A knock at one of my doors.
Doors? Yes, go ahead and think Jim Morrison. People are strange when you’re a stranger. Or think Aldous Huxley. Whatever.
It’s hard to know, with some of my doors, whether they are to the “outside,” or just doors to something else “in here.” But I know who usually shows up at this particular door. And I know what he’s probably here about, too, because I’ve been stewing over the email all day.
I open the door. Sure enough, there he is. Oh, it’s not that I’ve seen him in particular before, but he looks enough like the others that there’s no doubt. I’m struck by how he has that kind of look that certain people find breathtakingly beautiful. At least at the moment, I think he’s pretty butt-ugly. Having opened the door, I just stand on the threshold and stare at him until he speaks.
“Good day, sir.” [placing an ever-so-slight emphasis on ‘sir.’] “I am from the Ministry for Clarity and Disambiguation.”
“I know who—or what—you represent.” I wait again silently.
“And you probably already know why I am here, correct?” He reaches inside his blazer, retrieves and unfolds a piece of paper. Legal size.
“The email, right?”
He gazes at the paper without acknowledging my response. “You received an email this morning from one of the readers of your blog. This email reflects an understanding of the content of said blog which would seem, to most reasonable people…” There’s that slight emphasis again. ”…to be a natural and probably accurate understanding of said content.” He pauses, and is clearly willing to wait until I say something.
“I did receive an email this morning, yes.”
“And this email makes it clear that the reader understands the content of your blog to be a declaration that you have changed either your gender identification or your sexual orientation.”
“Yes, I understood that the reader had come to that conclusion. Is this a problem?”
He frowns slightly. “If you mean to ask whether it is a problem if you are now something other than a male-identifying heterosexual, that is a matter that is not under our jurisdiction, and about which I am totally neutral. There is another ministry for that, as I believe you already know.”
I refuse to acknowledge the making-me-look-like-an-idiot strategy. “Is it a problem that the reader has this understanding?” I know, it’s probably totally pointless for me to try making-him-look-like-an-idiot.
“All of our intelligence indicates that said understanding is not, in fact, an accurate one. To be clear: Our understanding is that you are, in fact, an unambiguously heterosexual male.” He pauses.
“Your understanding is accurate, to the best of my knowledge.”
He raises one eyebrow slightly. “An unambiguously heterosexual male who has developed a tendency to hint quite deliberately that he might not actually be such.”
“Uh… Yeah, I guess I do that sometimes.”
“Our intelligence indicates that your motivation for this does not derive from any particular uncertainty about your gender identification or sexuality.”
I have to think about that for a few seconds, but I eventually nod. “I think that’s basically right.”
His shoulders visibly square in a ‘yes, well, then’ sort of way. “Hence the interest of the MCD, and my visit. It appears that the unclarity and ambiguity of your blog in this matter is quite deliberate, and appears to have no discernible motivation that would be considered appropriately rational.”
“Appropriately rational,” I repeat.
“Yes.” He clearly does not intend to elaborate on the phrase; if I don’t know what he meant, it is simply further evidence that I am not ‘appropriately rational.’
“And you would suggest…?”
“As you know, our office has no authority to force any particular action, or to apply any particular punitive measures…”
“Thank you, Jesus!” I know that they are trained to ignore ‘religious ejaculations.’ Yes, that is the language they use.
“…but we are empowered within your selfsystem to offer assessment and recommendations.”
“Who exactly is it that has empowered you thus?”
“I personally am not privy to that information. Surely you knew that.”
“Yeah, I did, and stop calling me Shirley.”
I’m guessing the guy doesn’t watch movies, but he simply ignores my reference. “We recommend that you clarify and disambiguate as much as possible, of course. Concretely, this would minimally involve indicating clearly on your blog that your ‘reflections,’ or whatever they are, are not intended to imply any change in either your gender identification or sexual orientation.”
I am now warming a bit to the game. “Am I obligated to enumerate all of the possible ways in which my blog might be wrongly construed, and clarify that they are all wrong?”
“You know full well that our recommendation has no such irrational implication as that.”
He pauses and makes an obvious effort to change his facial expression. It takes me a few moments to realize that he is trying to adopt a more concerned, ‘look, I’m here to HELP you’ sort of manner. He holds up the printed email. “The person who wrote this was not simply rendering a negative value-judgment regarding you. This reader obviously expended a relatively large amount of emotional energy being concerned about you, and especially about the possible implications for your family.”
“I know that. I was deeply moved.” I must have looked sincere at this point, as my eyes began leaking noticeably.
“It is in line with self-legislative directives of yours, which are not currently under review, that full systemic awareness be activated, insofar as this is possible, in cases where significant distress of any kind is evoked in another selfsystem as a result…”
I interrupt him. ”…as a result of actions, including verbal formulations, which are construed as attributable to my selfsystem. Yada yada yada…”
“…attributable to your selfsystem, in part or whole,” he concludes.
“Yes. I do understand why you are here.”
“You do care deeply about the sender of the email, no?”
“Of course I do.”
“And the strength of the reaction is seriously intensified by the sender’s selfsystem reviews that are currently in progress, and about which you had at least a general knowledge.”
“Yeah, but I didn’t freaking think about that, did I?” My intent is to NOT get testy; it’s not working.
He very visibly resumes the “yes, well, then” manner. ”That, of course, is part of the point.” He looks at the email again, as if he is deriving more information from it. ”Your significant other similarly reacted more strongly than you expected to your blog’s launch.”
OK, I’m going to cooperate and get this over with. ”Yes. I apparently had not commented on the possibility of launching it when I thought that I had done so.” I think a bit about what to say next. He waits patiently, knowing that I am now being fully cooperative.
“I am committed to embracing ambiguity and lack of clarity in at least some ways,…” He made a show of wincing slightly. ”…but my judgment in this regard in the launching of my blog was faulty, according to selfsystemic moral protocols, in terms of the potential to confuse or mislead those I invited to read the blog. I will find an explicit way to increase clarity and reduce ambiguity with regard to the specific issues to which you have drawn my attention.”
He nods officiously. ”Very good, sir. It is recommended that you vocalize in my presence how you intend to do this, but of course it is not required.”
“I have an idea, but I’ll pass on sharing it for the moment. I guess if your higher-ups don’t like it when I publish it, I may see you again.” I think about what you are now reading and suppress a grin.
He is carefully trained not to look offended or disappointed. ”As you wish. Unless there is anything else that you require of me, my task here is completed.”
“That’ll do it. Thank you and good day.”
He seems to be ready to leave, but raises his head again. ”Oh, one more thing.”
“With your permission, I would like to speak personally on behalf of a friend, as opposed to speaking for the ministry.”
Curious. ”Go ahead.”
“I have a friend who works for the Ministry of Procrastination and Time-Suck Management. She asked me to tell you that not returning that ministry’s calls will soon become a huge problem. She is compassionate, and believes that you might benefit from this unofficial caution rather than simply waiting for the Total Schedulefuck Recovery Squad to show up.”
“Uh… Thanks.” That’s all I can muster.
He turns and walks away. I close the door, careful not to slam it in case this is what he expects me to do.
I sit down and stare at the door for a while.
I speak to the door. “Your understanding is accurate, to the best of my knowledge. Still…” I adopt my best Linda Blair, Exorcist raspy voice. ”I am Legion!”