[I have been trying to say this for a long time. This is literally the only language I have been able to come up with, to say this in. Please bear with me. I can’t say it any other way Literally can’t. Have tried zillions of ways. Can only do this analogy. Am amazed I even got this far, after years and years of trying.]
Once upon a time, there were a lot of round pegs and round holes. You probably think you know where I’m going with this already. You’re almost certainly wrong. Please allow me to continue.
Then a bunch of square pegs came along.. They couldn’t fit into the round holes. They eventually started politically organizing. They formed all kinds of ideas aroud being a square peg trying to fit into a round hole. They lovingly defined every inch of being a square peg. They not so lovingly defined every inch of being oppressed for being a square peg.
Then lots of other pegs came along. They were neither square nor round. They started dscribing themselves using the same ideas started by the square pegs, but adapting them to being hexagons, pentagons, star-shaped,, oval-shaped, irregular-shaped, and all kinds of shapes. They defined all of these things just as much as the square pegs had done for being square. They demanded that a larger community form, one that dealt with the problems of all kinds of pegs.
And they created holes that fit them and they began to be happier, despite still needing to fight for every inch of their rights in a society dominated by round pegs.
And then people like me came along. And trust me, what I am about to say is not some claim of uniqueness or superiority. There are tons of people like me in the world and we’re not superior to any of the people I’ve described so far by analogy. It’s just an attempt to illustrate something so fundamental that I know no other way to say it than what I am saying here.
So people like me came along. And I’ll use myself as an example.
I always knew I wasn’t a round peg. I spent quite awhile thinking I was square, or maybe slightly rectangular, because that was the only other option given. Then I thought maye I was star-shaped, or oval, or irregular-shaped, any of these different shapes of peg..
But not only did all the shapes seem wrong.
The entire concepts that these shapes used to define their relationship to the world seemed wrong. These were concepts they seemed to need, for themselves, mind you. They created these concepts with themselves in mind. But just as the round pegs designed their entire world without square pegs in mind, and the square pegs didn’t take all the other shaped pegs in mind, all the other shaped pegs basically built upon the work of the square pegs.
Oh, I deal with all the same crap that non-round pegs get. To the point that it’s not out of place to say I face [insert whatever name that non-round pegs use for the oppression they face for not being round pegs] It would be ridiculous to say I don’t face that kind of oppression.
But even the act of saying I face that kind of oppression. And using the vocabulary that all these pegs built for themselves. Is forcing me to sound as if I fit into a worldview that is fundamentally based around being a non-round peg.
And I’m not a round peg. But I’m not a non-round peg. Because I’m not a fucking peg.
So every time I use the language thought up by these pegs, to describe the oppression they face, and also the beauty of their existence, and all the things in between? I feel like I’m killing myself off with words.
But I have no other vocabulary to use.
I’m not a round peg, I’m not a square peg, I’m not a rectangular peg, I’m not a polygon of any sort, I’m not an oval peg, I’m not an irregular peg, I’m not a peg.
You can apply this to multiple oppressed groups that I regularly am forced to sound as if I am a part of, because all the popularly used language and vocabulary around that kind of oppression has been thought up by pegs, for pegs.
There’s no room out there for people who aren’t pegs, who have no hole to fit into, who don’t need or want to fit into a hole because we’re not pegs and have entirely different needs from pegs. And yet who basically face oppression for being something other than round pegs. It’s just that “something other than round pegs” still gets taken as “another kind of peg” when there’s tons of people out there who aren’t pegs at all. And we’re forced to either blend in or go silent.
And when we don’t either blend in or go silent, people entirely misunderstand what we’re doing. They say we want to be special. or unique. Or they say we are too demanding. Or they say we’re pegs with internalized anti-peg prejudice. Or they say we’re actually round pegs who want to act like we’re not round pegs, so we pretend to not only not be round pegs, but not be any other kind of pegs either – they assume that if we were really not round pegs, we would identify totally with the “I’m a peg but I’m not round” experience of the world, so if we aren’t “I’m a peg but I’m not round” we must secretly be “I’m a peg and I’m round” because to them there are literally no other types of people.
So a lot of us just don’t talk about it. Or we try badly to act like we’re round pegs, or square pegs, or irregular pegs, or some other kind of peg entirely, but definitely pegs of some kind, whichever one we choose. Or we get frustrated and say things that get taken wrong pretty much always by every kind of peg imaginable because pegs can’t seem to imagine not being a peg and not having a hole to fit into at all and not wanting or needing a hole to fit into.
And again, none of this is about being better or worse. I don’t know how many times I have to say that. It’s not about being special or ordinary. It’s not about being interesting or uninteresting.
It’s just that if you look at the shape of people.
Some people are round pegs. Some people are square pegs. Some people are oval pegs. Some people are irregular pegs. Some people are star-shaped pegs. Some people are pegs of every kind of polygon out there. Lots of people are pegs. And then lots of people aren’t pegs at all and the entire experience of being a peg, of having a hole to fit into, of needing or wanting that hole in any respect at all, all of the things inherent to being a peg, are utterly and totally foreign because we’re just not pegs. End of story. All you have to do is look at us, or feel us with your hands, to tell we’re not pegs. But nobody wants to look, or feel ,because that would require acknowledging that not everyone is a peg. And people have enough trouble with the concept of non-round pegs without having to deal with us as well.
And another thing that sucks? In the non-round-peg communities that exist, they’ve sometimes created an entire category for non-pegs, except somehow even the category of “not being a peg” ends up revolving around experiences that you have to be a peg to have. So like half the names for “not being a peg at all” are tainted by association with that kind of stuff. I know, that’s really really weird, but it’s how it is.
How do you write about your experiences in the world, good and bad, when there is no framework in which to write about them?
How do you make up entirely new concepts and ideas every time?
How do you handle words at all when words seem to inevitably drive you towards sounding like you’re a peg, because all the language was created by pegs, with the experiences of pegs so central to every single concept they use, that you can’t describe yourself without describing yourself as fundamentally peggish in nature?
How do you do this when you have language-related disabilities to begin with?
How do you do this knowing that yo'u’ll be met with hostility from the very pegs who try to present their ideas as the answer to your oppression?
And how do you describe any experience when there seems to literally be no vocabulary in the world that doesn’t cut into your experiences and slice you to pieces from the core outwards?
And yes – some of that is a problem with language. And it’s a thing that all language does to everyone, if you look closely enough to see what’s happening. There’s something about language that is fundamentally violent to reality – or tries to be, at any rate. (Reality is actually far more equipped to destroy language than language is to destroy anything. Fortunately for reality.) It does this to people who love language and feel utterly at home in it, just as much as it does this to people who hate language and feel utterly alienated by it.
But that’s not what I’m talking about here.
I’m talking about language and concepts that’ve specifically been created, by people who have been shut out of the language and concepts that most people use for themselvs. And these people have created language and concepts for these other groups of people, language and concepts that are wonderful and terrible and everything in between, language and concepts that center around their experiences. Without once realizing that their language and concepts are fundamentally and totally at odds with the very existence of certain other groups of people they haven’t even thought to include in their language and concepts. So their language and concepts are wonderful for them but fundamentally horribly violent to other people – without ever meaning to be, but still being that way.
And because of the way things are set up, it’s very hard for those of us who aren’t pegs at all, to even discuss this without being shot down from every possible direction at once.
Which is part of the violence in itself. But not all of it.
And that’s one reason I sometimes have to opt out of discussions that you’d think would include people like me. And sometimes I have to just not be there. And sometimes I can’t talk about it. And sometimes I have to force myself to sound like a peg, even though i’m not and never will be a peg. And it’s all horrible, no matter what I choose.
I’m not a peg. Lots of people aren’t pegs. This shouldn’t be news. This shouldn’t be controversial. We shouldn’t have to say “I’m a peg” in order to say “I’m not a round peg”. We shouldn’t have to say “I’m a peg” in order to say “I face oppression for not being a round peg”. But all the language for that situation has “I’m a peg” so thoroughly embedded in it that it’s as if we are invisible nonexistent creatures of some kind. And we’re honestly not trying to be difficult when we say these things. If anything about the situation is difficult, it’s the situation this entire scenario forces us into to begin with.
The Waitresses were Chris Butler’s project after Tin Huey, eschewing that band’s prog and jazz approach to quirky new wave pop in favor of a funk and ska approach, and adding, among others, Billy Ficca (um.. Television) on drums and the late great Patty Donahue on captivatingly disinterested vocals.
Wasn’t Tomorrow Wonderful? debuted in January 1982 to substantial deserved acclaim, sporting the Chic-inflected hit “I Know What Boys Like” and several supporting slices of smart and sardonic sass (seriously, excellent lyrics throughout).
Subsequent releases pick up the pieces from the wreckage of an unfortunate followup tension implosion, with the November 1982 EP I Could Rule The World If I Could Only Get The Parts’ inclusion of both the all-timer (and, again, Chic-inflected) “Christmas Wrapping” and the theme song to the short-lived but long-remembered TV sitcom Square Pegs making it the obvious best-of-the-rest.
The Waitresses - “I Know What Boys Like” via YouTube
Square Pegs (scene featuring The Waitresses) via YouTube
Square pegs we didn’t fit or quite fit in foolish dreamers that we were actually thinking we might win judged not well by a world most sick still I believe if we’re willing to try maybe love might do the trick
He’s a struggling actor moonlighting as a substitute teacher. He’s supposed to teach these kids about marriage through fake teen weddings, but the regular teacher has everyone paired up with their optimal matches (which is already crazy. Is this a high school teacher acting out weird fan fiction on her students?) so he randomly pairs people up, makes one girl a widow, a couple more lonely single hearts, and then pretend marries teen Jessicah Parker.
Obviously they hate it, until the end of the episode when he Dead Poets Society’s them and reveals that they just learned a mega-lesson on life, love, and humanity. Also teen Sarah Jessicah Parker has probably fallen in love with him, but, like… who wouldn’t?
Sixteen-year-old Michael Woodmansee of South Kingstown, Rhode Island didn’t look like a budding psychopath - with his thick glasses, obese frame, and shy demeanour, Michael could easily pass for a square peg amongst his more popular classmates. Unbeknownst to anyone around him, Michael nurtured graphic fantasies involving death and rape, and considered murder easy to get away with. On May 18, 1975, he made his deadly fantasies a reality.
Five-year-old Jason Foreman was playing with a group of boys at the top of the street Michael Woodmansee lived on when he heard his mother calling him home. Jason lived on a corner, and Woodmansee’s house was opposite the path Jason would have taken home. His mother last recalled seeing Jason walking through the front gate to the house, until she turned to answer the phone. Jason never walked through the door. His disappearance would baffle police for over eight years.
It was 1982 until a break in Jason Foreman’s case, and came about as a result of Woodmansee attempting to kill another young boy. The now twenty-three-year old had lured a teenage paperboy into an empty house and drugged him with alcohol. After an unsuccessful attempt at strangling the boy, Woodmansee gave up and left him for dead in the house. Instead, the injured boy went home and told his father about the incident, and who did it. The victims father then went to Woodmansee’s home and beat him up, after which Woodmansee did something incredibly stupid - he called the police and reported the assault.
At the police station Woodmansee tried to excuse the attack on the paperboy as ‘losing his temper’, but officer conducting the interview had a hunch that Woodmansee was responsible for the disappearance of Jason Foreman seven years before. After continuous prodding Woodmansee broke down and confessed to killing the child, and admitted he still had much of his body in his bedroom. Before a police unit searched the house, Woodmansee remarked that they would find a journal written by him in his room, but its contents were pure fiction.
In Woodmansee’s bedroom police discovered a number of gruesome relics; Jason Foreman’s skull, coated in high-gloss shellac. The little boy’s hip and rib bones, picked clean of flesh. Crude drawings of children being stabbed and decapitated. And the aforementioned journal, the contents of which were deemed too disgusting to be discussed in court. Though its never been reproduced in its entirety anywhere, the journal was said to contain graphic descriptions of Jason’s murder, his dismemberment, and how Woodmansee disposed of his body by boiling it over a stove and eating the cooked flesh.
In 1983 Michael Woodmansee was found guilty of second-degree murder and sentenced to forty years in prison. His relatively low sentence was the result of a plea bargain with the prosecution to ensure none of the horrific details of the murder were discussed in court, as the police were fearful about copycat crimes.
In a shocking move by corrections, Woodmansee was released from prison after serving 28 years of his 40 year sentence. Jason Foreman’s father has publicly declared his intention to murder Woodmansee for his crime against Jason.