Category Archives: Philosophy

Self-Actualization

Dear Steve,
You, and all who have written on the subject of marriage, do not have the concept. Yes, far too many ill-prepared fools are getting married, because they are all getting married for the wrong reasons. True LOVE (not romantic love) is is an act, not an emotion. It is a choice. When two people decide that one-another’s needs and well-being are more important than their own, then they will both look out for each other better than they ever could have on their own.
I think that you are right about we North-Americans being too hung up on our own “super-specialness”. This pursuit of self-actualization completely negates the possibility of entering into such a symbiotic relationship, and thus marriages fail. In the end, I think we’ve all been eating too much granola (or maybe we need to eat more).
Signed,
Jim

I admit it, I’m a little tipsy right now, but that doesn’t mean I can’t do my job. It just means I can’t do my job well. Maybe it’s because I’m wasted, but I don’t get the granola thing. And, where exactly am I wrong on the subject of marriage? I‘m sure that I’m wrong about a lot of things, but you don’t really shed any light on what those things are. I agree that too many ill-prepared fools get married. I agree that true love is an act, not an emotion. Oh wait, no I don’t. Shit, I never really thought about it.

To be honest, my first thought is, yuck. Your mature kind of love sounds more, um, mature. But, it sounds like high school-guidance-counselor-love (not that there is anything wrong with high school guidance counselors). I guess that I want love to be an emotion. At the same time, I can see how it makes sense to want a relationship founded on reason, rather than emotion. I guess. I just have trouble imagining rational sex. Is it as good as emotional sex?

And there’s the rub, right. What drives those ill-prepared fools into the arms of romantic love? Sex. Or money. People who get married for money are incomprehensible to me, so I will not even address them (except to say that they must have experienced a time in their lives when they felt tremendously insecure). Okay, money doesn’t really play into romantic love (I’m pretty drunk right now). That just proves my point about sex, right? Sure.

But do people say to themselves, “oh, I think I’ll marry so-and-so because they light my figurative fire.” No, it’s one of those unconscious things. But you probably aren’t ever driven by unconscious motivations to be with someone you probably shouldn’t. Still, the rest of us are often drawn to someone for reasons that are not entirely rational. In fact, it may be the very primitive nature of our feelings that drives us to do something as inconceivable as share our lives with someone else.

You suggest that self-actualization is somehow part of that North American feeling of “super-specialness”. I disagree. When I spoke about “super-special people”, I was referring to those individuals who feel like any assault on them is an assault on the very soul of truth and justice. For this reason, the super-specials cannot endure any infidelity in their marriages. I don’t remember why I am talking about this, but there must be a point.

Oh yeah. Self-actualization is identical with the idea that we are all equally special and worthy of forgiveness. If I am right, then self-actualization would serve the purposes of romantic love by creating a more tolerant atmosphere in which love could grow. Sorry, that was so hokey. If you are right, and the pursuit of self-actualization completely negates the possibility of romantic love, then we should all do our utmost to avoid romantic love, because it would suck to give up self-actualization. I hope that you are wrong. Because I want to be self-actualized, but I don’t want to be a sixty-year old bachelor who brings pictures of my dog to family reunions (not that my dog isn’t totally cool).

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Lesbians and The City Different

Like most good people, I hate the Dallas Cowboys. A few years ago, Robert Altman made a film with a gay character who wanted to be a Cowboys’ cheerleader. When the Cowboys discovered the character’s sexual orientation, they refused to let her wear their uniform in the film (which is strange, considering half their players are gay). Despite the fact that, on an almost yearly basis, the Dallas Cowboys stand by some player who’s charged with sexual assault or drug possession, their organization refuses to be associated with homosexuality. Some people are just intolerant. To be honest, I would have been disappointed if the Cowboys’ hadn’t acted like the narrow-minded, hypocritical bastards we all know they are.
MTV, on the other hand, is way more open-minded. Years ago, they televised a performance by the Russian band T.A.T.U. – two hot lesbians who perform in their underwear and make out on stage (they’re really great). During their performance, a hundred teenagers wearing Catholic school-girl uniforms ran onto the stage. As T.A.T.U sang, the hundred girls ripped off their shirts and skirts and started making out with each other in their underwear (it was a really great show). Obviously, this was filmed in Manhattan, because New Yorkers are super tolerant and they embrace lesbians and stuff. As we watched, my friend Kevin said, “they would never do this with a hundred teenage boys – making out with each other in their underwear.” This is true.
Cinemax is a lot like MTV. Cinemax usually runs a soft-core porn movie each night (according to my friend Bill, not me). One thing I’ve noticed… I mean, one thing Bill noticed, is that each movie has at least one scene with two girls having sex. It’s like a requirement or something. However, Bill has never seen two dudes making out on Cinemax… unless it was an art movie. Even mainstream television commercials regularly feature a lesbian subtext – like the Miller Lite ad with two hotties fighting in a water fountain.
It’s not just modern America that’s more comfortable with gay women than gay men. Last night, I saw a program on the Nazi’s campaign against homosexuals. Evidently, they were much more concerned about gay men than gay women. Yes, the Nazis persecuted lesbians, but not with the same fervor reserved for gay men. Apparently, even the Nazis could handle a little lesbian action (which makes them slightly more tolerant than the Dallas Cowboys).
It’s seems reasonable to ask the question – “why are people more comfortable with female gay sex than male gay sex?” Some people have complicated theories about gender power structures, but I think it’s something more simple – people are freaked out by butt sex. When I wrote about that topic, it caused quite a controversy. Some people complained about the language, which seems odd, considering I’ve always had a potty mouth and its often been worse. Most people were offended by the subject matter (things in butts, things near butts, rim jobs, etc.). By most people, I mean some readers, some friends, some girls I’ve dated, and the publisher of this paper. I even offended myself. Someone told me that’s because I’m a Sagittarius with Virgo rising. Evidently, Sagittarians are outspoken and skanky, while Virgos are reserved and prudish – which means half of me is always offending the other half.
I’m not surprised that I offended myself, because I’m a pretty conservative guy. But, I was surprised that I offended so many liberals in Santa Fe. I mean, this is the City Different, right? Santa Fe is an alternative town for alternative people, and the Santa Fe Reporter is the alternative newspaper. The truth is, while Santa Fe is politically progressive, it’s as sexually repressed as Victorian England. We can celebrate alternative sexuality (witness the Gay Pride parade), but we can’t handle an open discussion about sexual alternatives (rim jobs).
Okay, I’ll stop writing about that stuff. I may be immature and sarcastic, but I’m not stupid.
Finally, while I sympathize with people concerned that children might read my column, please consider this: children need constant supervision, regardless of what I say about butt sex. There are a thousand terrible things that can happen to an unsupervised child – like watching porn on Cinemax , running into the street, using handguns, or growing up to be a Cowboys fan.

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Menu Anxiety Disorder

Dear Steve,
I don’t know what I want from life, especially from a woman. I don’t know if I want a blonde or a brunette, a French girl or a Japanese girl, long hair, short hair, a nice girl or a mean girl… you name it. Are there exercises I can do to help me learn what I want, like some kind of meditation thing, only not as hard as meditation? Seriously, I’m semi-miserable about my inability to make a decision about girls, like a decision about who I should pursue. I’ve been very fortunate to connect with women I like, I’m just never sure what I’m looking for, so I never commit to a girl. Then, a couple of years later, I find myself thinking about the “one that got away,” you know what I mean. How does anybody know what they want? Is it a chemical or genetic thing? Is it environmental? Do you know what you want?

I want the Redskins to crush the Cowboys on Monday Night Football. Then, I’d like a nice bowl of soup. The tomato soup at the Palace Restaurant in Santa Fe is the greatest soup I’ve ever had in my life. The first time I tasted it, I almost cried. I felt really good about my decision to order that soup. I didn’t spend a lot of time looking at other things on the menu – I just saw the soup and knew that I wanted it. I had faith in my decision, faith in the restaurant, and faith in the soup. You, my son, have no faith. You’re afraid you’ll order the wrong dish from the Girl Menu, because you don’t have faith in yourself, faith in the restaurant (God), or faith in the soup (women).
You have what I call Menu Anxiety Disorder (M.A.D. for short). Most people go into a restaurant with a good idea of what they want (meat or fish, sweet or sour), but MAD people have no idea what they want. They have to read everything on the menu (even the stuff they know they don’t like), they have to ask everyone else what they’re having (to prevent “food envy”), and they ask the wait person lots of annoying questions, hoping they’ll learn something to make the decision easier – “well, the calamari is good, but the risotto will make your dick bigger.”
What causes Menu Anxiety Disorder? Fear and desire. You’re such a greedy little monkey that you want everything, and this desire for everything makes it impossible for you to have anything, and in this way, desire disables you. Also, you’re afraid of making the wrong decision (“oh my god, what was I thinking, I should have had the risotto!”). The name for this tension (between desire and fear) is despair. You despair of what you want (“a blonde or a brunette”), and you despair of what might have been (“the one that got away”).

…it is possible to become lost in possibility in all sorts of ways, but primarily in two. The one takes the form of desiring, craving; the other takes the form of the melancholy-imaginary. Legends and fairy tales tell of the knight who suddenly sees a rare bird and chases after it, because it seems first to be very close; but it flies again, and when night comes, he finds himself separated from his companions and lost in the wilderness… So it is also with desire’s possibility. Instead of taking possibility back into necessity, he chases after possibility – and at last cannot find his way back to himself.
-Soren Kierkegaard, The Sickness Unto Death

That pretty much says it all; so let’s talk about me. A long time ago, I chose to love the Washington Redskins – that choice has brought me some pleasure, and a great deal of pain. Like last Sunday, when the Redskins lost to the New York Giants. That’s the problem with making choices. Sometimes, they can hurt. If you’re not prepared to be hurt, you’re not prepared to make choices (and you’re not prepared to be happy). The trick is this – having faith that you can survive your own choices.

The believer has the ever infallible antidote for despair – possibility – because for God everything is possible at every moment. This is the good health of faith that resolves contradictions. The contradiction here is that, humanly speaking, downfall is certain, but that there is [hope] nonetheless. 

-Soren Kierkegaard, ibid

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Marx

Dear Steve –
Thank you for putting yourself out there for public flogging every week. 

I’m a year 55 year-old single hetero woman, living in Santa Fe for 27 years. I love men and often give and get great sex when the opportunity presents. I wish I could be a lesbian because, from what I’ve observed, I think I might have a better chance at a meaningful relationship and great sex too, but I can’t seem to bond with more than my cat, who gives me no sex at all but will sleep with me every night.

18 years ago, I had a conversation with a hetero male friend and I remarked that there seemed to be no available hetero men in town and he jumped on the comment saying ‘Oh, no, the problem is that there are no women here’ which allowed us to see that the problem was with us – not with actual supply of men and women. I was blown away. He found his first partner only a year ago and they just now bought a little house together.

All these years later, I still don’t know what the hell is wrong with me. I have done work on myself. There is obviously more to be done or I would be ‘fixed’ by now. And yeah, it smarts that he got what I want. Being alone doesn’t hurt like it used to, and I am resigned to it because actively seeking a partner doesn’t seem to work. I work with the public in a fun retail situation and speak with men all the time that appeal to me, but I feel no connection happening.

Enough of my bitching – I think people that fail to connect w/others wind up in a place like Santa Fe. I have observed that we seem to have a constantly growing contingent of independent, intelligent, creative, tenacious, and overly-concerned-with-self individualists. I think many believe they need to be self-centered to accomplish whatever it is they need to do, and that doesn’t leave much room for anyone else no matter how lonely it gets. I include myself from this group.

And then there are the ones who are never without a partner, even though the partners change. What’s up w/that?

Thanks for your journalistic integrity in staying true to your beliefs. Fuck ‘em if they can’t let the rest of us laugh. And thanks for defining ‘rim job’.
-Just “Another child growing old”, to quote ol’ Joni Mitchell.

First, some people are always in a relationship because they’re rich, or funny, or attractive, or well-adusted, or have no personal boundaries whatsoever and sleep with anything that moves (and no, I’m not necessarily talking about myself). Second, I think it’s good that you’re not having sex with your cat and I recommend you keep it that way. Continue reading

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The Fly

“All women become like their mothers. That is
their tragedy. No man does. That’s his.”
-Oscar Wilde

There’s a scene from the movie “The Fly” that nicely captures one of the most striking differences between men and women. The main character (a scientist) is turning into a fly and he looks really gross (super-icky gross to be exact). His girlfriend (a journalist) comes to check on him. After she arrives, he throws up on himself, then his ear falls off. What does his girlfriend do? Does she run away? Does she avoid him? No – she runs over and gives him a hug. I think we can all agree that if the woman had been the fly and she had just thrown up on herself, and her ear fell off, most guys would run to the door and say something like, “you probably want to be alone right now, I’ll call you sometime.”

I’m not saying that most guys morph into insects and puke on themselves (although I am sure that many do). I’m saying that women are generally better about meeting the emotional needs of other people. Carol Gilligan, a researcher at Harvard, believes this is because most of our early childhood nurturers are women. As young children, we learn that women clean up our messes and kiss our boo-boos (and hug us when our ears fall off).

What do we do with this information? I don’t know, but “The Fly” is a pretty cool movie.

I’ll be honest, I hate vomit. I hate my own vomit and I really hate other people’s vomit. I might hug my girlfriend if she puked on herself, but I would definitely give her a towel first. I really don’t know what I’d do if her ear fell off.

In any case, there must be a way to be more supportive that isn’t as gross as hugging someone covered in their own hurl, and I think I know what that is – I can be a better listener.

Being a really good listener is like letting someone throw up on you.

Figuratively speaking.

The way I see it, adults are just like kids, only they don’t yell out “look at me, watch me”. Still, that’s what everyone wants: to be seen and heard, to be witnessed by someone. If you want to be a good lover or a good friend, first be a good witness. That’s one of the things guys like most about women, the willingness to be a witness, to pay attention to someone else.

Healthy people are very careful with children. Careful of their feelings and of their vulnerabilities. We also try to pay attention to their accomplishments and to the changes through which they pass. Moreover, we are more tolerant when they throw up on themselves, or on us.
So how does someone become more attentive to other adults? I don’t know – I’m asking you. A friend recently told me that I’m the most self-absorbed person he knows, and I think he was being nice. So, if you have any advice, please send it to me care of this paper.

Now, as far as I can remember, I’ve never actually thrown up on a girlfriend. I have, however, emotionally vomited on a number of women, and I’d like to publicly apologize for that now. At the same time, I think we all need to puke emotionally every now and then – and if you love someone, you’ll hug them when they do.

 

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Valentines

Those of you who read this column regularly know how much I hate Valentine’s Day. This past Valentine’s was extra special for me because I experienced all sorts of new Valentine’s Day abuse. First, I was on a number of radio shows that day, discussing love and romance stuff. I received some calls from people who think I’m completely full of shit because I act like men and women are different. Seriously, three or four callers were really upset about my gender stereotypes (things like women are more into self-improvement and men are more into television – which is totally true). Not surprisingly, lots of people in Santa Fe think men and women are basically the same (once you strip away the effects of society). These people think I’m holding back the advancement of the species by contending that men and women are different.

I was once one of those people. When I was a kindergarten teacher, I was always trying to counter the effects of society by making girls do boy things and boys do girl things (I mean, “things-that-society-makes-us-think-of-as-girl-things” and “things-that-society-makes-us-think-of-us-boy-things”). Anyway, I found out that boys and girls really are different. Those of you who disagree need to spend more time with little kids and less time reading Andrea Dworkin. Sure, society starts shaping kids early, and it’s hard to know how deeply society creates gender, but just look at the research that’s being done on chromosomes. The Y chromosome (which men have) and the X chromosome are way different (science types say so). Many women believe the reason there are no decent men to date is the Y chromer is incomplete (a pale, lame-ass shadow of the X chromosome). In fact, the Y is a pretty crummy chromosome altogether, good only for creating football players and the occasional Einstein.

Most of the people who think men and women are basically the same are big ol’ liberals, the same kind of people who believe that homosexuality is biologically determined and not a choice. I agree with that. What I don’t understand, is people who think that sexual preference is biological, but not gender characteristics. It’s kind of a nutty contradiction.

Anyway, after getting reamed by the gender fascists, I went to the Reporter’s annual Valentine’s Day singles’ party. I met some really nice people, including a woman who actually said, “you know, in person, you seem perfectly nice, why are you such a dick in your column. Really, what makes you such an asshole?” Needless to say, I’m now less fond of Valentine’s Day than I was.

Let me just say this – I’m sorry for being such an asshole, but I’m not sorry about the gender stereotypes. First, many of those stereotypes are true. Second, they can be really funny, which by the way, is the point. I don’t take myself seriously, so why should you? One woman wrote me a letter that said (and I swear I’m not exagerrating), “all the problems in our world relate to the fact that people don’t love and respect our mother, the Earth, and you (me- Duncan) are at the root of that problem.” She was really upset by the following gender stereotype – ‘men don’t need to be desired, they just need to get laid’. Well, I did an informal survey, and I found that most women would rather be desired than laid, and most men would rather be laid than desired. Sorry, that’s what they said. While I’m at it, I just heard the following stereotype – women fall in love with their ears, men fall in love with their eyes. That’s perfect for a superficial fat guy with a decent voice. Of course, it would suck for a superficial fat girl, but, damn it, that’s not my fault, so lighten up.

Santa Fe is full of people who love diversity, who celebrate diversity, but many of those people don’t like diversity when it comes to men and women. Isn’t it better to have at least two different sexes? Sometimes, I wish there were three or four.

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Chewy

Dear Steve–
My sister is a beautiful woman but she has a tendancy to chew men up and spit them out. When that’s not happening, she picks guys who might as well be the dredges at the bottom of the barrel, dressed up in a decent smile and faux boyish charm. Needless to say, when their whimpy handshake isn’t giving away their true character, it becomes clear that they’re assholes. Tell me, why does this happen? You’d think that a beautiful woman would attract the cream of the crop, right? And, if my sister is a man chewer-upper, why are men attracted to her (because I can safely say that you can more or less tell)?
Tell me, why?
Thanks,
Julie in Santa Fe

Let me answer your last question first. There are a lot of men that prefer mean girls to nice girls. And a mean girl who is also beautiful can be downright irresistable. Why do some guys like mean girls? For many of the same reasons that some women like mean guys. Some people find cruelty sexy (like masochists and Dallas Cowboy fans). Some people have low self-esteem and are unable to connect with anyone who doesn’t share their low opinion of themselves.

You say that when your sister isn’t spitting guys out, she is dating losers. So, I am assuming that the guys she spits out are the good ones. Maybe she spits out the good ones because she is intimidated, or threatened by them. Continue reading

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