Trivia: n. unimportant details or information

I’m losing my patience for trivia worship. I don’t have a mind for holding facts — at least not facts about popular culture. I’m a goddamn encyclopedia for pet behavior and grammar laws, but I haven’t found my flock of fellow bird & word nerds, yet. If geeks are excited about counterculture, then why do I only ever hear them exchanging social affirmations? Do you know about this? Do you know about that? Do we fall on our knees for the same gods?

I love birds. All of my snapchats are of birds.

I am a bird nerd. I love birds. All of my snapchats are of birds.

Real eggheads study an obscure or challenging subject and revel in the love of knowledge. Media culture geeks are just like any insecure high-schooler who wants to be part of a clique that’s big enough for safety in numbers but exclusive enough to be “cool.”

Yes, we’ve decided that a certain amount of geekitude is cool. But, no poindexter is standing on a table, reciting arcane theorems and getting all the ladies at the parties. People are doing what they’ve always done, and that’s dish news and check that everyone knows the what-what of the happening, socially shaming people who can’t get with the program. What’s changed is that the never-ending internet has given us more what-what to sputter over our red cups. Almost anything goes as long as you have a little tribe of other geeks who are into your geek kink. And you do have a little tribe. You’ve seen them somewhere on Tumblr.

I understand, I really do, that having a common lexicon is a short cut to establishing shared experiences. But if you go on and on about Naruto, and I don’t know jack about Naruto, what am I supposed to do? Pretend I know what you’re talking about so I can skip on the noob history lesson? Change the subject? Point out that you’re a fucking nerd?

In a perfect world, I’d tell you I don’t know jack about whatever-his-face guy-with-a-rune on his headband (at first I thought it was blue-arrow-forehead child. Don’t act shocked, they’re both animated kids shows and I’m not a kid). Don’t give me a history lesson, I’d say. Instead, share an experience or an insight you gained from watching the show.

Do you really need to figure out which episodes we’ve both seen? Why can’t you just tell me what it all means to you? How it compares to your daily life? How it’s improved your relationship with your daughter? Why do I have to partake in this pissing contest that is proving I know enough about your geek fantasy to belong in your geek fantasy?

umbrella cockatoo on the porch

You just did a lot of reading. I will reward you with another bird picture.

This trivia spouting infects everything with a fandom, music appreciation included. Particularly, I don’t know how to react when a person knows more about my favorite band (Queens of the Stone Age)* than I do. I don’t know all the names of all the band members, though I’m certainly familiar with their discography. I can sketch out a list of songs for most albums with decent accuracy. Not that I care — I’ve just listened to R, Songs for the Deaf, Lullabies & Clockwork enough friggin’ times to know.

So, when this guy knows some obscure trivia (historical dates, formation of this or that) about my QOTSA and I yawn and pretend I know Josh Homme held this or that concert for his dead friend because I’m a bit embarrassed at my lack of expertise for my self-proclaimed “favorite”… when this guy goes off on some story I frankly don’t care about (don’t get me wrong, I’m impressed he’s retained so much information on his not-favorite-band), I’m realizing I need to just say: “Hey, thanks for teaching me something new, but what does it all really mean to you?”

When he gives me his baffled response, a “what” or a blank stare, I elaborate, “I don’t really care about the trivia. I care about the music. And I care about the music because of the band’s particular influence on my family, the way the shows I’ve attended shaped my understanding of rock and live performance and human appreciation for both. Tell me about an event you went to, how you felt, which beer you drank, how much sweat stained your t-shirt.”

I’ll tell you I first saw them when I was 17, with my dad in Austin, Texas. People there thought maybe he was robbing the cradle, because I dressed a bit too stylish and they didn’t know I was his daughter. I stood on my tiptoes to watch the longest drum solo I’ve ever seen, in a tiny venue called the Rose (it’s a lot like the Casbah, if you’re familiar with that), for “Feel Good Hit of the Summer.” I saw people smoking weed and carefully looked to my dad for an appropriate reaction, as I’d never seen the stuff before.

Don’t recite some band drama you picked up in your readings — some trivia that has nothing to do with you. Make it personal. Make it you. Bands are bands and some are better, but I’m not sitting in a spa with Josh Homme so what do I care if he wrote this or that song in this or that city? Unless, of course, *you* lived in that city.

Look he's so cute he's squinting. Don't you enjoy all these bird pictures? They are like my children. Look at all these pictures of my children? I'm not boring you am I?

Look he’s so cute he’s squinting. Don’t you enjoy all these bird pictures? They are like my children. Look at all these pictures of my children? I’m not boring you am I?

What I’m trying to say is, I coasted through my history classes because they weren’t *my* story. I’m much more interested in humans right in front of me than humans that are “popular” enough to make it to the books or the silver screen. I’m more interested in you. Tell me a tale, and make it one I can’t watch on TV. Tell me something I don’t know.

As media expands, these little clusters of allegiance to external narratives (Did you watch the new Game of Thrones? Are you into Attack on Titan?) might just fall apart. Lifespans of trends are shortening as the fire hose of popular media keeps pouring. We can’t keep up with everything. Certainly, established common ground makes us feel less alone. But I hope that the growth of communication technologies connects us such that we don’t need these superficial obsessions to lope along in a conversation. We could download in instants what someone else has already digested (here’s an emotion/dream/experience I had — let me transmit it to you in a microsecond so you know what I mean) and instead of validating that we’re on the same island of thought, examine and compare our reactions in the same moment. Make meaning, not just chase meaning laid out before us for us to follow like helpless human eyes scan a constantly flashing, changing TV screen. Quit worshiping trivia. Create your own legends.

*P.S. I’m going to the show in SF on the 17th! Will I see any other San Diegans there?

When is it okay to come to her rescue?

Queens-of-the-Stoneage-QOTSA-Like-Clockwork-Vinyl-CD-costFirst, can I just say I AM SO EXCITED for the new QOTSA album.  I just checked my alternate email inbox and found a message marked Tue, May 7, 3:12 AM.  Apparently I spent $51.43 on vinyl and a CD. It is the uber deluxe bestest vinyl version you can get and my favorite band, so I ain’t even mad that I broke my no-credit-cards-past-1am rule.  Play their song “I Appear Missing” while you read, if you like, below.

I am working on a Pandora station called Everything Homme Touches. When that’s mashed into submission to my tastes, I’ll post it.

Anyway, I wanted to examine something that’s been bugging me; when is it okay or even necessary to interfere, and when do you let people handle themselves?

I mean, as a brassy extrovert who’s not afraid to tell people to get their balls off of me, sometimes I resent it when a lesbro gets over-protective. Pro-tip: pretending to be my “boyfriend” in order to “rescue” me from some asshat is going to annoy me almost as much as the dude telling me I’ve got pretty teeth 10 times in one night. Also, is that some sort of PUA thing? Teeth? I have little baby chompers and the dentists had to put gadgets in my mouth to make it bigger; I don’t really think my teeth are that impressive.

So, this guy I’ve met twice in the bar before — he’s from Detroit so I’d told him about this blog — came up to me and asked me to be his wingwoman. He indicated a woman I’d seen on the dance floor earlier, who actually binged my gaydar for a change (my gaydar is fairly silent and inobservant).  She was standing with another young lady. “No, she’s not on your team,” I said. He insisted. “No. This is the wrong place,” we were at the Brass Rail, “and I am the wrong person,” I said. He went on a tangent and told me he has no trouble getting white chicks and won’t I please help him get this sexy black woman all the while hanging on my neck. “Seriously, I am the wrong person,” I said through my tiny teeth, a little bit of heat in my lungs.

He flew solo and persisted in pestering them. I didn’t know if I should walk up and say, “hey, this guy bothering you?” or let them take care of their own business, thank you very much.  When do you reach out and when do you respect other people as capable adults? And how does alcohol change this? Worse, would they see me as another predator? Ultimately I decided their two to his one was sufficient and turned my back so my eyes would stop rolling.

Below is my breakdown of when I’d want someone to help me, where “you” could be a casual friend or a stranger. (Close friends would probably know me better and be able to do more.) It is assumed you see me in a basically one-on-one situation. Do you agree?

Leave me alone if:

  • You know I’m gay and a guy is potentially flirting with me, but I’m smiling, making eye contact with him, and/or touching his arm or shoulder (I might be enjoying the conversation)
  • Really, if anyone is talking to me and I’m smiling, making eye contact, and/or touching them
  • I’m arguing with someone but there’s zero physical contact and I am making eye contact with my opponent (I might be enjoying the argument)

Enter the conversation as a neutral third-party, but don’t confront anyone when:

  • You know I’m gay and it seems like a guy is hitting on me aggressively
  • (You don’t know I am gay but) you suspect that I’m not enjoying a guy hitting on me
  • You suspect that I’m not enjoying a woman hitting on me
  • I’m arguing with someone but I keep looking away, crossing my arms, turning my body away, and/or make repeated eye contact with you
  • The person I’m talking to seems like somewhat of a stranger to me and is considerably more drunk and/or being more familiar than me (I might want to be nice, but need help managing someone who is a little out of control)

Say something to point out my agressor might be doing something socially unacceptable (Do you know this guy? Is she bothering you?) if:

  • I’m arguing with someone and they keep touching me even though I do not reciprocate their touches and/or even try to push them away
  • Someone (probably bigger than me) has me cornered, I’m avoiding eye contact with them, and I’m looking around (as if I’m looking for someone else i.e. to help me)
  • I make repeated eye contact with you (my way of asking for you to come over)
  • I’m sitting at a booth, trying to eat some food with my friends, and someone is looming over us and we’re alternating between telling him to go away and pretending to get on our phones, and we don’t want him to sit with us, but we’re kinda trapped in the booth, and this guy is shaking like he’s on drugs, and it’s 3am seriously party time is over…. (this actually happened)

This is a tricky topic for me, because while I’m an independent woman and I resent being treated like I need to be rescued, there are times when I could use some social help. Smoking patios can be rather narrow in this town, and I have been physically trapped in undesirable conversations. I may be able to leave the conversation, but don’t want to give up my chair or position because I’m doing my best not to be defeated or there are just not enough damn chairs. Or, more often, the agressor is a mutual friend.

I don’t know why more women don’t try to come to my rescue. I suppose we just aren’t given the scripts to “be the hero” and though we might want to reach out, it conflicts with the other scripts we’re taught to “be nice” or “avoid direct conflict” and we don’t really know what to do. I also suspect that like anyone else, women fear social judgement. They won’t risk interrupting a conversation because, let’s face it, how many times have you tried to help someone and they responded with rudeness?

I think we have to address that sometimes this rudeness is warranted or at least understandable — that by coming to someone’s aid you are essentially identifying that person as “in need.” Someone who is “in need” can be seen as inferior, weak, or defenseless. Because that person you tried to rescue has been spending the last 5 minutes to an hour defending herself from an aggressor, she may be in the type of mindset such that she refuses help in order to continue to look strong. Your interruption may actually be beneficial, but you may get no reward other than seeing an intense situation get derailed. Of course, you in no way deserve a reward for trying to help someone.

Or, you might be trying to help someone who really didn’t need your help. Hence needing to break down when it’s appropriate to intervene.

Then, I think, we have to be more willing to accept and acknowledge help. I sat on a chair in a really packed PB party: the attendees were a mixture of fraternity-types and redditors. Some smashed random came up to us and asked if we were playing beer pong. He tried to put his arms around us. My friend felt confrontational, possibly because beer pong got shut down awhile ago, duh, and this was our second strained interaction with him that night. So she told him, “Yeah, we’re playing beer pong right now.”  When he asked where our cups and balls were, I indicated the latter were in my lap and grabbed my crotch.

He asked a slew of confusing questions after that. A woman interrupted, “Hey, you girls alright?” and I didn’t really understand she was helping us. It was the first time anything like that had happened to me. Even though I was probably doing ok — what with my fancy word play and getting the dude to say he would enjoy touching my testicles, if I had them — he was becoming increasingly obnoxious. “Wait,” I turned to the gal, “Thank you for reaching out to us. I wish more women would stick up for each other like you just did for us.”

So, yeah, the moral of the story is that if I’ve resorted to discussing gonads with a guy, I probably could use your assistance.