The Myth of Independence

Saturday I went on yet another disappointing date. It was actually a second date, but all the chemistry I’d felt on the first one fizzled like a sad balloon within 15 minutes of his arrival. I was bummed. If bad first dates are bad, bad second dates are somehow worse. I’ve learned to have no expectations for a first date, but by definition there’s always a bit of expectation for the second. And I have exactly no ability to have a poker face, so I know he knew. There will be no third.

I was feeling restless. I’ve been feeling restless a lot lately. In a conversation I had recently, a friend told me it was the spring. Somehow angst feels worse in the spring, when everything around you is growing and blooming and changing, and you’re still somehow stuck. We expect winter to be frustrating and entrapping. But Spring is new life, new opportunities. Same you. Everywhere you go, there you are.

I reached for the thing I always used to do when I was younger, a long drive with the music turned up loud. I had some free Car2Go minutes to burn up by the end of the month, so I rented a car, turned on the radio, and this is what I hear: “All the women who independent, throw your hands up at me.” Well played, Universe. Well played.

Perhaps because was a song created as part of the marketing for the remake of Charlie’s Angels, Destiny’s Child’s power ballad to the independent woman is catchy, but incredibly cheesy, with the exception of one line: “Ladies it ain’t easy being independent.”

No shit.

Some days I don’t really want a boyfriend, I want a housewife. Someone to take care of the home, the operations, the grocery shopping, to manage my life. Someone to pick up just a little bit of the slack of doing absolutely fucking everything, from near weekly vet visits to dinner every night to laundry to running any errands. Thank God for Amazon Prime. Amazon Prime and I have a deeply satisfying relationship.

This song is the definition of “girl power” which is a phrase that, on it’s surface, seems impossible to argue with: I buy all my own stuff with my own money so no man can tell me what to do! Yay! This has been the recurring and general theme of being a girl since my childhood, and it’s certainly preferable to disempowering our young women. But it’s a bit hollow. Or it feels that way now. Why is there a binary of not needing anyone at all, or needing specifically a man to provide for you? What’s the middle ground? Can we choose it? People often say to me that I’ve chosen my career. Well, sure, but not to the denial of other options or opportunities. I didn’t choose work life, work life chose me. And by chose me, I mean, I have rent and other expenses that I must pay for. So I work. I have a career. It is fulfilling. It is not everything I am.

I’ve written about this before, but we have to stop telling women they can have it all in a way that makes it seem like to not have it all is a failure, and “all” is defined very clearly as: successful career + successful relationship + plus kids. No one tells the little girl who wants to go to law school or med school or be a high-powered entrepreneur that there are going to be a lot of lonely nights and a lot of people (men and women) who are intimidated by your power, and will try to diminish you. There are going to be relationships that end because you’re doing all the work, or because they don’t feel like you “need” them. There are going to be days when you’re looking down the long hallway of your future and trying to figure out if you will be enough for yourself, all those years.

Maybe we should. Maybe we should be honest about this. That having a big, full powerful life might mean you’re alone in it, in the relationship sense. It might mean that you have to wait a while to find an equal partner, or as another friend puts it, someone equally yoked, pulling in the same direction.

But we can also tell them that in these instances, you’re not really alone. The lack of one partner means that you build a family out of your friends, and you all work together towards each others common goals, picking up slack as you go. Yesterday for Easter I was surrounded by my crew, and it was a pleasant realization that it was no longer just holidays that brought us together. Yesterday could have easily been any Sunday, long brunches, lazy afternoons on a back patio drinking beer and catching up. I am beyond lucky in this regard. It’s what makes me [slightly?] less desperate in my search. Over the course of my illness, over the course of others parents health issues, job changes, family drama, miscarriages and others ordinary and extraordinary events, we have seen each other through, and born each others pain. We have brought food and alcohol and watched stupid movies and admitted our darkest fears. We have been present. We have been together, independently.

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Maundy Thursday

Today, I realized with a start, is Maundy Thursday, the commemoration of the Last Supper Christ shared with his disciples before one of them betrayed him and he was crucified.

Really puts a damper on #squadgoals.

The word Maundy has always been weird to me, but it’s one of those words that gets said in church and so you sort of just go with it. There are many words like that, and while I investigated a lot of them when I was younger, this wasn’t one of them. It just sounds like a bummer, right? Maaaaaauuuuuuunnndy. Maaaah. Blerg. I figured, sad sound, sad day.

But this year I looked a little deeper, maybe as a bit of penance for doing exactly ZERO to commemorate Lent. I kept trying to find a thing, only to realize Lent was over, and I’d given up or adopted no things. But I did a lot of ruminating, not always on the same topic. Lent signifies the 40 days of deprivation Jesus spent in the desert. It’s a time of struggle and internal wrestling. So, I think in that way I followed the spirit of the season.

But anyway, back to Maundy: so, according to the all-knowing Wikipedia, it’s derived essentially from the Latin for “to command” and refers to Jesus remarks that evening, “a new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you.” And then he commenced with washing the feet of his disciples.

Ok, think about that for a hot minute. These are disciples, in first century Palestine (yup, Jesus was my ACTUAL homeboy), and they have been wandering around preaching. Not a lot of foot hygiene happening. Washing their feet was not only gross, is was an act of subservience. It was Jesus saying, “I might be the Messiah, but I’m a servant to each of you- and I expect you to be servant-in service-to one another.”

This is the reason I’m a Christian. When people find it surprising (I think because I say “fuck” a lot?) these are the Jesus moments I point to. This guy. We don’t see a lot of this guy in the news. This isn’t the guy Donald Trump and Ted Cruz are invoking when they suggest we bomb Muslims off the face of the earth. But this is the Jesus I grew up with, love, and follow. The Jesus who later that evening said in the Garden of Gethsemane “take this cup away from me.” Who begged his Father to not make him a sacrifice. Who was afraid. Who did it anyway. Because Jesus, like the rest of us, had free will. He was human. It is his humanity, not his divinity, that I follow.

Which, of course, leads us straight back to what’s happening in the world today. Two days ago bombs went off in Brussels. Bombs have been going off all over the world, to greater and lesser fanfare in direct correlation to the brown-ness of the victims’ skin. The fact is that ISIS and their ilk have been predominantly killing other Muslims (although many would argue what ISIS is practicing isn’t actually Islam), and it’s pretty fucking obvious that we care more about people that look like us, or are culturally similar. But that’s been true as long as people have been social animals. I don’t know that we’re going to make much change there.

My mother has often reminded me that you cannot change other people, you can only change how you react to them. I know that the country has to have a tough stance on terror, but the rhetoric has reached an insane pitch. The idea that two popular candidates for President can say such awful and bigoted things, can suggest the rounding up or segregating of a particular group, and can do it without much fear of repercussion or reprisal, that is what scares me far more than a terrorist attack (and guys, I work for DHS for Pete’s sake). It scares me because it means they’re winning. Donald Trump is both a product of willingness the Republican party has had to embrace bigots and zealots for the fear of upsetting the base, AND the fomented fear of some unseen “other,” a la ISIS. In some ways he is our collective fear and dread made manifest.

And some of us are giving in. Too many of us. Fear is attractive. It’s compelling. It makes sense. Love doesn’t make sense. Hope doesn’t make sense. Getting on your knees and washing the dirty feet of a man who you know has betrayed you doesn’t make sense.  You do it anyway. You go past the fear, because beyond the fear, beyond the visceral reaction, is grace. The ability to see something greater than yourself, to see the humanity in other people, at their darkest and most fearful. You have to get past the fear to go anywhere. You’ll die right there in that fear if you don’t.

And Easter is coming. Right past the fear, right past the pain, Easter is coming. Believe in that. Even if you aren’t a Christian, even if you aren’t a believer in anything remotely religious. Please believe that there is something past the fear. And it is coming.

Never Read the Comments

If there’s one rule of internetting, it is this: never read the comments. NEVER. READ. THE. COMMENTS.

But I did. I read them. I knew what was coming and I read them anyway, possibly because I hate myself, maybe a little bit because I wanted to crush that one tiny sliver of hope I had in humanity. But naw, bro.

The long and short of it is this: Actress Rebel Wilson tweeted yesterday (today? I’m not sure) that she’d had one drink out at a club and thought it might have been spiked. Scary business, but sadly, not that uncommon. She was either just sharing the experience, or telling her fans, male and female, to realize that some people are dumpster fires and you shouldn’t trust your drink alone with anyone but you. Anyone who was in a sorority knows someone who was roofied, or has heard apocryphal tales. Hence the trick at my house, where if a sister asked if you’d like some gum, she was trying to tell you either a) your drunk ass is too drunk to function, go home; or b) that guy is a dirty creeper and you should get the hell away. Sometimes both. Either way, it was an acknowledged part of life for most women, and Rebel Wilson was sharing that it could happen to the rich and famous too. Or, again, just sharing her day. I don’t know her, I don’t know what makes her tweet.

But the comments. Lord. Almost immediately every toothless dickless clusterfuck of a douche canoe came out of the woodwork along one generalized theme: no one would ever go through the trouble of trying to rape such a fat, ugly woman.

Let’s unpack this, shall we? (I promise not to rage spiral too hard. Or try not to.)

First, the people (predominantly, but not always, men) making these comments are first stating their belief that someone spiked her drink in order to have non-consensual sex with her (that’s rape, for anyone who was keeping track). This means either one or two things, or possibly both:  a) no one would need to use a spiked drink to have sex with Rebel Wilson, because she is so ugly and fat and would therefore be grateful to have anyone fuck her consensually or otherwise; and/or b) that she is lying because why would anyone waste their time trying to have any form of sex with Rebel Wilson, because she is so ugly and fat you (the rapist) would be weird for wanting to have sex with her.

So, in summation: Rebel Wilson = too fat and ugly to be a victim of sexual assault.

These are the comments that keep me up at night. I’m guessing there are a lot of girls and women out there who are not conventionally pretty, or thin enough, or curvy enough, or tall enough, or delicate enough, or whateverthefuck enough who have had this thought: I don’t need to worry about rape or roofies, because I’m not good enough to even be assaulted. You know how I know that many women have had that thought? Because I have had it. I still have it. Even when I’ve been in situations where I know I could be in danger. Even when someone has come on too strong, or pulled over and offered me a ride in his car (last week, total stranger), or pressured me to do things I didn’t want to do (then later said, “but I thought you wanted it”), I still thought- there’s nothing wrong with this. I should be grateful for the attention. Because I’m too fat and ugly to be a victim of sexual assault.

TO BE CLEAR: nothing has ever happened to me that I think rises to the level of sexual assault. I’d like to be abundantly clear about that point, not only because my poor parents read this blog, but because I think conflating uncomfortable situations and straight up assault undermine real victims.

But regardless, this is what negative self-talk, and negative body talk in general can do to a person. Make them confuse what’s safe and healthy with what isn’t. These commenters want to destroy and belittle and undermine Rebel Wilson because she has the audacity to be a fat, funny, woman who isn’t constantly, publicly, hating herself. Who’s celebrating herself, whether you like it or not. Who literally does not give a fuck. And look, we don’t know what she’s like in real life, or at home. We don’t know her personal struggles and heartaches. And I don’t much care. But I know when she plays a caricature of some sex-crazed, man-hungry, fat trollop, it makes me uncomfortable. Because frankly, I identify with that character. I like dressing up and wearing tight clothes and drinking and talking to men and dancing and occasionally (safely) hooking up and making exactly zero apologies about how I live my life. And the caricature makes me uncomfortable, because what it’s telegraphing is ultimately this: isn’t it hilarious that this clearly ugly, fat girl thinks she’s hot and has sex with whomever she likes? It’s that a fucking riot?! Because no one would ever want to touch her in real life! OH MOVIES- HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

Well I’m fucking done laughing. Rebel Wilson is a human being with personal autonomy, and no matter what she looks like, or anyone looks like, they are entitled to safety. And let’s not forget that  this dis-empowers men and women. People are allowed to be attracted to what they are attracted to, but when society says only one kind of attraction is ok, that your desires are wrong, it gets real dangerous, real quick. We’ve seen that play out in countless ways over the years, in interracial couples, same-sex couples, all kinds of couples. I’m not equating my situation with being beaten to death for the person I love, but I do think that’s its a milder symptom of the same disease. Why do you give a fuck if someone wants to fuck with Rebel Wilson, or me, or fucking Giselle Bunchen?! The heart wants what it wants, and so do the genitals. Let them. We’ll all be a lot happier, safer, and kinder.

So perhaps it’s a good lesson for life in general, as in the interwebs: never read the comments.

“How’s the Cat Diabetes?” And Other Topics of Discussion

During my non-blogging hiatus, a few things changed around Furst World Problems HQ. I did a mini January refresh in which I Marie Kondo-style got rid of anything that did not “spark joy.” For those of you who aren’t into Japanese organizational new-age philosophy, Kondo espouses her Kon-Mari (see what she did there?) method, of basically getting rid of all your crap unless it makes your heart swell three sizes, a la the Grinch. I kid, but it’s a pretty useful way of figuring out whether you should keep that rando scarf someone gave you for a gift, or that one mismatched mixing bowl that never quite fits, or that pile of books you always said you would read, except for reading time is now taken up by your busy Netflix binge-watching schedule.

So I went through every.single.one. of my possessions, and tried to figure out how I felt about it. In a lot of cases, it was pretty clear: I didn’t feel anything about it at all. In some cases, it was surprising, in that I realized it elicited feelings of guilt, anger, frustration (oh heeeeeyyyy basically anything from an ex- cut to me returning those aforementioned Tiffany earrings for store credit- then cut further to a baller shopping spree in my future… of like, a half another thing). But culling it down to just those things that I really and truly loved, for whatever reason, was freeing. It made me think about how to apply that principal to life, one that has been referred to in other articles as the dichotomy of “Fuck Yeah or No.” If it’s not a Fuck, Yeah! – it’s a no.

Now that’s a scary notion. It’s all well and good when you’re talking about a pair of wedges you should probably figure out a way to wear but pinch your baby toe and you wore on a bad date once so they’re tainted. But winter boots? HATE. No joy sparks at all. Still need them. They stay. And it’s another thing entirely when say, your work day is not a Fuck Yeah. You still gotta go, because being broke is definitely a hard NOPE.

So it’s a guiding principle I’m trying out, if not a hard and fast rule.

Case in point, my new kitten, Jack. He came to me by way of my friend’s farm, a tiny ball of orange orphan, running around, looking for new things to gnaw on, usually settling on my hands. He has a sweet disposition, but is in no way a cuddle kitty like Sambuca had been. I thought that was a good thing- among the many things I failed to process over the last few months, was Sambuca’s abrupt death. And as I’m learning,  I don’t usually face my grief over anything until presented with a similar situation. So Jack being so different was a good thing, for me.

Then he started to act weird. At turns sluggish and very aggressive, drinking a ton of water, which for a cat, is unheard of. We did a few rounds of testing, and figured out he has Diabetes. Juvenile Cat Diabetes. It almost never happens. Most cats get type 2 Diabetes for the same reasons humans usually do, but it’s rare to have a cat born with it. Of course it would be my cat. I’d just spent the last year of my life in doctors’ offices (at last count I have 7), why wouldn’t I now be doing the same for this little fur monster.

Like people, he has to have injections twice a day, his blood sugar has to be monitored, and he has to be fed on a relatively regular schedule. Gone were my hopes of a low-maintenance pet, where you can leave them with a bowl of food and extra water for 3 days. He takes the injections really well, but he’s a real bastard when his sugar is too high. Not to mention that I have to give them every 12 hours, so my schedule has been hampered, a bit. It’s not insurmountable, but I can’t stay out all hours of the night. Not that I usually do, but it’s nice to have the option in case the opportunity arises.

Initially I was totally overwhelmed. It was definitely not a Fuck Yeah moment. It was an Oh Fuck moment. Because it’s not cheap to have a sick pet, and pet insurance takes preexisting conditions real seriously. I felt like if I was going to have to be home by 8 every night, it should be for a husband and kids, not a cat. That would be a sure sign of cat lady territory. I’m already a chubby, single woman in her 30s, I didn’t need to add “has to run home to cat” to that package.

But we’re finding our way. It’s not all fun and games, but he is teaching me a lot. Mostly about loving someone on their own terms, and being ok with uncertainty. Or about exactly how much patience I have for the uncontrollable behavior of another living being, no matter how cute it is (spoiler alert: barely any). About how to be grateful for good days and not get stuck and unpack in the bad days. About how much worse it is for someone you care about to be sick, than for you to be sick yourself. About how to find a way to say Fuck Yeah to a situation you never wanted to be in in the first place, because someone else needs you to be all in.

Mermaid Fetishes, Coffee Nazis, and Hidden Children: Modern Romance

Those of you who follow me on social media have heard snippets of my dating highs and lows over the past few years. It feels some days like I’ve dated every single man in DC- and sometimes not just the single ones (not when I knew). When I was in college and law school I dated here and there, mostly mooning over totally inappropriate and remarkably unavailable men and boys. Intensity and some amount of emotional brokenness were my aphrodisiacs. But mostly I was too busy studying, performing and auditioning (and the emotional fallout after), drinking with my friends, trying not to collapse under the weight of law school text books. But when I moved to DC, started my “real career,”and hit 29, I got serious about it, got online, started saying yes to anyone and everyone who asked, the words of my mother reminding me to dance with anyone who asked at a middle school party still reverberating in my head. Never mind that at that dance the boys were on one side of the gym and the girls were on the other, lines demarcated as strictly as a Hasidic wedding.

It was exhausting. It was demoralizing. It was confusing. After dating aggressively, 5 nights a week, over about 18 months, I was no closer to a real relationship and no closer to knowing what the hell I wanted. I just knew I wanted to be in a relationship. It seemed to be the only thing keeping me from Legitimate Adulthood. I had a job, I had a good salary, student loans, a drivers license, I just didn’t have a boyfriend. And it really felt like any boyfriend would do.

And it was with that attitude that I met John. At first he seemed great. Not the most attractive man I’d ever dated, but he was sweet and goodhearted and seemed to be supportive. He gave me a pair of earrings from Tiffany for our first (and only) Christmas together, and said “I love you” within a couple of months. I kept hearing Etta James “At Last” playing in the back of my head.

But you know how this ended-cut to 7 months of a sick, inexplicable feeling in my stomach, fights over the amount of time we spent together, and the eventual denoument of his Lifetime Movie-level cheating. Needless to say I was a bit bereft, but mostly mad at myself. I’d sacrificed my own knowing, my own gut, to stick with a man who wasn’t worth me to begin with. I’d been bought with a small pair of pearl earrings in a bright blue box.

I was in no rush to start dating again, partly because I’d had my confidence shaken, partly because I immediately got sick. I’ll leave the discussion about metaphysical connection between the break-up and the illness for another day, but suffice it to say I was not feeling at peak attractiveness.  I tried to go out a few times, but every date I went on left me feeling itchy and searching for an exit. I had to fight back a mild wave of panic any time I sat across from a man and engaged in small talk. Things that wouldn’t have bothered me before became immediate deal breakers, like flakiness, or even the hint of exaggeration. Things that would have been deal breakers before, like not picking up the check on the first date, no longer seemed that important. I wasn’t looking to be courted, because courting couldn’t be trusted. I just wanted someone to be honest. And funny. I’d always had a low tolerance for bullshit, but my experience with John brought it into negative space. Dating being a little bit about cutting other people some slack, this did not bode well.

So, it didn’t really make any sense that I would go on Tinder, an app created for unadulterated bullshit. I wasn’t looking to hookup, but I wasn’t really ready to jump all the way back in the pool. Tinder seemed like a safe (ha) way to dip a toe back in the water. I don’t blame the app, these people are trying to make money, and so they have. But it’s almost like Tinder is the Donald Trump of dating apps- it crystalizes every shitty thought and impulse we have towards other human beings, and gives us a platform to act it out. You would never walk up to a stranger on the street and ask them to engage in fetishized sexual activity (or maybe you would, you do you boo), but on Tinder it’s par for the course, and you’re the fool if you get upset about it. People pursue you aggressively then ghost just as aggressively, and the flakiness factor is amazing. Not to mention that there’s always something better out there, and no incentive to see something through.

I tried. I really did. I went on several dates from Tinder. The best one was with the guy who made me break up with him on our first date. After an interminable two hours in which I felt like a hostage to his manic ramblings, he asked me if I’d like to go out again. I’d barely said two words during this date; this was the first direct question he’d asked me. I told him no, which should have been sufficient, but instead he wanted me to go into all of my reasons over the next 45 minutes. His main argument was that we’d been there for two hours- if I hadn’t been having a good time, why did I stay? Not to mention the fact that it took him half an hour to order his first drink. Yes I could have gotten up, yes I could have said this isn’t working. But it’s not that easy, in the moment. It feels so cruel. But I’ll need to get over it. A non-funny reminder that being polite can be dangerous for a woman.

The worst was with a man who started the date by asking me whether I had a collection of wigs, and how good I’d look in a variety of them, then culminated in a 30 minute discussion of the virtues of fish-top half mermaids versus fish-bottom half mermaids. I thought I was being punked, or that perhaps at some point he’d decided this was a lost cause, and wanted to see how far he could push me. If the latter, I commend the effort. It was elaborate and detailed.

I dated in real life as well, most recently with a man who I’d met on an earlier business trip, and had exchanged a few emails with back and forth. He seemed a bit philosophical, but was cute enough and seemed genuinely interested in me. We agreed to meet for coffee and a walk around the Ferry Building farmer’s market the next time I was in San Francisco, a date that sounded right up my alley. But when I arrived for coffee, he kept talking about how enlightened he was, while forcing me drink coffee “his way” and was rude to the other patrons in the shop when they had tried to find the owner of his abandoned ipad when he’d left it on the table. At the market, he didn’t look at any of the stalls, telling me that  he wasn’t “into buying things.” So it made total sense that he would plan our date at a place where you BUY THINGS. That itchy feeling came back, and I fled into an uber, confessing to the driver that I didn’t have anywhere to go, I just had to get away. The driver was very kind.

But the dates that take the cake where the ones I hired a matchmaker to find. I outsource my grocery shopping, my housecleaning, and many other activities- it made sense to me to try and outsource my love life. Since I’d been picking such duds, I figured I might give someone else a shot. I signed up with Tawkify, and spoke with my bubbly matchmaker (she kept calling me “girl”), gave her a thorough rundown of my few dealbreakers (dishonesty, rudeness, right-wing conservativism), and told her honestly I didn’t have a “type”- or at least not one that was healthy. I just said I wanted someone funny and loyal like a golden retriever.

The first date I went on revealed within 5 minutes that he was 47, not yet divorced, lived in his Dad’s basement, had two children living at home, and was out of work. To be fair, I had not explicitly said “having a job” was a requirement; I thought it was implied. That was on me. We had one drink and then he drove me home in a car he revealed he used as an uber driver. At least he was working somehow.  When I talked to my matchmaker about it she revealed that he’d been recruited, and clearly lied to them. The fact that a 47 year-old, not-yet-divorced, unemployed man living with his parents could be recruited while I was paying for this service made me want to kill myself.

They assured me it would get better. My next date went quite well, although I wasn’t sure how attracted I was to him. We had a nice conversation, he was also a lawyer, and expressed an interest in a second date. He offered me a ride after the date, and when we got to the car, I noticed a car seat. He hadn’t mentioned a kid,  but I thought maybe he had nieces or nephews, so I asked.

“Oh yeah, I have a five year old.” …. I asked about her mom, and he said they were separated. I sat in silence, confused how I’d once again been put in this position, when he revealed that he hadn’t told them about his pending divorce or his daughter, because he didn’t want them to know about his personal life. And, he would appreciate it if I didn’t tell them either. He wanted me to collude in his lie. It wasn’t the kid or the divorce, both of which I was fine with- it was the lie, the one thing I’d told them was unacceptable to me. I had to get out of the car I was so angry.  I was on the phone with them immediately, telling them everything. And asking for my money back. If you take nothing away from this blog take this: don’t use Tawkify.

So, as Whitesnake sings, here I go again on my own. I think I’m slightly closer to knowing what I’m looking for, and way closer to listening to my gut and walking away when I think something’s off. It’s a practice, but I’m getting better. I’ll just keep kissing my fish-top mermen until one of them turns into a prince.

Glitter-Covered Rain Boots

Today I picked up a pair of glitter coated rain boots, and completely unraveled.

Let me back up.

It was a pretty normal Saturday, lounging in bed with Jack Cat trying to use my hands as chew toys, watching the final episode of my latest obsession, “Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries” (watch it now. I’ll wait. It’s only 32 episodes). I met one of my besties for delicious pizza at Graffiato and to see “How to be Single” (which was surprisingly far better and more emotionally complex than I expected), and then headed uptown to return some rose oil at Lord and Taylor.

Since I was there, and I had a credit burning a whole in my pocket, I swung by the shoes. There, tucked into the sale rack, were a pair of black glitter covered Kate Spade rain boots. I’d seen them months ago but couldn’t find my size or justify $130 for rain boots, because I’m not a Kardashian. These were my size, and on sale for a ridiculous discount, less even than the credit I’d just gotten for the return. It rains a lot here, and I fucking hate it, so anything that might make me excited about the rain was worth it. So of course I bought them, and went on my merry way.

I should mention that while this was happening, there was a prom show going on. Whooping teenagers were watching a fashion show of the latest in prom options, something that I didn’t even know existed, but would have been most welcome growing up.  I paused to watch them, glowing with hope, with expectation for the biggest night of their young lives, with the promise that things would get better from here, that the boy or girl you liked might ask you to dance, that you might get to listen to your favorite song with your best fucking friends on earth, and for one night you might get a glimpse of a your most glamorous self, even if it did come off the rack in Friendship Heights.

And I fucking lost it. In public. In front of a bunch of teenagers, who, as we know, are the worlds most forgiving demographic. I couldn’t figure out what my fucking problem was. I was weeping, like, as in “Jesus wept” weeping, in the middle of mid-tier Department store. I sat down, I tried to call a friend who known me since I wasn’t much older than these kids, and took deep, ragged breaths.  I’m an emotional person, but I don’t usually break the fuck down in public, especially after I’d scored seriously cute discounted boots.

But it was those boots that triggered me. And all the beautiful clothes around me, and those kids. In some weird emotional flash, I realized how trapped, buried, stuck I’ve been. How dulled has become my sparkle. How undeserving of nice things I’ve told myself I am, because of my age, my lack of relationship, my body. How much I’ve tried to hide in plain site, no longer the strutting peacock that I’d always been. Ashamed of everything. In that moment I felt consciously a feeling I hadn’t been able to name, I feeling I hadn’t felt before any of this happened. I felt invisible. And I’d done it to myself.

I haven’t talked to you all in a while, and I really haven’t talked much about everything that happened over the last 18 months. At a certain point I was boring myself, and I just didn’t know what more to say. I didn’t want to say anything, I think. To say that I didn’t process it even a little bit would be a huge understatement. Instead of getting closure with the cheating boyfriend, instead of taking time off of work to deal with my mystery autoimmune disorder, I worked harder. I dug deeper. I worked longer, more nights, and put myself on every plane I could. I ran. I fucking ran really far and really hard and sure I went to therapy because I’m a neurotic woman in her 30s but I talked about squabbles with friends and minor issues with my parents and avoided like the fucking plague the topics that made me feel like I would split in two from stem to stern if I acknowledged them. If I talked about how I thought I might die a few times, when I didn’t know what was happening and my body was shutting down. How I thought that maybe a cheating, semi-impotent, emotionally-stunted sociopath was the best I could do when I looked so fat, ugly, and messy all the time. How I worried that no one would ever want to touch me again with these scars all over my body. How the medication I’m on means I can’t have kids until it’s totally out of my system, and no one can tell me when that will be. How I didn’t even know that was something that would break my heart.  How this all changed the topography of my future in ways I’m still discovering.

For all my talk about self-knowledge, and loving yourself, and body positivity and all the rest of the buzzwords, I’m really quite bad at practicing them. I judge myself incessantly. I’m judging myself as I write this. I judge myself for being too loud, too unprofessional, too vulgar, too fat, too inelegant, too much. I judge myself for not being more in control, more restrained, more desirable. And somewhere along the line I started trying to make myself invisible.

Those of you who’ve known me for a while know that I love sequins and glitter and sparkle and color, high heels and fur and maribou and too many cocktails on a weeknight. I like meeting strangers and laughing at dirty jokes, and singing in public when I feel like it. But these last 18 months, I’ve been home before dark more nights than not, and my uniform has been what my friend Kelly and I have kindly referred to as the Chico’s Orthodox collection- all maxi dresses and flowing kaftan-y stuff; black leggings and tunics. Flats. In fashion, but a bit blah. It started as a necessity- I couldn’t wear anything high or tight with the blood vessels in my legs bursting when I even looked at anything restrictive. I couldn’t shave my legs for 5 months. Heels were totally out. Add to that the moon face predisone gave me, and I was not on my A-game.

But even after that all subsided, even after I could go back to heels and my face took on it’s original contours, I kept wearing maxi dresses. I kept wearing flats. I wore out a ragged pair of $30 shoes, leaving my beautiful heels stagnating in my closet. I wore black. I kept color on the hanger, my favorite article of clothing became a grey sweatshirt sweater thing. It was so shapeless it didn’t have a clear category. I would look in longing at women at work events in their elegant shift dresses and their beautiful leather pumps, and feel every inch an oompa loompa.

I was- I am- sad.

I’m sad about what I feel like has been lost time. I’m sad that I was so easily mislead, and that I succumbed to this trauma. That I betrayed myself by not taking care of myself. That it happened in the first place. That I lost track of myself. Because that’s what it was- I lost fucking track. I got lost in the jumbled judgy crowd in my head. The voice of the little chubby girl who’s favorite outfit in grade school was a cow print tunic over red leggings with a bowler hat. Who bought an emerald green crushed velvet jacket from Goodwill and rocked it with every single one of her mardi gras beads because she was inspired by a character from a movie. The girl who stood on stage at East High and felt the world was in the palm of her hand. That girl. Where the fuck did that girl go?

I’m sending out a search party.

I think she’s the one who bought those boots today, such an absurd purchase when you think about it. The most utilitarian article of clothing, covered in the most useless, but spectacular form of decoration.  But I think with those boots, I’m done hiding from the rain. The rain is going to come, whether you want it to or not. And when it does, it’s not going to be the elegant girl in the satin stilettos making her way safely through. It’s going to be me, cursing a blue streak, laughing too loud. In all my mess and all my glory. It’s going to be the girl in the motherfucking glitter covered boots.

 

 

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