I was talking to a guy last night at a show. I told him I was so grateful to be back home in Ohio and not in the Bay Area. He said, “yeah a lot of people who find Ohio difficult don’t realize they’ll find a place like that more difficult.”
It’s true and it’s cutting. It contains a judgment of me and the expectation that I either won’t notice the judgment or know better than to call out the judgment. It reduces the journey and the struggle down to a macho “some people can hack it, some people can’t” story. That’s how a lot of people around comedians like to talk. My family likes to talk like that too. My Chicago queer friends talked the same way. They’ll tell me my story back to me and it’ll hinge on how I couldn’t hack it.
I remember one of my Chicago queer friends came out to visit while I lived in Berkeley, the visit that led up to me moving out of that hippie house and away from my Nice Guy friend who wasn’t that nice. I was telling her about how much I missed my comedy scene back home. People in SF’s comedy scene were very hung up on their hierarchy, and I never found a crew of people who were just fun to put on a show with. That’s the aesthetic of my hometown’s scene. We put on shows because shows are fun to put on. You create something because it’s fun to create stuff. I missed that so much while I was in the Bay area, because that “making shit together” dynamic is foundational to my social life. Anyways I tell my friend this and she says, “Yeah, and it’s more fun to cheer lead for a small pond than to make it in a big pond.”
Whatever. After that visit she didn’t contact me again for a half a year, at which point she wanted to know why I didn’t like her facebook posts or share her GoFundMe for a conference she was going to. I just said I didn’t realize I had been making her feel ignored. I didn’t say, hey you show no concern for my well-being, and I can count on you to say the worst stuff.
The rep I have with my family, with comedy people, and with those Chicago people is that I’m sensitive. I’d love to reclaim “sensitive,” but its sting might go a little too deep in me to do that. All I can tell you is that people get away with abusive behaviors because groups of people all agree that a particular person, for reasons of status or resources or being a dude, gets to have their abusive behaviors ignored. The only way the group’s collective decision on this can hold is if the people pointing out abusive behavior have their credibility diminished by being branded with some kind of label.
You don’t just have to manage your relationship to potential abusers. You also just have to manage your relationship to groups. If you don’t have credibility in a social group, you gotta get out of there. Potential abusers have sussed out who has less credibility and will come for you. That dude in the comedy scene who creeped on me last fall creeped on another girl about a month later. What me and that girl have in common is we both have reps in the scene for being sensitive.
So he’s on his predator game. I carry a rep, he doesn’t. Honestly, whatever. What I figured out about my Chicago queer friend is that she’s got her own nervous self-worth shit going on, and that naturally gets in the way of her being a safe person to tell your shit to. She’ll say something cutting because she’s cutting herself down in her head all day and that’s the pattern of reaction she’s got going. That creeper guy picks on women because he needs to prove he isn’t one of us, he’s a big tough guy, just like all those bigger, tougher, stronger guys he’s actually not much like at all.
My mom says I’m sensitive. She also said, when I told her about getting raped in college, “Oh hon, you weren’t raped, you were just coerced into sex.” I knew instantaneously, even while I was reeling from what felt like her choosing my rapist over me, that my mom had been raped. We react to other people’s dark stuff exactly how we react to our own dark stuff.
I’ve been romantically drawn to some dark characters. The narcissistic shit my exes have pulled has all been way over the top.
I really think I’m drawn to people who do dark shit- who treat other people like resources to drain- because I want to be able to do dark shit. It’s very difficult for me to give myself permission to put my convenience and self-interest first. Being close to someone for whom that’s their instinctual pattern is so freeing! You’re never the bad one in the equation. Obviously their narcissistic ass is. Thus you can indulge yourself a little bit more. It’s ok to spend a day smoking blunts and eating pizza, at least you didn’t do that AND explicitly manipulate a bunch of people.
I think I’m attracted to the narcissistic for the same reason I like watching House of Cards and like violent rap- because I need an intense hit of moral freedom. Because it’s hard for me to grant myself that freedom.
That guy who cut me down about not being able to handle California? I couldn’t ever imagine letting myself talk to someone that way. There are so many occasions when I should have said something cutting and didn’t! I have so many more regrets about times the best course of action was to be a bitch and I didn’t!
Last fall I also ran into the comedy scene’s rapist when I went to the comedy club he works at. He saw me and he said, “Is that Maria under there?” Because I was wearing a lot of makeup. In my head I immediately thought, what the fuck you talking about dummy, I know all the charges you’ve caught. But of course, he said that because he knows I know all his charges. After all the rape charges he also caught one when he approached an undercover cop and tried to buy sex from her. Like honestly, yeah, if I had ever had the experience of sitting in a jail cell because my dumbass had tried to buy sex from a cop I might also need to point out when I thought other people’s makeup was too much. I might need little bits of cutting other people to make myself feel ok.
People are so ridiculous. People are so over the top with their weird shit. Like, just treat people ok and then you won’t exist in this dumb shame spiral you’re creating. Just take a second before you open your mouth and think, “do I actually need to try to make this person feel bad, or would that be transparent and give me reason to feel ashamed later?”
I’m putting together that I get a lot of these attempts to cut me down because I can be a really hard person for an ambitious and guarded person to be around. I am really fearless when it comes to being emotionally vulnerable, absolutely sometimes to a fault. I also appear to not be motivated by moving up hierarchies. The truth is I am intimately acquainted with the aspects of me that are TOTALLY motivated by moving up hierarchies, they’ve tortured me quite a bit. But externally it can appear to other people that I’m motivated by something else. So if you are someone who has a rule for yourself that you have to be emotionally guarded and your worth depends on moving up a hierarchy, me and my self-approval are super annoying. Of course you want to say something cutting to me. You’re in a system of values and you have to assert that that system is real and true. You gotta let me know, “Hey lady you think you’re doing ok but really you’re not hacking it!”
That sucks that we all need to have people slotted into “definitely not doing as well as me” to feel like we’re doing ok. It sucks because it keeps us invested in a bunch of systems that want us ground up into nothing while we make money for other people. It sucks because we’re not paying attention to whether the human race is going to survive because we’re so invested in these dumb ego-chases.
It sucks, and it’s really silly, and I guess I can appreciate the silliness of it at least. I’ve given SO MUCH of my energy and time to making my place in a couple of strange hierarchies determine my worth. And all the time, I could’ve been doing yoga, and decorating a sweet little apartment for myself, and joking with people I like. I gave all my twenties to trying to hack it, trying to escape my own shame spiral, when I could’ve been enjoying myself. The big picture of life is complex but daily life is pretty simple. Make your body feel good, set future you up for a good time, discover how the people you know are enjoyable.
You know what that guy was doing? He was hitting on me. I didn’t get it till a few minutes later on in the conversation- there was a lingering glance and I put it together. He just thought I need to feel bad about myself to feel good about him. Maybe he’s just noticed young women tend to like jerks. Certainly that is how all those exes landed me.
I think I can feel really good about myself and feel really good about someone else too. I think I’m there now. I think I know how to cultivate feeling really good every day. I think I don’t even need blunts and pizza to feel really good. Well- I take part of that back. I’d be pretty crazy about a guy who brought over pizza consistently.
Oh. Maybe that’s where that porno trope comes from. Wisdom lurks in some weird places.