A loveless sonnet

It seems, at first, an echo that we hear
That others speak the feelings in our heart
Yet once again the joy gives way to fear
Those who received now set themselves apart
An echo now distorted, signal lost
Transmission failed, the message won’t go through
When eyes and ears stay closed at any cost
An echo can’t be heard; signs, out of view
Some say they know the forms that love can take
And what they’re sure that love can never be
And swans are always white, but in this lake
A swan is black and swimming gracefully.
Seek pleasure first, let others do the same;
Perhaps one day we’ll speak love by its name.

At 12 years old I already knew that I could not trust my parents to give me honest, accurate information about sex and sexuality, about puberty, about masturbation, about desire and lust.

I had too little access to any other resources — at that age, it wasn’t a simple matter of “just get online,” even though I certainly did access what I could through the text-only web on dial-up as the opportunity came up. I also checked out books from the public library, including one erotic novel which will always hold a special place in my heart.

And yes, at 12 years old I very much DID need honest, accurate information. I wasn’t trying to go out and get laid; I didn’t even know what that was, and I didn’t have any burning urgency pushing me to interact with girls or boys or anyone… but I sure could have used something besides guilt and shame about masturbating, and I could have benefited a whole lot from someone to talk to about the fantasies I was having, about the smutty stories I was reading — maybe someone who could have said to me back then “oh! You seem to have an affinity for stories about BDSM, here’s what that is, and here’s what it’s NOT, and you’re not broken.” That last bit, especially — “You’re not broken, and you’re not alone.”

There’s a piece of online fiction I started reading, all those years ago, and never finished… but I can look back now and realize that was the first place I encountered the concept of a safeword. It wasn’t called that in the story, but it was introduced in simple, clear terms that “if at any point you don’t feel like you’re enjoying what’s going on, or you want things to stop, just say this word, and everything will stop and we’ll check in on you.” It was a great example of how negotiation and safety don’t have to “interrupt” a story, just like a single line about grabbing a condom doesn’t “ruin” a story like so many people want to claim. It would have been great to have someone I could trust to talk about that kind of stuff at the time.

Honestly, I think it’s gotta be even harder now than it was almost two thirds of my life ago — at 12, too many people are eager to call you a “child,” and if you dare to respond to your body in the ways that ought to be expected, and you don’t keep silent about it, you’re branded as a pervert… or just as often as a criminal. And fewer and fewer adults are willing to take the significantly increased risk of simply sharing accurate information with a young adult, because that’s enough to brand someone as a “molester” and a pervert… and, often, as a criminal as well.

I had sexual or erotic fantasies from at least the age of 5. From anecdotes I’ve heard from many other men and women both in person and online, I’m not nearly alone in that. I cannot count the times I’ve heard “oh, yeah… I was masturbating at 3 or 4. Didn’t know what it was, then, but I sure did!” We need to stop pretending that such things cannot possibly happen, and stop acting as if intentionally denying access to knowledge will *ever* help a society. It just doesn’t work that way.

I keep saying I’ll write more poetry. But then I don’t get most of the things done that I want to, need to, whatever… not these days. Still homeless. Still staying with The Rabbit up in the hills. Still barely coping.

Wrote this the other day — edited slightly for the blog here:

There are so many things I need help with. And most of them I can clearly articulate the ways I need help, and why — I have all that completely worked out.

The problem is, I need help to get the help that I need. And I don’t know how to get the help that will get me the help I need. And it’s also often likely that the help I need isn’t available, or isn’t available to me in particular, or isn’t available to me right now, etc. etc. etc.

And since I don’t know where to begin with getting help, or getting help to get help, or getting help to get help to get help… I don’t get a lot of things done that would make it easier for me to do more on my own, to need less help.

I need someone to hang out while I work on tackling the mess in the room I’m staying in. I need to have someone around on consecutive days, or at least not more than a few days apart, until it’s in a reasonably organized state. But, shit… I can’t even get someone to hang out with me for fun more than once or twice a month just for fun stuff, and that’s almost always the same person [Again] who comprises most of my extremely limited social life. Trying to repeatedly call and hassle and schedule and reschedule and coordinate just is way beyond my capacity.

I need a place to live. That’s… something that feels pretty much impossible, honestly. It’s been since at least July 2013 that I’ve been looking. It’s really been that long, because the lease on the place I shared with [MFP] originally expired in September 2013. I ended up staying there until February 2014, and I’ve been homeless since then, trapped up in this place in the hills where [The Rabbit] has a spare room (mostly storage, but there’s a bed here and I’ve really all but moved in.) I thought I had things settled for a while, but unfortunately things fell through and my hopes for getting out of here vanished — along with a few months of time that I might have otherwise been looking while prices have continued to rise everywhere.

There are other things I need, and much smaller things. I can often break down my needs into very small, theoretically manageable pieces… but I always seem to find that those are only manageable with assistance, or that the first step that I can do on my own requires another step to be accomplished by someone else, or requires something that can’t be done at all. There’s always some prerequisite to beginning to address my needs.

So I often just give up and avoid everything, instead… which doesn’t accomplish anything either. And I try to tell myself that I’m right to avoid trying to take care of things that I can’t, that I’m doing self-care, trying to spin little things that don’t honestly feel like accomplishments into “yay I got something done” and it feels like it’s all lies. I don’t believe myself when I say that “I took a relaxing bath, go me” was self-care… not when I know I went in there to shave my body because I was freaking out with the only dysphoria I really deal with and I didn’t shave at all. I don’t believe myself when I say that I got something accomplished today, because even though I got my bus pass for the month and ate a meal, I missed my pills and I didn’t call back the psychiatric intake folks who said they’d call me back last Thursday, and I didn’t stop at the couple of stores I planned to to stock up on some stuff for actual self-care, and I didn’t get several other things done that I needed to. The day feels wasted, and trying to say that I was awesome because I got a couple of things actually accomplished way behind schedule doesn’t feel honest.

I’m just rambling and not saying anything worth anything anymore, and I’m stalling laying down and maybe maybe maybe maybe maybe going to sleep. There’s food rotting in here. There’s so much mess overflowing everywhere it makes me want to scream. I need help. I don’t have help. I feel helpless and hopeless and I just want to get out of here, to be anywhere safe, and I don’t know how.

And it opened up my eyes — I saw the sign!

“He’s from Alabama? No wonder he’s such an idiot. All those stupid inbred redneck hicks come from the South.  Alabama, Georgia, Texas, whatever… his momma and his auntie are probably one and the same.”

“Man, I’d really love to have one of those Chinese girls for a wife… so sweet, and soft, and you know they never talk back to their husbands! I love that exotic air of mystery they have…”

“Wait, you said your teacher was condescending, impatient, and rude? Let me guess… totally a woman, right? Hate to say it, but that’s just how girls are!”

Totally offensive, right? Completely unacceptable things to say. I mean, they’re horrible things to believe, even if you keep your mouth shut about it, but I hope that most of you can recognize that these stereotypes are over-broad, that they deny the agency of any individual person who happens to fit into a category because of something to do with the circumstances of their birth.

There are millions of people born in the southeastern United States, hundreds of thousands (at least) in Alabama. To insist that you know anything about a person from that single fact is arrogant, ignorant, and completely narrow-minded. Sure, there are lots of people who make those assumptions anyway, but that doesn’t mean they’re right!

There are as many ways to be a woman as there are women — none of them more valid than any other. To insist that you know anything about someone based solely on their gender is arrogant, ignorant, and completely narrow-minded. Lots of folks still do, sadly.

And… ugh. Please, don’t get me started on the Colonialist, racist bullshit that sits behind the fetishization of East Asian women. Just… eww. And yes, sadly, there are plenty of folks who are into that. Shit, someone who’s a blood relation is off the deep end of that Orientalism cesspool, mail-order bride and everything. I’ve seen it up close, and it’s disgusting.

So what about this, then? “Oh, you just had your birthday? I bet you’re super sensitive to criticism, aren’t you? Always trying to help people out? You seriously need to get out and do something with your life, stop sitting around all the time!”

Especially if you just barely met someone, then I guarantee you that you don’t know enough about them to make those kinds of claims. But for some reason, it’s much more socially acceptable to deny individual agency and make arrogant assumptions about someone based on over-broad stereotypes… when you base it on one category about the circumstances of a person’s birth: that person is obviously a Pisces, and so you can generally get away with insisting that you know everything about them!

I call bullshit on that. I call bullshit just as much as on the rest of those sickening, harmful stereotypes, and I call bullshit on anyone who claims that they can take shortcuts instead of getting to know you. I call bullshit on projecting a stereotyped image that gets in the way of actually interacting with an individual.

I call bullshit on the laughable idea that the place and time of my birth have any bearing on my future. I call bullshit on the disempowerment of giving up control over what I do and how I do it, giving that up to some bullshit stereotype that some other humans decided to write up into tables and graphs and circles and charts and symbols. I call bullshit on anyone writing my future besides me.

And, no doubt, there will be folks who jump in to tell me that this is exactly what they’d expect from a [some guess at when I was born and what my “sign” is based on the aforementioned bullshit] — which of course leaves the wiggle-room of “oh, well, I guess I was wrong, but that one shares some traits with this other sign, so I was still right about the ignorant, arrogant, agency-denying assumptions I made! Ha!” And really? One thing I’ve found fairly consistently is that for folks who choose to give up their own agency to the star charts, it’s difficult for them to handle others who haven’t joined in with drinking the Kool-Aid.

Even worse is the folks who use their birth date as an excuse and a rationalization for their own failings — “Well, yeah, I should’ve admitted I was wrong about that, but you know how stubborn we Taurus folks are!” or “Yes, I know I was late… again… I just can’t seem to get things together, I’m definitely an airy, air-headed Gemini!” How about admitting personal fault instead of shrugging it off as inescapable? I suppose that would be too close to admitting that you’re responsible for yourself, instead of having the handy excuse of something “out there” having determined everything about you from the day you were born, wouldn’t it?

And as far as that goes, I can guarantee I know your sign.

If you care what people think, like they supply some missing link…

To the happy Christian, faith in Jesus Christ is an essential component of a healthy life.

To the happy atheist, avoiding “faith” and relying on observable data, reasoning, and logic are essential to being healthy.

To the happy veterinarian, knowing all about how to interpret the nonverbal communication of cats and dogs is essential to making a healthy income.

To the happy person who’s allergic to pet fur, simply staying away from cats and dogs is essential to staying healthy, and otherwise those animals don’t affect their income at all.

To the happy vegan, abstaining from eating or drinking all animal products is essential to a healthy diet.

To the happy omnivore, meat or milk or honey can be essential to eating healthy.

After interacting with someone who responded to one of my craigslist “housing wanted” ads a few days ago, I realized that I should probably include a mention of my eating meat, because the “no smoking” in my ad has been taken once again (as it has by more than one person) to suggest that I’m the type who avoids alcohol and every other substance, who thinks that sex is bad, who only eats vegetables and other plant-based stuff and considers all of that to be encompassed by the word “healthy.” (See also: fat shaming, gym-rats, “spirituality not religion,” white people super into “Eastern” culture/religion/medicine… not uncommon to find the all of those in one package.)

So I added a bit in there where I had already mentioned that I love to cook, and said “I enjoy food and the opportunity to cook (including meat, an essential component of a healthy diet.)” And for me, it is an essential component!

Next day I get a reply to that ad. Not someone offering housing, nope! Someone whose email shows their name as “yogamassage” (seriously, that’s what it showed… the fit for the stereotype is just too hilarious) writes:

It’s all good that you like meat and want it in your diet and are being upfront about it, but why say something so factually wrong as this?

(including meat, an essential component of a healthy diet.)

So now I’m wondering… should I tell all Christians who say that faith in Jesus Christ is essential that they are “so factually wrong?” How about telling atheists that they’re “so factually wrong” for living without faith? Is the vet or the person with allergies the one who’s “so factually wrong?” And does this “yogamassage” person understand that what is true for them does not and never will be truth for many other people? Apparently not!

I’ll end this by quoting (as I often have before) lyrics from Peter, Paul, and Mary’s “Rolling Home” —

There’s nothing big I want to prove
No mountain that I need to move
Or even claim what’s right or true for you…
My sights, my songs, are slightly charred
And you might think they’ve missed their mark
But things are only what they are
And you’re nothing new —
But for me? I think they’ll do.
For me, I think they’ll do.

Why don’tcha leave me alone? I feel so broke-up…

It’s interesting — I have to keep reminding myself that not everyone can see the traces of someone’s editing process in their writing like I can. And there’s some interesting things I notice…

For example, I got a reply to one of my Craigslist “housing wanted” ads yesterday. Someone who had actually read the ad — a rarity — and followed the instructions for contacting me. She mentioned that she had two rooms opening up (a bad sign for me, because it means moving in with one near-stranger and one complete stranger) and linked me to the ad she had up for the other, more expensive room. The room she was writing to me about was already at my maximum, and I’d be expected to additionally share the cost of utilities, which put it way out of my reach.

But the things that stood out to me were that even though she talked about herself first, it showed that she’d initially given her list of requirements first — in the “Me:” section were things like “I’m also a non-smoker, non-drinker, and vegan” for example, and other stuff that referenced the section down below about “You: must be (blah blah blah.)”

And in that section, she had things like “not a heavy drinker” and something about how “you recognize that housekeeping is a part of life” and how you’ll make sure the house “stays very tidy” and holy shit, the way she wrote it translated so clearly as “I’m an anal-retentive neat freak and likely a control freak as well” and then she ended that section by saying “bonus points” if you’re vegetarian or vegan.

She also mentioned in there that you “won’t have frequent overnight guests.” Okay, look — I really, really don’t understand the sex-hate and the slut-shaming around here. Whether in the (once-upon-a-time) Hippie Central of Berkeley or the supposed “Queer Capital” of San Francisco (though that’s becoming more Oakland these days) or anywhere in the “Gay Area” — the first thing I see is “no overnight guests.” Occasionally I’ll see something like this chick wrote, and it’s “no frequent overnight guests.” And it makes no fucking sense to me! Look, I get not wanting someone to “not quite move in” their significant other. I’ve lived with the Girl-Child and her Boy-Toy who “didn’t live there” — he just stayed over every single night, hung out there every single day, and made the water and gas bills triple in just the first month with all of the hour-long shower-sex sessions they were having. That sucks, and I wouldn’t expect anyone to be okay dealing with that. But having someone over two or three times a week? Someone who leaves in the morning, has minimal interaction with and minimal impact on anyone else living there? News flash: some people fuck. Some people aren’t ashamed of that. Some people don’t do monogamy. Some people don’t have a “steady partner” who has their own home and doesn’t care that “my place or yours” always has the same answer.

But remember, kids — sex is bad, mmkay? Even if it’s part of looking after and maintaining your health! Trying to explain that to people is often not worth the effort. Also — okay, you choose to eliminate a bunch of potential food sources from your dietary intake, as a matter of your overall health and well-being. I choose to give my body the foods that it needs for my overall health and well-being. But in the Bay Area there are more folks who selectively restrict their diets (and many more who have the financial luxury of being able to do so) than there are people like me — poor and not picky. But even if I were rich I wouldn’t try to harm myself that way. Finding housing with other omnivores is another headache on top of everything else.

So is finding housing without animals running around… I’m allergic to pets, and I don’t much like most of them anyway. I may play with your cat, as long as I can get away afterwards, and I’ll avoid your dog (yes, I’m sure she’s the sweetest little puppy in the whole wide world, and I don’t think she’s going to bite me. I’m not scared of her, just not fond of her. Really. Yes, I know that she licks my hands and face because she likes me. Should I lick your hands and face, too? Oh, yeah, that is kinda gross. Welcome to my world.)  The times that I do find animal-free housing, it’s the folks who make everything to do with animals a political rallying point. And I can’t deal with cigarette smoke, either — finding smoke-free places often means also finding people who think that alcohol is a horrible, disgusting thing, that anyone who drinks is a moral failure and a worthless, unmotivated loser who just needs to find a purpose so they won’t need to lean on those drugs anymore. And look, I don’t care if you use pot, smoked or vaped or edible or whatever. I might have even encountered it myself at some point, and I don’t think I could claim it’s a bad thing at all — seems like (hypothetically, of course) it would be rather pleasant. But I can’t live with it, not in the same space I’m supposed to call home. Sure, come home high as fuck sometimes, I couldn’t give any less of a shit. Come home drunk, whatever — I certainly will sometimes! But most folks seem to expect that if you’re cool with one drug, you’re cool with them all, and in any amount, and at all times. Moderation or being selective isn’t possible, somehow… if you’re cool with booze, you’re obviously cool with weed and tobacco and who knows, maybe someone does a few lines when they get home tonight, why would you care? Or you’re on the other end of things: no tobacco, no cannabis, no alcohol, and if you choose to take any of those into your body you’re a horrible person who deserves to suffer because clearly you don’t care about yourself!

Just… Ugh. No men, no pets, no smoking. Yes to meat, yes to sex, yes to booze. I’d ask why that’s such an incredibly difficult concept, but then I remember that it’s only incredibly difficult when you’re trying to spend over 90% of your above-the-table income on rent, and you’re not likely to find even the bottom-end options for under 150% of your income.  I’m too broke to ask for basic access needs, and if I do, I’m somehow a super-picky bitch.

I just wanna go home.

(untitled poetry)

Wake with a headache like every other day
I think I’m clenching my jaw while I sleep
Bounced awake today by the crashing panicked sounds of
(which means running early, honestly, for them)
and that goddamned
From every entry or exit
(why are the wealthy so desperately afraid?)

I manage to get myself upright
Empty the bladder
(and this time I don’t even have to find a way to cover my body in pretended shame)
Start into the morning routine,
Checking mail
Paying next month’s bills
(since I have enough money to do so now)
Look through Facebook, nothing critically important
Just a handful of posts complaining about
Fat women comfortable in their bodies,
Gay men enjoying sex for themselves
Religious and ethnic minorities daring to question their shitty treatment
(why do the folks benefiting most from oppression so full of hate?)

Before I can get away, get dressed, get out, get fed
The others are back again
Announcing that the perimeter has been breached
(they’re coming for us! you’re not safe! there’s somebody in the house! be afraid!)
Though the sniffing, snorting, nose-blowing, coughing, choking, guh-HURK! guh-HRRRRRRRRHHHHKKKKK!
Of a still-untreated sickness just as loudly signals to me
That I am not safe
That I am not alone
That I am not allowed any peace
(why are my simple and specific needs so difficult to consider, so hard for others to take seriously?)

So instead of actually getting anything done,
I’m sitting here typing up this stupid thing
Doing anything I can to make more noise
Because the only option I ever seem to have is to harm myself
In a manner of my own choosing
Or to let others decide the method and amount of harm

fuck everything


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