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Manic Pixie Dream Love | 2012 | Sunburnt Cupcakes


It is better for my enemy to see good in me than for me to see evil in him.  

-Yiddish proverb


Once Bitten

Oh, hair, you are missed.

Yesterday, I received the worst haircut of my life (and no, you cannot see it. If I have any say in the matter, no photographic proof of this follicular abomination will ever exist until it grows out enough to be presentable, if not attractive). I was clear enough with the barber, in that I told him I wanted it to remain medium length, somewhat shaggy, simply a few inches shorter. I was looking for topiary, not clear cutting. Perhaps he had some cognitive or auditory issues, because he apparently heard "Please, sir, I want to look like a ten-year-old getting his family photo taken in 1953". He wanted to cut me down to size, I think, and did not care how I wished for myself to look.

All this is an admittedly silly preamble to my realization of the frightening amount of trust we place in other people on a daily basis. (A bad haircut does not represent anarchy, no matter what the Sex Pistols told us.) I trust that you are going to stop at the red light, that you have decided not to taint my meals with bodily fluids, that you are not guiding me into a corner so you can assault me, that you have not filled my prescription with arsenic instead of Amoxicillin. To survive as humans, there is no option but to accept the society formed by trust.

This is, perhaps, a foolish thing to do given that I work with adolescents who shirked their social responsibility to rob, rape, and kill (I keep myself intentionally ignorant as to the specific nature of my students' crimes because it is information that could subconsciously influence how I interact with them; they deserve to be treated as boys, no matter what they did to get themselves in my classroom). I grew up in a blissful cloud of innocence so that I, like the noble and quite extinct dodo, trust that people are generally not out for my head because of my magnificent stupidity. When I returned to my former high school to begin my student teaching, I bemoaned the negative reputation it enjoyed. My former English teacher all but audibly rolled her eyes as she informed me that the faculty made a concerted effort to keep me away from the negative influence through honors and AP classes and creative scheduling, none of which occurred to me at the time. "Job well done then?" I suggested, which she did not seem to find a satisfying response.

We never know how often our trust is rewarded, how our faith in the inherent goodness (or enlightened self-interest) of our fellow man paves for us an easy road. We only know the highwaymen because they makes us jaded.

I am a teacher (by paycheck, if not by soul) and am constantly aware of the trust implicitly placed in me. I am a Discordian, after all, and think it would be amusing to misinform my charges about the true nature of sharpeis (they turn themselves inside out when threatened, thus the extra skin) or any other number of clever lies I could make up on the fly for the joy of seeing them seriously repeated by boys who do not know any better. The state trusts I will not abuse my power for the fun of it and I have no intention of ever abusing this confidence, if partly because I enjoy the stability of regular paychecks. I likewise trust, in a very guarded way, that these students will not rage violently against me, a trust that has been bashed more than once already. When they do, I trust that the system in place is adequate for disciplining them for my mistreatment. If I did not have this trust, I could no longer work where I do.

When trusts breaks down, as it almost must from time to time if we are to be anything but mental toddlers, we are left adrift in our violation. We assumed that this would not happen, that we would be safe and protected because we had made every effort to protect those around us. We cannot survive as individuals or as a culture if we cannot regain our trust. As I am so inclined to tell people, we are descended of a tribal ape species. Not screwing with those around us is so encoded in our genes that we have sclera - the whites of our eyes - that are visible at a distance so people all around can see where we are looking. We are built for trust, it is the first psycho-social crisis we face at the hands of our parents. If we fail there, we must again and again face this crisis before we can properly move on to become fully formed people.

Only, some do not move on, not for decades, if ever. Their will, their perspective, their opinion is all the matters because they can't trust you enough to allow you autonomy in their minds. At best, you will be shouted down. At worst.... we try not to focus on at worst. They exist today because of the foundation of trust they refuse to acknowledge, the millions of tiny touches that fostered them, and they want to destroy the trust of others as frequently as possible. They were disappointed and will draw you into their unspoken therapy until they become resolved. Compassion suggests that we should try to help them see that trust is the bedrock of the human experience, but that is among the least simple options they will present us with when they try to violate us to prove themselves unworthy. However many times we are once bitten by them, we cannot allow ourselves to shy away from regaining our trust, because then we will become bitter and stuck. We trust again, at the very least, because we can't cut our own hair.

Soon in Xenology: Male friendships. Cupcakes.

last watched: Battle Royale
reading: Why Buffy Matters
listening: Feist

Manic Pixie Dream Love | 2012 | Sunburnt Cupcakes

Thomm Quackenbush is an author and teacher in the Hudson Valley. Double Dragon publishes four novels in his Night's Dream series (We Shadows, Danse Macabre, and Artificial Gods, and Flies to Wanton Boys). He has sold jewelry in Victorian England, confused children as a mad scientist, filed away more books than anyone has ever read, and tried to inspire the learning disabled and gifted. He is capable of crossing one eye, raising one eyebrow, and once accidentally groped a ghost. When not writing, he can be found biking, hiking the Adirondacks, grazing on snacks at art openings, and keeping a straight face when listening to people tell him they are in touch with 164 species of interstellar beings. He likes when you comment.

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