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I Hate It Here

The Word
Everything2 Feedsite

So I've been here in The City for a time now, burrowed down ticklike under the shell-pocked skin of the cultural wasteland that is your home. I've learned a few things, I've confirmed a few things, and I've been reminded of a few things I really wanted to forget about entirely.

Women, for example.

Living the life ecclesiastical with firepower up in the hinterlands, dependent only on my supremely competent and male self (and possessing a perfectly good right hand) I had figured that this wouldn't be an issue, this go-around with the cesspit of socialization that you all swim in while I call the lanes.

Adult Swim. It's adult swim, boys and girls.

Since coming down here off the mountain, I've been flabbergasted by the roadblocks injected into a perfectly sensible social ritual by those half of the species possessing fluted coriaceous bits. I had no idea it was possible for every single woman in this city to be that overdue for a hair-washing, or plastic surgery, or a visit to their aunt, or (my personal favorite) a regularly-scheduled irrigation of the vertebrae.

The problem which I labor with is that for some fucking reason, despite my ever-so hobnailed and adamant journalistic mien (like them apples? Look it up.) and my oft-professed contempt for anything resembling the soft-hearted underbelly of human interaction, prolonged proximity to the human female will eventually undo me. No matter what oaths or plot or savage self-deception I practice, I will eventually find myself staring slack-jawed at some particularly comely example of the species' more evil half, willing and ready to ask her if she'd care to have my internal organs laid out pleasantly on a tray for her to grind those four-inch spiked heels into. We all will, it's biology. Unless you're homosexual, in which case you'll probably find yourself in exactly the same position, but the heels will be gracing the feet of a queen made even more evil and wretched from his familiarity with the male.

We've all been there.

What is a journalist to do, once his right hand, always faithful, develops carpal tunnel syndrome and demands a night of solitude extended to a month for recuperative leave? What every journalist since time began has done - head down to a gathering place and find those women who will exchange favors for coin.

Before you get fucking started, let me just say fuck you for your indignant reaction if (a) you're female, or even worse, (b) you're male. If you're a female, then you're biochemically incapable of understanding the level of addict withdrawal that you're inflicting on those of us whom you've assured that hair care outranks in the ladder of your attentions. Moreover, you're probably just upset that you don't have the balls (literal or figurative) to go get paid for what your mommy taught you was a weapon to be hoarded.

If you're a male, and you're busy being indignant, you're that queen with the four-inch heels and I don't have to fucking explain myself to you.

Back to the narrative. See, I will acknowledge something which is perfectly clear if you've been paying the attention that Darwin's process gave a herd animal. This is not something a man does for pride. This is not something a man does (usually) because it's a nice break between coffee and bed. This activity, the seeking of the professional, is an admission that we as men have a physical and psychological dependency on something. The difficulty is that we're so fucking postmodern that we've handed over control of it to those who deny us. This dependency will eventually outstrip everything else, for some men, including pride.

It's a good thing I never had any of that in the first place. If I had, do you think I'd be trying to explain the facts of the world to you all every week?

And here lies the problem. See, when I'm not SPIDER JERUSALEM, COMBAT JOURNALIST, and I'm just another guy needing to get laid for cash, I'm fairly fucking liberal about it. Streetwalker? No. Escort, high-class. Both for aesthetic reasons and because I feel that when I'm meeting a woman in a hotel I couldn't afford to stay in myself and there's no-one else present save her scheduler on the other end of a phone link, there's really no way even I at my most whipped and emasculated could argue that I'm exercising some illicit form of control on this woman.

Other way around. She's got control of me, and she knows it. That's why I'm going to hand her more money than I make in a couple of days for an hour of abiding by each and every one of her preferred rules, laid out in advance. I'm paying to admit to myself that yes, biology has finally fucked over my self-esteem, but there's nothing to be done about it but bow my smooth head and take it...well, not like a man, but like a desperate man.

Which finally leads me to my dilemma. See, since I'm so all-fired determined that there will be no taint of force involved - that everything I can do to assuage my desperate conscience will be done, since I am human and Properly Brought Up, that just means that that heel-grinding display on my spleen is still possible. But with worse consequences.

Yes, Virginia, hookers can turn you down. At least, if you frequent high-class escorts, they can. And to be honest, at some level, that makes me feel better about things - because if they can tell me they'd rather not slap skin with me, then there's no way I'm committing a sin of subjugation.

So naturally, three times in a row, I get idiotic excuses designed to 'let me off easy' - there's an emergency, her mother is calling her, something - and my crushed socialized forebrain marches me out of the room, meek, unfulfilled, still clutching my offerings, nodding and accepting all stories, no matter how weak. Whereas I know, because I went home to the apartment I share with the Filthy Acrobatic Sex Assistants who Only Have Monkey Love with others when I'm trying to sleep, and called the scheduler again with a different name. This time, though, I ask: "Does she see bald men?"

"Oh, honey, no, I'm sorry."

Ah. See, if I'd only been smart enough to ask if I'm unacceptable in advance, I could have spared myself the whole - no, fuck that, it's bad either way.

What this means, you see, is that even as a paying customer, I've just been told I'm not getting any because of something about me - and not my behavior. The question itself is irrelevant - it might be "Does she see black men?" or "Does she see short men?" and I guarantee you, for various women, the answer will be "No. <click>"

Perhaps I deserve it, for frequenting such a tawdry means of self-gratification. But you know, after all that - self-esteem already crushed down past my boots by the very attempt - I find myself realizing that once again, even when driven by societal shame and the disregard of women to the illicit side of societal interaction -

This guy loses.

Why? Because I didn't have to limit myself to those escorts non-desperate enough to be choosy. Nope. I could slide further down the ladder, but I won't. My self-image will deflate further under the boot of the female.

Is this discrimination? Here's an interesting question that the scribe in me perks up at. On the one hand, given what this woman is being asked to do - given what intimate activities and access to herself she is being asked to provide, it is perfectly understandable that her preferences should be respected.

On the other hand, if any other business proposition anywhere, even, say, a full-body (but legal) masseuse were to ask "Are you bald, black, short or blond?" And then say "Oh, I'm sorry, but no" without unacceptable behavior on the part of the customer, then that would be different. Once a service is offered for pay, then money must be anonymous; the money knows no color, no glabrousness, no race, no height.

But, of course, as I walk home, I have to remind myself - I crossed the line of legal, and there are no protections here for anyone, save those of force majeure and, one would hope, civilized behavior. Because I have some morsel of pride left, civilized behavior means I'll go home again and try to convince my right arm to loosen up a little in exchange for a nice dinner, maybe.

It's okay, though. Because the constant damage this sort of thing does to my psyche just means that the next few columns will be extra invasive.

I'm Spider Jerusalem, and I hate it here.

On the bridge, Baldwin counted to ten and stayed frozen. He counted to ten again, then vaulted over. "I still see my hands coming off the railing," he said. As he crossed the chord in flight, Baldwin recalls, "I instantly realized that everything in my life that I’d thought was unfixable was totally fixable-except for having just jumped."

Ken Baldwin, one of the few to survive attempted suicide from the Golden Gate Bridge.

Even with a safety rope, the psychological barriers to stepping off the side of a bridge are far greater than than the physical ones- for the Forth Bridge, just a waist-high metal fence separates the service walkway and, well, nothing. But going over that fence and tiptoeing along its outer edge to the nearest girder seems to take an age. Your brain can't help but process the words from the guy still on that slightly more reassuring walkway as a hypothetical discussion of how one would lean back, let go, and drop from the structure, rather than instructions to do so. You discover that one hand isn't needed (wave, he suggests), and the vice-like grip your other has on the rope is your only way to control the descent.

Eventually, you kick out from the girder, letting that grip relax. The rope flows through your hand, and you're falling free, tied to the impossibly solid structure of the bridge but somehow disconnected from it, nothing within the reach of arms or legs until, fifty metres of grinning like a lunatic later, your feet find their way to Queensferry Beach. It's only then that you remember to breathe.

For those wondering what I'm wittering on about, about six weeks back I was avoiding work by looking around the Facebook marketplace for an mp3 player, and the next thing I knew I'd agreed to abseil off the Forth Rail Bridge for NCH, the children's charity. Despite (or perhaps because) of having never abseiled before, nor having seen the Bridge up close, this seemed like a great idea at the time. Much of my family were less convinced of the sanity of this project (using the phrase 'jumping off a bridge' didn't help), but fellow students and noders offered plenty of encouragement, clearly less concerned about (or perhaps hoping for) potential spectacular injury.

The first month or so, the fundraising campaign required more attention than the practicalities of what I'd actually signed up for. The week before, I subjected myself to the misery of public transport on a Sunday to scout out the location, catching a train to Inverkeithing and across the bridge itself for the first time. Despite the workmen repairing the vast patches of rust and peeled paint, the overwhelming impression was of stability, the iconic central sections helpfully dwarfing the viaduct from which I would be falling.

Today, from the perspective of the shore rather than the elevated railway, that drop doesn't seem so small. A participant abseiling head-first, screaming all the way, does not build confidence in the waiting room prior to kitting up. Don't look down is the obvious but impossible advice offered on dealing with the long walk out to the ropes. Passing through usually restricted areas gives a glimpse into the inner workings of network rail and this magnificient structure; just short of a hundred steps transport you from street level to a service walkway, under the tracks themselves. The views from here of the Forth of Firth and the underbelly of the bridge are breathtaking- the view straight down through the metal grille of the walkway are too, but on account of apprehension rather than any aesthetic quality. A train passes overhead, unseen but felt, showering rust. For each of the three sections we hesitantly walk along, we have to be clipped to a cable, lest mishap or madness sends us over the side. From that last cable, we are transferred to the safety rope, and invited to step over the side.

In the adrenaline rush of landing it's easy to forget that today wasn't, ultimately, for me. Through this stunt I was able to raise over £200 for NCH, and many thanks to the noders who contributed. The day as a whole must have raised thousands, with a steady stream of people from all walks of life - many scared of heights to boot - taking that step over the edge for their charity of choice. But you can do something equally amazing, just by giving something - anything - to a good cause today. What's holding you back?

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