A Terrified Brunette Reaches Out Nevertheless, Part 1

The blonde had a history of seeing girls cry as a result of her involvement. She hadn’t made them cry deliberately, but her presence tended to be a catalyst. She tended to inspire the desire in some girls to make a dramatic course correction in life, so as to follow the blonde’s lead. She only appealed to girls for whom this change was indeed an envisioned improvement, but even so the journey alongside the blonde was never an easy one, even for those who found it deeply fulfilling.

Over the course of several decades, perhaps two dozen girls had acted on that desire. Most had found the new life path exhilarating and comforting in good times, but intimidating and overwhelming in bad times, which tended to be: early on. The blonde made a point of being logical yet comforting, when a protégé needed to talk, vent or cry.

Some girls had wanted to proceed but had felt too intimidated to do so. The blonde was there for each such girl too, never pressuring her but helping her work through the emotional and logical issues. For some, this tipped the scale, and they joined the blonde in a new life. For some, the temptation and draw could not overcome the resistance-to-change that she felt.

Regardless of the path taken, tears were an inevitable part of the journey. The blonde empathized yet saw tears as good checkpoints along the way, a sign that the girl was making progress, reconciling her new life to the pain in her past, and no longer bottling up her feelings. When a girl threw in her lot with the blonde, it felt to her as if she were joining a new sub-culture, a royal court of sorts in which she was one of a very few princesses, typically two or three at a time, cherished by a protective queen. That didn’t always mean living with the blonde. One girl had been involved for years, and loved to visit, but she lived thousands of miles away. Nevertheless, the supportive care of the blonde was like a shield that protected her as if her house were an embassy of the queen’s domain.

Some girls stayed for many years; some left soon. Staying — that involved some ground rules, but girls were welcome to stay or to go. Being with the blonde tended to change every girl’s life path dramatically, typically with the girl becoming much more self-aware, with the long-term benefits one might expect to result from that.

Break-ups were mutually painful, and things tended to get worse before they got better. Even so, after a cooling-off period, many of the girls who left became lifelong friends.

Upon hearing how non-symmetrical the dynamic was, between the queen and her protégés, sometimes a new prospect would announce that this would never work for her, and yet curiosity drew her ever closer until one day, she signed up. In most such cases, the draw of the primal girl-with-girl sexuality had tipped the scale. The romantic dynamics had much sexually-themed intensity, in large part inspired by the depths of emotional intimacy involved. Intense girls fitted in well.

One more girl was about to start her tearful journey. She had spent weeks on the very edge of making contact, craving a new life yet feeling vastly too intimidated to start. Even so, today would be the day she’d take action.

* * *

The blonde was having a leisurely morning. She had stepped away from her computer screen, and was sitting on a nearby sofa, trying to figure out a perplexing database restructuring puzzle for her automotive business. Her mind was precise and engaged; her posture was the opposite, informally relaxed.

Every few minutes, after she’d made some progress, she glanced up at her computer screen. Her incoming email display updated itself continually. An announcement appeared. It told her that someone had just sent her a direct message on Twitter. She recognized the name. The girl had never sent her a direct message before. The girl’s thoughts, as she’d made them available to the world via social media, intrigued the blonde — on the assumption she was reading between the lines correctly.

She knew that this was significant regardless of what was in the message. Life was about to become a lot more interesting yet. And so, a new chapter begins, the blonde thought.

She had done some military contracting work but had never been formally in the military. Even so, she liked the premise of taking life seriously. Her long, smooth legs swung down from the sofa. For a few seconds, she sat, pensively, with near-military precision to her proud posture. She stood up, and turned methodically to face the computer screen. She was enjoying being alive. For life to be dramatic, it didn’t need to involve pyrotechnics, or slaying space aliens or dragons. A simple direct message via Twitter could be mutually life-changing, for two girls.

She stood erect, her posture proud, like somebody would stand to receive a Medal of Honor or to face a court-martial. The two steps she took toward the computer were slow and deliberate, and blended perfectly with the precision of her posture.

She moved the computer mouse and clicked its button a few times. She read: “I have a question about something you wrote. Please send me your cell phone number.”

This approach didn’t surprise her. Twitter account logins were sometimes shared with others who claimed to help with social media. In such cases, privacy was by no means assured. The blonde typed a reply: “Feel free to text or call. My number is … ” and she typed the 10 digits, then sent the reply.

Several hundred miles away, a cell phone made a notification noise, next to a brunette girl of the same approximate age. She was also sitting on a sofa. Her posture was very different than that of the blonde. She sat hunched, her stress level sky-high. She felt terrified — and she also felt ridiculous and ashamed for being so scared. Feeling bad about how she was feeling – that was nothing new to her.

She was having a hard time breathing. Her hand trembling, she picked up her phone and tapped the screen a few times. A few seconds later, a cell phone rang, several hundred miles away. The blonde recognized the area code and figured it was the girl from Twitter. She tapped the “answer” button.

With a friendly smile in her voice, the blonde said: “Hi, this is Tanya. Hello, “ and then she said the brunette’s first name. The brunette froze. She held onto the phone tightly, close to her ear. She didn’t want to hang up but she couldn’t speak. A few long seconds went by. The brunette felt overwhelmed by emotion upon emotion.

The blonde guessed what was going on. Her soothing voice continued: “I’m guessing you’re not quite sure how to start the conversation, or you feel overwhelmed. That’s understandable. To me, the important thing is that you made contact. I love that. I suspect that, from here on, long-term, things will become easier for you.”

The brunette squeezed her eyes shut tightly, wishing she could will herself to say something, anything — and yet she simply couldn’t.

The blonde continued: “Perhaps your conclusions have reached critical mass, as to yourself, your life path as it is now, and how an alternate lifestyle might work for you. If I’m mistaken and you truly just want to ask a question about something I wrote, please hang up and call back — and then I’ll simply focus on your question. On the other hand, if my assumption about your life path is correct, stay on the line because we’ll agree that this means ‘yes.’”

The brunette was silent but she didn’t hang up. A few more seconds went by.

“Yay!” said the blonde cheerfully as if she’d heard a verbal “yes.” She continued: “I’m SO glad! I can understand how this is all so new and different for you, that it’s a terrifying proposition, wow. No wonder you’re feeling overwhelmed.”

The brunette was silent. She didn’t hang up. In this peculiar new conversational dynamic, staying on the line meant, “yes.” She felt peculiarly comforted by the blonde’s approach, and her words. The blonde somehow seemed to understand how the brunette was feeling. How this was possible puzzled the brunette. The blonde seemed fearless. For her to empathize, or sympathize, with someone who felt so intimidated … it seemed incongruous, to the brunette. And yet, the sincerity in the blonde had touched her. She started to cry, silently chastising herself for that because it meant that all hope had vanished, of her being able to say something. And yet, somehow, the blonde had structured things to where the brunette didn’t actually need to speak. She simply sat on the couch, crying — and making very sure she didn’t hang up.

“Coming to grips with all this is very hard and then actually doing something about it seems likely to be much, much harder yet, yes?”

Silence. Hence, “yes.”

“And yet, you’re in some ways SO ready for this. From your words, I conclude that this is what you’ve wanted for a while now. You’re motivated to proceed. You also feel overwhelmed. Those are two separate things and they do reconcile perfectly.”

Sitting in silence, tears clouding her vision of the room around her, the brunette felt shocked. She had always felt that this was a contradiction she couldn’t resolve. But, the blonde’s precision had been useful. Cognitively, the brunette was indeed ready to start a new life. At the same time, emotionally, she also indeed felt overwhelmed. These were indeed two different things. She had never needed to feel ridiculous about that. So, instead, she now felt ridiculous about having felt ridiculous. She noticed that immediately, and it made her cry more yet. How she could ever function in so intimidating a dynamic as she was craving, she could not even begin to envision.

“You can’t help how you feel,” the blonde comforted her. “Whatever you’re feeling, please just feel it — don’t fight it or resist it or deny it. You’ve probably kept so many feelings bottled up for so long. Starting now, it’s OK for you to feel however you feel.”

This hit the brunette hard. It was like a dam bursting. She started sobbing. She was holding the phone close to her ear so that the blonde wasn’t on speakerphone. She wanted to mute her phone so that the blonde could not hear her despair, but she couldn’t see her phone clearly through her tears, and she was terrified of hanging up by mistake. She pulled her feet up and hugged herself, her face on her thighs, sobbing.

* * *

Her husband walked by, on his way to the kitchen. He glanced dispassionately at the sad bundle on the couch, adorned with a dark mop of curly hair. He didn’t say anything. He was accustomed to his wife having a bad day.

He’d ceased caring long ago. Early on, her sadness had inspired him to want to “fix it” yet regardless of what he had tried, he’d always failed. Sometimes he’d managed to cheer her up or distract her, and such periods of time had been better than others, but sadness was the underlying theme of her life, as far as he knew.

She had assured him that he wasn’t the cause. She had been sad before meeting him, and she had been sad after meeting him. Even so, he’d tried. His every effort had failed. Even when she was coming across as positive, he’d always felt that she was willing herself to be positive, not naturally being positive. Sincerity was missing from her positive demeanor in a subtle way that he could never pinpoint.

His failure to help had exhausted his patience: eventually, he’d felt impatient with her. He’d initially tried to hide it but eventually he stopped trying to hide it. Finally, even his impatience had worn out. It had exhausted him to care about her, even if only in exasperation — while seeing her always being so sad, and with him knowing there was nothing he could do to fundamentally help.

He’d developed coping mechanisms to keep himself able to function in everyday life. They’d worked well, in large part by putting much emotional distance between them. The effect on her had been more devastating than he’d realized. She had valued his companionship and caring. With her husband having downgraded his role to a co-parent of their children, and a roommate, she felt alone and lonely even while married. To the outside world, they were accustomed to appearing to be a happy couple, and so this continued. Also, for her to be able to say “I’m married” to strangers who wooed her – she found it to be a useful and effective way of saying “I’m not interested.”

Indeed, they were mutually supportive; he was just not emotionally supportive. Intimacy had ceased. She used to think they were friends, until she realized that emotional support tends to be a defining characteristic of friendship, and hence her marriage didn’t qualify as a friendship. Even so, she’d stayed on. She didn’t have anywhere else to go, and besides she valued the stability. Uncertainty was something that terrified her.

Once, she’d made plans to leave him but they had petered out and there she still was, as if nothing had happened. He’d noticed her energy level rise and then fall again, and hadn’t paid too much attention to the reasons.

Her sobbing was a new thing, he observed. Mostly she cried quietly, he mused. He retrieved what he’d come to find, and then left the kitchen and walked placidly back into his study.

* * *

“I’m still here,” the blonde said. “I can also hear a very sad girl crying. I’m fine with waiting as long as it takes. I’m not going to say too much else because it might be hard for you to listen right now. I sympathize but it’s actually good that you’re being open with yourself and me, as to your sadness.”

Hearing this just made the brunette cry more intensely yet, as if the empathy was encouraging the sobs, as if she’d just received permission to really let go. Minutes went by.

“Good girl,” the blonde said gently. “We have all the time in the world.”

The first two words shocked the brunette. Part of her wanted to object but far stronger was her need to hold onto them and bathe in their comfort.

Finally, she felt more in control. She carefully opened some text messaging software, without hanging up.

“say that again,” she typed.

The blonde understood. “Good girl,” the blonde said, soothingly.

“i like that more than i can explain,” the brunette typed.

And so, the dialog continued, with the blonde speaking and the brunette typing.

“Since right now you need comforting, let it comfort you. Later you, or we, can analyze why,” the blonde said, reassuringly.

“my emotions are feeling more okay suddenly”

“I’m glad,” replied the blonde.

“emotions aside how is starting over not a huge mistake” the brunette typed. She liked the privacy of typing. She didn’t want to be overheard by her husband.

“It IS a huge mistake as to your career. As to its historical trend, it might well end it, but then again you might well continue your basic career, yet with a new twist.”

“oh god what will everyone say”

“Scary thought, yes?”

“Y”

“Would you have to fear violence from anyone in your life as such, aside maybe from random strangers?”

“no”

“Okay, good. That simplifies it. Let’s do some play-acting. Imagine the scariest person in your life has heard that you’re starting a new life with a new direction. The person can’t fault your logic but pours on the emotional pressure on the premise of ‘what will everyone say?’ … imagine you’re standing there under this barrage of pressure and insults, calmly, but I’m standing next to you, also calmly, holding your hand.”

“oh god and wow would you?”

“Yes. Imagine you’re standing there calmly, listening and understanding where the other person is coming from, but not budging assuming you’re not hearing any logical arguments that are changing your mind.”

“wow”

“So, really spend a minute thinking yourself into that as-bad-as-it-gets situation.”

Silence for twenty seconds.

“weird”

“That wasn’t a minute yet,” the blonde cautioned.

“i dont need a minute to realize its not so scary”

“So that was the scariest person being as scary as you can imagine and even so you were OK with it?”

“y but you were there”

“How did that help?”

“without you i wouldnt know what to say”

“What DID you say, imagining this scene?”

“nothing”

“And you didn’t really need to say anything, right?  Your life, your decisions.  They affect others but it’s still your life to lead.  If you want to categorically protect everyone from any impact of you pursuing your own happiness, then you do nothing so you always lose out, yes?”

“wow.”

The blonde waited.

“i never saw it like that but youre right”

“As to your pursuit of your happiness being OK even if it affects others negatively?”

“i guess but there has to be balance”

“Yes. Doing things so as to be hurtful is not OK.”

“agree”

“Being unreasonable is not OK.”

“agree”

“Violating someone else’s rights is not OK.”

“agree”

“So if what you’re doing is logical, within your rights and not mean-spirited, what else affects where you draw the line?”

“dunno”

“Is any one of your children gay?”

“not that I know”

“If that were the case but your child lived a forced, sad life pretending to be straight so as to not hurt others’ feelings, would you like that?”

“god no!!!!”

“What if someone else’s feelings really would be deeply hurt?”

“even then!!”

“I think you’ve just established a principle, yes?”

A pause. Then: “yes”

“So are there any specific reasons why you should be the exception when applying the principle? I know you’re used to denying yourself, specifically, and if there is a reason, let’s find it and honor it. If we can’t find one, maybe there isn’t one and the principle applies without exception, to you too, so you get to pursue your happiness even if that hurts someone else’s feelings.”

There was a long pause.

“thinking”

Another long pause.

“still thinking”

Another pause.

“cant think of a reason to make an exception”

“So, until and unless we find one, we can assume the principle applies to you too. You pursuing rationally justifiable values … if that creates discomfort for others then that’s for them to worry about and manage, not you. Yes?”

“wow”

“A zero-impact-on-others policy puts your happiness last so that others might be content but then you’re miserable.”

A long silence. Then “y” appeared as the typed reply.

“So emotions aside, let’s analyze some of the logic,” the blonde suggested.

“k”

“You deeply value emotional intimacy in a romantic context, yes?”

“y”

“Do you have any?”

“n”

“You also deeply value sexual intimacy in a romantic context, true?”

“yes…”

“Do you have any?”

A long pause.

“no comment”

“You don’t have to answer but would it help you more to be totally open, here?”

“yes….”

“So as to my question, don’t answer it to me but answer it for yourself.”

“k”

“To move things in your life around carefully so as to get some, or some more, emotional and sexual intimacy back into your current life path, you’ve tried that already, yes?” the blonde asked, gently.

“y!!!!!”

“Diligently, and so much that you’re now beyond hope?

“y….”

“So, one option is that you simply go without for the rest of your life. Can you accept that?”

“no!!!”

“Good girl. That means the only remaining options are to either passively await better days or to enact a cause so you get what you crave, yes?”

“y…”

“How OK are you with waiting to see if somehow things get better for you without you doing anything about it?”

“not”

“So the only remaining option is you doing something to enact the cause, so that the effect is you experiencing more emotional and sexual intimacy again, yes?”

“Yes!” said a mellifluous voice over the phone, emphatically.

That startled the blonde. “It’s nice to hear your voice.”

“its nicer yet in person” typed the brunette.

“I can hardly wait,” smiled the blonde. “Okay, so let’s say finding someone new has been justified. You have much- more-socially-acceptable options than to choose a girl. Would you choose a guy?”

The brunette went back to typing:  “n!”

“Why not?”

“i crave girl dynamics”

“Well, that settles that, then.”

“Yes!” said the lovely voice of the brunette again, over the phone.

The blonde smiled and said, “fortunately, you have more than a billion age-appropriate adult women to choose from, on the planet.”

The brunette’s reply was definitely not something she was ready to verbalize. She typed it instead … but didn’t send it yet. She waited for many long seconds. She made a face as if she were bracing for a physical impact. Then, she sent the message. She took a deep breath, realizing she’d stopped breathing a while ago.

The blonde smiled when she read: “i already chose one”

“Yes?”

“yes” read the display

“Who’s the lucky girl?”

A long silence ensued. The blonde was on pins and needles. Several seconds went by. Still, no reply from the brunette. After waiting for perhaps ten seconds, the blonde decided to count the seconds as they went by, to keep herself calm. By now she was tense too. Regardless of its content, the brunette’s reply would shape the future for both of them, and the blonde had strong hopes for one particular path. After she counted off another twenty seconds … “i like u” the display announced.

The blonde smiled happily and exclaimed: “Yay!!! Wow, I’m beyond delighted!!”

“yay!!” read the display.

“I am SOOOO happy!!” the blonde exclaimed, literally twirling around. Then, a pause, and on a somber note, she added: “I doubt I have any hope of being acceptable in your social circles.”

“dont care about that any more”

“Well, you already having chosen, that does simplify things wonderfully.”

“Yes!” said the complex, pretty voice of the brunette, over the phone.

“Great, wow,” said the blonde, trying to keep up, and added: “I assume you should not just vanish to start your new life, with me in it. I’m not saying you should call a press conference or hire a sky-writing airplane, but at least a few people should be told. ”

“help me write up an announcement”

“That’s a good approach. It has worked for me in difficult situations.. In a letter, I’d write up what I wanted to say, then I hand-delivered it, and I stood there while the other person read it. I invited any questions, comments or concerns. Whatever they said, I made sure I understood by feeding it back to them with as much empathy as I could. As to questions, if they were trivial, I’d answer them right away, and if they were complex then I wrote them down and told the person I planned to go think on the reply.  It worked well, for me.”

“Wow,” said the voice over the phone.

“Are you OK with doing that?”

“y but will you be next to me?” showed the display.

“Sure,” smiled the blonde.

“maybe not with every person I speak with”

“As much or as little as you need.”

“Wow,” said the voice over the phone again, this time sounding relieved, almost smiling.

“when can u be here” displayed the screen.

“There’s a flight landing at 630 pm and then I could rent a car ….”

“tonite?!!!”

“Yes.”

“Wow,” said the voice over the phone again, this time sounding almost happy but still very tense.

“ill come get you at the airport” read the next message she sent.

“Thank you! I should be at the curb at 645 pm or so. That still gives me time to write a first draft of your letter to get you started.”

“youre walking into a hornets nest”

“Arguably, we are walking into it hand in hand, together.”

“romantic”

“Yes, it is,” smiled the blonde.

“im not ready to announce this yet. i have many qs for U”

“That’s fine. We can find a quiet place to talk as long as you like.  All night if you like, plus the next day and so on.”

“work?”

“I’m the boss lady so I make my own schedule,” the blonde explained.

“where will U stay”

“I’ve just booked a place that I’m guessing is nearby,” the blonde explained. “I’ve booked the flight, too.”

“Thank you,” the lovely voice said.

“You’re welcome.  How would you like to be contacted when I’m done with the letter?”

“text me”

“Okay. When’s the last time you had a nice, relaxing bath?”

“why”

“I like the idea of you luxuriating while I write.”

“lux say that again”

“Luxuriating,” the blonde smiled.

“like your voice” the display announced.

“Thank you. It’s mutual. You’re a brave girl.”

“not”

“Were you scared to contact me?”

“y!!!!!!!!!!!”

“But you did so anyway. That’s bravery: being scared and still proceeding. So, brave girl.”

“dont feel brave”

“It makes sense though, yes?”

“y………………”

“Okay. So, brave girl, you — even though you don’t feel brave.”

“ty”

“I appreciate your trust,” smiled the blonde.

“y wow”

“Anything else before I go write?”

“y dont break the connection”

“I can keep you on the phone while I write. Would you like that?”

“Yes!” said the voice over the phone.

“and until youre on the plane keep talking to me” added the display.

“I understand,” smiled the blonde.

“i feel ridiculous”

“That’s understandable too. This is atypical behavior — but I love it.”

“ur encouraging my freakish behavior”

“Yes, I am. You have a huge backlog of being encouraged to like what comes naturally to you.”

“ill ask you about that later. k please write”

“Okay. If I’m too quiet, prompt me. I’ll try to think out loud….  So, let’s identify what we’d like the the letter to have accomplished after it has served its purpose, so that we can enact the causes to get us there.  We begin with the end in mind, so to speak.”

“ur so logical”

“Thank you. I strive to be. ”

“i feel safe with you on my side”

“I’m glad. That’s my job, sort of, to give you just cause to feel safe.”

The letter was written. The brunette helped shape it.  She loved it as it was taking shape, and when it was done.

“decl of independence”

“Yes it is, isn’t it?” the blonde smiled.

“Thank you,” said the lovely voice.

“How many copies should I print?” the blonde asked.

“i just wanna email it and then run and hide”

“If someone isn’t viably nearby, emailing is OK but then I would recommend you send it while that person is on the phone with you, expecting it and reading it while you are on the phone.”

“scared”

“I understand.”

“print a dozen”

“Please tell me the people who, you think, should get told?”

The brunette identified seven people. The blonde suggested two more.

“oh yes ty”

“Okay, good.”

“ill take a bath while ur in the air” showed the display.

“Good girl. Welcome to your new life.”

“Yes!!!” said the lovely voice. A few seconds went by. Then:

“why wont I just be miserable with u too” read the display.

“I’m going to teach you to like yourself,” the blonde explained.

“impossible” the brunette wrote.

At length, the blonde explained her reasoning. To the brunette’s surprise, the blonde offered a logically consistent set of arguments that the brunette could not fault.

“i can’t fault your logic but it feels wrong”

“That’s understandable. Emotions lag behind cognition, in the time-line.”  The blonde wanted to elaborate but realized she had better get going.  “I should start getting ready for the airport,” the blonde said.

“awww :(” said the display.

“I’ll keep the phone connection going but I’m going to hop into the shower and then be right back, okay? As in I’m just putting the phone down, not hanging up.”

“k I feel ridiculous again”

” By typical standards we ARE being ridiculous. But we’re feeling very close to each other so we don’t want to break the connection.”

“y dont break it ever”

“We’re emotionally intimate so we wanna stay as connected as possible. Logical.”

“other girls?”

“In my life currently, romantically? One.”

“tell me about her”

The blonde did, decided it’d be a good use of five minutes.

“i like her”

The blonde explained how, perhaps ten years ago, two of her girlfriends at the time had become close friends, having — in one case — a seven-hour long phone conversation across state lines.

“Wow,” said the lovely voice, and added: “I can see that, now.”

“They did pass the same selection criteria, so it makes sense they’d have a lot in common.”

“so i was selected after i passed your criteria”

“Yes. I tried to be logical about it, and I succeeded, even though I also felt a strong attraction to you emotionally.”

“opposites attract? u and i are so different”

“Fundamentally, we’re not — but that will take a long time for me to explain.”

“looking fwd to it”

The blonde said “Good girl,” and then announced she was going to go shower.

“wait”

“Yes?”

“do U tell the other girl good girl too?”

“Yes, I do.”

“k go shower”

“Okay. Five minutes. Bathroom break time for you too, I’d imagine.”

“wow y I forgot”

“Intense concentration, wasn’t it?”

“y”

“Okay, here I go shower.”

“wait”

“Yes?”

“post a picture of you after the shower holding a sign with good girl and todays date”

The blonde smiled. “Okay.”

Things worked out better than the two girls had planned. Three hours later, the blonde was airborne, and the brunette lay happily in her bathtub, wiggling her toes above the waterline and feeling, in several ways, as she’d felt when she was a teenager — full of hope for an exciting life ahead.

More: Part 2

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Happy Endings

A brilliant friend of mine, perhaps the most successful-by-my-standards person whom I personally know, keeps inspiring me to think more yet about life; with the events of today being another example. He’s written his first novel and asked me to proofread it and provide feedback. I did so, and over the course of two weeks, I enjoyed everything but the ending.

It’s a complex detective story in which the heroine ends up trying to solve a very difficult case that has deep personal significance for her. and she is also in personal danger as a result.  The novel ends abruptly as she loses heart and gives up when, by my standards, I would like to think I would have kept going. As a reader, I could also think of half a dozen other avenues to still pursue.

In the last scene, she is in a dangerous situation that could play out in several possible ways — and that’s the end of the book.

Personally, I don’t like the ending — in fact, I deeply dislike it — but I found it difficult to articulate why, and to explain myself to my friend, and to package this nicely.

An interesting-to-me email exchange ensued. I don’t have his okay to quote his half of the discussion nor can I really do it justice but it became firmly established that he hadn’t run out of ideas or energy; he’d chosen specifically that ending. He likes that sort of ambiguity without a happy ending, and his gentle reminder to me was that life is often like that.

“What do I say to that?” was what I’ve been pondering this morning, interwoven with the other typical get-up-and-go elements of my peculiar life, such as dealing with custom software  issues, classic car automatic transmission issues and my morning coffee.

It was important to me how to reply, but it was more important to me to understand the issues. I finally do understand them well enough to write this essay.

As for the book,  I think the most important thing is for the book to have integrity. “Relative to what?” might be the question. On a personal level, most importantly, for what the author likes. He worked hard on this and if this is the sort of ending that makes him like his own book, then as his friend, that’s really what matters to me.  On that premise, I wouldn’t change a thing.

He’s not a commercial author trying to make it in the world. He’s simply aiming for a high-quality product (hence I could add value in proofreading) but not popularity — or he’d have chosen a fundamentally different approach to the ending. He is well aware of the general reaction to it from other proofreaders too; there’s been a generally strong and negative reaction to the ending. Some folks then ponder the issue some more, and end up liking the ending more, and saying so.

That for once my reaction is the same as that of the general populace is a rare thing for me, but I still needed to understand why I feel this way.  Not that every feeling needs to be explained.  For example, if someone I care for is sad, I consider it inappropriate to ask “why?” as if she’s supposed to know. Perhaps one day she can, perhaps with my involvement, figure out why, but that’s down the road. Step one is to validate how she feels and to comfort her.

Even so, for me, today, I wanted to explore this feeling of mine.  Here’s what I came up with: There’s a lot to the concept of why happy endings are so common in US fiction even though they don’t happen in real life nearly as often.  It’s precisely because life is like that sometimes that I, and people with my mindset, choose to read fiction with happy endings. I need that sort of emotional fuel to keep me inspired in a world where happy endings are too rare, but possible. I choose a happy ending for my own life story, day by day. I insist on struggling toward that end. Anything that helps me is useful and welcome; reminders of how I can fail are not. They’re all over my life already. I don’t need reminders of how I can fail. I need reminders of how I can succeed. That adds value, for me. For me, reading a novel or watching a movie or viewing visual art is like putting gasoline in the fuel tank of my car. My favorite author wrote “Joy is one’s fuel” and that sums it up for me.

I was raised in German culture, which predominantly includes exactly the fundamental approach to art that I avoid. A typical German movie that I recall from my youth is where some mildly interesting things happen and then there’s no resolution or happy ending. I disliked such movies so much that I stopped watching them. Then my German great-uncle gave me a book on Schopenhauer and that made me dislike the philosophical idea set fundamental to that sort of movie.  Then I read “The Ominous Parallels” by Leonard Peikoff.  He explained the fundamentally German philosophical layer-cake better than I’ve ever heard any German explain it.  He did so with from the perspective of an insightful outsider; he’s not German but was raised in a Russian-Jewish culture, a culture (based on the personal examples I know of) that I understand to personify the struggle toward happy endings. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that my favorite author, the one who wrote “Joy is one’s fuel” was also raised in Russian-Jewish culture.

Striving for happy endings is the exact opposite of stereotypical German culture.  Dr. Peikoff’s explanation helped me understand fundamental German philosophy much more yet and to dislike it more deeply.

Perhaps that’s why my favorite German subculture is Bavarian, which is about as atypical as it’s possible for a German subculture to be. Bavaria was, until not too long ago, a separate country, at the extreme southern end of the Germanic nation-states that eventually united to become Germany. Bavarians are generally a candid, direct, cheerful, rowdy bunch, beer mugs in hand and really every day is Oktoberfest. It even shows in the cars they design and build. For example, BMW (Bavarian Motor Works, based in Munich, the capital of Bavaria and with its blue-and-white-squares emblem representing the Bavarian blue-and-white-squares flag) was in WW2 about as anti-Nazi as a large private company dared to be, and their postwar subculture and their products embodied a sort of joyous engineering rebellion.

Much of Audi culture is centered in Ingolstadt, also in Bavaria, and Audi culture radiates “let’s have fun with this stuff” more than any other large automobile company I know. Perhaps that’s why I like BMW and Audi products so much.

 

The Rewarding Life of a Requirements Engineer

Being a software requirements engineer pays well but the work is also very rewarding emotionally, for me anyway. I’m starting a new project that required me to dig into my memory banks to reference a project I did several years ago. The sequence of events don’t cast a glowing light on certain high-up folks in the US government at the time so I’m intentionally keeping the specifics out of the story.

* * *

I was the senior on-site requirements engineer on a new project where the work involved making software for several stakeholders, including somebody in charge of the sort of mission-critical facility inside of which a mistake could cause a midair collision between aircraft.

I made an appointment, and then at the arranged time, I approached the gentleman in charge of the facility. I introduced myself and explained that I was here to work with him, as his schedule permitted, so as to learn his requirements – so that it would be more likely that whatever software my team and I built, would improve his situation as a result.

He was very much a type “A” personality, as might perhaps be expected in this kind of context. He looked at me quizzically and didn’t say much in response, but instead told me to follow him. I did, until we reached a room where some radios were lying in a pile. He pointed to them, and explained that he had been told by someone high up in the government that these would be the new radios that his team was to start using. On this subject, his requirements were never asked for, prior to this mandate.

The gentleman next explained to me that the radios didn’t work in the relevant context. He emphasized that it wasn’t a situation where he disliked them so much that “they don’t work” was a figure of speech. They literally did not work at all in the relevant context, yet he had been mandated to start using them.

So, he continued, in the context of this sort of thing happening, here I showed up and asked for his requirements so that I could try to make sure that whatever software solutions get developed, his requirements would be understood and integrated, yes?

Well, yes, I replied, feeling awkward, but sensing that much gratitude and appreciation were being conveyed. Indeed, that was the case. This gentleman became a strong proponent of the project, and helped its success along enthusiastically.

 

Pensively Watching the 1987 Movie, “The Allnighter,” Again — Part 2

For Part 1, see here.

Since last November I have watched this movie again, as part of pondering the subject of cerebral shy girls some more.

Overthinking it

By typical standards, I’m overthinking this movie. “Overthinking” is an accusation typically leveled at cerebral shy girls. We soon learn to bring this up in self-deprecating conversation as a matter of course. For example, a cerebral shy girl might say “I need to go and overthink it” instead of “I need to go and think about it.” We tend to use the standards of typical people when evaluating ourselves, and by such standards, we’re a neurotic and incomprehensible mess, and so then am I, for my analysis of this movie.

As a final comment on this subject, it’s supremely ironic that, in the movie, the cerebral shy girl is accused of thinking too much, by a character who cannot by any stretch of the imagination be similarly accused.

If it’s unfathomable to you that I’m focusing my neurons in this way, you might as well stop reading now because it’s only going to get worse from here on.

Also, I’m clear that social media is supposed to follow the “keep it light” principle and I’m knowingly violating it, since this is a serious-for-me subject.

Cerebral Shy Girl — The Concept

In this essay, I’m assuming that the main character is being portrayed as a cerebral shy girl.

That’s a phrase I coined, based on my own observations of a particular mindset pattern, and its derivative attributes. The phrase is not used anywhere in the movie.

A rose by any other name is still a rose, and so regardless of whether these attributes are named in the movie or not, they are nicely consistent with the archetypical cerebral shy girl, as I understand the concept.

For a more explicit description of the concept, please see this article. I wrote it last July, and since then I’ve learned more about the subject, little of which has been retrofitted to the article — but it still makes the basic points that I’d intended, and it was nevertheless a big step forward in trying to understand this phenomenon.

Cerebral Shy Girl Saves The Day

The movie makes the point that even though the cerebral shy girl is the class valedictorian, and is responsible, and overthinks things by typical standards … her intelligence is practical and useful.

Even though she is not taken all that seriously, she proves that underestimating her is a mistake, and her intelligence saves the day in a nicely-portrayed cerebral-shy-girl way.

Cerebral-Shy-Girl Sexuality

Presumably, if the cerebral-shy-girl character in the movie had the stereotypical hot-girl look, then the guy on whom she has a crush would have ended up in bed with her long ago because, as I understand his character, he isn’t drawn to her because of her physique. That’s essential to the plot.

To underscore the point, the movie has a beach scene in which the cerebral shy girl emphasizes that her physique doesn’t fit the stereotypical standards for swimsuit models, and when she stuffs cotton balls into her bikini top, the guys call it an improvement, which establishes that premise of the plot.

The cerebral shy girl is sexually adventurous, albeit in an atypical way. I love that the movie destroys the stereotype that being a cerebral shy girl means being a prude.

The movie was made during a time when concern for AIDS triggered much general appeal to knee-jerk conservative negativity as to sexuality, and it occurring during the Reagan presidency made (I gather) the public overly critical of the movie’s cheerful portrayal of adventurous sexuality.

Personally, I think the movie’s portrayal of cerebral-shy-girl sexuality is delightful and accurate, including how the girl is sexually intense but would prefer someone else to take the initiative. When she tries to do so, it’s awkward and difficult for her.

As an analogy, I’ll mention another movie made in the same general time-frame: Top Gun. It features the F-14 supersonic fighter plane. Even by current standards, this airplane is exceptionally fast — yet it doesn’t have a starter such as even small, comparatively lame, two-seater civilian airplanes have. The F-14 engines must be started externally (with compressed air, not that the method is important to the analogy).

I think that the F-14 is a good analogy for cerebral-shy-girl sexuality, including as portrayed in the movie. The girl is sexually enthused but she requires someone to create the opportunity for her to flourish as such. Because she’s misunderstood and underestimated, this doesn’t happen as often as she would like, and she’s sexually frustrated.

In my experience, the movie is accurate as such. I am a cerebral shy girl, and I’m categorically attracted to cerebral shy girls. My high school girl crush was a cerebral shy girl. My first adult romance was with another cerebral shy girl. With hardly any exceptions, every romance since then has also been with another cerebral shy girl.

Based on my personal experience and my love life over the last thousand years, I’d describe cerebral-shy-girl sexuality as follows:

If someone else is willing to initiate things, cerebral-shy-girl sexuality will activate like floodgates bursting, and whoever had taken the initiative gets to be rewarded with (by typical standards) shockingly intense sexuality that’s nevertheless celebrated in a logical and responsible way. After a wild night with a cerebral shy girl, the only consequence is likely to be happy memories — no need to go to the clinic and request a heavy dose of penicillin; no need to worry about pregnancy test kits; no need to worry about having gotten hooked on some peculiar new addictive chemical.

As to addictive chemicals, a cerebral shy girl can rock your world sexually while she is stone cold sober.

On the subject of chemicals, then if nobody else is exercising the initiative, a cerebral shy girl might require several glasses of wine before she’d feel comfortable doing anything that even remotely exercises the initiative.

One anecdote I enjoyed reading about, and which makes the point nicely, is about a cerebral shy girl who was at work, when someone interested in her had come to visit her. He was waiting for her to finish working, but he was evidently also shy. To a co-worker, the cerebral shy girl said words to the effect of: “See that guy over there? If I weren’t so shy, we’d be making out on that couch over there.”

Since I now have figured out that somebody had better take the initiative, I tend to make a point of doing so when I am in an emotionally intimate dynamic with another cerebral shy girl. Sexually, we’re delightful. Being with a cerebral shy girl makes it difficult to be deeply enthused to be in a romance with any other type of person ever again — an observation I’ve made as to myself and as to other cerebral shy girls.

In the movie, the clueless guy is at least smart enough to finally realize the value of the girl. He exercises some initiative and she responds with enthusiasm. I consider this to be nicely accurate as to cerebral-shy-girl sexuality.

Sadly, as the years go by, it’s a rare cerebral shy girl who isn’t severely hurt more and more, by being judged by typical standards and by being highly sensitive. Early on in the movie, it’s clear that this process has already begun for the cerebral shy girl, as she describes her concerns about her own thoughts.

Nowadays, I understand that cerebral-shy-girl thinking is fundamentally better than typical-person thinking. It’s a mutually pleasant process to see the effect that a conversation on that subject can have on another cerebral shy girl when she comes to understand that she’s never been the problem; the problem is the size of the chasm between her and typical people.

During the time when I thought there was something seriously messed-up with my own thinking, I was very hard on myself, and my confidence and enthusiasm for life sank ever lower. I often felt utterly overwhelmed with life. This state of mind, of being negative about her own fundamental thinking patterns … it can be an ongoing situation for cerebral shy girls. It wears us down.

We get depressed, we feel overwhelmed, and whereas in young adulthood we had the sort of sexual enthusiasm as portrayed in the movie, a few years later we might well consider ourselves starkly unattractive physically and mentally.

We don’t feel we deserve the emotionally intimate openness that we crave. We feel we’re doing a favor to those we love if we quarantine ourselves by withdrawing emotionally. We essentially sabotage our own romantic relationships.

That’s how we can feel lonely even while we’re in a marriage or a romantic relationship. Too often, it’s a dead relationship as to the romantic aspect and by now it’s at best a friendship and mutually supportive structure; the emotionally intimate openness that’s essential to romance is missing — because we destroyed it.

To remain alive, we use coping mechanisms.  For many of us, eating issues become a coping mechanism. As for me, I gradually became overweight. For some of my cerebral shy girl friends, the opposite was true, to the point where part of the problem being faced was diagnosed anorexia, or undiagnosed but likely anorexia and/or bulemia.

After enough time has gone by in this mode, we feel unlovable and undesirable though we still secretly crave emotionally intimate openness and its sexual expression; we just can’t imagine anyone wanting to see our naked bodies or our innermost selves, so we hide them as our contribution to a better world.

Happily, the movie paints a picture of a cerebral shy girl unscarred by such pain.

If by now this essay is thoroughly depressing as to the typical long-term plight of cerebral shy girls, I hasten to add that the process is spectacularly reversible when we find someone like-minded whom we trust enough to open up to, and experience the joy of being valued for who we really are.

This does wonders psychologically, and it’s better yet when the two girls build each other up by having our own little subculture where it’s “us against the world” – so different from a cerebral shy girl who is lonely.

Cerebral Shy Girl Looking Pensive

Anyway, back to the movie: insightfully portrayed was the bedroom scene near the end thereof, where the cerebral shy girl was looking pensive. That is descriptive and accurate as to how we tend to be, in bed.

Our brains are going 1,000 miles an hour much of the time anyway, pondering the events, contrasting them and reconciling them with past events, extrapolating future possibilities, doing what-if analyses.

We don’t just deal with events at a simple level but we also have another simultaneous focus as to how we feel about things. As our life story is rarely a happy one, and as our true selves we’re often social misfits (even though our public personas are spectacularly charming), we often feel negative (e.g., ridiculous or naive) about events.

We’re typically told to disparage that second-layer thinking pattern as being neurotic, and since by then the second layer is indeed negative, we might well buy into that argument.

Even so, we can’t change how our brains work, so this second layer of processing is still there whether we like it or not, but its effect bothers us, leading to a third layer in which we feel sad and guilty about how we feel.

The best definition of logic I’ve read is: it’s the art of non-contradictory integration. Cerebral shy girls are the ultimate logical beings in the sense that our brains are always filing information where it fits correctly. We are orderly and methodical, and we can be walking encyclopedias with the capacity to store and retrieve vast amounts of detail on subjects in which we’re interested. If the information involves intense sexuality, it’s nevertheless information and it still gets processed accordingly. That’s why I think it’s so well-portrayed that the cerebral shy girl is so pensive at the end of the bedroom scene in the movie.

I have never corresponded with the director of this movie, but I was intrigued by her work on this movie, so I also bought and watched her other full-length movies.

Stony Island has a highly abbreviated version of the same theme as a minor subplot, wherein the cerebral shy girl adds value and ends up where she wants to be: in bed with someone she likes.

The director’s “Pound of Flesh” movie is exceptionally insightful and open-minded as to sexuality.

In the AllNighter movie, the director combines her insight into human sexuality with her insight into the cerebral-shy-girl mindset, and she paints a very precise picture as a result.

Typical people watching this movie can, I imagine, at best appreciate it superficially. However, for cerebral shy girls, this movie can be intriguing and informative. It’s nice that at least one movie director on the planet understands us.

The Tree, Part 2

The day after she’d walked past the dead tree that had inspired such stark thoughts, she was sitting at a sidewalk café when she was approached by a professional matchmaker. The lady offered her a business card, and explained that her particular look and style would have a strong appeal to many of the male clients.

Without hesitation or feeling even the least bit tempted, she declined and added that she was married and had been for a long time. The matchmaker graciously accepted her verdict and left. She sat there, musing about how the matchmaker would have reacted upon learning her age. She had already felt old when she was less than half the age she was currently. She felt that her age, in and of itself, disqualified her from consideration as a legitimate candidate in the lonely-hearts department — not that she was interested, but even if she had been, she felt too old, by far.

She felt vaguely cheated, as if she had skipped from the constrained life of a young adult to the constrained life of a wife and mother, without the central high point in between, in which she could celebrate her own independence and the wonder of her being; the years in which to figure herself out and to discover her own capacity for joy, and to come to understand, accept and like herself as a person.

She had too youthful a spirit to accept that her best days were behind her –- yet she couldn’t envision how, if the events of her life continued to unfold as they were likely to do, her future would look all that cheerful. She had much to be grateful for — but even so, it nevertheless felt to her that a large chunk of her life was missing — something central, and important, right in the center of the time-line. She couldn’t articulate it any more precisely than that.

She had tried so hard to shape events to where the missing peak central to her expectations would appear for her to experience. Yet, the sequence of events had somehow always gone off the rails even though she seemed to have things aligned well, at the time.

There was also the problem of how she felt, and how she felt about how she felt, and how in turn she felt about that. She wished she could restart her brain wiring in the same way as a computer restarted afresh. The new, improved version of her would be able to feel things without any concern about how she was feeling. She would be able to simply experience things, without second-guessing how she was experiencing them. She sighed. How simple and wonderful that would be.

She had also tried so hard to shape how she felt, to be more simple-minded. Yet, her mind was too complex to be controlled and simplified as such. Even when events were happy it was hard to think about them simply and happily. Even routine events were sometimes hard for her to deal with. She had done so much in life; she hated feeling disempowered.

Those two aspects seemed somehow related. She sat there, imagining a magic lamp she could rub so that a genie would transport her … well, no. She had responsibilities. She sighed. She couldn’t leave her professional, social and family duties. Attending to them was a choice, but exercising the choice resulted in her feeling captive, with every passing day being one more day added to the category of “not thriving.”

She rubbed a porcelain object on the table and closed her eyes, imagining that she could be cloned. The clone would stay behind and live her old life, and the real her could go and … and what? She sighed. She frowned and thought hard. She would go away to where nobody recognized her, and she’d start a new life with a new name. She’d somehow … wait, she had a magic lamp, so she could have three wishes. So, her second wish would be to have the missing central chunk of joyous activity — whatever that ended up being — appear, so that she could have a lovely time. Her third wish would be to have the ability to simply enjoy things. The second and third wishes would combine to give her the opportunity to be happy and the ability to be happy. She smiled longingly.

Did she even need to go away, to experience this? She tried to imagine bringing about these two changes in her current social context. She had already tried to change things to make them happier, and she was exhausted from trying and failing. So, yes, leaving would be essential – though she’d miss those she loved and it’d be important to her to come back now and then. How often? In the beginning, every week or so, perhaps for an entire day or two.

She started to feel excited about her fantasy. It was peculiarly consistent, internally. It had an odd tinge of realism: it enabled a credible suspension of disbelief.

The problem was that she couldn’t actually clone herself. There had to be someone there, her fantasy clone, to live her old life and perform her old life’s duties. For example, she had professional obligations … or did she? She critically thought about that. Did they imply she was tied to a workplace from eight to five, every weekday? Actually, no. If she prepared things a little, probably she could be absent for four of five days. She was also a mom, but her boys had reached the age where she really could be … she realized with a shock … absent for several days on end, and they’d be fine. Wow, this might actually work without a clone. But, she was also a wife.

She was married — as she’d told the matchmaker. Being able to say, “I’m married” had come in very handy over the years. It was a way of saying that she wasn’t interested in an advance, yet it conveyed this in a way such that reasonable people would not take offense. It made for a useful shield against unwanted advances.

This train of thought reminded her of the tree she had walked past the day before. The tree had shielded her from something unwelcome, just as being able to say “I’m married” had today shielded her from something unwelcome. She thought of the other positive traits the tree provided. The tree could support her. Similarly, her marriage also provided support. There was another analogy, too: the tree was providing safety and structure to a nest of birds, thus was fostering the life of a new generation. So did her marriage. She smiled at how much the two entities, the tree and her marriage, had in common. She realized that this had been the mental connection she’d tried, and failed, to make the day before.

As to her marriage, could she tell her husband she was leaving for purely personal reasons, with no self-imposed restrictions as hurdles to her quest for happiness and inner peace? Could she simply leave and not be accountable to anyone as to where she went or what she did?

That didn’t seem to be a prudent approach, from one spouse to another. Even if she had one more magical wish whereby her husband would tell her “go, be happy, find peace; I’m cheering you on” … it would be very hard to explain to others who might be aware of her absence. She sighed. She felt as if she were held captive.

She realized that she’d feel guilty about leaving. Guilt was the most effective way of imprisonment. A prisoner who felt guilty wouldn’t need to be locked up; she’d choose to remain where she thought she deserved to be, instead of a happier place. As she pondered all this, she felt herself becoming ever more glum.

She thought back at the shadows of the tree she saw the day before, and her thoughts about how the shadows had hinted at a structure holding her captive.

At first, when she’d realized the parallels between the tree and a marriage, she’d had a fleeting thought that perhaps her marriage was keeping her captive, preventing her from pursuing her quest for deep personal happiness and peace. Now, she realized that it wasn’t her marriage – it was guilt. Her life was ticking away one precious second at a time, and yet she wasn’t proceeding on her quest for optimized happiness and peace. She felt guilty about that, about wasting time. And yet, the reason she wasn’t proceeding was also due to guilt.

She realized this with a shock. It was like participating in a coin-flip contest: heads or tails, she lost either way. She realized that, in her multi-tiered feelings, the second layer was almost always guilt. Guilt had been her prison, all along, all these years. Regardless of what she did, guilt was a near-constant presence.

She’d read an article about how some people felt diminished emotional responses. By contrast, she tended to experience too much emotion, overwhelmingly so. She was emotionally intense. If she experienced an emotion, she’d experience it intensely. So, when she experienced guilt, she experienced it intensely. She sat up straight as she realized the implications of this train of thought. Wow, this was all making sense.

She couldn’t rewire her head to feel less emotion. Nor did she need to, if the emotions could be positive. In such a situation, she would love to feel them intensely. She considered herself long overdue as to a helping of happiness so intense that it’d make her giddy with joy.

So, really her main problem was: feeling guilty. In the past, she’d tried to not feel guilty and that had just made it worse, so she knew it wasn’t as simple as that. Even so, if there were a way to attain that, it would remove so many hurdles. With guilt out of the way, she could openly and directly pursue whatever objectives she chose. She would not have to manage others’ expectations or hold herself back. She could go full speed ahead, and blatantly go right for whatever she valued. If she failed, she could try harder or try a different approach. If it truly turned out to be a non-viable quest, like wooing someone who didn’t appreciate her, and wasn’t interested in having his value system upgraded to where he would appreciate her, then she could accept it and move on, without being exhausted by having had to pursue her objectives while dragging along a heavy burden that sapped her energy.

She thought about how simple life had seemed when she was very young. It was okay to like someone and say, “I like you” and see where things led from there. By contrast, adults seem to have convoluted things. She thought of Prince’s song “Take me with U” and the phrase “Why must we play this game?” At first glance, it seemed to be a happy song about escape but on closer analysis, it was really a sad song of wanting to escape. That was a very different situation. It wasn’t a song about freedom, as it might seem to be at first glance. Instead, it was about yearning for freedom.

She thought of the symbolism of an unshackled prisoner sitting in her cell, with the door open. She could leave yet she chose not to. She thought she deserved to be in no happier a place than where she was, so there she remained.

Wasn’t she in such a position of self-imprisonment, due to guilt? What had she done to deserve such guilt? She didn’t know … yet. Even so, she knew that she had glimpsed a way out of the prison. If she could somehow make her guilt vanish, that would change everything. The two missing pieces in her life journey would suddenly become attainable.

She realized that she needed help in making her new ideas fit into an integrated whole. Where could she turn? She had no idea. This was too personal and too unusual to approach anyone she knew. What would she be asking, anyway? “Help me rethink things so I don’t feel guilty any more?” She’d feel ridiculous when asking that.

Who really understood her, all the way to the depths of her being? She suddenly realized how intellectually lonely she felt. Even her closest friends considered her to be quirky, even if endearingly so. It still basically meant that they could not understand her thinking. That pretty much disqualified them from helping her. Who else could help? A stranger? That made no sense. Wait — what if the stranger were a counselor? She thought of how ridiculous that would feel, trying to explain herself to a professional counselor. She already felt too self-conscious and such sessions would just make it worse.

She thought as hard as she could. She finally gave up, for the time being. Even though she didn’t know whom to ask for help, she was sure that she was headed in the right direction. She felt guardedly optimistic, and happy about that.

She realized she was yet again experiencing feelings in two tiers – but this time, they were both good emotions. She smiled.

The Tree, Part 1

She had never paid attention to this particular tree. It was just something she had walked past. During the winter, this tree had looked like the other nearby trees, of that same general shape: perhaps thirty feet tall, with empty branches that were starkly outlined against the sky.

By now, it was late spring, yet this tree looked as it had in the preceding months. By contrast, the other trees nearby each had a rich, cheerful foliage of sparkling, bright, green leaves, vibrantly alive – almost jarringly so, relative to her mood, most days.

Today, while walking past that tree, she noticed the sounds of children playing boisterously nearby, evidently engaged in a game that involved a fast-moving ball. She glimpsed something in her peripheral vision: a toy football rose from a nearby yard and was heading toward her — but it hit one of the branches of the dead tree, then bounced harmlessly back.

The dead tree had shielded her. She stopped and made a point of looking at the tree. She felt a peculiar gratitude toward it.

For this, she immediately felt ridiculous. She looked away. She had learned long ago that she was unusual, by not just feeling things but then feeling things about what she was feeling. These meta-feelings tended to have two common themes: she either felt ridiculous or guilty about what she was feeling. She’d long since learned that she was highly unusual in having this trait – so unusual that it added a third layer of feeling that had become a constant undertone: she knew she was different from typical people, in a way that made her feel somehow defective, inferior — and intellectually lonely.

The pain had long since stopped being sharp enough to bring her to tears. It had gradually become a dull ache that she could tolerate. She experienced it dimly, as an undercurrent of constant melancholy; not intense enough to snuff out any joy, yet enough to make sadness her natural state of being. It had become an emotional undercurrent that she didn’t really even notice anymore. She rarely thought about it; when she did, she couldn’t remember when last she hadn’t felt this way. It must have been when she had been very young.

She looked up at the tree. It happened to be between her and the sun. The shadows made by the branches created a network of complex shapes on the ground around her feet. The shadows were dark gray. Had they been steel, they would have been a dull, gray steel.  Had they been three-dimensional, in a structure several feet high, then they would have kept her trapped in a complex network that could block any attempt to escape. The thought of the dark gray steel keeping her so impersonally captive — it intrigued her in a morbid way.

She dwelled on the issue, trying to feel better by making some sense of what she was feeling. A steel structure like that, all around her, would prevent her from leaving, by having no opening large enough through which she could exit and be free. Yet, while held captive, she would be able to see, hear and feel as if she were free.  Her freedom of movement would be restricted yet not completely, and she would not be able to leave. She thought about what that steel would feel like, to the touch. Two adjectives came to mind: cold and hard.

She said those two words aloud, in Russian. She didn’t generally speak Russian, but they were the first words spoken by a very cynical Russian hero, in one of the first scenes in the movie “Hunt for Red October.”  She didn’t typically watch such movies but somehow she had watched that one. She was of Russian ancestry herself; perhaps the connection had interested her —  she didn’t remember the reason or the occasion. It wasn’t important.  She pondered the sound of those Russian words, spoken out loud. It made her mood more melancholy yet, and she felt peculiarly proud of that, then felt ridiculous for feeling proud.

She held out her arm, with her slender wrist facing downward. The shadow of a thin branch made a dark, broad line at her wrist, perpendicular to her arm. She frowned. It was the width that a medieval wrist shackle would be. The notion was slightly disturbing, and it tied in with the notion of the shadows, holding her captive had they been three-dimensional steel. She quickly lowered her hand, the vision of the dark line across her wrist still a vivid memory. It hadn’t felt like a bracelet or any type of jewelry. It had seemed simple and crude, a dull, dark gray. She held up her arm again, hoping that the actual sight of the band across her wrist would be less disturbing than the memory. It wasn’t. She looked away and lowered her arm, frowning.

She looked up at the tree. It seemed strong, as if it would be able to support her weight if she chose to clamber on it. She felt no such inclination, but she could imagine the strength of the branches. Her eyes skimmed the network of branches, and stopped at a fork where a bird’s nest had recently been built. She closed her eyes and listened carefully. She could hear the chirping of tiny birds from inside the nest.

She stood there, pensively. The dead tree seemed vaguely tied into something that had been bothering her for a long time though she wasn’t sure exactly what it was. She could neither dismiss the issue nor make the connection. Until today, she had thought of the tree as unworthy of any serious consideration. She’d dimly noticed it was dead, and being dead presumably meant the tree would soon be removed. Yet, for many months or years, the tree had been dead yet had not been removed. It had stood for a long time – and it had added significant value even while dead. It had shielded her from danger, it was able to support her, it provided a safe structure for a new generation of life. The dead tree was useful.

Even so, the tree brought on a more stark melancholy than she’d felt in a long time. She closed her eyes and took several steps forward until she was some distance away, and no longer held captive in the network of shadows.

She shook her head, tried to dismiss the subject from her mind, and walked on, frowning. Her thoughts, these last few minutes, tied in with something else that had been bothering her for a long time. Today, some parallels had seemed oddly stark, yet she couldn’t identify the other half of the picture: what the dead tree symbolized. She felt frustrated and helpless, and then felt ridiculous about experiencing such feelings based on seeing a dead tree. She stopped, turned, and looked warily back at the tree. She frowned more deeply yet, and walked away.

She took a different route home, so as to avoid the tree on her way back.

Part 2 continues the story …

Escort? Consultant? Courtesan? Mentor?

IMAG3233A cynical acquaintance in the information technology business once advised me: “never say you’re too busy for new work; raise your hourly rate until you’re no longer too busy.” It’s good advice: use the law of supply and demand.

I followed the advice, and my hourly rate as a computer geek went from about $30 per hour, living in a dingy place and driving an old Volvo station wagon  … to making $200+, even $300+ per hour, living in an elegant condo and buying two Mercedes-Benz sports cars from the dealership on the same day … and then my finances declined again until I was once again living in a humble place and driving old Volvo station wagon. My finances wax and wane with the economy. The last ten years have been rough. I didn’t make much money but I built a lot of character.

When times are bad, companies might well only be able to exist thanks to the software-based process improvements that I’d made for them. One of my clients told me a few years ago: “I’ve had to let half my staff go. Without your software I’d have let them all go. At least I can still function, because the few people I can still afford to employ are productive enough to do enough work to keep the doors open, and only because your software empowers them.”  That was nice to hear.

With the economy improving, he’s also been hiring back many of the people he’s let go, and he’s thriving.  I’m glad. It means that I did a good job.  However, in lean years, people don’t have to keep spending money on my nice software. They already have it.  So, they’re rather pay the utility bill.  And me? I struggle, in lean times.

Then and now, some guys really like my look and style, and they would prefer to have more of that, preferably in bed. Problem is, I like girls, romantically, not guys.  Somehow telling guys so … that made them more enthused, not less — go figure.   There was much demand for the time during which I wore 6″ stilettos, so instead of socializing with guys in exchange for good conversation, I decided to charge by the hour. I was soon back to sometimes making $200+, even $300+ per hour, this time in the escorting business — but only for a very few hours per month.

I learned that escorting is very hard work if one wants to do it safely (and I do) because there is a lot of money tempting a girl to do unsafe things: associating with clients who are on meth, or condomless sex, or selling sex instead of time, or working in the highly lucrative markets where the competition uses Cyrillic writing to sign private death sentences, or working where the clients use Arabic writing and the girl might or might not come home unscathed or at all.  So, I spent a lot of time saying “no, thank you, I don’t do that.”

It was like selling wholesome Girl Scout cookies and selling hardly any while the passers-by tell me that if I would only include pot in the cookies, they’d pay a lot for them but without the pot, no deal.  It got tedious and I stopped escorting in late 2014.

Nowadays, I’m getting more and more busy again, in the information technology business. I’m also getting several automotive businesses off the ground. My mom and I are finally getting along so I spend high-quality time with her. Until not too long ago, I had two girlfriends, openly. (I’m polyamorous so I can focus on more than one girlfriend at a time). I’ve also been mentoring trans girls.  Then there are quite a few guys who would love to meet me socially.  As to that, sometimes the fastest way of getting rid of a fantasy is to make it come true, so I sometimes solve the problem that way. I also enjoy writing, and I’m a part-time paid writer. So, it’s a full and rich life, but it’s all becoming a bit much, schedule-wise.

The best definition that I’ve read of the noun”value” is that it’s something that one acts to gain or keep. For the last few years, I haven’t used that recipe when I mentor trans girls in person, or if I go have a coffee with whichever guy wants to meet me in person. I’ve been donating the time — and ironically, then it tends to not be appreciated all that much.

So, I’ve decided to not do so any more, for the near future anyway.  I’ve signed up with an escorting agency and from now on when strangers value my time enough to pay for it, they have the pleasure of spending time with me. Much as selling sex is a fond fantasy for me, I don’t sell sex … I sell time.  Think “Dear Abby” in 6″ stiletto heels and a stripper dress, in an elegant hotel room, and you get the idea.

If someone is willing to come to Reno and pay $300 for 2 hours, he or she can ask me candid questions and pour his or her heart out. This way, only those who demonstrably value me the most will have time allocated to them — and as for me, I get to focus on whomever demonstrably values me the most. I also get to dress in a way I enjoy and I get to have conversations that I’m likely to enjoy.

Plus, if I actually meet someone whose seduction skills carry the day, what a nice bonus that would be. In case that might happen, my ad makes it clear what the ground rules are.

I’m not sure the escorting agency knows quite what to make of my business model. It’s rather unusual  …