Category Archives: Love and Friendship

Shared Language

13923512_10157167362285532_6410432123883132113_oI planned to sit and think about us
To decide if what we’re doing is right or wrong
And words like patient and nice and kind came to mind
Words that tedious people use as map markers
to plot a life that’s good enough
And I hated them all
I hated them and I buried them in a dark place
where they would all quietly accept their fate
because they would never think
to scratch their way out,
never think to clench their fists and batter reality
screaming and screaming “what about me”

My mind reeled in modern dance
Spinning, kicking, grasping, landing hard on my knees
hoping the world would give up and let my need for you
stop time long enough for me to see you see me one more time
See me ice-skating with my red scarf flying,
my heart wild with possibility as I crashed
into the snow-walled edges
and got back up for another go
See me negotiating the passage from girl to woman
too fast, too soon, and all the years it took the girl
to finally catch up
See me crying on a hotel bed, curled up in a heaving ball
knowing my father would forget who I was one day
See the depths of me coming for you, for me, for us
again and again, showering us with everything that I am,
our bodies making the past and present sticky sweet

Except I can’t dance well enough to stop time

Oh, but I have words, lover
Words that can shimmy honey onto your tongue
Words that can tap into a bass line so you feel what I feel
Words that can dance all night long steaming up the place
because you are happier when you are warm
My words — I’m yours
Your words — Stay with me
Our shared language of not letting go,
of claiming time in our own way

So I don’t want to decide if we’re right or wrong
I don’t want to be fair
I want to be demanding, selfish, wild, free
I want to scream and scream “what about me” as I drip
my greedy lifeblood into your waiting wanting mouth
And then I can let the nice words live another day
Let them breathe in our poetry so they regret
— just a little —
how fucking patient they’ve been

—Shannon Wand

Why Pick-Up Artists Should Be Sued For False Advertising

“Roosh is tall and well-built and actually rather good-looking for, you know, a monster.”—Laurie Penny, “I’m With The Banned,” Medium (July 21, 2016)

roosh-v-pua2If you’re hot for a guy who’s an asshole, it’s not because he’s an asshole; it’s probably because he’s hot. This is precisely why Pick-Up Artists aren’t just evil and gross, they’re also guilty of false advertising.

Take, for example, the reigning king of the Pick-Up Artists: Daryush Valizadeh (Roosh V). What a profoundly delusional idiot this guy is! He actually thinks that his sociopathic “skills” are what gets him laid. Of course it’s obvious to any objective outside observer with common sense—indeed, even to hard-core feminists like Laurie Penny who loathe him—that he gets laid a lot because he’s hot. Roosh V is guilty of what Nassim Nicholas Taleb refers to as the Green Lumber Fallacy.

As Taleb makes clear in Antifragile (2012), people who are successful at something are often blissfully unaware of why they’re successful at it. They might think they know why they’re successful, but they’re often dead wrong. He refers to this as the Green Lumber Fallacy, after the trader who made a fortune buying and selling green lumber without knowing what it was. Dude thought green lumber was actually “green” as opposed to freshly cut. Funny, I know. But what’s not funny is watching a homely computer programmer trying to apply Roosh V’s creepy techniques. They fail miserably because the techniques aren’t just morally repugnant, they aren’t effective.

What is effective? I’ve noticed three discernible trends when it comes to straight guys who get a lot of play: (1) they genuinely like women and/or (2) they’re hot and/or (3) they’re powerful, which is kinda hot. Successful Pick-Up Artists need to realize that they’re getting laid in spite of their douche-y-ness, not because of it. That being said, there’s something to the whole bad boy thing that Roosh V has got going on. Once again, however, it’s not what he thinks. After three games of pool and way too many shots of Jameson, a lesbian friend of mine once said to me: “Took me ten years to realize I didn’t wanna be with a bad boy, I wanted to be a bad boy.” I’ve suspected ever since that this is central to the bad boy’s appeal. What is the bad boy, after all, if not a person who flouts society’s rules? And who’s more oppressed by society’s rules: men or women?

—John Faithful Hamer, The Myth of the Fuckbuddy (2017)

Family Values vs. Christian Values

Social Justice WarriorIt’s always odd to hear a Christian fundamentalist prate on and on about Christian family values because Jesus was openly hostile to family values: “I came to set fire to the earth . . . . Do you really think I came to bring peace? I tell you, not at all, but rather division! For from now on five in one house will be divided: three against two, and two against three. Father will be divided against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law” (Luke 12:49-53).

Jesus was acutely aware of how many people slip through the cracks in a society based on family values. That’s why he advocated a radically new conception of The Family based on bonds not of blood but love (agape). That’s why we refer to fellow Christians as brothers and sisters in Christ. And it’s why Jesus so often ridiculed the dollar-store morals of those who fancy themselves good people merely because they’re good to family: “If you love only those who love you, what reward do you have? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing? Don’t even the Gentiles do the same” (Matthew 5:46-47)?

Christianity spread like wildfire, in part, because Christian communities were remarkably good at taking care of each other. They provided for widows and orphans, sat with the sick, doted on the dying, and redistributed resources when necessary. In short, they were the very opposite of the Ayn Rand reading sociopaths who’ve captured conservatism and decided it’s time to fight for Christian Civilization. These people wouldn’t know what Christian is if it bit them in the ass on the Road to Damascus.

—John Faithful Hamer, The Goldfish (2016)

Does a Dog Like To Go For a Walk?

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We all love our own animals first, as they do us.

And though I came in a distant second, Lucky seemed to find me an acceptable alternative in Fred’s absence. So it was only as we counted down Lucky’s last few days that I realized the residual loyalty I felt toward my recently deceased cat had prevented me from acknowledging that I loved Lucky as if he were my own, even though he’d never feel the same toward me.

I only knew Lucky for the last few years of his long life, and he was in pretty good shape until recently. In the beginning, I saw him only as Fred’s affable pooch, a goofy old thing, until one day, during the summer of 2011 on Fred’s deck, Lucky exited the kitchen, walked directly toward me, put his chin on my knee and looked up at me with sleepy eyes. He honored me with that deliberate act of recognition, and our friendship moved to another level.

Then, last summer, I had the unexpected pleasure of looking after Lucky on the weekends Fred would spend in Pointe Claire. In the abrupt intimacy of our many walks together in the sunny Plateau, something changed again. I began to make excuses to go over to Fred’s and walk with Lucky. Sometimes, from my apartment a few blocks away, I’d wonder what Lucky was up to, even though I knew he’d just be snoozing on his soft blue bed. And except for a few times, he’d usually meet me when he heard the key in the door, his tail wagging slowly as he gave me his shy, sideways/upper glance that we’d only recently learned was because he’d gone blind in one eye.

To meet Lucky, you’d never have guessed that he’d been abused for so long before finding Fred and the loving home where he died on October 28, 2014. His first owner had been wickedly cruel, and his second had been cruel by ignorance, leaving Lucky for long winters in a freezing garage. But never burdened by such human frailties as resentment, it seems that once the abuse ended, so did the trauma. Once it was over, Lucky apparently reverted to the meek, unassuming dog he probably was as a puppy. How he managed not to hate people is beyond me. But Fred’s tenderness was clearly a factor.

Never a crotch-sniffer or brawler and not huge on chasing things, Lucky had a single red rubber toy which he adored — the only thing beyond himself that he knew to be his alone. Lucky looked at the world calmly, circumspectly and with wonder and curiosity. To walk him so many times last summer was to stop twice a minute so he could privately ponder some detail of his sidewalk universe: a car being parked, people moving furniture, or a kid with a stick and ball; rapt by the mundane come and go. Lucky loved to encounter other dogs, too, and always seemed hurt if they displayed hostility, baffled that they weren’t simply enjoying a walk on the hot, sunny sidewalk meeting other dogs like he was.

I also witnessed, close-up and first hand, how Lucky’s wonderful muzzle (broad on top, which I kissed many, many times) was constantly accumulating information far beyond my own senses. Lucky reminded me, inch by inch of sidewalk, how much I was missing by living in the mess of my interior world.

Fred had told me about Lucky’s bad days, though I’d never seen one myself. But one Sunday morning, I did. When Fred came home later, he took a very unsteady Lucky for a walk himself. But only to the end of the lane, where I witnessed Fred’s final moment of reckoning.

On Monday, Fred’s friend Georgia, who’d studied veterinary science, came to visit and delivered a laundry list of everything that was going wrong with Lucky. Besides the crazy tumors that had been growing out of his haunches for the last couple of years, he’d lost most feeling in his paws, and his hindquarters were void of muscle. He’d burst an anal gland, which was poisoning him from the inside. And he’d gone blind in one eye. Unlike last year when Fred came so close to putting Lucky to sleep, this time there was no denying the inevitable. Georgia arranged to arrive with the vet on Tuesday night.

Happily and almost predictably, Lucky rallied by Tuesday morning and had woken up much younger than the preceding days. His last day was filled with hamburger and walks and music and Fred’s tender ministrations.

Fred tells me that by day’s end, even after the vet had arrived and the needle had been prepared, he asked to take Lucky for one last walk. Except that it had begun to rain and Lucky didn’t like the rain any more than the rest of us.

To hell with this, thought Lucky, and tugged Fred back toward the house where he knew so much love was waiting.

—David Lieber

For Pablito

A poem to my resident cat is in order
A cat from up north, not down south, of the border
For reasons beyond me I named him Pablito
A tag far more common in Cali or Quito.

He squanders his days at an indolent pace
And when each is over, he sleeps on my face
Just an inch from the TV when we watch the news
But can’t see the fine line between Arabs and Jews.

But as if there were not enough shit in this world
What Pablito contributes is rare as a pearl
Though recession and joblessness cripple the nation
The bane of this household is cat constipation.

A beautiful feline by any description
His downside’s his sphincter, a chronic condition
It’s called megacolon and that’s what he’s got
For his bowels expand but his rosebud does not.

The exit’s too small and the hallway too spacious
He squats in his box and the straining’s loquacious
He straddles the floor and the sight’d be funny
Except that to flush him out costs so much money.

He sees us ahead of the rest of his patients
‘Cause we underwrite the vet’s lavish vacations
When he sees us coming, he brings out the tube
Some disposable gloves and the pan and the lube.

Two hundred bucks later, Pablito’s in heaven
(The cat’s a foot long; his intestines are seven)
He sniffs at the product; he’s proud of his work
It’s a beast of a job but the sniffs are a perk.

He’s a very clean cat, so it’s all the more heinous
His kisses are liable to taste like his anus
Spread-eagled with tongue planted firmly in ass
It may seem, at first glance, like an absence of class.

But the passion is strong and it’s long, unrelenting,
When cats and their ani are freely consenting
And if, as you watch, they seems overly zealous
Some level pre-oedipal’s secretly jealous.

As for his condition, prognosis is poor
But one thing is for certain: his job is secure
He gets me to write, which curtails the booze
And he knows from an asshole in need of a muse.

—David Lieber

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QUESTION EVERYTHING?

“Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails, and place my finger in the mark of the nails, and place my hand in his side, I will not believe.”—John 20:24-25

Question-EverythingA few years ago I was asked to buy a t-shirt. It was part of a fundraiser for a local philosophy department’s student association. The slogan blazoned across the chest read: QUESTION EVERYTHING. It made me smile, the way that cheesy Hallmark cards often make me smile. Something so cute and quaint and noble about this notion: question everything. Philosophy’s all about questioning stuff, right? So what could be more natural than a philosophy student questioning everything? It’s a no-brainer, right? In Everything (2015), Aaron Haspel defines in a “no-brainer” as “an idea that is extremely persuasive as long as you don’t think about it.” Question everything is an idea of this kind.

We simply don’t have the time or energy to questioning everything. We all rely upon people and things we don’t understand. We trust the people on the highway not to veer into oncoming traffic. We trust that the food we’re eating isn’t poisoned. We trust that the people we leave our children with aren’t going to hurt them. We trust that the money we use has real value. We trust that the people who say they love us actually love us, despite the fact that we can never really be sure. We can never really know another person’s heart, not with certainty. And so on and so forth. We are swimming in a sea of trust each and every day.

People who’ve had their faith in the world profoundly shaken (by a psychotic break, a horrible accident, a devastating betrayal) people who actually question everything, are broken, profoundly dysfunctional shells of their former selves. At Projet PAL in Verdun, I worked with people who were recovering from severe mental health problems. What’s hardest for many of them is that they feel like they can no longer trust their own senses. They’re tormented by questions: Am I really talking to you? Are you really real? Is this really how I feel? Can I trust my feelings?

The same is true of those who’ve lived through a devastating betrayal. We’ve all known people who’ve been cheated on and habitually lied to, but imagine what it must be like to be Paula Rader, the woman who discovered that the man she was married to for 34 years (Dennis Rader, the father of her children) was the notorious serial killer known as the BTK killer. She thought her husband was a good man. They went to Christ Lutheran every Sunday morning. He was even elected president of the church council. How hard it must be for Paula to trust people now. How hard it must be for her to trust her own judgment. She must be tormented by questions: How could I have been so stupid? So blind? Hard as it must be, the Paula Raders of this world won’t be able to resume anything like a normal life until they begin to trust again, until they learn how to have faith again. Because faith isn’t a choice. It’s a necessity.

—John Faithful Hamer, The Myth of the Fuckbuddy (2017)

It Gets Us Out of the House

472775_10151424690692683_2090565344_o“It gets me out of the house.” That’s what my friend’s grandmother said when they teased her about her obsession with Bingo Night. The woman’s dedication was undeniably. The proof was all up there on her fridge calendar, like some diabolical Master Plan. Every bingo night in the city. Cataloged and accounted for. Complete with directions and estimated travel times.

May 15th @ 7:30 p.m. (basement of St. George’s)

There’s strength in numbers but peace in solitude. Hence the paradox of social life Freud ably described in Civilization and Its Discontents (1930): we need the strength in numbers that comes with social life, but, at one and the same time, social life makes demands upon us that often make us miserable.

A species composed of rugged individualists who really didn’t need each other would have gone extinct long ago. We’re not particularly strong or fast. Like bees and ants, our strength is derived from our amazing ability to work together. But why bother when people can be so annoying? Because we need them. This leads me to suspect that evolution selected for human neediness. Among other things, this explains the voracious nature of human sexuality.

Unlike tigers, bears, and salamanders, who only have sex during the mating season, we have sex all year round. What’s more, we have a great deal of sex that’s clearly not going to result in pregnancy (e.g., gay sex, straight sex after menopause, etc.). This suggests to me that sex’s primary purpose has long since transcended procreation.

Sex renders us needy and draws us to others; it makes us far less self-contained than we might otherwise be. In other words, sex gets us out of the house.

—John Faithful Hamer, The Myth of the Fuckbuddy (2016)

Highway to Heaven

Picasa 3 2015-10-02 73341 AM“Do you believe in The Rapture?” That’s what the distressed Baptist mom from Alabama asked me at her daughter’s gay wedding. I remember liking her. Guess that was her awkward attempt at an icebreaker. Or was it a shibboleth? A warm smile spread across my face as I dreamily recalled that magical moment when DeSweetie spotted Jenny on the dance floor in 1722. “Rapture” was playing. “Yes, ma’am. I do.”

Chasing rainbows and driving on a highway to heaven up and down the emerald hills and misty mountains of New England. Oh, Vermont, Vermont, nobody does green quite like you! We’re on our yearly pilgrimage to the sacred sands of Rye Beach, where Anna-Liisa’s ancestors have been sunning themselves for generations. Just as people from Jersey refer to New York as The City, my wife’s people refer to Rye as The Beach. Charms me to no end, this deep connection to space and place; it’s like getting a homemade gift, covered in fingerprints and kisses.

—John Faithful Hamer, The Myth of the Fuckbuddy (2016)

Gnostic Lullaby

14569626_332573817093970_1553337268_nWe say “de gustibus non est disputandum” (there’s no accounting for taste) when we’re feeling cornered and embarrassed (e.g., when someone discovers your Céline Dion CDs, your kitten calendars, your extensive collection of vintage garden gnomes). We say it when we’re feeling lazy or wish to avoid conflict (e.g., you say “tow-may-tow” and I’ll say “tow-mah-tow”). We say it when we do not wish to defend that which we dimly suspect to be indefensible. Why do we frequently find it hard to give a rational account of our aesthetic judgments? I’m not sure. But I know it applies to our taste in people just as much as our taste in music, calendars, and collectibles.

Just as there are hot people who leave us cold, there are good people who we respect immensely but avoid socially. Love and friendship often march to the beat of unseen drummers. When pressed by a modern-day Socrates, I find it very hard, at times, to justify my seemingly eclectic taste in friends. Most of the time, I really couldn’t tell you why I gravitate toward the one, avoid the other. All I can say with certainty is that it’s got something to do with a highly idiosyncratic estimation of a person’s character.

I can tolerate some pretty major flaws in my friends—flaws that others find insufferable—and yet there’s one relatively minor vice (stinginess) that I find thoroughly repulsive. My estimation of the virtues is equally uneven. I find, time and again, that I am partial to particular virtues, such as courage. Truth be told, I am attracted—irresistibly attracted—to courageous people, even if their views and interests and values differ from my own immensely. All of this leads me to suspect that de gustibus non est disputandum applies to ethics just as much as it applies to aesthetics.

—John Faithful Hamer, The Myth of the Fuckbuddy (2016)

Arturo Vinetti (1924-2016)

56817_101575643248608_2091022_oI’ll never forget the time you showed up to help Alex—your grandson and my best friend—move out of that shitty apartment. You were definitely a senior citizen at that point, one of those grey-haired guys who gets a discount at the pharmacy—I’m guessing 69, maybe even 70—and yet you were still strong as an ox! It was insane. All these young guys in their early twenties. Sweating in the humid 1st of July heat. Just dying. But you didn’t even break a sweat! Two guys would be on one end of something huge, and you’d be calmly one-handing the other end. Really don’t think I’ve ever met a stronger, more gentle dude. And what a legacy you’ve left behind, Arturo! What love! Don’t think I ever told you this, but I always mention what you and Pauline had—your love, your marriage, your devotion to each other—in my “Love and Friendship” class at John Abbott College. You and Pauline are proof that the old way of doing things wasn’t all bad. In fact, it was often far better than anything we’ve got going on! If Alex and I can do half as well as you, we’ll have done well.

—John Faithful Hamer, The Myth of the Fuckbuddy (2016)