Thursday, November 18, 2021

Somebody dishonest wants praise and somebody incapable wants to help

"Thank God your parents aren’t the only audience in the world. Go out and get professional option, ask friends and strangers. One of the things I found about very creative and talented people, people around them tend not to appreciated their talents until strangers do. Don’t get discourage, just try other people" 

This is a direct, unedited, quote that I pulled from an internet forum while trying to figure out a certain phenomena that's been bugging me for quite a while now. It's the strange habit that we succumb to when presented with our loved ones' artistic ideas or creations, especially when the works are in their infancy. We obliviously say something so insensitive and hurtful that the artist will vow to never ask our opinion again. 

I've been trying to unpack the reasons why we do this and I think that it's simply the result of a miscommunication. The advice I like to give young artists who are unveiling their creative ideas to their family for the first time is to realise that, apart from some special circumstances, their family are not qualified to give them criticism . We should ask ourselves why we are showing it to them in the first place; do we want some help with improving it? Or our we really just looking for praise. I think it's the second one. We can't deny that we have an inherent need to impress each other. The other day for example, I was picking blackberries and all the while I was thinking about how impressed everyone will be when they see the amount I've collected!

So if we're not ready for somebody to pick holes in what we've done then why are we showing it off? Maybe because we feel we are revealing our babies in a safe space. That's the major mistake we make because our loved one also knows this, and they'll instinctively become harsher with their criticism, as if to prepare us for the brutal and severe realty of the outside world. Here's the problem, especially for the timid young artist just beginning to find themselves, most ideas, though promising, are likely to fall apart with some rigid scrutiny, and need to be considered for many, many hours before becoming palatable for it's audience, and harsh criticism at this early stage can just evaporate the concept right there and then.  

If your art is any way challenging then you're most likely to experience push back from your family. They can become embarrassed by the very thought of association. I have experienced this because of my coarse sense of humour.  If we were all to adhere to polite society's standards and use good manners when we create then the world would be a very boring place. But I still get anxious when telling my loved ones about my latest projects and have to keep reminding myself that if they are embarrassed, or disgusted even, then I'm probably on the right track!


My mother is the epitome of compassion, and yet, one day, she told me that while telling her sister about my short film; she recommended that she not pay particular attention to the storyline and instead to the cinematography. She said this to me thinking that I wouldn't take offence. This is the same short film that won me an award for Best Writing!  And I'm not without guilt myself; whenever my brother, a musician, played me a song that he was working on I immediately felt the need to tell him what I thought was missing rather than what was good about it. And though I was keenly aware of this habit, I'd be fighting with myself internally to suppress my negative criticism and remain positive so much so that I'd likely just say nothing at all and then I'd witness his pure disappointment at my reaction. 

We seem to be on the fringe of a new era; one where a lot of people will find themselves with a lot more time on their hands, and if they want to avoid the madhouse, they'll need to start exploring their own individual artistic expression. This might help us loose any stigma associated with being an arty farty shmartist, but first we'll need get past this dilemma, and, I think it will take a great deal of honesty on both sides. Maybe just start with a simple question: "Are you looking for feedback or praise?"

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

How de Beauvoir saved my sex life

Having read the Second Sex with the simple intention of developing my female characters a little more comprehensively, I, instead, exposed a wealth of bias I'd been harboring towards the female of our species for my entire life. The myth of an earthly maternal protector was very much ingrained in my psyche. Her role in my stories thus far had been to try and talk my male hero down and keep him from his transcendence. This would be unconsciously brought on by her fear and lack of understanding of the outside world. Had I continued to use this model when developing my characters I'm sure I would find my scope of storytelling would diminish greatly. What's worse is, I was projecting this archetype onto my partner and I think, ironically, keeping her from her own transcendence.

It's very easy to dismiss these ideas as a man because they don't emerge in our every day discussions but if we look at our history of literature, our mythology and subsequently our religions, they are very much centered around the male experience. The truth is we carry an abundance of historically biased baggage that we obliviously succumb to. Like for instance, I never even thought about the effect of the ritual where the father gives away the bride to her new man as if she were an asset that's being handed over from one family to the next. Little things like this that could possibly diminish a woman's sense of autonomy are in fact the things that I never thought about.

De Beauvoir posits that a man can be incredibly clumsy during the first sexual encounter with a long term partner and this can have an effect on the woman potentially causing some deep seated resentment.  Upon first reading, I have to admit that, I gave this statement a very surface assessment; taking the word 'clumsy' as something akin to poor aim, but, as the text went on I realized that it was a lot more psychological than that. This was when the feelings of guilt started to set in. My partner is five years younger than I am which was enough for me to adopt the position of teacher in our sexual relationship even though I, myself, was a novice. Without knowing it I was creating a scenario analogous to a child who is otherwise an ace footballer but can't seem to score when his dad is watching him. I introduced an unnecessary unhelpful pressure into our relationship and at the same time I formulated an exchange where I was unlikely to learn from her. 

I'm a big believer in the idea that our bodies harbor attributes that our conscious minds simply can't fathom. For me it's psoriasis. If I'm unhappy about something, and I'm not actively trying to work through it, my skin cells start to multiply and I'm left with scales. I think that my partner's body now holds a resentment that she has long given up trying to comprehend. Upon some research I discovered a condition called vaginismus. It is an involuntary contracting of the required muscles and it is usually caused by a previous trauma, which made my partner disagree with my opinion that it was relevant. I'm aware that there's a serious case to be made against male doctors ignoring female's subjective reporting in our culture but my hypothesis relies on the condition being unconscious. 

Whenever I imagine myself playing with my partner I usually have my index finger extended and it's trying to poke her, usually in her most precious regions. With this, and the odd pinch of a nipple or bottom, you can see why we don't make time for play that much anymore. The unfortunate truth is that my male instincts in both play and sex are to penetrate. This is something I need to work on (avoiding pornography is a good start!). De Beauvoir hypothesizes that the simple difference in the make up of our sexual organs can have a profound effect on our psychology; where a boy's organ points out into the world, giving him permission to explore, a girl's is hidden away and shrouded in shame. This is potentially the source of the "Mystery" in woman that we are accustomed to in literature. 

This is a very difficult blunder to try and atone for, especially when the victim herself, doesn't agree with the theory in the first place. All I could think as how to make a start was to relieve the pressure somehow. So after a discussion we concluded that going forward, I don't expect penetration out of our sexual encounters anymore. This did, I think, make her feel less objectified and for a while we only did oral when making love. I then encouraged masturbation to try and help her acclimate the area somewhat and I on the other hand would decrease my private pleasure sessions in order to make my climaxes more memorable for both of us!

Now I know this sounds like she didn't have any input on the resolution of our problem but she certainly did. You see the hardest thing I've had to comprehend about female sexuality is that it's like the erosion of a coastline; very, very gradual. I could make a small misstep at the beginning of an evening that'll throw the whole thing off track. She thinks that I'm too negative. This conception is usually spurred by my complaints about banal TV shows or advertising tropes, the same ones that hook her by the heart strings. This is something I need to work on but it's hard, there's a lot of shit out there! The inner critic can be a dangerous companion but sometimes he's just fucking right! But it seems to be a turn off  so I know to limit it, at least on the days where we have made time to get intimate. Etiquette is another one of my "negative" traits. I have a tendency to be quite surly in my daily interactions with people. It's, perhaps, a deeper reflection of my personality type; I take a very long time to trust people, so theatrical use of manners offend me. I find them to be disingenuous. But ultimately these are just excuses and if a random stranger is short with me I get offended just like everybody else. So I'm watching more crap TV and being over friendly to strangers and do you know what? I think it suits me!

The one area where myself and De Beauvoir differ is when she claims that; "to ask two spouses bound by practical, social and moral ties to satisfy each other for their whole lives is pure absurdity" and that "Marriage is a perverted institution oppressing both men and women". I just think it takes a phenomenal amount of effort from both parties to try and be the best and most understanding person that they can be. I couldn't think of anyone I'd prefer spend the rest of my life with other than my partner. She is the most attractive woman I know and when we make love it's bliss.

The difficulty distinguishing between instinctual good advice and fear of failure

I went to a Stanley Kubrick exhibition in LACMA once and the one thing that really stuck with me was a piece of advice he was giving to some...