These things I think might be other things, more than things, and then they surprise me and are not.
These things I think might be other things, more than things, and then they surprise me and are not.
The first real review for Knowing Joe has arrived on Amazon, and this comment in the review made me smile because I love it when readers get it.
Personally, I loved how Girl was so inexperienced, yet so confident in her convictions. She makes completely valid arguments for her lifestyle choice. I think we’ve all been there at one time or another. I applaud her for staying true to herself and not bowing to society’s expectations. — Amazon Review
Society’s expectations and its obsessively distorted view of sex are the reasons I wrote this book to begin with. Our protagonist, Girl, is asexual. Asexuality is difficult for people to understand. It’s not the same thing as celibacy, which is an actual choice, so I don’t say as much about it in the book because I hate slapping labels on shit, though one of the characters does mention the label hate specifically.
Girl is a heteromantic asexual. The ACE community is underrepresented even within the Queer community as a whole. As a lifelong advocate, I wanted to put that forward, put a voice out there as far as my own personal reach could extend. Considering how sex muddies the waters when it comes to every aspect of our lives lately, I wanted a confident voice with valid arguments. Not anti-sex, but a voice who clearly understands the complexity of the subject matter. A voice who continues to struggle against societal pressure even though she is confident in her choice, even though it’s not really a choice for her per se.
I thought it would be wonderful to shine a light on a relationship where sex didn’t matter. Where the relationship wasn’t just a mad rush to grind da sweaty-bits. Where unconditional love and respect are romantic. Where the friendship is the sexy part. Where the attraction comes from a deep understanding of the other person at an intellectual level.
Sexual orientation is very fluid, and we understand more about that now than we did, say, in the 50s. I wanted a modern love story that reflected the complexity of the romantic heart, and I thought it would be wonderful to tell young men and young women that it’s ok to feel this way. That it’s ok for them to not want sex, whether it be in the moment or forever. That Normal is subjective. That there’s nothing wrong with them at all, and that love and sex are not mutually exclusive.
That was the ‘what if’ that came to mind when I first met Underline Girl and Margin Joe on the pages of Nancy Friday’s book. What would their relationship look like if the sexual angst was removed entirely? What if?
Knowing Joe is Literary Fiction, Humor, Satire. Sometimes scathing satire.
Knowing Joe is not Romance Genre Fiction.
Knowing Joe is not Erotica, despite the man-titty cover joke.
Shit. Nobody knows Joe, and neither do I, but if you are looking for sexy, toe-curling romance, this ain’t it. Awkward? Maybe, probably, but not sexy. At. All.
Now, if you are looking for a Satirical Monologue on sex and dating, then you’ve come to the right place.
Do I project my fears like that? Is what’s between a woman legs an extension of her inner self? What’s so important about it? That hole. That orifice. Does it define her? Is it loveable, desirable? Does it really need to be waxed and steamed?
Does sex make a relationship?
Does sex make men cheat?
Is orgasm some sort of prize? And if so, who wins?
Gardner, Cheryl Anne. Knowing Joe (p. 32). Twisted Knickers Publications. Kindle Edition.
Girl is sarcastic. Girl is naïve. Girl is manic and confused, just trying to muddle her way through gender constraints, dating idiocy, and the complicated mess that is sex.
In a world of social media avatars where we swipe to order a partner off a digital menu that often seems like it’s written in a foreign language, the truth seems as surreal and distant as Mars.
Girl is a lot like me when I was in my twenties, and that was decades ago, but the struggle is real, so here’s a few fun facts about Knowing Joe:
I know the “New Book is Coming!” “Review my new Book” “I’m so glad I finished writing this fucking thing; will someone please read my New Book” stuff can get tedious, so I give you a kitty. He was very tired from moon-gazing last night.
I want to talk about the Aziz Ansari thing because, to me, it’s not about sex. Well, it is, but it’s really about gender expectation and all the pressure that comes with that.
I don’t think I know a single person who doesn’t have one sexual encounter in their life diary that they regretted, felt shitty about, and/or wished had never happened. That waking up and feeling nauseous or violated. It’s so common that it rarely gets talked about, until now, and it has everything to do with feeling pressured to do something you are not comfortable with and don’t want to do, but you do it anyway. We often write it off, and the excuses are as varied as the situations: I was drunk. I was too tired to argue. It was pity. Blah, Blah, Blah…
Why do we feel the pressure? And this applies to men and women in a variety of scenarios, not just sexual ones, though that’s the one I will be speaking to because it is the reason I wrote Knowing Joe, a story about a Girl who doesn’t want sex, has no interest in sex, and was comfortable in her own skin until an extenuating circumstance had her questioning whether or not there was something wrong with her. Queue the Pressure.
How many guys have been out to the bar with their mates and felt pressure to pick up a chick and take them home because they didn’t want their mates to call them a loser or gay?
How many women felt the need to make restitution for a dinner or a movie or simply because they didn’t want the ‘nice’ guy to dislike them, or worse, tell all their friends that “that chick was a prude … a frigid bitch.”
How many girls go wild in their early twenties as a direct revolt against their parents’ beliefs about what girls should be and how girls should behave? The same applies to boys.
The mates might not have even been teasing the guy at the bar. The Nice Guy might have truly been one and would never have badmouthed her to his friends anyway, but the expectations of how a guy and a girl should behave was in their psyche, so even if the pressure was internal, it was still very very real, insidious, and manipulative because that guy could have told his friends to fuck off, and the girl could have just ended the date when her protests went unheeded. But they didn’t. Telling yourself to fuck off is a lot harder.
Why do people want to engage in sex with people they barely know? Is it some kind of biological imperative that we simply have no control over? Or is it pressure we feel? External and Internal?
Where does this kind of pressure come from? Our Peers. Society. Our Parents. Our Religion. Our Laws. Even Our Own Damn Psyche.
It comes from all those places because it comes from expectations. Expectations that have been cultivated down through centuries. Expectations that are entirely based on outdated gender roles. And by outdated, I mean, are no longer even remotely necessary for the survival of the species. Men are expected to be virile, aggressive, strong, and intelligent. A warrior. A hunter. Women are expected to be pure, beautiful, accommodating. A wife. A mother. A housekeeper. A concubine. Men are expected to want sex and take sex. Women are expected secretly want it and to give it when it’s desired by the man. And if men and women didn’t behave according to expectations, they were sick, and thusly sent for shock therapy. Then came the sexual revolution and the feminist movement and all hell broke loose. Now we have dating apps where we ‘order off the menu’ and we expect that what’s delivered is what we wanted.
Throw in the fact that sex is everywhere and you have a clusterfuck of epic magnitude. It was bound to go nuclear eventually. Movies, books, magazines, porn, strip clubs, nudie fireman’s charity calendars. Seriously people. Pressure.
When I started writing Knowing Joe, none of this Sexual Harassment stuff was in the news, and if it was, you barely heard about it. At that time, I was writing erotica under a pseudonym, and I bought one of the most quintessential books on the subject of male sexual fantasy for research purposes. I was interested in sexual expectations. How early were they formed, and how much they were influenced by external forces. Men in Love, by Nancy Friday is a difficult book to read when you begin to understand how young we are when our sexual impulses and expectations are subject to manipulation. Every proclivity, every fetish has a line that can be traced back to its beginning, which is often what an adult would consider benign: an off-hand comment, a mother’s shoe, a dad chiding his son to man-up.
The pressure was everywhere, and to make matters worse, I had bought a used book. The entire text was furiously underlined and annotated by a women who had very specific expectations of her boyfriend, Joe.
I felt for her. I felt for Joe. Both of whom were clearly under pressure and lacked the communication skills to resolve their issues.
We need to get better at this. We need open dialog. We need to stop blaming and shaming. We need to discard definitions. We need to discard gender expectations. We need to get better at articulating, up front, what we want and don’t want. We need to stop assuming shit. We need to stop putting pressure on people to be something they don’t want to be, to do something they don’t want to do. To dress, speak, or act in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable. It’s a psychological problem. It’s a definition problem. A communication problem, and it’s most assuredly a pressure problem.
Knowing Joe is about a Girl who felt that pressure all her life.
Knowing Joe is about a Girl who was brave enough to challenge what it means to be a girl.
So Kudos to all the Girls and Guys making that challenge right now. There’s a lot that needs to change.
In the last post I talked about the Monarch caterpillars that had somehow found my pot of tropical milkweed. Since then, we have witnessed both miracles and tragedy.
Three of the caterpillars made chrysalis under the lip of the pot. Quite ingenious really as they are hidden and protected from the rain. Here is a picture of one emerging and one in chrysalis stage. The last one is set to emerge probably today or tomorrow depending on the temperature.
I had one more caterpillar feeding, and when I went to the wildflower preserve over the weekend for the member’s plant sale, I brought another caterpillar home on some extra milkweed I purchased. Sadly, they both perished, probably of NPV or another bacterial infection. It happens. I’d been finding silk moth caterpillars all over my neighborhood that had fallen to the ground sick, probably from the same virus.
Even still, that monarchs found my lonely little plant and that I had 3 out of 4 caterpillars get to butterfly stage is pretty amazing. 75% success rate in nature is damn good.
I did buy more plants and also more seed to sow in October, so hopefully I can boost the numbers next year.
Until then, here is this years’ crop of baby deer. The pic isn’t that great since I had to take it through the screen so I wouldn’t spook them.
I’m not doing too much these days except editing, and that’s pretty boring, so I won’t be talking about it. Both the kittens are doing well, so there isn’t really anything new on that front either. The garden, however, does get interesting in the fall while everyone is scrambling to prepare for winter.
This year, I purchased a tropical milkweed at the local nursery. I had a large empty pot on my patio, and the flowers were just gorgeous.
I have heard the rumors about Monarch butterflies and milkweed, but I seriously didn’t think they could find my lone little plant over miles and miles of nothing to eat. Milkweed grows in the park and in pastures and fields, but I haven’t seen any even remotely close to my house. We have wild parsley, which attracts the Swallowtails, so we see them more abundantly than Monarchs.
Imagine my surprise at seeing this. I’ve got 3 Monarch caterpillars on this plant, and I fear it’s not enough to get them to the chrysalis stage, so a relocation to a more plentiful food source may be in order.