@VidalWuu on Finding Compassion in Shutting Up

vidal-wuVidal Wu is a “writer” from Toronto who has appeared in Teen Vogue, Refinery29, Vocativ and most recently, as part of Web Safe 2k16. Follow him on Twitter. This week he spoke to me about three of his favorite tweets, plus the floor, keeping your grief close, and a tender, unpretentious salad.

Wu: As much as it sounds like what I’ve told myself every time I’ve been too drunk to move, sitting on the floor — and by extension, stopping, being in the way, taking up space — is the most honest, humble gesture. It’s unpretentious, simple and makes all the sense in the world. It says a lot about a person when the world doesn’t have to be comfortable for them to be. Plus, if you think about it, the floor is the only constant in life other than death.

How effective would you say is Twitter at communicating your personality? Are there elements of you that don’t come across on your Twitter or that come across more online than in IRL?

There’s this salad that I make, a good salad, a crowdpleaser. At it’s core, there’s arugula, cherry tomatoes, corn, mixed beans, goat cheese and another surprise ingredient like peaches, plantain or blue corn tortilla chips. The dressing is a mix of rice vinegar, sesame oil, olive oil, fresh thyme, sugar, lemon juice and whole grain mustard. The plate is drizzled with reduced balsamic vinegar. Every ingredient tastes distinct because there’s room for everyone. The sugars temper the acids which sharpen the aromatics complementing the smokiness of the balsamic, a flavour well-loved enough to be in every home. You can tell that the thyme was plucked instead of scraped, including the bitter stem. The ingredients come as they are, welcomed and embraced, thriving in one another’s company like old friends reunited. The gesture of taking care to make someone happy is apparent, in this unpretentious and generous way. Giving your time in this way is the most honest, generous thing you can do, and I love doing it.

There’s a tenderness that I don’t get to express very often online, it can only be felt if you’re with me real life. Like in the end of A Single Man, when George has a moment of perfect clarity, of warmth and peace before he has a heart attack and dies. When the noise fades away and there’s nothing to overthink and everything to enjoy. That’s what I want to give to people, but Twitter isn’t conducive to that.

How has the way you use Twitter changed over time?

In university, I had some hackneyed idea that if you wanted to be a writer, you had to have a Twitter. I was a wild child, fucking as many people as I could but had no one to talk about it with. Where else was I going to talk about that dude I fucked just because I thought he was Pierre Fitch, or the white dude from Nova Scotia who was albino, had alopecia and wore a durag? It’s always been like that. I hated networking in the traditional sense so this was my cop out, and when editors from across Canada and the U.S. started following me, I knew I was doing something right. But I’ve always married my social critique to humour, especially when it comes to white people, my favorite subject. White culture is as fascinating as it is bland, and I’m the anthropologist who’s gonna make it big.

Of the trifecta of white people Timbs — Doc Martens, Blundstones and Redwings — I’d say my least favorite is the guy wearing the Blundstones. He’s the wolf in sheep’s clothing, the anti-oppressive white guy who has never sucked black dick. He’s also secretly the most boring — at least Redwings guy isn’t broke and Doc Martens dude probably has a good drug connect.

Do you find it challenging to balance serious and funny stuff online?

Not at all, not when there’s a third option, one which many men forget exists: shutting the fuck up. When black people are killed, for instance, I keep my grief close and don’t add to the outpouring of pain on the timeline. How many times can we be outraged at the same violence? How many different ways can we express the feeling that it could’ve been us so it might as well have been us? Sometimes the most compassionate thing you can do is to talk about anything else — the luscious thiccness of Drake’s thighs, memes or the blessings that are grey sweatpants — anything that makes life worth living, anything that brings you joy, or nothing at all. That’s what humor is for, right? Punching up at this shitshow we call existence (and not making marginalized people the punchline of your lazy joke, duh).

I deeply resent this tweet being so popular. You can always tell someone is deeply uninteresting if they don’t have anything else to start a conversation with. How about we not talk about the ongoing oppression that is late capitalism and talk about things that matter, things that are always there for us, like the floor? A baby boomer probably read this and called me a millennial.

What are your favourite and least favorite interactions you’ve had on Twitter?

Seeing my tweet on John Oliver, except for the part where my content became their content and they didn’t give me any money for it. When Kimberly Drew and Jenna Wortham followed me. Being one of many insanely hot dudes posting selfies for Lily Benson’s #dudetime.

I’m a dude so I have it pretty easy on social media. I’m far more concerned about my friends being targeted by conservatives, racists and white supremacists than getting called a burnt chicken nugget. There was that time my estranged homophobic father harassed me through a burner account. And that week I was trolled by Jonathan Groff stans because I simply spoke my truth, that Looking is an abomination. But for the most part, my unsavoury interactions are with white gay men and punk-ass media people who think they’re slick and need to catch several fades.

Did you have any clue this tweet would resonate with so many people? Do you have any tweets you thought would resonate like this but did not?

To those accustomed to a life of shitty, poorly compensated, precarious labour, the indignity of putting your “career” in quotation marks when people ask what you do is a familiar one, especially if you’re in that awkward 20-something whatever phase. For me, it was stressful qualifying myself as a writer when I’ve appeared in more magazines for being funny on Twitter than for being published. But then I realized that many POC creatives cripple themselves with self-doubt meanwhile white mediocrity continues to flourish so it’s fine who cares.

Jenny Nelson lives and writes in Brooklyn and works at Funny Or Die.

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