A group of men argued about who waited longer to get their hands on the Takashi Murakami LV drop at the adjacent museum gift shop. I didn’t worry whether they had Facebook accounts or not. I was tempted to tell these kids I was invited to the preview night of the Takahashi exhibition and opted not to go, but I had nothing to prove to them, and it would be too obvious I’d tried if I mentioned any of this only to prove it didn’t matter at all to me.
I guess it did matter, and if I knew that much, I could move on. I started to read the museum.
As I glanced at the square pieces hanging from the walls, and observed what felt like an appropriate tempo for contemporary graphic art, I thought about all the things that have prevented me from making a louder commitment to it. My thoughts first ran to relationships. All those people whose careers lured me to them, whose very same careers filled me with the immature pride of affiliation. What attracted me so much to the idea of being someone who supported and sponsored another person’s rise to mediocre excellence (and they were all mediocre)? This line of thinking always led me to my mother, to all mothers. Mothers always take immature pride in affiliation. For them, it is literal—a filial elation. They could always take credit for the work of their progeny if not the progenitor of fine work, themselves. They would argue that their children were their crowning achievement, if not their reproductive partners.
My mother nurtured me and Aaron, leaving us never wanting for much emotionally, because she knew she couldn’t provide very much for us financially. She never stopped us from pursuing our dreams, but she was also never afforded a map of the trailheads necessary to send us into the accelerated politics of any future worth its weight in paper. Our success would have to necessarily be in principle, and not in practice.
There were huge faults in my blaming the people I dated. I dated them at the expense of my personal growth, due to the mother who prioritized my personal growth at the expense of superficial respect, but this cycle of feminine support couldn’t be what stopped me from actualizing any of my artistic potential.
I wondered if perhaps I had never actually had any ambition to pursue art in the first place. Perhaps I am just imagining that as a child, I had any creative inclination at all. Is it possible I pretended to be “creative” this whole time because I was merely bored and then too invested in the idea of becoming a figure of entertainment? I might have committed myself to becoming less bored or boring because no one taught me to find the pleasures of solitude, modesty, repose, or learn to appreciate concepts such as subtlety and craftsmanship, instead of being forced to shout for attention. I learned not to make great arguments for decent ideas but instead to invent larger fonts.
The fault in my misguidance in what might have ever been an inkling of a trajectory toward a life in the Arts, I decided, was not the influence of other people, but my own impatience. And the reason I would never find the patience to sit with my thoughts and create art, I decided, after looking at screen after screen of derivative soft-core street art in this slick glass mausoleum of art, was that I could never afford not to spend any of my earned or inherited intuition toward creativity on anything but financially lucrative work.
I needed to be compensated.
I stood in front of a statuary installation tucked into a corner of a small gallery in the museum. Getting the full effect of the piece required I stand in the fulcrum of the room, where currently a pair of women stood and started taking pictures.
I got back to New York from Los Angeles feeling an exactly bifurcated sense of ambivalence toward the two. Manhattan felt as far from Los Angeles emotionally as it did geographically, but my perception of LA was clearly paved now for something beyond the depressing shortcoming of a young art scene, more than things like the Museum of Jurassic Technology or Asian taco trucks. The “more” had really grown on me in a way that I found oppressive as a kid in Little Tokyo.
I tried to articulate all this to Aaron but he was preoccupied with a computer game. When he let up to ask what we should do about dinner, he asked again about my trip. I complained to Aaron about a series of dates I went on while in LA, with an otherwise quite accommodating guy who insisted on choosing where we went on our dates. Aaron said the fault lay in “the transactional system of chivalry of these bleak first years of the 21st century. Because of an ultimately corruptible system of proto-capitalism, straight men believe women ultimately determine the stakes and the terms by which a so-called good guy gets to have sex with her, and therefore the good guy has to learn to fight for balance in a constantly shifting equilibrium between the genders.”
“How is it that you can sound so fucking stupid and smart at the same time?” I said.
“How is it that you can complain so much about someone you insisted on continuing to date?” he retorted.
“He gave head and didn’t make me give it back. So much for his being transactional.”
Aaron groaned. The groan devolved into a scream.
“Warn me before you put an image like that in my head.”
“This is what I’m talking about,” I said.
“What do you mean?”
“I date idiots like this because I’ll take head where I can get it. Not a lot of dudes in this town will eat pussy unless it’s to game this ‘corruptible system of proto-capitalism’ into fellatio or anal.”
“The mere thought of me getting head disturbs you.”
“No. The mere thought of my sister having any kind of sex disturbs me.”
“Untrue. I talk about sex all the time and you only squirm when I mention cunnilingus. Also! I have no problem thinking about you giving a girl head, you getting head, or fuck it, you giving a guy head.”
“That’s because you’re gross.”
“It’s not my future, Aaron. I just want you to join it.”