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When I first started this blog, I made a point of writing something, anything, every day, even if it was really short, in order to get into a rhythm and establish something that I’d regret walking away from. Now I’ve sort of petered out, but I’ve done too much to let it drop. However, I’m much less ambitious, so I’m going to try to write something everyday even if it’s fairly trivial, but I’m only going to commit to a month.

I was surfing on the internet earlier and saw a video that made me think, “Ah, that’s why I’m not a lesbian.”

I’m probably too lazy.

Sometimes, in conversation, people make a reference to their sexual orientation. They’ll say, “As a straight person…” or “As a gay person…” or whatever. Then some point will come when I feel that a reference to my own orientation seems appropriate and I’ll choke a bit. I’ll be about to say, “As a bisexual….” Then I’ll think to myself, “Who are you kidding. You haven’t slept with a woman in years.” Especially with all the claims of special status for minorities, which makes me feel uncomfortable. I don’t really want people to judge what I say based on identity unless I’m speaking about my own experience. Then, I’ll be about to say straight, and I’ll think to myself, “Wait a second. You’re single. What if a really hot woman who’s into you hears that?” So, finally, I’ll say, “bisexual,” but not without feeling like I’m putting too fine a point on it.

But in the end, I sleep with men far, far more often than women. Why that is is answered in the following video at 3:57 and it made me laugh. (Also, I had that haircut in college.)

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This exercise is not exactly going as I hoped since I really don’t want to write today. It’s supposed to be getting easier, not harder!

I’ve got all these things mixed up in my head and I’m not really sure I want to talk about any of them.

About a decade ago, I had a boyfriend from France. He said to me one day, “I can’t figure out which party in the U.S. represents the working people.” I said, “Neither.”

From the time of FDR until the era when Bill Clinton was running for office, the Democratic Party was more closely associated with the working class. Bill Clinton, however, courted Wall Street and financial interests in a way the Democrats hadn’t until then. Some segments of the working class had already notoriously broken with the Democrats when Reagan ran for office. The would become known as Reagan Democrats. However, Reagan was a union buster and many of the unions, and their members, continued to back the Democrats. The unions backed Clinton, too. Still, he had made an important change. I’m working from memory, by the way. If this was a regular post rather than one of my experimental days, I’d want to look up that and check it. That would take a lot of time… and then this would become yet another abandoned post.Still, that is how I remember it. Before Bill Clinton, the Democratic Party could be said to be the party of the working class and after Clinton it was not.

The working class, broadly defined, is inevitably the largest group of people in a given society. So, for twenty years a significant sector of society has lacked any real political voice. You know what they say: “Nature abhors a vacuum.”

I only have a typical high school education regarding U.S. History and none at all regarding U.S. Political History specifically.  There was an article today on Politico,Why Hasn’t the Republican Party Collapsed?” which had the subtitle, “We shouldn’t be asking whether the GOP is falling apart. We ought to be wondering why it isn’t.”

The writer has one truly terrifying suggestion:

Geography and state representation still play a role in the American political system. But when the first conventions were held, New York had a population of about 200,000. A system developed today might do even more to represent Americans by age, gender or ethnic background (the parties have adopted reforms to ensure delegate representation along some of these lines), and to take into account the differences between Americans who live in urban and rural areas.

Wow, that would turn politics in the U.S. into a Hobbesian nightmare. The idea that you band together with your concitoyens to work for the common good would be entirely blown to bits. The vision that springs to my mind of collectivities with no motive for compromise. What the French call “communautarisme.”

So, basically what the writer is saying is that the two political parties in the U.S. have been around for a long time and that they struggle to put new ideas in with the old alliances. She calls the Democratic Party “party of process.”

The early party included members who disagreed on slavery, westward expansion and tariffs. Yes, they had policy commitments—originally centered around limiting the federal government’s influence—but they were more a pragmatic alliance than an ideological crusade.

From another source:

Yet by the 1850s, the issue of slavery divided the party even further. Northern Democrats, like Stephen Douglas, believed the slavery issue should be decided by popular sovereignty. The more conservative Southern Democrats like John C. Calhoun, however, insisted that slavery was and must remain a national institution. Many Northern, antislavery Democrats flocked to the Free Soilers coalition and joined Northern Whigs to form the Republican Party, whereas Southern, pro-slavery Democrats coalesced to form the Southern Democratic Party. As a result, the Democrats became almost entirely a Southern party platform, alienating any existing Northern supporters who were largely antislavery.
The original article at hand continued:
The Republican Party, meanwhile, has long been a party of ideology, created in the 1850s with a much more specific guiding principle in mind: stopping the expansion of slavery. Ever since, that difference—one party, a pragmatic alliance; the other, an ideological one—has meant that the Republican Party is more prone to ideological fights blowing up into potential existential crises.
I was put in mind of an article I read by David Frum eight years ago. In it, he noted two trends that he predicted would have an effect on the Republican Party. One was that the more unequal a region in the U.S. was, the more likely it was to be Democratic. The other was that the country was getting more unequal.
As long as all Americans were becoming better off, few cared that some Americans were becoming better off than others. But since 2000, something has changed. Incomes at the middle have ceased to rise. The mood of the country has soured. Conservatives who disregard the mood of unease may forfeit their power to defend the more open and productive American economy they did so much to build.
Frum notes that Republican economic policies after 2000 hurt the middle and working classes. (Note that until Trump, Republicans did not oppose large-scale immigration and many, like House Speaker Paul Ryan, currently oppose Trump on this issue.)
It’s widely understood that abundant low-skilled immigration hurts lower America by reducing wages. As the National Research Council noted in its comprehensive 1997 report: “If the wage of domestic unskilled workers did not fall, no domestic worker (unskilled or skilled) would gain or lose, and there would be no net domestic gain from immigration.” In other words, immigration is good for America as a whole only because — and only to the extent that — it is bad for the poorest Americans. Conversely, low-skilled immigration enriches upper America, lowering the price of personal services like landscaping and restaurant meals. And by holding down wages, immigration makes the business investments of upper America more profitable.

Middle-class Americans surely share in the cost-lowering benefits of immigration. But the middle class also pays the higher local tax bills that can result from immigration. Immigrants do not qualify for many federal benefits, but they do use the roads, schools, hospitals and prisons supported by state and local property taxes — the taxes that fall most disproportionately on the middle class.

He concludes:

Equality in itself never can be or should be a conservative goal. But inequality taken to extremes can overwhelm conservative ideals of self-reliance, limited government and national unity. It can delegitimize commerce and business and invite destructive protectionism and overregulation. Inequality, in short, is a conservative issue too. We must develop a positive agenda that integrates the right kind of egalitarianism with our conservative principles of liberty. If we neglect this task and this opportunity, we won’t lose just the northern Virginia suburbs. We will lose America.

In 2008, the Republican Party was not ready to hear Frum’s advice. Perhaps they’re ready now.

I think it’s day five. I’ve lost count.

So, it’s late, but I wasn’t procrastinating today. I was trying to accomplish other things. As I mentioned at the start of my free association exercise that the point of the exercise is to become more fluid in my writing. To be able to get my ideas out more quickly. If you’re any of the people who talks to me on the phone or communicates with me via email, you know that I’m always referring to that post I’m going to write on some subject or another which I somehow never get to. Unfortunately, rigor and speed are often at odds. Still, I’d like to increase the speed.

Okay, now I’m blanking.

I’m not really blanking. I have three threads going in my head at once. One is about the contemporary fondness for physical fitness among the upper middle class. The second is a photograph I recently took of myself and the fact that I keep most photos of myself offline. The third was what I was writing about writing itself.

I mentioned at the start of this exercise that I had taken a writing course and writing your thoughts as the came into your head was a technique that was highly recommended for getting around writers block. However, what this current exercise doesn’t take into account is that the next stage was rereading and revising things. It wasn’t supposed to stay in that raw state. This is one of the conundrums of blogging. Blogging by its nature is speedy. It is a different literary beast from a well-developed article. I allow much more of what I consider “slippage” in a blog post than I ever would have allowed in an article I might have submitted for publication or written for class. In those cases, often several times more time is spent on the revising than on the rough draft. Trying to eliminate every spelling error and every grammatical error is seen as an attainable goal, if not in every article, then at least in the vast majority. When I first started blogging, I held myself to a similar standard, but I soon realized that that missed the point. Spending that much time revising and correcting was not a possibility if one wanted to publish with the sort of speed blogging implied.

So, how to improve quality in blogging?

I’m such a nasty, judgemental bitch. Really. I think I’m so superior to everyone. Sometimes, I annoy my own self.

Getting back to the “contemporary fondness for physical fitness” that I mentioned before, I saw a post about “sporn” selfies, pictures men take of themselves working out at the gym. Some academic wrote a paper about it. Now, I should qualify what I am about to say with the fact that I didn’t read the paper itself, I only read the coverage of it on a website. However, the parts they quoted made the academic who wrote the paper sound like someone who is entirely ignorant of any history. I looked him up and he apparently has a Ph.D. in “media studies.” The part that was quoted sounded so stupid, then I felt snotty, superior and like and asshole. There’s a side of me that wants to rip the guy’s ideas apart, but then there’s a side of me that pulls away from doing that because I don’t want to be mean.

Anyway, the reason that the sporn selfie thing interested me at all was because I had recently mentioned Christopher Lasch’s The Revolt of the Elites. Now, he draws some parallels between the behavior of the elites in the current day (although he was writing in the mid nineties, the social trends he noticed at that time have only increased since then) and the behavior Jose Ortega y Gasset noticed among the people he called “mass men.” (It is probably worth pointing out that Ortega believes that the “mass man” can appear in any strata of society.)

(An aside: My high school American History I teacher used to make us, when taking notes about an event, write down what events led up to it and what events resulted from it. It is always tempting, indeed, it may be necessary, to break history into eras and chunks. Yet, in the end, it is one stream. Where does the era described by Ortega end and our own begin? Indeed, ours is in fact, an outgrowth of the previous ones.)

One of the commonalities Lasch notices between the mass man of the 1920s and the elites of the 1990s is the fondness for physical fitness. Lasch summarizing Ortega’s description of the mass man writes:

His attitude toward the body was severely practical: He made a cult of physical fitness and submitted to hygienic regimens that promised to keep it in good repair and to extend its longevity.

This appears in a list of several other qualities, including no use for obligation, no feeling for history, incapable of submitting to direction, lacking an understanding of “the fragility of civilization or the tragic character of history,” a lack of romance or interest in erotic love. In conclusion, Lasch writes:

It was, above all, however, the “deadly hatred of all that is not itself” that characterized the mass mind, as Ortega described it. In capable of wonder or respect, the mass man was the “spoiled child of human history.”

Lasch then continues:

All these habits of mind, I submit, are now more characteristic of the upper levels of society than of the lower or middle levels.

Further down:

They [the working class] understand, as their betters do not, that there are inherent limits on human control over the course of social development, over nature and the body, over the tragic elements in human life and history. While young professionals subject themselves to an arduous schedule of physical exercise and dietary controls designed to keep death at bay – to maintain themselves in a state of permanent youthfulness, eternally attractive and remarriageable – ordinary people, on the other hand, accept the body’s decay as something against which it is more or less useless to struggle.

For now, the gentle side of me will win out. I will only recommend that Jamie Hakim read Ortega y Gasset, as well as Christopher Lasch, and look for other historical treatments of his theme.

Before I go, I’d like to throw out a quote from an article in The New Statesman about Pierre Bayle, someone with whom I trust all my freethinking friends are familiar.

When a clergyman questioned him about his religious views, he supposedly replied that he was a good Protestant, “in the full sense of the term”, because “I protest against everything that is said, and everything that is done”.

When I happen to catch a glimpse of myself in a mirror these days, I have the odd sensation of not recognizing myself at first. Then, when I realize the person I am looking at is me, I have this overwhelming sense of disgust. I’ve been struggling with my weight for about four or five years. Actually, when I really think about it, I’ve been struggling with my weight for about a decade, however, I’ve been losing the struggle for about four or five years. At first, I was able to keep my weight down by exercising more. However, when I got to the point that I was exercising an hour and a half a day, I realized that simply adding more exercise was no longer an option. Making matters worse, I don’t actually like exercising. I’d finish exercising feeling like I hated myself, hated the world, hated my life. Why, I would ask myself, I was trying to stay in good health to prolong a life I hated? Anyway, a bout of tendonitis a year ago did prove that I’d reached the point where increasing my exercise was no longer an option.

I should probably add, before I go farther, that I’m not looking for diet or exercise advice. That’s always the danger when you bring up this subject. Every self-righteous asshole wants to lecture you about what to do. Frankly, I’m probably smarter than the people looking to lecture me (Who’s the self-righteous asshole now?), I’m perfectly capable of doing research and have done so in order to maximize my efforts. If I want advice, I’ll ask. And in the past I have. I worked with personal trainers on a couple of occasions to develop exercise routines. I’m not dismissing professional advice. It’s just that I’m not looking for it at the moment. I want to talk about how I feel about my body.

So, it’s taken a long time, but I’ve finally accepted the reality. No matter what anyone says, as I’ve aged my metabolism has slowed down. Thyroid tests come back fine and I’m in pretty good health otherwise, so I’m not really worried. It used to be something of a truism that your metabolism slowed down as you aged. People don’t seem to say that anymore. I don’t know if it’s actually been disproven. However, I have heard people say things like people shouldn’t be told that their metabolism is slow because it will give them and “excuse” to be fat. Oddly, since I’ve come to terms with the idea that my metabolism is not what it used to be, I’ve finally lost some weight. I just said to myself, “Look, you can’t eat like you used to.” I’ve stopped trying to eat in the manner that experts would consider “healthy.” The truth is, I eat a lot less.

As I mentioned, I’m still in reasonably good health. I am officially overweight according to the doctor, but I probably wouldn’t stand out of crowd on account of it. I just come across as a sort of dumpy middle-aged woman. You probably wouldn’t notice me at all. The thing that causes the disgust when I look in the mirror is not so much that I look fat as I look matronly. It’s not simply a matter of attractiveness. It’s a matter of self-image, self-conception.

You see, I’ve always seen myself as being a little bit androgynous. This was long before talk about gender identity was commonplace, and I don’t know quite how this fits into that, if at all. Still, I’ve always felt that I wasn’t a typical girly-girl. I wasn’t a tomboy either. Although I never had a truly boyish figure, I wasn’t really curvy either, and I’d wear a lot of menswear. Actually, my buttocks were too big to fit into things actually cut for men, so I’d look for “menswear” inspired women’s clothes. The seventies had been a heyday for androgynous clothes, but they were usually of the casual sort. I found that I was far more influenced by the figure of the male dandy.

I never tried to pass as a man and it was only rarely that I’d be mistaken for one. When I was younger, it came across as Marlene Dietrich. Now, I’m afraid I look like one of the guests in the Rocky Horror Picture Show.

So, now, I’m somewhat conflicted. I look far better in dresses and more feminine things than I used to. But now, what I look good in, and what my personal taste is are totally different. My sister tells me that I should wear what I like and to hell with trying to look pretty. My mother tells me I look fat.

I was looking at fall 2016 runway photos, trying to get some ideas for future sewing projects, and I saw this:

Animal print suit by Dries van Noten

I would so absolutely love to wear this. Of course I can’t afford it and my sewing skills are not to the point where I can copy it.

After having successfully made my pants and a shirt to go with them, I’m now looking at my next project. I’ve been dying to work with neoprene. It was the trend last summer, but I didn’t quite get it since it seemed too warm to me for summer. Now with fall coming, however, I want to make something out of it. I was going to make a sheath dress. I wanted to put a big black zipper down the front as a sort of nod to scuba suits. However, when I was looking for an appropriate zipper, I came across this:

rhinestone zipperSo, I guess it’s going to be a little less sporty.

I’m not entirely sure why. I was very sick a couple of weeks ago and I’m not entirely over it. I still have a tight feeling in my chest.

I wrote about giving a man my phone number, and he never called, so there’s that. When I asked if he wanted it, he seemed happy in a way that’s hard to fake, so, although I usually try to take such things in my stride, I did expect that he would call. I’ve actually stopped dating because dating has mainly moved on-line. I have much better luck with men in person than online. I suspect I appear better in person than I do on paper. There’s also something I call the R. Mutt theory of life, but that probably deserves its own post.

I have a strange lack of concentration at the moment. There are a couple of books sitting on my coffee table, but five minutes at a stretch seems to be all I can give them before getting antsy.

Another possibility is a sudden cessation of activity and company. Normally, I spend lots of time alone and am fairly used to it. However, the past two months have been odd since I took the trip to China and the trip to California, which was to attend a convention-type thing for a week. Therefore, until a few days ago, I was a very busy person, doing lots of things, mostly with other people around. Usually, I pride myself on never being bored. I wonder if this odd feeling is boredom?

Finally, there’s the weather. We’re having a heat wave, which is predicted to continue until nearly the end of the month. I hate heat. A heat wave like this is the equivalent of a month of rainy days or freezing cold. In a way, it’s worse because I’ve been keeping the blinds drawn to block out the sun and I feel like I’m in a cave. I’m getting a little stir crazy and there’s no relief in sight. Making things worse, the temperature doesn’t drop much at night.

It’s all pretty petty stuff, but I’ve been feeling this for a few days now, so I thought I try writing it down to see if it helps.

In a little bit, once the sun is fully up, I’ll go take a jog or a walk. If I want to get out, this will be the coolest it will be all day, although the humidity is 68%.

I know this is all a lot of whining. Except for the tightness in my chest, all of these are problems in my own mind. I feel like I’ve been trying to solve the loneliness problem for about four or five years now. It doesn’t get worse, but it doesn’t get better either. I was able to temporarily alleviate it for a week, but now it feels like it’s come back even worse.

 

The cutie was a commie. Admittedly, I don’t know that for a fact, but I think it’s a reasonable guess based on his reading material and musical tastes. The books were big, fat, serious ones, the kind that people don’t read unless they’re motivated. The musical tastes… well, he first took note of me when I said something that indicated we might have overlapping musical tastes. Which I suppose we do, if you subtract the more obviously political stuff. For now, I’m assuming he is a flat-out Marxist.

Don’t get me wrong, some of my best friends are pinkos, the rest are anarchists, various flavors of socialist and whatnot. A true Marxist is rarity, but, you see, he had this smile. The cliché is to say that his smile made me “weak at the knees,” although the weakness was definitely located a foot and a half higher than that, and it wasn’t weak so much as wet. Every time he smiled, and I mean every time dammit, my rational, logical mind, which was busy trying to feed my mouth something half-way intelligent to say about art, or literature, or music, (After all, we’re not just talking about any old cutie, but a cutie with very large… books.) was interrupted by that primal part of the brain – you know that part that’s not well-connected to the language part of the brain. So, just as I was formulating some brilliant, or at least coherent, observation about the subject at hand, he’d smile and that other side of my brain would start redirecting my attention to how much I would like to touch him, specifically, how much I would like to get inside his pants. But even putting it that way implies a higher level of thinking than was actually going on. It would be more accurate to say that every time he smiled a gorilla jumped up and down in my brain shouting, “Cock!”

That would cause stammering and stumbling which I played off by asking if he had an opinion. He smiles easily and I must have seemed very interested in his… opinions. After all, not only were the books large, but they looked rather hard. One would expect such a man to have opinions worth exploring.

So, about a week ago, I had, if I’m not mistaken, which I could be, two men flirting with me and I felt prettier than I have in about five years. One seemed to drop out of the picture for a reason I can’t account for, leaving me with Mr. Dimples. (To be honest, I don’t recall whether or not he had dimples, but that’s shorter than Mr. Serious-but-smiles-easily.)

For a couple of days, I was a little nervous because I think Mr. Dimples was assuming, with no encouragement from me, that I share his radical leanings. So I need to ask Mr. Dimples, “Do you think you could make it with Frankenstein?” Or, in this case, an anti-authoritarian liberal, which in my social world might as well be Frankenstein.

So this was the first time in several years that I have really had an overwhelming primal reaction to a potential lover and actually felt good about it, and I’m really hoping my damn opinions don’t get in the way. I’ve tried agreeing with the majority, and it just doesn’t add up in my head. I can’t make myself go along with it. The best I can do is avoid talking about it.

The good news is, I’m not much of a talker in bed. In fact, lovers have found that a little bit remarkable about me since I tend to run on at length outside of bed. Shockingly, a couple of people have been disappointed. Most, however, are relieved.

The bad news is, I gave him my phone number a few days ago and he hasn’t called, so maybe all my wondering if I was too far to the center for him was all for naught.

In any case, the likelihood that he would actually read this is close to nil, so I feel like I can be more open about it here than I was in front of a crowd. I’m pretty sure I adequately communicated my desire for him to call. So, everyone, keep your fingers crossed.

As usual, the costumes were not as complete as I would have liked and I was still working on them until about an hour before departure. I know some people said they wanted to see pictures, but the low light level made it difficullt to take them. Most of them were blurry and didn’t come out well.

At the halloween parade

A few months ago I ordered a DNA test kit. It arrived quickly and has been sitting on my coffee table ever since. It’s one of those things that I’ve been wanting to do ever since these sorts of tests have become widely available. I really want to pretend it’s just idle curiosity, yet after it arrived I found that I felt some anxiety about the outcome. There are several companies which offer such tests. I decided to get the one from National Geographic, partly because it appeals to my nerdy side, but also it help me maintain a sense that this is an academic exercise. Yet it would be futile to deny the fact that a large part of my interest is related to wanting to know my ethnic background.

It sounded like an interesting idea when I ordered the test. Then suddenly, it seemed as if everything everywhere was about race, race, race, wherever I turned. I don’t know if we are have a major cultural change regarding our attitudes towards race or if it’s just one of those waves, almost like an intellectual or conversational fad, that washes through society from time to time. Suddenly, the ethnic, racial or ancestral portion of my identity wasn’t the private matter I always thought it was, but seemed to be a public question. Although no one was asking me in particular, it’s been floating in the zeitgeist.

So, now I’m sitting here waiting for an hour to elapse because I foolishly made myself a cup of coffee before sitting down to finally open the box. Inside the box there was a sleek-looking booklet with the kind of photos you expect from National Geographic about the “human story.” Well, it’s good to know that at least that part of my identity won’t change. Or maybe it will. The test might tell me I’m part Neanderthal.

Besides the glossy booklet, there’s some instructions and a consent form. The first instruction is to not eat or drink for an hour. Then you are supposed to scrape the side of your cheek with a swab, put the tip of the swab in a vial and send it back to the company. The box, the vials and the consent form all have a sticker with a code number affixed to them.

I thought it might be interesting to write about this. Since one of the reasons I wanted to do this is because I do not know what my ethnic background is, I thought it might be interesting to start writing before knowing the answer. According to the instructions, it can take ten weeks for the results. During that time, I might do a series of posts about race, ethnicity and identity with this particular context in mind.

This test looks at autosomal and mitochondrial DNA, and for men it can look at the Y-Chromosome DNA. The Y-Chromosome traces the direct paternal line whereas the mitochondrial DNA can trace the direct maternal line. This is a little bit of a disappointment for me since I have zero knowledge about my biological father. The direct maternal line is one of the few things I currently know. Unless oral history is incorrect, that should be traceable to England.

More on this later.

I’ve spent the past couple of weeks moving and haven’t checked my email in a few days. Finally, I’m more or less moved in and I sat down to write a post. I paused to check my email and suddenly what I was writing seemed too frivolous to continue.

For about five years I had an email correspondence with a man in Germany. We probably averaged about two or three emails a week, but it was not unusual for us to write every day for a week or a month at a time. Eventually, I came to think of him as one of my closest friends. We flirted more than a little, but we never met. It’s hard to describe how I felt about him. I had affection for him that went beyond being purely platonic, but the fact that we never met prevented it from turning into a full-fledged love affair, but flirtation always lurked in the background. When I saw the movie Catfish, I felt a little disappointed because I thought that they missed the opportunity to explore a more profound question. What does it mean to truly know someone? Why do we like the people we like?

Then last September, he stopped writing. At first, I wondered, but there had been times in the past when he told me that work got busy. He also confessed to emotional problems, specifically depression. However, the longest he had ever gone without writing was two weeks. As we moved into October, I began to wonder. I wrote multiple times and resisted the urge to write many times more. I cried into my pillow. Walking down the street one evening I saw a street sign with the same name as the town in Germany were he lived. I had to momentarily brace myself against a building. I reviewed in my mind every word of the last email he sent and my response trying to find some offense that I could have made.

My sister insisted that something had happened to him because, she said, he would not abandon me so easily.

Several days ago, his brother sent me an email which I only just read this evening. I did not know his brother, but I recognized the surname and immediately knew why he had written. My friend died last September.

It’s hard to describe what a loss I’m feeling right now.