likeness

“My housemates are going to be out of town then.”

“All of them?”

“All of them.”

“You should come live with us for the weekend.”

An elbow.

“No, we should go live with m. for the weekend.”

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Black

SG was talking about her dating life the other day and how she wasn’t sure if she was actually attracted to someone. She generalized this and said that at first she frequently doesn’t know. (She figures it out, sometimes months later.) She thinks they’re cute or interesting or into her (or all three), but she isn’t sure if she’s actually into them.

When I don’t know if I’m interested, it means I’m not. There’s a very obvious moment when a person goes from “someone I know” to “someone I like.”


(This title is a reference to “My Moment” by Rebecca Black, which is even more insidious than “Friday.”)

I am, in reference to myself, using the terms “interested” and “like” pretty loosely.

Sometimes these momentary interactions are pretty dumb. There was this guy at a party who said that Teen Titans is his favorite DC series (this conversation happened in 2008), and I knew I was taking him home that night. While I am no longer in the practice of taking people from parties home, the ridiculous triggers are there.

Sometimes these are things you could extrapolate from: someone is a bike messenger, uses the term “free” instead of “open,” dumpsters, wants to live in a structure overtaken by plants, plays mandolin, fiddle, or banjo, has a favorite tree, abandoned building, bridge, or bike route to the ocean. Generally, the kind of people who have a favorite tree–either specific or species–notice trees enough to have thoughts and opinions on them probably cares enough about trees to care about other things I think are good or just notices things enough to have a favorite one. There is also the parallel that could lead to possible negative extrapolation, such as “is Russian,” that still hit the “attractive” switch.*

There are also these small, intimate moments and when we’re in them, something more changes. A person isn’t just appealing, they’re a person. Liking Teen Titans is not actually very meaningful in any particular way. I could argue that it is, but it doesn’t also cause the transition to show that someone is more than a like of a particular comic I also like.

There are moments when I’ve seen people smile like I’ve never seen them smile before. When they open up about something that they’re giving to me in confidence. When we have an experience together.

Once I was making dough with a friend of mine. We’re been mostly quiet during the process. He was kneading dough on the counter. His sleeves rolled up and flour covering his hands, specking his lower arms. He looked intently on his process. He closed his eyes, testing the dough with his hands, feeling the smoothness and tension. At that moment, I knew I was lost.

*This is meant to humor and offend friends of mine, not Russians at large.

story

This is the story of a pie that starts with a boxspring. It has a big cast.

AL, a former housemate who moved across the country for a girl.
R, A British gent
CBS, a friend of AL who has been a temporary resident on several occasions
W, a former housemate who moved across the coast for his future
NS, a soon to be housemate, friends with BF
PT, a friend who is “more of a frat boy than [me]”
BF, a new friend
EK, a soon to be former housemate who is moving across town for politics
SGM, a housemate and Iron Blogger
SW, a friend
LW, a friend
IR, a friend

When AL moved out, he gave e his boxspring. I’d never had a boxspring, so I was curious. Some people swore by them. This was during a brief period where I was trying to be “more normal.” My bed had rested on a series of slats I cut from wood I found in the house and around Somerville. Normal people do not have beds sitting on things they found on the street; normal people have boxsprings.

CBS was in town when AL moved out. The first time AL moved out. It was a three part process. In part one, AL gave us his furniture and flew to SF to find an apartment. CBS was in town for the MIT Mystery Hunt, put together that particular year by Codex. (6:53 if you have a particular desire to see me kicking). He and AL are Sages. Incidentally, CBS used to date one of G’s oldest friends, thought that is humorous as opposed to relevant.

CBS agreed to help move the boxspring downstairs. R was also in town and did his share of the work. Moving this boxspring was miserable. It was heavy and cumbersome and I told myself that if I ever needed to move it again, I would just destroy it instead.

Once the mattress was on top of the boxspring, I sat down on it and knew this thing wasn’t for me. Still, I gave it a shot and tried to get excited about it. This never happened. When I began to give up on this being normal thing, I decided to get rid of the boxspring.

I did exactly what I said I would. I destroyed that thing.

After removing the fabric around it, I looked over the monstrosity of wood and metal. Armed with a hammer, I spent several hours figuring out how to extract the wood from the metal springs and grid it was secured to. I worked slow and methodically. I would walk around it, standing up, crouching down, feelings things with my hands, stretching my fingers to reach connections, and gently prying at bits with the hammer. After I figured out which part needed to go next and how to remove it, I would attack, hitting and pulling with as much force as I could. At the end, I had a pile of wood and a piece of metal I still need to get rid of.

I decided to do the only thing that seemed sensible to me: I was going to burn it.

SGM had gone with friends of hers to have bonfires down the beach. W had piles of papers he wanted to burn. EK liked the idea of hanging out. We agreed to go to the aforementioned beach and burn everything. We never did it though. Instead, we would offer reasons why it wouldn’t work on any given day.

Before I destroyed the boxspring, NS and PT had a party. They both went to school in Cleveland. Together, they would talk about the parts of Cleveland they loved and missed (not always both). They decided they needed to have a Cleveland themed party. We spent a day at the apart of the girl NS was going out with at the time cooking, prepping, and making a bunch of Cleveland themed food. The girl worked in the same building as PT, which was how we, and more importantly NS, met her.

At this party, NS introduced me to BF. BF and NS went to school together in Cleveland. BF, NS said to start a conversation, was interested in going shooting and he knew I grew up with guns. While I am in no way some sort of gun badass, I’m not scared of them and know my way around a pistol. Well, I am scared of them in certain contexts. Like when they’re pointed at me. BF and I made a plan to go shooting up in New Hampshire.

Much like the bonfire not happening, BF and I also didn’t go shooting. Eventually, we settled on a Saturday in mid-July. At the same time, W picked his leaving date. He’s moving to Philadelphia to go to grad school, and decided on a particular Sunday without any ceremony. The Sunday after BF and I had plans to shoot stuff. The bonfire options were limited to Friday or Saturday night. Friday night was SW’s birthday. Saturday became shooting and bonfire day.

It reminds me of college.

At SW’s party, NS invited SW and LW (who have married since these events) along for the gunshow, as they are both comfortable around and enthusiastic about guns. I, of course, drink a lot of gin as I am wont to do and find myself waking up Saturday morning wishing I was still asleep.

Somehow, I rise and manage to function well enough to put on my shooting dress and eat something. BF, NS, SW, LW, and myself drive off to New Hampshire, rent guns, and then shoot them.

A photo of several people at a firing range.

NS, me, LW, and BF, with the friendly gun merchant.

We all agree we’re hungry and go to a diner that, from inside, seems like it’s kind of a big deal. They proudly advertise their pies with such a ferocity I decide I need one. I’m full, and have no particular desire to eat pie at the time, but the thought of bringing a pie to the bonfire, of presenting it to my peeps, is alluring and enticing.

I ask the waiter what his favorite pie is. He talks about the ones that are most popular. I shake my head at him and insist I want to know what his favorite is. He looks a little uncomfortable. I decide to try a different approach and instead ask him of the varieties they have, which one could I purchase and take home right now.

He returns with a few options and I tell him to surprise me.

He again returns, this time with a box. Inside is the pie he said was the most popular–a chocolate pie. He insists that it’s good. A nearby patron, a regular who earlier complimented our waiter on his weight loss, confirms the deliciousness of the chocolate pie. I pay for my pie and then we depart back to Boston.

On the ride home, I get this phone call from W. His car has a flat, so he can no longer drive us out to the beach. This begins to roll down into a planning disaster. I won’t be home in time to take the commuter rail. The beach is too out of the way to be dropped off. It’s too late to bike. IR might be driving and then she’s not and even if she was there wouldn’t be room in the car for me unless W took the commuter rail up himself.

BF ends up offering to drive me. She is ridiculously sweet and does things like this. We stop by the house, gather ourselves, and prepare to head out on a journey that will only inconvenience BF, but give us some fun time in a car. W and I frantically text back and forth trying to figure out how to make this work, where BF and I are going, and where we’ll meet. Suddenly he admits that they’re in Porter Square and IR offered to just lend him her car, meaning I can get a ride with them and save BF the trouble of a long drive back alone.

SW and LW drop me off in Porter, where I find EK, IR, W, and SGM hanging around in the parking lot. I present them with a pie and a smile.

“Where’d you get the pie?” EK asks.

“So, I was in this diner…”

Author’s note: EK told me that she likes how I told her about getting the pie. This got me thinking about all the threads that come together for a story, so I wanted to look at that. I’m also extremely verbose.

Self

Three or four years into my tenure as an electrician at the Philly Folk Festival, we were sitting around in a rum circle. The rum circle is a fine tradition of Fest. It’s pretty simple: we sit in a circle and pass a bottle of rum—preferably clockwise and never widdershins. I like the rum circle. At this particular one, JG slided up next to me and draped an arm over my shoulder. She said something to the effect of:

At first I thought you were just one of those people [they] bring who comes for a year or two, does no real work, and flakes out. But you’ve really proved yourself. You’re crew.

After getting over my initial discomfort at the idea that I was “just another flake” (not denying I am a flake—I totally am), I found comfort in knowing I was (am) crew.

Being crew is like being in a family or a gang—it doesn’t matter how long you go without showing up, whatever else you do, you’re crew. There is a history, a lineage, you become a part of.

We are by no means close. As far as I am aware, there are few close relationships outside of the several weeks we spend relying on one another entirely. (I understand that everytime someone foots a poorly balanced ladder that holds me 25 feet off the ground, I am trusting them to keep me alive.) There are occasional e-mails and facebook posts. My experiences with these people are fairly isolated.

My relationship with the crew is the same as some of my other important ties. During the brief times we are together, things are as they always have been. In this particular case, our physical location reflects our psychic one. The site is isolated from the rest of the world, it’s own special place, and our home beneath the stage is separate and hidden, it’s own magical, safe realm. The space creates a static reminder of who we are and who we can be in relation to each other and that this is separate from everything else.

Not to say the rest of our lives don’t matter.

Place, geographic, has always been important in how I think of myself. People create a different kind of space. Without us, the area beneath the stage is stark, cold, quiet, and empty. With us, it’s home.

I was in Seattle two weeks ago. Seattle is a strange place I don’t know how to interact with. G visited once as an undergrad and fell in love with parts of it in a rush of lusty passions for something different and a great glass library. S and T moved there after graduation and I went out when they got married.

Seattle and I had a whirlwind reminiscent of Celine and Jesse’s in Before Sunrise. Our time together was marked by the Burke-Gilman, dumpsters, eating from trees, bikes, getting lost in the woods and bay, and feelings of desperation, love, and loneliness.
This recent trip was more subdued. Instead of our initial intensity, we had a much delayed day-after trying to figure out how we could interact with each other—or even if we should. I went to different parts of the city with different people: I was with people I like quite a bit and don’t know how to be around. People I don’t know who I am around; people I don’t know if I’m able to be who I am around.

And then there was S and suddenly I was home and me and everything in the world made sense. For the first time in months, possibly a year, I was m. again. I knew who I was because the strangeness of Seattle now had S, who turns a stark, cold, quiet, empty space into a place I belong to. S and I, the crew and I, have spent seven years building places together. In these places, there is nothing to be except for ourselves.*

*These statements reflect my feelings and interpretations of the world.

Impostor

It’s easy to forget that it’s okay to be down at parties. My typical drunk pattern includes a possible phase of acute melancholy. Being drunk is a condensed version of being at a party (any party); being at a party is a condensed version of being at an con or a conf or a camp or a fest.

There’s some point when things start to slow down, or where things don’t start to slow down but I do. I feel alone. I feel like the other: separate from the community at large. Part of this is impostor syndrome, a common phenomenon among women in tech and women near tech. (I am a woman near tech. Wow, I am a woman. Wacky.) Part of this is social anxiety–which is likely tied in part to impostor syndrome.

Impostor syndrome is the feeling that you are an impostor. Impostor is a lovely, broad category. It can present itself in feeling as though you know nothing about something, you know less than everyone else (and are not their level), or you just don’t belong.

One of the ways this presents in me–aside from being nearly constant–is feeling that I am alone. As a woman near tech–as someone who hangs out with all sorts of hackers: genetic, biological, hardware, software–I do not claim any knowledge of these things. Instead, it’s some sort of “I do not do this thing, therefore I don’t belong.” I have no connection to anyone else around me. Then I feel alone. Then I feel down.

The trickiest part of my feelings isn’t even impostor syndrome–it’s the down that comes with it. I ought to be having fun; I am supposed to be having fun, but I’m not. This is something I don’t know what to do with: I have no clear conclusion to tie my thoughts together with. In truth, there is none. All there really is is to work through these moments, to feel them and let them wash over me and pass. I may hide in my personal spaces–the physical and non. Afterwards, I will have fun again. I will talk and I will laugh and I will dance.

Fault

When I lived on Forbes Ave, we used to watch people on Saturday and Sunday mornings walk down our tiny part of Oakland between CMU and Pitt. Our toll was mockery. We would add commentary to their walk of shame, sometimes rating them, and on one occasion holding up Olympic style numbers.

We were not entirely nice people.

My walks of shame–all after my year of judgement–have been a mix of shame, pride, and nausea. In recent years, these frequently occur between the hours of four and six in the morning where shame, pride, and nausea are replaced with a solid sense of “still drunk.” These also include bikes, which makes the whole thing seem less bad somehow.

In general, biking makes a walk of shame seem less bad. Sure, I feel like I’ve just been run through a washing machine (tossed, spun, filled with liquid only to be left damp rumpled as it was squeezed out of me), but this suffering is limited because I only have to feel that way for as long as it takes to bike from Point Party to home.

Saturday morning I had a solid ride home which I think of more as a “ride of mild embarrassment.” For the first time in a long time of overindulging [outside of the house], I had done nothing especially stupid or poorly thought out other than walk from Central to Powderhouse. While I was talking a lot–but not saying anything–none of it was really bad. I did not vomit, hurt myself, or make out with someone inappropriate. I still felt the shame that comes with having done something wrong.

We went dancing and I’d worn the first pair of girl shorts I’ve owned since 2005. People–strangers–flirted with me and I tried to be friendly, or at least polite.* More than once someone talked to me, leaning in too close. When I would take a step back, they would follow, even closer. Two different people put a hand on my waist. I hated it.

I like touching and being touched by my friends, by people I like, by people I am close to. I tactilely interact with the world and those in it. I do these things when I choose to, even if it is not explicitly stated that it is okay to hold hands or hug or kiss. To place a hand on an arm while talking. To brush hair out of someone’s face. Unexpected, unwelcome, unsolicited physical interaction frequently makes me physically jump, make noises, and generally react negatively. It was, in my opinion, a wrong thing for these strangers to do.

I still blamed myself. On the ride home, I realized I blamed myself. I was dressed in short shorts and a shirt that showed off my back. I have a tendency to wildly glance around a room, looking at who and what is there (probably checking for monsters or enemies), and sometimes my eyes meet those of someone else. That could have happened. I talked to people. Maybe they thought I was flirting back. I kept dancing when they’d come up to me. I didn’t tell anyone to fuck off. It was my own fault I was uncomfortable because I did not say no.

This is called “victim shaming.” Or at least is an internalized version of victim shaming

When someone–generally the voice of society at large–blames the victim of a sexual assault, we call it victim shaming. My thoughts fell into a common thread of victim shaming rhetoric: The way she was dressed was too sexy. The way she danced/spoke/carried herself welcomed it. She didn’t say no.

A person who is raped is a victim. Something has been done to them. They are a victim of an action. Rape is widely considered one of the worst things a person can do to another person. It is one of the worst things a person can do–full stop. The Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network (RAINN) gives a statistic of 207,754 sexual assaults a year in the US. On average. Somerville has population of 76,500. Pittsburgh has population of 307,500. These are numbers I try to use to comprehend the scale of sexual assault in America. Approximately the population of Spokane, Washington.

While I was not raped, I was still made uncomfortable and I blame myself for that. I am just beginning to understand how victims, how actual rape victims, feel. It breaks my heart to realize that people who suffer one of the most painful violations and serious indignities a human can force onto a person blame themselves.

*Dear gods I feel like such a weirdo just saying that people flirted with me. It’s like some nerd-conditioned negative reaction to what is perceived as gloating or egotism. My non-coupled friends (myself included) are generally not the kind of people who get flirted with, according to their explanations. I feel like I’ve betrayed my non-coupled ilk or something.

Lists

I love making lists. I’m not so good at following the lists, but I like making them. There’s something great about putting everything down and being able to see it at once. To tease out the bits you forget.

Whenever we go on a trip, my father makes us make lists. He sits the family down and asks us what we want to do during the duration of our away-from-home.* He writes down what we say and puts it somewhere prominent. About once a day he asks how we’re doing on marking things off. He tries to help facilitate us doing everything we’ve put down. He also reminds us that if we don’t do everything, it’s our own fault.

A photo of a garden

“Spending time with Dad” turned into “dig a big hole and build a garden.” Be careful of your execution!

Doing everything on the lists I used to make was easily impossible, improbable, or just not fun. When you have ten people to see, three museums to go to, two hikes, five restaurants, and a long drive somewhere pretty, you’re not going to do it all without really trying and pushing. This leaves no room for laziness, something coming up, or just taking time to enjoy what is around you.

I learned a trick for keeping Dad off my back: have simple goals, have few goals, have abstract goals. On our most recent trip to see my grandmother, my goals were:

  • Go swimming every day
  • See Savie (my grandmother -m.)
  • Have bonding experiences with my family

I did every one of these things!

A photo of three children playing in a pool

Even back in the 90s, my goals were pretty much the same, just poorly worded. (My brother–PD, me, my cousin–CC.)

I do this with all the trips I go on. When my gaming friends from college had our second reunion, the list I put together included:

  • Go swimming every day
  • Play games
  • Hang out with my peeps
  • Ride a bike
  • Drink
A photo from a giant maze

A human maze is like a game, right? Those are my peeps. Bam! Success.

I didn’t ride a bike, but part way through the week, I accepted that as my own damn fault. The act of getting a bike was more than I wanted to deal with.

In anticipation for my upcoming summer vacation, I find myself thinking of all the things I want to do. These are unintentional thoughts, excitement and nervousness creeping into my mind when I should be focusing on other things. Like work. These flights can be distilled into actual desires rather than moment possibilities. Seeing a long list of people has turned into “Spend time with people I like and people I love.” A fanciful list of activities in truth represents “Have an adventure.”

M.’s Summer Vacation 2012 Goal List

    • See some of my favorite people
    • Meet some new cool people
    • Learn something new
    • Understand something I didn’t before
    • Have an adventure
    • Listen to great music
    • Drink

I am totally confident all of these will happen. If nothing else, DA feeds me wine at Fest, so that’s two things in one go.

*The lengths I will go to to not use the word “trip” twice in a row.