An Exfuckingcessive Amount of Wand

Oh hey I moved and then fucked off to Pennsylvania and finished the first draft of a novel and am now sitting on my parents’ couch drinking a G&T plus lemoncello. Logically I believe I’m now immune to malaria AND scurvy, TAKE THAT 1800s MARITIME DISEASES.

So let’s talk about the Nine of Wands. This card has a person holding on to one wand, with eight more of the fuckers around them.  They do not look happy. Usually they’re wounded, often on the face. Sometimes they’re David Bowie and a lion, but that’s the Cosmic Tarot and it’s weird and IDK why everyone gets so damn obsessed with lions in Tarot, like there are at least two decks where they pop up gratuitously and that’s not even counting Strength. Happens in Biblical stuff too. It’s a big cat and the males have extra hair and are cub-murdering assholes, I don’t get the mystikal allure.

Mnemonically, this is about having a whole bunch of passion and willpower and relationships and stuff, but that’s not entirely what you need, or want, which corresponds nicely with my view of human relationships: they’re great and all, but when you have a whole lot of social stuff going on and/or a whole lot that you care about and/or are very determined, it can be An Entire Thing wherein suddenly you’re disguising yourself as a waiter and trying to win the bowling tournament on the same night as your anniversary. Or, if you’re not Fred Flintstone, you’re booked solid every damn night and you need to lie the hell down and take a nap already.

That one wand the person is holding–is that for support? Was it blocking the way, with the other way, and the person has picked it up to move it out of the way? Hard to say. Depends on context. One interpretation of the Nine is hope and determination in the face of adversity, pushing forward because the worst is behind you, but another is the need to be cautious and watchful. Those two things are not entirely incompatible, though: maybe you’re pretty close to getting The Thing, but you only have so much energy left, and you need to be careful not to spend it on things you don’t really want.

Know your goals, says the Nine. Figure them out if you don’t. Then tell everything else to piss off and go for it.

The Ten of Wands shows someone carrying ten wands, all by themselves: no buddy, no horse, nothing. This is a shit-ton of wands, technically speaking, and as one might think, it’s pretty clear that they’re heavy. The person carrying them is usually bent over a little, arms wrapped around the whole bundle. Having recently moved boxes up and down a ton of stairs, I sympathize. Not too far in the distance, there are a couple houses that the person’s heading toward.

Okay. You have all the fire: all the passion, all the will, all the relationships. Yay! Now what the hell do you do with them? As with the Nine, that much fire stuff is A Lot of Fire Stuff, but in the Ten, it’s more under control. You’ve got your arms around them, you’ve got them off the ground, you’re making progress, and the destination isn’t too far away–you just have to get there. And then you have to deal with whatever you’re going to do with ten wands–if it’s fire, are you planning a celebratory bonfire, or a smith’s forge, or a pyre for your enemies? Some of these things last longer than the others, some are more creative or destructive, some involve other suits. None of them are bad, or invalid, but, as with the Nine, this is a situation where it’s really important to know what you’re doing.

Now that we’re on the fourth suit, it’s worth noting that the Cups and Pentacles tens are situations that could last–metaphorically, though people move and kids grow up and all that, they’re both settled, happy families, not going anywhere–while the Ten of Swords hopefully won’t, because ouch, and the Ten of Wands clearly won’t. The figure on it is going somewhere. Fire is the most transient element: air might be fickle in terms of where it’s going and when and how strong, but it stays air, left to itself. Fire, left to itself, spreads as much as it can and then burns itself out.

And so the specific meanings of the Ten vary from “holy shit, this is a lot” to a “harvest home: you’ve done what you need to do, now you just need to try a little longer and you can relax and enjoy it” sort of a thing. I think all of them center around the question of what success means and what you do with it, because the Ten of Wands is going to become another card. Passion and will and bonds are all temporary things–there’s a reason the polyam community uses New Relationship Energy as a frequent term. Getting any of them to last requires the insight and curiosity of Swords, the physical effort and practicality of Pentacles, and the emotional labor and insight of Cups.

Of course, lasting isn’t the only goal…







It’s A Moving-Week Miracle!

Okay so I’m sitting around waiting for various people to get back to me about furniture and pausing occasionally to try and get candle wax out of a carpet and blah blah blah, so I figured it was time to talk about Aleister Crowley some more. This rambling is brought to you by St. Elder, an excellent elderflower liqueur and also the saint that would be my personal patron if I was a high-Church variety of Christian.

When we last left our, um, hero, he was wandering around Europe being a flagrant asshole, even more so than most young men in Europe at the time, which is a pretty impressive feat.

At the same time, a bunch of other people in Europe were going “hey you know what’s awesome GHOSTS ARE AWESOME and also ceremonial magic,” because there was a move to note that the Mr. Banksian SCIENCE! and EMPIRE! thing that had taken up a lot of the era was COMPLETE BALLS and there are probably parallels to the forties-fifties-sixties thing in the US here but I will get to that another time, and plus I’d bet someone already wrote a bunch of books on that. I think the Generations people are a good place to start.

Anyhow, one of the results was the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, which theoretically comes from a coded manuscript written by ancient Rosicrucians and which is probably some kind of forgery, plus some woman who could contact supernatural “Secret Chiefs” who were really in charge of “any magical order or esoteric organization,” per Wiki. (Does this mean one of those guys is personally organizing Shriners parades? Who got stuck astrally watching Scalia strip off at the Bohemian Grove? I’m seeing a lot of arguments here.) The actual manuscript contents are a version of the Renaissance version of the Jewish Kabbalah, plus astrology, geomancy, and Tarot, plus alchemy and Hermeticism, plus Hey These Masonic/Rosicrucian Titles Sound Cool, Let’s Do That.

A couple Victorian gents with Extremely Victorian Names, William Wynn Westcott and Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers either wrote these or got ahold of them through Means and turned them into a fairly workable magical curriculum slash society, because there was no cable back then so people founded magical lodges for entertainment, as far as I’ve ever been able to tell. Seriously, you do enough reading on the subject and it looks like founding an occult society was just what people did on Friday nights. As with all magical societies in that time period, there was a lot of Mystical Jazz Hands about the source of the documents and Ancient Lodges That Are Conveniently In Germany and Maybe Dead, which is like the occult Girlfriend Who Lives in Canada. The HGD did admit women on an equal basis, though, and it’s got some rather cool practices, so, hey, props. None of us can help our founders being Extremely Victorian.

So. One of the guys in the Order was the brother-in-law of a chemist who got talking to Crowley about alchemy, which apparently was just a thing people did back then, and introduced him to said brother-in-law, who introduced him to the Order, and Crowley was like, fuck, sign me up. There are theories that dude was in the Secret Service and keeping an eye on Mathers, but also he’d had a mystical experience in 1896, when he first took it up the ass, which, okay, some people are really into the buttsex, I guess, YKIOK and all that, but it makes it more likely that at least some of his interest was genuine. (Mathers was the only head by that point, because Westcott had left important occult documents in a cab. AS YOU DO.)

For a few years, Crowley went through the order, while of course having a lot of sex and doing approximately all of the drugs, and this bugged a number of people, including Yeats and others who were into some weird chaste mystical love bullshit and/or trying to be Extremely Respectable in their own Victorian weirdo ways, which…Crowley was an excessive asshole, but on this one he was kind of right on. Like, you’re already wearing robes and chanting in languages, people are going to Have Issues, there is literally nothing you can do to make them not and why do you care anyhow, those people are awful.

Well, you’ve made me agree with fucking Aleister Crowley. THANKS VICTORIANS.

So, okay. The lodge in London was like, fuck off, we’re not initiating you any more, take your scandalous ass elsewhere. Crowley fucked all the way off to Paris, where Mathers was currently living, and got personally initiated by him, and then told him to go “seize the Vault of the Adepts” which in normal terms means get the rest of the GD kicked out of the flat where they were meeting, and is significantly less cool, especially since a judge was like “…well, these other people are actually paying the damn rent, so.”

Would kind of love to have seen that court case, really. Occult Law & Order. In the criminal justice system, the people…have really bizarre drama.

Seven and Eight of Wands

Drunk Tarot returns with actual alcohol, in this case the dregs of bottles I want to get rid of before I move. Mmm, rumaretto.

The Seven of Wands means bright luck in fire-type things, which is a little weird at first glance because the card is a person with one wand standing on a hill and fending off six others, and, like, it’s great that you have that nifty hill, Wand Person, but six on one is still not what I’d call awesome odds. Pretty sure unfortified hills can only do so much, especially when your ankles are right there.

But being practical is a Pentacles thing, and being rational is a Swords one. If any suit’s going to mix “good luck” and “battle against ridiculous odds” it’s this one. Passion! Inspiration! A chance to defy the odds and test your strength and what is valor? Everyone wants that, right?

The more specific meanings are confrontation, because duh,  and also challenge, which is how this card can be mnemonically bright luck. Lone Wand Person has a thing, possibly the hill or possibly what’s behind it, and that’s pretty damn great. It’s a top-quality hill, as hills go, the kind of hill you tell your grandchildren about. Bright luck is not all good, in general: in this case, when you have cool stuff, other people generally want that stuff, the jerks. But you still have it, and you have this nifty wand to smack them with, so A Winner Is You!

Other meanings of the Seven include perseverance, courage, defiance, and standing your ground all Tom Pettily. And honestly, in a suit that deals with relationships and passion, the chance to tell your enemies to fuck off is itself pretty great, maybe even better than the thing you’re fighting about at the time. Listen to the man, here. And then watch some decapitations. This scene would make a pretty decent visual Seven of Wands representation (the numbers are off, but whatevs) and Conan is now on my list of How Is This Not A Tarot Deck Already?

The Eight of Wands: Dicks…everywhere.

I mean.

You didn’t think we’d get through the suit without at least a couple of these, right?

Okay so there are eight wands and they’re falling or maybe flying but the point is they’re gonna HIT YOU IN THE FACE HOLY SHIT DO SOMETHING. Most decks really don’t provide more context on this one. Sometimes, there are eight wands zooming in a direction, and that just fucking happens okay?

Sure enough, this card is like “some shit is going down, it might be hitting the fan, and it’s definitely getting real at top fucking speed. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes you want the show to get on the road, already–but that means you have to be on the road with aforesaid show, making sure you’re handling the turns and have all of your–I don’t know, penguins?–secured. Buckle in and make sure you’ve handed your glasses to the ride attendant.

In a general sense, this is a major but meetable challenge in fire: passion, relationships, creativity, whatnot. Sometimes there are novel deadlines. Sometimes you have three projects you’re working on. Sometimes you’re into some people, and they’re into you, and that’s great but how the hell do you schedule them, and are you sure you’re not just NRE-ing out? Sometimes all of this happens at once.

The Eight doesn’t mean that you’ve got to slow down or drop some of what’s on your plate. It’s just a warning that things are gonna get…intense.







Drunk Occult History: Aleister Crowley Part 1, With Lengthy Digressions

Yeah, this is going to take a while. Fucking Crowley is the elephant in the room of Drunk Occult History, insofar as he’s seriously occult, seriously historical, and, I suspect, was often seriously drunk.

This is a dude who presented himself as the Antichrist, and whose personal mythology a lot of other people seem to have bought without too much question. Like, half of the historical fantasy books I’ve read mention Crowley as SUPER EVIL and involved with UNSPEAKABLE RITES OMG OMG. Which, okay, from reading Arthur Machen etc, I get the impression that “unspeakable rites” to the Victorians means “a moderately intense college party” to the rest of us, in general (like, there is probably some nudity and HOLY SHIT maybe oral and how the hell did a society that produced the Pearl have this many vapors in its other writing? Nobody knows) so there’s that, but in general…I mean, in a more enlightened time, dude would probably be playing bass in a reasonably popular metal band, is my point.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying Crowley was a good person. I’m not saying he was in the same moral county as a good person, or even an okay one. All biographical sources say that the guy was a complete dick, as we will see, either in this post or a subsequent one because there’s…a lot going on here.

Crowley is also a lesson in what happens when you raise your kids really strictly. His folks were members of the Exclusive Brethren, which is a subset of the Plymouth Brethren (and which has a whole bunch of sects itself, because 19th-century Protestants really needed hobbies). Just going by the name you know there’s some shit going on there, because first of all, as everyone in the US knows, “Plymouth” is not a name associated with fun times and chill people.

Second, if I may digress–and I may, because this is Drunk Occult History, not Well-Organized Occult History–I’m gonna go ahead and say that any post-1800s group that uses family relationships for its name is an unmarked van and a rock-and-roll-based mythology away from being a cult. (I’ll give the Masons and similar folks a pass because of possible language change since they were founded.) Like, Alison over at Ask a Manager says that when your interviewer describes the workplace as “just like a family” it’s a bad sign. (“What, you mean we see each other three times a year in the company of a lot of Scotch? Because if so, I’m in.”) Same here.  “Brotherhood” or “Sisterhood” isn’t nearly as bad as “Children” or “Family”–those two are absolutely Phenobarbital and Applesauce Or At Least Selling Flowers in Airports And Also Probably Aliens Somewhere red flags–but at the very least, there’s a lot of unpaid labor expected there, likely a lot of unearned loyalty demanded, and a definite option on Severely Weird Bullshit.

“Brethren” is about midway up the scale of familial-naming dubiousness, especially in the 1800s, when it was definitely a Trying To Be Olde-Tymey thing. Couple that with Plymouth and right away your image is “thinks sugar on oatmeal is the height of decadence.” And that, as far as I can tell, is correct: the various Brethren are still around, and seem like Amish-lite-but-without-the-rumspringa-and-fresh-produce thing. Can’t go to the movies, can’t eat in restaurants, showing skin above the knee is a daring thing the kids today do, etc. They’re also Rapture-y people, possibly the original ones, because of course they are.

So these were Crowley’s parents, which makes a lot of the rest of his life pretty unsurprising. He also had the obligatory Mommy Issues, according to Wikipedia, which says his mom called him “the Beast 666” as a nickname, AS YOU DO. Seriously, people, I’m not even remotely a parent, and even I know that’s how you get cult leaders. Or Carrie. (Also that seems like a lot of effort just to emotionally abuse your kid, like, maybe pick a derogatory nickname that’s easier to say at least? Or doesn’t require the child to be familiar with Revelations-adjacent numerology?)

In this case, Crowley grew up and said fuck that noise–quite literally. Like, dude managed to pick up two of the big three pre-HIV diseases before leaving Cambridge, which probably didn’t help his thought processes any in those pre-penicillin days. Lots of women. Lots of men. Lots of…everything. (The guy was, generally speaking, A Lot.) One of his collections of poetry–yes, he wrote poetry, and a lot of it, because of course he did–was called “White Stains” and refers to exaaaactly what you think. There’s a poem in there about sharing his mistress with a Great Dane. There’s also one about a goat.

Dude was, really, exactly the sort of person you’d expect to write goat sex poems Because He Could. He got into Nietzsche, which I guess was at least back before every other performatively disaffected young man did that, so way to set another fucking obnoxious trend, Edward Alexander. He was misogynist as all hell, q.v. mommy issues, also q.v. Victorian age, used anti-Semitic slurs to Jewish friends, and once left a bunch of other mountain climbers to die while he hung around inside his tent.

Total edgelord asshole, in other words.

Not great about responsibility either. Granted, that’s not a word I associate with “edgelord asshole” anyhow, but…so Crowley’s dad died when he was eleven, which was very sad and doubtless contributed to his manifold Issues, and he got the equivalent of two million dollars, which is a wonderful thing to give a rebellious eleven-year-old like what the actual fuck Victorians? In fifteen years, he’d spent it all.

Travel costs a lot, prostitutes require cash, Crowley took apparently just all of the drugs available in addition to everything else, unfuckingsurprisingly, but most importantly, self-publishing poetry about goat sex actually costs more than it brings in. So, as it turns out, does self-publishing a whole bunch of occult weirdness.

But we will get to that.

Slightly Muddled Tarot

I don’t intend to write these posts when I’m tranquilized, but hey, Wednesday is a good day for travel and writing, so here we are. Plus, Klonopin gets me just as altered without the calories of booze, so yay!

The Five of Wands

The Labyrinthos definition for the Five starts “The Five of Wands depicts five men all holding their own wands and brandishing them up in the air,” which is a movie I think I’ve seen a few times.

I mean, the actual meaning is dark luck in matters of fire, generally, and specifically it’s conflict and confrontation, but I will note that none of these specifically include naked oil wrestling, and indeed that naked oil wrestling and/or measuring contests are both a source of, and a way of resolving, a whole bunch of conflict. If we could get around to doing that literally rather than metaphorically with lethal weapons, as a society, that’d be great, plus we’d get to see more naked oil wrestling.

Dick jokes briefly aside, this is the most positive five. Nobody’s Hans Christen Andersening through the snow like on the Pentacles, nobody’s turning and walking off while someone else steals their weapons, like in Swords, and nobody’s even brooding over spilled wine, like Cups. Nothing’s actually been resolved in the Five of Wands, which means there’s time and room for the conflict to settle down so that everyone is basically okay and retains all their stuff.

In other words, there’s still time for this to involve nakedness and Jello, or whatever the metaphysical equivalent is. It might not happen–some conflicts are for serious big deals–but it still could.

The Six of Wands


I mean, basically. There’s a person on a horse, carrying a wand with a celebratory wreath on it, riding though a crowd of other people who are waving wands in the air. Everyone looks pretty damn thrilled about the whole situation, except for the horse, because horses don’t really do “thrilled” in my experience. Their expressions range from “FUCK THE ENTIRETY OF EVERYTHING” to “what the hell is this now”.  The Six of Wands horse–which is generally white–is on the amiable side of dubious in most cards, though.

I say again: HUZZAH.

That’s pretty much the meaning of this card in most readings. It’s all about good news and triumph and getting shit done and having young people throw whatever variety of underwear they prefer onto the stage for you. Mnemonically, it’s a quest for things of fire, which is sort of the same deal but tends to imply more that the recognition and reward and product endorsement contracts and SHOWING EVERYONE WHO LAUGHED AT YOU IN SCHOOL TAKE THAT DWAYNE I’M A FUCKING ROCK STAR AND YOU’RE SELLING TOYOTAS are a thing you’re working toward, rather than one you have right now. Because it’s a six, though, it’s a quest that you can definitely accomplish if you put your mind to it, even if you haven’t completed it.

You’ll show Dwayne someday, is what I’m saying. Fuck that guy.


A Long Post: Reading Gerald’s Game in A Handmaid’s Tale World

I like Stephen King a lot–his novels, with a few just-too-disturbing exceptions like Cell and Revival, are an odd sort of comfort food for me, one I often return to after a breakup, or when travelling. I’ve been reading them since I was eleven, which probably explains a lot about me, little of it good, and it’s been interesting to come back regularly as I’ve become an increasingly strident feminist.

Not always bad, either. In fact, as I mentioned in my post on Pet Semetary, some of the gender stuff is eerily, and given the time, likely unintentionally, prescient.

Don’t get me wrong: some of King’s books, especially his post-Carrie early novels, are Not Great about women. Susan Norton, Wendy Torrance, and Audra Denborough form a Jesus Fuck, Lady, Do Not Go Down the Fucking Staircase trilogy of idiocy, at points, as notable as any in the slasher movies of my youth (and the fact that Wendy and Susan both mentally lampshade this doesn’t help). Vicky McGee and Rachel Creed seem to exist mostly to be fragile and neurotic; Fran and Nadine in The Stand are nearly literally the Madonna/Whore dichotomy, though King does play with this in interesting ways, and I do kind of love Lucy’s speech as a woman who’s either both or neither. The pre-pubescent girls of the same era–Charlie McGee, for instance–are great, but like C.S. Lewis, early King seems to have a lot of trouble keeping them awesome as they grow.

(This is especially notable in IT. Young Bev, while interested in fashion and gorgeous, plays a central and physical role in the plot–shoots two manifestations of IT with a slingshot, throws rocks, participates in vision quests, and so on, and I’d argue that the sewer orgy was at least her showing a form of agency. As an adult, after admittedly escaping an abusive marriage in a badass way, she…screams a lot, is the object of a love triangle again, gives Inspiring Speeches, and vaguely comforts the dying. Sigh. And I get it on some level–these were the days before Buffy, Ripley, or Sarah Connor, we’re all the product of our times, etc–but man, women in King after Carrie and before Christine are really only useful until they get tits.)

Around 1990some, that changed for the better, a lot, and in ways that really resonate today.  Dolores Claiborne is one of the more famous examples, since she got a movie with Kathy Bates, but the companion novel Gerald’s Game is a hell of a thing to read after a few years of #MeToo, incels, “likeability” tests for female political candidates, and But What If He Just Doesn’t Get It being trotted out every time someone complains about a creepy dude.

CW: Abuse, rape, harassment, misogyny. Also spoilers.

The external plot of this book is basically How Not to Do Bondage, Holy Shit. Middle-aged couple fucks around with for-realsies police handcuffs (nope) and no safeword (NOPE) in a lakeside cabin way the hell out in the middle of Maine during fall, with nobody else within hearing distance (NOOOOOOPE). Shit predictably goes ill, leaving the woman of the pair, Jessie Burlingame, shackled to a bed and facing a number of extremely unpleasant deaths.

She survives, in one of the most impressively hard-to-read scenes I can think of–like, kudos to King, but I skip right the hell over that bit every time, because GAAAAAAAH. Think 127 Hours, but with more…skin. There’s a creepy figure who both the Tor and Guardian reviewers think detracts from the psychological blah blah, but I like a serial killer, so I’m glad he’s there. There’s a dog who I feel really bad for, and whose ex-owner I like to believe met aforesaid serial killer with predictable results. And, while Jessie is trying to get free, she faces her sort-of-repressed memory of her dad molesting her when she was eleven.

I’m fortunate enough not to have been molested or raped, so I’m not going to say much about it. Certainly the depiction fits what I’ve heard from actual stories thereof, especially the notion that the act itself often pales in significance to the way that the manipulation from a parent or other trusted adult fucks up someone’s self-image and ability to trust others. But I don’t have the experience to speak with more authority.

What I feel I can write about, and what really gets me, twenty-seven years after the novel’s publication, is the way King focuses the lens of this book on a number of forms of misogyny aside from the abuse itself, and just kind of lets it…linger there, the way he himself describes some of Romero’s shots of zombies.

First, the most obviously ugly. “What’s a woman?” Jessie remembers a joke going. “A life support system for a cunt.” The phrasing changes a little over the years, but this is a sentiment that anyone who’s tried playing online games with a blatantly female name, or refused to talk to a random dude on the street, or been slightly selective about responses in an online dating service will have probably encountered. It’s also what all the whining from “nice guys” and MRAs and “incels” boils down to–how dare the life support system have its own ideas? You tell a certain kind of guy no, you get reduced to what you won’t give him access to, and sometimes–often–the result has a body count.

It’s obvious…but it’s interesting that this version is presented as a joke. Because it always is–hey, it’s just trash talk, it’s just locker-room talk, why are you so sensitive, we were just having some fun–until it’s not, and it’s…always not, underneath. King’s Danse Macabre talks about how the horror reader is often a multilayered creature–wanting to see the mutant but reviling it, but perhaps secretly cheering for it beneath that–and I would argue that a lot of sexism is the same way these days. Oh, he’s being ironic and edgy, he’s all for equality underneath…until non-masculine folks object to him whipping his dick out, or run for President, or sleep with people who aren’t him.

In thinking about that, I realize that the most obvious physical threats in this book aren’t that blatantly misogynistic, and vice-versa: the serial killer is happy to menace Jessie and show her his Box O’ Creepy, but he prefers men, her dad isn’t violent or even blatantly emotionally abusive (I mean, he sure as hell is, as a reader, but he uses manipulation rather than berating and shouting as his weapons), and the stray dog restricts itself to eating Gerald, whose fate as Purina I am totally okay with.

Why? Well.

Gerald Burlingame, who presumably has some sort of redeeming qualities somewhere, makes his first appearance by ignoring his wife’s request to let her out of the handcuffs they’re playing with. “Why don’t we just forget this?” she says, and he…just goes on putting the handcuff keys on top of the dresser like he didn’t hear a damn thing. “What do you say? This has lost a lot of its charm for me.” she goes on, and he grins. It’s several paragraphs of dialogue, and an offer of various alternate forms of sex later, when he bothers to respond, with a cheesy line about letting her up if she’s very, very good.

First of all, I can’t claim to know every niche of the BDSM community, everything is someone’s kink, and so on, but I find it hard to believe that many pretend-reluctant roleplay scenes involve that kind of dialogue. Even if people aren’t actually roleplaying as Batman and Poison Ivy or whatever, there’s a certain element of ritual or theatricality to the way you speak when you’re pretending that you want out of bondage, and “Hey, buddy, let’s not do this, let’s do another thing,” is not it, nor do I believe that King (as unversed in kink-qua-kink as he may or may not have been, especially given the time) meant Jessie’s speech to sound that way. This is pretty clearly the point where any reasonable partner, even one too naive to have established specific guidelines, would’ve paused all “…wait a sec, do you mean that?”

Gerald does not. Jessie finally gets through to him, after another exchange where he clearly pauses and then goes on, by saying that she feels stupid and ridiculous–because of fucking course it takes bringing his ego into things for the dude to pay attention.

I’d like to pause here and note, once again, that this is after several  paragraphs of conciliatory, hey-nobody’s-at-fault-here, let’s-do-this-instead objections from Jessie. “Well, gee,” say cismen and Aunts Lydia, “you could’ve just been nice about turning him down.”

No. We couldn’t, and we can’t.

So this is what finally gets through to Gerald, and of fucking course he gets mad. “You broke my toy, you bitch, the look [on his face] said,” and again, I think everyone who’s shut down a catcaller or finally told Creepy Guy that he wasn’t going to get sex no matter how many Friendship Tokens he put in is familiar with that look. And we’re definitely familiar with what comes next: the goddamn lawyering. “You said it sounded like fun,”  he says. “Those were your exact words.”

Jesus. THAT GUY. And he took the daaaaay off wooooork and she saaaaid it sounded like fun, and he’s clearly got the worst life in the entire world because his wife just wants to have vanilla sex right now. Thank God, Jessie has none of it: getting away for the weekend was what she meant, and she hasn’t been into this in months, and he could’ve realized that at any point if he wasn’t being stupid. (Yes, at this point, there’s some valid “use your words” criticism, but a) that ties into Jessie’s issues in specific and how non-masculine people are and were discouraged from being that frank about things in general, especially back in the nineties, b) also there are a lot of self-preservationy reasons for not directly confronting men about shit, especially when you live with and are economically dependent on them, and c) this is Gerald, and he sucks, and I do not care.)

He pouts–literally–about her “smart, sarcastic mouth,” and how tired he gets of it.

“Gerald, when you get your head really set on something, sweet and low doesn’t come close to reaching you. And whose fault is that?”


He does not unlock the handcuffs, just keeps talking about how he doesn’t like Jessie when she’s “like this,” and oh hey, every guy who “totally loves women” but is horrified when we swear or get “shrill”. Jessie, who I legit started to love at this point, even when I myself was eleven and first read this book, is like, IDGAF what you like, let me the hell out.

And he doesn’t.

He stops being angry, on the surface, and “decides” that this is all part of the game. Even when Jessie yells, even when she threatens to divorce him.

“She took a closer look at him and saw a terrible thing: he knew. He knew she wasn’t kidding…but he had chosen not to know he knew.”



I don’t remember how old I was when people started talking about sexual harassment at conventions. I think that came, for me, before the discussions of street or subway harassment, and long before the ones about the workplace, just due to where my interests lay. I know it was a while back. And I know that someone always brought up the same “point” (and I suspect that they’ve been doing so since cons have been going on–look up “Breendoggle” if you want to barf a lot and hate humanity): But What If He’s Just Clueless? Or Socially Awkward? Or Autistic? You Can’t Blame Him, He Just Doesn’t KNOOOOOOOW.

Other people have covered the fact that non-neurotypical people are more likely to be the victims than the perpetrators of harassment, and indeed tend to be extremely careful about boundaries *because* they don’t get NT social cues. As for the rest…

John Douglas, talking about the legal definition of insanity, said that he’d never seen a serial killer with so little an understanding of right and wrong that he’d murder someone in front of a cop. The guy who is Just Socially Awkward doesn’t try to give his male boss a foot massage, I fucking guarantee it. Just Clueless And Friendly Dude isn’t going up to random guys on the subway and trying to talk to them about the football game. And an entertainment big shot in the 21st century is not in any way ignorant of the power dynamics and boundary violations at work when he asks a subordinate, or a newer member of his industry, for sexual favors.

They know. And they choose not to know they know.

Gerald then tries to rape Jessie, of course, and she kicks him in the balls, precipitating a fatal heart attack. This is not logistically great, given the situation, of course, and the reason she kicks him is also tied to her own issues.


There’s been a lot of pissy manbabies getting upset on Twitter about a scene (some of which was cut) in Captain Marvel, and asking if we really wanted to see all catcallers have their stuff stolen and their bones broken. Ignoring the fact that the dude in question was doing more than catcalling…I can only answer for myself, but FUCK YES I DO. And similarly, I suspect I’m not the only non-cisguy reader who goes back to Gerald Burlingame’ss fairly painful death scene with a sense of triumph and justice.

And then there’s Brandon Milheron.

Brandon’s the young lawyer who shows up to help Jessie in the epilogue–no, he doesn’t rescue her from the serial killer, or from the bed itself, because King has better sense than that. He’s Gerald’s junior partner who handles his life insurance, and who risks his job to give Jessie some closure, and he’s also where the novel gets most poignantly at the ways patriarchy fucks us all over. Gerald is a pig, the killer is a psychopath, Jessie’s dad is horrible. Brandon…is basically decent, and tries, especially for a guy from 1992…and yet.

Until circumstances prove that the serial killer was indeed a real guy, and really in the house with Jessie, Brandon, like the rest of the men involved with the case, assumes that she was hallucinating, and in conversation, Jessie realizes that he assumes that because he, like them, attributes her perceptions to a 1990s version of that old Victorian classic, feminine hysteria. “I have an idea that’s how most men believe most women think: like lawyers with malaria.”

It’s not a conscious attitude–Jessie never confronts Brandon with that accusation, and the way King writes the character, I think he’d be horrified to even think that about himself–and in some ways that’s worse. It’s the same mindset I see behind a lot of “well-meaning” folks in positions of privilege whenever the experiences of those without come up: the situation isn’t that bad, you must be perceiving things wrong. You must have taken it the wrong way. You must have done something to bring it on.

And thank God, Jessie is right and Brandon is wrong. There was a guy in her room, he’s a bonafide Piece of Work, complete with acromegaly, cannibalism and incest-tacular background, and Jessie confronts him in an excellent courtroom scene, after getting Brandon’s aid in, I promise, the final scene I’ll quote here, where she finally convinces him by starting to cry–because that’s the other side of the “oh, women and their emotional overreaction,” coin. Gerald believed–willfully or not–that she was kidding about not wanting to go on with the bondage games; Brandon doesn’t get swayed by her calmer arguments. “…in another way I recognize it as just another symptom of what’s wrong between the fellers and the girls in this particular square-dance. He didn’t entirely believe I was serious until I started to cry, you see.”

Spend enough time reading advice columns, or Reddit’s Am I The Asshole forums–or spend enough time around het couples, unless your friends are really enlightened–and you’ll hear a version of the same thing. It’s not “take me to court to get closure about this murderer,” but it’s “don’t leave dishes in the sink overnight,” or “stop making ‘jokes’ about my weight in front of our friends,” or “pay your damn child support on time,” and it’s never a big deal, never serious enough to act on it–until the non-guy partner starts yelling or crying. And then that person is super emotional and overreacting out of nowhere but fine, if you’re going to be that way about it, the dude will do the thing. Female political candidates are unfeeling, detached robots until they’re shrieking oversensitive harpies. The only “good way” to be Not A Guy is to be okay with never being taken seriously.

That’s weird for me to say, in a fashion, because I don’t spend a lot of time trying to be taken seriously. I shun responsibility and I don’t really give a damn about most people’s opinions. (Except yours, lovely blog readers who might buy my books! I treasure you and your potential eight to sixty-four bucks above all!) Even for me, though, there are some situations in which I do mind a lot: they can be as basic as “stop fucking bothering me while I’m reading,” or as complicated as “take my goddamn word that I want this medical procedure.”

It shouldn’t take crying to make that happen. It shouldn’t take the equivalent of a fatal kick in the jibblies, either–but as I get older, if that’s what has to happen, I’m more and more okay with that.