Last week some guys from my ward were bragging about how many guys they've kissed and the smaller numbers of girls they've kissed and trying to guess how many guys some girls in the ward have kissed. Their guesses were way off. One girl had kissed zero guys, and I asked if she was waiting until she's over the altar, and she got huffy and people laughed and I thought No, wait, I was just surprised, I was just curious, I wasn't trying to be mean this time. I would never tease about such a potentially sensitive subject. I also had to say my number, and the number was five, and then I figured that's as good a reason as any to write this post that's been sitting in my drafts for twenty-one months. These are those five. Not that the number itself is particularly impressive, but the stories behind it sure are a lot less so.
Mary was at least in fourth grade, maybe sixth, when I was in kindergarten. We rode the same school bus. She had an equally attractive sister in my class, but I was far more interested in older women thanks to the sister missionaries who used to put me on their laps and tickle me. Bullies had not yet destroyed my confidence or turned me into an introvert, so every afternoon when she got off the bus I yelled, "Bye Mary, I love you!" And then one day some older boys thought it would be funny to restrain her so I could kiss her. Nobody taught me about consent when I was five years old, okay? I'm sorry. At least I only kissed her on the wrist. It was the easiest part to reach as she tried to get away. Ugh, I'm going to hell.
For a couple years before they moved from New York to Utah, my family often hung out with the Davis family. Their daughter Natalie was probably twice my age. She had a twin sister, but I knew which was which and I knew which one I wanted. She also had a sister my age, but see my previous comment about missionaries, and also I thought her sister my age was annoying. All of us kids slept on the Davises' trampoline one night, and Natalie told us a creepy/humorous story about a creepy voice that said "I gotcha, where I wantcha, and now I'm gonna eatcha," and her doing that voice gave me a mild case of vorarephilia before I came to my senses. Long story short, one day we were at a Primary activity at a park somewhere and I decided to make my move. Natalie was sitting and talking to a friend, which enabled me to reach her cheek with my lips.
Natalie: "It's okay, we're related."
Yeah, so I had missed the discussion where our families had found out that her grandfather was my mom's grandfather's brother, or something like that, I don't remember. It was something distant enough that we still could have gotten married, but c'est la vie.
Even though she was a few years younger, I danced with Kristin at a school dance one evening and decided for whatever reason that I wanted to kiss her, but by this time I was mature enough to at least take into account the possibility that she didn't want me to kiss her, so after stressing about it a little I compromised by kissing the top of her head as she walked away. She giggled and kept walking. That was probably some time before I asked her to prom and she couldn't go because she was grounded. It was quite a while before she reached out on Facebook, having ignored me for years, and gave me her sob stories and asked for money and came up with excuse after excuse for why she couldn't pay me back when she said she would and needed more money. Long story short, she ruined my life for a long time and by the end owed me more than six thousand dollars (every penny of which, surprise surprise, she still owes me). She said she thought to ask me for help because she remembered that I was "nice" in high school. I wish I had been mean to her like everyone else.
USU has a tradition called True Aggie Night where you stand on a big letter A next to the building with another big letter A on top during a full moon and you kiss a True Aggie to become a True Aggie. I accomplished this during my first week of college ever. I just showed up by myself and got lucky. As I loitered in the crowd, Natalie Hinton asked me something like, "Did you go to Skyview High School?" And I said something like, "No. Are you a True Aggie? Do you want to kiss me?" (I now know that during the first week of school, the requirement for one party to be a True Aggie is waived, but oh well, at least I covered my bases.) And I stressed about it a little, but it was over really fast. I knew her name because she signed a little card attesting what she had done to me. I scanned this card once upon a time but I can't find the scan now, and the card was destroyed in a washing machine, leaving no more evidence for this story than any of my others. We became Facebook friends and she was in my anthropology class a year later but I never talked to her again and we aren't Facebook friends anymore.
Some Black Girl
I swear on the holy books of every religion in the world that this is true. Once I had a roommate who had a woman spend the night, and after a few weeks I realized she wasn't going to leave. The landlord didn't care. I don't know if she paid rent. I know she didn't pitch in for utilities, and my roommate flipped out on me when I suggested it. Anyway, at some point she somehow got it into her head that I should kiss her "so that you can say you've kissed a black girl, and I can say I've kissed a white guy." My roommate did not find that logic convincing. They argued about it in front of me, with her being like "Come here" and him being like "Don't you dare" and me wondering when Allen Funt was going to jump out of the couch. She had to compromise, and brought in one of her black girl friends to kiss me instead. She filmed it. I'm not in touch with her and I've never seen the video, so there's no more evidence for this story than any of my others. Afterward her friend said, "You're a good kisser." I thought, I have almost zero experience; you don't have to lie to make me feel good.
A Gay Friend
I almost forgot about this one. I guess I have to count it. I'll keep him anonymous since he isn't out to his family. On my birthday he told me he was interested in me, and that he knew he probably wasn't my type, but he'd like to kiss me, and when I didn't say anything for a moment he took that as permission. It wasn't, but whatever. Karma. Later he apologized for making my birthday about himself and asked why I let him do it.
Out of a silly concern for people's privacy, I used to give pseudonyms to everyone I wrote about on my blog. So when I wrote about my group from Shanan Ballam's Fall 2015 Poetry Writing course, I gave the members stupid pseudonyms: Bracelets, Redhead, and Glasses. And then Bracelets was the only one I wrote about consistently but I think I did mention the others once each. Anyway, I hate those nicknames now, so I'm going to come clean. Their names are Lauren, Clara, and Joe. That felt weird. I called Lauren "Bracelets" because she wore lots of bracelets on both arms, as well as hats with big, floppy brims and other generally fabulous clothing. She liked to be fabulous, but she wasn't conceited or anything. She was responsible for the formation of our group when she said those of us who happened to sit near her on the first day of class should just be a group, so she shaped my life in some ways with that thoughtless act. She also became a fan of my blog and more than once the only reason I continued writing it every week despite its very underwhelming performance. I would have given up back then, a few months after starting, but because of her I didn't, and now I've sunk too much time and energy into it to give up despite the paltry returns on my effort being nowhere near worth it. Thanks, Lauren, I say sarcastically.
On my phone, she was and remains listed as "Lady Lauren" because she had an affinity for the romanticized version of the Middle Ages that we all know never really existed. I don't even remember why, but she once told me, "You're my knight in shining armor." And I told another woman about that and the other woman said, "Dude, either she likes you, or you're really deep in the friend zone." Women are allowed to say "friend zone" unironically without getting their heads bitten off because reasons. But Lauren was just big on being a lady and being treated like a lady and stuff. In her phone, I discovered one day that I was listed as "Christopher Aspie Friend". I posted on Facebook, "Today I found out that my crush has me listed in her phone as 'Christopher Aspie Friend'. I'm not sure how I feel about that." I felt safe posting it because Lauren didn't have Facebook. A couple months later, some random lady liked the post. The random lady, upon investigation, turned out to be Lauren's mother.
I think I'm still listed as "Christopher Aspie Friend", and I'm torn between wanting to keep it that way for nostalgia's sake and wanting to change it because I now know that Hans Asperger collaborated with the Nazis by knowingly referring children with disabilities to be murdered at the Am Spiegelgrund clinic. (Nobody knew this in 2015.) I have ceased using Aspie or Asperger's as a descriptor in any other context.
I never mentioned on my blog how she broke my heart, but I did cryptically allude to it with some very melodramatic language that's still better poetry than any of the actual poetry I wrote for our poetry class. Around that time, though, I saw Disney's Inside Out and learned that it's okay to be sad sometimes, and that was powerful. She started dating the guy she'd called "basically my brother" and then that ended but I still didn't have a chance. Anyway, we remained good friends but we argued sometimes because I got frustrated with her sometimes. I won't talk about why because I don't want to criticize her, and I'm sure she had legitimate reasons to be frustrated with me too, and I didn't fully appreciate the toll that the hardship she was going through must have taken. Let's just say we weren't great at communicating. We stayed in touch after she graduated and moved on, and I got her into the Star Wars fandom and found out she was already in the Legend of Zelda fandom, but sometimes she stopped responding to texts for months at a time and I still don't know why. I have another friend who was like that for the better part of a decade, but it was because she periodically relapsed into heroin and felt embarrassed to talk to me, so I don't know what the deal was here.
Most recently, Lauren stopped responding for about twenty-six months. In late 2019 I was texting her once a week with no response, and then in early 2020 I told her to have a nice life, which, even though it sounds like a nice thing to say, is actually a rude thing to say. My frustration this time around stemmed in large part from waiting indefinitely on the feedback she had promised for the book that I'd sent her in April and she'd finished reading in July or so. I still texted her happy Easter 2020 and then in October 2020 I texted her to mention that I had a dream where she told me why she'd disappeared for a year, and I was very disappointed when I woke up. But I just accepted that she would probably not be part of my life again and I didn't know why. I didn't expect anything to happen when I texted her Merry Christmas this year. And nothing did happen for three days. But then -
So this was a really, really nice surprise. I do hope she'll stick around for a while. I haven't asked about why she disappeared or why she didn't give me feedback on my book, and I'm sure I will at some point but first and foremost I'm just grateful to have her back and I have no hard feelings whatsoever. I value her friendship very much. I don't even feel like my former romantic interest in her was a complete waste of time like most of my romantic interests have been. Her kindness, her intelligence, her thoughtfulness, and her sense of humor, besides just generally making her a good person to associate with and a positive influence on my life, have helped to shape my vision of the kind of woman I'm going to marry. The thing I like most about her sense of humor is how we can take a joke that isn't all that funny and play along with it so seriously that our seriousness about the joke becomes the joke. Anyway, maybe I can't adequately convey what I'm trying to convey in this post to those who haven't met her, but our reconnection is the greatest thing that's happened to me for a while and though it came out of the blue, I'm sure I was prompted to text her Merry Christmas, and it increases my confidence in the glorious promises God has made me if I can just be patient and stay close to Him.
Crisis struck last weekend. Prudence, which it runs out I am capable of possessing once in a while, dictates that for the time being I keep it to myself apart from a half dozen friends and all of my Fiction Writing classmates who deserved an excuse for why my second story is garbage compared to the first. For a few moments after seeing the news I never wanted to see, I tried to wrap my brain around the fact that my life and my faith were about to shatter beyond repair. Then I ran into my bedroom to pray but discovered that I couldn't speak. I tried to pray silently but discovered that I couldn't think. So my prayer was just Help me, help me, help me, help me, help me.
I reached out to this guy in the ward that I know a little bit for a priesthood blessing. I didn't want to be too much of a burden on the guys I usually ask. While waiting for him to get back to me and then waiting for him to arrive, I cooked a frozen pizza and force-fed myself half of it, despite my complete lack of appetite, because I was starving. I offered the rest to him when he arrived, and he said it would be a good idea to make himself eat, and he appeared to have an even harder time doing so than I did. He wasn't doing well. He asked if he could stick around for a while after the blessing so he didn't have to be home alone. He asked if I've ever had questions about my faith, and I outlined the most recent one in very vague terms. I didn't want to tell him about my situation because I just wanted comfort from the blessing; I didn't want to open the channels for advice that I wasn't ready to accept. And he gave me the shortest blessing I've ever gotten and I appreciated that. He cried afterward. I think it helped him more than me. So that was cool.
I invited him to accompany me to Come Follow Me with people from the ward. While there, I went through mood swings and wasn't in hell the entire time. I sat there for half an hour while two girls and four guys discussed the proper care and washing of different kinds of hair, a topic that I found altogether uninteresting but still better than being home alone, and then as I was poised to go be home alone again some others arrived very late and we played Werewolf. I threw myself into it with gusto. When I figured out that my in-game lover was a werewolf, I protected her with as much zeal as I would a real-life lover who murdered people. When others falsely accused and killed me, I was only upset that it would lead to her death as well. I can be selfless like that.
I didn't look forward to bedtime because past experience had given me some idea of what I was in for. I'd gotten the obligatory blessing, and I would pray, and I would get sufficiently calm and peaceful to fall asleep, and I would wake up an hour or two later in a cold sweat with my heart doing its best impression of the ungodly screaming over the bridge of Rammstein's creepy and inappropriate song "Mein Teil", and there would be no more calm or peace or sleeping for the remainder of the night. Well, I did wake up and fail to get back to sleep until the sun rose, but the rest didn't happen. I didn't feel good by any means, but I felt all right. I soon came to the realization that God was shielding me from the worst of the pain. And He continued to shield me throughout the week, and I thanked Him and prayed more and tried harder and got better. Wednesday morning I woke up from a nightmare that ruined most of my day, Thursday morning I woke up from a nightmare that ruined the next half hour, and Friday morning I woke up from a nightmare that I was able to put out of my mind right away.
It's not like I'd never thought to pray for comfort before. I'd just rarely noticed any of this magnitude, no matter how hard I pleaded. I don't know what's so different this time, if the nature of the situation has made me more desperate or more deserving or what. I do know that whatever suffering remains is a part of life that I shouldn't try to avoid or expect to be exempted from. Now I feel like I'm in a good place where I haven't stopped hoping for and believing in one specific outcome based on God's previous communications to me no matter how unlikely it looks at the moment, but I'm also patient and trying to be open to any outcome and the necessary understanding that will come with it. I know, I hate having to be so vague too. I'm annoying myself.
One thing I've consciously done to enhance this effect is listen to a playlist I started nearly two years ago, which has taken on ever greater significance. Sometimes, like in the mornings when I wake up feeling like a dead battery and vulnerable to all manner of negative emotions, songs like "Head Above Water" and "Echoes of Andromeda" and "Boasting" have returned to my head.
I canceled my Tuesday morning classes so I wouldn't have to get out of bed until I felt like it, which greatly disappointed my students, I bet.
My ex-neighbor and dear friend Steve drove up from Salt Lake on Monday evening. We talked a little about what happened, but mostly watched Disney+. We watched Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, and then some of my favorite episodes of The Simpsons - "Bart Sells His Soul", "Miracle on Evergreen Terrace", "The Springfield Files", "Lisa the Skeptic", "Bart on the Road", and possibly another that I forget at the moment. He went home around noon on Tuesday, which I later realized was his birthday. He gave up a third of his birthday for me. And I couldn't believe it was two years to the day since we went to see Jojo Rabbit, aka one of the finest films ever made. Where does the time go?
My classmate and colleague Kylie also offered to hang out, so after our class on Tuesday I went up to ask if she was still good to hang out that evening. As soon as I started to speak, she put her hand on mine, and I thought about how USU's sexual misconduct prevention trainings told us not to touch someone without permission, even though we know full well that's not how neurotypical people live their lives. And I thought about my old friend Bracelets who used to touch me on the shoulder a lot until she saw the Temple Grandin movie and decided I didn't want to be touched. And I thought about a girl in my ward who came up to give the closing prayer after I had spoken in sacrament meeting, and touched my knee as she walked by. I think, in fairness, that this isn't just about neurotypicals vs. autistics but about women vs. men. Because women are raised to be more affectionate and nurturing, I think they can touch men's hands or shoulders or knees without these automatically coming across as romantic or sexualized gestures, whereas the reverse is not true.
I remembered when a friend in high school was crying about her grandmother dying, and I needed to comfort her but I didn't know what to do but I didn't want her to think I didn't care so I finally admitted, "I'm trying to decide if I should put my arm around you or not," and that made her laugh through her tears a little so I guess it was better than just putting my arm around her. Speaking of dead grandmothers, I was at the funeral of mine a couple months ago, seated right next to my grandfather, who howled with grief a couple of times. If ever there were appropriate contexts to touch someone without permission, these were them. And it was still hard, it still rebelled against my conditioning, to put my hand on his wrist. And then I felt awkward. Should I take it off now? What if he wants to move his arm? I'm not really letting him move his arm. I envied a little Kylie's ability to put her hand on mine all casual-like just because she knew I was having a rough time.
I couldn't think of anything more exciting to do than watch a movie, but fortunately for me, Kylie hasn't seen any Star Wars except for Rogue One and both of SNL's Undercover Bosses skits with Kylo Ren, so I picked the original Star Wars movie to guarantee that I would get invited back at least eight more times. She observed that Darth Vader is a jerk for kidnapping his own daughter, that stormtroopers don't aim very well, and that the use of computers in warfare was a pretty new idea in 1977 and that's probably why the movie was so popular. After the next movie, she reiterated that Darth Vader is a jerk for strangling his own men, and also reflected on the lack of women and racial diversity that's been somewhat fixed in the more recent movies. She said Princess Leia is an interesting character - specifically, it's interesting that she's a strong character but she still has to be sexualized. I hate myself for using that word twice in one post. Anyway, Kylie wasn't judging; she said the movies were fair for their time. I should have apologized in advance for what happens to Leia in the next one.
She made me watch the SNL skits, and I made her watch the Robot Chicken sketch that introduced the world to Gary the stormtrooper.
I also talked to my old friend Eliana on the phone a couple times, and the first conversation mostly turned into her complaining about the Church. Kylie has left the Church too, but we have nuanced and mutually respectful discussions about it, and I look forward to reading her folklore paper about how patriarchal blessings might have roots in the Smith family's fascination with folk magic. When Eliana left a couple years ago she still believed in the Book of Mormon and stuff but didn't trust the leadership because of their past mistakes and current LGBTQ policies. Now she sees nothing good, wholesome, or true in any of it. I didn't try to argue and I hoped that my listening allowed her to let off some steam. But I kind of wanted to ask, Can you live with yourself knowing that I'm still in the Church because of you? I used to tell her about all kinds of issues that bothered my testimony, and she was so chill about all of it and confident that the Church was where God wanted her to be. She was my anchor many times. You never can tell what the future holds, can you? Anyway, we don't talk much anymore but I appreciate that she's still there for me.
For Thanksgiving, I was going to visit a nearby great aunt whom I shamefully never visit because I'm always welcome but that means I have to kind of invite myself at any given time, but she got sick. So I went to my bishop's house. Although I haven't always cast him in the most flattering light, he is a great guy. I wish I could say the same about my last bishop. Some others from the ward also showed up, and someone else in the ward had a friend who wasn't in the ward but was going to come, but he went to the wrong house so we started without him. He showed up fifteen minutes in and guess what? He was one of my students. So he saw me without a mask on and sat right next to me and that's kind of funny, isn't it? I hope he didn't take it as a personal jab when I said that I like teaching college students because if they don't want to be there, they don't show up.
Today I tried really hard to pay attention in church and be open to the Spirit, and I did pretty well. I didn't even close myself off when a couple of people in Elders' Quorum said a couple of things about gender roles that made me want to stab my eyes out.
Last weekend would have been a nice little stake conference if not for just a couple things: the guy behind me who bumped or jiggled my chair at least eighty times, and the departure of President Fjeldsted (pronounced with a silent j and a silent d) from the Stake Presidency. So just like a sacrament meeting five years ago almost to the day when he stopped being my bishop, this stake conference left me sitting here like
Except without a beautiful princess who's secretly my sister to comfort me despite having recently experienced her own loss of colossally greater magnitude that hardly anybody seems to care about. My life is so empty.
I first met Brother Fjeldsted in September 2012 after a summer of insomnia-induced inactivity from church. My faith was never lost, but it wasn't strong enough to get me out of bed for nine a.m. church after five hours of sleep. When fall semester rolled around, though, I knew I needed the emotional anchor of regular church attendance back in my life, and I also realized that I was an idiot because I could have just gone to another congregation that met in the afternoon. So I did. I went to another ward and I met a couple of really nice people who made me feel much more comfortable than I did in either of my previous YSA wards, and I knew I was at home, and then I met with the bishop one evening and informed him that I wasn't technically part of his ward and he said I needed to go to my real ward because he had no priesthood jurisdiction over the block where I lived. He brought me to the stake presidency, who reiterated what he said and added, "If we let people ward-hop, everyone would just go wherever the cutest girls are."
The stake presidency brought me to my real bishop, Bishop Fjeldsted, who conveniently was just waiting in his office. I was not in a good mood. I thought this business of something as trivial as my address being the determining factor of where I belonged spiritually made little or no sense, but I kept that to myself. I figured I would just sit out this meeting with this guy and then go inactive again.
Since I was already not in a good mood, I put up walls before the conversation even started. I figured this guy would want to know why I hadn't been to church for a while and why, for that matter, I wasn't off somewhere else on a mission like I was supposed to be at nineteen, and I tried to forestall those unwelcome inquiries by somewhat petulantly explaining those things before he could ask. But Bishop Fjeldsted, a meek, unassuming man with a huge smile, didn't care about them. He disregarded them altogether and simply expressed his happiness and gratitude for me being here. Somehow by the end of the meeting I was willing to come back, at nine a.m. on Sunday.
Bishop Fjeldsted recommended I get to know Peter, the Elders Quorum president. I resisted that idea because I wasn't keen on being friends with someone who was assigned to be my friend. But Peter was so persistent that eventually his genuine goodness won me over. This post isn't about him. I should write a post about him at some point. Both of these great men, in any case, became people I could confide in. Peter was a peer, but Bishop Fjeldsted was the first "adult" figure in my life that I could share personal things with and not regret it. He turned out to be from New York and have an Aspie child, so in some ways he was probably better prepared to understand me than I could have dreamed of. I grew to love him and the 36th Ward almost immediately. Not bad for arbitrary geography.
(Since then, I became aware of others who attended my ward despite not living in its boundaries or, in the case of one 37-year-old woman, its targeted age demographic. Years later when I informed a high councillor that I was temporarily defecting to the 35th Ward, he said, quote, "Just go wherever the cutest girls are. That's what I would do." Close quote.)
Bishop Fjeldsted and Peter were there to support me through probably the worst period of my life, when I almost lost my faith, starved to death, got evicted, and/or killed myself on more than one occasion. They helped plenty with my temporal struggles in their church capacities, but also dispensed plenty of advice and priesthood blessings for the emotional ones that seemed even more hopeless. In particular, a couple of quotes from Bishop Fjeldsted will stick with me forever. In one sacrament meeting he said, "Pride has no intrinsic value, but we're willing to sacrifice everything for it." And that blew my freaking mind. On another occasion, as I cried in his office, he mused, "Our society gives women a free pass to lie for their convenience." And that little observation is why he'll never become a General Authority despite being fully qualified.
Of course I felt cheated when he was pulled into the stake presidency. I had built up this relationship with him over a year and a half, and now I was expected to just transfer it over to this new Bishop I'd never even met? It didn't work like that. I had to start over building a relationship from scratch with the new guy, until they replaced him too. I'm not crazy about this system. I'm sure bishops appreciate being let go after a few years, though. Except when they get immediately transferred into the stake presidency.
But as a member of the stake presidency, President Fjeldsted still said hi and asked how things were going whenever he saw me, not in the fake way that everyone else does, but as an actual question looking for an honest answer. I still sought his advice a couple times. When I was running myself ragged doing chores and errands almost every day for a friend with Lyme disease that hardly anyone seemed to care about, he told me that I shouldn't overexert myself because she wasn't my responsibility. At the time his advice seemed callous. Now, however, I wish I had internalized it and followed it when a "friend" from high school who hadn't spoken to me for nine years decided to start asking for my money, because if I had told her where she could go after the first couple times, I could have saved myself from months of hell. I'll never make that mistake again. Anyway.
So last weekend I said goodbye to him and his wife, and they reminisced about how long they've known me, and he said to stay in touch, and he said "I'm proud of how you've handled everything." And nobody's ever said that to me in my life. I thought I would have to wait until I pass to the other side and fall into Jesus' arms to hear that. Sometimes it feels like my mistakes and shortcomings are all that matter to anyone else. So that was cool.
Speaking of death, I dreamed the other night that I went back to New York and found my dog Milo living alone in the woods. I took him to the Kellers' place to play with their dogs, as I often did. But even before I woke up I realized I was dreaming because Milo has been dead for some time and that just took all the fun out of it. In my dream, I almost cried a couple times. I was never able to muster more than a couple tears for him in real life, though I tried. I wanted to experience the normal, healthy emotions of grief. But I had already resigned myself to the fact that he would die much too early and I would have to slog through God knows how many more years of this mortality crap before I can rejoin him. I had this exchange with Bracelets the other day, in fact, after she read through the acknowledgements and blurbs of my book draft that she promised to feedback:
I generally think about the hereafter it in terms of my dog because no humans who were particularly close to me have ever died. My church tends to emphasize the whole "eternal families" thing, but so far I'm much more interested in its additional teaching that animals also have spirits and will be resurrected into eternal bliss. And that makes sense because a heaven without dogs is a poor excuse for a heaven. Maybe I dreamed about Milo because Easter was approaching, or maybe it's just a coincidence, but I've decided to make it meaningful for me regardless.
Also, have a picture of me and him because it seems appropriate. This was taken in high school, so the better part of a decade ago. My grotesquely long arms are a little bit less grotesquely long now.
After "Rogue One" became the second Star Wars movie in a row to have a female main character*, I witnessed some male idiots complaining that even Han Solo would be a woman in his upcoming movie. And as stupid as that was for them to say, it got me thinking. What if the trailers have been deliberately throwing us off this whole time? What if the movie is not primarily about Han... but Hannah? She would, of course, eventually become the Han Solo we know and love, either in this movie or one of its four sequels.
Hannah: What can I do, Chewie? Every bounty hunter in the galaxy knows my face and genetic signature.
Chewbacca (in Shyriiwook): I have an idea, but you're not gonna like it.
The Solo part comes about when the team we saw in the trailers teaches her that group projects are literally the worst.
*Assuming for the sake of this discussion that there is only one "main character" per movie. If we count multiple main characters per movie, then obviously all of them have had female main characters. Interestingly, the idea for a movie about stealing the Death Star plans and this movie having a female main character dates back to around 2003, long before the current efforts at diversifying Star Wars. John Knoll wanted a character for his daughters to look up to. Awwww.
Reasons I'm Looking Forward to "Solo: A Star Wars Story"
*It has the words "Star Wars" in the title. Let's get that out of the way. I will watch anything with the words "Star Wars" in the title, even if the preceding word is "The" and the next two words are "Holiday Special". I have a problem and I don't care who knows it. Not all Star Wars films or TV episodes are made equal, to be sure, but any Star Wars movie or TV episode is better than no Star Wars movie or TV episode. Did we really need this movie? No, we don't technically need any movies ever. Is it a cash grab? Who cares? If someone makes something and millions of people want to give them money for that thing they made, I don't see that as even a little bit problematic. Unless it's a nuclear bomb or a supervirus. But what else do you expect Disney to do?
Executive 1: Well, we've purchased the second most successful franchise ever for $4 billion, and there's obviously still plenty of demand for it, but let's not make any unnecessary new movies.
Executive 2: Brilliant!
Bonus points if you can name the first most successful franchise ever without looking it up. No, it is not Star Trek. Not even close.
*It has some of the coolest aliens I've ever seen anywhere in my life. While it is a bit jarring that the newer films show very few of the traditional Star Wars aliens that I know and love - Rodians, Twi'leks, Grans, Biths, Jawas, etc. - it is exciting to see them making the galaxy a bigger place with hundreds of new ones. And the ones I saw sitting around Lando when Han first meets him look incredible. So bizarre, so unfamiliar, so alien, and yet so realistic. Most of the new aliens are puppets and costumes, but they look so much better than the puppets and costumes of the original trilogy or even the CG of the prequels. Seeing these ones literally took my breath away.
*It respects the original canon. As every nerd is aware, in 2014 Disney invalidated virtually all of the expansive and often contradictory Star Wars books, comics, video games, etc. in favor of creating their own, but they still liberally borrow and adapt from what came before. In the original canon, Han joined the Imperial Acadamy and got expelled for rescuing a Wookiee slave named Chewbacca. The trailers clearly show Han joining the Imperial Academy. The gang Han Solo faces off against has been officially identified as the Cloud-Riders, who first appeared in one of Marvel's earliest Star Wars comics in 1977. In that story, Han Solo faced off against them with a small band of hired vigilantes who included a green wisecracking six-foot-tall rabbit named Jaxxon and an eccentric Jedi Knight in shining armor named Don-Wan Kihotay. Yeah. That was a thing that happened.
*It looks like the Empire aren't the primary bad guys. They're in it, obviously, but from the trailers it appears that they're in the beginning and then fade away to let gangsters and crime lords be the primary bad guys. This would be a refreshing change of pace. Even with most of the old canon gone, I think the Empire has become overused when there are so many other eras and characters in the galaxy to explore. They're like Indiana Jones' Nazis.
*It covers new genre territory. Star Wars is mostly scif-fi, specifically space opera, with heavy mythological and religious overtones. "The Star Wars Holiday Special" was... uh... something or other. The no-longer-canon Ewoks movies and TV series were fantasy, with lots of magic ridiculousness and heavy inspiration from The Lord of the Rings. "Rogue One" was a gritty war film. But there has never been a Western/heist Star Wars movie until now. Disney can never please everybody as it tries to strike a balance between nostalgia and originality, but I for one applaud any experimentation with new territory even if it doesn't always work as well as they hoped. For that reason I preferred "The Last Jedi" to "The Force Awakens" even though it weirded me out.
*It has Mimban in it. In 1978, Alan Dean Foster published a book called "Splinter of the Mind's Eye" that was meant to work as a low-budget sequel to the original Star Wars if it flopped. To save money on scenery, almost the entire book was set on a foggy swamp planet. Circarpous V, aka Mimban. Han Solo is nowhere to be seen because there was no telling if Harrison Ford would be willing to return for another movie, so the story follows Luke and Leia and Artoo and Threepio as they race against Darth Vader for the Kaiburr Crystal that amplifies one's connection to the Force. And it veers into some very uncomfortable territory between Luke and Leia, like when they're alone on a raft and Leia is sleeping and Luke stares at her lips and I've said too much already. Anyway, I first picked up this almost thirteen years ago and I loved it. Though I didn't consciously copy it, I can almost certainly credit it with my own story "Space Girls" also revolving around a crystal with supernatural powers. So, nostalgia blast. Mimban's canonicity was preserved by a passing mention in an episode of "The Clone Wars", but seeing it on the big screen was too much to hope for.
*Donald Glover looks great as Lando Calrissian. Of course, we have to cut movies a little slack because real people's appearances don't change as much with age as character's appearances do with different actors. Someday soon this problem will be solved with CG. But for now, Donald Glover is more than good enough. He looks similar enough and I enjoyed him in "Community" and he oozes charm and charisma every moment that he's onscreen in the trailers. And somewhere, I just know some mouth-breather is complaining about "the ------- social justice warriors who added another black character to Star Wars".
*Having said that, the actor they got to play Chewbacca looks exactly like the one in the original trilogy. He has the same facial structure and the same fur coloration all over and everything. He could be Peter Mayhew's clone. God bless George Lucas for saving these abnormally tall and hairy people from lives as circus freaks.
*It has the words "Star Wars" in the title.
A Reason that Puts a Teensy Little Damper on My Enthusiasm for "Solo: A Star Wars Story"
*Alden Ehrenreich looks very little like Harrison Ford. The mere fact of someone besides Harrison Ford portraying this character doesn't bother me in the slightest, but seeing as they're supposed to be the same person and Harrison Ford came first, he does need to be emulated. They don't need to be identical, like I said, but Alden Ehrlenlich is light-years away. As with Hannah, this discrepancy could also be resolved in-universe with surgery.
I will wait to see the movie before judging him on his acting. But Disney looked at thousands of auditions and literally picked the first one they saw because why exactly? It's not as if there aren't others out there who look more like Harrison Ford. This guy, for instance, who made this little gem that helps tide me over while I wait for the movie. Bracelets writes: "HOLY CRAP. THAT DUDE COULD BE HARRISON'S ILLEGITIMATE!!!"
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About the Author
C. Randall Nicholson is a white cisgender male and a Latter-day Saint, so you can hate him without guilt, but he's also autistic, so you can't. Unless you're an anti-vaxxer, in which case the feeling is mutual. This blog is where he periodically rants about life, the universe, and/or everything.