Lacerations

Isn’t it strange how you can receive a thousand compliments, but it’s that one insult that sticks with you? I was thinking about one of those just the other day. I have no idea why this one possesses such a sharp, cutting edge for me when it was delivered by someone whom I never met face to face, but it’s a laceration that never quite seems to heal.

When I was in my early 20’s, I had just been brutally dumped by my boyfriend. I had long, thick, wavy hair at the time (I still think my hair is one of my best features), so in an effort to start afresh, I decided that it would be fun to get a curly perm. I wanted to curl that man right out of my hair, so to speak.

I’ve always been kind of a wash n’ wear type of girl, so doing something this elaborate was quite a departure for me. But desperate times call for desperate measures. Fortunately, out of sheer luck, I happened upon what I still think to this day was the world’s greatest hairdresser.

The perm she did made me feel transformed. Sadly, these things require maintenance, so I wound up seeing her many times in the next two years. And of course, while she worked her magic, we talked. I began to think of her as a friend.

It turned out that she had a son my age. She said we had a lot in common. He was as liberal as I am, and he was pursuing his dream to become a writer in a unique way. He was living in a tent in Denver in the winter. Not only was he writing about his experiences, but he was also saving a boatload of money so he could focus on his writing.

It sounded like a grand adventure, so I allowed that it might be fun to be pen pals. And besides, the perm hadn’t attracted a new boyfriend, and since I lived in conservative North Florida and was the only liberal (I thought) within a 500 mile radius, I was lonely. She gave him my address. We struck up a correspondence.

It was interesting, hearing how he lived, and what he did in his day to day. He really was a good writer, and could spin some fascinating tales. We did have quite a bit in common.

In those days before blogs, he wrote a newsletter which he distributed to his friends and family. I was soon added to the mailing list, and delighted in his exploits along with everyone else.

And then one day he wrote an entry about me. In it, he said, “My mom is trying to fix me up with a Florida girl. She tells me that this girl is not at all attractive, but that she is extremely intelligent and liberal. Thanks a lot, mom.”

Nothing quite like finding out that your hairdresser, the one who raves about how great you look while taking your money and giggling with you like a school girl, thinks you’re “not at all attractive.”

Nothing quite like having that put into a newsletter that is distributed to about a hundred other people. Even worse, having that be written by someone who knew it would be read by you. How callous.

I had an appointment with the hairdresser coming up. I decided to go. I sat in her chair. I looked her in the eye via the mirror as she babbled about how she was sooooo sorry and that her son had no right to say those things.

“You’re right. Neither did you,” I said. I left without getting the perm.

Needless to say, I never went back. It would have been too awkward. There would have been two elephants in the room. One named, “Your Son is a Jackass” and one named, “You Have Been Lying to My Face This Whole Time.”

Shortly after that, she left town. It was a shame, too, because I never found anyone else who could perm my hair without either drying it out like broom straw or making it look like a bird’s nest in a high wind.

But then maybe that had something to do with my altered self-perception. Hard to say.

Ever since, with a few brief experimental exceptions, I’ve pretty much stuck with the same tired hairstyle that I had in my high school yearbook. Yeah, whatever.

IMG_6426
Me, long after the perm grew out.

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Spare Me Posthumanity

I was reading up on Transhumanism because I thought it would make an interesting blog topic. Mind officially blown. I decided that it’s way too intense and complicated for it to be broken down into one of my random musings. (In other words, I am feeling too lazy to make the effort.)

But within that topic I came across the idea of Posthumanism, and it made me muse, indeed. The website whatistranshumanism.org describes it like this:

“Many transhumanists wish to follow life paths which would, sooner or later, require growing into posthuman persons: they yearn to reach intellectual heights as far above any current human genius as humans are above other primates; to be resistant to disease and impervious to aging; to have unlimited youth and vigor; to exercise control over their own desires, moods, and mental states; to be able to avoid feeling tired, hateful, or irritated about petty things; to have an increased capacity for pleasure, love, artistic appreciation, and serenity; to experience novel states of consciousness that current human brains cannot access. It seems likely that the simple fact of living an indefinitely long, healthy, active life would take anyone to posthumanity if they went on accumulating memories, skills, and intelligence.

“Posthumans could be completely synthetic artificial intelligences, or they could be enhanced uploads, or they could be the result of making many smaller but cumulatively profound augmentations to a biological human. The latter alternative would probably require either the redesign of the human organism using advanced nanotechnology or its radical enhancement using some combination of technologies such as genetic engineering, psycho pharmacology, anti-aging therapies, neural interfaces, advanced information management tools, memory enhancing drugs, wearable computers, and cognitive techniques.

“It is difficult for us to imagine what it would be like to be a posthuman person. Posthumans may have experiences and concerns that we cannot fathom, thoughts that cannot fit into the three-pound lumps of neural tissue that we use for thinking. Some posthumans may find it advantageous to jettison their bodies altogether and live as information patterns on vast super-fast computer networks. Their minds may be not only more powerful than ours but may also employ different cognitive architectures or include new sensory modalities that enable greater participation in their virtual reality settings. Posthuman minds might be able to share memories and experiences directly, greatly increasing the efficiency, quality, and modes in which posthumans could communicate with each other. The boundaries between posthuman minds may not be as sharply defined as those between humans.”

Okay, so is anyone else a little freaked out by this concept? Yes, it would be nice to have an enhanced capacity for learning, and who wouldn’t want a little extra vigor? But I really don’t want to live forever. I think that would become tedious and depressing. If I couldn’t count on an expiration date, I’d take everything for granted and not appreciate or value anything. I would procrastinate even more than I already do. Nothing would be precious. It would all feel inevitable.

I wouldn’t mind not feeling “tired, hateful, or irritated about petty things,” but I’m not so sure I’d want to be able to control my desires or mental state completely. Everything would become predictable. There’d be no surprises and nothing to get excited about. What would be the point?

And do I really want to risk augmentation? Too much could go wrong. Not only that, but would I want to live in such a superior state that I could no longer relate to humanity? I would hate to view people as mere primates. And while I might be able to communicate more effectively with my fellow posthumans, I would cease to be able to communicate with anyone else, and that would be tragic. And I genuinely believe that the most valuable sign of intelligence is the ability to get your point across to anyone, regardless of their IQ.

And then there’s the fact that certain people, if given these enhanced powers, would not use them for good. And because they would be so far ahead of us mere mortals, there would be little, if anything, we could do about it. That scares me.

While I can’t predict the future, and I’m sure that there are things around the corner that I can’t even begin to imagine, one thing is for certain: I wouldn’t want to meet a posthuman in a dark alley, or anywhere else.

Posthuman

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The Creepy Concept of Covenant Marriage

Recently, I came across a disturbing little factoid. In 1997, the state of Louisiana passed Covenant Marriage into law. Arkansas and Arizona later jumped on the bandwagon. Thank goodness no other states have taken the bait.

These policies, if you opt into them, make marriage more difficult to get into, and a lot more difficult to get out of. For starters, according to Wikipedia, you have to attend premarital counseling sessions, which “emphasize the nature, purposes, and responsibilities of marriage”, and you must sign a statement saying that the marriage is for life.

While I think premarital counseling is a great idea, I wonder who exactly is conducting these sessions. And I really would have a problem with having someone other than me and my spouse dictate what the nature, purpose and responsibilities of our marriage are to be. Marriage is what you make it. No two are alike.

And as for signing one’s life away, if you aren’t confident that the other person is going to try for a lifelong commitment unless they put it in writing, then you might want to reexamine how much you trust this person in the first place. Trust is the bedrock of any relationship. If you don’t have that, you’re building a castle on sand.

This is starting to sound like the equivalent of a homeowners’ association for relationships. I chafe at rules and regulations. I’ll pass.

Even worse are the restrictions placed on getting out of the marriage. In a covenant marriage, you are waiving your rights to a no-fault divorce. Before you can even consider divorce, you have to first go to counseling. You must also be able to prove that your spouse has committed adultery, a felony, is a drug addict or a sexual predator, or that you’ve been living apart for at least a year (perhaps two, depending on the state.)

First of all, why bother with counseling if your spouse is involved in such heinous acts? Those things, as far as I’m concerned, are deal breakers.

And you notice there’s no provision for your husband punching you in the face and not being prosecuted for it, nor is there an option if your wife suddenly joins a cult. Your only recourse in those situations would be a long painful separation, and there’s no guarantee that the nut job in question would agree to being apart.

Life is messy. It can go south in many ways that are outside the bounds of these few legislative dicta. No one should have the right to define what you deem to be unsupportable.

Is it just me, or is it creepy and strange that these three super red states, full to the brim with conservatives who claim to want less government, not more, are all for these highly regulated covenant marriages? But then, this legislates religion and “family values”, and restricts the freedom of women even further, so yeah, I guess it makes sense.

Fortunately, these three states have not made covenant marriage mandatory, and less than 1 percent of the couples getting married each year in these places opt in to this foolishness. But still, it seems like a disturbing, backward trend, and it gives me the willies.

I love holding my husband’s hand, but I wouldn’t want to be handcuffed to it.

Business people handcuffed together

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A New Ending to an Old Story

When I was 15 years old and a sophomore in high school, I had a crush on a guy named Howard. We sat at the same table in English Literature class. We always had fun together. Even though we were just friends, I was grateful to have someone to romantically obsess over. It took my mind off my dysfunctional home life.

One time, as the teacher blathered on about some classical poet who interested me not at all, my thigh happened to accidentally touch his. It was like the best electric shock imaginable. My hormones were already off the charts at that age. But this was epic.

And the most amazing part was that he didn’t move his leg, so neither did I. We sat there through class that way, and I was swimming in a veritable sea of lust, thinking, “Omigod, He likes me back!”

It never occurred to me that that could be possible. No one in school had ever expressed the slightest interest in me. My self-esteem was so low that my main goal was just trying to get through the day without humiliation. On that day, though, nothing mattered but Howard’s thigh.

A week or so later, there was to be a high school dance. I’d never been to a dance. I’d never been to a football game. I didn’t want to go to these things all alone, and I had no one to go with.

I got to class early, and was talking to Howard and another boy who sat at our table, and the boy blurted out, “You should go to the dance with Howard!”

Silence. Utter silence. Maybe Howard had put him up to it. Maybe he wanted to go to the dance with me but was afraid to ask. But what if he didn’t? I certainly wasn’t going to stick my neck out and risk rejection. So I said, “Well, if Howard wants to go to the dance with me, all he has to do is ask.”

And the whole time, in my head, I’m shouting, “Ask! Ask!”

But again, dead silence. Awkward. I thought that maybe he wanted to ask me when no one else was around. Or maybe he didn’t like me after all. Or maybe he was just too shy. Should I ask him? I didn’t have the courage.

No need to keep you in suspense. Howard never asked, and I never went to a high school dance, ever, because he was at the head of a long line of people who never asked.

Howard and I remained friends for the rest of the year. We pretended that the situation had never come up. A lot went unsaid, it seems.

At the end of the year, he mentioned something about being best friends in my yearbook. I was just looking at it the other day. It made me smile.

But we didn’t stay in touch over that following summer, and the next year he didn’t come back to school. I never knew what happened to him. I always wondered.

I hadn’t thought about that in years. I have no idea why it popped into my head the other day. I had given myself closure by thinking that, yes, he did like me, but he was too shy to do anything about it. What a shame, I thought. What a waste. But life goes on.

But of course by now I was thinking about this in terms of a blog post, and I wondered about his side of the story. I thought it might be cool to seek him out on line and ask him. With time and distance and zero desire to pick up where we left off, maybe we both could provide some insight for each other. If he even remembered me, that is.

So I Googled him. Unfortunately, he has a fairly common name, so this wasn’t going to be as easy as I thought. Add to that the fact that his picture doesn’t appear in the yearbook for some reason, and to be perfectly honest I can’t remember what he looks like, and you can see what a challenge this could be. There were too many people with his name on Facebook.

Even so, I’m pretty sure I found him. A business license revealed a person who lives one town over from the high school, and he’s the right age. I looked on Facebook again for someone from that town, and there was the guy with the business in question, and yes, he mentioned my school in his profile. While his picture didn’t ring any bells at all, he would have been my type.

I sent him a message, but I get the impression he doesn’t Facebook much, so I’m not holding out much hope of an illuminating conversation. And yet I learned a lot from his Facebook page. It fills in much of the blanks in our story. It has taken a turn I hadn’t anticipated.

It seems that Howard likes men. Which means, most likely, that he did back then as well. But in the early 80’s, that’s not something that he would have put out there for general consumption, especially in the rural South. It’s not something that even occurred to me to think about, really. If you had asked me at the time, I wouldn’t have had a problem with anyone in the LGBTQ community. It just seemed as exotic and out of my realm as the Dalai Lama.

I have no idea if Howard was struggling with his sexuality when I knew him. I hope not. But clearly he had me in the friend zone. But that, in retrospect, was a precious gift.

I wonder what he thought of the thigh incident. Was he appalled? Completely turned off? Afraid to pull his leg away for fear of revealing himself? Or was he simply confused? I hate the idea that while I was swimming around in my sea of lust, he was bobbing in a pool of uncertainty or disgust. Wherever he might have been, mentally or emotionally, the touch I was giving was not the touch he was receiving.

I hope I wasn’t torturing him. That certainly wasn’t my intent. I am horrified to think that I was sexually harassing him without knowing it.

At least now I know why he never asked me to the dance. It wasn’t about me. But with hindsight, we could have gone as friends and had a great time.

At least now I have a few more answers. I’d love to renew my friendship with Howard. I’m sure we’d have a lot to catch up on. Either way, I will always wish him well and be grateful that he gave a lonely 15-year-old girl something to daydream about.

dancing

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BWI: Blogging While Irritated

So, I’m in a foul mood. I’ve been ensnarled in an idiotic bureaucratic bit of insanity, and the only one who will suffer is yours truly. To say that I’m irritated is putting it mildly.

I’d get it if it made sense. I’d roll with it if the hoops I’m being forced to jump through were mandatory. But no. I’m being put through my paces simply to avoid inconveniencing everyone except me.

And the worst part about it? My brain is sputtering. I can’t think of a single thing to blog about.

I’d really rather not turn into one of those bloggers who does nothing but rage against the machine. Okay, yeah. I do that every now and then. But I don’t want to only be known as the voice for the malcontents. I don’t want to simply rant so that no one else has to.

I want to be both light and dark, happy and sad. I want to be nuanced. I want to be layered, like an onion, only without bringing tears to the eyes of everyone who comes in contact with me.

So I’ll simply say that today I’m annoyed, and here’s a picture of a kitten. See? I can be nuanced, gosh darn it.

Kitten

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Your Own Little Inner Fascist

Here lately I’ve been binge watching a series called The Man in the High Castle on Amazon Prime. It’s 4 seasons long, and it’s about what America would be like if the Axis powers had won World War II. In essence, Japan has the Western states, the Nazis have the Eastern ones, and the Rocky Mountains are the neutral zone.

This show makes the hair on the back of my neck stand straight up. I’ve written about fascism before. I fear we are flirting with it now, as we don’t seem to learn from history. In fact, we seem to be irrationally idealizing a past that never existed.

As uncomfortable as The Man in the High Castle makes me, the writing is phenomenal. It causes me to look at things with fresh eyes. One character said, “You’ve got your own little inner fascist telling you what you can and cannot do.”

That really resonates with me. According to Wikipedia, “Fascism is a form of far-right, authoritarian ultranationalism characterized by dictatorial power, forcible suppression of opposition, and strong regimentation of society and of the economy.”

If that doesn’t describe my inner voice, nothing does. My inner voice is all about explaining to me how I can’t or shouldn’t do things. It’s all about walls and roadblocks and keeping me from doing anything outside the box. My inner voice wants me to be a good little soldier and follow orders.

“You’ll fail.” “You’ll be laughed at.” “People will think you’re crazy.”

Fortunately, I often chafe at this type of control, and can therefore resist it. But every once in a while, when I’m feeling tired or insecure, that little voice has caused me to avoid taking chances, or has prevented me from speaking up. And now that I consider it a fascist voice, I abhor it even more.

I think it’s high time that we all overthrow the little dictators in our heads. Cast off the oppression. End the torture. Free our minds so that we can be our best selves. We can do it.

And incidentally, if you are someone who uses the terms fascism and communism interchangeably, here’s a little primer by way of clarification.

fascism

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The Dark of December

We are approaching Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year. It falls on December 21st, and when it finally arrives, I always feel like I’m coming up for air for the first time in months. It’s as if I’ve been walking through J.R.R. Tolkein’s Mirkwood in The Hobbit, and just as I am about to give up hope, I see light in the distance. I’m halfway there. I can do this.

If I can survive the fact that, here in the Pacific Northwest, the sun that day won’t come up until 7:54 am and will be back down at 4:20 pm, I can survive anything. I view that as a triumph.

And after that day, I have slightly longer days to look forward to. More room to breathe. Less time in front of my SAD light. Less time to feel sad. More hope.

I definitely feel an emotional difference with the seasons. It’s hard to take, being plunged into ever-increasing gloom, and having no real control over it. We are all enslaved by the sun, and its indifference and neglect in winter is a bit of a challenge. It’s hard not to take it personally.

But Spring is coming. Glorious, glorious spring! Enduring the dark winter makes me appreciate the rest of the year all the more.

I’ll leave you with this poem. It’s a life raft in the dark. All we have to do is hold on. Light will soon return.

I heard a bird sing
In the dark of December.
A magical thing
And sweet to remember.

“We are nearer to Spring
Than we were in September,”
I heard a bird sing
In the dark of December.
– Oliver Hereford

On a Dark Trail

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