"Darling, a true lady takes off her dignity with her clothes and does her whorish best. At other times you can be as modest and dignified as your persona requires." -- Robert Heinlein, The Notebooks of Lazarus LongDoes Everything Have to Be on Your Permanent Record?
Have you read the first couple of years of Berke Brethed's old comic strip, "Bloom County"? I don't think there was a single moment funnier than the end of (macho jerk) Steve Dallas's first date with (ditsy blonde) Quiche Lorraine. When he returns her to her place, he tries to get invited in, and she slaps him silly. Quiche yells, "I'm not that kind of girl!" Steve roars back at her, "You most certainly are!" Chagrined, she replies, "Oh, pits. Does it show?"
I'm not going to go all Korzybskian and Saphir/Whorf-ey on you, but we have this little problem in spoken language, so far as I known in all Indo-European languages including English. We believe that if even once you ever distim the doshes, then you're a dosh distimmer, like the gostak. You could be someone who distimmed some doshes, long ago, more or less by mistake, while you were young and didn't know any better or before you went into rehab. Or instead you could be someone who's been distimming doshes for decades; you distimmed all the doshes you could find last weekend, are going to distim a bunch more doshes this weekend, and are spending all of your time in between obsessing over doshes and planning how you're going to distim. Or you could be anywhere in between those two extremes, but wherever you are on that spectrum, we have only one label to hang on you, you distimmer.
Listen. People who "don't sleep around" do sleep around. People who aren't sluts do slutty things. There's nothing wrong with saying "I'm not always like this." If life is ever to have any holidays, any release, any comfort, any variety, any experimentation, any growth, then there have to be times where you can do whatever it is that you've been wanting to do, without getting a reputation as someone who always does that, or for that matter as someone who's going to keep doing that. You need a social signal by which we all agree, "this doesn't count."
You may be too old to go to Spring Break, or too young. You may think it's too cold in New Orleans during Mardi Gras, or too crass. You may not be able to afford to fly to DragonCon or to spend a week camping at Starwood. You need an affordable, easily repeatable way to say, "I'm not always like this." Try drinking! If you don't do it always, then you can reassure yourself and others that you're only going to be like this during this special occasion ... so if you see me later, buster, don't push your luck! That'll be then. This is now.
Temporarily Dropping Masks
Some sexual freedom crusaders, such as the "ethical sluts" inside the polyamory community and Queer Nation in the gay community, insist on a radical ethos of total honesty. The antidote to the disease of shame is to never do something you're ashamed of. Either do it openly and don't be ashamed of it, or don't do it.
I leave it as a matter for debate whether or not such a world is perfect, or even achievable. But in the real world, the one that we live in, there are very few who are willing (and for that matter, able) to pay the price of such radical honesty. Am I saying you should lie to your partners? No. Am I saying that it's perfectly OK to "wear a mask" with everyone else, to have two faces? Yes. In fact, I'll go further. For most people, it's an absolute necessity. Even if your desires - who you want to love, where you want to love, when you want to love, how you want to love - are so acceptable to the mainstream that nobody would look down on you for them, you still have reason to maintain an artificially Puritan reputation ... if you ever intend to hold a job with a "morals clause" or similar qualification, or if you ever intend to have children. Radical honesty in all areas of your life is like playing Russian roulette with your family and career, present and future, with four bullets chambered in a five-shot revolver. For every person who gets away with it, there are probably four who've had lives wrecked, careers wrecked, children wrenched from loving parents and handed over to brainwashers or even abusers.
And that doesn't even count the emotional injuries, the psychic abuse you take from social opprobrium, especially if you're anybody other than a vanilla heterosexual male monagamist or a totally virginal heterosexual woman. The madonna/whore complex exists. (As the famous story goes, why do respectable married men prefer to get oral sex from prostitutes than from their wives? "Hey, she kisses our children with that mouth.") Gay-bashing still exists. And campaigns against perversion are a sure vote-getter. You can oppose these things, but it's insanity to deny them. And to borrow a phrase from the Consciousness Raising movement of the 1970s, sexual radicals are just as likely as anyone else to "internalize their oppressor." No matter how sure you are that you're right, hearing your lifestyle and your desires attacked and made fun of every day means that every so often in the darkness you ask yourself, "Are they right about me?"
Sure, you can take the path of total openness and being totally "out of the closet" at all times and in all settings. It's certainly easier. But it comes at one huge cost ... immediate rejection by 90% or more of your desired partners. There will be many, many people who don't disapprove of your desires but do disapprove of your attitude. You may be willing to alienate neighbors, coworkers, even family, but are you willing to alienate those you wish to be attractive to?
Unless you want to make yourself even lonelier, to get even less love because you're a polyamorist and even less sex because you're a sexual crusader, then that means wearing a mask, and only letting it down when it's appropriate. And that mask has to be pretty firmly attached, so it doesn't get "knocked loose" when you hear so many people attack your desires, your lifestyle, your partners, without even knowing it. They don't know you, they don't mean it personally ... but it is personal, and that mask has to be awfully rigid and awfully tight if it's to stop your mouth, and perhaps even your ears, in such circumstances.
Once you get your public mask made and once you put it on properly, it's very, very hard to let it down. And getting tipsy is the best lubricant for social masks that has ever been given to us by the Gods. And that's one of the reasons why so many people, and so many women in particular, must use alcohol to make themselves approachable, let alone be able to approach others.
Openness to Possibilities
There were a couple of "how to fall in love and get married" manuals that came out in the mid 1990s. I forget which author's radio interview I stole this from, but I did come away with one permanent idea: romantic net worth. If you're getting shot down regularly, they argued, it's because you're approaching people too much more attractive than yourself. They mentioned that the book had separate check lists for men and women, as each gender values different qualities, overall - fitness, appearance, style, wit, income, attentiveness, and so on. Sure, it's an over-simplification. But it remains true that the best way to decrease that knee-jerk reaction, both in yourself and from others, is to put yourself in a social situation where everybody has an impaired ability to measure attractiveness. May I suggest intoxicants?
If you make a firm, unbreakable rule that you will not enter sexual situations with intoxicated people or while intoxicated, that means doing one of two things. One is to leave your prejudices at full strength, your snap judgements at their snappiest, and hope that you can find your ideal mate among the maybe 20% of such potential mates who pass your withering scrutiny, and hope that their sober mind also puts you in that narrow band of acceptability.
Or else you can try to do all of the following simultaneously:
- Fight back your urge to make snap judgements about people.
- Carefully monitor and control your every movement and word in order to maintain your optimum level of attractiveness.
- Navigate the complexities of the social environment you're in.
- Have a good time.
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