my response rate is still depressingly awful.

 

you were lost in the churn

There is some truth to this on I think. Yes, cute girls probably get lots of messages, and even average girls are probably inundated as well. That said a good, normal, reasonable conversation-starter message should be seen by her no problem. It’s pretty easy to scan through an inbox and see which messages are of the douchebag “hey q t, wanna bump uglies?” type. And even if you got lost in the churn a couple times…every time? I’m just not buying it. For me personally, I know I wasn’t lost when the message recipient clearly views my profile after I messaged her. Clearly she got the message, read it, checked me out, and decided not to reply. Wow, that makes me feel great.

 

you sent generic message #14

I have never sent a form letter copy to any girl ever. If you’re doing that, you deserve silence in response. Writing 10 to 20 words with a cheeky intro and conversation starter takes minimal effort. Reading her profile and coming up with that opener takes little effort. If you’re not willing to make that little effort then why are you bothering? You don’t have to write a novel each time. With practice you’ll get better at seeing hooks in their profile and making a good introduction out of it. Despite never sending a generic message though, my response rate is still horrible, and the number of reads and profile views without a response is just as horrible. Horrible and so depressing. Not sending generic messages doesn’t get you much farther in my experience.

 

U t4lk lik thz

Yeah, uhh, I’ve never done this. In fact, if you’re old enough to be online dating, chances are you aren’t either. This isn’t 1998. So I’d say that not doing this doesn’t make too much difference. Granted, I write a lot, so I’ll concede that maybe writing notes and messages isn’t as easy for everyone. But if you’re an adult, writing messages like that, I’m curious how you’re holding down any kind of job. Don’t you write emails for work? This is just such useless advice. No one is doing this, and if they are…well, I’m willing to be they have many other much more obvious shortcomings that need to be addressed first. Such as being 16.

 

You Sound Desperate

Semi decent advice? Kinda. I even get what he’s talking about here. The line between self-deprecating humor and desperation is about as fine as expensive wines from France. If you’re not completely positive you know how to walk it, don’t. It’s that simple. You will cross it, and you will come off sounding desperate and killing any chance you may have had. But if you’re just trying to sound desperate to sound desperate? You get what you get. It’s not attractive and it never will be. Again, this is something I never do. I’ve not found it improves much.

 

You Were Insulting And/Or Creepy

Ok, come on. We’re all big boys (and girls) here. You know what’s creepy and insulting. Don’t do it. Not that’ll make too much difference.

 

Your Profile Sucks

One good piece of advice?! Yes…and no, well, sort of. This is the part that no one can really tell you how to do, because it’s supposed to represent you. It’s tricky. But you have to figure out how you want it to be, and there are lots of options. Let it reflect you. Are you funny? Show it. Are you deep? Show it. This is the one thing that I think might be causing problems for me, but I’ve done many drastic profile changes over the months, and none seem to really change response too much. It’s a subjective thing. You can’t make someone else like what they read and see.

So there it is. After all that though, I’m going to negate everything I said. No, it’s not untrue. It’s 100% true, but you have to understand that people in general are fickle, mysterious, irrational and yes, sometimes even just douchy. You could do everything completely right, follow every piece of advice from everywhere, and still come up with nothing. Hell, look at me! What can possibly be my rationalization after all my failed efforts? I don’t know. That’s it, I just don’t know. Maybe she thought I looked too Polish. Maybe she hates people who use ellipses. Maybe she just cannot stand when a nice, normal guy sends a nice normal message. Who the hell knows! You’ll never know. So in a way the whole thing is moot. You never know that you’ll be messaging a rational person. That’s the true issue.

Bring Something to the Table

I’m pretty tired of people out there demanding everything of others while they themselves bring little or nothing to the table. Then they have the audacity to complain about it. To all those people I say: do you realize how boring you are? All I see is blah blah blah, like the teacher in the Peanuts cartoons. I truly do not understand. You’ll complain about there being “no good guys” around, but what are you doing about that? Are you just sitting on your ass waiting for them to come to you? Waiting for them to make 98%+ of the effort? Why on earth should they do that? No one should have to do that. I’m so tired of doing that.

You know what? It’s tough for everyone. Have a little god damn empathy and cut people some slack. Am I perfect? Nope. But I try to bring a lot to the table. Humor. Passion. Intelligence. Understanding. What are you bringing? All I see is a list of “demands”. I know it’s probably tough for you too, and I’m sorry about that. I do what I can to make it easier. Please do what you can to make it easier for me too. That’s all I’m asking. I’ve put my ass on the line dozens, if not hundreds of times. 95%+ of the time you cut me down mercilessly. I want you to know: that hurts. No one likes being hurt. It’s time people like me stood up and said, yeah, it hurts. It hurts a lot. No one is out there defending me. I don’t belong to any special group. Think about that the next time you’re ready to cut someone down. How would you feel? I wouldn’t ever want to cause you or anyone else to feel the hurt I feel.

I want us all to be in this as understanding, compassionate equals. I don’t want this to sound like the ramblings of a bitter person. It’s hard not to feel bitter. Really, I’m mostly hurt. I feel like I’ve somehow failed. Please stop the hurt. If we all give just a little bit, we’ll get back so much more, and no one has to feel hurt.

Preachy Peaches

The NSA probably loves me. That is, if they’re keeping tabs on the videos I watch on youtube. I don’t keep a lot of subscriptions, because youtube, like the rest of the internet, is fickle, and one channel is rarely interesting for an extended period. I usually just stick to the recommended list. One type of video that comes up in the list a lot, and that I sometimes watch, are videos by so-called “preppers”. Now, apparently there’s a show on TV about them, and god knows what else, but I don’t know or care what media has to say about these people. All I know is what I see. So first, preppers in general.

Being prepared is a good thing. No one would argue with that. I was a boy scout, I’ve been camping, hiking, out and about since before I can remember, I know the drill. So from that standpoint, preparing is good. I hate it when names come out for certain groups though, it always seems like a way to marginalize and isolate the group. Anyway, being prepared for tough situations is a good idea. Guessing what those situations might be is another story. Then there’s the gun factor. I’m not against guns, I think especially depending on your location, a gun might be a good idea. But I’m sorry, there’s almost no good reason for a handgun unless you’re trying to shoot people. A good, classic hunting rifle is going to be more than enough for problems you might have. You could hunt for food if you were stuck somewhere, or whatever. Going defensive against people (with a handgun) is a bad idea. If that’s the situation, where you’re potentially running into conflict with other people, you and they will be better off if you work together, rather than becoming violently confrontational and defensive.

So that’s one of my problems. These “preppers” always portray themselves as “lone wolf” units, be it by themselves, or with their families. Really? You think that’s a good idea? Isolate yourself and fend for yourself? 99% of people are rational (if sometimes afraid). And people have always done better together. This lone-wolf archetype seems completely new. I can’t think of any period in history when it was dominant, or even significant. It feels like a very western, romanticized response. If stuff got really bad, your best bet really is to band together, and support each other. This should happen organically, in whatever sized group you live in. Neighborhood, city, town, whatever. Big cities definitely have a bit of a problem, since it’s harder to get so many people to work together, but lone wolf people living isolated in the middle of nowhere aren’t much better off. They’re vulnerable. No matter how much they’ve built themselves up in their minds. The sweet spot is somewhere in the middle. In the sized groups humans have always naturally gravitated to.

My second complaint is with one youtube person in particular. I like his videos from the standpoint of showing how to do things the old school way, and showing interesting old tools, and techniques. But that’s where my like ends. He’s very preachy. No surprise there, since he’s clearly religious enough to regularly attend bible study. And judging by the comments on the videos, most of his viewers are god-fearing as well. Nothing wrong with any of those things, but it sure does increase the preachiness of people in my experience. He lives somewhere in the northwest on what appears to be a huge amount of land, with a lot of very modern machines and tools. How can someone like that preach self-reliance? Most people would love to live in even 1/3 the way he does, but they can’t afford to get out of their apartment, or their crappy city. Shit, I’d love to be able to build things, like a maple syrup evaporator, or a solar dryer, but I don’t have the tools, space, or the money. His wealth to provide that land and all those things clearly came from somewhere. It came from someone participating in society with all the rest of us. Either him, or some relative that left him the money. Wealth and richness in life comes from working together, not being 100% self-reliant.

I have no idea where this infatuation with being totally self reliant came from. My hunch is it’s yet another modern bastardization of christianity from some bigoted perspective. Besides, it’s virtually impossible to be 100% self reliant, and even if you were, I think you’re life would be very empty. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of things we do nowadays that we could be more self reliant. We could be better about fixing things that break down, or making and growing our own food, even if it’s just windowsill herbs. Personally, I’ve always loved generating my own electricity. There are lots of things you can do for yourself, but I’d never look down on someone who didn’t. I have the ability, means, knowledge and skill to generate electricity. Doesn’t mean everyone does, or even should.

So, in conclusion, don’t preach. Help others achieve what you already have. That’s the only way we all get to live better.

Can’t Stand It

Look, I’m sorry but no company (not Walmart, McDonalds or Al Harrington’s Wacky Waving Inflatable Arm-Flailing Tube Man Emporium) is compelled to pay workers a “living wage”. That’s a highly subjective term anyway. This DOES NOT mean that I don’t think people deserve a livable wage. If you don’t like that Walmart or whoever pays such shitty wages, don’t shop there, don’t work there. There are NO rules that say a company has to pay its workers anything. Why? Because it would be a slippery slope. If all potential workers told Walmart to take their sub-$8 wages and go fuck themselves, Walmart would have to pay more or die.

When I took my job, I entered into an agreement with the company. I do this for you, you pay me this in return. At any point in time, it’s well within my right to ask to amend that agreement, but under no circumstances is the company compelled to accept the amendments I request. If we can’t work it out, I can either remain with the existing agreement, or walk out the door.

And something else. Companies pay people what the work is worth. Unskilled work isn’t worth much because anyone can and will do it. That’s just how it is. But how come no one ever asks the question: Why are so many people in a position where they have to take that or nothing? That’s a really, really tough question to answer and it cuts deep across our entire culture and economy. You’d better work on answering it though, because it’s the only question that matters.

Look, I’d love it if people were paid more. Everyone wants to be able to support themselves. But a lot of these jobs just can’t do that. The answer is to have more jobs that can. And if there aren’t enough, then we need to decide as a group what that means. Do we really want to consume just for the sake of jobs? Are there too many of us. For christ’s sake, ask the right questions! Forcing companies to pay more is a shitty band aid. It completely misses the target of the real issues here.

All You Have

There was a specific blog post I read recently that is the springboard for my commentary here, but I think what I say can and should be understood in a much more general sense as well. There aren’t many blogs I enjoy, and even fewer I read on what could be considered a long term basis. In my ramblings I came across a blog that I seem to enjoy mildly (for the time being anyway). Many of the post/articles are written in response to letter writers. I’m amazed that format never seems to fall out of style.

A recent letter writer wrote in asking for advice on his situation as a virgin in his early thirties. Despite what we’d all love to believe, stats on such things are likely horribly inaccurate. Any estimates on how many people there are like him would really be an anecdotal crap shoot in my opinion. My suspicion is his situation at the very least, isn’t particularly common, but that’s really irrelevant.

The story was intriguing to me because 1) he claimed he wasn’t on any religious bender and 2) he came across as articulate, normal, and reasonably socially-adjusted person; as reasonable as anyone I suppose. So while he has some years on me, I otherwise felt like I could easily identify with his situation. One which I could easily find myself in eventually.

What shocked me was the overwhelming consensus in the response from the blog author and readers. The consensus being that basically he should lie his ass off–if he mentioned it at all–to women. I’ll concede that not mentioning it is something I could see myself doing. At least for a while. I place a low importance on it, because but for a few slightly different circumstances, anyone could find themselves in that situation. It’s not that big of a deal. But I feel eventually, out of respect for potential concerns she might have, I’d let it come up. That seems right to me; letting it come up on its own. I certainly wouldn’t lie about it if asked. I have to say I was shocked at some of the reader response. A few female readers said if they found out, they would’ve bailed immediately (totally within their right, if a bit narrow minded). Several others (male and female) suggested that women would likely bail upon hearing that (unsure about context, they didn’t say). And yes, of course there were the obligatory suggestions to have the “problem” fixed by a professional. If you feel comfortable going that route, I think that’s absolutely ok. A lot of people don’t, myself included. There were also “fake it until you make it” type suggestions.*

Here’s where I step in: Good riddance. To me, if you feel like you need to be dishonest (or even just hiding) about something so fundamental to who you are, you have bigger problems. Much bigger problems. Why? Are you afraid they’ll all bail on you? So what? If there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that lots of things come and go, but you are who you are, and if you don’t own who you are 100%, and stand by yourself in all things, no one else is going to. This applies here, in the case of “older” people who are sexually inexperienced, but it applies almost everywhere else too. Stand. By. Yourself. On second thought, I’m glad to be in this situation. It’s going to save me a lot of time. Are you ok dating/being involved with someone who’s never even kissed anyone at 25? No? Ok, bye, best of luck! As an engineer, I love that. Look at all the time I saved. It’s O(1). It doesn’t get better than that. Is it possible everyone I come across will say no? Yup. But this is the line I’m drawing. Are you really going to discount someone solely because they haven’t reached arbitrary milestone x by arbitrary age y?! Everyone has things they haven’t done. I haven’t been sky diving either (yet). So what do you want to fixate on, one tiny thing in the mathematically infinite list of things I haven’t done, or the ever growing list of things I have done (sometimes at great personal difficulty and achievement)?

*Really? You’re in a position of being mature, and fully mentally developed and you’re going to waste this unique situation? There’s no shame, in anything, in admitting you don’t know what you’re doing. That it’s your first time. That you want some help. That you want to learn. I’m tired of hearing the “fake it until you make it” method applied to relationships. Other stuff? Fine. If you want to fake knowing how to grill an awesome steak until you make it, what’s the worst that could happen? Bad steak? You’re dealing with another sentient being here. It’s not even the same ballpark. Considerations need to be made.

So there it is. Normally I wouldn’t, but I just had to riff on this. It was bouncing around my head all day long.