In the middle of last year, one of my favourite e-schättzchens Amber - there are so many awesome girls on the internet! - asked me to do a guest post for her blog One Good Thing. I wasn't sure what to write about so I sent her this letter I wrote about my take on relationships and she asked me if she could save it to go in a series she's doing called "What is Love?" I find the idea of a series on different people's views on love fascinating because despite the fact that frameworks and social expectations spring up suddenly around anything that resembles a relationship, surely the things that are important to people are wildly different and need careful examination and negotiation - but answers to questions around monogamy, sexuality, children and a raft of other expectations so often go unasked or are inferred. Not that I've been particularly good with regards to that in the past - I've allowed myself to be swept along with the assumptions of the status quo in many of my relationships despite them invariably not fitting, for various reasons - the idea of the fear of losing them at the starting line mostly. And I say the idea of the fear because if I look back I don't think I've ever been afraid of being single, though I guess I am a bit afraid of not getting laid - though they're not necessarily the same thing of course. And really, it's not the framework that keeps you together. And if it is the only thing that does, that strikes me as unbearably lonely - the kind of lonely you can only feel when you're with someone else which might be the worst kind. I want someone to be with me because they want to spend time with me, not because they're socially or contractually obligated to do so; I want to be chosen moment to moment. And I think my choosing someone, moment to moment, is the best of what I can offer. It doesn't mean fleeing when things aren't rosy or that I don't believe in the possibility of the long-term - it just means I don't want to sacrifice what's important to me to fear, or on the altar of someone else's conception of what a relationship should look like.
For as long as I can remember, I have been slightly irritated by how almost invariably when someone mentions a new baby, the first question is "is it a boy or a girl?" I've been told that it's a fairly radical view but I don't really consider babies to be of either gender and therefore tend to call them "it." Obviously gender and sex are different and the child might indeed be a male or female child but sexual ambiguity is also far more common than you'd think - 1 in 4500 babies is born with sexually ambiguous genitalia. Frustratingly, it's considered to be a defect (google it, all the top search results include some reference to the fact that it's considered problematic) but I think it's the way we think that's an issue. People with AB negative blood type only make up 0.6% of the population but you don't see anyone saying there's something wrong with them.
I'm not so radical that I don't realise that parents who go ahead with surgery right away probably just want their kid to fit in but the thing is, will they? Or are they just condemning the child to a life of confusion so everyone else can feel comfortable that everything has been boxed up nicely?
Ever thought about it?
While I don't in the least consider myself to have old-fashioned values - I like to think of myself as a thoroughly post-modern type - I do have one throwback aspect to my personality; I don't like to chase.
It's not that I'm opposed to women pursuing men or something; I prefer not to chase men or women and I generally don't conceptualise the sexual landscape in terms of gender dichotomies anyway. I'm not sure where it stems from, major fear of rejection maybe? But I'm not convinced by that explanation either, I just think that I'm built that way - being chased makes me feel more desirable and I don't think I'm alone in feeling like this.
This is a bit of a problem here, as opposed to say, in Argentina where anecdotal evidence suggests that men are socialised to pursue potential partners more aggressively than in New Zealand but looking around I guess someone must be doing the chasing because it's not as if everyone is celibate.
What do you prefer to be, cat or mouse?
If you have opposable thumbs, you've no doubt been policed for not looking or acting right. The feeling can be obtuse, or as direct as getting beaten up and most of us are guilty of doing it to other people to varying degrees as well - the subdued clothing police are particularly rife in Auckland - god forbid anyone wear anything that's not tasteful - which is why we all wear boring clothes. I've started noticing myself doing it sometimes, thinking "oh my god, what is she wearing?" Then I think "what the hell am I thinking?" and silently wish them well and commend them on their bravery/not-giving-a-shit-what-other-people-thinkness. My friend Tom mentioned recently that one of the things he missed about New York was that even girls who don't even remotely resemble the sylph-like ideal of a fashion magazine will wear ultra-tight clothes if they feel like it. I don't mean to suggest that we should feel pressured to wear sexy clothes particularly - one of the fun things about walking around in Tokyo is spotting people feeling free to wear extremely unsexy but hilarious...costumes is the only appropriate word I think. The fashion police are active in those places too, presumably, but perhaps there's more push-back, more support for the zany so they feel supported in their decision to say, wear bandages wound around their faces.
More disquieting in some ways is the policing of internal boundaries; the cultural boundaries police and the queer police are on patrol too. I do see why; when you're in a minority, the urgency of protecting your hard-won turf feels immediate but it also means that people that want to belong - that do belong - and might be a minority within a minority, get excluded. There's been screeds written about how humans, by and large perpetrate the same cruelties upon others that were perpetrated on them. If you belong to any kind of minority - and even if you don't - you'll understand the million ways you can be made to feel you don't fit in, and they're often so difficult to put your finger on, exactly. Often it's so subtle that it can be explained away as a joke, or that you're just over-sensitive which leaves you feeling like there's no point in protesting or that maybe you're crazy. One of the bugbears of non-Asian looking half-Japanese friends is being told by well-meaning Japanese people how well we use chopsticks. Or how well we speak Japanese. The implication is "for a non-Japanese." Bisexual men are told they don't exist. Third or fourth generation ethnic Chinese New Zealanders get asked where they're from. Um, from yo' mama?
See those men in the photo up there? They're getting married. They don't look fabulous. I don't think they'll be giving anyone any fashion advice anytime soon. They're more ZZ Top than Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. But there they are, breaking moulds, busting down stereotypes in the face of all the policing they probably experience in person and media that doesn't reflect anyone gay that looks anything like them.
Policing sucks. It's ingrained, but so are a lot of other things that have changed over time like the belief that human trafficking is a necessary evil, though there are still a few people who believe that. And you don't want to be that guy, right?
Been put in any boxes lately?
Nothing really I suppose, but I was accused of it the other day - by a straight girl - and I felt a little dumbstruck and didn't respond (see also: conflict avoidance). I believe that the definition of a fag hag is a straight girl who gains entree into queerdom on the coat-tails of a gay, usually male, friend. Being bi is a blessing and a curse; I can be invisible if I want, but I am invisible even if I don't want, which is usually because having to come out every five seconds becomes quite tiresome - but, as my favourite saying goes (mostly because it has the word "ass" in it and I have an incredibly juvenile sense of humour) to assume makes an ass out of you and me.