Monday, February 13, 2006

Being A Twattease, Being A Cocktease

I went to JesusCamp for four years in the early-to-mid 1990s. It lasted a week each year, and was always right before my birthday. So my times at JesusCamp were pretty much my 14th, 15th, 16th, and 17th birthdays. The last year at JesusCamp was great because I had my first rockin' post-pubescent gay hookup. Thanks, Jesus! Jesus...Thanks! Jeeee-suuuuus! Oh Jeeez. Of course, by that point I was totally anti-Jesus and I went to hang out with my friends for a week and meet new people.

The years before I realized/accepted my gayness and came out (which occurred in very short sequence) found me meeting a lot of cool girls and talking to them about music and life and stuff, and they really gave me a lot of attention. And I had my first great kiss with one of them. Went to her homecoming dance a couple months later. She was a pro-lifer so we weren't planning on sex - just dating and kissing and enjoying ourselves. Now, naturally, it's easy to not plan on sex when you aren't driven to have sex with people of that gender, but I was naive to this at the time. Dating cute, fun girls was a good time that I don't regret.

The girls I went to high school with remembered me in middle school - glasses, braces, too smart/nerdy, crude - and still weren't excited about me with contacts and great teeth. So dating wasn't really an issue in the first half of high school. I dated a girl for a brief period* (*naturally, she later came out as a lesbian), so people "knew" I "liked girls." Hell, even I thought/assumed I did. But the girls at JesusCamp - they didn't remember me as a nerd. They thought I was cool. And I talked to them all week, and a couple kind-of stalked me. I didn't get it. I mean, I did get it and all - if a cute & cool girl liked me, I'd date her, and if a not cute/not cool girl liked me, sucks to be her. What I didn't get was the part where I was leading them on.

After having some of these summer flings and what-not, and getting older, I realized around the fall of 11th grade - when I was recently 16 - that I was really turned on by ripped, shirtless guys. So I made what was the "obvious" conclusion at the time. I must be bisexual. Bisexual people are cool and trendy. Even though he wasn't officially out, we all "knew" Michael Stipe from R.E.M. was bisexual* (*naturally, he later came out as gay after his career tanked and he was no longer in a place where he could be a positive role model for teens. Pussy.)

I had already been elected Junior Class President, so when I came out as bisexual I became one of the trendiest people in my high school. Yada yada yada, I dated three chicks, ate at the Y, yada yada yada, came out as gay the spring semester of junior year.

After I came out, I still got some girls stalking me. Usually they'd be not-cool/not-cute girls from work, or friends of friends, or something. And I didn't get it. I wasn't the only man around. Why were they stalking the gay guy? I had a healthy ego but I was pretty sure that I wasn't The. Biggest. Catch. On. Earth.

But I started seeing a shrink because I got depressed after coming out as gay. Large parts of this involved my getting alienated from my trendy social circle (though, ironically, homophobia wasn't really related) - and without girls to date, and without enough out and cool guys to date - I kind-of didn't feel like I had anybody. Yada yada yada, one time I brought up the whole "why do girls stalk me" thing with my shrink. Who was a cool old straight guy* (*less "cool" in the Fonzie sense, and more "cool" in the Bob Newhart-good shrink sense). He was like, "I wonder why they are so crazy about you. Do you act like you care about them as people? Do you stare at their faces instead of their chests when you're talking to them? Do you make time to hang out with them when they're having a bad day?"

Suddenly, it all made sense. There are ways in which one can behave innocently but still be a total tease. (I was reminded of this a couple years later when There's Something About Mary came out). And I really believe that It behooves one to not be a tease. You can't help people whom you're not interested in liking you, but you can help doing things that inadvertently lead them on more.

But these lessons faded over the years. During the time that I was domestically partnered I forgot lessons learned as a single man, and one that I had to re-learn was Don't Be A Twattease. I was at a Halloween party the first October I was single and, apparently, while drunk, I kissed a girl on the lips. She was the friend of a friend, and I thought we knew each other well enough to have it be funny. Hell, I was dressed as a cavemen and I had already felt up one dude's crotch through the tight pants of his costume. But apparently, this young lady - who has a boyfriend - didn't find it funny. Further, she wasn't convinced I was gay. She was convinced she'd been assaulted by a perv. Which, of course, is 1/4-true in terms of assault (it was totally innocent and no harm was intended, but clearly it was unwanted) and 3/4-true in terms of pervyness (I don't own any S&M props and I think they're totally cheesy, but I've been known to strangle and pull hair on demand). Halfway in my defense, I ought to point out that practically all of my straight and lesbian female friends encouraged me post-hoc by telling me they find it charming when I assault women. I love my enablers.

But the lesson was re-learned. Don't send the wrong signals, whether it's (1) acting too boyfriendy when you're not interested in being someone's boyfriend, or (2) being too forward with people of either gender regardless of your stated orientation. If you are acting romantically interested, or sexually aggressive, it sends the wrong signal, because actions speak louder than words. (This is like asking the guy in the all-male daisychain if he identifies as "gay" or not).

And as of the last couple of years, I am a single gay man with a lot of single gay men as friends. Which wasn't true in high school and college (few gay friends) or when I was coupled (clearly off-limits). And now I look at pictures that friends have taken at bars and parties, and I see myself in semi-innocent poses with a number of different friends - I'm not kissing anybody or grabbing anyone's ass - but I get the feeling that I act a little too chummy with people I'm not intending to sleep with. And I get the feeling that my actions are saying things that they shouldn't. Then I think, to whom am I being a cocktease these days? When will I f*cking learn?

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Immigrant Minorites And U.S.-Born Minorities

Steve from the liberal city on the ocean asked a good question in the comments a couple posts back, so I thought I'd address it with a new post. The question is, "why are so many immigrants doing so well and so many U.S.-born minorities doing poorly in many ways?"

It's always difficult to try to discuss minority issues when you are from the majority, because anything negative you say about minority groups has the potential to be really hurtful and do more harm than good. Plus, when you're in the minority, you're more likely (although not guaranteed) to have a better perspective on things. I don't think it's really the most appropriate place for White men to be in to tell people of color what we think others are doing wrong and doing right.

But in terms of the immigration issue there are some really, really obvious reasons why so many minority groups are doing so well as opposed to U.S.-born people of color.

1) if you choose to move to a country, you probably have some pretty good feelings about it. American movie stars who move to Paris love Paris and love France. Most Americans (even left-wingers like myself) wouldn't be happy if we were shipped off to France to deal with stinky armpits and hackneyed 19th-century socialism. No one asked anyone born here if we wanted to be born here. However, if you're born with a decent amount of privilege (as, for example, I was) then you're probably happy about it and are more motivated to perpetuate your privilege. If you are born into the lowest caste (surprise!) you might not exactly be all rah-rah-go-America about everything all the time. So, voluntary - as opposed to asylum-needing - immigrants are more likely than any of us to be excited to be here and working to get ahead.

2) we have some pretty heavy restrictions and quotas on immigration. Excluding Latin America (AKA all of America except the U.S. and Canada), you pretty much have to have a graduate degree to get here. The immigrants we get from most of the world are the doctors, lawyers, scientists, engineers, etc. and their kids are likely to continue the path. Thus, we have higher standards for who can come into the country than for those who are born here. Most Americans (including most White Americans) wouldn't be allowed to come here if they weren't born here. (The corollaries to this rule are that most people who have kids wouldn't be allowed to adopt, and most people who buy pets from the store wouldn't be allowed to adopt them from a shelter).

3) the one place where we turn our backs and whistle on immigration is the Mexican border, because left-wingers are immigrant-friendly, and right-wingers WANT CHEAP LABOR from people who can be easily deported. And, surprise, surprise, Mexican migrant strawberry pickers' kids aren't going to Stanford the way that Korean/Hungarian/Pakistani imimigants' kids are.

4) non-Black immigrants are highly likely to try to curry favor with Whites by shitting on Blacks. This makes me fucking sick. It really, really does. I can't tell you how many non-White-non-Black immigrants I've met over the years who have tried to actively engage me in a conversation about how lazy and criminal African Americans are. Fuck that shit. (To be fair, I've met a handful of African Americans who try to curry favor with Whites by bitching about illegals from Mexico and Arabs/Muslims being all terrorists, and this is equally nauseating). So it's not surprising that sometimes immigrants are actively comparing themselves in a horse-race to other people here and trying to win. That might well be their goal. Meanwhile, if you're already here and already dejected, your One Goal In Life isn't necessarily to do better than those moving here and working 80 hours a week.

5) OK, so a lot of first- and second-generation immigrants are working these 80-hour weeks and achieving the American dream. Well, let me remind you: The first 10 or 15 generations of "immigrants" from Africa were working 168-hour work weeks. And the paychecks had this funny way of never showing up.

What's the answer? I think it's best left up to the African American community what problems they want to identify, what goals they want to work for, and how they want to achieve them. Black poverty in America is a serious problem, and I think almost no one wants to see it perpetuated. But because low socioeconomic status perpetuates itself, and because being born into a problem has a way of making a lot of people dejected to begin with, it's going to take some creative Black leadership to solve some difficult problems, not the least of which are low motivation and low resources.

And now that I've thought of it...

6) There were a lot of great African American leaders, and J. Edgar Hoover stalked them all, documented every time they had an affair (as if that isn't typical of most leaders everywhere always), made their lives miserable, and failed to protect them from the crazy crackers that were successful in killing them. If you want to know why there haven't been a lot of larger-than-life Black leaders in our generation, I'd suspect it's because they don't want to be murdered.