Jay's Head
Go as Far as Possible, p. 3

Over the years, I've wondered why this question of limit was so important to me back in college. Most people, I suppose, trust themselves and their instincts enough to know when flirtation has turned to lifestyle, or experimentation to addiction, or ‘edginess' to real danger. Some people just choose danger. But I was always concerned to find that Aristotelian mean between the stultifying conformity of my childhood and... and what? Losing the respect of people whose respect I shouldn't have wanted? Disappointing my mother? Ruining my chances of running for Congress? Or maybe just being gay?

For a time, I thought that all my questioning of limits reduced to the anxiety of the closet. I thought for a while that all my college term papers about finding the mean between conformity and anarchy were just unconscious code words for fear of coming out. But now that I am out, and now that I did quit my ‘real' job to be a writer, I still find myself wrestling with those questions. How "far" is too far?

The forms the question now takes have shifted, even if the grammar has not. Now I ask whether it's an unhealthy clinging to convention that causes me to live on the Upper West Side instead of a ‘cooler' neighborhood, or is it just me really being myself -- ‘myself' being, in part, a person who actually likes the uncool cleanliness and quiet of my neighborhood. Is it timidity that keeps my hair cut conventionally and my clothes relatively normal, or is it an expression of who I am, a person who is, in part, conventional and normal? "Go as far as possible" -- or as far as comfortable?

I believe the U.S. Open wasn't fixed because I have a certain set of beliefs about mainstream elites. On the one hand, I despise their materialism and egotism (or, on better days, have compassion for them) but at the same time I don't think the Open was a sham. Maybe it was; maybe an investigation would show that it was. But I would be surprised, and that's the point. My default assumption -- unlike Fysche's -- is still with ‘them,' not against them.
Image: Magritte, Man in a Bowler Hat

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December 2002

jay's head
josh ring