The other day, I was fielding a question from a swimmer who was trying to shave a few seconds off his competition time, even if that meant literally shaving. I really didn't have a whole lot of swimming lore to fall back on, but I did happen to recall a brief video I'd seen, featuring a nine-year-old girl whose family lived in one of those nudist resorts in Florida. (Before you ask: I'm guessing she was almost certainly naked, but the camera never dropped more than a couple of inches below her clavicle, as it shouldn't have.) Swimming nude got her approval, for accelerative purposes: if you do without the swimsuit, "it won't slow you down."

It occurred to me that this was just the sort of thing I'd say, but then, I've always had the emotional sensibilities of a nine-year-old girl myself; I could see myself attending school with her, and then puzzling over how I'd ask the parental units if she'd invited me to visit her at the resort. I'm pretty sure my actual parents would not have approved of such things. Still, weirder things have happened; in 1969, when I finally found myself with a high-school girlfriend, her mom would not allow her to keep the class ring I'd given her, but Mom willingly smuggled me into the Girl Scout camp one weekend. I was, of course, on my best behavior.

A lot of the fangirling I've done over the last couple of decades is motivated by FOMO: I wondered what it might be like to grow into those roles myself, and the fear of missing out informed much of that wondering. I was fifty-seven years old when Rebecca Black's "Friday" went viral; she was, yes, easy on the eyes, but dsting teenagers was not something I fantasized about. Part of the video was shot at her house in Anaheim Hills; I wished I could have gone.

Even apart from the phenomenon of fangirling, I still found myself looking up to the teenagers. I had been conversing on a local BBS with a member of the local Apple user group, to whom I directed all my what-is-this-thing-called-Mac questions. Eventually we switched to the voice line, where we talked for hours. At some point we decided to meet at a user-group party, and I managed to pretend I didn't notice that I was in my early thirties and she was fourteen. About the time the family moved out West, I learned the truth of the matter: she was not fourteen, but twelve.

Sometimes I wonder if I'd retreated into this beby-girl world as a response to my general unhappiness with the world in which I'm supposed to be living: as a girl of nine, I can giggle at the sort of crush that would leave sexagenarian me disturbed and/or despondent. I can more easily envision myself as a girl of 19, ten years down the line, than as a man of 75. (I can barely imagine living to 75.) I'm pretty sure I'm not suffering from gender dysphoria: I spend essentially no time daydreaming about how life would be different with a few hyperexpensive plumbing changes, and I don't dream about it at night either. And yes, I have a fair number of toys from Generation Four of My Little Pony. After eight seasons, guys have mostly won the right to claim a segment of the fandom for their own, and I take advantage of that when I can; but unlike (probably) most of the guys, I'm willing to ask Twilight Sparkle for advice. She's never steered me wrong.

The Vent

  24 February 2019

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