Creeps Revisited

After posting what was certainly a poor generalized scratch on the surface of the discussion about what it means to be a creep and how that term is beginning to influence gender dynamics, it occurred to me that I didn’t include any anecdotes.

(Actually, it occurred to me while a stranger was shaking me like a chilled cocktail, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves…)

Although I was speaking on the issue as someone who’d despise the behaviors I warned against even if I weren’t confronted with them on a regular basis, I’m revisiting the subject to give you a quick peek into what I personally deal with on that front to better illustrate how some of my “creep rules” play out in real life.

Car Creep

I was walking down the street, minding my peppers and onions, when I noticed a car idling behind me. Whenever that happens, it’s usually a guy giving me a look over, so I did what I always do in that situation: I sped up.

To be clear, I didn’t assume the driver was a creep or even a male. It could have been a lost soul inching along to get their bearings or someone in the passionate throes of an alien abduction. I reacted as if the driver were a potential threat simply because the probability of that outcome given my past experiences made it the safest call.

Moving on, I’ve said this before and it’s worth saying again that if a woman breaks the fucking sound barrier to get away from you, she probably doesn’t want to engage. But creeps often struggle with that kind of logic. Some are so predatory, in fact, that they’re incited to chase you because you’re running away as if your attempt to escape further identifies you as prey.

So as I double timed it, I wasn’t surprised the driver sped up.

Reaching my side, he beeped his horn, rolled his window down, said hey, and made kissy-face noises at me. I kept walking and he said hey again.

I turned briefly with a stony frown to acknowledge that I know he’s there. I’m not deaf. I just don’t give a shit. Then I continued walking, crossing the intersection into the parking lot of a grocery store.

He left the turning lane and went straight to enter the lot behind me, beeping at me again, tailgating me. So I cut across the parking lot at a diagonal, weaving through the parked cars to prevent him from following me directly.

In response, he sped ahead to the next available aisle and screeched his car to a halt about two feet in front of me to block my path as I emerged from between the cars. He smirked and said hey sweetheart, looking me up and down.

I quickly walked around his car and continued my journey while calculating the odds that I was gonna have to beat a man’s ass in the next five minutes.

He sat there a moment staring at me and eventually made his way back to the road he was on, which I knew because I make sure creeps are completely gone before continuing about my day. I don’t need any surprises that don’t include ice cream and cake.

What did the stranger do wrong?

A) Followed me in his car.

B) Made kissy-face noises at me.

C) Attempted to block my path.

D) All of the above.

If you answered D, congratulations! You’re a star!

I’d like to point out that this encounter, like the majority of encounters I have with creeps, happened in broad daylight. So it wasn’t necessarily that I feared for my safety in the same way that I would if I were alone at night in a secluded area. I’ve just had enough negative experiences with random men on the street to be mindful of specific behaviors I find questionable. Situational awareness is my middle name! 

(It’s French.)

Hold on, woman! Guys don’t follow chicks like that for no reason! You were probably dressed like a slut or he was just plain crazy!

One, guys follow me like that on a regular basis. It wasn’t an isolated case. Two, it’s more likely to happen to women like me who walk everywhere and take public transportation. Women who drive everywhere are better shielded from it, so it may not be the norm for them to the same extent.

Three, creepy and crazy aren’t mutually exclusive and we don’t need a lot of either running around, so I don’t much care about that distinction where my well-being is concerned.

Four, I don’t condone victim blaming, but I also object to the willfully obtuse using victim blaming as a knee-jerk response whenever someone touches upon the reality that it is indeed possible to increase (or decrease) the odds of being harassed. You just can’t predict if and when your efforts will make a difference.

Putting it another way, the fact that a man can harass you for any number of reasons outside your control doesn’t mean every man will.

Never assume that you have no control over what happens to you in life just because you aren’t to blame for it.

It’s a very dangerous message to send to those who become powerless – that they were powerless from the start – and that’s something I feel strongly about in a society so desperate to affect positive change in the lives of women that it’s fine playing dumb to make a point.

Not to get off track here, but I find it sad that we put forth such concerted effort to make women feel “empowered” by taking their clothes off or being sexually provocative while shirking our responsibility as a culture to make women feel empowered by taking their personal safety into their own hands.

And yes, I said responsibility.

We need to get past the sticking point that the only one to blame for a woman being attacked is her attacker by telling women yes, you can take steps to protect yourselves and that does not mean it’s your fault if you’re assaulted anyway. It just means your preventative measures weren’t enough to combat that particular evil.

So to the dismay of those who’ll say that bringing my attire into the discussion is just an extension of ignorant victim blaming, I think it’s valid commentary and worth mentioning that I wasn’t dressed in a way one may consider likely to provoke unwanted attention or otherwise give a man the impression that I can be picked up off the street like a hooker. I was in sneakers, sweats, and a sweatshirt.

But doesn’t that prove the argument you’re against? That you can be harassed regardless of what you’re wearing, for example?

No – because that’s not what I’m against. I’m against the notion that if you can be harassed regardless of what you’re wearing, then what you’re wearing is always irrelevant. That’s terrible logic.

I’ll also point out that anyone who thinks my attire couldn’t be a factor simply because it wasn’t what we’d deem salacious is a testament to the belief that certain attire is inherently “inviting” – a concept we need to explore more and don’t.

Store Creep

I was working at a store and I was scanning some merchandise when a customer walked up to me and said, “Hey, sweetie. Where can I find the belts,” while slowly and deeply stroking the length of my arm several times. What’s wrong with this picture?

A) He called me sweetie.

B) He slowly stroked my arm.

C) Both.

This one is tricky!

I both understand and acknowledge why men oughtn’t use terms like sweetie and baby when addressing women they don’t know, but I also think men shouldn’t be condemned for calling you that simply because they’re men.

The problem with these words is the underlying attitude motivating their use, and it’s sexist to assume you know what that attitude is based solely on gender. You should have a little more to go on than that and I’d say the creepy way this guy was touching me while nearly pressed up against my body qualifies as “a little more”, so the correct answer is C because of B.

Buffet Creep

I went into my local grocery to grab some tasties from the buffet. A man on the opposite side of the buffet came over to me and said something innocuous about the food. I laughed politely and agreed. Then this happened…

Your food has onions in it. Guess you won’t be kissing your boyfriend after eating it, hmmmmm? Or you’ll be kissing him, just not deeply with your tongues in each other’s mouths, hmmmmm? On the couch? Maybe you’ll be on the couch and you’re kissing each other deeply with your tongues, but only for, maybe, fifteen minutes, hmmmmm? Or will it be all night? Will you be kissing deeply on the couch all night? You will, hmmmmm? 

What went wrong?

A) He started talking about me deeply kissing my boyfriend.

B) He kept saying hmm in a disturbing way.

C) He was commenting on my choice of food.

D) All of the above.

The answer is D because I don’t need people all up in my food’s business, thank you. Moreover, I think I covered this in my original post, but it’s creepy when a stranger talks about you doing physically intimate or sexual things. Especially when they’re even mildly descriptive. In my finest British accent, it simply isn’t done.

Gym Creep

I was doing lats at the gym when a guy came up behind me and said something like, “You’re working hard,” while massaging my shoulders. It was all downhill from there.

Me: Can you stop touching me, please?

Him: You look like you need a massage, though. *still massaging me*

Me: *releasing the bar* I’m pretty sure I asked you to stop touching me.

Him: I like a girl who takes care of herself. You look good. What’s your name? *still massaging me*

Me: *standing up* If you put your hands on me again, we’re gonna have a fucking problem.

We had everyone’s attention by then since it was a very small gym, though no one intervened because humans. I was standing “nose-to-nose” with him and he didn’t say anything, so I pushed by him and went to another machine.

As I was setting it up, he came up to me again and took my hand, asking again for my name. I pulled my hand away, turned around, and said, “What the fuck did I just say to you?”

I was so enraged in that moment that I don’t recall what he said back. I just remember it being ignorant and me leaving the gym because one or both of us was about to end up in the hospital. Where did this guy fail?

A) He massaged me without my permission.

B) He ignored my objections.

C) Both.

Correct! The answer is C. You’re getting good at this!

Understand that while I personally have little qualms about fighting a man if it comes down to it because you never know when you may not have a choice, I believe we should all avoid physical confrontation – male and female alike – instead of responding to inappropriate behavior with threats that could escalate the situation.

So if a guy is putting his hands on you in a public space, don’t do what I did and get in his face about it. Make a scene and get management or the authorities involved. In this case, the former wasn’t there and the latter would have taken longer than it took me to walk away, so I didn’t practice what I preach.

I included this example to remind you that above all, the creepiest creeps are the ones who completely ignore you telling them outright that their advances aren’t wanted or that what they’re doing isn’t okay. Those are the ones most likely to need a punch in the nuts because nothing less works.

Other Store Creep

I was at work at the same store previously mentioned when a customer approached me and asked if the item I was standing near was on sale. I said it wasn’t, at which point he grabbed me by the arms and started shaking me violently while saying in a fit of laughter, “You heard her! She said it’s an extra 20% off!”

A coworker witnessing this said, “Um… do you need me to come over there?” I shook my head as I pulled away from the guy, who was still laughing. Once he calmed down, he asked where something was, I answered, and he thanked me, walking off with a final, “Have a good day, sweetheart!” Why was this not okay?

A) He was touching me.

B) He was shaking me.

C) What the fuck?

The answer, of course, is C.

Did that encounter make him a vicious predator? No. He just struck me as a happy, outgoing guy having a little fun. He even resembled Santa Claus.

Maybe he was Santa Claus.

But you can’t overlook or be unaware of your culture’s social graces, like the fact that you don’t go around shaking the living daylights out of complete strangers.  His failure to abide by something so obvious, especially where a female is concerned, raised too many questions with potentially creepy answers, making him kind of creepy by extension.

The length of time he shook me was also creepy. It wasn’t a quick haha shake. It was a prolonged let’s see if I can get her tits to launch into the atmosphere shake.

The lesson to be learned from this one is that someone can be a creep without being scary, violent or mean. Creepiness isn’t defined by hostility or aggression so much as by invasion of privacy, body, and space. In short, there are nice creeps.

They’re still creeps.

Hotel Creep

I met a guy during an event and he told me he wanted to crawl inside my skin. I won’t even quiz you on this one. While that may be the kind of “poetic” thing some find moving and romantic on paper and on screen, in real life, someone you just met telling you they want to crawl inside your outermost organ is creepy as hell.

Disproportionate intensity always makes something otherwise harmless come across as unsettling. In this case, the guy seemed too emotionally intense, and people who “feel too much” are a lot more appealing in theory than they are in practice. They’re the kinda folk who kill other folk over love stuff, then kill themselves.

Not a fan!

Pool Creep

While I’d love to finish this post off with the comedy of horrors that was a stranger’s extended harassment of me at the pool, including the slice of pizza he tried to force into my mouth, I’d rather skip to the shocking truth that I gave him a pass for a few reasons.

One, he was so drunk (and high) that it was clear his ability to stand up, let alone control himself, was severely compromised. I wouldn’t be surprised if he didn’t remember anything that happened when he woke up the next day.

Two, he wasn’t threatening. I didn’t feel at any point during his harassment that I was in danger and he didn’t put his hands on me. He was just being highly inappropriate and it was obnoxious because he wouldn’t (see; couldn’t) stop. Note that him trying to get me to eat pizza doesn’t count as putting his hands on me since his hands were on the slice.

Three, several people were trying to rein him in, including his friends and a lifeguard who kept checking on me to make sure I was okay whenever he saw any guy come up to me. That concern was sweet.

So while I certainly didn’t condone his behavior and continued to make it clear that it was unwanted, I fully understood that I was trying to negotiate with someone who lacked the capacity for restraint while heavily under the influence.

In light of that, I tried to manage it the same way I’d manage someone who’s mentally ill until his friends were able to get him home to sleep it off. I remember him apologizing to me as they dragged him off in a floppy, slurring mass. Definitely someone who needs to cut back on the “recreational” activities.

Anyway!

I could go on with more – and incredibly worse – examples considering I amass them on the regs, but I think I’ll end it here with a thought instead: Men have been sexually harassing, stalking, and generally being creeps to me since my pubescence, and that truth is echoed by the overwhelming majority of women I’ve met in my life.

It’s so frequent that it’s fairly normalized. As a female, you expect it to happen at some point – and it does. The good thing is that we’re in a time when we can speak up about it and speak against men (and women) who try to justify it. Even better, we have the opportunity to educate men who genuinely don’t realize that what they’re doing bothers us or is wrong because it’s been normalized for them too.

Regardless, while all of this unwanted attention hasn’t “screwed me up”, it’s given me a duel perspective. The fact that so many men think they can walk around imposing themselves on women at will or being gross and sexually explicit as they see fit with little to no regard for how we feel or how it affects us is so astonishing that I ceased to be astonished.

I now exist in this weird state where every time it happens to me or anyone else, I’m both surprised and not surprised because I shouldn’t be surprised and that’s surprising.

And don’t even get me started on the creeps who’ve said they have the “right” to treat women however they want by virtue of being men because women were “put here” for them. That’s a kettle for another stove…

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Hourglass

I hate politics. Always have.

I’m opinionated to the gills, but there are some things I don’t discuss because I find the discussion fruitless. Not that a subject is only worth visiting if something will come of it. It’s just that I don’t bother with topics I find dull unless it’s going to affect some kind of change I deem significant or of personal value.

Politics never fall under that umbrella.

A lot is happening in the world. A lot is happening in my country. And it seems I’m expected to say something about it. I could argue that I said all I needed to say with my vote, though I suppose that’s too abstract.

I’m sure it can appear out of character that I haven’t gone into great detail about Trump being our president – especially in the wake of the travel ban. Truth is, I had nothing to say. For all the judgments I make, there are infinitely more I don’t. Some things, I let speak for themselves.

It’s like watching a friend who doesn’t know the first thing about skateboarding climb onto a high ramp with a steep angle, insisting that they’re going to skate down in a fiery blaze, launch themselves majestically from the ramp with the wind at their back, flip the board, and land safely on an overturned trash can twenty feet away.

It’s an accident waiting to happen.
So was the election.

The difference is that in the case of an election, we’re given the appearance of power over the outcome. We’re given the chance, by vote, to express not only our values, but our concerns in a way that supposedly has a tangible effect on the governance of our nation.

But I’ve always understood that you aren’t voting for an outcome. You’re voting for potential. People stand before you and tout what they’ll do, but what they say has no bearing on what’s actually going to happen and the choices they’re actually going to make.

So it’s a gamble. When we vote, we’re essentially placing a bet that the person we want to see in office will get there and do great things or, at the very least, be better for us than the alternatives. Hope is what we vote for. Nothing more.

On July 19th, 2016, I tweeted the following:

Why cringe at this election? Our culture is getting exactly what it’s allowed. Folks are just mad our general foolishness made it upstairs.

To be shocked by the fact that Trump was running for president, and gaining support in spite of the opinions he voiced or the way he conducted himself, was to be shocked that America is America. The election, for me, was a reflection of ourselves and our shortcomings.

Nothing shocks me about what our society has become or what it’s arguably always been in one form or another. Every country has its flaws and historical baggage. We’re no better or worse than anyone except in our potential to be better than we are.

We have so much knowledge. We’re privileged and prosper in ways that are out of reach for much of the globe. We have the benefit of worldly exposure and unmatched diversity, and the lessons that our freedoms teach us, as much by being given as by being taken away.

As a nation, we can and should know better – whatever better there is to know – yet we fail each other and ourselves again and again.

We divide ourselves over things that amount to dust in the vastness of the universe and the shortness of our lives in spite of that division yielding nothing productive or good. We’re weak when we need to be strong, giving in to prejudice, giving in to ego, giving in to stupor, hatred or spite.

We’re petty because we can be and we’re entertained by drama. We instigate shit out of boredom and are distasteful out of trendy habit.

We chase everything harder than we chase bettering ourselves on the inside – including looking better on the outside – because being a better person requires too much effort and doesn’t sow enough external rewards.

We talk about how shameful it is that XYZ is still a problem in [current year] without taking it to heart that our progressive ideas were hashed and rehashed by brilliant, divergent minds throughout history.

We ignore the fact that people were saying this shouldn’t be a problem today when “today” was a thousand years ago, and we’ve still yet to achieve peace.

I don’t care to attribute it to some divine plan. I’d rather say it’s for the simplest of reasons: Some people are just too shitty for peace to prevail.

There will always be a percentage of the population that’s happiest when others are miserable, there will always be those who put their wants above other people’s needs, and there will always be those who prefer the suffering of others over what they perceive to be the compromising of themselves or their values. It’s human nature.

(It just comes more naturally to some than others.)

The best we can ask for is that the good ones outnumber the shitty ones from time to time – and many Americans were devastated when Trump won because it felt like undeniable proof that the good ones are in the minority.

I don’t believe that.

In spite of being painfully aware of our shortfalls and guessing that Trump was going to win because of them, I still believe most Americans would let go of the crap that drives us apart if it meant a better life for themselves and their loved ones.

Things just haven’t gotten bad enough for them to concede. People are still comfortable enough to be dicks about race, religion, and the like. We’re lucky that way. And the rest don’t know how to make things better, so they’re grasping at straws.

Back to the accident waiting to happen, I said nothing because I considered the outcome inevitable. Whether I said my piece or not, people were going to vote for Trump – lots of them – and nothing I had to say about it would have been any different from the things already being said.

In short, I was over it before it started, but people still wanted to hear my thoughts, so I figured I’d give them now for the new year and be done with it…

A lot of Trump supporters felt that the people vilifying him were just melodramatic liberals too blinded by some politically correct agenda to recognize him as the most rational choice. And a lot of anti-Trumps felt his supporters were a bunch of dumb backwater bigots who praised his unethical ideology.

I didn’t fall on either side of that fence and it goes back to what I said about elections being a gamble. There’s no sure thing. No candidate is guaranteed to be a good president or bad.

And as much as people think that being well-versed in the positions put forth by each candidate makes them more suitable to vote than someone who knows very little about their stance or the acts they’ve committed in the past, an educated guess is still a guess.

So I could muddy the water with a bunch of political mumbo jumbo, but none of that is necessary or even relevant. When asked to place my faith in one person or another, I’m always going to bet on the one who puts humanity first – or, in this case, not pick the one who unapologetically sets it aside.

Regardless of their position on things like healthcare, abortion, gay marriage, immigration, business, and foreign policy, the president is going to be put in situations every day where difficult choices have to be made, and I care about how they’ll make them.

Even if I disagree with their decisions, I want to know that the human part of that equation wasn’t taken lightly or steeped in a fundamentally negative bias.

Someone of the character to care about human beings as a single unit will take that perspective into consideration with each choice and conflict they face. That’s far more important to me than trying to weigh promises candidates aren’t even obligated to keep.

Once we the people were on the table and the question of how laws and efforts would affect us required its due, I felt that Trump would lead with a self-serving prejudice and frame his decisions within the confines of that prejudice, creating a very narrow path for this country to walk. I felt he would lack the care and finesse of a thoughtful leader in favor of being impetuous.

Moreover, I felt he would act in accordance with the worst parts of his nature – the parts that many Americans shared quietly, yet emboldened in him – though without the characteristics of leadership required to temper it.

Long story short, I didn’t trust Trump as a person, so I damn sure didn’t vote for him as a president.

It’s that simple.

I know many boiled the election down to voting for an asshole who was at least honest about it versus voting for a liar, but I’m of the mindset that all leaders lie, whether to protect the people or themselves. So I can vote for a liar if need be because I suffer no delusion that an honest person has ever taken office or left it.

But I can’t vote for someone I want to slap every time he opens his mouth on principle because he acts against the good of the people in favor of the good of himself and his class.

At any rate, the fact remains that some people did vote for Trump, and I don’t hate them for it. Yes, some of them are dicks and used Trump’s campaign as a platform for their ignorance, but I think most of them were regular people who felt they were voting for change.

Just like those who voted for Obama.

I don’t care what anyone says. People didn’t vote for Obama because he was (half) black. Not directly. They voted for him because he was something other than what they had, and in that, they saw the potential for things to be different.

Change is a powerful temptress – one that many Americans felt compelled to court. Unfortunately, I think the change Trump supporters were hoping for may come at a price they hadn’t considered. Everything happening now is merely a glimpse at the fox they put in the hen house. There will be more.

But maybe that’s exactly what we needed. Seeing so many of his supporters recant, this may be their wake-up call, just as Trump’s win was a wake-up call for the naive who thought it could never have happened.

Maybe as things decline further and Trump voters become increasingly disillusioned, their regret for having played a part in putting him in office will prompt them to revisit their priorities.

Maybe they’ll reexamine themselves to figure out why on Earth they thought voting for someone generally presumed to be a greedy, racist, sexist, homophobic narcissist who cares only about the rich and powerful would make our country better.

And maybe their desire to make up for the vote they cast will encourage them to come together with fellow Americans in a way they haven’t before, working harder to undo what was done as a nation. To that end, looking back, on November 9th, I tweeted this:

Don’t let the outcome of this election be your defining moment. Accomplish as human beings what we may have failed to accomplish as voters.

And that’s where my opinion rests.

Trump may be our president, but he doesn’t have to be our voice. We still choose who we want to be as individuals and that’s what shapes who we are as a country. We can show each other and the world the America that we want to live in and be known for by pushing for something greater than numbers on a page.

Not to sound like the oracle on the hill, but be wary of things to come, because this climate has the potential to tear us apart from the inside out. This is how empires fall. Don’t sit back and watch it happen. Be better people. You, me, everyone.

Be better.
Not eventually.
Now.

Fire & Ice

I realized today that I’ve never come across a “would you rather” I couldn’t answer. Either I’m very sure of myself or I’m so confident in not needing to be sure that I’m sure of whatever I choose. I think it’s the latter, but I’ll reflect on that alone while I tell you a boring story…

I was at the grocery getting food from the buffet and I mentioned to my friend that I’d rather be hot than cold any day of the week. Some guy, also getting food, turned to me and said, “It’s actually better to be cold. Think about it. When you’re hot, there’s only so much you can take off.”

A few things…

One, who are you?

Two, it was interesting that he immediately jumped to removing your clothes when there are plenty of ways to deal with heat, like turning on the air conditioner or using a fan. Having a cool drink, a cold shower, or a dip in the lake near the abandoned quarry where locals hear tell of strange noises coming from the stones.

Don’t get me wrong. We all wear less when it’s hot, and shedding is the only form of relief that doesn’t require additional resources, so I think he was right to go there first. His tone just made it sound like he walks down the street all whoooooa, it’s really hot! Better start stripping! But darn, my options are limited. That’s the trouble with heat, ya’ know! There’s only so much you can take off!

My thing about being cold – besides the fact that it’s fucking terrible – is that it takes much longer to get warm than it does to cool down. I haven’t stacked that statement up against fact in a scientific capacity, though. Only anecdotal, since it’s been my personal experience that it’s true and it’s what I’ve observed in others.

When I’m burning up and I step in front of an air conditioner or stick my head in a freezer, that sensation of being too hot goes away the second that wintry gust hits my skin and all the telltale signs of having been too hot – like sweating – immediately subside.

On the other hand, when I’m freezing and I step in front of a heater or fire, I feel its warmth, but it takes a while for me to stop shivering and chattering. And if any part of me has already succumbed to frostbite, the heat would do fuck all for it anyway. It could even make it worse.

Then there’s my opinion that a young, healthy person like myself is far likelier to die from hypothermia than heatstroke given the average temperatures I’d encounter in my environment and the fact that getting to help when you’re a fucking popsicle seems like it’d be more difficult than if your brains are on the verge of being scrambled.

I guess what I’m saying is that while neither extreme is desirable, generally speaking, being hot is awesome and anyone who’d rather be cold just because they can’t get any more naked than naked should eat their food and shut up.

I don’t like compliments with strings attached. People who say something nice expecting anything more than a thank you in return. I have a friend who always compliments my looks. Not bragging. I’m happily average. But he does it constantly and the way he does it feels like a cue – like we’re actors on stage and he’s repeating his line, waiting for me to continue the scene because it’s my turn to speak.

Only I do speak.

I say thank you and it’s not enough.
Clearly, it’s not enough.

Because he keeps going and going. An Energizer Bunny of the mouth. Blah blah blah, cutie. You look good in that top, sexy. I know what he wants. He wants flirtation. He wants reciprocation. He wants me – but in the wise old words of En Vogue, he’s neva gonna get it.

Fan

I’ve always hated being a fan. Being called a fan. Calling myself a fan. I’ve always despised what that means, because what does it mean?

It’s easy enough to say that it’s a good thing to embrace being a fan of something or someone, because it opens you up to sharing in those interests with a community of like-minded people. Only they’re not like-minded. That’s the problem.

The assumption that people who like what you like are like you is wrong, but you get lumped in with them anyway, don’t you? Your individuality is absorbed by the essence of that group and what others make of it – how others perceive it. The world binds you to their thoughts and behaviors as if you’re a hive mind, not a like mind, and I hate that.

I value my uniqueness.

In a world full of people who’d rather be anyone but themselves, I cherish all the little bits and pieces that make me who I am – a person no person can ever be except me. And I cringe at anything that reduces my complex simplicity and simple complexities down to what music I like or which actors I follow.

I reject that box. Fuck that box.

So I don’t like being labeled a fan and have never been able to identify myself to others as a fan without recoiling, because it doesn’t feel right. Something is left behind. I can say I love that thing and I can talk about how much I love that thing, but I cannot say that I’m a fan.

Semantics, right?

But for a writer, semantics aren’t petty. That word means something, and I don’t like what it means. That’s just the way I am. And I don’t seek to change it nor do I have to defend it, but I do need to understand it. It’s important to know your own “why”.

So why does it bother me?

I was thinking about this one day when I was reading the comments on a YouTube video, which is rare (see; total eclipse). There was some kerfuffle in the comments that ended in one user saying to another that this particular YouTuber (Markiplier) said he’d never date a fan.

It brought me back to the question of what being a fan means, not only to the fans themselves, but to others – including the people they’re a fan of.

Social and romantic rules always rear their heads once people gain a bit of prominence on my side of the entertainment pond as well. Some actors say they’ll never date a fan. Some say they’ll never date a fellow actor. Some say they’ll never date another celebrity.

And they aren’t typically expected to qualify that preference. We just accept that they deem something about entering into a relationship with a person who falls under that umbrella to be problematic or less than ideal.

We can guess at the many reasons why a celebrity wouldn’t want to date someone in the same profession or with the same level of fame, but for now, let’s focus on fans, because that’s at the core of this post.

What does someone really mean when they say they’d never date a fan? If you took it at face value, it’d be the equivalent of saying I’d never date someone who likes me, and that obviously makes no sense. So there has to be more to it than that. There has to be something more to how this person defines a fan – what it means.

Nuance.

Moreover, it probably isn’t good if it’s enough to spur a blanket preference not to date one, and that blanket is at the root of what bugs me.

It isn’t the thought of losing myself to a numberless mass, becoming another face in a crowd so dense, you can scarcely make it out. And it isn’t the thought of who I am being summed up by what others seem to be by virtue of one shared interest.

It’s the thought of who I am being reduced to a negative. Worse, because of something I happen to love that there’s nothing wrong with loving. It’s the feeling that because I’m a fan of this thing, a wall is placed around me and assumptions are used to pin me down.

Looking back, I realize that what I thought was the case isn’t true. I don’t hate being called a fan. I hate being treated like one. And I can call myself a fan just fine if I don’t feel like it limits me or says something about me that isn’t me.

I guess what I hate most is the irony – how some things are only out of reach because you reached for them. Sometimes, it’s like you’re punished for liking the things that want you to like them, and the more you do, the more separation it creates.

Strange, isn’t it?

But what do I know. I’m just a fan of rambling.

Jinx

For as long as I can remember, I’ve had this superstition that if I announce what I’m going to do before I do it, it won’t get done. But I don’t know if it’s really a superstition so much as me knowing myself well enough to predict an outcome.

Either way, I can’t shake it.

It’s as if saying that I’m going to do something gives me a false sense of progress that sabotages my motivation to actually do it. After all, verbalizing it makes it concrete and that’s half the battle, right?

That’s the problem with New Year’s resolutions. One of them, anyway. People commit to something and the act of committing makes them feel accomplished. That tiny bit of pride, that brief moment of determination, is enough for them to ease up on the gas and not push quite as hard as they should to follow through because hey, I made a decision and that’s something in and of itself.

In theory, it should work the other way around. If you say you’re going to do it, you should be that much more driven to hold yourself accountable – and for a lot of people, that’s precisely how it does work.

I’m just not one of them.

The second I say I’m doing xyz today, all energy to make that happen drains from my core. The only way I stay on task is by not having a task to stay on. Maybe I’m compelled to defy my own plans because I don’t like mapping out my life. So much of what needs to be done is a bore. The least I can do is pretend it’s spontaneous.