Thursday, April 29, 2010

In Which I Try Not To Make A Point

So, a few days ago, I got into a discussion with a good friend and avid reader of mine *waves* wherein we discussed her desire for a boyfriend, and where this came from, and how she might approach this from a healthy perspective. This happens a lot. People come to me for romantic advice, sometimes because they just want to be able to disregard everything I say if they don't like it, but also because a lot of the time, in order to recognize how backwards your own behavior is, you really need to find someone who you literally cannot justify it to. And I'm very good at making o.O? faces when the subject of wanting a boyfriend comes up.

For background info, I identify as an asexual aromantic, which are two imperfect terms that imperfectly define what was, for many years, utterly indefinable. They are, essentially, the lesser of two evils (the more evil is me having to explain that in my case, no means never, and no, I don't have a reason for that, beyond it's what I want. Which you would think would be absolutely fine, but has netted me a few thousand o.O? faces over time, and a lot of really disgusting, invasive questions that people actually feel the right to expect answers to.) Of the two of them, asexual is most apt, as I do not now, nor have I ever, to my knowledge, had any real desire for sex. I don't actually believe sexuality is finite, but nor do I believe, at this age and stage, that my own feelings will change. So there's always that thought in the back of my head, "yes this could change, but it probably won't." Really, it's easier keep the label that says it won't because, well, people don't take it well, to be honest, and I don't need everybody hanging on so tightly to that 'maybe.' Aromantic is an unfair term, I think. I am not aromantic. I am a total romantic sap, I just don't want that for myself. I build strong friendships, without which I would be a sour and dried up corn husk doll, and my dear love and I share a wonderful connection without which my world would be, let's say, less than what it is now. But I do not fall in romantic love, or desire whatever that next level is. My feelings have always been that being in love is when you are attracted to your best friend in the world. I'm sure in many ways, I have it wrong, and invite more romantic asexuals than I to explain this, because, as I recently uncovered, I really don't get it. So my friend and I discussed, and since neither of us could pinpoint what she wanted a boyfriend for, exactly, I advised her to think more about the kind of boy she wanted, rather than where she might find one available to her. So then I got all thinky, and went to another friend, who also wanted a boyfriend.

The conversation from there played out a bit like when my six-year-old nephew tried to explain to me what his Bakugan toys were for. He put the little toys on the cards, and when they opened, he announced we were battling. At which point, I, trying to indulge him, said, "Okay, what do I do?"
"Do? You do just like that. They battle now."
"Okay." I move to pick it up.
"No! Don't move it! They have to battle."
"Okay, so what do we do?"
"Don't do anything."
"Okay? So what are they for?"
"This is what they're for."
"Okay. But what do they do?"
"Well, they're for battling."
"Okay. But what are we doing with them?"
At which point he threw up his hands and announced, "You don't do anything with them! They just do that!" And me saying,
"I don't think I'm very good at this."
"No. You don't know how to play this, do you?" Out of the mouths of babes.

This, was kind of like that. I kept saying over and over, "What is a boyfriend for?" And my friend would list several things that a hypothetical boyfriend does, or that she believes he would do. And I would ask how it was different, when hypothetical boy does it, versus when other friends or family do. And she would be unable to explain. And there would be much head-scratching on my end. Occasionally, I would attempt to reconcile what I was hearing with what was happening in my head. I would ask what a boyfriend did differently, and she would say, "It feels different, when a boyfriend does it." and I would say, "Because you're attracted to him?" and she would say, "Not just that." And then, more head-scratching. Which culminated in the twenty-something's version of my six-year-old nephew, where she finally suggested that perhaps it was harsh of me to be all, "Pfft who needs it?" when some people did feel they needed it. At which point I began the same explanations I have given since puberty, when people started looking at me funny every time I dared say no:

I'm not all, 'pfft, who needs it?' Really. I am a very romantic person. I'm just not sure what it's for. If you have feelings for someone and you act on them, that's awesome. If there's only potentials, right and left, or not enough potentials, and you keep waiting for the potentials to show up, that's where I get confused. And part of me wants to take the easy road and just say it's socialization, that we're just led to believe that there are certain things we're supposed to have, and that's one of them. But that is just so narrow-minded and unfair, and people keep insisting there's more to it than that. So, if you're an asexual who is not currently in a relationship, but wants to be in one, could you please explain how this works? Because I keep coming up empty.

 I do not want to alienate my friends, and I also don't want to be throwing psychobabble at them all the time. I know that I'm the one who's different, and I'm not asking people to prove how they feel, but I feel that I am missing something important from the equation here, and I would hate to see it giving me some prejudices of my own. I have mentioned my dislike for both of Hannah's mothers. Well... Not so much dislike. Marissa, Hannah's biomom, gets pregnant as a teenager. She is irresponsible and silly as both a teenage almost-parent, and as an adult in an established relationship with a child she is actually raising. Because that doesn't change much, I don't feel guilty about the whole teenage mom = irresponsible thing, because I think it's pretty clear that the character herself is flawed in that way, not so much her circumstances. But then, after the whole Amanda Palmer hipster racism thing, I certainly don't want to be a hypocrite.

Jane, Hannah's mom, is, by contrast, a smart and well-educated woman, moderately successful and comfortable in her own skin, but she is deeply damaged by grief, and pressured by her well-meaning friends to move on with her life, ie, find someone else, after the death of her husband. Coupling that with her overprotectiveness around Hannah, who is not quite the child she appears, and does not need her mother as much as Jane wishes she was needed, and Jane is also a very flawed character. I know these flaws are necessary, that they fit with the story, but I'm not sure Jane is weak or damaged enough to have a serious relationship with the kind of man she winds up with. And therein lies the guilt. Because, while I am not stupid enough, nor enough of a victim-blaming asshole, to believe that is only the weak and vulnerable (read: desperate) women who fall for that kind of man, I know what the rest of the world expects to see. And I need to make this fit, and I need it to work in a story, and I need it to make sense to other people. And that really sucks. Because everybody believes that women just need men, or just desperately want men, and therefore, that should be answer enough. And I don't believe that, and I'm not sure how to write like I do, and still be honest.

I can admit I'm not always a good feminist. I listen to music and watch movies that many would consider problematic. I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt more often than they deserve it. I let things go because I know there are people with more of a stake in it than I, who are fighting, and quite frankly, sometimes, I've got enough to fight for, and I only have so many spoons to hand out on any given day. (Yes, I know, you'd never know it from the rage posts, would you?) Though I try to use correct language whenever I can, and accept criticism when it is warranted and constructive, I am sometimes ridiculously clueless about what is wrong about what and why. I don't want to be saying, "Teenage mothers are silly and irresponsible." My mother, and several other members of my family, were or are teenage parents. Not all of them, but many of them have done wonderful jobs, and were or are much better at being mothers than they were at being teenagers. But I am not going to take it for granted that people might make that leap, and it might be me showing up in somebody's rage post as a hypocrite, someday. (Oh, Goddess, if I ever become that important to somebody, I promise I will stay as receptive to criticism as my fragile self-esteem allows.) I don't want to say, "If a woman wasn't so desperate to be in a relationship, she would have more sense, and not pick that guy." Because that is both nonsensical, and totally not my area. Also not at all what I want to say. But I can't be sure that it won't be taken that way. So I get nervous and paralyzed, and don't write, and hate myself. And then I choose between hating myself for not writing, or hating myself for writing something that is absolute crap. Or, hating myself because I'm writing something I have absolutely no right to be writing. Far be it from me to add to the slew of 'evidence' of things that are not actually true. But. I've never claimed to be a political person. This is a recent discovery, and I make fumbling attempts to learn, and try to do what is right. Whereas, I am, as I mentioned, first and foremost, a teller of stories. If the story says we go left, then we go left.

*fretfretfret* <--- are you tired of me yet?

So, recently, I've been reading this book. I won't give you the name or author just yet, I haven't finished it and don't know if it's one I want people to read. It's one of those 'devil's spawn' books, you know the kind I mean, where there's this otherwise cherubic and adorable child, who happens to be 'evil' and the 'evil' is explained away by some kind of demon parentage. It's an older book, I think 70s or 80s, around the time that sort of thing was popular and still really scary. And while I'm reading it just for fun, I can't help but notice some things. There's a lot of religion, for one thing, which, duh, is kind of expected. But there's also a lot of cliche. The mother of this demon child is a single, younger women, who became pregnant 'young' (the book assumes we know what 'young' is) and then married an older man who is overcome with both lust, and the desire to take care of her. (These things apparently go hand in hand) And I'm really hoping he is murdered in some grisly way, but I'm pretty sure it's the mother who's going to get it. And I'm really annoyed that I know that.

The stuff I think and feel and believe worms its way in my writing. That's a huge part of the reason I have this blog. Before, I used to put it in notebooks, kind of siphon off the stuff that was just brain fodder from the stuff that was actually part of the story. Sometimes, the fodder works its way in the story. In the first installment of Hannah, I mention a story I once read in a Bruce Coville anthology, something to do with dolphins, and their immense brain power, and the effects it might have on a person, or lesser being. So in the second book, I continued on with dolphins. The third book never came to fruition, aside from a few lists and notes, my favorite of which reads simply, what to do with the damn dolphins? My more deeply held beliefs are also prominent. Hannah's mother Jane is a choice mom, which is something I hope to be myself someday. The entire concept of the character herself lies in the fact that children and their experiences and intuition is often overlooked and discounted, a feeling that, as a person with a disability, as well as an asexual, both things which many people think denote a lack of maturation, has followed me from childhood, through adolescence, to adulthood. You would think this translates to me telling you that maybe, deep down I do believe in those cliches, but I sort of feel like the opposite is true. Like Hannah's appearance, I think I sort of just assumed that if I wrote it that way, if I wrote a strong woman with one case of bad judgment, managed to be fooled by someone charming and interested in her who also happened to be an abusive asshole, people would believe it. And now, that shrewd editor is kicking in again, and it's just not enough.

In the Mary Sue post, I mentioned that a good writer can make even the most unbelievable characters make sense. So in theory, I can make this work. In theory, there was some reason my fourteen-year-old self chose that as a catalyst, and my eighteen year old self didn't see enough wrong with it to go a different way. In theory, it was more than just laziness and working with a cliche I could not have even known existed then. (I was just as O.o? about relationships as a teenager, only with a lot less experience, and therefore unable distinguish what my hormonal and insecure friends thought was normal, and what was actually me genuinely missing something other people had.) In theory, I should be able to pin this down, and spread it out like a butterfly on a cork board, so that it looks like exactly what it is, one person, in one circumstance, that, in context, makes perfect sense. Of course, said theory also depends on me being a good writer. So. We've come back to that. The truth is, like I said, the stuff we think and believe will worm its way in there, and if I'm a good writer, the stuff I think and believe will too, and people will know better. I'll maybe get some people calling me on it, but I will at least be able to explain how it is what it is.

I still really hate how tempting it is to take the easy road.

x fingers for me

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