Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Random thoughts about my birthday and the joys of public transportation

So, it's my birthday tomorrow. I'm always a bit wierd about this...part of me wants to mark the occasion in some way and another part wants to pretend it isn't happening. I'm turning 32, and that makes me feel as if I should be much farther along in terms of a life plan and much more of a grownup than I actually am. It's a wierd age, as I feel like my continuing immersion in pop culture and general lack of house and a picket fence aspirations lead to me having very little in common with people in the 40+ bracket. On the other hand, teenagers seem very young to me, and I don't identify with them either. I suppose I still feel like I'm in my mid twenties (which is about the age people who don't know me usually assume I am). I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing. Am I tragically immature, or just deeply countercultural?
The usual "damn I'm getting old" birthday blues were alleviated somewhat by a recent BART encounter with the guy who I am describing to friends as "sexy Swedish dude". I was on my way in to work a few days ago and found myself sitting across the train from a very hot blond guy about my age (and I don't much care for blondes, so if I say a blond is hot then they're REALLY hot). Not having had my morning coffee yet I didn't notice the guy at first, until I got the "someone is watching me" feeling and looked up to find him watching me put on my lipstick. We did the glance and glance away, little smiles, general flirting thing until, alas, he apparently reached his stop and had to get off. Made me think of the line from Thelma and Louise...I hate to see him go but I love to watch him leave.
This little encounter helped to stave off the usual birthday-induced ageing-related depression. I'm getting older, true, but the good thing is that my taste in men seems to be evolving accordingly. Teenage boys look sort of larval to me, not sexy at all, and men in their early twenties often irritate me. The men I find sexist now all seem to be about my age, which is a good thing. Not that I'm planning to get rid of P any time soon, but it's always good to know that if one were to suddenly find oneself single one still has plenty of options and has not become invisible to the opposite sex. So let's all hail sexy Swedish guys who like to flirt with women on trains - they make the world a happier place.
Since we're on the subject, why don't American men know how to flirt? Encounters with my American brethren always leave me feeling as if they're either about to hit me over the head with their club and drag me back to their cave, or they're too scared to even make eye contact. American women aren't much better. Why are Americans so flirting-impaired? Why the underlying assumption that any flirting that doesn't actually lead to sex represents some kind of failure? Why can't they just enjoy flirting for the sheer joy of it, for it's ability to add a little spark to each person's day? I never have understood this. If anyone else gets it, please clue me in. It makes daily life a lot more boring than it needs to be.
In other commuting news, I saw a guy reading "The Selfish Gene" on the train this morning. I've never much cared for either the book or it's fans, and the guy this morning did a great job of reminding me why. He spent the whole trip giving me that combined lust/resentment look that always gives me the creeps. He refused to move his stuff so that someone else could sit down. On his way out of the train he barged the other commuters as if completely unaware of their existance. Is the person selecting reading material that reinforces his own basic beliefs, or is the book leading the person to behave in a way he otherwise might not? It the book the chicken or the egg? I'm not sure. I only got through a few chapters before giving up in disgust, and to a certain extent my discomfort with Dawkins is based on the way in which other have used his work, for which he is not necessarily responsible. Did anyone else actually read the whole book? If so, please feel free to chime in.

21 comments:

FoolishOwl said...

Flip the genders around, and I can pretty much say the same things about how I feel about people at different ages.

Two women I've met recently were perhaps the most beautiful women I've seen in my entire life -- one was 34, the other 35. One of them had actually responded to a personal ad of mine and asked me out on a date about a month ago -- it went badly, but at least I found that a) someone my own age was amazingly beautiful, and b) I could interest such a person at least a little.

As someone who spends a lot of time wallowing in self-doubt, I can say that there are two things to remember: first, you've accomplished quite a bit with your life already; and second, the universe isn't a contest, anyway.

SillyBahrainiGirl said...

happy birthday and many happy returns from wonderland ;)

FoolishOwl said...

Oh, right. Forgot that part.

Happy birthday!

Arwen said...

Happy birthday! I just turned 31 and am in a similar sort of a head-space in terms of what-exactly-am-I-doing? - but it finally hit me that I don't ever want to be the sort of person that's "arrived", and has it all figured out. I figure I'll still be finding the best career at 55. The settled life is a myth, it's got to be: who spends the time from their 30s to their 70s *without growing or changing*?

As for finding sexy in your age range: when I was a girl (about 11), and I was becoming interested to the boys around me, I was deeply worried that I was mentally ill for being attracted to kids. Much to my relief, I didn't stay attracted to 11 year olds. I certainly hope that continues, since I'd like to be having sex in my 80s.

Tuomas said...

Happy birthday!

(What a coincidence - I had a birthday couple weeks ago too. Supposedly a significant one too, 25, a quarter century.)

About Richard Dawkins... I haven't read "The Selfish Gene", however I've read the "Devil's Chaplain" and I think Dawkins himself elaborates his views about geneticism quite well. Basically, at some point he actually compares our genes to parasitic collection of modified viruses, and concludes that our species, because we have the capability of knowing better than to act in a cavemannishly selfish manner we really shouldn't, and genes are no excuse.

All in all, I have mixed feelings about the guy (Dawkins). On the other hand, I respect his commitment to truth and his intellect, but I do think that sometimes he is unobjectively biased against all postmodernism including feminism, as evidenced by some cheap shots at some pretty silly sounding (possibly chosen out of context) feminist theories in The Devils Chaplain, as a way of discrediting the whole field (I have yet to see Dawkins rant against Medicine using Mengele as "proof" that Medicine sucks). That's quite damning for a person who advocates and celebrates a completely objective, non-authoritarian and open-minded study of facts and exchange of ideas (aka science).

So yes, I do think that many selfish gene -fans use the work of Dawkins to validitate their own selfish ideas/behaviours. I don't think Dawkins is the cause so much

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday. You're in your prime. Not even in the middle of your prime. You're at the beginning of your prime. A friend of mine about your age just finished law school -- there's no rule that people have to pick their careers by 26. First of all, do right by yourself.

Thomas

StealthBadger said...

Brief answer, speaking from the only cultural context I know.

Dating American Whites is about as gentle and good-natured as a Roller Derby marathon. You might say that romance (dating, whatever) is heavily "goal-oriented" here, and very often in the back of the person's mind is either the endgame (anything from marriage to flushing the person's phone number down the toilet), to how to stretch said endgame out. This makes dating about as much wonderful fun as playing Twister on a pile of porcupines. This, unfortunately, and as much as people try to say "it's their fault" (pointing at the other gender) is a pretty consistent cultural meme among caucasians.

There is a group of friends who I love being with because I can flirt my brains out, but with strangers the range of possible reactions (usually seeming to range from hostile indifference to suspicion to wariness) doesn't encourage practicing. The times I've been to Europe, I felt like a serious part of my education as a human being was missing. Surprise, surprise.

Just my take, YMMV.

StealthBadger said...

Happy birthday. My apologies. -_-;

Sorry. Recent breakup kinda focused me on the dating question. Selfish.

FoolishOwl said...

SB, you're not the only one suffering from that sort of preoccupation.

AfroFeminista said...

Happy belated birthday...great post. Sorry can't say much about 'White American Males' as haven't dated any or known too many of them...sounds a bit hopeless though and eerily similar to the male in this part of sub-saharan Africa....

Cassandra Says said...

Thanks for the birthday wishes, everyone. And happy belated birthday, Tuomas! 25 is a pretty significant one...

Also, on the flirting thing...you're right, as an American a vital part of tour education is missing. Interestingly enough this does not seem to apply to black or hispanic americans, who seem to understand flirting just fine. What's wrong with the white folks? Clearly all that Puritanism still exerts an influence.
I agree with the goal-oriented thing, by the way. That does seem to be how dating works here. Doesn't seem like much fun for anyone involved.
Depressing that AfroFeminista is encountering the same thing in Kenya. Apparently the virus of alienation in dating is spreading. Strange...I remember dating in the UK as a lot of fun. Maybe I'm just getting too old to remember...

FoolishOwl said...

I didn't quite realize what stealthbadger was talking about until I reread it today.

There was a computer adventure game I played years ago, "The Orient Express," set on the eve of WWI, in which much of the game was about sneaking around a train and eavesdropping on conversations. One couple on the train were two women, an English novelist and a French poet, who were having an affair. (I assumed the novelist was roughly modelled on Virginia Woolf.) The novelist kept complaining that the poet was always going on about her erotic fantasies about other women, and wasn't taking her seriously; the poet kept complaining that the novelist made everything out to be a life-and-death moral dilemna, with no pleasure or joy in any of it, and if the poet had wanted that, she'd have stuck to men.

I've also thought about it more charitably, as a divide between Apollonian and Dionysian ideals. Part of the trouble is that the Dionysian has traditionally been denied, so there's a sense of the Dionysian being essentially liberatory, and the Apollonian being essentially repressive. This is at least somewhat untrue and unfair -- I can't stand the rave scene, but don't like being labelled some sort of reactionary prude because of it, for instance.

Anyway, I'm rather worried at the moment, since I feel rather trapped with the problem of not being at all flirtatious, not knowing how to respond to it, and I'm most afraid of getting into a relationship which is all about obligation outweighing freedom and joy.

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