Posted by shannonclark on March 10, 2003
A good weekend
at least in many respects
So, this weekend, I finished three books. I reread Golden Witchbreed by Mary Gentle (out of print at present but if you have not read well worth finding and reading!). I also finished Smart Mobs by Howard Rheingold and Tomorrow Now: Envisioning the Next Fifty Years by Bruce Sterling. Both of which are well worth reading. In fact, if you are reading this, you should go (follow the links to Amazon if you like) and buy both books – very good, very interesting, very thought provoking.
It was a weekend spent reading, sitting in cafes and student lounges, talking with friends, and attending art shows/multimedia performances. All in all, except for the fact that I did all of this basically alone, close to my ideal way to spend a weekend.
Perhaps I am strange, but my ideal would be to have a girlfriend who would enjoy spending an afternoon lounging together both reading, occasionally interupting each other to show the other something cool, to get a cup of coffee, to give a back massage. My fantasy, as it were, would be to have a woman to spend time with who would enjoy the silences as much as the “doing” of stuff. Someone who shares my love of reading but who would join me for trying a new korean place when the mood strikes, or who might suggest a movie for us to cuddle together and watch in the evening when we came home.
I found myself, over the weekend, very jealous of a couple I saw buying a gallon of milk together late Sunday night. It was after 11pm, I had stopped into the Walgreens near my house to buy a few things for the week to come, they entered just before me. The very domestic act of buying a large gallon of milk seemed somehow, very much something to be jealous of.
This weekend I spent time in two different universty environments. On Saturday I spent the day mostly in Hyde Park. After eating a quick late lunch, I attended a friend’s multimedia show (celebrating her 40th birthday by sharing her life and works with her friends and family – very cool). After that, I found a parking space near to campus and spent the evening reading in the student lounge on campus, the Reynolds Club North Lounge for those of you from the U. of C. Everytime I return to the U. of C. I am reminded again of just why I for all that I may complain, also really love the U. of C. It is a place and atmosphere where I feel very much at home, a place that I feel very much a part of for all that I am no longer actively associated with them. At lunch (well whatever you call a meal at 3:30 on a Saturday afternoon) I was surrounded by U. of Cers. To my left, a woman (should have probably gotten her name) who’s idea of lunch time reading was Game Theory for Economists – my type of gal… and to my left another U. of C. sight, a man and a woman having, in part, the “I just want you to know that you and I are just friends” speech… I felt for the man, it was a conversation and a discussion that I can repeat almost verbatum, which I found myself mostly able to predict as it progressed.
Though, it was also kinda cool when, as so many U. of C. conversations will, they got distracted into a discussion about something else, in this case, playing Dungeons and Dragons – they both play and had played and talked about past games and campaigns. It reminded me of just what I had expected as college, and in part what I did not get but missed nonetheless.
I am an odd person, I know this – my friends know this, somehow I guess it shows when I walk and I talk.
A current ad, which I think is running nationally, on the radio stations here really annoys me. It is a beer ad (so perhaps not a great surprise) for Killean’s Irish Red Lager I think. It starts by “A blond walked into the bar and every man in the room paid attention to her.”
This is the first thing that really gets me – personally (and this is I guess revealing a lot) I do not find Blonds attractive. In fact, I can literally count the times in my life that I have been sexually arroused by a blonde (basically once) – otherwise blond hair for me is not just not attractive, but something that is actively a turnoff. Yes, this means that such icons of sexuality as Madonna and Marilyn Monroe are not my fantasy woman. Same too with Pamala Anderson or most of the woman of Sports Illustrated or Playboy – blond hair somehow is hardwired for me as “woman I find almost literally repulsive – at least not sexually attractive”. The rare exception was a woman with literally almost a perfect figure who also had, in a conversation I overheard, revealed that she was a seriously smart programmer and savvy businesswoman – smart, physically amazing – I could forgive her the blond hair. So that’s the short version of that rant.
Then the ad continues – basically contrasting the listener to the “hipster dressed all in black” who “likes poetry and bongo drums” which they imply directly as “how sexy is that…”
Personally I would very much want the woman who likes poetry, philosophy and bongo drums – very much my type of woman. But I guess, if the advertising folks are to be trusted, that makes me very much not an American male – or at least not a member of the mainstream or the popular crowd…
I also have been thinking a lot lately about groups – all the reading I have been doing about network theory.
I find myself deliberately avoiding anything too associated in my mind with what “everyone” likes – i.e. I have not yet read the Harry Potter books, I have never seen any of the Jurassic Park movies or indeed most other major blockbusters (the exception being usually movies I go and see early in their run before their popularity has been established). But as a general rule, whether it is a book, a movie, or “blonde woman” if everyone is supposed to like it – I tend to actively avoid it, and indeed generally mistrust it.
This extends to a lot of vectors of life.
I do not drink for the most part, I’ll occasionally have a glass of wine or a bottle of cider – but I avoid all hard liquer, more than one glass of wine, and all beer (or other bottle drinks). This is a very concious choice on my part but I am also sure that in part it is because “everyone” drinks.
Part of me is very much defined by my “not being” like everyone else – its been a part of me for most of my life, so I guess I keep at it.
I have never, in my entire life, been drunk or high on illegal drugs (and I’m unhappy that I have had one surgery that required me to be put under for the surgery, and a root canal that required some painkillers in the days following). For the most part I don’t take painkillers (only a handful of times in my entire life), and other than antibiotics when sick and occasional use of asthma inhalers or Claritin for my allergies and generally don’t take any other drugs at all.
Yes, I know that this makes me a very very odd American male in his mid-twenties – heck, based on the stats the average American high school student has done more drugs and drinking than I have (and probably had more sex as well).
Further, I am not a music fan.
Let me explain, I do not actively dislike music – far from it, I enjoy it. But I am not passionate about it, it does not and has not ever define me as who I am. I am not a “hip hopper” or a “rocker” or a “metalhead” etc. I guess this too is a form a group identity which I have avoided almost completely.
And though I know it is not true, I find group membership of any form very difficult. It usually seems that unless I take an active role in trying, that I generally am overlooked and unwanted as a member of a given group. I know that this is not entirely the case, people have reassured me many times on this account, but still it is my default assumption – that not only will a group tend to just “let me go” that as a general rule they would prefer that I were not a part of their group.
This is irrational and not likely true – but it is an assumption of mine, and again why I tend, I think, to avoid group identity.
I just got my haircut on Friday. And though it does look much better, part of me now feels a bit of a fraud, rather than my “true” self – with the slightly crazy hair and “mad scientist” look I had been getting – now I look not too unlike many other young professionals – with a well groomed, fairly short, haircut.
Anyway, this is rambling. Nothing I will resolve in a short blog entry (well even a long one).
I am, however, thinking more and more that parts of my life might make for an interesting book – basically a book depicting what it is like to be “the other” in America. The “other” not in a dramaticly visable sense, but the other in a cultural and subtle sense. I grew up a “gifted” student, the child of two different cultures (Jewish and Catholic), of two working parents (but who both cooked and both made it to the dinner table for most meals). I grew up not a music fan, not a pop culture person, without a TV in fact.
I grew up, without, if if can be believed, watching Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood or Sesame Street.
I say this because I truly believe that much of why I am so different, but in mostly subtle non-visable ways, is because of this. While most Americans grew up watching TV for their culture, and thus finding and joining some larger cultural entity – which then fit them into a “slot” and gave them a group to be a part of and identified with – as well as provided them with a framework of what was expected of them in high school, while dating, etc.
Instead, I grew up reading books, mostly which had been published decades earlier. I grew up listening to “old time radio” for entertainment. Listening only rarely to music (and then, truthfully, mostly to showtunes – and yes, I know enough about pop culture to know that that phrase is often a codeword for “gay”). I was a gamer – so for a while that was a bit of a group and an identity that I had, though even there, my interests and role quickly changed – I tended to be the Dungeonmaster – not “just” a player.
In elementary school though I tried to be a part of some groups, such as the boy scouts or a soccer team, it was not with a great deal of success. In the small catholic school that I attended from 3rd to 6th grade, there was only a small group of us that were clearly in the “top” of the class, and I did not have many friends then at all – in large part because I acted up, and because I was very different – a year younger, spoke with a strange accent from New York (and a bit from Virginia) and was even then very strange. Certainly the fact that I did not share in the common culture of TV shows and pop music did not help me at all.
Junior High was not much better, there it even grew to actual physical torture (making me perhaps forever leery of groups to some degree). I was active in the theater group at the school, but never as an actor, always as something else.
High school was terrible – there while I quickly found a group of fellow “geeks” (the science fiction club), even in that group, I was seemingly the default outcast even among the outcasts.
The past decade since I entered college, in many ways my role has changed, but in many ways it has not – I am still, for the most part, a loner – but not of choice. This weekend, I was reminded of the simple things that I wished I had someone else to share with – not necessarily a large group, but in fact, preferably just a single person – someone else to be there, someone to touch.
My friend, who celebrated her 40th birthday this weekend, had a very powerful essay that she read on the subject of touch. As I listened to her read, I realized just how little touch I get in my life. I have not had a good backrub in more than a few years. I have not hugged someone in a sexual manner in over four years or kissed someone. I have not even held hands with someone in many many years.
Yes, I have shaken hands, I have hugged friends and family, but I have had very little physical contact for many many years, and I have neither touched or been touched for basically four, really four and a half years. This cannot, I suspect, be an altogether good thing.
Anway, this is now, way too long and rambling. So, more on these random subjects at some other date.