November 22, 2014 by Thomas Wictor
Last night I wrote a post titled “I was a member of a depraved culture.” It’s about my ten years in the Los Angeles entertainment world. Today I read a comment by a former production assistant (PA) who wrote in response to my post that she only lasted a year in the business. The reason she ran away screaming is that the entertainment world demands absolute submission in body and mind. Women must submit to swinish men, and everyone must have the same politics. If not, you don’t get work.
I never understood the thrill of holding a gun to someone’s head and forcing them to do what you want. What have you actually accomplished? A three-year-old with a gun could make you do whatever he or she demanded. Coercion is a sign that you don’t deserve what you seek.
My ideal woman—on a fantasy level—is Naomi Watts.
I don’t know a thing about her as a person. What I’m talking about is her screen personae.
It would never occur to me to force screen-Naomi to submit to my will by threatening her, demanding that she debase herself for me, or making her do something she didn’t want to do in exchange for me giving her something. Exercising power over others is a total turnoff for me. Naomi would have to choose me of her own free will.
In regard to important things, it’s also impossible for me to submit. Don’t get me wrong; I pick and choose my battles. When I was in Japan, my first job was at a school in which the boss was an extremely effeminate man who talked constantly about how many Japanese women he was “nailing.” Everybody hated him because they said he was a tyrant, but he and I got along fine. I understood his need to assert his authority over me. It was my choice to work there, so he had the right to tell me how he wanted things done.
“I’m sorry, Tim,” I’d say. “I won’t make that mistake again.”
This is from the brochure that my school put out.
It was one of the worst jobs I ever had. You’d sit at a table for fifty-five minutes, having conversations in English. Though the Japanese study English for twelve years—if they go to college—none of them speak it. See those green chairs? They left a line that looked like algae on the white walls, so while people jabbered unintelligible sounds at me, I’d daydream about the room being filled waist deep with swamp water, alligators, snapping turtles, and pink Amazonian dolphins.
Why would I fight with my boss? He was deeply unhappy, living a lie. Having him nitpick my work was nothing compared to what he was going through, so I didn’t mind submitting to him. As a result he lightened up on me, and we ended up being almost-friends.
Japan was like a carnal candy store for Caucasian men. I could’ve notched my belt until all that was left was the buckle. This is me in my usual state during that period: drunk.
But I didn’t date Japanese women. I wasn’t attracted to them. They were utterly submissive. In five years I never went out with even one.
When I moved to San Francisco in 1991, the boss of the last company where I worked was very short and frail. I retrieved legal documents and photocopied them for use in lawsuits. Every morning I’d turn in the work orders from the day before, and my boss John would find one thing to correct.
“I’m sorry, John,” I’d say. “I’ll won’t make that mistake again.”
Everyone hated John but he and I had no problems. I can honestly say that it didn’t bother me a bit to have him go over my work orders almost with a magnifying glass, looking for something, anything to correct. He was a tiny, gay Asian man. He did what he did because he hated his life.
One of my coworkers fought with John every day. He’d come out of John’s office with his face the color of a plum. When I got to know him, I told him he had to be careful.
“You’re fifty-two years old,” I told him once. “What if you get fired?”
“I know, I know,” he said. “But I just can’t stand it when he does his power-trip thing.”
Well, he got fired. I have no idea what he did after that, because all the document-retrieval jobs were locked up. Only total weirdos did that work, and they stayed in it forever. One guy I knew had been doing it for forty-two years. I couldn’t believe it. All—and I mean every single one—of the “custodians of records” were psychotic martinets. These were the people we had to contact to gain access to the documents. Whether in the public or private sector, they were all nightmares.
Each one had some stupid fetish that you had to accommodate, or they’d pitch a fit and throw you out. The portable copying machine I brought with me was noisy: p’tunka-p’tunka-p’tunka-p’tunka-p’tunka. Custodians of records would complain, even though they’d been listening to copying machines for decades, and they knew that there was nothing I could do to quiet the device. They just enjoyed being as unpleasant as they could.
They didn’t bother me because I knew that my self-loathing couldn’t hold a candle to theirs. At the Veterans Hospital, the custodian of records had glasses that magnified his eyes so dramatically that he looked like a Humboldt squid.
He was the only person in the whole building.
“Where is everybody?” I asked.
“How should I know?” he muttered.
His rudeness didn’t upset me because he’d spent his life in a gloomy basement, surrounded by folders, and he looked like a squid.
I’ve had a very hard life, but I knew that forcing others to submit wouldn’t change how I felt. And don’t think I’m a saint; I was raised to demand submission from everyone. The urge was always there until only a few years ago. I just never acted on it because I knew it was wrong. Still, it was a battle. I had to deny my very nature.
It used to anger me when people dismissed my books, my e-mails, or my posts on Websites. This was because of my formative experiences. I saw being dismissed as a further negation of the self, so it filled me with rage. Now, I can handle dismissal and rejection and mockery and all the other ways people try to smash you into submission. What changed was that I found clarity. I can now perceive that which had always eluded me: the knowledge of my place in the world.
I know who I am, but more importantly, I know why I am. When you understand why you are, almost every destructive urge falls away.
If I can just learn to live without these, I’ll have it made.
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