Sadness

Depression happens the same way you fall asleep. Slowly, then all at once. Sooner than later you can’t remember when it began. All you know is you’re lost, confused, and completely bat shit crazy with sadness. My mind is strong, but my brain is a fragile, helpless little thing – hellbent on its own destruction.

I thought it was homesickness. And I did miss my home. I felt isolated from my loved ones and from community and my weeping could all be contributed to loneliness. But when I went home, I missed New York. I missed the Puerto Ricans, the punks, and the heroin addicts that made noise in my street. Ohio wasn’t my home anymore and I had begun to create a life for myself without even knowing it. Then it was the boys, the one I love out of habit and the other that I am totally infatuated with. Neither one of them want me, really. They sleep with me and ignore me, and ignore me then sleep with me. And the pattern just continues like this, reminding me that I am still 17 and stuck under the thumb (or, penis if you prefer) of some careless self-obsessed man-child. Between the two of them, I am invisible. I make noise to get attention. I cry, and scream, and throw things, proving that I am still the craziest one in the room, unable to move forward because I am always slipping back into bad habits.

My job only worked to confuse my brain into thinking depression and anxiety were two radically different things. For 40-45 hours a week I move back and forth between being belittled by my boss and being screamed at by clients. It is continuous game of pingpong and I am the ball. I am never prepared to take the hit, so I just fly across the room into the face of the next paddle. I shake from nervousness on the train to work, shake violently during my 30 minute lunch as I try pathetically to gum my banana, and then weep on the F train all the way to Brooklyn. Anxiety, a foreign feeling of high alertness which gave way to the familiar feeling of absolute hopelessness. The two coincide with each other, but are at the same time very different – like twins. They may look and sound the same, but they move through the world in their own horribly unique way.

I have probably struggled with depression my whole life, I just didn’t always know the word for it. When I was a little girl, I remember crying and crying. Crying so hard over things so little that it left my parents confused and astonished. I would write things in my diary like, “Today I didn’t get picked to play T-Ball, I am heart broken.” and I probably really was. I also remember the days, weeks, maybe even months, when my mother wouldn’t get out of bed. I’d come home after school and drop by book bag by the stairs. I still remember climbing the stairs two at a time, holding onto the railing and using it to pull myself up before I jumped onto the landing, my pig tails bouncing wildly behind me. I would push her bedroom open gently and peer in, Mama I’m home from school, and she would open one eye and groan sadly in confirmation. Somedays I would draw her pictures, leaving them in piles beside her bed. I have never been a stranger to depression, only to the notion that it is abnormal or a part of life that can actually be controlled.

As a teenager, sadness showed itself in the form of self-loathing, inadequacy, and rage. I hated myself with such intensity that at times it felt like my brain was actually crumbling inside my skull and that I was inevitably unraveling into nothingness. I couldn’t control my emotions. Everyone thought I was crazy. I was funny, so no one really cared that I was a such a bitch. It’s a fact that people will always forgive you of your sins if you can make them laugh. I read moody teen literature where the main character was always in some psych ward for cutting or making herself sick. The books just gave me ideas, and I liked both of them. Cutting distracted me from the mental pain and bulimia made me feel good in a way that I still can’t quite describe. It took all of the noise away and left a gentle buzzing in my ears that made me feel separate and apart from my body. I have always liked that feeling. Vomiting is gross and pressing a razor to my legs left suspicious little scars so eventually I had to stop. I learned young that drugs, alcohol, and even sex can be used to keep the sadness at bay, but it will always find you.

Irritation is another sign that sadness is on the forefront. A sideways look, an unanswered call, anything can make me snap. I am a reactive ball of fury and I mad with the urge to fight and yell. I am exhausted by my own anger. I cannot trust my own perception and my brain keeps deceiving me. I am not to be trusted, I am paranoid and confused and bound to blow at any moment.

Today, I lay in my bed and count the days until my prescription can be filled. I tried everything – mediation, vitamin D supplements, eating healthy, exercise, and prayer but none of it was a match for my sadness. Depression is the elimination of light. There is nothing at the end of the tunnel when it hits. There are no good days, no sun, no love, there is nothing but the weight of hopelessness – and it is crushing. Sure, there are ways to treat depression without medication but where does anyone get the energy for that? It took everything I had in me to get out of bed this morning and I spent my last bit of willpower pulling this computer onto my lap and writing these words. There are a lot of people out there who do not believe in medication and I think they are fucking crazy. Here’s the truth, mood disorders are not personality flaws they are chemical imbalances that need help to be corrected, and that’s okay. So take it from me ladies, sometimes it’s more than PMS or the weepies, sometimes it’s serious and to that I say fuck diamonds, because Lexapro is woman’s best friend.

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Cool Story, Bro.

It was a quarter past two when we left the bar. I had been drinking with a friend from work and his roommates. Alcohol can play tricks on the mind and at that point my beer goggles could have made Gary Busey look like Channing Tatum. This may have been the reason why I agreed to leave with my friend’s little brother. He was, of course, an unapologetic bro, complete with a cut off tank top and a backwards hat. He wasn’t my usual type but after a long night of tequila and cherry bombs my standards had dropped tremendously.

I don’t remember what we talked about on the long walk to his house. For all I know we could’ve been walking in complete silence. Although, I was probably talking he may have only been responding with grunts or nods of agreeance that said, “I don’t care, but I look like I do.” In reality, we would have had nothing to say to each other. I’m a free thinking modern feminist and he well, likes to wrestle when he’s drunk. The first time I met him I was taped to his best friend. We were playing edward forty hands and our hands were taped together around two forties of warm Budweiser. He was on crutches because he had recently had some kind of surgery. He hobbled up to me, lifted his crutch up off the ground and poked me in the crotch with it. He didn’t even blink as he continued to crutch me in the crotch. He just stared at me for a moment before putting his crutch back on the ground and hopping away. I must have forgotten this strange little incident when I decided to go home with him.

When we got to his house, things got weird. He didn’t say much, he just walked straight to the back of his house, found his dog, and hugged it for a very long time. I started to feel uncomfortable, as if I was intruding on some shared romantic moment. I walked into the kitchen and asked the first person I saw if I could use a cup for water. He looked at me and said, “Well we don’t have any clean cups, but we have bowls.” So there I was, standing in an unfamiliar space drinking from a bowl and watching this guy practically make out with his dog.

We stumbled up the stairs and upon entering his room he announced with great pride, “Isn’t my room great?” He was being serious. “Uh, yeah.” I managed, fighting back the laughter, “It sure is something.” Still reveling in the glory of his bachelor pad he turned on his speakers and proceeded to play dub-step at max volume. Nothing dries me out faster than wompy beats and base loud enough to rumble an entire house. I was sitting on his bed trying to keep my head from exploding as he stood with his back to me. His arms were stretched out horizontally with his hands clenched into tight little fists as his head bobbed up and down to the music. It was easily one of the strangest things I had ever seen. Just when I thought he might stand there forever, he turned around and ripped off his shirt. He stood there for a moment and stared at me. No one had ever made me feel like prey the way this kid did. With out blinking his eyes seemed to say, “You ready for this?” and I know mine must have been saying, “Oh god, no.” He grabbed a condom and jumped on the bed.

With the condom still in hand he kissed me. He kissed me until someone kicked open the door. It was his roommate, “Hey dude, you got any rubbers?” “Here, take this one!” I offered up the one in his hand. “Oh damn, you’re not using it?” He winked at me, “nice!” I explained to them both that I actually needed to leave because I had much more important things I could be doing at 4:30 in the morning like, not having sex with this gorilla. His roommate left and he looked defeated. “Are you serious? That’s so dumb.” He wined. “Yeah I’ve got to go but thanks for having me!” Before I could even sit up he was on his feet standing at the side of the bed. He dropped his pants and began to move his hips in a semi-circle which sent his penis wagging back and forth. My mouth dropped. “You don’t want this girl? Are you sure you don’t want some of this?” Oh yes, I’m quite sure I don’t want that. I was absolutely speechless. I’ve witnessed men do a lot of strange things but this one took the cake. If this was some kind of strange new dating ritual I wanted none of it. He must have noticed the disgust on my face because eventually he stopped and pulled his pants back up. He laid down on the floor and began to pout. I tip toed over him grabbing my jacket and then my shoes. When I bent over to grab my purse he stuck is arm in the air and grabbed my left butt cheek. He started slapping and grabbing it. I jerked my head around to look at him and still he continued, with out blinking and with out emotion. Okay, this is getting weird. This guys a psycho and I have to get out of here. He was still laying on the floor when I jumped over him and scurried out of his room and into the night. It was warm so the mile and a half walk wasn’t bad. I was comforted with the thought that at least I wouldn’t be sharing a bed with a horny robot.

The next morning his brother called me, expecting I would still be at his little brother’s house. When I explained that he had terrified me with his wiener dance so I left, he seemed hurt. It was a how could you not fuck my brother kind of disappointment that I was unfamiliar with. I don’t know what turned me off more, his actions or the fact that his eyes were glazed over with a brain dead haze the entire time. Either way, this experience begs me to ask the question: What is wrong with young men? Seriously, why do they think they can just run around like horny animals all the time? It’s sick, but what’s even sicker is I’m sure there are girls who actually sleep with guys who act like this. When did the college sexual experience trade in a mutual exchange of pleasure and emotion for 5-7 minutes of mindless jackhammering, or is this the way it’s always been? My point is that most young men seem like they could care less about making the woman they’re with feel good. Sex has become less of a partnered act and more of masturbation with the help of a vagina. So ladies, next time you’re standing at the bar or waiting around a party clenching your red solo cup and a beefy guy in a pink polo catches your eye, keep walking. You can do better, and you are no bro hoe.

Love & Life: It’s Complicated

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“What do you want to be when you grow up?” I always had a different answer for this question. One week I’d proudly tell adults and relatives that I wanted to be a psychiatrist and just days later decide that I was meant for the stage and I was made to be an award winning actress. I never had a strong hold on what I wanted to do with my life. The thought of doing one thing forever and ever sounds a bit mundane and passionless. In college, I changed my major three times, coming up with one new plan after another. Even at 23 I can’t really tell you what my ideal job would be because my dreams don’t really work like that. There isn’t just one thing I want to get up and do every day but more of a cause I long to stand for.

I was made to heal women and girls. I know this. It lives inside of me and continues to grow stronger and stronger as I become more engaged in feminist activism. There have been a handful of women who have entered my life at the exact time when I needed them the most. When I look back at where I’ve come from I imagine these women as a mile markers in my life’s journey. They guided me, pushed me forward, and gave me the hope and strength I needed to soldier on. I know what I was made for; I just don’t know what that looks like yet. I don’t know what form it has to take in order to be at its most effective.  So that’s what my life looks like. A long, winding, intricate, path that is leading me towards self-discovery.

His life isn’t really like mine. Well, it is and it isn’t. His purpose has a shape, has a name, has rules and guidelines. His career is already a fully formed idea. He’s an athlete so his career and his job are the same thing, whereas mine are not. I have a 9-5 position at a 3 million dollar a year non-profit in central Ohio. I have a salary and benefits, I even have a brand new car that I bought all by myself. He doesn’t have these things yet because sports don’t work the same way that a day job does. There are all these risks involved, make-it-or-break-it deadlines, fast transitions, and it can all be gone or it can all be up for grabs in the blink of an eye.

To me, his life seems terrifyingly unstable. On the upside, he has a dream that he can see. He is an athlete—he wants to be the best one, that’s tangible. He doesn’t have to go searching for a dream the way that I have to, but the downside is that he has to fight for it. He has to go where the money is, always chasing down the chance to advance, the chance to have control over his team and his life. Making plans is meaningless when everything is uncertain. So how could I, realistically, plan to move across the world with him when he asked me to? And honestly, I wanted to—I still want to. But I can’t leave my life, the life that I’ve created here, to live in constant uncertainty.

At first it seemed perfect—another undeniable sign that the two of us were meant to be together. Of course, I need to keep reminding myself that my life is not a Nicholas Sparks novel. When he told me about India I was in the middle of reading the national bestseller Half the Sky. I was drawn to the women in the book and I felt compelled to stand up and be a voice against sexual slavery and trafficking. When the opportunity to go to a country known for its mistreatment of women and girls arose I knew that this would be the next step in my journey and being beside him was where I needed to be.

But something went awry. In the midst of our excitement we stopped listening to one another. Somewhere between stress and hope we let communication spoil. Being a part of his life requires me to be able to pick up and leave whenever we have to, to stay in hot pursuit of his dream. I guess I didn’t realize this—that whatever kind of home I made there I would have to leave behind. I imagined working for centers that take in women who have escaped from brothels, setting up a make-shift school in a small backroom and teaching their children how to read and write, count and dream. I couldn’t just leave that behind and I couldn’t move to a country so hungry for change and keep my mouth shut, my eyes covered, and my hands at my sides. Once there, I would need to be involved and stay involved until I was damn well ready to move on.

This idea for my life doesn’t coincide with his. Because he’s never held a “normal” job he can’t quite grasp the restrictions mine has on my life. Professionally, I need to give my agency 6 weeks’ notice before I resign. If I quit without giving any notice then they have to struggle to find someone new to fill my position as quickly as possible. In the time they spend looking for a new hire my work would be piling up on the desks of my associates. I can only imagine what my next job interview in the states would be like….”What was your reason for leaving your last job?” “A man.” “Oh, I see.” It’s hard enough for a young woman in the workforce to be taken seriously, I don’t feel like adding “I’ll abandon my job for my boyfriend” to the list.

But did I mention that I’ve never wanted anyone more than the way I want him? The thought of being with another man just seems laughable and sort of sad to me. We’ve been at this semi-relationship-thing for a long time now but still the very sound of his voice in my ear gives me butterflies and starts Cee Lo’s Fool for You playing on repeat in my head. It’s the kind of infatuation where I could be a hostage in a convenient store shoot out and if he called I would shyly look up from the floor and kindly ask the masked assailant, “Can I take this?”

A couple weeks ago I met a boy. Well, I guess he’s actually a man. Clean, interesting, with a charming smirk. I thought about how easy my life would be if I was with him instead of the athlete. If I could throw my phone in the Olentangy and rid my mind of India and greatness and just kiss him instead—everything would be so much simpler. Ignorance is bliss but I’m not ignorant. I can’t unlearn what it’s like to be with a good man, one whose dreams and goals are as big as your own—a man who doesn’t just want to take a bite out of life but wants to consume every last crumb of it. So I turned away from the boy knowing that he’ll never be enough for me.

So that’s all of it—my big dilemma, my wanting to have my cake and eat it too scenario. I want our lives to intersect without having to make changes to either of them. I’ve known women who have thrown away their dreams to chase men—men who didn’t love them for long and who eventually threw them away. I’ve also heard the other story, the one with a woman who chooses her career over her lover and still wakes up every morning thinking about “the one who got away” even as she wears another man’s ring on her finger. For the first time in my life I don’t have a plan. I don’t have an answer to that daunting question of what I want to be when I grow up. I have found myself at a crossroads that I wasn’t at all prepared for. As I think of my path and the places it’s taken me and the long road I still have left to travel I take a look at the crossroads and wonder, “which way should I go?”

Rape: A Year in Review

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It’s been said that every two minutes someone in the U.S. is sexually assaulted. In past years maybe this bit of statistical information would have been unbelievable but lately it’s become more obviously so. Maybe it’s because every five minutes there’s a new post, article, tweet, or controversy regarding rape. Honestly, between “comedian” Daniel Tosh’s less than hilarious rape jokes to the Steubenville teens who raped and urinated on an unconscious sixteen-year old girl, 2012 has definitely been the rapiest year yet. And it’s not because there have been substantially more rapes this year than the last. Quite the contrary, it’s because rape is finally emerging as a real issue. No more hiding it behind closed doors or stuffing it under our beds with the rest of our dirty laundry. We are talking about rape while challenging those who perpetuate it and I believe that’s something to celebrate.

Earlier this spring Daniel Tosh made some rape jokes. Of all of the things to chuckle at he chose something that directly affects 1 in 5 American women not to mention the countless men and children who have been sexually assaulted. Did he really think that would go over well? I never got a chance to properly address the witless comments left on my Facebook status which read, “Hey Tosh, rape jokes aren’t funny!” So, to respond to those who believe standup comedy is an art and rape jokes are just artistic expression, I say this: No, some things aren’t funny. It wasn’t funny when I lost my sense of self. It wasn’t funny when I’d cry myself to sleep thinking that somehow I was responsible for my own rape. By laughing at atrocities like rape we clearly continuing it. When we laugh at something we get comfortable with it. We allow it to come into our homes and sit down with us on the couch. Laughing only separates it from its own ugliness because after all if something makes us laugh than it can’t be that bad. Ending rape culture is more important than five minutes of half-assed standup.

Right wing politicians sure had a lot to say about rape this year. They even went so far as to take personal experiences and divide them into different “types” of rape. There was forcible rape, rape-rape, Legitimate rape, and of course emergency rape! Like, um excuse me but when isn’t rape a fucking emergency? Listen, anyone with half of a brain will tell you that categorizing rape is completely asinine but just in case you’re not sure, rape is when a person has sex with you without your consent. This can happen out of force, unconsciousness, inebriation, intimidation, or manipulation. I hope this simple definition cleared it up for everybody but if you forget just try and remember that rape is rape is rape is rape.

In December a 23 year old Indian woman was out with her boyfriend after 10pm and was raped. Some will try and argue that this is the very reason why she was raped. “What was she doing?” “Why was she out so late?” and the victim blaming will go on and on like this. Victim blaming is prevalent all over the world and India is no exception. However, this case was so undeniably horrific that it got people talking. Jyoti Singh Pandey was attacked by five men who gang raped her with pipes, leaving her completely disemboweled. She survived the encounter but died some days later in the hospital. India, a country where sex is so stigmatized that victims of rape are often shamed into marrying their rapists, is pissed. They are finally getting angry at rape and demanding that the perpetrators of this crime be brought to justice. From this ghastly incident rose a voice that is insisting rape be taken seriously. What happened to Jyoti was nothing short of tragic but if a conservative country like India can stand up against rape than why can’t we?

Oh, Steubenville just a little town with a big problem. Steubenville, like most of the United States, glorifies its high school athletes to the point that they are sure they can’t be rapists. Just like they’re sure these rising football stars didn’t rape an unconscious girl and then urinate on her at a party. You’re right coach. That little tart was just trying to bring down your team for her own selfish reasons! Err wrong. That’s most definitely not how that works. Sadly, this story is constantly repeating itself. For some reason Americans can’t come to terms with the fact that standing up for a rape victim is considerably more important than standing by the athlete who raped her, go figure. This time things turned out differently for the small town story. It made the national news and it’s still being talked about. Of course that little video of Steubenville teens referring to themselves as “the rape crew” Anonymous leaked last month sure didn’t help keep it out of the headlines.

So, there it is. We’re finally talking about it. The conversation has started without any intention of stopping. Rape is a truly insidious action and the fact that we can’t turn on our computers or pick up a newspaper without seeing it on a headline doesn’t mean the world is getting worse. It means that instead of pretending it doesn’t happen we’re finally addressing it and holding perpetrators accountable.  This year we’ve seen politicians, entertainers, athletes, and entire countries face this controversial topic. Finally, it’s the majority who’s standing up against rape. As advocates we are no longer the minority. In 2013 my only hope is that we can continue the conversation so that rape and rape culture can meet an ultimate end.

Pubes; Should They Stay or Should They Go?

Ah, pubic hair what a wonderfully uncomfortable topic! So uncomfortable in fact that I can guarantee that at least one person scrolled past this post and let out a big “EW!” in annoyance. But regardless we’re talking about this, it’s happening.

Tragically, I realized that everyone in my circle of friends had decided to liberate themselves from the shackles of pubic hair before a pool party. It was the summer going into my freshmen year. We were all changing when a snarky blonde and my worst frenemie cried out, “Oh my God, you don’t shave?!” Wait, what? I just got these though. I looked down at what puberty had thrown my way and felt completely humiliated. However ashamed I may have felt I also remember being unutterably pissed. I had waited for womanhood and now that it had arrived I had to go back to being twelve? That’s like going out and buying spike heels and the second you put them on everyone around you is shaking their heads and saying, “No. Take them off; flats are totally in this year.” So I picked up a razor and bid womanhood adieu because I’m a spineless lemming.

Okay, so yes it may seem awkward or ridiculous to discuss these things but they actually carry quite a significant role in women’s lives. Doctors in the 1960’s used to shave women’s vaginas before they gave birth because women’s (not men’s) pubic hair was seen as unclean. Excuse me, but what the fuck does that even mean? This naturally occurring hair on my body is somehow dirtier than a man’s? So dirty in fact that my child can’t pass through it? This is just one example of how the medical field has medicalized women’s bodies leaving them “othered”. A term used most often when a dominant culture or group looks at another and says, “you’re different than me therefore you must be wrong and we must fix you.” So there it is, white-male OB/GYNs were tired of looking at bushes all day so they made up a reason why they didn’t have to. Perfect, as if it’s not already agonizing enough to heal from giving birth, let’s throw razor burn into the mix!

The 1970’s brought with it disco, cocaine, and of course an explosion of pornographic films. It’s as if everyone was just tired of fighting after the civil rights movement and made a unanimous decision to just say “Screw it” and start a party. More pornography meant a greater visual of the vagina which it was decided had to be altered to be more ascetically pleasing. Throughout the decades as the popularity of pornography grew so did the notion that hairless vaginas were beautiful and more desirable than ones covered short and curlies. This phenomenon expanded so much so that now it even affects men. Ever slept with someone and feel like there was something missing that you couldn’t quite put your finger on? Yeah, it’s because like anorexia more men are adapting this catching trend as well!

So what does it all mean? Well, whether we like it or not rejecting pubic hair posts two problems. One being, that we are altering our genitalia to resemble that of a pre-pubescent child and two, that we accepting that our bodies must be changed in order for us to be beautiful or presentable. When we make the claim that being bald is brilliantly sexy, what we’re actually doing is sexualizing children. Seriously, I’m sure Nabokov’s character Humber Humbert would have been absolutely enthused by the idea of grown women running around with baby vaginas. Sexualizing children doesn’t stop at Holister or Abercrombie, where young girls are being prompted to buy miniskirts or bikinis in order to impress their male counterparts; it stays with us into adulthood. Women are constantly being forced to adopt trends that may seem harmless now but actually began under some very degrading circumstances. Patriarchy has medicalized our bodies countless times throughout history but the fact that this practice has roots in pornographic film making makes it even worse. That’s right ladies, when has porn helped us out? I mean really. Is anybody else tired of hearing “Can I cum on your face??” Um, no and you just completely ruined the moment.

Now, I get it. Letting it grow poses some problems too. The number one problem being that it is seriously uncomfortable. Or perhaps you’re afraid to be categorized by your partner as “that weird art girl” or the ever popular “feminazi” I get it. At least get educated about your body before you decide to alter it. Know exactly what it means before you pick up your razor, and above all else if you choose to shave, shave it for yourself not for your partner, because I’m sorry ladies but if you’re man has a serious problem with hair then it’s time to accept that he’s probably a pedophile.

Bromances: A Challenge to Hyper Masculinity

It was mid May, a Saturday and the kind of day that most college students designate for drinking before 2:00pm. My male companions were no exception. My friend and I stood on the steps of their front porch and watched two of them wrestle drunkenly under the warm spring sun. “Look!” I snickered and nudged my girl friend’s arm. “Oh my God, this is priceless!” she responded and sipped her beer, pretending to enjoy it’s dull flavor. “Awe, now isn’t that just the most precious thing?” I tried my best southern drawl. “They look like kittens playing. My heart is melting.” I agreed, “Yes, like two gigantic drunk kittens.” We laughed in unison and finished what was left of our stale beer.

Now, if one were to see two grown men wrestling on the ground all the while gazing longingly into each other’s eyes he or she might be able to assume which team they’re pitching for. On the other hand, contrary to most straight male fantasies, two women pillow fighting in their underwear is less likely to be seen as lesbian behavior, no matter how close they get. So why is it that women can touch, play, and occasionally blur the borders between hetero and homosexuality but men cannot? As our society becomes increasingly open minded we’re beginning to feel more comfortable disregarding the categorization of female sexuality. It is a cultural expectation for many women that we able to openly show affection for one another. Learned affection can be seen as important form of social conditioning that has been historically enforced in order to teach women how to become proper caregivers. Real affection, hugging, holding, and physical contact of this nature often enough has nothing to do with sexuality. Rather, it has more to do with love.

My friend has a theory about male sexuality, she thinks that all men harbor secret homoerotic fantasies. “All men are truly gay deep down.” She spoke so confidently that I choked on my wine. “What? What does that even mean?” I giggled and swallowed hard. “No, You know what I mean. Like, I would bet money that when we’re not around men dance around naked and have drunken sword fights.” I thought of my friends, the ones posing in the picture above, and decided that for them that was probably the case but that it doesn’t necessarily mean they want to have sex with each other. I asked her to remember back to middle school when we would all take turns flashing one another at sleepovers. None of us became lesbians later on in life, we were just curious. Can’t men share the same kind of curiosity without having to be branded as “gay”? Shouldn’t men be allowed to freely express affection and curiosity the way that most women do? I would think yes.

We live in a society with a hyper masculine idea of what men should and shouldn’t be. Our culture has decided that any form of same sex affection is automatically entangled in sexual desires. Most of the time this is simply not the case. We as women cannot expect to break our sexuality and love free from the cages and categories that bind us if we continue to perpetuate the stereotypes for men. There is a deep longing within every human regardless of gender or sexual orientation to feel physically comfortable with their peers, so let them. I’ve learned a lot from observing bros interact with one another but I believe that the most important less thus far is that real men hug it out.

The Man Who Was a Monster

It took him three minutes to ruin my life and completely destroy my sense of self. The ownership I had over my body had vanished. I didn’t control it anymore, he controlled it. He had me, and he was in charge. I know it only lasted three minutes because I was counting, holding on to every second and pleading with time to stop. I didn’t ask him to stop until the end. The words didn’t come. I went into survival mode. I moved into a world where words didn’t exist and all I could do was react. I screamed the entire time. I screamed so loudly and powerfully that my it made my throat hurt. When it was over, he apologized, put on his pants, and told me it was an accident. He didn’t mean it and he was sorry. He did mean it, and he knew what he was doing, but I let myself believe his twisted little lies. I took what he did and pushed it down so far that it would take me two years to uncover the truth and be able to tell my story.

I was drunk. We started early and I had, had margaritas and beers upon beers with my friends all before ten thirty. The other girls I was with were tired so I went on with out them to meet up with some guys from work. I stumbled through the door, giddy and giggling and dizzy from drunkeness. I quickly found my friends and proceeded to move towards the bar. There was a man standing at the bar and he was staring at me. My stomach flipped and my hands began to shake even before I realized who he was. I looked deeply into his eyes and studied his face. I skimmed his cool, weak smirk and thats when it hit me. I knew this man. I had loved him once and for far too long. I used to tickle and touch and laugh with this man. I used to sleep in his bed and wake up with him in the morning. This was the man who raped me.

Once again the words didn’t come. He was smiling and waving at me and all I could do was turn away. None of the people I was with knew my secret. They didn’t know who he was or why I couldn’t catch my breath. I found my friend and grabbed his arm, “That’s my rapist…that’s him at the bar…” I managed, my voice still weak and wavering. I pushed through the crowd and into the bathroom. I locked the door and bent over the toilet. I held my hair back and emptied the contents of my stomach. I flushed the toilet with my foot and stood in front of the mirror. Still breathing heavily, I stared back at my reflection and hated what I saw.  I’m weak, I’m worthless, I’m dirty, I’m a whore. I pushed my makeup around my face and smoothed my hair. No, I won’t let him do this to me again. I took a deep breath and let it out slowly. I am none of those things, I’m strong and I can do this. 


I’m a runner. Not in the sense that I go for runs or run for exercise. Rather, when I feel threatened or scared I leave. I take off and I don’t deal with it. This urge of flight is a direct result of being raped and just another component of my PTSD. I want to run when I’m sitting in class, when we’re discussing trauma and affects of sexual abuse. I cringe and shake and sweat and the only thought in my head is I’ve got to get out, I have to leave, I need to leave, I’m not safe here, and it pounds within my skull like a bass drum. I’ve never wanted to run more than in those moments. I had no one to comfort me, no kind of support, I was frozen in space and completely alone. My friend kept telling me that it would be okay, that he wouldn’t do anything to me because they were all right there and they had my back. They didn’t understand, how could they? His presence was violent in and of itself. I was terrified and silenced all from one look.

In therapy, I’m asked what I would do if I ever saw him again. I think about it a lot. I think of saying all of these powerful things that would hurt him the way he hurt me. I think about smashing a beer bottle on the bar and thrashing it at his jugular. I even imagine punching him in the face until I remember that he towers over me. (That was the way of us, though. I was always too little to get away, or to stand up to him.) Instead I just stood there and said nothing. God, if I could have only said something.

At last call he came up to me and as I saw him walk towards me I thought my heart was going to explode within my chest. “Hey, I’m sorry.” He ripped the breath from my lungs and my mouth fell open. “You’re sorry?” As I looked at him in disgust, I thought about everything I had been through in the past year. I thought about all the times I cried myself to sleep, believing that it was all my fault. I thought about how many relationships I had ruined because I’m incapable of real intimacy. Laying in the dark and letting the tears fall from eyes after sex wasn’t rare for me. I remembered the cool fall night when I stood on my ex’s porch, facing him and crying, listening to his pleas for me to calm down, “I’m not him Liz, I’m not Joe, I would never do that to you.” I thought about the progress that I had made with the help of somatic therapy. There were times when the exercises we’d do in class stirred up too many emotions and I would cry, or try to run away but instead I remained grounded and strong. The other women in my class would put their hands on my back and tell me that I was enough and that I was safe.

My mind was flooded with memories of my entire healing process. The ups, the downs, all of the struggles and the progress I had made trying to return to my body and understand that I have a voice. So when, I heard him say “I’m sorry” I was incomplete disbelief. “You destroyed everything for me, and you want to tell me that you’re sorry?” I pushed the words out of my mouth, “Do you even know what you’re apologizing for?” “Listen, I’m just trying to apologize.” With that, he left and I felt completely trampled. My friend came towards me and I held back my tears. I told him I was okay, everything was okay, but it wasn’t. It was the least ‘okay’ I had felt in months, but nothing could be done and it was what it was.

I didn’t consent to what he did to me. It broke my heart and ripped apart what little trust I had left. My problems with men and intimacy have all stemmed from my relationship with this person. At first when I woke up this morning I was disappointed in myself for not saying more to him than I had. Now, I understand that I could never relay the fact that he had ruined my life in a matter of sentences. Sometimes I try to see the positive side of my situation. I’m more empathetic, I have a stronger voice, I am a better person because of my suffering, but most days this outlook doesn’t work. I would rather have my innocence back. It took three minutes for him to derail my young life and years to put the pieces back together.