Co-ops, Co-housing, and Communes, OH MY!

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It makes sense.

It makes incredible sense.

If you aren’t rich, leaving behind the notion of completely autonomous living/entire apartments or houses to one’s self as the norm and considering other ways to live makes so much sense that real estate agents would be wise to start looking for properties that would help this trend along.

There are more than economic pluses to this, and there are lots of ways to tailor the concepts to what the individuals want and need.

Co-housing is the thin end of the wedge version. It’s individual and seems to be most often in the news as a kind of “Golden Girls” reboot. A few women in their late fifties or so decide to buy a big house together and share the amenities and the mortgage – I think I’ve seen three or four “feel-good” stories like that on my social media.

But it’s like being roomies: it seems as though all that is being shared is the monetary arrangements – that people are buying and cooking their own food, and entertaining their own guests in their own portion of allotted spaces.

This could be a route younger people explore, too – except, of course, they have no assets to cash in to come up with a down payment, so it’s not surprising that we haven’t seen anything like that yet. But I think it’s coming.

Co-ops might help this along: governments could, if they chose to alleviate the housing crunch for people between 20 and 40, help by raising the cash and subsidizing the building of co-ops in the form of “tiny home” apartments connected to larger group spaces (like kitchen-dining room facilities for larger gatherings, recreational spaces for socializing, day care centres in-building for young families, and things like that. )

If those big indoor shopping malls start to fail, those might be great places to start, because there is at least one of those already in the USA. Some of the ground floor could be rented out to small food vendors (delis, greengrocers, maybe a sandwich place, and a café) because the spaces are already in place for that.

And communal living: where all the costs of life are shared, and people agree to work together to build a decent life – there are some really amazing advantages to this.

One is that a parent would know that some other adults have accepted the idea that they have a responsibility to the child/children, and there would almost always be someone around to babysit.

Another is that no one person would need to be financially responsible for everything. Life is chancy, and lay-offs come at inopportune moments. Knowing that you won’t be instantly homeless can make a person more able to concentrate on getting another job with a lot less stress.

But the best part of this would be the sense of family that would be built. Shared meals, shared squabbles over what show to binge-watch on Netflix, gentle nags about doing the dusting – those things are so basic to letting us know we’re part of something, that we are, in fact, cared for.

And too many people are living without that.

The time has come for western countries especially to realize that the single-family suburban McMansion lifestyle is both wasteful and socially isolating – that it has created more problems than we noticed, back when cars and gas were cheap, a living wage wasn’t unexpected (at least for white men), and when people still actually knew their neighbours and/or probably didn’t live that far from the rest of their own families.

It’s different now, and we need to change at bedrock level.

Concepts around housing and “family” seem like a good place to start.

On Friendship

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They say that it’s hard to make friends after a certain point in your life.

Somewhere in your twenties, apparently, you have the friends you have and…everything grinds to a halt.

Even with social media. According to Elle Magazine   https://www.elle.com.au/culture/the-age-you-stop-making-friends-8322    at age 25, even your peak mobile phone usage slows down, and you – stagnate, I guess.

But on an anecdotal basis, I cannot agree.

Social media has been a godsend for me, and I now have friends all over the planet. At 64, I’ve found my tribe, and their ages range from late-teens to 70-year-olds. They come in all sizes and shapes, and in every conceivable gender definition available.

We bare our souls in DMs when we’re depressed or anxious.

We send out virtual hugs, we wrestle with the problems of the world, we make each other laugh, and we hold each other up when things look bleak.

We introduce our friends to each other, and expand the circles.

Maybe we don’t always get to meet each other in the flesh, but they are there.

If I wake up at 3 am in a state of existential panic, I can log on and somewhere, no matter the time zone I’m in, there’s someone awake who is there to cheer me up or reassure me that things are not quite as bleak as I believe.

When I share good news (“Hey! I sold a book to a stranger!”) they are there to type “WOOT” into the comments.

I’ve sent money to people going through a time of trouble, and they’ve come to my rescue when I’ve been in need, too.

For the record, I think that many of the pundits and dinosaurs don’t really understand friendship.

It’s not about getting drunk together in a bar.

It’s not about singular experiences shared in real time.

It’s about honesty and trust and being one’s true self when the chips are down.

And if it is hard to form new bonds after you’ve left adolescence behind, it might be because you (personally or generally, I’m not pointing any fingers here) listened when society told you that you are not supposed to care about people outside your immediate circle, and that “wisdom” is what makes you afraid to open up to a stranger, makes you unable to widen your horizons – forces you to concentrate on getting through your working day as if that were the only thing that mattered.

If you are here, you are at least a potential friend.

If you are here, you have something to offer me: a new perspective, a different vision, an interesting solution, or maybe, just a moment of strength when I need it – and I will offer the same to you.

So let’s build this together.

The Spectrum

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Where are you, on the Spectrum?

People talk a lot about this.

Researchers do studies.

People read the articles about the studies.

People identify with the spectrum.

And then, when they’ve processed it, they Facebook about where they are on the sliding scale of “I’m different”.

Seriously: everyone (or nearly everyone) I meet at some point will tell me about how they are in some way neuro-divergent.

They’re dyslexic, but no one noticed because they found ways to limit the problems very early on. Or not, and they’ve struggled into adulthood with the scars that the school system inflicted on them.

They’re ADHD, but they caught on at a young age how to control this enough to get by and be labeled as “rambunctious” or “athletic” instead, because by the time it mattered, they’d gotten it down to something manageable. Or not, and they continue to pay the price.

They saw the world from a different perspective, but learned to keep that shit to themselves and echo the prevailing opinions before they were out of kindergarten – or were/are ostracized by most of the people they meet/work with.

To be honest, I know very few people who admit to “normal”.

Those cheerleaders and jocks you knew in high school? They’re now revealing their “otherness” – telling the world about how they hid the reality of their experience. How they struggled to fit in. How they still struggle.

The co-workers you see as policing some indefinable “norm”? They tweet out their discomforts. They blog about the weird way they see things, about how they were at the Christmas party and blurted out something no one else understood, even though it seemed perfectly obvious to them.

In fact, as far as I can tell, almost none of us fit into the “normal” box.

I mean, I’m an “extrovert” by any standard test, I was popular (for whatever value of “popular” that one can define, because it’s murky) all through school and life, and I don’t really struggle that much to get along with people. Reading came easily, and I am good at “school”, and work, and parties full of strangers.

But when the telltale signs of the spectrum are listed out in some study, I see myself in so much of that.

What if – bear with me here – what if we are all mostly on the spectrum?

What if “normal” is the outlier?

What if being different, and difficult, and full of angles and edges and awkwardness is what humans in their totality are, and it’s the bland/boxed/kneejerk reactive people who are the minority?

It sure would explain a lot. About all of us.

Doing it right – Cosplay and Consent

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I don’t go to a heckuva lot of sff cons or fan expos, but I guess I get to maybe two in a year. Sometimes more, sometimes less.

And I’ve read a lot of stuff on the Internet about consent generally, and the abrogations of consent in the Cosplay community – photographers trying to take pictures of “what’s underneath the costume”, of women grabbing male cosplayers’ crotches in public – a myriad of transgressions that I’m sure you all could add to, ad infinitum.

But at one convention, I saw something that cheered me immensely.

There was a woman in a fairly revealing, very beautiful outfit. People loved it.

A young man in a costume that matched it, more or less, came up to her, wanting a photo of the two of them together – would that be okay?

“Sure,” she said. The man’s friend took charge of his phone and they stood side by side as the friend tried to get the right distance to get them both into the picture at the right angle or whatever. These were big costumes. It was tricky.

“Is it all right,” asked the man, “if I put my arm around your shoulder?”

“I guess,” she said, a little doubtfully.

He did. Carefully. His arm was touching her bare shoulder, but I could see, from where I was standing, that as his hand curved around her upper arm, that he was meticulously NOT touching his fingers to her skin. He was holding them a couple of millimetres away.

Picture was taken.

The man thanked her, and went on his way.

Gentlemen and ladies: THIS is how you do it. You ask first, and then you take absolutely no additional liberties than what was explicitly agreed upon.

How hard is that?

 

 

Along the way…

People all have goals.

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Even if they aren’t actively pursuing them, the goals are there, although if you aren’t lifting a finger to get closer to those goals, they remain what people popularly call “dreams”.

But if you’re in a couples situation, or a group endeavor, it’s seriously important that you do not confuse “goals” with “priorities”.

This is because while one might share goals, and assume to be collectively working towards those goals – those agreed-upon ends – each person views the road they need to travel to get there differently. Each person has individual needs that have to be met. Each person sees their own way to any mutual end in their own lights.

This is not some profound insight. This is something that all of us know, really, whether or not we are capable of facing it or articulating it. We do know it, but many of us refuse to look it in the face,

We represent (often forcibly) to ourselves and to others, that we know exactly the sole and only way to get from A to B, and a lot of us will choose those hills to die on.

Those who insist that the steps to be taken, or the order in which those steps need to occur are confusing the goal with the priority.

And this can cause disagreement and stress, for everyone involved.

You have to allow for these differences in perception and execution. You absolutely must. You have to trust that the goals are the same, even when it looks as if the steps are nonsensical or out of the order you want them to occur in.

It’s not because by becoming the parade marshal of other people’s lives, you will upset the people you care about. “My way or the highway” will upset them – that’s a given, but that’s not the real problem. They are free, in the end, to take on the pain, or to walk away – it’s up to them.

The real problem is what we do to ourselves in the process.

Because we doom ourselves to long term  and unending discontent with life, and chronic disappointment in those we care for. We doom ourselves to missing not just some, but all the joy.

And that’s a really good way to fail at life and love.