I often find myself wondering what I still care about.
I don’t know how to change the things that frustrate me most and I fear I don’t have anything left worth saying. Anyone who reads me regularly is going to be bored by another bout of yelling about how capitalism is a death cult. Who cares what a failed politician and burnout contract defender who went crawling back to sex work thinks, anyway?
Losing faith in government is such a disorienting sort of grief that, mortifyingly, it has shaken my understanding of myself as much as it has that of the world around me. I am, admittedly, nauseated by my own solipsism in this. In feeling as though the clear patterns of corruption drawn out from the chaos of propaganda-shielded governance have become too predictable and annoying for me to keep talking about, it’s like I’ve assumed the need to break through the din of corporate controlled political media has anything to do with me.
I worry about being perceived as a whiner, and that people will ignore me because I am “sensitive” or “difficult” but the truth is: it doesn’t really matter who says things that need saying or who gets credit (or blame) for it. Who receives the ideas and what they do with them is what actually counts. Someone has to say it out loud where other people might hear, though.
Still, the loneliness and anxiety in that prospect makes me wonder how many people less loud-mouthed than I are holding their fears and discomfort with today’s world deep in their guts. All I have are anecdotes, but my current work as a phone sex operator does allow me the somewhat unique privilege of talking intimately with somewhere between dozens and hundreds of anonymous men per week. Every time they leave the thoughts they can’t share with friends, family, or colleagues in my ear, I find the words “you are not alone” spring to my lips more readily. Perhaps because it’s true.
In my experience, the majority of people calling phone sex operators in the year 2022 are doing so because they’re more lonely than horny. Sure, I get some who are just looking for a good time… but porn is ubiquitous and costs a lot less than I bill per minute. If someone is calling me, it’s almost always because they’re looking for a connection they can’t get from pre-recorded fantasies. I even had one caller tell me he preferred phone sex to webcam sites because he couldn’t sense disinterest in someone’s eyes over the phone.
That broke my heart a little to hear, but it pales in comparison to the pang I get when I hear a caller hesitate in response to my standard “what’s on your mind” greeting. While those guarded pauses are often followed by some sexual predilection roughly a quarter turn beyond socially acceptable heterosexual copulation, about a third of the time it’s followed by some version of: “the world is kinda fucked up right now, isn’t it?”
What comes next is a mutual dance of avoiding partisan identifiers. I meet hedging like “I don’t know who you voted for” or “I don’t wanna sound like a conspiracy theorist” with the warmest rebuke of both major parties I can muster. Hidden anxiety and confusion flow freely next.
It doesn’t matter if my caller is progressive or conservative; the concerns always boil down to how hard it is to survive and how the government fumbles any attempt to address it. Perhaps most strikingly, the frustration pairs nearly universally with fear their peers will think they’re an extremist for feeling that way.
I listen and commiserate with the helplessness behind it all. The caller doesn’t know I literally ran for U.S. Senate to get to the bottom of why things are what they are and, frankly, it doesn’t matter. They’re not calling for a politician or an attorney’s perspective. They’re calling because they need to express things that make them feel insecure to someone whose judgment they don’t fear. That they usually get more analysis than they bargained for is beside the point—which is: sometimes it’s enough just to know you’re not the only one who sees a problem.
As I continue struggling to identify which political or legal crisis to throw my energy behind in this seemingly endless stream, I suppose making people feel less alone is as noble a pursuit as any.
Bre Kidman is an artist, activist, and attorney (in that order), and the first openly non-binary person in history to run for the U.S. Senate. They would be delighted to hear your thoughts on the political industrial complex at [email protected].