Hand Job

I was on my way to the grocery this evening and as is my usual behavior when venturing out into the world, I took everything in. Beside me, a bulbous man guarded a fleet of misplaced carriages. Across the street, a 20-something waited for the bus, glued to his tech from finger to ear. And ahead was a couple sauntering towards me with groceries, their free hands joined together in holy matrimony.

I noted the swing of their arms. Most of the momentum was created by the woman, who was deeply engaged in whatever the hell she was talking about. The man stared straight ahead in silence with the kind of no-shit-giving expression I imagine a lot of men have several days before murdering their wives.

As they made their way past me, I had a thought:
Am I a hand-holder? Do I do that?

It wasn’t a literal question. Of course I’ve held hands – but am I someone who needs that? Do I attribute anything so significant to the act that if someone didn’t hold my hand, I’d be hurt? Does it make me feel closer to them or does it merely advertise our closeness to others?

I kept coming back to that question in between questions of equal importance – like do I want meatballs and does mac and cheese go with meatballs – and I’m not sure, but I do know I’m a toucher. When it comes to the person I’m dating, I’m like David in Prometheus. I’m touching shit all over the place.

And it isn’t the clingy kind of touching where you can’t be away from your lover for five minutes because you’re emotionally dependent upon their proximity. It’s the lustful kind where you adore them so much that you want to hump their face 24/7 and can’t, so you find other, more socially acceptable ways to make contact with them – like pinching their cheeks.

So I have countless memories of walking closely enough to press my arm against my other half or of me sitting beside them, stroking their chest. And I’ve definitely touched their hand. Rested mine against it. Clasped our fingers together. But I can’t recall ever reaching for someone’s hand to hold it.

I’m not saying it’s awkward or bad. I just wouldn’t initiate it. Not for a walk down the street. Jumping off a cliff into the river below? That may net your hand a grab. Exploring a rundown house that’s said to be haunted in the middle of nowhere? That won’t net you anything because you’d be doing that shit by yourself.

I ain’t lookin’ to get murderated!

So I guess I answered my own question. Am I a hand-holder? Nah. But I’m a wuvably huggable bear, and that’s what counts! That and meatballs, which, as it turns out, go very well with mac and cheese.

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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.

Taylor, You Bitch!

I went to replace the battery in my electronic scale this morning when I realized it uses one of those button cell lithium types. I probably have every kind of battery on the market dumped around my place in bowls except that one and it took me back to something I think about quite a bit. It’s the idea that a society can be primitive or advanced and the question of how we quantify that.

I think the average person would consider us to be pretty “up there” – not quite Atlantis material, but certainly no Apocalypto. Still, I wonder how progressive our progress really is. What is the purpose of advancement? Is it about moving forward or is it about moving closer to a goal? Because if there’s a goal, what is it and how close have we really gotten?

When I look around at all of the incredible technology we’ve developed and the speed at which we’re evolving as a species because of it, there’s one frightening truth that stands out:

All of it can be negated by the flip of a switch.

We’ve progressed beyond the point of sustainability, because the technology we depend on to maintain and preserve life as we know it by and large requires power.

We always talk about resources and the fact that projections paint a dismal picture of what the future will be if we continue to consume things that are finite, but we only ever seem to speak of the loss of power in the context of science fiction.

When I say “power”, I’m talking about electrical energy.

In my opinion, mechanical energy is the only truly sustainable energy we’re capable of harvesting – and what I call sustainable isn’t to be confused with renewable. To me, renewable energy replenishes itself. That doesn’t make it sustainable.

Take solar energy, for example. It’s probably the first thing called to mind when you think of a renewable energy source, because like Annie said, the sun’ll come out tomorrow! But we’ve already seen a number of limitations to solar energy, the most obvious being that we don’t always have access to sunlight.

Then there’s the matter of the technology required to harvest solar energy and convert it into electrical energy. Technology we incidentally wouldn’t be able to manufacture without the electrical energy it makes. Good thing we have other ways of producing electricity that aren’t solar, right?

Renewable energy is fantastic and necessary, but when I call energy sustainable, I mean that it’s a source of power requiring nothing more than our power – manpower – and what we’re able to build from the natural world. Because those are the only two resources we’re guaranteed by logic to always have:

The planet we live on and ourselves.

If we lost either of those resources, this discussion would no longer be a discussion because there wouldn’t be anyone around to discuss it.

Ancient civilizations may have mastered engineering with a focus on mechanical energy because they weren’t advanced enough to utilize electricity and/or didn’t know what it was, but which is more primitive?

A society capable of thriving for hundreds or thousands of years without any of the electrical boons we require just to get through the day, or a society like ours that would collapse practically overnight if its primary power source were eliminated?

Which infrastructure is more advanced? Certainly not ours, given the destructive potential of something as absurdly simple as pulling a plug. I’m likely in the minority with this sentiment, but I think we’ve progressed so far that we’re going backwards – and not only in terms of technology.

Look at what happens when there’s a blackout. Things start to break down immediately. The food is gonna spoil! We can’t see in the dark! Everybody scramble for flashlights and supplies and eat like you’ve never eaten before!

Kill the power in the middle of a heat wave and old people start dropping like flies because there’s no A/C. And you better hope that generator kicks in at the hospital, because half of the people in there are only alive thanks to the machines they’re hooked up to.

We know what happens when there’s no internet for five minutes. Imagine what would happen if it were permanent – if the internet stopped being a thing entirely?

Of course, it’s never as bad as all that and we make it through these brief moments without power by falling back on more primitive ways of doing things. Why? Because the more primitive ways of doing things are sustainable.

Doesn’t that make them better?

If we got the whole “progress” thing right, why do all of the solutions to modern-day problems resemble the past?

I’m not saying the advancements we’ve made are bad or that we shouldn’t have made them. I’m just putting it out there as food for thought that we may be shooting ourselves in the foot by continuing to move forward in ways that make us this dependent upon things that can be rendered useless this easily.

Indulge my stupid little mind for a moment and look around you. Take a walk through your house. Down the street. If we no longer had electrical power, how much of what exists in your environment would still serve a purpose? How much of what you own would still have any functional value?

Those things reflect the type of engineering and technology that will move us forward into the next phase of our evolution. Improving upon those things, taking cues from those things, is how we’ll refine ourselves to ensure that we progress in a way that’s sustainable

Everything else is glitter. Breakthroughs that allowed us to grow too much, too quickly. Pretty luxuries that created needs to fill.

Or maybe I’m just mad that I gave away my perfectly good mechanical scale for this electronic piece of shit that needs a fucking battery.