In The Absence of Weights


In The Absence of Weights
Originally uploaded by Jacob Clifton

Boy howdy do I not feel like writing. Working-writing, I mean. It’s all well and good to get six hours of sleep a night like you’re on your way to reaching a state of Oprah, but … It’s February. A tiny little tail-end of a month. I think February is my least favorite month, even though it treats you nicer than September generally. Ever since MMP was in town we’ve all tacitly agreed to leave Gloria Estefan on the shuffle. I’m sure we all have our reasons. It’s nearly 7AM and I’ve already had my coffee, but it wasn’t espresso, so I don’t feel particularly laserlike. I’m sure that’ll change soon.

I’ve been experimenting with cutting myself a break now and then. In the same way being a perfectionist is not the same as being perfect, stressing about being a good soldier and doing the best that you can at everything has no real relation to being good at anything or getting anything done. This is the kind of thing I’ve been thinking about.

I wrote around and around and around the subject of the hard truth and the rules of the world and the sucky rock-bottom truth of life, I spent fourteen weeks essaying around this idea, that at some point you have to deal. And really that’s all I ever write about. But in the same way that you dream about an obvious thing for two weeks or months or years before it becomes obvious, I found out I was writing to myself, telling myself in the future that everything was going to be okay as soon as I realized that it’s better and easier to just play the game. Till I got back in Saturn’s Court.


One of the main themes in QEA is the idea that bullying and Mean Girling and the Procrustean harshness of institutions — the way everybody wants to rub off your hard edges and make you less unique — are good things, the policing of society, but also a singular kindness: you are not going to get the results that you want unless you make a concerted effort to play the same game as everybody else. I think there’s a real arrogance in being such a nerd that you can’t figure out the reason that everybody else is playing the game: it’s not because you’re better than them, it’s because you’re more complacent. So the hard truth of childhood is a good thing, and the unkindnesses that we do to each other in the name of social consensus and politicking, are inherently good — just like without supervillains there wouldn’t be superheroes.

The confusion, and I have engaged in this behavior more than you might ever suspect, is in thinking that any of this gives you the right to be cruel. Or manipulative, or fake, or selfish. I still forget this sometimes but it’s always true. The world’s bad and scary and nasty enough without you choosing to be a supervillain, no matter how good the final effects might be. There are already bad guys out there that don’t know better. There seems to be a lot of reminding myself these days to be a good person. I think the more sensible idea would be to just be a better person. It’s the easiest thing in the world.


People keep trying to talk to me about the bisexual polyamorist open-minded pagans. I don’t know what to say about them that I haven’t said already. They are legion and probably very nice people. I don’t get it, I will never get it. I want to know how people from all walks of life end up going the exact same way. I’m so many cliches that I know how fascinating it can be.

Oh, here’s something. In freshman we had a game where you would look at somebody’s yearbook and pick out people and say their life story, or what they were like: an apple-polishing ass-licker or secret slut or whatever. That was the best thing because you had the person right there to tell you if you were right or way off. Like bullying and learning at the same time, and nobody got hurt.

Twelve years later (!) I’m like obsessed with this thing on that quiz site OkCupid! that is a cross between Hot Or Not and Press Your Luck called QuickMatch. You say whether or not the person is hot, and it’s a random assortment of people. If the people think back that you are hot, I guess you get together and have creepy internet sex, I don’t know. I ignore that part of the process because I’m in it for the game.You don’t get any details on the person, just a picture and a little random quote. You know my hobby is judging people by their faces and making up little stories about their inner states based on the subtle adjustments of the muscles in their faces. Art or science, I cannot say. You have totally got to try it! Because it is crazy fun!

So anyway. Picture this really quite beautiful man, late 20s, LA of course. Looking like every Bret Ellis character ever, bisexual guy, clearly knows his way around an eightball. And this is his blurb. I totally stared at this for ten minutes trying to figure it out, in a total fugue. I know it was ten minutes because my screen saver kicked in twice.

“Yes, that’s really me in the picture. Don’t ask about it or worry about it. I’m between relationships right now, but I’d rather be between two warm bodies.”

And that’s it. To me, that’s the shortest novel ever written. You know that part in Breakfast At Tiffany’s where the crooked accountant tells Paul that Holly’s whole life is in her checkbook? “Fifty dollars for the powder room, fifty dollars for the powder room”? And how sad that story is?

I want to know what mommy and daddy did. I want to know how that happens, where your sexual identity gets so tied up in signifiers and scenarios and stuff like this that you just completely lose the plot. This is a totally different subject from both the polyamorous bisexual open-minded pagans and the furries, which I am not up to talking about right now. This is its own particular garden of wonders.

Next I was going to write The Book Of Ryan, an Anne Tyler kind of novel about being gay in a small-town church ministry, with endearing characters and happy endings. Or I was going to finish Serious Vanity, maybe.

But now all I can think of is this guy who’s so young and so completely disengaged from his body that he’s trapped inside it, and how he could possibly ever be happy, and what he’s had to do so far, to survive himself. Or maybe that’s the second act of Serious Vanity right there? Seems really harsh.

Anyway, that’s my obsession these days. Cracking the threesome code. Beats steampunk.

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