February 18, 2012

I am a straight, white male of upper-middle class means and European descent.

Which essentially means, on some intrinsic level, that I’m kindof an asshole.  It’s not intentional.  It’s not a choice.  I’m born this way.  I am the beneficiary of a long line of straight, white males of upper-middle class means and European descent… all of whom were slightly bigger assholes.

I’ve inherited this assholeness.  This privilege.  This rotten, funky nonsense that, thanks to years of post-graduate education, has coalesced into an exquisite mound of White Guilt.

In a way, it’s not unlike colon cancer.  It’s a pain in my ass passed down from man to man throughout my genetic heritage.  I don’t want it.  I didn’t ask for it.  But there it is… this horrible little meaty bomb in my belly… just waiting to go off and kill me.

The only thing I can do?  Learn as much as I can about it; try to keep an eye on it.

— — — — — —

It’s a Friday night.  I’m half-drunk on a bottle of wine, and I’m 2/3 through a pack of cigarettes.  I’ve long-since given up on washing my dishes and cleaning my kitchen – an activity I set myself to accomplish tonight so that, should the few dates I have lined up prove successful, I won’t appear to be the entropic dirtball I really am.

So, with all of this work ahead of me – and there is, indeed, a pile of work to do as my apartment, having survived the mire of a post-breakup depression, looks not unlike a Baltimore crack house – I decide the thing to do is to sit on my fat ass, smoke a cigarette, continue drinking wine and fuck around on Facebook.

After about an hour of looking at my own pictures, I come across a post by a man who I’ll call Sal.  I met Sal a few months ago at a story slam.  He told a story about being gay.  And it was a good one.  Not one of those, “Oh… you’re gay.  Who cares?” stories, but a story about what it is to be different and strange and desirous of a real identity.  something you can put your hands on.  A story, ultimately, about being human.

Sal’s post is a commentary which I’m forced to paraphrase, as it’s no longer up on his page (the reasons for which I’ll explain in a long, rambling moment).  It, in essence, reads thusly:

“I find it interesting that people would accuse a man of being a bigot while, in the same breath, mock him for being overweight.”

Utilizing my god-given gift for snuffling out context clues, I inferred that he was commenting on others’ attacks against Chris Christie.  Because when I think “fat bigot,” I think Chris Christie.

Facebook had been riddled with anti-Christie posts all day long.  As promised, he had just recently vetoed a NJ Senate decision to support Gay Marriage rights.  I, like many of my friends, groaned at this.  Because fuck him – let people be happy.

That said, I agreed with Sal.  Yeah.  It is a bit dissonant to excoriate a man for judging others while simultaneously judging him.  “Way to go, Sal” I thought, “way to be intellectually impartial.”

Sal, you see, is gay.  Or, at least, I had assumed (correctly, mind you) that he was gay.

Now, this is a tricky business – assuming someone to be gay.  It’s something that I’m a bit sensitive over… what with my own sexuality having been the subject of ridicule for many of my teenaged years.  I’ve always hated the idea that one’s sexuality is measurable by the observations of people you haven’t fucked.  Observations rooted in lazy, uncreative stereotypes.  I like poetry, sad movies, cleverness, emotional discussions and opera.  Straight men are supposed to like football, College gross-out humor, cheerleaders, taciturnity and Bruce Springsteen.  I fail many of these metrics… and therefore must be gay.

The fact that I both fuck and fantasize about fucking women is immaterial.

I hate this.  Not because it shakes my sense of identity… but because I think it’s shitty reasoning.  And nothing irritates me faster than shitty reasoning.

Still – my own sensitivity to misjudging a man or woman’s sexuality based on shallow observations aside – this dude seemed totally gay.  The crisp affect.  The sharp fashion.  The sway.  And, of course, the fact that when I met him, he was telling a story about how he’d spent the majority of his childhood saving his allowance money to buy Barbara Streisand albums.  I don’t care if he’s a homosexual or not… buying Streisand albums is totally gay.

So anyway – Sal, a gay man, makes this point that we shouldn’t bash Christie’s weight, regardless of his social/moral positions.  And I agreed.  “Yeah, Sal!” I say.  “I’m a member of Christie’s state… and I think his position on this issue is totally bonkers.  But that doesn’t give me the right to mock his body.  I consider myself to be firmly behind any movement that upholds the dignity and rights of my neighbors.  So, I guess, I’m behind Christie on this.  Though,” I add cheekily, “that’s mostly due to the fact that I enjoy the shade.”


I’d responded with a clear statement of moral and political opinion… and followed it up with a puckish little joke, just to show that I don’t take myself too seriously.  In terms of Facebook comments… I’d say it was gold.

But this agreement, unfortunately, begins an argument.

Sal responds by impugning the idea of gay marriage.  He insists that it’s a non-issue.  That Christie had, in fact, been supportive of the gay community by lowering the NJ state flag to half-mast to commemorate the death of Whitney Huston – a gay icon.

Houston’s dubious credit as a gay icon aside… I took issue with his characterization of gay marriage as a non-issue.  “I don’t know if it’s a non-issue,” I responded, “I’m a taxpaying citizen of Christie’s state… and I think it’s an issue.  It’s a matter of equal rights.  I’m not gay, personally, so I have no practical dog in this fight… but I couldn’t ever support a policy that would enforce separate rights for American citizens.  You’re either equal or you’re not.  That’s not morals… that’s math.”

It’s at this point that Sal – a gay man – calls me gay.  And then he proceeds to say, “Of course you would shrug off the marriage issue.  You’re what, 30 years old?  Your parents probably got divorced and shattered the illusion that Barney gave you – that you’re a precious little snowflake who’s always right.”

My retort: “Well, my parents never really got the opportunity to get a divorce… what with my mother dying of cancer at 42 and all.  But please, continue your ill-informed and uncreative assault against my generation.  Honestly, it’s fascinating.”

It went on like this for a while – each post a further gathering of inanity.

Sal went on to insist that marriage is a cornerstone of our society.  That were we to allow gays to marry, we’d have to allow polygamy, and eventually incest.  I responded by mentioning how equal marriage rights isn’t a slippery slope – it’s an expression of the most fundamental ideals upon which our flimsy democracy is founded.

“Equal marriage rights?” he says, “God, it sounds so Orwellian.”

“Have you even read Orwell?” I respond, saucily.  “Equal marriage rights isn’t Orwellian.  You know what’s Orwellian?  The idea that ‘some animals are more equal than others.’  You wanna know why that’s Orwellian?  Because Orwell fucking wrote it.”

The whole time I’m arguing with this guy, I’m wondering: Wait, dude… aren’t you gay?  Weren’t you the one telling a story about being gay in front of an entire audience?  Aren’t you out?  You’re in your fucking 40s, and you’re out.  What’s this pablum about marriage being the cornerstone of our society?  What century are you from?  Our society isn’t monolithic.  It’s a goddamn prism.  It’s a bunch of subcultures all trying their best not to hate each other.

Sal tells me I’m a miserable little “Millennial.”  He insists that I’m being petulant and that he’s somehow hurt my feelings and that I’m a whiny little crybaby who can’t handle not being right.

I tell Sal that he’s attacking my generation and avoiding the points I’m making.

The whole argument makes us both look stupid.  Because it’s a Friday night, and we’re arguing on Facebook.  Because we are stupid.

Surely someone must have logged in under his account, I think.  Surely this isn’t him.  There must be some sensible explanation for all of this.

But it is him, it turns out.  It’s the guy I’d met who shook my hand and told me I told a good story and invited me to tell more stories in DC, where he’s apparently a big muckitymuck in the story scene.

I mouthed off to a guy who knows a guy who knows the gal who knows the guy who might invite me to tell more stories – a thing I love to do, because I’ve got a big mouth and finally there’s an outlet for it.  Finally there’s a way for me to tell stories about when I was a weird, goony kid trying to define and identify himself in a world so dead set on restricting who he’d become.  Finally I could stand in front of people (something I love doing, as it satiates my throbbing narcissism) and tell stories, ultimately, about being human.  Because that’s what good stories do.  And this guy should know – he told one.

How did I get into this argument?  I mean – how did I get into this argument in ways other than I’m a mouthy dickhead who didn’t want to clean his kitchen and took it personally when he mentioned something about my parents because I’m still fucked up over the fact that my mom’s dead?  Why am I fighting with a gay guy about gay marriage… and taking the side of the gay guy… against a fucking gay guy?

I call a friend of mine.  I’ll call him Zongo, because I think it’s funny.  Zongo’s sleepy and doesn’t want to talk to me because I’m annoying and I talk too much, but he’s a sport and he lets me prattle at him for a while.  Zongo’s bi – and he’s more conversant with this guy’s culture than I am.  I met Zongo in grad school – he’s a better man than me.  He’s a person who actually thinks the phrase “social justice” means something.  To me it’s always been too rhetorically nebulous.  To me, it’s no different than the phrase “family values” – just hyped up, over-emotional sloganeering… only from a socially progressive viewpoint.

Zongo doesn’t judge me for thinking this.  He sighs, smiles and is my friend anyway.

Everyone should be friends with Zongo.

I tell Zongo the details of the argument – the fact that an argument started with agreement and then reduced itself to a straight guy arguing with a gay guy about gay marriage – and the straight guy is the one in favor of it.

“Somebody’s gotta tell me the fucking rules,” I say.

And then Zongo tells me that sometimes people who’ve been taught to hate themselves can crack under the pressure.  Sometimes all that unkindness can just engulf you – can lead you to think and act and do some wacky things.  He talks blearily to me about things I hadn’t considered, because I’ve been too busy thinking about myself and my big mouth and the stories I want to tell.

And then my white guilt kicks in again.

I have absolutely no idea how to interact with others’ sorrow.

I don’t know how to understand their world.

Because to me the world is little more than a series of arguments I haven’t won yet.  It’s a thing I get to conquer with my big stupid mouth.  To me the world is a thing that should care when I’m right, that should bow down to my logic (or when I’m not being logical, my volume, derision, and glibness).  The world is just something I should be able to brow beat into submission… because that’s my right.  My privilege.  I’m privileged to think that it matters if I’m right or not.

I have no idea what to take from my argument with Sal.  I think he’s wrong.  Moreover, I think he acted like a dick.  Those things bother me.  They’re why I started writing this in the first place.  But what bothers me now that I’m finished is the realization that the fact that I’m bothered doesn’t matter.  That it isn’t about me.  That, in the most roundabout way, through his boundless wrongness… Sal was right – not about gay marriage, but about me.

I’m a precious, whining, petulant little snowflake.  I’m a mewling Millennial momma’s boy.

I fucking hate that.