I should have been at work when they came, but the internet went down and we were all sent home early. I thought I would use my newfound freedom to take a sorely needed nap, and maybe if the snow ever stopped I would shovel the sidewalk for everyone. But no. Around one in the afternoon they came and knocked on my door.
Even though I would have much preferred to be left alone, I was prompt in answering, but not prompt enough for them, if their indiscreet ducks and peeks under my half-closed window shades were any indication. Two guys I couldn't get a clear look at. My upstairs neighbors, I assumed, as peeking in people's windows is frowned upon and thus the sort of thing friends goofing off would do. I opened the door and discovered how wrong I was.
As the police officers made small talk and gently invited themselves in, I racked my brain trying to come up with anything I could have possibly done to warrant this visit. Had my years of jaywalking finally come up with me? Their refusal to get straight to the point didn't help. I concluded after a few agonizing seconds that this was a misunderstanding of some kind, and once they had satisfied themselves that I had no drugs or weapons or Nickelback albums they would leave me alone. They did make a rather obvious show of looking at every item or piece of clutter in my living room, as if forming their opinion of me right then and there, but there was no actual search. I sat, they stood. My memory is already fragmented so I don't know if I've gotten all the basic points in the right order, but I think I've gotten them all covered at least. I'm also going to censor myself less than usual because I feel like it.
The one guy who did most of the talking while his partner stood back and to the side finally got to the point. "Your neighbors next door have expressed concern about you," he said.
Oh. So this was an intervention because I had recently been talking candidly to one of them about my lack of will to live. She'd taken it the wrong way if she was actually concerned or thought I was planning to kill myself, but that was probably my fault, so fair enough and I would be more careful about phrasing in the future.
"They said you've been making them uncomfortable," he continued stiffly. "You are not to talk to them anymore, you are not to text them, you are not to call them. Consider this a warning."
At this point, one thought overwhelmingly dominated my mind, and that thought was What the fuck?
Out loud, I phrased it a bit more tactfully.
"You know the texts you sent them?" He sounded contemptuous and borderline hostile, derisively emphasizing "the texts" as if they were proof that I had murdered a kitten.
"Yeah," I said.
"What kind of texts were they?"
I hesitated, which I immediately assumed they had immediately taken as an admission of guilt. The reason I hesitated was because there was no way to answer that question in a few words. It required a decent bit of backstory and context. "They were - well, I can show you," I said, reaching for my phone.
"We've already seen them," he snapped, his voice rising as if my response had been evasive or obstinate instead of, you know, the opposite of those things.
Now, I'm going to interject some of that backstory and context. It doesn't make a difference to anything now but someday I'll be gone and want the record set straight for posterity. There were, I assume, only two of the five neighbors involved, best friends, the only ones I knew much at all - or thought I knew, anyway. I'll call them C and T. The officer never did clarify for sure which horrible texts he had in mind, but I hadn't texted C for nearly a week, and I had been texting T the previous day. And yes, some of those texts were "weird". But so is T.
The second time I had a conversation with T, she had granted my request to come over and discuss something that I would tell her if she promised to keep it confidential. "I promise," she had said with a smile. And when I showed up, of course she already knew what it was. I wanted to talk about her roommate C. She was very friendly and supportive and gave me lots of advice in a conversation that stretched on about four times as long as I'd anticipated, which I had to cut short so I could go to work. She said I should invite C to go for a walk, and I said I was too nervous, so she said we'd compose the text together, then took my phone and composed and sent the text on her own.
More to the point here, though, she told me she could read people's auras, that she'd seen mine, that it was refreshingly devoid of the usual flashing lights and loud noises and smells of most people's auras, that my heart was a nice color, that the emotional damage she saw in me wasn't as bad as I thought and just needed a little time and attention to heal, and that she could glimpse the future sometimes and this was one of those times and that the walk C had miraculously agreed to as we sat there would turn out to be a good experience, but she wouldn't say how because knowing your own future will make you ruin it. Which sounds legit. You know, I'm often a skeptic, but I do think the world is a strange and wondrous place and if someone tells me they have gifts like these, I'm happy to take their word for it as long as they're not charging too much.
T was a very calm, soothing influence. She seemed to spew wisdom in every sentence with a cryptic smile plastered on her face. She seemed to know everything and be incapable of surprise. But she wasn't cocky, she was just like "I know everything and I'm not worried so you shouldn't worry either." Basically she was like real-life Luna Lovegood. And every time then or thereafter I expressed a misgiving beaten into me by years of misfortune that I had said or done something weird to upset her or C, she acted confused as to why I would think that way when clearly I had said or done nothing wrong and needed to calm down. Basically, she was a strange, free spirit who had seen my innermost self and pronounced it wholesome, who implicitly and explicitly made me feel like I could be candid and honest and not stress about always saying the "right" thing the "right" way because she would know what I meant.
I know now that for some length of time - maybe a day, maybe weeks, maybe from the start - she was straight-up deceitful with me.
So these particular texts that made me the worst person in the world started Sunday evening after I called T to ask about something else and then hesitated and she sensed there was more I wanted to say. By her own admission she was really, really bad at responding to texts, but on this occasion she made a promise to respond for the next twenty-four hours. I took her up on that and took advantage of the time allotted to cover as much ground as possible.
My first question had to do with what she'd said months earlier about my aura. It seemed from what she'd said that she had looked into my soul and pronounced it good. And I wanted to know, was that all she'd seen, or had she seen the ugliness too? Because this is something I've pondered and wrestled with plenty of times and was doing so again as the new year provided an impetus for introspection and improvement. Plenty of people think I'm great and whatever, but virtually none of them are very familiar with my gamut of shortcomings. I, on the other hand, have a more balanced picture of myself and am less inclined to think I'm so great, but am I just too hard on myself? The people who think I'm great would say so, but how would they know when they can't see what I see? So I thought T would have one-of-a-kind perspective and could maybe put me at ease, if she could be like "Yes, I saw your soul's defects but it was still good and beautiful overall."
She said - and I saved this response because it was so poetic - "I'll be completely honest with you. Your outer shell looked covered in cigarette burns, cuts, infection, and you looked starved and severely damaged. Your outer shell was blotchy in color from a lack of sunlight and extreme cold. Your head was covered in cracks and had exposed parts to your brain. I saw some things that aren't my place to say because it would only give you flashbacks and anxiety."
I said, "That sounds about right."
That was the part where I opened up more. She wasn't able to respond for a bit but I wanted to take advantage of my twenty-four hours so I kept texting. When she responded she said she was glad I had told her these things but there wasn't really anything she could do to help and I should talk to somebody more qualified. I said she'd been very helpful in the past and shouldn't underestimate herself, and I was pleased that for once I was the one in a position to tell her to have a higher opinion of herself. Now, in hindsight, maybe at this point she was trying to tell me to shut the hell up, and interpreted my response as a refusal. I didn't ask her to cure me, though. I only meant that she was more helpful than she gave herself credit for.
But I imagine her main problem with me arose on Monday, when I asked her on a whim if she could interpret dreams. She said sometimes depending on certain factors and whatnot. I told her I'd had some weird dreams about someone - I figured she knew who I was talking about, but didn't specify because us both be objective about it and limit the awkwardness - and I was pretty sure most of them were meaningless nonsense, but one of them I wanted to check because it had a bit of biblical imagery, nothing too fancy but enough to make me wonder a little. It wasn't a big deal or a priority - the dream had happened weeks earlier - but I figured as long as T was committed to responding for a certain time period and this seemed like something that would be right up her alley, it couldn't hurt to ask. I was perfectly aware that this isn't a topic to bring up with just anyone, but she wasn't just anyone. I thought I could share anything with her.
She queried me about the sparse details, which I don't feel like getting into in this public space at this time, but I promise it wasn't a vision of my mother and/or wife dying. Then she asked who this person in the dream(s) was. I started to feel uneasy for the first time in our twenty-four hours. She said she already knew who it was so I should just spit it out. I did, playing right into what I'm now positive was a duplicitous attempt to make me incriminate myself - not for actually doing anything illegal or unethical, of course, but for being creepy. I think even subconsciously at the time I picked up on a change in her that I shouldn't have overlooked.
"Please don't be upset," I said.
"Why would I be upset?" she lied.
She said this dream and other unrelated ones stemmed from my own insecurities, that they came from a bad place and I should ignore them. I mulled it over, somewhat surprised that she would see any bad influences behind it, but she was usually right about things so I accepted that. I wasn't surprised or disappointed that this dream which I knew probably meant nothing actually did mean nothing. I thought that would be the end of it and assumed without question that she would continue to respect the confidentiality she promised me.
And that, essentially, is what I would have liked to be able to explain to the police. But if they had read these texts back even a little ways, they should have been able to see for themselves that T's were totally on board with everything, that she believed all this stuff about auras and dream reading and that she started the auras part herself. This was not an instance me sending weird texts to a normal person who wouldn't be expected to know what to do with them. I suppose she told them she was just playing along so she could incriminate me for being weird.
As far as my texts to C, there was no similar weirdness. Originally I got her number when I showed up to invite her to go hiking with some friends, and she wasn't home but T invited me in (this was before our aforementioned discussion) and offered it to me on a sticky note. Even though it's normal behavior for people within YSA ward boundaries to look up each other's numbers in the directory, I was nervous that C wouldn't appreciate me having hers without permission. T said it was fine. The point became moot when C came home right then and I was able to talk to her in person, but as I was about to leave I said, "Oh, your roommate gave me your number and wanted me to text you."
"You're welcome to text me," she said, and no sooner had the words left her mouth than their dog ran out the door and we spent the next five minutes chasing it.
Despite this explicit permission, I was afraid to text her and didn't until T did it for me. I was afraid because I'd had far too many experiences of texting women and having them invalidate my existence by responding between two and zero times. In early 2016, this happened with three different women in the span of a couple of weeks, sufficiently breaking my spirit that I vowed to never ask for a woman's number again. And I didn't. And I fully expected that C would decline the invitation T wrote for me, and that she would stop responding almost immediately thereafter. Instead I found her her responses incredibly consistent and prompt, especially for one so busy, and warm and friendly as well. I wasn't so delusional as to think that the smiley faces were flirtatious, but they did at least give off the impression that she enjoyed texting me. Yet I constantly felt like this was too good to be true, that my luck would run out and reality would reassert itself. Every time she responded I felt like I'd performed a miracle.
Instead of the scheduled walk, we ended up just sitting and talking on campus, which was delightful in itself. C gave me an unsolicited friendly hug when we parted ways. But some time later I grew bold and asked if we could try for the walk again. It was finals week, when I hoped she would have a bit more room in her schedule owing to the lack of classes, but she said she was busy and stressed and trying to figure some things out and get everything ready to go home for the break, and asked if we could do it sometime next year instead. I said for sure but that I was sorry to hear she wasn't doing well and hoped she could get some much-needed relaxation. I left it at that because she seemed like she needed space and would brush off any offers of assistance on my part. Over the break, I only texted her on Christmas (when we had a nice conversation) and New Year's Eve (when I texted once, she responded and I didn't).
When school started up I started texting her more, and at long last we got into some deep discussions and she put the stunning intelligence I'd seen in her eyes long ago on full display. I shed a few tears of joy. That conversation tapered off but I figured she was busy and didn't worry much about it. I waited a day or so, then asked if she would be up for a walk the following weekend. She said her foot hurt too much from spraining it over the break, and that she needed more time. I said no worries and this time I did ask if there was something I could do and of course she said no. We texted some more about school and stuff, she stopped responding even though I asked a direct question, and that was quite a disappointment but I didn't let it get to me. I decided to wait a week before texting her again. She went to the police before that week was up.
What I'm trying to get across is that no reasonable person on the planet could find any cause for complaint in this set of texts. I bent over backwards to respect real or imagined boundaries and not pressure or overwhelm C in any way. So I assume this was all about the other texts, and that T violated her promise of confidentiality. Of course I there would have been valid cause to do so if she had reason to suspect that I presented a danger to someone. But nothing whatsoever in any of these texts provided such a reason either - unless, of course, one factors in the statistically baseless but ever-popular assumption that all mentally ill people (but mostly just all mentally ill men, if we're being honest) are ticking time bombs who threaten normal people, in which case every weird thing I said became ipso facto proof that I was scary. I can imagine T thinking, "Crap, he's more insane than I thought; I'd better stab him in the back." But by her own logic there, I should have run and told somebody as soon as she got that smile and started talking about the color of my heart.
And if, for the sake of make-believe, I did have less than pure intentions toward C, why in the everlasting gulf of death and misery would I confide in and seek advice from her best friend as much as possible? Is that how stupid T thinks I am? I almost find that more insulting than her betrayal. She knows me better than that.
The talkative (and rude) cop, nonetheless, consistently referred to "the texts you sent them" as if they owned the same phone, which I thought was kind of stupid. (For that matter, he never even specified that it was just the two of them and not all five neighbors under discussion, but I've only ever sent one text to one other, and it was in response to her finding my number and texting me to say she'd retrieved my package while I was out of town, which now that I think of it was kind of creepy and I obviously should have told the police to tell her never to text me or take my stuff again.) He went through that little spiel in his unnecessarily belligerent manner, seeming to take for granted that I wouldn't comply with this injunction I was hearing about for literally the first time ever unless he threatened me, and then softened. "Any questions?" he asked.
I told him, truthfully, that this had come out of nowhere, that my neighbors had never complained to me about anything I said or did, or given me the slightest indication that there were any problems of any kind.
The quiet cop got his piece in. "Some people don't like confrontations," he said.
Ah, of course. Other people's freedom to avoid resolving conflicts like adults at all costs should certainly trump my freedom to not be treated like a criminal in my own home for no justifiable reason. Why do we pay taxes for law enforcement, if not to use them as pawns in real-life Facebook blocking as a first and only resort to prevent any communication about our personal drama? I thought they were my friends.
The talkative (and rude) cop then mentioned in passing a few things that were garbled to the point of inaccuracy, making it clear that either C and T or he himself had no problem playing fast and loose with facts. I believe there's something very specific in the scriptures about bearing false witness against thy neighbor... He mentioned "the Tootsie rolls and the notes" that I left on their doorstep and said specifically not to leave notes anymore.
Back in the early days of what I thought was our friendship, I noticed on C's public Instagram status that she was a huge fan of Tootsie rolls. I didn't understand the fascination myself for such a monotone-flavored candy, but different strokes for different folks. Although now that I think of it there are multiple flavors and I shouldn't have just assumed she only meant the chocolate ones. Anyway, I had gotten the feeling lately that she was going through a rough time, and I figured even if my intuition was wrong it was still correct because any life as busy as hers would suck, and the idea just coalesced in my mind that it would be nice to do something nice for her and that Tootsie rolls could be it. I got the biggest bag I could find, put it in an old Amazon package with the address torn off, and yes, God forbid, I put a note with it - a note comprised of two words explaining who its intended recipient was. And I left it on her doorstep.
It was just a nice thought that seemed like a good idea at the time, and I had no further thoughts or aspirations than that. I kept myself anonymous and felt that the selflessness of the act would be compromised if I did otherwise. However, I did tell one person, a mutual friend who kept me informed that C thought the gift was very thoughful, couldn't be happier to have it, and really really wanted to find out who it was from. This friend urged me to the point that a week later I knocked on C's door and explained, and she expressed her gratitude and I bowed out as fast as I could so I didn't seem like I was expecting anything.
The only other time I left something on their doorstep was a birthday present for her, on the day she had told me was her birthday, selected to match some of the biggest interests she had told me about. This one, also, had a note, eleven words long this time as I recall, which may be where I crossed the line into unacceptable behavior. It was anonymous again but I knew she would know it was from me but I planned to deny it because she couldn't prove anything, so I could at least maintain some semblance of selflessness. When the time came, though, I realized I couldn't lie to her even for such a purpose, so I phrased my denial as an overly obvious joke. She said she was very happy to have it. When T invited me over late the next week I saw it in a place of prominence on the kitchen table.
Those two notes accompanying those two packages, together totalling thirteen words, were the only notes that I left for anyone living there at any time. So, "don't leave any more notes"? What the actual hell?
The police officer also mentioned that they said I was "always" outside when they went by, which is quite an absurd statement. The way they/he phrased it would seem to suggest that Sometimes I saw one or both of them in the yard and popped out to talk to them because opportunities to do so were few and far between. I stayed within or next to my own doorway unless the dog was also present and delighted as always to see me. I didn't see it as problematic because we all lived in the same building and I thought they were my friends, but If I'd suspected at all that they did, I wouldn't have tried to talk to them. In any case I'd estimate that all of these brief encounters with either or both of them averaged less than one a week. I recognize that "always" was meant as a bit of hyperbole anyway but in this case, it's actually just a lie. Perhaps they were just really, really upset for some reason about both of the times one of them came outside to find me playing with the dog after they left it tied up alone in the cold?
The police officer said, "Don't follow them." I have never followed them. I'm not even sure what they're smoking if they think I've ever followed them.
I also would just like to mention that one time I had my headphones on and didn't hear T knocking on my door for four minutes or see her text announcing her arrival, so she went around to the living room window by where I was sitting and banged on that. I didn't mind it, and felt really bad for wasting four minutes of her life, but if our positions had been reversed I never ever would have dared to do the same with her or any other woman who hadn't been a close intimate friend for at least three years.
Oh, and I'm sorry, I really didn't mean to get onto this tangent, but I should also mention the reason she came. She had told me before that she needed to show me something and ask me something. So now she showed me an unsettling handdrawn picture of a lanky Grey alien with human woman's hair and a smiling mouth of long sharp teeth. It looked as if it had been torn into bitty pieces and taped back together. I was silent for a moment as I tried to process this freaky random thing she'd thrust in my face, then said "Wow, that's something."
She asked, "Do you know what it is?"
"No," I said.
"Okay," she said, and left with it.
I texted her to nonchalantly mention that the picture was going to haunt my dreams at night and asked what it meant.
"It doesn't mean anything," she texted back, "it's just a picture. Are you Irish?"
I answered honestly and didn't press for an explanation, but I asked C about it a couple days later. She said she didn't know about this particular instance, though she had seen T drawing something, but T just did random checks like that from time to time and never explained what she was checking. I would be able to count my friends on one hand if I did weird crap like that. Aren't double standards and hypocrisy amazing? I should have called the police anyway.
So to summarize that painfully long section, my neighbors sent the police after me for not entirely accurate reasons because they weren't willing to talk to me about their concerns like adults. I thought they were my friends and I thought they were mature and intelligent people. To say that the truth blindsided me would be the understatement of the year, which admittedly hasn't been underway very long but still.
Now the officer changed the subject and acted all concerned. He asked if I was depressed or suicidal right now. And yes, it just so happened that at that very exact moment, having received this bombshell out of nowhere that despite trying to learn and grow and have friends throughout my adult life I still have no social skills, I still make women uncomfortable, and I still don't have a place in this society, and that if nothing's gotten better by now it's not likely ever going to and there's not much to live for if this kind of bullshit and all the other bullshit I've been through are what I have to look forward to indefinitely, my desire to get the hell off this planet had spiked a little.
He queried me about past suicide attempts, plans and so forth. I have this crazy thought that if he was really so concerned about my emotional health, he could have maybe not started his approach by trying to confuse and scare the crap out of me, but what do I know about police work? He asked if he could take me to the hospital.
"I don't have insurance," I said.
"I'd just take you in the patrol car," he said. "No ambulance." (Note for non-Americans: This is relevant because in the dystopian nightmare called the United States of America, an ambulance ride can cost up to two thousand dollars.)
"But how much would the visit cost?" I pressed.
"I don't know," he said, "but your life is more important than money."
I silently disagreed. I will concede the point that being alive is a prerequisite to money having any value at all, but on the flip side, a life devoid of money is essentially one long hellscape of anxiety and deprivation that I for one don't consider a more attractive alternative to not having to worry about the damn stuff. What's the point of a hospital saving my life just so they can make it even worse?
The offer of hospitalization was probably their intention all along based on the more nihilistic texts my neighbors showed them, but ironically, my neighbors doing this to me was the only reason I needed it at that moment, if I did need it, which despite my hesitation I sensed I very well might. And I figured I could still kill myself afterward if it turned out to be too expensive. So I let him convince me, probably because I knew deep down that he was only pretending I had a choice.
The three of us stepped outside. "Thank you for cooperating," said the officer who had snapped at me a few minutes ago for cooperating. Then: "Is it okay if I pat you down? I want to make sure you don't have a knife or anything you could use to hurt yourself in the hospital." So I put my hands on my head and he patted me down right there on the sidewalk where anyone could look out the windows and see us, and in fact one of my upstairs neighbors did, but since he's an actual friend he texted me to ask if I was okay and I said no. I got in the back of the talkative (and previously rude) cop's car - there were two, as they'd driven separately, which struck me as overkill, but then, their being called to the scene in the first place was already overkill - and we set off. No handcuffs, so I didn't get the full experience. On the way the driver chatted with me about school and career aspirations.
Of course when we got to the hospital my first question was about the money and they determined that I might be eligible for Medicaid and should talk to the financial adviser after. I had looked into Medicaid a little and determined that I wasn't eligible, but that just shows how dumb I am.
At one point, besides the officer standing just outside, there were four people in the room - I believe the doctor, the nurse, the social worker, and a woman probably a few years younger than me who inexplicably wore a nametag identifying her origin as Weber State University. She said nothing as the others briefly discussed the details of my case. The word "stalking", spoken as casually as a discussion of the weather, jumped out and hung in the air forever. Here they were talking about me as if I were a monster, while treating me as if I deserved help. Did they not know that the only good stalker is a dead stalker? I guess there was truth in what Dr. Proctor said in one episode of "Pokémon" that I watched a hundred and fifty times as a kid: "A doctor's job is to heal, not to judge."
But what were they really thinking? In particular I wondered about the young Weber woman who never joined in the discussion. Was the appearance of clinical objectivity on her face genuine, or did it merely mask the revulsion she felt toward me? Or worse yet - pity? You poor stupid boy, her eyes might have said. You just can't help it, can you?
In fairness, though, they might have actually said "stocking". I shouldn't jump to conclusions.
Before the officer left, he gave me his name and said I was welcome to call the station and talk to him. I wanted to take him up on his offer and explain why I wasn't the terrible person he thought I was, but what good would that have done? It wouldn't have altered the legal situation at all.
The process mostly consisted of me changing into one of those risque hospital gowns that I guess is supposed to make people less suicidal, and talking to the social worker. I was able to give her a very condensed version of my side of the story but soon figured out that she wasn't really aiming to address what had happened or not happened, just to stop me from killing myself. She asked, "Any physical or sexual abuse growing up?"
Not intentionally, but given what we know about the long-term effects of spanking and slapping children, to say nothing of children who don't know why the hell they're being punished half the time, yes. I said something less articulate to that effect.
She pressed, "Any sexual abuse?"
"No." For a moment I wondered if I should mention the time I was alone with an older relative and he whipped out his penis and tried to convince me to suck it. But after I declined enough times, he gave up and put it back in his pants, so that didn't count as abuse and couldn't have had much impact besides helping me realize years later how fucked up one side of my family is. So it didn't seem relevant and I didn't mention it.
Would I consider this situational depression, she wondered? Well, duh. I didn't really think a chemical imbalance had jack to do with it. I thought that most people - not that most people would ever find themselves in a similar situation, but if they did, most people would have essentially the same emotional response. I didn't think my inability to get over it with a smile and a shrug was something to pathologize.
She said they had to determine whether to let me go home or make me stay for a few weeks, and it was a point in my favor that I had come voluntarily. She asked, "Do you have something to live for?"
If you mean, I thought, do I have any hypothetical future joy nearly as compelling as my real current suffering, then no.
"I want to be a famous author someday," I said, and she accepted that.
Why is my life so valuable to you? I silently demanded. You didn't know I existed before today. If I had died before today, you never would have. You just took this job where you're supposed to tell people you've never met before and know nothing about that they need to stay alive because, nothing else considered, you think being alive is intrinsically so freaking important for some reason. Why?
She gave me a piece of paper to write a plan for handling suicidal urges, and mostly left me to fill it out on my own. One thing she emphasized was that they'd only let me go if I had someone supportive to spend the evening with. I'd already texted Katie, the one person who came to mind because I was talking to her virtually every day, and told her where I was. Now I called and asked if she could do that for me. I didn't want to add to the crap she already had going on, but she seemed like the best option and I knew I would feel safe with her. I got dressed, applied for Medicaid, went home and waited for Katie to get off work and come get me.
While there I decided to announce where I'd just been, so as to strike a blow against the often-fatal stigma surrounding these topics, but I didn't want it to sound like a cry for attention so I balanced it out with more positive news.
My home was a scary place to be while I waited. I was scared to open the blinds, scared to go outside, scared of every sound I heard in the yard or through the wall. I was hungry but had no appetite. When I forced myself to eat something after nearly two hours, I started shivering and couldn't stop.
Katie came and got me, took away my kitchen knife and toaster, and let me tag along with her for the rest of the evening even though she had errands and things to do. She offered to get me something to eat, and though I had no appetite, I knew she wanted to help and I should let her. She asked what I wanted. I said "Something hot" because my insides were cold. Steve, my upstairs neighbor who saw me getting "arrested", offered via text to hang out and talk, but he wouldn't be home for a few hours. When I mentioned that I was afraid to go to bed, Katie suggested that maybe I could also stay the night with him.
She also suggested I talk to our bishop, which I thought was a most excellent idea. It turned out he already knew about it because C and T had actually first gone with their garbled account to one of his counselors in the bishopric who happened to be a police officer, and he in turn, whether because of professional requirements or just being a dick, had sent the two other police officers instead of talking to me himself. So of course this information had also been disseminated to the rest of the bishopric and the secretary, and because it was last minute the bishop only had five minutes or so but wanted to talk anyway. I didn't really appreciate having to start out on the defensive with everyone from the beginning.
There wasn't time to explain very much but I did tell him that I felt my neighbors had been very childish and handled the situation very poorly. I knew it wasn't his place to try and make them reconsider their actions, but it was kind of his business since they had created a substantial rift in his ward, and he wasn't forbidden to communicate with them, and I kind of hoped he would at least meet with them in private and find a really tactful way to suggest that maybe they had been very childish and handled the situation very poorly. I didn't ask him to though. And he just basically said he couldn't do anything about the legal aspect and I needed to do what the police said whether I thought it was right or not. It never occurred to me to do otherwise. In fact, if my neighbors themselves had told me not to have any contact with them, without involving the police, that still would have been out of nowhere, completely uncalled for, and deeply hurtful, but I still would have complied. There's little to be gained in trying to talk to people who hate you that much.
"Will you be able to do that?" he asked.
"That depends," I said. "Are they going to get mad at me for being in my own front yard?"
"I don't know," he said. "Just do your thing. Go to work, come home. Don't watch them." For the record, that was yet another thing I was already not doing. I'm almost surprised nobody told me not to campaign for Donald Trump.
He agreed with my plan to go to another ward for at least a few weeks, and said I could then let him know if I wanted my records moved permanently. He said I need to look forward, because I can't change yesterday, only tomorrow. Very true. I don't waste too much time wishing I could change my yesterdays. I just try to forget most of them ever happened.
While we waited for Steve to get home, Katie took me back to her place and let me watch part of "National Treasure" as we ate chips and salsa. I hadn't seen it in a long time and was surprised at how much I'd forgotten besides the parts engraved on my heart. "I've always wondered," I said as Nicholas Cage explained his brilliant plan to steal the Declaration of Independence, "if people actually learn how to commit crimes by watching movies like this."
"Right?" Katie said. "Me too. This and 'Tower Heist'."
It was about my normal bedtime when I got to Steve's place, but I stayed up for another hour to talk and watch "The Mandalorian" regardless. In the meantime of all this, a few people had reached out from my Facebook post, and I'm not going to pick favorites from the messages I received, but these were my favorite messages I received.
I've had several people in person mention that they love my blog, but from what I can see its search ranking and page views are nowhere near where I think they should be after all this time, and it often feels like I'm just tossing weird words out into empty air and I wonder if it's worth bothering anymore. So this was nice to hear.
I don't know, I can't say the obscure Disney Channel original film "Can of Worms" was great or anything, but it was an acceptable way to spend part of a long car ride. I can't really say it sucked. It had a certain dorky charm. Oh wait, I also saw "The Muppets" (2011) a few days ago. And part of "National Treasure".
But I had to go to bed, and though this particular situation was unprecedented, I'd been through enough Earth-shattering crises to know as well as I knew anything what was going to happen next. No matter how much love and support I'd received from my friends, in person or online, and no matter how much better I was feeling since earlier in the day, it would all be moot as soon as I lay still and alone in the dark and the silence. The depression and anxiety would return with a vengeance and make getting to sleep, a challenging task for me during the best of times, much much much more difficult. After I did calm down enough to get to sleep, I would more than likely be woken up a couple hours later by the depression and anxiety once again in full strength.
I hoped that crashing on Steve's house, in someone else's home, would ameliorate that a little. And maybe it would have in the long run. But after forty-five minutes or so of torture, I got the bright idea to take a long hot shower. So I gathered my things and went downstairs to my own apartment and did that. It made me feel okay for as long as I was in the shower. Before long I was restless enough to turn my phone back on and sober-drunk-text one of my closest friends whom I had already acquainted with the situation.
By "paths I shouldn't go down" I just meant self-destructive behaviors and substance abuse to prevent me from ever falling in love. Nothing weird.
My best way of describing the next few hours is being tied down at the edge of an ocean of pain as wave after wave crashed over me. The pain ebbed and flowed, but remained a constant presence. My heart raced through one drum solo after another and I thought, quite seriously and not for the first time, that I must be losing years off my life from the way it was wearing itself out. A few times I scrounged together the energy and coherence to beg God for help - not a deliverance that I knew wouldn't come, but the strength to endure. The pain didn't change but there were a few moments throughout the night when I could believe I was receiving that strength.
It was, indeed, the same thing I'd come to expect, except worse and longer than any time I could remember, and I gave suicide a serious reconsideration. It seemed slightly unethical to go ahead and kill myself anyway right after the hospital released me, but I hadn't actually promised them I wouldn't, as such, and even if I had, promises meant nothing anymore.
But then I thought of Katie. There were many people I should have stayed alive for, but the one I fixated on was Katie. I knew that if I did it, she would think she had failed, that she hadn't done enough for me. I was certain that her pain wouldn't be nearly as bad as what I was experiencing, but it would nonetheless be pain that I had inflicted on her. And I didn't want to do that. So I endured for her sake.
At 4:36, I chose to accept the fact that I wasn't going to get a single minute of sleep, and a strange kind of peace fell over me. After another half hour I brought my laptop to bed and got a good head start on this post.
You can return from the edge of your seat now. I didn't kill myself. But more importantly, do you know who else didn't kill himself? Jeffrey Epstein. I know, I know, too soon, but somebody has to say it. All y'all sheeple need to wake up.
The very high esteem in which I once held C and T is well and truly gone, and I'm baffled that I could have been so very, very wrong about the kind of people, let alone friends they were. I've been advised to forgive them and not hold onto anger. I will and won't respectively, because this time I literally don't have the energy left to be angry. Now that I've gone through the catharsis of writing this massive post I will do my best to never think about them again. And having set the bar tolerably low, the few days since then have been much much better.
However, T still has in her possession my copy of Splinter of the Mind's Eye that I bought in 2005 and would really like to have back. I still have her copy of Wizard's First Rule that she exchanged for it, but since she chose to legally forbid me from returning it I don't particularly give a damn, and plan to burn it when the weather is nice and my friend Terrah starts doing campfires again. I really would like to have mine back though. We exchanged books the evening she dropped C at the airport and invited me over after she saw me sitting in the yard, and after talking a bit we ended up working on individual projects while "Legion" played in the background because she found horror films relaxing, which isn't weird at all. Just in case she was too polite and passive to make it known when she wanted me to leave, I offered to do so before I wore out my welcome.
With that confused face, she asked, "When wouldn't you be welcome?"
But do you want to know what the very best part is? Well, I think it's the best part, anyway, but that's subjective. I swear I'm not making it up.
I think back to when I moved here a few months ago. The move, I hoped, would symbolize a fresh chapter in my life, and big part of that fresh chapter would be making sure nobody ever again got through the wall around my heart. I fortified it daily. I was aware that some girls lived next door to me, but I ignored them as I did the entire opposite sex, and I knew they would ignore me too and we would coexist in peace.
When I came home from something one day, one of them was standing in my yard with a little dog, which strained at the end of its leash to lavish me with affection as soon as I walked close enough. Having spent far too much of my life without a dog nearby, I knelt down and returned its affection with equal enthusiasm. My eyes never left it. I did not look at the woman awkwardly standing off to the side with the leash. I did not take out my earbuds to hear her speak.
From what I had seen on entering the yard and could see now in my peripheral vision, I made some quick assumptions. She was plain, homely, awkward, and entirely forgettable. The totally blank expression on her face, which later would lead me to believe she, too, was on the spectrum, now seemed to convey her coldness and apathy. I knew she didn't want me here. I knew she was thinking that I looked like a weird person and she didn't like me and she wasn't comfortable with me being here, but she would just have to deal with that because I lived here and I had a right to be here and it wasn't my fault her dog loved me.
As I turned to go into my apartment, though, something made me take out one earbud just in case she did have something to say. In her soft monotone she said, "Have a good day."
But I knew that what she really meant was "Fuck off."
That was the first time I ever noticed C, and my first impression of her.
Why didn't I listen to me?
P.S. Registered Utah voters! Time is almost up to sign the referendum that, if successful, will put Governor Herbert's horrible attempt at tax reform on the ballot instead of shoving it down our throats! Would you rather take a few minutes out of your day to sign, or pay more taxes forever? Join Utah 2019 Tax Referendum on Facebook to learn where to sign and how to volunteer.
Recently I saw this thing on Facebook and decided to tear it apart, because that's what I do.
This is, of course, a highly contrived fictional conversation that somebody made up to pat himself on the back for how woke he thinks he is. (That's still the word kids today are saying, right?) So I shouldn't hurt anybody's feelings by mansplaining what should be the self-evident fact of how ridiculous it is. Of course I realize that in the hierarchy of hate crimes, mansplaining is just below smiling while white, but I never said I was perfect.
Ugh. I know the feeling.
"This 'sexual harassment' ---- is -------- ridiculous".
I am not inclined to empathize or side with someone who starts off by saying this. Actual sexual harassment is wrong, plain and simple, and should not be tolerated in any workplace. But again, this is a fictional person and almost nobody in real life is stupid enough to say this so bluntly in public even if it reflects his actual opinion.
"What, now I can't even tell a woman she is pretty without getting in ---- for it?"
This part is a tad more realistic, and the point where I expected the post to take a completely different turn than it did. I expected the author to say something like, "No, you just have to treat women with respect and not be a pervert. You shouldn't feel personally victimized by that concept. Allow me to explain the difference between sincere, thoughtful compliments and sexual harassment."
"Well, we've worked together for you've never told me I'm pretty."
"That's because you're a dude, like me."
In this instance, the fictional person is correct and the person making up this conversation is an idiot. It is not and never has been normal in any English-speaking region of the world to call a dude "pretty" as a compliment. Even if you're gay. The typical male equivalent is "handsome". If the author had demonstrated a first grade level of English fluency by recognizing this fact instead of pretending that two entirely different contexts are the same thing, he would have greatly strengthened his argument. But he didn't.
"Gotta tell ya, that's a little disappointing because I think you're pretty."
"Cut that ----, bro. You're creeping me out."
Again, the fictitious nature of this conversation is painfully obvious. Based on the context immediately preceding these statements, to say nothing of the way most straight males aged twelve to thirty interact with each other, the fictional sexist straw man would need an IQ in single digits to not realize the author is just being a jackass and messing with him. He certainly would not play right into the author's exceptionally woke hands by saying "You're creeping me out." At best he would roll his eyes and say (correctly) "You're an idiot." But in this SJW wet dream, anything goes.
"Soooo me telling you that you're pretty when you neither asked for nor welcomed comments about your appearance is making you feel uncomfortable."
What alternate reality is this guy living in where you're not supposed to compliment people until they "ask for" it? The same alternate reality where there's no difference between calling women and men "pretty", I suppose. And how exactly does one "welcome" compliments? "Attention, everyone, I am now welcoming comments about my appearance for the next fifteen minutes. Please submit your comments before the deadline or they will not be accepted." Look, if someone is making unsolicited unflattering remarks about your weight or complexion or whatever, of course that's messed up and you have a right to be upset. But if you think people need your permission to say you look attractive, and/or if you can't tell the difference between those things, something's wrong with you.
No, not really, you pompous tool.
And the story ends there. I suppose modesty forbade the author from mentioning the part where all his other coworkers applauded, and the misogynist piece of crap was so ashamed of his behavior that he deleted all his Facebook posts where he had accused Rey of being a Mary Sue.
Once upon a time, a gay friend told me that I'm "dorky cute". I'm not gay, but I appreciated the compliment anyway. More recently, a straight friend told me, "I know guys aren't really supposed to say this, but that shirt really brings out your eyes." He was right, guys aren't really supposed to say that, I appreciated the compliment anyway and started wearing that shirt a lot more often. Last week at church, a friend of my grandparents who's old enough to be my mother asked them, referring to me, "Who is this handsome man?" The obvious explanation is that she needs stronger glasses, but I appreciated the compliment anyway. Though I would have appreciated it more if she had called me pretty. Why didn't she call me pretty, when all the people more woke than me know that's a perfectly normal way to describe men? Another time, I was in the restroom at Hasting's (now closed) when some guy outside started whispering "I want you." I looked around for something to kill him with if he came inside. So I would certainly qualify that one as sexual harassment.
I'm hardly an expert, but here's some free advice on giving compliments that aren't harassment. I waive all responsibilty for death or injuries that may result from following said advice.
First of all, I don't think you should call someone pretty or handsome or cute or whatever unless you actually know them a bit. When complimenting strangers, which if done properly brightens any normal person's day, I think it best to focus on an item of clothing or swag and leave it at that. "I like your scarf", etc. Maybe if you have social skills and pure intentions you can proceed to get to know this person but I wouldn't bother. Even with someone you know, a specific compliment with some thought put into it is usually more meaningful. Something that singles out the clothing, a physical feature from the neck up, a personality trait, or a skill.
I would forego the gender-specific and potentially loaded terminology altogether, to say nothing of slang that could make someone feel objectified, and just say "You look nice." I have never experienced or heard of someone reacting negatively to being told that they look nice. Sometimes they have low self-esteem and try to deny it, but they probably won't bite your head off, but then again people apparently exist who think you need prior authorization to say something like that. Perhaps I've just been fortunate enough to avoid those people. Not that I go around giving out as many compliments as I'm making it sound like here.
If you're a middle-aged or older man, probably just don't compliment anything about the appearance of a woman in her twenties who isn't related to you. It's not harassment if done properly but it just isn't necessary enough to justify the potential discomfort. Yes, there is a double standard that makes this less acceptable than when the genders are reversed, but let's be honest, we all know that double standard exists for a reason and we all know what that reason is. I wish we lived in a world where everyone had pure motives and just wanted to brighten everyone else's day out of the goodness of their hearts. But since we don't, I'll just keep being a jerk.
I don't know about you, but I believe that every time we have a mass shooting here in the United States of America, one's first and only response should be, "Don't you dare take my guns!" Once you've gotten that out of the way you can take a few seconds to pretend to care about the victims, but really, it's probably best to not even bother. That just distracts from what needs to be our highest and only priority. We know that liberals are going to immediately politicize every mass shooting, so we have to beat them to it every time.
Look, just because every other civilized country on the planet has done something about this doesn't mean we can do anything about this. First of all, gun laws won't stop criminals from getting guns. Secondly, gun laws will stop criminals from getting guns, but they'll just use knives instead. And that's just as bad. It's just as easy to kill twenty people at once with a knife as with an AK-47. Makes me wonder why people even bothered inventing AK-47s. People will always find ways to kill people, okay? One time a few years ago somebody drove a truck into a crowded marketplace, and that proves that gun control doesn't work.
The reason gun control doesn't work is that gun violence actually has nothing to do with guns. It's all caused by atheism, mental illness, and violent video games. This also explains the discrepancy between the United States of America and everywhere else, because obviously none of those things exist in Canada, Europe, Australia, Japan, or any of the other places that don't have mass shootings every week.
In particular, mentally ill people like me and others I care about deserve to be further stigmatized after every mass shooting. In fact, as our beloved President says, we should be involuntarily confined for the protection of normal people. This is actually a very old idea and I'm not sure why we stopped doing it a few decades ago, but the consequences of stopping are clear. Now it may seem like I'm arguing against my own interests here, and disregarding the actual facts that clearly show zero correlation between mental illness and mass shootings, but I recognize that the Republican Party needs to protect its gun fetish at all costs, and if my quality of life is necessary collateral damage then so be it. At least I'm not yet one of the people getting shot.
Of course, I can't complain too much regardless. I can only try to imagine how it must feel to be a Latino in this great nation right now. But let me be clear that our beloved President bears no culpability for what happened, or for the climate that engendered it. He has never said anything ever that could be interpreted by any reasonable person as fanning the flames of American racial hatred and divisiveness. I mean, he even admitted that some undocumented immigrants aren't drug pushers or rapists. What more could you ask for?
I bring this all up because we need to be ready to have this discussion again, and again, and again, so we can make sure nothing actually changes. Nothing needs to change. There are lots of other causes of death that kill more people than mass shootings, so anyone who acts outraged over white supremacists and other scum going on killing sprees with impunity in this country is a fearmongering hypocrite and a moron. In fact, they're also a liar. They don't really care about the victims, they just want to take our guns. That's why we need to rise up, ignore the victims and shout "Don't you dare take my guns!"
I'll start off with some good news that has no relevance to the main topic. Although some high-ranking people in Utah's education system were determined to prevent children from learning accurate science, they've now officially lost. If they had succeeded in putting creationism in schools, they would have been sued like Kansas and then lost, so Utah has been spared some considerable resources and embarrassment here. And since I wrote a letter to the editor of the Salt Lake Tribune about this some time ago, I'll take credit for science's victory. You're welcome.
The main topic is not the most pleasant one to read or write about, but I think it's kind of important. Trigger warning: sexual assault.
Mike Norton is not a friend of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I believe there are very few people on the planet who hates the Church more than he does. As far as its critics go, he's one of the nastiest, most unstable, and most willing to cross ethical boundaries, which is saying something. He likes to purchase temple recommends from equally unethical church members and record the ceremonies and post them on YouTube, except now he has to have helpers do it because the temple workers know who he is. So when McKenna Denson claimed that former MTC president Joseph Bishop attempted to rape her decades ago, and sued the Church for allegedly covering it up and not doing anything about it, Mike Norton was a natural ally. He happily filmed her harassing and embarrassing Bishop, and in return, she showed up to support him when he recently went to court for violating the Church's restraining order. It was a beautiful friendship. How could one not be touched watching them sing "Won't You Be My Neighbor" on the way to Bishop's ward to disrupt fast and testimony meeting?
But it was not to last.
Before this week, I would have regarded the possibility of Mike Norton teaming up with the Church of Jesus Christ against his former ally as only slightly more likely than Donald Trump expressing his admiration for Mexican Muslim women. Yet it turns out that he does have a shred of integrity. When his friend McKenna Denson claimed that three attempts on her life were made earlier this year, he naturally was concerned and wanted to help investigate. But in the course of his investigation he found some disturbing revelations. Now, some of this was already pointed out by the Church's legal team, and they got crucified for it. How dare they investigate the trustworthiness of someone who's suing them for a crapload of money? Don't they know they're obligated to roll over and accept whatever abuse is heaped on them? But Mike Norton found all that and more, and now he's quite literally and deliberately helping the legal team of his most despised religion in the world, because if possible, he now despises McKenna Denson even more. And he's getting applauded for it by most of the same people who crucified said legal team.
To sum up: McKenna Denson, or June Hughes as she used to be known before her criminal record under the latter name got inconveniently big, has a decades-long history of forgery, shoplifting, deliberately injuring herself or her property to file fraudulent lawsuits, extorting money via false rape/assault accusations (sometimes against actual men, and sometimes against imaginary men who are always black because it turns out she's racist too), and soliciting donations by pretending to have cancer. This last bit is what really set Mike Norton off and made him decide she's the worst person he's ever met. In a recorded phone call, he subjected her to a hefty dose of unhinged but not undeserved verbal abuse and told her that the people she scammed will now be less likely to donate to real cancer victims, so she's literally taken money away from children with cancer. Throughout the 14-minute phone call she denied none of his allegations and showed no remorse. She remained calm and implacable as he promised to end her career of lies and put a bullet between her eyes if she ever sets foot on his property again. (Trespassers are the worst, eh Mike?)
And it does look like McKenna Denson is finished. The vast majority of her supporters turned against her overnight. True, most of them are disgusting hypocrites who whined about the Church "persecuting" her when it pointed out her criminal record, but that detracts very little from my schadenfreude at watching her go down in flames. I originally formed no solid opinion on her claim against Joseph Bishop because it wasn't my place to do so, even though a helpful stranger informed me that I was "promoting rape culture" by holding him to the same standard that all accused persons are entitled to in the United States of America. Of course I didn't want it to be true, but it's by no means impossible for a high-ranking church leader to do something so terrible. They're not Jesus. I wrote a blog post over a year ago summarizing the details of the case, but I had to update it every day as more details came out, so I soon gave up and left it unpublished and just hoped the people who actually have authority in these matters would get at the truth. I'll probably publish it in the near future anyway so all that effort doesn't go to waste.
The clear fact now, though, is that McKenna Denson has been lying about being raped, and various other things, since before she even went on her mission. That's actually impressive. And the police know about this. So the fact that she isn't already in prison for life demonstrates that something is very, very wrong with our society. At the very, absolute least, the police should have stopped listening to her long ago. Anytime she goes to them for literally any reason, they should laugh in her face and tell her to take a long walk off a short pier, because for forty years or so she's been one of the least trustworthy people in the human race. She has repeatedly and voluntarily thrown away her right to be believed about anything whatsoever. Sorry not sorry. She never should have been allowed to file this bullcrap lawsuit against the Church, but since her one charge that didn't get dismissed already is moving forward, it looks like she'll be getting additional comeuppance, this time with nobody supporting her, and in fact with her previous most prominent supporter testifying against her on behalf of the Church. We live in strange times.
False rape accusers, which McKenna Denson/June Hughes demonstrably is several times over even if by some small chance she happens to be telling the truth this time, are every bit as wicked in my book as actual rapists. They put their victims through hell and they make it more difficult for real rape victims to be taken seriously. And her other lies and lawsuits took money from innocent people too. And pretending to have cancer is a garbage thing to do even if you don't take people's money, which she did. I don't care about the forgery and shoplifting. Nobody's perfect. If that was the only thing on her criminal record I would disregard it. But all of this taken together is why I would rejoice in her fall from public approval even if she wasn't targeting my religion. The judge will come to his or her own conclusions, but as far as I'm concerned the Church's only error in judgment was letting this monster serve a mission after she had already started her career of lies.
Mike Norton tells her to "rot in hell" even though he doesn't believe in hell. As tempted as I am to concur with that request, I must remind myself that I am not her judge. I am not either of their judge, and with that disclaimer I make this observation. Mike Norton is an amazing illustration of moral complexity. He's done some very crappy things and there's no indication that he intends to stop just because he's in a momentary truce of sorts. Yet this week he demonstrated that he has some ethical boundaries and gives a crap about innocent people, including those affiliated with what he considers his worst enemy. McKenna Denson/June Hughes, on the other hand, appears to give a crap about nothing and nobody but herself. Her lack of reaction to Mike's accusations paints her as totally amoral and unconcerned with the harm she's inflicted on so many people. This may be an indicator of mental illness, or it may just be that her conscience has fallen silent after decades of her willfully ignoring it.
Mike Norton's video where he discusses the police reports on McKenna Denson/June Hughes (with a bit of swearing toward the end):
Mike Norton's earlier phone call with McKenna Denson/June Hughes where he majorly flips out on her (with much swearing throughout):
First, some unnecessary backstory. Pretty much everything I know about Tinder I learned from a classmate's essay in my Creative Nonfiction Writing course. Like all the creative writing courses, it was uncensored and unfiltered, but this was the only piece of writing I ever heard from a classmate that shocked me and made the professor be like "Um, that's kind of offensive." The questionable parts of the essay were her claims that she looked on Tinder for guys "who don't look like rapists" and that "Mormon men with beards look like they're part of the Taliban". I think I wrote in my comments, "What does a rapist look like?" But it was an informative essay nonetheless, and the only meaningful increase in my knowledge came a couple weeks ago when I was forced to take the first sick day of my life and spend it on the couch waiting to die. I somehow got to reading screenshots of funny, weird, and/or creepy Tinder profiles and messages, and that made me think about Mutual.
Mutual, from what I understood, was like Tinder but only for Latter-day Saints. It was named after the Young Men's Mutual Improvement Association and the Young Women's Mutual Improvement Association (formerly the Young Ladies' National Mutual Improvement Association, formerly the Young Ladies' Cooperative Retrenchment Association) because I presume the far superior name "Tinder Mercies" would have triggered an unwinnable lawsuit. I thought about this app because I was reading about all this scummy stuff on Tinder and I presumed that Mutual wouldn't have this scummy stuff. I'm sure it has some scummy people, but I presumed they had to behave themselves while on the app. And then I wondered if the app was free and then I figured it was probably free but with a Premium version required to actually make it useful, and I verified that and then, being very ill and bored, I downloaded it for reasons I still don't know. And I had another learning experience.
So of course you have to start out by making a profile. You have to have at least one picture, and that's where I hit my first snag. I couldn't find any non-group picture taken of me within the last year that I didn't hate, and even if I could have, I would have considered it misleading. I could concievably get a picture taken at just the right pose and angle and lighting to make me look moderately handsome, but I can't stay at that pose and angle and lighting all the time in real life. Nightmares flashed through my mind of women from the app meeting me in person and being disappointed by my mannerisms, voice, facial expressions, and outlook on life. So I ruled out that route right off. I used the picture of my dead dog (who wasn't dead at the time it was taken). I knew nobody would swipe on that and I didn't care because I just needed a picture so I could move on.
You have to set your profile somewhere on a scale between "Down for Dates" (because alliteration) and "Relationship Ready" (ditto). I couldn't be honest because "Just Browsing" isn't an option. I set msyself toward the former end of the scale but since I wasn't planning to get swiped, I didn't stress about the precise placement. You can say whether you've served a mission and if so, where. I said "Korea Pyongyang North" and got away with it. You can select some interests, hobbies and such, from a list and write a bit about yourself. There are a few prompts, but you can only use one. "Most embarrassing moment? Downloading this app." I should have tested to find out how much you can write but I didn't feel the need to duplicate information already available on the internet. So I just put an invitation to my website, but I didn't get a spike in traffic and I didn't expect one anyway so that was fine. And of course there are cool things you can only do with the Premium version, but I wouldn't have sprung for that even if I could afford it. That would be like paying Spotify every month with no guarantee that I would actually get to listen to music.
Then the app started bombarding me with other people's, specifically women's, profiles, and I immediately noticed what I regard as a tragic design flaw. Each profile just comes up as the woman's default picture, name, age and location. Sometimes she has more pictures you can scroll through. Then you can tap on it and bring up her common interests with you, DD vs. RR status, and whatever she chose to write about herself. And most of them didn't write much about themselves. A lot of them just listed their Instagram names in that space, so I went and followed their Instagrams where I could see several more pictures of them and, in one case, her boyfriend. Sometimes they had a little quip that attempted cuteness but gave little information. "I'm not gluten-free." Oh, good to know because that would have been a dealbreaker. Definitely more useful than your feelings on vaccines or Donald Trump. I admit that one made me smile, though, and I quote: "Just please don't murder me."
So the design flaw is this: I believe the Mutual app, whether by design or practice, encourages shallowness.
With so little to go off of, I was basically supposed to decide based on a woman's appearance whether I would bother messaging her. And yes, this is a natural human tendency, and like most humans I am more inclined to want to get to know humans who have certain physical traits that humans have evolved to find attractive in the opposite sex mostly for reasons of genetic fitness, but I feel very guilty about that. I don't want to be encouraged in it. Aziz Ansari in his book Modern Romance acknowledged that Tinder encourages shallowness, but decided that's fine because it's just like real life where people only gravitate to the people they find attractive anyway. Okay, but what if we harnessed the power of technology to make ourselves be better? What if we took the opportunity to look past the physical with greater ease by actually having access to a bunch of pertinent information right off the bat? For example, I would give virtually anyone a chance if she gave the right answers about vaccines and Donald Trump.
I've had the experience, as I'm sure many people have, of talking to someone that at first I regarded as rather plain-looking, only to find that she grows more and more beautiful with each moment of conversation, and before I know it three hours have gone by, and she asks me out, and I'm not sure at first if that's what's happened but I figure "Dinner and a movie, my treat" is pretty unambiguous, so the day approaches and then an hour before we're scheduled to go she texts and says she can't, she's sick, and I try to reschedule but her responses are kind of evasive and it occurs to me that this isn't a postponement but a cancelation, and I ask her directly if that's the case, and she says yes, I seem like a nice guy but she's just not interested, and as you can imagine I'm just a little teensy weensy itsy bitsy bit confused, so I calmly and politely inquire why she asked me out in the first place, and she says something to the effect of "I could tell that you liked me, but I figured you would be too shy to ask me out, so I thought I'd help you" and I feel like the next time she wants to "help" someone she should just, like, not, but after crying for a while I decide to forgive her but then - this is the strangest thing, I don't get it at all, but then her appearance changes again, like she has the same face as always, but now she looks like a literal gargoyle, and I don't get it at all because I'm not mad at her, I don't hate her, and there are plenty of people I do heartily dislike but they don't become "ugly" to me just because of that, so I know this isn't just some psychological perception thing on my part, and when I go with the missionaries to help teach her because she's going inactive I mention that bit to them in case it's relevant to her spirituality, only I try to be polite and call it "almost a physical change" even though there's no "almost" about it, and they seem to know what I'm talking about, and she always seems super awkward and uncomfortable being alive, too, which I never noticed before, and I don't know if she was like that before or I just didn't notice, but I confide in a close friend who happens to be her Relief Society president and shares some probably confidential information about her mental illnesses, and I understand that in her mind she really thought she was being helpful and with that reaffirmed I'm able to let it go completely. We've all been there, right? Right?
So I knew right away that I was in over my head. Unlike Tinder, instead of choosing the right, you swipe up to indicate your approval of someone's profile, and down to indicate that they aren't attractive enough for you. And I couldn't bring myself to swipe down on anyone. It seemed to me such an act of wanton cruelty toward a perfect stranger. If there had been something in any given profile to indicate that our personalities or political views or astrological signs weren't a good match, I could then have passed her by with a clear conscience knowing that it was no reflection on her. But there never was. The only real filter I could get was age. I decided a while ago that most 18-20 year olds aren't really adults and I don't want to deal with their crap, so I swiped down on those, but that still left so many more. And you can't just skip one and move on. You have to make a choice. You can go back to your own profile, you can close the app, you can turn off your phone, but as soon as you return to Mutual the same profile will be in your face demanding to know your verdict on her corporeal frame.
I kept the app for two weeks, up until the day I saw somebody from my stake. I haven't seen her since she left on a mission a couple years ago but now apparently she's back. I've never spoken to her and she's probably grateful for that. I didn't want to swipe her one way or another. But seeing her here now drove home the futility of having this guilt-trip of an app that I had no intention of using for its intended purpose and which I believe is fundamentally flawed in its execution. So I deleted it, but as I type this I realize that what I actually should have done is either a. swipe for an hour and take a shot of Dr. Pepper for every blonde, or b. make a fake profile, an attractive one, to see what caliber of messages it received and test my original hypothesis that Mutual dispenses with the unsavory elements of Tinder. But like I said, I didn't really think this through in the first place.
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C. Randall Nicholson
This is where I occasionally rant about life, the universe, and/or everything. I'm a white cisgender male and a Latter-day Saint, so you can hate me without guilt, but I'm also autistic, so you can't. Unless you're an anti-vaxxer, in which case the feeling is mutual.