Galaxy Brain Hot Take Time #005

Everything in life has a cost. Whether it’s time, experience, knowledge, pain, etc. There’s a cost that’s not monetary, that life takes.

Sometimes life throws you gifts. Gifts come with costs, but they’re not always obvious. The cost of a gift is twofold:

1) Acceptance. If you’re not willing to accept a gift, you’re probably not receiving the full gift.
2) Acknowledgement. Understanding what the gift you’re being given is.

Say you’re having a hard time, and someone drops off a meal. It’s a gift. Of course the material food is a huge gift, but the gift is also the feeling of being cared for. Knowing someone has your back. The stress alleviated by not having to do the task. The nourishment that lets you keep pushing on. Acceptance and Acknowledgement allow us to better appreciate the gifts we’re given.

So much of life is out of our control. Gifts are out of our control, but how we receive them isn’t. I’ve been very fortunate lately to have a lot of gifts come my way. From big ones like finding a job I love, to smaller ones like having insufficient hand injury to warrant a cast, to internal stuff like better understanding my relationship with freedom and responsibility.

The more gifts come my way, the easier it is to recognise when I’m being given a gift. The easier it is to recognise gifts in my life, the more I understand how much they’ve improved my life. The more I understand their value, the easier it is to see opportunities to give gifts to other people.
Lately I’ve been trying to do small things for the people in my locus, and seeing them get tacit value for the proportionally small effort I’ve made is a gift returned. Knowing that I can help allows me to better understand further opportunities to give, and it’s become so much easier to do so. A lot of things these days have made me feel pretty powerless. It’s just nice knowing I can touch the world, even if its a tiny ripple.

I’d encourage anyone interested to think about gifts in their life. It’ll (excuse the pun) keep on giving.

Would a kinky music group be a rubber band?

Things I’ve learned about stretching:

First rule of any fitness: If it hurts, stop.

There’s a difference between tension and pain. Tension is something you can work through. Pain is a sign to step back.

Dynamic and Static stretching are different, and to understand it’s helpful to think of a rubber band. If you take a rubber band our of a freezer and pull on it, chances are it will snap. If you warm the rubber band up first, it will slowly expand the range it can stretch. It’s the same thing with Dynamic and Static stretching. Dynamic stretching (pulsing into a stretch rather than just holding it) is great when you’re starting a workout, and Static is great for cooling down. BUT IT’S NOT JUST THAT CLEAR CUT.

Once you get used to the difference, you can use Dynamic and Static stretching interchangeably to get the most out of a movement. Say you’re bending to the ground with straight legs and you’re not getting as far as you’d like, stop. Gently bend your knees. Then cycle back and forth, straightening alternate legs. You’ll probably find that in those small increments, you can stretch further than you could in a Static stretch. Once your legs feel sufficiently warmed up, try going back to Static stretching, straightening both legs. It’s likely that you’ll be able to stretch deeper than previously. You can do this again and again until you have the stretch you’re looking for.

Once again, if it hurts, stop.

You can step back and recalibrate at any point. If something doesn’t feel right, ask yourself why that is. Can you gently change the angle? Rotate somehow? Move other parts of your body to stimulate different muscles? Here’s an example. Spread your fingers out as wide as they go. Now bend your index finger. Bend your hand forwards and back. Feel what the movement does. Now try this with your middle finger bent instead. Move through all your fingers one by one. Do you feel how it engages different parts of your hand? These are all technically mildly different stretches with different applications. If you do this with rotating your wrist instead of bending your hand, do you feel a difference? It’s the same with most stretches. If you’re bending to the ground with straight legs, what happens if you rotate your torso? Trying new things out is a great way of exploring how your body is connected, and may lead to releasing tension in areas you didn’t realise you were holding them.

I must repeat, if at any point it hurts, stop.

Just because you know that a particular muscle is sore, it doesn’t mean you can take care of it right away. Sometimes particular muscles are near inaccessible until you’ve relaxed the surrounding muscle. Say you have a sore knee, and stretching isn’t helping. Could you try stretching your ankle? Your quads? Your abductors (outer leg) and adductors (inner leg)? Your IT band (a long thread that runs from your knee to the outside of your hip. You probably have IT band issues, we all do)? They’re all connected in ways we don’t realise. The good news is that once you stretch all the surrounding musculature, the particular muscle is likely a) already feeling some relief and b) far easier to work into.

BE PATIENT. Never rush. If you’ve just done a deep stretch, please do not pull out of it quickly. Slowly release that tension. Remember what I was saying about the cold rubber band earlier? Same thing. Work back into it. If you’ve been stretching your knee, maybe start by gently wiggling your toes. Then rock your foot from side to side. Rotate your ankle. THEN start to straighten your leg. I know it sounds silly to spend upwards of 30 seconds to a minute coming down from a stretch, but if the goal of stretching is either healing or preventative action, take care of yourself and spend the time.

Learn to tighten your core. If you can tighten your core, it helps you isolate particular muscles without putting unneccessary strain on supporting muscles. Stretching with isolation is an entirely different level of stretching.

It’s very helpful to examine your framing around stretching. Is it something you do to get you ready for a workout? Or are you looking for long term change? They have different applications.

The bad news is that stretching for long term change is not as quick a process as most of us would like. Some things take a long time, and the bigger issue it is, the longer it takes. There’s pain management, and there’s fixing body trauma. The more you learn about stretching, the more there is to learn. You may even realise just how much tension you’ve been holding, and be amazed by how long you’ve been holding it.

The good news: The way you think about your body might be wrong. Things that you assume are the way your body works might be patterns you’ve created around ingrained and normalised tension. These are things you can change, and potentially fix.

Story time: Last week I was thinking about that thing where you put an arm behind your back and reach over with the other arm to grab it. Ever since I was a child, I’ve only been able to do it with my left arm behind my back. So I tried to consciously think about what would need to happen to do it with both arms. I pulled my right arm behind my back, and gradually inched it up. I got a thick rubberised band and grabbed one end with my right hand. I pulled my right hand behind my back, and used my left hand to pull on the other end of the band from above. Then I noticed there was tension at the front of my right shoulder. I did a chest stretch with my right arm taught, and felt around the front of my right shoulder for where the pain was centred. I pressed down on that spot with a finger on my left hand. While flexed, I massaged this spot and gently worked out the tension. I tried the arm behind my back thing again. I did it. For the first time in my entire life, I could reach my right hand behind my back and grab it with my left.

This whole process took five minutes. Five minutes, with the right knowledge, meant I could correct something I didn’t know wasn’t working right. Take whatever metaphor you want from this.

That’s also not the extent of it. In the past ten or so days I fixed wrist issues I’ve been dealing with since I fractured my ulnar styloid two years ago. I released a whole block of tension in my back I thought was just how my back worked. My entire back eased up. I did not know that your whole lower back was not supposed to tighten when you tighten your core. Things had been that way for so long, I thought that was standard. My body physically is different now. My shoulders are not constantly taut. My back was literally swollen with tension, and that has all receded.

Around ten years ago I tore my PCL. Knee pain has been a constant in my adult life. Last week I spent over an hour working on my knee. Testing each point of articulation, breathing deep and gradually working my way through it. My knee no longer hurts. Seriously. Over a decade of daily pain, and it’s gone. Whoosh. I could not believe it. I’m not saying it’s fixed forever, but it’s at such a low level that it’s incredibly easy to maintain, and I know how to ease it back to normalcy going on. If you told me two weeks ago I’d be without knee pain now I would have loudly and rudely laughed in your face. And enjoyed it. Turns out, things we think we know aren’t always true.

The worst and best part is, I still have so, so much to learn.

My presence is a present kiss my ass (once lockdown is over, if you’re into it)

The other day I got high and rammed my body with an inadvisable amount of caffeine. Then I found presence.

So during this pandemic, on my days off, I’ve been getting high for midday workouts on my balcony. I’ve stopped doing anything weight based, just low impact joint friendly stuff. I do my own guided stretching that can take anywhere from twenty to ninety minutes, then I’ll do a 30 minute Youtube workout video (quick plug for The Body Project, by the way. Fun and easy to follow for a whole range of fitness levels). It’s also a good time for me to let my thoughts wander ad infinitum. I’ve never been great at concentrating. My thoughts seem to be always in many places at once. I’m sure the weed wasn’t helping there.

After turning my blood to coffee, I wasn’t bucking this trend. I walked out onto the balcony and couldn’t stop my thoughts from racing. Not doom and gloom stuff, just what would a dog look like in a turtleneck?/when do I get to play Magic again?/what am I gonna eat for dinner tonight?/how much of Gremlins 2 do I remember? Altogether it wasn’t conducive to my goal of stretching and working out.

So I gave myself a Time Out. I sat down on the chilly bin and stopped. I closed my eyes, made myself take deep breaths and asked myself a few questions. Is any of this important enough to focus on over what I’m doing? If not, will I need to address it in the short term? If not, is it more of a long term thing? If so, why not put it aside until it’s necessary? Why waste my time and energy on these things that don’t matter right now? Why shortchange something I enjoy for no reason? Why not put my effort towards getting more out of my stretch, enjoying the music, and just being where I was?

And things stopped. I calmed down. I started stretching, really taking into account what I was stretching. I found where to push, what was helping and what wasn’t. Whenever an intrusive thought came up, I asked myself it was important at that time, or if I could think about it later. If it was important, I addressed the thought, then got back to what I was doing. If it wasn’t, I shelved it for later. I had a fantastic workout, and whenever a new thought came up, I continued with this process. Very quickly, I found it quite straightforward to just be where I was.

I came in and talked excitedly to my girlfriend about giving myself a time out. She looked back excitedly and said “babe, that’s mindfulness meditation”. And I stopped. And I thought. And I realised she was right.

In the past few days, it’s made EVERYTHING better. I assess every thought/task and ask myself if it’s urgent. If it’s not, I’ll put it away for later. I focus on what I’m doing. I put full effort and intention into one thing, then I move onto the next. I’m still doing things at the same pace (or more efficiently sometimes), I’m just doing them better. If I’m spending time with my girlfriend, I’m there with her. Kissing is better. Touch is better. I’m listening more. If I’m playing Magic, I’m consciously thinking of the best play, taking into account all the information at hand. If I’m watching TV, I’m paying attention rather than thinking about other things I could be doing. I know that this sounds complicated or exhausting, but it isn’t. It’s the opposite. I trust and love myself to know that I have my best intentions at heart, so I can gauge what’s best for me. If at any point that changes, I’ll figure out how to adapt and move forward. If I’m wrong, I accept it and look for a better option.

Forgive the stoner philosophy, but I’ve realised that life is an infinite series of moments. At any single one of those moments, we can decide to change. We’re not stuck with thoughts or opinions because we had them. We can change with new information. Sunken cost fallacy is bullshit, and being wrong isn’t a curse. Ego is. There are lessons in error. If we realise we’re wrong or misguided, we can stop, take stock, and figure out the best course of action from then on. With ANYTHING. There’s absolutely no purpose to holding onto resentment, regret, or self-doubt. If it’s not helping us, it’s worth taking apart and asking what it’s doing for us. Is there a reason I’m fixated on this? What is it really trying to say? Is there a more constructive way to look at it? Is there an alternative line of thinking? Is there a way to turn this around? If it’s not a quick fix, are there steps I could take? Will that take moments? Days? Months? Years?

Cool. No better time to start than now.

Here’s a little song I wrote…

So it’s come to this, has it?

I don’t know why I phrased that so ominously. I’m elated. Look, I may be a sincere person, but I’m rarely if ever sentimental. Today is my last day of daily writing. So it goes. This writing project was been a necessary part of my life for many years. Having a creative outlet during the tough times helped immeasurably. I’m not gonna begin to pretend I always wanted to write. Maybe I actually wanted to write five times per year. The other 360 times were under my own duress. Then multiply that by seven. I decided that I would write every single day irrespective of what I had going on. If I was tired, it was 3am, and my organs were seeping out of my skin from fatigue? Too bad. Writing still needed to happen. This also meant that most days, I really didn’t feel like it, but forced myself. I might not be sentimental, but I can be quite disciplined if I tell myself I have no other option. I’m not kind when it comes to diligence, I just decide that I don’t have a choice and suffer through it.

The best part, is that I essentially did my summation entry yesterday, so today I can be back on my usual brand o’ bullshit. I dunno. My brain is a little loopy at the moment, which feels fitting. We’re moving house. I’m surrounded by detritus, which is an unkind way to refer to our belongings. To be fair, on a long enough timeline we’re all detritus. I’ve been throwing things away all day, which is one of my favourite things to do. There’s little I love more than shedding the past and moving on. I don’t really like owning stuff. I hate that I gradually accumulate more things. Fortunately, my trash can be another man’s trash. Or woman. Or anyone along the gender spectrum. Gender is a construct, and wholly irrelevant when we’re talking about things I may have cared about at some stage. Then again, at some stage gender was a thing I cared about. Plus ça change, eh?

Mostly, it’ll be weird for my parents. Seeing an entry posted every day is the only way they know I’m still living. I think my girlfriend reads too? I never really accrued much of an audience, but that also wasn’t the point. The point was to have somewhere to jot down thoughts, work on improving as a writer, and finally figure out some kind of stance on the Oxford Comma. Obviously, I’m pro. I didn’t even write the sentence that way on purpose, it just happened.

I’m also thrilled that the summation of this project lined up with me getting my shit together. I’m in a great place. My girlfriend and I are about to move into an all new apartment together. I’m leaving the only Toronto home I’ve ever had. I have an expansive circle of friends I adore. I’m stoked to be working in Described Video. It’s challenging, creative, and ever evolving. I’ve done a lot of work on my mental and physical health over the years, and they’re both paying dividends. Moreover, I’ve learned how better to process, accept, and move forwards. I’ll struggle again, and again, and life will be riding those waves. It’s what we do, no?

I remember going out for dinner with my mum once. We used to do that kind of thing. Go out to the movies, get dinner. We were homies. We went for a fancy dégustation, because we both share a love of food. It was a fantastic meal, and a lovely evening. At one point I levelled with her. “Mum, you need to understand that I’m never going to be truly happy. I know that there’ll always be something holding me back, and that’s okay. I’ve made my peace with it, and I think it would be healthy for you to stop having that expectation.” It was a horrible thing to say. I don’t think she took it well, but I meant every word of it.

Sorry mum. I lied.

Penultimate Showdown of Penultimate Destiny

PENULTIMATE.

Do you know how rarely I get to use that word? You can bet your sweet cheeks I’ll shoehorn it in at any possible juncture. Other words I’ll rabidly attempt to “make happen” include:

  • Zenith/nadir
  • Fortnight
  • Penumbra (partial shadow)
  • Incidence
  • Myriad

But why Penultimate? Because I’ve only got one more daily entry after this, baybee! Seven years of [questionably -Ed] hard work, and discipline. Spending at least 30 minutes every single day putting finger to keyboard. I’ve written on trains, planes, and in automobiles (which, given my low level motion sickness, was undoubtedly a terrible idea). I’ve written in restaurants, cafes, watering holes. I’ve written in the city, the country, and in tents. I’ve written through sunshine, sleet, snow, hail and the Toronto wild winter storm of 2013. I’ve written across cities, countries and continents. I feel like this is a Dr. Seuss book in the making. Have you written in a car? Have you written in a bar? I’ve written sober, drunk (rarely) and high (still rarely, but surprisingly somewhat less). Did you know that this entry was written after my friend and I made weed caramel chocolate slices for her birthday and took them to the zoo? It should be far more obvious in retrospect.

Between the time I started, way back in March 2013, and now, I’ve grown up [debatable -Ed]. What started out as a way of hopefully loosening up my creative juices so I could write stand-up, became a weird, sometimes starkly honest, catalogue of my life. I moved across the world from New Zealand to Canada. I left family and friends behind in the hopes of finding myself [yeah yeah, lay it on thick Elizabeth Gilbert -Ed]. I started in the wake of a long term relationship coming to an end, and discovered a whole new world of dating, sex, and longer term commitment. I started polyamory, and while it’s come in waves (and basically doesn’t exist in the midst of a pandemic), it’s something that I’ve slowly come to appreciate within my life. My attitudes and approaches to different aspects of life have morphed over the years. I’d like to think I’ve generally become more tolerant, accepting and empathetic as time has passed.

I’ve struggled, but who hasn’t? I moved away from a cushy job into vast periods of uncertainty. Finding work that fulfils me took almost the entire seven years. I took on menial part time jobs when I first arrived in Canada, got helplessly stuck in a comfortable but draining position for the better (or worse?) part of five years. I went to therapy. I’ve (mostly) overcome the body image issues that borderline controlled my entire life. I came to terms with my depression, rather than assuming/ignoring it as I had for the past few decades. I take anti-depressants now, and they’ve totally changed my outlook. My income has fluctuated, and it’s caused me to hold a greater appreciation for how fleeting money is. I’m not saying it doesn’t matter, but I care a lot less about money’s worth than I used to. “Value” is a nebulous term that’s entirely individual. For me it’s having love in my life, a base level of stability to have my needs met, and being surrounded by people I care about deeply.

Also I co-hosted a dumb podcast about the Air Bud Cinematic Universe. If you’re looking for extra-curricular content, there you go.

I know it’s not perfect, but I’m hoping this penultimate (YUS, ONE MORE TIME!) entry serves as a nice little ribbon on this project. If there’s one thing I know about myself, it’s that when shit hits the fan I shit the bed, and tomorrow’s entry will probably be a shitshow.

P E N U L T I M A T E

The site name spells it out explicitly

Having distractions in these trying times is immensely necessary.

A couple of months back a friend introduced me to Watch Cartoons Online. I’m certain it’s incredibly illegal, but it’s also an incredible resource for long forgotten cartoons (as well as current ones if that’s your flavour). If you’re bored and looking for some animated ways to pass your time, here are a handful of suggestions:

  • May I suggest this fantastic workplace comedy about a cantankerous Chosen One fighting demons? Written by Toronto comic Mark Little?
  • Or Samurai Pizza Cats?Likely the most influential piece of media on my burgeoning absurdist sense of humour? Re-written by Canadians who couldn’t work with the abysmal Japanese translations they received? It holds up exceptionally well.
  • Or Gravity Falls? Which people have been telling me to watch for years. Supposedly a fun intersection of family adventure and X-Files style monster of the week?
  • Or Unikitty? A breakneck slapstick absurdist cartoon that I fell in love with from DVing it?
  • Or ProStars? Where Michael Jordan, Bo Jackson and Wayne Gretsky are international superheroes with the power of SPORTS?
  • Or Venture Bros? The most dense and tightly written adult cartoon I’ve seen in my entire life?
  • Or the original TMNT? With no explanation necessary?
  • Or Over the Garden Wall? An ideal 10 episode self contained story that’s a rollercoaster of a watch?
  • Or Harmonquest? Where Dan Harmon and friends play D&D and it’s animated?
  • Or Gargoyles? The Avatar:The Last Airbender of the 90s?
  • Or Denver, The Last Dinosaur? Because the theme song is catchy as fuck?
  • Or Cupcake and Dino? Because even though it’s on Netflix, I just like repping this cute and very funny show?
  • Or Captain N: The Game Master? Because a 90s Nintendo ad disguised as a cartoon probably hasn’t aged well?
  • Or Captain Planet? Because honestly a green mullet is probably all that stands between us and a total climate collapse?
  • Or Batman: The Animated Series? Because you want to cry watching the Mr. Freeze episode?
  • Or Attack of the Killer Tomatoes? Because there was a time where people adapted R rated Z grade horror films into children’s cartoons?
  • Or Toxic Crusaders? For exactly the same reason? His best friend is a goddamn mop?
  • Or Beast Wars? Because I remember it having some pretty satisfying arcs, and it was at a time where we thought CGI animation was super impressive?
  • Or The Tick? Because I’m wagering it probably holds up pretty well?
  • Or The Mask? Because while I’m not certain it holds up, I remember the voice acting talent being something fearsome to behold?
  • Or The Berenstain Bears? Because you’re a conspiracy theorist who wants to prod for loopholes?
  • Or Steven Universe? Because I know a lot of people who love the shit out of it and it’s probably a fantastic show for kids?
  • Or Star Trek: The Animated Series? Because apparently Trek is pretty popular and it’ll probably make a lot of y’all nostalgic?
  • Or Spawn? Because it was made by HBO and I remember it being exponentially better than the terrible film?
  • Or Jackie Chan Adventures? Because I have pretty positive memories of it?
  • Or Garbage Pail Kids? Because I’ve never watched it but I’m CERTAIN it’s fucked up as all hell?
  • And lastly, Earthworm Jim? Because while it probably doesn’t hold up, my childhood self would strangle me with a skipping rope if I didn’t include it?

That should do y’all for the next week. Stay in and THRIVE.

Love in the time of Corona

How was my date? I got stood up.

That’s not entirely fair, but it is more attention grabbing. What really happened was failure to communicate. The last text I got from this gal was on Tuesday, suggesting the time for us to get tacos/margaritas. I’d sent a few messages to check in and confirm other stuff. I’d gotten no response. I’ve never been great at texting stuff. It’s weird, considering how often I write. That said, I’m way too verbose. I don’t send short, snappy, cool texts, I’m ever verbose. Loquacious should be my middle name, but my parents didn’t see how talkative I’d be in the ultrasound. So anyway, I’d sent maybe four texts with zero responses. I was like great, I’ve overplayed my hand, she thinks I’m a dork, and she’s ghosting me now. I’m going to get to the restaurant and drink a vat of margarita solo. That’s not what happened. In either case. I had no margaritas last night. What did happen is that I got to St Andrew station and got a text that said “Did you not get my text at noon”? She was exhausted, and had cancelled a bunch of stuff all day. She sent me through a screencap, which showed her responses to each of my texts. None of which I’d gotten. She wasn’t ghosting me, the texts had just slipped into the aether. She felt terrible and offered to buy me an uber home, but I said she could just grab the first round when we eventually went on the date.

So I took myself on one.

Here’s something about me, I’m insufferable when it comes to food decision making. I don’t know what I want, but I know decisively what I don’t want. If I’m left to my own devices, I will wander for hours, looking for the place that fits my exact desires. Once I knew the date wasn’t happening, I had a smoke and started wandering. I walked up to Queen and strolled west, looking through storefronts. I paused at Hooters, noticing the $9.99 half rib rack and chips deal they had going. I’d never been to a breastaurant. I’ve never had a strong desire to go to a breastaurant, and going to one because a date didn’t work out seemed like Bad End incarnate. I kept walking. I wanted something dense and heavy. Part of me wished for a juicy burger, but that also felt very norm-y. I love eating weird or contextually unusual stuff, why not get something a date would otherwise raise an eyebrow to? I walked past Thai places, a Mexican spot, too many sports bars. A bar’s sandwich board caught my eye. Meatloaf. Meatloaf? Meatloaf! I looked up, the place had a quiet divey atmosphere. What kind of dive bar serves meatloaf? What does dive bar meatloaf look and or smell like? How many things could go wrong? If I was ever in a mood to fall on my own sword, it was after being “stood up”. Squirly’s meatloaf it was! I ordered a pint of Guinness, and even got the minestrone as a side. Dense Things Only.

Then I did something bold. I surprised even myself. As I was sitting at the table, listening to a podcast and enjoying my meatloaf, I looked up to the bar and saw a woman on her own. She’d been there since I arrived, half picking at her food, every so often pulling out her phone, then putting it back in her bag. I wondered what her deal was. Had she been stood up? Was she just there having an enjoyable time eating a meal on her own? Was she a traveller? I spun a bunch of narratives, and pondered which fit. I thought to myself I’m just sitting alone listening to a podcast. If she’s alone too and would rather talk to a stranger, nothing romantic or sexual, would we both get more out of sharing a table? I hummed and hawwed for about ten minutes, then I got up and walked over to her.

“Hi there. This is not a come on or anything. I got stood up for a date, and I’m just hanging on my own listening to a podcast. I don’t know if you’re waiting for someone, or just doing your own thing. If you’d rather hang out with a stranger with no romantic connotations, you’re welcome to join me. Zero pressure. If you’d rather do your own thing, that’s totally fine too.” She said that honestly, she probably would’ve, but she had a work project on her mind and was stuck in that headspace. She asked about the podcast I was listening to, and we chatted amicably for a few minutes, before I graciously excused myself and let her get back to her night. She looked over and smiled a few times, while I enjoyed my podcast/meatloaf combo. I was proud of myself for trying something out of my comfort zone, while feeling okay that it didn’t seem like I’d ruined her night by being intrusive.

Then I went home, played Magic and made peppermint mocha white Russian milkshakes. Fuck yeah, I’d date me.

Can I give myself a Pobody award?

Who’s ready for a “dating” entry?

Contrary to how it may sound, I don’t date a lot. I love dating. I love consuming dating or relationship adjacent content. I love inserting myself vicariously into romantic situations and imagining how I’d deal with them. I think dating is this wondrous intersection of a ton of things I’m interested in. I’m fascinated by interpersonal connections and compatibility. I’m enthralled by banter, whether I’m in it or not. I like seeing people being playful, and dates are this combination of playfulness with having skin in the game. There are stakes, albeit quite low, and maybe it’s because those stakes are so low that I get sucked in. I don’t like competition, either as a participant or audience. I don’t believe in the concept of winning or losing in romance. There’s this hetero concept that shits me to the core of “taking” something from someone else in a date. Often it’s the idea of a guy “winning/earning” sex. That’s fucking dumb. Either you both want to have sex, or you don’t have it. If you’re not both into it, go get your rocks off with other people who want it. Sex doesn’t exist within a scarcity model. It’s not a limited resource, and stop treating it like it is.

It’s also easy for me to sit back and say that now. Ten years ago I had a completely different outlook. I think I was a virgin until I was about 20. I had limited experiences with sex, but basically after maybe one or two times in my first relationship, I didn’t have sex again for about three years. I wanted it, other people weren’t interested. Back then, I definitely thought the scarcity model existed. These days I’m older. I’ve had a ton more relationship experience. I’ve had exponentially more sex. It doesn’t feel like something that’s lacking, but more value added. Most importantly, I’ve been imbued with a renewed confidence that’s made dating so much easier. I’m on anti-depressants, and that’s been a massive change. I love my job, so I don’t have that mentally damaging psyche going on at all times. I like myself, I feel like a complete, self-possessed person, and it’s nice to see how I fit with others. I’m not trying to take anything from anyone, I just want to share experiences.

Tonight, for instance, I have a date. I’m excited. I have no idea how it’s gonna go. We met at an event, we flirted, made out and exchanged numbers. It might be a date that goes nowhere. It may lead to more dates. It may lead to sex but not more dates. It may lead to more dates and more sex. I’m not worried which it is. I know that I liked hanging out with her last time, that she’s cute and interesting. If we have a fun conversation, that’s great. If we have sex, that’s great too. If we don’t, and it turns out we were just hot for each other because we were drunk? Also 100% fine. We can have a nice meal, a margarita or two, and go our separate ways. I’m not invested in the outcome, other than being present and seeing what happens. It’s taken me many years, lots of anxiety, emotional breakdowns, and bad experiences in general to understand what the stakes are. Honestly, worst possible outcome at the moment is she gives me COVID-19. Bad end.

Also as an addendum to something I wrote yesterday. I was talking about having conversations with gay guys, and eventually dating them. I highlighted dating a Magic player as a possibility. Firstly, it’s not like only dudes play Magic. My first girlfriend did too. It’s how we met, and that part of the relationship was great. I also realised that while I’d love to date a Magic player, I have a legit fear of dating a Magic player who’s significantly worse than I am. That would be a fucking horrorshow. Imagine having to constantly explain shit about the game without being condescending? Imagine having to take the game slow, or teach someone about limited? Playing this game is a big part of my life, and making something I love into a chore would actually be a total nightmare. I would exponentially rather date a non-player than having to deal with experience inequality on that scale. I’m not defending this, but it’s 1000% true.

Nobody’s Nerfect, y’know?

Intentional women, stay

It’s International Women’s Day 2020. Today I’m gonna talk about some great women. Not gonna lie, I’ve planned nothing and this will probably end up a shitshow. It’s the thought that counts?

My girlfriend is great for manifold reasons. She’s emotionally considerate up the wazoo. She’s a goddamn goof who’s always up for a dumb, dumb joke. She’s smart, funny and perceptive. She’s stuck around me for almost six years, so she’s probably a masochist. She also points out any grammatical errors I make, which honestly I appreciate (’cause I love learning). She loves popcorn, singing, Buffy and musicals. She also loves quality time together, and going on adventures. She’s sexy and romantic, thoughtful and adventurous. I have never been in another relationship where we could solve issues by just talking about them, and it’s entirely changed the game. Sorry to any haters, but she’s not going anywhere anytime soon if I can help it.

Pamela Adlon is great. She’s an excellent voice actor who seems game for anything. She did a phenomenal turn on Louie, which was what catapulted her onto my radar. Obviously I couldn’t care less what C.K. does next, but the show gave Adlon the profile to launch Better Things, a series that seems like a panacea in these grim times. It’s a wonderful show focused on a family of women with different generational issues. It’s absurdly funny and stacked to the brim with heart. Pamela sits at the eye of the storm keeping everything ticking over, often thanklessly. Rather than just being a martyr, she does a fantastic job of showcasing a genuine portrait of women of a certain age. I’m so stoked that the new season is just about to start.

The woman at the alterations place close to my house is great. She’s this older Asian woman who has no time for bullshit. Her alterations are decent and her services are super affordable. At the same time, she has no qualms about pushing me out the door if I have unreasonable requests. This one time I came in with a white shirt covered in fake blood. She took one look at it and was like “no no no no no.” She ushered me out of her business. It was very, very funny. Most of the time she’s fine to tackle whatever, and I really appreciate her.

I have so many great friends, and I immediate thought of one in particular when this topic came up. She’s so goddamn smart and considerate it’s unreal. The kind of person who would balk if I didn’t ask to borrow her car, y’know? Bends over backwards to take care of others. She’s doing multiple degrees simultaneously, after deciding she wanted a late game career change. She’s into psychedelic assisted therapy to deal with deep set trauma. This one time I was riding with her and she threw on this utterly fascinating podcast on the topic. She has so much insight, primarily because she’s one of those people who’s incurably curious, one of my favourite personality qualities in the world. Also if she knew I was saying nice things about her she’d FUCKING HATE IT. Which only makes it more fun.

I don’t know if you know this, but there are an absurd amount of great women on Earth. So many of them, and I have so little time to write this. So long, pals.

The Circle is time in a flat

I’ve been cooped up, and it’s actually nice today. I think I’m contractually obliged to leave the house.

I’ve been watching so much of The Circle. I’m much more into the show than I expected. As a friend so adroitly put it, The Circle has its contestants doing all the stuff we love doing: Trolling, shit talking, catfishing and flirting. People can subvert social expectations and manipulate them. It’s all so insidious and conspiratorial. It’s also incredibly engrossing, because it’s accessible. We’ve all been hooked up to social media for long enough now that we’re used to how it plays out. We understand the medium, conventions, and how to use it. I can’t imagine anyone has watched this show without questioning how they’d act on the show. Would you catfish? Flirt shamelessly? Play as a heightened version of yourself? Would you just be yourself? The show has folks playing as themselves, but with attractive pictures of someone else. Is that a winning strategy?

Naturally I’ve been playing this game with myself. Who would I be? I turned the show off last night, then spent hours in bed with my eyes closed and my gears turning. What aspects of myself would I try to play up? I feel like saying I’m a New Zealander would earn instant goodwill, but I’ve rarely if ever tried to capitalise on that in real life. I don’t mention it in dating profiles, because I’d rather have it as value added than an expected part of my personality. If people were messaging me just because I’m a Kiwi, then maybe they wouldn’t be giving me a fair appraisal. My personality is much more important than my heritage. But if I was playing a game with money on the line, would I be able to resist making myself a little more endearing? Feels cheap, but maybe?

Moreover, what parts of my personality would I lean into? I don’t like the idea of being insincere or dishonest. I wouldn’t dull my weird edges. I don’t know if I’d play it super safe either. I feel like I’d get more of a kick out of being authentic, doing my weird puns and jokes. I’d try to smooth out conflict if I could, and be friendly. You know how people in reality tv aren’t “here to make friends”? That would 1000% be my goal. Many contestants put “single” as a way to open up other strategies. I’d probably mention that I had a girlfriend, that we were open and poly, but I wasn’t really interested in flirting. It’s not that I dislike dating and its general ephemera, but I don’t think that would be leaning into my strengths. I’m not unattractive, but to lean on looks rather than personality would be a massive misstep.

Which begs the question of what kind of profile pictures I’d put up. It’s a big part of the series. As it goes on, contestants can add more pictures to showcase different parts of themselves. Invariably, people tend to go for a nice shot for the first one, something racier for their second, and an endearing photo for their third. I’ve got a couple of pleasant profile photos, I’d bank on fun costume-y shots for other ones. My goal would be to highlight my eccentricities without being alienating to “normies”. I think.

I do wonder how much goes on behind the scenes. I’m curious which private conversations we don’t see. I have no doubts that the selection of scenes we’re shown has been deliberately depicted to carry a narrative, and showcase certain characters. I’d just love to know who I would be within that narrative.

So while I do want to leave the house, I also kinda want to finish this series…