Saturday, September 08, 2007
Hey, Bebby, let's fornicate with our second bodies...
I want to thank everyone who responded with the correct Spanish for "quiet is healthy." I should have entitled the last post "Senex est habilis." Regardless, I have to respond to one of the most common queries I get on this blog. "Hey, The," my readers write, "tell us more about your sex life." At the risk of overloading the web and being the first person to ever talk about sex on the Internet, I will offer the following prurient and scarifying tale of lust and sweat.
I dated a student of mine, once. Ok, I had a student once. I should say that, first. Then I should say that I had a female student. Then I can reveal that I dated her, once, when she was no longer in my class. You see, I was five and twenty, and she was in the bloom of physical perfectibility at nineteen or twenty. I understand that the massive gap in ages makes my confession shocking, and that we had no chaperon makes it all the more alluring. This is what comes of letting your daughters attend a secular college. What makes it even worse is that she had known me prior to becoming my student. She had even been, she said, a "fan" of mine! I mean a fan of me, particularly, and not our future-gay singer, future married drummer.
Obviously, the lady had troubles.
Anyway, she thought I was witty, intelligent, and cool. I thought she was unbearably cute, lively, interesting, and with a compelling, but worrying, back story. (Her father was not the nicest person in the world. Something about having been in Laos in 1967 in action, even though, of course the US was not in Laos then, but maybe that was just a coincidence.)
We had one date. We had exactly one date.
There was no break up, because there was nothing to break. The chemistry could not have been worse for dating, and in the post-mortem I think I figured out why I felt so bad. Why she felt bad is instantly understandable: I'm not worth any woman's time and biological resources. I am desperate, though, so why wasn't I heartbroken?
The thing is, you see, I felt like only part of a person (and that's no good, no matter how you slice me). Witty, cool, and intelligent trapped me. I had always presented that face, and now it was the basis of her attraction. As long as I was around her, I couldn't like bad art, couldn't be wrong, couldn't enjoy stupid music, couldn't watch dumb movies, couldn't praise sports on television, couldn't be bland. A single, consciously inflated but genuine, part of myself was going to have to mask the rest of me. It was wretched. It wasn't the pressure. I was a teacher, and a popular one, so I was accustomed being engaging and smart for hours at a stretch. I couldn't have fooled her into thinking that I was admirable if I didn't have some admirable or shiny bit in my corpus.
Rather, I was not satisfied with this much sacrifice of freedom. The freedom I needed was the freedom to be who I am, in whole and various, rather than the freedom to do some particular thing.
Self-determination may be overrated, but when it comes to the making, handling, distribution, and consumption of love, I find that it's somewhat critical. I also find that the amount of time one spends with another person in the postures of love, the more of the designed self gets eroded, and the nearer the core gets to exposed. This is why being selected by a partner for an attribute is absolute doom. Unless the lover pulls back the layers and likes each one, or at least most of them, there is no hope whatever. If you try to become the attributes that the lover likes, you'll go mad. In fact, you pretty much are mad. It is delusional and mentally ill, as well as dishonest, to try to become the projected image.
No sugar that night, then.
That's not the issue, though. I'm not really writing this blog entry about my date or passing on my words of wisdom to the lovelorn or love handled or short horned. What I'm actually writing about is the fact that screen names and screen identities are self-projections. They are what we think of as the diamond inside us, when we hold the cutting knife. They are also the bit we wish were inside. Either way (self-selection or fantasy), they are projections of attributes or aspects onto a screen. Like all projections, they are two-dimensional, and social websites are these screens. They allow lateral movement, but they never allow stacking meanings, contradictions of action, paradox, frustration and aspiration. They never allow hope. They have no history. They are a continually dragged out "now," where, interestingly, the moment is ineluctably pre-defined by the attributes contained in the screen name. In a sense, the screen name is the moment.
They have the ability to seem like social life in exactly the same way that television can persuade the gullible that soap opera characters are real. (This, incidentally, is not a small amount. Don't you dare laugh at the woman in the line at the grocery store getting Soap Opera Digest and expressing audible fears about Monica's baby. You are no more clever than her.)
Suppose you do the wish self, the conquering hero(ine) self. If you chose your online self when you were thirteen and looking to get chicksman ("Chicks, man"), then you gave yourself the name Cooldude (because we all know that chicks like the cool dudes), and that is your present moment. For the rest of your time with that name, you are thirteen. Or you're Catherine de Lily, the impetuous belle for now, and now forever. For the rest of the time online, you are Cooldude or Lady Catherine, and all the scribble and dribble you did at that age, suffering as you were from testosterone poisoning or green sickness, is your present moment.
Suppose, instead, you take the shining gem star of your heart and do that. Stampman15 and Birdergirl3 have singular interests. They can't have mortgages to meet. They can't lose jobs that they do not admit to having. They cannot be swamped by PTA meetings or have to rush to arrange a relative's funeral or decide, most of all, that stamp collecting is fey and birding is too expensive. No: they're locked down. That neglected corner of the user's soul that needed watering is now claiming the whole pot.
Above, I argued that avatars are inherently psychotic. This is what I meant. It isn't your avatar that is psychotic, and it isn't that psychotics create avatars, but rather that you have gone out to date the entire universe of computers with a tenth of a personality. More, you have decided to stay there. You can be glamorous and say that you are an actor stuck in a role, but that's wrong. You are a liar stuck in a lie. You have decided on the role yourself, written it, and now cannot change the script. Even if you could change the script, though, and even if you could correct the lie, you would only have the binary choices of one or the other or the other or the other. You are in a two-dimensional society. You are flat. You must be forever operating as a pair of ragged claws surfing across the surface of prattling seas.
Is that how you want to spend your free time? Is that personality? Is that a second life? Is that life at all?
Give me a rocket or a big red switch.