My Sex Neutral

Sex Neutral (1)

 

 

 

 

 

While I was making myself a radish and humus sandwich, I was thinking about my Sex Drive. I happened upon the subject of Sex Drive because I was thinking about how it had been a very long time since I masturbated. I used to masturbate a healthy amount, so such a long period of not even thinking about it seemed unusual for me. Was my health declining? In response to this, the first thought that came to my mind was, it is no longer a Sex Drive, it is a Sex Neutral.

I don’t know where this thought came from. Heidegger claimed that thoughts come to us, not we to them. But does Sex Neutral even make any sense? What does it mean?

(Let me get back to this as soon as I finish eating my radish and humus sandwich. Please give me a moment.)

(That was delicious.) Drive implies forward movement (momentum) and power. When you put your car or tractor or bus or motorcycle into Drive- a very heavy weight is being pulled forward, often at high speeds. I suppose it is accurate to say that my Sex Drive has given up its pulling. So to call it a Sex Drive would be calling it something that it is not (which, I realize is a popular practice in our American culture). At this point in my life, my Sex Drive must be called something else.

In continuing with the car analogy, if I am no longer in Drive what gear would I be in? Certainly not Park. I still think about sex. I still desire sexual experience from time-to-time. I still get aroused at the site of an attractive woman. So Sex Parked I am not.

Reverse? Not in the least. I am as convinced and confident about my own heterosexuality today as I was when I could not get thoughts of having sexual experiences with girls out of my teenage head. Sex Reversed I am not. What else is there?

Park, Reverse, Drive……Neutral.

Neutral.

When I think of Neutral in terms of driving a car, I think of meditatively coasting along (to coast means to move easily without using power). I think about being free from the dominating dependency on gasoline and an engine. I also think about being out of gas and hoping that I can coast my way a little closer to a gas station or at least find a safe place to come to a full stop. For the most part, the person who is coasting along in Neutral is in a hurry to get nowhere in  particular.

In this sense, my initial thought about my Sex Drive being more like Sex Neutral was probably right. Isn’t this usually the case? Our very first thought about a subject or situation is usually the correct one and all the thinking about the first thought just leads us further away from the truth. Initially, while making my radish and humus sandwich, I was reactive to my Sex Neutral thought. It felt more like a put down than a truthful self-realization. Humans do not like the truth and it is only natural that the truer a self-realization is, the more reactive we will become. (Think about it- if a realization or statement about one’s self is not true at all, we immediately know this. As a result it is non-threatening. We laugh it off and hardly suffer any kind of rise in our blood pressure as a result.)

Sex Neutral. That is exactly the gear I have been shifted into.

At one long dragged out point in my life, I was in Sex Drive. My Sex Drive powered me around day and night. It crushed me under its weight. I was defenseless (and had to become a disciplined meditator in order to get even a small amount of practical things done). All I could really do was surrender myself to it and do what it said. And what it often said was, “GO! GO! GO! Go out in search of sex! Get as much sex as you can! Have as many sexual experiences as possible!” This was annoying because often all I wanted to do was read a book. My entire twenties (and some of my thirties) was a time of unchosen obedience to Sex Drive. I went where it pulled. Even though I did not manage to have as many sexual experiences as my Sex Drive would have liked (I was often very shy), there were few things other than sex on my mind.

Now, with fifteen or so years of sexual decline behind me, Neutral is an accurate description of the libidinous and procreative gear that I am in. If it happens great, if not that’s ok as well. This is my general mentality with regards to sex and children. It is similar to what I think while coasting in Neutral in my car (which, I do a lot these days), if I get a little further down the road great, if not that is ok also.

Do not get me wrong. I am not one to turn down a sexual experience (as long as no one is hurt). A prude I am not. But I am certainly no longer salivating onto my button down shirt every time I pass by any person, place or thing that signifies a potential sexual experience. I can look at it, appreciate it for what it is, but let it pass by without a even hint of suspended longing in my eyes. When I was in Sex Drive, this was never the case.

Let me conclude by saying this: my Sex Drive has been (as it usually is) shifted into Sex Neutral by aging forces that are far beyond my control. Some men are fortunate or unfortunate (who am I to judge?) to go through their entire lives without being downshifted into Sex Neutral. Many are shifted into Sex Park. Some into Sex Reverse. Personally, I can’t imagine playing out the tempestuousness of Sex Drive throughout my entire life. There are many things that I disdain about growing older (hair loss, my heroes getting old and some dying, belly fat, chronic fatigue combined with a feeling of urgency, muscle atrophy, closer to my own end, an inability to stay up late, people I personally know dying, less time to be creative, loss of youth, continual ringing in ears, loss of interest in being social, infections, no longer socially acceptable to dye hair different colors) but coasting along in Neutral is certainly not one of them.

How I Lose My Self

My self is an onion. Concise layering but unevenly designed. Also stings the eyes when opened up. Sweet, sour, spicy, crunchy when bitten into (I am sure there are other flavors but this is what comes to mind). A confused pallet (or is it spelled palette?) but a continual desire to go back for more. My downfall or my uplift? Maybe my self is both. (What they hell am I talking about here?) (I have really gotten away from my point.) (Not a good way to start.)

Carl Jung asked Sigmund Freud, “What is the self anyways?” Freud did not supply Jung with an answer that pleased him so Jung went off on his own.

My self (I say this as if I own it) is complicated. It has always been complicated and I presume that until I find a way to chase it out or consistently distract it, it will always present me with complication.

It’s a continually boiling pot that rarely simmers down (my self I mean). Always some kind of judgement, craving, criticism or dissatisfaction boiling up (I realize that by using the boiling pot analogy I am using a ready-made rather than making my own). As much as I do like my self, it is a real pain in my ass (being honest here).

Here is the most agitating thing about my self: THERE IS ALWAYS SOMETHING THAT IT SEEMS TO THINK I SHOULD BE DOING. The thing will not let me rest. I need to be writing. I need to be making art. I need to be listening to music. I need to be writing. I need to meditate. I need to create a more interesting and engaged life for myself. I need to be writing. I need to exercise. I need to watch more films. I need to call back billing agents. I need to wash car. I need to become a happier person. I need to make my life more exciting than what it is. I need to be writing. On and on ad infinitum. (Is that how you spell that?) Ceaseless and never ending. Rarely will my self allow me to sit in my lawn chair and simply enjoy being showered by sun. (The sun has now been obscured by clouds.)

Fortunately, I have found a way to trick, manipulate and silence my self into submission. (I am a pleasant and non-violent person and realize this might make me sound sadomasochistic. I’m not.)

Inside a book. This is where I make my escape and hide. Not from the world but from my self. (Ok, maybe a bit from the world.)

A Freudian psychoanalyst once told me that this is the behavior I have developed in reaction to my unruly self. She called it escapeeism (not escapism). It is a strategy to lose. (I never understand what she meant by this. Did she mean a strategy to lose in life or a strategy to lose my self? Was this meant positively or negatively? This is now one of the great mysteries in my life.)

However, this strategy of hiding from my self in a book (being absorbed in books) is not reliable or sustainable. The moment I put the book down my self comes back with such vehemence and indignation that I am beyond being able to control it. It is obviously pissed for being tricked and suppressed. You son of a bitch. Your life is shit. There is so much that you should be doing and have not done. You are going to fail in life. It is all going to fall apart. You will get sick if you do not get up. People are mad at you. If you do not stay on top of things everything will fall apart. I pick the book back up. Gradually, as I read, I reach a point where my self is no longer there. This is the only strategy I have found that consistently works.

I realize that no one, not even my self, likes being silenced.

There always comes a point where I must put the book back down (even though I know I should not).

What are you doing with your life? You’re avoiding everything by losing yourself in a book. This is the highly educated way that you put everything off. All in the name of consuming culture. But you no longer create culture! You need to be writing and making art with severe dedication if you really want to turn your life into what you want it to be. But you can’t do this. You won’t do this. Instead you keep losing yourself in a book and telling yourself it is ok. This is good enough. You think you can really pacify me with such a lie? I know what you are doing. You are sacrificing your full potential in life just to get away from me! Loser! (Sometimes I can not help but wonder if my self is just my father immortalized in my head.)

My self goes on and on (and on, on, on, on, on, on, on, on, on, on, on, on, on, on,on ,on, on, on, on, on and on). My self is relentless. Reading is self inoculation.

“First and foremost, I think of myself as a reader,” is what Borges said. If I said this it would be very similar but slightly different (I realize that even if something is slightly different it changes everything). I would say, “First and foremost, I think of myself as a reader by necessity!”

I really can’t think of anything I find more pleasurable and rewarding than losing my self in a book. Not even eating my favorite food or seeing an attractive woman nude is better. What greater pleasure is there than when the sting of the onion has gone?

Time to go make myself (or my self?) a radish and humus sandwich. When it comes to food I never know who I am feeding. Am I feeding myself (body) or my self (head)?

What a wonderful space, to live and read in this place, when my self is gone. (I did not write this. Some forgotten poet whom I have unfortunately forgotten did.)

The Swinger

I don’t understand why everyone looks so down on it. Do they not realize the fun they are missing out on? The pleasures of swinging are endless. Endless. The various ways that the body can move. The lack of any insecurities. The feeling of complete, uninhibited freedom. Endless pleasures.

Activities that cause a person to feel fully free have always been a threat to those forces which seek endless control over the individual. Not only does swinging set a person free from the repressive limitations created by our collective society, but it also gives a person an opportunity to know themselves at a deeper level. Once a person starts to swing, they stop following the rules. Maybe this is why so many are threatened by swinging- it threatens the various limitations that so many people have built their entire lives within.

I began swinging around the age of twenty-one. A girlfriend introduced me to it. I still remember the experience as clearly as I would remember something that took place this morning. We were on a walk through a quiet, suburban neighborhood. Tree lined streets. Meticulous front yards. Golf carts. We were both quiet, enjoying the serenity of an afternoon walk. Suddenly she yelled out, “Lets swing!” “What?” I look at her, shocked by her sudden surge of excitement. “What?” I asked again in a confused state. “Lets swing! Look at that swing over there.” I looked in the direction her finger was pointing in and noticed a two person, white swing hanging from an oak tree. “On that?” I asked. “Yes. It will be fun,” she said already walking towards the swing. “But it’s on someones private property. We will get ……” It was too late. She had already started swinging and I didn’t want to leave her swinging all by herself..

That day we were lucky that the homeowners were either not home or did not notice us (or maybe they did not care that we were swinging in their front yard). All I know is that it was such a pleasure to swing with my girl. We had a blast together swinging all over the place. Laughing out loud. Holding each other tightly. I felt like a child again, as I used my leg muscles in an attempt to touch the sky with my feet. Her hair blowing in my face. The force of gravity pushing against my genitals. I felt free, released from all my worries and petty concerns about the future. From that day forward I became a devoted swinger.

I don’t know how it is in other parts of the world but in America, swinging is not easy. In fact, it is very dangerous. Homeowners become quickly enraged when they see a stranger swinging on their property. Some of these homeowners will not hesitate to pull a gun on a harmless swinger. What is it about swinging that pisses homeowners off so much? They have hung a swing in their front yards. Are they expecting me not to swing on an idle and empty swing just sitting there? It’s like having a nice automobile idle on the street with the engine running and the front door wide open. Would you really expect no one to just get in and drive away?

Few things bring me a greater sense of thrill and excitement than searching for a new swing. You never want to swing on the same person’s swing twice (unless they are nice about it), so a few times a week I will go for long walks or ride my bike around suburban neighborhoods searching for a new place to swing. I get such a bodily thrill (and an erection) when I discover a swing that I have never seen before! What a feeling! It is usually hanging from a lone tree in a middle-class, well kept, front yard. Sometimes the swing will be close to the street or it will be further away. Whatever the case may be, the moment I see the swing I run over and start swinging. At that point I have little concern for my safety.

Most of the time I will have no problems swinging. I can swing and swing and swing and no one will say anything. There will be no guns or violent confrontations. No police officers and no handcuffs. No public humiliations. These are my greatest moments. There I am, a 44-year-old man swinging my worries away without any disruptions or bureaucratic interventions. My youth returned to me in full. What bliss! Are there greater pleasures? If only everyone knew how much joy they could receive from swinging. If only everyone understood that you are never too old to swing. What a different fish bowl we would all be swimming around in.

One last thing that I should mention to anyone who is considering becoming a swinger. Despite the potential to get killed or seriously wounded by an enraged homeowner, there is one other serious risk involved in swinging. A person who is a professional (whose economic earnings depend on their reputation) has to be very careful about how they are perceived by society (this is why most professionals lead double lives). I myself am a professional and realize that swinging posses a threat to my good name. Just the other day, on my way home from work, I found a really nice swing on a suburban tree-lined street not far from my home. Naturally, I started swinging and was surprised by what a well constructed swing it was. I was able to get a lot of air and within minutes was having a blast. My worries dissipated. I was laughing out loud with joy when I suddenly heard, “Mr Sokoloff? Is that you?” I instantly stopped swinging, turned my head around and noticed that one of my clients and her husband were standing just beyond their front door with their mouths agape. They looked horrified. Mortified. I didn’t know what to do so I just waved and walked away. I probably will not see that client again. I just hope she does not write about what she witnessed on Yelp.

If my clients found out that I was a swinger, who knows what would happen to my business This is one of the serious disadvantages of being an adult professional who loves to swing. Such is life. I refuse to give up swinging. Some things are that worth living for.

Catching A Golfer (Part One)

There is a golfer ruining my lawn. I find it incredibly upsetting. My lawn is (or I should say, once was) one of my favorite things about my life. It was green, flat and beautiful. The perfect suburban lawn. A serene space where I could withdraw from the madness of the outside world. I spent hours laying around on my lawn in quiet contemplation. I figured out many of life’s big questions while sitting on the calming grass. Everyone who came to my home envied my lawn. “Oh what a nice lawn you have!” “Such a nice spot!,” they would tell me. I was proud, I felt accomplished because such a beautiful space belonged to me.

Things have changed.

Now my lawn is on the verge of complete destruction. It’s an embarrassing mess. There are holes, rocks and mounds of dirt everywhere. My lawn looks like a person’s face during a brutal acne outbreak. I want to cry every time I see my lawn. The golfer is ruining everything.

I have been doing everything I can to catch the golfer. I don’t want to kill him, although I realize that it might have to come to that. I have had enough. Just when I think he is gone, he is there. Every time I come out to my lawn there is a new hole, along with piles of dirt and rocks. I feel violated. Something that was such a source of pride and pleasure is now gradually going away, away, away. Some might say, “Such is life.” But this is happening way too soon. I’m not yet willing to concede that all things in life must happen the way they do. Why should I have to accept the golfer who is destroying my lawn? Sometimes you should be able to have what you want. I want the golfer gone and my lawn back.

Every few days, I see the golfer standing there with his golf club, hunched over and putting a white golf ball into one of the holes he has dug. “Bastard,” I think. I notice that when he gets the ball into the hole he will punch one of his arms up into the sky and yell, “YES!” The moment I yell back, “HEY YOU!,” he jumps right back into the hole he came from. I try to catch him but he is just too quick.

I have done almost everything I can imagine to get rid of him. I have spent hundreds of dollars on ineffective deterrents. The repellents and poisons are all for gofers not golfers! The stuff that seems like it could work on gofers has no effect on golfers. It is very difficult to find a substance that helps eradicate golfers from a lawn. I have tried to make my lawn a very inhospitable place to play golf. I put my garden hose into his holes and run water for hours. I read on-line that golfers hate wet surfaces and mud, so I have tried to turn the golfer’s tunnels into a muddy mess. I have been running my sprinklers for an hour a day to keep my lawn wet. So far, no luck. The golfer just shows right back up again.

I have filled his holes with my dog’s poop and coffee grounds. I read on-line that golfers cannot stand the smell of dog poop combined with coffee grounds. This may have helped in some small way but the golfer just digs new holes. I can’t put my dog’s poop all over my lawn! I’ve also seen the golfer dressed in his white golf pants and his tucked in pink button down Polo shirt, bending over and removing the poop from the lawn. The son of a bitch!

I never liked golfers to begin with. I grew up around golfers and golf courses. My father was a wannabe golfer and I had to play golf every Sunday with him. I had to work a miserable job at the country club I lived just down the street from, where I picked up after golfers and served them nuts and whiskeys. I had to clean the spikes on their golf shoes. I despised those men and their endless card games. All the money that they would waste betting on ridiculous golf scores while I slaved away for a humiliating wage. I hated the way that they would huddle together and look down upon anyone who was not in their golf group. “Hey kid,” they would yell at me and even though I was only fifteen I would say, “fuck you” under my breath. By moving into a lower economic, less pretentious area in the Los Angeles suburbs I thought I had freed myself forever from the game of golf. But now I have this ridiculous, pink Polo shirt wearing golfer digging holes and playing golf in my backyard! I just don’t understand.

Why is this happening to me? Just when I got my lawn looking so nice, a fucking golfer has to appear.

I will continue to put dog poop mixed with coffee grounds into his holes. I will keep the water running. I am not going to end this war easily. I want the golfer gone and my beautiful lawn back. I want to have nothing to do with this futile game of golf. I will stop at nothing to put an end to his game. I have hooked up two radios on my lawn, where I play loud grunge and punk rock music 24 hours a day. I have chained these radios into the ground and locked them in a metal box so that the golfer cannot get rid of them or turn the volume down. I presume he is like most golfer’s who have no taste in music and as a result listen to easy rock musicians like Kenny Logins, Air Supply, Chicago, Doobie Brothers and Earth, Wind and Fire. The grunge and punk music must frustrate him. I’m hoping he hates it. I am hoping that he can’t take it and will decide to leave my lawn alone. I just hope my neighbors do not complain.

So far, this does not seem to be working. It almost seems as if he enjoys the music! I see him moving his head and body to the beat as he plays his game of golf on my lawn. How could a man dressed in a tucked in pink Polo shirt actually be enjoying this kind of music? I just don’t understand.

Just this morning I woke up and saw the pink-Polo-shirted jerk out there practicing his swing. I was not yet fully awake but I immediately became enraged. As he stood out there practicing his swing I felt like he was mocking me! “You son of a bitch!” I yelled out. I startled my wife out of her sleep as I slammed the door behind me on my way out into the backyard. “What the fuck do you think you are doing?!!!” I yelled out not caring if my neighbors heard me. Immediatly he jumped back into his hole and disappeared. I ran out onto the wet lawn and kicked his pile of dirt. I jumped up and down on top of his hole while shouting “You son of a bitch!” Of course I ended up jumping up and down on dog shit.

What am I going to do?

I read on-line about The Golfer Catch Cage. It’s expensive but they are supposed to work really well. Just place the cage by one of the holes, open the cage door, place salted peanuts, cigars, some wine or whiskey in the back of the cage and you will catch yourself a golfer. This is what the advertisement for the cage says. From the several reviews I have read this seems to work well. People who live on golf courses write about how they have finally caught a golfer who has annoyed and disturbed their quality of life for years. No one has written anything about having a golfer in his or her backyard that is destroying his or her lawn, but the product information says that The Golfer Catch Cage can work well for catching golfers who are digging up lawns. The only problem is that no one mentions what he or she does with the golfer after catching it. There are no instructions on-line about how to dispose of a golfer. Some say, tie him up and drop him off at a distant golf course. I don’t know. One review did mention that, we still have the caged golfer locked up in the basement. We do not know if he is dead or alive. We are just happy he is gone.

The cage seems like a radical step that I am not quite ready to take. I don’t want to deal with the guilt I would feel for caging or killing a golfer. I really don’t know what I am going to do but I know that I cannot continue to live like this. It is too painful to watch my beautiful lawn be destroyed all for a game of golf! My blood pressure is going way up and now I am always anticipating seeing the golfer every time I look out into my backyard. It’s just too much for a quiet, almost middle-aged, hard-working man like myself. I want to be able to relax when I am home. I need my home to be a stress free space. Something must be done to eradicate this destructive golfer from my lawn. I just don’t know what.

 

The Phoner

I can’t stop thinking about my iPhone. I’m thinking about it all the time now. I crave it when it is not there. I feel sad when it is not around. “Who might be trying to get in touch with me?” I think. “Do I have any new text messages or emails?” I wonder. It is a constant thing- morning, noon and night. Few things feel better that picking up my iPhone after a few minutes away.

 

When I am having conversations with other people I can’t wait for them to shut up so that I can check my phone. The conversations with real people bore me. It is the conversations or interactions that happen on my iPhone that feel the most important to me. I can be more myself, do what I want. I do not have to pretend to be interested if I am not. Short and to the point. The less talking the better. This is how I like to keep my interactions when on my phone. Real people just talk too much.

 

I would rather be on my phone than doing any thing else. I long for it. When I am working, driving, exercising- I can‘t wait for an opportunity to check my phone. Red lights, breaks from work, breaks in conversations, the end of a work out (which I always end too soon) are all great reliefs for me because it is then that I get to check my iPhone. I don’t really enjoy hanging out with other people anymore only because they get in the way of time with my iPhone. When I do check my iPhone while around other people, I always end up feeling like I am doing something bad. I feel judged and guilty. I prefer just to be left alone with my iPhone. Then I don’t have to deal with that.

 

They say that texting while driving is dangerous. Maybe so. They also say that drinking and driving is dangerous but almost everyone does it. I’m not going to stop driving and texting. There is just no way that I could do that. I would have too much anxiety. I need to check my phone regularly. I have important things to attend to. My iPhone demands constant attention. I can’t let driving get in the way of that. I have developed the skills needed to text and drive. I know what I am doing while texting and driving and the fact that I have not yet been in an accident is proof of that.

 

The on-line world has become just as important if not more important than the so-called “real world.” Most of my relationship and business interactions occur on-line. I shop on-line. My reading material is on-line. My music is on-line. I watch films on-line. I go to school on-line. I am even dating someone on-line. Why would I not want to be on-line? It is the direction the world is heading in and if you are not on-line most of the time you are already far behind.

 

Some people tell me that my interest in “real world” things has fallen behind. So what? I no longer make art or read books. I no longer use handwriting (something I was once very good at). I was once an avid collector of clocks and watches but now clocks and watches are unnecessary because the time is right there on my phone. My father tells me that I was once so creative and that since I have been using my iPhone it has all gone away. I don’t know about that. I think my creativity has changed with the times. I am just creative in other ways now. How that is I do not know. Maybe it is true that most of my life is spent staring into a screen, preoccupying myself with an unnecessary world. Who knows? But I can’t get enough. I need my iPhone in the same way that a junky needs her junk. The other day I thought that I lost my iPhone. I freaked out and was hyperventilating. I became possessed in a crazed search to find my phone. Fortunately, I did find it before things got really bad.

 

I love my iPhone. I love it so much. It has become my closest friend. More important than anything else. I used to love sex but now sex is just a distraction from my iPhone. The last thing that I see before falling asleep at night is my phone and the first thing that I see when I wake up in the morning is my phone. I used to fall asleep in my lovers arms but now I fall to sleep with my phone in my hands. There is so much to find out about, so many people trying to communicate with me. There are so many things going on on-line. Why would I stay away from my iPhone? I once was miserably lonely. I felt like I had no purpose in my life. I was always stressed out. Now I have my iPhone and I no longer feel any of that. I now have things to do. No time is wasted. I am always engaging in something on-line or through texting. The answer to the emptiness that I used to feel inside has been my iPhone. Why would I want to get rid of that?

 

I can even write this while on my iPhone. Someone is trying to talk to me but I am writing this! I wish they would go away. My house is a mess. I should go exercise or be outside. But none of that matters. I am perfectly happy, sitting here on my phone. I just wish that the “real world” would go away so that I can be undisturbed while on-line. Why do I feel guilty about that? Once I publish this on my blog I will go and see what everyone is up to on Facebook. Then Instagram. Then Twitter. Maybe first I should check the weather? I wonder if it will be sunny all week? Is anyone trying to text me? Did I forget to return any texts or emails? I should go to Amazon and buy those pair of shoes I have been wanting. I wonder what the top stories in the news are? I have had this pimple on my butt for weeks now, maybe I should Google about it and find out what is going on. I should also Google about finding out if there are any negative side-effects from being on my phone as much as I am. I don’t think so. First I need to reply to some emails then I can do all of that. What time is it anyways?

The Plastic Smile

Unknown I did not do it because I am an unhappy man. Like everyone else I have my good days and bad ones, but would never agree that I am a miserable man. I just have a difficult time smiling. Smiling has never come easily for me. It has always felt forced, like I am pushing something uncomfortable off my face. As a child my father would always mimic the stern frown that I wore on my face. I couldn’t help it. He would call me the James Dean kid. I would try to explain to him that I was not unhappy, it was just what my face seemed to do.

When I first saw the ad for the plastic smile I was immediately intrigued. A Smile For All Those Who Find Smiling Impossible To Do! The ad said that people would have no idea that the smile was fake when you wore the plastic smile on your face. “Ok,” I thought. In a world that judges you based upon the look that you have on your face, the plastic smile seemed like it would be a good thing to have. I had been thinking about how if I just smiled more, if people thought that I was a happier man, then maybe my business would improve. I could be more successful. I decided to give the plastic smile a try.

I was surprised that it arrived on my doorstep a few days after ordering it. When I ordered the plastic smile the company said that we will have you smiling in no time, but I never thought that it would arrive so fast. I picked up the small cardboard box, brought it inside and immediately opened it up. The plastic smile was in a plastic wrapper. There was also what was called a “pen stick,” so you could match the smile with the color of your skin. There was also a full-page of illustrated instructions. I brought all of this into my bathroom and within a half an hour I had the plastic smile on my face.

It looked so real! I was in awe. I could move the smile from side to side, up and down with my own facial muscles. I could open and close the smile but I was impressed by how even when I was not smiling the smile always returned back into its original smiling shape. My facial muscles could be in the shape of a frown but I still had a bright, perfectly shaped smile on my face! This was fantastic. Finally, I could be a smiling man.

I immediately wanted to take my new smile out into the world. I wanted to see if it really worked. I decided to walk around the downtown area, which was close to my house. I walked down the street. I went into various stores. I ordered coffee at a local cafe. I could not believe how many people were smiling back at me. It seemed as if I was lighting people up as I walked by. People in cars, people in shops, people on bikes- all noticed and smiled at me. A few seemed to take offense to my smile by looking the other way or giving me a “fuck you” look, but for the most part the plastic smile seemed to change everything. The vast majority of people seemed to become happier in my presence!

This was a revelation for me because up until this point I had never experienced this before. Normally, people respond to me in a standoffish matter. It is not that I upset others or depress them but I do not really seem able to change their mood. My interactions with others are relatively mundane and unanimated and this probably has something to do with the lack of a smile on my face. With this plastic smile on my face people seemed to immediately light up when they saw me. A smile took shape on their faces as well. That day I saw more teeth than I had ever seen in my life. I saw white teeth and brown teeth, broken teeth and perfectly shaped teeth, bent teeth and straight teeth. When people smile their teeth come out to say “hi.”

Having all of these people smile at me really lifted my mood. I was feeling great and could not wait to go back to work. I had no doubt that this plastic smile was going to improve my business. My wife was a bit disturbed by the plastic smile but it made her smile more so she was supportive of my wearing the plastic smile wherever I went. It was not until the third day of wearing the plastic smile that I became aware that not only was it a cheaply made product, but that something such as a permanent smile upon my face was too good to be true.

I work as a psychotherapist and I did notice that all of my clients were leaving my office with smiles on their faces. They seemed to feel much better and happier than their therapy sessions with me in the past. Some clients even pointed out that I seemed so much happier. “What do you mean, do I normally seem unhappy?” I asked. My clients would tell me that they were just not used to seeing me with such a big smile on my face. They felt happy for me that things were going well in my life and it was through being able to be happy for someone else’s good fortune that they themselves were able to feel better than they had in a long time. Who would have ever thought that the key to mental health was as simple as being able to stop thinking of just yourself and being able to be happy for someone else.

After the second day of wearing the plastic smile, my business started to pick up. Some of my clients were referring their friends to me. I received several phone calls from people wanting to get an appointment with me. The plastic smile was actually working! But then on the third day some thing really unfortunate began to happen. The plastic smile started falling off my face. I would be in the middle of a session with a client and the smile would fall into my lap. As you can imagine this was incredibly disturbing for my clients. They were all terrified and confused when it happened. “What the fuck!” they would yell out. Some even jumped up into the air and ran out of the room.

I tried to explain what was going on. I believe in that cliché saying that honesty is the best policy, so I told my clients that I ordered the plastic smile on-line in order to appear happier. I explained to all of them that I had always had a difficult time smiling. Smiling felt uncomfortable for me and I was concerned that it was having a negative effect on my ability as a therapist. Some of my clients understood and felt empathy but others were very disturbed and left my office without paying. I presume that I will never hear from these clients ever again. I just hope they do not give me a negative review on Yelp.

I wrote to the plastic smile company and told them about what was happening. They wrote back and told me that they were sorry that this was occurring but that in their disclaimer it was written that they could take no responsibility for how long the plastic smile would stick on to a persons face. When I read some reviews of the plastic smile I was surprised to see that a lot of people had the same problem that I did. One person even wrote that he lost a woman that he was in love with because of the plastic smile. He wrote:

When I first met her she loved my smile. My smile was what attracted her to me. I had never been loved by a woman like this in my life. That first week with her was pure bliss. I felt so happy and we were making plans to spend the rest of our lives together. But when the plastic smile fell off my face in the middle of lunch one day she was terrified. She screamed and almost had a full on seizure. I could not calm her down and everyone in the restaurant was looking at us. She ran out and I will never hear from her again. My life is over. Thanks plastic smile.

I do not know why I neglected to read these reviews before ordering the product. I suppose that I was so excited by the idea of being able to smile all the time that I did not want to have my hope diminished by any negative reviews. I am just sorry that I did not take a moment to make a more sober decision, because it is even harder for me to smile now than it was before. My business is in a rut again and I just want to stay home all day. Now I know that a smile is the answer to so many of my problems but I just can not do it. If only I could. If only it was as easy as that plastic smile was.

The Nobody Artist

imagesThe Nobody Artist sits alone in a room. There is a drawing pad upon their lap or a blank canvas in front of them. It is raining or sunny outside. All they want to do is get up and go someplace else. They do not want to make work even though they try. Every time The Nobody Artist lifts the pen or paintbrush it hurts. Sometimes it does not hurt as bad. Sometimes it does not hurt at all.

As The Nobody Artist paints or draws they can not stop the thoughts. Why can’t I seem to make a living as an artist? Why can’t I get my work out there? Why have I been unable to get any acknowledgment for my work? What is the point? These thoughts create a resistance, a negative feeling that causes The Nobody Artist to want to do something else. They walk around. They read a book. They listen to music. They watch a film. They eat. They drink. They go places. They work a job. But everything they do is filled with a sense of loss and frustration. The Nobody Artist seems unable to do the thing they know they were born to do. There is a block, something unmovable in the way. The Nobody Artist, no matter how hard they push, can not break through.

The Nobody Artist knows that the busier they become with other things, the less time they will have for their art. But when they find themselves with a lot of time to do their art they can not. They find anything else to do. They avoid doing their creative work in the same way that a student avoids studying for an exam. The pain of knowing that they do not know how to make their art into a way of life, keeps them from making their art. The avoidance of pain is often what puts an end to The Nobody Artists chance at a life in art.

The Nobody Artist often sees other artists who seem to make a life of their art. These artists are not wealthy or wildly successful but they live a life from art. There homes are filled with art and their studios look like an active and creative space. Their work is shown in gallery shows and in magazines. They get commissions and have their work on websites or on album covers. They create books filled with their art. The Nobody Artist is in awe of these Somebody Artists. They are also terribly envious of these artists. Somebody Artists causes Nobody Artists to feel bad about themselves. Why have I not been able to make a life out of art? What has held me back? Why Can’t I seem to do it? This often causes The Nobody Artist to want to quit making art. It’s too painful for them to keep going on. But they do anyways.

The Nobody Artist has a large body of work that collects dust in closets and in drawers. Piles of drawings in folders, sketchbooks and in-between the pages of books. Everything The Nobody Artist creates is destined for the dark closet or drawer. Maybe someday my art will be known, they think and this thought keeps them making work here and there. But deep down they carry a terrible sense that most of their work is destined to move from the closet or drawer and eventually into the trash. Their life’s work meaning very little to the outside world.

The Nobody Artist works hard to let go of the need to make art. Maybe if they could just stop needing to be an artist, then they can find happiness. They could spend their time making money, socializing, reading, hanging out, exploring and living without this nagging feeling that they should be making art. If The Nobody Artist could just rid themselves of this need to make art, then they could be free to live a relatively normal life. But overtime The Nobody Artist gets close to the normal life and then they get freaked out by the thought of letting go of the only thing that really means something to them and then they rush back into making and avoiding their art.

But The Nobody Artist always returns to the fatal question, What is the point? There is so much art out there, the world does not need more, The Nobody Artist thinks. The Nobody Artist is well aware that they should just learn how to make art for the pleasure of being creative. Making art should have nothing to do with anything else other than the creative process, they read. To just take pleasure in the act of creation without needing to be an artist in the world. To just make art in one’s own privacy and then be ok with sticking it in the closet or drawer. Art as a way of passing the time, pleasurably. The Nobody Artist strives to embrace this creative state. To be an artist only when they are drawing or painting and exploring the solitude of their creative inner worlds. The rest of the time The Nobody Artist works hard at becoming relativly content with being Someone Else.