a need for chaos

On Sunday nights life feels like a death drop towards disaster.

You’re angry at the changing of seasons, at the bus that was 20 mins late, the person who doesn’t text back after a great date, the men who slide oily eyes over you when you walk home on the late side, wondering how effective your house keys are between your fingers. 

You think you’re missing out on love but what you really want is the taste of transgression coating your tongue.

The feelings that allow you to spin out, just a little bit.

Just enough to rinse yourself of the prosaic and the mundane.

You’re in search of the electric, the unrestrained. 

A good story that makes you feel like you failed your god.

You don’t know where you’re going, only that the road is long.

(Re) Learning How to Dress Myself

I’m 23 and 1/2 , or at least I will be in two days, and I’m learning how to dress myself. 

Okay, let’s rewind. To be clear, my mother has not picked out my outfits in many years and while I have solicited feedback from friends and family on important outfits (we’re all doing jeans and nice top, right girls?) I have mostly dressed myself for a long time. 

But lately I’ve been trying to change my approach to shopping and picking out outfits. At some point this year, I realized that despite my lifelong love of fashion and clothing – my first dream job was a fashion designer and model – it’s been a long time since I truly dressed for myself. 

Why? Because I haven’t liked my body. Because I wanted to be perceived as “attractive and desirable.” Because I was worried what people would think. 

Despite the style fails of my early youth (bangs, Ray-Bans, skinny scarves, fedoras, etc), I’ve always been relatively put together. But the emotion that stands out the most when I think about how getting dressed made me feel in my middle school/early teen years is shame. 

In high school I attended a Catholic youth conference one summer. In case you’ve never been a Steubenville conference it’s basically like Comic Con for people who love Jesus. Literally thousands of teenagers converge onto a college campus for a weekend of prayer, reflection and listening to, tbh, a VERY good Christian rock band. One year I purchased a shirt from the conference vendors – aka very milquetoast looking Midwestern Catholic moms – with some Cool Church Kid slogan on it. It was a standard blue v-neck. Nothing jazzy or super revealing. But one of the chaperones with us told me to go back to my room and change because “boys could look down my shirt.” So I did as I was told – telling my friends I spilled something on myself and had to change. At the time, I was really embarrassed. Embarrassed that I had worn something that could be construed as sinful at an event that was supposed to be about not sinning. I felt deeply ashamed of my body. 

Looking back, THIS IS INSANE. I was a teenage girl wearing a v-neck that a Christian vendor had deemed was appropriate. And even if they hadn’t given it their stamp of approval, the wandering eyes of teenage boys were not my responsibility. 

This was not the only time I felt that way, but definitely the most memorable. And so for the rest of high school and for most of college, I shied away from wearing anything even remotely revealing. Not because I didn’t like the way it looked, but because I was worried about what people would think and because quite frankly, I didn’t really like my body. 

Beyond covering up, my other goal when getting dressed was to look as slim as possible. I didn’t wear bright colors because I was afraid they would draw attention to my size, or make me look bigger than I really was. Busy patterns? You could forget about it. 

I dressed to make myself as small and unremarkable as possible. Oh but also hot, because the only thing that could make me feel good about my ungainly meat suit was of course, male validation. Looking skinny factored into things but I grieve for all of the fun, quirky outfits I’ve passed up over the years because I was worried about them being unattractive or unflattering. What an absolute prison the male gaze is. 

But in the Year of Our Lord 2019, I finally stopped dressing for other people. And I started dressing for myself. 

And what a freaking joy it is. 

This has obviously been a work in progress: a lot of following women with bodies like mine or larger on Instagram, Sonya Renee Taylor’s “The Body is Not an Apology”, some very hard work regarding self image, and of course an increasing realization that the only opinion on my appearance that matters is my own! 

The only downside of this is that I feel like I’m suddenly almost at square one with my personal style and have made some really weird purchases like white leather boots and sequin dresses. I’m learning that I actually *don’t* really like to wear super understated things, at least all the time. Someone recently shared their top tip for going shopping with me and I’ve been trying to put it into practice. To develop a personal style and stick with it, you have to first envision a style persona. Maybe it’s a gay space cowboy who thinks hot pink is a neutral or an outdoorsy ceramicist who loves a good drapey dress. Personally, I’ve settled on Parisian art gallery curator meets Mindy Kaling. Punchier colors and patterns in more streamlined, classic silhouettes with some fun statement pieces. But still French, d’accord?

Maybe a lot of you are already ahead of the game, or maybe you’re just a boring person who doesn’t care about what they wear, but I encourage you to think about why you pick out the clothes you do and who you’re trying to impress. After all, as Oscar Wilde, my ultimate life and style icon said, “Looking good and dressing well is a necessity. Having a purpose in life is not.”

a named thing

You say my name 

and it makes me think of the first day of summer, 

that old, new warmth,  

slept in sheets nostalgic about the night before. 

Walking in time to a song, 

its beat swinging through my pelvis. 

 

You say my name, 

and it’s like I am finally myself, 

years spent bending flesh into the word denial. 

 

You say my name and suddenly it is something holy, 

a call to the divine within. 

Suddenly I can see the first time my mother whispered it to her rounded belly, 

the first time she had a name for this kind of love. 

 

You say my name and of course,

I am yours. 

But still, 

mine too. 

Everything I’ve learned about love in 2019

It’s November, so unless some really dramatic stuff goes down in the next two months, I think it’s safe to recap everything I’ve learned about loving and being loved in 2019. 

In 2019, a friendship that was a major part of my life for the past 4 years ended. It’s been one of the more difficult heartbreaks of my life, and I still think about her almost every day. I hadn’t had a friendship definitively end since the fourth grade and I had seriously underestimated how much it would hurt. I don’t know if it was completely the right decision, if we could have fixed the toxic parts, if there was enough good in the relationship to stay. What I do know is that I will always wish only the greatest happiness for her, and I hope that she too, thinks of me fondly every now and then. 

2019 was also the year that I fully healed from love not reciprocated. I learned that people are more than how they hurt you and that retelling stories of trauma, while sometimes helpful, can often be an echo of the trauma itself. This year I realized that specific pain was tied to other old hurts, things I never got over, things I buried deep. I was so frustrated with myself that I couldn’t get past this one moment, this one conversation, until I realized it wasn’t that one fractured point in time but so many. And re-telling that story – over and over and over – reinforced its ties to all those other unhealed wounds. And none of this served me. I finally let myself write about these things, I did some therapy. I realized all I wanted was someone to acknowledge how I had been hurt, that yes this pain was meaningful it was significant it was catastrophic. And I could be that person for myself. So I validated my wounds and I healed them and I put them past me. I don’t think trauma is ever a completely closed book, but you can put it on bookshelf and forget about it for a while. 

Friendships are not just for getting through things together. I think college was difficult for me in many ways. And so – I forgot that friendships could be about having fun together. I got so stuck in using them as emotional crutches to just survive the emotional maelstrom I felt I was constantly drowning in. But post-grad, pulling myself back up on dry land, for what felt like the first time in years, there were still people to lean on for support, people to talk through big things with, but they were also there for the small talk for the juicy hookup details for some irresponsible weekday drinking. Yes, friendships are there for emotional support and validation. But don’t forget all the JOY these people bring to your life. 

Emma Watson is really on to something with that “self-partnered” stuff. Even if you have a million friends, close family, a romantic partner (or many!), at the end of the day, it’s just you. You can’t break up with yourself so you might as well make the most of that partnership. And while I FIRMLY reject the notion that no one will love you until you love yourself,  I do believe that your relationship with yourself is a foundation for all of the other relationships in your life.

Stop dating Libras. No pontificating here, that’s the whole lesson. Just stay away.

Rejection 101

I am usually the first person to text after a first date. I’ve always applied to jobs I am underqualified for. I raise my hand for opportunities at work that I will probably fail at. When I was 15, I called my crush and asked him out via VOICEMAIL.

This is all to say, I am really good at “putting it out there.” And by necessity, I am also really good at good at handling rejection. But not everyone is – hey it’s tough! This is a guide for everyone afraid of a “no.”

1. Figure out when and where people’s opinions of you matter: I am not of the opinion that other people’s opinions of you never matter. Most personal rejections rejections are instances where the other person’s opinion of you doesn’t matter. For example, if he doesn’t want to go on a second date because he thinks you’re too political, his opinion doesn’t matter (and is also wrong). If it’s a professional rejection, the other person’s opinion may matter slightly but think of it more as constructive criticism rather than outright rejection. If you don’t get that job because you’re lacking hard quantitative analysis skills, it’s not outright denigration of your professional self. It’s a recommendation that your already rock star resume would be further strengthened by learning Stata.

2. Rejection often has to do more with them than it does with you: I think this lesson is more applicable to personal rejections, which in my opinion hurt more because they feel like a rejection of your whole self rather than just your professional self. But a lot of the time, it has very little to do with you and what you did. It’s genuinely a “it’s not you it’s me” situation. Maybe it’s the wrong timing for them, maybe they have baggage to work through, maybe they’re going through a really tough time. So many times, when I’ve been on the giving rather than the receiving side my “no” was mostly about my own fears and complexes rather than their love of the Office.

3. There doesn’t always have to be a why: You’re going to face some Nos that don’t have a because attached to it, and that’s okay. People aren’t always going to explain themselves, and personally, I don’t think they have to. Not every feeling has a clear reason, or maybe you just don’t need to be privy to that reason. Feel all your feelings – but know that they’re entitled to do so as well without explaining themselves to you.

4. Don’t let it shrink you: Whether you need to post a fire selfie on Instagram or listen to Lizzo for 10 hours straight or get a bathroom pep talk from your BFFs, do not let rejection make you any less than you are. Do not let it chip it away at your sense of self. Do not let it dilute you, scare you, shame you. Instead, become even more yourself. Chase out any bad thoughts by filling the space with so much you there’s no room for them.

5. Rejection does not have to be an impetus for change: Unlike Khloe Kardashian’s “Revenge Body” show would suggest, rejection doesn’t have to be that final push you need to “be your best self”. In fact, I think the strongest, most impactful self-improvement is driven by a profound sense of self love. Like, I already love myself so much can you imagine how much more amazing I would be if I decided to build more joyful movement into my day? Someone saying that they don’t like you, or that you’re not the right for the job isn’t always a sign you need to change. Maybe you just need to change the kinds of opportunities and people you’re chasing.

 

fall fever

It’s raining and I’m longing for someone who hasn’t thought about me in weeks. This is where I’m comfortable. In the tolerable melancholy, that sweet familiar ache. I don’t want everything because half the fun is in that wanting. Yearning is a fading art. Why flesh our dramatic scenes with them in your mind, first kisses and fights, and quiet scenes, morning coffee and movie night – when someone who will want you back, right now, right there, is just a few taps away? I’m all for convenience but there’s just something about the rain, washing away the grime and small indignities of everyday life, makes you more idealistic, maybe hopeful. Maybe the temporary and artificial darkening of the sky tells your heart it’s night – it’s always easier to feel these things in the dark. Maybe today is the day they text you, how are you, how have you been, may I be allowed to be in your life again. And you will smile because you knew this moment would come, have written pages and pages about in your diary. But somehow it is always sweeter here in the real world, hand in hair, hand on heart, breath on cheek, cheek curving over jaw, lips tucked there, all those nice and disappearing things. 

A History of Halloweens

I. I was Bambi for Halloween freshman year. Simple costume, elaborate face makeup gleaned from Halloween makeup tutorials that 18 year old boys still somehow found a way to sexualize. Sexy cartoon characters exist (hello Danny Phantom) but Bambi is not one of them. There’s a feminist analysis here about the infantilization of women but that’s the story I want to tell right now. 

We got drunk in my best friend’s dorm room at a neighboring college. For the life of me, I can’t remember what we drank. Only that it was enough to make me warm and giggly and content to lie on the rug of her floor rather than go to the gay bar. 

I let a stranger walk me home, he was a bassist at Berklee and we had the same glasses. In retrospect, this was one of the many times I should have been murdered in the Fens for my implicit trust in the universe. It was 3 am and our phones were dead so he wrote his phone number on a scrap torn from sheet music. I couldn’t find it the next morning, and I’m still not sure if it was a dream. 

II. The next year I painted my face like a Roy Lichenstein painting and drank wine at a Groupmuse – which is essentially a classical house party. Have I ever mentioned that I’m a really hip and cool person? 

The Groupmuse was held in a three story house in a corner of Jamaica Plains, it’s rooms emptied out in preparation of a move, and festooned with the entire Halloween section of Party City. We wandered from room to room, refilling our cups from the communal bottles of wine on various surfaces, getting tipsy and loose-limbed as the music swelled and filled the small spaces. 

Costumed musicians performed like Disney float characters – including a trio that played a rousing repertoire of Brazilian folk music. I sat cross legged a few feet away, eyes fixed on the violinist. He was not handsome – it wasn’t that kind of draw – but I know it feels to draw a bow across strings and I knew that what I felt then was on a different plane compared to what he felt. There are people that play adequately, with their fingers and their brain. And there are those that play with their bodies – every cell in their body contributing. Watching them – you almost forget to breathe because you want to be held captive in that same way. 

III. Another year, and I modeled my face after a painting from an Indian female artist. Halloween was my chance to be art. Macabre and glitter dusted, but always art. It was a party thrown by an on-campus group I had been a part of. I drank hot toddies the whole night – mint tea with vodka and danced to bachata in a kitchen lit only by fairy lights. I was home by 1 am and woke up early the next day, clean of makeup, but still glinting in the morning sun.