For God’s sake, Kent thinks to himself in
the “personal care” section of the grocery store. Why does Dove think I’m allergic to purple just because I’m a guy?
He picks up the lavender-scented bar soap and inhales. It smells heavenly. Next he tries the sandalwood-scented from the men’s section. It comes in a
gray box and costs fifty cents less. It smells good but it reminds him of floor
I’m a grown-ass man, Kent thinks, and buys
the lavender soap.
The next time he’s out of body wash, he spends thirty minutes
trying to decide on one of the many “manly” smells before caving to “Cocoa
Cabana” in the women’s aisle because it smells like Valentines Day in a bottle.
After that it’s his deodorant body spray, trading in “Bold” (whatever the fuck
boldness smells like) for “Fresh Cotton.”
The first time Jeff catches a whiff
of it on him, he asks, “New fabric softener? It smells awesome.”
“Nah, switched deodorants.”
“Huh.” Jeff nods in approval. “Well, you smell like fresh
blankets out of the dryer. I have a physical urge to hug you.”
Kent laughs. Jeff hugs him and he laughs more. It’s nice.
After five months, nearly every toiletry Kent owns has been
switched over from an endless variety of blacks, grays, and occasional dark
greens and blues to white, purple, soft brown, yellow, and pink. Showers have
transformed from a perfunctory necessity to something luxurious. Women’s
products are so indulgent.
They make Kent feel and smell like he’s been at a spa. He does have to learn to juggle the fragrances appropriately or
risk smelling like a perfume store vomited on him. But it’s worth it, for how
good he feels after. He feels pampered. His skin is softer, his hair shines,
and even his pits and crotch look and feel cleaner. He doesn’t know if it’s the
products or because he really cares about the maintenance, now, since he’s got
all these specialty items to try. It doesn’t matter. He feels great.
Kent now has honest-to-God bubble baths and detox-salt-soaks.
He’s got body butters and face masks and a lip balm in almost every flavor. The
ladies at the Lush at the mall know him by name.
Kent’s still single. He’s got his cat for company, though, and
the guys, who drop by or come over for movie and game nights and get drunk and
eat all his food and pretend to chirp him for the specialty lemongrass-scented
hand soap in his bathroom. Sometimes, on roadies, Swoops will plop down next to
him on a bus or a plane and say loudly, “Damn, who’s got chocolate and
isn’t sharing? Oh, it’s just Parser. Fuck you for getting my hopes up,” and
then he’ll noogie Kent or grab his fingers and gnaw on them.
(The coaches have had to break them up before and it’s very
unbecoming of two adult men.)
More than once, one of the guys has fallen asleep next to Kent
and ended up face-first in Kent’s shoulder. They’ll wake up blearily, rubbing
their eyes and saying, “Whoops, sorry man, didn’t mean to drool on you.”
Kent was confused at first but he’s realizing that it’s because they gravitate
towards the scent of him in their sleep. He smells like comforting things:
honey and chocolate and cotton and Shea. He smells like warmth and safety. It’s
why he likes all the things he buys, so it makes sense the guys would like
Nobody rags on him for it. They chirp him, but that’s different.
Chirping, light-hearted and giggly, means acceptance. Soon his teammates start
coming up to him in the locker room or nudging him on a bus and
saying, “Parser, can I borrow some of your stuff?” and leaving with
key-lime lips or cocoa-butter hands.
But it’s when he catches Sunny—big, burly, greatly-bearded d-man
Sunny—pulling a bright orange tube of passion fruit lip balm out of his bag and
slicking it on in front of everyone that he knows for sure that it’s okay.
This post was triggered by something that @roachpatrol said over here about the expectation for girls to be sweet and clean and harmless:
Holy shit, if I was eight years younger and wandering into fandom for the first time, I can guarantee that the culture right now would’ve fucked me up and ground me down and taken away all my healthy outlets.
Picture: you are a girl at the tender young age of mumbledyteen. Up until this point you have been taught that all dark thoughts are literally hand-delivered into your head by the devil, and that the only correct method of dealing with negativity is to ignore them and pray harder. Concentrate on what is good and righteous and pure to the exclusion of all else, this is how you be a good person.
You are also a fully-functioning human being, one who can feel stressed or lonely or angry or any number of bad things. Mostly, with emotions that are still working themselves out, you feel this rumbling, white-hot white noise under everything, all the time. Sometimes it rolls in like a thunderstorm and everything else gets drowned out, and sometimes it’s only quietly muttering in the distance. Either way it’s always there, and the sound shreds uncomfortably at the inside of your brain.
When you were younger, before you were in charge of your own media consumption, your brain would shred up a myriad of saccharine stories to try and match the noise of the shredder in your head. Bad things happening, people getting hurt, characters trapped in unhealthy relationships of all kinds.
Fanfiction, the product of a hundred thousand other mumbledyteens whose brains are all screaming the same way, makes something in your brain go ping.
Unfortunately, if the planet had ever been united on any single message, it was probably that no matter how you feel: 1) your feelings weren’t unique 2) they didn’t matter 3) they didn’t matter because they weren’t unique, they were shared among millions of hysterical, worthless teenaged girls just like you.
Fandom was confirmation of the first, but (with some hiccups along the way) outright rejection of the last two. Fuck you, our feelings do matter, and this is a story just for us.
A disclaimer: these aren’t good stories, otherwise they wouldn’t have to be defended. Their flavor of topic is not within societally acceptable bounds. Fictional characters have sex and get tortured and raped and abused, but their screaming harmonizes with the pitch of the shredder when it’s burrowing deepest.
As a teenager I never thought that my feelings were important enough to deal with, but these stories let me look at them sideways. Audience catharsis is the whole point of tragedy, after all.
And hell, these days I’m a happy, healthy adult who barely even has the urge to go looking for whump fic when I’ve had a bad week. I’m not going to forget just how much bad stuff that fic helped me air out, though, not ever. (Not to mention that thanks to all of those abuse!fics, I can recognize an unhealthy relationship at 500 paces, even if the fictional abuse was depicted as something loving and romantic. Abusers in real life don’t go around with helpful warning tags on their sleeves anyway.)
But holy shit, can you imagine if I’d found fandom as it is today.
Yes, your church is right, your family is right. Horrible things in stories are only there because they were written by horrible people, and they’re only popular because horrible people read them. The very concepts they address corrupt everything they touch.
That shredder in your head, the one that takes innocent cartoons but then shits out sadness and mayhem? That’s disgusting, you’re disgusting. How dare you think about minors having underaged sex, you minor? How dare you consider another person getting hurt? Your feelings don’t matter, they aren’t unique, they’re shared with all kinds of worthless shitbags just like you.
Every ounce of what you read and write and enjoy is going to be weighed for sin and tested for purity. You know, just like the rest of your life, except this time there’s no deity who’s handing out second chances.
Maybe that’s what bothers me most about all of this. It’s the same petty fandom bullshit as always, but “you’re wrong for liking a ship because IT WILL NEVER BE CANON” is a hell of a lot easier to laugh off when you’re young than “you’re wrong for liking a ship because YOU’RE AN ABUSIVE PEDOPHILE AND IF SOMETHING BAD HAPPENS IT’S YOUR FAULT FOR PERPETUATING IT.”
My fault, my bad thoughts, no outlet for any of them. The message to repress all the bad things so I can look like a good person, but my brain is so full of unprocessed shit that it’s solidified. Nobody actually saved any real children, but my brain sure is getting a second dose of fucked-up.
Are the people getting attacked going to be okay, will they be able to go and address their braingremlins somewhere else? I’d also ask if the people doing the attacking are okay, with all of the denial and repression they must deal with, but it seems like they’ve got venting pretty well handled by taking it out on strangers.
Hey, c’mon, calm down friends. I bet I’ve read a story that’s got a character screaming at just the same pitch you are.
It helps to read one of those and harmonize your voices, I promise.
*reads an embarrassing line and takes a deep breath* *shuts phone off* *takes five million laps around my house* *ignores fanfic but thinks about it for every second for three days straight**comes back to fanfic* “OhH mYy FuCKiNG gOD!!!”
“Why the fuck you lyin’ why you always lyin’, mmmm my god, stop fucking lyin’ ”
“This is straight up lies, this doesn’t ever happen”
“Oh my god this fic is terrible….I have to finish it as fast as I possibly can”
“wHat the FUCK THAT MAJOR CHARACTER DEATH TAG WAS NOT FUCKING THERE”
“….what the hell do you mean my ship doesn’t end up together? WHat THE heLl dO YOU MEaN?!”
What she means: ok, but for real, who IS Specs? I mean according to his canon lines in the show and most general headcanons based on the cliché “sweet lil glasses nerd” trope, he’s really considerate and loyal and softspoken. Like this boy saw that the paper price was up and decided “huh maybe I’ll save my manhattan buddies the trip and check out the journal. oh diddly darn cheese and crackers it’s hiked up over there too”. But in the tour version, he’s the one that breaks in and out of the Refuge to get Crutchie’s letter. NOT JACK, the escaped convict. The only person ever known to “beat” the Refuge. Not the legendary Jack Kelly. Oh no. Freakin Specs McSweetiepants straight up BREAKS IN AND OUT OF JAIL to deliver a LETTER to this distraught sack of wild-west-themed emo fuck. Like. How does he know how to do that?? What has my baby known?? And then remember Jack’s super duper top secret art that reveals his soft tender side that he doesn’t even show Crutchie during the prologue?? - NO. NO ONE KNOWS ABOUT HIS ANGSTY PICASSO SHIT EXCEPT THIS BRAINY SMURF-ASS MOTHERFUCKER who sells out scary big bro Jack for LITERALLY NOTHING. Like did Katherine even ask??? Or was Specs just being beyond petty like “bitch you think that’s bad you should see these scribbles he does while blasting mcr on the roof and getting a noise complaint its fuckin pathetic” AND JUST LEAKED ALL THIS GARBAGE LIKE THIS BITCH AINT LOYAL BY ANY MEANS HUFFLEPUFF MY ASS. WHO. THE FUCK. IS. SPECS.