A Rant about Co-opting International Men’s Day

I’ve been told that today is International Men’s Day. Remarks:

  1. Men don’t need International Men’s Day.
  2. How is it different from any other day?
  3. I hereby boycott this day and if you’re celebrating it today, you’re a very silly boy.

Please don’t celebrate this blatantly nonsensical and unnecessary day.

… unless you’re willing to try out the following suggestions.

A Proposed Way to Celebrate International Men’s Day

1) The next time a guy physically assaults or catcalls a woman, either in front of you or he tells you, don’t laugh. Don’t snigger. Don’t stay silent. Call him out. And suffer the social consequences.

2) The next time someone makes a rape joke online or in front of you, don’t laugh. Don’t tweet about it. Be silent and then call him out. And suffer the social consequences.

3) The next time you see a woman being verbally assaulted online by a guy, jump in and shut him up. Or at least call him out. And suffer the social consequences.

4) The next time someone makes blatant or veiled sexist jokes or comments about women, don’t join in the har-har. Be silent and then make a call whether you will call him out today or do it later. But do it someday. And suffer the social consequences.

This is only a start and this is by no means the only things men can do. But this is a start, an uncomfortable start, an unpopular start.

If you do any or all of the above, congratulations. You’re celebrating “International Men’s Day”. You know what it’s called? Basic human decency. It could be the tagline for this “day” – “International Men’s Day. Basic human decency!” If you suffer consequences because of any of this, congratulations. You’re celebrating “International Men’s Day”. If there is going to be a day in the year where men do things that other men find objectionable, and then they receive 𝑛𝑜 recognition for it, let it be this day.

Now, celebrate this “day” and don’t tell anyone, especially women, that you did any of the above. Just do it and shut up.

Otherwise, if you want to eat a steak and grab your dingus while you rail about how “women are taking over”, you are in fact truly, madly, deeply sick.

This was posted originally on my Facebook account three days ago.

Liking One Person and Liking Them Intensely

We’ve been on two dates. My feelings don’t correspond to where we are in the development of our contact. At this point, it’s a burgenoning contact, nothing more. But my feelings are intense.

She’s shorter than me, with stark blue eyes, straight black hair, a calm assurance to her voice, and pale skin. She’s soft-edged and kind, against a backdrop of strength, resilience, and integrity. She’s intelligent, political, and spiritual. And when she hugs me, the warmth emanating from her body throws me off. Her body seems to open up in a vulnerable, but sensual way, as if she is acquiescing to the embrace, in a moment of trust, knowing that she will pull away when she wants.

It’s also been a while since I’ve felt a bodily charge from a hug. I haven’t felt a woman’s body heat in a long time. Most hugs are side hugs or standard Stockholm shell hugs – where the form of a hug is present, but it’s about as personal as being ghosted.

I became emotional on the tunnelbana platform on the way home on Sunday. The overwhelming nature of intense feelings for one person stayed with me for a while. My heart and mind have already raced ahead and that’s alright. I woke up yesterday and today, missing her. Missing her, knowing that I will see her in a month, but feeling like a month is too long. My mind seems to be at the station after dating and before a more solid relationship – the spontaneity of wanting to see each other at a moment’s notice, wanting to share everything or anything that reminds you of her. It’s an intense place to be in when it’s this early in the process.

We kept on finding ways to connect, to share embarrassing secrets that weren’t intimate or private, activities and interests we shared. The hopeful in me sees in it more opportunities to do things and more opportunities to meet, while the rational in me tempers those expectations and looks at it as signs of a healthy friendship being forged over a quiet flame.

The twist is that I haven’t been on a third date in three years. The last same-city contact ended really after the first date, despite several futile attempts in extra-time. And it’s the first person this year, whom I like, that lives in the city and doesn’t require extensive planning to meet them.The last year’s attempts have been with unavailable women or women overseas. And the first date didn’t accelerate in any direction. It was just a first date. The simplicity and normalcy of the first date accelerated the intensity of the experience in me!

So here I am, looking forward to some time after Gregorian-calendar Christmas, for a third date with her, with the emotional intensity of 20 dates. And I just accept it. I have no idea if she feels or thinks the same way; I find it beneficial to maintain that given it’s this early.

I haven’t like one person and liked them only intensely in many years. I say it like that because it’s obviously earth-shattering that people like lots of people a lot and date them all. I was like that, too. And I took it even further. The experience of liking only one person intensely is a fearful one. How can one person make me feel this strongly? Old temptations have been coming up over the past few days, to decrease the fear of the intensity, but I haven’t given in. The intensity of liking one person is only intense for a little while, and then it just stays there in your stomach as knowledge, like a glowing ball. Then it doesn’t hurt or burden or bother you. It’s you carrying that person with you.

When my mind starts planning the future, I tell myself that it’s just been two dates. When my mind starts dissecting the two dates, looking for clues that she likes me she likes me not, I tell myself that it’s just been two dates. When my mind starts questioning the intensity and suggesting I weaken the intensity by throwing in another glowing ball, I say resolutely no.

I like her. I like her only. And I like her intensely.

Inside A Bitter Artist There May Be A Basic Person

It’s strange to be writing again. It’s strange to be doing anything creative again. It’s strange being a producer, rather than a consumer, a consumer of whatever is out there, whatever is interesting, funny, shocking, outrageous, rather than producing something with any of those qualities.

Producer versus consumer, creator versus commentator, maker versus aggregator, it seemed inconceivable to me over the years to have been the latter in these binaries. I am an artist! I am a creative! I live on a higher plane than others, I said to myself. I don’t have to show up when I consume. I don’t have to know the full story to be a commentator. I don’t have to develop my craft to be an aggregator. Basic powers of cognitive ability and pattern recognition (this makes me angry, this seems to be popular with others) is needed to be the latters.

Credit: Tiberio Gracco

I have changed over the years, ever since the writing of the very first blog post on Blogger. (I’m sure you can find it here in the archives.) Back then, I was a tortured “artist” – being very tortured and producing very little art, except in short and intense spurts. Now, I am a “frustrated” “artist” – not frustrated and not making art. I have however identified too deeply with that frustration such that that frustration has become me. The frustration has solidified into bitterness. It could be possible to find an object of my bitterness, but that would be dishonest. There is no object of my bitterness or frustration, there is no deep existential unease, and I am at peace with myself. But it’s like the smell of shit in a clean bathroom. It stays for a while. And you can’t ignore it unless you’re lazy or delusional.

The truth is that I find it hard to read a book, to sit down and listen to a piece of music, without it intuitively being pushed to a background activity, while I pick up my phone to do something else. Even if it’s just to stare at the Home screen. I find it hard to watch TV. I find it hard to read a magazine or just sitting down with a musical instrument to jam a little bit. Writing is hard. Even journalling parts of ideas or random thoughts seems the last possible choice when I have some downtime because my hands instinctively go to my phone. I wake up and fall asleep to the sight of books, CDs, vinyls, and DVDS, sitting quietly while they gather dust. My apartment has become a museum to and for a person who doesn’t really exist anymore – or is a fugitive in a new, unexpected existence.

I am not even bitter like I used to be! I am growing in inner peace and serenity by the day. But it has come at the cost of long years of artistic malnourishment. Nobody can grow on occasional injections of essential vitamins and minerals. I just want to sit on TikTok or YouTube, or scroll through social media, or watch endless streams of videos on Facebook Watch. I have become that person I decried many years ago.

It feels like I am a basic person who has been hiding in a fossil. Maybe I was artistic before and the years in the fossil ate away at me.

Epilogue: The Woman From the Poem

I wrote last month about the woman from the poem. This is where I ended off:

We reconnected recently. She explained. I apologized. And I told her about the poem. And when I found it here on my Medium, I sent it to her.

I’m back on that stage, with one person in the audience. She’s still reading my performance.

And I’m waiting for her to walk out silently or talk to me after the show.

… and this is what happened. She responded. She loved the poem. We bonded over words and IMs. We shared music. We had pillow-talk, where I imagined her voice reading out her messages first thing in the morning. It escalated. Then, it ended. Because of her partner. Like last time, she disappeared.

I cried and grieved for days. And then it was over. Behind me.

Sharing a Poem with the Person You Wrote It For

Credit: PhotoAtelier (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/)

I wrote my poem Don’t Slay Me four years ago, in one sitting, with no editing or drafts.

Message me tonight
Tell me that you can’t do it
because I want to tell you
That there’s a riot going on in my heart

voices hoarse because of you
my heart sore because there’s no you
bringing peace to the disorder

I dream about moving hair away from your eyes
I want to look into them
and see where my place is in them

You told me to surrender
and I have
I have acquiesced to you, the impostor
You may come now into this old hardened castle
with rotten moats and dying doors

Don’t slay me unless you’re going to kiss me
Don’t end me unless you will fall into my arms to celebrate
Don’t smother me unless you will pour sex into my pores
Don’t bury me unless you carve your bed into my chest

I was in love with the woman for whom I wrote this poem, in a way that disarmed me and left me vulnerable, as if naked on stage and I had no plans to be on that stage.

There are a few strong strains of emotion in this poem that haven’t come up in my other work. The direct and open longing for someone, is not something I had expressed in a while. I thought that that type of quiet pleading was something I left behind with the adolescent poems from high school. But, this wasn’t adolescent. This was adult and this was direct, “don’t slay me/don’t end me/don’t bury me”.

Then, there is the direct mention of sex. I have a strained relationship with sex and sexuality. I talk about it in hushed tones and sing about it with bravado. That shows the tension, I suppose. But here, I say to her very openly, that sex is between us. Or, that’s what I want. Wanted. If anything, this poem is a step towards being sexual with someone else, to express a sexual desire.

Finally, there’s the call to action that perhaps is the product of the first two characteristics. Love me. Touch me. Be with me. Don’t slay me. Kiss me. Don’t kill me. That is intimacy and that is confidence, two things I haven’t allowed myself to have in relationships.

I met this woman, and our conversations developed into a thick cloud of desire and longing. We went on one date. And then it ended. She withdrew.

We reconnected recently. She explained. I apologized. And I told her about the poem. And when I found it here on my Medium, I sent it to her.

I’m back on that stage, with one person in the audience. She’s still reading my performance.

And I’m waiting for her to walk out silently or talk to me after the show.

Fret Not, My Heart

Thank you to all my readers who have been on here, while I have been inactive. It means a lot to me!

My heart is heavy with grief today. I revealed my feelings for a friend yesterday and she doesn’t feel the same way. I waited a long time – a year – to do this. Waiting didn’t make it easier, neither did revealing the feelings. There is some relief that it’s out in the open, but there is some gnawing sadness, holding onto its leg.

I’m glad I did this, that I conquered the fear and that I am honest with this friend.

But, my heart is heavy with grief. And it’s now going through all the memories and mind-pictures that it thought were signs of mutual attraction… and it’s realizing that they were just the signs of a strong, kind woman who is able to express her affection for a man.

Fret not, my heart. You will recover from this, stronger and healthier.

Fret not, my heart. I won’t be unfaithful to you and try to escape by rushing the process of grieving, or seeking another person to medicate the pain. We’ll get through this together as partners and we’ll be just fine.

This woman was different. I can tell by how much you’re hurting, my heart. But I can also tell how much you’ve grown in how you were yesterday. You stayed honest and present. You listened. You responded. You were honest. You are an honest heart now.

Fret not, my heart. This too shall pass.

Truly Beautiful Writing

Swedish author

I’m studying my sophmore year of high-school Swedish. My assignment due tomorrow is about Karin Boye‘s short story Min son blir inte snickare (“My son won’t become a carpenter”). These excerpts* are just truly beautiful: 

Samma stygn som en gång förr, bara mycket starkare och med en lite bitter giftverkan av hoppslöshet, gick genom hjärtat på honom.

The same suture from before, only sharper and dipped in a little poison of hopelessness, went through his heart.

Hans vaknande ungdom kom med ett nytt allvarsdigert medvetande om att det fanns något som hette framtid.

His burgeoning youth dawned on him with a new and overwhelming realization, that there was something called the future.

Han blev tung i bröstet av det där tjocka som kallas längtan.

His chest was filled with that smog called longing.

* All translations my own.

Making Bella

taken 2005

I made a film yesterday and put it online. It’s called Bella, after my late maternal grandmother’s nickname.

Backstory

I have been sitting on this concept for the past ten years. I was denied a chance to say goodbye and see her before she slept in Christ. So, I have been wanting to make sense of all the memories, the final things left untold, and living life without her around.

Returning to Egypt to visit my family, has not been the same since she left. There’s this hole now in Cairo, shaped after her. I spent a few days there in 2012 in my grandparents’ apartment. It didn’t bring me closer to her, as I had imagined. I left feeling the loss more intensely. That’s grieving, I suppose.

The idea

A month ago, I stood out in my balcony here in Stockholm. I hadn’t really been out there since I moved in. And as the bustle from the road, the balcony, and the sky converged in a moment: I remembered Bella.

And then I wondered if I could make that film about her, but here in my balcony.

Concept

standing in the balcony, reminiscing over Bella and remembering her, me narrating, with some of my own scoring and using a part of this song by the Saudi Arabian artist Hussain al-Jasmy. This song is about loss and when I first heard it, it become forever married to the memory of my grandmother.

Production

I shot the footage this morning with my Canon EOS on a monopod. Autofocus, standard lens, that’s it. I didn’t want to be distracted by the technical execution. That will come later, I know.

It was an artistic challenge to see how I could both record enough shots so that it is enough for the narration and so that it’s not much of the same. I tried to use different angles, mimicked some panning, and played with shadows on the walls.

Initial Editing

I went through the footage and made clips. I threw down them quickly onto the sequence in Premiere Pro, as quickly as possible. Some thoughts and pictures came back to me from when I was shooting, so I followed their lead. I played through the rough cut a few times to see how it feels.

I brought up a text editor and started writing the narration as it played through the sequence. In a way, I approached this like a broadcast news story rather than a film – record first and then evince the story from the footage.

After I laid down the initial rough cut, I looked at the shots and see how they worked with the script. I tweaked the script in Evernote, as I decided on the final sequence of shots. To avoid too much time re-recording audio later, I remembered a trick that a friend taught me a long time ago: use text clips in your editing software to play with the rough cut and editing process. This really helped me think through the shots before I touched the mic.

Scoring and Narration

I recorded the audio with the M-Audio M-Track soundcard and SM-56 vocal microphone. Adobe Audition Pro CC is my choice for post-processing and production. I really developed my skills in sound editing after this project.

Final Editing

This was definitely the most involved editing project I’ve undertaken, in that I had 4 audio tracks and several video tracks. After laying down all the audio, I took out the placeholder text and tweaked the edit further.

I wanted to avoid tropes with the opening sequence, so I got the idea to break up the introductory song clip with a piece of narration. Thank you, shower! It worked.

Favorite Moments

  • The intro
  • The shot where the narration says, “When I was growing up…” It was just a simple way to portray growing up.
  • The photo I picked of Bella
  • The flashback audio impression of Bella’s voice. I did it in one take and it’s still haunting me.

Lessons Learned

  1. Storyboarding and planning. Using the placeholder texts in the sequence and going through multiple edits made the whole process straightforward and intuitive.
  2. Good audio makes a difference. I really see the value of good-quality, well-edited, solid audio. It increases the production value exponentially.
  3. Keep the shots simple and cheap. They tend to express what you really want to say, without getting lost in the execution.

What’s Next

I’m brainstorming and ruminating over a film about my late friend Nancy. Stay tuned.