Mar 3 • 3M

Might as well learn something

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Welcome to Sex and the State, a newsletter about power. I’m a writer working on decriminalizing and destigmatizing all things sex. I synthesize empirical evidence, stories, and personal experience to interrogate existing power structures to propose new, hopefully better, ways of relating. To support my work, buy a subscriptionfollow me on OnlyFans, or just share this post!

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As I was deplaning in the Huntsville, AL airport, an older gentleman asked me, “Does the ‘decrim’ in ‘decrim sex work’ mean decriminalize?” Now, this would have been a very weird question but my backpack does say “Decrim sex work,” so I answered brightly, “You got it!” He laughed. And I wish this had been where the encounter ended, but I followed up with, “I don’t own myself if I can’t rent access to myself.” At this point he looked like he was sorry he asked. But, in fairness, don’t ask someone about a political message they (or their best friend) have clearly affixed to themselves if you don’t want an earful.

People not having heard “decrim” as an abbrev is not the only difference I’ve noticed between SF and HSV. We have Kroger here, and they’re enormous. It’s like the size of a Walmart but brightly lit and clean. Easter stuff had its own football field.

I saw a koozy that said “I <3 the USA” but it was neither for the Fourth of July nor ironic.

This week I’m at my dad’s because my sister has her kids. I left her house just in time, apparently, since at least one of them is sick. Again.

At my dad’s there’s nowhere to walk except for a Piggly Wiggly (a much smaller and nastier version of Kroger) an hour’s walk away. In desperate need of cardio, I got my dad to take me and Clarabelle the dog for a walk to the pond on his property.

In contrast to the Tenderloin, I only encountered non-human fecal matter on this walk. No one was camped on the sidewalk, if for no other reason than that they don’t seem to believe in sidewalks in this part of Alabama. I did get viciously attacked, though. The sticker bushes here are not playing.

I get pangs of FOMO when I get notifications on Facebook about parties I’m missing in SF. But my sister and I threw a pretty great little get-together on Saturday. I’ve already met some amazing people. And HSV is a lot more progressive than I assumed. There’s pole dancing classes and an active kink scene. I think there might even be a dungeon.

I have this fear that I’m going to fall out of step with the broader culture here. That I’ll retreat into this backwater and when I interact with anyone from outside I’ll be this sheltered bumpkin that everything has to be explained to.

But I think I want to embrace it. I think I want to go into every visit, every interaction, really, with a beginner’s mind. I want to ask stupid questions. I want to stop the conversation when something doesn’t make sense or I don’t get the reference. Better to learn than to seem like I know. Better to learn whether I fit in than to seem like I already do.

But it’s hard. My first few days I kept forgetting I’d moved. Once, sitting around the fire with my sister and a few of her friends someone brought up “Sweet Home Alabama,” in the context of karaoke. I started to say, “You’ll have to dedicate it to me.” Because I’m used to being the only person from Alabama in the room. Then I laughed. Everyone I was talking to lives in Alabama. Most of them are from here.

It’s hard to balance being awkward with wanting to learn. It’s hard to know which questions are going to make someone uncomfortable. But I want to get better at it. Especially since I’m going to be pretty awkward regardless. So I might as well learn something while I’m at it.