I thought I was used to this/yet another thing I need to be happy

I went to high school in a fairly conservative, extremely white area. Exhibit A: A member of the Gay-Straight Alliance was spat on by a parent at Back to School night for handing out flyers. Exhibit B: I caused an uproar (included accusations that I was “racist”) when I wrote an article in my school paper about the lack of diversity at school and how it impacted minority students.

In many ways, I am used to living among whiteness and conservatism.

And then I went to college and spent four years learning about leftism and organizing and how my feminism was incomplete without a race and class analysis.  I met people who shared a similar vision for the future. And then I graduated, moved home and then moved to DC, all in the span of 6 months.

2018 was a rough year and I got to DC, with a job I was thrilled about, and after living in suburban New Jersey for several months, I was ready to throw myself back in the fold of friendship. And these friendships have been wonderful – most old but some new. Many that have changed and gotten closer with the new proximity to each other. Relationships that I am deeply grateful for.

But as I hit the year mark in DC, I started to feel like something was wrong. Something was missing. Funnily enough, it took a mini high school reunion at my parent’s Christmas party to figure out what was wrong.

I don’t have a single close friend in DC who shares my beliefs. 

When I first moved here, I tried. I went to a few DSA meetings but didn’t find them super welcoming. I tried to get in touch with PSL a few times and didn’t succeed and ultimately gave up (but have recently succeeded woo hoo!). Let’s be real: I had a ready made friend group and was living in a new city where happy hour was legal (looking @ you Boston) and just wanted to enjoy myself.

Recently, I did a bunch of reading about Christian socialism and I wanted to go to a dive bar and spend a few hours talking to a friend about the relationship between faith and social justice and how apparently, there’s evidence that early Christians lived in communist societies. But I don’t anyone that would have been interested. So instead I called my mom and told her all about it. There’s a protest at the White House tomorrow about the US’s further involvement in Iraq and the potential war with Iran. Protests/large crowds make me extremely anxious and as much I want to go, I don’t know if it’s something I can do alone.

“Alone” is a good word for how this situation has made me feel. As fulfilling as my friendships are, my central friend group is all white, and without a single other person that shares my beliefs.

This might be my privilege talking, because my economic background and education and “good immigrant” status allow me to move semi-comfortably in primarily white, privileged circles. This isn’t the fault or responsibility of my friends. It’s 100% the result of my own decision making and complacency.

I’m realizing that feeling lonely can look like a lot of things. That you can be lonely for physical touch, be lonely for people who share your faith, be lonely for people who understand you.

Call me a snowflake but I’m lonely for a safe community where I can share my thoughts and ideas in a way that doesn’t have to end with an argument. Where I can question my beliefs without constantly feeling like I have to defend them.

If I had to wish for one thing in 2020, I would wish that I find those people and that I hold on to them.

 

 

a way to be yourself

I am no good at solitude, 

It must be poetic otherwise I will ball it up and bury it amongst yesterday’s leavings. 

Being alone makes me feel like I am burning youth, as if it is a dance that only exists under a watchful and appreciative eye. I am only alive when I am adored or making beautiful things. Otherwise I am scrawling in the margins, holding my breath as I step over a crack, somehow a paler, less filled in version of myself, one that doesn’t deserve intrigue or adventure but malaise that sits right underneath the skin like a vein. 

I never learned how to live with myself. Without sound, without asking and answering, without having a different heart to press my fingers over. What am I but what they see. A song is a song only after it’s been heard. I am always acting. Looking in the mirror like it’s the first time, dressing up for myself to mold my own soft, flabby edges into something else. I put on accents, try on phrases. My bedroom is a stage my bed is an altar. Come, listen to me pray.

Season 2, Episode 4 of Fleabag

I am Catholic in the way that God is the first neighbor I ask for a cup of sugar. I am a different girl than the one who wore white and believed it was Jesus on her tongue. I am a different girl than the one who felt the priests oily thumb on her forehead and spent the next year looking for the divine within her. There’s so much in this world that I don’t know how to do – so much I am doing wrong, bravely. To know that I can walk into a church and know my lines means there is always a place at the table for me. I go to confession once a year without telling anyone. I don’t think I need forgiveness, I just need to hear another person loves me in spite of. I try out different churches, dabble in Hinduism because maybe that’s more true. I don’t know how to separate the Church from its ghosts, the God I understand from the God that loves rich people. I have always talked back and He is the only one to never complain.

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.