There were no Negroes. There were no immigrants.
-- E.L. Doctorow, Ragtime
We've been talking, these past few days, about the courting rituals of the young. A lot of that conversation has focused on our own awkward dalliances. As it happens "our" has a particular meaning.
I dunno if this is the appropriate spot, but this post, along with the stuff on scents, reminds me how much of these experiences I missed out on as a gay teen. Never had the opportunity to do the dating thing, or get caught up in trying to impress folks. It just struck me how foreign all of these concepts are to my own history and experience. I'm a tourist in heteroland.
I'm on the record as disliking the phrase "white privilege" and generally disliking the narrative of privilege that's fairly popular in the academy and on the Left. Often I have found that people throwing around terms like privilege are, in fact, seeking to create their own privilege to go unquestioned and unchallenged.
And yet it must be said that privilege does have enormous explanatory power. The right to, as a young person, to openly court, to craft rituals around that courting, to have touch-stones, to publicly reminisce over them, all without the threat of violence--explicit or implicit--strikes me as a rather powerful privilege. Surely there must be caveats for, class, geography and social groupings, here, but I think it's fair to say, at my high school, the space for gay kids to publicly talk about what cologne they were wearing to woo the objects of their affection was nonexistent.
I don't know if this is even where majeff was going with his comment. But it's what I took from his observation. All we have our experiences, and when the majority of people we know share the same template it becomes very easy to take that as the truth of the world. The truth is humbling.
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is a national correspondent for The Atlantic
, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of The Beautiful Struggle
, Between the World and Me,
and We Were Eight Years in Power