I know that this phenomenon (the shower epiphany) has been observed and commented on by other people before, but it always amazes me when it happens. Is it just that you notice an abrupt flood of ideas a lot better when you're in the shower and have nothing better to do? Or is there some combination of circumstances -- an environment with low amounts of information to process, plus just enough physical activity to occupy the brain's background CPU cycles, maybe in conjuction with rising blood sugar from breakfast, or the added sensory input of the water, or thought patterns still fresh and flexible from sleep -- that makes it particularly conducive to having interesting sequences of cognition?
When I first came out to myself (that is, when I first started identifying as queer*), it was during a shower epiphany.
I remember it was at TEP the summer after my senior year at MIT. It was an unbearably hot summer and I think I may have been taking my second or third cold shower of the evening (which argues against sleep-fresh-brain theory, come to think of it) when I had this series of realizations. Sudden, unambiguous, simple:
There are men that I am sexually attracted to. This is not a choice, it's not a decision, it's not a life-style. It's simply a fact. Like "my eyes are brown", or "north is that way": "some guys turn me on." And it's not a big deal. It doesn't *mean* something. It's just a thing that's true.
It was so clear, so obvious, that I had to go and write it down on a piece of notebook paper, which I believe I titled "Blindingly Obvious Realizations". I think I still have the piece of paper floating around somewhere, because I have the packrat gene and I channel it into hoarding information.
And in fact, it was pretty much blindingly obvious to everybody but me, because, as I discovered in the ensuing days and weeks, when I went around telling people "I think I'm not straight; I think I'm attracted to other guys," the near-universal reaction to my coming-out was basically "well, duh". I don't think anybody actually said it that bluntly, but it's hard not to feel a little bit... silly, or foolish, when you discover that not only does no-one care about this big thing that you've been angsting over and fretting about for ages, everybody else already knows because they haven't been in denial about it.
Okay, I'm gonna stop there, because I feel a twinge residual embarassment coming on. At least I can laugh about it now.
Labelling people is very tricky, because labels carry a lot of implicit information. "Homosexual" is a behavioral label (and is almost uselessly imprecise), while "gay" is a cultural one. I'm slightly uncomfortable applying the word "gay" to myself, because I feel like it implies association with a sub-culture that I really feel no attachment toward. My sub-culture is "geek", and I'm quite proud of my geek heritage.
The word "queer", on the other hand, is a mostly political label that means "I have non-default settings". I like that word a lot better, because it carries the implication that this is a complex subject that can't be easily summed-up in a single word.
Plus it starts with the letter Q, which is funny.
And it means "strange", which is also good.
So I may or may not be gay, but I'm definitely queer. (Though not A queer, since I'm also in the camp that says you should only apply labels to people adjectivally; to do otherwise implies that the categorization is the most important aspect of their identity, and that's rude.)
Okay, I was going to tell you all about the interesting set of ideas I had in the shower, but the preceding was too damn long, so now I have to do another entry.
Though I suppose if the goal of blogging is to write more, I'm probably succeeding.