Target Practice

Last night I was talking to my Analyst and he asked if he had ever told me about the five topics. I said no. It seemed strange, him volunteering any information that way, seemingly apropos of nothing. Also I've been seeing him for several years now and this has never come up. But the five topics, things to talk about in therapy are:

- Sex life
- Dreams
- Your past
- What you're feeling/thinking when you're on the couch
- Thoughts/feelings about the Analyst

I told him I felt at a bit of a disadvantage because I don't have much of a sex life and do not have any dreams, but he explained that these can refer to fantasies, even non-sexual fantasies, and that I do in fact have dreams I'm just blocking them from my memory. I very rarely speak to or about him, directly. I was a little bit miffed because he hadn't brought these things up before, and I've been quite vocal about sometimes not knowing what to talk about, or how to 'do' psychoanalysis. But he did make a good point last night. We were describing this predicament I'm in right now, or in general, and he described it as being a situation in which I cannot win.

The situation is that I do not know how to be angry or feel disappointment without a) lashing out and projecting it onto someone else and telling them about it and starting a fight (which is rare but becoming increasingly and troublingly common) or b) directing the anger back at myself. I have no right to be disappointed or frustrated or angry. It's because of something I did or did not do. Everything seems to come down to some failure on my part. Choosing wrong, or not choosing right. Everything-- my inability to feel or my constant feeling bad, everything comes, it seems, from inside. I don't know another way to think to explain it. Everything arises from some fundamental dysfunction within me. Something about me that is abhorrent and which everyone else seems to react to but which I am incapable of locating. All I know is I drive people away.

He said it sounds like I'm stuck in playing smear the queer. He mentioned this because it's a memory I often return to in analysis and something that feels really real in the present tense.

When I was little my family moved to the suburbs and I was queer but I didn't know it yet. But the other kids at school definitely did. I remembered early on wanting to play with some kids in my fifth grade class after school, they were running around and I wanted to play with them. It was after school, during a baseball game, so the younger kids and parents were nearby at the baseball diamond but we were on the blacktop, the slightly older kids. I was a new kid I wanted to be friends. They told me I could play with them but they were playing smear the queer. I said okay, I must have agreed. I did not understand that this meant that I had to be the queer. I didn't even know what this game was. Basically it's that I'm the queer and they all take turns jumping me. it was like football but without the football.

I'd roughhoused with my little brother for years, so I knew how to scrap. I was totally bewildered. I quickly ascertained that we were fighting dirty; that the game as such was to just hurt each other as much as possible. I think I kicked one of the boys in the crotch and I think I may have bitten another one. They were furious. This was against the rules. I didn't understand. They doubled up on their efforts. I don't think it was a matter of punching me in the face, per se-- I wasn't bleeding or anything, but it was a lot of tackling, a lot of actual smearing on the ground. Lots of arm holds. I remember being overpowered and running away to try to find my mom who I think was watching the game.

This is a pattern that I feel like has continued throughout my life. I'm deeply skeptical of the narrative of "only one thing happens to you over and over again"-- I'd like to think that a couple different things happen to you all the time, with gradations of change, of course. I very much feel like I am still playing smear the queer. I don't feel like I know how to be if I am not a target. Even as much as I resent being a target.

This is a photo of me and Betsy Heavens right before I did a performance, probably in 2004. It's funny to think that I've been harping on the same stuff for so long. Probably that was a clearer, if messier, way to get at what I am always trying to get at. I painted a target symbol over my chest and I tried to do my eye make-up to look like I had a black eye. I wanted to look tenderized.

I feel like the world only wants me as a target. The world only wants me as queerbait, fagbait, crimebait. Deathbait. I feel like I exist only to prove the limits of more powerful people's aim, range, and force. Even in ideal circumstances, where I should feel good or welcome, I need to make myself a target. I need to be more flamboyant, obscure. I cannot accept that someone would actually love me; I need to immediately, repeatedly and forcefully throw myself against the edges of their love to prove its boundary. I know, on some deep dark level of my most mistrustful heart, that all love is conditional. I can see other people only as they are not me. You can love me only if I know that you love someone else more than you love me.

I went to the bar last night and I felt kind of out of it. I said hi to some people but mostly I avoided people. A couple people stopped me to say hello, which I kind of felt bad about. I feel like I'm sick, like I'm a sick person and everyone can see it.

I need to tell myself another thing. I wanted, I was telling my analyst last night, to try a different thing. Why is it always that my fundamental make-up is the problem? Why is it so bad that I naturally want to be a target? Why is it so bad that I either lash out inappropriately (fight dirty) or else resign myself to become the object of my own rage? Isn't there a place for me to have these qualities? Isn't there a job that requires this exact skill set? Maybe it's not being an artist but that seems pretty close.

I just want to feel a different way and I guess I can't feel a different way until I think a different way about it first.


For to Get

I feel like I'm forgetting something. Something important. What is it that I'm forgetting? Is it that I'm forgetting to love you? Like, to show you affection? Or is it that I'm forgetting to love you-- in the sense that I'm actually forgetting to feel that feeling. To practice the art of loving you. That I'm forgetting that I'm supposed to be doing that. Like, everyone else has taken off in the marathon and I am still here, at the starting line, admiring the job I did lacing my shoes.

I just learned a new way to lace up my shoes. The dumb internet taught me. I hate even linking, but you know.

No but I feel as though I am forgetting something important. Is it you, internet. Is it you, diary? Am I forgetting to do something here. I don't write every day. Things feel sort of okay. They're moving along. I'm caught in a moment. I'm distracting myself. To tolerate distress.

Is it that I forgot to ruin everything.

I got outside. I got outside this weekend, and I got outside yesterday and today. Did I forget to be cute. Did I forget to call someone? Did I forget to worry. I didn't forget to worry, to feel bad. I remembered. I'm remembering right now. Did I forget to fight hard. Did I forget to kill something to become its favorite.

It feels not unlike in college, this thing of using stars as metaphors, astronomy. I remember writing some not great songs about seeing constellations as lonely. They're pairing up and I'm down here. But now I feel less like it's about being left out of some romantic entanglement, less about feeling alienated more about the anxiety of pattern recognition. I think I've swung too far in the other direction-- now imperfection is too aesthetic to me. I get freaked out by a schema.

Mercury is retrograde, of course I feel like I've forgotten something. I'm definitely not forgetting to eat. That much I remember. I'm gaining weight from meds, it feels like. It's awful. I don't know if anything's working. I feel frustrated for the stupidest reasons-- seeing something shiny, etc.

I'm having an okay time. Things are going along. I have the zine party this weekend and some shows and my parents are coming to town. And yet there's this nagging feeling. I don't understand. I want to distract myself. I want to buy toiletries. I want to buy socks. Things I need. Unglamorous things but new things. I want to fritter away my money by stocking up.

Like most Americans I want to move laterally. I don't want to go forward or confront the past I just want to sort of muddle from side to side. I want to feel like I have some leverage. I want to feel capable, expert or something. Not like I want to feel powerful or in control-- I don't need those. I want to feel like I'm somewhere. A person. It's so fucked up.

I want to find a program that will split up FLAC files into mp3s so I can listen to the Amy Denio stuff I've been downloading. I am compulsively downloading music. Krautrock, indie, whatever. I want to feel like I'm feeding myself but I can't nourish. If that's possible? I want to feel like I'm taking care of myself. For myself. Like I'm helping myself. Like I'm getting inspired. Like I'm curious and I go after something but I come up against some kind of obstacle, like I'm discovering or making problems for myself, and I'm solving them.

I need to calm down. I am calm. I'm making tea. I'm doing a facial mask. Masque. I'm writing like I'm talking. I'm forgetting something on purpose maybe.



I've written zines since I was about 13 years old. The first zine I made, in high school, was called Zombie. In 2006 I started writing Scorcher, which I referred to as a psychedelic porno poetry zine, something of a bait and switch.

For the last year I've been writing something new, and occasionally reading from it. It's a new zine, called DOOR GIRLS. It's about going to parties. The new zine will come out on 5/23 and I'm having a special zine launch and reading and I am thrilled to be joined by some special guest readers who I like a lot: Doug Keeler, Justin Allen and Erin Markey. Won't you join us?

DOOR GIRLS by Max Steele zine launch and reading featuring Doug Keeler, Justin Allen and Erin Markey

Saturday May 23rd 7pm
Bureau of General Services—Queer Division @ The Center
208 West 13th Street, Room 210
New York, NY 10011

Please join Max Steele for the release of his new zine DOOR GIRLS at the Bureau of General Services—Queer Division for a launch party and reading featuring Doug Keeler, Justin Allen and Erin Markey.

Justin Allen is a writer from Northern Virginia whose work traces the ways geographies, both URL and IRL, shape identity.

Erin Markey is a comedic writer/performer, actress and singer who has shown work at BAM, Under The Radar Festival, New Museum, PS 122, Lincoln Center Director’s Lab, New York Comedy Festival, San Francisco Film Society, and frequently at Joe’s Pub at the Public Theater. She is currently a 2013-2015 artist-in-residence at Brooklyn Arts Exchange writing a musical, A Ride On The Irish Cream which will premiere at Abrons Arts Center in January 2016. She is a 2014 Franklin Furnace Fund recipient.

Max Steele is a writer and performer. He’s written the psychedelic porno poetry zine Scorcher since 2006 and in 2015 started a new zine, DOOR GIRLS, about night life.