273. factitious


That first night when we sat on the trunk of my car and looked at the lights above the Arby’s? When I got up to leave, I looked at you, and I tried to think of how to say everything I was feeling. But I’ve never really been good at describing feelings. I’m only good at describing facts, and love, love isn’t a fact. You know?

Love—it’s a hunch at first and then later it’s a series of decisions, a lifetime of decisions. That’s love. And I didn’t know how to express that and so I just said: “I’m glad I decided to call you.” And now, tonight, I say I’m glad again, for this decision and all the decisions that will come every day after.

Which is to say, scientifically speaking of course, speaking from the point of view of mere facts and logic and you know, what with the science and all… I just thought that it was time for us to make a life together.
Episode 100 – Toast, from Welcome to Night Vale¹


A few days ago justmerveilleux commented on a previous post that it was “much too cheerful.” I’m endeavouring to bring the tone of this one back to my usual stark, grim, crepuscular realism. 😉

The last few weeks for me have been spent weathering feverish bouts of anxiety as we learn more about the Drumpf administration and what he, his cabinet, and the Rethuglican Congress have in store for the world over the next four years.

Basically, every time I scroll through New York Times or Guardian headlines, it’s a brand new something to haunt my dreams:

  • The planet is going to be trashed, sea levels will rise, and resulting droughts will bring about starvation and catastrophe.
  • We LGBTQ+ Americans are going to see all our civil rights gains taken away thanks to ultra conservative Supreme Court justice replacements.
  • With the almost certain repeal of Obamacare looming, the future of my health insurance is uncertain.

It’s been interesting to compare my reaction to this election to the one in 2008, and look at how much I’ve evolved since then. In short, where I once feared what Obama might have done as our first socialist President (which turns out not to be true—Hoover, Johnson, FDR, and even Nixon were just as Socialist, if not more so), we have a fairly clear idea what Drumpf is going to do. He has filled his cabinet with cronies, homophobes, and bigots who want to enact a theocratic, Objectivist agenda of revenge on this country, regardless of who suffers.

My nightmares don’t seem like a matter of “if.”

More like “when.”

I had a brief exchange with my youngest sister a few days after posting blog # 271. In short, we both feel similarly fragmented, made up of disparate parts, the result of decades of living in fear of our parents, their omnipotent and omniscient god, and a judgmental community of holier-than-thou Christians.

Okay, time for gross generalizations.

From what I’ve observed about most people, I gather that they function largely as a holistic whole, different modules and pieces of their psyches that work together in their functioning as a person.

For me, growing up in secret for nearly three decades feels like being a lump of coal trapped underground for thousands of years, under enormous heat and pressure, until suddenly ripped out of the Earth one day as a diamond.

I grew up managing a complex bureaucracy of desires and needs, making sure none of them drew the notice of anyone who could make my life unpleasant or difficult. I couldn’t be too ambitious, too needy, show too much self-efficacy, and certainly not any of my deviant sexual desires.

Now, nearly six years out as an atheist, I’m still living with disparate parts of myself that don’t talk to each other.

For most people (again, making gross assumptions here), when they want something, they think it and their cogs and wheels work out the specifics. Their child selves talk to their adult selves, sharing memories between them. And when a man is attracted to someone, he feels desire and the rest works itself out.

With me, none of those parts communicate. It is sometimes a daily inner civil war just to decide what I want for dinner—or to decide that I deserve to even want to eat.

I rather feel like No-Face from Hayao Miyazaki Spirited Away, an otherwise neutral being that absorbed the desires and intentions of those around him, a friendly mask disguising a dark and dangerous mess underneath.

When I fully, truly, came out in 2009, after breaking up with my first boyfriend and deciding I needed to “experience” everything I’d been missing, sexually speaking, I was still largely in the mindset of needing to be who I perceived everyone wanted me to be.

It’s how I survived evangelicalism as a gay teenager—by blending in, adapting, never being myself.

The hesitancy and emptiness I felt in hooking up—engaging in casual sex with guys who I knew weren’t going to be boyfriends or long-term partners—I chalked up to a puritanical upbringing; remnants of a lifetime of being told homosexual desires were evil, perverted, and sick.

I just needed to push through that to become the liberated gay man I knew was there, somewhere.

It never occurred to me that my reticence was the result of the reality that I experience sexual and romantic attraction through emotional intimacy rather than my pelvis.

The frustration in being a demisexual is feeling no control over who I’m attracted to. It happens suddenly, mysteriously, and very gradually.

I see couples at Target, holding hands and buying produce or a birthday card, and long for that kind of domestic intimacy. Granted, I have no real frame of reference. It’s academic, but still an abstract direction I’m aiming for in hopes I stumble onto something concrete.

I don’t want spectacular romance. I don’t need suffocating togetherness.

I’m not entirely sure what I want from a boyfriend/partner. Yes, I want companionship, the usual trimmings of a long-term relationship.

It’s more than that, though.

I want the significance of a look shared between two people experiencing something special and beautiful—a sunset, a moment in a Mozart opera, seeing something that reminds them of a moment five years ago before they knew any of it meant anything.

I’m suspicious of the fire, the passion, the Sturm und Drang of the early stages of a relationship. I want the quiet certainty of sitting on the hood of a car, staring up at the lights above the Arby’s, and am glad that I called someone.

These are the cares of a time traveler who lives in both the past and the future, knowing that everything that happens between is uncertain and surprising, but inevitable, unchanging.


“The pain now is part of the happiness then. That’s the deal.”²

I’m not hopeful that I’ll ever get any of this, but a fellow can dream.

Works Cited

¹ Fink, J., & Cranor, J. (2016, December 15). Episode 100 – Toast [Audio blog post]. Retrieved from http://nightvale.libsyn.com/100-toast

² Nicholson, W. (1989). Shadowlands. New York: Samuel French.

132. adroit


“Back before election day, there was a part of me—the part of myself I don’t like—that harbored a secret, perverse desire that Bush would defeat Gore. Because a Bush victory, I thought, would offer me four illustrious years of taking the high road. I would be wise. Unlike my Republican brethren, who pooh-poohed Bill Clinton’s legitimacy from the get-go . . . I would be a bigger person . . . In my preelection daydream of what a Bush presidency might be like, I imagined that I would criticize his policies and lambaste his statements with a civics-minded nobility. All my venom, spite, and, as long as we’re dreaming, impeccable logic, would be directed at our president. As in “Look how our president is wrecking our country.”

– Sarah Vowell. “The Nerd Voice.” The Partly Cloudy Patriot

As the results of the Louisiana primary are rolling in tonight, I’m looking over the revised scoreboard for the GOP race for the Republican presidential nomination (which looks to me like a choice of being either drawn and quartered or raked over the breaking wheel) and considering the real possibility of one of these lunatics being elected president.


The likelihood of me actually voting for either of these guys (and, let’s face it kids, it’s down to Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum now) is as high as someone actually developing a warp drive engine next week to take us to the nearest star. However, the Evangelical base is nonetheless highly motivated, and that has left me kind of skittish and uneasy. My thoughts when contemplating the phrase “President Rick Santorum” include things like getting my passport renewed before it expires next year, and wondering what would be involved in obtaining a visa to Canada for four years. Tonight this actually led me to do a bit of reading on Canada’s immigration website blithely and (in appropriate Canadian fashion) understatedly titled, “Come to Canada,” in which I discovered that a passport claiming to have been issued by Somalia is not considered valid documentation for the Canadian government.

Of course, it’s still early in the game. The Republicans haven’t even chosen their David to go up against the liberal Goliath of Obama, and with all of the biblical rhetoric being thrown around, the analogy are inevitable. November is still a long ways away, and in an election year even the month before Election Day can seem like an entire year, with the barrage of campaign attack ads and relentless buttonholing of aggressively enthusiastic campaign workers.

Now, like Vowell, there is a perverse part of me that rather enjoys playing the part of the aggrieved contrarian antagonist. I enjoy the satisfaction of being justifiably outraged, especially when I find myself in the position of underdog. In 2008, I voted for Libertarian candidate Bob Barr in an act composed of one half protest and one half dreamy idealism. I knew that a third party candidate stood little chance of ever being elected, but goddammit if I was going to vote my values anyway.

And then Barack Obama was elected president, and for months I went on angry tirades about how stupid Americans were and how bad things were going to get under his malevolent socialist gaze. The socialist in sheep’s clothing had been elected by the dumb sheep of the country, but at least I wasn’t responsible. I could sit back and happily scowl at the grinning, snickering Obama supporters in that first year on whose heads the blood of the nation would eventually fall. And the angry part of me actually still can’t bring myself to refer to him as the president, and in the four years that he’s been in office I haven’t slipped once. For a while I even used the snide epithets “You-Know-Who” and “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named” to talk about him.

And wouldn’t you know it, four years later, I’m thinking that universal health care might not be such a bad thing after all now that I’ve been uninsured for almost two years.

So is it fair to characterize Rick Santorum as a religious fanatic, and Mitt Romney as a religious nutcase? I don’t need to expound much further on my opinions about Santorum, but Romney worries me precisely because we don’t talk about his religious views.

From 1981 to 1994, Mitt Romney was a bishop in the Church of Latter-day Saints. For thirteen years he presided over and conducted meetings and worship services, served as president of the ward’s quorum of priests and acted as a “Judge in Israel.” He was not just a casual attender, like many politicians who attend church just in order to garner the Christian vote and support. The reason that we haven’t heard much about this may be that Mormons aren’t loud-and-proud in the way that Evangelicals are. Maybe more Christians would be understated about their beliefs if they had to do a mission and have doors slammed in their faces while trying to proselytize.

However, in order to be a Mormon you have to accept that the angel Moroni actually appeared to Joseph Smith and showed him the location of the gold plates that were basically buried right in his backyard. You have to actually believe that a Jewish prophet named Lehi brought his family to America in 600 BC (though no archaeological evidence of that exists). You have to believe that the Native Americans are descended from the 12 tribes of Israel (not to mention from a cultural group that was totally evil). You have to believe that if you’re lucky enough to be born male that when you die that you’ll have your own planet. If he’s a serious Mormon, he wears a special kind of underwear.

Unless he’s that two-faced as a politician, Romney really believes those things, which in my opinion is just a step above Scientology, with its teachings about Xenu the evil intergalactic overlord. This qualifies him and any Mormon as a nutcase, but of course in this country we respect irrational beliefs and call them “religion.”

And he wants to be President…