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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