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We'd have these parties where we'd all not do things together
It started when my girlfriend's friend said she’d never seen Star Wars and never would. I thought that was so cool, I couldn’t stop talking to my girlfriend about it. I realized I wanted to boycott something too. You know, people try to do a lot. They try to fit everything into their life. So it's a nice change to not do something.
The fun is in not breaking the boycott. You know people break promises all the time. They get bored. But every day a boycott goes on the more fun it is.
I decided to boycott the movies all together. It was an easy choice. The last time I went to the movies the person next to me took a call. He told the person on the line that he was at the theatre, like he hoped the other person would understand and hang up. The person didn't understand and they had a whole conversation next to me. It made me sad. They talked about their friends.
There are techniques for boycotting:
- You can replace the thing. I started gardening while my girlfriend told me about drama with her friends from her lawn chair. I imagined the flowers were the characters in her stories. This lilac doesn't understand that hyacinth. This daffodil is ignoring that lily. It's like a movie but much healthier.
- You can pretend you don't know what the thing is. Whenever people asked me to go to the movies I made them explain the whole thing. What is a theater? Is it hard to get tickets? Do they lock the doors or can I get out if there's an emergency? My girlfriend and her friends stopped asking me to come to the movies.
- You can journal about it. It's good to be honest with yourself about how you're feeling. Sometimes I'd wake up in the middle of the night and I'd see a huge screen above me, playing a Hallmark Christmas movie. The only solution was to journal about it.
Nobody took it seriously when it was just two weeks. Of course not. But after a year, my girlfriend would bring it up to people. I think she was a little proud of me. They'd look at me across the room and say "Is that so? Why, I'd love to not do something."
The first person to join me was her sister. She was over for tea and told us she was boycotting dating men. She looked apologetically at me when she said it but I was so happy. I said "It's very good for us to be able to say no, to anything at all!". That made her smile.
After that she came over more often and we'd not do things together. I wouldn't watch a movie while she wouldn't date a man. It was nice. We finally had something in common. I told her my techniques. She told me she had one where she pretended she wasn't good enough to date a man yet, it would take many lifetimes of self-improvement to someday deserve to date a man. I like that one. It really made me laugh.
It spread kind of quickly after that. Her friends got in on it.
- One boycotted doing dishes and bought a decade's supply of plastic plates and cups.
- One boycotted tea. "Every time I try it I'm disappointed. I'm done," she said.
- One boycotted swearing. "Years from now, I'm going to break the boycott and it's going to hit so frickin hard," he said. And he still hasn't broken it. I don't know anybody who has.
We'd have these parties where we'd all not do things together, me and all of my friends. The nights always started giggly. We felt so rebellious. But by the end, we'd feel a profound bond between us. Between people who can say no. I guess we felt a little superior, together, to all the people who couldn't say no to things. We knew when we said something, we meant it. It was a little sad when the night would end. Knowing we returned to the world of yes.
The first time I heard about a stranger doing it, it was online. It was a chess player. He said he was boycotting rewatching his matches. It made him really unhappy, to be confronted by the mistakes he'd made. His coach made him do it, but it didn't make him better at chess, it made him worse at waking up in the morning. That was what he said to all these reporters. While they were asking all their silly questions, he recommended everybody boycott something.
Later he credited me. I didn't mind waiting, eventually the new friends came pouring in. The important thing is that it started to spread very fast. This one CEO boycotted remembering his passwords. His assistant entered them for him. My favourite teacher from university boycotted seeing her students. When her school said they were done working remotely, that she couldn't keep playing this game, she just quit. She got lots of support from all of us. We talked online or at our parties. Online was good for the people boycotting parties, the parties were good for people boycotting the internet.
The government began to make allowances for us. They had to, we were becoming a sizable voting block. Any mandated activity now came with a form for declining, in case it was your boycott. Many people boycotted things like doing taxes or voting, but other people wanted to save their boycott for something more personal, more intimate. One opinion writer said he was going to boycott boycotts but nobody paid attention to him.
Around this time I was facing a lot of stress in my life. The only person I knew who wasn't boycotting was my girlfriend. It made me embarrassed, an emotion I hadn't felt in a long time. I wanted to ask what was going on, but because she wasn't one of us, it wasn't easy to talk to her anymore. It was kind of a paradox. I still loved her, but if I tried to think about how I loved her, I got distracted.
Simultaneously I felt this keen sense that something was missing. Or like, it wasn't enough. Life was, of course, ten times better from before, maybe even one hundred times. But it didn't feel as good as it had in the beginning.
My girlfriend came to me one night, quietly, gently, like a swan over a lake. She told me she'd been thinking for a long time. She'd been confused. She hadn't known what she thought. But now she knew and she was ready to tell me. I held my breath. Then she told me she wanted to boycott being in love.
I felt many things. This is hard for me, because I like feeling one thing at a time. But in that moment I couldn't even count my emotions.
I was happy. I knew that. She was finally joining us.
I was sad. For it was at my loss.
I was angry. Because the next thing she said was that we could still sleep together and be best friends. That made me feel like she wasn't serious about the boycott at all. I told her I didn't want to play a part in her skirting the line. I didn't need to be her friend. She cried and admitted she had been ignoring my values. We hugged, and she left, and my anger dissolved like snow in warm water.
Soon things got kind of interesting for us because one woman boycotted eating and she died. Some people wanted the government to crack down on us. That was tricky though, because those people were a dwindling minority by then. You have to understand, you can win if you aren't in the majority, but only if you're more passionate than the majority, and unlike us, non-boycotters have nothing to be passionate about. And besides, the prime minister had declared he was boycotting caring about how the voters felt, so that sealed the deal. We don't have term limits here, so we've sent him to office ever since.
It was maybe a decade after I started it all and the gnawing feeling still remained. Something was missing. I hadn't been going to the movies for four thousand days. It was as easy as not going to Pluto. I'd talk to others about the feeling, and they also agreed and also couldn't figure it out. It was like something you can only see out of the corner of your eye.
Then one night, I was at a party. With some of the old crew, my closest friends. The moon looked very close to the world and yellow, a trick of the light. Maybe that helped. It happened mid-sentence. I was explaining how it all started to somebody new, somebody who didn't have any friends yet. They looked awe-struck when I told them my techniques. There are very advanced techniques now, but you can go a long way with just the basics. I began to talk wistfully about that gnawing feeling, when my ex walked in the door.
She looked a little lonely, but in a happy way, like a friend who visits for a long time but can leave very easily. It made me miss her terribly. It made me wish I hadn't boycotted movies, wish that I had boycotted dating instead. But then, I didn't just wish it, I said it. And what I said was "Boycotting movies isn't enough. I'm going to boycott dating too".
This caused a tremendous uproar. Nobody had really thought of boycotting more than one thing before. You had your boycott and that was that. Maybe you'd support your friend for a bit (many's the night I've refused tea, in solidarity alongside my dear friend), but that was it. Yet here I was. Boycotting two things.
I don't know if somebody else could have come up with it. People might not have taken it seriously. But because I started the whole thing, because I was at the center of everything, people gave it an honest chance. And then the floodgates opened. You could boycott any number of things. Within a week I was boycotting movies, dating, seafood, lego, and websites with cookie banners. It made me feel like a complete person. It's a narrow personality who can only refuse one thing.
It's been many years now. I boycott dozens of things. The latest is toasters and toast. One food shouldn't get its own special appliance. I've lived a good life. I have a lovely wife. We were only friends for a few weeks. She always knew I was boycotting dating. She treated it with the utmost respect. One day she just asked me to marry her. She boycotts as much as me, but our children boycott much more, but so do all young people. My favourite of hers is sweaters. She hasn't worn a sweater in over twenty years. Says layers are for beds.
I like to think that when I boycott life in a decade or so I'll have left the world in a better way. A more thoughtful way. With people living lives of integrity and intention. Some of the kids these days boycott more than they don't. With what's left they take great joy. That's the funny thing about it. I got a letter from my friend the other day. The one who boycotts Star Wars. The letter was necessary because she boycotts emails now. But she sent it from the first trip to Mars. Somehow she reached the stars. Is it in spite of her Star Wars boycott? Is it because of it? Who knows. You don't ask these things. You just sit around and, with great pleasure, plan what you won't do tomorrow.
This is the first short story I wrote in 2022, and the original version is here. I wanted to get across the loneliness of the main character, but I don’t think I quite managed that on my first run. Overall I haven’t had much to tweak though, just some streamlining.