How does my benign impact your quotidian? And how does your benign impact my quotidian? To begin from the relation between the benign and the quotidian requires we re-orient how we approach questions of what it means to cause injury.
I started writing this entry about three months ago, and have found it difficult to get past the first paragraph. In part, I suspect it’s because the word “injury” stops me. I’m not sure what it means and how it functions, or even whether it’s the best way to conceive the uneven effects and affects of social frottage—of rubbing along together.
In its multiple registers, hard, soft, fast, slow, deep, shallow, prolonged, sudden, all of which combine in various, unexpected ways, frottage offers a useful conceptual tool to think through sociality—what it means to live together. And if we imagine the benign and quotidian as two aspects of frottage, two bits of social skin that are always in contact, perhaps we come to one understanding of how it is we live together.
To some extent, I reach for the benign and quotidian to re-think or re-orient what I have discussed as normative. But I like the value attached to benign—symptomatic but not harmful—and quotidian—ordinary, everyday, often passing without remark, I like how thinking about these offers an idea of how we think the social functions.
I’m circling, in part because I don’t quite know where I’m headed. I suppose I should have an example of the benign—hugging comes to mind—and the quotidian—waking up. I suppose I should also have an example of where the benign meets the quotidian: when one shakes hands, where skin touches. For some, a social without this affirmation through contact is denuded of meaning, has not yet entered the realm of the social, is pseudo-social or pre-social; for others, this ritual invokes histories and presents that are, in some ways, unbearable. More broadly, the rituals of sociality are always places where the benign and quotidian meet.
It’s been two weeks since I wrote the last paragraph.
To write of what passes without remark, to make visible what others refuse to see, to convince those who assert the dogma of the benign, to translate hurt when online ink cannot cry, to resist crying because it is seen as an admission of weakness, a confession of lack.
What does it mean to write of impossibility when it is impossible to do so?
I have been reading an exchange on Sokari’s blog on black homophobia.
When she writes of the pain black queers feel she is told to stop trying to shame black non-queers as shaming does not work. When she writes about equal rights she is told to stop trying to force gay people’s agendas down other people’s thoughts. When she tries to whisper she is told she is too loud. When she tries to shout she is gagged. When she tries to move she is hobbled.
And still she writes. And still I write.
Because we must hope that someone somewhere will begin to see, begin to listen, begin to understand, begin to care.
Yet to ask that another’s benign be a form of care might be to ask too much, to hope that routine be empathetic might be to overreach.
It might be to ask that exceptions undo rules, that we make only difficult generalizations, that what we deem innocent become responsible. And this, for some, is unwelcome policing.
We ask too much when we ask casual, benign conversation to care.
Yet, the benign is also symptomatic. And the lump that might not kill still provokes anxiety. This metaphor becomes too tangled to complete.
How does my quotidian rub your benign? My insistence on saying gay and queer every few words? My demand that love between men, between women, between the intersexed, between trans, between people is, finally, remarkable only for being unremarkable.
Lines between rubbing, rubbing off, and being rubbed off. Lines between pleasure and irritation, when too much is not enough but in danger of being excessive. The grimace of pleasure.
To rub along is to rub together, to exchange skin and scent, here and there, now and then. We are always rubbing along. And sometimes I taste the bitter scent of your sweat on my skin.
More than three months ago, I wanted to re-frame questions of intention and privilege. I wanted to think not of calculated homophobia or so-called negative ethnicity, but of the smallness, the ordinariness of how we live together. I wanted to think about casual cruelty, but to reframe it so that we could focus on its casualness.
On the radio, the gay radio announcer (closeted, I am told) enforces gender normativity as he gives away money.
I am not Signorile, but on some days I wish I could be.
I leave unresolved what started more than three months ago as an attempt to name what political demands for equality and strategies of shame seemed to miss, an effort to inhabit the value of being casual.
I end on the uneven pressures and unexpected textures of frottage, how we rub along, my benign your quotidian, your benign my quotidian, rubbing.