This lovely thing arrived in the mail today from my parents:
They really just get me, you know?
No, but seriously, what is happening?
When my mother goes to stay at a hotel on or near the beach, she will call the manager ahead of time and ask them what their tsunami plan is. Wherever she is, she lives in constant fear that a 10-foot tidal wave will wash her out to sea. This is not a joke.
Tsunamis can be dangerous. Okay. But it’s not that hard to avoid places that are very tsunami prone. I can probably go the rest of my life without hanging out much in Sumatra or Japan or Seattle. So on coastlines that are an appropriate distance from an underwater subduction zone, I tell my mother that she is crazy for worrying about tsunamis.
Except for mega-tsunamis. Crazy irrational fears of mega-tsunamis are allowed.
Most are familiar with the mega-tsunami from the 1998 masterpiece Deep Impact (a movie I refer to probably more than any other movie I’ve never seen) in which a giant meteor hits the ocean and then drowns the east coast. The prospect of mega-tsunami by meteor does not bother me. Two months after Deep Impact was released, Armageddon (another movie which I’ve never seen) explained that obviously if a giant meteor were hurdling towards the earth, Bruce Willis would sacrifice himself and nuke it before it got near the ocean. This is clearly the logical chain of events that would happen in such a situation and I am not losing any sleep over it.
Really an inconceivably gigantic geological event would have to occur for a mega-tsunami to happen. In New York, the city in which I am tragically located, we seem to be pretty safe from crazy things like plates splitting apart and mountains falling into the ocean, right? Here’s the thing: despite some serious geological stability, New York could still realistically be destroyed by a 100-foot wave.
Now for a fun time, think about the fact that it would be safer to ride out a mega-tsunami in the Maldives (elevation 4 feet) than it would be to try to do so in New York.
Now move back to your bomb shelter in Idaho, where you belong.
The geographical focal point of this New York mega-tsunami theory is La Palma, an unfortunate mountainous island that makes up one of the thirteen Canaries off the coast of Morocco. The island of La Palma is a large, active, possibly crumbling volcano. During a 1949 eruption, a 500 billion-ton piece of land dropped 15 feet towards the water. Geologists investigating this rather alarming incident determined that La Palma’s largest volcanic vent, Cumbre Vieja, is bisected by a fault. This could- or according to geologists Simon Day and Bill McGuire definitely will- mean that sometime in the near future, Cumbre Vieja will erupt again and the 500-billion-ton land slab will slide into the Atlantic Ocean.
A 500-billion-ton land slab would be pretty on par size wise with that Deep Impact meteor. And before you think it, I’ll just say that I don’t think Bruce Willis could manage to sacrifice himself and nuke a sliding landmass before it hit the water. At least not without creating some crazy Godzilla-like sea monsters from all the radiation.
When this fully intact gigantic rock that is on par size wise with that Deep Impact meteor falls into the ocean, it will incidentally create a wave that is on par size wise with that Deep Impact tidal wave. To be more specific, it would cause a tsunami with an initial height of 6,000 feet. At its highest, La Palma is only 1,500 feet tall. If you live on the island of La Palma, I feel I should use opportunity to suggest that you move.
Nine hours after this tsunami has totally destroyed the Canary Islands, it will reach the east coast of America at a drastically reduced height of 100 feet. Obviously by comparison this is great news. But 100 feet isn’t exactly a small wave. Or necessarily a survivable one, for that matter.
My sister the geology major/science expert has told me that to be safe from a tsunami, one should be at an elevation least twice the height of the incoming wave. This does not bode well for residents of Manhattan. Manhattan’s average elevation is well under 200 feet (and also 100 feet for that matter). With any luck, the totally dispensable Staten Island and Long Island will help break some of the wave. But Manhattan is basically underwater every time it rains a third of an inch. Manhattan is not a safe place to live. We are all going to drown.
This is preschool-level logic: if you want to survive a mega-tsunami, try not living on a tiny flat island with three million other people. Incidentally, this same logic applies to avoiding the plague and also generally keeping your sanity. If you are reading this and wondering how my thirty-five thousand dollar a year job could possibly convince me to live in this death trap, well, I am too. But I am here, and presumably so are you, so great.
Assuming you are like me and you are in this city despite your best judgments, it’s might be totally necessary to have, as my mother would say, “a tsunami plan” after all. Of course, when my mother calls up the hotels, she is mostly looking to hear that they have a big boat ready to take her very far out into the ocean. Far out in the ocean, a tsunami is a mere swell in the water, not a giant wall of liquid death. Unfortunately if I hopped into a boat on the Hudson and took myself a mile out into sea, I would probably lack the navigational skills to ever get back to land again. Maybe you’re like “ohhhh but my boat has a GPS soo…” but like, boat GPS is way confusing. Plus there’s always a chance that a solar flare will fry your transmitter. Maybe you’re a nautical genius. But if you’re not, it is probably a very bad idea to drive straight into the thing that is trying to drown you.
Without the boat option, New Yorkers are faced with the great challenge to get to twice the elevation of a 100-foot wave in less than nine hours. That’s elevation 200 ft, in case you are worse at math than I am. To the out-of-towners, nine hours may sound like enough time to get everyone in New York City to higher ground, but if you’ve ever witnessed the hideous disaster that is a few hundred people trying to evacuate midtown by subway at 7:00pm you will understand how utterly fucked New Yorkers will be. If the trains are even running, they will be a complete riot. If for some reason they are not a riot (they will be), the tracks all run along shorelines so escape via train may not be totally productive. Those who have tried to drive out of New York in a car know that regular, non-panic-fueled New York traffic can keep you stopped in the same place for hours on end. And evacuation by air is not happening. All of the New Yorkers who are richer than you – Michael Bloomberg and Blake Lively live here – definitely have the helicopter priority.
The only guaranteed way to safety is to walk to higher ground. Which is great news for people who hate their feet. Aside from the 5 blocks of Washington Heights that would maybe survive a giant wave, the closest land elevation 200 ft or higher is in New Jersey. I know, vom. As far as I can tell by Google-ing the elevations of every New Jersey town I can think of, the closest safe place is West Orange. A mere 20 miles from midtown Manhattan. Or a seven hour walk. Not bad! Again, assuming you hate your feet.
Let’s be real, walking 20 miles sounds miserable. But you know what doesn’t sound miserable? Rollerblading 20 miles. I strongly suggest investing in a good pair of rollerblades. Keep them in your apartment or at work! Or, better yet, carry them with you at all times. Rollerblade everywhere. If we could collectively bring rollerblades back into style it will entirely undo the bummer that is the entire eastern seaboard getting wrecked by a wave.
But I digress. We’re now safe from this wave, we’re in New Jersey and we’re wearing our awesome rollerblades. What’s left of the east coast is probably a massive blacked-out riot, but the goal here was to survive the natural disaster, not the apocalyptic social disaster that follows it. Sooooo success!
I am really kicking 2012’s ass so far.
Gear needed for mega-tsunami: Shoes, blister kit, roller blades if you can swing it.
Chance of mega-tsunami happening: Slightly higher than a super volcano! I mean, I would guess.
Chance of mega-tsunami survival: Good! Assuming you’re a fast walker. Of course if you don’t make it to high ground in time, you end up dying in New Jersey. That’s especially grim.
Chance of your apartment building surviving the mega-tsunami: I have literally no idea how tsunami-proof New York high rises are. But I do know that in The Day After Tomorrow a mega-tsunami failed to knock over the public library. So if you live in a giant marble landmark, maybe your stuff will be ok.
If you ignore that this is song technically belongs to my arch-nemesis TSwift, it’s the best thing that’s happened in like, days.
This one’s on me, Hollywood.
Step 1: Pull out your copy of Lou Bega’s hit 1999 album “A Little Bit of Mambo.” I know you still have it. Probably it’s your all time favorite cd. But just in case you can’t find it, I’ve linked to the appropriate YouTube videos.
Step 2: Listen to the classic Mambo No. 5 (A Little Bit Of…).
Step 3: Listen to the follow-up single I Got A Girl.
Step 4: Listen to the lesser-known, but still great, 1 + 1 = 2.
*Disclaimer: I know next to nothing about supervolcanoes
I once felt very comforted by the fact that on December 21, 2012 I will be in the middle of Idaho. Safe, isolated, tectonically stable Idaho. The state no terrorists care about and no mega tsunamis can reach. Short of one of those underground refuges from Deep Impact I was sure Idaho was the best place to ride out the apocalypse imaginable.
Then I learned about the super volcano.
Normal volcanoes are like, no big deal. The ground gets full of magma and the mountains start growing at an alarming rate of 50 feet per day and geologists notice these things and tell everyone to move out of the area for a bit. So normal volcanoes, from a purely survivalist point of view, are not things that keep me up at night.
My town of Ketchum, Idaho, though, is 200 miles away from the Yellowstone Supervolcano. This keeps me up at night. Presumably geologists would be able to predict a supervolcanic explosion like they can a normal one. But this is doomsday. Anything could happen. And also, maybe their equipment is broken.
All volcanoes are ranked on this thing that science made up called the Volcanic Explosivity Index (aka the VEI aka the Volxplosidex). It runs on a scale of 0-8 with 0 as a non-explosive eruption and 8 as the biggest ones that have happened ever. Mt. Saint Helens was a 5 on the Volxplosidex. In non-scientific terms we call that a “meh.”
The Yellowstone Supervolcano has a terrifying record of level 7 and 8 explosions. Some good news is that the explosions don’t happen too often. The last three level 8 eruptions range from 1.5-2.5 million years apart from each other. The most recent one happened 640,000 years ago, which would suggest to me that maybe we still have another million years or so before we should get in a panic.
And yet Angelfire site after Angelfire site insists that Yellowstone is definitely going to explode any day now. Maybe I’m missing some crucial math calculation that they don’t teach African Studies majors but it seems that it would take an alien invasion or like, “global warming” to make the Yellowstone Supervolcano a major threat. I guess what Angelfire knows that math doesn’t is that the Mayans probably designed their calendar around an alien invasion and/or global warming that would cause a volcano to erupt unexpectedly 2k+ miles away from them some 7000 years in the future.
This is the apocalypse, anything can happen.
So since Yellowstone might definitely explode this December, it is now really necessary to use pseudoscience to figure out how to survive the impending doom.
Unless you are a person that is physically unable to move from the place you live and the place you live is the side of a volcano, you probably shouldn’t worry about lava. Lava moves mad slow. Think: lava lamps. Remember lava lamps? Mad. Slow. And even if it’s moving slightly faster than mad slow, it glows bright red and you can see that shit coming. Unfortunately for those who are able to see the supervolcano lava inching towards them, you are about to die anyway. But at least it won’t be death by lava.
“Pyroclastic Flow” is a nasty trick volcanoes keep up their sleeves. While you’re busy laughing at the lava’s lame attempt at giving you a scare, volcanoes of all sizes can (and will!) release avalanches of 1000º poisonous gas. This is a pyroclastic flow. If you get caught in a pyroclastic flow, you will die instantly. Don’t get caught in a pyroclastic flow.
In 1902 Mt. Pelée in Martinique erupted. The residents of the nearby city of Saint-Pierre weren’t worried about it because the lava was flowing down the other side of the mountain. Then the volcano released a pyroclastic flow, killing all but one of the 30,000+ citizens within seconds.
My Google search for “am I safe from pyroclastic flow in a valley 200 miles from a supervolcano?” didn’t turn up anything useful. But I can put my African Studies math skills to some quick calculations. The eruption of Mt. Pelée in 1902 had a VEI/Volxplosidex of 4; it took out a city that was four miles away. A Volxplosidex-8 volcano has 10,000x the “ejecta volume” Mt. Pelée. Conclusion: 200 miles is not far enough away.
The one potential flaw in this mathematical deduction is that I have no idea what the “ejecta volume” has to do with the pyroclastic flow-iness. I’m guessing it doesn’t mean that the eruption would incinerate every person within 40,000 miles of the supervolcano because the earth is only 24,901 miles around. And that would mean every person everywhere would die instantly. Some of them twice. If this were a thing, all people would be as worried about supervolcanoes as I am. Right? But regardless I imagine it might mean that 200 miles away from an erupting supervolcano I would be quite susceptible to things like unreasonably high temperatures and some poisonous gasses. I like to hope I can escape death by burning poison. And for this I turn to the only man who survived the pyroclastic flow in Saint-Pierre 110 years ago.
On the eve of the Mt. Pelée incident, Ludger Sylbaris got thrown in jail for some kind of bar fight (note that my best source for the reason he was jailed is a Wikipedia article that only cites a comic strip, so let’s render this detail of the story “irrelevant,” but also, “theoretically awesome”). Apparently Martinicianne jail cells are built wrong, because this specific cell he was put in was put in a partly-underground bomb-shelter-like concrete dog kennel with only one tiny opening that faced away from the volcano. A few days later when a rescue team came to search for survivors, they found him alive, hanging out in his little dog kennel jail cell. He patched himself up, was pardoned of all of his crimes, and then joined Barnum & Bailey circus as “The Man Who Lived Through Doomsday.”
Here’s a (tiny, totally unflawed, definitely logical) leap: if “The Man Who Lived Through Doomsday” did so by hanging out in a bomb-shelter-like concrete dog kennel, shouldn’t we be able to live through doomsday by hanging out in a bomb-shelter-like bomb shelter? Like, if it worked once, right? Obviously a supervolcano will be way worse than Mt. Pelée was, but hopefully the 200 mile distance and the very tall mountains will act as some kind of buffer. For everyone wondering what to do if you’re closer than 200 miles to Yellowstone, I would recommend spending your December holidays somewhere else (i.e. underground refuge from Deep Impact). But if you want to stay put, don’t say I didn’t warn you. And if you want to leave your post-apocalyptic food rations to me in your will that’d be cool.
Since it is not 1954, I do not have my own private bomb shelter. But, luckily for the 4,000 residents of Ketchum, Idaho and myself, central Idaho has a various commercial ice caves that, according to a very decrepit sign by the highway, double as public fallout shelters. I’m not sure at which point the 1,600 residents of Shoshone, Idaho were worried they would be targeted by a nuclear attack, but at least now they’re ready for the supervolcano. As an added bonus, the ice caves are also freezing so maybe that will do something to counteract the 1000° heat wave that will be happening above ground.
After the obscenely hot wave of toxic gas has passed, it will be kind of safe to leave the bomb shelter. I say kind of because supervolcanoes will dump up to 10 ft of ash as far away as 1,000 miles from the eruption site. I can’t speak from first hand experience but I imagine trying to do anything in an ash storm would be both generally unpleasant and also very bad for your lungs. It might be a huge bummer to survive the apocalypse only to die a few months later of lung cancer. I would assume that the better idea is to hang out under ground until the worst of the ash is over. According to my geology major sister, digging through ash is equivalent to digging through dirt. I guess it’s totally possible to bring a shovel into the bomb shelter cave and dig your way out. But from a physical exertion point of view, it’s probably a better idea to just wait for someone who has one of those elevator drills they use to pull Chilean miners out of the ground to show up.
Once the ash is done falling onto the ground and the drill elevators have done their jobs, there is only one more supervolcano issue to be worried about! The rest of the ashes that weren’t heavy enough to land on top of the ice cave stay in the atmosphere for a while. They make ash clouds, which deflect sunlight, which is what typically keeps us warm. It gets colder. Like it does in the winter. Which is why this phenomenon is called a Volcanic Winter (aka a VW aka a Punch Buggy).
When the Philippine volcano Mount Pinatubo, Volxplosidex-6, erupted in 1991, the amount of volcanic ash in the atmosphere cooled the average temperature of the Northern Hemisphere by 1°F. When the Lake Toba supervolcano in Sumatra exploded some 70,000 years ago, the worldwide decline in temperature is thought to have been as much at 9°F. Not many people were running around with little glass sticks full of mercury then, so it’s hard to be sure. But it will definitely get at least at least a little chillier.
Colder weather, besides just generally being the worst, makes crops die. Unless you have an indoor farm or artificial solar lights in your Idahoan ice cave or a lifetime supply of Heinz Beans and space ice cream you will eventually starve. Like the dinosaurs did. So make sure you have a lifetime supply of Heinz Beans and space ice cream handy at all times.
A note to all you obscenely skinny New Yorkers who judge my eating habits constantly: you will be the first to die. Well, the second. Right after the people that refused to spend Christmas in a bomb shelter. And I will take comfort in this scientific fact as I eat six cookies alone in bed tonight while quietly considering crawling into my neighbor’s dog’s kennel, just in case the Mayan’s calculations were a few months shy of accurate.
Gear needed for supervolcano: Access to bomb shelter, 4 tons of space ice cream, and a shovel if you’re feeling ambitious.
Chance of supervolcano occurrence: Low, but the Mayan apocalypse has to happen somehow.
Chance of supervolcano survival: Questionable.
Supervolcano related pick-up line: “I know of a nice Ice Cave we can spend the night and survive the apocalypse in.”
Effectiveness of Supervolcano related pick-up line: Questionable.
Today is May 5, 2012. In 230 or so days it will be December 21, 2012. Lately there has been some talk of the world ending on December 21, 2012. This is slightly stressful for those of use who would like to live to see our 24th birthdays.
I have no idea how big of a threat 2012 actually is. On one hand, Wikipedia says that it’s nothing to be worried about. On the other hand, History Channel’s Ancient Aliens says that it is. And when Ancient Aliens and Wikipedia don’t agree on something, I have no idea which to believe. But I guess it’s better to be safe than sorry. Or dead.
In general it’s good to be prepared. Even for totally preposterous situations. If the preposterous situation ever happens, you’ll be way on top of it. And in the mean time, saying things like “Hey, I know how to survive in case New York ever gets taken down by a massive tidal wave caused by a meteor that NASA didn’t have enough money to blow up” is a really great way to get boys at parties interested in you. And definitely take my advice on picking up boys. I have hooked up with one as recently as 13 months ago.
The major problem with preparing for the 2012 apocalypse is that no one seems to definitively know which gigantic disaster is going to be the end of us. The major earthquake preparations I set up in my home in Northern California when I was six – most of which included permanently keeping all of my prized toys and stuffed animals under various doorframes in our house – would probably not do much good in case of a tornado. (Note to six-year-old self: save the stuffed animals by duct taping them to the back of a toilet.) So really the only way to be prepared is to be ready for literally every kind of possible destructive force.
In the coming days (or weeks or months, judging by this blog’s track record) I will share ALL of my disaster survival methods that I have devised after days (about 4) of intense video research (mostly NatGeo specials) and interviews with experts (my geology major sister). I will do this sort of for the wellbeing of my (2-3) dedicated readers but mostly because I would like A+E Networks to read this work and give me my own TV show. I’m really sure that trolling the internet for crazy people is how they find most of their talent for their shows. This is definitely going to work. Stay tuned…
My friend Danica sent me this strange Japanese print of some obedient catfish:
I sent her back a card telling her about all of the Japanese catfish lore I have learned by watching way too much River Monsters, documented (poorly) here:
If reading a blurry photo of illegible handwriting is not your thing, basically it is some Japanese myth that a giant catfish who lives underground in Japan causes all of the earthquakes by thrashing around. It’s one god’s job to keep that catfish under control but sometimes he gets lazy and the catfish gets very naughty and next thing everyone knows the ground is shaking.
According to Wikipedia it is a fact that catfish are able to sense small pre-earthquake tremors and go crazy. Which I guess made people assume that catfish (specifically one giant catfish) caused the earthquakes that happened.
How badly did I just butcher Japanese mythology? Science?
Some other weird catfish things:
-Clarias batrachus (or Walking Catfish) can use their pectoral fins to crawl to a different pond if theirs dries up.
-Allegedly some air breathing catfish in Kenya burrow into the mud during the dry season when their water dries up and estivate until it rains again. For fun a lot of kids will dig in dried up ponds to find napping catfish. Science seems to think this isn’t actually a thing and that Kenyans are just confusing lungfish (which do burrow in the dry mud!) for catfish. BUT WHATEVER.
-Singhi catfish can live in moist peat for months.
-Some catfish are just too big.
-All catfish are ugly.
I currently live with the first boy I dated in college. I hope this sounds really romantic. And I hope you thought that despite all of the awful things one could say about me, I am really good at relationships. The sad truth is that I am not. In general I am useless as a girlfriend and under these particular circumstances even more so. Never the less, this boy and I enjoyed a very typical college romance and a very typical college break-up. One of these days Hollywood is going to figure out the truth about dating in college and make a movie about us. Our relationship was truly a legendary tragedy that is worthy of the big screen. Seriously.
In October of my freshman year I got an email from a complete stranger asking if I wouldn’t mind going on a blind date with his roommate. As an eighteen-year-old living in the 21st century it took me all of 30 seconds to pull up photos and life stories of everyone he was living (this was even easier then too since it was the golden age of internet stalking – before every weird person and their cat started drinking the Zuckerberg Kool Aid and no one thought online privacy was an issue). This complete stranger lived with three other boys. One of them was a politically inclined member of the marching band (gross), one of them was on the football team (grosser), and one of them was a very well manicured South African architecture major (jackpot).
I emailed the complete stranger back and with high hopes of landing this sophisticated South African dreamboat. He replied with instructions to meet his mystery roommate (and my apparent soul mate) in a courtyard where he would be wearing a Speedo singing the South African national anthem. Swoon. Then I would accompany him to a University organized blind date dance.
Early on in college the administration encourages you to go to many University-planned ‘parties’ in an effort to socialize students in an alcohol free environment. I am particularly perplexed that adults who spend so much time with college students would not immediately see that they are wasting their time; college kids exclusively make friends in a drunken stupor. Is the goal to render the entire freshman class friendless and lonely? Maybe when they are older and more mature they make friends after only a few beers, but early on it’s black out or nothing. (I mean right? Was there a different way to be eighteen?) Still, college freshmen do not know better than to go to these horribly dull pre-planned parties. But they have invented a way around the whole alcohol-free thing: drinking anyway.
Now the Freshman Pre-Game is different than a Normal Pre-game. I understand that a Normal Pre-game is an institution that has been in existence since like, forever (see: pre-game). But I also understand that a Normal Pre-game does not involve taking 15 shots of vodka while playing some idiotic card game that makes sure that no one gets away with not drinking 15 shots of vodka. Side note, kids: as a fully grown-up 22-year-old who totally has her life together (sarcasm!) please listen to me– if you can’t believe that consuming poison in large quantities is literally killing you PLEASE at least believe that 15 shots of vodka is at least 750 calories. That’s with no mixers! You are going to get FAT.
So fifteen shots into this October night the last five functioning brain cells left in my brain decided that they were going to be in love. If not with the actual South African, than at least with the idea of having a dapper someone on my arm for the rest of forever. If we exchanged words that night I cannot remember them. But we definitely made out publicly – on the dance floor, on the sidewalk, in someone else’s dorm – the way you only do if you’re eighteen and falling-over-drunk or you’re awful.
Thus began our storybook romance.
The next weeks were full of glorious love-falling-in and public outings as a couple. On the rare occasion when I stopped to think about it, things between us seemed a little odd. For example, four or five days a week he was too busy to hang out with me. Even though based on his schedule I was almost positive he was not. But I had just finished high school and was totally unaware that boyfriends who didn’t neglect you 150% of the time existed. So in that respect, he was a keeper. But also he spent most of this “busy” time with another guy who lived in his dorm. But they were totally just friends. Such good friends that this other man came on most of our dates. Also a lot of my acquaintances repeatedly pointed out that my boyfriend seemed a little flamboyant. I told them he was foreign and that was definitely why.
As an eighteen-year-old who was pretty sure she was hot shit, here’s the only thing that really struck me as odd: we were not sleeping together. So far my impression of 18- and 19-year-old boys was that they were basically sex-crazed egomaniacs that sometimes played Halo or hockey but mostly just pounced on drunk girls. So though at first I thought he was just taking it slow for the sake of being sensitive and romantic, it was painfully clear something was a little weird when I started saying things like, “let’s sleep together” and he said things like “yuck, no.”
Alas, as you may have by now guessed, this boy was just not that into me. Or my gender. But WHY would any boy so cruelly drag me along for weeks if he had no intention on sealing the deal?
Here’s the thing: In this day and age any sane environment encourages an individual to be faithful to his or her sexual orientation. Here’s the other thing: A lot of people have never experienced an aforementioned sane environment before getting to college. It’s possible that some people don’t even experience this sane environment in college but I went to a school commonly referred to as “The Gay Ivy” so I have no first hand experience with that.
An unreasonably large number of students have JUST been told it’s socially acceptable to sleep with the person they want to sleep with upon their arrival at college. Which is great. Seriously. But more often than not this sane environment takes a few (or many, many) years to get used to. For girls who prefer men, and I guess really just anyone who prefers any one in general, a sane environment requires the development of Gay-dar, or the ability to differentiate between the men/women who want to sleep with women/men and the ones who do not.
I grew up in San Francisco. A person may think that this meant I grew up with excellent Gay-dar. That person would be very wrong. San Francisco is – cover your ears, Rick Santorum – an incredibly sane environment. As long as we’re still using ‘sane’ as a synonym for ‘gay’. San Francisco is great, sane, really gay. San Francisco is incredibly supportive of all different sexual preferences. People in San Francisco tend to be open about their preferences so I did not have to waste any time in high school agonizing over whether or not the boy I was making out with at Zach Epcar’s house party was imagining I had a penis. So when I got to college and was thrown into the mix with many-a-man who had not grown up in incredibly sane environments, I continued to naively trot along assuming every man who said he was interested in jumping in my pants actually was. Because if they were more interested in men sexually, wouldn’t they have been out since they were like, twelve? There could be no other possible explanation for their professed interest in dating me. Not even, say, a childhood devoid of musical theater or an incredibly conservative South African family who did not tolerate fruity shenanigans.
Anyway, in November I took my dashing South African as my date to a senior’s birthday party. I was feeling pretty smug that 1. I had been invited to a guest-list-only party hosted by a popular senior and 2. I was bringing a well-dressed boy with an accent as my date. An hour after getting to the party I went to wish the hostess a very happy birthday and she looked straight at me and said, “in case you didn’t already know, your boyfriend is gay.”
Obviously this was completely impossible. We had been together for like, two months and he had me in his Facebook profile picture and there was just no way that he wasn’t crazy about me. Though he was perfectly fine with going DAYS without seeing me. And he did pay very close attention to my shoes. And he certainly spent a weird amount of time ‘napping’ in bed with that one male friend who lived down the hall. And oh, we still hadn’t slept together. I began to question every certainty in my life.
Our walk home that night was uncomfortable and went something like this:
“So, um, are you gay?”
Subsequent to this conversation, we continued dating. Of course.
In the next days I did some soul searching. Despite the fact that he was clearly the boy of my dreams, I was surprised to find myself pretty whatever about the whole getting dumped for the opposite gender thing. I mean, on the bright side I wouldn’t have to see him date any other girls. I generally regard the worst possible thing an ex can do as going on to date a better version of me, and that was not going to happen because on a basic anatomical level I am not a man. A “better me” definitely doesn’t have a penis. And also I pretty quickly realized that dating a boy because he’s foreign and well-dressed is just as dumb as dating a girl because she is a girl.
Eventually we did break up. But during our wind-down I must have subconsciously resigned myself to the fate of attracting gay men for the rest of time. I say this because it is now an established rut that I have not managed to break out of. I just ran into some kids I knew in high school who – wildly inappropriately – told me that the boy I dated when I was 17 couldn’t (and wouldn’t) get it up for any girl these days. A different college boyfriend told me that he thought about men while we were having sex. After I told him that was an uncomfortable thing to say, particularly while we were having sex, he very unconvincingly added a “Oh, well, I’m like, joking” that solidified he was not. Last week I attempted to force myself into having a one night stand because I’m increasingly convinced I used up all of my allotted relationships for this lifetime in high school and college only to get back to the guy’s apartment and find that his bedroom closet was full of high heels. Abrupt ending to that night. I really have trouble seeing these things coming.
The Gay Ivy turned out to be a campus with many, many closets that I sincerely wish were unnecessary. Mostly because it pains my cold, black heart to think that anyone feels that it’s easier or better to conceal their sexual preferences. But also because I spent a lot of time in college making out with boys who would rather make out with other boys. And presumably at some point all of my love interests will find the men they are meant to find, and I, having spent my prime barking up the wrong tree, will die alone. I sincerely hope that one day we can live in a society where my future children whom I will purchase from Ethiopia and Haiti will know that the men and women they are sleeping with are consenting because they are attracted to the sexual organs my children will have. And for no other reason.
Is this the most selfish plead for legalized gay marriage you’ve ever heard or what?
But as I mentioned, this particular boyfriend and I live together now. Not because we’re in love, but because we still get along and we’re really good at forgetting about the handful of times that I basically begged him to fornicate with me. Our current living situation is pretty symbiotic. He is much tidier than I am and compulsively does my dishes. And in return I’m pretty sure he has led his very conservative South African family to believe that I am his live-in girlfriend. To top it off, we have never fought over boys because he is into high maintenance macho-diva-types and these days I am asexual.
Right now he is sitting in our living room looking at pictures from the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show and watching NBC’s Smash. If only I knew then what I know now. I might have spent this Valentine’s Day dining romantically with a straight live-in boyfriend and not watching NCIS in the impeccably decorated apartment I share with my gay ex.