Right in the KisserNext time someone calls you a pussy, try saying this.
"I love pussies. Pussies give birth, and ecstasy. Next time you have a chance, take a good long look at a pussy. They're amazing."
That's right. Take pride in your pussiness. Don't be ashamed of being feminine, and don't be afraid of men who live in circles and cycles of violence.
This last year, my greatest success has been in embracing, even kissing emasculinity. When someone looks at me weird for wearing a Utilikilt, I kiss a baby, or casually call it a skirt, or refer to my bag as a purse. Don't get me wrong, it takes courage, but when the expectations of thousands of years of masculinization are lifted from your shoulders, it's arousing (in a bit of a sexual way), as well as comforting. It's amazing how much the expectations of masculinity ride on our shoulders, leaving us nervous that we might get confused for gay, or a woman, or a gay woman, or whatever, whoever, who cares? When I wear a skirt, and tell a child to give me a kiss "right in the kisser," or openly use the word "cuddle," I find it hard to care if someone thinks I'm a "pussy."
The problem I am overlooking, of course, is the threat of violence. Once I figured out that the carrot of masculinity is not all it is cracked up to be, they hauled out the great stick and literally threatened me with it a la Matthew Shepard. Being a pussy takes guts, but as John Wayne said to Barbara Walters when she was the only woman anchor on network television, "Don't let the bastards get you down."
Most of the time, the bigots are too confused to be angry, and with the bullshit promise of a consolation prize cast off my shoulders, I have found a comfort in the everyday that most men I speak with don't understand. It's the openness to look someone in the eye as you pass them in the street. It's the ability to feel comfortable in public even when you feel out of place. It's the confidence to show open, unmitigated affection to your wife, kids, and even *gasp* other men. It has contributed to my overall fulfillment more than any other single thing in my life.
Letting the Joneses use the Passing LaneI still feel the marketer's pull to buy the latest tablet, a more fuel-efficient car, more energy efficient light bulbs and appliances, and cooler accessories (someone please buy me a Rivendell bicycle for my birthday).
I emphasize energy and fuel efficiency not because I want to seem self-righteous, but because energy efficiency is as big a load of manure pushed on us by the marketers as pickup trucks that roll coal, 4,000 ft/sq McMansions, and American football. It's just that energy efficient shit is the stuff that appeals to me. The long-term environmental impact of selling an Expedition to buy a Tesla is mild at best, because the Expedition has to go somewhere, unless you throw it away, and building any auto has a footprint far larger than simply running an existing car until it is no longer reliable. Not to mention the fact that environmentally friendly cars help us accept long commutes that make us less happy and less healthy.
I've read all the studies, and done the research, and I know that replacing my Kia before it is ready for the junkyard is not a sound environmental choice, yet I still want to look like the great environmentalist. You know, the guy who drives the Nissan Leaf, when he's not riding his Rivendell bicycle everywhere (did I mention that I really want a Rivendell?). And I can handle not having a Tesla and a Rivendell... until someone I know buys one.
Studies have shown that talking about a cool new toy, or a cool experience on Facebook makes other users less happy. In fact, that is exactly why Facebook is such a commercial success. It makes us envious. We want to buy what our "friends" have.
I have some envy when I read the posts of those people with imaginary happy Facebook lives, but I feel something else too. Marketers tell us that men have certain things (in my case Rivendell bicycles). Therefore, if I don't have those things, I am not a very good man. But that is not my biggest problem with the keeping-up-with-the-joneses mentality.
My family and I have made decisions which help us lead responsible, happier, and more sustainable (and yes more efficient) lives. So, when I see a "friend" buy a new pickup or a McMansion, it is frustrating to see them make such irresponsible choices. While my gut is feeling envy, my head is feeling frustration. All in all, the Keeping-Up-With-The-Joneses mentality is the one holding me back from happiness the most.
The difficulty is in accepting other people's choices without letting them brainwash me into believing they are responsible choices, or worse, not caring. They may make irresponsible choices, but most of the people making those damaging macro-choices are kind and loving people who make very good choices about the small stuff. Most of them look at my choices through the lens of marketers and think I'm a martyr, not a person using massive amounts of scientific data in a search for fulfillment and happiness.
I was happier this last year because I have been getting better at embracing the emasculation of not having the cool toys my friends and neighbors have. The key has been gratitude. It should not be a self-congratulatory gratitude (after all, my "security" is mostly a result of being born white in an established colonial power). Gratitude that you made the right choices in the past leads to anxiety and pride, neither of which are conducive to happiness.
The kind of gratitude that makes one happy is emasculating. The grateful cannot subjectify themselves by taking any credit. They are objectified by the world. I have almost no control over my life, yet the world has secured me, and for that I am grateful. A truly grateful person does not feel entitled to a large house, or an expensive (albeit awesome) bicycle. A grateful person researches his actions to make wise, efficient, and sustainable choices, not because he is morally superior, but because he is emasculated by a world that is so overwhelmingly powerful. That may look like martyrism to some, mostly unhappy people who are tucked inside the "toxic" culture of materialism.
What is a martyr who is attempting to be happy? In the coming year, I hope to continue to find out. I will try to be a laughing radical, and the more I laugh, the closer I get.