- Do all that stuff the physical therapists suggested, so as to be able to walk/run/speed skate again
- Don't start smoking
- At least show up for the indoor marathon on January 26. I was able to walk without special equipment. But not without a bit of a limp. I walked 8.8km in 2:11 before deciding that was plenty. That was either my worst or best marathon, depending on how you look at it.
- Go speed skating on my birthday. It wasn't very speedy, but I was on the skates, skating.
- Get a new bicycle!
- Run the half marathon on June 14. 1:49:48 was pretty good for only four months since first being able to sort-of run again.
- Run the half marathon trail race without throwing up this year! Better time, too! (The better time is closely related to the not throwing up thing.)
- Go to speed skating camp so I can learn to skate less badly
- Finally begin to really acknowledge my not very conforming sense of gender expression. While it's probably not been all that well hidden anyway, it is still very different to stop trying to hide.
- Don't break any more bones by crashing into things!
Generally, the women being criticized for dressing wrong are not showing up to the quarterly staff meeting at the office wearing a thong and no top. Not at all. We live in this culture, we know what's considered basically normal, if you have working vision you've looked around and know what is well within the range of average. They're being told they're asking for it because they showed up at a party wearing a just-above-the-knee skirt and a top that shows a bit of the space between the breasts and they did something fancy with their hair. Like all the other women at the party. They're wearing a skirt and leggings and two layers on top and moderately fancy shoes. They are well, well, *WELL* within the usual range of usual. They're getting stuff shouted at them while wearing blue jeans and a turtleneck. Putting a lot of care into looking "normal" and by any sort of rational comparison to the average succeeding at looking "normal" by no means prevents angry abuse.
Me? Oh, I can wear paisley leggings (oh, and with no pockets, also a bag slung over one shoulder, and yes, that's a purse, though it's black and yellow recycled plastic from "Mountainsmith" and all properly masculine-hiking-gear-looking) to the coffee shop like literally no other obvious-boy-person-with-a-beard this week or probably this decade and not one single person says one single word. The only way people say stuff to me is if I wear a kilt. Seriously, how close to the average man's outfit is a boy-skirt? It is not close at all. It is very very far outside the range of normal dude clothing. And people don't slut-shame me, rather, some women can't resist making jokes about whether or not I'm wearing underwear, and while that's actually sort of uncomfortable, it's not the same thing. Apparently someone who looks like me can dress like roughly 0.01% of the people who look like me without a big problem but if you look like a woman just because you're dressed like 20% of the other women doesn't mean you are safe.
Fellow men: Think about that.
Also, what was basically the first thing that happened? I was asked to sing something I hadn't practiced in probably two years. In German. Sure, why not! Actually, I practiced the German language songs a whole heck of a lot when I was first learning them, so, fortunately, it was pretty well lodged in the brain. aryana_filker, you get your songs requested in Wisconsin.
I'm reminded of the heyday of the voluntary waterboarding. Remember that? Macho Tough Guy ™ writers and TV personalities told us all that this notorious means of torture, used by notorious torturers for centuries, didn't sound so bad to them. In fact, they were going to show us it's not so bad by having themselves waterboarded. Not, you know, first being kept awake for two weeks, having a leg and and an arm broken, no food, genuine fear of death, and so on, just a quick, gentle waterboarding administered by friends of theirs, with a safeword, and paramedics standing by, just in case. The least possible dose of the torture. What did they discover? Wow, this notorious means of torture is really, really awful to experience! Who knew?
Well, yeah, the rest of us didn't have to try it to believe it, though I'm sure they have an appreciation for the true experience the rest of us don't have.
"Stop being oversensitive." "Technically, what that guy shouted is a compliment, can't you even take a compliment?" "I'd love to have women shouting at me." Some people are capable of just believing people who say that they don't like being harassed.
Deliberately setting yourself up to be harassed to see what it feels like is a dangerous game. (And harassing someone to teach him a lesson is a dangerous game.) I can't really recommend it. But I can assure you that wearing a kilt in public will get you some comments that will teach you something about what it really feels like. Comments from women. Technically, that's the straight men's fantasy of having women yell stuff at them. I already believed that having drunk people shout stuff about your underwear would be uncomfortable, I didn't really learn that. But I have a new appreciation for it.
And while I'm on this topic, while dressed in, well, attention-attracting ways, I have had people say things that were absolutely wonderful and delightful comments and compliments, and I've had people say things that I honestly believe were intended as complimentary and funny but which were nevertheless somewhat uncomfortable. I've also had drunk women behave like drunk people, which was never really going to be good. I did learn from this.
People like to post selfies on facebook with their new outfit or new hairstyle or new eyeglasses or whatever. I do. Let's be honest, we're fishing for compliments when we do that. Now I think very hard about what I write. Most especially with women who I don't know very, very well. I very specifically want to avoid writing something that could be edited down to "I'd like to make use of your vagina." There are times and places for that kind of thing. Other times, "that pattern is fantastic" is much more appropriate. A woman once asked me about my boots in the toothbrush aisle at the drugstore. That was not a bad experience but it was odd. Two women at the grocery store told me they thought my (exceedingly colorful) pants were fantastic. Said in a very quiet voice while passing by, giving me the option to just say thanks and move on or else strike up a conversation, which is what we did do. It can be done comfortably, but you'd best be very, very careful. Now, at a party where everyone is all dressed up fancy? Different thing. Seriously, think about this stuff, don't just go out being Captain Awkward: Straight Dude Of Cluelessness.
I had assumed that as I drove toward the school things would start to look at least a bit familiar as I neared it. Nope. Not at all. Lots of things, of course, have changed in 25 years. Leaving in the afternoon, though, driving past everything one more time (and from the other direction), I recognized a bunch of landmarks that hadn't changed too much to recognize. The most surprising thing, really very surprising, was how very, very close to the school many of them were. One or two kilometers. From my adult perspective, it's hard to imagine how I didn't pass by some of that all the time, how it could have seemed like something in the far distance. These days, I'd be running back and forth for exercise, or bicycling through on the way to, well, whatever is past there. But we were kids then, and this is the outer edge of the outer asteroid belt of suburbia, not a very walkable, pedestrian-friendly, attraction-filled place.
They did let us out, and I did get out. But we were kids, after all, and had to sign out, listing a destination and an expected time of return. While in practice you might be able to get away with (I did this) saying something to the effect of generally to the west by bicycle, for about an hour, it nonetheless wasn't a setup encouraging aimless wandering just to see what's out there. Indeed, I clearly remember us all getting a good talking-to/yelling-at when a group went on a journey on foot that was judged have been unwise. At least the way I remember it, the main issue was them walking at the edge of a giant road. Remember, outer suburbia, you don't always get a sidewalk. No Google Streetview in the eighties, how would you know you'd end up walking in a ditch except by showing up and finding out the hard way?
Thinking about this, I went to Google maps to have a look. Looking with my adult eyes, the place is not nearly the isolated little-schoolhouse-on-the-prairie that it sort of felt like. There are many things very near by. Now, sure, some of that is new, but clearly some of that was always there. The river was always there, those forest preserves are surely not new, and while businesses come and go, some of those places were always occupied by something. Even dialing the radius of movement way down to something I would have been more comfortable with back at age 15 or 16, there is much more around there than I had realized.
Of course, I did what we do now, having Google highlight the bicycle-friendly routes in green, dragging the Streetview guy onto roads and intersections to see whether they look like a fun place for a kid on a bike or not so much. We didn't have Google in the eighties. I pulled out my DeLorme Atlas and Gazetteer from 1991, which at the time seemed like a very detailed and exhaustively complete set of maps. I spent lots of time when I was in college planning bike rides outside of Champaign, and later planing out rides and also automobile journeys in Wisconsin. Having just been scrolling around Google Maps, it suddenly seemed like a vague and sketchy marginal source of information.
I wonder how much the students there now get out around the area. Now they can easily make detailed Google-Earth-aided plans, and there are phones now. Back in the day, as soon as we went out the door we vanished into the great big way out there, for better or for worse incommunicado. On the other hand, our societal level of paranoia is ever rising. Can high school students be allowed to walk around a suburb unsupervised these days?
Big bunnies, when they see me coming, immediately disappear into the tall grass. These little guys, they run directly down the center of the paved trail in the exact same direction I am traveling. It turns out, the top speed of a small rabbit is right around 22km/hr, plus or minus a few. After a few tens of meters, they realize that this is not working and veer off into the tall grass and vanish. In a few months, bigger rabbits will just vanish off to the side right away. I think those are the exact same bunnies, a few months older, bigger, and having finally learned something that seems obvious but evidently isn't.
Before you think, wow, rabbits are dumb, think back to the things you did in high school. You were really stupid, weren't you! I know I was! My classmates will all remember "I came here to work with the best kids in the state, and here you are burning holes in the floor!" That was us! Now that we're all 42 or 43 or so, it never enters our minds to burn an anarchy symbol into a carpet, but back then we were apparently as dumb as juvenile rabbits.
From time to time a sexy-underwear-for-men company sends me a catalog. (I suspect it's really the sexy underwear for gay men company, but they don't ask or anything, they're happy to sell to someone who is hoping to impress someone with a little tiny penis nestled in amongst all those glorious folds, too.)
Anyway, as I leaf through the catalog, I think, wow, I really do not look like an underwear model. But, you know, women encounter photos of underwear models all the time whereas us dudes, not so often. And basically no one is going to tell me I ought to look like an underwear model, or insist I'm valueless because I don't. And, other important thing, even the underwear models don't really look like that. Aside from getting the job specifically because they don't look like average people, and even aside from the Photoshop job on the photos, those are very carefully posed. Hair fussed over, arms and legs positioned just right, kleenex stuffed in there to get the bulge just right (they do that, you know), this thing sucked in and that thing pushed out, a hundred photos taken and the best one selected to proceed to do the Photoshop job on. Even those guys don't look like that when they're just slouched on the couch at home leafing through a catalog. Remember that.
I have no particular knowledge of the mechanics of putting the show together, but it appears as though each expert is individually brought in, sat in a Comfy Chair, they record a bunch of science/snark, and eventually it's all edited together into a series of episodes.
Something about having people sit in Comfy Chairs brings out differences in posture. (Somehow I've gotten sensitized to this and notice it.) The men mostly-in varying degrees-sit back and sprawl out, seemingly trying to fill as much space as possible, in time-honored gender-stereotype manner. The women perch at the front, legs crossed tightly, leaning forward just a bit, filling much less space. One of the men is more tightly curled than the others, though. Carin Bondar tends to sit with her legs up on the cushion, cross-legged or sitting on one. In that respect Carin and I are very much alike. (Otherwise, we're not so alike. She's a biologist studying entire animals. As a chemist I stick to molecules.) (On the third hand, like Carin, I like talking about penises. So if you see someone curled up on top of a chair talking about penises, it could be either of us. If you saw it on the Science Channel, however, it was her.)
Anyway, I saw the very obvious Milky Way, the bazillion stars in the plain of our own galaxy. Back when I was younger, I thought of the Milky Way as something you could detect using binoculars, a region of many faint stars. I didn't realize until later how obvious it is in the dark. More interesting than that, I found and pointed out to Mom something just a bit harder to see, M31, the great galaxy in Andromeda. From 2.5 million light years away, you'd think it would be very faint, but the combined light of a trillion stars adds up to a lot of light. From such a distance, you'd think anything would look like a point, but galaxies are very, very big, and it appears even to the naked eye as an extended smear of light even though you can only see the brightest part. There weren't even really humans as we know ourselves when light from those trillion stars left there. And, of course, it's headed right at us. In three or four billion years the galaxies will pass through each other and stars will be thrown out in vast bands and eventually the two supermassive black holes will merge, an event that I assume would be best observed from a Safe Distance. I'm pretty sure in the case of supermassive black holes a safe distance is a very long distance indeed.
And, you know, Andromeda is part of the Local Group. You can see it just by looking (if you get the hell away from Chicago). It's not like it's far away or anything, as these things go.
(That photo of me with a Nikon film camera reflected in the 10 meter array of mirrors was taken up at the Whipple observatory.)
(Post title taken from Jen Midkiff's "Long Time Comin'")
One thing that surprised me was the reaction to the boots. I expected the kilt to attract attention (duh), but I also wore the boots with just plain black jeans and a shirt from Patagonia and I actually got a number of comments out of the blue from people - both friends and also total strangers - about how they liked the boots. Honestly, I'd have expected it to take more, you know, effort to get dressed up enough to actually get comments on it.
I'm basically speculating here, but I suspect that playing dress-up works a bit like an athletic competition in which you are competing against your age group or your weight class. You don't get compared to the best-dressed human being on the premises, you get compared to whatever group people group you into. If you look like a man (I have a beard, it cements the look), you'll get compared to the median man. I'll pause while you imagine the straight cis dudes you've seen recently. Right! It's not really going to be that hard to look more dressed up than that. And indeed, apparently not!
While it was really quite fun to be complimented on the good-looking boots, the kilt did attract even more attention. Fellow men: If you have been wondering if wearing a kilt will tend to attract extra attention from women, the answer is yes. Yes it does. Which, obviously, tends to be fun, especially if you have a thing for women. I have a number of friends who are sort-of known for appreciating a man in a kilt, and their reactions were very entertaining.
(Here is where I launch into an extended string of thoughts:)
You also get some possibly excessive attention. Possibly a tiny taste, you know, a few tenths of a percent, of the sort of thing women get subjected to all the damn time.
There is a very very well-known line of thinking, joking, teasing, story-telling, song-writing, etc. about the age-old question of what is worn underneath the kilt. (Nothing is worn, it's all in perfect working order! Har!) I'm not sure I'd really thought about whether women would actually ask me about my underwear.
In the culture around here there is an expectation that all men are always up for anything sexual anytime, anywhere, with anyone of a gender they fancy. This is a harmful notion in all sorts of ways, but I think that one of them is in the area of just thinking about how some things might actually feel. How would I like it if random women I don't even know asked me if I'm wearing underwear? Well, I don't know, but I do know that I'm supposed to say that it sounds like fun. Right?
Well, in fact, I did get asked about my underwear. Repeatedly. Yes, it's all just in fun, it's in fact a well-known stereotypical joke, and, yeah, it's not a big deal. It's one thing with actual friends, but honestly, when someone I don't know asks if I'm wearing underwear, it really does feel kind of weird, with the added weirdness that while I don't necessarily have to actually answer the question I do have to think up something to say. (I settled on a standard answer of "I don't ask you about your underwear, do I?") And the other thought I had just after "this is weird" was to wonder what things I've said to women over the years that were intended to just be playful jokes of the standard sort that actually came off as weird or creepy. I'd imagined that I'd been trying not to be weird or creepy, but now I think I should try harder, just to be sure. Because honestly I'm pretty sure I wasn't trying hard enough.
By the time a woman who had reasonable standing to ask me about my underwear got to ask - given a history we have that's left her with some specific knowledge of what might be seen under there - well, she was about the fourth woman in thirty minutes to ask and really, by then, the joke just didn't feel as amusing as it had sounded like it might be.
None of which is to say that I didn't have a fun time. I think most men get told they look good from time to time, but normally only by certain people under certain circumstances. Never, for example, by whoever happens to in the elevator when they step in. So, given that I did go well out of my way to attract attention to myself, it was indeed fun to have succeeded. Of course, the way that works for men is if I got tired of it I could always put pants and normal shoes on and resume being an invisible default dude, with no worry that people might tell me I look too plain, should do something about my hair, and should smile dammit. Aside from fun, I do suspect that being on the receiving end of that sort of thing for a while is likely to leave one more skilled at giving out compliments in a pleasing manner at appropriate times and places, as opposed to awkwardly or creepily. There's no other education that's quite the same as experiencing something yourself, even just a very tiny bit of experience.
Indeed, even at a local random Saturday morning speed skating time trial, you'll hear some explanations about how the time trial works even though, let's be honest, the only people there at eight in the morning are the skaters themselves, and possibly some parents or siblings of skaters. We all know how the race works, right? But that's what announcers are for! To explain stuff! They can't resist! It's a fascinating pedagogical challenge, repeatedly explaining the basics to the new viewers without aggravating the former new viewers who are now dedicated fans who know all that stuff.
But not in American football. I don't think I heard those guys explain one single thing. It was just a steady mumbled stream of football jargon. (Is it just me or were they actually hard to understand at all? Isn't that an issue for a professional speaker at a major event?) Isn't the superbowl the game with the largest audience of people who don't watch a lot of football? Wouldn't we expect even more explanation of the game than usual? Anyway, I sat here befuddled for a while, then moved on to something else.
I ended up spending 26 days without leaving home, so it's been awesome to get out. I went 48 days without driving a car myself, though I got some rides during part of that interval. So now I notice that I'm a bit out of practice. Now, I'm 7 weeks out of practice, not 7 years, so it's not that bad. I did seem to forget the amazing laziness of the modern car-driving experience. Anything that could require some sort of physical effort (and did back in the day) has been motorized for your convenience. I actually had this moment of thinking that maybe the steering wheel had broken free of the steering mechanism and I was going to inevitably sail off the road into a crash until I remembered that it's not supposed to take any real effort to turn, there's a motor in there to help out. (I actually get that feeling when I'm quite in car-driving practice, after doing something arm-intensive like kayaking or skiing and suddenly I'm holding this tiny steering wheel and applying very minimal forces to it as the motor helps out with any actual work that might be needed).
The thing I really noticed while sailing down the highway at 88km/hr today is that I'm not so much out of practice at actually operating the motorized metal box as that I'm out of practice at that car-driver mental state of thinking, hey, I'm just operating a powerful multi-ton high-speed vehicle in close proximity to other people and objects, it's not like anything could go wrong or anyone could get hurt. No need to worry!
Clearly, a lot of people don't worry at all. You can tell by the stupid things they do! I've never been that unconcerned and I don't want to be, but I was extra worried today. You could get hurt doing this! I just spent two months sort of disabled after hitting a protective safety pad after falling without the aid of any motor, just pure human power. I was going at best a hair over 40km/hr when I fell and slower by the time of impact after sliding some distance, and it wasn't by any means the worst possible body position for the impact, either. (Turned the other way, I'd have needed neurology instead of orthopedics, right?) You could get seriously mangled at 90km/hr, and take out a bunch of other people with you using that big heavy metal box on wheels!
I found that old flashlight pictured on the right recently, and I remembered that way back when I bought it, probably over twenty years ago now, that I thought it was a very good light. Sturdy plastic, the switch has a positive action and seems durable, it includes some colored filters, and the reflector is better than average for the old days, producing a beam we wouldn't describe as even these days but at least much more like a source of illumination and less like a projector set up at an abstract art installation to throw a complex pattern of swirls and blotches on the exhibit. But, wow, now it is an enormous, very heavy, clunky device that emits a feeble, poorly-focused yellow glow.
I was imagining some sort of series of tasks to be performed by left and by right hand, scored for accuracy and timed for speed, with some sort of statistical analysis to determine if you are more left or right handed. The sort of thing that in my mind I imagine sensible people running children through before starting to teach them to write, so you could start them with the better hand. Because how would you know unless you do some sort of careful test?
Anyway, I went looking and found the Edinburgh Handedness Inventory, which is just an amazingly pathetic inventory. Try this slightly expanded version. For one thing, it starts off with things obviously influenced by the do-this-right-handed world around you, like the overwhelming majority of scissors not really working left-handed. A handedness inventory that asks if you've gotten so fed up with trying to use right-handed scissors that you went and obtained special left-handed scissors isn't going to tell us anything we didn't already know. We don't need a test for the really obvious cases.
The other thing is, wow, those are some "handed" activities? Using a spoon? Opening a box? People actually do those consistently left or right handed? Brush or comb? Surely you tend to use the left hand for the left side of the head, right hand for the right side? Unlocking a door? Wouldn't that just depend on which side of the door the lock is on, and from with side you approach the door, and which hand you happen to have the key in when you get there? These seem to me like an entirely different order of tasks from handwriting, seemingly far below the threshold of caring which hand you use.
Eye dominance tests, those are also a mystery to me, setting me up to see a perfectly matched symmetrical pair of images and implying vaguely that I should be seeing something different. As far as I have seen, eye dominance tests are scored on a 100:0 or 0:100 or else "no dominant eye" basis, apparently no one has been interested in taking the time to develope a test carefully crafted enough to score you as a 48:52 or whatever.
I'm also left thinking there is some sort of metaphor for gender in this, that there are exactly two and everyone is obviously one or the other. (I'm starting to wonder if maybe there are some aspects to gender that are as mysterious to me as handedness. I suspect there may be.)
As someone who spends a good bit of time doing athletic stuff while wearing colorful lycra clothing, I also spend a good bit of time washing colorful lycra clothing. It turns out, yes, there is special detergent sold to this market. I just bought a different brand (it was what the running store happened to have) and I noticed something similar in both: Both labels feature a photo of a woman running, apparently on a warm summer day judged by what she's wearing (photo below the cut). Now, sure, I'm a straight dude—as I guess the label designers seem to be—I get it, I like looking at women (I could look at a woman's body all day! Ask my girlfriend!) but it's not obviously sensible to sell laundry detergent by showing a skinny woman displaying the highest possible ratio of uncovered skin to actual clothing that might need detergent. Penguin brand has their logo over her bellybutton, 2Toms goes for a bigger photo and the full 'her bellybutton, let us shows it to you' look.
It seems like when you see a generic-athlete photo of a women, she's usually a runner. A man, he usually looks like some sort of bodybuilder. Because runners tend toward the teensy-weensy, which I guess is officially what women are supposed to look like. Men, apparently, are supposed to be incredibly skinny too, but also super-muscular. You only see teensy-weensy marathon-running men when they are selling running-specific stuff. If you put me in charge of selling sport-detergent, I'd probably suggest you need photos of speed skaters in our full-body-coverage skin suits. Now, there's a bunch of fabric that needs detergent!
( photo )
On the one hand, I guess it's great that evidently men are allowed to wear capris now. On the other, "cargo capris." Seriously guys, I shouldn't be literally the only man wearing something like an actual bathing suit to the beach. By next summer I expect to see the bell-bottom bathing suit.
Of course, even the guy in cargo capris can rest assured that no one will criticize him for dressing funny (well, possibly his actual friends might) while women, whatever they wear, can expect some random total stranger to complain publicly. So, you know, I guess there is that.