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A Ferret Called Wilson

Chasing Happy, Chasing Dreams

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All the Same Humans, Sort of

I said to a friend of mine about half a year ago that boys are really all the same. She was itching for some sexy time with a local and was having difficulty reading the Japanese. I had just bedded the most ostentatious man in the entire gym and had discovered, much to my dismay, that he is terribly broken. He was a free spirit and a romantic, of sorts, and had suffered a breakup of the worst kind. He confessed to me on our first night together that he had tried to kill himself. In a matter of moments the image that I had of this man as strong and self confident, if a little obnoxious, crumbled into the reality that he is, like all of us, just a human suffering through a world that never taught him how to find his own happy.

At first things seemed to go incredibly well. Now in hindsight I can see that this honeymoon period was due entirely to the honeymoon effect*: when you are on your honeymoon you don’t have to work or take care of children or attend to other responsibilities, it’s just you, and so you are able to experience a period of uninterrupted, artificial bliss. Certainly there were differences in the way we preferred to live our lives, but he verbally acknowledged my boundaries at the same time as I was emotionally willing to try doing things his way, so it seemed like it was working. Everything came crashing down the day he was forced to acknowledge that my polyamory was not just a theoretical personality quirk, but a reality that involved at least one other man besides himself. It was at that point that he and I were called to employ our respective Relationship Skills to either forge on ahead, or die in the fire.

Well, it would not be much of an essay if the story ended with us just talking through our feelings and renewing our intimacy through shared understanding. The man folded in on himself, exploding at me while imploding emotionally. I used every trick in my box. I tried to listen to his perspective and to ask him what his needs were, but he refused to tell me on principle. I tried taking his words at face value, but he repeatedly failed to be honest with me. I tried talking to his friends. I tried getting his friends to talk to him. I tried getting him to talk to his friends. In the end I tried just avoiding him and cauterizing the emotional wound. This seems to be the only sort of relief I can get.

In my frustration I talked to my friend who had, months prior, looked to me as a role model in her own struggles. Why, I asked. Why is he so stubbornly unwilling to do any of the standard activities necessary for relationship maintenance? How is it that he can be content to turn his back into the storm of my frustration, waiting for it to blow over, and then just say “sorry” without actually listening or attempting to fix any of the problems that caused the blowout in the first place? My friend said to me simply, “he likes it that way.” Immediately I knew what she said was truth.

We humans are in many ways all one being, and in as many ways we are all unique. At a most fundamental level we all desire to be loved and to feel safe and secure in our lives and our community. We need to eat and we need to play and we need to feel respected as the individuals that we are. This is true. Life, however, does not put all of us in the same starting position. Some of us learn to ignore our own needs to take care of others first. Some of us learn that the world does not care for us and so we must protect ourselves from it emotionally and physically. Some of us learn how to appreciate each other as individuals and some of us learn that looking with clear eyes at our own reflection is petrifying.

So in the end, I have to accept that while it is beautiful to believe that we humans are all alike, on a practical level it is not as useful a paradigm as I had hoped. Some of us want to be open to ourselves and to others, and some of us want to plow through life just the way we are, never updating and never truly seeing the world around us. I suppose we can find commonality in that we all make this fundamental choice, and perhaps that commonality makes it more palatable when our choices clash with each other. But I think it is also important to remember that some people really are different and that smashing your head against a wall trying to get them to see the light is a futile endeavor. They choose not to change and in a way, you choose not to change, too. At this level I suspect the choice becomes one of who do you want to surround yourself with more than how do you make it work with who you are surrounded by.

And, I suppose, knowing that this is the choice I have to make does provide me with some peace.


*I coined that term just now ^^

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Life Changing…Porn?

Hi Cyd,

I moderate a forum dedicated to men suffering from various sexual dysfunctions, anxieties etc. called Measurection (www.measurection.com) I’m a girl, but they let me hang around ^^

Today one of our members posted a link to your site and so I had to have a look.

I don’t know if this is something I’ll ever get a chance in the world to say again, but your porn is doing wonders for the world we live in today! The trans men you you depict are truly beautiful. You show them not as oddities, but as real men fucking.

I know the men who hang out at the forum, even those who are into more traditional sex/porn, are intrigued and inspired by your site. Whether or not they know it, you showing trans men fucking and loving it gives them hope that they can be fucked and loved, too. That’s not something most porn websites can wave a flag to.

So thanks for doing what you do!

–Pink

On Love and Risk and the Things that Matter More

I have a new roommate. He was evicted from his home two weeks ago for non-payment of rent. He owes over $3000 and when he was informed of the necessity to vacate, he didn’t clean the apartment, thus effectively forfeiting his deposit as well. Now he lives with me. He doesn’t pay me rent either. It’s ok, I don’t want him to.

My roommate didn’t simply default on his rental obligations. Not too many years ago his wife left him. She told him he didn’t love her and walked out. He almost didn’t survive the rejection. In the divorce, he gave her everything, including all of their mutual savings and furniture. He spent the next three years living in an apartment big enough for two, but with barely more than a table and a pair of mismatched chairs to furnish it. Every moment spent inside those walls reminded him of his wife and the memories were torture. He spent his rent on a golden salve commonly sold in bars and known to work wonders in the moment, but to wear off quickly. He took out loans and spent those in a similar way. Torturous as it was, though, he couldn’t leave. This is the state I found him in.

Happy Weasel Sleeps
With weasels, there’s always more room.

Eviction may have ended the accrual of his financial obligations, but it also wrenched open the growing crack in his wall of protection against reality. It broke my heart to see. I actually saw the moment he said goodbye to his past life and his past love.

Many would say to me I’m crazy. They would tell me that I open myself up to financial and physical loss by allowing this man that I hardly know into my home. At least charge him some kind of rent! He wouldn’t stay if I did that, though. It doesn’t matter how much I charged him, or how little, he would stay only as long as his pride could bear it, and then he would disappear into oblivion too ashamed of the mess he’s made to ever pick himself up again. I would become to him another landlord to tolerate and pay lip service to until he could find a safer place to hide. I know this even without him having to tell me, and so I ask nothing of him other than a little help with the chores.

What I get in exchange for a little, indeed hardly noticeable, financial investment on my part is indescribable. I was writhing in anguish from protracted loneliness. I could barely move in the mornings and I would come home exhausted from four hours of work. I would give myself pep talks, building mental hoops and carrots and sticks and cookies and slides and all sorts of complicated psychological apparati just to be able to empty my mailbox. I wanted to quit my job and run away into the wilderness because the overwhelming pressure of being successful all alone was killing me. Certainly I’ve looked in the past for someone to help me in this struggle of living in civilized society, but as a woman with a Bachelors and a PhD. both from Ivy League institutions, one who walked out on a marriage many would envy because it suffocated her sense of self determination, it’s been difficult for me to find any partner both willing and capable of carrying me when I fall apart.

Money has never made me happy. After experiencing a childhood where I fed myself on barely ten dollars a week at school and never having an allowance, I somehow found that I attract money. Not knowing how to spend it myself, it’s hardly even a sacrifice to give it away to someone else. So in exchange for something I have in so much excess that it simply piles up outside the edge of my conscious awareness, I receive enthusiastic and selfless help with all the things in my life that were weighing me down. It isn’t just housework, it’s comfort. It’s knowledge that I’m ok because there’s someone else who thinks that I’m ok. It’s instruction in the things I don’t know how to do (where do you buy a trashcan in Japan?), intense interest in things I do know how to do, and fierce defensiveness against anything he sees as a threat to me. In exchange for a little bit of money, something so useless you can’t even eat it if you’re starving, I have a life partner whose every intention is to make my life as happy as possible.

At first I was afraid. I didn’t know how things would work out. I still don’t know. He drinks a lot still and has shown an eager willingness to give the world the finger when he thinks it’s shitting on him. However, it’s been two weeks now and my life feels fuller in these two weeks than it has in months, maybe even years. We have trouble communicating precisely because my Japanese is still only mediocre, but our feelings are quite clear. I can see his gratitude and I can see his protectiveness. It’s so sincere and genuine that I find myself growing defensive of him, too. The world shit on him for real. He got dealt a nasty hand and in making the best of it he hasn’t grown cynical or cold, but instead he’s learned how to smile through all sorts misery. He has a way of not worrying about the future that inspires me. He gives me the courage to face the uncertainties in my world because I know that if I make a mistake and things go to hell that there is someone I can go to for guidance who knows exactly how to navigate the lowest dregs that society can dish out, and who can do it with no credentials, no recognition and no insurance of success.

How powerful it is to let go! My roommate is proof that the world does not operate on the basis of selfishness, competition and control.

When I heard of his eviction I was presented with a choice and no time to deliberate. I could operate within the rules of reasonability and self preservation. Inside this narrative my roommate’s fate was in my hands and I was in a position of power over him. Helping him meant hurting myself and should I be unfortunate enough to land myself in his position then I would have to hope that there was some human out there who would find use enough in me to make his or her risk worth the return on investment. Alternatively I could operate inside a wholly different Story of Humanity. Inside this other story people are fundamentally good. When in need, they help each other even if there is no benefit in it themselves because that’s what people do. This Other story is so much more beautiful, hopeful, and even comforting because suddenly none of us is alone any more. Our success obliges us to help those who lack it, and our failures need not be borne alone. My choice was not whether or not to admit a broken man into my home but rather whether or not I wanted to live in a world without hope or love or forgiveness for a bad draw. Viewed from this perspective the choice was easy.

 

A Mother and a Father

“Every child deserves a mother and a father.”

Some use this phrase to mean that gays and lesbians who adopt are depriving their children of their fundamental rights, even hurting their chances to grow up healthy and well adjusted.

But when I hear this phrase I think about the decades, perhaps even centuries, of our culture wherein a woman is abandoned by the father of her children to strive alone to raise a family in a society that never intended to allow her to make a living.

I agree that every child deserves a mother and a father. Every child deserves to be loved. I believe that to protect the children of our society, we are beholden to enforce fatherhood responsibilities on the men who would abandon them. We are beholden to enable mothers to provide for their families even without the help of a husband. We are beholden to be the mothers and the fathers to the children whose life circumstances could not provide them.

Every child deserves a mother and a father, but why should they have only one of each?

A Voice! A Face!

These are the discoveries that change the world. These are why we need historians and artists. These are the truths that get buried under the crush of what we are supposed to believe.

Mastering the Art

Image
Working or playing? Perhaps it doesn’t matter

 

A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between [her] work and [her] play, [her] labour and [her] leisure, [her] mind and [her] body, [her] education and [her] recreation. [S]he hardly knows which is which. [S]he simply pursues [her] vision of excellence through whatever [s]he is doing and leaves others to determine whether [s]he is working or playing. To [her]self s/he always seems to be doing both. Enough for [her] that [s]he does it well.

–Lawrence Pearsall Jacks, 1932


I first heard this quote while browsing through the archives of an online Q&A session about leaving academia. To many academics, the delicate balance between work and play is both our motivation and our downfall. With no supervisor or fixed schedule, and with the measures of our success spread out over decades, we are constantly plagued with the uncertainty and the incessant wondering: have we worked enough?

The truth is that an academic should never ask herself if she has worked enough. To be in academia is to shun the world’s notion of success and to pursue passion and knowledge for the sake of the pursuit.

I am slowly internalizing the truth of this passage. I wake in the morning when it pleases me and sometimes I work right away, and sometimes I sit around playing games. I take naps when I am sleepy, think when I run, drink when I write and teach while I socialize. On a holistic level I am certainly much happier, more tolerant of others and more creative. However there are difficulties in applying this philosophy.

The master of life leaves others to determine whether she is working or playing. This is perhaps the most difficult part of the application. It would be lovely if each of us as individuals could determine our destinies, but like it or not we exist in a society which is governed by a culture. Our culture determines whether or not we are successful and whether or not we are deserving of our fate and for most of us, our culture believes that hard work which results in failure merits sympathy while too much play merits disdain.

Thus, the master in the art of life is also a master in the art of human relationships. For she must simultaneously satisfy her craving to play with her need to appear to those around her as an honest member of society. Perhaps the master is someone who has found a way to get paid to play, so that the distinction becomes meaningless to everyone.

“I’m Alive Because My Mom Had an Abortion”

I was hanging out at this feminist website the other day when I found an article talking about the “narratives” about abortion. The summary is that abortion is dangerous, a last resort, and really rare. In other words, abortion is for women who fail.

Now there are other stories about abortion, too. The anti-abortion political faction known as “Pro Lifers” chose their name to paint by contrast the idea that abortion is for people who do not value life, or murderers.

But how many people do you know who are alive exactly because of abortion? I’m not talking about women who are alive because their pregnancies were putting their lives at risk, I’m talking about their children. I’m talking about a very dear friend of mine.

Over thirty years after she was born, my friend’s father still does not know the truth about his family. You see, her mother was not a virgin when she got married. In fact, her mother had gotten pregnant by another man who abused her. Her father, a man with a heart of gold but a raging temper, told her mother that he would not marry her if she had children by another man. Because her mother chose to abort that first pregnancy, she was able to marry and give birth to and raise my friend into the beautiful woman she has become today.

And because proverbial butterflies have wings, I, too, am alive because of that abortion. Abortions do not only save lives, they create them, too.

Do you ever notice yourself wishing that “If they would only just add that extra lane, then my commute would be so much easier!” or “If only guys would just wake up and realize that women do not like getting cat called on the street” or maybe, “If I could just stop worrying about how I look I could enjoy myself so much more”? Chances are that if you’ve caught yourself wishing once, you’ve probably done it a thousand times. Maybe you’re a problem solver, or you’re one of those people who always has a project going on, whether it’s self improvement, home improvement or society improvement. If this sounds like you, then you sound like me and we both have a problem: It’s problem solving.

The other day it occurred to me that I’ve been in therapy, or “life coaching” as my therapist likes to say, for just over a year now. I’ve come a long way and yet after every problem I solve, whether it’s me or the world, I turn the corner to discover yet another problem. And they’re always the kind of problems that “if only I could…” then everything in my life would be ok. It occurred to me that the problems will never go away and the more energy I spend on trying to solve them, the less energy I spend enjoying all the success I’ve built into my life this far. I thought to myself that maybe, just maybe, if I stop thinking of them as problems then they might just go away on their own.

I’ve never lived a life with no problems, so I don’t know if I’d recognize one if it hit me in the face. Who knows? I may not have any problems already, but if I never stop trying to solve problems, then I’ll never know.

On Humanism

Last week was a week for feminist bashing. First, a post by a member on a men’s support forum that I frequent blamed the liberated modern feminist for the shape of modern male body shame. More recently there have been a number of articles published commenting on Hillary Clinton’s impending rise to power and on the form of feminism presented by Ms Sandberg in this article. I used to think of myself as a feminist, but I think feminism is outdated, and a misnomer, for what the true meaning of the movement represents. Today, I think of myself as a humanist.

I thank my fellow bloggers, les femmes, for helping me to find words to express my standing, and I thank a a particularly genuine forum member at the support forum for the inspiration to remember my own humanity in the midst of the anger.

Humanism. It isn’t feminism because it doesn’t seek to place women on equal footing as men, or to insult men or put them down, and it isn’t masculinism or patriarchism because it doesn’t seek to maintain the long standing oppression of women. Humanism is the philosophy that all humans have value, that we are all made of flesh, that we all feel pain, we all cry, we all fear the unknown. Humanism seeks to undo the damage that centuries of body shaming and millennia of power seeking have put on our collective psyches. Humans wants peace for all humans in their own hearts, and in their relationships with each other.

After the claim was made that modern feminism is responsible for the shape and style of small penis humiliation, another man added an explanation: feminists seek to topple the patriarchy, but instead of going for the strongest males, they attack the weakest first and use the cheapest shots. This naturally results in women shaming non-alpha male types for their insufficient sex drives, small penises, lack of ambition and generally non-alpha male patriarchal personality types.

I understand where this man is coming from. He feels inferior to the alpha-types that define what ideal modern masculinity looks like, but it is easier to blame women, outsiders, for attacking him than it is to blame his fellow men. He would like to be an alpha, but he isn’t. However, if he rejects the image of alpha as fundamentally flawed, he incites ridicule from other alpha males — the strong and empowered males that he claims women are afraid to challenge, but whom he himself also fears. Rather than accept that he fails to meet the standards he upholds, or to take the responsibility to change the things in himself that he disapproves of, he finds an outside entity which is socially weaker than he is and attacks it instead.

Thanks to the gentle words of another member on the forum, when I read these accusations I saw them for the expression of impotence that they really were, rather than the attack on myself that they felt like. I suggested that where he wrote “feminists” he might instead write “people who seek power over others” and where he wrote “alpha males” that he might instead write “those who currently have power and social approval.” I think what this man was really trying to say is that people attack the weakest representations of their enemies when they feel threatened, and that in doing so they harm those who are in fact closest to themselves, perhaps even their allies.

To be a humanist takes a wider perspective than to be a feminist. It is not enough to topple all the males, but rather, we must select from within the whole of masculinity what bits are truly harmful to us and what bits are nothing more than the imperfect and clumsy attempts of other human beings to fight for their own happiness. After all, men still are in a position of power over us. We don’t like it and we don’t want to accept it, but we can further our own goals if we acknowledge it and make allies where we can.

I am no political strategist. In fact, I am quite simple in my understanding of humans. I see the philosophy of humanism as a torch in the night. By recognizing the humanity in all of us, even those who would appear as my ideological enemies, I can make better choices, see more clearly, and feel less threatened by the violent world that I live in.

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