The Awkward Moment – A Tale of The Introvert Problem

We are multidimensional. It is one of the only fair and truthful descriptions to afford ourselves. Sewn together from biological blueprints and structured patterns of thought; dipped into a cosmic mix of creativity; and left to dry in the light of undivinable uncertainties… all of it has left us a mass of contradictions that defies comprehension.

Image by Classical Art Memes

Yet, our curiosity ceaselessly drives us to achieve greater clarity on the human experience. Categories and mental tick boxes are the vows to a wedlock with sanity. Meaning: we basically need a way to structure our thoughts, feelings and behaviours if we intend to pursue a life with reason.

So, we satiate our sanity with a collection of patterns that help maintain that order. And what a delicate task this is. Thoughts tend to be sharp due to their edgy logic. Emotions are dirty little things that have a knack of leaving a stain on immaculate moral records. And behaviours can culminate into any number of consequences depending on their shape, reach, and influence. And in wake of such important realisations, we instill virtues that we religiously pursue, relating to the self: self-discipline, self-restraint, self-monitoring, self-control… reminiscent hammer-beats to temper the human spirit into pseudo-selves to present to the world. All to be acceptable. Who doesn’t love a stellar moral citizen that keeps their cynicism on humanity in check… Am I right?

Image by Classical Art Memes

What about wallflowers though? Oh well; they tend to be especially thorough in mulling through their cognitive, emotional and behavioral repertoires. Sideline bloomers are adept at staying out of a situation, remaining partial to the daily drama’s of our counterparts who prefer blossoming in the show garden right at the centre of life. Not to say that we never showcase ourselves, we are just a little less vaudevilean in our attention-seeking behaviours. That is, until we feel more self-efficacious in taking centre stage in the show. Other than that, we have some streetsmarts about blending in and prefer a soliloquy with ourselves as audience…

But every so often, a hitch works itself into our prospective schemas of steering ourselves – unnoticed – through a particular situation that involves people. As a wallflower, you may still be chilling on the sideline; you may still be busy intuiting a given moment that may possibly present itself. And for a short while, you may actually entertain the idea that you are riding the wave of a conversational flow, or sailing smoothly through a social gathering. There is no real need for an extemporaneous show of your social skills, just yet. That is until you are caught with your petals out of place in the wondrous little spark of cosmic unpredictability called the awkward moment.

An awkward moment is a beautiful little human catastrophe that worms itself into your self-representational sphere every now and then, offering its fair share of a little strife, existential dread and embarrassment. It’s a bit like engaging in a unintentional, self-destructive, social calamity, where even Karma thinks you are so deep in that she may need to give you a break during the next cycle of a Mercury retrograde. It’s so bad in fact, that your guardian angel files this in the backlog of messes you get into when they are on sick leave, because no amount of divine intervention can deal with that degree of perplexity. It’s a bit like your self-esteem stepped on a Lego brick. Its quick, its jabbing, and a 200,000 pain receptor volley worth of agony. Afterward, you recollect what is left of you in a measly little mass of melancholy and shy away to the nearest corner to close your bud for the rest of the show to suffer in silence. Oh honey, every awkward moment endured surely has to be an investment in a well-deserved peace for one’s afterlife…

Inage by Classical Art Memes

Well…perhaps that is overdramatic. But the consequences can feel nearly as intense in my expert opinion.

So let us imagine the situation for a brief moment. Nothing quite saturates a description like a hypothetical little simulation. Maybe I dreamed this; perhaps I imagined it. Maybe this is stored somewhere in my private memory banks or in those relating to a friend (one that just led to a great deal of identification). Whatever the case may be… I recall a distinct example. So I am fairly sure this happened…

Storytime!

I was minding my own business at this party I had no real intention of attending…

Image by Classical Art Memes

As a proud introvert, I was probably stuck in the section which I would like to call, “The Island of Misfit Toys”, where people are too shy, drunk, stoned, or asleep to pay much heed to any need for actual mingling (I thought they were beautiful). But never you mind: everyone was thriving in their own way. There was a vibe going, and everyone was digging it. And there I was, just sipping away at my garnished G&T on the rocks, legs crossed, eyes cruising, and engaging in a bit of adult supervision over the playground of outcasts.

Image by Classical Art Memes

Now, one drink in, my observational skills were running optimally with all the customs of sobriety. To add, quite frankly, I was also too engaged in a sophisticated snapshot moment that felt much too sacrosanct to be overturned by just any bit of loquacious repartee (fancy little word for striking up a convo) with the commoners. The King was on his throne baby, and he was sipping from his goblet.

Soon though, my drink was starting to get a little low as my steady sips slowly siphoned away at the hours, and so I thought it opportune to make a prompt exit from this social hibernation to rectify the matter. And what a perfect little corner of the club to stealthily sneak in a bar visit without notice.

You see, after a highly stimulating week that had it’s fair share of interpersonal engagement, I became pretty stoked at the idea of spending the night in. But, if you are me, it is likely that your more gregarious circle of friends took it upon themselves to try and spoil the world with your demure presence. And it is not to say that their arguments for this little excursion is particularly convincing. It is just that their overwhelming energy needs to be dialed down to a malleable level for you to survive the night, so being agreeable just appears less taxing. Its a hard knock life…

Image by Classical Art Memes

If your an introvert that was socialised in a world celebrating the extrovert ideal, then you have become reasonably equipped to manage yourself effectively in situations like this. You just pop out that survival guide for the highly sensitive, own your best smile, and quietly plot your way through the superficial social gathering about to ensue. “Blessed are the meek”… or something like that. I just did not want to be bothered much.

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So now I found myself at this party, mosied up to the bar, and busied myself in the recall of another one of my referenced short-form dialogues to politely ask the barman to whip up another little pop of inebriating magic. So not the drama… That is, until HE walks up…

Yes dears, this is yet again a story about a man…

One who had the exact same idea in mind by coming to the bar. Now, I was tending to my own petals when I caught a glimpse of him. He was a well-groomed charmer that totally seemed to have lost his kind on the other side of the club, because I could not imagine why he would come to cast his magic dice for a gamble on the dating scene here. And boy oh boy, was he ever ready for a mating dance. A classic pompadour hairstyle with a fade, buttoned down shirt, tight-fitting jeans, and a chest cut as deep as the Mariana trench; this man had aspirations. He was a strapping vision, with a jawline so square that there was no way of cutting corners around that mouth if he started talking. And he was about to wet those lips with a bit of liquid seduction before he started prowling the club again, I could tell. Opportunity was out there. Except of course, when opportunity was a wilting little wallflower just waiting to be watered with some whiz-bang seductions slowly served on the ice. And that was when he looked at me… and I realised that my casual observation had become a stare about two descriptions in. Damn it! I whipped my neck back to the front so hard that every reincarnation of mine would experience neck spasms from that moment out.

Oh, but if anything, that just gave him the warm welcome he would have probably taken himself if I was not so generous with my curiosity. So he pounced. That’s right, hang on to your cocktail umrellas ladies, because the bartop weatherforcast predicts a smooth opererator is about to blow you away.

Image by Classical Art Memes

Now god; you know, I could only venture a guess as to what any other wallflower may be going through at this particular point. But there I was – just a boy that sauntered his way to the bar to wet his whistle (with no intentions of using it for idle banter), only to have a strapping Adonis swerve in from Olympus for a weekend of introvert hunting. Clearly the gods are less busy these days… And damn! These deities get cheeky on their little earthly excursions. To look at him was something different altogether… He leaned on that bartop with such a casual flair that he shifted the whole perpendicular angle of every other object in that room. On top of that, his now steady gaze had its lazer focus direced on my poor and unsuspecting self.

Unsuspecting. Well, that was perhaps not completely truthful, considering this whole description was spiced up with a serving of acute predictive detail. But, I guess that a very small part of me desperately wished that the clear social cues would not lead to an actual fruition of his plan to interact with me. Wishful thinking, right? And what the hell was wrong with me in any case?! A hot guy just comes to burn up the stratosphere of my private little world out of nowhere – that is any lad’s dream.

“Hey”

Oh f*ck. Great. Confidence. Suave. Good looks. Undeniable sex appeal. And then that voice… with the smooth tang of an aged bourboun… I say that as if I knew exactly how to expertly describe whiskey, but I guess any bar rookie could probably describe bourboun as smooth for lack of any other description. Smooth? what did I expect, that his words were going to choke me?! The only thing I was struggling to swallow was my own sense of self-awareness. It’s all good Gernus, just offer a sweet and simple hello back. The man is waiting. “Hey”.

Image by Classical Art Memes

“I haven’t seen you around… Where have you been hiding yourself?” Oh, you know, hiding behind my forgotten and forlorn fantasies of a quiet night in while perching on the armrest of that couch there in the shadows. Damn it. He caught me at my game!

I was duly reminded of one mechanism behind this encounter from an insightfull little post that highlighted the four aspects of a stressor, as posited in research done by the Centre for Studies on Human Stress.

  • Novelty
  • Unpredictability
  • Threat to the Ego
  • Sense of Control

I believe this beautifully summed up the parameters of that particular incident that so gloriouly represented how real the struggle truly was. A new encounter…striking me from the blind side… to thoroughly draw my capabilities into question… in regaining a hold over my cool little sideline gig I had working for me so far. Yeah, it was rightfully labelled N.U.T.S.

Image by Classical Art Memes

Oh my sainted aunt… Just answer the poor man! He asked you another question!

“Well, where have you been looking?” Teasing smile, calm composure. Well done wallflower! Where did you pick that one up?! Have you been spending some time waiting at streetcorners during the witching hour? Because your flirting game is just enchanting! Maybe you’ll be ok after all.

[At this point, mental asides became a crucial coping mechanism… As you can tell.]

Crooked smile in response, and with eyes lighting up, he edged closer in this little spell I just conjured. Well, that just worked…

“Clearly I haven’t been looking hard enough.” Wow. Alright. He came locked and ready with a heavy arsenal of swoon-worthy artillery. He probably could have said about a hundred different things after that. But why would he need to? His eyes spoke a whole other language that shared volumes of insight to where his mind was leading him as he took a good look at me from bottom-to top. Ending at the eyes. Classy. we may just have a gentleman on our hands.

“Guess you deserve a drink for the recent victory then.” You see, this is when things started to go a bit south. Why did I say that?! He obviously liked that, but that little comment made me aware that I was on a slow departure heading right into a Humility Heights. I could not keep this up! I had set the expectation bar far too high!

Now look… I threw a perfect one-liner as rebuttal a moment ago. That didn’t secure me an effortless pass to this little back-and-forth with this fellow. He was a master at the game. I think I was not even worthy as a practice run for his best pick-up lines. Not to pull my own self-worth into question, but I knew that my capacity for social engagement was near depletion by that particular Friday. I was an introverted HSP that just needed a little recharge and a self-prescribed dose of alone-time.

Image by Classical Art Memes

But here I was: just living it up like the sex symbol socialite and nightclub high roller with the two-drink bartab that I clearly didn’t know was flourishing inside me till that evening…

“Sounds like a plan. What does a guy have to do to get a drink around here you think?” He nudged another teasing look at me. In hindsight, the cues were simple, obvious, and even without hassle. There was a simple courtship schematic to follow here, honestly. As a wallflower, I should have known that silence followed by agency would buy me a one-way ticket into the next leg of this conversational journey. My friend had just recently reiterated that actions truly speak louder than words.

But in that neon light the nuances disappeared into the netherworld of neverminded reactions, and that pesky little mouth of mine just adopted an altogether different mindset. My grandmother use to say that the guard in front of her mouth was gone… well mine just cashed in on an early weekend leave while I was left to deal with those lips that were about to move in all the wrong ways. So I answered him instead: “Oh…well…you can just ask the barman…”

“Ask the barman…” For f*ck sakes… Stellar answer Sherlock! Why don’t you just remind him to come back here for a refill when his drink is getting low! I am sure he would appreciate the info to make his life easier…

Image by Classical Art Memes

The regret was immediate. Flabbergasted, he gave an odd chuckle, his pace of approach completely broke, and the vibe we had going just slowly and torturously evaporated until a lovely silence lay in the void of a missed opportunity. If he was about to flirt, what in the name of Aphrodite would he say? God, I basically just dismissed him in the shake of lemon wedge. And boy, I bet it stung! Damn it.

Oh but there I was, still on the bandwagon to this sudden uncomfortable encounter, waiting with dire desperation that my drink would just arrive. I was triggered… I just shot myself in the foot after all. The humiliation was setting off a synaptic disaster in my executive brain. And I knew that the systemic overheat of grasping for another topic to save the moment was causing a blush that would leave any make-up mogul shook. The awkward moment had flowered in my garden… and it smelled of self-defeating shame, sounded like the nervous tick of fingers on a countertop, and tasted like cheap gin. Beautiful.

He tried his approach again as the barman magically appeared. No sooner had that drink made its landing on the countertop, when my hand shot out with a such a desperate need that the glass was knocked over… effectively spilling my coveted drink, my saving grace, my dignity, and the final hopes of walking out of this accident unscathed.

He tried to say something, but that was amid the full blare of deep house and EDM. It resulted in my repeated apology for my lack of ability to hear anything that he was trying to say. Honey, the walls of Jericho had already fallen, and blowing anyone’s horn was not exactly going to build up what we had going. You might as well give up. He was handsome. But neither his looks, nor the faint memory of my five seconds of competent banter could save what was futilely lost.

For a fellow like me, these awkward moments have a higher probability of occurring (at least to extent of my own experiences). Overstimulation, sensitivity to minute detail, excessive processing, and high reactivity are but a few of the reasons to why an introvert such as myself (that draws energy from quiet time) would stumble upon the awkward moment in social engagement. Even more so if you happen to process information more deeply (by being an HSP). The two traits mutually influence one another to create the perfect conundrum of dealing with difficulty – if your are not smart about it. “HSPs simply process everything more, relating and comparing what they notice to past experience with similar things,” says Dr Elaine Aron, author of The Highly Sensitive Person. So our minds are pretty occupied at times – perhaps too much to keep our mojo flowing in all the right ways.

In fact, our very perception of the present moment is tied to activity in a small brain region called the insula, that seats self-awareness – which has shown increased activation in HSP’s according to research by Bianca Acevedo and her colleagues. And taking to account then how a wallflower may process a given moment, fully in touch with their inner flows and feels, this seems to explain quite a lot.

But that is just the science speaking – it tends to help with those spurts of post-rationalisation that occur for nearly a decade afterwards…

However, I always believed that awkward moments were humbling. (Well, saying always may be a bit of an overreach… I certainly had my doubts in the past when my confidence sputtered like a candle burning in a hurricane). It seems to reallign the internal gyroscope of awareness, reset one’s attentive functionality, and even to reboot the set of social systems with which one operates. Above all, it negates the penchant to pontificate, especially because it makes us so aware of our humanity. Very, very aware… One often has a sit-down simulation with oneself to prepare for similar conundrums in future…

Image by Classical Art Memes

As always, turning experience into insight seems a beautiful route to follow here… So, in dealing with that cosmic malfunction called the awkward moment, remember this:

Eccentricity and oddity is the spellwork behind your inner magic; just as idiosyncrasy is the spellbook to your individuality. Wield it without woe, and be the wizard to weave your way amid your own quirks and charms.

Love and light fellow bloomers!

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Images drawn from the amazing Classical Art Memes, that in their humour really managed to bring life to this tale. Follow them for a daily dose of legendary laughs.

For a sliver of psychology, visit Mental Health @ Home and The Highly Sensitive Refuge. Experiencing the insights of both platforms have been valuable in stitching this story together.

AfrikaBurn – Seeking the “Golden Repair”

Freedom permits us a space that is rife with the possibilities to disassemble, break, and destroy, in order to remake, reshape, and realign. But the acceptance of such a faculty demands a great deal of vigilance from those who desperately sought it out in the first place. In truth, when we seek freedom, we do not often preemptively strucure our sense of agency and act with forbearance. We untether ourselves from any and all expectation. It is only then that an experience seems more visceral, more intense, more memorable. And that is a significant insight to reach in one’s musings. Why is it that we so seek to gain a heightened intensity from our experiences? Is it perhaps that we hope that the memory would last us longer? Or do we hope to obtain enlightenment?

Yes, these are the musings of a wallflower. For in the view of such a being, a surface level reasoning is simply not enough to kickstart the carousel of an adventurous day. To overthink, to ruminate and to ponder – these are the givens of existence for any proud sideline bloomer. And perhaps the best way to describe it, is by embellishing it with a “day-in-the-life” type of walkthrough while in the Tankwa.

So there I was…

A dim hum assailed my ears on my first awakening at AfrikaBurn. We were new arrivals only but the past day, and the morning promised a quaint little expedition for the bold. So well-rested and with a sparkle in the eye, I emerged from my tent ready to set forth on an unexpected set of adventures. The Tankwa was breathing deep and heavy sighs from an early hour, and the heaves of air sent plumes of dustclouds rolling over the Binnekring.

… And you basically had to be driving one of these bad boys to own that playground… Yes, you may not have seen any better, but squinting from the driver’s seat would have looked a lot cooler…

The plain was committed to testing its desert dwellers on that day with its myriad of dust storms. So I thought it fitting to don my Sun God apparel to see if I could contest the blazing sun through the almost opaque air of the Karoo landscape.

What do we say to the god of the desert? Not Today! This was AfrikaBurn. Valar Dohaeris! All men must serve (women too… and their children, their elders, their ancestors, their imaginary friends… you pretty much had to convinve everyone to share in the communal effort of making magic in the desert). Even when the elements converged to oppose you, no citizen should shy away from the rugged landscape that beckoned.

So I pushed my tentflap aside, and emerged with a suncrown proudly donned, a bandana or two, a scarf, and some other accessories to change into my first divine desert guise… but… I had to break the glory of the moment by going back a couple of times to readjust all the pieces.

The wind was pretty merciless, so having your paraphernalia flying around was not going to feel all that ideal. My fellow campers had the same challenge, and yet the degree of their actual struggle seemed completely masked by their near effortless navigation beneath the gazebo.

Afterwards, having mounted our steeds, we cycled into our street and off into the haze of the party… And it was literally a haze; the dust was everywhere. I was convinced I found parts of the Tankwa all up and between my bits and in places I did not even know existed!

I lost myself in a kaleidoscopic blur…

Tankwa Town and the Binnekring was already fully awakened from its short hours of slumber, and so were the sleepless… aimlessly wandering across the barrens in search of some form of worldly orientation.

… though some discovered that ‘worldly orientation’ was simply a snake in the grass (or was it the dust?)

You basically knew you were at AfrikaBurn when your perception, of place, space and time was not bound by your accustomed celestial cycle. And tracing that day by means of the sun and its casted shadows seemed near impossible with the churning dustclouds galloping across the open plains as far as you could dare keep your eyes open. Yes, a watch may just have helped. But is keeping track truly ANY fun when the fandango is in full swing?

I was already entrenched in my inner world though. Any possibility of keeping track with the schedule of reality (even in a fantasy world brought to life, such as the Burn) proved futile when contested with my own unique knack of getting utterly lost in my own thoughts. It was a little comparative exercise that I had grown accustomed to – taking the multi-sensory experiences back to my minscape and seeing how it measured up to all of my imagined reality. Yes, even the magic of AfrikaBurn could not hold the right of succession to take reign of my imagination. And, obviously, in that imagining I realised that I had brought quite a list of expectations to this place…

So here was the conundrum. In TankwaTown an expectation was a bit like common sense: it is a flower that does not grow in everyone’s garden.

My expectation of finding common sense…

And for that matter, it was a flower that did not take root well once it hit the rock just beneath the topsoil of the Karoo. The very nature of the event and what it placed out for the offer was mutable. Your very next adventure was likely to be changing with the dynamic energy of the day, and you would be left sorely disappointed if you clung to fast-held notions of what exactly you would be finding next. And yet, there I was with my typical wallflower mentality – I was observing and hypothesising and making ungrounded deductions of what this day would offer.

… even a wallflower needs to unroot themselves from their mounted garden on the wall…

So, this pattern needed to be broken. I was pretty much following this automated construal of the world 24/7 when I was back home. So something had to be different here, didn’t it?

We winded through all kinds of colourful folk until we reached a camp called Sonskyn en Wyn (Sunshine and Wine). It certainly seemed to be the perfect little spot, with a coy enough name, to convince me that it was meant to help us unwind and just freely associate. Thus, we were welcomed by a thriving little dancefloor bustling with gyrating bodies and beautiful creatures, and set ourselves the task of hanging out for awhile. We played a claw machine to get ourselves some styrofoam cups, gifted any of the extras to strangers in the queue, and set about to the bar to fill our bellies with some warm, red swill to induce a slight sense of inebriation and loosened inhibitions.

“Take us to that afterparty! … We are five steps ahead.”

I started noticing some boys, so I guess something was starting to work…

Trying to throw ‘subtle’ hints to get attention…

I soon saw that dancing was not yet something I had developed a unique, extemporaneous talent for. I was not yet whipping out the Drunken Giraffe or Crazy Train for good measure (and if you don’t know those moves, then I may need to come over for some community service). So until we were ready to rumble our temples, we had some work to do before the Burner spirit was ready take the wheel of this dirty little joyride. Just loosen up sweetie… you’ll be living your best life soon…

“Just pose in front of that sign first, that’s it…”

Perhaps the day called for another impromptu adventure. So, a little way down the road, we found a new initiative called together known as the Vagabonds. And here we found our next activity for the morning: Silent Speed Dating. Now by all the Old Gods and the New, I was basically a demure maiden when it came to taking up arms in striking up a flirty connection with someone. Even with my suncrown blazing and reflecting my self-ploclaimed, novice Burner glory, I was still a pretty reserved, blue-eyed lad when it came to what constituted the theory of attraction. Though, something I ingested happened to leave me with a drop of courage…

The whole activity required of those present to wander around the tent and find eligibles to vibe with in silence for a straight two minutes. Mostly, this involved staring point blank into the eyes of your temporary date for what felt like a small eternity. And if you were lucky, you walked away having caught something in the depths of those big, awkward, luminous orbs staring back at you. Some just stared, some smiled, some initiated more tactile ventures of excitement… but we all were laid bare in some way or another. Fun right?Well, I walked out of that little gathering with my sunrays bent haphazardly in all directions, a disheveled bush of hair, and a fogged up pair of spectacles that seemed to betray my virtue and innocence. So I guess it was a merry little time…

… The selfie of atonement after the walk of shame…

Now I mentioned luck, but this ‘dating’ game was not really intended to create discomfort or even walk away with a soulmate. I admit though… Did I notice the raven haired, bearded beauty who graced that tent with his broad bare torso, and lively dark eyes; that man who had a smile that could be a beacon to any one lost on the dust-shrouded Binnekring; that excuisite fox who showed me the twin suns that he had shaved at the back of his head? Of course I did! And I still reprimand my inability to have sought him out thereafter! I remembered him perhaps more clearly than the rest. His hugs were especially thrilling! (by the way, if you are him and reading this, drop a guy a hint)

But it was besides the point. The speed dating was intended to break down reservations. The whole purpose was to find a vestige of some beauty in the presence of the other and, for that matter, to expand on our very notions of what beauty can comprise. I saw another wallflower who unfolded her petals in her quiet confidence; I saw a woman who had enough love to nurture the strife of the world; and a shy young lad who adjusted his crown as he tried to be a confident prince of pride…

And in all that searching, I wondered and teased at what I saw of myself – reflected back in those many strange cosmic eyes I had felt compelled to drowned in for the briefest amount of time. But I remember walking out there, feeling particularly… lonely…

For if we all face our demons at some point, this was surely mine.

Strange isn’t it? How you could find time for such a thing as idle mind-wandering and then feel lonesome in such an unconditionally accepting and immersive place created by 14 000 people. And yet, there it was. A small seed of awareness had started germinating the moment I stepped out of that tent. Though, it was not something I attempted at giving much thought to. That would just be way too meta so early in the Burn game. To think about your thinking.

And yet, the feeling would hit me like a freight train with a full cargo moments later…

When I became inexorably, hopelessly and disastrously HIGH.

Now a few more things did fill the gap between the late morning and the afternoon when this level of ‘fun’ hit home. My fellowship played some naked tennis. Then, we organically drifted into a tent or two to curiously check things out. Afterwards, we managed to send out our warm thoughts of love (and miss an opportunity to write my will and testament) on postcards for those back home…

And you thought sending ravens were cool…

And I think we may have had a drink and a bite to eat afterward.

… Maybe if we found the sheriff I might have been spared the trouble I was about to get in…

But things started to take a slightly different turn a few hours later. I remember it starting as a unique burning sensation at my core, as though my solar plexus had decided to implode and then expand in a searing light that sought to beam right through my chest. And as that volatile energy sought to leave my body in a somatic ruin, it set in motion a chain reaction of synaesthesia that sought to rewrite every cerebral code that was keeping my mind intact.

Now, I was in for quite an unforgettable experience. Imagine this: sanity, consciousness, inner turmoil, and your body… all fragmented, coalesced, detached and collided together in a seemingly endless cycle producing a little asylum theatre for whatever audience happened to be present. Meanwhile, inside you’re head, you are just having the time of your life trying to keep all your dragons in their dungeon. Yes. I was tripping irrevocably and I think I plummeted right past Alice on my way down the rabbit hole… (the bitch thought she had mastered psychedelia…).

Visually, you felt like you were caught up in the plotline of The Pagemaster, about to be consumed by the colour maelstrom when the dome artwork from the rotunda melted.

…remember when this was was your biggest childhood fear in the library?

You then fight to survive an audial assault as colours swirl loudly into a unique palette of oblivion. As you try to steady yourself by making contact with anything solid, your tactile turmoil kicks off due to the delayed fire of nerve endings. Eating anything was particularly interesting. The distinction between your palate, tongue and whatever you were ingesting seemed to undergo a molecular fusion with every chewing motion as particles made contact and then seperated in an indistinct gustatory puzzle. Time slowed torturously while your awareness and body seemed to be chasing one another in circles until they smashed against one another at unscheduled untervals causing tremors to contest the Binnekring loud zone. I remember feeling as if I felt like I was clinging onto rails on the edge of a playground roundabout – spinning uncontrollably before coming to an unexpected halt. Repeatedly.

Looking back, it is hard to say what exactly may have induced the buzz state where my mind was being scrambled like an unsolved Rubik’s Cube. Perhaps I inhaled too much glitter that had worked it’s way through my cortical folds to play havoc on my amygdala and substantia nigra (because we all love contemplating a bit of biology in rationalisation of our actions). That Vagabond tent was pretty crowded with a couple of shiny fairies, so the theory seemed plausible… Or perhaps I was bewitched by a dame whose love spell backfired. I mean, my t-shirt said “Wizzard”, but I do wish someone may have told her that her act of courtship was a move at barking up the wrong tree.

It could also be that my thoughts were just churning about so violently already that my mind just got sucked into that vortex of discombobulation . Or, maybe it was a UFO; one was making the rounds on the Binnekring Road. That was definitely it. I am sure. Damn extraterrestrials!

Indisputable evidence (top right) – I couldn’t make my photo safari and espionage too obvious…

I mean, there were so many strange encounters after that cookie… it could have been anything really…

One thing was for sure: I lost myself in a kaleidoscopic blur, where iridescent hues melded in a wonderfully chaotic ruin, and distant melodies morphed into a tribal cacophony; my wild spirit never had a better cue to go and dance wildly in the dust…

Photo Credit: Rohan Roberts
Instagram: @burner_astro
https://www.instagram.com/p/BeH58_6lXQy/?igshid=9022dzrwrf35

And boy, some part of me sure was lost for quite a bit before it decided to come back; so that may just have happened. And the rest of me was left behind to enjoy a party for one in a lumpy little shaking heap of disorientation and a seesaw state of consciousness.

From witness accounts (only two, thank God), it seemed that I remained in a near catatonic cycle of rocking back and forth with my hands pressing down on my skull to keep everything contained. All sensation had slowed to a point where minute moments felt elongated, lengthened, stretched out, stretched thin, and even perpetual…

… possibilities to disassemble, break, and destroy…

So what was really happening in that shred of consciousness that was left to me that day?

Cue a throwback to the Vagabond tent, with my little “lost-in-thought” moment and feeling of being lonely, and I realised I actually was tangent to a deep truth that I was maybe attempting to suppress. It was certainly something that was playing at the edge of concern that day. But in this very instance, that bleak little monster that represented that strange feeling was a dark, numbing wraith that wrapped ghostly tendrils around my inner defences… and shattered them. I was sure that spirits danced across the Binnekring when the ancient Karoo night unwrapped itself at night to reveal the mysteries that lay beyond the stratosphere, but I wondered what ghosts each Burner carried along with them. For I sure did not intend to encounter this kind of adversary in this magical place…

But what it was, what it represented, and why it was particularly isolated to draw my attention with such vehemence, remained clear.

It got me wondering, for weeks afterward, at what skeletons decided to snatch onto everone’s luggage when they decided to open their closets for packing. For if we all face our demons at some point, this was surely mine. And I was facing it now. And who knows how many others among the desert horde faced theirs that night as well. For in that altered state of consciousness, all else is stripped away, revealing the very darkest parts of you to be more clear and more vulnerable than they possibly may have ever been before.

And perhaps my acceptance of the perks of being a wallflower did have this small consequence: to get lost so effectively due my idle mind-wandering so as to be isolated in the barrens of the unconscious… where no one could join or tell me that they left a light on if I decided to return…

How many scars remain invisible and unacknowledged as they spread through our souls in our inability to give stock to our hidden desires and conflicts? As our daily hassles tax us; as our life struggles drain us; and as we are challenged to acknowledge more authentic versions of ourselves, how far do we go to escape the island of misfit toys – that self-created realm where we rationalise, over compensate, and repress to cope with our broken selves? And what is more, does AfrikaBurn become our metaphorical Kintsukuroi (金繕い, “golden repair”) where the history of our breakage becomes part of our enduring beauty? Was this one of the dreaded expectations that creeped its way into consciousness when one found oneself in a place that could offer some sense of healing. Did we need healing?

… in order to remake, reshape, and realign…

It did set in motion a little mental hiatus to engage in some reflection. In fact, the crucial importance of this period was almost sacrosanct in its significance; paramount to whatever I clearly needed to face. My preference for my inner world may have removed me too much from a place that required my presenence and mindful engagement.

The truth is that even a wallflower needs to unroot themselves from their mounted garden on the wall, especially when magic is being made.

But here is perhaps, the catch-22. Dismounting from your high horse and riding from you realm of comfort does not imply that you go seek out your dragons in places that you are not prepared to face them. I had posed the question at the start of this entry of our tendency to so desperately strive for the intensity of our experiences, and if we perhaps sought that this intensity would secure its permanence in memory. But as was said, reserving an expectation for an event such as AfrikaBurn was prone to lead to discontentment. So in other words, pushing too hard in a desire for novelty, change, and even healing was bound to be a staggering plotline that would leave you as the playwright sorely rattled and despondent. To state it even more simply, perhaps I had plunged to deep into my own ruminations… and the conduct I perused to achieve that dive set me into maelstrom of my own inner conflicts.

Most importantly fellow Burner, remember: just because a Bad Trip can be made to sound like an epic undertone to the Divine Comedy, don’t try this at home kids! Dante’s Inferno is not the only place where you will poetically discover that hell has nine levels!

For me, that confrontation stole close to half of that fateful day. It found me stumbling out of my tent to find the rose and gold hues of light glowing softly on the horizon. I knew I asked myself more than once why the sunset was in the wrong place? It was only after my companions discovered that their wallflower had drifted out on the street again, that some alarm spread through our little camp. I mean, I could have lost myself anywhere really… if I had not fully recovered. I could have just ventured on into our neighbour’s little boudoir, and they happened to be a tribe of lost boys already.

It was also after some gentle guidance that I was made aware that it was morning.

Ah… So that was what ‘a sunrise’ looks like…

The loud zone of the Binnekring was an interesting little role player in this perception of time, as music never ceased through the night and continued right into the morning… a faint and distant rumble powerful enough to alter your perception.

All in all, I think I was broken in quite nicely if I do say so myself. Donning the guise of a deity, while hyper jumping right into my unconscious turmoils to face my abyss until the early morning hours. All before the crack of dawn! I would say this was shaping up to be quite the formative experience.

Until the recounted tale continues…

Love and Light fellow bloomers.

AfrikaBurn – The Whimsy of a Wallflower in the Wasteland

Rising like a dusty mirage out of the Karoo heat, there’s a city that many call home. It’s a manifestation of our collective imagination and the culmination of our collective efforts. It comes and goes, and ebbs and flows. It’s transient, temporary and transitory. It’s neither here, nor there.

It is real in its unrealness.

“Out of nothing, we created everything.”

Larry Harvey

The 1st of May marked a departure from the homes we knew – homes that were but shelters from the mundane routine, scheduled frustrations, and the carefully woven expectations of an everyday existence. Those patterns of living that were dictated by a norm-bound society. The heralds to this journey were two passionate souls who carried the memories of our country’s very own Neverland – AfrikaBurn. And with a cosmic sky still very much unfurled to reveal the early morning hour, we were about to embark on our very own flight past the second star to the right…

Looking for the Lost Boys…

There was a city that had risen, founded not by one, but by many. Created not by one, but by all. And we were about to make our own impression upon this oasis that had shifted into exisence out of of the ether of a collective imagination.

My escort comprised of a beautiful, engaged couple. She was an incandescent desert blossom that flowered at the behest of the Burn’s annual clarion call – a Rose of Jericho that went against its nature, reviving itself under the beating desert sun instead of the rain. He was a staunch warrior of the open plain. Rocksolid he withstood the elements with a great anticipation to challenge. Reliable, and quiet in strength, his marvel at detail was as fluid as the very spirit of the Burn (he was often distracted, but so are the best of us).

“I was kind of trying to take a picture of the flowers…”

And I was the wallflower (one of many, I was sure). I was an observer, a watcher in the wait… the world unfolded in its own beautiful and gradual pace, and I merely sought to be the scribe that could recount the memories of sensory ecstasy that I was bound to encounter in the place where wild things roam.

These safaris are getting pretty immersive…

The road to Tankwa Town was littered with the characteristic traces of its many journeymen: courage, endurance, grit, patience… It was marked by surrealist anticipation, eager escapism, and a million dreams tempered into the 12 hours that encompassed the duration of the journey from my own home.

My mind was busy cultivating that keen sense of receptiveness to make this experience significant. AfrikaBurn appeared to offer a perfect milieu to transcend the borders for one’s internal and external limitations; though it did not promise it. AfrikaBurn was not a therapeutic orchestration to help tame your inner demons (god, it seemed more likely they would be let loose to roll in the dust than be reigned in!). It was a created space. More importantly, it was a space that you created. You were the Burner that in your expression became the Burn itself. What you received almost entirely relied on what you were willing to give. There was an element of universal reciprocity deeply entertwined in the potential value that AfrikaBurn held for its desert wanderers. Change and answers did not always result from active deliberation and purpose-driven seeking. Sometimes, it came from patience and an openness to unfolding events and circumstances. A surrender to the unpredictability of the universe, to state it differently.

Tankwa Town was a creation that phased into its nebulous glory from the communal effort of an ever-changing group of people. And AfrikaBurn was the event that called these spirited folk together from the different corners of the world. There was a survival guide: the Biblical guide of the avid Burner…and in this compendium was put forth the 11 guiding principles of this regional gathering (tracing its influence from the renowned Burning Man event):

  • Communal Effort – AfrikaBurn was a cooperative movement in art, expression and relations that promoted a unified input of a community.
  • Civic Responsibility – acting in accordance with both the written and unspoken laws that drive the order and maintenance of the desert community and those who participate in its many guises.
  • Decommodification – where the transactional and commercial culture from which all those gathered trace their lives, is replaced by a participatory experience that strips these past influences from their power to redefine value.
  • Participation – where the tangible nature of this new Utopian reality is made possibly through the active engagememt of its members who invest themselves deeply in the flows of work and play.
  • Immediacy – an important touchstone to the Burner spirit, the participant is coaxed to strive in overcoming their inner hurdles that withholds authenticity; to disperse the mists that cloud their outer perceptions; and to break the barriers that keeps them from a connection with others, and then to mindfully engage in the intensity of each passing moment.
  • Gifting – a commitment that is an extension of a decommodified interaction, the unconditional practice of standing in the offer or acceptance of a gift forms a valuable system by which each Burner shares their material and spiritual prosperity.
  • Leave No Trace – the immediacy of our connection with our surroundings include the natural world, and a striving to maintain the environment by leaving it untarnished from our activities fuelled to run a magical realm.
  • Radical Self-Reliance – a principle of encouragement to tap into the wealth of one’s own inner resources.
  • Radical Self-Expression – a powerful entreprise that allows the Tankwa wanderer to gift the community with their unique and actualised individuality, by impressing their creative presence upon the dusty plains of freedom.
  • Radical Inclusion – Afrikburn envisions the world anew, and in this semblance of a more connected sphere that seeks to rid itself of the injustices and imbalances of discriminating and disrespectful systems and institutions, every stranger is welcomed to find a home.
  • Each One, Teach One – We are keepers and custodians of the sacred happenings that embody the Burner culture, and in such, we strive to open this knowledge to others who seek an enlightenment of these ideals.

As soon as our wheels bit into the ancient dust leading to the gates of the event, the reality of the unreal already began to take root into the virgin soil of my Burner spirit… Pulled off to the side was a convoy that was transporting another set of rare denizens to the hidden town, all of whom were gesturing embraces for our arrival to the final leg of our journey.

The road to Heaven is Hell’s highway… So exciting!

The last hour and a half to Tankwa Town was an unforgiving gravel road that dug its claws into your nerves as much as it did your tyres. The metaphorical troll under the bridge, the dirt path was merciless to the unprepared and impatient. Fair to say, that none was however so tested as the driver of our small trio. Steady, attentive and mindful, his penchant for safety and awareness eventually brought us to the promised land where many awaited to gain entry. The Karoo city edged into view through the whitewashed blur of the horizon, as the towering clan sculpture (symbol of the collective) cut a mark on the troposphere, surrounded by the traces of a new civilization.

CLAN Sculpture: I think Genie may want to invest in some new accommodation…

And at the gates were the first whimsical wanderers weaving their way between the newcomers. Three things became readily apparent at AfrikaBurn before we truly even nestled ourselves at its heart:

  • Personal expression transcended your wildest ideas of visual representation…
  • Boundaries were blurred, reshaped and reworked in a perpetual cycle as your exposure to novelty was set forth…
  • And that any of this, from the people, the places, and the placement…was anything less than multidimensional. Reality did not have a singular way of manifestation here. It really was woven from the very disparate and unique parts a large collection of minds.

What struck me the most was that I was not taken aback by the clear childlike glee, wonder and curiosity I was starting to feel. It was more akin to a natural state. It felt like a comfortable means of wordly interaction. In fact, it was a mindset into which I slipped so easily, that it was something I remained unaware of during most of my time at the Burn.

After the administrative entry into the event, it was tradition to hit the tribal gong that acted as the waypost to the first street into the ethereal city. With a deep, sonorous and resounding vibration sent through the late afternoon and across the dusty plains, I missioned ahead with my companions to set up camp.

The streets bustled with the commotion of settled Burners, many of whom had long since adorned their nude apparel and traded in other miscellaneous pieces of clothing for unique adornments (against which common office policies would clearly hold some reservations – they were thriving). A lone wanderer adorned with leggings touched by Midas kicked up dust through one of the turns in the road, with an unbuttoned waistcoat made of faux leather hugging a sunkissed torso. Wild offspring dotted the pathways on another turn, with sagelike souls watching on as the sun was being drawn across the sky to kiss the west…

Bob Ross is giving painting lessons in heaven again…

We winded almost aimlessly through the streets branching from the Buitekring, and finally procured a temporary spot to settle into our camp. The event was a survivalist gathering at its simplest when it came to entrenchment. The nearly inhospitable Tankwa did not offer any of the creature comforts one may have grown accustomed to. Food, water, and shelter were not a given of the gathering; it was crucial to be self-reliant. And with millenia of hunter-gatherer knowledge lost to the ignorant and modern mind, preparation was key in order to ensure you were able to enjoy other opportunities to connect with a more intuitive inner vestige of your primal self.

Our own little kingdom at the edge of the universe…

After the work was done, we ventured forth into the beckoning twilight. We brandished a couple of backpacks, drinks in hand, and found our footfalls marking out a path to our very first temple burn.

The setting sun and stretching shadows were awaking all manner of desert spirits from their sheltered abodes on that night of our arrival. Young and old were being drawn like moths to the burning edifice on the the Tankwa open plain (dubbed ‘the playa’). The Temple of /Xam was alrighty set alight after three years of gracing the Burn. It was an artistic tribute brought to the space by Kim Goodwin and his team, the Dandylions, in 2016 – in honour of the rugged beauty and enduring culture of the Khoi-San, the First Nations People of the Tankwa. It signified the memory of a people that has endured despite the onslought of time, much like the hand-woven wattle structure had withstood the severe winds and schorching heat of the Karoo for many years. And in its burning, it too became a memory in all its symbolism, with the burn a silent tribute to the dignified strength and the lasting power of an ancient culture that it sought to emulate.

Photo credit: Chris Leggatt
Temporary, transient, and transcending…

As embers drifted up toward the sky to spark the kindle of twilight dreams and evening lustre, the impermanence of it all was moving… Eternal structures were reduced to a memory by mortal hands, and ash soon layered itself among the old dirt of an eternal plain. For a moment it all seemed in reach, and then it was destined to forever be unattainable to generations that would build upon the memories burned upon the playa.

And then came the longing: invoked by a consuming desire to rematerialize that lost piece of manmade wonder that had never once occupied my mind in the three years of its desert vigil. For truly, it was not the structure, but what it represented in its endearing beauty… a beauty by which many Burners had passed with idle footfalls and attentive marvel, and with thoughts only teasing at the deeper meaning intended by the artist. And as smoke drifted into dark, and the dark drifted over the plain, the night came alive with light and music as Tankwa Town set its sights to howling at the many promises of another desert night. For even tributes of silence reach their end, much like a cacophony of artistry eventually seeks its silence. But the party had only just begun!

Be you own goddamn Knight…

In that madness we saw the moon kissing the earth…

And everyone keeps waiting for that Supermoon.

We saw an angel kneeling in the dark…

Gabriel did a photobomb…

And in that humble benediction where celestial bodies play in the dust, we were annointed with a deepened awareness of the vivacious nature underlying that wild exploration of the world, where the seeking of magic guides the attention through softly illuminated tent openings, dimly let corners, and in and among the mysterious creatures breaking and reforming their gatherings – all at the whims of the ethereal magics swirling amidst echoing noises and flashing lights.

Change can happen…
Photo credit: Graham Abbott

After tapping into the beautiful disscord of so many shifting sorceries, we eventually headed back to camp after a long day. Nestled into a quiet little street, far from the loud zone and the Binnekring where the desert fandango remained eternal, we were taking care of our vessels in the preparation for the the many adventures of a dawning day. Eventually our small company would soon drift apart for the night. Our noble diver turned in, and the last of our company turned our gazes to an open and undimmed star bespeckled cosmos. Among the stars we traced the now forgotten words of brilliant philosophies, life-changing epiphanies and the million pipedreams that filled our kaleidoscopic minds…and in those acts of complete mental surrender, we hoped that AfrikaBurn would give purchase for our wild imaginations to take root.

Photo credit: David van der Merwe

Love and Light fellow Burners. Until the tale from the Tankwa continues.

An Admonition to the ‘Wolf’ – When the Guy Code Backfires

Admonition

/ˌadməˈnɪʃ(ə)n/

A stern rebuke of non-negotiable standards and conduct, that meaningfully administers a warning to the culprit of such actions. A denunciation of harmful beliefs and practices that serves to reprimand the wielder or agent of their actions. A harangue that firmly draws boundaries and makes another attentive to their disillusionment.

Let’s talk openly for a minute (or perhaps a couple – let’s face it, these posts get a tad lengthy). The wallflower has been tending to memory, and a few stories have been brewing in that garden. And one among them, calls us to be frank. So lets get to it then: Men

Ah yes. How are you doing Mars? Going in retrograde soon? Because your sons just need to calm the f*ck down on old Big Blue next door… They are becoming a bit brazen, and we are not living for it!

Alright… we totally are. I mean a little bit of self-certainty and attunement to desire goes a long way to tickle our fancy…

… but toning down that extra bit of assertive self-confidence and blazing sex drive might actually give the rest of us a damn breather from the Spartan directive.

Now, this is not meant to be hypocritical. I mean, I am of course a man myself. And perhaps (if not without doubt) much of the critique that can be launched towards the typically rough, untactful male in his prime is surely returned to me in certain instances. I can pretty much be a ‘typical’ male at times too…

But for the most part, I would love to think that I am successful at evading the brunt of male stereotypes that many men heroically assume by choice. So let’s jump right into one. The beautiful little phenomenon called: The Bro Code (also referred to as Guy Code).

I’ll leave you a little educational tool to help you. Here you go…

Perhaps you prefer such wisdoms as shared by Barney Stinson (any How I Met Your Mother fans?)

Basically, men have a mutual consensus as to the proper form of conduct by which their construal of the world is conducted. These rules of etiquette, or ‘the code’ as contemporary lingo now addresses it, is the cornerstone of the unwritten understanding between men from all walks of life. It guides their perceptions, scaffolds their interpretation, and thus their actions show fealty to the sacred oath imparted by an ancient blueprint. And women have their own version too (or so legend holds).

It’s comforting right? Knowing of a few key life hacks that could calibrate that gender compass so you rock the boat (or the bed) in all the right ways… Well sure. Mainstrean society has not really given their full investment to the whole “gender fluidity” bit. Our minds prefer schemas and wrestle with spectrums, so if something is not one thing or the other – male or female – then we pretty much have a bit of difficulty keeping up. So, the gender codes are still pretty fierce in relevance.

And, oh… you know. They work just swell and all… until you’re pretty much a straight guy expecting your fellow raging homosexual to abide by the same rules. Yeah, things hit a snag then, and the issue becomes a bit thorny.

Storytime sweeties!

So yes, I was this raging homosexual. Well, raging is a strong word… perhaps a bit extra even. Its not like the pride flag is refracted in my iris. But rewind the old clockhand to my early years at university, and I was just an innocent young lad that had to learn many of the basics of an altogether different code: the gay code. But we’ll leave that to another blog.

As for the unwritten contract of my male counterparts who grew from more heteronormative roots of thinking, I was already an expert as to the ways of the “straight” male think-tank. I graduated the class honey; but like a good graduate candidate, I am applying next to none of much of that knowledge in the real world!

I received that rude awakening one evening when a friend of mine was fuming in his quiet rage in the passenger seat of my car. I naively asked him if he was angry, adressing the obvious tension that was hanging so thick you could cut it with a knife. I did, after all, consider myself to be empathetic and caring. His response was a cold lash of words that whipped me into attention of the crime that I was culprit to: a violation of this Bro Code

And to be honest, I did not even now I was at fault and thus at the mercy of the jury from the heterosexual pantheon.

Lets backtrack a bit…

There I was… all cool and collected on a quaint little evening, getting ready for a nice and relaxing dinner with friends. Perhaps I was dressing a tad ‘fancy’. But we were uni-folk sweetie. ‘Dinner with friends’ was not exactly one of those hobbies and interests we listed on our resumes – we were working on a budget! But even on a budget… we were about to fan out our tail feathers. So I straightened out that button shirt, slipped on that chino pair to give a little love to those assets, gave those boots a quick polish, and conjured a bit of spellwork with a haircomb. To me, grooming and dressing was just plain fun. This was not fine dining, but we weren’t doing drive-thru tonight! Lets work with a little TLC. So this was all fine, but nothing compared to my housemate and his get-ready efforts at the time.

https://memegenerator.net/instance/41500206/look-son-a-faggot-look-son-a-legend

So down the hall, the sacred ritual of male heterosexual prepwork was unfolding… queued by the fog of Axe bodyspray and ceremonial 90’s boy rockband music alternated with 2010’s rave club remixes – about sweating bodies and sex. This was not even embellishing it with exaggeration. That spray can opened, clicked, and dispensed so many times that a new Texan-sized hole in the Ozone was forming. Environmental NGO’s probably lost sight of our location in the dense mist. And then there was little old me, feeling like I was just winning at life by rocking a little scent of Eu de Par-Moi (smelling like myself).

I mean, I really wasn’t getting this. We were about to be four people, just eating out for the night. Us two lads, and two girls that were sort of becoming friends. But clearly I was missing the cues of straight-male impression building. The slaughter of subtlety that was occuring down the hallway could probably be allowed. And I am sure the hetero gods, now appeased by the acts of their acolyte, looked proudly upon their son that strutted out of his room: with upper shirt buttons loosened, hair that traced its heritage to the super sayans, musculature peaking through all the right places… and the whiff of raw masculinity that was testament to Darwinian theory. “Lets go!”, he said like some superhero catchphrase, as if epochs of his great feats were about to be written. Oh god…

https://me.me/i/the-floor-is-being-straight-i-made-a-meme-16877158

So we drove over to the girls. They met us in the driveway to their house, decked out in a little casual wear and paid some attention to the detail in their glam. They were pretty by all standards. And me being me, gave each a nice and friendly sideways, one-armed church hug.

https://www.buzzfeed.com/amphtml/katienotopoulos/you-know-who-else-hugged-hitler-thats-who

But my buddy, well… he drew them in for a full-on chest-contact moment that just oozed of desire. He and the dark-headed gal were getting real ‘friendly’ of late… so perhaps my hetero gene had just been in stasis for too long to recognise the so-called cues. But… I was caught up to a degree…

So off we went, and on arriving, we grabbed ourselves some choice seating and started a chat.

The topics of that banter escapes memory. I guess we were batting around the idle pleasantries, the adult-novice life theories, and the odd jokes that you only question afterwards. We were just being university students. But then I distinctinctly remember the subject of dating arising among the present company. And here I knew we were treading though some dangerous waters. No seriously, I was actually close to having an angina… and uttered a few private benedictions for the peace that had been maintained at that table.

https://memegenerator.net/instance/61273755/orange-is-the-new-black-jesus-take-the-wheel

Because: we had two girls here that manifested as amazons at the slightest misstep to their honour, and a guy who truly believed he was God’s gift to women in the making…

Now, my housemate was really of that special breed of man that believed in the dating coach biz. Basically it came down to the whole belief that dating is a game, of which the rules require ownership by the player. As a guy, you can basically be trained to talk to, hit up, and date any girl that you like with a few key formulas of conversation, demeanor and self-beliefs. Thus, women were reducible to quite a couple of key traits that needed to be understood, navigated, and managed. This was not to be confused with social-skills training, which is a mode of therapy all itself. What I was dealing with was a classic case of PhD level guy code, which manifested in very unique ways within the male-female dating dynamic. I later realised that I understood this according to a different curriculum within the gay code, something we happen to do in gay-man undergrad called, emotional intelligence and women. To us, it is about circumnavigating female emotion, which we then realise is actually pretty similar to our own. So then we pass that school with the understanding that it comes down to ‘feelings’ and that it is not a gender-bound thing at all. So we drop the bigotry, chauvinism, and robust male emotional exterior and realise that it is all really about not being an arse. And voilà! History created the camaraderie between gay men and straight women that has been mutually beneficial ever since. All because of that enlightenment. But our relationship and symbiosis with our own sex has been a bit slower in the making. We can just all blame toxic masculinity right now’ and leave that as discussion for another day.

So back at the table… there he was: geared with his strong perceptions surrounding women, about to drop the bomb with some far-out views on how girls in the dating scene actually operate, and how guys tend to approach them. And, call me a rookie, but I was not sure that guy-code actually prescribed that you reveal some of these ideas that are bound in the holy book of man. I mean I thought this sh*t was like sacred! But there he was, sharing some pretty unforgiving ideas with the subject of conversation gaining some intense momentum. In fact, it was turning out to be on the brink of becoming a fully-fledged bloody war! Our friends were not exactly impressed by his views, and you could get ready to place some saucers of milk in front them, because they were about to get catty! He was on the tangent of making a point that women are graced with a rating by the divinity of male specimens that roam the dating field. Based on a couple of physical traits and a few environmental clues, women were deemed worthy of approach and as target to flirtation. A woman’s natural beauty (basically her looks), her body shape (meaning her weight), her social standing (how popular or well-known she was), her accentuated features (her grading of ‘sexy’), and what she did for a living (how interesting she was to talk to) determined how coveted she was by a guy on the prowl. Then there were added bits like a best friend who acted as gate keeper; and how tactics needed to change when her rating is particularly high (because she can get any guy she wants). Basically, his whole premise was not built on what he personally found attractive (which no one can be blamed for if they have their preferences), but rather on a male pack-mentality of what is socially deemed as more valued in their small microcosm. He was laying down his truth as if the two women (did I mention we were trying to build a friendship here?) sitting across from us were the naive little underlings in the dating foodchain, and as if he was doing everyone a favour.

He then loaded his crossbow with a killshot bolt to quiet the table the f*ck down by saying: “Girls who are anything lower than a 5 or 6 have no chance of really scoring a guy out there.”

https://me.me/i/gay-silence-5687c74b135c45638c3eb19b5ddf0134

Yeah, the brunette looked about ready to have at him across the table… And I remember thinking that Girl Code must be really legit if it evoked that kind of gleam in your eye. We are talking about a look that threw daggers!

Now, if you knew anything about warfare, you knew that a crossbow needed some time to reload in battle. That was exactly when the girls verbally charged his defences, and basically started to rip him apart. And f*ck… I mean I had to spectate. I don’t know if the fumes of his ritual chamber back home had scrambled his chemistry of logic, but I knew better than to come up with all these screwed-up hypotheses. Damn bro, did you you want to be blood-eagled by a shield-maiden! (because it may just be the little dark fantasy moment any proud woman would have on dealing with a man who think they fell from heaven).

A battle of the sexes was taking place at table, and my mate was being forced to swallow the foot he was putting in his own mouth. I was audience to a tirade that was reaching legendary proportions, and they were going at him where it hit hard: right between his cerebral knockers, effectively putting an end to his fertile imagination that was spewing disillusioned creeds (though I actually think they insulted his equipment as well). He was outnumbered, but he didn’t feel he was alone (as I found out in the drive back home). Because there was, after all, another guy at the table. Oh… he meant me. My sincere condolences for your thinking old sport…

https://imgflip.com/i/i6mve

So cue my reaction to this whole spectacle, and what you found was the heathen to the straight religion who was finding this ‘playful’ exchange a bit of a joke. I mean, everyone was surely not taking all of this too seriously… right?

He was clearly very talented at saving face during this whole debacle. He did not flinch, stutter, or halt his advances even once. So I was like: he is a big boy, he can handle his own little mess he made. And for heavens sake, you know… I did not come for this little ego show. I came to eat. So while everyone was clearly busy, I was paying heed to my meal like a normal little human being struck with famine and a dash of awkwardness, while the rest were clearly engaged in a bit of loquacious repartee spiced with sarcasm and gender-tinged innuendo. And I had to reiterate: no one was really taking each other that seriously, RIGHT? This was all good fun?

https://imgflip.com/i/21qgss

Well, I might as well have been put to the cross or some other torture for believing that. He was resolute in his conviction to the date-hunter subculture, and he was setting back the women’s movement by 50 years. This was clearly so the drama! And he at least, had one clear expectation from me – one he did not share though, but clear in his own mind – be a bro, have your bro’s back, honour the code. Well how in the all encompassing f*ck was I suppose to know that?!

Cue the moment back in the car, and this entire reasoning was presented to me in a little heated speech he had clearly been working on since the first time I snickered at one of the biting remarks by the girls. And boy was he pulling some straight old-fashioned scolding on me to clearly impress his male authority. And how I clearly failed at honouring the call of having another man’s back. I was, flabbergasted…

https://dailylolpics.com/when-he-raises-his-voice

… because… first of all b*tch… how the hell do you call for the enactment of the guy-code in that situation? You were basically preppeing yourself to be roasted!!! Second of all, when your damn rulebook says anything about women, you are basically signing up for dismemberment and decapitation when you want a gay guy to be your wing man! And if some manage to actually learn the trade, then my apologies, but asking me to be a wingman is like moulting your soaring chances of ever actually finding happiness. PERIOD.

So this brought me to really reflecting on the issue at hand here: The Direwolf-Fallacy. Haven’t heard of it? Oh don’t worry honey… it is my little invention, aptly named because it encompasses a wide array of character faults that should be extinct, but have survived the millennia to manifest in those textbook larger than life alpha-types. It is a key trade of robustness and primal instinct tied with man since age immemorial. This should-be extinct collection of traits is revived in the fantasies of certain social circles on the belief of superiority held by certain males for their dominant virility. It is singularly associated with those ambitious hunters in the courtship realm, that includes characteristics of misguided cunning, brute approaches, stereotypical attributions, misjudged rivalry, and a dissociation with the realities of conveyed social cues. And a label proudly assumed by some men for its defining capacity in their lives, guiding action, diction and thought and their personas in the their social relations. Basically you are an egotistical narcissist snapping your maw in the wrong wilderness. So my friend here was believing he was howling at the moon…but darling… he was barking up the wrong tree by blaming my ignorance of his ‘sacred’ code. Quite frankly, I was getting bored with his little rant…

http://www.picturequotes.com/im-too-tired-to-slap-you-bash-your-face-against-my-palm-would-ya-quote-302512

My younger self was, however, clearly livid at this injustice. And I was about to lay down some proper gay retribution to force him into a bit of humble penance! No one told him to go full-on alpha in the conversation, relaying his personal fantasy of prehistoric courtship practices. That was all him. And besides, he was asking me to choose sides to a debate I really had no personal investment in. I really didn’t care. The pain he felt was not my stab into his back, it was him falling on the point of his own f*cking sword!

Lets lay down the obvious truth: I was not about to be a proponent of an unwritten residual practice of hegemonic masculinity. His strong views on the male privilege to harbour such ridiculous views on an entitlement to brazenly classify a women’s worth by merely her appearance was basically unacceptable.

But above that, I was a f*cking wallflower! I came to bloom and relax a bit, not be planted squarely in the crossfire of their heteronormative drama. What’s more, how did he ever expect me as introvert to willingly enter a conflict situation with guns blazing (putting aside the point, for now, that any idea put forward in support of his views was basically social suicide to begin with).

In short… If the Karmic bus was not about to hit him square in the balls, then I was about to take the f*cking wheel and make sure it did!

We have talked a lot on this… it’s about expectations, the art of simplicity, and giving some stock to inner truth. All contracts have loopholes sweeties, especially when they are unwritten. Do not align your actions with a request that was not vocalised or shared, nor do so if such wishes asks you to grant faculties that you are not willing to invest. If the drama is not yours, then do not add to it by becoming a playwright to the scene. And if the wolf comes howling at the wrong moon, then eclipse his misguided belief and make him see a different light!

Love and Light fellow bloomers!

K. I. S. S. – A Lesson in the Art of Simplicity

Simplicity

/sɪmˈplɪsɪti/

A principle that emulates the return to the bare necessities of living. A lifestyle by which an individual renews their awareness of their own desires, which are then given expression with the necessary act of decorum to avoid the backlash of self-imposed expectation. Its about getting back to basics.

It’s storytime sweeties!

It was one of those slow and sublime Saturdays – the type where birdsong beckons and soft sunlight strokes your cheek, and no damn Disney heroine could ever match your gliding strides and your penchant for song…

And then you really kick it up a gear with a steaming mug of strong black magic (no, this is not an aphrodisiac, its coffee), play that one song that you just sucked dry since having it on repeat since last summer (still not knowing those lyrics), and grace the world with its first look at you in that sleepwear that just screamed to be left in your teenage fantasies (the world never really is ready for that kind of beauty on a sleep-in day). But darling, its like you have care! You feel you are winning at life!

My expectations of the day were few to none. I was about to rock it out in my leisure suit for a big one, doing what any sane human would do when the world wasn’t going to ask much of them: figure out how to heal the world; have a talk with myself; maybe relocate that one bit of clutter on my desk for the next time I am productive (have a laugh with myself, because I know that desk was made for that clutter); have that other talk with myself; reflect on the purpose of meaning; and take that late morning nap (because, you know, its not like I just had a good ten hours of sleep – and sleep hygiene is a thing).

So amid my third self-talk (because the other two got a bit intense and hurtful things were said) my phone gave that familiar set of vibrations of someone chaining their messages so that you obviously give notice…

Well f*ck. Now I had to look. I mean, you don’t get that kind of attention often… And who in God’s good name would ever think of messaging me while I haven’t even gathered my bits by midday. I mean… I must be special. Give the people what they want I say! Bless them.

So it was this fellow I had been chatting to for a while, after he had found and messaged me on social media a few weeks before. Since those early days where that approach just marinated in stalker vibes, he actually turned out to be down to earth and a pretty nice guy. So, a coffee date was proposed…

Of course I went! Who knows where that third self-talk was leading to… It was already scratching at childhood traumas… And… I was bored. Added, curiosity is a nagging banshee when she is not attended to!

So I whisked my hair into something resembling windblown spun gold (it did not resemble that at all); slapped on some moisturiser like a beauty influencer ready to look snatched (or because I felt that I needed something to resemble a get-ready kind of feel); and threw on a button shirt, denim jacket and some teal cargo pants. Oh… cargo pants, and in teal. Yes, I was about to crack Olympus and not even the gods would dare come down to handle all this glory!

Now at this point, I was already having hesitations. This do-nothing day was long in the coming, and I was about to give it all up for a coffee date which could have any of a number of turnouts. And this was sparking up a fourth self-talk. So here starts the lesson sweeties. When that fourth discussion rears its big ugly head, you know you are cracking the lid of Pandora’s box and should just leave things be. Especially when you are a wallflower who reserved themselves on keeping their petals closed for the day. Simple enough… right?

Yeah well, so is vanity. And after a soliloquy or two of glorious self-aggression, your main flower right here just needed to feel he could bloom a bit. So you only have that wise epiphany of going AWOL during your fifth self-talk and then the drama is already done. But like I said, I was bored. And FOMO (fear of missing out) has been my nemesis for years!

In her humorous TED Talk, The Magic of Not Giving a F***, Sarah Knight introduces the wonder of the “NotSorry Method”, where you can escape the trap of feeling obligated to do things that you don’t feel like doing. In essence, you can learn how to stop giving a f*ck (representing your time and energy) to things you do not really care much for. Well sweeties, it appeared as though my savings on f*ckbucks asked for a handsome deposit into something gloriously undesirable on that fateful day!

So lets fasttrack past some tedious details: I hopped in the car; dropped that other beat that I had on repeat since that one wedding; got to the meeting place; was welcomed by my date (whom we shall call Othello for good reason), and we were off to build some chats over a Cup of Joe. But Joe was a homely bastard that gave you diabetes with the amount of sugar my host added, and had a questionable ethnicity due to copious amounts of milk. I had after all sipped its cousin that morning, a little blend of ground El Salvador. Now he really seduced me with his exotic undertones!

But this is besides the point. So my date was not the best at conjuring up a cup of coffee (travesty as that is) , but he was of a genteel character regardless, and a gracious host. The necessities of hospitality were accorded to, and pleasantries were exchanged. And he asked me a few simple questions that showed a mild interest in my life at the least. Note: all these were already covered in extensive text messages, but we needed to follow the proper form during this meet-up after all. (My word but I hate small talk!)

So there we were, two blokes about to venture into a deeper introduction in the life of the other. A nice mutual reciprocation of shared stories, experiences and philosophies. This I could handle. All my reservations was for naught! We were about to have a spiffingly good time, I was sure.

God, I wish. I cracked the lid to Pandora’s Box remember, and this b*tch was about to release all the horrors of the world onto me! Oh and did he…. I had a front seat to the glory that was his entire beautiful trauma of a backstory. If my life was filled with monologues, than this guy would have had enough for a whole new act to make Shakespeare rethink his poetic prototype of a tragic hero! He would have this knack of building up a beautiful life event to a hopeful climax, and then create this disaster of a denouement that went crashing into an iceberg with many, many casualties.

Still, all of this was… Fine… In a very very patient backlog of my mind. But what really got me, was that Othello here did not hit pause for nearly two hours. And this wallflower came out to bloom darling, so I needed some watering as well… you know… a chance to actually respond! But gracious me, this fellow was raising his garden, calling a spade a spade and just making a big muddy mess by digging up his dirty drama! My petals were shook!

Darling, we’re talking family drama that would move Game of Thrones to Disney Channel. We’re talking sprees with lovers that would make him fill the self-help section in the book store on the psychology of love and relationships (none of which would be best-sellers, since he is writing so many… ). And then there was his claim to a German heritage that really upset my pollen. The last trace of a German practice in his family was nearly three generations removed, and he did not understand a single word of the language to boot! I guess it was his little histrionic habit of making himself seem more exotic.

He was so the drama. But a good raconteur, I’ll grant him that… being a lover of stories myself. But this story was effectively planting me back into my inner world… you know… where all the magic happens. So I was about to bloom there for awhile to figure out this dilemma.

Let me sketch this picture for you. Within a quaint little living room with two armchairs, one two-seater and some other questionable furniture, we were positioned accross from one another: me on the couch, and Othello having grabbed one of the armchairs facing me. The lighting was warm and ominous, making the whole room seem like some harlem to harbour many dirty little secrets. And I swore, I caught whiff of the traces of the seductive scent of spices in the air. There was obviously a mood here; there was a milieu I had not yet picked up on. See, here is the thing. At this point, my interest and attention had steadily wilted under the pressure of the drought that was my boredom… and my disbelief that so much strife could befall poor Daddy Drama across from me. My eyes were strained out of their sockets to keep up the appearance of attentiveness and investment, yet my thoughts were lost in the ether of “what the hell did I get myself into”.

But at this point, his story came to a screeching halt, and it threw up enough dust and gravel to blind my preparation on a response. Oh but not to worry, his mouth was revving its engines again! But this time it was a steady and idle hum in the utterance of: “So what do you really think of me? You must be overwhelmed with all I just said…” (no really, you think?) “but how do you feel about me?”

Cue dioalogue to self…

Sweetie, I think you are a hot mess, and you haven’t been to the therapist in a minute! Me: “Oh, well… Uhm… You have been through a lot. I can see you have faced your trials and tribulations, but you have shown commendable resilience through it all. I like that.” Please silence yourself. “And I can see you have gone through so much self-reflection with regards to your experiences in relation to others. I really think that is a mark of strength and that makes a man attractive.” Fool, be still thy tongue! “And considering the power of the events you have had to endure, it surprises me how you have managed to keep your smile.” For the love of the all that is good and sacred in big beautiful world… shut up you blithering idiot! “So I don’t think you have to be a product of the past, (he should revisit it though, poor lad needs to pull out those problems by the root!) and you can rather just try to enjoy to be the independent person you are instead of fixating on things that are long done. Because you are cool, and have done well. I mean, that certainly makes you likeable. ” Well, good morning Mr Affirmation, how the hell are you doing? I see you have done a stellar job with your psychology index so ready at hand… Still having trouble with honesty I see?

What happended here was what I like to call the “Daisy Dissociation”. The name blossoms well on the tongue of the wallflower admitting to their faults, but is also a playful tag on the female character in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s magnum opus The Great Gatsby. In the novel, her character often struggles with an honest appraisal of her own feelings and thoughts when the situation becomes white hot, and withdraws into her status and world of materialism to escape the overwhelming demands of the scene. In this case, I was hiding squarely behind well chosen words eloquently and sensitively conveyed.

But I was stuck between a rock and a hard place on this one. My hardwon pedigree and practice of being a gentleman risked dissolution, and yet I was so keen to unashamedly confront Othello here with his talents in procuring so much (easily-avoided) sorrow… Do either, and the behaviour does not match the thoughts and feelings behind the alternative. A classic case of cognitive dissonance if you are interested in a bit of social psychology.

His response was a coy smile of contentment that brought me right back to the situation to really start smelling the roses and figuring out his angle. He excused himself for a moment, and made his way to the kitchen…

His claim to being German was about as legitimate as my claim to being Houdini’s successor, because there was no way I was escaping this as soon as I had hoped. And heaven forbid my weak stock of available alibis at that point, because I could think of no reason that I needed to excuse myself, but a million reasons why I wanted to. And intuition was shouting to me that something was afoot!

And then he strolled back in with a peculiar gait. Oh there was definitely a shift to the ambience, the lights seemed to dim at his very presence… And the foreboding of something fragrantly awkward was setting the scene. His pace slowed, and he gave a glance back at his chair before drifting over (unwelcomed) to sit next to me on ‘my’ couch. Yes mine, as in, I was seated in this ridiculously large throne, and the jester was not entertaining the king. And when I said end of the couch… I mean nearly on top of me. Oh no honey, you are stepping on the wrong flowerbed.

He scooched closer, and I lamemted to the heavens why the blood of Athena was not coursing through my veins that day to grant me more wisdom. He took my hand, and my whole essence cringed into perpetuity as I damned that trickster Cupid for his bad aim on this poor fellow. And from the depth of my navy-blue eyes, my soul cried rivers for the desperation of any flight-or-flight reaction when he neatly positioned the following words: “I think I really like you, and I think we should give this a chance”. I think I was two-thirds over the armrest by then… A deer in the damn headlights of damnation… with my own little bohemian rhapsody in questioning the borders between real life and fantasy. WHAT?! “Something like this does not come along often, and I think we have something special”. Au contraire my disillusioned little friend, this comes around quite a few times for you it seems, and special does not even BEGIN to describe it! I just bet you say that to all the boys… For shame!

So sweeties, at this point a few other lessons dawned on me, if too late. The first is awareness of your environment. Never sit on a seat that allows more than one occupant – especially on a first date. You never know when you need to jump the boat… or the couch for that matter. Secondly, drizzle a little less honey on your words and serve your tea piping hot, but with that touch of refinement. Thirdly, avoid self-talk on Saturdays… And don’t get so excited by things that vibrate in the mornings… LORD!

So I turned my gaze to look him squarely in his bespectacled eyes, twisted the rest of my body to face him in the least seductive way that I possibly could muster (which was hard, because you should never underestimate the desires impressed upon others by teal cargopants), and said. “Look, I think you are nice… good job, keep at it… and I am flattered that you would want to be with me… Literally, no one cares! Spill the tea sis! Throw that pot right at him! … but I am just really not ready for a relationship right now.” Oh for f*cksakes

So here is the problem with that line: ‘right now’ does not take into account a ‘later’ or a ‘one day’; your lack of feeling ‘ready now’ does not account for your possible readiness later; and your habit of dishing affirmations can turn an open and neutral comment into a hopeful prediction… for the other party. Basically, he was about to take his time sipping the tea I was serving, and would bounce RIGHT BACK with his advances once he finished his cup. I had delayed the drama…

And he looked about ready to consider other ways of convincing me… sooner (since I had not used my pronouns effectively in explicitly conveyeing my disinterest in him)… And his eyes were trying to strip me bare of my inhibitions. But he gave a nod, and what I believed was an understanding smile, and gave my hand a pat (as if I just earned a gold sticker on my report card) and went back to his own seat. “Maybe we can get to know each other for now. I think you’ll come to like me”.

I think the nerve endings of my hand flared back to life about a week after… But boy were those neurons firing in other places sooner to conjure a self-directed caveat for dating.

I carefully tended to the scenario which planted a few key observations in memory after that day. Firstly, my words were blunt shears if ever their intention was to convey hard truths without a hint of consolation or simply to knip the problem at the bud. I preferred the trimming of a situation with well-chosen words. Normally, I applaude this little disposition within myself, but when it comes to those particularly uncomfortable situations fellow bloomers, your escape is only imminent when you sharpen the blades. Speak your truth!

Secondly, we are entitled to our judgements or opinions, but that does not permit anyone to be an arse. Actually, you are permitted to be that as well, but the likes of approval do not then becometh you. However, you may not care about approval, in which case you would proceed regardless. But a blossom blooming alone amidst arid views, is wiped away by the flood of criticism. But roots entertwined with that of a few others, could perhaps just stem the tide (we all need friends, so be careful of what you say).

The moral of the story, is that honesty should be cultivated carefully, but allowed to bask in the sun when the situation calls for it. Truth, if dealt in a timely manner, is never unwelcome. It permits growth sooner than does misdirection. So fellow bloomers, learn to say no to invitations that ask your energy to be invested in those things you care little for. Resist hiding behind the words that sweeten the circumstances too much that you need to drink in. And… for f*ck sakes… when you reach that moment where unnecessary complications need to be weeded out, be your own bloody valentine and give yourself a K. I. S. S. …

KEEP IT SIMPLE SWEETHEART

Love and Light fellow bloomers!