A pity party is still a party.

Happy birthday to moi. As is de rigueur, it’s been spent way up in a cloud of negativity. I haven’t felt special, I’ve felt shitty, insufficient. I’m at a place in my life that seems comparatively joyless. I don’t like my job and aside from fleeting distractions, my day to day adds up to a cumulative total of fine, I guess. I’m 31 now and feel like the only direction I’ve gone from 30 has been backwards. A year has passed and I have nothing to show for it. A couple more memories to file away, but it doesn’t feel like I had a year’s worth of experiences. I have nothing to complain about, but that doesn’t equal tons to celebrate. My grand plans for the day involve going to the gym, going home, eating dinner and in general wanting everything to go away.

I’d usually treat myself to something, but my patterns of celebration all revolve around consumption. I’d go out to a restaurant or drink myself blind, but keto has stripped the fun out of that. I’ve subtracted the enjoyment from basically my favourite thing to do, which likely forms no small element of my birthday blues. Still, going full humbug has been an anniversary tradition for as long as I’ve been making my own money.

For at least the past 10 years, birthdays have become a mire of self-examination. Another trip around the sun seems emblematic of how much I haven’t done. My lack of progress and general listlessness. It’s navel gazing at its most cruel. Creating unrealistic comparisons is always a fool’s errand, but like a fool I get sucked in every year. Of course I understand intellectually that my life isn’t a garbage fire, but that does little to lift my mood.

The smart thing to do, then, would be to have a paradigm shift. Instead of asking what have I done in the past year? I should be asking what would I like to do in the next year? Nothing as grand as where do I want to be? Something more along the lines of what would make me happy? What does happiness look like to me? What does “good enough” represent? The answers seem self-evident. Of course I want my work to fulfil me. I’d like to be more confident. Fitter, happier et al. The real question should be how do I decide where I want to be without resenting myself for not getting there?

Self-compassion is a skill that we’re not taught. Our society rarely makes a habit of celebrating mediocrity (outside of Rotten Tomatoes’ fruit based rating system) and successes are paraded around as inspiration porn. The side effect is that the yardstick we measure ourselves with goes way beyond our range. It’s unbalanced and the expectations we hold don’t match up to workable metrics. We’re told we can be film stars, entrepreneurs, artists, millionaires. The 99th percentile is achievable if only we try hard enough, right? Sure, for 1% of us. Most people aren’t them.

Look, I’ll be fine tomorrow, when expectations are back to their low bar. Something about the day always makes me feel like there’s pressure to be extraordinary and the surplus of ordinary really twists the knife. It’s a birthday, they come around every year. By the time I sleep I won’t have to worry about it for another sun cycle.

If that ain’t something to celebrate, I don’t know what is.

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Am I too contrite to make an Aziz An-sorry pun? Looks like I’m just trite.

I want to talk about the Aziz allegations, because I think it’s worth putting thoughts out there. I’d like to emphasise that I’m not aiming to grandstand, to throw out some pointed think piece to put people in their place. My experiences aren’t relevant enough for that, there are better voices to listen to. Still, some conversation (is that what it’s called when I put words out into an echo chamber?) is better than none.

With all the allegations flying around right now, I’m sure everyone has a list. Some desert island top five of celebrities who you’re only wanting to hear squeaky clean things from. That may not even be the best way of putting it, ’cause frankly we all want to continue to believe that our faves are beyond issue. However, this ever-relevant piece by Ijeoma Oluo stands true. Anyway, I’ve got a bunch of dudes that I really, really don’t want to hear shit about. Aziz was on my list, as I’m sure he was for most. He’s made some great television, written a well-received book on dating, had compelling stand up bits and half-staked his career on the notion that he’s one of the good guys. It’s to the credit of his work that a bunch of people likely responded to his allegations with oh, is that it?

Pieces like this from the New York Times: Aziz Ansari Is Guilty. Of Not Being a Mind Reader. Seeking to find fault in the victim’s behaviour, her lack of verbal rejection or conviction in getting the fuck out of an uncomfortable situation. Making it her problem that she wasn’t more direct in avoiding an unpleasant interaction. I get it. I want to keep on enjoying his material guilt free. The most prevalent reaction I’ve seen online has been that’s not assault. It’s just bad sex. I get it. I understand this reaction 100%. Why? Because I’ve been Aziz before.

I can recall a number of times in my early sexual experiences where I entirely ignored clues of disinterest. Whether this was out of ignorance or wilful desire, there’s no question that I was placing my wants over the comfort of others. Taking a soft “no” as a “not right now”. Slipping my hand between a partner’s legs and being rebuffed, only to try again ten minutes later. Pushing for sex when I got the sense she wasn’t interested, but I was. I don’t think I ever pressured a partner enough that she relented and gave in to get it over with. I did, however, fail to create a sexual environment where enthusiastic consent was imperative. I’m certain that I’m not the only guy who could admit as much. In fact, I’m quite sure that similar stories are likely more of the norm than we’d care to admit. I’m sure many guys wouldn’t even see fault with my behaviour. That’s why there’s fault in how Aziz acted. That’s why the culture of sexual consent in our society needs a major restructuring.

My initial response to the Aziz allegations was resigned frustration. As I said above, I’ve been there before. I’d hoped that someone like Aziz would be better than that, which clearly was hoping for too much. I was embarrassed that Aziz, who was 33 at the time, was behaving like a 21 year old. I was embarrassed that this behaviour in my mind was classified as that of a typical 21 year old. Unlike most of the allegations that’ve come out, this one has resonated with me the most. Why? Because these aren’t the shocking actions of a serial abuser like Harvey Weinstein. According to many of the female voices I’ve heard, they’re pretty run of the mill. That’s why it’s important men listen to what’s being said and swim in how it makes them feel.

If they’re not embarrassed or frustrated, maybe they should look at why that is. This movement marks a departure from what we all considered normal and a necessity to explore past experiences for egregious activity. We need to look at what we’ve done in order to learn how to be better. It’s important to sit with guilt, to use it to recalibrate both expectations and behaviour. The system is broken and fixing it is gonna take wilful intention and education.

Do I think Aziz is a monster who deserves to be stripped of his career? Honestly, despite what I’ve said today, I don’t. I think his story deserves to be out there as a cultural learning moment. I think he needs to have a long look at his past experiences and create meaningful change from here on out. I think if his heart is really where he’s made it out to be, that he should use his platform to admit fault and be a role model for the great many men who think he did nothing wrong.

As for me, I’ve spent years trying to unlearn what I took for granted. I’m not done yet. The movement may be called Time’s Up, but for a bunch of us it’s just begun.

They’re pretending to be something they’re not. Doesn’t that make Autobots as deceptive as Decepticons?

Do you know what’s cute? Looking back at stories you wrote as a child. That’s cute. I’ll always remember one of my most salient pieces of kid fiction: “Optimus Prime met Megatron. The Decepticons shot the Autobots with their lasers. The Autobots died.” There’s a clear arc. The stage is set, characters established. We see the characters take action and overcome adversity. Then there’s a satisfying conclusion. I couldn’t write better these days if I tried. Do you know what’s not cute? Looking back at any writing after the age of ten.

Teenage stuff? Oh geez it’s dreadful. I remember, as an adult, finding my diary from age 15. It was firmly couched in the exact time and age to be classified as “emo”. Lots of “I like all the girls, but they don’t like me. Something something System of a Down. Why do adults treat teenagers like kids? We’re way more mature than they give us credit for. Man, getting drunk is so cool.” That wasn’t verbatim, but not far off. Of course there’s no value in criticising our past selves, but fuck it’s fun to rip them new orifices. It’s so easy to shred the versions of us who bled hormones, who felt like adults undergoing constant body dysmorphia. When we could understand more of the world around us, without realising how much wider the world was than our viewpoint captured. There’s a question I oft see floated “would you restart your life with the knowledge and experience you have now?” Each time it’s those teenage years that give me pause. Could all the intelligence in the world counteract the ever-present fear of cumming in your pants at any moment?

A different experience is reading your writing from later. As a 25 year old, you’re technically considered an adult. I’m barely considering myself an adult going on 31. I still don’t consider whoever I was at 25 the kind of bloke who would’ve paid taxes (I mean, I did. No need to come at me, IRD). At 25 I flew to the U.S. with a bunch of mates, rented an RV and drove across The States. Today I stumbled across our old travel blog and read it again. It was about what you’d expect. Some parts were bafflingly hard to digest, either in message or perspective. Certain references are too insular, based around group dynamics or New Zealand memes. Others have fallen by the pop-cultural wayside. A 2012 Twilight reference seems a lot less inspired in 2018. Some viewpoints still needed a few years to slow cook before becoming fit for human consumption. In a few parts it was just poorly written or made scant sense. It’s nice to know some things haven’t changed.

At other moments I was surprised to find passages that read well. Vocabulary I’ve since forgotten or cycled out. There was a creativity and excitement about the world I found refreshing. Occasional lucid moments that still resonate. Most pieces were basically journal entries (what’s changed?), but I found workarounds to lighten them up. One of them I did time based mental snapshots, using certain moments to create a larger picture of the day. Our New Orleans adventure was structured as a Choose Your Own Adventure novel. It was silly and gratuitous, but remains a neat read.

I can’t deny that any of it happened, it’s all there for the decades to lay bare. On the other hand, why would I care? None of us would be who we are without the steps we took. If they didn’t leave an imprint, what would be the point?

How did I make it through that entire entry without using the portmanteau “Leongerie”?

For the first time in what feels like an eternity, I’ve got solid New Year’s plans. A big fancy do at a friend’s house. It’s gonna be a super classy affair, suits and dresses, champagne at midnight, people trying to pronounce hors d’oeuvres. All sorts of swank. That’s not the entirety of the party, however. There’ll be different levels (in multiple senses). The main floor will be all about dressing up and the basement plounge/private rooms will be for dressing down. Our finest intimate apparel (and possibly less). This sparked a thought that I haven’t been able to quash. Is there a male equivalent for lingerie?

Sure, there’s such a thing as nice underwear for guys. I’ve been systematically trying to cull my boring old cotton boxers for the past year or two. I’ve bought soft spandex blends, micro-modale and compression fabrics. All in the service of greater comfort. Sure, they look nicer, they usually have some kind of segmentation that I’ll guessing helps accentuates my assets, but the primary motivation has been comfort. They feel great. I’m sure good lingerie is comfortable, but I’m not sure that’s the greatest motivation for wearing it. Lingerie looks fancy, expensive, intricate. It’s supposed to be sexy apparel and I’m not sure that nice undies really stack up in the same fashion.

I asked a friend for his opinion. He said perhaps some form of chest harness could be roughly equivalent. We thought about it some more and realised that wasn’t really the same. A harness is certainly intimate apparel and has sexual connotations, but it’s a more specific stream of sexual interest. Lingerie, while of course being greatly varied within the category, does have a catch all of sexy implication. Lacy, embroidered, shiny, what have you, it’s not quite the same as the specificity of bondage gear. Darn (though perhaps not. I can’t imagine woollen knickers inducing much in the way of lust).

The “why” seems incredibly obvious. Lingerie, as it was designed, fit into the male gaze at large. Women then (and frustratingly still in a widespread manner) were perceived as objects or commodities. Lingerie, then, was a way of making your “assets” more appealing (commodititties, as it were). It was for women to sex themselves up and snag a man, which in those days (when women were largely forbidden from the workforce) was one of few revenue streams available to them. Say it with me: We live in a patriarchal society. I’m in no way trying to imply that women these days are without agency, but we’re still influenced by societal foundations that teach women that their value is supplicant to men’s. It’s bullshit, and trying to unravel the dichotomy of lingerie as sexual empowerment or a tool of the male gaze is a minefield for a more thoughtful essay than this. Of course men can exist as sexual entities, but that’s more often tied to physicality, status and power. Skimpy undergarments are an afterthought.

In lieu of building a better body by Sunday, I think the answer is that sheer confidence would fit the atmosphere better than sheer garments. If I choose to visit an area of more intimate dress, to take comfort in myself rather than worrying about my lack of embroidered underwear. Male lingerie could be mere years away from the mainstream. With the societal loosening of strict gender conformity, who knows? Until then, I’ll hedge my bets and leave the grey cotton undies at home.

It’s probably just a racier version of Lawnmower Man. Who needs that?

Do you remember dot matrix printers? We had one when I was a kid and I thought it was the coolest. It might be from before your time. The paper was different. Odd, even. Wait, did I just use “odd, even” as a complete sentence? Rock solid! Anyway, I remember thinking the paper looked all futuristic, but really it was archaic. Reams of these blue and white lined sheets. The borders were tearable and covered in holes. I’d frequently pull off part of a border by accident and feel like I had to tear the rest off to compensate. Wait, why not practice show don’t tell? My favourite thing by far about this printer (apart from the nifty noise it made) was that I could use it to print out cool birthday cards. There was one with a robot, there were others, I think. I guess? I dunno, once I had the capacity to print robo-cards I had no interest in printing anything else. Who wouldn’t enjoy birthday salutations from a robot? A monster, that’s who. Come to think of it, monster cards would’ve been rad too. Actually, it was the 90s, they would’ve been “radical” instead.

There was a bunch of technology I grew up with that seems a lifetime away now. It makes sense when you put it into perspective. I was born in ’87, so even though I’m 30, this is the fourth decade I’ve experienced. That’s a significant period of technological development. When I was a child, I had a My First Sony Walkman. Cordless home phones were frivolous rich people toys. Now it’s gotten to the point where people listen to music on their portable phones and landlines are pointless. It’s been about eight years since I last owned a TV and likely longer than that since I seriously used one. I’m not complaining, gloating or anything in between, I just think it’s interesting. This is what ageing is, finding the tools of your youth fading into irrelevance. It’s a fine and natural part of growing up.

This article encapsulates it pretty well. I may sound wistful, but I’m generally a fan of new and emerging technology. I’m may not be a gadgets person (my phone upgrade strategy is accurately expressed in this classic XKCD comic), I am however delighted by finding cool and efficient ways of doing things. The one way in which I am a curmudgeon is when we get unnecessary developments in order to drive consumer interest. Do we really need to be driven to upgrade so often? New iPhone models seem increasingly Malibu Stacey in their benefits.

I wonder though, how long before I’m aged out of progress? I got a non-standard cardboard VR headset (it was a work promo) the other day and I can’t get it to work properly. My headset didn’t have the QR code where it was supposed to, so I used a Google one, figured out my phone’s DPI and input the details. Yes, I have an old phone, but I thought I’d configured everything correctly. The demo worked, blurry as it was. When I tried to use other sources (porn, he’s talking about porn), I got audio without video. It wasn’t ASMR, so where’s the fun in that? For some reason my girlfriend’s phone (many years newer than mine) wasn’t compatible at all, so we’re shit out of luck. Of course we were both curious. Who wouldn’t be?

Of course I felt entitled to it. I was lucky enough to have the internet kick into my life with puberty. I never had to forage in local parks for encrusted magazines or try to hack free cable. I had it easy. Now there’s a form of porn that’s out of reach and that feels strangely unjust. I don’t want to upgrade my technology or shell out for a better headset just to watch. It seems so unnecessary and mercenary. Who knows if it’s even good? 3D movies turned out to be a shitty money grab. Why would porn be any better?

On that note, I wonder if Leisure Suit Larry will ever go VR…

#juststrangerthings

I’ve lived a life. Most living people have. I’ve met many people in those years I’ve spent alive. Some I’ve been fortunate to keep around me and get to know better. Others have passed through like, well, people who are no longer living. I hope they’re still living though. A few people in particular really livened up the time I spent with them. Some left a hefty impression. In fact, there are a handful I think of on the regular. I wonder what they’ve done with their lives, where they are, who they are now. Let’s meet some. Story time, starting with the nicest thing anyone’s ever done for me.

Some context. I was a chubby 11 year old at the Takapuna Normal Intermediate School social. If you needed to guess the year, I was dressed in a Hawaiian shirt and zip off khakis with at least six pockets (think 90s proto Guy Fieri). One of the most exciting features of the night was a potluck snack table. It was in the music room, around the corner from the school hall. I had a bunch of friends, but I was far from one of the cool kids. The teacher chaperone announced that if we wanted to go to the potluck room, we’d have to ask someone of the opposite gender (I repeat, it was the 90s) to link arms with us and walk there side by side. In short, we needed a date. I was excited about the snacks, but really nervous to ask anyone. I asked three or four girls, who all turned their nose up and said they were taken already. I felt awful, shaken and on the verge of tears.

Then this girl walked up to me. We weren’t super close friends, but I’d always thought she was really smart and cool. “Hey” she said “I don’t know about you, but I really wanna go pig out. I’d be so happy if you’d join me.” She offered her arm. My heart swelled and my smile went full on Julia Roberts. I think it’s the most mature thing I’ve ever seen a kid do. It totally made my night. It’s not like we grew into best friends after that or anything, but I always appreciated what she’d done. I swear I’ve thought about that moment every week for my life thus far. I don’t even remember her full name, but every time I think of it, I’m so hopeful she’s gone on to have a wonderful life.

I was once at McDonalds at around 3am. Some drunk dude was having a riot of a time with the self service kiosk. He figured out that if you ordered a sundae, you could keep adding crushed peanuts for no additional cost. He said his goal was 100 packets. My order came and I really wanted to get the hell out of there. When I last saw him he was up to 53 additional packets. I have no idea what happened, but my sincere wish is that he walked out that door with a sealed box full of peanuts and a sundae as the cherry on top.

When I was in Thailand with friends, we visited a small town called Krabi. We were keen to go out and get buckets. I noticed a sign for a place that was advertising buckets, but they were way over the normal market price. Surprised at the audacity, I popped in and asked what it was that made their buckets so special. The guy behind the counter, a French dude, shrugged. He thought for a second and pulled out a bottle of Sangsom from under the counter. He exclaimed “with my buckets, you do your own pouring.” *It was unanimous, we were in. What followed was a debaucherous night of drinking. The guy, François, had been through hell (largely due to his own idiocy) getting to Krabi.

Three times he hired sex workers, then kept falling asleep and they kept taking large sums of money from his wallet (he’d lost $4000 combined from the three times). He’d injured his leg during his travels, then the bus he was on in Cambodia (they managed to evacuate first) had burned down, taking his baggage with it. He’d gotten in touch with a friend who said he could come manage this bar in Krabi. All he wanted was to hear hip hop from around the world and play bingo with pocket change. The next morning may have been the roughest hangover I’ve had in my life, but it was entirely worth it after the preceding night. Every once in a while I think back to that night and wonder what François is up to now.

Thing is, I must be this person for a bunch of people. I wonder at times what random encounters people have had with me over the years. Is there any chance I treated someone with the kindness that this girl did for me? Am I someone’s mysterious stranger?

A plea for coffee more than anything else.

I went out for dinner with family last night. It was nice and some parts of it have stayed with me. Namely the parts blocking up my digestive tract. We ate a lot of meat. More than that, it was a good chance to catch up and chat extensively. EXTENSIVELY I say. We all got there earlier than our 7pm reservation and left at 10:30pm. Then we did late night ice cream for dessert. I think the only reason we ceased our catching up and extensive chatting was that the ice cream joint was shutting down and my girlfriend needed to use the bathroom.

I’d say shit happens, but I’m gonna need a coffee before anything’s happening in my system.

Anyway, we shot the shit, chewed the fat and talked ourselves to death. It was a great chance to discuss all manner of issues with people at a different stage of life than us, who have experienced the world in a different manner. I don’t want to make it sound like they’re eternal vampires who’ve witnessed the turn of many centuries. They’re not that old, but I’d wager being on the other side of having borderline adult children gives you a different perspective from disillusioned avocado toast munching snake people who’ve abandoned this cesspool of a world in favour of retiring to Never Never Land.

I dunno. I got worked up and ranted a little bit. Not like this is a huge deviation from the norm. At one stage I was asked something about coping mechanisms. In short, if everything seems dark out, how do you lighten up? I thought about it for a while, then went to the domain of thought: the bathroom. I certainly wasn’t doing much else there, the dinner had been lacking in dietary fibre (though overflowing with some manner of moral fibre). I considered it and later reflected. Escapism was my answer. Drinking, eating, watching endless TV shows, deep diving into video games. Many hours of mindless internet perusing. Basically all numbing behaviour. The response to a world in which seems to be circling the drain.

I posited that this kind of mentality had coloured the humour of this generation. I thought back to Generation X and the rise of sarcasm as humour in response to feelings of discontent. I considered this generation’s reliance on memes. Sarcasm, irony, meta narratives where the joke is on larger structures that society enables. Nihilism as common parlance. An understanding that we’re all fucked and if we don’t laugh about it, we’ll have no recourse but to cry. Frankly, we can only cry so much in a day.

I wanna point out that I’m not naive or ignorant enough to steadfastly believe that absolutely everything in the world is on fire. Small victories exist all over the place, it’s frankly just hard to see them through the smoke sometimes. Of course social media and groupthink play a big part in it. Disasters draw more notice than wins. We have rubbernecking on a global scale at a frequency that’s causing whiplash. I’m sure there are amazing scientific discoveries and advancements occurring every day. I’m sure that there’s probably more good in the world than bad. Thing is, you can only walk two steps forward, one step back for so long before you start focusing on how much further ahead you could be.

I mean, didn’t we all think we beat the Nazis over 70 years ago?