Not About Anything: Am I Weird?
Before I begin: the answer, my friends, is a resounding, “YES!”
I am weird. It is fair to say that we are all weird, some of probably more than others and “weird” is an identity that I had accepted and embraced by the time I was 7 years old to such an extent that I once tried to teach my fellow summer school arts program kids how to be weird, too. They tagged along for a while, presumably ’til it got too … you know. Weird. To each his, her, its*, or their** own.
At the time, I think I felt as if my weirdness was my best selling point — the thing that made me interesting.
That being established, however, what I’m driving at today requires a slightly different sense of the word “weird.”
What I’m asking is, “Is there some way in which I am fundamentally unlike the people who are supposed to be most like me?”
So here’s the thing. I am by nature deeply monogamous. I always have been. I rather expect always to be, barring one of those personality-altering brain injuries. I can look at and appreciate the attractiveness of people who are not my mate, but I have no interest in acting upon that appreciation — much in the sense that people who are happy with their bicycles might notice other nice bikes at club rides, and might even comment on them, but won’t automatically feel an itch to replace their own perfectly-satisfactory bikes.
Okay, so this is actually not a very good analogy: as cyclists, we routinely cheat on our beloved machines and we even keep veritable harems of bikes, sometimes including multiple iterations of one flavor of bike. Also, I am sure there are people who will get all huffy about me comparing my husband to a bicycle; to them, I say, “Try a really great road bike some time, and you will understand — and, no, you can’t try my husband. You’ll just have to take my word on that part.” 😀 That said, I’m sure you get my point. At least, I hope you do.
Like me, Denis is also innately monogamous. We do not have massive circles of gay friends (indeed, we do not have massive friendship-circles, period); we know two other gay couples, both of whom are (as far as we know) also happily monogamous. We used to know three other happy gay couples, but both members of the third couple have died in the past few years.
So, basically, if my immediate experience took place in a vaccuum, I would conclude that the norm is for gay men to occupy happy, monogamous, and (to include the whole picture) inter-generational**** relationships.
Yet when I hear reports from the field, as it were — be it in the form of stories about the queer friends and/or siblings of non-queer friends of ours or from Big Gay Media or from Little Gay Media (the blogosphere!) — there is this current of, you know, swingy-ness … and still, even now, this assumption that because we’re queer we should reject heteronormative norms like monogamy.
For me, this creates a significant cognitive dissonance. My lived experience is not only different, but very different, from the one I read about — and, in this case, I’m not sure that’s actually because the one I read about is total crap
Like, if you watch those teen soap-opera shows on prime time TV, you will think that high school is basically all about backstabbing social intrigues, hooking up, and people being really bitchy to each-other, when in fact my experience was that it is, for almost everyone, a hellish period of feeling akward, trying to figure s**t out, and actually not having as bad a relationship with your parents as all those TV shows suggest — and, sure, there’s some social intrigue and whatevs, but also a lot less sex and back-stabbing: sex mostly comes later, and as for the back-stabbing? That’s so middle school, bra.
But this isn’t like that. I mean, like, people who purport to be more or less members of the same community to which I belong actually really do seem, in statistically-significant numbers, to be living very differently from the way I’m living … but they’re, you know, basically invisible to me in my own daily life.
I realize some of this is that my own daily life has its own weird structure. I ride my bike. I go to school. I ride my bike. I go to ballet class. I go home and make dinner and mark the stuff I struggled with in ballet class and I do my homework and I go to bed. We go to the ballet. We go to the opera. We live like members of a generation older than Denis’ own generation, or like people from another time. Once in a while, Denis lets me off my chain and I go own the dance floor at a club, where I don’t meet anyone, presumably because people don’t want to get close enough to collide with a jete or a saute or that one move that I totally stole from some Broadway show I saw one time. Needless to say, this does not increase the dimensions of my sphere of queer acquaintances.
But I wonder: is the swingy-ness of modern queer culture over-reported? Are we still stuck in a kind of adolescent obsession with it? Is the norm really, as some people report, to be part of a nonmonogamous couple, or is it just that the nonmonogamous thing is kind of having a heyday right now, with the heterosexual community owning up to the fact that it, too, does a bunch of that polyamory thing?
I am not, by the way, asking heterosexuals. No offense to people outside the queer universe, but just as some of my basic assumptions about what’s really the norm for heterosexuals have proven to be incorrect, I suspect that non-queer people probably don’t really have any better a finger on the pulse of queer reality than I do. Which is weird, because that means I’m almost, like, not queer.
Except, that’s not weird, because that’s just me. Weird. I am never entirely a member of any collective group. I am queer, but I don’t really belong to the queer community in any real sense (though sometimes I wish I did, because it would be cool to really be part of something). I am usually too busy pursuing my interests, which are really kind of off the radar even in the queer world. Serious cyclists and serious dancers don’t seem to get out much, and I don’t know how to do things without becoming Serious about them, because that’s just how I am. Either I bury myself in my interests, or I let them drift away.
So I guess I am saying this: I am functionally queer (even triple-queer, since being in an inter-generational relationship and being intersexed shuttles me two minority boxes deeper) and in many ways I live a life that many people, straight or queer, would label as very, very queer — almost laughably, stereotypically so. Seriously: my extracurricular life currently revolves around ballet, dining, opera, and a hobby that involves men in brightly-colored lycra, though cyclists in groups are, in my experience, pretty much asexual*****; we are brothers and sisters in arms, battling together against wind and hills.
Yet, in a deeper sense, I am out of touch with Queer Experience, if there even is anything that could be called “Queer Experience.” I suspect that’s actually like trying to sum up everything that disparate groups of black people do and say and live through as “black experience,” or simply labeling all those striving, disparate patches of ethnicity in Eastern Europe “the Former Soviet Union.” Yet there are, undoubtedly, common threads about whose existence I am starkly blind.
So, you know. What’s up out there in the world, guys and gals? Am I really failing to observe some kind of huge, important phenomenon, or what? Some day, am I going to look up from yanking my ballet shoes onto my feet and realize, “Oh, whoa — it really is like that?”
Or is it really just kind of hyperbole, the navel-gazing flavor of the moment?
Let me know. That’s what Comments are for, people.
And keep whichever side down. Don’t fall over. That’s awkward.
*In addition to just basically changing my entire perception of what it means to be this androgynous intersex thing that I am, I would like to thank Clive Barker for teaching me to embrace the word “it” where appropriate and not feel all dehumanized about it.
**Turns out, as I’ve probably mentioned before, that there’s perfectly fine linguistic precedent for using “their” and its various declensions to refer to individual entities of unknown, indeterminate, or irrelevant gender. We’ll talk about this another time, after I dig up all the scholarly junk on that. Just don’t be that annoying guy, gurl, or entity that gets tangled up in his, her, its,*** or their own attempts to use Inclusive Language and instead akwardly mixes things, like, “Make sure your child brings their ballet slippers and his/her dance clothes.” That’s just awkward, peoples.
***(O NOES! RECURSIVE FOOTNOTES!!!!) …And for safety’s sake, definitely try the Oxford comma. You might enjoy it!
****It so happens that all four of the happy gay couples in question, including Denis and I, are also what people might term “inter-generational,” which is something I sometimes sit down and think about. I don’t know any happy gay couples that aren’t inter-generational, but that’s only because my Circle O’ Fabulous Friends is very small, and does not include any further gay couples.
*****We even reproduce asexually, by infecting non-cyclists with our spores, or something. I haven’t figured out exactly how it happens, yet. When I do, I will certainly write some kind of Nobel Prize for Science or Medicine-worthy paper about it. Or not.