245 Tompkins Avenue

I wouldn’t have called it my dream apartment. From the outside, it looked like it had survived 3 hurricanes and a zombie apocalypse. Each of the three apartments had two matching balconies located on the far side of the building which faced Tompkins park. At one time, it was probably a lovely place to sit and watch the kids walk to school or see the distant sun setting over the cityscape. But as the years flew by, the iron gates of these tiny terraces had become so rusted through it was a wonder they hadn’t fall right off the of building.

There was a stray cat living in our hallway named Tiger. I could tell by her cries for attention and food that she had probably belonged to someone. But people are cruel and they will do what they have to survive, leaving poor little Tigs on the street to fend for herself. My roommate has a bigger heart than she does a brain and would often let her into our apartment, to play with her cat, never considering the diseases that she could be carrying within her sticky, matted fur. The neighbors let Tiger in through a hole in the roof and most days she slept on the stairs. Occasionally there would be a perfect round turn waiting for us in the hallway. Although, we were never sure if it was Tiger’s as they usually looked big enough to be human.

The apartment on Tompkins was the only one Kelly and I could agree on. Our third roommate, was off on some cruise having the time of our life, and expected us to choose her a room and work out all the details amongst the two of us. She is violently irresponsible. Kelly and I hated each other from the get go. She, a right-wing Texan who loved processed food and Jesus, and I, a liberal feminist were bound to have problems. We agreed on the apartment solely because there were fewer stairs she had to climb than the previous options and I was tired of looking. After our first apartment had fallen through and I had been forced to live on my friend’s couch for a week, I would have slept in a box.

The closet doors hung lifeless from their hinges and there was a giant old mop sitting in still water in the middle of the living room. “It’s a real fixer upper, but the good thing about that is you can really make it your own.” Our realtor was young and vapid with sunken eyes and translucent skin. He paced rapidly and jumped from one foot to another as he showed us the apartment and I couldn’t tell if he was a heroin addict looking for a fix or if he was just unhealthy and needed to pee. Either way Kelly was smitten with him. She giggled as he accidentally pulled the handle off the “brand new” oven. I rolled my eyes and wanted to die. But we signed the lease anyway because I am inpatient and am great at making horrible decisions.

Kelly was gone when the blizzard hit. She had broken the living room window the night before in a high daze. She was one bong rip away from falling out of it completely as she attempted to smoke her last cigarette. She left for Texas in the morning without telling us anything had happened. So there we were, with in the middle of the worst snow storm New York City had seen in decades, with a broken window and a super named Tony who didn’t speak English or know how to use a power drill. We were fucked.

The window in my room was broken as well and there was a large hole in the wall where an air conditioning unit once sat. The only thing between my room and the outside world were two pieces of purple styrofoam and some reusable shopping bags I stuffed in between for insulation. When the city finally came to inspect our building they took the temperature of my bedroom and found that it was 45 degrees. It was St. Patrick’s Day and the warmest day we had, had in months.

Of course along with the broken window there was the lack of cold water. I know it may seem like you shouldn’t really need cold water in the winter but let me tell you, you absolutely fucking do. Without cold water to help regulate the temperature you are forced to bath in scalding hot hell fire. The landlord didn’t understand why this was a problem. “Who doesn’t want hot showers in the winter?! You crazy shikk…” He always stopped himself before he called me a Shiksa. As if being called a white whore was somehow worse than not being able to shower without burning my skin. For the record, words can’t hurt you like 300 degree water can.

The baby roaches, the black mold under the sink, and the rat poison in our drawers which made us all sick also contributed to our misery. Although nothing was worse than our landlord. He was a young, possibly inbred, shiesty Hasidic man who relentlessly harassed us for not paying rent on time (which we always did) and never shared with us so much as his first name. Each month the checks were made out to “Mr. Miller”. He did not have an email address or an office. We were to meet him out front of a small yiddish drug store and present our rent checks. If we had complaints, he always met us outside of our apartment building and brought his kids along. “You see, you see these children! I need to make a living, I have mouths to feed!” His children were some of the strangest looking kids I had ever seen. Looking into their classy eyes and porcelain skin deeply upset me. They never made a sound, they just stared at me with frozen faces as if holding their breath. I’m sure they actually were holding their breath. There is probably some strange rule that Hasidic children are banned from breathing the same air as gentile whores.

We broke the lease after a grueling 4 months. Between the unlivable conditions and my disgusting roommate leaving odd cups of milk to spoil in the fridge and leaving giant shit stains all up the back of our toilet seat, I had, had enough. After I had packed my things and moved them into my new apartment, I stood in the room and looked out onto the crumbling balcony. In that moment the room was actually beautiful. Bright light poured in through the windows and left it feeling sunny and warm. What a shame it was that it had been neglected for so many years. I said goodbye to first chapter of my New York City experience and I won’t go back, not even to check my mail.


Bad Enough To Be Fiction

From the time I was a little girl I was crazy about sappy romantic films and “chick flicks”. Even today I still sometimes catch myself gazing stupidly at the screen when Sleepless In Seattle or A Lot Like Love are on daytime T.V. and although I try to fight it, I still believe in their perfect endings and all of the beautiful things they promise. I think most women are guilty of comparing their love lives to some Ashton Kutcher or Channing Tatum movie. We love the idea that “Mr. Right” is out there somewhere. We shift back and forth from day-dreaming to looking around at our friends in dismay while complaining, “Why can’t he be like that?” and “I wish this was real life!” I know how much we love those stories which is why I’m sad to say that this isn’t one of them, sorry ladies.

I recently got a job. A real, annual salary complete with benefits, first full time position. I awake proudly at 6:00am from my wine induced slumber, pull on my form fitting petite dress pants and head off into morning traffic. I work five days a week for eight hours a day answering furious phone calls from dissatisfied clients and trying my best not to cry  when I am unable to understand their half broken english. I worked hard my entire life to achieve the American dream and I couldn’t be more unhappy with my life. After the first three weeks I found myself in an emotional pit of despair. I wasn’t eating or writing and I felt as isolated from my peers as ever before. I am the youngest employee in my organization by twenty years. I was sick to death of looking at pictures of my fellow coworkers’ grandchildren and discussing knitting in the break room at lunch. I needed out, I needed to feel young again, I needed to feel loved.

So I YOLO’d; hard. I started drinking at noon for The Ohio State Game, a tradition I had previously never cared for but decided to go along with in my hour of desperation. By three o’clock I had made my way to my friend’s block party and was attempting to join the young neighborhood children in the moon bounce which proved unsuccessful and by four I was stuffing my face with all the pigs-in-a-blankets my tiny body could handle. I’m a Vegetarian. After that, the night got pretty blurry. I found myself on Campus with a group of friends headed to the despised and revered club, “Charlie Bear”. Charlie Bear is a place where dreams go to die and beers go to get spilled. The floor was so sticky that I walked right out of my shoes and into two obviously drunk college students who were actually sucking on each others faces (and suddenly I understood where the expression came from), but as I peered into the face of the man whose face was being sucked, I realized that I recognized him. We caught eyes, he paused, waved, and continued to devour the face of the girl he was with, so I left.

Later in the night he came back around. I knew this person and I had known him almost my entire life. We grew up together. He was my first crush and my first friend. We laughed and caught up with one another for what seemed like hours. As the lights came on and the bouncers began herding the bar’s patrons out like cattle we made the decision that he was coming home with me. Yes, this was real and he was real. The first love of my life and the boy whose initials covered the inside of my childhood diary was coming over to my house to sleep in my bed. I was so thrilled that I even chose to ignore when he fell getting into the cab and forgave him for not having enough money to pay the overworked Egyptian driver.

My memory begins to fade after that. I’m quite certain this is when the Washington Apple shots from last call started to kick in causing my brain to practically shut down. The last thing I can recall was his beautiful blue eyes staring longingly into mine while he said, “Congratulations on still being hot. Most of the girls we grew up with got fat.” It wasn’t quite what I was looking for but it’s amazing what Well Vodka will do to your standards.

The next morning I woke up with a sour beer taste in my mouth and my tongue felt like sand paper. I turned over and opened one eye, hoping it had all been a dream. It wasn’t. I had really taken home my kindergarten crush from Charlie Bear, F**K! But I still had hope. He pulled me in close and kissed my forehead and I felt a sense of relief rush over me. That is, until he lifted up one of his legs and released a gigantic fart right before he leaned in to kiss my lips. Needless to say, I was beyond offended. The worst thing about those kind of situations is not actually that, that’s the third time a guy has post-sex morning farted in my bed, but that I then have to laugh and pretend that it’s not absolutely disgusting out of sheer politeness. “I can’t believe we had sex, I’ve seriously thought about that since we were little.” He thought about having sex with me when we were five? What a pervert. I thought, but smiled. “I’m seriously going to go to my parents house today and I’m gonna walk in, look my mom in the eyes and say, ‘I did it. I fucked L** H********.’ It’s so crazy how she wanted us to get married!” Oh God just kill me now. If you make this go away I’ll be good. I’ll return to my job and never try to recapture my youth through one night stands again. I fake laughed so hard that I could have won an Oscar.

Later that day I was distracting myself from feeling ashamed by gluing my attention to some mindless reality T.V. show as I tried my best to recover from my hangover. I was doing quite fine when my roommate came home. She walked in and stared at me, huddled under a blanket like a small Navajo child, she did her best not to be annoyed. “So, I heard everything last night” Jesus, God we are not having this conversation right now. “I mean, you woke me up. I can deal with sex noises but it was laughing that I couldn’t stand. I just kept thinking, why doesn’t he just hurry up and F**K her already so she shuts up.” And that is the story of why I attempted suicide. No, I’m kidding but a large part of my dignity did die in that moment. From that arose an enormous amount of confusing feelings. Why were we laughing? Were we laughing together or was I laughing at him? 

I know that you’re all probably expecting me to turn this around and end this piece with a positive, pro-feminist moral but I don’t have one. Regardless, I did learn a number of very important lessons from this experience. The first of which being that I cannot continue to associate certain men with romantic love simply because they knew me at a more innocent time in my life (like the time I slept with my neighbor in an attempt to fit the “girl next door” stereotype. But we won’t get into that). Another obvious lesson would be to never, ever, under no circumstances leave with a guy from Charlie Bear or even enter that God for saken place ever again, but the single most important thing I will take away from this is that I don’t need to prove to myself that I’m still young and wild by sleeping with someone, even if does make a great story.

The Girl in the Mirror: Learning to Love Your Body

The very first time I can recall feeling inadequate about my body was in preschool. I must have been about four years old when I caught my shadow on the sun lit concrete of North Broadway playground. I stopped running with the other girls and turned to look at what I saw. I had a baby tummy protruding underneath my jumper. I didn’t like my shadow. My chick tummy didn’t resemble the flat sexy stomach of Jasmine or Ariel, so I sucked it in and ran after my friends. I remember the day I stopped loving my body so vividly. All it took was one glance at my shadow to completely change the view I had of myself. I remember the day I lost my chubby cheeks too. I looked in the mirror and gazed at the face looking back at me. I loved that thin looking girl. I danced around my mother’s bedroom in my Lion King dress happy to be thin because thin was a beautiful thing to be. My uncomfortableness with food and my body stayed with me through most of my adolescence. Before my 10th birthday I went to Limited Too to find the perfect ensemble to wear for my big party. I found what I thought at the time was the most beautiful shirt I had ever seen, but it didn’t look right on me. So I starved myself down to 45 lbs in order to look “good” in it. Granted I was probably 3 feet tall when I was 10 but it still wasn’t pretty. Believe me, I was all head. I looked like a walking tooth pick with a peach on top.

My struggles with body image didn’t change until the end of my teenage years. This is mostly because the messages I was receiving had only worsened. I didn’t look like the girls on T.V. and in magazines. The only places you usually see dark haired, hairy women under 5ft tall is in Lord Of the Rings, so I really didn’t stand a chance. I was unbelievably ashamed of my body. The first time a boy made me feel sexy I fell for him hard, too hard.

It has been said that the average American woman is 5’4 and weighs around 140 lbs whereas the average model is 5’11 and weighs about 117 lbs. There is a huge gap between what we actually look like and what we’re told is beautiful. Young girls aren’t stupid. We are able to make the clear connection that men find these supermodel images desirable. So naturally we crash diet, overexercise, and develop overwhelming resentment towards our bodies all in the hope of becoming society’s idea of the “perfect” girl.

Your body is a living organism that requires love, respect, and connection. It knows when it’s being abused and absorbs that pain like a sponge. Duality between mind and body distances you from authenticity and self care. If you’re not loving your body then you’re not loving yourself. Lacking self love and confidence can set you going on a damaging cycle. Once I began to understand that I was the only one who noticed my flaws I was able to grasp the stupidity of it. Practicing yoga and meditation helped me establish clarity and connection within myself. By coming into my body I realized that every bump, bruise, scar, and mole were pieces of my puzzle; and that made it beautiful.

Here are 5 things to help you love yourself more fully.

  • Begin every morning with meditation: Practice by either laying on your back or sitting on your bed. Close your eyes and breathe slow full breaths and let your belly fall soft. Establish silence and spend 3-11mins in sync with your breath. Notice your body. Imagine it completely covered in white light and healing energy. Allow it to heal you.
  • Thank your body: Along with meditation make sure to spend silent moments studying your body from head to toe and thank it for everything it’s given you.
  • Give yourself 3 compliments everyday: Stand in front of your mirror completely naked and say three things that you love about your body
  • Practice I AM THAT I AM: When you start to think negatively about your body place your hands over your heart and recite: Everyday in Every way I am getting better and better, God and me and me and God are one I am – and repeat anything you need or desire to feel, for example: I am beautiful, healthy, and strong. Then close with: I know this is the truth and I am thankful for that truth. So it is.
  • Surround yourself with positive people: Close relationships should never drag you down, they should only uplift you. If you are surrounded by people who speak negatively about the looks of themselves and others it shows that they are insecure and will be unable to offer you the support you need.

I still struggle with my own reflection and it’s a constant process. I had allowed my fears and insecurities time to grow and fed them regularly with negativity. This is why it will take time to make a full positive change. The importance of beginning this transformation is undeniable. We need to teach our sisters, our friends, and our daughters how to love their bodies. 7 million girls and women struggle with eating disorders and body dysmorphia in this country and we have to make a change. We brought our bodies into this world. They are roadmaps of our lives and we will leave them behind when we go. Let’s make a fresh start and give ourselves the love and respect we deserve.