People have asked me more than once, “Hey, Martin Douglas. How do you feel about cat sweaters? Would you ever wear a cat sweater? Why haven’t you ever worn a cat sweater?” It’s not that I’m not open to the idea at all, because I very much am. It’s just that I have yet to find a cat sweater that makes me fall in love when I see it on the hanger or in front of that white background. I haven’t seen a cat sweater that made me say, “Now, that’s a cat sweater. I need to try that cat sweater on RIGHT NOW.” I’ve been waiting for that day for almost 31 years. But it has yet to come.
i have this friend who just wants everybody to be their best selves. i can count on her to tell me when i could be doing better. she doesn’t know this — or maybe she does — she is my clearest inspiration to be a better person. it’s an endless process, a lifelong journey, and i don’t consider myself to be any greater than a mildly decent person morally. i have a lot to learn and always try to surround myself with people to teach me things. she teaches me how to strengthen my character.
i have this thing called hubris, which burns bridges beyond repair, even beyond a lengthy pile of ash. in terms of everybody’s life being a story, pride has always been my tragic flaw. it’s cost me jobs that paid well, people whom i have been incredibly fond of. i used to justify it as, “people will come and go, but my pride will always be with me.” i’ve come to realize using this as a means to do emotionally harmful things to people is a flimsy justification at best. it’s actually just one’s way to hold onto one’s ego, and i need to find a way to put the kibosh on my ego, because i’m a grown man now.
i have this tendency to stroke a girl’s hair while i’m lying next to her. i like to put my arm around her waist and spoon her. i like to drape my arm across her torso while she lies on her back. i really like it when she strokes my arm the way someone would play a lute. it’s amazing to have someone who would trust you enough to let you share a bed with them while they sleep. it’s even more amazing when the person is okay not only sharing that space with you, but making you an active part of it.
“I’m not interested in anybody’s guilt. Guilt is a luxury that we can no longer afford. I know you didn’t do it, and I didn’t do it either, but I am responsible for it because I am a man and a citizen of this country and you are responsible for it, too, for the very same reason.”—James Baldwin (via brookehatfield)
An Excerpt From a Yet-to-Be-Determined Chapter of American Water
Carmen squinted her eyes and started to speak. “You handsome, stylish, Don Draper types are all the same. You can’t decide whether you want to be the debonair jerk or the romantic hero. You want to be both at the same time, but it makes us exhausted. We’re tired of you flaying your vanity all over us; we’re sick to death of being mere props for your monologues. We’re people, too, but our triumphs and struggles are far more interesting than your petty self-reflection about whether the girl you’re fucking thinks you’re a saint or a dweller of Sodom. Your masculinity is self-fabricated and boring. Your privilege is poisonous. Here’s a tip: Truly find yourself, and we’ll come looking for you.”
i’ve been thinking long and hard about what to say about the whole ferguson tragedy, as a few people have asked me about it, but i’m sort of at a loss for what to say to make the situation better. what am i supposed to say? am i supposed to talk about the time i was handcuffed in the back of a police car when i was 23 (i was pulled over for having expired tabs), on my way home from an okkervil river show, while they searched my car for drugs and firearms and were visibly disappointed when they didn’t find anything? do i talk about thirteen, fourteen years prior to that, when i lived in a lower-class neighborhood in north carolina, and i was made to sit and watch while the police hog-tied my friend, who was also a child? i’ve talked about those things many times before. my testimony isn’t any more valid as anyone else’s; a great many people — across the racial and gender spectrum — have suffered far worse injustices.
even still, as a 30-year-old, self-educated black man, i don’t feel safe around the police, and i was both taught and shown from an early age that the police don’t exist to serve and protect black men. truth be told, america’s not safe for anybody except heterosexual white dudes. we suffer injustice after injustice, we get beaten, sexually violated, sometimes even murdered, and then chided for going to the system regardless, even though that’s the thing we’re all told to do. god forbid we engage in vigilante justice, because they’ll just charge us with a far worse crime than the ones perpetuated against us.
i know i’m preaching the choir here, but i don’t know what else to do. for all the protests we attend and sometimes organize, it feels as though the higher desks of society just push back harder to retain their false idol of power.
i guess the solution is to keep fighting until we’re all dead. that’s apparently what they want anyway.
i closed my window, lit a candle, and loaded a bowl. i listened to a lot of the music from around the time i first moved into this loft, sitting above the garage of a nice 50-something-year-old lady’s house (public strain, share the joy, melted when i was feeling energetic, lasted when i curled into bed). pardon the cliche, but four years felt like a lifetime ago. i feel like i’ve lived an entire adulthood in the past four years.
sometimes i think about some of the things i had back then and have since lost, to the supposed afterlife, to the scrubbed ether of acrimony. a girlfriend who i valued more than i valued myself, a close friend with whom i’d had a very complicated (but enjoyable) friendship, my mom, a various parade of nice young ladies whose dealings with me dissolved into a pile of dust and blew away.
i try to think about where i’m going, but i have these crises of confidence sometimes. i’m still trying to plow past the one that set me back two years ago, and i feel as though i’m finally breaking ground. it’s not a matter of getting back to some elusive “old self” — that guy is long gone. it’s more about gaining that sense of confidence in order to push myself forward. in the various creative questions i obsess over (“how much subtext is too much subtext?”) and the equally various personal ones (“when does true love get to happen to me?”), it’s a task to back away from these acupuncture needles in my brain and just move along.
i do know that i don’t miss the guy i was four years ago. i still have the core principles of that guy, but the adornments have changed. there was a lot of psychic strain, but it’s mostly gone. so is the emotional instability. it’s hard to realize i can’t make amends with people and show them how i’ve changed, or show people i really have the wherewithal and the discipline to do everything i say i’m going to do. having a chip on my shoulder is a struggle, but i’ve always had it.
at least i have my friends, my family, and this 50-something-year-old lady and her husband who treat me like family. fuck it, they’re my family too. and i have the comfort that one day, i’m going to surprise everybody.
i blew that weed smoke into the air and watched it dissolve as it floated away from me. i need to learn how to not take such things so personally.
All I really want is for somebody to like me (like, LIKE like me) for a sustained period of time without eventually getting tired of me and moving on. But until then, the handsome bachelor life it is, I guess.
I kind of want to start a book club with chapters from my manuscript, but I don’t know if that’s a dumb idea, to have a book club for a book that’s merely still in progress? I think on one hand, it would be cool to talk about these chapters extensively with people as the others are being written.
I’ve been trying to convince myself that I’m okay, but I still feel lost at sea. It’s been over five months since my mom passed away, and even though I don’t feel terrible every minute of every day, even though I don’t lie in bed every morning when I wake up and ask myself, “Do I really want to do this? Do I really want to drudge my way through the pits of another day?,” I feel like my motivation has been sapped away. I’ve done a few things that I’m proud of, but haven’t had the motivation I used to when it comes to busying myself with work. I find myself just wanting to be by myself every day.
I’ve barely written anything about music in 2014. I haven’t had the drive to keep up with everything. And the problem with that is, I don’t really care. It doesn’t matter to me if I write another word about anything, and that frightens me, because I don’t know when I’m going to be inspired to write again.
I told myself I’d take the spring off and come back swinging in the summer. I told myself I’d take the summer off and come back with a vengeance in the fall. But honestly? I have no idea when I’m coming back. The solitude is too alluring right now. Maybe instead of picking myself back up after my mother’s death, I’ve just suppressed all that grief and it’s manifesting itself in sloth and lethargy.
To be frank, I don’t know when I’m coming back. I don’t know if I’ll ever come back. I just wanted you to know in case I don’t come back.
And if I don’t come back, maybe each of you will eventually see me in person one day, because I love every single one of you and I would love for that to happen.
Always remember Martin Douglas loves you.
The thing that really gets to me about people with privilege is when they pretend that privilege is a myth. It makes me furiously angry.
So when I heard about the UC Santa Barbara shooting, I felt incredibly guilty. guilty for the way I was when I was younger (and how every guy is or was, which is or was a misogynist jerk), guilty for all of the times in my younger years where I had the opportunity to say “fuck you, women are people, not prizes or trinkets or trophies” and opted not to, guilty for all of the other things women go through that I take for granted because I have never gone and will never go through the things women have to go through on a daily basis. There are things that bleed into my every day life, when I have a platonic friendship with a girl and people ask me if I’m dating or fucking her, but I feel guilty for myself and terrible for her. Because it doesn’t make any sense that basic human decency can’t be applied to women by the overwhelming majority of people in the world.
I feel guilty for every time I tried to say hello to a girl and she’s shot me a glance and went about her day without saying hi back, because I should have known that it’s dangerous to be a woman living in the world. Of course, every guy with a shred of basic kindness (regarding treating women like actual human beings) knows that their guilt is a product of an unjust society, but when can society change for the better? How do we make society change for the better?
This “I’m going to approach it one person at a time” thing I’ve been doing feels like chipping away at brick wall. I just try to be a decent human being to everyone, and I feel as though I’m successful doing that, but for every person like me doing that, I feel there are twenty out in the world reinforcing society’s deplorable approach to women, to trans-people, to everyone who fits outside of the standard of our patriarchal society. I don’t know what to do, because I feel like what I have been doing isn’t enough.