Know Your Audience

Couple of gay boys, Mateo and Cam, communicating at a bar in Bushwick

We communicate for a lot of reasons. To inform, to extract information, to entertain, to pass the time, to hear ourselves, to criticize, to persuade, to maintain relationships, etc.

If a person wants to communicate effectively and efficiently, she (gonna be using ‘she’ as a generic pronoun for fun) can’t communicate the same way to everyone. A simple example: She wants to inform a young man that his shoes are untied. But they’re in Ecuador and he can only speak Spanish. She has a couple of options-

  1. She keeps trying to tell him in English.
  2. She points at his shoes and plays charades.
  3. She finds a bilingual individual and speaks through her.
  4. Uhh she can also get frustrated and wave him off.

Option #2 is probably the most effective form of communication in this little scenario. Listing shit is so addictive so I’ll do it again. This is why #2 has a high probability of success:

  • She had a purpose, a reason for communicating.
  • She read the situation and understood that English would not have been effective.
  • She abandoned her language and suggested that he’d abandon his. There was compromise. This is a two-party agreement, so if the Ecuadorian man had no interest, the communication would be lost.
  • She found a common language, body language, and communicated her concern.

Unfortunately, you’ll find that a lot of people go for option #1. They aren’t invested in their reason for communicating, they’ve misread the situation, or they weren’t willing to abandon their language and compromise.

Back to the young (and handsome) Ecuadorian man. The scenario would get considerably more complicated if our hero wanted to talk politics. Shoes are physical, and tying shoes is a familiar motion for those who wear them. Ideas, however, are invisible. She could learn Spanish or go for #3 and find a translator. That’s only half the game. Once she becomes fluent or finds that mediator, she needs to read the situation and figure out if he’s even interested in politics! Imagine learning a language for an individual just to figure out he wasn’t interested to begin with.

Once again we find that even with a common language, or a mediator, or whatever, some people just aren’t great at gauging someone’s interest in what they have to talk about. These are poor communicators, as nothing is being accomplished by their word vomit.

I’m not sure there’s an easy solution for being a poor communicator. My advice is to humble yourself, understand that your message is important to you or the other party, and practice talking to people and targeting their interests and passions.

It’s funny because a lot of these shitty communicators come straight out of academia. Their heads get filled up with all this knowledge and invisible brownie points for doing homework and writing pages and pages of bullshit. And then they go to the average person and talk with the academic voice and use complicated words and confuse whatever message they were ‘trying’ to convey. All that bullshit and fluff. And it sounds cute from the outside, but I’m fluent in the academic language and I know that they can send their message SO much quicker if they just dumbed it down. Unless, of course, if they just like to listen to themselves. If that’s the case, just sit in a mirrored room and jerk yourself off.

The trick of the trade, the trade being communication, is to KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE. This isn’t easy at all. Especially if we move away from the one-on-one interactions. Imagine needing to gear your language towards the masses? Why do you think presidents talk in that slow, boring, emotionless cadence? It’s because it is the safest, all encompassing form of English that he could adopt. Now imagine if Obama would communicate in Black English? He comes from an academic background so I’m sure he’s more fluent in Standard American English, but just bear with me. If he got up on the podium and started speaking in African American English Vernacular (AAVE, Black English, ‘Ebonics’) then there would be a LARGE group of Americans that would eat that message up. It would be loud and clear, easy to digest, and would promote a sense a familiarity in all those who are fluent in AAVE. But what about the vast majority of Americans who don’t speak the dialect? They would be confused and frustrated. Knowing your audience in this situation means knowing the majority. So presidents will continue speaking in that boring, slow voice, unfortunately.

For my advanced students, the bonus trick of the trade is CODE SWITCHING. We all do it already, just some of us suck at it or are offensive. Code switching is the seamless transition from one effective language, dialect, etc. to another. For example, the way I speak to my mother is not the way I speak to my friends. The way I speak to my friends is not the way I speak to my hypothetical girlfriend. The way I speak to my professor is not the way I speak to my cousin who lives in the projects and barely made it through high school. Code switching is a sign of a great communicator. Now, it is also difficult to gauge someone’s language before speaking to them. I’d say, in this situation just talk naturally and neutrally. Don’t assume AAVE when you talk to a black dude. Don’t speak slow, broken Spanish when you talk to a brown dude. Yet, people still do those things. That’s not code switching, that’s called being an asshole.

That’s all I got, keep communicating.




Haiku IV

Bushwick, Brooklyn: ©Steven Cuenca

still alive today

i don’t think she noticed it

guess i’ll live louder

©Steven Cuenca

Elvin Hill

Have you heard of Elvin Hill?
So tall, every hateful inch
spreads blackness perverse
over cities, strangers, families?

Have you seen Elvin Hill?
Dead inside and out,
a blanket of grey-green misery?

Have you heard the stories?
How dangerous, jagged,
how it killed my father?

Have you?

I have.
I’ve seen him.
Just a lump in the grass,
confused and unexceptional
like the rest of us.

“Elvin Hill”

©Steven Cuenca





Chinatown mischief. Shout out to the Peak Organic Brewery.

“Drunk conversations and my boring life;” The tagline thing that sits neatly under my blog title. It’s clean, edgy, and has probably been used thousands of times before in different shapes or forms.

The ‘boring life’ bit is a self-aware defense mechanism I’ve adopted to place myself at an advantage. I’d rather be called [stupid, boring, ugly] and be surprising than, [smart, interesting, attractive] and underwhelm. I’ve actually attributed this mechanism to being the second child. My older brother, by two years, was my primary father figure. I had a sad, widowed mother, so he had to grow up quick. He was expected to be the man of the house. And he was well-spoken, and handsome, he was smart, athletic, and good with girls. He was also arrogant, still is. I grew up thinking I would never be a better man than he was, so I never tried.

He was well spoken, I’m well written. This digs deeper into how personable he is compared to me. He’s very much extroverted, so crowds feed him energy. He has a strong personality so he can easily made that crowd listen to him. Crowds affect me adversely, so of course I’d rather sit behind a keyboard. Doing that long enough facilitates a strong, written voice.

He’s handsome, I dress different. He’s also four inches taller, like why? My brother used to dress in what I’d call ‘preppy clothes.’ Which meant Hollister, Aero, American Eagle etc. So to take control of my life and carve a new image, I bought a skateboard and started wearing ‘skateboarder clothes.’ I was terrible at skating, but the clothes remained.

He was smart, I took to the creative arts. He was logically sound; some would say he’s math smart. Not that being math smart is a thing. I always thought it was an excuse for people to be lazy. “Oh, I’m not naturally mathematic,” or, “I just don’t have the math gene.” I can do math, and I do it very well. It was my decision to start writing, mostly to take my brain diarrhea and spill it on paper. I’m not a ‘natural writer,’ it took a lot of work, time, and solitude to be this average.

He was athletic, I played different positions. That can totally be read as homo-erotic and incestual, but I won’t change it. My brother and I played football and ran track. He was a cornerback, I was a noseguard. He ran the 400, I ran the hurdles.

He was good with girls, I’m uhh still not.

The first half of my tagline, the ‘drunk conversations’ part, has less to do with alcohol and more to do with my social competence. I’m introverted, I’ve mentioned that before and I’ll mention it again, but I shine in one-on-one interactions. And I shine the brightest when I’m drunk or very tired. It must be this energy thing (refer back to Steven’s Energy), because I’m very surface level when I’m awake and moving. I observe my surroundings, joke around, let my mind go wherever it pleases. I indulge on video games and television and food and sex. It’s like I’m punishing my brain for trying so hard. And I’ve never been one of these people who love hearing their voice. It’s difficult for me to talk without purpose so I’d rather stay silent. I can’t do the masturbatory intellectual monologues with the academic language and the closed eyes with the elevated chin. However, drinking hyper-focuses my mind on whatever is in front of me. I’m sure it does that for most people, but my mind is all fucked and it helps slow it down. When I’m drinking I can have meaningful conversations. I can care and listen and digest people’s thoughts and ideas. I can riff and raff and enjoy another person without wishing I was alone in my room, comfortable and safe. Drinking makes me love my voice. Myself even. And life and music. It’s fucked and I’m aware enough to understand that I use alcohol as a crutch. But so it goes.

This is more or less a drunk conversation, only it’s 3:17am and I’m sober. Hope it was boring enough to justify my tagline.


Steven’s Energy

Yours truly in Bushwick, Brooklyn

The Lords and Lordesses who created me decided that they wanted to give me a WHOLE lot of energy. Doctors told my sweet mother that I should be medicated to keep my jumpy jeans on. She told them kindly to fuck off. This was during a hard time for her; her husband had just been murdered and she was struggling with thoughts of suicide. My hyperactivity kept her mind busy. She thought my energy was a beautiful thing. A blessing even.

Well, the creators also made sure I was introverted enough that all that energy would be transferred into writing, video games, and masturbation. In no particular order.

Fast forward, I majored in Media Literacy (fancy for Communications) and minored in English at CUNY Queens College. I eventually dropped my minor because I wanted to graduate quicker. I shoved all of my required classes into two semesters, and was left with a final semester consisting of three 300 level writing intensive classes. “That’s a big no-no,” said my advisor. She said a lot of things.

I ended up having to write 3 papers a week for 3 months. I’d stay up all night, muster up all of my superhuman energy and jerk off to keep the lust demons away. Then I would write. I would write and I would write. I earned a 3.9 gpa that semester (humble brag). While I was writing, I also worked and worked out at the YMCA. I did that while finding time to run around Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens to take pictures of my pretty city. And I’d do that while finding the time to tutor the YOUTH in mathematics for food, or money if I was convincing enough. On top of all of that, I spent the remainder of my energy on trying to maintain my dying long distance relationship of almost 5 years, such a great investment that turned out to be.

Graduating was a strange thing for me. A lot of these kids do it the right way and intern so that they have a job when they finish. I couldn’t bother myself with all that. So I graduated and moved back upstate with my mother. I bought myself a car and have been trying to find a job. All that energy that helped me excel in school, run around the city, work, tutor, etc etc. is now unspent. That’s why I’m writing again, because video games and masturbation were getting a little tedious.



Will I Be a Good Father?

ig: @snapshotsteve


will i be a good father?
i ask the lord,
my father.
he won’t answer,
he’s busy answering better questions
from better people.

will i be a good father?
i ask mi papá,
my father.
his answer is silent,
as cold as his tomb in machala.

will i be a good father?
i ask my step-dad,
my father.
he might text me an answer.
he loved with his pockets
and when his arms grew tired
he loved with his legs when he
ran to the bronx.

will i be a good father?
i ask my mom,
my father.
she’ll say yes.
she sang:
duérmete mi niño,
duérmete mi amor,
duérmete pedazo,
de mi corazón

my father taught me.

my father taught me how to plead
my father taught me how to die
he died
he died
he died
my father taught me how to flee
my mother taught me how to love

will i be a good father?

duérmete pedazo,
de mi corazón


“Will I Be a Good Father?”

© Steven Cuenca

Brown Boy

ig: @snapshotsteve


Where do I fit in the conversation? I’m not White, unfortunately. I don’t identify with Black people. I’m straight (enough). I’m healthy, college educated, young, incredibly handsome. I’m not Mexican. I’m versed in Standard American English. I don’t claim a persecuted religion or culture. I’m Steve the fucking gringo, first generation Ecuadorian-American who can’t speak Spanish to save his life.

This puts me in an interesting position. I don’t look the part of the Privileged White Male, but I share more in common with this archetype than any of the others. My voice is a White one. Somewhere before my creation I traded White Guilt for the occasional racial gaze. Go me.

My position in the conversation becomes even more interesting because of my deep connection to the freedom of speech. I fancy myself a writer, a free-thinker, and a competent communicator. I don’t believe in silencing speech, with very few exceptions (child pornography, for example). I don’t believe in silencing people, or removing them from my life because of what they believe to be their truth. My generation has a knack for this mass censorship of ideas that are contrary to what they believe is “right” or “forward thinking.” It’s all very boring. I believe that people can learn from anyone. The racist you’ve dismissed might be a mathematical genius working on more efficient, cleaner methods of producing energy. That homophobic Mormon might run a soup kitchen for the less fortunate. Etc. Etc. And that Social Justice Warrior with the apologetic White Tears might touch little boys on the weekends. Who knows, who cares. The point is that if you’re looking for truth, look for it. That racist really bothers you? Open dialogue with him. Keep your mind open and learn from him. Maybe he can learn from you too. Whatever you get from that interaction will be far more meaningful than dehumanizing him. Also work on yourself, what the fuck makes you so great?

My generation loves censorship as much as it does labels. “I’m a SJW cis male feminist.” Or “I’m a Brown Boy.” Labels are so inaccurate, so limiting, so boring. Do I really need to know you’re a feminist? It’s 2017. What does it even mean to be a Brown Boy? Who’s mans is this? We label because it’s efficient. Why take the time and effort to get to know somebody if you could just make a generalization based on appearance and turn the other way? And why bother putting the effort into being interesting if you could just write HARDCORE LIBERAL on your forehead and wait until you find a matching forehead to speak to? I have a good idea that labeling is a product of evolution. People labeled dangerous animals and plants to know which ones to avoid. Now people are using that same instinct on people wearing “Make America Great Again” hats. It’s all very silly. Everything is silly. Nothing matters, the world is dark dark dark.

Know the pieces. Play the game.