Content Warning: Inappropriate/unacceptable sexualities
I have spent my fair share of time traveling. I fancy myself a low life. I enjoy hanging out with any and everyone. I have spent time with ultra affluent as well as pretty (super) low brow people.
Today, I’d like to talk about “dirty old men” as a category of people. They adhere to gender norms and sexualities that many find extremely offensive. They likely engage in the trafficking of children.
Before getting into dirty old men, lets first talk about a group that offends me.
The only group I have not spent time with, at least I have not enjoyed spending time with, are those dirty white folk that take pride in how nasty they can be. You know the ones, they rarely bathe and call themselves ecoconscious. They compete to see who can eat from the dirtiest street food vendors. The ones who are clueless about their cultural appropriations. The ones who offer advice from their western worldview without a clue as to the social, economic, or cultural conditions of the ones they advise.
Fuck, they compete with impoverished locals when they could just call their parents to wire them $20. Search “beg packers” to find out more about these folks. I would not be able to contain my joy if I came across one of this particular variety. I’ve been out of money abroad after having my wallet stolen, and while the locals are generous and caring, I would not have had the gaul to ask when in times of need let alone as my main source of income for traveling.
Fuck those people. You can’t even talk to them about how offensive they come across because they immediately default to name calling, denying their behaviors as problematic, blaming you for trying to intervene to create a better world.
I try to love those people, but it is exhausting. I have my limits.
I’ve got problems, you’ve got ’em too.
Everyone else I have met, sure they might have their problems but we all do. I enjoy spending time with diverse crowds, with people who are accepting. Sometimes they are not so good about acknowledging issues with their behaviors but they will listen in a way that indicates they are taking you seriously and considering what you have to offer.
Some of the best times I have had in my life are with the lowest brow folks. Really, it’s that low brow culture that inspires Hangover Throat. I consider myself to be a member of this group.
Low brow people, our hearts and minds are open. Open to new ideas, new perspectives, new experiences. In my travels, in Guatemala in particular, I learned to always say yes. This frame of mind has variations throughout the world.
Of course, this does not actually mean always say yes. It simply means be open to new experiences and ways of seeing the world.
Always Say Yes
In that spirit, I was hanging out lakeside at a cafe–writing, as I do. The sky was clear and blue. The sun was shining. The lake glistened. The air was clean.
As I was drinking my coffee with my lover, another person in the cafe turns to us and starts chatting about how he is a “dirty old man”. He never revealed exactly what he was talking about but I got the picture.
What is a dirty old man?
A dirty old man is a guy looking for young girls, for companionship and sex. This guy was in to the Asian women, I could tell by the way he talked. He may have mentioned his wife/girlfriend. I don’t recall if she showed up and was there with him.
He also talked about his (ex-)wife, who I assume was from the United States and white. They were divorced.
It was interesting how he managed to discuss his wife in a way without using the prefix ex to indicate they were divorced but made sure to talk about how they were divorced. He seemed resentful toward her, but also as though he still loved her.
These are the contradictions that give meaning to our humanity. This is why I always keep an open heart and an open mind. There is much to learn when we are free of judgement toward people other than ourselves.
Our own cultural norms might not always apply and those norms reverberate through our worldview in ways shape everything. So when one tiny bit changes, the whole world changes. This is why I challenge myself not to judge people.
Dirty old men, as this guy self-referenced, are a category of people. They may have unsavory desires that inflict harm on young people. About this there is no doubt. I am not willing to follow up with a statement judging this group of people.
Rather, I seek to understand them. What led to this type of behavior? How can I explain it? I can only do that by getting to know them.
I did not have a chance to get to know this gentleman any more than the few minutes we conversed. But even in those few minutes I gained insight into his life. I learned about his family, where he has been, and a little about his past.
I challenge myself not to judge people today because when I first met my lover, he was open and expressed care toward people of all walks of life. At the time we were mere teenagers. I remember thinking wow! this guy is special.
He talked to homeless people with the same respect as he spoke with “respected” members of the community. I attribute it to his family upbringing paired with his punk rock style. This contrasted sharply with my own upbringing. That contrast helped me learn to be more open because it was so stark, so obvious.
So this guy is going on about being a dirty old man. He was speaking more to my love than to me. I often wonder in situations like these if this is a solicitation, if the person is asking whether you want to participate. Being open to new experiences also leaves you open to being invited into things that the rest of society considers unsavory.
If those unsavory things are so bad, why are people doing them? The simple, common answer is they like being contrarian. Wow, how insightful. Amiright? Contrarian behavior is a thing, but not an explanation I would ever accept. It is a conclusion I might arrive at… after learning about a person.
Living to Learn, Learning to Live
All too often, we are raised not to trust others. We are taught to make assumptions about what it means to be [insert category here]. Our assumptions are learned from family, school, news media, social media.
There is a wide world out there. Beware of how the media shapes what you think. Hell, beware of what your family may have taught you to think. Those ideas are rarely taught consciously. You are socialized into them. But if you make a conscientious effort to acknowledge judgements, you can alter your behavior just by recognizing that you make judgements. That simple questioning of self is healthy. If you found your way here though, you likely are already pretty open minded.
Learning about the world is a magical experience. Most of your experiences will leave your heart full and aflutter. You will meet people who have the world to offer.
So go out and travel. Even if you are only going downtown where you generally restrict your business activities. Go downtown and meet the homeless folks and hobos. Talk to the “crazy” person. Introduce yourself to someone who you think is completely different from you. Then when they are not sure about you and your motives, let yourself be vulnerable and resist judgement. See what it is that gives them meaning in life, what their challenges are, what brings them joy. Maybe you will learn something about yourself that you can take back to your community.