College algebra starts at eleven thirty-five, but because so many students are enrolled in classes at that time of the day, finding a parking space can be hell. I try to leave the apartment at or before eleven o’ clock so I have pretty much the whole thirty-five minutes to drive around the packed parking lot (my apartment is, at worst, three minutes from campus).
Unusually, the opportunity to park came about soon after I arrived on campus today. What makes this even more unusual—but isn’t itself unusual—is that I was running late!
I was just getting in my car around eight or nine past. Yet in spite of that, by the time it was twelve past I was parked and getting out.
It was an unmitigated blessing, and to have happened in such clarity… !
You could say I’m grateful for more than the parking space.
During algebra, our instructor was going over slope-intercept form versus point-slope form, and he abbreviated “if and only if” with ‘“iff”.
I was familiar with the abbreviation from high school math classes, but evidently my classmate beside me was not. Reading the board, he sniffed to himself and muttered, “double ‘f’…” and then whispered a little whistle and sniffed again.
Later the same guy called our instructor over to his desk because he was unsure how he’d gone wrong in the problem we were working on, though he was sure he’d gone wrong. His work was very confused, but he laughed it off. And as our instructor explained the solution to him, he bobbed his head with apparent understanding.
I couldn’t help but wonder whether I should’ve just leaned over to the guy when he was laughing about “iff” and let him know what it meant.
I guess what stopped me was that he and I had never so much as spoken to each other, or even met each other’s eyes before. And the idea of coming off condescending to a total stranger put me off. I didn’t think it was my place.
Still, it’s really ridiculous how much I allowed myself to take all my direction from social norms.
I guess I’m pretty sensitive to that kind of stuff.
Near the end of class, our instructor handed back our quizzes from last week. I folded my paper over when I saw that I’d gotten a two out of six. It wasn’t surprising. What was surprising was the quiz, when I found out we had one. I was coming off of three days of missed class, so basically I’d been expecting a low grade ever since we turned it in.
But why did I fold it over? I mean, I know why I did it. The only girl I know in class sits one-behind and to the right of me, and I didn’t want her to see my low grade.
On the day I returned, she offered to help me cram while the class waited for our instructor to arrive. Of course I accepted, but she fired off her condensed notes so quickly I couldn’t make any sense of them. The fact that she speaks with an Indian accent didn’t help either.
She paused only once her explanations were through, and then only to ask me if I’d followed. Our instructor had entered the classroom by then and I was grateful for her intentions, so I smiled sincerely and lied. Then I flunked the quiz.
That’s why, after I folded my quiz over, I instinctually looked back to see whether she’d noticed. If she did see anything she had lowered her head as soon as my head turned, because I saw her with her face over her work, checking a solution diligently.
Immediately I felt foolish. Dozens of college students have a bad grade here and there. Why am I so eager to hide that I’m the same?
Why is it that, as much as it stings me to know something I’ve done has come out poorly, it stings me twice over to know someone else knows it? And why is it triple or more with people I like?
My entire life it’s been this way, and I’m beginning to think it’s because of pride. I think it tends to be likelier, or at least less well-hidden, in all the areas that make me anxious. And they make me anxious, I think, because they’re where I put my pride.
Wherever my ego has been boosted, I’ve set myself up for a fall, I think. And I think the converse of that may mean wherever my ego has been depressed, I’ve left myself room for lift.
Which are more important? Intuition tells me there’s a link between the two.
Your good friend asked his girlfriend’s father for his daughter’s hand in marriage today, and it’s near midnight, and you’re texting.
You texted him, “Mission status?” and after some time, he texts you back, “All systems go!”
And you’re genuinely happy for him. But you’re also genuinely tired. Take normal tiredness and multiply it by a coefficient of moderately sick to produce the state you’re in.
Needless to say, your patience wore down while you waited for him to respond.
You’re coming to realize, patience is a fickle friend. And the irony of patience is that it doesn’t wait around for whenever you need it most, and comes and goes regardless of how greatly you need it.
The fickleness of your patience, your impatience, makes you fickle too. It makes you a fickle friend.
You know you don’t have the ability to truly (fully) love if you don’t have patience. You’re still loving to your fullest, and you’re truly trying your best. Sadly, you are. That’s the tragedy. Better love comes from becoming better people.
The topic deserves deeper attention, but you don’t have the patience.
Well, my sixth blog completely disappeared because my connection was slow.
It had to do with a lot of things.
First I talked about how I had unexpectedly joined my friend on a trip to a rural church where he had been employed to play the organ every other Sunday.
And I forgot to brush my teeth.
He was running late so he broke a lot of laws on the way there, which lifted my anxiety, but I hid that from him because he said he was glad to have me there and I already felt bad for making him more late.
Finally we arrived and I was glad I could be there for him, but walking into a tiny chapel populated by the elderly and the opinionated of a small town is not something I like doing.
Nonetheless, it all turned out well.
Except I never brushed my teeth that day. That didn’t turn out so well.
ninth, no … tenth blog
After some reflection on your various attractions to both sexes, a common factor running through each of them eventually ran in front of you. And suddenly you started looking for its tracks elsewhere. You realized it was everywhere.
You are attracted to that which challenges you.
You know it’s true. You know you love thinking, learning and growing and you feel this way about everything—about teachers, about art, about lifestyles. So of course you would build your erotic lens off the same blueprint.
You’ve wondered why your best friendships have never led to romance, while you’ve known shallower ones to incorporate elements of attraction in them…. And it’s because your best friends naturally relieve you, naturally pacify you. Although at times these friends have challenged you, it’s only been intellectually, never sexually and never emotionally.
Your friends whom you’ve had a hard time befriending, your friends whom you’ve found obtuse in the past, whom you’ve found hard to progress with emotionally: These friends are the ones that excited you inexplicably.
You’ve experienced this mainly with other men who made a point of their own masculinity over yours. When a male friend put his maleness between you, put up his machismo as a front, that’s what frustrated you and turned you on. It activated rather than pacified you.
You found yourself challenged to have a relationship with them, where with easier friends (male and female) asserting sexual identity is never an issue.
Friction creates heat! And for you, that holds true in an emotional and sexual sense as well.
For you the excitement of homosexuality has always been in the excitement of competition, the playful invitation to display sexual assertion. Which is why you’ve never felt any attraction toward an actual homosexual relationship, but only toward encounters.
As far as sexual involvement goes, you’ve never wanted anything more than relief to the sexual challenge in the form of sexual release. When it was an emotional incongruity, the emotional became translated into sexual and physical, and from there you wanted emotional release (in sexual outlet).
So far, whenever you’ve been incited by others or by yourself to decide your sexual orientation, you’ve become confused by your feelings. You felt heterosexual, and yet you felt attracted to other boys. But until the onset of adolescence, you’d only ever liked girls, so then why the sudden attraction to boys? All your crushes were still on girls. Why these new, different feelings for boys?
You didn’t know the answer then, but you did know that the way you were attracted to boys was different than the way you were attracted to girls….
And now, coming to understand the two-dimensional makeup of your homosexuality has encouraged you even more toward heterosexual resolution. Although, you should be clear: you have nothing against homosexuality—one of your best friends is gay.
Unfortunately, sex-symbols were usually the girls to command your attention. Real girls have rarely attracted you because they’ve rarely challenged you. And at times this fact has been something that’s compounded your sexual confusion.
You tend to understand girls as innately as other girls do, because you grew up as the only boy in an all-girl home. You’ve made friends with them easily. And you’ve rarely found yourself attracted to them because you’ve rarely felt uncomfortable or challenged around them.
But when girls (real ones) have challenged you, you’ve fallen head-over-heels….
Earlier you were fantasizing about a girl who could shut you up with all her own realizations and ideas—a girl who would invite you to inspired silence. And now you know why.
Still, you need to reconsider all your assumptions, because suddenly you’re wondering whether your intimacy with girls has caused you to put them as a whole into boxes and onto pedestals.
twelfth blog … should you start titling these?
You are amused, looking back on several brief instances of miscommunication that happened tonight at dinner.
You like the thought of yourself as an unwitting actor in a little comedy of errors. To whatever extent, you sometimes like the thought of your life and all lives, and even life itself, as a comedy of errors. Well, anyway,
You were enjoying the special company of one of your old friends from high school, and you had together decided on dinner at a local Mexican restaurant.
When you were ordering your meal, you wanted to replace the side that comes with it, french fries, with a side of fried yuca. But apparently you said, “… and instead of fried yuca, could I get french fries?”
Your waitress wondered aloud whether you might mean the opposite of what you’d said. You were surprised and you felt silly and laughed and apologized, and thanked her. Somewhere among all that you got out a confirmation of your order.
Later, the conversation drifted to your recent thoughts on marijuana, which you use occasionally. And when your friend was explaining why the idea of smoking weed repelled him personally, you were already beginning to get a feel for his overall tone toward the subject. So it surprised you when you heard him say, “I think it’s good to use the substance”, and you interrupted him to ask him to restate what he just said.
He was annoyed, so you clarified that it seemed to you that he was advocating use—
“No, I’m saying the opposite!” he said quickly, interrupting your interruption.
You added that you knew you must have misunderstood him. And he went on. But within ten minutes your roles were exchanged and he was misunderstanding you.
He had taking issue with your low estimation of yourself, in response to some narrating you’d been doing about a few of your latest self-discoveries. The thesis of your new self-view was (and is) fundamentally this, that you are much more selfish than you have ever realized before and probably more than you will ever be aware of.
And, boiled down, your friend’s valiant counterpoint was this, “Well, as bad as you are, you’re much better than many other people are.”
And you laughed and thanked him. Straightaway you disagreed, and in your mind insisted that the majority of the perceived differences between yourself and others have had an influence on your present selfishness. You thought to yourself: no, you’re really not all that different from most people. But you did appreciate the good intent of a caring compliment from a friend, which is the way you interpreted his statement.
So you told him you appreciated what he said, and that you don’t agree, but that it did endear him to you. And you told him clumsily, and with the awareness that telling anyone that their actions are endearing to you is not normal.
He was annoyed, which dismayed you, and then he said, “Not everybody’s actions are selfish!”
And you said, “Well no, but—Wait, what do you mean?”
“You’re saying that I only said that to make you like me!” he claimed.
“No,” you assured him you were saying “the exact opposite!” and you laughed, recognizing the by-now famous appearance of miscommunication.
On his face annoyance gave way to confusion. You restated that you were thanking him for complimenting you, and that you value his kind intent.
Annoyance crossed across his features again but left just as quickly, and he said, “Well, I guess it doesn’t matter….”
Everything before, between, and after these miscommunications was smooth. And yet this last one left you puzzled. Speculating, you wonder what annoyed your friend:
You wonder whether his statement was less compliment and more opinion, and whether your disagreement was what annoyed him. You wonder whether he would expand his opinion with you sometime, and whether it’s worth all this wondering.
You wonder … whether your love of identifying with others is good for you, or whether you ought to find new ways to express it, because the way you expressed it tonight caused conflict.
Miscommunication of the kind you experienced tonight, but in the case of syllables instead of words or concepts, is called spoonerism.
You told your closest friend, whom you’re going on an eight-hour road trip to see today, that she should expect a conversation about some of the things that have been on your mind—
Namely, that you think you’ve been unknowingly depressed for some time, and that you think you might have gained some insight into your sexuality!
And, after the call ended, you took a look at yourself through Freudian glasses.
At once, a theory stood up:
While you have yet to delve into your heterosexual identity this clearly, the dust you’ve been kicking up over your homosexual identity may have settled down just enough for you to make something out.
Your father verbally and emotionally abused you when you were young. He made a repeated effort to have you feel inferior to him, and was constantly asserting his dominance and you. The extent to which he would go to make the point of his fatherhood over you, his egocentric, male superiority, was ludicrous. There was little difference in your understanding between being a son to your father and being the victim of his bullying.
You aren’t trying to be melodramatic. It’s just the facts of the matter.
And whether you’re melodramatic or not, lining your present up beside your past draws some noteworthy parallels.
In summary, from the evidence (and not very good evidence, you should remember) of your memories combined with your recent conclusions, you have begun to think that (perhaps) you are so fine-tuned to emotional challenges and so fine-tuned to sexual challenges—with considerable overlap between them—because your identity as a male was shaped in an environment of continual emotional and sexual challenge by your father. And during the onset of puberty, any upset or tension was easily translated into libidinal fire.
In summary of your summary, you’re a guy with daddy issues.
And honestly, you think that’s pretty funny.
You are fresh home from a road-trip to the mountains, which is where your best friend’s college is and where your best friend has gone and so where you went too.
And everything added up to an experience of total good. You hope each detail remains vivid in your imagination, undimmed by all your years to come!
And it is really great. It really is. But it really isn’t what brings you here.
Tonight you called another great friend, who lives in the opposite direction, and who you’ve planned to visit this weekend. You called him to probe his expert knowledge of cigarettes:
You asked him what the most popular cigarette brand is.
He said, “Here, American Spirits.” And by ‘here’ he meant the liberal arts college he attends, with many hipsters. He is himself a hipster and considers your mutual friends hipsters, and even considers you a hipster. So he began to explain that American Spirits have higher quality tobacco and—
You interrupted him, asking, “But what’s the most popular brand generally, in the U.S. as a whole?”
“Oh. Well,” he said, “That’d probably be Marlboro Reds.”
You repeated the name back to him, making sure you’d heard him right. Then you offered him your reasons for asking; you said your interest stemmed from the aftermath of your recent experiences up north:
You are bundled under layers of the different clothing. You packed poorly for this weather. But you’ve adjusted well with what you brought.
It’s a few hours after midnight, and the four of you are finding your way back to the car.
You take long strides beside your friend with whom you drove up here, and in front of you is your mutual friend (your best friend), and her boyfriend. Your cold voices breath clouds in the air. The four of you are marching down the sidewalk, approaching a corner.
As you’re about the round the corner, a middle-aged man appears from the other side and shuffles by your group, pressing gruffly for a cigarette.
Earlier that night, the four of you agreed without discussion that all your fun would be sober. However, it’s very clear this man made no such decision.
You all say you’re sorry, you don’t have any cigarettes, and continue forward. And the man turns away, saying, “Fuck y’all!”
Disappointed with the man—after encounters of only humble “God Bless You”s from all the other street people you’ve had to deny (because you really are just a group of young, moneyless non-smokers, and you really are sorry)—you groan in careless disapproval.
Though you’re all walking briskly and the man’s mind is slowed, in a few moments your remark registers a pronounced reaction:
He echoes back your groan, “Ohhh! Ohhh!” and turns to shuffling pursuit of your group, taunts and threats stumbling out of his mouth.
You bite your lip, wishing you hadn’t opened your mouth at all.
Of course you all contained yourselves, denying him attention, neither stopping nor hurrying. And of course once he’d let out his hot air he fell back and left you alone.
But in the ensuing conversation you apologized for your part in what had happened, and vented your pity for the man. However much stronger his want was, his plea was not uncommon. How much relief could you have given him, and the countless others whose wish was it was for a bummed cigarette? Such a simple gift! You decided the next day to purchase a pack for just such occasions. But first, you decided, you would find out which brand was standard.
And that, you said over the phone to your friend, is why you were asking him about brands.
“So you’re going to buy a pack of cigarettes and not smoke it?”
“That’s right!” you declared.
He countered, “Do you think you can do that?” which surprised you. It wasn’t a question you had asked yourself.
“… Yes.” you said.
You reminded him that you have a habit of never buying drugs, to safeguard yourself against using them independent of a social atmosphere. And you both understand tobacco to be under the umbrella term “drugs”, among alcohol, marijuana, and even coffee.
You said you weren’t breaking your rule and setting yourself up to smoke alone because you weren’t buying for yourself, as you saw it….
You ended the conversation finalizing plans for this weekend, and said your goodbyes. And by the time you did, you were parking in front of CVS—which, without realizing it at the time, was perfect! Because, for what you were purchasing, a pharmacy (a drugstore) is the exactly place to look!
Puns are too funny to you.
Anyway, inside you bought a pack of Marlboro Reds and a blue pack of American Spirits, so you’re ready for all situations, hipster and otherwise.
Now you are prepared to give.
By and by that time will come.
But you must be patient now.