Sunday, April 29, 2018

Inside Incel

Last week's quasi-terrorist attack in Toronto struck a nerve in an unexpected way. In a world where these types of attacks are becoming all too frequent, I felt something oddly personal about Alek Minassian. He was a lone wolf and an angry, misguided soul. Alek was also part of an internet subculture that spoke to his frustrations with women, but in a way that was anti-social at best and morally heinous at worst. It led to a moment of self-evaluation.

Am I an incel?

Dating has not come easy for me. Social awkwardness has always put me behind an 8-ball. I can count the number of girls I asked out in high school on one hand. My first kiss was a serendipitous move by a friend during the homecoming dance my senior year. I don't think I realized until after I graduated high school how little I socialized with my peers, which likely explains the lack of strong relationships that came from that period of my life. I was semi-aware that I was being excluded, but the advent of social media pushed my FOMO out of the subconscious.

I don't do online dating much, except out of boredom. Whether it was the old Yahoo Personals, POF, or OkCupid I often struck out; private messages and "flirts" would go unanswered 95% of the time. My DMs are veer into the generic, and its not something I've put much investment in. As for face to face interaction, it took me a long time to shake off the false notion of being out of anyone's "league." On many occasions I've convinced myself out of asking out a woman because there was nothing to indicate she was interested.

I go through long dry spells. My first real relationship was in college, and I don't think there's anything to say there that hasn't already been said. After that, the next five years were a smattering of first dates and coffee meetups. Then I finally made it to a second date with an older woman, but I was driven away by her neediness; she wanted marriage and children when I simply wasn't ready. We've stayed friends, but we keep each other at arm's length.

After that experience, I went through another five-year dry spell. The Chicago improv community offered the healthy social life that I'd been seeking for years, and I felt compelled to ask out other performers. It was a double-edged sword, though; the possibility of getting rejected also meant alienating another performer and being denied opportunities. I was cautious, asking out maybe 10 improvisers over the span of 2 1/2 years, but nothing came of it. One said yes to doing dinner; it ended somewhat abruptly because whether or not it was a date was not clearly defined. That was my fault. After that, my adolescent self-consciousness reared its ugly head again.

In 2016, to my delight and surprise I found myself in not one but two relationships. I met the first women via OkCupid; we went out for four months before schedule conflicts rose and we grew bored with each other. I met the second woman at a friend's party; it was an open relationship, and in spite of my spotty history I was okay with that. We went out for 14 months, until she realized I reminded her too much of her ex-husband. We've stayed friends, though I've been giving her space of late. I've been single now for almost six months.

What does that have to do with being an incel? I have never felt a notion of being violent toward anyone that rejected me, or treated sex like a god-given right. On a couple of occasions, I will attest that I have sent tersely worded messages if someone stood me up on a date, or backed out without telling me. The messages were not threatening, but I articulated how annoyed I was. These instances, four or five in total, occurred during those aforementioned dry spells. I was last stood up on a date back in February.

I don't condone what Alek did. His actions were beyond misguided and shortsighted, an instance of misguided anger gone dangerously haywire. His inability to take a step back and self-evaluate was one thing, but to lash out at a group of unsuspecting strangers is reprehensible. It also opened a dialogue into the incel culture and how the mistreatment of women still permeates our culture. For everyone else, think about the mistakes you've made (or could make) before you act.


Saturday, April 21, 2018

What About Bob?

Let me make the understatement of the century: this is not going well.

The centerpoint of the Russian hacking investigation has turned to Michael Cohen in the last two weeks or so. The feds' raid on Cohen's office and ensuing revelations about his clients is the latest distraction for an administration that can't stop extinguishing its own fires. The revelation that Fox News star (and Trump sycophant) Sean Hannity was a Cohen client served to add more fuel to the conspiracy coal bin.

We want to assume that there will be a Frank Capra moment where a high-ranking Republican comes to their senses or something, but in reality Trump is too much of an intangible. Trump et al. is pulling the strings and not vice versa, and one who crosses him (see "Corker, Bob") gets thrown under the bus. The GOP knows how to rally and work in lockstep; they'll fight this to the bitter end, regardless of whatever Mueller finds.

As far as I'm concerned, let Mueller do his job. The ongoing investigation will pay off in some way, and its not impossible for Trump to be exonerated. It is highly possible that the president simply trusted the wrong people --the story of his administration thus far-- but there is a sliver of a chance that Trump was complicit. For now, give everyone the benefit of a doubt.


Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Silure en Francais, Part Deux

As some of you may recall, back in late January I struck up a conversation with a woman in Belgium named Angella. We kept talking from time to time, but she was insistent that I buy her airfare to visit the US. I told her (in French) that I didn't have any money to spare; while that wasn't necessarily true, it kept Angella at bay for awhile. I still found it odd that she still didn't have any Facebook friends, so in late February I reported her profile. Even though she ended up in Facebook jail, she ended up creating a second account.

A change in location was the straw that broke the camel's back. Angella told me that she had a 10 day business trip in Mali, and that I could the money order for plane tickets to her hotel. She gave an address that didn't make sense, regardless of how I entered it in Google Maps. I told her I only had $100 to spare, but she insisted that I send at least $700; this way, she claimed, she could fly straight from Bamako to Chicago. I told her I wasn't comfortable sending a money order to a developing nation in Africa, but she kept begging me. One late evening (in the middle of the night wherever she was) I blocked her, then filed a complaint on the U.S. government identify thief page.  I'm no one's fool.

Even if "Angella" had invited me to call her via Facebook, there was just too much to be suspicous about. Since I blocked her on Facebook and Google Hangout, I have not heard a word from her. For now, it seems my concerns were validated. I thought I was getting scammed, and without giving away a red cent I alleviated the situation. Perhaps there is a 34-year-old single mom in Belgium (by way to Mali) that is absolutely clueless about social media, and she was lonely enough to strike up a conversation with a random American. I chose to believe it was a likely story.