Sedaratives: Richard Herring
How many cardigans is it acceptable for a straight man to own?
You were wise to hide your identity after such an incendiary question. I am from the United Kingdom, and no doubt we do things differently, but here the cardigan is pretty much exclusively the knitwear of choice for gentlemen in the age bracket of seventy or above, and is rarely, if ever, an indication of what sexuality they might have favored back in the 1950s. In London, you can usually spot the gay men because they will be the ones walking around with nothing on their torso whatsoever. Though, confusingly, as you head farther north, going out at night with little or no upper-body clothing indicates extreme heterosexuality. One always suspects that those overly concerned with exhibiting their straightness are the ones who are secretly the most gay, just waiting to come down south into the arms of their more honest and self-aware shirtless brothers.
There are many other cultural differences between our nations. For example, if there was an area called Queens in London, I would assume it was populated entirely by gay men.
I’ve been having a lot of anxiety attacks lately. Or a series of heart attacks, I’m not sure. How do you tell the difference, again?
Sioux Falls, S.Dak.
Oh god, me, too. Awful, isn’t it? Waking up in the middle of night with this pervading sense that your mind is on the verge of plummeting into the abyss, realizing that life is meaningless and you are mortal and that one day, hopefully not too soon, you will totally cease to exist. You try to imagine it, but realize that in your imagination you are still hovering in the corner of the nothingness, but when it comes you won’t actually be there at all. In the second of your demise you will realize that, from your perspective, everyone and everything in the world is about to be lost. Whilst everyone else will have to mourn only you, you are saying goodbye to everything you ever loved. After half an hour or so, everything gets back into some kind of perspective, and you feel sane and safe again. But what if those moments of utter terror and impotence are the only times in our lives that we are lucid and fully conscious, and the rest of the time we’re living in a self-deluding dream? Think about that next time it’s happening. I’m sure it will help.
I think the difference between a heart attack and a panic attack is that the former actually physically hurts like hell in your chest and arm, whilst the latter just kicks you in the soul.
I saw a squid lollipop yesterday. Haven’t we taken the inventive confectionery treats far enough?
Los Angeles, Calif.
For any art form to move onward, it must be allowed to push itself to the limits and beyond. Confectionery, as any Oompa Loompa will tell you, is one of the prime media for artistic expression, and must have the freedom to attempt weird and wonderful new directions. Sure, it might push taste and decency so far that they cross the line of what is acceptable, but it might also be revolutionary. History is littered with people who have mocked new candies and sweetmeats. When Ian Marsh invented the mallow that would forever bear his name, do you not think that people laughed in his pudgy face? “That’s too soft and squidgy,” they cried. “No one will eat that!” And how do you think they reacted when he said, “No, you’ve got to put it on a little stick and put it in a fire for it to really work”? No one has been so soundly and unfairly mocked since Noah started knocking together that massive boat. But the naysayers soon had hot, runny marshmallow dribbling down their chins.
You must let an artist try again, fail again, fail better. The squid lollipop may be a dead end, but it may be the sugar-and-seafood hybrid that finally opens the doors of perception to the next stage of human evolution. Or that at least gives us a piquant tang of brine and sweetness combined.
That’s what I think. Unless the thing you saw was a lollipop aimed at squids, in which case that is against God and nature, and the people responsible for creating it should be burned at the stake.
My computer is literally clogged with porn, and I need to get rid of at least some of it. But I’m having a hard time saying goodbye to my old friends. What are some good criteria for deciding what porn to trash and what to keep?
Dear Porn Hound,
You have a delightfully old-fashioned attitude toward pornography, and I can understand it. Thirty years ago, when my interest in looking at grotesque images of naked people touching each other or themselves was first piqued, it was very difficult to locate anything at all. Occasionally I might chance across a tattered magazine in the woods, or Geoff Tozer might bring in a picture from Playboy that he’d stolen from his older brother. You would store every morsel of porn like a priapic squirrel who knew there was a long, porn-free winter ahead of him. The pictures and the stories became familiar old friends. It became a relationship. And, like most relationships, lust became love, and then love became divorced from affection and merely about possession. Nowadays you don’t need to go into the woods or root around in bins. There’s the internet. Every second of the day, a whole forest’s worth of porn is uploaded. You don’t need to be stuck in this dead relationship with familiar and boring images. Get out there, have a look round. There’s stuff out there to tempt and surprise even the most jaded onanist. You can free your computer up (though what else you would want to use it for
I don’t know) and be free. Free to masturbate to something new and different every second of your life. Your feelings of attachment will soon be replaced by liberation. And then quickly by shame and self-loathing. Oh, brave new world that has such people in it.