Stephen Clare
The Silhouette


I am told that that there are no easy answers. I inquire, I research, I compare and contrast. I “examine all sides of an issue.” I weigh pros and cons and call for further analysis. I approach opposing arguments with a receptive mind and carefully consider each point, concurring and countering as needed. I try to be critical and open-minded and eventually settle on either a tentative conclusion or, with a regretful sigh, an acknowledgement that there are no easy answers.

But I long for the easy answers.

I am caught between opposing viewpoints, paralyzed by an overload of information. Each solution seems differently flawed, this argument as problematic as the next. Ideology is rejected as blind and static, but without this anchor I drift aimlessly. Beyond the easy answers I find no answers at all. They may have led me into failure but at least they led me somewhere.

So I long for the easy answers.

Each thought that tumbles through my head is followed by a barking counter-point. Sentences with conviction collapse under their own weight.

God, I long for the easy answers.

Oh, I have principles. Sustainability. Respect. Justice. Guiding lights that I can look for in ideas and policies, or checkboxes to be ticked. But for every principle an argument holds it violates another. Maybe it bolsters sustainability but sacrifices individual freedom. Trade-offs. Weights on a scale with no unit of measurement.

How can I function in this paralysis? How can I vote, how can I support initiatives, how can I engage in debate as a participant rather than a bystander? How can I act?

It is you all that did this to me. It is the articles that appear in this very paper, it is the discussions that take place in these very classrooms, it is the people I have met on this very campus. You have infected me with this eye-opening, maddening, headache. I can see all sides of the square but it’s made me cross-eyed.

And is it not ironic that by questioning the disease I reveal its very symptoms? The easy answer is to start accepting the easy answers, but to accept that is unconscionable.

Because an easy answer is not an answer at all. I know that. I get it.

Still, though.

I long for the easy answers.

Stephen Clare / The Silhouette


Like all good Sex and the Steel City articles, this one starts with a calculus analogy. Imagine graphing a date, with time on the x-axis and quality on the y-axis. The function is a polynomial, with intriguing conversations on the peaks and bad jokes and boring stories on the down slopes. Now look for the inflection points: the changes in slope of the graph, when the date goes from good to bad (or vice versa).

Those moments are quiet ones. The dreaded awkward silences, the bane of every hopeful suitor’s existence. Many people feel the need to fill every minute of a date with conversation, thinking that even a few seconds of silence betrays their insecurity or plainness.

That’s not true, though. In fact, moments of silence can be the best part of any date. Yes, they can be awkward, but they also represent opportunity. When is there silence? At the end of a conversation, or before an answer to a question, or when both you and your date are taking a moment to think about how things are going. All of these are times when you have an opportunity to change the tone or direction of a date. A chance to bet a little more.

So use them. Don’t just sigh and say “So... what do you have planned for the summer?” That is boring and awkward. That’s why people fear the awkward silence.

Try to deepen the conversation by asking something more meaningful. Once you’ve got the hometowns and summer plans out of the way you can get more intimate in conversation (though of course you have to get comfortable through less personal talk first). Use the silence to make this transition.

The ultimate thing to do in a momentary silence is go DEFCON 1 and lean in for the kiss. It is your best opportunity, and if you keep waiting until the “perfect moment” you will go home disappointed. Now obviously this takes some finesse. Don’t go for it in the awkward beat after your date just finished telling you about how their dog got hit by a car or they didn’t get the job they wanted or something like that. But if an intense conversation just trailed off, and the room is quiet but also there’s this intense buzzing in your ears, and they’re kinda looking at you in that certain way where their head is tilted a bit to the left and their eyebrows are pricked slightly up, and nobody seems to want to talk anymore... well.

And that’s why I like awkward silences: they’re not a dead end, they’re an intersection. So don’t miss your exit. Make sure the slope of that graph keeps climbing.

By: Stephen Clare


Dear past me,

I’ve got beef with you.

Firstly, you definitely didn’t need to do those extra shots last weekend. You’d had enough. I’ll probably have to chat with future us about this as well. Seriously, when have we ever said “man, I’m sure glad Bryce convinced me to choke down a few more gulps of tequila!”?

Secondly, you really screwed me over by not getting that essay done on Sunday. Come on man. That’s just selfish. Seriously, you had a good 12 hours there to crank through, but instead you just watched 14 episodes of Homeland. You don’t even like that show. I know because I don’t like it either.

Speaking of Sunday: I don’t know why you trusted the 49ers. I guess it’s another week of ramen for future us. Poor guy.

Past me, sometimes I just don’t understand you. What made you stay up so late last night? Why did you feel a desperate need to buy a $25 rubber horse head mask? And why on earth would you think she’s awestruck by your wildly gyrating hips? (Hint: she’s just trying to catch the attention of her friend dancing behind you. Stop with the bedroom eyes, they’ll get you nowhere).

You gotta remember that your actions affect other people. Your friends, your family, and, most importantly, me. Present me. I’m number one, bro, and those weird Facebook messages you sent on Saturday night definitely aren’t helping out with the ladies. I don’t care how funny you think they are: an obsession with cat videos doesn’t exactly scream “boyfriend material.” Oh, and while we’re on the subject, none of those pickup lines you Googled are going to work. Just stop.

We can do better, my friend. Trust me. But I can’t keep cleaning up your mess; seriously, we have to work together.

So how about this: let’s cooperate. I need you to pick up a bit of the slack here. You go finish up that essay (trust me, you’ll thank yourself later), and while you’re in an academic mood why don’t you crank out that lab report, Linear Algebra assignment, chemistry homework, philosophy reading, and a good few hours of studying for next week’s test. Then, when now rolls around we’ll have been good and productive and we can start catching up on Parks and Rec episodes. Rock on. Isn’t it nice to have all that out of the way?

I’m not interested in any more excuses, past me. It’s time to clean up your act. You can’t keep dumping your problems on present me, because they’re building up to the point that I can’t dump them on future me. And that’s not cool, because present me would really like to just chill and play Xbox all night.

Cool. I’m really glad we had this little talk. I mean, what’s good for me is good for you, right? Sometimes I think you forget that. Like two weeks ago, when you—well, let’s not talk about that right now. Some things are better left in the past. Or so future me tells us.

I love you dearly,

Present Me

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