Sometimes I dream in Western.

I have some pretty crazy dreams. They tend to follow plot lines like tv shows, each one a continuation (or sometimes flashback) of the last. This “season” seems to be an alternate history of my time in high school. The general gist is that my father never died, eventually married his girlfriend Wendy, and they got primary custody for whatever reason. Likely to keep me in the school district we wanted. Well, for some reason, in these dreams they are very bizarre versions of themselves. Dad is witless and scattered, more so than I remember him being, and Wendy is a coward–which is not remotely true. Also I’m failing high school this time around?

Well, with that bit of background lets get to the story.

[A slow western theme plays in the background. Heavy on the harmonica.] 

We’d been sitting in the office of my homeroom teacher, Erin, for what felt like ages now. Just me, her, and her shotgun, waiting. After what felt like it had surely been an hour, she dismissed me, certain that my parents weren’t coming. Mom had RSVPd that she was unable to leave work as she was working the night shift at the Center today, but Dad and Wendy had agreed to discuss my middling grades. They knew I could do better than a low D average in my AP classes. Just last year I had been a B student, only having any real trouble with Chemistry. 

I endured the dull bus ride home, which seemed to fly by and drag at the same time. Getting dropped off at the top of the street. All the children of the neighborhood were out. The sun was starting to get low in the sky. I dodged abandoned bicycles as I made my way to the house. The strange western tune was still playing, indicating that Erin was near. Weird, I thought to myself. I figured she had headed back to her own home. That’s when I saw her. She was cantering up the road on her large brown stallion. At least 17 hands high, he was beautiful. Lightly saddled, no bit. The ubiquitous shotgun that followed her everywhere was slung lightly over her denim jacket clothed shoulder, one hand resting on the butt. 

That was when I noticed the green front door to my childhood home thrown open and the porch chairs askew. I called out to her, asking about my family. She sniffed in disgust. 

“Those lily-livered pansies ran from my gun. They were long gone by time I got here. I didn’t hurt the cat.” She shifted the shotgun and sighed. “I better be a moseying on. See you at school, Mara.” Before I could respond the horse was trotting past me, up the street and into the sunset. 

[Music fades as the sun lowers down underneath the horizon. Credits roll as our narrator swats the words from in front of her face.] 

End scene.

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A quick musing on my disabilities

Sometimes, as a disabled person, I feel like I don’t have the brain power and don’t function at a high enough rate to keep up with the Ace Blogging Community here on WordPress. That’s not to say that they have done anything to cause me to feel like this! I find it a generally welcoming place and if anyone feels less than warm it is a byproduct of the format, not their actions.

I’ll read an amazing post and have a reaction after taking in the information, but I am unable to translate that into a coherent response in words. I am in so much physical pain that my years over-education leave me. Especially when I am trying to do other things at the same time, like run a cash register at my low impact, low stress, part time job. Because that’s all I can do physically, mentally, and emotionally. 

I desperately want to keep up with the Old Guard and show off my fancy education that I’m in major debt from, but I just can’t do it. Maybe I could if my disability application comes through and I have nothing better to do all day than read and write, but even then it would be taxing. Alas. It just isn’t in the cards.

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Aromanticism and Me

This is, unsurprisingly, a little late for the February Carnival of Aros and Carnival of Aces. But it should be examined by myself either way.

When someone asks how I identify the answer will vary depending on how I know this person or what platform we met through, but it will usually be some form of “bi” or “ace.” It almost never includes the words “grayromantic,” no matter how fitting that term may be. Why is this? Well, I’m not certain, but it probably has to do with not feeling comfortable with the term or with being on the aromantic spectrum at all.

My relationship with romantic attraction is complicated. It gets strung up with sensual and aesthetic attraction all too easily and untangling them is a nightmare. I know I feel it actively with my boyfriend, I know I developed it over time with my ex-queerplatonic partner (something which eventually helped to tear us apart).  I know I’ve had a few of what seemed to be completely amatonormative crushes on people. But there was something that felt forced about some of them, developing out of a general desire to be close to someone in a tactile way. I refrain from saying physical due to the general assumptions behind that word, because until very recently I was very uncomfortable with sexual situations and would avoid them at all costs. But I’ve always wanted to be touched, petted, and caressed. Even if it is a simple pat on the head to let me know someone is near.

I was touch starved, and it shows in my incessant need for cuddles and pets with my significant other any time I’ve had one. And I would be happy to sidle right up to any of my friends and put myself in their personal space, except I managed to find a group of people who only romantically touch another person to call my friends. I remember being a teen and reading stories where friends would cuddle or hold hands and wishing that would be my friends and I. A few times I even jumped into a relationship for that only to break a heart when I was scared of kissing someone I only saw as a friend. That was when I learned the difference between liking someone and like liking someone.

What took me a long time to figure out was that my celebrity crushes weren’t inherently romantic and were certainly not sexual. They were like beautiful paintings. I want to look at it, touch it if security lets me, but I don’t want to wine and dine it. Have I wanted to stab myself with James Marsters’ cheek bones from the time I was seven watching him in Buffy the Vampire Slayer? Sure. Would I kill if Scarlett Johannsson in a leather jumpsuit asked me to? Probably. Would I rather die than meet Taylor Swift and say something stupid? Most definitely. But would I want to date these people? Never. Have sex with them? Not a chance. Well, maybe Scarlett. My feelings about her are conflicted and confusing. 

So yeah, romantic attraction is just weird for me and thinking about it is hard. But I feel it on occasion and often enough in the last 5 years that it didn’t seem like something worth talking about. It felt as if I would have nothing in common with other aro spec bloggers and that they would have nothing in common with me. It always felt as if the aro community, or the handful of bloggers which I perceived as making up the community, didn’t have a place for people who were okay with romantic relationships and romance in general. Unfortunately these to remain unnamed bloggers colored my impression of the community to the point where I pushed my experiences to the side and reveled in the asexual community where I felt understood. I made a point of not thinking about all the people I wished I felt something more than friendship towards because then my life would be simpler (Lookin’ at you Matt H.).  And then I met James. And felt romantic attraction stronger than ever before, while simultaneously feeling more alienated than ever from the aro community.

But that’s changing.

In a well timed message from luvtheheaven I was told that we need people talking about their aromanticism even if they are in alloromantic relationships. Everyone has something to add to the discussion. Everyone is relevant and welcome in the growing community that is being built in part by the new Carnival of Aros. So what can I say now, at the end of this post other than that I will try. I will stay up to date and I will try to talk about it because I shouldn’t be partitioning off part of my identity to fit in a neat box that I’ve built for myself.

So I’ll say it now: I, Mara, do pronounce myself to be a gray-biromantic asexual. And I am valid.

 

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I work customer service. It’s weird.

The thing about customer service jobs is that people ask you the wildest questions. Like, for instance, asking the associate in an art museum gift shop (aka, me) how to get a travelling exhibit into the museum. Trying for a little levity I replied, “Through the shipping door.” They didn’t laugh. To make matters worse, I did. But I digress. The correct answer was quickly supplied. You have to talk to our curator. So they asked if they could speak with her. Honestly, probably not, but I didn’t say that. I said of course. Because that’s what customer service is. You just gotta lie and try your best to get through it. I pick up the phone, dial the extension, it rings a few times, but not long enough to go to voicemail, so I think she’s going to answer today. I am highly mistaken. Click. The all too familiar sound of being sent to voicemail. “Can you try another number?” No, any other number is above my pay grade. I literally don’t have it. Have a card. Have the director’s card too. No, I can’t call our executive director to come meet with you, I’ve been trained not to bother her except in emergencies. Sorry. Please leave.

When they aren’t asking things above my pay-grade, they are probably asking something wildly outside of my job description. Do I know how to get to an obscure art gallery I’ve never heard of that you don’t have a solid address for? No, but let me google that for you. Can I call you an uber? Well, that’s not how that works, old man, but I can give you a number for a taxi. I’ll even order it for you, but I sure as hell ain’t paying and no, we don’t have access to a company card at the front desk. Google is my best friend now. It has told me how far away major American metropolis’ are from our museum. Because that’s a thing I get asked. It tells me how long the donut shop is open relative to when the gift shop closes. What are the best kid friendly things in the city? Even though they pay me to tell people that the art museum I work at is suitable for toddlers. Spoiler: it’s not. Now with Trish at Disney World for a week, I’m stuck at the visitor services desk and I’m hit with even more of these questions. Honestly I just want to sell fancy books and jewelry to the middle class. That’s what I was hired to do. That’s what I’m good at. But at least it’s better at its lowest point than my last job at its highest.

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Regarding The Discourse™

(I’m assuming here that you have seen the trouble over on tumblr about ace discourse. If you haven’t feel free to drop me a message or check out the post mentioned below for links)

Recently, over at The Asexual Agenda, Siggy made a great post about the blog and its relationship to The Discourse. This got me thinking about why I am so interested in keeping up with it. Don’t get me wrong, I never comment on it and almost never bother to like or reblog a post. I’m too old for the arguing. Most of the people participating in Discourse are kids at this point because very few of the adults in the tumblr ace community (at least from my perspective) can even be bothered with new iterations of the same old arguments. Are aces queer? Well, yes. We’ve been over this before and have determined that we are queer on the fact of our asexuality alone. The arguments against this are just reworkings of the arguments against bisexual and trans people. So validating them with response seems silly at this point.

So why do I keep up with it anyways? The likely answer is because I am a nosey little shit who can’t help but watch as the metaphoric cars crash in the tumblr comments section on each post.  A girl needs a little excitement in her life. But then again, it could also be simply habit. For years I was researching and reading everything I could about asexuality in my free time and writing and participating in all of the conversations around it. I sought out surveys to answer about my lifestyle, I jumped at the chance to apply to programs and seminars. All of my free time was centered on The Discourse. It was integral to how I thought about my life and my choices.

But eventually I moved on. The only ace blog I actively follow anymore is The Asexual Agenda. It is, as they have noted, an accidental “refuge from The Discourse.” Because you can’t live in the flame war all the time. It is draining. To be constantly on edge and constantly in a battle. I couldn’t do it. I filled my tumblr dash with pop stars and fanfiction just to get some relief. So yeah, I keep up with the Discourse, but it isn’t something I live inside of. I have the option to just close the tab and think pretty thoughts when I don’t want to see it. And if you live in the Discourse, maybe you should close the tab too.

 

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An Update

I’m alive. I’ve not been writing, but I’m alive. In a year of insanity I have found myself hiding from anything creative in the name of not feeling more than I have to. There have been some amazing things that happened to me in 2018. I partied with new friends and old, celebrated birthdays and anniversaries, moved my boyfriend into my home, and explored opportunities that have gotten me to a better position in my work life. But I’ve also faced the deepest of tragedies, battled my demons, and tried to battle the demons of others. I’ve been lonely in a crowded room. I’ve been filled with deep joy and boundless sadness in the same moment. I’ve loved, I’ve lost, I’ve grown. I’ve made an ass out of myself in front of multiple exes, and somehow managed to keep James around for a year and counting in the process.

But with every day that goes by, I lose a bit of myself.

I started school again. I hate it. I’m behind. I can’t function. There’s also a nationwide shortage of my anxiety medicine so that might be part of it. I find myself spiraling day after day and each time I can only pull my head above water so far, and less each time. My primary doctor suggested hospitalization, but how could I possibly when I don’t even have insurance anymore and was denied welfare benefits. Besides, we need the little money I make at work.

So maybe it is time for something new. Something to shake up my life. I don’t know what that could be though. All I know is that I have James to keep my head above water and a cat that relies on me to be there.

So that’s where I am today. How are you?

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A Re-dedication

As anyone who has ever tried to write according to facts knows, research is the hardest part. It is especially difficult when the materials you need are right out of reach, a hair’s breadth away from your fingers.

A treasure trove of information sits in my late grandmother’s closet. She passed almost three weeks ago and we will be dividing her belongings between ourselves. Everything my grandfather doesn’t need is up for grabs by the 5 blood siblings–sibling number six being conspicuously left out on purpose. But that’s another story for another day. While she was alive, Grandma told me not to start on my book until she was dead because she doesn’t want to see it. I respected that. But now she’s gone and I need to work to survive.

But the question remains: will the family give me access to the materials I need? Somehow I doubt that. I reached out to them a few years ago about collecting some favorite stories about their mother and any memories they had of growing up. The response was frigid at best. At worst I was lectured on the harm of stirring up  the past. It was scarring. I contemplated giving up, but there is a story here too good not to be told.

So I am going to fight. I am going to fight for access to these amazing photo-journals and memorabilia because this is a worthy cause. Grandma deserves to be memorialized, studied, and preserved for history. Her story is one of great joy, hardship, and love. A timeless tale of struggle and relief. And if I don’t tell it, no one will.

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James and the Giant Klutz

This is how I broke my foot Sunday night. It’s kind of a funny story.

Do you ever feel like things are going really well? Maybe too well? That’s how I felt Sunday night. I was out for the first time with a lovely guy. We were getting along great, it wasn’t awkward at all. Our political views align, he’s a Hufflepuff (I’m so done dating Gryffindors), his love for cats is equal to mine, and he was even cuter than the pictures. It was great. It was better than great: it was perfect. So perfect, in fact, that fate was tempted because I don’t get to have nice things without a catch.

The catch this time was a klutz attack. For anyone not familiar with those, it’s when you’re minding your own business when suddenly it’s like you’re in an infomercial and can do nothing correctly. Except I wasn’t holding a bowl of popcorn or doing something else innocuous. I was walking. On a small ledge. Almost a foot off the pavement. In my defense, there was a loose stone, but I don’t think better masonry would have saved me at that time.

Mid-sentence, trying to be cute as I go towards the car in my 3 inch platform shoes, when suddenly I’m flat on the ground. A total wipe out. Skinned knee, twisted ankle, and only God’s grace saved my tights from disastrous runs. James is full out flipping. Frantic questions about if I’m okay, how did that happen, am I hurt? At my side in half a second trying to help me up. I, on the other hand, play it cool, popping up like it’s no big deal and I didn’t just land over two hundred pounds onto the top of my foot as it rolled under me.

And the pain? Not too bad. I’d had two drinks. Not enough to be buzzed yet, but enough to take the edge off my chronic pain and apparently any additional pain I endure. So I seriously didn’t think I was lying to this guy when I said I was fine, just a little sore. Oh how wrong I was. I head home (after making out in my car for half an hour like teenagers) and the next morning my foot is swollen and a lovely shade of lilac. I can hardly move my toes and my ankle won’t bend in certain directions. Not. Good. And my mom is out of town. So I have to get a friend to take me to the doctor, and it is a whole ordeal. Avulsion fracture of the fifth metatarsal and a sprained ankle. No weight bearing until I am cleared by an orthopedic surgeon. Fuck.

Being the painfully honest person I am, I felt like I should really let him know, especially seeing as we had planned to meet up later in the week. So I text and get another very sweet round of frantic concern followed by the sweetest offer ever. He’s making me dinner tonight so I don’t have to hobble around my tiny kitchen. This boy (Man? Am I really that old now? I think I might be.) is too sweet.

So maybe things are okay. Even with a broken foot. I’m not saying it was worth it, but good might just come of this.

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My experience with Asexuality in Fandom: Carnival of Aces October 2017

One of the greatest things about creating fanwork is the ability to tailor the content to something that corresponds to one’s life and way of thinking. This allows for greater freedom to create and imagine, to play with a universe that has already been drawn up for you. It is because of this freedom that headcanons exist. For those not deep into the fandom life, a headcanon is an opinion one holds that they believe to be true even though it is never stated as such in the original media. One popular—though much disputed—headcanon is that Sherlock Holmes, from BBC’s Sherlock, is asexual. I personally subscribe to this theory and have created several fanfiction stories using the concept. My headcanon is that Sherlock is a demi-romantic asexual who is in love with John Watson.

When I was first coming to terms with my asexuality the Sherlock fandom was incredibly important to me. Writing stories portraying Sherlock as asexual allowed me to work through the confusion I had about my orientation and the fears I had for the future, just as reading similar stories reassured me that I was not alone. Unfortunately, in the past five years things have changed in the Sherlock fandom. Discourse has overtaken the tumblr tags and quarrels abound. It no longer feels like the safe place it once was for me. The main battle is between those who believe Sherlock is asexual and those who believe he is homosexual. Both sides are adamant in their beliefs and often refuse to consider where the other is coming from. At the end of the day it is a fictional television show and not as desperately important as people are making it out to be, but that doesn’t stop the arguing. What inspires me to stay in the fandom, however, are the content creators who keep working to show Sherlock as asexual despite the controversy going on around them. Every week new art or fanfiction is posted online for people to enjoy and relate with. And slowly, ever so slowly, fanfiction recommendations are taking back the tags from the discourse, giving hope that the safe place it once was will be reestablished.

During the time that the Sherlock fandom has been overrun with discourse, I’ve had time to explore asexuality in other fandoms. One surprising place where it is embraced is the One Direction fandom. I don’t write real people fiction, nor do I often read it. One Direction, especially Larry (shipping Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson), is my only exception. And one can imagine how surprised I was to see that people are creating stories to deal with their thoughts and feelings on asexuality by using versions of the singers we love. It was exactly like what I’d been doing in the Sherlock fandom. One story that really affected me was “Ace,” by aclosetlarryshipper. She wrote a beautiful coming of age story wherein Louis is asexual and has to come to terms with feeling broken and lost while not wanting to disappoint his boyfriend Harry. The sharpest, most striking piece of the story is when he comes out to Zayn and is met with rejection, a feeling many of us know all too well. I’ll be honest, I cried. I cried for Louis, I cried for me, and I cried for all of the people who have ever felt that lost and alone. Scared and broken.

I think why “Ace” affected me the way it did is because in Sherlock stories you never see that kind of brutal rejection. It is very much a fantasy place where even if John is momentarily confused, people almost never delve into that kind of pain unless it is in past tense with John there to soothe the memory away. Of course, it has a happy ending, but the author makes you wait for it. You really get into the melancholy of it before finally being pulled out by friendly apologies and romantic advances. It is truly beautiful and will stick with me for a very long time.

I am going to wrap this post up by linking you guys to a few stories that I think do a particularly good job of representing asexuality in the fandoms mentioned. One of which, of course, will be the story mentioned above! Even if One Direction and real people fic isn’t your thing, I highly suggest checking it out.

 

Sherlock:

“The Elephant in the Room” by Kantayra

Technicalities by TheMadKatter13

And Not Or by ShinySherlock

The Issue of Cuddling by lavvyan

Labels by Pic_Akai

Black. Two sugars. By solrosan (this focuses on Molly Hooper, not Sherlock, but is one of the best I’ve read)

 

One Direction:

Looking in the dark (with an empty heart) by starsinoureyes

Ace by aclosetlarryshipper

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Why I broke up with Academia.

If you read my May 2016 Carnival of Aces post, then you will have seen that I withdrew from my MA program. It was a shocking move to most who know me, which makes sense. For more than a decade now all I’ve said I want to do is go to school, get a PhD in History, and teach at a university. Ten years and this plan never wavered-until now, that is. All those years I had an idealized version of what it meant to study history and to be an historian. I believed it was a great calling which I would use to help the world. I still believe I can use history in that way,  but not through the lense of formal academics.

My experiences this past year have shown me that academia is not the noble and elite place I was lead to believe it is. Like everything else, it is a career. And at the end of the day a career puts personal gain and monetary growth above all else. However, one has to ask if this is what the discipline should be.

*noise of a record scratching*

We interrupt this blog post to note that it has been more than a year since I started writing this. More than a year since the words began to dry up and the muse fled from me. Very little of import (or otherwise) has gotten done in this time period. And in that time period, I got promoted, lied to, stolen from, mocked, I quit my job, and am now back on the job hunt. All on the backdrop of the shit show that is 2016 and 2017. Because of this my perspective has changed somewhat. I am less angry at the College than before. I am world-weary. I have new things to be angry about and less time to dwell on it.

This was going to be a manifesto. A call to action to the people of the world to fight back against a system that refuses to change as the world changes around it. I was going to call out the ableist professors who refused to accommodate a documented disability and stated that I was “undeserving”–yes you read that right–of an education. I was going to call out the old guard professors who believe this is a man’s game that must be as pretentious as possible. Who can’t imagine that history could possibly be well written and enjoyable while also being accurate. Who marked me down from a perfect score because my paper was “too fun to read” because “historiography shouldn’t be easy to read.”

But the world doesn’t need one more failed academic railing against the system. They need change. And the only way to make that change, is to be it. So I am going to keep writing. I write for myself. I write for my friends. And I write for all the students who have talent and drive but keep getting put down for their ideas. I write to be the change we need. I write.

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