The other day, I felt like dancing so I looked up the closest place to go dancing on Google Maps. Some days are like that, I move with instinct. I desire something then I find a way to do it and that, too, is it’s own kind of creation. On most days, I simply do not. I procrastinate until I drive my instinct into a strange but temporary silence.
The other day however, I went dancing. One thing led to another. The club was booming with loud music. The DJ was on fire. The only three other people in the club were dancing their hearts out and I joined them while avoiding every possible body contact except this one guy kept feeling the need to reach out for me and each time, I would take a dip and head in the opposite direction. By the time I realized I couldn’t dodge his reach anymore I quit dancing and went out for a smoke. That was how it started: the questions, my answers, his remarks, then the praise came.
From offering to buy me dinner, this stranger discovered I am vegan. From looking at me, he could see my tattoos. From sharing my pack of cigarettes, it was clear I am a smoker. From staring at my face, he observed my eyebrows were absent. From doing most of the talking, he knew I was uninterested.
“Wow my dear, you are so different and natural. I don’t speak good English but I like you a lot,” he said.
“Sir, you do not know me at all so what is it you like a lot already?” was how I responded.
He seemed eager to praise all the things he observed and felt made me different from all the other people in his world that he compared me to. The praises continued and for lack of another way to react, I listened impassively and I politely offered to leave.
I frequently find myself in situations where people seem to feel moved, on discovering anything new about how I choose to exist as human, to offer a compliment or remark that I am different or unique or special. And I dread this act of — what I suppose is intended to be — kindness so much it scares me.
One has to wonder why, how, what it is that feeds the human mind with the need to segregate whatever we perceive to be remarkably different from our own likeness or image or generally accepted social behaviors. The impulse we so eagerly concede to, to categorize the few we choose as unique or special; to set them apart. This however well-intentioned act is inherently dangerous. It places the burden of existing in a world we have been separated from on the receiver of such kindness and relieves the giver of the burden of alienation.
I am not an impossible thing. I do not want to be addressed as an anomaly. I am non-conforming when it comes to gender but there are a lot of others like me. I am queer but I’m far from being the only one. I am a spirit existing in a human body, trying to navigate the act of being human on a daily basis, but isn’t that what we are all doing? I have lost family, friends and a sense of home, but those experiences aren’t unique. Look around you. We are not impossible things.
Human praise scares me because just like modesty, it is a learned affectation and people will strip you naked as quickly as they dress you up. We praise others to make ourselves feel better, and like all things pertaining to human desire, the more we feed it the more we continue to grow an appetite for making ourselves feel better at the expense of another person’s existence and other people’s peace. This is partly why I resist any remark that sets me up to be distinguished.
The other reason is because this behavior of setting one aside is how we choose, whether intentionally or unintentionally it does not matter, to ignore the rest; to terminate people’s ways of being; to erase lives; to kill. By choosing to distinguish one person or a small group, we convince ourselves of the false inclination that we have no moral responsibility or obligation to the larger group, for the others. We make a celebrity out of a few while many continue to suffer discrimination and hate as a direct consequence at the hands of the masses.
If we can convince ourselves that oh, this is the one; she / he / I / they / it is special, then how can we equally acknowledge the two or three or thousand people who are just like them? How dare they exist when we have a genius we can pick up and lay down whenever we want? This kind of “praise” is another social order not worth persevering; it is an ill resulting practice which I refuse to participate in.
I will not be used as a measuring unit. If a census needs to occur then let it be for all of humanity. If a spectacle needs to be interrogated then let it be laid on something abnormal like the ocean or fire but not me — or anyone for that matter — simply existing as human. There is nothing fascinating about a kindness or admiration that sets me up to be framed into a specimen of madness, a star, a genius, a novelty. There is nothing new under the sun and everything is old under the moon. We are all moving constantly, changing, evolving into more and more possible things.
I am not interested in being an impossible thing. I am interested in participating in the project that is the human race, together.
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