On Dating, Intimacy, and Race

My heritage is quite the mixed bag. My mother is descended from immigrants from Scotland, Ireland, England, Germany, and Denmark (and that’s just what I know). My father, on the other hand, was the son of two Lebanese immigrants who landed in Ottawa during the 1960s. I grew up in Canada—partially in Peterborough, Ontario, but mostly in Ottawa—and for a long time, I never really understood that I was seen by many as being different. To me, mom was white, dad was brown, and I was brown-ish, somewhat off-white. These were simply facts and with childish innocence I never once imagined that they would in any way affect how I interacted with others.

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Left to right: me, my mother Natasha, and my father Robbie

If you ask me about my heritage and I don’t feel like talking your ear off, I’ll typically just say that I am Lebanese or Middle Eastern. This is nothing against my European heritage—I embrace the whole complex melting pot that is me, and am particularly fond of Scottish culture. But it’s easier because over time, I’ve come to realise that for the most part, people only see the Lebanese. My skin ranges from tan to outright brown, my hair is nearly black, I have course, dark body hair all over, thick, prominent eyebrows—no one looks at me and thinks, “This guy’s European.” For all intents and purposes, especially in how I interact with people, I am Lebanese to the core.

But it was not until I was 20 that I realised the extent to which it would affect my relationships, particularly intimate ones. I grew up receiving the occasional racist remark, ranging from jokes about terrorism to being mislabelled with slurs meant for Mexicans. When you grow up with this stuff, you eventually grow a thick skin to it. It’s annoying, it’s even angering, but it’s not crushing when it comes from passersby, mild acquaintances, and people about whom you give zero fucks. But intimacy is a whole other ball game.

When I was 20, I was dating this girl. I thought, at the time, that I was in love (I wasn’t). For a whole bevy of reasons, it turned out to be one of the biggest mistakes of my life. And it was the first time my skin colour came into the picture in that sphere of my life. This was when she started to brag about dating me—“It’s my first interracial relationship!” she would beam, glowing with a bizarre pride. And in that moment I realised that I was being kept around less because she liked me and more because I was exotic to her (how a boy from Peterborough is, in any way, exotic is beyond me), a new frontier to breach and conquest.

This was mildly degrading, but it got worse over the years—love interests shooting me down with, “Sorry, I like you, but you’re just not white enough for me,” casual racist remarks from lovers, and, after rejecting an ex who wanted to get back together with me, being told that I’m just a disgusting, dirty Arab and she is too beautiful to be wasted on me, to name just a few. As I approach age 30, I have found that dating has become a minefield. And it’s not just from white women, either; the thing about growing up in a racist culture is that inevitably you absorb some of it, whether you realise it or not. And when I think back to some of the racist things I used to think about other cultures, I’m not surprised at other people of colour for harbouring anti-Arab feelings—just disappointed that they haven’t confronted these things in themselves.

And the truth is, it’s degrading. I may have a thick skin about racism from most people, but to me, intimacy is a place where I shouldn’t need a thick skin. I am very careful about sharing my time and especially my body with other people. I don’t like being touched by most people at all. If I let you in, it means I am willing to take off my protective layers (or at least some of them) for you. So when I discover that someone whom I allowed to touch me, whom I allowed to share my body with me, views me as an exotic novelty, or undeserving of them, or inferior to them, because of the colour of my skin, I feel degraded. I feel disgusted. I want to scrub my skin until it bleeds and I can be sure that every last trace of their touch has been eradicated.

And so, for people of colour—i.e. anyone who’s not white—dating is a perilous game. Every time you meet someone who’s not from the same ethnic group, there is that gamble: do they see me as equal to them, or as less than them? I know I have it better than some; black women in particular have it pretty bad, as a number of website selling shirts declaring black women to not actually be human have recently proven. And for women of colour, there is often the one-two punch of misogyny and racism, something I am fortunately spared. But frankly, just because I don’t have it as bad doesn’t mean I need to accept it. No one deserved to feel degraded, for any reason, by the people they choose to be intimate with.

So if you’re considering dating or sleeping with someone of another race but feel deep down that you might not respect their difference, do us all a huge favour and fucking don’t. Spare us the disgusted feeling of having hands on our bodies that see us as inferior, or go deep within yourself and challenge those racist ideas you harbour and exorcise them from your heart. One or the other. But don’t fuck us around, because no one deserves that kind of degradation.

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Active Listening Vol. 2

I’m thinking that to keep this interesting, I’ll start putting together themed playlists for future workout, and then discuss why I went with that theme and pick out the highlights. But for now, here’s just what came on my usual playlist yesterday while I did cardio:

“Bitches Brew” †††, ††† (2014)

Pronounced “Crosses,” this synth-rock trio features Deftones vocalist Chino Moreno exploring another aspect of his musical identity. What they lack in sheer ferocity they more than make up for in rhythmic, multi-layered beauty, and this track has an undeniably sexy sound to it.

Sample Lyric: “‘Cause when you move and shake/ That thing inside you comes awake/ As you dance against the breathing wall/ My claws are out, I want to feel it all”

“Feral Love” Chelsea Wolfe, Pain is Beauty (2013)

I originally heard this song featured in a preview for the fourth season of HBO’s Game of Thrones, and was immediately entranced by it. The way the delayed synths and just-ever-so-slightly-off-kilter rhythms swim together in a murky pool for Wolfe’s voice to skate over is nothing short of phenomenal, and never fails to conjure images in my mind of running from wolves through a snowy wilderness.

Sample Lyric: “Run from the light/ Your eyes black like an animal/ Deep in the water/ I care for no one but the offspring of your mind”

“Absisto” Cold Specks, Neuroplasticity (2014)

Toronto’s Ladan Hussein, better known by her stage name Cold Specks, is in my opinion one of the coolest, most captivating emerging voices in music. Her sophomore album Neuroplasticity can only be described as “doom soul,” and “Absisto” is perhaps its most energetic song—burning with a cool, calculated anger that finds its release in a chaotic burst of flanged guitars and trumpets in the song’s bridge.

Sample Lyric: “A fury unseen chips away at me/ Have you run out of ammunition?/ I don’t suffer fools gladly/ Forget the sin in you”

“Geometric Headdress” Deftones, Gore (2016)

For a band that started out their career making crappy rap-metal, it’s a miracle that Deftones are still around and making relevant music three decades later, let alone some truly jaw-dropping work. “Geometric Headdress” is just as angular and strange as it sounds, but spares little in the way of fury as it barrels down the speaker into your ear.

Sample Lyric: “Pink cigarette, white see-through dress/ And a black and gold veil/ Ornate headdress, my temptress/ Wield your staff and your grail”

“Dance” Saul Williams, Volcanic Sunlight (2011)

It’s hard not to take the title of this song as a command when it comes on. And while on the surface it may seem like little more than a brainless tune to dance to, even the most cursory glance at the lyrics prove that even when he’s having fun, Williams is always tackling something worth thinking about: in this case, the hangups we have about sex and sexuality (with a touch of religious imagery to boot).

Sample Lyric: “Hey, hey, everybody, come and dance with me/ Leave your fears at the door carved from the tree”

“Born Too Slow” The Crystal Method, Legion of Boom (2004)

This is a track that takes me back. My dad lent me this CD when I was in the ninth grade, and I can’t even tell you how many times I listened to it (I had two Linkin Park CDs, a Korn CD, and a Deftones CD to my name at the time). While the Crystal Method is undeniably a techno group, this song is undeniably rock’n’roll at its heart, thanks in no small part to the guitar riffs provided by Limp Bizkit’s sole talented member, Wes Borland.

Sample Lyric: “Lay him down just the wrong way/ You know that he’s turning gray/ Born just a little too slow”

“Lies” Chvrches, The Bones of What You Believe (2013)

The funny thing is, this is the only song by the Scottish synth-pop trio that I actually enjoy so far (though if they can write a song this good, I’m sure they’ll do more). Lauren Mayberry’s lilting voice is playfully mischievous as she promises the listener total dishonesty.

Sample Lyric: “I can sell you lies, you can’t get enough/ Make a true believer of/ Anyone, anyone, anyone”

“We Carry On” Portishead, Third (2008)

Portishead has never had a sound that you could characterise as normal, typical, or average. So when I say that “We Carry On” is probably the weirdest song they’ve ever released, I want you to understand the gravity of that statement. Think about an old computer—no, not like a Commodore 64, like one of those things that’s literally just a giant wall of switches, lights, and reels of magnetic tape that displays information by way of dot matrix printing—gainin sentience and, along with it, existential despair, and you might come close to imagining just how strange. But the reliably mechanical rhythm is pretty damn easy to follow when you’ve been working out for a half hour and you’re starting to feel exhausted to all Hell.

Sample Lyric: “On and on, I carry on/ But underneath my mind/ And on and on, I tell myself/ It’s this I can’t disguise”

Active Listening Vol. 1

Selections from My Workout Playlist

A lot of people I know are very into their fitness in a very public way. I used to never get the point, until I started getting into fitness myself. The good feeling you get after working out, the increased strength and energy you have, and the compliments you receive (whether you care about mainstream beauty standards or not) can make you feel pretty damn good. And when something feels good, you want to share it.

But I’m not really the type to share a post about how many reps I did at what weight or what exactly my diet today consisted of. If that’s your thing, great. But it’s not me, and I’d be performing theatre if I were to do it. I am, however, a music lover. And when I’m not with my trainer, it’s my music that keeps me going. It gets me in the mindset to push my boundaries. It picks me up when I start to falter—just one more song. These musicians are bringing their A-game, so don’t let them down.

So I thought, why not share this aspect of things? Today I went in to do some cardio and shoulder mobility work. After picking the first song and hitting shuffle, here’s what I listened to while I worked up a good sweat. Hopefully this might be a semi-regular thing, but even if this is the only time I post this, I hope you enjoy my world of fitness through the eyes of an amateur music critic.

“Carrion Flowers” Chelsea Wolfe, Abyss (2015)

The one selection from my playlist that wasn’t chosen at random, I purposefully selected “Carrion Flowers” to accompany me on my walk to the gym. The slow, murky beginning bleeds into a mounting tension throughout the song, making it a solid choice for getting in the mood to move. By the time the second chorus closes out the song, the blood is certainly pumping.

Sample Lyric: “We learned how on our own/ Never needing help from you/ Reaching out with eyes closed/ We felt the light, it taught us to grow”

“Fuck It, You Win” Hanni El Khatib, Will the Guns Come Out (2011)

Ever since The Black Keys have been relegated to hipsters-used-to-love-them-but-now-scorn-them status, Hanni El Khatib has emerged as the clear choice (at least in my mind) to replace them as the hip bad boy of blues-rock revival. This track from the Palestinian-Filipino-American’s debut album is sludgy, it’s angry, and it’s loud—a perfect recipe to start my cardio with.

Sample Lyric: “Climb up on my roof, why don’tcha/ Snake into my house baby, why don’tcha”

“How You Like Me Now” The Heavy, The House that Dirt Built (2009)

The Heavy is a band I regret to say I haven’t kept up with, but the track that made them internationally famous is still as fun as it ever was. The dialogue between the brass section and the guitar alone makes this a cool song for just about any occasion, and there’s still the impassioned vocals and funky rhythm to contend with.

Sample Lyric: “See, I been a bad bad bad bad man/ And I’m in deep, yeah/ I found a brand new love for this man/ And can’t wait till you see”

“Danger! High Voltage” Electric Six, Fire (2003)

Ah, “Danger! High Voltage.” This takes me back—way back to the summer of 2009, a summer of terrible decisions and questionable relationships. But boy, was it great to dance to. The whackiness (there’s really no other word for it) of this song is still as potent as ever today.

Sample Lyric: “Don’t you want to know how we keep starting fires?/ It’s my desire”

“Moonage Daydream” David Bowie, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (1972)

How much do I adore this song? I have a lyric from it tattooed on my leg, that’s how much. David Bowie has an impressively large catalogue full of plenty of amazing songs, but when it comes to high-energy rock’n’roll, there’s no contest—”Moonage Daydream” is my favourite.

Sample Lyric: “I’m a space invader/ I’ll be a rock’n’rollin’ bitch for you”

“Burundi” Saul Williams ft. Emily Kokal, MartyrLoserKing (2016)

This is a protest song, plain and simple—the perfect musical backdrop to burning some shit down. No one I know of can inject the kind of fiery passion, anger, and compassion that Williams imbues this track with quite like he can.

Sample Lyric: “Lived a life without no hate so tell me what you need to/ Question your authority, genocide and poverty/ Treaties don’t negate the fact you’re dealing stolen property”

“All Time Low” Nine Inch Nails, Hesitation Marks (2013)

When Hesistation Marks came out three years ago, I found it incredibly underwhelming. This track, however, makes up for a lot, and has remained a favourite since. The crawling guitar riff take center stage, but the steady, pulsating rhythm, particularly in the chorus, makes it easy to follow the beat—even when you’re starting to get tired.

Sample Lyric: “And we will live forever, baby/ And stretch across the sky/ I’ll follow right behind you, baby/ We’re never gonna die”

“Grey Days” Chelsea Wolfe, Abyss (2015)

As much as I absolutely adore Chelsea Wolfe and her music, “Grey Days” was one of the last tracks on Abyss to really catch my attention. Why? No idea—now that it’s made it onto my cardio playlist, I love having it there. The atypical rhythm and the interplay between Wolfe’s sludgy guitar playing and the organic sound of classical strings works a kind of morbid magic here.

Sample Lyric: “How many years have I been sleeping?/ How many hours did I throw away?”

“Push + Pull” July Talk, Touch (2016)

No matter how tired you are, there’s no way you can hear the beat to this dance-rock track and not want to move. Just not going to happen. July Talk deals in high-energy rock music, and this lead single from their new album delivers while making me wonder, “How much is enough?” Maybe nothing ever will be, and maybe that’s a good thing.

Sample Lyric: “I don’t want to wait/ Take, take anything/ You know that I take/ Take, take anything”

“Royal” Deftones, Diamond Eyes (2010)

Deftones are, without a doubt, the one band I’ve listened to more than any other in the past 12 years. From spinning Around the Fur on my portable CD player on the bus to school in Grade 9 to rushing to the record store from work to pick up Gore on vnyl, it’s been a long love. “Royal” is your typical Deftones track—which is to say, heavy and soft at the same time and deceptively profound.

Sample Lyric: “I’ve chased your name/ I’ve sailed all through space”

“976-EVIL” Deftones, Diamond Eyes (2010)

Given what I said earlier, two Deftones tracks (even two from the same album) in a row isn’t surprising. This began to play as I made my way home, sweaty and in need of a hot shower! While this track is energetic enough to warrant inclusion on a workout playlist, it’s also sweetly melodic, making it surprisingly ideal for cooling down to.

Sample Lyric: “For a thousand days/ We could get carried away/ Are you in?”

What do you think about these playlist selections? What are some of your favourite songs for working out, and why?

That Time I Went to See Deftones in Toronto

A Decent into Madness in Pursuit of a Good Show

The Following is being posted without any edits or proofreading. Writing this was stressful but necessary to work out some of the residual stress, and by the time I was finished, I was just tired. Please accept it the way it is.

It had been over six months since the last time I’d been there (and several years since the time before that), but Toronto was no less familiar to me than it had ever been. As my Greyhound rolled into the city, I was surrounded by the familiar sights and sounds from my childhood. I didn’t grow up in Toronto, but my dad lived there for many years, and I’d spent many holidays—summer, March break, and even the occasional Christmas season—with him. Growing up, Toronto was my second home, a place where I could spend time with the father I didn’t see nearly enough for my liking. A city I could never live in, but one I was always happy to visit.

However, visiting this city since he passed away has been a very different experience. For obvious reasons, it took me years to come back—I was 23 when I watched him die in a hospital room here, and hadn’t mustered the emotional strength to come back until I was 27, my age now—and now when I come, I see a different side of the city than I did as a child being led around by his dad. The last time, in January, I went bar-hopping as I celebrated my recent birthday, after which I took a long and reflective walk through old neighbourhoods I remembered from my youth. Now I was here to see Deftones play at the International Centre in Mississauga.

It wasn’t the first time I’d made a quick trip here to see a concert, only to return to my regular life the next day, contented and under-slept. In 2010, I’d made this pilgrimage to see The Dillinger Escape Plan, Darkest Hour, and Iwrestledabearonce perform at The Opera House, only to be back in class at 9:00 a.m. the next day. This time, I had to be back at work a little later (at 11:00 a.m.) but I was also older, less able to function on very little sleep. But I felt equal to the task.

Arriving

Pulling into the city, I found myself hungry. I’d had a quick breakfast at my usual Starbucks in downtown Ottawa, where the day was cold, grey, and wet, before boarding, but now I was absolutely famished. I remembered hearing of a pizza place called Maker Pizza, and found myself Googling it before the bus had even pulled in. It was only a 20-minute walk from the bus depot, the weather was beautiful, and my legs (which prior to being tucked into a tight bus seat for six hours had taken quite a beating in the gym) were screaming to feel the blood flowing through them again.

Maker Pizza is hidden on a little alleyway in Toronto’s Chinatown. In the pre-Internet days, it was likely the kind of place you’d never find if you didn’t already know where it was. The building looked like it might have once been a garage—a large, plain, white room with a large table occupied by a family, and me, eating a pizza called Apocalypse Cow: mini meatballs, parmesan, pepperoncini, red onions, roasted red pepper, basil leaves, and olive oil on a bed of mozzarella and tomato sauce, the crust adorned with sesame seeds, served to me by a man who looked like he could easily have been Jeff Goldblum’s son. My hunger abated by an exceptional pizza, I struck out once more into Canada’s biggest city.
My next destination was provided by a friend: Sonic Boom Records, which was, amazingly enough, five minutes away. A beautiful record shop with no real equivalent in Ottawa, it had a massive selection of vinyl, along with books, knick-knacks, and more. It was all I could do to walk out with only the three records I did: Cursed’s III: Architects of Troubled Sleep (a reissue with gorgeous cover artwork by John Baizley of Baroness), MF DOOM and Madlib’s Madvillainy, and Saul Williams’ MartyrLoserKing. It took some will not to grab a used copy of Jane Doe by Converge (vinyl editions of this are rare), but the fifty-dollar price tag helped.

A fair bit of shopping done, I was ready to make my way to the venue. I figured that with Toronto’s public transit system, the place must be easy to reach. I was terribly wrong, and this is where things began to get complicated.

Transit Woes

After following Google’s directions, buying a TTC day pass and riding to Union Station, I made my way to my connecting bus, only to find that it belonged to a different transit network—GO Transit, which ran coach-style buses between Toronto and its suburbs. Another 15 dollars later, I’ve got a two-way ticket to Malton station, hoping rather ignorantly that I’ll be able to use the GO bus to come back. More on that later.

After fighting through traffic that turned what was supposed to be a 25-minute ride into a little over an hour, I disembarked and followed the small collective of people in tight jeans and band shirts—they must know where the venue is. We reached a large convention centre—The International Centre, at long last—and as the rain pelts down, we ran from door to door trying to get inside to no avail. Finally, having nearly circled the whole building, we find Entrance 5, where a massive line has formed around metal partitions. The line seemed to have been organised with the sole intention of making people wait in the rain as long as humanly possible. By the time I was finally inside, had been frisked by security, and allowed into the massive hangar where the concert was taking place, I was cold, wet, dehydrated, and fairly miserable. But I was here.

The Show

With a new t-shirt in my backpack and a lemonade in my hand, I make my way close to the stage to catch the second band (I had caught only the tail end of the opening act). Refused is a Swedish hardcore band with socialist leanings I’m passingly familiar with (I once bought one of their records more out of curiosity than anything). As a live act, they’re… well, they’re something, alright. Musically talented enough, though vocalist Dennis Lyxzén certainly had some things to say. His statement, two songs in, that any band without a political message is just worthless noise and entertainment, was beyond arrogant and self-aggrandising (“Look how important we are compared to other bands!”) and what started out sounding like a condemnation of rape culture ended up coming across more like a high school boy whining about how creepy girls find him. But their set was short and sweet. It was finally time to see what I came here to see: Deftones.

Deftones are the first band I ever went to see live in concert, 10 years ago when I was 17.  They’re also one of the only bands I liked then that I still like now (and probably the only one that I actually like more now). They were here in support of their new album Gore, though interestingly enough, the played only two songs from the album. After opening with “Rocket Skates” (a personal favourite of mine off of 2010’s Diamond Eyes) they played “Acid Hologram” from the new record, and then later on, the title tack. For the bulk of their set, they seemed interested in showcasing tracks from Diamond Eyes and 2012’s Koi No Yokan. “You’ve Seen the Butcher,” “Swerve City,” “Beauty School,” “Rosemary,” and more were played, along with older classics like “Be Quiet and Drive (Far Away)” and “Digital Bath” (the latter being possibly the first song in my life that I identified as being sexual in nature without a video to sex it up).

Towards the end of the set, they started to delve deep into 2000’s White Pony with “Knife Prty,” “Change (in the House of Flies),” and “Passenger;” they closed out the night with a similar hat trick pulled from 1997’s Around the Fur: “My Own Summer (Shove It),” “Rickets,” and their last song, “Headup.” Apart from hoping they’d play more off the new album (particularly lead single/opening track “Prayers/Triangles”), I couldn’t be more pleased with this set list, and they brought it to life with calculated ferocity and passion, showcasing the knack for juxtaposing sweet melodies against crushing riffs and rhythms that makes their sound so unique. I was happy I’d come to see them play—but my happiness ended then and there, as my return journey began.

The Long March Home

Outside the venue, I could finally get a signal on my smartphone, and I once-again consulted Google to figure out how to take public transit back to the Greyhound station. Only, it turned out, that despite it only being 11:15, there was no way in Hell to get to the station by 12:45, when my bus was scheduled to leave. So much for a return GO bus ticket, or a TTC day pass—money down the drain that was, and not the last instance of it. Looking over my options, it seemed that an Uber was my best bet. I called, it came, and it seemed I was going to be on my merry (yet expensive) way. See, I didn’t want to miss my bus because there was a good chance I wouldn’t make it home in time for work if I did. The fact that I was spending more money trying to make it home in time for work than I would make at work the next day was a painful thorn in my side, but it wasn’t just about the money. It was about being responsible; I said I’d be there, so I’d be there.

However, my anxiety about the situation worsened once inside the Uber, as traffic in the International Centre’s parking lot became so impassable that we legitimately didn’t move for over twenty minutes. Even once we did get moving, the going was slow, and by the time we reached the bus depot, the fare was double what I’d expected ($86.82—I feel nauseated just thinking about that). But we were there, and on time, so I could breathe a sigh of relief.

And then several sighs of frustration on the verge of tears, as the Greyhound was delayed by over an hour thanks to a late connecting bus from Buffalo, NY. I spent over a day’s earnings just to make it to the bus station in time, only to discover I could have been an hour late and still made it home… the dramatic irony was maddening. As we finally took off, I drifted off to sleep with my noise-cancelling headphones and lullaby renditions of David Bowie, only to wake up, horribly uncomfortable, as the album ended. My sleep was uneasy, and as I put on lullaby album after lullaby album, I found myself waking as each one finished, all the way to Ottawa, where, after a very sleepy cab ride, I finally got in my front door, only to not be sleepy anymore at all. (I eventually got an hour or so of solid sleep, and went to work.)

What Did We Learn, Kids?

So what did I learn for all of that? Well, I learned where to find an amazing pizza in Toronto (well, at least one more place to do so, anyway). I learned about a great record shop. I learned that I never want to go to a concert in Mississauga, especially at that particular venue, ever again, no matter who’s playing. And I learned that I might be a bit too old to be running back and forth to Toronto in such a short time frame, especially by bus. That next time I can save money by actually going to venues in the actual city and not in a neighbouring suburb (like my cheap, fun trip to Montreal to see Chelsea Wolfe, or the previous Toronto trip to see The Dillinger Escape Plan). That if I never ride a Greyhound again, I’ll be happy, and that I’ll make an active effort to never ride one overnight for as long as I live. That maybe it might be worth it to plan my next trip so that I can stay for a day or two, with somewhere to crash (I’ve got friends in most major cities in Canada, and there are always hostels).

It was a stressful trip, and I barely pulled through the anxiety in one piece. But I made it, I did what I’d gone to do, and I learned from it. So would I take it back? No. I’m glad I did it, and my next trip will be better for it.

Something Is Calling Me

Perhaps I haven’t outright broadcasted it, but I’ve made no efforts to hide that so far 2016 has not been a good year for me. Better than some I’ve lived, and certainly better than it has been for some others—but it’s been an uphill battle. At the end of 2015 I made some poor judgement calls and impulsive decisions, and the fallout from these has carried over into the new year like a cloud of toxic fumes, smothering me all the time.

I was so wrapped up in the sense of loss and heartbreak that I’d curated that I didn’t want to let it go. I got almost comfortable in that destructive headspace of holding on, and I let it sabotage my life for the past six months because that was easier than facing the reality that mistakes can’t be unmade and words can’t be taken back.

But over the last few days, I’ve felt something else, like a note of strange music on the wind enticing me to investigate an intriguing new sound. You could say I heard the call of adventure. Life is grabbing me by the shirt collar, slamming me up against the crumbling bricks, and shouting, “Listen here you little shit, it’s time to get over yourself and make some magic happen!”

It’s a feeling like my blood runs a little thicker, a little hotter. It’s the urge to jump into the water without sticking my foot in to test it. It’s my heart beating so hard when something feels so right that I can feel it in my fingertips, almost audible to me. It’s the desire to keep moving forward.

I’m not entirely certain what my future holds (I try my hardest never to be, it saves me from disappointment and keeps things interesting) but I want to experience it instead of clinging to the safety of wretched self-pity. If there’s a storm coming, I want to stand in an open field and let it swallow me up instead of running for shelter. It could all end in tears, and that’s okay. The call of adventure has sounded, and I’m answering with hunger in my voice.

It won’t be easy—nothing important ever is—and I expect a few scraped knees and bruised egos along the way. But I’m finally ready to let go of the thing I’ve dwelled on since January, something I almost feared I could dwell on for years, and that alone is worth the risks.

Letter to a Friend

To a friend,

I’m writing this letter as though I would send it to you—but you have made it clear that you don’t wish to speak anymore, so really, I’m writing this for myself. I know there’s very little possibility that you will ever read it, but for me, this is catharsis.

I saw you today. Even from a distance, I knew it was you. But that didn’t lessen the shock when you turned around and greeted me, causing me to mumble out a hasty hello as you moved on from that brief and awkward moment. I wanted to stop and ask you how you were, but you were no longer paying me any mind. This moment is now stuck in my mind, making my stomach churn and my body shake, because I still feel the weight how terribly I failed you.

The first time I failed you was the moment I realised, very early on, that I didn’t want to be your lover—I wanted to be your friend. This by itself wasn’t my failure, though. My failure came when I didn’t have the courage to just admit this to you outright. As a result, what followed was a sham of a relationship that neither of us should ever have gone through.

Not everything was bad—I enjoyed your company for the most part. I enjoyed our conversations, I enjoyed trying new foods with you, and I love that you showed me a place where I could get delicious, dairy-free ice cream (a life-changing moment for me, being lactose-intolerant). I cared deeply for you and still do. But I didn’t love you, I wasn’t attracted to you, and I had no desire to be intimate with you. And from there sprang my other failures.

I failed you by not admitting that I didn’t want to be intimate with you, I failed you by trying to be anyway, and I failed us both by not articulating the real reason why I had trouble getting into it.

I failed you by allowing the relationship to carry on for nearly two months without saying how I really felt or what I actually wanted. I failed you by being dishonest when it came time to break off this sham. The truth was that I found someone I loved very much, and I wanted the chance to be with them.

And then I failed you by failing to make you feel important to me, because despite all of this, you were. You are. I failed you by not trying harder to keep you in my life, by not trying harder to keep in contact. I failed you by watching from afar to make sure you were okay and you were taking care of yourself instead of just coming out and asking you how you were.

I failed you, and I failed you, and I failed you.

Now it’s too late to do anything about that. I wish you all the best, and I hope your life brings you everything you deserve from it. I wish we could have been friends—I think we would have been truly great friends—but I will have to live with the fact that we won’t be, because I wasn’t brave enough to say that that was what I wanted earlier on.

But it’s not too late for me to learn from these mistakes. One of my greatest shortcomings is that I am so afraid of hurting people with the truth that I end up hurting them even more by lying. I have lied compulsively to protect people’s feelings when they never needed me to, and that is a cycle I need to escape.

Take care, my friend.

Zachary

Socially Acceptable Genocide: the Erasure of Disabled People

Living in a World that Doesn’t Believe the Disabled Have a Right to Exist

My last room mate was not a good match for me. We started out as friends, but by the time we parted ways we weren’t even on speaking terms. One of the final nails in the coffin of our friendship was an argument between us where she vehemently supported eugenics.

It wasn’t simply that she thought parents should be allowed to terminate a pregnancy if they discovered that their child might be disabled—she actually believed it should be mandatory. Knowing that I was on the autism spectrum, she should not have been surprised that I disagreed. But the more she insisted that disabled people had no right to live, the more I felt myself drifting away from her.

Today, I came across this article. According to the figures referenced within, many parents are already doing exactly that—Down’s Syndrome, for instance, has a termination rate of 90 per cent. And it all comes down to an outlook: disability is an aberration that must be exterminated at all costs. While many who advocate for the elimination of disabled people wave a flag of concern—”What about their quality of life?”—it’s a smokescreen that hides the true nature of these actions: the hatred of all that is other.

Because the truth of the matter is that many disabled people don’t have a poor quality of life because they are disabled. They have a poor quality of life because they are treated like something subhuman; because governments can spend billions on pointless wars and bailing out the rich, but can’t be bothered to make sure that the provinces, territories, and First Nations have the necessary resources to provide a comprehensive education for students with disabilities; because ODSP is infamously difficult to navigate.

Exterminating Autistic People

It’s not a reach for me to believe that when neuroscience finds a way to detect autism before birth, we will be similarly targeted for extermination. If you think for even one second that this won’t happen, just look at the anti-vaccine movement: hordes of parents are literally so terrified of having a child on the autism spectrum—and so shockingly ignorant as to believe in pseudoscience and snake oil—that they will forego vaccinating their children, choosing the risk of death by preventable disease over the possibility of autism. These people hate and fear us so much that they would rather let young children become sick and die than accept us.

When neuroscience finds a way to detect autism before birth, we will be similarly targeted for extermination. If you think for even one second that this won’t happen, just look at the anti-vaccine movement.

And we won’t be the only ones. ADD, ADHD, dyslexia, depression, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder—as soon as you open the flood gate, there is no way to draw the line between which people it’s okay to exterminate for being different and which people it’s not. Forget that many of the greatest people who ever lived were born with or developed major physical, mental, or neurological disabilities. The people who advocate this genocide—and make no mistake, it is genocide—can only accept a world where everyone is the same.

This isn’t an issue of abortion rights, something which I fully support. People who are not ready to be parents or who just simply don’t want to have a child are fully within their rights and they don’t owe anybody any explanation for that. But we are talking about people who are gung-ho about parenthood up until the moment they realise that their child may be different. These are choices being made out of hatred and intolerance, and by supporting these choices, we are reinforcing the idea that disability is bad and it’s okay to hate disabled people.

You don’t get to decide that my life, or the life of any other disabled person, regardless of the nature of their disability, isn’t worth living. That is for us to decide. And if you aren’t willing to accept a disabled child with the same love you’d have for an abled child, then I have bad news for you:

You’re just not cut out to be a parent.