Whilst jovially strolling from my apartment to the nearby commuter train, I happened to notice young people with cash. Initially I was surprised, as in Sweden cash is not king. Rarely does one see cash or coin here, probably because most of the country has transitioned to cashless payments.

Even on the supermarkets, rarely are coin machines used and they stand regally as proof of a past gone time of exchanging paper and coin money for goods. And then it hit me, when was the last time I used or handled cash? Well that was easy, when I was in Dubai two years ago. Shocking.

Sure, I have a hundred kronor spare cash with my phone, hidden away in the pocket, there if I need it in a pinch. I don’t even see or remember it and am taken a little bit back when I see. Is it even legal tender still? Not sure but I do see Astrid Lindgren and Greta Garbo, so it might be okay.

So when I see a 20-something with a wad of cash, and when I mean at least 2-3 fingers thick, I become suspicious. My area is not pristine and void of crime, on the other hand it’s rather rough and overrun with mobsters caught in ridiculous territory war. But I couldn’t help being suspicious when I see a wad of cash exchanging hands, with nervous looks and a coffee bag being exchanged.

“A gun? Drugs? A fabrigé egg filled with juicy chocolate?” I thought. I looked again and the suspicious body language continued. My mind could jump into oblivion of possibilities, and so I digress.

As an upstanding member of society who never used cash for anything in the last years, and has nothing to hide and no connection to illicit worlds, I remain perplexed as to why so much paper currency must be exchanged. Why would someone pay something without need of documentation or receipt. My spider sense was tingling.

It would have been the upteenth time I witnessed some crime in the 200m radius of the castle (my nickname for my apartment building that is markedly more modern and luxurious compared to the surrounding housing), but then again… I should be sending out good karma to the world, it was clearly the September rent paid late… 🤔 Yes, it must be that. The bloodshot eyes of the man receiving the money and bag is just ovetired and suffering from adult pink-eye.

It could also have been the most expensive breakfast ever recorded in the history of humanity. Worthy of a king… or maybe even a kingpin. In the meantime, I’m keeping my wits about me.

Now that we are all social distancing with covid-19 and contacting each other via social media, I’ve noticed a few things that have changed in my ads on those apps. Every 6 hours or so I’m inundated with TAIMI-apps for a new social network for LGBTQAI+ community (or at least it includes all those groups if I’m not mistaken).

While I don’t see a problem with advertising in general I’m a bit taken aback by the ads. “Do you wanna talk to hot guys in your area?” “Wanna meet cute guys?” are just some examples, which now extend into transgendered people as well. My immediate reaction: uhh, what? Hear me out.

Do I want to meet hot guys in my area, sure. But if I’m not hot myself, doesn’t that just mean that I have a decreased chance of encountering these people? It’s well known that hot gravitates to hot, simply put. You’re going to get matches if you’re attractive, fit, and market yourself a certain way. Okay sure, if you wanna be a piece of meat, that’s your choice.

It’s the word choice in the add that really struck a chord with me. In many ways it’s counter-intuitive to its’ own purpose: it wants to be inclusive to its’ members in the LGBT community, but at the same time cater to the attractive and thirsty. I get it, they are catering to the majority.

Will I likely try TAIMI app to social network and meet people to date? Probably at some point I might check it out, but I will likely not stay as I’d be contributing to the middle average in terms of desirability. If a frustrated average gay screams, does the community that is ignoring them hear? I’d guess not.

Best of luck with your swipes, frivolous as they may feel.

Though I’m not currently an English teacher, as a past teacher of literature I stumbled upon this video of the Korean SAT English Exam and I noticed a few things about the questions and the teachers reactions.

These English teachers anser question from the Korean SAT exam, raising interesting questions about educational quality and university expectations.

Many of them ask “why” have a test like this for a second language? They don’t understand the purpose or why it’s so hard. The students writing the Korean SAT are trying to be admitted to universities. What will they be reading if they study at a higher level? It doesn’t really matter, because the test isn’t judging whether or not they can necessarily speak or read English, but rather if they are able to process and (quite possibly create) information at an academic level.

Regardless of whether or not they study English, the majority of their thesis work or readings will be in academic English and requires a very high level of vocabulary in order to truly understand academic writing. For the majority of people this might considered “academic dribble” or insanely over-complex, long-winded, and abstract.

Culturally speaking this is a difference between university education in the English speaking world vis-á-vis other areas of the world that follow traditional academic models. Many regions of the world continue to see university studies as elite and a smaller section of society. Why permit barely academics to study at higher levels if their language skills (in their native language or otherwise) are not upp to snuff?

In American, Canadian, and some British universities, the concept of academia really has been transferred to higher levels, i.e. masters or doctorate studies. But wait, why is that? It wasn’t so long ago that university wasn’t a rite of passage, or an exclusive opportunity. Over the last hundred or so years, or maybe even in the last fifty years for some, academia has seen a watered down version of undergraduate degrees. It begs the question, how does my Bachelors degree from 2008 compare to that of 1970 or even now in 2019? Have the requirements or expectations shifted? My gut reaction is, yes… dramatically.

Reactions are “when are they ever going to use this real life?” Well therein lies the cultural misunderstanding; the purpose of university education is specialised, theoretical, and research focused. It’s not supposed to be for everyone, despite it being a populous shift. Upper secondary education has been watered down, which then forces undergraduate studies to be watered down and it trickles down all the way. Where does the puck stop, so to speak? Where does education say “thou shallt not pass”? It’s a tricky question, and as an educator myself, it’s a moral dilemma. It comes down to access of knowledge or access to education.

If many of my former students were to take this Korean exam and expect to study at university, their receipt of a good result would tantamount to them being cleared for study in any area. Without this kind of fluency or at least vocabulary, they would be setting themselves up for either failure at their uni programme, or an immense pressure to increase fluency in a very short period, which all language teachers roll their eyes at, because learning a language takes time.

Going back to what the teachers asked, why would someone need to know this? Well that’s exactly the point! What is the purpose of a university education? Is it to gain knowledge, or to prepare oneself for work? I think I’m opening up a can of worms here, but I think you can surmise the answer.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to be elitist, but sorry-not-sorry. I can only reflect on my own education, my own experience, and what I experienced at university (in different countries by the way). I tend to be against standardised tests at a lower level of education, but for university studies I’m all for it. Not only does it create a realistic expectation for what is required to study and be successful (not an economic machine of the university, by the way), but also filters out people that might be better suited to study other areas, at least temporarily or until they change their mind and commit themselves in a different way.

It’s easy for me to pass judgement on these people in retrospect, but would I have passed an exam at age 17 like this? I can only speculate, and despite being more than ten years older, I wrote a past exam for fun, and I received a high score. That makes sense, since I was a good student, have taught English at an upper secondary level (both for natives and ELL students), I already studied at university and at higher levels, but I also think I would have been able to pass back then. It might have been hard, but it would have been a real eye-opener for me to see if university really was for me. A good measure of if my language ability is suited to academic reading and more in depth study potential.

Is university a protected places of thinkers, philosophers, researchers, or a rite of passage for a particular culture. What do you think?

It’s not very often that we find someone that completely matches what we think and have felt our whole lives. This is very much something that happened to me while listening to my weekly podcasts. Famous gay man’s, Dan Savage, podcasts about relationship problems and tips. He recently had a male caller that outlined the following:

My second question pertains to maleness itself. I’ve always felt excluded from traditional masculinity: the discomfort with feelings, the one-upsmanship, the callous jokes, the unquestioned embrace of patriarchal status ideals. I have a hard time making friends with guys because I just don’t trust us to be kind and present human beings. And these days, the message that men, especially straight white ones like me, are hollow, selfish, destructive people who just make everyone else miserable for a living is coming through on all channels.

I had the idea that men are emotionally and physically dangerous instilled in me from a very young age. And in my eagerness to avoid growing up to be a wife-beating pervert rapist, I developed a fear of my own sexuality that kept me romantically paralysed for most of my adult life. I’ve loosened up a bit, but to this day I am astounded that anyone touches any of with a 10 foot pole, despite the fact that it clearly happens all the time, even occasionally to me. So I could do with a shift in perspective and I thought it might be fun to ask you, a guy who sleeps with and loves other guys: what the attraction? Despite all the shitty things that we are and do, what about men would you save if you could strip us down to nothing and rebuild us from the ground up. Because dammit, Dan, it’s very hard to feel sexy when you hate yourself this much.

Caller from Dan Savage’s podcast Savage Lovecast episode 681

I couldn’t help but not only laugh, but also nod emphatically alongside this caller’s response. Just wow. It’s basically a phone call about toxic masculinity which maybe I’ve written about before. It’s a fairly new concept that is a discussion that sparked from a documentary about American boy’s sinking into depression because of the social expectations placed on them to be masculine and “man up.” It’s called The Mask You Live In, and I totally recommend it.

This caller touches on a lot of things that really I can relate to. I never fit into the mould of the other boys. More emotional and feminine could always describe me, and as a result I related better to girls. I get them, and they get me, mostly because women tend to be better communicators. I’ve always had a hard time making and keeping guy friends, and I think it’s mostly because I don’t know how to be around them.

I find it awkward, stagnant, or toxic sometimes to be in a group. The joking and insulting nature of some guys just makes me uncomfortable, and much like the caller I can’t imagine how women or anyone else for that matter could put up with that kind of attitude or behaviour. I was taught, or rather I learned myself, to treat others the way I wish to be treated. Why would I insult others? How does that help build a bond? Why must one be the best at something and always compete?

Self hate is a real thing and it eats away at you. Little by little you feel less of man, let alone person, and it can lead to you comparing yourselves to others and wondering why those types of people that are so toxic are so well accepted and loved? What is it they have that I don’t?

I think I’ve known for a long time that the nice guy never wins. Sure we all like to have them around, but they aren’t the first person we call. They aren’t the ones that we spend all our time with. They aren’t the ones that we want to date. Nobody dates someone because they are nice or kind, and sadly it’s an afterthought.

So what happens to those men that don’t fit into the mould of masculinity? Truth be told, most of them feel the pressure so strongly they conform and it takes a strong person to be able to stand apart and be something better. This ideal that is held by society is something sought after by women and gay men all around, and I just can’t understand it.

I guess that’s why I’m single, because I’m looking for niceness or kindness and it’s so damn hard to find.

So what happens when a giraffe walks into a bar with a group of friends adorned in glitter, angel wings, and a wedding dress covered in blood? I guess you just had to be there…

I took a trip back to my previous home, Eskilstuna, for a Halloween party. To my own surprise I had a lot of motivation to actually be in costume and do something. It helps that my friends actually asked me out. As I pondered for days over what I could be, I reflected on my past costumes and how they have always been so innocent and not death-related.

I was a bunny, a clown, an M&M, a dark faerie, a light faerie, North Star, Peter Pan, among other things. So needless to say when I was looking through online costumes the first few things that popped out to me were turtle, giraffe, and hippo. All so cute. I chose to be tall and proud.

Photo Courtesy of Ywon Bar & Grill Instagram

So this photo actually was taken by a friend of mine that works at the Ywon Bar & Grill because, well other than the fact that were were the few people there, it was surreal. A drink in a mans hand while he stands more than 190cm tall thanks to heels and a double head, clothed in a onesie is bound to draw attention. It’s proof that I was social and actually connected to someone (rare as it may be).

And there he stood, for at least 1,5 to 2 hours talking to a stranger that was sitting at the bar. It was my friends that pushed me into this situation so I just went along with it. Drinks were shared, informal and personal topics discussed and the whole time I was thinking, “why did my friend push me onto this guy?” I mean he was a 39-year-old punk loving hipster with non-matching socks. Totally not someone to whom I would normally find myself talking, let alone with whom I would be flirting.

It didn’t actually occur to me that my behaviour or his behaviour would have be considered flirting, and given my clueless history of people hitting on me, in retrospect I wonder. He did offer me a drink and shared his own with me. He did continue the conversation and asked questions. It didn’t even think about flirtation until he made a comment about a ring on my finger and asked if I was married. I remembered stopping, looking at him and formulating an answer. And even after that, I still had my doubts. Everyone that knows me, knows that I would never make a move. It seemed safe, but there is always some obliviousness that prevents me.

We joined the group after a long time and he bought everyone a round. It was very generous and I was definitely feeling warm fuzzies, despite the sinking feeling and my doubts about his intentions or interest. And then a casual comment was dropped, and I thought “AHA I knew it!” and I felt vindicated that I was right. We all departed and he even asked me for a hug and mentioned how genuinely good of a time he had. It made me smile and I drunkenly stumbled out the bar.

Between the double cab rides and walking through town, not much of me being a giraffe was noticed or said until the evening ended. We walked down the bar street and suddenly drunk adults approached us. One harassed me, then started crying because she felt bad. A guy named Andreas felt the need to talk to me about how he can tell if people are gay by the shape of their eyes (I think he was too drunk to notice that I had huge heels on).

My friend departed and I walked down the street, fearing for my life, as my previous lone-walking home experiences in Eskilstuna resulted in being chased, harassed, or otherwise accosted in some way. But instead I was complimented by women and men alike. Even two women approached me for a photo and wanted a hug to say I was so fabulous. Their costumes were lame, like wearing bunny ears and a slutty dress lame.

And so I got back to my hotel, laid down and hoped to sleep and awake to have a delicious breakfast. Even after all that happened I still think back and wonder… What if I had said something, or did something, or did I come off as a frozen cold bitch that I feel I am? The jury is out, but at least I had fun.