Speaking as a twice-optioned screenwriter with an engineering degree, the divide is this:
The mathematically inclined - STEM-heads - know what something is. They function on the quantifiable and defendable. Their sphere of comfort is one in which data and facts and evidence hold the greatest sway.
The romantically inclined - liberal arts majors - know what something should be. They function on the desirable and intuitable. Their sphere of comfort is one in which concensus and persuasion allow us to achieve great things.
An engineer understands that the engines canna take much more of this, captain. The speed of light in a vacuum is an absolute. You can't fit ten pounds of shit in a five pound bag. And they also know that all the hope in the world won't change that.
A poet understands that dammit, Scotty, we're counting on you. Laws are meant to be broken. You can be all that and a bag of chips. And they know that the bumblebee flies anyway.
We cannot function as a society without both aspects. We cannot function as humans without both aspects. HOWEVER
- Human Resources departments are never crewed by engineers.
- Boardrooms have few engineers in them.
- Lawyers are rarely engineers.
The tribe is led by liberal arts twits. They'd lead us all into the wasteland without people who understand double-blind testing but they'd still lead us there because your average stem-head generally believes that people should follow the evidence, not the leader.
But we don't.
It's an unfair stereotype to say that sciences majors are incapable of relating to liberal arts majors. However, it's an accurate stereotype to say that sciences majors do not relate to liberal arts majors as well as liberal arts majors relate to themselves, and it's fair to say that STEM-heads benefit from learning to meet the liberal arts majors where they live, if for no other reason than the parties tend to be less awkward.
That said, it's drearily routine for any liberal arts class inflicted on STEM majors to be seen as "humanizing" but any science class inflicted on liberal arts majors to be "degrading." "When am I ever going to use algebra again?" "How is the ideal gas law at all relevant to my future as a corporate raider?" "zeroth law? Can't you nerds even count to three?"
The STEM guys are far more likely to have a job, though.
"Hey, live feed. Active shooter in Texas."
"Isn't that outside Dallas?"
"Just another example of the government not doing their job."
And then we called attendance.
When I went to college 20 years ago, there were signs up about what to do in the event of a fire. This time? There is no room, hallway or bathroom without an 11x17 placard telling me what to do in case some fucking nutbag with an AR-15 decides to kill me.
We keep hearing "it'll never happen here" and statistically they're right but fuckin' hell, a buddy's daughter lost a friend in a school shooting so statistics or no, that is FAR too few degrees of separation between a statistical fluke and me and my loved ones. You know what I grew up with? I grew up with a constant back-of-the-mind fear that the Russians would get itchy and we'd end up as mohawk-wearing dogfood eaters on the edge of the Great Nuclear Desert.
Forty years. Strangelove, Failsafe, Wargames, Day After, Threads, Road Warrior, the Russians would eventually blow us up. It left an indelible mark on culture and fuckin' hell if the 'boomers didn't wallow in that shit like it was sausage gravy. If you were a kid? You just knew that between AIDS and Andropov there was no fuckin' point in planning for the future.
By the time I graduated high school most of the fallout shelter signs had come down because it had just been accepted that there was fuckall that could be done. It feels like we're getting there with school shootings. But while the 'boomers made sure the whole fucking culture understood that death was coming from Ivan the Terrible, everyone is fucking ignoring the fact that we've raised an entire generation to expect one of their classmates to turn an assault rifle on them sometime.
Friend visiting from Fresno. She's talking about the junior soccer league there. Apparently there was a barbecue and one parent got into a fight with another parent and pulled a gun on him. AT A BARBECUE. Which meant there had to be a meeting. About whether concealed carry was okay at soccer league functions. One faction argued - in all seriousness - "that it just isn't a party until the guns come out." And we have to humor that. Because that's the culture. But if anybody said "it just isn't a party until the tits come out" it'd be national fucking news and someone would be required counseling before they were allowed to work in an occupation around children ever again.
I'd rather my kid be around tits.
When I was in high school I had ready access to weapons. Went plinkin' multiple times a week sometimes. Friends of mine got in an armed standoff because someone made someone else mad. Nobody died. I used to fantasize about walking into a classroom with an AR-15 loaded with blanks to shoot at the ceiling. Never did. (1) I knew there would be dire consequences (2) I cared.
I think the caring part has decreased. When the Russians were going to kill us all, it was about fearing a natural disaster, basically. Nothing we could do. Active shooter shit? If you're at the end of your goddamn rope, and you have no real concept of mortality because you're seven-fucking-teen years old, the choice between popper and poppee is a moral one. And in these here United States, you aren't allowed to say "If you have a fatalistic attraction to tools designed to kill multiple people at once and minimal affinity for socialization and thriving, you are sick and we need to help you." Because if you love guns, you're a True American and if you think there should be not just access controls but oh, I dunno, maybe a concerted effort to disrupt a culture that values the tools of military aggression in the hands of civilian sportsmen... well, you don't understand, you're wrong, and I'm a responsible gun owner why are you punishing me?
It was just as easy to get guns 20 years ago as it is now. By any measure, the murder rate has gone down while the gun ownership rate has gone up. You are much less likely to die by gunfire now than you were then.
But back then, you were a lot less likely to die out of the goddamn blue, for no goddamn reason, by gunfire.
The NRA aren't terrorists. Gun owners aren't terrorists. Gun rights advocates aren't terrorists. But every mass shooter is a terrorist and our country has a hobby that is the proximate cause of terrorism.
Most people will never face a mass shooting. But every school student in America has to prepare for them as if they are, and they have to face the reality that we'd rather they memorize "run, hide, fight" instead of "stop, drop & roll" because a splinter fraction of the populace is concerned that if they give an inch, we'll take a mile and the next thing they know they'll be in fucking FEMA camps.
She was Serbian. She'd lost two houses in the war. Her neighbors had firebombed her house in the country and burned it to the ground. Then NATO had bombed her city and leveled her condo. I asked her which was worse. "The country," she said. "Carpet bombing you don't have to take personally."
The entire country arranged its culture around eventual, impersonal armageddon at the hands of unseen Soviet aggressors. Yet that same generation is perfectly okay with kids wondering which one of their classmates might shoot them in the face some day.
When the Run-Fight-Hide generation is tasked with taking care of the Duck'n'Cover generation, I wonder what they'll do.
I wonder if despite all their triumphs, they'll end up eating alpo on the edge of the desert.
And it takes every inch of my generosity to not wish for it earnestly.
I'll totally pretend to give you answers.
know the difference between FEELING helpless and BEING helpless.
So okay. You went on a trip and met a girl and felt titillated and infatuated for the first time in a while. Happens to literally every person in a long-term relationship. I flirt recklessly. My wife knows I do. She also knows I come home to her because a lot of it is situational. Infatuation is exploring the possibilities. Love is cherishing the realities. You may not be in love with Sarah but she's also not surprising you much anymore. Novelty is a hell of a drug.
And okay. Sarah accepted that she cares more about you than you care about her, and you, for some dumb goddamn reason, decided to keep her around as a fuckbuddy until AUGUST or some shit.
This is the only thing I'm going to give you a ration of shit for. You're in a shitty place. It sucks. I'm sorry. I'ma give you some pathways I promise but for a minute, sit there and feel bad for this. Because it's a shitty thing to do to another human being. "I don't feel that we have a future together but... let's keep rubbing our genitals together for another four months because we have nothing better to do." It's one thing if you're both at "eh" in the relationship but if you're already acknowledging that she's way more into you than you are into her, keeping her on the leash is fuckin' cruel, dude. And it's going to cause things to cascade one of three ways:
(1) She's going to muster up her self-esteem and drop you like a hot rock because who the fuck are you to string her along like that after you've both acknowledged that she's got feelings you can't reciprocate.
(2) She's going to take what she can get for as long as she can get it and try to win you over to her way of thinking HONESTLY. You've given her a deadline, you've given her an ultimatum, you've given her a way forward: how to win a guy in 120 days. And, as a bonus, she gets to bump uglies.
(3) She's going to take what she can get for as long as she can get it and try to win you over to her way of thinking BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY. You've given her a deadline, you've given her an ultimatum, you've given her a way forward: how to land your man in one easy step. And, as a bonus, you already had a pregnancy scare 5 weeks ago.
If I understand correctly, you have not been present at any doctor's appointments. You have her word that she's pregnant. If you believe her, that's plenty evidence enough. If you don't believe her, she wouldn't be the first person to fake a pregnancy in order to push a guy into marriage. It's happened to three of my friends, in fact. But don't focus on that. In the end it doesn't matter. Those three pathways are independent of pregnancy, real or feigned; the pregnancy is a complication but it does not affect the fundamental core of your relationship with Sarah.
Your relationship with your father is coloring your current situation way too much. Makes sense. Entirely natural. By all means analyze it, reflect on it, react to it, but then set it aside because the relationship that matters now is between you, your potential child, and the mother of that potential child. That's where a lot of the helplessness is coming from: you had no power over your father yet he still holds power over you. You have no power over this child yet this child holds power over you. Hold it up to the light, nod at it, then put it back in the drawer.
Your current reaction to Sarah has a lot to do with the fact that you thought you killed all responsibility to the relationship yet still managed to reap the benefits. Yet here she is, drowning you in responsibility and threatening to cut you off entirely from any benefits. She's making it clear that you are unnecessary to her future plans, much like you made it clear that she was unnecessary to yours. What was the word? "Paralyzed." All right. You're frozen. You can't move, you can't breathe, and you're freaking out. Hold it up to the light, nod at it, then put it back in the drawer.
You're all about abortion which leads me to believe that divorce doesn't offend your religious sensibilities. You're freaking out about your family's reaction to a kid out of wedlock. And you're fixated on this child's future alienation because you're going to have no input into their life. Yet the obvious solution - marry the girl - has been ruled out, out of hand, with no discussion whatsoever. Why is that?
Marry the girl. Now you've got a say in the kid's upbringing. Commit to not being a stranger. Get to know her family and friends. Commit to three more years in Germany, three more years of trying to see what kind of life you can build with Sarah. It's the first two years of a child's life that govern so much of their future and having two parents that love them under one roof where they feel safe and loved makes all the difference in the world.
If you're not into it within three years, part amicably. Support your child. Be a part of their life. Be anchored in her family. Be a relative that doesn't vanish. Be a father. You can be travel dad no problem. After you've front-loaded the commitment it'll be nearly impossible to shrug you off, particularly if you comport yourself like a gentleman. And fuckin' hell, you may discover that having something in common with Sarah, who is about to give over her body and time for the next two years to the life and well-being of your firstborn, makes her someone you can love more.
You might be surprised what happens when you extend the girl some trust and empathy. You might find she warms up into more of a person you want her to be. And, you might discover that she miscarries and you didn't have to blow up your life. Maybe you go through with the wedding, maybe you drop her like a hot rock and learn to never again string along a girl who likes you more than you like her.
Either way, your best move is to commit to a wedding and let it play out for better or worse. All the bullshit above aside, saying I'm going to do this means you're DOING something which breaks you free from paralysis. You're making a move, you're making a decision, you're acting towards your own future, and you're forcing the probability cascade to break down in your favor.
- You propose to the girl. She turns you down. You say you want to help. She turns you down. You try to be in the kid's life. She turns you down. You've done all you can, your father can't resent you completely, and the door is open to be a part later.
- You propose to the girl. She says yes. You get married, have a kid, stick it out as long as you can, and end up being Foreign Dad. By then you're more settled financially, you have a better idea what your future holds and you've influenced your child's future in an immeasurably positive way.
- You propose to the girl. She says yes. The pregnancy disappears. You walk away unscathed.
- You propose to the girl. She says yes. The pregnancy disappears. You find your feelings towards Sarah have changed. To be continued, for better or worse.
- You propose to the girl. She says yes. You have a family and live happily ever after.
Either way, when you've decided you no longer care for someone as much as they care for you, stop fucking them for both your sakes.
Writing is fun. Being a writer is bullshit. This dichotomy is one of the things writers don't talk about, don't write books about, don't tell students about.
Somewhere on here there's an article about the dirty little secret that every writer you've ever read had/has a spouse or a parent that allows them to eat so they can spend fuckin' forever grinding away at that magnum opus that nobody gives a shit about. If you're a "writer", odds are good you're also wasting your time from an economics standpoint. Stephen King will tell you that Tabby basically underwrote his career through Carrie. Anne LaMott will mention in passing that her dad's agent read eight of her books and oh by the way she's divorced from the guy who put food on the table while she did it. It's the dirty little secret: the people who don't have a benefactor are competing with the people who do but nobody mentions the benefactors. The two successful screenwriters I came up with were both in a position where they could live in $3k/mo apartments for two fucking years without having to earn a penny so they could sit there and write. Must be nice.
The other dichotomy is nobody gets into writing because they want to perform in front of an audience. Nobody sits down to write a book so they can carry it around under their figurative or literal arm to dozens of trained professionals all intent on saying no. Nobody sets out to prove themselves over and over and over again only to be sent a "not for us - sent from my iPad" email on Thanksgiving evening (true story). But once you get accepted by an agent you're a god. But once you get rejected by a publisher you're scum. But once you get published you're a god. But once the book gets panned you're scum.
And it's all so goddamned capricious.
If you ever want to see into the soul of any performer, ask them what work they're most proud of. It won't be one you've heard of. It'll be that thing they believed in, that they put their heart and soul into, that the marketplace crushed. And maybe they'll have rationalized why it got crushed, and maybe they won't, but it's still the central fable of their lives, be it written or a work-in-progress. It's the thing that allows them to make peace with the capriciousness.
Some people don't make peace with the capriciousness.
Hemingway was absolutely at the top of his game. Pithy mutherfucker. "There's nothing to writing. You just sit at the typewriter and bleed." Said the guy who tried on 47 endings and 18 titles for Farewell to Arms. David Foster Wallace? The closer he got to death, the more personal his writing became, the less interested his audience was in what he had to say.
The stories I write for me? Nobody wants to read them. The stories I shit out because someone throws a buck at me? ZOMGBUSINESS. That'll fuck with a mind: You're auditioning for genius but for some reason what they love the most is derivative crap. You'll notice nobody ever calls Danielle Steel or Dan Brown tortured geniuses. You may not think Amy Winehouse would have been different 20 years sober, but you don't care if David Lee Roth is different 20 years sober. Amy Winehouse was "serious." Diamond Dave is not.
So if you're a serious artiste you're left grappling with the cognitive dissonance that if you get paid you're a sell-out but if you don't get paid you starve (unless you're one of the lucky dilettantes we don't talk about but we all know and us serious artistes all know they aren't serious anyway, just lucky). And if you're a serious artiste you know that validation is nothing but validation is everything but validation is illogical but if it matters it MUST be logical and somehow
if you let yourself go
and turn off for a while
and give it to the bottle, give it to the powder, give it to the needle, give it to whatever
Writers, as a species, are sensitive. Writers, as a species, are introverts. Writers, as a profession, must have nerves of steel and an endless appetite for rejection and writers, as a profession, are chronically, criminally underpaid and undervalued. And if that writer has a tendency towards dependency, that dependency is what allows them to power through that cognitive dissonance. It's the thing that allows them to write for an audience.
Would Amy Winehouse's material be different if she were sober? Who knows. King's certainly is.
Inebriation allows writers to plow through the bullshit of being writers. Lots of writers can do it without substance abuse. Some can't. For those who can't, the proximate cause of their substance abuse is the bullshit of being a writer, and the bullshit of being a writer definitely colors their writing (lookin' at you, Charlie Kaufman).
Said every writing drunk in the history of writing, ever.
And then they poured another shot.
There's a girl in The Horrible Art Class. We'll call her Rebecca. In the first of four "allow me to memorize your names" segments The Horrible Teacher said "Rabak? Rebech? Arbitch?" at which point Rebecca, blushing, said "Rebecca. My first name doesn't fit on the attendance records for some reason." She was embarrassed by this.
Rebecca's hair is too long and her clothes are frumpy. But her eyes are alive under too much makeup. She's one of the Annoyed Ones in That Horrible Art Class; or, at least she's one of the ones who jets as quickly as she can.
Monday she was wearing a too-large sweatshirt. It said "In Case of (mid-life) Emergency Dial (Porsche) 9-1-1" and had a crude representation of a red RUF turbo on it. I asked her "So who saddled you with the shirt? Who has the disease?" and she said "My dad had a 911" and I plowed straight through "I just got one they're great everyone should have one" without touching on "what happened to it" "what happened to your dad" "why are you wearing your dad's sweatshirt." But you can see it. Whatever the circumstances there's a good possibility she's going through life minus a parent.
I just want to tell her she looks nice. I want to tell her to be brave enough to cut her hair, to stop hiding. I want to make everything be all right. I think when you're a teenager you're too busy being consumed by your own fragility to notice that you're all standing around like scared deer waiting for the tigers to come.
I've surrounded myself with children in the virtual world for fifteen years now. When surrounded by real ones my instincts are the same. Protect, inform, advise. I think I've realized that my overwhelmingly paternal instincts are an overreaction to my fundamentally feral upbringing.
My wife got back from a conference a couple weeks ago. They were talking about ACE scores and how many in the midwifery community tend to score higher than baseline. My wife and her new employee remarked that they were "zero" and "one" respectively but the argument was that if you have a non-zero score and your patient has a non-zero score your relationship has a cumulative score and in a traumatic birth your interactions are going to be a product of the cumulative, not the individuals. Curious, I took the test and scored a six.
It bugs the shit out of me that my altruism is motivated by the shadow effects of 30-year-old bullshit. It's disempowering. It makes it feel fake. It means I became Reddit's Father Confessor not because I wanted to do good but because I was flailing to fill the hole dug there decades earlier.
Now all I can notice is how stinky teenagers are. I wonder if they always were and now I sound like David Fucking Brooks.
Something I didn't say last time about that one app that I should have:
You're an exceptionally talented, exceptionally interesting young man. But you reveal nothing about yourself until you've been directly questioned. Then you're cautiously enthusiastic about the stuff you're, like, really good at.
You know what's sexy as all hell? Enthusiasm. The unbridled confidence to not just believe but to know that the stuff you think is cool IS cool and that anybody would be delighted to get a glimpse into this awesome world you live in. Passion and enthusiasm is what makes things interesting; being the vessel of that passion and enthusiasm is what makes you interesting.
You're a great communicator. Every interaction you have with a girl should take the form of "you're going to think this is cool because X." If you can make someone feel the awesome you do they will view you as awesome through simple transference.