Guest Column: Transitions in New Orleans by Ms. Jennifer

French Quarter

New Orleans. It’s evening. Click. I power up my laptop. The Netflix show “Hot Girls Wanted: Turned On,” appears on the screen. A guy who had been a nerd as a kid is featured. He got on some reality show and then, after a small taste of fame, decided he was hot. In response he started compulsively swiping and hooking up online. The show also interviewed his “girlfriend,” who was getting serious with him while he was off sleeping around.  He meets this new girl and starts to actually like her, but then the first time there is a taste of conflict (he’s at a party and invites her and she mentions something about working in the morning and his age–he’s 15 years older than her) he sends her a text message wishing her well. Haven’t relationships become very impersonal as a result of technology? Are we in a major cultural transition where the antidote to technology is connection (aka sex), but people are hooking up with something resembling a computer screen for how much can they know?  Technology has made things like texting a replacement for in person communication. Both the new girl and the girlfriend are left wondering what happened.  People are, no longer resembling their dogs, but now resembling machines.  And the next episode on making porn was even worse.  The performers are like chimpanzee paid to perform.   Forget pleasure, you’re a machine, and you must cum on screen if you want your money.  How does one hold on to their humanity in this frenzy?

The speed of technology renders so much of the “old culture” useless. Getting off is unsettling since I don’t know what to do with myself and doing “nothing” seems like it’s not an option in this frenetic pace we live with.   Perhaps past generations stood still too long or put up with too much shit, but now we find ourselves on the opposite end of the pendulum where leaving/swiping is as easy as taking a piss after drinking a six pack.  If the culture is dysfunctional then I won’t delude myself with my grandiosity that I can change it, like I used to, nor will I keep searching and lying to myself– “this time will be different.”   It’s not to say it’s hopeless, but the lies and deception and power hungry ego’s–from the White House all the way down to Tinder—my sense of humanity is eroding.  Some days I’m depressed by it, but mostly I like to think there is some sort of transitioning going on here.

Maybe that’s why nearly half of the country still voted for Trump, because they are desperate to stay numb and allow daddy to continue to tuck them into bed with his lies.  Make America Great Again is the undying believe that they don’t have to move forward in a world that is often confusing, often dark, and moves at the pace of a speeding train.  They refused to believe they’ve been conned and big daddy is taking their 10 and 20 dollars bills and making himself fatter.  Maybe they can’t let go of their hope… just like I couldn’t– I had to hold onto some 1950’s Ozzie and Harriet television studio fantasy that I could still at this age find a deeper love, find the romance and the hope, in a body that wasn’t mine.   The hope that someone else had my answers.  And as I lose this make-believe fantasy a fog has descended, and I’m plagued with a lethargy (or is it anxiety?).  What was I willing to pay for the idea that I wouldn’t live my old age alone?  

I’m not immortal, my teeth break leaving a hole in my smile, and my pussy hurts sometimes, and my hair is more grey than brown.  Trump sells privilege and people don’t want to let go.   And why would people used to being in power want to share that power exactly?   What is the incentive?  And what do I have to sell?   I thought my passion and my mind made me more interesting, more desirable, more mysterious.  Instead, I’m finding out how men want IF “uncomplicated.” But where is the nuance, the interest in going deeper?  It’s like now more than ever the need exists to unpack privilege, and racism, and sexism, and homophobia, but we don’t seem to have the bandwidth to do exactly what we need to do.  

And enter Covid stage left and, well, everyone is maxed out.  The leadership does the exact opposite of what we need which is something resembling truth and we also need something resembling compassion, but we don’t have a leader of the people we have a conniving narcissist which allows white supremacist and all sorts of bigots to flex their  muscles.  It’s exhausting to rise up, but that’s exactly what people have done… taken it to the streets.  We find ourselves back in the 80’s with the AIDS crisis when “silence equals death.”  

My friend wrote me about a transgendered person he knows. In her words, she retains the fluidity of both male and female worlds. His friend is in transition. There’s no need for things to fit in a neat package wrapped in shinny paper and the perfect bow.  He/she clearly does not.  It’s easy for me to judge others and pat myself on my back with how cool and hip and liberal I am and gloss over my own discomfort, or my own titillation, or my own judgement.  

What is it when a person, intentionally or not, stirs up our shit?  We make them the target rather than look inside and doing our own interior house cleaning.   But why isn’t curiosity the answer?  Why aren’t we honoring our differences and realizing that is the “adventure.”  It’s like traveling to Thailand and eating at McDonald’s.   What’s the point of going?  There’s much to learn about fluidity and someone who is experiencing a gender transition has something to teach me.  Why does the world still require a bi-racial person to declare themselves “black” or “white” or are they “other”?  These complexities, this awareness that we don’t fit into neat and tidy categories-are too much to handle so let’s go back to “Make American Great Again.”   But who exactly was it great for?

Maybe that why I tended to gravitate towards black or brown men… and Jews.   I guess I wanted the “adventure” of being allowed into another culture other than my own.  Maybe as a woman I could related to their “less than human” status.  Maybe I could relate to their disable voice and their disenfranchised status.  After all I used to be mostly “tits and ass” until I became rather invisible.  Dating allowed me to remember the “good old days” when I was seen as a receptacle and the attention could be intoxicating until it no longer was.  But now I understand more the lie of seduction and, unlike the woman in the show, no longer wonder why some guy isn’t answering my text messages.  

I won’t say I always know when the shit is lying, but I understand now that people actually lie… and lie all the time and it’s not “something I did.”   Along with Covid, lying is an pandemic.   It’s not only about deluding the other person, but also the liar lies to themselves making their behavior acceptable and in the case of the leader of the free world anything is justified because it’s victory over ethics every day.   At the end of “Turned On” the guy kind of wakes up.  It’s like he realizes he has the power to hurt other people’s feelings.  I’m not quite sure how a 40 year doesn’t already know this??   But then I’m not quite sure why people believe the election was “rigged” either and they need to “save” Trump from the big, bad democrats.  How do you keep your sanity in this insanity?  And more importantly, how does one keep their hope/optimism?  

If people stop thinking for themselves and let a dictator-daddy run the show how are we all going to survive?   How can we “look the other way” when we see what is happening?  Isn’t that how Hitler got into power?   I’m banking on my ability to be reasonable and understanding and emphatic, but I can’t be around or date anyone who voted for Trump.  I DO have to draw lines in the sand about SOMETHING.  So how do I stand steady in my beliefs, but not become rigid, cynical and impenetrable?   But let’s not forget I’m now “dating myself” anyway so I don’t need to worry about these sorts of things.  lol   I don’t need to concern myself with the power disparity/ dynamic or the vulnerability of getting naked in an intimate relationship.  

I’m seeing my own rigidity and how I told myself I’ve “killed Prince Charming” and yet there is a little part of me that was compulsively looking–my own version of looking for Daddy to have my answers.  I told myself not because I NEEDED a man, but because I wanted to share myself with someone.  I wanted to unpack myself and preferably in the arms of another, but my work is my own.   My insecurities (or breeding) told me I needed someone, ok, a man.  I hate admitting that or thinking that I’m “weak” when I feel lonely and, God help me, thinking some man has my magic.  Because the truth is loneliness is simply part of the human existence.  A grand love affair is a beautiful antidote, but the reality is it doesn’t really ultimately fix anything.  What is the LONGING really about then?  Some find Jesus Christ, others climb mountains, and what do I do? 

The key is finding my own “happiness” within myself while knowing I won’t always be happy, that I will need to learn to comfort myself.   Of course times are challenging and yet beauty is always present from flowers, to babies, to trees, to art, to puppies.   Could the paradox be the stimulant?  It’s about connecting when it’s real and genuine and it’s about moving on and not hold on too tight. Intimacy and strangulation I’ve found, are neighbors.

People come and go.  And I am afraid after living with so many losses and death, how to keep my zest for life.  Afraid that I will be overwhelmed by the sheer volume of losses.   It gets harder with each one to pick myself back up.  I wonder as I get older, as people start to die with increasing speed, will my heart recognize its limits?

And so, my dating career in a major transaction I recalculate.  Dating was my hell-bent focus and now I’m left with another “now what” minute.  Letting go! Today I understand paradox better.  I come and go, so I both hold onto hope and understand “I don’t get to know.”   I befriend my own sorrow and sadness (especially as I am now a full-time orphan) and also appreciate every day even living during Covid-time.  My past intimate relationships have illuminated just how difficult it can be for me to hold onto my core.  So now my love affair is with myself and it ain’t all bad.  Now forgive me, but I must go get naked and slip into a hot bath.