sex, money, and miscellany: talking about what matters

know thyself

In Uncategorized on September 10, 2009 at 6:27 am

When I lived in Ottawa, I had a series of fascinating conversations with my downstairs neighbor. He was a sometimes-single gay man, close to me in age, with a rich history. I was a sometimes-single queer gender non-conforming woman. In common political parlance we’d be lumped together under the glbtqqa umbrella (that’s gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, asexual) and for most political purposes that was fine.

But then we’d have these conversations about his experience of gay male culture and my experience of queer women’s culture, and all the coherence would fall to pieces. Granted, there were exceptions. But the classic conversation went something like this:

“So wait,” I’d say, “If you went to a bar and you just wanted sex, you might never even introduce yourselves?”

He’d grin and shake his head. “Nope. Don’t really want to know.”

“But…” I’d say, “How do you know what he wants?”

“It’s just sex. It’s pretty straightforward.”

“With women it’s pretty much never straightforward. I guess that’s the difference. Everyone likes something different. The only way to know is to talk, to tell someone, to ask, to say what you want.”

He’d shake his head. I’d shake my head. Clearly, we’d found the gap.

In religion, in sex, in finance, it is critical to know who you are. Even if that means knowing that you don’t want to know who’s in your bed, even if it means knowing that you need to hire someone to manage your money, even if it means knowing that you do not want a thing to do with spiritual or religious community, it’s still critical to know that. That’s how you get what you want, by knowing, by adjusting, by asking and demanding and arranging for your own needs to be met.

And once you know how your needs will be met, once your oxygen mask is on, you can make a clear choice to meet them right away or to put them off, to indulge yourself or to see to the people around you, without feeling angry or resentful for what you’re doing.

But to know your desires, your tastes, your inclinations, your preferences, you have to be willing to see them. Even when they aren’t what you want to see. Even when you think you should want or be or do something different. You have to be willing to go into the scary places to find out if who you are is in there, to encounter yourself, and to emerge stronger.

Know thyself. Find out everything; keep finding out and finding out. Write or draw or paint or talk or sing or hike 2100 miles in one summer. Do what you need to do. Then, only then, can you move on, with your true self as companion.

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