My plans for my birthday week will take place in this part of the globe…Thank goodness for this break!
Back in the day, the topic of gender boiled down to biology, defined by one’s sex chromosomes. XX, and you were female, XY, and you were male. Chromosomal disorders such as XO,XXX, XXXX, XXXXX resulted in individuals who possessed female genitalia, while XXY, XXXY, XY/XXY, XYY aberrations resulted in the expression of male genitalia. True hermaphroditism (1), in which both female and male genitals or a hybrid of them exist, is exceedingly rare, so much so that there has never really been a pressing need for a third gender box.
In recent years, however, there has been so much debate and confusion regarding gender versus sexual orientation and identity, that surveys are jumping on the bandwagon to appease to this new crop of outspoken individuals. Biology has abruptly taken a backseat to sexual identity, with all its permutations and definitions. And don’t you dare try to argue biology with the new sexual order, either.
Call me old school, but if we are talking about biology, then there are MALES and FEMALES. For the purposes of the general human population, such genetic definitions accommodate the vast majority of individuals. So if a questionnaire or survey asks someone to check off a GENDER box, it shouldn’t be an insult to a person to mark one of those two boxes. Yet the new millennial order has eschewed biology, turning the query into a chance to declare specific social-sexual preferences. I have never been offended by the standard gender question, and cannot understand how some people insist on applying flawed logic and getting bent out of shape over it.
If gender is such a difficult issue in today’s society, then why do so many couples post gender reveals on social media? It’s either a boy, or a girl, period. Traditionally, when a survey asked for your gender for classification purposes, it wasn’t asking about your bedroom habits. Now it’s a wide open door for people to declare their defiance and independence from a staid society which has been sexually repressed for far too long. It’s suddenly cool when gathering demographic information to inquire about a person’s whole social identity.
I was prompted to write about this topic when I was asked to complete a profile for a social influencer platform. When I reached the gender section, I saw that it was FIVE PAGES LONG. There were 52 different gender choices. I was stunned. This wasn’t a gender question. This was a social-sexual labels question. And it truly annoyed me. It’s not like I have a problem with the labels, I just have a problem with them being referred to as genders. I also don’t quite understand how transgender people suddenly became so ANGRY at the world.
Honestly, many of the labels are redundant, and one in particular should not be used by the majority of the nonbinary public. Say someone identifies as the following:
AFAB (assigned female at birth)
Female to male
Guess what? They all (except for AFAB, which already implies that the individual has rejected their biological origin) say the SAME THING.
Also, anyone who refers to themselves as Two-spirit has no right to use that label unless they truly are members of the indigenous Native American community from which the phrase originated. Here’s the description of “Two-spirit”:
Two-Spirit (also two spirit or, occasionally, twospirited) is a modern, pan-Indian, umbrella term used by some Indigenous North Americans to describe Native people in their communities who fulfill a traditional third-gender (or other gender-variant) ceremonial role in their cultures.
The term two-spirit was created in 1990 at the Indigenous lesbian and gay international gathering in Winnipeg, and “specifically chosen to distinguish and distance Native American/First Nations people from non-Native peoples.” The primary purpose of coining a new term was to encourage the replacement of the outdated and considered offensive, anthropological term, berdache. While this new term has not been universally accepted—it has been criticized by traditional communities who already have their own terms for the people being grouped under this new term, and by those who reject what they call the “western” binary implications, such as implying that Natives believe these individuals are “both male and female”—it has generally received more acceptance and use than the anthropological term it replaced.
“Two Spirit” is not interchangeable with “LGBT Native American” or “Gay Indian”; rather, it was intended, despite being in English, to carry on the traditional meanings of the terms in Indigenous languages for the culturally-specific ceremonial roles that are recognized and confirmed by the Elders of the two-spirit’s ceremonial community. Opinions vary as to whether or not this objective has succeeded. Often incorrectly used as a synonym for “LGBT Native”, the term and identity of two-spirit “does not make sense” unless it is contextualized within a Native American or First Nations framework and traditional cultural understanding. However, the gender-nonconforming, LGBT, or third and fourth gender, ceremonial roles traditionally embodied by Native American and FNIM people, intended to be under the modern umbrella of two-spirit, can vary widely, even among the Indigenous people who accept the English-language term. No one Native American/First Nations’ culture’s gender or sexuality categories apply to all, or even a majority of, these cultures.
Oh, and Two-spirit is NOT a gender per biological standards either.
It’s fine if someone doesn’t want to be pigeonholed into a stereotypical gender description, and identifies as being transgender. In fact, there is legislation which aims to designate X as a gender marker for nonbinary and transgender individuals, and apparently, this option is available on birth certificates issued in the Canadian province of Ontario. However, I rail against the idea that the standard gender question on surveys and other forms must add a whole mess of redundant descriptions of sexual and social behavior.
1. A Human Intersex (“True Hermaphrodite”) with XX/XXY/XXYYY Sex Chromosomes
Fraccaro M.a · Taylor A.I.b · Bodian M.b · Newns G.H.b. Cytogenetics 1962;1:104–112
EVERYONE should read this article, written by Tim Kreider. It’s a true eye-opener.
If you live in America in the 21st century you’ve probably had to listen to a lot of people tell you how busy they are. It’s become the default response when you ask anyone how they’re doing: “Busy!” “So busy.” “Crazy Busy.” It is, pretty obviously, a boast disguised as a complaint. And the stock response is a kind of congratulation: “That’s a good problem to have,” or “Better than the opposite.”
This frantic, self-congratulatory busyness is a distinctly upscale affliction. Notice it isn’t generally people pulling back-to-back shifts in the ICU, taking care of their senescent parents, or holding down three minimum-wage jobs they have to commute to by bus who need to tell you how busy they are; what those people are is not busy but tired. Exhausted. Dead on their feet. It’s most often said by people whose lamented busyness is purely self-imposed: work and obligations they’ve taken on voluntarily, classes and activities they’re “encouraged” their kids to participate in. They’re busy because of their own ambition or drive or anxiety, because they are addicted to busyness and dread what they might have to face in its absence.
Almost everyone I know is busy. They feel anxious and guilty when they aren’t working or doing something to promote their work. They schedule in time with their friends the way 4.0 students make sure to sign up for some extracurricular activities because they look good on college applications. I recently wrote a friend asking if he wanted to do something this week, and he answered that he didn’t have a lot of time but if something was going on to let him know and maybe he could ditch work for a few hours. My question had not a preliminary heads-up to some future invitation: This was the invitation. I was hereby asking him to do something with me. But his busyness was like some vast churning noise through which he as shouting out at me, and I gave up trying to shout back over it.
I recently learned a neologism that, like political correctness, man cave, and content-provider, I instantly recognized as heralding an ugly new turn in the culture: planshopping. That is, deferring committing to any one plan for an evening until you know what all your options are, and then picking the one that’s most likely to be fun/advance your career/have the most girls at it — in other words, treating people like menu options or products in a catalog.
Even children are busy now, scheduled down to the half hour with enrichment classes, tutorials, and extracurricular activities. At the end of the day they come home as tired as grownups, which seems not just sad but hateful. I was a member of the latchkey generation, and had three hours of totally unstructured, largely unsupervised time every afternoon, time I used to do everything from scouring The World Book Encyclopedia to making animated movies to convening with friends in the woods in order to chuck dirt clods directly into one another’s eyes, all of which afforded me knowledge, skills, and insights that remain valuable to this day.
The busyness is not a necessary or inevitable condition of life; it’s something we’ve chosen, if only by our acquiescence to it. I recently Skyped with a friend who had been driven out of New York City by the rents and now has an artist’s residency in a small town in the South of France. She described herself as happy and relaxed for the first time in years. She still gets her work done, but it doesn’t consume her entire day and brain. She says it feels like college — she has a circle of friends there who all go out to the cafe or watch TV together every night. She has a boyfriend again. (She once ruefully summarized dating in New York: “Everyone is too busy and everyone thinks they can do better.”) What she had mistakenly assumed was her personality — driven, cranky, anxious, and sad — turned out to be a reformative effect of her environment, of the crushing atmospheric pressure of ambition and competitiveness. It’s not as if any of us wants to live like this, any more than any one person wants to be part of a traffic jam or stadium trampling or the hierarchy of cruelty in high school; it’s something we collectively force one another to do. It may not be a problem that’s soluble through any social reform or self-help regimen; maybe it’s just how things are. Zoologist Konrade Lorenz calls “the rushed existence into which industrialized, commercialized man has precipitated himself” and all its attendant afflictions — ulcers, hypertension, neuroses, etc. — an “inexpedient development,” or evolutionary maladaptation, brought on by our ferocious intraspecies competition. He likens us to birds whose alluringly long plumage has rendered them flightless, easy prey.
I can’t help but wonder whether all this histrionic exhaustion isn’t a way of covering up the fact that most of what we do doesn’t matter. I once dated a woman that interned at a magazine where she wan’t allowed to take lunch hours out, lest she be urgently needed. This was an entertainment magazine whose raison d’etre had been obviated when Menu buttons appeared on remotes, so it’s hard to see this pretense of indispensability as anything other than a form of institutional self-delusion. Based on the volume of my email correspondence and the amount of Internet ephemera I am forwarded on a daily basis, I suspect that most people with office jobs are doing as little as I am. More and more people in this country no longer make or do anything tangible; if your job wasn’t performed by a cat or a boa constrictor or a worm in a Tyrollean hat in a Richard Scarry book I’m not convinced it’s necessary. Yes, I know we’re all very busy, but what, exactly, is getting done? Are all those people running late for meetings and yelling on their cell phones stopping the spread of malaria or developing feasible alternatives to fossil fuels or making anything beautiful?
The busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness: Obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day. All this noise and rush and stress seem contrived to drown out or over up some fear at the center of our lives. I know that after I’ve spent a whole day working for running errands or answering emails or watching movies, keeping my brain busy and distracted, as soon as I lie down to sleep all the niggling quotidian worries and Big Picture questions I’ve successfully kept at bay come crowding into my brain like monsters swarming out of the closet the instant you turn off the nightlight. When you ty to meditate, your brain suddenly comes up with a list of a thousand urgent items you should be obsessing about rather than simply sit still. One of my correspondents suggests that what we’re all so afraid of is being left alone with ourselves.
I’ll say it: I am not busy. I am the laziest ambitious person I know. Like most writers, I feel like a reprobate who does not deserve to live on any day that I do not write, but I also feel like 4 or 5 hours is enough to earn my stay on the planet for one more day. On the best ordinary days of my life, I write in the morning, go for a long bike ride and run errands in the afternoon, and see friends, read or watch a movie in the evening. The very best days of my life are given over to uninterrupted debauchery, but these are, alas, undependable and increasingly difficult to arrange. This, it seems to me, is a sane and pleasant pace for a day. And if you call me up and ask whether I won’t maybe blow off work and check out the new American Wing at the Met or ogle girls in Central Park or just drink chilled pink minty cocktails all day long, I will say, “What time?”
But just recently, I insidiously started, because of professional obligation to become busy. For the first time in my life I was able to tell people, with a straight face, that I was “too busy” to do this or that thing they wanted me to do. I could see why people enjoy this complaint: It makes you feel important, sough-after, and put-upon. It’s also an unassailable excuse for declining boring invitations, shirking unwelcome projects, and avoiding human interaction. Except that I hated actually being busy. Every morning my inbox was full of emails asking me to do things I did not want to do or presenting me with problems that I had to solve. It got more and more intolerable, until finally I fled town to the Undisclosed Location from which I’m writing this.
Here I am largely unmolested by obligations. There is no TV. To check email I have to drive to the library. I go a week at a time without seeing anyone I know. I’ve remembered about buttercups, stinkbugs, and the stars. I read a lot. And I’m finally getting some real writing done for the first time in months. It’s hard to find anything to say about life without immersing yourself in the world, but it’s also just about impossible to figure out what that might be, or how best to say it, without getting the hell out of it again. I know not everyone has an isolated cabin to flee to. But not having cable or the Internet turns out to be cheaper than having them. And nature is still technically free, even if human beings have tried to make access to it expensive. Time and quiet should not be luxury items.
Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence, or a vice: It is an indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body, and deprived of it we suffer a mental affliction as disfiguring as rickets. The space and quiet that idleness provides is a necessary condition for standing back from life and seeing it whole, for making unexpected connections and waiting for the wild summer lightning strikes of inspiration — it is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done. “Idle dreaming is often the essence of what we do,” writes Thomas Pynchon in his essay on Sloth. Archimedes’ “Eureka” in the bath, Newton’s apple, Jekyll and Hyde, the benzine ring: history is full of stories of inspiration that came in idle moments and dreams. It almost makes you wonder whether loafers, goldbrickers, and no-accounts aren’t responsible for more of the world’s great ideas, inventions, and masterpieces than the hardworking.
“The goal of the future is full unemployment, so we can play. That’s why we have to destroy the present politico-economic system.” This may sound like the pronouncement of some bong-smoking anarchist, but it was in fact Arthur C. Clarke, who found time between scuba diving and pinball games to write Childhood’s End and think up communications satellites. Ted Rall recently wrote a column proposing that we divorce income form work, giving each citizen a guaranteed paycheck, which sounds like the kind of lunatic notion that’ll be a basic human right in about a century, like abolition, universal suffrage, and 8-hour workdays. I know how heretical it sound in America, but there’s really no reason we shouldn’t regard drudgery as an evil to rid the world of if possible, like polio. It was the Puritans who perverted work into a virtue, evidently forgetting that God invented it as a punishment. Now that the old taskmaster is out of office, maybe we could all take a long smoke break.
I suppose the world would soon slide to ruin if everyone behaved like me. But I would suggest that an ideal human life lies somewhere between my own defiant indolence and the rest of the world’s endless frenetic hustle. My own life has admittedly been absurdly cushy. But my privileged position outside the hive may have given me a unique perspective on it. It’s like being the designated driver at a bar: When you’re not drinking, ou can see drunkenness more clearly than those actually experiencing it. Unfortunately the only advice I have to offer the Busy is as unwelcome as the advice you’d give to the Drunk. I’m not suggesting everyone quit their jobs — just maybe take the rest of the day off. Go play some see-ball. Fuck in the middle of the afternoon. Take your daughter to a matinee. My role in life is to be a bad influence, the kid standing outside the classroom window making faces at you at your desk, urging you to just this once to make some excuse and get out of there, come outside and play.
Even though my own resolute idleness has mostly been a luxury rather than a virtue, I did make a conscious decision, a long time ago, to choose time over money, since you can always make more money. And I’ve always understood that the best investment of my limited time on earth is to spend it with people I love. I suppose it’s possible I’ll lie on my deathbed regretting that I didn’t work harder, write more, and say everything I had to say, but I think what I’ll really wish is that I could have one more round of Delanceys with Nick, another long late-night talk with Lauren, one last hard laugh with Harold. Life is too short to be busy.
My mom taught me how to blow bubbles with bubble gum when I was 5 years old, sparking a years-long obsession with gum. I loved trying different flavors of gum: orange, grape, strawberry, Fruit Stripe (anyone remember this?), lime, bubble gum flavor, you name it.
I was so obsessed with different flavors of gum that I developed a rather odd and disgusting habit which sounds so horrific to me now. When I found an especially tasty morsel of gum, I would stop chewing it before all the flavor left, then stick the wad on the underside of a small card table I had in my room. At any given time, I would have between 6 to maybe 10 wads of chewed gum under that table. When I wanted to experience the flavor of a gum again, I would pry the gum off the underside of the table, then go to the bathroom sink and run the gum under steaming hot water until it softened up. Once the gum was heated up, I’d pop it in my mouth and chew happily away.
I definitely doubt that the water was hot enough to disinfect the gross little clumps of gum, and I think it’s a miracle that I didn’t become ill from that unsanitary habit!
Is anyone else brave enough to admit to a strange or gross habit they might have had when they were children?
Have you ever had a conversation with someone which almost feels more like a competition than an equal interchange? Perhaps you’re excited about starting a new yoga class and you mention it to someone, only to have that person redirect the conversation by talking about her own experiences with yoga, to the point where you have been completely edged out of any chance to speak.
It turns out that many of us engage in what’s been termed by Charles Derber as conversational narcissism (check out his book, The Pursuit of Attention which is available on Amazon). What’s the difference between a normal conversation and one in which you have been railroaded by a conversational narcissist?
Here are two examples, one from a normal exchange, and one from an experience with a conversational narcissist:
Sally: I just got an offer to travel to Spain and I am so excited!
Chip: That’s so cool! I’ve always wanted to go there. We have ancestors out there. What part of Spain are you visiting?
Chip: That’s amazing. Hopefully you’ll have some time to explore.
CONVERSATION WITH A CONVERSATIONAL NARCISSIST:
Sally: I just got an offer to travel to Spain and I am so excited!
Chip: Cool. I have ancestors out there. In fact, there’s a town named after us.
Sally: Wow, that’s neat.
Chip: Yeah it is. I really need to visit there. My cousin says she can hook us up with the best accommodations out there.
Sally: Wow, awesome. So do you know any good places to visit out there?
Chip: Well, when I go there, I expect the red carpet to be rolled out, you know what I mean? We deserve that, you know?
In the second example, Chip took over the conversation, diverting the attention to himself. He even ignored Sally’s question about whether he knew of any good places to visit in Spain. In an instant, the conversation became all about Chip, and not Sally.
It is common for conversational narcissists to rather quickly jump in with their own personal stories rather than allow the other person to finish a thought. The person’s story or complaint becomes swallowed up by the conversational narcissist’s story, which is the new focus of the conversation. It’s also not unusual for a certain amount of bragging, boasting or name-dropping to occur with someone who has developed a strong tendency towards conversational narcissism. Often, the conversational narcissist isn’t even aware that he has taken complete control over the dialog.
In this distracted age of social media and those irresistible handheld computers we call our phones, it seems that the art of conversation is deteriorating. We’ve become impatient, entitled, and egocentric. And many of us now exhibit behaviors which define conversational narcissism. The art of truly listening needs to be relearned.
I’m writing this as much for myself as I am writing it for you readers. I had been meaning to write a blog post about how to break the vicious cycle of overthinking which comes with anxiety. Honestly, there really is no point to worrying about what may happen, and there is never a good enough reason to lose sleep. Yet many of us will toss and turn, ruminating over current dilemmas, and robbing ourselves of precious slumber, all because we just can’t turn off our brains.
When we obsess over situations which we have little power to change in that moment, we act like hamsters on a wheel, going endlessly around and around, finding no exit and no solution. So why do we do it? How do we let it go?
Though it can be difficult to break free from the urge to keep thinking about how to solve problems in our lives, doing so is a vital component in calming our nerves and keeping us balanced and sane. So the next time you find yourself fretting over something like a conflict at work, a financial issue, or something else which has you all tied up in knots, do the following:
- Ask yourself, “Will worrying about my issue help me in any way to solve it?” If the answer is no (and it usually is no), then there truly is NO POINT to thinking about it. Let it go, breathe, and get on with your day.
- If you just can’t turn off your thoughts, then grab a notebook and a pen, and write down a list of all pros and cons and potential solutions you can think of. Then put your notes away and don’t look at them until the next day. Quite frequently, you will find your answer in those notes you scribbled.
- Remember that there is ALWAYS another way to look at a situation, even if you think you are stuck. So think outside the box.
- Sleep on it. We often get ourselves so worked up about conflicts and obstacles, that simply getting a good night’s sleep can help to clear our thoughts so that we can tackle such conflicts with a refreshed mind.