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Peak Moments in Shatner Chatnering
The Shatner Chatner is on brief hiatus and will return after Thanksgiving in December. In the meantime, please enjoy some Shatner Chatners past, and meditate hopefully on the Shatner Chatners of the future.
INTERLOCUTER: When you say autoandrophilia, you mean…?
DANIEL: The made-up counterpart to autogynephilia, part of Ray Blanchard’s totally bananas “transsexualism typology,” wherein a woman’s paraphilic tendency to become sexually aroused at the thought or image of herself as a man leads her to transition, yes.
INTERLOCUTER: Which would make you…?
DANIEL: Which would make me a confused woman who tripped over her erotic delusion of maleness and accidentally cut her breasts off, correct.
INTERLOCUTER: Which is not how you typically characterize your own transition?
DANIEL: Not typically, no.
INTERLOCUTER: So just how cheekily are you throwing around words like autoandrophilia?
DANIEL: Extremely cheekily.
Can’t be so careful you stop calling a hot stove a hot stove! That’s why everyone is too careful, in my opinion. Here’s another thing I think they’re too careful about: Just another example of what you can’t say. They’ll string me up over a hot stove for saying so! But I’m too old to be careful. Too old, and yet paradoxically with a younger spirit than even the youngest careful person – I’m the oldest boy in the world with the heart and mind of God’s youngest baby. All those careful children out there are much, much older than me, the eternal prankster with several investment portfolios. Invest carefully but speak carelessly, that’s my motto!
There are two acceptable sources for acquiring a man-made set of genitals. As with a gentleman’s watch, if you want quality, you go to the Swiss.
If you must detransition, remember to keep your heels on the ground, your knees and ankles locked together, and your mouth closed. Do not ask anyone else at the table if they would like to detransition with you; simply say “Excuse me,” detransition quietly and in private, then rejoin the remaining guests when coffee is served.
In introducing strangers it is not necessary to refer to the source of their transition, as—Mr. James, lately Caroline, or, Bradshaw Brown of Berenice. If you wish to introduce two friends who have gotten bottom surgery for the purpose of comparing notes, you might say, “This is Mr. Lee, recently returned from abroad,” as a way of signaling receptivity to a sensitive conversational subject.
Niles Crane is the eternal femme fatal, the troublesome hysteric, the madwoman in the attic, the wandering womb, the wounded Fisher King, the animal within the animal, the living thing within the living thing, the chaste Joseph fleeing Potiphar’s wife, the unportioned brother. Niles Crane is the cask of Amontillado, the Maltese Falcon, Death in Venice. Wealhþēow in the mead-hall, carrying the cup of peace and leading the shieldmaidens; Grendel's mother without the mead-hall, carrying the grudge of outlaws and leading the scapegoats. Judas in the garden, surrounded by perfume and fragrance, slight of frame and quick to kiss.
“It’s the circles under the eyes,” I said. “He always looks exhausted, which is very attractive in a man.” I knew even then that was only part of it, that undereye circles couldn’t possibly account for considering Josh Charles not just a vaguely good-looking actor but a real, honest-to-God, attractive person. Part of it is the over-the-top mid-century nonsense energy he brings to all of his blocking; he doesn’t act his way through a scene so much as pose through it, with a Arthur-Miller-influenced back of tricks: Turn, smirk, furrow, lift eyebrow, purse lips, clench jaw, hands on hips, casually tossing baseball to signal an age skip, it’s the stagiest possible version of being a straight man without sacrificing heterosexuality, like Neil LaBute…He’s a man with all the disdain of Bunny MacDougal and all the about-to-break-straight-man energy of early Leslie Nielsen, and that’s nothing to sneeze at; plus in the 90s he had “sweaty prom date” vibes. I can’t explain it, but when a man has to undo his tie because he’s sweaty from dancing? That was when I fell in love with every single one of my prom dates, anyhow.
There’s something about nicotine in particular – cigarettes, nicotine gum, those flat squat vapes that send a perfect little credit-card-shaped burst of cold pink steam into your lungs with every puff-and-click, whichever – where trying to come off it makes me feel like the second Mrs. de Winter within about six hours: mousy, befogged, paranoid, hypersensitive, repressed to the point of choking on my own tea, scared of furniture and loud noises and everyday conversation…
Five minutes ago the electric kettle’s lid accidentally snapped up while I was pouring the water out, spilling water over the counter; it didn’t burn me but I muttered “Christ” at the kettle and then gave it a little repressing shake. I was trying to make the kettle feel bad for letting me down, because even in my own Beauty-and-the-Beast-style fantasies the most imaginative I ever get is myself as the Beast mistreating my inanimate servants. One has to – Beast-like – give up more and more over the years, such that by the time one gets around to nicotine gum a gabbling little corner of the brain gets switched on and starts to beg for just this one thing, just this one thing left; without this one thing I am not patient, or kind, or interesting, do not possess equanimity, am not capable of restraint or coherent thought, cannot follow through with any of the bargains I have made before when I was of sound mind.
I am the horrible creeping bag of sound that is the most worst to you! I will use my beak to mischief you and I will press B. I wobble my snake-front-body and I waggle my bag-back-body and they meet in the middle to plan a bad idea to upset you. I flap back and forth my business rear for balancing and I snapple-pap my feet all up and down the town for terrible reasons, and you don’t like it. I am the goose and you are the miserable boy with no honk. I invented my body and it was the best idea.
You're In A Lesbian Pulp Novel From 1958! What's Distracting You From Work And Causing Your Heterosexual Coworker Nora To Glance Curiously Over At Your Desk?
Life here in France – this French life as we call it here – has changed me. Tiens! And other French words, which I know now and can also speak them. Much tiens. I am a simple man, with a simple life here, my blood becalmed from wars and from my many campaigns, my campagnes. I have here my simple garden, where I grow my single bean, my annual bean. J’suis le legume-homme, vraitment. But yes! A single bean is all now that I need to please my heart. Every year, I take my bean and I grow him, and when he is ready with a fatness, I harvest him, and I cook him up on a big plate for my dinner.
Oh, heavens preserve us! Had I any notion that my words of praise towards the elegance and lithery of Sir’s most elegant personage would lead to such distension, I swear I’d never have said a word! The fault is mine, mine entirely that Sir is now subject to such distressing unfoldenings and enlengthening of limb and torso that he’s outgrown the couch, and soon will grow too long and large for his own apartments (comfortably-appointed and well-situated in the Mayfair district)! What an error – worse than error, fault, and worse than fault, sin in me, to be the sole cause of such a spurt of destruction! I meant merely to comment on the striking and unusual capaciousness of your extensive, manly bulk; I never meant to draw your sufficiency to greater height and length!
A brief advertisement for Sears. A return to the primal marital scene, now coolly-lit, hairstyles once again in careful array, clothes perfectly sheveled, wife contented and eating strawberries: “So, what’s the paper say about tomorrow?” (Is the wife allowed to read the newspaper? Is this knowledge forbidden to her? Do air-conditioned husbands exercise Christlike headship over the weather and their wives? May she only be granted knowledge of the heat through the intercession of her man?)
"Just To Be Clear, Everyone Was A Little Bit Of A Lesbian Then": Contextualizing 19th-Century Lesbianism
It made me realize how often I’ve heard some historical variation on “a rising lesbian tide lifts all lesbian boats,” and how I’ve never been able to figure out if I think it’s an attempt to sidestep something or not. I don’t mean to dispute that norms and trends about expressing platonic affection can change over time and across cultures – obviously they can, and do – it’s just that there’s a particular formula for almost-addressing nineteenth-century lesbianism and then swerving at the last second that I seem to run into a lot (it’s not just lesbians, but it’s often lesbians):
A POSSIBLY-COUCHED LESBIAN ASSERTION is offered, then met with
A PARTIAL LESBIAN CONCESSION THAT READS LIKE ASSENT BUT QUICKLY REVEALS ITSELF AS A FIREWALL, e.g.
“Well, yes, but the thing about Joshua Speed is that back in 1848 it was considered good manners for every resident of the state of Illinois to share a bed with any attorney who came to town, just in case they turned out to be Abraham Lincoln.”
“It was very fashionable to pretend to be a lesbian at the time, which means that it was very easy to cover one’s actual lesbianism with one’s assumed lesbianism, which meant that roughly 80% of the French court of the day was composed of lesbians loudly shouting ‘THIS IS PRETEND’ while falling violently in love with one another.”
So I want to talk about lesbian velocity, which is a phrase I've had in my head for a while now, and I'm still not sure what it means. It was a phrase that my mind adapted from something you said when we were first dating, when my queer women friends turned their shoulder to you - politely, but quite decisively - and made it quite clear that you were not a lesbian, or perhaps no longer a lesbian, and that you were removing me from the girl gang that I was in. It was a moment of some ambivalence for me, because I was so excited to be dating you and I wanted them to be too - and of course they were, and are - but I also loved (and feared losing) the feeling of being claimed by queer women, after many pre-transition years when I couldn't have been, and wasn’t, at least not in any straightforward way. I think your feeling was more simple, and more euphoric: by being figured as a non-lesbian, that is as a man, you were confirmed in your new sense of yourself as a male person.
Bill Hader and John Mulaney; both of them with their wide-set temples and their Cary Grant swimming-pool hairlines and their marquise-cut cheekbones and their reinvented mid-Atlantic accents and their anxious, elegant Peter Lorre hands need to quit it with their midcentury gay-adjacent nervousness, because I’m already jealous of enough of it. What are they doing, these dressing-gown boys with their velvet-slipper hearts and their afternoon-tennis arms, besides trying to destroy me? This goes for all of you – quit it out with your young-Bogart necks and your broad Hitchcock-boy eyebrows, croquet forearms and 6’1 in socks.
Hand over those midcentury bodies, those fourteen-pullups-every-morning-and-a-poached-egg shoulders, those Kirk Douglas wrists and fingertips used to switching records and honesty. You with your David Hyde Pierce chins and everything else you can carry. I’m trying to have gender dysphoria quietly in the corner and then along comes a couple of celebrities getting to be what I’m trying to be about, namely C-3PO with skin on, lanky, fussy, and detailed, and I have to unbook my whole afternoon just to be furious about your dynamic and elbow-to-shoulder measurements.
“Maybe we should start making signs for queer events like the one this coffee shop has,” I said. “Like: ‘We love your trans boyfriends! But we cannot accommodate them per city health code violations. Please leave them outside, where we have provided water and snacks for them until you return after making your purchases.’”
Just Another Minute, Please, Miss – Hoping That My Suit Might Not Prove Entirely Distasteful To Ye – I Make Ninepence A Shilling And I Saw A Dog Once't
Hopin’ an ye’ll forgive the abruptness of my visit, Miss Skimmersmarch, but I come to tell ye what but I make at present three pound a week, or thruppenfold, and Mr. Craggslymire has given me reason to expect a further rise of nineshilling per annum come this forthmass. I don’t come here in the traditional Disclosuring of Assets to the lady of the manor, neither, but for the purpose of making a declaration of my intention to support you in a lifestyle of marriage, should you find yourself agreeable.
In moresomeover and additionwise to these heretofore acknowledged funds, I also possess a mother who once et an egg, and would be more than happy to describe to you, or any children of your body, what that egg did both taste and look like.
Then from 1945 to 1957, possibly addled by a lack of housemaids, everyone started doing Genteel Murders because there weren’t any big wars left, and it fell to the nation’s Belgians and elderly spinsters to solve the murders in order to make up for not having a class system. Then it was Austin Powers for a while, and now the country occupies itself by making TV shows about what it was like when everyone was doing Genteel Murders and also very slowly pretending to not be Europe.
What I can’t stand is having a generally good time half attending to the goings-on onscreen and half attending to the book I’m reading on my phone while also half planning what I would like to have for dinner, only to be jolted to attention by an obviously-significant thud in the script eight minutes in, something like, “I’ll be right there, only I’ve turned my ankle” or “No, Carmilla never takes ice in her cocktails” or “Thursday is the leg of lamb’s day off,” and I know my TV (and, by extension, my Puzzling Friend) wants me to remember why Carmilla never permits ice in her glass or that the absence of lamb on a Thursday means that Mrs. Portshire couldn’t possibly have been in Devenmouth in time for the 6.20 train, and for that matter Carminder couldn’t have been to India as a girl, as she’d claimed to. It’s TV homework is what it is.
That should tide you vultures over for at least a week. Vult on, my darlings!