Stories from my past, along with whatever random musings I feel compelled to write. Updates Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Why I Suck At Updating

So, if you look really hard, under the title of my blog, it says that I will update it Tuesdays and Thursdays. It doesn’t say every Tuesday and Thursday, but that’s the goal most of the time. As the none of you who’ve been actively keeping up with my updates are probably aware, I kind of suck at keeping to this goal, though. I mean, some weeks I manage it, and others I’m in the desert or something and can’t connect to the internet. But most of the time, I just get swept away in my own life, and updating just kind of falls by the wayside.

Of course, this feeds into my existing neuroses pretty handily. I feel awful when I realize I haven’t updated in time, because I have this fantasy in my head where there’s someone on the internet who reads my inane whining and prattling and finds some comfort in realizing that someone else is going through the same things, or takes solace in the fact that there is indeed someone out there more lame and crazy than they are, or just finds everything I say tremendously hilarious. When I miss a day, I feel like I’m letting this imaginary person down, and it feeds into my ridiculous obsessive need to always be helping make someone else’s life a little better so I can feel needed even though I'm sure no such person actually exists.

At the same time, the constraints my life and my complete inability to maintain focus put on my ability to generate the kinds of things I put on this blog (angst-ridden personal diatribes and mildly entertaining stories from my past, mostly) make it really hard for me to manage this. For example, here’s how my day today broke down:

12:00-4:00AM: On skype, talking to a few people but mostly my friend Tara. Our conversations consist mainly of sending stupid .gif files back and forth, interspersed with the occasional REALLY EXCITED CONVERSATION IN ALL CAPS ABOUT SOMETHING REALLY NERDY. In this case, our all-cap conversation was me getting her pumped for the Hunger Games movie which OH MY GOD IS TOTALLY A THING AND I CANNOT WAIT. We also discuss one of the several hopelessly lame stories I’m writing; this one’s a sort of adventure series in which the main characters have various superhuman abilities. It occurs to me that I have these same kinds of conversations with a lot of my friends.

4:00-4:30AM: I initially try to sleep, but my brain won’t cooperate and shut up, so I decide to work on that story a bit. One of the action scenes seems a bit too abrupt, so I work on fixing the pacing somewhat.

4:30-5:35AM: I am exhausted, so I try to go to sleep. My brain is still having none of this, so I spend the next hour tormenting myself by doing my usual review of the past day’s events and highlighting every single thing I did wrong, with the additional joy of thinking through what I’m planning to do in the week ahead and placing bets on where I’m going to fuck up next.

5:35AM-2:00PM: I sleep in, because I have no classes on Tuesdays, because I am a winner. I wake up when my friend Noa sends me a text wondering if we’re still going to the mall that afternoon.

2:00-2:55PM: I do not respond to this text message, because that would entail opening my eyes and getting out of my warm bed to get to my phone, and I have never wanted to do anything less.

2:55-3:00PM: I come up with the gist of my response to this text as I haul myself out of bed, and then spend four minutes making sure that the phrase “Sure, how about we head over there at around 4:30?” is as inoffensive and non-threatening as can be, because I am a crazy person.

3:00-3:45PM: I read the new pages on my favorite webcomics, read the new articles, and play a little bit of Wakfu. It should occur to me to start working on a blog post, but I am still only half-conscious at best.

3:45-4:25PM: I shower, get dressed, and head out to meet the bus.

4:25-4:45PM: Even though it’s mid-afternoon on a Tuesday, I still have to deal with a drunk girl who decides to ignore the open seats and sit right next to me. She must be pretty smashed, because she starts flirting with me. I wait around a minute in the hopes she’ll stop on her own before I inform her of my homosexuality. She mutters something I don’t care to repeat, and then exits the bus a few stops later.

4:45-5:00PM: I browse the selection at the Aeropostale in the mall, before realizing that I have neither the willpower nor the money to be trying on jeans. To make myself feel less bad about being fat, I spend ten dollars on a video game, which will help to perpetuate the cycle.

5:00-6:00PM: Noa meets me, and we wander about Target. They’re in the midst of moving a bunch of sections around, so it takes us a bit to find everything we need. It was at this point that my stomach pointed out that I hadn’t eaten in almost 24 hours. This leads me to purchase two large bags of chips, in addition to everything else.

6:00-6:20PM: We ride the bus back to campus. Thankfully, no drunks accost us this time. By this point we are both mildly ravenous, and the prospect of food is all that is keeping us going.

6:20-7:30PM: Joined by our friend Annie, we break new ground in the field of devouring food.

7:30-11:00PM: Another friend joins us, and we engage in two of our favorite pastimes: playing video games and watching stupid/hilarious/mostly-stupid videos on youtube. We also determine that I will host a movie night this weekend.

11:00-11:30PM: I try to help one of my best friends with some emotional distress. I am no help, and manage to contribute nothing, and even though I am supplied with an idea for something to get him for his birthday, I can tell this is going to end up on my mental highlight reel at the end of the night.

11:30PM-12:05AM(Wed.): I play my new game. It’s pretty fun, but I think it would be better if any of my friends played it too.

12:05-12:15AM: I mentally berate myself for not updating my blog yet again. Truly, I am a terrible human being. I also feel bad for making such a big deal out of feeling bad, because I can’t even let myself feel entitled to my own sadness.

12:15-12:45AM: I whine to Tara about how bad a person I am. A barrage of hilarious .gifs later, I feel less terrible.

12:45-1:30AM: Inspiration strikes! I begin writing a piece on how my younger sister’s influence has worsened some of my own personality flaws and weakened my bonds with my other family members.

1:30AM: WRITER’S BLOCK. I can’t think of how to continue the bit on my sister, and I’m not at a good stopping point.

1:30-2:30AM: In the process of complaining to Tara, I prove yet again that I am an incredibly lame human being, correcting her use of “Bat-Shark-Repellent”  to the more accurate “Shark Repellent Bat-Spray”. I am familiar enough with Batman to make this distinction, and yet too unfamiliar with human interaction to get a date. This saddens me. I also start and finish this piece, checking with my friend/50%-of-my-readership Jaden to make sure this isn’t the dumbest idea ever for a post.

So as you can see, I do actually try to stick to my ideal posting schedule, it’s just that I kind of suck at doing so. I’m trying to work on this, so please try to bear with me.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Escape from Los Angeles

This last summer, three of my friends and I went up to Anime Expo, a giant anime convention in Los Angeles. I had managed to secure use of my parents’ giant blue Honda Odyssey, which has been affectionately dubbed the Land Whale, so we all piled in, filled a cooler with four dozen cans of soda (net worth at the time: nine dollars), and went north. When we got there, we proceeded to have two days filled with madcap hijinks and nerdy good times, which all went off with nary a hitch, until it came time to leave.

I had a few friends from school who were at the convention selling their art, and one of them was supposed to come stay with my family for a few days. The plan as I had conceived it (admittedly without checking for a long time) was that we’d simply leave the convention with him as a part of our group at the end of the con on the fourth of July, pile into the Land Whale, and head back down to San Diego.

When I actually ran this idea by him, I was informed that this wouldn’t work. First of all, he’d brought too much stuff for him to take it from another friend of his’s house where he’d been staying to the con for the day, and furthermore, he’d made plans to get dinner with some people. The new plan was that the group I had driven up with would get dinner elsewhere, and then pick him up when he was done and head down. In my head, I imagined that we’d be getting back at around 8 o’clock, or 9 at the latest, and then he’d stay with me until his flight out of LAX that Friday.

We went to In-n-Out for dinner, stuffed our faces for a bit, and then I began waiting for a call. As the sun went down a little before seven, I called and asked how to get to the house he’d been staying in. He gave me an address, and couldn’t really give any further directions aside from the major road it was just off of.

Not being a native of the Los Angeles area, I ended up taking a wrong turn or eight, and soon we found ourselves driving down the street as people set off fireworks at what I thought was a rather unsafe distance from traffic. I tend to be a bit of a nervous driver when I’m not familiar with the area, so the knowledge that we were lost as it was getting dark, and the constant stream of sudden explosions that seemed to be mere feet above where I was driving were starting to make me a little crazy. It also didn’t help that, given that we did very little actual sleeping during our trip, I was a little tired.

Add to this the fact that, as I mentioned in my last post, I have an almost-pathological need to be seen as someone to be relied upon, and now I was driving cluelessly around the city while undergoing the initial stages of a panic attack as three of my closest friends watched. I’d already taken waaaaay too long finding an In-n-Out for dinner, and now I was dragging everyone around the city on a fruitless search for someone they’d only met briefly the day before. We tried calling several more times for further directions, but my friend’s phone must have died, because I kept getting punted directly to voicemail.

I knew the friend lived in Venice, so I’d become hell-bent on at least getting that close. This led to around an hour of me slowly collapsing into madness as we all cruised down the street, shouting “FUCK THIS CITY!!!!” at the top of our lungs. Finally, at around 8:30 or so, he called back on his friend’s phone. We described where we were, relieved that he’d be able to ask someone who knew the region.

He proceeded to inform us that his friend had no idea where we were.

After around fifteen minutes more driving, I’d managed to get myself to an intersection she recognized the name of. She gave us pretty helpful directions, saying we needed to take a nearby street until it ran into a major boulevard, which was (naturally) a block away from the In-n-Out we’d eaten at hours beforehand.

Once we reached that street, we needed to keep going until we hit Washington, which would be distinguishable by the Staples and 7-11 that sat across from each other. We followed the road north, until we did indeed see a Washington Blvd with a staples and a 7-11 facing off across it. Relieved, but still cursing and defaming the city at the top of our lungs, we turned onto the street, excitedly telling Ground Control at our goal that we’d found the street. “So, we just keep going, right?”

“Yeah, just keep following that road and you’ll get to us.”

“So, which way do we go when the road splits here?”


“The road splits into two here. Which fork do we take?”

“...the road splits?”

As we discovered after I pulled over to let out a rather diverse string of profanities, this was a different Washington Boulevard, one which also had the identifying stores where it intersected the main road. We returned to the main drag, determined to either get to our destination or go on a murder spree, although the latter idea may only have occurred to me.

Finally, we found the second Washington Blvd, with the SAME stores marking it, and shortly thereafter, I was ringing the doorbell. My friend was waiting inside with a cadre of his artist friends he’d been staying with. When he reflexively asked if we’d had any trouble, I’m sure the way all four of us glowered at him didn’t make the best first impression, but we were beyond the point of caring. We piled back into the Land Whale, and I finally got home at 1:30 in the morning.

A few days later, I found myself driving back up to LA early, because something had come up and he’d decided it would be easier for him to spend his last night at that friend’s house before leaving for his home in Virginia. Unlike the initial group we’d had, he had a smart phone, and he kindly offered to look up directions for me.

I, of course, declined, as it wasn’t necessary. The route to that house has been burned indelibly into my memory thanks to that harrowing night, and I made it there without a single missed turn. Five months later, one of my fellow survivors would call me out of the blue to share that, as she’d been driving home from school with a few of her peers, they’d found themselves in the same neighborhood. Once she’d recovered from the horrible flashbacks, she was able to direct them straight through the region, warning them about the decoy Washington Blvd and the horrors that could ensue should they let their guard down in this tame, suburban labyrinth.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

What I Was Thinking About Last Week

Sorry I didn't post anything last week; I've been sifting my way through a lot lately, a good portion of which I think comes out in this rant. 

I don’t think it’s that unusual that I have a little voice in my head. I don’t mean the kind of voice that tells you to kill people or anything. I just have a little internal monologue, offering mental commentary on things I say or do. I’ve gotten to a point where I can make it through my day to day life without this little narrator interrupting things too badly. He almost never has anything positive to say because of my lingering self-loathing issues, but I’ve gotten to a point where I realize I need to tune out the negatives in order to function well.

This last week, though, he’s been getting clever, finding ways around my defenses by attacking areas I didn’t realize were vulnerable. It all started innocently enough; one of my best friends, whom I’ve known since forever, told me some guy at work had asked her out.

Of course, I was ecstatic for her, because she’s been wrestling with some image issues of her own for a while, and it was nice for her to finally be seeing that she was awesome, deserved a chance to be happy, and would be getting these chances.

A while later, as I was walking home from her house (walking motivated by the combination of me needing exercise and not having a car of my own), I started to feel a bit ill. I didn’t really know why, so I slowed down and started trying to figure out what was wrong.

Having known this friend since forever, we’d kind of grown dependent on each other. While a lot of our friends had started dating, and a few had even found long-term relationships, we’d been each other’s first choice for complaining about how much it sucked being Forever Alone. We’d each insist the other wasn’t actually doomed to a life of solitude, and at first I thought that’s what it was.

I’ve always really thought that this friend was way too great to actually end up alone, but as far as we could tell, this was where we were going to be stuck. Now, seeing her getting a chance to break out of that, I thought maybe my problem was that I was jealous, that I didn’t really want her to find that if I couldn’t. Of course, my inner heckler jumped on this, and I started to feel like I was the worst friend in the world for thinking this, even though I was actually happy for her.

The more I thought about it, though, the more I realized that wasn’t accurate. I didn’t feel any negative emotions directed at her. I just felt bad about the whole situation, how we had come to rely on each other for this, and now she didn’t need me anymore.

Suddenly, I realized. The problem wasn’t that I wasn’t finding love and everyone else was, or anything like that. The problem was, and continues to be, that people keep finding that they don’t need me anymore.

Once I reached that conclusion, I almost immediately saw how far-reaching it was in my own life. In most of my friendships, I try to keep the focus on the other person. If we’re going to talk about personal problems, I’d much rather it be me trying to help someone else with theirs.
That’s motivated largely by my having a very difficult time feeling like I should feel bad about things in my own life. I always feel that while my problems are big in my life, in the grand scheme of things and in comparison to those of others they’re really not that big a deal. I can’t help having issues though, and this leads to me hating myself for feeling bad, which then makes me hate myself for hating myself, and so on into infinity.

Since I’m really interested in trying to help other people solve problems or, failing that, at least sharing their burdens, and also went to high school, where everyone makes everyone else feel awful, I’d become kind of a trusted confidant for a few of my friends. Now, we’d gotten older, and people were starting to branch out. Over the past few years since graduating, people have started finding others to rely on, which is of course really good for them and probably for the best, and I support these endeavors wholeheartedly.

Still, it’s hard for me. The people who used to rely on me were finding other people to lean on, and it was starting to take its toll on me. This seems kind of dumb to me as I reread it, but this needing to feel useful is kind of one of my driving motivations in life. It’s led me to feel like I constantly have to work in order to keep my friends, in order to be deserving of being around them. It’s why, when I’m at home, I almost always try to borrow the family van when people need rides somewhere. Wanting to feel needed is the reason I’m almost always the one who organizes trips, movie nights, and the like, even though the stress of trying to make everyone happy is overwhelming, because it’s less awful to me than the empty feeling I get when I’m not helping people. It’s why, when a friend asks me to help them find something, I drop what I’m doing and divert all my resources to finding it until I succeed.

On some level, I’m sure this seems admirable, but all my helping is motivated by entirely selfish reasoning. If I help this friend that’s going through a rough patch, if I can make them feel better, then maybe they’ll continue to be willing to put up with all of my insecurity and personal unpleasantness. And my constant need for approval mixes with my fear of abandonment, and that concoction spills over to areas in which it’s no longer a positive.

Of course, given that I like all of my friends, I want them all to like each other and get along too. But sometimes, when I’ve introduced two friends and they’re getting along famously, that petty voice in the back of my head will chime in and make me feel regret or jealousy, because now I’m not going to get as much of a one-on-one connection with them. I know it’s selfish and makes me a worse person for thinking it, but sometimes I can’t help wishing that I had more exclusive time with some of my friends.

I feel awful for feeling that way, of course, but I’ve realized that it’s not all me wanting to make myself more of a necessity to those close to me. I think some small part of my wanting to spend more time with some individual people is that, after years of trying to focus only on others, I want to open up. This blog, of course, is proof that this wanting to be understood has become a common theme in my life.

But there’s more to it than that. I think it ties into my whole “nobody-wants-to-date-me-and-I’m-probably-going-to-be-alone-forever-boo-hoo-poor-me” thing I mentioned struggling with in one of my previous posts. The main factor behind my feeling that way is that, recently, I’ve found myself needing some kind of additional external validation. At this point, I’m able to function in society, and I’m realizing that I’m even able to present myself to people in such a way that my broken parts don’t really show through.

Talking to one of the few friends with whom I still have that confidant-type relationship, I found a better way to explain it. As I think about it, I feel like the brave little toaster in some ways, although I try not to think about that movie too much because the scene with the air conditioner is still one of the scariest things I’ve ever seen. Everyone around me is growing up, upgrading from having a close friend to confide in to finding someone they love to fill that role and others. I’m becoming obsolete. I’m trying to keep up, to find my own niche and someone I can fill that role for, but in the end I’m just that one waffle iron on the shelf in the thrift store. Maybe some people who come into the store will look at me and think “waffles are awesome.” At the end of the day, though, I’m still sitting on the shelf, because most of the people who thought about it decided they didn’t want waffles after all, or they decided they’d rather get a new one. There’s just too many broken pieces and bits of frayed wire to justify buying it, and some day in the future the people running the store are going to decide it’s not worth it to keep the waffle iron on the shelf and I’ll end up getting thrown out.

I’m greedy, though. That’s not enough. What drives my wanting to find love is my wanting to find someone who doesn’t only accept the façade I put forth when I’m out in public. I’m trying to get to the point where I can find people who know about my constant internal self-criticizing, my academic struggles, my total lack of self-confidence, and the many less-than-proud moments of my life (never being able meet my own expectations, coated with lying to and inadvertently hurting people I care about with a dash of failed first relationship which lasted all of a week and a half and left me uncertain I should even classify it as such thrown in for flavor), acknowledge all of it, not care, and still find that they want and/or need me around even with all of my baggage.

But then the insecurity kicks in again, that feeling that I don’t deserve to feel bad about things. Moments after I finished that last paragraph, I looked at it again, and immediately berated myself for leaving it in.  The paragraph before it I looked at again and thought, “I can’t even make myself a more appealing appliance than a goddamn waffle iron in my own metaphor?” Why am I putting all of my whiny bullshit out there for the general consumption when other people clearly have their own problems which are way more important and substantial than mine?

I don’t know, and I feel pretty certain that I’m going to regret complaining the moment I hit post. But I think the idea behind putting this generic, mildly depressing diatribe out there on the internet is me trying to make it that much easier for me to end up where I wanted to be in that extra-whiny bit a few paragraphs back. I feel like, if there is somebody out there who might actually accept my imperfections, cracks, and broken pieces outright, I want to do what I can to make sure they know what they’re getting into beforehand. And to make sure I know what they’re getting into, too.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

A Birthday Bash to Remember

Okay, this one REALLY makes me seem like a terrible person. Which I totally am, but I like to think not for the reasons outlined here. As always, comments are appreciated and I love all three people reading this for taking the time to do so. 

I feel like I should start this particular anecdote with a bit of an explanation/disclaimer. So, here it is: my Squid Incorporated DISCLAIMER 3000 (Copyright Squid Inc). While my childhood self was a definite force working against the greater good, this was not always deliberate. Indeed, some of the most seemingly awful things I did were not at all deliberate. Such is the case for this particular story.

It wasn’t deliberate. It wasn’t as though I woke up that morning and said “I think I want blood and circuses for my birthday.” 

I was turning ten years old, which puts my brother at age six. During this period in our lives, our main hobbies consisted of harassing each other. I don’t mean the usual subtle, tit-for-tat stuff. I mean we lived to make each other unhappy. We would each go to great lengths and use any means necessary to lessen the quality of life the other experienced.

This particular year, my birthday fell on a Sunday. This meant that I had to get up at 6:30 to start getting ready for church. Throughout this process, Craig and I continued our game of misery. First, he drank the last of the milk; I got back at him by leaving the bathtub on the “shower” setting so when he turned it on he got a faceful of frigid water.

We continued on in this fashion on the way to church, and we added a new element to it upon our arrival. Now, not only were we doing our best to introduce each other to abject despair, we had to do so while being quiet and subtle enough to avoid disrupting the service and irritating our dad.

To this day, I’ve never been to a religious gathering with that high a concentration of shin-kicking and muttered threats, although I hear some evangelical sects come pretty close. Dad noticed, of course (we actually kind of sucked at being sneaky), and took me aside after the service. I was informed that, should I continue to behave in such a fashion, I would not be receiving my presents. Me being kind of dumb, I was still partially convinced that I could be getting my own fighter jet or something, so I shut right up.

Of course, this did nothing to stop my brother from needling me, and so the entire ride home was filled with his poking and teasing and just general unpleasantness. I have never had an easy time dealing with sass (I much prefer to be the one doing the sassing), and so it was only via the utmost fear-motivated determination that I managed to refrain from fighting back. 

Finally, we got home, and after a few moments, my mother opened the door, welcoming us back. I, having finally started developing a rudimentary ability to interact with people normally, politely asked where my presents were. I was told that they were past the stairs, down the hall in the kitchen.

Before I go any further, an extra bit of disclaimer is needed. I’ve always been big for my age, both in terms of height and weight. This led to me being less than graceful as a child, to put it mildly. To put it more honestly, I moved with all the grace of an epileptic hippopotamus being harassed by a swarm of bees. To make matters worse, I often forgot how big I was, leading to a lot of moments where I’d accidentally break something because I didn’t know my own strength.  Furthermore, I may have been and continue to be a terrible person, but I basically never knowingly set out to injure people. When I end up doing so, regardless of how I actually feel about the person, I immediately feel like the world’s worst person.

The stairs in our house are accompanied by a long, iron railing. Upon being told where what I assumed was a massive pile of presents for me could be found, I took off like a shot, sprinting down the hall as quickly as a kid that fat could manage. 

Unfortunately for everyone involved, but mainly himself, Craig took this chance to attempt another attack. He ran along beside me, attempting to block my path. Maybe he was trying to trip me up; maybe he wanted to beat me to the kitchen and steal my presents. As is so often the case, I will never know his motivations, for reasons that are about to become abundantly clear.

Noticing the potential obstacle posed by my six-year-old younger brother, I opted for the simple solution and tried to push him out of the way. Again, I didn’t know my own strength.

It was at this point that the aforementioned iron railing entered play. Due to a combination of my strength-not-knowing-influenced shove and a new whatever-is-the-opposite-of-super power, the worst timing in the entire universe, I pushed my brother directly into the railing, which stood just about level with his head. 

This is also the day I learned one of the facts of life: gaping head wounds bleed like crazy. Being somewhat squeamish about blood, the combination of my colossal guilt and the blood, which I feel I the need to re-state was all over the place, I bolted, leaving my presents and locking myself in the bathroom, where I stewed in feeling like a bad person for a while before my parents hauled me out and tossed me into the car.
Several hours, a lot of screaming, and a visit to the hospital later, my brother got several super-fun stitches, and had to wear a big white patch of gauze on his forehead for over a month afterward. To this day, he brings this up whenever he wants to convince me to do something. I still feel so guilty about it that he succeeds around 85% of the time. Interestingly, when I try to do the same about the time he broke my toe on another one of my birthdays, I have less luck. But that is a story for another time.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Cracks in the Façade, part II

Here's the second part of my ongoing examination of my insecurities with my own identity in an attempt to make myself understood. This isn't something I write about much (well, basically ever before this), so I apologize if it's not good. Comments (I think the button's after the end of the article?) are always appreciated. 

As mentioned above, and previously in my MAGICAL TIME TRAVELLING LETTER TO MY SEVENTH GRADE SELF(which is probably way better written than this), high school was a period of a lot of self-discovery for me. One of the most notable of these discoveries was the fact that, unlike the majority of human males, I happen to have a certain predisposition toward those in the possession of a Y-chromosome, which leads me to- all right, that was entirely too much work. Long story short, I’m gay, as spending any amount of time hanging out around me would make abundantly clear.

While the (eventual) bluntness of that declaration shows that I’m not really unsure about that anymore, high school was a different story altogether. I started school early, so I’ve always been a bit younger than most of my peers. While most of them started getting interested in dating and so on (ahem) in junior high, I was a couple of years behind.

When I then found myself not gravitating toward girls, but instead being drawn in the other direction, it was a not entirely unexpected finding, but one that could have provided me with no shortage of hardship. For those of you who were somehow fortunate enough to have never dealt with high school students, let me fill you in on a little secret: a lot of them aren’t very nice people.

I’m sure I was pretty unpleasant in high school, but there were people at my school who made me look like a saint. If I’d just thrown my cards on the table, I might have had to deal with everything from knowing people were saying awful things about me to actual violence. This was partially motivated by my adolescent need to over-dramatize everything, but there was at least some basis for my reaction.

It’s always interesting talking to someone who has something against a specific group and doesn’t realize you fall into that group. Hearing how the people around me would talk about gay students, both specific people and in general, made it clear that I didn’t want people to treat me like that.

So, motivated entirely by cowardice and a lack of faith in my own feelings, I didn’t really open up about my sexual orientation at all through high school. I even somehow managed to convince two awesome female friends to “go out with me” at various points, although nothing ever advanced beyond the purview of being best friends.

After escaping high school, I realized that I never had to see the people I didn’t like again if I didn’t want to, and the pretense dropped away pretty quick. Since that point, I’ve realized that Past Me was a moron. While I’m now comfortable with who I’m attracted to, I’m still pretty cautious when it comes to other people.

Even though I’m pretty sure I know both of the people who actually read my blog, I’m still really nervous as I post this that someone whom I haven’t had the “I’m gay” discussion with (given my policy of not bringing the topic up out of the blue) will read this post and then there will be some big confrontation and my life will be reduced to a tiny little ball of sadness and solitude and that’s basically hell for me because I need to be around people all the time.

At the same time, I’m worried that even people who I’ve had that talk with are only okay with it because it’s just kind of a nebulous thing that’s out there, but that isn’t affecting anyone. Long story short, nobody-wants-to-date-me-and-I’m-probably-going-to-be-alone-forever-boo-hoo-poor-me.

Now that that’s out of the way, I really do wonder if people would be as okay with me if my being gay consisted of dating men, instead of feeling sorry for myself because nobody’s interested. It’s one thing to accept something on a theoretical level, and quite another to do so in a real-world setting.

I really shouldn’t be this paranoid. Almost every time I’ve had this conversation, the other party had already been working under the assumption I was gay before the topic was even brought up. Still, because I am a crazy person, I’m even operating under this level of paranoia around some of my most open-minded friends.

As I think about it, I don’t really know how I feel about all of this. I know that, at the most basic level, this is how I’m wired, but I really don’t know if I’m ready for anything resembling an actual relationship. My problem is twofold. First of all, I’ve got a boatload of personal issues tied to my weight and general appearance. This is kinda old hat for me, and I’ll go into more detail on that whole bag of issues another time.

Second, I usually end up in this odd limbo regarding my own feelings about other people. By the time I get to know someone well enough that I think there might be something more there, I already like them a lot. The problem is, I tend to like them well enough that I’d rather just stay platonic friends with them than risk starting a relationship that might end in my no longer being even as close to them as I am now, which I know firsthand can be really painful.

But these are my own problems, and I’ve gotten better at dealing with them. Still, I won’t really know if I’ve truly come to terms with this until I end up in a situation that put them to the test.

While I’m far from being the most upfront person in the world, I’ve made a lot of progress from where I was in high school. Back then, I wouldn’t have even thought about writing anything like this, so while the writing itself may not be my best, I’m glad I’ve done it because of the amount of progress it evinces.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Playing With Fire (This One's Not My Fault)

    Most of my stories from my childhood make it sound like I was, if not the spawn of the devil, then the offspring of some lesser spirit dedicated to making people’s lives a bit more difficult. Indeed, I was far from being an easy child, as the distant, haunted vibe my parents throw off whenever they think back to those days proves.

    However, I was far from being the only problem child in my family. Even before we formally adopted her, my sister brought a whole truckload of issues with her, but that’s not entirely under her control (and I’ll save those memories for later). My younger brother, on the other hand, caused almost as much damage to our house and the sanity of my parents as I did.

    One of the earliest examples of this that I can think of is the time he set fire to our kitchen. At the time Craig was around three, which puts me at around seven years old. The school year had yet to start for me, so I was naturally upstairs sprawled out on the couch in front of the television.

    Craig was doing the same downstairs in my parents’ room, taking advantage of their waterbed in order to optimize the enjoyability of his television viewing experience. My dad was occupied in the living room, working to clean the aquarium. My mother was at work, and we were all expecting a fairly low-key day of lounging about.

At some point, my brother got up and went into the kitchen. He may have been planning on getting a snack, or he could have been planning on visiting with our dogs. I may never learn his initial motivation, as he was too young at the time to remember it now. What I do know is what he ended up doing.

As my father siphoned out and replaced the water in the aquarium (or something; I admit I’m still a bit foggy on the mechanics of aquarium maintenance), he heard Craig open the microwave. This wasn’t at all surprising; since a young age, my brother has shown an almost prodigious knack for stuffing his face and then not gaining weight.

My dad heard Craig open and close the microwave, enter a time, and then start it up. From his obscured vantage point, he saw my brother retreat back to his cartoons. A few minutes later, the microwave was still running, and my brother walked back in to check on it. The second time he did this, he walked back with a look that my father described as “more worried than a three-year-old should ever be”. It was a few moments after my dad made this observation that he saw the smoke.

When I say “smoke”, don’t think the light gray haze that accompanies your average culinary blunder. This was an acrid black cloud that dramatically reduced visibility and smelled of utter despair. My dad dropped what he was doing and ran into the kitchen.

The microwave was on fire. Not sparking, not kind of melted, but completely ablaze. A massive black scorch mark was slowly spreading across the wall marring the wallpaper my mom had picked out years prior.

At this point, the combination of the smell and the wailing of the smoke alarm had become overpowering enough to draw me out of my television-induced stupor. I hurried downstairs, wondering what was going on. My dad immediately ordered the both of us out of the kitchen, somehow managing to put out the fire.

When we conducted an autopsy on the remains of the microwave, it was discovered that there was a lump of melted plastic and metal in it. Well, a lump of melted plastic and metal separate from the lump of melted plastic and metal that was the microwave at this point.

It would later be revealed that my brother had found a recording microphone somewhere and, noticing that it shared a prefix with the microwave, decided he wanted to see what happened if they were to be combined.

Unfortunately, my brother failed to travel back in time or gain eternal life or whatever he’d been trying to do. Instead, he got to be the reason we re-wallpapered our entire kitchen and bought a new microwave with a password-protected child lock.

As seems to be the case with so many of my memories, Craig seriously damaging our house was not a one-time occurrence. As the years went on, he’d knock holes in the walls (once or twice with his head), nearly rip out the railing on the stairs, and almost set the carpet on fire. Of course, if you want more details on those stories, you’ll just have to keep slogging through my interminable ramblings until I decide to share those stories.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Cracks in the Façade, part I

I apologize in advance for the less-than-hilarious-or-touching nature of this post; being home for break is making my notoriously absent attention span even more of a problem than usual. Here's part one of me looking at some of my insecurities.

I think something broke in me somewhere on the way through my teen years. When I was a kid, I was pretty typical, if a bit louder and more obnoxious than most. While there were certainly some events that stand out as weird, they’re not any more absurd than typical childhood hijinks (well, most of them anyway- more on this in later posts). Once I hit high school, all of that went out the window.

When I was younger, I never had to apply myself in school. I entered kindergarten reading at what was at least a sixth-grade level, and I had little trouble with any of the subject matter I encountered through elementary and middle school. Suddenly, as I began to take more honors and AP classes, the material caught up with me. I could still do the work, but the fact that I now had to work to do so started some corner of my mind thinking that I’d magically become stupid overnight.

Even now, the voice in my head sometimes brings that up, although he tends to prefer the tack I discovered as I entered college. The issue isn’t really my intellect; it’s the fact that, when faced with a task that might need me to exert myself, my brain decides that ANYTHING but what I need to do is suddenly the most interesting thing in the world.

I’ve gotten to the point where I realize that laziness, and not ignorance, is my main issue. Not that this makes anything any easier for me; if anything, it’s worse. When I’d tell myself I was dumb, it made it possible for me to escape blame. I couldn’t help it if I was stupid, but I should be able to fight off sloth long enough to get things done when they need doing.

Another area in which I can continually find fault in myself is my physical appearance. I’ve been pretty overweight for most of my life. I’m never going to be petite or lanky, but I really feel like I shouldn’t be nearly as big as I am presently. It probably doesn’t help that whenever I’d walk into an audition (I used to have an agent and get parts as an extra in things), I’d leave knowing I hadn’t got the part because of my weight.

I usually got called in to these auditions because they were looking for an african-american boy around my age to fill the part. If it wasn’t my weight that botched the audition, it was the fact that, apparently, I wasn’t “black” enough.

This was another sore spot, because being of mixed African-American and Caucasian heritage meant that I never really felt like I fit in anywhere. This was made worse by the fact that the city I grew up in was overwhelmingly caucasian, while the members of my extended family I saw with any regularity were not.

Trying to take experiences and knowledge gained from either setting and apply them to the other led pretty consistently to me feeling like some kind of oddity, as though instead of being black and French I was part octopus and part giraffe.

When I got to high school, a lot of my pre-existing insecurites became too prominent for me to ignore. While in middle school, I’d been able to hide my utter lack of social skills by never talking to anyone, I found myself being forced to interact with people all the time. This was the largest school I’d attended, and I was still one of a very small (I think the high point was five or six) group of students whose skin was my color.

This meant that, in every AP history class I took, whenever the topics of slavery and racism were brought up, at least half of the class would turn to look at me, as though by simply being descended from slaves I had some deep personal knowledge of everything to do with the enslavement of Africans. 
Every time something race-related would come up, from Martin Luther King Jr Day to Barack Obama’s presidential campaign,  I’d either end up dealing with people who assumed that because of my skin color I had some deep insight, or someone who thought that because of my skin color, my opinion on the topic was so obvious that my opinions didn’t matter.

I was a starter for the school’s quiz bowl team all four years, and I constantly had to deal with people who wrote me off as being no help to the team. It helped that I would then proceed to contribute significantly to our team crushing theirs, but even after four years, I still felt like I was being forced to prove myself, to demonstrate that I belonged there instead of it being assumed that I did. I may have thought this was the name of the game in my life at the time, but it was soon made clear to me that my own idea of how others viewed me was far from accurate.

One week, I grew tired of my complete inability to do anything with my hair (more about the whole “gay” thing is up ahead) and decided I wanted to try something a bit more drastic than trying to relax it. I convinced my mother to drive me to a stylist two towns over who could cornrow my hair.

The next day, I headed off to school, hurrying to meet the carpool and just generally being blissfully unprepared for the ordeal ahead. The other people in the carpool managed to both note the new hair and not say anything offensive, but around thirty seconds after I got to school, it started. I walked up to some of my friends, and they kind of gawked at me. One guy’s jaw even dropped slightly.

Another friend wasn’t that subtle. “Woah, Drew. You actually look black for once!” This would turn out to be the phrase I heard most often that day. For a while, I thought I’d come to terms with my racial identity issues, but that day proved that I still had a lot of personal growing to do.

The first thing I did after getting home was hop in the shower and revert my hair to its default state. I’d been convincing myself that I was conveying myself to others as someone who was of black heritage, and was also everything else that comprises who I am. That experience showed me that, however confident in myself I may have acted, I wasn’t broadening any horizons. Instead, I was put back into that giraffetopus box, as an oddity completely detached from race.

As I began my senior year, I found myself having to deal with people’s assumptions about my race at the same time as I was coping with people’s ignoring my racial identity. Whenever the topic of college applications came up, I was told that I’d be sure to get in somewhere good, not because of my test scores (a 35 on the ACT, along with perfect history subject tests and a math subject test score in the 94th percentile), but because I was able to check the “African-American/Black” box under “Race/Ethnicity” on my applications.

Curiously, I figured out how to deal with this through a kind of last insult about my appearance. At my high school graduation, we were allowed to write our own brief messages to be read as we walked to get our diplomas. In mine, I mentioned that I would be attending Cornell University in the fall.

In the giant ball of chaos, hugs, and crying that followed, I started looking for my family. As I searched through the swarm of people, an elderly couple approached me. At first, I simply walked past them, but the woman grabbed my arm. She recognized me from where she’d been sitting in the bleachers (another hint as to how easy I was to pick out of the crowd) and wanted to congratulate me on getting in to Cornell.

“It’s such a good school, especially for someone who’s the first in their family to go to college!”

I politely excused myself to find my family after this, because yelling at the elderly is too dickish even for me. Nowhere in my little blurb had it said anything about me being the first in my family to go to college. My grandmother was a teacher, and my parents are both very highly educated (my dad went to U Chicago and went on to get a law degree, and my mother went to Brown at 15, going on to get a master’s degree in marine biology).

Still, as I fumed, I sort of came to terms with this particular facet of my issues. I couldn’t really do much to shape other people’s prejudices. On the other hand, I didn’t have to let the opinions of other people dictate how I viewed myself. For the time being, I’m more or less at peace with this particular aspect of my broken self-image, although I’m sure I’ll end up reverting to my giraffetopus form sooner or later.

(to be continued)