Wednesday, November 13, 2002

Oh my Lord. I joked about this a little, but now Working Assets is really starting a campaign? I wonder if I should really write them. It'll never happen, not in a billion years. The difference between the Jeffords situation and now is that in 2001 it could honestly be said that the people hadn't voted for a unified Republican government, so Jeffords was really representing their will. Also, the Democrats are in terrible shape, have no coherent ideology, and just aren't capable of attracting migration right now. Even if all of those senators joined the Democrats,or became independents, there's at least an even chance that the Republicans would retake the Senate again in '04, making them as much the junior high school nerds as Jeffords is now. At least then there's be enough of them so they could get together as a group and exact some Revenge.
A few days after the election I was so distressed and so eager to seize on whatever I felt that I could do that would be the Right Thing (which in politics often seems very muddled. Even the principled Right Thing is muddled about 75% of the time, and the tactical Right Thing that you do in order to accomplish the principled Right Thing is muddled even more of the time), that I called my Congressman, Jerrold Nadler, to tell him to support Nancy Pelosi for House Majority Leader, because she was the left-winger and I'd read Martin Frost being quoted as saying that "the Democrats need to move further right." I got a little emotional on the phone with the staffer, and he tried to head me off as I started to declaim, "The idea that what the party needs is to move Right right now is so illogical..." to tell me that Nadler would be supporting Pelosi, and I thought, "Oh, right. Nadler (or his staffer) isn't really the one to be taking my rage out on. He represents the People's Republic of the Upper West Side, as my boss Isabelle likes to put it.

I still think I was right to be incensed by Frost's comments, but not exactly for the reasons I felt at the time. My boss Isabelle said she thought the party should move left and collect grassroots support, prepare to be out of power for a long time, and reemerge stronger, with an energized base in twenty odd years. She was basing this model on her view of what the right wing has been doing for the last twenty years, concocting a radical vision that most people don't even understand the full extent of at the moment, things like a new Takings Clause jurisprudence that would mandate that the government would be required to compensate private industry monetarily for the cost of any regulation imposed upon it, i.e., to make government regulation nearly impossible. In this spirt, that is the "Democrats should move left to recapture the imagination of progressives and build a stronger base" spirit, did I call Jerrold Nadler. But I think that was wrong. I still think Frost is the wrong person to lead the Democrats; the last thing we need is another Democrat who publically mocks the core ideals of liberalism, or who wants to rush to be indistinguishable from Bush. If Democrats aren't going to try to oppose Bush at all, then they might as well not exist. You can't be an opposition party if you don't oppose anything.

It's overwhelming reading all of the "What the Democrats Need to Do Now" punditry, but I'm basically coming to the conclusion that the Democrats shouldn't move way left. They currently have an advantage over Republicans (though they persistently fail to communicate this advantage) in that they represent the best interests of the American middle class (and of course, the lower classes), and thus the vast majority of Americans. If they veered off to the left they'd lose this advantage. Now they need to start communicating it.

Here's an E.J. Dionne article about their failure to communicate, and a Washington Monthly article that has more overt policy prescriptions. They say things I’ve been thinking, like why on earth couldn’t the Democrats have argued for short term tax cuts for economic stimulus, but not making the tax cuts permanent? And I totally marveled at how Bush managed to club the Democrats over the head with Homeland Security when the department was the Democrats’ idea. But you’d think if they were going to be so intractable about the union status of the employees, they could have at least talked about the reasons for thatposition, like the need for union whistle blower protections because of things like this, or the importance of intelligence gathering that’s independent of patronage, because otherwise the intelligence gatherers will just find what the higher ups tell them to see. But I never heard a peep of these arguments in the media—it was just “Tom Daschle owed a favor to his union buddies.” Some of that’s the media’s fault, but a lot of it’s just the Democrats’. Why didn’t they defend their positions? I also wondered why they couldn’t say anything about how Bush’s prosecution of the war on terrorism has been less than ideal, what with abandoning Afghanistan to the warlords and all, as Peter Beinart suggested they could. I know that concept takes more then a sentence to convey, so it doesn’t quite make a snappy campaign slogan (Mickey Kaus thinks it’s delusional to think “Let’s Get Afghanistan Moving Again” is going to rescue the Dems from their slump), but if they were really out there stumping – on-message, as they say – trying to communicate that the Democratic party does really stand for a coherent set of ideals and policy goals, then…then I don’t know what, but I don’t think they’d be failing as miserably as they are.

And most of all, they should really get serious about national security. Here’s an example:

I had never heard of Howard Dean, until TPM introduced him to me today. I then read the New Republic profile of him. He seems like he has a lot of the qualities of a principled moderate that would be helpful in articulating opposition to Bush, although the Religious Right will sure be fired up about his signing the civil unions act. I don't think being the little-known governor of a small state is an insurmountable obstacle--look at Clinton.

I know the election is two years away, but he already has a website. He should be articulating his plan for national security and soon, since the worst thing about the Democrats, not only in the strategic sense but in the principled sense, is their fundamental unseriousness about that issue. It really is inexcusable to think you can take issues like Iraq "off the table" and still argue that you should be the party in power. We *are* faced with serious national security threats, definitely from Al-Qaeda, possibly eventually from Iraq. You can't not have an agenda for the war against terrorism and the broader issue of international security because you like domestic politics better, and frankly, part of me understands why voters were inclined to reward Republicans. Actually, no, part of me doesn't, since voters should have understood that the current Democratic Senate really wasn't doing anything to hamper the war on terrorism and was the last puny check on the Republican's disastrous domestic policies. But I think less and less that most voters, at least the "swing voters" who tend to decide elections, think that rationally. But the point is, they need to get serious about national security not just because it could mean the difference between whether they’re in power or not, but because it could in fact mean the difference between whether their being in power would be a good thing or not. I don’t want my country run by Bush, but I also don’t want my country run by a spineless bunch of weasels who don’t want to pay attention to anything that’s happening on the world stage because they don’t think it benefits them politically, either. Ferchrissake, I live in Midtown Manhattan.

Am I out of my mind? Have I completely flipped my lid? Am I one taco short of a combination plate? I think I must be. Check out number 39. What's wrong with this?

Duh! West Side Story.

Okay, make that Sweeney Tood, Passion, Les Miz, West Side Story and Man of La Mancha. Flower Drum and Rent are both out.

Tuesday, November 12, 2002

Maybe he's alive, but that doesn't make him any less sooo 2001. Who does he think he's fooling?

You need to be the head of a rogue nation state to get any publicity in today's media climate. Retro is in. Someone get this guy a competent marketing and branding agency. And some enriched uranium. Maybe he should unveil a new 2003 Headcovering--no, the turban and the beard do make him recognizable, increasing his Q Score. But he could at least change outfits. Always those military fatigues. Maybe he's got some sleek new look (doubt it), but we wouldn't know since he never appears for press junkets or even a quick photo shoot anymore. Absence doesn't make the heart grow fonder in the race to be part of an Axis of Evil; you're hot or else you're not. You'll notice Saddam, Sexy Villain 2002, loves to pose for the camera and often looks rather dashing. Click here, here, and here. Okay, he's not Jeremy Irons in Die Hard 3,* but you can see why he commands some attention. Kim Jong-Il, by contrast: equally brutal dictator, starves his people, craves power, has the bomb--should be scarier than Saddam, really, but barely a blip on the media radar. Why? It's the clothes, baby.

*This photo fails to convey why Jeremy Irons was so sexy in Die Hard 3, but I wasn't about to spend hours combing the internet for the precise still I wanted. See the movie. Watch him stride commandingly across catwalks in the steamy factory he uses as his base of operations, wearing a sleeveless shirt that reveals his wiry musculature--you can see his body tense with anticipation and energy in the forward curve of his pectorals--his eyes sweep the field before him, absorbing every detail of his circumstances with perfect focus and unrivaled intensity--he is smarter, more competent, and more visionary than everyone else around him. He's just the kind of villain you want to be the vinyl catsuit-clad lover and right-hand-woman of, heading up a part of the operation (perhaps a part that requires distracting some well-muscled but hapless cop), grabbing a few moments in a broom closet together while the police copters circle overhead, loving the thrill of the execution of the largest-scale robbery in New York City history but all the while looking forward to the day when you'll retire to the Costa del Sol to have your servants spread your money out for you on satin sheets (maybe you won't totally retire; you have always admired the Crown Jewels)...but that day never comes because you watch your lover plunge to his death (though you never see the body) at the hand of some beefy dogooding ex-husband of Demi Moore, of all the no talent tramps. You escape and live underground, until one day a dark-haired federal agent finds you in the dive in Bucharest where you're drowning your sorrows in vodka, straight up (or however you say that in Rumanian), and tells you U.S. law enforcement needs your help, wouldn't you like to use your powers for good instead of evil? You probably wouldn't except you're down on your luck, in need of some cash, and the cop is sort of sexy, and then is born an unlikely pairing, each of you ostensibly working towards the same goal of catching some terrorist or drug kingpin, not quite trusting but increasingly attracted to the other, until finally you consummate the attraction, and gradually come to care more and more for each other, until one day you are sent undercover to infiltrate some covert cell and, among the smaller time rogues and thieves, you find playing cards who but...

I digress. None of this was actually in the movie. Jeremy Irons was hot, that's my point.
Some background, then some metablogging.


The only relationship I've ever had that even approached seriousness, other than my spectacularly painful and dysfunctional relationship with my college boyfriend, was a relationship with this boy Tom, whom I met on Nerve. He lives in Cambridge (Mass.). I can't call him my ex-boyfriend, because I didn't call him my boyfriend when we were dating. I called him my everything-but-fuck buddy, which is one of those terms that is ambiguous said aloud but crystal clear in print. Leave me to come up with that kind of term. Why I didn't want to call him my boyfriend: I wasn't sure that I could ever be in love with him. He, in the beginning, was in contrast very expressive of his passion for and devotion to me (or at least his potential passion and devotion). My reserve largely stemmed from my being only ambivalently attracted to him, though I felt more attracted to him over time. He had gorgeous eyes and eyelashes, for the record. Actually, not for the record, but for him, since there's a good chance he's reading. (I'll consider these possibilities in the metablogging segment of this post). In fact, I always considered our relationship one of the interesting phenomena made possible by the internet: I might never have wanted to date him if I hadn't spent a month corresponding with him without knowing what he looked like. Then again, maybe I overestimate the singularity of growing to be attracted to someone; I’ve become more attracted to everyone I’ve ever dated, and maybe I would have eventually wanted to be with him even if I hadn't met him over the internet, since I did feel more genuinely attracted to him as I knew him longer. Even in the course of the first night I spent with him (in New York; he came down to visit) my feelings toward him changed. When I first saw him, I didn't feel attracted to him at all, and I felt absolutely miserable that there was seemingly no possibility of joyfully consummating a relationship with someone I had felt so close to in print for weeks beforehand. But in a couple of hours I started to see him differently, and I remember looking at him, totally perplexed as to my own inner state: do I want to kiss him or not? I kept asking myself. And he would look at me at the same time, utterly confused, and I didn't blame him, since I was so confused myself. Eventually I did kiss him. He thanked me. I recently saw the movie Iris, and the young John and Iris reminded me a little of me and Tom. John thanks Iris the first time she kisses him, too.

I also didn't like that he lived in Cambridge. The glue that bound together the thousand fractured pieces of my spectacularly painful relationship with my college boyfriend was our sex life, so in my experience, you needed a strong sexual bond as a starting point to make a relationship work, and I didn't think I could develop such a bond with a boy who I saw at best every three weeks. Plus I was poor, and I couldn't deal with the financial ramifications of traveling to Cambridge on a regular basis. And I had some notion then of keeping my options open, plenty of fish in the sea and all that jazz. I had a different attitude towards the sexual possibilities for me in the world than the collapsed, morose pessimism of my present moment. Those were the issues. Actually, those were the superficial issues, the things that made me reserved on the outset. There were plenty of other issues that arose as time went on: he had possibly the worst communication skills of any very smart person I've ever met. Now, I am no one to judge other people for concocting paranoid fantasies about the horrible things another person is thinking about them, in addition to being Queen of the Goblins, I am also the Queen of Concocting Paranoid Fantasies About the Horrible Things Another Person Is Thinking About Me. But usually I manage to keep silent about my paranoid fantasies, or confess them to a third party who pooh-poohs them, or at worst I ask the person, "Do you think X horrible thing about me?" And when the person says, "No, I don't think X horrible thing about you," I try to believe them, and even when lingering doubts remain, I do everything I can to stamp them out. Tom would concoct this same kind of fantasy, but didn't seem to have any self-consciousness about his paranoid tendencies, so he regarded every bizarre perception he had as irreproachable fact. What's worse, he'd inform you of this. The best example is his reaction to my (somewhat snotty, to be sure, but no one who knows me even a little bit can expect me to never be even a little bit snotty) remarks that Boston was an inferior city to New York. He insisted that these remarks were masked expressions of my dissatisfaction with him and my secret desire to be away from him. By insisting, I mean not only that he thought these things, but that he said them aloud to me. When I said, "No, Tim, I'm not expressing dissatisfaction with you when I say that I don't like Boston," he not only refused to believe me (and I was telling the truth), but he told me that he didn't believe me, and tried to argue me into conceding that I wasn't talking about Boston at all, but him. The only constructive way to respond to this, I finally decided, was to find positive things to say about Boston, which I tried one night. But when I accidentally lapsed into saying that I didn't like the architecture of a certain building, he seized on it as yet another example of my buried discontent. It was very aggravating, let me tell you.

Eventually, he broke up with me. This was a) a surprise and b) very hurtful. I had thought I would be the one to break up with him. I was pissed about getting gypped out of that opportunity. I had never been The Powerful One in a relationship, and I had started out that way in this one, and I didn't know how it had been turned around on me without my noticing. On the other side of the same coin, I resented all the energy I had expended worrying about how I might hurt him, how now someone's delicate emotions were entrusted to me and I had damn well do a better job with them than the boys I'd known had with mine. I was angry that he had blindsided me. He somehow maintained that he had communicated his growing dissatisfaction with me (his best example of this was that he had told me on the phone: "I'm happy with my life the way it is now." According to him, I was to take this to mean that he was happy with his life in Cambridge without me. I though he meant he was happy with his life in Cambridge and me long distance), but I hadn't perceived it. In fact, a week and a half before breaking up with me, he told me, "I'm mad about you. Crazy about you. I'm practically in love with you." I was angry about how meaningless things people said seemed always to turn out to be. And I'm still really angry about that, in a multitude of contexts. It might be the single thing that makes me angriest about life. There might be more important things to be angry about, but that one seems to sting me the most frequently and the most harshly.

Why he broke up with me: You should probably ask him. My understanding (once I got past all the bullshit reasons) was because we did argue, which made him uncomfortable. He didn’t think we got along well enough. I usually have a pretty high threshold for the arguments I can tolerate in a relationship. (I also maintain that when we argued I was usually right.) Also my endless expressions of doubt about the future of our relationship (which were my well-intentioned but misguided efforts to be honest from him, and thus protect him from the thing that makes me angriest) finally rubbed off on him. Why should he surrender himself to someone who seemed unwilling to surrender herself to him? And he had a point there.

Anyway, we didn't speak for about two months, then we gradually started emailing again. When I first started my current job, I would email him a lot. Sometimes I felt really close to him again (in a platonic way). Once, in a conversation about a budding relationship he had, he told me he was getting better about easing up on his near ceaseless stream of self-deprecation and letting go of his paralyzing fear of emotional and physical intimacy that prevented him from responding to even obvious inviting signals from women. He attributed at least some of this improvement to me: "That's my way of saying thanks for yelling at me all these months." I was very moved. I love it when people credit me for their growth as a person. That's my ambition in life (see number 14). I cried a little bit at work when I read that email. I felt so close to him.

Once I suggested visiting Boston to see him and some other friends. He had no response to this. When I prodded: "Would you want to see me if I came?" He said: "It depends," in a tone that I read as hostile. "Depends on what?" I asked. "If I'm working 80 hours a week at the store," he said, as if it were obvious. This sounded like a less than enthusiastic response to seeing me. It would have been easy to say: "You're thinking of coming up; that would be great. Make sure you come up when I'm not too busy at the store." Another time he came to NYC, but he didn't tell me he had been here till after he was gone. He said he'd only come to meet his friend Genevieve, who was in crisis over girlfriend drama, and he wouldn't have had time to see me. But I thought it would have been a lot nicer if he'd told me ahead of time he was coming and at least attempted to make an effort to arrange, say, a half hour coffee date. Even if no coffee were had, I would have felt better if he had made the attempt. Then a little while later he was talking about traveling after he quit his job, and I said I'd like it if he came to NY and visited me. He said he wanted to "get out of the Northeast." This sounded like a bizarre evasion to me; when we were dating he always talked about how much he loved New York (he as well thought Boston was inferior). I wrote him to say that I thought a pattern was emerging, and it was becoming clearer to me that he didn't want to see me in person. He didn't respond.

A few days later, I wrote an email to a group of my friends about how depressed and insecure I felt after getting a letter from my father. It was a nice letter, just wanting to talk again, but it scared me because my father was often really erratic, loving one moment, full of rage the next, and I didn't trust him, and I didn't want to open myself or my life up to his judgment or criticism. As soon as I thought about communicating to him, I thought about seeing my life through his eyes, and it looked pretty bleak and pathetic. I wrote about all of this in my email to my friends.
Tom responded, "If there's anything I can do, let me know." I wrote back, "You can come see me, or at least you can make me feel like you want to see me, or at the very least you can tell me why you don't want to see me."

Tom didn't write back.

About five days later he forwarded me an email with some literary jokes. I was furious. What did, "If there's anything I can do, let me know" mean? I asked. Not very much, evidently. He could come down to NY for Genevieve but even after he explicitly offered his help to me when I said I needed it he couldn't even spare me a few honest lines in an email. How could he just forward me jokes and think I would accept such superficial communication when there was obviously something I wanted to talk about? If he couldn't be giving enough even to say the little things that make someone believe that someday you'd like to get together with them for coffee, then what was our friendship to him?

We exchanged a couple of emails. Finally, I told him that even if a relationship that exclusively consisted of correspondence was okay with him, it really wasn't with me. I needed to believe that the people I call my friends would want to give me a ring when they were in town, that seeing my face and my person were important to them. We didn't talk after that, but I kept him on my mass email distribution list (at least sometimes he kept me on his).

Then, about a week ago, he responded to a funny movie I sent out of a penguin whacking another penguin into the water with his flipper. Hee, he wrote.
Thanks, I needed that.

Long time no hear, I wrote. I had always wanted to know the name of his LiveJournal, so I told him I'd tell him I'd tell him the address of my blog if he told me his LiveJournal name. He told me. He asked to see pictures of my pumpkin, which I told him I didn't have yet. Then he didn't write back.

For the record, or for him, or both: I don't mean to make him out to be some irredeemable collection of neuroses, if that's the impression I've so far conveyed. In most ways he is a lovely and sensitive person. He is utterly genuine and unaffected. His view of the world, when it isn't rationalistically irrational (if that makes any sense), which is mainly when he's threatened, is gentle and humane. He's thoughtful about all of the things I care about. He wants to discover and create meaning; he wants to discover and create beauty. I've never felt so much like someone saw the world the way I did than I did when I was talking to Tim. Okay, maybe it's a little egotistical for that to be my last sentence in a paragraph praising him. Here's a new one: more than anyone else I know, I think he has the potential to become a great writer and filmmaker, the two things I know he wants to be. I guess what makes me so angry is that never since he broke up with me has the generosity of spirit he extends toward the world at large seemed to be extended to me. I'm sure Genevieve gets it, but for whatever self-protective reason, he can't treat me that way, and of course, I can't be generous back. This is probably why we shouldn't be friends. So I don't know why I'm reading his journal. Which leads me to…

The metablogging.

But wait. I just want to say:

A contrast to my relationship with Tom is my relationship to my ex-boyfriend Adam. Much worse things happened in my relationship with Adam than ever happened with Tom, and I've been filled with teeth gnashing, chest squeezing, pillow rending, screaming rage at Adam in a way I've never felt towards Tom. But Adam and I have what is likely to be an enduring friendship. In fact, he's one of the people in the world about whom I can say that with the most confidence. I think a big difference between Adam and Tom is that Adam is not so afraid of violence. He's not as afraid of doing violence, not as afraid of receiving it, and not as afraid of witnessing the violence in himself or another person. Or rather, he's just as afraid, but he has more courage in confronting it. It means he can take risks in a way Tom can't, he can extend himself to a person who's really angry at him. It was this ability that salvaged our friendship when I thought it was dead. Tom afraid of violence (one of the reasons he can't bring himself to ever initiate physical contact with a woman is that the notion that there's any chance, no matter how improbable, that she might not want it terrifies him) and very timid and unwilling to confront it. At bottom, I'm a very violent person. It makes me wonder if he could ever accept me, and if I could ever accept and allow space for his timidity.

Alright, the metablogging:

Perhaps it should be more properly called meta-online-journaling, because most of the blogs I bother to read (which is not so many), aren't so personal at all. (I'm sure there are a lot of diaristic (a word?) blogs like my own; I just don't read them.) But the possibility of writing about yourself and your relationship with other people in a format that isn't directed at them at all, yet is still available to them to read, is a very strange one. A friend of mine used to say that our mutual friend's online journal was a very passive-aggressive endeavor; he himself (the journal writer) had contemplated its passive aggressive nature in his journal: he once wrote about how he was upset with his friend, and about how he hadn't told his friend he was upset with him, and about how his friend might be reading his journal. (I'd link you, but tragically, he's made all the pages private. I say tragically because his journal used to be responsible for the impossibly fabulous first Google results for my name: "Katie is a great person and I highly approve of her" and "Katie is the most pleasant spaz I've ever had the pleasure of living near.") I guess I'm about to do the same, only it will be about my experience reading Tom's journal and wondering if he's read mine.

Now I've read Tom's journal. In one post he says that his mom got her final prognosis, 18-24 months. I want to tell him I'm sorry, but then again, we aren't really speaking, and since I still don't know whether we should be speaking, I don't know if I should extend myself and open up another fruitless line of communication. I can't stand constantly being rebuffed. This may seem impossibly petty, but I basically already knew about his mom (that was the gist of the news back when we were speaking), and I did tell him I was sorry. Well, first I lamely offered that his mom had totally disproved the doctors' grim expectations before (it's not so lame, actually, she has), and he told me this time it was different, and I said that sucked, and that I was sorry, and that there was nothing more I could say. But now maybe he's reading this, and he knows I'm thinking about it. Does it count as much as saying it to his face? Can it count in place of saying it to his face? Could we live out our lives only communicating through our journals?

But most of what I read in his journal just made me angry, I guess because I'm still so angry at him. Like this:

The last time I cried was June 1999. The time before that was sometime in the spring of 1994. Last night I cried. And this was not because of death, or a breakup (which were the other two). This was because I just finished
The Last Battle, and I spent sixty pages in tears. Oh well; guess I'm just becoming a big softie in my old age.

It makes me angry because it's not true. Those aren't the only times he's cried. He could never get away with saying it to my face; I'd call him on it, but he can say it to the world at large. I was almost tempted to write something in his "comments" section about it, but I managed to keep myself from doing it. Why do I know it's not true? Because I've *seen* him cry. Not big blubbery sobs, but tears nonetheless. We weren't fighting or arguing at the time. It was more than once. I don't know whether he was crying just from overwhelming, confusing emotion, or from the pain of some kind of perceived continuous implicit rejection from me that underscored all our interactions, or what. But he cried. And it wasn't as if it went unremarked by him. He told me, "I never cry, but I cry with you." He told me he meant it as a declaration of intimacy, that he could express himself with me in ways that he couldn't with other people. He had a whole complex about his eyes; he couldn't stand them touched, but he told me he had a dream that I put eyeliner on him and it was okay with him. The next time I saw him I ran my fingers lightly over both his closed eyes to show him it was alright. My point is, it was important that he cried with me. He made it important. And now I read this and he's casually revised me out his narrative of his life. I know it might have just been a rhetorical point, that he wasn't trying hard to catalog every time he'd cried, but still, there weren't many to remember, and the omission means something to me. When people retell their story and make you less and less important every time they tell it, it makes you wonder whether any intimacy you experienced with them was real at all. I can understand what might lead people to retell their stories so they remember feeling less, being less invested: it makes the loss easier. Even when we were breaking up he tried to tell me it was not as big of a deal as we were both making it (though that only made me more miserable, I can apprehend what would make him say that); it's easier when some of the things in your life pale as time goes by, and I suppose natural. I guess I just want the accounting of events to be true.

I tried to tell the person I've most recently played both kinds of Scrabble with why this bothered me, and he didn't understand at all. I mean, not only did he not identify, he could not project himself into my state of mind. Usually even when I don't at all identify with a perception or experience someone is describing, I can understand the thoughts and feelings that led them there. His total uncomprehension only made me feel worse. He speculated that it was a whole "women are from Mercury; men are from Jupiter" thing. Which I maybe is true; the women I've talked to about this have understood completely. But if those reductive categories can be used as the explanation for every way I differ from anyone with a Y chromosome, then we Mercurians must have a better ability to understand the motivations of Jupiterians than the other way around. The Scrabble Player spent a long time explaining to me why Tom might not want to be friends with me, or tell me honestly that that was so. I interrupted him, explaining, I understand all of his possible motivations. That's not the issue. The point is it's not okay for me to have a friendship with someone that would never be anything but a correspondence, and if that was to be the case, I needed to know so I could grieve for the relationship and know that that person was no longer a part of my life. Tom just wasn't giving me the information I needed. The point was not that his behavior was incomprehensible; it was just unacceptable to me.

(On a side note, I also was dramatically stricken when I first read The Last Battle, though I was about seven at the time. Towards the end it appears that every Narnian you've come to love is going to die, and I, not ready to pick up Revelations parallels at that point, made the mistake of putting the book down for about an hour to sob disconsolately into my pillow, so I spent a totally unnecessary hour of my life believing they were dead; if I had kept reading immediately I would have found out that they were resurrected into a Heaven in which the relationship between Earth and Narnia and all the other worlds is made clear; I remember the description of all the worlds existing on ledges that jutted into a great abyss, and they were all connected by the earth that ringed the abyss, but no one lived near enough to the outer edges of their worlds to realize how easy it was to cross. Even when I found out they were resurrected, it still seemed a bittersweet consolation and I kept crying hard, sort of like at the end of The Cider House Rules, although in The Cider House Rules what's so painful is that you know the imperfect resolution for your hero is the only right one; in The Last Battle it was the perfection that seemed so inadequate. I guess even then the idea of eternal bliss didn't brook to well with me.)

What's my metablogging point? Just that it's weird that I can have access to the way Tom represents the world when he's not thinking that much about me listening. It both angers me and touches me. I can read Tim's musings on love and beauty and see him at his most endearingly longing and searching, even though if we were actually talking and I were being honest and said how angry I was he would be rigid and closed off and I would get angrier and more accusatory and he would get more rigid and closed off. So maybe it's nice that I have access to a part of him that isn't tainted by my relationship to him. I don't know. And it's weird that I can write all of this, and Tom will very possibly read it, and I might not even know if he'll read it. So I could be communicating with him, or I could not be. Weird. No further analysis than that. And even though this may have seemed pretty revealing, some things still I've omitted that I would have easily said if I hadn't known there was a possibility Tom was reading.

I also think that my writing style is a lot different writing for this blog than it is writing an email, even a mass email, and I think the blog style compares unfavorably. I'm more formal, less intimate, less myself. Maybe some things just weren't meant to be broadcast to the world at large, even if you know in the end the odds of any one but your friends reading them are pretty small. Maybe my relationship with the world of late (darker, more misanthropic) is affecting this; maybe I can't write with my usual generosity and trust because I'm so mistrustful of almost everyone who might be reading (that is, most of the human beings in the world). Which makes this an odd time to take up such an endeavor.


Yet another thing that made me mad (and this had even less to do with me):

Just today, the second sentence in this passage:

Last night, though, I had a sort of vision. There's a girl I know, as beautiful and wondrous as any I've ever known, and boys are drawn to her like, as they say, moths to the flame. But perhaps when we love it isn't the flame for which we're looking, but the darkness behind it, and that we use other people to get through to the dark we can't imagine as long as we are blinded by their light. And if we burn, then, we are only transfigured, and perhaps will see anew.

I don't know who he's talking about (nor do I understand the point he's making in this paragraph, and reading it a couple of times hasn't made it any clearer), but what made me angry was even the barest intimation that there was a correlation (much less causation) between the beauty and wonder that inheres in a girl and the degree to which boys are drawn to her. I'm sure boys think there is, but based on my survey, the two are utterly independent of each other. (I would not, incidentally, ever suggest that there was a correlation between the beauty and wonder in a boy and the degree to which girls were drawn to him.)
Rittenhouse Review tallies the votes on the Christina-Britney catfight. Looks like the rest of the world agrees with me.

Monday, November 11, 2002

A friend gave me the book Word Freak for my birthday, a book all about the world of competitive Scrabble. The author starts as a dispassionate journalistic observer and gets consumed by Scrabble fever. He starts spending all his time memorizing words, consulting Scrabble gurus on strategy (it really is a more complicated game than I ever appreciated before reading this book), and trying to boost his tournament rating to the expert level. I’ve started thinking in Scrabblistic terms (huh. I wonder if it’s a coincidence that Scrabblistic rhymes with Kabbalistic, and in the Kabbala Hebrew letters are considered to have mystical properties): a few minutes ago I was on the phone, and a friend (the same one who gave met he book) told me the bad thing about a blog was that you had to keep updating it, but that might never be a problem for me since I had so much to say. And I said that was true, in fact, I had a backlog of things to put on my blog. Then I thought, you can make BLOG from the letters in BACKLOG. And BACKLOG is a bingo (a word that uses seven tiles). It’s really a goofy book, with lots of little episodes like this scene in the trial of a competitive Scrabble player who sued Hasbro for co-opting his strategy ideas in its Official Scrabble Players’ Handbook.

Lawyer for the Defendant: Is it true that you think REBANANA is a word?
Competitive Scrabble Player: No, not at all. ANTIBANANA is a word.

The one thing I don't like about the book is that he doesn't write in detail about any of the women who play. He says they exist; they just don't merit the detailed treatment he gives the men. I guess that's because Scrabble became more personal for him than just a journalistic object, so he wants to write about the people he hung out with, who became his friends, and those weren't the women. Still, it feels like an ommission to me, and he could have done a couple of interviews.

I used to have a routine about Scrabble as a euphemism for sex and Scrabble come-ons. It all started when I had a crush on someone who was a really good Scrabble player, and I confessed to a group of my friends that I really liked the overeager, fumbling way he drew tiles from the bag and put them on his rack. Thus to < airquote > play Scrabble < /airquote > came to mean: “to get it on.” I can’t remember most of come-ons though. I think a couple were: “Too bad this game has only one X. But I think we could make two more.” Also on the X theme: Seductive woman puts the S and the E in the two cups of her bra and says: “Can you guess where I’ve hidden the X?” There were others, many others, I know….

(Idea for a shirt to be worn by a female Scrabble player:

Front side, across the breasts: I have a nice rack.
Backside: S1A1T1I1N1E1BLANK

That’s the single rack with which you can make the most bingos. Well, alright, two blanks would give you more.

Sadly, I could never wear that shirt, as I would look silly in it. My rack is more like A1A1E1E1E1I1U1.

One night subsequent to this whole “play Scrabble” conversation, I actually hooked up with someone (a rare, but not unheard of, occurrence). The next night I ate dinner with all of the same people I’d had that conversation with, I tried to communicate what had happened with my favorite euphemism. Someone asked me if anything was new, and I said “Yeah, I, uh, played Scrabble that night.” But only one other person at the table, Jordan*, remembered the original conversation and understood the import of what I was saying (though at the time I thought everyone did). So Jordan seized on it and said, “Who’d you play Scrabble with?” And I said, “With someone I used to play Scrabble with, but haven’t since freshman year.” “Did you hit the Triple Word Score?” he asked. “I’m not sure what that means,” I said, “But I really don’t think so. But I don’t think I wanted to hit the Triple Word Score either.” Needless to say, everyone else at the table was very perplexed, and couldn’t understand why Jordan’s and my Scrabble conversation was going on for ten minutes. We didn’t know that they were confused. I don’t remember how everything got sorted out, but eventually it did.

Months since I've played Scrabble: maybe one (I'm not exactly sure.)
Months since I've < airquote >played Scrabble< /airquote >: Four and a half.
Oddly enough, my most recent experiences with both kinds of Scrabble were with the same person.

Sunday, November 10, 2002

Hey I finally got my cello teacher's seal of approval on my bowgrip. That only took four weeks. My new cello book, Cello Method, really cleared some things up for me.