Monday, December 19, 2011

The Last Girl

Without a doubt, my favorite genre is the post-apocalyptic. I include dystopia in that, because dystopia encompasses the same kind of widespread destruction of humanity in a spiritual form, even if the people will likely survive into the future (and may move to a non-dystopic phase within their ontology).

In the abstract, it's romantic. Youth, desperation, terror, and unquenchable need all lend themselves to the "fucking like they do in art films" mentality (and support the "hot/crazy" positive correlation). The apocalypse lends itself to those emotions directly.

In the immediate, it's, of course, not romantic at all. I've had conversations and long periods of time with someone I desperately loved when I had reasonable expectations of her not surviving or not making it to safety and those months (crystallized in a few particularly intense weeks) are some I never, ever want to relive.

But what that experience and genre do convey is an immense sense of meaning. It's survival. Except, in most of the better media involving the apocalypse, it's rarely the survival of the individual but the survival of the community. It's love, it's family, it's human as a quintessential social animal and the struggle to not let that spirit of humanity die lends a sense of importance to every moment that is largely absent from modern, middle-class, Western lives like my own.

In the apocalypse, there is literally a struggle between Being and Nothingness. Whereas we are interchangeable and expendable (outside of our communities) in modern life, in the end of the world we *are* life.

Or that's how it often seems, anyway.

In truth, there is so much "quiet desperation" even in this world of comforts. One need only go to a "Take Back the Night" rally and listen, for an hour, to every single person who comes up and says "I've never told anyone this before, but..." and you find that spiritual survival is very much an ongoing and contemporary struggle. And, indeed, those struggles are what make me feel real and vital.

The lives of others, as it were. In an apocalypse, I would survive for someone I loved. But I wouldn't survive for myself. And the same's true now. I find meaning in the meaningful struggles of others. I'm only safe when I'm ensconced in another, only happy and joyous when another is embracing the all of me. It's all other other other.

It's the same way in apocalypse too. I write this same post again and again and again. Because it's the fundamental tension in my life. I have no (or minimal) worth in and of myself. And I'm not entirely sure if that's a bad thing. After all, I rather doubt most people would want to be the last person on earth. But one of the last of a select two? That would make all the difference. Why not in life as well?

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Last Night in Three Acts

Last night, I went to three things.

First, I went to my ex's to play board games. She generally hosts a boardgame night with her boyfriend once or twice a week, and I try to go whenever they don't have too many people attending. It was really nice. I like her, I like her boyfriend, I like his friends, I like her friends. It's a warm, intimate place with lots of laughter and engagement.

But I left because there was a going away party for someone I didn't know too well, but that I admired anyway. She was a member of LAMBDA, the gay-student group on campus, and pretty much ran the thing single-handedly. So I went. There were a lot of folks from Americorps there, because her girlfriend is in Americorps and they were her friends. And many of them were really nice. But I tried to have conversations with them and, due to my complete lack of interest in small talk, I tried to talk to them about their plans and passions and education experiences because I figured folks in Americorps would be committed to these sorts of things. And it largely failed. They'd talk, but it was clear they felt uncomfortable, and for all their years of study the level of their discourse was... somewhat less than I would have liked. Some other lesbians from LAMBDA showed up who I knew, which was nice, but I still found it difficult to have longer conversations with them. I had to work hard at it, asking lots of questions and drawing them out. And that's generally a sign that they're not interested.

So I went home, and then I went out to a gay club for about an hour last night, at the behest of some friends who were already there (it's a five minute walk from my apartment). It was interesting to people watch, certainly. Seeing so many queer individuals in one place, I can really appreciate how much diversity Knoxville has, even if it's not immediately apparent day to day. But I kept my long coat on inside, my coat of armor, my "don't fucking mess with me" veneer. And although I enjoyed the company of some of my friends, it was hard again. I felt out of place. And when someone asked me "Are you a real girl or not?" it pretty much deflated me entirely.

I say all this not to give a travelogue, but to point out a few themes. One is that so much social interaction is hard. It's not that I can't do it, but it just feels like I'm trying to force something that's not there. And it ends up being quite alienating. Another is that I'm quite guarded. I defend myself by reverting to cognitive discussions, I come on too strongly in that domain because it's the one I feel strongest and safest in, and I just give off uncomfortable vibes. Someone at an autoparts store yesterday asked me why I was so sad, and I thought "I'm not really that sad right now, am I?" I am uncomfortable, unhappy, and afraid. And it shows.

And that's the kicker. I want so much to connect to people, but *I'm* the impediment to connection. And I don't really know how to change. There are times that are better, like with my ex in places where I know everyone and we're doing things I like. But is there a way to translate that comfort and security to places outside that comfort zone? The only way I can think of is to carry a partner inside me, a safety net to fall upon. That, or love and believe in myself. But how the hell does a person manage to do that? I really wish I knew.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

"I'm not single, I'm alone."

I can't tell whether online dating is killing me or keeping me alive. It's a ray of tantalizing hope, certainly. But it's frustrating and fraught with perpetual disappointment. Conversations are abruptly dropped with no warning why. There's no real way to evaluate why some people respond and others don't. I fall in love with someone's profile and she lives in fucking Toronto. I've exhausted the supply of remotely compatible individuals within at least 200 miles. And there seems to be little chance of things getting better any time soon.

As someone [the only one] I've been messaging off and on on okcupid said,
 "you continue to be hilarious as your emotional investments in this website's prospects fall away like so much overstewed tallow from the bone. "
 The conventional wisdom is to learn to love yourself and love will eventually find you. I'm improving on that count. I am continually surprised at my confidence and assuredness, knowing what I want and taking active steps to try to make it happen. I still have something of a fundamental lack of self-worth, but I'll find the suicidal ideation creeping back in and part of me shouts at it that even though things aren't great, they're encouragingly positive. It's progress.

But as one of my friends said, quoting tumblr, queer dating is like applying for jobs: you either do it online or through referrals. One can hope you'll meet someone socially, but especially in Knoxville that just doesn't seem feasible any time soon.

And that's quite discouraging. I put myself "out there." I go to all kinds of events, talk to all kinds of people, look for what I want and don't get too beat down when I fail any one individual time. But I worry that it really is a matter of place. In Asheville, in Atlanta, in some big city elsewhere, in some *progressive* college town, maybe there'd be a thriving queer community. But here there just... isn't. And although many of us are making efforts to advance that cause, it's not like lesbian graduate students are just going to pop out of the woodwork.

So. I keep staring "3.5 years" in the face. And part of me feels like that's insane. Surely I'll find *someone* eventually. And even past that, I have a lot going for me in my life otherwise. If only what I have felt like it was enough.