I spent most of the day today horizontal. I slept a lot, napped a bit, and snoozed when I wasn’t doing one of those two things. Yesterday was the exact opposite. I was vertical, doing, and doing some more. Both days have been perfect.

I’m not sure what is in store for me tomorrow, whether I’ll be horizontal, vertical, or some other -al. I don’t know what to expect, and I always try my best not to expect. I prefer wondering over knowing. But I do know one thing: tomorrow will be perfect.

I wrote a Facebook status and Tweet last week that were meant to be a joke. A sarcastic, I want more out of the world, parody-type joke. But nobody laughed.


I’m not mad. It was a bit too subtle for me to expect folks to catch the jokiness, and it’s cool that people echoed the top-level sentiment. We’re exposed to a lot of things these days (thanks, Internet) that are making us aware of how badly we need change.

Matt Damon “blew our minds” when he talked about how the reason the world is broken is civil obedience, and we need more disobedience. We saw when Russell Brand started a revolution on Gawker, focusing on the corruption and ineptitude of politicians and our political system. We know how only a few conglomerates own just about everything we consume, thanks to our minds being blown by Buzzfeed. Before that, we were made aware of the devastatingly slanted distribution of wealth in the US by Upworthy, and before that the same thing was brought to our attention by the Occupy Wall Street “Movement.” And way before any of this our minds were blown in 1970 by Howard Zinn’s “The Problem is Civil Obedience” Speech, which is the speech Matt Damon read and blew our minds with in that first video. Full circle, y’all. So. Many. Blown. Minds.

We know all that stuff and more. We know that Monsanto is destroying farming and agriculture, and Walmart is destroying the lives of employees, and Kony is destroying the lives of children. We know that roughly 780 million people lack access to safe, clean, drinkable water (1 in 9 people). We know that there are roughly 630,000 homeless people in the US (1 in 5 people). We know that [BLANK] is destroying [BLANK], or that [BLANK] lacks [BLANK] (and so on, times infinity — we’re well aware of what’s wrong).

We’d be okay with a revolution. We all want to see the world change. But we’re waiting for someone else to do something about it all.

“You say you got a real solution
Well, you know, we’d all love to see the plan, oh yeah
You ask me for a contribution
Well, you know we’re all doing what we can.”

And that’s where my anti-joke came from. The frustration I am experiencing with a global consciousness and a lack of global action. We’re hyperaware of all the struggles the world (or at least our respective countries) is facing, yet we’re too weighed down by the fabricated problems in our immediate personal lives to do anything. I talked about how we view activism and this frustration in my latest podcast. We talk about how much we want to change things, but we don’t. But we want to! We really do! I know we do. And that creates a sense of dissonance and shame, or at least guilt. And guilt is paralyzing. And leads to us saying things that prevent anything from happening:

  • There are bigger problems in the world than [BLANK].
  • [Person Who is Calling for Change] isn’t perfect, let’s attack them instead of the system they’re part of (and advocating against).
  • I don’t have the [time, money, energy] for those people — I barely have enough to get by myself.
  • I’m just one person, what can I possibly do?

Do you know how many people we can confirm took part in the Boston Tea Party? 116 (~%0.00005 of the population). That’s zero-point-zero-zero-zero-zero-five people. FOUR ZEROs. I’m not even sure how to express that as a fraction (about 1/20,000th?). That’s way less than the 99% of people who participated in the Occupy Movement (ha! a jest!). But let’s be serious for a moment, can we? Please.

Don’t let all this “blow your mind.” Let this help you be more aware of your mind. Let this push you to mind.

We need to stop being okay with the overwhelming amount of injustice happening in the world, our country, our state, our city. We need to stop being okay with greed that leads to death, corruption that leads to exclusion, and marginalization that leads to a lack of basic human needs being met. We need to stop being okay with a revolution and we need to start demanding one.


While digging through my archives to find today’s cover photo, I found this photo below, which seems all too apt a way to end this thought.


Miley Cyrus hasn’t been a person for long time. She used to be a person, then she was Hannah Montana, and now she’s a punchline. Kanye West is a punchline that has tried to fight for his personhood, and as a result become a punchline within a punchline. Rick Santorum had his name redefined by Dan Savage. The list goes on.

Think about what pops into your mind when you hear the following: Oprah, Maddow, Limbaugh, Colbert, Bush, Obama, Gaga, deGrasse Tyson.

If you’re on Twitter or Facebook, you likely see people discussing some of these people (and hundreds others) in a variety of contexts. If you’re on Tumblr, your screen is flooded with these people distilled into few-second-long gifs. Groveling, ranting, raving, venting, praising, threatening, trashing, other-ings. There are magazines, television shows, and websites dedicated to making us feel connected to these people, and the reports are disseminated into watercooler conversation topics. But we’re not connected to them. We don’t know them any more than we know a random stranger we bump into because we’re not paying attention to where we’re walking while reading about Jennifer Lawrence’s new haircut.

We’re not connected to them, and our disconnect is never more apparent than when someone displeases us.

Really listen to the conversations and comments about hot-button celebrities like Miley and Kanye, or political celebrities like Obama, Corey Booker, and Boehner, or “why are they celebrities?” like Trump, Paris, and that poor girl who lives in a dysfunctional family and wants to be a beauty queen whose name I can’t think of right now but everyone laughs at. We don’t talk about them like they are people — people you might share a meal with, hug, or help through the loss of a loved one. We talk about them like they are products, things we own, things we have the right to criticize (they’re asking for it) — things.

We create them then destroy them. We celebrate them then eviscerate them. We say things we would never say to a “real” person. Listen to these people humorously reading horrifying things people say to them on Twitter. They have to laugh, right? Because what else can they do? They chose this life. By doing what they do, they’re asking for it.

At what point does this become acceptable?

When can we stop treating a person with basic human decency and start treating them like a public object, there for our pleasure or displeasure, to give us enjoyment or be a target for our misplaced rage? Is there a threshold?

This isn’t a rhetorical question, but a legal one. Let’s say I want to say really horrible things about someone. I order a falafel sandwich and the chef, Jon Jeffson, forgets the tzatziki sauce. WHAT AN IDIOT! Time to take to twitter: “Jon Jeffson is the worst chef who has ever lived and he should die! #yolo #tzatsucky #fml” If Jon Jeffson is just some nobody cook in a local kitchen, he can sue you and win for tweeting that. If Jon Jeffson, alternatively, is considered to be a “public figure” then he just has to sit back and take it, as dictated by legal precedent set in New York Times v Sullivan, 1964.

Yes, you’re understanding that correctly. If someone is a public figure, you can write or say whatever you’d like, even if it would otherwise be considered libel or slander. Ditto goes for things that would otherwise be considered invasions of privacy (like if the local times published Jon Jeffson nip slips or accounts of extramarital affairs with the hot dog truck person).

If someone is considered a public figure, defined here as “ anyone who has gained prominence in the community as a result of his or her name or exploits, whether willingly or unwillingly,” then there is legal precedent in treating them like an object owned by you, a member of the all-consuming, all-criticizing vox populi. Public figures, or celebrities, might be better labeled as “public objects.” You know, like a sidewalk.

All of this goes through my mind every time I read a Tweet or blog post or whatever that says something like, “The world would be better if Sam Killermann killed himself,” and each time I feel a little less human. But here I am, on the internet writing this article, removing my personhood and laying myself out as a public object, asking for it.

Can we re-person public objects?

I don’t know. But I am doing my best to not personally contribute to the objectification, because I don’t like what it’s teaching me about how I should think of people I don’t know.

This is something that has been a big personal challenge for me over the past few months. I’ll find myself saying something, starting to make a claim I couldn’t possibly know enough to stake (“I love J-Lawr” or “I wish Zooey would marry me” or “GODDAMMIT KANYE WHY?”), and bite my tongue. Sometimes it slips my tongue because I’m not quick enough to bite, or other times I’m just not cognizant enough of what I’m saying, or what it means, but I’m trying. But this doesn’t mean I’m not appreciating the things these people do. I love watching Jennifer Lawrence interviews because they crack me up and teach me about humility. The New Girl is the only current sitcom I watch regularly, thanks to Jess and Schmidt. I listen to Kanye West’s music almost every day, and think it’s some of the best hip-hop ever produced (Hey Mama is in my top 10 fav songs — listening to it now).

But whenever I say things about public celebrities, positive or negative, or hear things in my mind, I’m trying to do my best to be cognizant of how little I actually know about these people. That is, basically nothing. I don’t know Kanye any better than I know the person who is going to deliver my pizza tonight when I finally breakdown and order it and hate myself a little. I LOVE the experiences they will both provide for me, and would give them both hugs as thanks if it wouldn’t creep them out, but I don’t know them.

And that gets to my goal with all of this: I want to get over this mental conditioning that tells me how to treat someone I don’t know (who happens to be famous), and the de facto conditioning that tells me how to treat everyone else. If you’re famous, I can treat you however I want. If you’re not, you’re not worthy of any treatment.

It’s in our nature to define things. We like boxes, categories. A few thousand years ago, this was incredibly helpful. Don’t eat things that look like this: you will die. Eat things that look like this: they are delicious.

But nowadays, I find that my compulsion to define things is incredibly unhelpful. I’m rarely ever poisoned by what I eat (other than pretty much every time I eat Thai food), and when I am my body takes care of it (how’s that for a nice euphemism?).

I attempt to define relationships I have with people, and with my work. I want to know, within some predetermined categories, what X person is to me, how I should relate to Y person, and how I am supposed to fulfill Z responsibility. But people aren’t Xs or Ys, and the goals I work toward aren’t Zs. There is no immutable variable that can adequately take the place of any relationship in my life, and attempting to apply one will only result in frustration.

I know this, yet I still try to do it.

We categorize everything in the world. Life > Domain > Kingdom > Phylum > Class > Order > Family > Genus > Species > Petability (I may’ve added that last one, but it really should be part of the system. What’s more important to you? What phylum something is in, or if you can pet it?). But ultimately most of us agree that these labels are insufficient. We’re all snowflakes. The world doesn’t fit in a box.

It’s when I get over my impulse to define things, when I stop the mental gears that start turning whenever I meet someone, or spend time with an old friend, or work on a new project, and divert all energy to being, that I appreciate things the most. It’s when I don’t try to find the black or the white, but relax into the grey.

Malcolm Muggeridge is credited for saying, “Only dead fish swim with the stream.” But there are two streams. They fight against the current of the river, defying all odds in order to achieve the destination of their journey, but in doing so they are giving into the flow of their biological imperative and fulfilling their purpose.

In making an intentional effort to push myself to become more comfortable with the grey, and living in the undefined, I feel like I’m fighting against the social current. But I know I’m allowing myself to be swept away by a greater current, and experiencing life the way I want to live.

On Tuesday I was sitting in my favorite coffee shop in Austin and I felt inspired to record my podcast. I grabbed my fancy microphone out of my bag and started to set it up to record when I noticed something: Tom’s had the Beatles playing. I packed up my mic and put it back in my bag, dismayed. The way copyright law works, it would have been illegal for me publish that podcast and I may have faced legal action in the future if I did — inspiration be damned.

That, my friends, is nothing short of broken.

That’s not the only example I have. My friend and I launched a comedy tour called The Campus Rejects and were sued by someone who owned that name. I asked a musician I loved if I could use one of their tracks for a cause-based video I was working on; they loved the cause and said yes, but their label (who owns the copyright) said no, so the answer was no. The list goes on.

Let’s just say I am not a fan of copyright law.

But everything I’ve ever created I’ve held the copyright to. Not that I’ve ever enforced this (like when people take my graphics, rebrand them, and sell them or use them to sell their stuff, which happens quite a bit), nor had I ever planned on it, I just did it because that’s what you do. I’ve followed Leo Babauta’s work at Zen Habits and Mnmlist for quite some time, and really appreciate the words that come out of his brain. It wasn’t until just this week, while I was still grumbling about not being able to record my podcast, that I noticed something at the bottom of his site: “Uncopyright” in plain text, a simple hyperlink. I clicked it. It took me to this page, where everything I read I related to entirely, and seemed completely obvious, but were things I had never thought (that’s generally my standard set of reactions to most of what Leo writes).

Then I thought, “I’m absolutely doing this.” And then I did. Earlier today, I released my copyright on all the work I’ve produced at It’s Pronounced Metrosexual.

The way I feel as a result of this decision, my friends, is anything but broken. Overall, I feel really great. Part of me is terrified — a small part — because I’ve put thousands of hours into all the stuff I’ve written and created, and I’ve been trained to think that I should have ownership over those words, those things, that they are mine.

But they’ve never been mine. As Obama might say, “I didn’t build that.” My mom wrote those words, all the countless nights she would sit on our back porch with me, under the stars, and talk me through the regular existential crises I had when I was in elementary school (some of the hits include “why do so many people in the world suffer?” and “why are some people rich while others are poor?”). My high school English teacher, Ms Clayton, wrote those words when she decided to let me work independently on self-directed projects in the library instead of going to class because she recognized I wasn’t thriving. My grad school mentor and supervisor, Andy, wrote those words when he showed me how to rethink service and compassion. Most importantly, all the thousands of people who read my site, comment, send me emails, and have conversations with me wrote those words when they taught me how to rethink social justice, identity, gender, sexuality, and myself. Every person I’ve ever spoken with (and every person they’ve spoken with), every author I’ve ever read, every Scrubs episode I’ve ever watched, and so on — they wrote those words, when they shaped me into the person I am today.

Copyright law, like so much else in this crazy mixed up world, is nonsense. If you want to own your words, or your ideas, I won’t be upset with you. And maybe in a couple years I’ll be eating cabbage in a dumpster and you can say, “See, Sam? This is why we have copyright law.” But I’m happy to have released myself of the burden of copyright.

As is so often the case, it’s not until I released my work of its copyright that I realized how much of a hold copyright had on me.

With what I do with Gamers Against Bigotry, and with being a long time video game lover, I tend to use the phrase “the gaming community” a lot. Generally more than once a day. It’s a term we all toss around, and we generally use it to mean “everyone who plays video games.” But it used to mean more than that to me.

The gaming community used to mean the couple dozen or so friends who would pile into a room with four TVs, four Xboxes, 16 controllers, and far too little fresh air, for a sun-down to sun-up party we called a Halo Bash. We did this in high school on a regular basis (once per month when things were extra awesome), and these nights are some of my favorite memories from that time in my life.

It was all about the people there, the time we spent with each other, and for those somethingteen hours that was all that mattered. We played the same game the entire time, rotated controllers and teams, and played until we couldn’t keep our eyes open. I loved it. We all did.

In a lot of ways, it’s that experience that I want everyone to be able to have, and what I’m working towards with GAB: creating a more welcoming space in gaming in general, where everyone who wants to be involved feels invited.

This past weekend, for the last 30 hours or so, I’ve been experiencing that sense of video game community again, for the first time in years. James (GAB’s Director of Communications) and I were invited to Raleigh for the United Gamers Coalition 48-hour Gamerunning Marathon that is a benefit for GAB. It’s hosted by someone who truly gets it, or at least has a similar idea to James and I what gaming is capable of. We’ve played a ton of games, spent time with people who were all strangers to me one day ago but I would now call friends, and just had a generally fantastic time. It’s been a while since I’ve experienced this in such a powerful way, and I’m thankful to Adam for the reminder. I’m looking forward to the final 18 hours.

It is this that pops into my mind when I hear the phrase “the gaming community.” This is my gaming community. This is what I’m trying to protect, and working to share.

It’s rare that it’s a good thing to be in a coffee shop, slurping coffee, at 11:30 pm. But last night, boisterously laughing throughout an otherwise intense philosophical conversation, slurping coffee until midnight was exactly a good thing.

I spent the night working and talking with a close friend of mine, in what’s become a routine of ours: late night “cofficing,” a term he coined, that sometimes is more work than conversation, and other times more conversation than work, but is always exactly what we need. Last night, conversation trumped work, because there were a lot of thoughts worth talking about.

We go into these conversations with no expectations, and talk about the things that want to be talked about. It’s like letting a small child lead you through the zoo. If you were to lead the way, showing the kid where to go, what to look at, what to awe at, it would likely lead to disappointment for both of you. “I loved the tigers when I was a kid,” you might say, “We should see them first!” But it’s best to follow where the child’s hand tugs, because a child without preconceptions, but with autonomy, in a place like a zoo is magical — focus yourself on experiencing the awe of a child in awe.

One of the things we talked about was the three key ingredients to living a life of contentedness. Just three things. With all three, you’ll never have to ask for permission to smile, but without just one your whole life will spin off kilter like an Earth without its Sun (as our lives have many times in the past, and will likely again in the future — though hopefully less with time). I will likely write about those things, but that’s not what this thought is. What I’ve been thinking about most the past day isn’t those things, but the process by which they came to fruition.

Last night, I was doing most of the talking. But the ideas weren’t mine. I may have been the fuel, but my friend was the catalyst. It was through the recursive process of me saying something, then him saying something more, or asking the right question, or nodding affirmatively, that the thing I said gained energy, and fueled a chain reaction that led to the outcome: those three things.

That’s a catalytic friend. A person who will take the simple fuels in your life and energize them into sustained reactions. If you are pondering an idea, this friend will help you develop it into a movement. If you are satisfied with your job, a relationship, or anything in between, this person will make you feel ecstatic. They add to your life, without giving anything of their own. They aren’t sacrificing, martyring, or suffering for your gain. Their mere presence magnifies your life experience, and interactions with them expand that experience exponentially.

Catalytic friends are hard to come by. If you find one, or have one in your life, hold onto them dearly.

Today I read a fantastic interview with Bills Clinton and Gates on Wired. I highly recommend reading the whole thing, because a lot of great things were said. These are two people who lived incredible, noteworthy lives, retired, then, for no other reason than because, proceeded to start second incredible, noteworthy lives.

Because they know there are people in the world who could benefit from their help.

Because they have a short time on Earth, and want to fill that time with meaning.

Because they care about humanity.

Because they can.

Of the things I took away from the interview — that hit me the hardest — was this concept of Us and Them, often thought of us “Us versus Them.” The idea was brought up when Bill Clinton was responding to the question “Clearly, both of you are optimists. In the past few years, when it’s been tough politically and economically, has that optimism been challenged?” This was part of Clinton’s response:

The whole history of humanity is just one long battle between conflict and cooperation and between us and them. Bill Gates made the money that enabled him to do this magnificent work today, because we kept expanding the definition of us, whoever the us was, and shrinking the definition of them. Yeah, this is tough, and there are a lot of complex psychological identity questions in American politics today, aggravated by this long-stagnant economy for most people. But we’ve had a lot of periods of bitter conflict. We’re going to get through it.

And then he went on to say other wonderful things, as if he didn’t just say the most remarkable thing I’ve ever read on Wired.com (no offense, Wired).

Anthropologists will tell you that we socially evolved to be tribal creatures. As a byproduct of this, there’s this number limit (I can’t think of it off the top of my head) at which we are no longer able to effectively empathize with other humans. If 10 people tragically die, we’re able to effectively feel that pain and empathize with their loved ones. But if, say, the number increases to 500 (I don’t even think it’s close to this many) we are no longer able to process it. Our brains aren’t wired that way. We won’t even feel the empathy that we might have for 10. It’ll just wash over us.

Another byproduct of our tribal evolution is the abstract feeling of attachment to those with whom we identify — we could call these the Us. Thousands of years ago, Us meant family. We traveled in extended family packs, protecting our immediate relatives from harm, living with and from one another. Us meant blood.

As time went on, Us evolved from family, to groups of families called clans, to groups of clans called tribes, then to towns, and cities. With organized religion came a religious Us, and with the establishment of formal nation-states and borders came nationality Us.

With the evolution of Us came the evolution of Them.

The original Them was anyone who wasn’t blood related — Them was pretty much everyone. Over time, as the number of people in Us got bigger, Them got smaller. Them now might mean anyone in any other country. This is a common Them in America, and a Them that only (light use of this word) consists of 95% of the world. Another common Them in America is anyone who isn’t Christian, which is a measly 68% of the world, or roughly 4.8 Billion Thems.

In a relatively short amount of time, Us went from being a fraction of a percent of humanity and Them the rest, to some people experiencing an Us of more than two billion other people, far more than were ever alive at the onset of Us and Them.

Most people experience varying degrees of connection to a variety of the Us in their life, from their immediate family, to their tribe or town, state, country, and, if they have one, religion. Sometimes one Us conflicts with another, as in cases where national identities persecute religious identities (a Christian in Kenya; a Muslim living in the United States). Some people have no perspective of Us, and see only Them. My heart hurts for those people. And some people are constantly trying to expand their internal understanding of Us, and diminish their Them. You might call these people humanists. I am one of them (phrasing?).

Reading that interview with Bill and Bill, two people who have so much, and who have experienced so much, it is incredibly hard to think of them as an Us. They are a Them — an elite, wealthy, powerful Them. But are they? That’s the trap of Us and Them, and the ways our minds have been tricked to think after thousands of years of socio-biological evolution. We don’t need to be afraid any more. In fact, it’s that fear, that manifests in xenophobia and ethnocentrism, that is the only thing left we are justified in being afraid of.

The world is getting too small for both an Us and a Them. Us and Them have become codependent, intertwined, fixed to one another. We have no separate fates, but are bound together in one. And our fear of one another is the only thing capable of our undoing.


Update Nov. 14, 2013 10:47pm — I stumbled upon a mini-documentary called Overview by The Planetary Collective that does an amazing job of presenting the gist of what I talk about in this post, and left this idea even more firmly impressed upon my brain. I hope you’ll take the 20 minutes to watch this, and another couple hours to let it rattle around your mind.

There’s this article, “Why Chivalry is Dead, From a Man’s Perspective,” from John Picciuto on Elite Daily that’s popped up in my Facebook newsfeed a lot. It’s been shared by my friends of varying genders with captions like “Amen” and “FTW” and “Finally.”

Up front, I want to say I don’t normally write reactive, angry things, but I guess I finally got pushed to the point where I had to say something, and I now have this wonderful new site where I committed to sharing a thought a day. It didn’t seem wise to pass up a thought that’s reeling around in my mind.

Also, I want to apologize to John for the headline I wrote, because it’s laced with prejudice and preconceptions. I actually took a moment before publishing this to look into John a bit more and see some other things he’s written and said, and I don’t necessarily think he hates women (sorry, John). But I’m leaving the headline as is because this is a response focused on the article itself, and everyone sharing it — and all the horribleness that is perpetuating.

Oh, and I’m not even going to approach this from a non-binary gender, there are more than two genders and two sexes, angle. Because while that’s true, and this article ignores all of that, there’s plenty here to tackle just on the men vs. women front.

Chivalry Was Never Alive

Do you know where the word, and idea, “chivalry” comes from? It comes from the middle ages in a time where knights rode steeds and women wore chastity belts. Fun fact: did you know that historically chastity belts are most notably remembered as devices crusaders would put on their damsels to prevent them from having sex with other men while they were off fighting a holy war? Fun actual fact: did you know there’s not actually evidence to support that? Less fun fact (more of an opinion): did you know that it’s really sad that the metaphor for “being a good man” is rooted in our glorified and incorrect memory of how knights treated women, despite a bad part we made up (chastity belts) that we all know and all the actual bad things they did that we ignore?

But chivalry is about much more than protecting your partner’s junk from the advances of other men, right? Totally. Knights were known for all of their kindnesses. They kindly didn’t allow women to own property, while still kindly forcing them to work 12 hour days doing manual labor, then kindly treated as them chattel (a fancy, legal-y word for property). Nowadays, we talk about how horrible it is that some men treat women like property, which is terrible, I guess, because, unlike our chivalrous knights of the middle ages, they don’t have the paperwork to back it up.

But let’s not just talk about how great of role models knights were for treating their women. That’s doing this whole conversation a disservice. Chivalry is about how you treat all women, right? Kinda. While the language of the Code of Chivalry might suggest that, what it really meant was to treat noble women with courtesy. Poor women? You should totally rape them. But, to be fair, that’s not necessarily because they hated poor women: they hated all poor people.

You probably knew all this, so why am I telling you again? Because we all know all this, yet so many of us still mourn this so-called “dead chivarly” that they believe society is yearning for.

But it’s the idea that counts!

Okay, we can pretend that all those terrible anti-women-but-still-chivalrous things that happened didn’t really happen, and live in this alternative future where knights really did treat women with respect and courtesy and ride off into the sunsets to fight damsel-abducting dragons. I can get onboard. I’ve played Mario games.

The idea of treating women with respect and kindness, with the chivalrous values we learned as kids, is what’s really be argued to be a good idea, and that should be worth something. Well, it is, but it’s not what that article is allegedly arguing.

It’s the idea of all of this that frustrates me the most. Because whenever we say all these nice things, all of the wonderful ways we’re supposed to treat people — by opening doors for them, buying them meals, walking curbside to protect them from splashes or runaway cars (I’m not really sure what that one is about, to be honest) — it’s because they weren’t born with penises. Warning: the following paragraph is packed with a lot of graphic penis-related imagery to make a point.

If you weren’t born with a penis, people who were should open doors for you, because we wouldn’t want your non-penis fingers touching any dirty door knobs. Let me, a person with a penis, help. I’ll also buy your dinner, because thanks to the penis I was born with I have more dollars (but no thanks to my penis, which has been unemployed for most of my life). Oh, and don’t you dare walk closer to the street. If a drunk driver loses control and skips the curb our way I will simply clobber it out of the way. Yes, with my penis.

Yes, that all sounds ridiculous. Because it is. If every time we established our differing sex-based expectations we had of people by including “because penis” or “because no penis” it would help us all realize how ridiculous they are. “Sam, don’t you mean to say ‘because penis’ or ‘because vagina?'” Nope, unfortunately, I think my way of describing it is more accurate, because being perceived to have a penis is all that really matters. Because society.

So We Should Treat Women Poorly?

No. Absolutely not. My argument is that we shouldn’t treat anyone poorly. Or, on the flip side, we should treat all human beings with decency, courtesy, respect, and love. “Well that’s what the original article was saying!” No. Absolutely not.

The general message of the article is the same as all the “back in the good ol’ days” bullshit I hear every day. It’s romanticizing an era that never existed, where men treated women in X great way, and people treated their elders in Y great way, and everyone was happy, healthy, and life was good. Welp, sorry, but things aren’t great now, but they are far, far better than they have ever been in the history of time. For pretty much everyone, other than people who are sexist, racist, classist, heterosexist… just about any form of bigots and supremacists. Sorry, bigots.

Articles like the one I’m responding to here, while they might be well-intentioned, are rallying against all the progress we’ve made, while painting their flag as being for it. “I’m not sexist, but I miss the days when guys bought dinner” is tantamount to saying “I’m not sexist, but I miss the days when differing sex-based behavior and expectations were better curbed and reinforced by society.”

If you’re “just a girl who wants a guy who will buy me dinner and treat me like a lady,” fine. Assuming the “me” there is really you, and you don’t want a guy who will buy me dinner and treat me like a lady, because — actually, now that I think about it, that sounds delightful. Anyway, it’s totally okay to want someone who will take care of you. What’s less okay is for you to impose that want on all the people in the world who happened to have been born with similar genitals to you.

I was brought up by a mom who all but beat “chivalry” into me. This is something I struggled with for a long time, when I realized how problematic it is to treat people how I assume they want to be treated (back when I was starting to try to live the Platinum Rule life). I’ve since translated that chivalry into trying to treat everyone in my life with decency, courtesy, respect, and love. I try to hold the door for people because it’s a nice thing to do for people, not just people I want to have sex with. I’ll buy dinner and drinks, offer my coat on a cold night, and give my seat up on the bus for people, not just people I want to have sex with on the bus.

By treating women “like ladies,” we’re inherently making a TON of assumptions about how they, as individuals, want to be treated, based on a historically oppressive lens that has shaped who we think they are. If you actually care about the women in your life, you’ll stop treating them like women, or ladies, and start treating them how they, as individuals, want to be treated.

For some people, this might align with your assumptions. Try your best not to let that reinforce them. For other people, the way they want to be treated will fly in the face of everything you assume. Try your best not to diagnose these people as “problematic.” And for most, it will be a mix of the two.

If you want to uphold the spirit of chivalry, the best thing you can do is to stop treating women like ladies, and start treating them like people.

But Hook-Up Culture, and Women Being Poorly Treated, and Blurgh Blah Blegh

There were so many individual things about the article that really angered me that weren’t necessarily addressed above, so here they are. Blurgh-by-blurgh.

“In the hookup culture we now live in, it’s pretty obvious that chivalry is completely dead.”

Hookup culture is a clever way of saying it’s not okay for women to have sex with multiple partners, but it’s totally okay for dudes to. Men have been promiscuous forever, but now that women are up for casual sex (and apparently having it all the time, all of them, every night) it’s bad, and it’s a “culture” now. The amount of self-contradictory brain pudding inherent in this sentence makes we want to swallow a pencil with my ear.

“Dating is done. Seriously, who goes on dates anymore? It’s all about hooking up, getting a number, grabbing a drink and getting down.”

I do! And literally all of my friends, those with and without penises, do, too!

“I think I’m the only single guy I know that actually takes a girl out to a restaurant on a first date.”

I think there are two possibilities for what’s happening in your life: you hang out with shitty people, or all of the people you know aren’t looking for emotional relationships, but are still interested in sexual intimacy, which should be okay.

“If you take a girl out and show her you’re more than some douche looking to just get in her pants…”

Oh, cool, so it’s the shitty people thing. You hang out with shitty people. But there’s more to that sentence.

“…odds are, you’re going to get a second date, at least. Call me old fashioned, but a nice dinner is worth the money to get to know someone to some extent.”

And then she’ll let you get into her pants? Damnit, John. Now you’re sounding like the shitty person you’re denouncing in the FIRST HALF OF THAT SENTENCE. It’s this kind of stuff that made me so upset by this piece. And I realized I’m now dissecting this piece line-by-line. It turns out just about every sentence makes me angry. I’m going to skip ahead a bit.

“Women, for one reason or another, have become complacent and allowed men to get away with adhering to the bare minimum.” 

Oh, yep, good, because I wasn’t completely sure we were blaming women for the “hookup culture” bit. I guess the votes women have at their annual meeting for “Minimum Effort Necessary To Let Men Have Sex To Us” have been slipping up. Maybe we should rescue them from themselves. I suggest a filibuster. Ugh. I can’t keep re-reading this. I’m going to jump to the end.

“It’s pretty obvious that women own the cards, and when they start acting like it, they’ll finally start getting dinner from places that don’t deliver.”

I’m going to go find that pencil to shove into my ear now.

Earlier tonight, I turned the burner on high and while I was waiting for my rice to come to a full boil I had a thought: “I wonder if rice cooked in beer would be good.”

A few years ago, I would have likely wondered that for quite a while. It may have been on my mind while I ate my boring water-based rice. It may have popped into my mind tomorrow, or the next day, when I next saw rice or beer. Visions of beer-based rice recipes might have danced in my belly. I may have wondered about it for a week (or ten) before I finally giving in, cooking it, and exiting Wonderland for Knowville.

But none of that happened, because Google.

Before the water (boring) in the pot began boiling I already knew if “beer rice” was a thing, what it would taste like (delicious), exactly how to make it, and what types of recipes it would be good in (ALL OF THEM).Keep Reading

I did a show earlier today, which isn’t that odd, or thought-provoking. I do shows a lot. It’s what I do. But the show today was different from any show I’ve done, because it was over Skype. That was a first for me.

Doing a show over Skype is different for a ton of reasons: there’s a delay between delivery and reaction, it’s hard (or impossible) to hear laughter, I was sitting down, I didn’t have to wear pants, I can’t feel the energy, and more. It was weird on so many layers. And while it was awesome to make a show happen hundreds of miles away without the costs and inconveniences of travel, I didn’t feel great about it afterward. And, honestly, that was the only thing that was not new about the show.

It’s fascinating to me how often I will decide after a show that it didn’t go well. In my head I’ll hear things like “I know that I could have done better,” or “I have done better,” or “I didn’t vibe very well with that crowd,” or “the economy is pretty weak right now.” I focus on that bad. I’ll be sure. Even though it’s ridiculous to be sure. Pretty much all of the data, if I decide to actually allow it into my brain, would push me toward another decision.

I’ve performed hundreds of times, in dozens of different formats, for just as many types of crowds, and types of people. And the vast majority of those shows have gone well. So, just going from statistical likelihoods, I should lean toward “this show went well” instead of “this show went terribly” when not presented with other data. But there are always other data. Did people laugh? Did people’s heads nod? Did I get most of my words out in the order they are supposed to be said in? And in most cases, as well as in the case of the show today, all signs point toward good show. Yet, despite all of these data, I am sometimes able to convince myself that a show didn’t go well.

And that’s what I did today. I was so sure the show today went poorly that I texted my manager/bud Chum today after my show and apologized preemptively. I felt guilty. After the show, I was sitting there and wondering what I could have done differently, how I could have given them a better show, where I fell short, if I should ever accept a Skype show ever again or just turn my computer off forever. I knew I gave it my best — I would never do anything else — but I blew it. Then I saw this:

That’s Mary, the person who coordinated the show, who reached out to me after (with no prompting) and told me how wrong I was. Mary’s tweet unknows everything I “knew.” And that’s happened every time. If shows went as bad as I beat myself up for every time, I wouldn’t have a job. If the things I wrote were as poorly received and terrible as I convince myself as soon as I publish them, I wouldn’t be writing this write now (ha! That’s now how you do words!). There are so many times in my life where I decide things are bad before they are even things, even though I, intellectually, know how ridiculous it is. But I still do it. I’m grading tests I’m not qualified to grade.

When completing a test in school, regardless of how great or not-so-great we were feeling about it, we wouldn’t write the grade at the top, would we? Did you? I didn’t? Particularly if the test didn’t go that well. I wouldn’t write a bold-faced “F” at the top, hand it to my teacher, and walk out of the class with a peace sign up. But that’s what I did today. And that’s what I do, and have done, in so many times aspects of my life. I grade tests I’m not qualified to grade, and start allowing my body to react to that grade, before ever giving my teacher a chance to respond.

I’m going to try to start letting the teachers in my life grade my tests, and using the time when I’m waiting for my grade as recess.

First, chill out. I promise I’ll make this make sense. Heck, if you can read this entire essay with an open mind before loading your mouth-canon for a bombardment my way, I’ll even wager you’ll agree with me. Disclosure: I’m not a member of either the Republican or Democratic Parties, but identify as a socially-conscious independent. Now, let’s begin.

Talking about oppression is inevitably a complicated conversation. Oppression itself is a complicated subject, because it connects our individual lived experiences to our shared experience with other members of our social groups, two extremes that are often tough for folks to reconcile. Beyond that, it’s complicated because whenever we talk about oppression we tend to use a lot of jargon and in-group terminology that is inaccessible to people who don’t already have a basic understanding of the subject (irony that is not lost on me).

So let me start by establishing a shared understanding, and making clear the foundation upon which I’m building this argument. I will do my best to use accessible language, or to define the jargon-y terms I use.

Quick background

I’m using the word oppression, here, to describe the systemic (on a huge — not individual — scale) mistreatment of an entire group of people. Oppression is all about relationships, where we have one group with power (“agent group”) that exercises that power against another group (“target group”). We often think of these in binary complements (e.g., in the US, being white is an agent identity and being a person of color is a target identity). Most of us have both agent and target identities. But some of us are fortunate enough to have been born with a hand full of agent cards, or unfortunate enough to be born with the opposite. This brings us to the product of oppression, privilege, which is the crux of what I will be talking about here.

Privilege, here, is an unearned advantage granted to you simply for having been born with a particular identity. Privilege comes in many forms, but, simply put, for every aspect of your identity that has agent group membership, you have access to resources that are exclusive from members of the complementary target group(s). Determining your own privilege is not as simple as “If I have 4 agent group memberships and 3 target group memberships then I’m +1 privilege!” (though that is an appealingly simple way to look at it). Agent group memberships and target group memberships intersect in complicated ways on the individual level (and outcomes of those intersections vary based on the person and the situation/setting).

Privilege (the type I’m talking about here) only exists as a byproduct of oppression. People who work to end oppression (like me) are working to lessen the potency of identity-based privilege. Ideally, the end goal is a society without oppression, where social group privilege does not exist.

Republicans and Oppression

In the past couple of election cycles, there has been a Republican value that has become the basis for talking points on a variety of hot-button issues: entitlement. Sometimes it’s brought up with the phrase “pulling oneself up by their bootstraps” (re: economy, taxes), other times you might hear it as “there’s no such thing as a free lunch” (re: “food stamps,” government-assisted housing), or sometimes people just call it like it is, “entitlement” (re: healthcare). Here’s Bill O’Reilly calling it like it is, though if you know O’Reilly you likely don’t have to click that link to hear the rhetoric in your head (and yes, O’Reilly is a “registered independent,” but the people he’s talking to, who wave his flag every time he lets out a battle cry, are not).

We get it. You think entitlement is bad. You’ve even managed to turn the word “entitlement” into something of slur. You find it frustrating to think of someone being given something by the government that they didn’t earn, while other people are working hard to barely get by. But if you’re going to have your cake, I suggest you start eating it.

Privilege is the King of all Entitlements. If you are lucky enough to be born with a certain identity — or, even better, a certain set of identities — the entire world is handed to you. Forget the birth control pills some Republicans whine about people being “entitled to” like they are downing bottles of Dom, the food stamp bought feasts of caviar and 23K-gold-drizzled ice cream, or the 200-foot, multi-billion-dollar yachts that Welfare Queens are holding court on. Those hilariously absurd hyperbolic parodies of rage are the literal, lived experiences that actual human beings are entitled to as a result of the identities they were born with.

Now, you might argue, and I know you will, that those things I’ve described aren’t actually entitlements. That the privileges that people get simply for being born White, Rich, Straight, Non-disabled, Christian, and Cisgender Man aren’t actually privilege at all, and that it’s just a funny coincidence that people holding that hand of cards are more likely to run the western world. And I know you want to believe that — you want to believe that if you work hard enough and don’t give up and put in your time then you can eat gold-covered desserts drunk on champagne aboard a Yacht that cost the GDP of small nations. But do you really believe that? I mean really really?

Do you really believe that Warren Buffet is as wealthy as he is solely because of his investment strategy and patience? Or that Rob Walton is the Chairman of Walmart solely because he’s the best person for the job? Or that George W. Bush’s presidency is solely the result of him being the best candidate that election? (and the next one) Or did the fact that Buffet was born having won what he calls the “ovarian lottery,” or that Rob was born the son of Sam, and George W. the Son of George H.W. (Who was the son of Prescott, who was the son of Samuel, who was the son of James… this is getting pretty Lord of the Rings-y, and I’m strangely okay with it) maybe have something (or everything) to do with it? Maybe.

But those are just individuals, right? (“What about Obama?!”) And like I said before, oppression isn’t about individuals (“Dang..”). It’s about group memberships, whether they be agent or target, and the entitlements those memberships grant you.

I would use the same strategy as in that prior paragraph and ask if you really believe that being born White, Straight, Etc. makes you innately better, but I’m afraid to see the answers in the comments on this article. Instead, I’m just going to put this out there as gospel (and you don’t argue with gospel): it doesn’t. We all used to be brown, and if people from different parts of the world keep having sex with each other, we’ll probably end up that way again eventually (Thanks, Obama).

So, if the Republican party is as vehemently against entitlement as their rhetoric indicates, then Republican politicians should be champions of ending oppression. Oppression is a system we’ve created and reinforce — with legislation, socialization, and interpersonal prejudice — that results in the greatest entitlement program in human history.

O’Reilly and other conservative pundits often use the phrases “entitlement culture” or “entitlement society” to depict this terrifying future of American ineptitude. But in reality we’ve never been anything but an entitlement society. It’s only in recent years, with advances in human and civil rights, that we’ve started to curb the rampant entitlement that plagues our history and present, and will continue to plague our future unless we continue to act.

If Republicans want to continue to soap-box against food stamps and healthcare being handed out to people who didn’t earn them, then I will expect the same rage in response to the thousands of palpable, life-shaping privileges people are born with because they happened to be conceived in the right fallopian tube. And if that’s not something you’re willing fight against, then please step down from the anti-entitlement soap-box, because I’m done letting you have your cake and eating it too — no more free lunch from me.

Sometimes1 we overlook what’s truly important2, and inadvertently focus far too much of our attention3 on things that are inconsequential4. We’re tricked5, by ourselves6, and by influences in our life7, into being mislead without even realizing we’re being mislead8. It’s the most dangerous form of dishonesty9, because it exploits our inherent want to trust10, and turns our own good faith against us11, like a knife with a sharp handle and a dull blade12. I would never (and do not) suggest that we should not be trusting people13, but I would just warn that we should be critical consumers14 of the truths we internalize15. If we became more inquisitive16 and less certain, we’d be happier people17, and the world would be a happier place18.



1Most of the time
2Important™ is a registered trademark of the Coca-Cola® Corporation
3Slack-jawed, mind-numbed mouseclicking
4Miley Cyrus
5Tricked implies that there was an agreement set forth that would suggest a relationship other than the one set forth, but all parties heretofore have agreed to this relationship by not opting out, pending successful credit check.
6You™ are a registered trademark of the Coca-Cola® Corporation
7the Coca-Cola® Corporation
8Inception is a really deep movie that has layers of thought that are worth discussing over coffee it’s not just confusing nonsense spun around a great cast.
9Fox News is the Most Dangerous Form of Dishonesty®
10Hold me.
11Coca-Cola® Corporation is not responsible for good faith, turning things against other things, or providing non-toxic potable substances for consumption
13I will (and do) suggest that you should trust no one. Not even Claire, your high school love who signed your yearbook and told you that she’d love you forever.
14Especially Claire.
16Who, what, where?
17Like Will Smith, from Fresh Prince of Bel Air
18Like 7 Billion Will Smiths, from Fresh Prince of Bel Air

I used to be terrified of any sort of public speaking. This terror was justified by my complete inability to speak to any group larger than 2 – 3. Before my first semester at Purdue, during orientation, we were always asked to introduce ourselves with our “Name, Hometown, Major” — something I couldn’t do without fumbling over my words and screwing something up. Generally, I couldn’t even get my name out correctly (the second N is silent).

I first performed stand up comedy a few weeks into my first semester. It wasn’t that I thought that I’d handle a stage, microphone, and crowd better than I did my orientation group, it was simply something I had to do, and sometimes necessity outweighs rationality. My first set was 15 minutes long (way too long) and I blacked out for about 15 minutes and 30 seconds of it. The math is off because I actually managed to black out before the emcee called my name — something I’m still proud of my brain for all these years later. I remember coming to sitting in a booth with a few of my friends who showed up to support me. “How… how did it go?” I asked, with the same wherewithal as I’d’ve had if I’d just gone head-to-head with Muhammed Ali. “You were okay,” they responded. And that was all I needed to hear. I was hooked.

Over the next year, I did stand up at least once every two weeks, and never did a set shorter than 15 minutes. Again, 15 minutes is way too long for a stand up newbie, but I didn’t know any better, and there wasn’t really a stand up “scene” at Purdue. I would perform at music open mics  (generally the only comic) where sets are much longer than at comedy open mics. I got my first paying gig six months after starting and performed my first hour within nine months, which are awesome things to happen in the first year, but the thing that sticks out for me most is none of that hogwash: it’s the first time I didn’t black out while performing.

I remember the first time I actually remembered performing my set with vivid recall. It was a day and night change from every time performing up ’til that point. Not only did I remember doing it after, but I was much more aware of my surroundings while it was happening. I could see the person in the front row who kept reaching for her drink, then laughing before she was able to take a sip, and putting it back down. She never took a sip the entire set, but attempted to a dozen times. It became a challenge: every time she raised her glass I would try to come up with a punchline that would make her laugh before she got the drink to her mouth — her, this one person in a crowd of 60. Before that set I wasn’t aware of any her, or even of any they. I was barely cognizant of me. I also wasn’t aware of the laughter, and oh the laughter! Making a room full of people laugh (and not being blacked out while it is happening) is a powerful experience. I could feel the laughter washing over me, coursing through me. It was like being tackle-hugged by 50 pandas at once while John Travolta punch-stabbed me with a 4-inch adrenaline needle.

I was still terrified of public speaking, but after feeling what it was like to have a true connection with a crowd I couldn’t not feel that again, and I’ve never blacked out while performing since. Because, well, sometimes necessity outweighs rationality.

Then I started writing

I’d been performing stand up comedy for many years, and doing my one-man show, It’s Pronounced Metrosexual, at colleges for many months, before I ever sat down at my keyboard and started writing. Don’t get me wrong: I’d written before (I knew order in the words go), but never with the intent of sharing those words with the world. Writing a paper for your professor is different from writing. And writing is scary. And writing for the internet is even scarier, because the internet is full of assholes.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but my experience getting into writing was similar to my experience with stand up and public speaking.

I started out cavalierly, ignoring the fear and typing and publishing, typing and publishing, typing and publishing. While I wouldn’t black out while writing (I don’t slam scotch while writing like a “real writer” SORRY MOM), I was largely out of touch with what was happening with the things I was publishing — I was afraid to be too “in touch,” even if I didn’t realize it.

It all came crashing into saliency when I got an email from a reader stating that an article I’d written had saved his life — well, more accurately, saved him from taking his own life. Wow. That rocked me. I realized for the first time that through my writing I was connecting to people (real life human ones), not just the little numbers I saw on the analytics page go up with each new “unique visitor.” It terrified me. Up until that point, I was stuffing letters into bottles and chucking them into the ocean. Imagine someone knocking on your door, holding a wrinkled, bottle-stuff letter you never thought you’d see again, and telling you it saved their life.

For the next year, or maybe longer, I wrote with intention that I didn’t realize I was lacking before. I spent more time in the comments sections of articles I wrote, and in my inbox, discussing things with readers, learning from them, and improving my writing as a result. I slowly became more comfortable and less terrified, better prepared and more excited, in my writer skin.

Before I knew it, I found myself occupying the majority of my time writing, where before it was filled with performing, rehearsing, and working to improv my presence on stage. I became a writer! Then I wrote a book! I became an author!

How could I have ever been so scared to write? How silly is it that for the longest time I couldn’t even introduce myself to a group without fumbling over my name? How pointless to have been so overcome with fear. Never again, right? Right? Uh…

Now I’m starting a podcast and a web series

And I am petrified.

For the past year or so, people have repeatedly asked again and again and again — you know, repeatedly — when I’m going to do a podcast, or why I don’t do YouTube videos. “Because I’m a cotton-headed ninnymuggins!” I’d say, then they’d say, “Huh?” then I’d say, “Elf.” then they’d say, “Where?” then I’d say, “I’m sorry I ruined your lives and crammed eleven cookies into the VCR.”

In the past six months, I’ve tried to start a podcast or a web series many times, but it hasn’t happened. Each time I sat down to record the first episode, I came up with a bullet-proof excuse preventing me from doing so. They ranged from “need new gear” to “don’t have the time” to “I should make some hummus.”  What I realize now, with a super cool microphone sitting on my desk, looking at my calendar for November which has me in Austin for more time than I’m on the road, and having planned to record and publish my first podcast on this site today but instead I am writing this post, is that I’ve used up my final excuse: “I should write a post about why I haven’t done a podcast yet.”

I’m scared, folks. I’m scared to do a podcast and web series in the same way that I was scared to do stand up and write, back when I got started on those things. The only thing that’s different, is before I did stand up I didn’t have stand up. And before I wrote I didn’t have writing. And I needed stand up and writing, even if I didn’t know it. Now I have both of those things I need, and the terror that’s prevented me from starting a podcast and web series has been victorious because there is no necessity to outweigh rationality.

I didn’t realize it until now, as I’m writing this, that these past few months of me toeing the waters, asking my readers and friends if I should do a podcast and web series, have been me attempting to create that necessity to help myself overcome what I see as a very rational fear of this new and terrifying thing. Even right now, I’m hiding behind my keyboard, a shield that was for so long a dagger pointed in my direction itself, to prevent myself from the hypothetical blows of this new idea. So let’s solve this little “necessity” conundrum once and for all:

Tomorrow, I will record and release my first ever podcast, and on Wednesday I will record and release the first installment of my forthcoming web series. Both will be posted here, and will have a forever home in this Thought / Day project.


I ride the bus.
I ride the bus because it’s good for the environment
& it makes for a smaller carbon footprint
& it helps me afford my month-to-month rent
But truly none of that is it.

I try to ride every day
Because it’s the slowest f-ing way
To get from point A
to point B
& slowness is good for me.
Never ride the bus if you’re in a hurry.
I ride because it gives me time to connect with me.
It’s on the bus my mind wanders free
Indulging every thought I have, however unnecessary
Because finding time for the unnecessary is necessary.

I ride the bus because it puts me beside
A stranger, a group of strangers, if just for one ride.
We are people who live in circles so distant
That we may have no other commonality significant
& would never see one another’s face
If not for the bus, our one common space.
It reminds me that we all coexist
A thought that’s too often too easily dismissed.

I ride the bus because everything is moving too fast
& riding reminds me of our communal past
Where we leaned on our neighbor
& had faith in strangers
& saw health for all as a worthwhile labor.
Before the Internet, cell phones, Facebook & Twitter
Diluted friendships to meaningless chatter.

I’m happy I found the bus
& believe I’m privileged to ride.
In the past three years without a car
Just the bus & my bike
I can only imagine how much of an impact it’s made.
My work has benefitted as much as my soul
As each day I take time, am mindful, & appreciate people.