Here's the view from my window as I write this note:
It's Thursday morning. All that fog might burn away by noon, or it might not. The thermometer in this room tells me it's 64°. People often ask me if I'm cold, and I wonder why they're pronouncing it wrong. 'I'm cooled,' I say. 'I'm being cooled.' It's one of the (few, these days) things I like about living in San Francisco, how cold it stays most of the time. I have whole dissertations on why cold temperatures are better than warm that I'll spare you this Thursday morning, but if you've never been to San Francisco in the summer this is what to expect.
This Shenny's subject line comes from a nickname one of my sisters had among her high school friends. I like it because it could apply to each of us Maddens, likely even my parents, and they're both only children. I mean the feeling all of us, even you, sometimes have that we're unfit, not the favorite. Here's how I put it in the title story of If You Need Me I'll Be Over There:
Once, my therapist asked me if I considered myself the black sheep of the family and I said no. I said, Doesn’t everyone think of themselves as black sheep? Isn’t it kind of vain to do so? When I eventually admitted that sometimes I dreamed of being the white sheep in a family full of black ones, she asked if that was a good dream, and I said not especially.
There should be a German word for the twinned pleasures of finding yourself contrary to the status quo, and the pain of its being categorized as contrary. If you know this word, please send it to me. Let's all embroider it on our dinner napkins.
Endorsements: Oral-Digestive Health Edition
1. A2 Milk
For nearly a decade I thought I had IBS, but it turns out I just had trouble digesting cow's milk (and I was ingesting a lot). A2 milk is milk sourced exclusively from cows who don't produce casein proteins. It looks and tastes and cooks and blends just like 'real milk'. The claim is that it's easier to digest for people whose milk intake leads to disasters I won't detail here. All the studies I've been able to find to test this claim have been partially funded by the A2 Milk Company. So there's that. The science is shaky. But I figured I didn't have much to lose by trying it out myself, and after a year of drinking A2 milk here I am endorsing it in writing. It works, on me at least. If you like spending $5 on a half-gallon of milk, consider it. (My local Safeway sells a slightly cheaper store-brand now.)
2. A 1:1 compound of fluocinonide 0.05% ointment and benzocaine 20% oral paste
Maybe I chew too fast or take too big of bites from my food (or maybe I'm showing myself here to be just generally disgusting), but I bite open the insides of my mouth from time to time, and when I eat a whole bag of Doritos (ideally not in one sitting) all that sodium results in one or more canker sores that hurt for at least a week. I'm a child who won't learn any lessons in this regard, and no OTC treatments I've tried have worked, so thank god the oral medicine specialist I saw a couple years ago told me about a 1:1 compound of fluocinonide 0.05% ointment and benzocaine 20% oral paste. The former is a prescription-only steroid that promotes healing; the latter is sold as Red Cross Canker Sore paste and helps numb the pain. You have to squirt both tubes on a plate and mix them with a butter knife, and then store it in, like, one of those old camera film canisters. Spread it with a Q-tip twice a day the moment you sense a sore opening up (or after the bleeding in your gums has stopped), and the thing will be gone in 2 days. It's a miracle drug!
Watching James Bond Reminded Me Why I Love Comedy, or Queers, or Both
Madeleine, at the start of the most recent Bond movie (spoilers ahead), is a young girl with an alcoholic mother who not only knows how to clean up the latter's drunken winespills off a white flokati rug, but also where the family pistol is hidden and how to use it to hit a masked man coming at her with another gun. And yet, when that masked man magically awakes from being shot a bunch of times and falling one story onto his back to start calmly chasing after her, this wise child—whom we imagine has grown up next to a lake that freezes each winter—chooses, of all the directions away from the man with the gun, to run directly toward the center of the lake. Of course she falls through, while the man who weighs twice what she does somehow is able to stand solidly on the same ice.
This is only the start of what made No Time to Die a lousy movie. But what I want to write about comes later, when the Rami Malek villain is holding Bond's daughter hostage and delivering a menacing monologue. 'Life is all about leaving something behind. Isn't it?' he asks, indicating the small child sitting next to him. This is a villain talking, and so for a half-second the possibility arises that the film is criticizing this notion as nonsense. But then Bond's look is worried and protective. This has become less about saving another life than about saving life itself.
What Bond doesn't say in reply: 'Tell that to my gay friends.'
Which he has now! The new Q, played by the always great Ben Wishaw, has a boy coming over in an earlier scene. But this is a line James Bond could never utter, because it would ruin not only the genre of these films he's the hero of, but the genre of hetero drama altogether.
I've been thinking lately about what happens when we encounter people who don't share our values. I wrote a recent blog post about this as it pertains to online shaming. One thing that dawns on you when you grow up queer is that the hetero culture that surrounds you doesn't just value reproduction, it assumes making offspring is what we're on the planet to do. For years, I wanted to have 4 kids, with 2 of them being twin sons. Then I realized I was another homosexual, and overnight I stopped upholstering my nuclear family fantasy and started wondering how to have a sex life. How to be alive, really, and finally, as my honest self.
That drama doesn't easily feature a figure—the child, the innocent—that tugs quickly at most audience's heartstrings. I know I'm venturing into Lee Edelman territory here (and I'm borderline strawmanning this argument by nitpicking the most hetero series ever), but watching No Time to Die reminded me of what a bummer it often is to watch drama, as a genre, especially its offspring of action and tragedy. The Malek character's name is Lyutsifer. No character is able to point this out—'They named you Lucifer and you became a villain?'—the way Bond in unable to say 'Tell that to my gay friends.' The genre itself would collapse.
I'm trying to twin comedy and the queer viewpoint in ways that likely call for a longer essay, but the power of the queer viewpoint is to always already see so many hetero values (coded as truths) as just fucking goofy and dumdum bananas, their strengths built on the flimsiest and wrongest foundations. It takes a lot of ignoring queers to validate the 'truths' hetero drama asserts, the stakes often raised on so much silliness. It's like when people have criticisms about pornography; if your porn critique doesn't also apply to gay porn, you don't have a problem with porn.
We'll all never share one another's values. Despite the current president's initial call for Unity!, it's a myth that's never once existed in this nation, or any. We are inevitably going to run up against fellows (i.e., those who share one or more identity markers; fellow gays, fellow Californians, fellow sock-wearers, etc.) whose values clash with our own. We get to choose what we do in that moment. Often we choose shaming or hating, in the hopes that the other will drop their 'wrong' values and pick up our own. It seems to me the wrong choice.
Of course that's all easier said than done when you're governed by not one person who shares your values. But then again, the chances are better that you will be governed by such people the more locally you situate your sense of The Government. 'Think globally, act locally' is the cliche I'll end this Shenny with.
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