babbling, Uncategorized

I Was Almost an Incel, M’lady

a brown cat yawning in while laying on a wooden deck
Pic unrelated, but cute Photo by Sam Burriss on Unsplash

On Tuesday 24th April, Alek Minassian drove a van into a Toronto crowd, killing 10 people and injuring 14 more. He prefaced his attack with a post on Facebook declaring the below:

“The Incel Rebellion has already begun! We will overthrow all the Chads and Stacys! All hail the Supreme Gentleman Elliot Rodger!”

Since the attack, there have been a bunch of thinkpieces looking at incels (‘involuntary celibates’) and MRAs (‘Mens Rights Activists’) and there have been a lot of people wondering how this could have happened, how someone could be led to be so violently deluded. This isn’t your common-or-garden variety political terrorism, this is a much murkier ideology that’s being pushed here.

And, as in the aftermath of Elliot Rodger’s attack, all I can think is ‘that monster could have been me.’

I was an awkward kid growing up mixed-race in Jordan, a country whose kids didn’t seem to like me very much. In their defence, I didn’t work hard to make myself likeable. I kept to myself, didn’t work hard at learning Arabic, made friends with books and Amiga games instead of with people. I was not good at socialising, is what I’m saying.

And then came puberty.

I noticed girls and girls didn’t notice me. I was scrawny and had weird hair and mumbled a lot because my confidence was through the basement. It didn’t really help that my mother had told me she’d cut my penis off if I so much as went on a date before I turned 18. She later pointed out that this was obviously a joke, but at 13 or 14 it really didn’t feel like one!

I remember that the only real conversation I had with my first crush was a mumbled ‘yeah I like him too’ when she noticed I was reading Stephen King and said she was a fan. Smooth, young me. Smooth. There were other crushes, and I was just as charming to them. Astonishingly, no girlfriends were forthcoming.

When I got to IB stage in Palestine (think A-levels, or last two years of high school in the US) I started learning how to actually get along with people. I had friends! And acquaintances! And some of them were girls. Not bad for a nerd in a war zone. I fell in love (but not really, you know) with a beautiful girl who made my heart do somersaults. And, being the lovesick fool I was, I wrote her a love letter.

She wrote a reply saying she was flattered and firmly hoping we’d be good friends. And I was happy she replied… until it wasn’t enough. I was a nice guy, there’s no reason I wouldn’t be able to woo her and win her affections. That’s what they do in the movies, right? And they get the girl, so why shouldn’t I?

I wrote two further letters, and she firmly but politely rebuffed my advances again. And I crossed a boundary by kissing her on the hand when that kind of relationship was firmly off the table. Like an idiot, I put a good friendship in danger through my lack of respect for her, and I’m astonished she’s still friends with me. If you’re reading this, you’re a saint and I’m sorry for my hormone-driven nonsense. But that’s how it starts, with hormone-driven nonsense. You overstep a boundary, are rejected and are hurt – and it’s natural to be hurt, even if you know you did wrong. But dwelling on it is unhealthy, and that’s a pattern I’d fallen into.

When I got to England in 2001 at the age of 17, my hormones went into overdrive. I found myself falling for each of my closest female friends, one after the another, pushing and pushing for them to enter a relationship with me. Each time I was… not rejected, per se. I don’t recall any ‘let’s go out’ ‘no let’s be friends’ conversations with them. But it was made increasingly clear that I was a friend and nothing ‘more’. As if being a friend to these women wasn’t an immense privilege already. Today we’re still close, though less so after we’ve drifted to different parts of the country, and I can only be grateful that they put up with my lovesick puppy routine each time it happened.

a black pug looking quizzical with head tilted
Pictured : A lovesick puppy Photo by Charles Deluvio 🇵🇭🇨🇦 on Unsplash

The ‘nice guy’ narrative was running around and around my head more and more. Nice guys finish last. Women like bastards. Why am I alone when that guy has a girlfriend? I’d have coffee with friends and sit and sulk because a couple was being couple-y at the next table. I’d say things like ‘I don’t want to see gay people kissing because I don’t want to see anyone kissing, it reminds me how alone I am’ (yay for underlying homophobia). I once even wrote a godawful couplet about skies vomiting something or other as I stew in my loneliness, or something. Vom.

I went to uni and almost immediately fell in love (again, not really, if it’s not mutual it’s not love) with someone who just seemed to click perfectly. We were almost inseparable and we seemed to understand each other perfectly. I wanted her badly (listen to that language, ‘I want you’, how possessive). And she didn’t want me back. Sorrow and self-pity and, yes, rage were swirling around inside me.

And that’s when I could have been lost.

The difference here is that the rage was directed inwards. It became a part of my depression, because depression isn’t always sadness, it’s anger and hopelessness. No woman would ever like me the way I like them, how could they, I’m disgusting, I’m a slob, I’m a loser. Because these feelings were internalised, they just fed on my insides and were quite happy wrecking my psyche.

If I’d found a community of people of men who’d felt the same way, I’d have felt accepted and understood. We would have shared jokes and memes about women who won’t give us a chance (the so-called ‘Stacy’) and the men they choose over us (the so-called ‘Chad’). I’d have felt like I found people who would care for me even if the women I fell for wouldn’t.

I’d be ripe for the red pill.

Instead, I threw myself into the community of nerds and geeks in the scifi society and tried to swallow my loneliness. In retrospect, it was silly to feel lonely when I was surrounded by friends and people who loved me – they just didn’t love me in the way I felt entitled to be loved.

And that’s the rub, isn’t it? Entitlement. No one is entitled to a partner. No one is owed love. But we’re flooded with imagery and messages that tell us that yes, we are entitled to it all. Rescue the damsel, bestow the kiss. Give her a diamond, get sex. Rub her feet, she’ll give you a blowjob. Put more favour tokens in, go on, she’ll pay out eventually. She dumped you? Stand outside her window with a boombox, that’ll convince her to take you back.

The incels and the MRAs and the Men Going Their Own Way and so on, they scare me. Because I can understand them. I understand the anger and the hatred, because I’ve felt them too. We just directed it in different directions. If I’d directed my anger outwards more often and lashed out at more people, who’s to say I wouldn’t be hailing Elliot Rodger and calling for the death of women who’d dare to choose not to fuck me. I’d like to think it’s not in my make-up, but I’m learning more and more that people change and the psyche is a strange dangerous thing.

This is not to say that I’m a saint for not going that direction. I’m not better than anyone, I’m just me. I’m still growing and I’m still unlearning those patterns. I do still overstep boundaries occasionally, and to any woman I’ve ever made feel uncomfortable: I’m so sorry. I will do better. I know that being sorry isn’t enough, you have to actually make good with action.

And I will.

babbling, creativity, dreams, writing

What Dreams May Come

The Shepherd’s Dream by Johann Heinrich Füssli

Yesterday morning I awoke with a jolt. After a moment’s thought, I clambered out of bed and plodded my way round the upstairs of the house, looking for pen and paper. In the depths of the previous night’s sleep, I had had An Idea.

This was not a particularly amazing idea; no cure for cancer or solution the world’s energy crisis here. No, it was just An Idea for a short film. Short enough to be a sketch, really. It was a simple, one-scene film with a lighthearted tone and a sweet ending. Best of all, it made sense.

Most ideas that come from dreams seem amazing to the sleeping mind. Widly creative and endearingly wacky, you’re sure that they’ll set the world ablaze in all their original glory. You wake, and from the moment you wake the dream starts to fade, as dreams are wont to do. Slowly but surely, vital elements begin to fade away like Marty McFly’s family photograph. Soon it is gone. All that remains is a niggling feeling that there was something you dreamt that was good, but what? Something about aardvarks? Car parks? Bard wargs? What was it?

Even worse, though, you could capture the idea, wrestle it down and trap it on paper. There, spreadeagled and naked before your scrutiny, you can see it for what it really is: a mess. An utter farce of an idea. Point C doesn’t follow on from points A and B at all, and why does the protagonist suddenly become a Volkswagen made out of cheesestrings halfway through? Dream logic has little in common with that of the everyday world, and the sad truth is that when lifted straight out of a dream and inspected closely, dream ideas are a bit pants really.

But dreams can provide inspiration. A haunting phrase, a persistent image, a recurring location. There are elements that can be taken and woven into a tapestry. James Cameron reckons that ideas for The Terminator and Aliens came straight out of his nightmares. Paul McCartney allegedly dreamt the tune for Yesterday. They are not alone

My dream idea is no Terminator or Yesterday, but it got me up, got me moving, got me writing. In the end, that can only be a good thing.

babbling, gushing, random, Twitter

I’m All a-Twitter

Alternate title : Tweeterpated. PUNS!

Keen-eyed observers may notice that I’ve added a Twitter widget on the right hand side of my blog. This means if you get tired of reading my blatherings, you can read an entirely different set of blatherings. This is as good a time as any to harp on about my love affair with The Twitter.

I resisted joining Twitter for the longest time. “It’s just Facebook statuses,” I’d grumble. “Just a bunch of people talking about their dinner,” I’d scoff. “I don’t see the point, so I’ll not bother joining up,” I’d assert. And so on and so forth.

Curiosity got the better of me in the end, though. I set up an account, followed a few friends and a couple of celebrities & waited for something to happen. Now it’s nearly three years later and Twitter is an essential part of my life. In this post, I hope to explain why.

Twitter is far, far more than just a network of food-fanciers. It’s a network of information, social media the way it’s meant to be. When the rumours started about Michael Jackson’s death, I was in on the ground floor. When the riots recently shook Britain, I was able to follow the events as they unfolded, glued as I was to the feed.  If a notable figure passes away, Twitter swiftly informs and eulogises.  If a comedian opens his mouth and promptly puts his foot in it, Twitter is there to tut and/or defend. Usually both. Sometimes in the same tweet.

What’s good about the information on Twitter is you let it come to you. You choose the outlets. Sick of having the Daily Mail’s fearmongering ways thrust upon you ever day? Unfollow. Feel like being exposed to a bit more culture? There are hundreds of film/theatre/general arts related feeds out there. Want to only follow those whose opinions you’re likely to agree with? Not a problem, no one will think you’re a sheep for choosing to do so. Prefer to follow those you disagree with for the debate value alone? Fair enough, that’s common practice too.  There’s no pressure to follow anyone in specific and there’s no shame in changing your mind and unfollowing someone. It’s an accepted part of the process.

Twitter’s also a good way of finding out what your favourite celebrities are up to. They keep you informed of their movements, promote special offers and let you know about their upcoming projects. They’re also full of advice, anecdotes and general wittiness. Some of them are rather more full of themselves than they are of the other things, but you can always give those ones a wide berth.

Far more important than either the news sources or the celebrities, though, are the ordinary folk. The people who use Twitter to talk to friends, those who use it as a means of venting, those who use it to share their pithy ponderings, even those who use it as a soapbox.  The difference is palpable; here there is a sense of community that it is easy to find yourself a part of.  No matter how many celebrities follow you back or even engage in conversation with you (Phil Jupitus once asked me my opinion on vampire films vs zombie films. I almost died.), you’ll always feel a sense of otherness that you simply don’t get when you fall in with certain crowds on Twitter.

The difference between Twitter and Facebook as I use them is simple.  For me, Facebook is exclusively for friends and acquaintances. If I’ve exchanged words with you on more than one occasion and we have things in common, I’m likely to be OK with you adding me on Facebook. If you’re a stranger, don’t expect me to add you. Facebook’s privacy settings are rubbish enough, thank you. But Twitter is a different kettle of fish. You go into Twitter expecting everything you say to be public, so you don’t tweet details like phone numbers and other sensitive details. It’s not set up to host hundreds of pictures of yourself. It’s for sharing short, sharp packets of information. And you’d be surprised how many strangers care about what you have to say.

This here is the main reason I keep logging into Twitter every day, the reason I have Tweetdeck on my phone and the reason I tend to have a computer welded to my lap. My followers contain a core of several people that I couldn’t be without. It’s a secondary network of friends, albiet friends represented by pixels and cyberaspects.  If you have a bad day, they will comfort you. If you share geeky news, they will squee with you. If you get angry at politicians, they will shake their fists with you.  They’re as good as the flesh and blood friends I know and love.

I’ve found that the best way to get to grips with Twitter is to start by following your friends. If you don’t get involved in conversations, Twitter won’t grip you and your account will be discarded and dusty within weeks. Chat to your friends, use it to set up rendezvouses and so on. Next, follow your favourite celebrities. Tweet at them, get involved, build up the habit of conversation. Your efforts will be repaid tenfold later. Once you’ve built up a good list of people you’re following, start playing hashtag games. Hash tags are your friends and your gateway to likeminded followers. Join in the puns. Live tweet Doctor Who, Come Dine With Me, anything that others might be watching as well. This is the best way to meet the best Twitterers.

That’s enough lecturing from me, I think. If you’re dead set against Twitter, do yourself a favour and dip your toe in. The water may seem murky but it’s lovely and warm. Look me up when you get there, I’m @Splend and I’ll be your guide if you’ll let me.