You may have heard of this show.
My son has, in the last few months, become entirely obsessed with… whatever the fuck these things are. They come in types, apparently, Water and Fighting and Nonsense and Flatulent and Clown and probably a few others I’m unaware of. And they live in little plastic balls, except for the little yellow one, who won’t go in the ball. And they only come out of the ball when it’s time to fight each other, which they are willing to do at any time and for any reason.
Except, see, they don’t know how to fight. They have no fucking idea how to fight even though fighting is literally the only thing they’re for, or at least it’s the only thing they’re for once they go in the ball. The ones out of the balls seem to live perfectly normal wildlifey sort of lives. So they need people to tell them how to fight. All of their moves have names and they have “trainers” who tell them, step-by-step, how to fight each other. Picture somebody outside a boxing ring hollering at a boxer to “Use Jab!” and “Duck!” and “Use Roundhouse!” or “Use Spousal Abuse!” and you have the basic idea.
The main character is a homeless orphan named Ash. His last name is Ketchum, because his job is to catch all of the Pokémon– to catch ’em— and this show is nothing if not fucking subtle. He only has one set of clothes and his electric rat lives on his shoulder. He literally wanders around in the woods with his friends and looks for other electro-rats and fire-bears and flatulence-sloths and such and he finds them and he makes them fight his electro-rat or whatever and then if he beats them he gets to stuff them into a ball and keep them.
I think. It’s hard to pay attention to if you’re grown.
Then there’s these assholes:
These are… the bad guys, I think? They seem to really want the electro-rat. So maybe they want to steal him, or something, or maybe they just want a different electro-rat to go with their weird horn-cat thing they have, I don’t know. But here’s the thing: there are eleventy fifteen thousand different versions of Pokémon. There’s Pokemon XY and Pokemon Black and Pokemon Silver and a bunch of movies named after individual Pokébeasts and all sorts of shit. And I’m pretty sure these three are in every one?
And every time they show up on screen they introduce themselves with the same rhyme.
I’m pretty sure that this is actually supposed to be happening in the real world. Not, like, in their heads or some shit like that.
Try and imagine knowing these people, and every time you see them they have to introduce themselves with this stupid fucking rhyme. Each and every single time.
These may be the most annoying people in the history of television, and we live in a world with Super Why.
Not too bad for my first attempt at surface carving, eh? Please say yes. 🙂
And because you probably need a palate cleanser:
So a friend of mine, a friend who will likely see this, so it’s not as if it’s behind her back, posted this on Facebook the other day. Forgive all the blurriness:
And here’s the thing: yeah. It does. It makes me uncomfortable. The notion– a notion I believe without the remotest qualification, by the way– that literally every woman I know has experienced sexual harassment makes me profoundly uncomfortable. Hell, uncomfortable’s not even the word, although it’s part of it. There’s a fair degree of fucking rage in there too, for example.
And no, I didn’t “like” the post. In fact if I have hit Like (I don’t use any of the other options, ever; don’t ask me why) on any posts associated with the #metoo hashtag, I don’t remember doing it– and I’m pretty certain there aren’t any.
I hit Like on her post and then deleted it. Wrote a comment, and then deleted that too, and then spent the next couple of days fighting off this post. The reason I haven’t interacted with any of these posts online isn’t because of some feeling of discomfort or shame, is the thing. I haven’t because none of this is about me, and I feel like it’s pointless at best and empty virtue-signaling at worst for me to interact with a thing that isn’t supposed to be about me in specific or men in general.
So, yeah. All of them. #allofthem, if you prefer.
I’ve spent the last few days– longer than that, really, but it’s come to a head in the last few days– thinking a lot about my own actions as a cishet guy throughout my life. And in a lot of ways I’ve been resisting the temptation to paint myself as one of the good guys. I’ve never raped anyone, obviously. (Is it obvious? Probably flattering myself.)
But there was that one time, with that one woman, where she indicated her lack of consent to a certain action at the literal last possible moment, and it’s haunted me ever since. When I say last possible moment, I’m not exaggerating, not by a millisecond or a fraction of an inch. I didn’t go any further– of course I didn’t– but my first immediate visceral reaction was wait what the fuck are you kidding and I don’t know how much of that reaction got through to her.
I’ve never catcalled anyone, not once. Never hassled a woman in a bar, never got angry with anyone because they wouldn’t give me a phone number or something like that.
(I have what I’m pretty sure is a funny story about accidentally approaching the wrong woman in a bar who I thought was one of my friends; maybe I’ll tell it sometime. It’s not for this post.)
But I had years– years— where I bought into the idea of the friendzone, and where the idea of just telling a woman that I was interested in her and thought we should go out/make out/fuck each other senseless was pure anathema. No, she (whichever she was at the time) was gonna figure it out sooner or later and fall into my arms. I was a Nice Guy. Sooner or later she’ll figure out that all the guys she dates are assholes and I’m right here, all not being an asshole and shit.
I can think of some moments, some interactions that make me cringe right now, honestly. I’m pretty sure there were times when I was being creepy as fuck and didn’t even realize it. There are others where I know I was being creepy as fuck and I regret the hell out of them. Some of them probably involved the woman who originally triggered this post, honestly; we have a bit of history together, not all of which I’m proud of.
(True fact: the first time I kissed the woman who eventually married me, we were sitting at a table in a diner and I literally said “Let’s go make out in the parking lot,” and it worked. Sooner or later I broke past the idea that doing nothing would get me somewhere. That said, if that line doesn’t work? Possible eew.)
I remember one time in high school when a bunch of us– too many to fit in the car– were all going somewhere, and one of the girls decided she was going to sit in my lap. I put both my hands in my lap, palms-up. She shrugged and did it anyway, probably knowing that having both hands on her ass would make me twice as uncomfortable as it was making her and that it wouldn’t last more than a moment, which it didn’t.
I still remember that. I wonder if she does.
(I was gonna say “I’ve never groped anyone who didn’t want me to,” which is what reminded me of that story.)
I remember a week– one very, very weird week in middle school– where for some reason everyone, boys and girls, were all going around trying to yank each others’ shorts off. By the end of the week everyone had their belts on so tight or their pants laced so tight that I suspect some of us were cutting off our circulation. I was on both sides of that little game. But I can’t say I’ve never tried to take anyone’s clothes off who didn’t want me to, either. I still remember the two girls I targeted; I know one of them took a swipe at me at one point too, although I don’t know who was first. I don’t remember what the other one thought about it.
(God, I’m glad my middle schoolers never had that bug hit. I can’t imagine what the teachers were thinking.)
I don’t know that I have a single, overarching point to all this. Okay, yeah, there’s obviously an element of the confessional here but that’s not the entire point. I have contributed to this culture of rape and harassment, or at least participated in it, and the fact that I’ve learned (tried to learn) to be better in recent years doesn’t affect the facts of who I was and what I did, even if I can point to any number of men who were maybe worse.
You don’t stop rape, or sexual harassment, by controlling women. You stop rape and sexual harassment by insisting that men learn to be better. One of my most important jobs right now is to raise my son to be better than me.
Maybe men need a #metoo hashtag. Or an #allofus hashtag, because right now, it is all of us. We’ve all contributed to this.
Or maybe we could just stop, and fucking listen, which was what the point of the hashtag was in the first place, and try to learn to get better.