Friday, February 27, 2015

I have been, and always shall be, your friend.

Leonard Nimoy is dead. After a career like his it's hard not to want to deal with the loss using quotes from that career.
We are assembled here today to pay final respects to our honored dead. And yet it should be noted that in the midst of our sorrow, this death takes place in the shadow of new life, the sunrise of a new world; a world that our beloved comrade gave his life to protect and nourish. He did not feel this sacrifice a vain or empty one, and we will not debate his profound wisdom at these proceedings. Of my friend, I can only say this: of all the souls I have encountered in my travels, his was the most... human. 
- Capt. Kirk in Wrath of Kahn
I'm too young to have seen Star Trek in it's original airing, but I remember watching it on TV as a kid. Star Trek is considered the domain of nerds, but everyone watched it and everyone had a character they related to. The nerds tended toward Scotty and Spock. James Doohan was constantly told that someone or other went into engineering of one kind or another because of him. I want to take this opportunity to tell Nimoy what Spock did for me and some of my friends.

The story told about Vulcans is that they're beings of pure logic. Or, rather, that they're highly emotional beings who strive to bury their emotions. They work on self control and denial of feelings, both good and bad, until they appear to be beings of pure logic. And if you can break through that shell you'll evoke a rage that would terrify a Klingon.

I was a nerd before nerds were generally accepted. I watched Revenge of the Nerds pretty much on loop. And I was picked on. I was outcast. Birthday parties were filled with people I had classes with, not necessarily friends. I also developed crushes well before I probably should have. That one woman on the school bus back in Kindergarten or 1st grade. That one classmate in 2nd grade that I would still drop absolutely everything and go slay a dragon for.

Spock helped me bury all that. The classmates standing on my head, the isolation, the hopeless crushes... these all got skimmed over even in grade school. Just skimmed over, mind you. When I'd finally crack there were fits of rage, but I'd try to keep them in private. Most would call this behavior unhealthy, but it was the only way to cope that I had. In my mind I became like Spock for awhile.

When I got older I would meditate. In my head, down a long flight of stairs, in a long, dark hall, there was a room with a machine. And I'd pull the levers and turn the knobs to turn down the emotions, to limit hormones. I couldn't do anything about the thugs, the bullies, or how they'd turn against any girl I showed affection to just as much as if they came after me. I had to get rid of their ability to hurt me and those I cared for so I had to get rid of any feelings of affection that I could never express without hurting that person. So I used the machine to turn everything down.

That girl who sprinted away down the halls when I asked her out. I had to let that slide off. The one who hung the love note in the school display case? I knew what kind of person she was now. Just walk away. Instead, appreciate the fact that every girl in school stopped talking to the guy who threw me across the gym locker room for using "his" shower head. I knew why the women reacted they way they did. They were defending themselves from monsters. I knew already that the best thing to do when I liked a girl was to avoid her and make sure that nobody ever knows that I like her. But there were a few women that were friendly enough to me that I thought maybe, just maybe...

By then I wasn't summoning Spock by name, but it was him. It was his example. It still probably wasn't healthy.

This is not going how I expected when I started writing.

In college the bullying stopped. So I had that going for me. But that didn't matter anymore. I couldn't, and still can't, get insulted. At most I cock one eyebrow and think "fascinating". Everything washed over me. But, with women the issues remained. I could keep the world out, but when you fall for someone that comes from somewhere deep inside and bubbles out. The levers on my machine helped keep those feelings to a simmer, but couldn't turn them off. But the constant, ongoing rejection was an issue. I got my first pity date my Junior year. It wasn't even a pity date. She was pressured into it by our friends. I had random women approach me on the sidewalk and tell me they'd never go out with me. Guys, in the meantime couldn't keep their hands off my ass or stop complimenting me at the urinal.

There was one woman who was interested in me. And, truth be told, I was interested in her, too. She flirted with me pretty heavily. She came over and introduced herself when we first started college. She sat next to me in all of our psych classes. But she was a flirt. She flirted with everyone. She slept over in the rooms of most everyone on my dorm floor. So I never took her seriously even for a minute. She pinned me to the wall with her hips and read my homework in a seductive manner and I just assumed she was being silly and having fun. NO woman was interested in me. And this one is treating me like she treats everyone. Why would I take her seriously? And here is where I blame Spock. Spock and my entire dating history. I only found out she was serious when we were taking the final for our last psych class together. She finished first and told me she loved me as she left. I finished as fast as I could and went after her. I found where she was logged in to the computer system and went after her, but she was gone. And when we got back from Christmas she had a boyfriend.

I have gotten better at detecting flirting, but it still takes 5-10 minutes to register "hey, dummy, you were supposed to ask her out".

In my junior year I attempted suicide. I had friends, but they didn't really help with the idea that life was eating, class, and work with the only prospect for the future being that class would eventually be replaced with more work. Work I'd do to pay for the food. So I took lots of sleeping pills. I listened to the psychologists try to convince me that dating wouldn't make me happy. And I almost believed them. But years later, with a lot more time, reflection, and perspective I can say with confidence that they were 100% full of crap. I met someone during my first senior year and it was life changing. Just that one person to smile at you, to hold you, can be all you need to make the pain go away. And even when you separate the simple fact that she was there once upon a time can help you for years to come. Can let you walk away from the women that are bad for you.

Which is good. I'm pushing 40 now and I can't flirt. The old programming remains. I know better, but the middle school and high school training is embedded as instinct. The worst thing I can do is let a woman I'm interested in know. It's more Lancelot than Spock. I'm protecting her. If I don't ask her out she won't be a target. Or she won't have to let me down gently. And I won't have to summon Spock to deal with the disappointment. All this I fight, but it is ground into me so deep that it is a struggle. I know how to be friends with a woman. But if I want something more I don't have any clue what to do next. I move slowly. And when you're 40 that's a huge problem. And I don't know if I should blame Defense Mechanism Spock, the bullies and classmates, or if I'm on the Aspergers Spectrum somewhere.

Anyway, look, Nimoy, your inspiration helped me and a lot of others for whom emotions were a curse. And, beyond Spock, when you'd appear on other shows, Fringe, Mission Impossible, your many voice acting roles, or whatever, we were always happy to see you. An old friend come by for a visit. At one point Star Trek was playing on TV somewhere in the world 24 hours a day. It's been shown in 100 countries in dozens of languages. You are mourned by the world. And you will be remembered long after the era Star Trek is set in has passed us by.

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