I have already forgotten most of what happened on Friday in the morning and during the day. Presumably I woke up and went to work and worked and came home. The only thing that might stick is a super depressing staff meeting in which we—the lowest level staff—were being asked to “brainstorm” for ideas to solve problems that would not exist if other parts of the organization were whole and functioning. It unraveled into our boss telling us that “everyone from the top to the bottom is doing the best that they can,” and it made me feel like nothing will start to heal the patient until there is someone with some authority that can hold the people under them more accountable than that.
When I got home after work, L was up and getting ready for work. She had a weird emotional energy around her, and I felt like I had to be careful and tiptoe. We worked it out later, but situations like that make me anxious because it seems like lately I have a talent for saying the wrong thing and igniting dry tinder.
Later in the evening, I met up with Jesus Christ at his practice space in innner southeast. We had made some plans to play music and get a little weird. We ingested at around cover charge time, and spent the first hour and a half or so as it was kicking in playing music. JC has been absolutely essential in excavating my musical instincts from years of cruft and self doubt and insecurity. He has done a lot to build my confidence in my own ability to play and keep up with him, and on this night we were in a place where everything was feeling good and we could play without inhibition, surfing on our own musicality. Funky stuff.
Once it felt like time, we decided to head out:
JC: So where do you want to go? We can go get a drink at [gay bar on Morrison], or we can check out the dancing at Holocene, it’s just down the block.
me: Um, do you ever not know exactly what’s in your heart? Like, I can’t decide which one I’m resisting, and whether that means that I should do it or whether I really shouldn’t do it.
JC: All the time, man. When I’m in that situation, I always choose the most life-affirming option.
me: Awesome… I think that means that we have to go dance.
“Holocene,” by Bon Iver. A very good song named for the Portland club, but that has nothing to do with it, and a terrible music video.
We headed to Holocene, where I had never been. It was ’90’s dance party night, and within about 120 seconds of walking in, I hated it. It was filled with people that reminded me of the kids I never felt comfortable with in high school: young, moneyed, and image-conscious (but in a conforms-within-standard-tolerances kind of way, not an Oscar Wilde, my-life-is-my-art kind of way). It was weirdly bright, and the ADD DJ was changing the song every 90 seconds. I find nostalgia targeted at people my age to be distasteful, tacky, uncool, boring, saturated with death instinct, and reflective of a lack of imagination. Jesus led me to the dance floor, where he is brilliant and comfortable. I was having a little drama in my little fucked up brain:
A) I have been to other dance venues with other DJs and other crowds, and I’ve felt comfortable and have had a good time. Maybe I’m not having a good time because I’m uncomfortable and I should get out of here.
B) You always take some time to get comfortable, and you are still you. Whatever you’re on, it’s probably not powdered magic beanstalk, and you should just fake it until you make it.
Fortunately, Jesus was also not feeling it, so we went outside and bitched about the venue and walked over to the gay bar that was the other option.
While we drank, we had a really open conversation where we talked a lot about crowds, and fitting in, and making new friends, and seeking out the right kind of people. I talked a little bit about socializing, and how there are ways in which I have an outgoing personality that makes it easy for me to connect with others, yet how it can feel like what people respond to is a persona that I put up. I think a lot of that has to do with anxiety over being closeted in high school. Gay journalist Andrew Tobias described this phenomenon as the “best little boy in the world syndrome:”
young, closeted men deflect attention from their sexuality by investing in recognized markers of success: good grades, athletic achievement, elite employment and so on. Overcompensating in competitive arenas affords these men a sense of self-worth that their concealment diminishes.
Adam Chandler, a Washington lawyer, describes his best-little-boy persona:
You see, I’ve been in the closet a long time. I slipped up when I asked for a Barbie for my fifth birthday — I wanted only to practice styling her hair, I obliviously assured my parents — but I wised up fast and made a beeline for the closet’s precarious comforts.
I copied how the boys at school sat in their desks, with their knees apart. I observed how they wore their backpacks, using only one of the shoulder straps. I selected an unimpeachably staid wardrobe. And I studied. Boy, did I study.
I tore through middle and high school, craving perfect scores like a junkie in need of a fix. In college, I wrecked the curve for my straight classmates. Each semester, I petitioned the dean to overload my course schedule and sought the presidencies of student groups I had joined just days earlier. By the time I reached Yale Law School, where once-closeted academic superstars are like the hay in a haystack, coming out wouldn’t even have provoked a yawn. No matter. I built a wall of casebooks, hunkered down and ignored the growing hole in my social development.
Dr. Pachankis and Dr. Hatzenbuehler would not be surprised to learn that more than half the men in my randomly assigned “small group” seminar at Yale were gay. Deriving self-worth from achievement-related domains, like Ivy League admissions, is a common strategy among closeted men seeking to maintain self-esteem while hiding their stigma. The strategy is an effort to compensate for romantic isolation and countless suppressed enthusiasms. And it requires time-consuming study and practice, which conveniently provide an excuse for not dating.
Best of all, it distracts: “What Barbie? Look at my report card!”
I was explaining to Jesus that the worst, most insidious part of the best-little-boy persona is that, while it is a persona, it is also me. A theme is going to emerge this weekend of me, not-me, and what the difference between them are. Jesus had some very nice things to say about me and what he sees in me when I am with other people. We both agreed that we wanted to find some more gay friends to hang out with.
We went back to his studio and played for another hour or so. Then, we started to be more aware of our tiredness and our hunger, so we went to the Roxy on the west side. Diners in the wee hours after a night of shenanigans are my very favorite part of late night trouble, so that felt great and very special. After eating, though, I was done. I drove home and fell asleep immediately.
I had made plans with L to see Big Hero Six, but neither of us was up for that and it didn’t happen. I slept in until 2pm, which felt decadent and I haven’t done it in forever [but I feel like I say that a lot so ???]. I got a haircut, and went to an optometrist to look at new frames. We (L came a long) were in our old neighborhood because I’m very loyal to hair stylists, and even though it’s barely been six, seven months since we moved away it feels longer. We had dinner at Fire on the Mountain, and it was delicious.
After dinner, I took her up on the offer to hang out with her boyfriend and his friends. His crew are very tight, and have been friends since high school. When I’ve hung out with them, it’s mostly been on Mississippi. Usually both of those things are neutral to OK. Last night, though, something was off. Mississippi is a hipster Disneyland (and if you knew how much I love Disneyland, you know what an ambivalent statement that is). I vary a lot in how I respond to that ambiance and environment: sometimes I’m super into it, sometimes I’m indifferent, and sometimes I feel completely outside it. When I get in that critical frame of mind, I only see the decor as cliché pandering to a demo that exists to be led. It’s not the bar’s fault that known quantities make money.
The high school friends thing meant that there’s a male pack dynamic that emerges, and I’ve never been able to be myself in that context, was never any good at faking it, and I’m kind of allergic to that energy when I encounter it out in the world. So I spent a lot of time trying to fit myself into this thing when I really should have just left because there wasn’t enough on the table to make it worth it to me.
In hindsight, I should have been content with a nearly-perfect Friday night and spent some time just relaxing on Saturday, but it’s hard for me to turn down an offer to hang out. I also realized that I need to always drive myself, even if that means I can’t get shitfaced—which I never want to do out at a bar anyway—because I need to give myself an out when I need it. I was kind of irritated and irritable and spent more money than I wanted on an experience I didn’t even like.
Late start, spent the day watching the super bowl and being a luftmensch.
Once I got back to my house I felt like I could start taking some control of myself and tidied up, started laundry, charliework, etc.
I finished Alison Bechdel’s Are You My Mother, a sequel to her memoir about her father, Fun Home. I thought it was great, and has a lot of big ideas about relationships with parents, me and not-me, the utility of therapy, and the crazy thoughts that come into play when you’re in therapy and compulsively think and write about it and do your own research. There’s enough in the book to keep me occupied and thinking for a couple of weeks.
All in all, a mixed weekend.
A brief word on January
Some closing thoughts about January, 2015:
The emergent narrative of this month has been a feeling of renewed inner purpose. I’ve decided that now is a time where it’s very important to take action and not let myself get caught up in overthinking, or get caught up in a compulsive need to seek inspiration. I published 23 posts, and had more visitors to my blog than all of 2014—visitors & views are not the point, but I think it nicely illustrates how more comfortable I am right now with attention seeking. In addition to the blog journaling, I wrote and illustrated 37 pages in my creative notebook. I practiced music for roughly 8 hours this month; I’m aiming for 12 next month, though ultimately I’d like to be playing much more than that.
I spent most of the month sick. The alone time has been good, the fatigue has been not good.
As spiritually energized as I feel, I did not finish any work.