Another Iteration

Further to my post “Beauty and the Blank,” below, let me tell you why I have such a thing for monsters. People seem to think it’s because I’m creepy or weird–honestly, my friends, who know me to be the most mimsy and prosaic of people, would be surprised by how many more casual acquaintances think I’m creepy. It’s not because I’m creepy and weird that I like monsters: it’s because I’m creepy and weird.

That is to say: It is not uncommon, I think, for women to want to feel physically as they do psychically: smaller than their male counterpart but incredibly important (a sort of emotional density like the matter of a star), vulnerable but safe and cared for, pretty, remarkable in an ordinary way. Worthy of being seen as precious.

(I don’t know how men feel psychically, or how they want to feel physically; I only know that whenever I try to make men feel the way I want to feel, as above, they get extremely uncomfortable and don’t want to have sex with me anymore. I think it must be because those are the things they’re taught to fear feeling. Maybe the bedroom is not the place to explore and break through that anxiety. At least not in the first instance.)

Anyway. I want to feel that way. Small but powerful, vulnerable but safe and cared for, pretty, remarkable. Precious. And, being a woman who is both large and fat (particularly in Britain–the British are quite short compared to the Americans, and although they have the same rate of obesity, I would say empirically that they do not as frequently become as obese), the only way I can imagine feeling those things–delicate, in short–is around someone even more monstrous than I am.

Recently I’ve been fucking a guy who is much larger than I am–which is saying a lot, because I’m not short, even for a man. I wouldn’t describe him as tall so much as slightly out of scale with the rest of reality. He’s 6’8″, and his frame is, rather than being stretched or attenuated or lanky, solidly built. It’s like fucking an oak tree. Although he has very soft skin for an oak tree.

This has been my only opportunity thus far to test my feelings, above, regarding monsters and my own monstrousness (which remember is bo, rn of size, as women who are large are universally considered monstrous), and holy shit you guys have got to try this. Like, all you petite people will know what it’s like already, but for those of you medium-sized or larger–seriously. Find someone much larger than you and fuck them.

It. Is. Awesome.

It’s the only time in my sexual history I haven’t had to worry about crushing someone when I put my weight on them, about being too wide or indelicate–delicate is merely a comparative measure, so you are the delicate one if your partner is larger. It’s the only time I’ve felt surrounded and overpowered and held, or felt like someone has had put effort into being gentle with me (instead of having to put effort into being rough). The gentleness, set against such a background, gains depth and vividness the way meat does when you cook it in wine or gems do when they’re displayed on velvet or velour surfaces.

And it sucks hardcore, because this guy I’m fucking is a friend, not a permanent romantic partner, and I’m frankly so awful I don’t know at this point if I’ll be able to find any permanent romantic partner, to say nothing of an enormous one, and having now had a taste of what that’s like, I’m mulishly unwilling to settle for anything else because seriously. It’s like there’s been an extra 40% of sex and touch and cuddles that I didn’t know existed suddenly having been made available to me. I imagine this expansion of horizons is what discovering you have magic powers feels like.

I would argue that there is a male corollary to the trope of Born Sexy Yesterday, which is the Beast: a man of outsized physical power and unusual appearance, capable of great violence to his enemies, that everyone finds frightening, resulting in his extreme isolation and subsequent heightened sensitivity to femininity and kindness, leaving him open for the One Special Girl Who Isn’t Like the Others and can See He’s Really Gentle to become the sole force for good in his life, whom he then adores to the point of worship and whose need for protection provides a focus for his violent urges.

There’s Beauty and the Beast, obviously, but think also of the Hulk and Betty Ross, Christine Daae and the Phantom of the Opera, Spock and Christine Chapel, Dracula and Mina Harker (particularly in the hilariously inaccurately named 1992 film Bram Stoker’s Dracula), Hannibal Lecter and Clarice Starling, R and Julie of Warm Bodies, Fido and Helen Robinson of Fido, Edward Rochester and Jane Eyre, Edward Cullen and Bella Swan, Eros and Psyche, Hades and Persephone, pretty much everything going on at any given time in Penny Dreadful, and every sexual fantasy I’ve ever had about the Predator. As you can see from the list, this is a trope that’s been around a while. I’d bet money that you’d be able to find it in other mythologies older than that of ancient Greece.

It’s an awful sexist trope, of course, but goddamn it works for me. I see now why people get into that French-maid or fucking-your-secretary or keeping a pet slut or Dom(me)/sub or Happy Housewife bullshit: it works for them.

(Maybe religions are the same way. Maybe that’s why people like them.)

Anyway, the point is, I’m well fucked, currently in both senses of the phrase, and also, oh look, another wonderful thing I’ve discovered that I DON’T GET TO HAVE AND HAVE TO GO THE REST OF MY LIFE KNOWING I AM LIVING WITHOUT BECAUSE I’M TOO FAT AND UGLY AND HIGH-MAINTENANCE AND POOR AND FRAGILE AND OTHERWISE UNSUITABLE FOR HUMAN COMPANIONSHIP.

Yes, I’m on a waiting list to see a psychiatrist about a meds change. Stop asking.

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Tonight I have stayed over an hour late at work completing some files that need to be usable by tomorrow morning.

It is winter, so by the time I board the elevator to the ground floor, the glass panels that make up the front wall of the office building show nothing but black, and the the lobby, which has no overhead lights, is quite dark.

Thus I almost trip on the horns of the life-sized model of a steer that is, minus its legs, occupying the floor of the lobby.

As I awkwardly maneuver around it to get to the door button, two workmen enter carrying large pieces of apparatus. When I ask, they explain that the business on the fifth floor is having a party and has rented a mechanical bull.

Beauty and the Blank

On the mysterious expectations of women

Every time I get into a relationship with a man–or, at least, with a man who evidences some interest in pleasing me–the question of how I would like to be treated comes up.

For a very long time, I found this baffling. Surely this should not be difficult, I thought. I, and women in general, want to be treated the same way men do: we want to be listened to, respected, and treated with empathy and humor and kindness. We want our partners’ needs and expectations to be clearly stated; we want to be able to state ours. We want to feel safe (in both our bodies and the degree of regard in which our partners hold us) to disagree, to show vulnerability, to make mistakes, to talk about the things we find unsatisfactory. We want to enter and leave every conversation with the belief that we and our partners both got something good out of it–that it improved our day, or us, or the relationship. We want to negotiate in honesty and good faith and to be able to trust that our partners are doing the same.

All of this is perfectly true, and on its own is difficult enough to find–and to achieve–but it’s not exactly a mystery.

However. In addition to this, there is a capstone layer to what I want from a male partner in a relationship. It’s what I think of as the romantic part of romantic love, I guess, and it is very specific, very rigid, and very unspoken.

“I want to be adored,” I have always said, but there is a very particular kind of adoration I’ve always wanted, and it has never once, until this moment, occurred to me to explain it: I have always assumed that this is the way a romantic relationship should be, and therefore that everyone else must be aware of these standards and that any man failing to adhere to them did so out of cruelty or lack of feeling for me.

Which is unfortunate, because the type of adoration I want is fairly simple to sum up: I want my partner to feel and act awed that the universe has blessed him with me.

When we have a conversation, I want maleman mchusbandpants to be filled with excitement that such an intelligent, witty, and funny woman wants to talk to him, of all people, and to feel actual glee about the prospect of hearing whatever I’m going to say next.

When we spend time together, I want him to reflect, not infrequently, on how incredibly fortunate he is to get to spend his life with this woman, and how her presence makes occasionally wonderful memories out of such boring and unpleasant tasks as housework, grocery shopping, and assembling/moving Ikea furniture. When we lie around together at night reading, I want him to lift his head and look at me with an expression of almost saccharine sentiment because he is thinking about how my presence surrounds and permeates his life and he had never before imagined he would be favored enough by the gods to be allowed a lifetime of such happiness.

When we have sex, I want dudeface o’spousalunit to spend the entire erotic experience a little nervous and very much in awe that this gorgeous, clever, sexy, altogether wonderful creature would allow him to look at and touch her, and I want him to be actually amazed that, in fact, she seems to want to look at and touch him. I want him to think, lustfully, about the possibility of having sex with me even when we are not currently engaged in it, even, dare I say, while I am not even present.

Essentially, then, what I want is Beauty and the Beast, where I am the beauty and my partner is the beast.

In return I want to give the same thing, except I will be the beast and my partner will be the beauty, and I will feel just as awed and fortunate and happy that I get to be with and talk to and touch him, and I want this to be what he wants from me.

And while I’m wishing I’d also like some sparkle cupcakes and a pony.

***

Interestingly, although I demand this from men, this is not a dynamic that I have ever imagined having with a woman. What I want in a relationship with a woman is Beauty and the Beauty, in which we are both goddesses who worship each other as such–sort of the male heterosexual’s fantasy of what a lesbian relationship would be like if you extrapolated from the sex to the romance as a whole.

In large part I avoid seeking out relationships with women, and this is because I have no narrative in my head for how women and women should treat each other. I could never have a Beauty and the Beauty relationship because when I think about other women I can see myself only, and inescapably, as a beast–large, hairy, smelly, rough, clumsy, dull, dim-witted, horribly ugly, and wanting to prey on them.

There are many women I have seen to whom I was very attracted; I have no concept whatsoever that any woman could ever be anything but repulsed by and afraid of me. I have, therefore, absolutely no structure for how to behave or what to expect, not in a relationship with a woman, but in a romance with one. Whereas with men it’s much simpler: I know exactly how to behave and what I want. I just don’t get it.

Today the coworkers talk about their children’s experiences in primary school.

One says she got into a 45-minute argument with a teacher because the teacher tried to tell her her son has ADHD. “I were like, ‘No he doesn’t, he’s just a boy. That’s just the way boys are.’ And she has four girls, so she doesn’t know. You don’t know until you have boys.”

Another agrees. “One of my son’s teachers tried to tell me J— might have ADD, too, and she doesn’t even have kids of her own. I mean I know they have all this teacher training and experience and all that, but if you don’t have kids, you don’t know anything. At all.”

“I mean, I’ve probably got ADHD, too, if my son does. I was the same way: I couldn’t sit still and was always fidgeting and acting out and getting up out of my chair. I was always the naughtiest girl in class.

“But when I was at school, there was no ADHD: you were either smart or you were stupid. You were either clever or a bit of a dunce.

“Nobody knew about dyslexia, either. You either could read or you couldn’t.”

“Me too,” says the other. “But still, they are too easy on them now. Bring back the cane, that’s what I say. Of course,¬† my J— would be in there getting beaten every day, the way he is.”

Today the coworkers complain about the Trafford Centre, a shopping mall in central Manchester.

“I hate going there,” says one.

Two others immediately agree. “It’s so crowded, everything’s expensive, and they don’t have anything original,” says another. “Just chain stores.”

“I’d so much rather shop on the high street at home than at the Trafford Centre,” says another.

“I’d rather be just about anywhere else besides the Trafford Centre,” says the second.

Five minutes pass; in them, the topic shifts from the Trafford Centre to cell phones.

“I wish I didn’t have to have one,” says a co-worker.

“Oh, I know,” agrees another immediately. “I hate getting calls while I’m doing something else. I have a phone at home and at work; do I really need one with me all the time?”

“Everybody is on them all the time, too,” says the first co-worker. “Kids today spend all their time with their noses in computer screens.”

“They don’t socialize,” says the other one.

“They’re not experiencing the world around them,” says the first.

 

A Language Romance

Chapter 1

There’s a species of spacegoing alien monsters. Probably reptilian, since I don’t care for the furries or the slimies. Humanoid, but with stuff that makes them scary and cool: mandibles, claws, eight eyes, head crests, tails, tentacle hands, bat wings, prehensile tongues, fangs, or whatever. The usual drill.

As is the case with all spacegoing species in every science-fiction story ever, they have a single culture and language. Probably this is the result of having a single and uniform climate worldwide, as we know all alien planets do.

They make contact with Earth.

Luckily, this is Earth in the future, and we have Google Translate in neat little earcuffs. Now everybody has a translator calmly speaking into their ear, and we can all pretend we are United Nations ambassadors.

Google Translate has gotten pretty cool in the last couple years here in Doylean time, you may have noticed. Now common idioms in foreign languages have a correct gloss in the querist’s language: “Das tut mir leid” translates to “I’m sorry” instead of “That does me sorrow”; “Ich bin zu Hause” translates to “I am home” (i.e., at home) instead of “I am to house.”

The spacegoing alien monsters’ language is comprised of hisses, pops, and clicks simultaneously underlaid with voiced sounds that humans would call roars or voiced growls. Some of these are infrasound to human ears, and in general they sound like a monster just around the corner eating your friend under the surface noise produced by playing a vinyl record (the hiss, crackles, and ticks) or the clicking of an unthinkably giant insect. They sound pretty scary.

They look pretty scary, too, but in actuality their behavior is not too bad by human standards–certainly not that of the envoys responsible for meeting Earth’s world leaders. They don’t mount the structural organs of other animal lifeforms they’ve slaughtered on their personnel transport vehicles, which is more than we can say for ourselves, at any rate.

When they don’t attack, but also don’t go away, and continue to stand around in conference rooms, occasionally glancing at each other, shuffling their feet, and occasionally making (alarming) quiet noises to each other, the world leaders decide that maybe they want to communicate with us.

Linguists, translators, and Google programmers are swiftly vetted and sent to interview Earth’s new acquaintances with the aim of acquiring the vocabulary and grammar of the alien monsters and adding the language to Google Translate: humans don’t have the organs (and possibly not even the tissues) to generate most of the sounds that seem to make up the spacegoing alien monsters’ (SAMs’) language, but if they can get it into the translator, they can then give ear cuffs that¬†are able to make those sounds to the SAMs and start talking with them.

After a . . . while . . . (a year? several years? I don’t know how long it would take a few hundred linguists to acquire all the vocabulary of a completely new language that has no common roots with any other language on Earth) we’ve got enough vocabulary and grammar to start really communicating.

Each word or term in the SAM language is made of two parts: the hiss, click, or pop that is the word itself–the SAMs call this the word’s shape–and the pitch of the voice speaking the word–which they call the word’s color–which changes the meaning of the word or term. (Actually, they have a different word for it that we don’t have a good translation for, which means simultaneously “pitch” and “meaning,” as there is no differentiation between the two, and one of the linguists working on the translation project decided to call this color because it seemed like a good halfway point between the musical definition of color (i.e., tone quality) and the fact that color is often an innate or definitional quality of many objects.)

Each shape has up to five colors, although usually there are only three: low (the first color), middle (the second), and high (the third). The fourth and fifth colors tend to be technology-based additions to the definition of extant words, the way boiler became a gas- or electricity-powered apparatus for heating a household’s water supply after it was a cooking container for boiling liquids after it was, presumably, a person who boiled things. For this reason, the later colors are usually very high-pitched (fifth) or very low-pitched (fourth), farther toward the edges of the SAMs’ vocal range, as the core pitches of low, middle, and high are already occupied by earlier definitions.

(Talking about technology with a SAM is therefore a vibrantly stressful, if not physically painful, proposition for a human: the very low-pitched colors are usually infrasound, which can’t be consciously detected but nevertheless causes a fear response and/or nausea in some humans, and the very high-pitched colors are, unfortunately, not ultrasonic, and thus sound like shrieks or like piercing electronic whines, like the ones made by CRT monitors and televisions, but much louder.)

So, to review:

  • Shape = the non-vocal sound that makes part of the word, usually a hiss, click, pop, snarl, or growl
  • Color = the pitch of the vocal sound that is produced at the same time as the shape AND ALSO the meaning of the word

Obviously, there are many different vocal ranges for SAM voices just like there are for human ones. The fourth color (very low) for one SAM might be only the first (low) or even the second (middle) for another.

Because of this, SAMs have greetings for initial introductions designed to demonstrate the speaker’s range of pitches for the listener. The introductory exposition, as the linguists termed the non-personal parts of a SAM greeting, is not expected by any party in the conversation to bear any practical relation to the introduction itself (or, in fact, to reality). Rather, it is the pitch equivalent of a pangram (e.g., “The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dogs”), containing all of the core pitches and emphases for every type of word or phrase. In the version of the greeting/introduction used in professional settings (as opposed to that used in interpersonal situations, such as meeting the friend of a friend), examples of the “technological” pitches are given as well.

Therefore, where a human might say “Pleasure to meet you, I’m Danielle. I look forward to working with you,” a SAM would perhaps say instead “My name is Danielle. We shall in the future decide whether our respective interests and those of the groups we each represent lead us to cooperation or to combat. My painting once belonged to a purple teacake. Have you ever worn more than one loincloth at once?” or perhaps “There should be mice in this gym. Has your brother tried using a helicopter to caress his mango trees?”

SAMs hailing from different areas of their home planet have different introductory expositions, and indeed it is possible to learn a bit about a SAM’s ethnic history by asking her how she learned to introduce herself.

One Interesting Thing: Redux

Today the man lying on the ground in the sleeping bag and the bearded busker are still in residence at the Arndale’s arcade. Sleeping-bag guy remains, as yesterday, lying on the pavement in a sleeping bag next to a display made of used wire shop racking that has been tied together into a sort of cage, on which is hung old bedsheets and sweatshirts with incoherent language about ending discrimination and low wages written on them in Magic Marker. I say the language is incoherent–the individual words seem fine, but they are in no order or grammar that might render any ideas they represent perceptible to the reader. Occasionally there is an exclamation point, but verbs are few and far between, though slightly more common that adjectives.

The man with the beard, which is grizzled copper and seems to be trying to escape his face using the power of static electricity, still has his pink-painted child’s guitar, and indeed even an amp now, but he has taken the decision not to play, and both guitar and amp lie at his side on the steps of Boots where he sits. He and sleeping-bag man are still taking turns every minute or so to promulgate their causes, sleeping-bag man by calmly stating liberal political slogans through an extremely low-fidelity electric megaphone, beard man by shouting in an aggressive monotone, rather like a Gumby, the lyrics to songs.

Today one of these lyrics is ever-so-briefly comprehensible: “ASHFLGKH!” shouts the man in what sounds like a drunken rage. “ARFLGAUGHBUG. SIMPLY! HAVING! A WONDERFUL CHRISTMASTIME.”