Friday, May 08, 2009

babbling, or, I attempt to make a real post

I'm not sure what I have to offer to this discussion, but through several links in a not-entirely-sane reading of the internet last night, I found this post*, on the narrative of desire that straight men are missing (I think). I'm not entirely sure I've processed everything from it, but I did like how he drew it together at the end.

"It’s not women’s problem to solve; it’s not as if it’s women’s job to start stroking yet another aspect of the male ego. The answer lies in creating a new vocabulary for desire, in empowering women as well as men to gaze, and in expanding our own sense of what is good and beautiful, aesthetically and erotically pleasing. "

Really, that article isn't the point.

I remember how insecure I felt with my first boyfriend (when I was 22! Which officially made me a dinosaur). It was his first relationship as well. I remember, he asked if he could kiss me, and I said yes, so quietly, because I felt like I couldn't breath. Of course, I then immediately pressed my lips together and looked down. The way we both felt, I'm sure, was a heady mix of elation that it was finally happening between us and the awkwardness of not knowing what we were doing. Those first few kisses, incidentally, were terrible. We got better.

I was insecure about my body, of course. I was also terrified of how fast we were going, which was actually not at all fast. Not even for a first relationship and certainly not for having been friends first. I was floored when he said that he was very attracted to me; I remember gaping at him, a little shocked that he had said it at all. We had been close for so long, but it never really occured to me that he was actually attracted to me. I think the fact that I had been so attracted to him for longer than he had been interested in me played into this - I had actually spend months before we got together trying to convince myself that he wasn't interested, I needed to get over it, I needed to move on.

Which is why I was shocked to his response when I told him that he looked good with his shirt off. He didn't argue, he didn't act like what I thought was insecure, and he look of his clothes far more easily than I did, but he just....didn't believe me. Quite honestly, it never even occured to me that me might be insecure about his body.

This is probably my tragic flaw, a failure to see inherently human things in another. Men are, though in a completely different way, bombarded with images of how their massculinity should look. He wasn't like that - isn't like that - and to be honest, that was one of the things that was most appealing about him. Still, it's not shocking that he had internalized those things. Neither the oppressor nor the oppressed, there probably was never a place that he felt like he could talk about his own feelings towards his body.

This is, I am so sure, not the case of every man. I've met men who I'm sure aren't insecure about there bodies (and there are always degrees, which is something else I should remember - there are women I know for whom insecurity is not the same as mine. Of course). But this is a troubling aspect of gender experience that I often over look, even in light of personal experience, which I guess is the whole point.

This also came up at happy hour last night, when I told two of my friends that I was trying to learn to flirt with my boyfriend.

* What are the ethics for linking and then writing about a blog post? Do you tell them? Luckily, this is mostly about me.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

obligatory post number two: privacy and stuff

So, step one for Blogging is deciding (a) that you're going to write, (b) what you're going to write and (c) where you're going to write.

Step two, I guess, is deciding what you're not going to write - or, more specifically, what you're trying to hide.

I think it's fair to say that I'm not great at being honest and keeping secrets at the same time, and it's no wonder, when I frame it like that. Other people might frame it as being genuine while keeping private things private. I, on the other hand, felt guilty when I was keeping my college roommate's birthday surprise a secret, and that was only for about two days. This all is not to say that I don't tell my fair share of lies, or that I don't conceal things. Sometimes I feel as though I conceal a lot, precisely because of the tension between wanting privacy and feeling dishonest if I'm not telling my entire account of the truth. That's what lead me to starting this blog, after all, and it's what leads me to hemming and hawing when I'm certain, or almost so, and also what leads me to seeming certain when I'm really hemming and hawing (and hoping) for a different outcome.

There are some things that are more important to conceal - maybe my location, maybe my employer; maybe my friends, constant fodder that they are. It's all self-protection, I guess, but of different kinds. One cannot - at least, from my own Internet ethic - put something out to the whole wide Internet, and then get upset when friends or acquaintances, or someone who is not part of the original intended audience reads it. That, by necessity, leads to some self-censorship. Since what this is supposed to be is writing practice, I'd rather that be identifying details than the details of my life.

That said, I want to be clear that I'm writing this with the awareness that details might slip out. That in the telling of a story, which is the whole point, someone else might be able to tell what city I'm in, or what my job is, or what field I'm in. Maybe, though more doubtfully, they'll be able to link me to a name, or to other pseudonyms I have on the Internet.

First, though, I'll probably need readers.

I sometimes wonder what this says about me - my inability to integrate certain parts of my identity, aspects that I sometimes find key, into the persona that I show everyone, day to day. These are people whom I consider very important to me, so it's challenging and telling that I keep so much of it a secret. Maybe those big secrets make the little ones more unbearable?

Friday, April 24, 2009

I just realized...

That it's three days short of four years since I made this blog, which I made only because I wanted this blogger name just in case.

April is just that kind of month. Discontent with the monotony, I guess, when everything around you is blossoming?

For what it's worth, it's time to own up to the fact that the Sophomore Slump hit me especially hard, abating during the summer (which I spent hiking, riding horses, sleeping and reading) and then closing in, worse than ever, when I returned for my junior year. It came to a head in the weeks preceding spring break of that year, and only really began to heal when I started spending time with people who weren't my friends (yet).

But April's always like that.

and so it goes

I guess there's always more than meets the eye, but the explanation is simple: no one ever told me I was good, and I was never satisfied that I was good, and very often, being pigeonholed as smart means that creative pursuits fall by the wayside, to be picked up later, when you have more time, or everything else isn't so important.

Everything else is always so important, I guess.

Part of it is probably that my immigrant parents come from a culture that praises and lauds education - of the math and science variety. It was weird enough that I loved, as my father called them, "storybooks," and social studies, in place of engineering or biology, but to devote myself to something creative?

The truth is this: maybe I haven't "always" wanted to be a writer, whatever that means, but there is a part of me that loves producing, loves expressing; loves the creative process and the evocative nature of what I can sometimes produce. Bouncing around from school to school during the time when I was learning to read and falling in love with books did mean a lot of readjustment time, it meant a constant re-establishing myself as the smart kid. Which, let's face it, I was never terribly bad at. In any event, it was easy enough to tell myself that I did love stories, and that I would write them - when I had more time, more privacy, when I was smart.(1)

It always comes back to my parents, doesn't it? They thought I was unambitious, and I thought they weren't proud of me, and I ached, so badly, to do something right. I failed unambiguously at the piano, and even more unambiguously at the clarinet, the recorder, and the flute. I never had the eye or the hands for visual arts, and I didn't (and don't) have the body for the ballet-and-gymnastics crowd. (2)

This was never the point I wanted to make. Why I write - or don't write - isn't a function of my youth; not really. Through the end of high school, I had a computer in my room. I'm still relatively certain that my parents never went through those files. I had my own computer all through college, and I obviously still do. What happened was simple: I kept befriending people who self-identified as writers. Honestly, it should have made me happy; made me want to produce and share. It didn't. I was intimidated and insecure - and what's more, too comfortable in rut of identity that came from being one of the smart kids. I've shared, by posting it on the internet, exactly one essay with most of these people, some of whom I've known upwards of 10 years, and all of whom I consider dear friends.

I want to make myself a place to write that's free of this insecurity. My writer-friends are enthusiastic and sweet, but for me to truly own what I write, it needs to be what I'm writing without the mind that they, or anyone I know, will read it. While I have occasional fantasies about writing for The Atlantic or Slate or The Washington Post Magazine, I know both that will never happen, and that truthfully, I don't want it to. My output varies so dramatically with mood that my sanity and sense of self worth, in addition to my productive contribution to society, rests of a career that is both knowledge and output based. (3)

And that is the end of the introductory blog post. Except for the part where I greet any readers: Thanks for motivating me. This is gong to be a big year for me.

(1) Had I graduated in the same class as all of the kids I was in fourth-sixth grade with, I would not have underachieved. Compared to the class I did graduate with, 150 from an all girls Catholic school, I did not underachieve. Compared to the kids at the standard-issue-top-ten liberal arts college I graduated from? I also did not underachieve, though I did underachieve next to my brilliant boyfriend, who I think got like one B his entire college career. But I digress.

(2) I think they would have liked it if I had the body of a gymnast, though they might not like a sport taking time away from school. Ibid on the instruments, except for the piano, my failure in which I'm sure they're still upset about. I'm not...unupset, as the case may be. And for what it's worth, when I undertook musical study on my own and for myself, voice lessons in college, I was more successful, even if I was never great.

(3) Besides, I really like my job, even if it's not a career.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

I sometimes think that I have done extremely stupid things for sincerely stupid reasons.