Archive | October 2012

Nightmares

I have trouble with scary movies. At least certain types of scary movies. They give me nightmares, and I’m the kind of person who, while having a nightmare, climbs out of bed, running around waking up everyone I can find, frantically trying to explain the horrific danger we’re facing and how we have to come up with a plan to deal with the threat now.

I love certain types of scary movie. I could watch the 1931 Dracula, or the ’31 Frankenstein or ’35 Bride of Frankenstein, or the ’32 Mummy over and over and over again. Give me a classic Godzilla any time!

Sometimes while explaining this, I’ve had friends ask how this can be true, when they know I have written some pretty creepy and horrific stuff. Or, as a friend very recently put it, “How can you love Fringe so much? It presents a lot of things far worse than many scary movies you’ve refused to watch!”

Part of the issue is control. If I’m writing the scary stuff, I’m in charge. I can save whoever I want. I can make the bad guy lose when I want and how I want.

To a lesser extent, watching a scary movie (or series) at home on TV or iPad is different in part because I have some control. I can pause or stop the movie when I want. More importantly, if I’m not immersed in the big screen setting without the theatrical sound system it’s easier for me to remember I have control. I’m not trapped in the center of a row of strangers in a dark room. And sometimes just looking away isn’t enough.

There’s also familiarity. Forbidden Planet was one of the first movies to trigger this reaction when I was about five or six years old (it’s the one my Mom still tells stories about), but now, it’s one of my favorite movies of all time. I know how it ends. I know what the monster is and what its limitations are. None of that was true the first time I saw it.

And in Fringe‘s case, there is an additional salvation: there have been very, very, very few scary movies ever made which any character who is even one-tenth as smart as Walter is on the good guys’ side.

Because what’s missing from most nightmares is a hero you’re confident will win the day.

One problem with prequels

“Prequels are really difficult,” Alan Dean Foster once said. The main reasons I recall him giving were that usually the readers who most wanted to read a sequel were fans of the original work. Therefore, they already knew the characters’ future, removing one source of dramatic tension. Also, they often had already imagined their own version of events, and whatever the author comes up with may not match up to their expectations.

Another reason is that the author often doesn’t know exactly what happened. So when we try to put the events into some sort of narrative that is satisfying to us, it may not actually add up to an interesting story.

This will prompt some people to ask, “But it’s your story! How can you not know the details?!”

Let me give an example from one of my current writing projects. At the moment it consists of two novels: one is a sequel to the another. In the first book, one of my protagonists is an apparently human, somewhat mysterious, fortune teller. One of the villains is the Zombie Lord. One of the mysteries surrounding the fortune teller is that she has some sort of past relationship with the Zombie Lord.

For plot purposes in the first book, the readers needed to know that some sort of friendly relationship had once existed, but there had been a falling out. So I’ve included only enough information to establish that before it becomes important. And no more.

At the time I was writing the first book, I knew more than the little bit I revealed, but it wasn’t a huge amount more. I didn’t need to know more. I knew how well they know each other, and how they feel about each other now, so I could write their interaction (and eventual combat) correctly, but that’s all I needed to know, so it’s all I’d figured out.

In the second book, their past—and their relationships to several more characters—is integral to the plot. So I have figured and filled in a few more details. Again, I’m figuring out more than will actually appear in the story, but there’s a lot I’m not worrying about.

One of the things I don’t know, for instance, is exactly what sequence of events led to them ceasing to be friends. Ultimately, it was because he became an evil overlord, of course, but was there a defining moment? An action he took where it became obvious that’s the path he was going down? Or was it a gradual thing?

All creative people do that sort of thing. For example, say you have this idea for a poem or a painting or a song about what it feels like to be a young person who decides to throw all your problems and cares away and just leave, start a new life on the other side of the country or something. So you create the work of art, and you do everything in your power to capture that feeling, and you might end up with something like this:

After writing it you spend the next forty years being asked by reporters, fans, and talk show hosts what exactly was the crime that set this whole thing off. For all of those forty years you keep coming up with variants on the answer that you don’t know, it didn’t matter for you in creating the piece. What was important was that feeling you were trying to evoke. He wanted his listeners to project themselves into the song and just experience that moment.

The other reason it doesn’t matter is because part of the point of art is to engage the audience. That song isn’t only about what Paul Simon was thinking when he wrote it. The song is also about what each and every listener who hears it finds within it. My meaning, when I hear it and sing along, is just as viable and true as the meaning he had when he wrote it. Your meaning when you hear it is just as viable and true, as well. His meaning when he performs it all these years later is no more, and no less, true than the meaning that someone who his never heard it before may find if they hear a recording tomorrow.

We leave things unsaid in stories because we should only include things that move the story along. We leave them unsaid because in our pursuit of telling the best version of the story we can, we can’t afford to let ourselves run down rabbit holes and lose the story. We leave them unsaid because the story isn’t real until it is heard or read and believed by an audience. We leave them unsaid because the audience can’t throw them self into the story unless we leave room for them.

Let the punishment fit the crime

Three of my best friends have been hosting a Halloween party for about 20 years. They always have a theme to the party, which guides their decorations, party games, and usually their own costumes.

Sitting at the partyMany of us who attend regularly create our costumes based on the theme. For example, the year the theme was Your Worst Nightmare, I came dressed as a gay republican. Not that a gay republican, per se, is my worst nightmare, but me BECOMING one comes pretty close. On the other hand, the year they set Egypt as the theme, Michael and I came dressed as a pair of aliens, carrying a clip board with a work order written in hieroglyphics. So while neither of us believe any of that ancient astronauts nonsense, we are not above using it for a silly costume joke.

This year’s theme was Shakespeare. There were several people there dressed as specific characters from Shakespearean plays, others were in Elizbethan dress, and a number of us were there as jokes.

Michael and I were each dressed in yellow-and-black striped shirts, black pants, silly antennae on our heads, and yellow wings. I wore a lapel button with a large, friendly-looking “2” on it. Michael wore a button with the same friendly-looking “2” except with a red circle and slash through it.

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Two silly menSo I was 2, and he was not-2.

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And we were both bees.

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And it’s hard to get more Shakespearean than having a choice between the 2 Bee and the Not-2 Bee, right?

We were told we would be PUNished for our bad joke costume. We were told our Punishment would almost certainly involve hives. There were many other silly puns flung about, but I have forgotten most.

But we weren’t the only bees there. One of the other guests came as the Neither A Borrower Nor A Lender Bee.

(If I manage to get pics from any of the people who took them, I’ll add them to the post.)

The only part of our costumes that didn’t come together is we didn’t recruit a third person for the silliness, because Michael would then have dressed him in blue suit, fedora, and a flesh-colored featureless face mask, just like the DC Comics character known as The Question.

Because then we would have the 2 Bee, or Not-2 Bee, and that is The Question.

Dream dilemma

I had a somewhat disturbing dream, in which I was out shopping with my mom, and she occasionally made references to a book I had given her as one of her presents the previous Christmas. Except she wouldn’t mention the title, she kept referring to it simply as, “that book you got me.”

And the conversation got a bit weird and emotional. Finally, she pulls out the book, and it’s a book of quotations. But specifically a book of gay and lesbian quotations. For a second, in the dream, I was very confused, and then I realized that I had accidentally swapped the tags on two books I had been wrapping up for different people. I had intended to give Mom a book about the writing process or something, and this was supposed to go to someone else. Read More…

Trolls, baiters, hecklers, and drama queens

We’re all drama queens sometimes: little things that go wrong feel like complete disasters, someone reacts differently than we expect to something and we start to wonder if it indicates a bigger problem, or we can’t stop talking about this bad thing we’re either in the middle of or just got out of.

I’ve had a few friends who were like that all the time. When I first met them, I thought, well, they’re having a bit of bad luck right now, and maybe they’re more emotional about it than I would be, but I’m not the one having the problem. Plus, I don’t know everyone else involved, so maybe it really is this bad. But as time went on and I got to know more of the other people involved, it became clear that they were always blowing any and every problem way out of proportion to the actual difficulty involved.

One wonders why one would remain friends with someone like that. In the case of the ones that I still consider friends many years later, part of it was because they were very witty, and always made jokes about the trouble they were going through. You might even say a better term for them would be comedy queens. It also helped that one lived a thousand miles away.

One time, on a fannish online forum, I wound up saying to a friend who was also on the forum something to the effect of, “Stop being a drama queen!”

And I was jumped on by some people for being a homophobe, since the friend I had called a drama queen was a gay man.

I foolishly responded by pointing out three facts: 1) I am also a gay man, 2) the guy in question was a friend in real life who often referred to himself as a drama queen, and 3) it was a joke.

Which unleashed a storm of righteous fury. Just because I was gay didn’t mean I couldn’t be homophobic. It doesn’t matter how he took it, what matters is that strangers who read the post out of context would be offended. Everyone ought to be offended anyway, because the phrase itself is deeply offensive.

The last point spawned the most interesting discussion. I remember picking up the term “drama queen” from mostly gay and lesbian friends in the mid-80s, where it was usually being applied to some gay men by other gay men sometimes derisively, sometimes teasingly. It fit right in with several other slang terms we slung about: opera queen, snow queen, clean queen, gym queen, and of course, size queen. The application of a female gendered term, “queen” to a man puts us solidly into societal sexist issues. Many a thesis (and some entire academic careers) have been spent exploring the prejudice, the perpetuation of class and power structures, and so on, inherent to using such words as insults in that way. And specifically applying feminine terms as insults to gay men—or masculine terms to lesbians—tangles us up even further in those sexual politics.

However, there is something to be said for taking words back. It was Queer Nation’s entire raison d’être! Take an insult that people have been flinging at you your entire life, wear it as a badge of honor, and rub the bullies’ faces in it. Such as one of the few times I was ever as clever as some movies and series portray all gay men as, when a guy angrily called me a bastard, and I replied, “My parents were married, and to each other, thank you very much. The word you’re looking for is ‘b*tch.’ And don’t forget it!”

Explaining all of that didn’t help, of course. There was one person who kept insisting, again and again, that I had said that all gay men are effeminate, and that all gay men are always melodramatically making mountains out of molehills. No matter how many times I, or the guy I had originally told to stop being a drama queen, explained that I had clearly applied the term to him, and only him, and only to the specific conversation, this guy kept insisting that his interpretation was the most logical inference of the term “drama queen.”

“We must put an end to the rhetoric that there’s something wrong with being an effeminate man!”

Once he used that phrase, I realized what the problem was. Any argument that begins with “put an end to the rhetoric of…” is a lost cause. Only a very specific sort of troll uses that argument. I call it the paranoid troll, as is, “Oh, my god! You’re talking about me, aren’t you? I know you are! You’re always talking about me!” The paranoid troll is not interested in discussing the topic at hand. They are not interested in what you meant by what you said, because they leapt to the conclusion of what you meant long ago, and no amount of evidence is ever going to change their mind. In fact, every piece of evidence you bring forward will be distorted into confirmation of their original thesis.

There’s nothing to be gained attempting to communicate with them. The only solution, as with all trolls, is to ignore them. Don’t let yourself get sucked into their drama.

Too much backstory

In order to write a character’s dialog correctly, I have to have a good image in my head of who he or she is. That doesn’t mean I need to know eye color and hair length and how they dress, necessarily—I’m using image metaphorically. I mean that part of the process of giving a character a personality is imagining their life and how they got to be who they are now.

This is for everyone, even walk-on characters who may have only one or two lines of dialog out of an entire novel. I’m not one of those authors who has to write all of that down before I can use the character. Walk-ons usually just pop up when I need them. I’ve put my protagonist in jail, let’s say, and I’d planned who his cellmate would be before I got to the scene, but I hadn’t thought much about any other prisoners. As I start writing the scene between the protagonist and his cellmate, the other prisoners just chimed in at appropriate parts. While I don’t know the names of any of them, I have a small sketch in my mind of each one’s personality and a bit of his or her history, too. It just blossomed as soon as I needed someone to make a humorous interjection.

That’s just the walk-ons. Supporting characters that are planned as parts of subplots have quite a bit more than that, while the main characters have even more.

Most of the backstory remains in my head and my notes. My stories tend to be character- and dialog- driven, so usually the only details about a character’s background that come up are the ones that would normally occur in conversation:

“You always have to be smarter than everyone else, don’t you?”

“There was a time when you found that endearing.”

“I grew up!”

Even without any description or names, reading that dialog tells you that these two have known each other a long time, that they used to be close (perhaps even romanticaly involved), and now they are less friendly. I may never reveal more about the past experiences between these two characters, but I know how they met, how long they were together, how they spent their time together, and how they had their falling out.

Usually I’m pretty good about not letting the backstory over shadow the current action. But not always. Especially if I get some characters together in a scene who are very talkative. The dialog can go on and on for a while, if I let them.

During re-write I always find some scenes like this, filled with a lot of interesting banter, but that I need to trim. When reading the scenes aloud, even just by myself, I can tell when they’re going on too long. Fortunately, usually it only takes a little pruning to punch up the scene and get things moving.

But sometimes that backstory includes information the reader needs, and it isn’t always clear until I get a reader’s perspective that some details I thought could be inferred weren’t obivous.

I have a couple of supporting characters I’m working with right now whose scenes I was trimming the last couple of nights. They’re both intresting characters. I’ve gotten feedback indicating readers like them. (Even though in the current novel they don’t have any scenes together, one of them had a short story of his own published a few years ago, and the other happened to be a supporting chracter in it.) But they’re only supporting characters in this tale, and the parts they have to play in the current story aren’t big enough to justify all that information.

Even though I saved the removed dialog elsewhere, it still hurts to trim it.

But when it’s too much, it has to go!

It’s not just speech…

When I proposed to Michael, I didn’t ask him to move in with me. He had said “yes” to my proposal, but he lived and worked in a different city, and my late husband had died less than a year before, so we were both a little nervous about rushing into things. Therefore, at the time of the proposal, we agreed we’d wait a year before taking the more drastic step.

But about six months later, one of his housemates started behaving strangely, such as going through Michael’s stuff when he was away (and more creepy things). Suddenly the thought of Michael being there was completely unacceptable. I didn’t care if it seemed like we were rushing, all I could think of was that I needed to get him somewhere safe.

Never mind that he, as one friend recently described him, is “the most capable person I’ve ever known.” Never mind that his job history has included being a bouncer at a bar, or that his past hobbies included bull-riding. No matter how tough, smart, or capable he is, the thought of him being in an unsafe place made me a bit irrational.

Fourteen-and-a-half years later, we’re still together—happily so. I guess we weren’t rushing, eh?

During that time, we’ve registered our domestic partnership—first with the city, because the state didn’t allow it. Then later, once the state did allow it, with the state. Thanks to a voter-approved referendum, in our state that partnership now carries all the legal rights and responsibilities of marriage. So we can jointly own property, we are allowed to make medical decision for each other if one of us in incapacitated (assuming we don’t run into a hospital worker who doesn’t understand what the domestic partnership law means), and if one of us dies, the survivor doesn’t have to produce proof that he paid for half or more of anything or lose it to the other’s blood relatives (because it’s all by default community property).

Unfortunately, even in a state with strong domestic partner laws, there are still a lot of inequalities.

I’m older than Michael, and have some chronic health issues. It is likely he will outlive me. By chance, I also earn more money than he does. If something were to happen to me, he would be put in a financial bind. Yes, I have life insurance, so there will be a bit of a cushion, but because what we have isn’t recognized on the federal level as a marriage, he would not be entitled to survivor benefits from social security. If he remains single after my death, when he decides to retire, his benefits will be calculated solely on his own earnings.

If our relationship was legally recognized, all of that changes. He would be entitled to survivor benefits under some circumstances. When it came time to retire, he would be entitled to benefits based on my years of earning.

Before you make an argument about the sanctity of marriage, consider this: if, on my deathbed, I was to have a quicky marriage with a woman someone selects completely randomly, the ceremony and signing completed literally seconds before my death, she would be entitled to all those benefits. Never mind that we didn’t know each other. Never mind that no defininition of sacred would encompass that random person standing by my hospital bed.

Legal marriage isn’t about sanctity. Legal marriage isn’t about forcing churches to do anything. Right now, two people who have been divorced can legally marry in all fifty states (so long as they are opposite gender). If they ask a Catholic priest to perform the ceremony, he will turn them down, because the church doesn’t believe in divorce. It happens a lot. The fact that the law recognizes re-marriages has not and will not open the church to being sued. Just as a church can choose not to perform a wedding if, for example, one of the members belongs to a completely different faith.

And before you bring up that story about the “church” that got in trouble about a same sex marriage a couple years ago: 1) it wasn’t a church, it was a separate business set up by a ministry as a fundraising activity, 2) when they set up the business, they applied for an exemption from paying property taxes on a small park and pavilion that they intended to rent out for events, 3) the exemption required them to sign an agreement which explicitly said that they would run the business as a public accomodation, and that they would not refuse to rent to any member of the public on the basis of race, religion, political affiliation, creed, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation, 4) this agreement that they signed had to be renewed every year, and they had to, every year, re-affirm that they would not refuse to rent the park and pavilion to anyone on the basis of race, religion, political affiliation, creed, gender, or sexual orientation or the park and pavilion would cease to be tax exempt.

And then they told a lesbian couple that the couple could not rent the pavillion because they were opposed to same sex marriage and anything like it.

That’s when the one selected parcel of land lost its tax exemption. The parent ministry was not fined, it did not lose its tax exempt status. The church that many members belonged to did not lose its tax exempt status and did not face any fines or retribution. The only thing that happened was that the side business had to start paying taxes, just like any other business.

It is true that as marriage equality moves forward at the state level, people who don’t approve of it will see neighbors, co-workers, and strangers enter into legal marriages and in legal ways be treated just like the other kinds of marriage. That will include, sometimes, having to do business with these couples and treat them, in terms of publicly transacted business and such, just like any other married couple. Which will make them uncomfortable.

Being comfortable is not a legal right.

Asking the law to allow you to discriminate is not just speech. Preventing someone from renting a home is not just speech. Barring someone from the hospital bedside of their partner is not just speech. Barring some couples from tax benefits is not just speech. Encouraging parents to literally throw their gay, lesbian, or bisexual teen-agers out on the street—telling them that abandoning their own children and making them homeless is the correct, biblical thing to do—is not just speech.

Strumming

Several people I know are prepping (and some still thinking about it) for National Novel Writing Month. If you’ve never done it, but have an interest in writing, have tried writing, or are a writer, I encourage you to give it a go.

I will not be participating this year. I have a slightly different reason than I’ve given before: I have to spend a lot of time practicing ukulele if I’m going to be ready for this year’s holiday party.

Read More…

Seasonal somewhere, I’m sure

One of the amusing side effects of living in the Pacific Northwest is that seasonal items in stores that are part of national chains show up at the wrong times.

Every year as May rolls around, outdoor barbecue grills, various kinds of fans, air conditioners, outdoor furniture and related items start appearing in stores. By the first day of June even grocery stores and convenience stores have racks of sunglasses, flip-flips, pool toys, and other hot weather accoutrements everywhere.

The problem is that, statistically, Seattle weather doesn’t switch to a summer pattern until July 12.

Oh, in May we get a couple of weeks where the days are sunny and it warms up, hinting that summer is coming. But the temperatures plunge every night, and it’s merely spring warm in the daytime.

And then comes the infamous June Gloom. It doesn’t actually rain that much in June, but nearly every morning is overcast, cool, and the air feels damp. It’s because every night, as the temperatures drop and the air flow starts coming in from the direction of the Pacific, the entire area is engulfed in a very light fog. The overcast isn’t a cloud layer high up above is, it’s because the light fog extends for about a 1000 feet from the ground. That’s also why it feels very wet all the time as if it has just rained, even though we don’t get very much actual precipitation in June.

While that’s going on, most of us aren’t thinking about backyard barbecue parties, or whether we need to replace that fan that was dying last summer. So most of the seasonal stuff sits there, not being purchased. There’s usually a big flurry of discounts right after the 4th of July, because the poor people at the local retail level are receiving the back-to-school deliveries and being told to get them out on the floor. Except usually our summer weather still hasn’t started, yet.

By the time the weather is compelling many of us to look for sunglasses and replacement fans, there isn’t much to pick from.

I try to anticipate what we’ll be looking for and grab it in June, but I’m frequently wrong. We currently have way more standing fans than we need, for instance, because I incorrectly remembered them dying, when it was actually one of the window fans that was going out. By the time I figured that out, I couldn’t find a proper window-mounting double fan anywhere.

Usually by this time I have some of Halloween decorations in the windows, at least. But for some reason I still haven’t even begun putting away the fans and such. Maybe I should just skip it, and start setting up the Christmas tree.

Decoding

When I posted Mr. Open-minded Seldom Is, it got me thinking about other ways people describe themselves, particularly online.

I’ve been reading online profiles, and getting to know the real people behind them, for about 27 years. That’s right, there was a ‘net back in 1985. The technology looked a lot different back then, but human nature changes much more slowly than technology. Over all of those years I’ve noticed certain patterns—instances of high correlations and tight covariants indicating a high probability of predictive success—which may serve as warning signs as one navigates the worlds of social networks, et al.

Gene’s Guide to Decoding Online Profiles

Open-minded: As explained in more detail earlier, when a person feels the need to mention their open-mindedness in their online profile, it frequently means that they have been accused often enough of being narrow-minded or intolerant that they are now trying to preempt more accusations. Some are genuinely trying to be open-minded, whether because they feel guilty about how some of their past behavior hurt someone, or because they don’t like other people to think them intolerant. Others think that open-minded means smiling condescendingly at people, ideas, or behaviors they disapprove of—sometimes even encouraging the behavior—only to ridicule and condemn it later when the person isn’t around.

Not everyone who mentions being open-minded falls into the above categories, of course. However, the more prominently it is mentioned in the profile (particularly in conjunction with near synonyms: tolerant, easygoing), the more likely it is to be a codeword for one of these other traits. There is a strong gender correlation, guys being extremely more likely to be the sort of person who is the exact opposite of what the word is supposed to mean. That goes triple if they put open-minded or a synonym into their user name.

Discreet: Discreet (rhymes with cheat) has slightly different meanings depending on where you find it. If it’s in guy’s profile in any social network where most of the users are heterosexual, it means, “I am involved in a relationship where my partner thinks we’re monogamous, but I am constantly looking for someone to fool around with.” This code meaning is usually only used by women on an explicit dating site.

If you find the word in a guy’s profile on any even vaguely gay site (not just hook-up or dating sites), it means, “I am a closet case who donates to anti-gay causes in my real life, and say horrible things about gay people whenever it comes up, but can’t get enough sex with men.” Usually married (to some unfortunate woman who has no idea) and scared to death that someone is going to guess he’s gay, so he represses any part of his personality that he thinks of as non-masculine and may overcompensate in gay-friendly settings. Doubly true if he also describes himself as masculine.

If he goes so far as to say, “you would never know if you met me” he’s extremely bad at the repression (as in, gayer than a clutch purse full of daffodils in a Glee finale), he pings the most oblivious person’s gaydar from miles away, and you will be astounded at how deeply in denial his wife must be not to have guessed.

Intense: when a person describes their personality as “intense” it means that they are a world-class jerk. Typically they want things their way, never have any sympathy or understanding of other viewpoints, and don’t think much of the social niceties.

Hint to anyone whose friends have ever told you that you have an intense personality: this is polite code for “you are extremely difficult to put up with, and we frequently have to apologize to our other friends for your rude behavior.”

Tired of drama: When someone says they are tired of drama or games it means either they are holding on to a lot of resentment about past relationships, or they are the justified cause of the resentment in all their exes. In the latter case, the person is living under the delusion that drama is when other people object to their rude, obnoxious, and self-centered behavior. Often the person seems incapable of talking about anything but those past dramas.

I work hard and play hard: Half-true at best. This often means, “my schedule and plans will always come first, and if we become friends or more, you will be lucky if I even think to tell you before I make plans that impact you.” Sometimes it is code for, “I am an extremely heavy drinker/partier, but if challenged I will rationalize it by talking about the stress of my job.”

Honesty is important to me: Usually this means the person is a controlling jerk with a habit of biting the heads off of people who express opinions they dislike. This has caused their previous friends and relationships to develop habits of keeping unpleasant information from them which, when it finally comes to light, causes them to become angry at said friends or significant other for “lying” to them.

If they aren’t controlling, they’re refusing to let go of resentment about some past problems with their exes. See “Tired of drama” above.

Fun-loving: On the face of it, this is simply a meaningless statement. Who doesn’t love fun? Since there are millions of things that people find fun (and for every fun activity you can name there are millions of people who don’t enjoy it) this could mean anything.

But depending on the context, “fun-loving” can tell you some things.

If you’re on a dating site, it most probably means the person has no clue how to describe themself and have resorted to clichés. It can mean that they are afraid to say anything that might scare off a potential date. This latter is most likely if they also list a lot of generic activities that they like.

If they are a guy, and if none of the photos of themselves show them smiling, grinning, or having even a twinkle in their eye, it often means that all of their ideas of fun have to do with inflicting pain or ridicule on others. Look for other key phrases such as “easygoing” and “friends say I have a wicked sense of humor” to confirm that they are angry, bitter, verbally abusive guys who don’t realize that often people laugh around them in hopes of not becoming the next target of abuse and ridicule.

“, actually” When used to qualify any positive trait, means they are tired of people calling them on the opposite trait.

I don’t own a TV/I loathe mainstream TV: This means, “I am a judgmental snob.” Often also means that they have a disturbingly large collection of some specific type of television series/movies series/sports series/games which they spend far more time watching on their computer or other device than the average channel-surfing couch potato, and will become outraged when you point out that really isn’t all that different than watching “mainstream TV.”

And since it isn’t the 1990s any more, it also means they have no clue that pop culture has moved far beyond the point where there are any single networks getting enough of an audience for the word “mainstream” to have any relevance to the television medium—a bit over half the shows on the big networks get fewer viewers per week than many viral YouTube videos. Time to update your snobbery!

I hate writing these/I don’t know what to say: Means either the person has been called out in the past for a grossly inaccurate or misleading profile, or the person spent an ungodly number of hours trying to craft a profile that appears spontaneous and simple, or the person is really insecure and bad at expressing themself.

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