Man’s Second-Best Friend

Instead of working on my book all late afternoon, I’ve been hanging out with Newcastle, who has been following me from room to room, giving me big, begging eyes for my attention. I let him curl up with me as I watched my one day off slip away from me. 

I love this cat. I love him so much. 

He crawled off of my lap and curled up in the corner of the couch to go to sleep, and he looks old. He is old. I can feel his bones when I pet him. It really hit me just now. He’s lived a lot longer than he was supposed to, with his heart condition and a liver that’s not where it’s supposed to be. But he and the other cat play chase still, even if Newcastle doesn’t really have the stamina to play long. 

When I saw my psychiatrist for the first time, and he asked me what my goals were, I told him, “I want to be as good as my cat thinks I am.” I don’t know if I’m there yet. I think Newcastle has unfairly high expectations. 

I don’t know what I’m going to do when he’s gone. But I know what I’m going to do for these years, these months he has left, When he comes up to me and demands affection, I’m going to put the notebook down and give it to him. This cat has brought me so much joy in my life that the least I can do is give him a happy retirement. 

More Powerful Than a Locomotive

This week I declared war on Batman. I did it in a FB group where people were trying to make Superman relevant for 2020. Many didn’t think it was possible, and some commenters leaned into the fact that he’s an undocumented immigrant. I don’t think that really works, though, because Superman is a blue-eyed white guy from Kansas. He would never get picked up in an ICE raid. But he is identifiable.  

Most people in the United States know what it’s like to leave home for the first time and move to a big, scary place, take an overwhelming job, develop a crush on your coworker who can’t see you in front of their face because they’re into someone flashier and better-looking than you, and have a side of yourself that you don’t want anyone to see because you want to come across as normal. As far as the superpower stuff that most think is impossible to write, keep in mind that, in the comics, his ultimate nemesis isn’t someone who can punch harder than him, it’s a human being—brilliant, soulless capitalist with unlimited resources. That sounds like an easy movie to make, Warner Brothers. Why do you have to go and make everything so complicated? 

The Non-Functional Closet

I have an announcement to make, and this is a big deal, so pay attention. This isn’t a conclusion I came about lightly. I didn’t just say, “I feel this way, it must be this.” It took me years to understand this. I’ve visited doctors and therapists and had some long conversations. Some people I’ve talked to just flat out don’t believe me, and I suspect a number of you won’t either, but it’s my identity, and I need to share.  

I’m asexual. If you’re not sure what that means, in the simplest of terms, A is a prefix meaning Not. Heterosexuals are attracted to the opposite sex and gender, homosexuals are attracted to the same sex and gender, bisexuals are attracted to both, and pansexuals are attracted to everything in between. Asexuals are attracted to neither and none.  

Except when they are. 

You see, like anything having to do with sex, it’s complicated. There’s a whole spectrum (from people who are only sexually attracted to someone they have a deep emotional connection to, all the way to people who are physically sickened by the idea of genitals being touched by others), and I don’t quite understand where I belong on it. I can tell you what it means for me. I can be in relationships. I’ve even had sex since my transition. But in general, with very few exceptions, I don’t feel sexual attraction. I don’t think about sex, sex doesn’t motivate me. Sex doesn’t play a part in my life, and more importantly, I don’t want it to. I find people attractive, but I don’t want to sleep with them. I develop crushes, but not because I want to see the person naked. Hell, I write erotica, but it’s as much a distant, imaginary fantasy to me that I can’t really relate to as when I write about a witch battling the Norse goddess of winter. 

Do I think this is part of the reason Kate divorced me? Yes, I do*. 

I’ve kept this to myself because asexuality is weird to our society. Even the most juvenile of comic book movies shoehorn in a romance subplot, and what is romance about but sex? Sex is everywhere. Sex (in the United States, anyway) is the unnamed, hidden force behind everything. Sex is biology. The fact that I’m not into it is a rejection of a fundamental part of who we are as humans, and many people I’ve told simply won’t accept this about me. 

When I started making the transition, I thought there was something wrong with me. I went looking for causes and solutions and found none that worked. My doctors suspected that my testosterone was low, or my medication was causing a reaction. It’s been suggested to me that I just need to meet the right person. And then, of course, there’s the one that I will bet money some of you are thinking right now: it’s perfectly normal for a man my age to lose interest in sex. 

My testosterone is normal. None of my medications have sexual side effects. It’s going to take more than just one person to change me. It has nothing to do with my age. I’m not broken, I’m not abnormal, I’m not old. I’m asexual. This is who I am.  

* I was fully honest with Kate about how my needs and wants were changing, so this isn’t something that was just kind of sprung on her unawares. She’s the first person I talked to who actually believed I was Ace. And I’m pretty sure that she ultimately decided she wanted no part of it. 

Cool Spots

I’ve had a few days to think about this. On Thanksgiving, Dr. Darrel Lloyd, one of my professors and mentors at Hastings College, passed away at the age of 85 (I hope that’s a lesson to all you youngsters about the dangers of smoking). My contemporaries at Hastings who had even a passing crack at the English Department knew Dr. Lloyd. If you didn’t take one of his classes, he did an annual Christmas reading which was one part hilarious and two parts bolt-you-to-your-seat. He was a brilliant man, and funny, and kind, and all of the other things I’ve been hearing.  

But the thing that he was to me, as I’m sure he was to a lot of people, that isn’t really coming across in all of the memorials I’m seeing, is that he was hands-down the coolest professor at Hastings College, possibly ever. I can name a lot of cool professors, including Dr. Lloyd’s son, also Dr. Lloyd, as well as the father of one of my dear friends, and they were pretty great. But as far as turtleneck-and-tweed-jacket-wearing, slow-motion-strutting, lecturing-anywhere-in-the-room-but-behind-the-podium, laid-back-quip-at-exactly-the-right-moment, deep-sexy-voice cool, no one could beat Darrell Lloyd. He couldn’t have been cooler if he was in a band. No one will ever be that cool again. 

I won’t be in Hastings on December 15 to celebrate his life and his passing, but my heart will be there. Darrel Lloyd will be there too, in the back, slouched down on his seat, taking it all in and being the coolest ghost in the Midwest. 

Vampire with a Soul

If you ask me, I will tell you that my favorite TV show is not Doctor Who, as you’d suspect, but Angel, the vampire detective show. It was on for five years, and between that and his three years as a major character in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I found the perfect, most personal depiction of my particular brand of bipolar disorder.

Vampires in the Buffy universe are evil because they have no soul. They’re varying degrees of evil, and that appears to be tied into how much personality they had when they were still alive. An intense, tragic poet like William maintains that humanity when he turns into Spike, but someone like Liam, who exists only to sleep and drink around, has no humanity when turns into Angelus. He’s sharp, charming, more powerful, and supremely confident, like me in a manic episode. He destroys everything, and he does it for fun, and he does that until he crashes, i.e. his soul is restored.

Now he’s a creature of pure guilt, and eventually he believes that his redemption is through a girl. This leads to disaster, as it should. Eventually, in his own show, he finds that his redemption for his manic behavior is found in simply doing the right thing. He’s told that he will be rewarded with his greatest wish if he continues to do the right thing. By the end of the show, he doesn’t do the right thing for a reward or redemption, but because it’s the right thing, a true sign of maturing.

When the first season came out, it was about finding oneself in an exciting, scary new city, trying to figure out who you are and how to do it, and it came out the same year I moved to New York in pursuit of a new life. Season 2 was about the perils of thinking you’re smarter than everybody, Season 3 was about found families and a little bit about addiction, Season 4 was a dumpster fire, and Season 5 was about growing up and selling out. Buffy was a show about being a teenager growing up, Angel was about being an adult growing up. Angel wasn’t as good as Buffy, and is overshadowed by its source material, but it was still pretty good.

And speaking of Buffy, where the first three seasons of Buffy made them an OTP and then spent the rest of the series trying to walk that back, Angel acknowledged how unhealthy it was. His first meeting with Buffy after he left that show was contentious—she resented him for leaving, and he really wanted to assert his independence from her. We later find out that Buffy was a rebound girl that he projected all of his guilt and uncertainty onto, that in his mind, his OTP was always someone else, and that this love forever thing they had was all from Buffy’s perspective (which doesn’t make her bad or silly, it just makes her a teenage girl). Basically, his relationship with love is confusing and sometimes ugly, and even when he finds the right person, it doesn’t work out.

Angel is grumpy and awkward. He lives with the constant fear that something is going to go terribly wrong. Love is something that never quite works out, and eventually he decides to eschew it altogether. And there is a side of him, a wicked destructive side, that’s always there, waiting for him to let his guard down. The worst part about this side is that it is the real him, as real as the goofy, brooding him. And that’s me in a nutshell.

All that, and I didn’t even get to Spike, the actual OTP of the show.