It’s Miserable and Magical: Our Twenties are Too Short to Hate Taylor Swift and Female Friendship (or Anything for that Matter)

“The only trick of friendship, I think, is to find people who are better than you—not smarter, not cooler, but kinder, and more generous, and more forgiving—and then to appreciate them for what they can teach you, and to try to listen to them when they tell you something about yourself, no matter how bad—or good—it might be, and to trust them, which is the hardest thing of all. But the best, as well.”

 —Hanya Yanagihara, A Little Life

Do you ever feel like certain people just sit around brainstorming new and interesting ways to break your heart? Because…

Same.

Okay, now that that’s out of my system: I’ve been listening to a lot of old school T-Swift lately, like, “Long Live” and “Dear John” and “Mean”. And I can’t lie, there’s something about every album prior to Red and 1989 that’s really endearing. Like, every track on Speak Now has this undertone that sounds a lot like: Na-na na-na boo boo. Just. I love how Taylor Swift seemed to have this quiet joke with herself, how I get this secret satisfaction whenever I listen to her play the banjo and sing: Someday I’ll be big enough so you can’t hit me / And all you’re ever gonna be is mean. It’s like she totally knew she was going to be on the cover of Time magazine one day—becoming the Yin to Lorde’s Yang, learning the definition of feminism from Lena Dunham, telling Apple how to write contracts, blowing shit up with super models…Just, girl knew what she was doing.

I imagine her being 20 when she first started saying it to herself: Fuck it. I don’t care whether or not you think I’m talented. I don’t care if you think I’m corny, or petty, or dumb. At least I say what I mean, and there are girls in the world who need that. So fuck it. I’m not writing for you. I’m writing for the ones who get it. Until finally, at age 26, she was saying it out loud to Chuck Klosterman, for GQ, “If you don’t get the joke, you don’t deserve to get the joke.”

I love her because there’s something about her spirit that’s totally indestructible and still, she’s sincere. I mean, I know she’s not perfect, or some kind of god, but I have a hard time believing a total bitch wrote the line, “your string of lights are still bright to me”, about Kanye West, and that’s that…

Anyway, I’m writing this because it’s been a rough couple of months and the number of times “Shake It Off” has stopped a crying spell dead in it’s tracks is an infinite one. And that kind of makes me want to write Taylor Swift a letter—that she’ll probably never read—expressing my insane gratitude like: Thank you for being a person. Because, driving around, listening to “Mean”, and just thinking, thinking, thinking…God. Just, so much has happened recently that has made me feel insane and kind of desperate, like I’m walking around with a limp, like everyone can see straight to the heart of all my weaknesses. And just, driving around, listening to Taylor Swift, it dawned on me: This past month I’ve felt invaded and used and a little broken, but the one thing I haven’t felt is lonely.

And the moment that clicked for me, I couldn’t be angry. I couldn’t even be sad. All I felt was grateful, just, this relentless appreciation for all the people who haven’t shied away from being a part of my life, like: Thank you. Thank you so much for being a person.

☁︎

“Guys, I just, really need to know that tomorrow is going to happen. Just tell me tomorrow is going to be a thing that happens to us all…” I’m clinging to the sofa, ripped out of my mind (sorry mom, sorry dad) and in the midst of an existential crisis—that I will later learn only lasted ten minutes and not ten hours—because, I’m an idiot who ate two squares of weed-chocolate that my friend brought back from Colorado. Like: Oh. Okay. I smoke weed, never. Guess I’ll stuff my face with it. Completely disregard all the times it’s convinced me that I’m a sociopath whose life is one giant rationalization. Forget all the times it’s made me worry about maybe wanting to stab my friends to death. It’ll be fine. Ttyl, Logic…

Reader, it was not fine.

What happened was not fine at all because what happened was my personality got turned inside out and I became the world’s most extrovert-iest extrovert. My every thought and anxiety was out in the open, totally against my will. Like, my mental system of checks and balances was all impaired, so I never got the private memo: Hey, maybe you shouldn’t admit that you’re worried about murdering these people that you love right now. Maybe you’re just kind of paranoid and need to keep that thought to yourself, save it for never…

“Just tell me that tomorrow is real and I’m not going to wake up with you guys’ blood on my hands.”

Of course, neither of my guy friends could stop laughing because they are both levelheaded people who don’t turn schizophrenic the moment marijuana hits their systems. However, they contained themselves long enough to give those affirmations that friends are supposed to give in moments of choco-pot meltdown:

“Cat, you’re fine. This is real, we’re real, tomorrow’s a thing…” one says, as the other adds, “You’re not about to be the first person to die from weed, and I’m pretty sure I could restrain you very easily if I had to. So. There’s no way you’re going to kill us.”

“I know, I’m just, I’m in a very dark place right now,” I say, as I slump sideways and tell myself lies that make me feel better, like: You’re not in hell.

“Edibles can be a hallucinatory experience,” chimes in the anonymous know-it-all who, earlier, I banished to outer space by deeming him: “Blue-Planet.” My explanation for the title being, “Because all the blue planets are far away, and that’s what I need you to be.” (See, I don’t know if it was because I was high or what, but he spoke in this aggressive tone of voice that sounded like an assault on my personal space. Every time he opened his mouth all I heard was: I think I know everything or I take myself very seriously, and I was not having it.)

The moment he speaks I sit up to shun him once more, “Blue-Planet.” (Mature, I know. But, like I said, my personality was inside out.)

My need to say every little thing that pops into my head is getting so bad that, eventually, I just start typing my every thought into the notepad on my iPhone: You don’t have to make everything you’re thinking right now show up on your mouth, like, what the fuck, stop. Stop looking like the Grinch when he decides to steal Christmas. Wow. Maybe you’re dumber than you thought, Catherine—yes; high-me calls me by my full name—but that’s okay, you’re still funny. Wow. Listen to you, rationalizing. You are a fucking crazy person. Calm yourself. Calllllllllllm yourself. Is this hell? Is this forever? Hell to me would be like that story, “The Yellow Wallpaper”, with all the phallic symbols…I wonder what it’s like to live in a world where you look at people and all you see is something ugly…

I throw down my phone and start to express this sentiment out loud, “Guys, in my world…

“Here we go,” says my friend, biting down on his fist to keep from laughing.

“Like, everyone is beautiful, I mean, maybe not in the conventional sense but…I’m just wondering…do you think everyone who’s kind of nasty and cold and ultra critical without thinking—do you think those people just look at everyone and only see something ugly? Like everyone looks human to me at the very least, I feel bad for everyone…what’s it like to—”

“Cat, get the fuck out of here with your hippy-dippy bullshit.”

And like, for real though, this is why I hate pot: I become every cliché in the book, talking about planets, making myself the center of the galaxy, saying things like: God, I just love humanity.

We laugh and I roll back onto my side and close my eyes because—not to be anymore cliché than I already am—I feel like the room is melting, or, I’m convinced I’m on some kind of downward elevator tour, if that’s a thing, watching all my contradictions slide up past me, if that even makes sense. Thinking: Being this introverted makes me feel like I’m always sinking inside myself…I want to love but I don’t always love the best that I can. Just, everything in this world feels too connected for me—are other people actually comforted by their cellphones, and wifi signals, and Facebook pages? It all just makes me anxious; making a fucking phone call makes me anxious. And more than anything, I don’t like the idea of being known. I like corners, and personas, and—I think I’m terrified of being fully known and understood…maybe that’s why I gravitate toward people who are even more difficult to know and understand…

I sit back up and Blue-Planet asks,

“Did you expand your mind?”

I laugh because: How fucking predictable.

“No,” I say, my head spinning.

“You mean, you actually compressed?

“Yes. No. Leave me alone. I’m not doing this with you, Blue-Planet,” I say, as I lie back down again because: I’m not ready to deal with that know-it-all just yet. Even though he got to me, even though, now, I’m thinking: Ugh, fine. I’ll “expand”.

I think: God, I need to get better about letting things go. I need to understand that, in a lot of ways, I’m someone who is very much in love with the unknown and aloneness and, for this reason, my life is always going to be kind of sad—but not bad. It’s not bad. It’s never as bad as I think. Most of the time, the silver linings are real and so, it’s okay. Who I am is okay, and I should spend more time validating things outside of myself, and less time searching for validation inside myself…I can be an egomaniac. I want to be less of an egomaniac. Maybe all the rejection I deal with is less about me, and more about everything else and the way things are supposed to be; maybe I need to start looking at all the ones who understand…

I sit back up. Blue-Planet and a girl with a Bo-Peep voice are in an earnest conversation about tax policies, and “Fuck Donald Trump”, and I’m thinking: HOW ARE YOU BOTH SO NORMAL?! Right before I look beside me, at my friend, like: Shoot me. He looks back with a knowing smirk as he nods his head at Blue-Planet and the girl—they’re sitting directly across from us, mirroring us—before he says,

“Two complete opposite worlds are playing out right now.”

And I smile at him with all my teeth because he just read my fucking mind.

☁︎

I’m a really intense person, and I know that. I mean, in general, I’m pretty easygoing. But when it comes to my attachments to other people, and my will to get to know them, I’m really intense. And I understand that some people don’t understand this level of feeling, and for this reason they don’t accept me. I also understand that these people have every right to neither understand, nor accept me. Not everyone is for everyone, and that might be a jagged pill to swallow, but it’s reality. Like, the world is not here to accommodate anyone, and if I were to interpret this reality as: The world must hate me, then that’s a faulty outlook, and maybe I need to start sucking it the fuck up and start looking around at all the things left to love. Like, I just feel like we all get so caught up in getting attention, that we forget how to actually pay attention. And, ultimately, the former makes for a really unfulfilling life, while the latter means actually being present and appreciating our experiences for what they are.

I want to be someone who always does the latter, but I’ve been caught up in the former many, many, times. Because—it’s hard to be appreciative of a bad experience, to find the good in something that seems like a monumental waste of time. It’s hard to not be like: I know I learned a lot about the world and myself, but I really wish this had never fucking happened. It’s hard not to be bitter, like: What I wanted didn’t happen; the world didn’t pay attention to me like I imagined it would. And, confessedly, this mode of thinking has turned me into a selfish, unappreciative, bitch, more times than I can remember.

More specifically: When I feel very attached to a person who either has no desire to, or doesn’t have the ability to, match my intense feelings—I turn into a selfish, unappreciative, bitch.

For example, let’s get allegorical: A guy who I was seeing briefly, who I was 100% infatuated with, was teaching me how to long board. He held my hand and told me where to place my feet, he told me how to lean as a means of steering, and the moment I got the gist, I pounded the pavement and let go of his hand. I had the whole technique down for a few minutes, before I got nervous and hopped off.

I remember the first thing he said as he came running after me, “I didn’t expect you to go that fast on the first try.” And I remember feeling kind of pissed about it, like: What did you expect?! Me to keep holding your hand? To just hang around, leaning on you, pretending like I wanted to learn less than I did?

The night him and I stopped seeing each other for good, he said, “It’s impossible to not like you,” and I remember it ringing in my head like an insult, for months, because: Then why don’t you?

That weekend my mom found me all leaky-eyed in my room, furiously coloring in pictures of fish until they looked like fire. And knowing about my current heartbreak she said, “I want you to know something—you’re special, something about you has always been different, and sometimes—these guys—they just don’t want to be with someone who overshadows them; you have a very complicated personality…that’s hard for some people to accept, and you have to let it go. You have to remember how many people love you.”

And instead of appreciating the magnitude of what she’d said, instead of appreciating that I have a mother who contemplates the state of my heart enough to form judgments and conclusions about it, I felt bitter and angry for a long time. I kept wondering: Why? Why didn’t this one person want me? I ignored the most important thing:

Remember how many people love you.

☁︎

“Our minds are like Velcro to the bad things that get said to us,” is what a therapist said for three consecutive weeks before I stopped showing up. Every time she said it, I thought: Yeah, I know that. That’s not the point. Because, I was foolish enough to believe, at the time, I had a mind like Velcro to only the good things. And now, only in recent weeks, have I realized, I don’t; I don’t have a mind like Velcro to only the good things.

I realized this in its entirety, this weekend, when Satan (hyperbole, okay, relax) showed up in a backwards hat and tried to steal one of my best friends from me—like I said earlier: New and interesting ways to break a girl’s heart? Go for her friends! It felt like it took forever, but when I finally pried my friend away from him she said, “Cat, he says you’re jealous of me,” and the moment I heard that, I stopped listening, I said, “Really, I don’t care,” but she kept talking, “Actually, he said something kind of nice about you…”

But before she could finish, I booked it down the road because: I’m tired of knowing about him, and I’ve mastered the art of flight, I’m like, the best ever; I can literally run away from my problems. She kept calling my name, and I did not look back, because when I’m done, I’m done. He says you’re jealous of me: it was enough of a bad-thing to trump anything good, it was bad enough to stick to my mind like Velcro, because: No I’m fucking not…

Eventually, one of my guy-friends found me hiding in my car where I cried off my eyelashes and listed every bad thing I ever suspected someone had said about me, “I know, I’m probably actually crazy, and not the hot-kind, but the real-kind,” I sniffled, “And I can be obsessive, and I look into everything too much, to a point that’s paralyzing and kind of icky; annoying. But, really, I really love people, and I feel disappointed by the ones I choose to love, so often, because I don’t think I fake anything with them, or at least, I really hope not,” I sniffled again, “And then shit like this happens, and it’s like: What the fuck is wrong with me? I mean, I know I’m too sensitive, but it’s hard not to be when nine times out of ten, you feel taken advantage of. No one seems trustworthy, and still, I’m throwing that shit around all the time.”

He plucked my fallen eyelash from my cheek and flicked it out the car window before he said, “Cat, that’s what makes you so precious—in like, a rare way, not a condescending way.”

Then he said, “A lot of people are really fucking selfish, and I’m sure you’re selfish too, but, you’re one of the only people I know who makes any conscious effort not to be. Like, even when we were teenagers—I remember—you were never cruel in the immature and calculated ways a lot of us could be. I hope you know that.”

And when someone tells you something that validating about yourself, you hold onto it, you stop crying, you shut up about your petty problems, and you listen to “Shake It Off”.

☁︎

I think the times when I’ve felt driven to change some fundamental part of who I am were always when I felt so lonely that I had no choice other than to start asking myself: Why? Like, if I ever felt isolated from a group, or person, I’d eventually have no choice other than to start saying to myself: I’m not perfect. I can be an asshole just like anyone else. What have I done that might’ve made this happen? And, I think the most dramatic change I’ve ever made in myself was un-learning the preconceived notion that other women are threats to my individuality.

See, it pains me to admit this, but I used to be one of those assholes who said things like: “I like guys better than girls because girls are catty and jealous; they’re mean.”

Reader, I want you to understand something very important, statements like these always translate as: I hate myself for being a girl. Truly. That’s what it means, and that’s what I meant whenever I said it. And yes: the conception that girls are fucking catty and ruthless in the name of jealousy, or because of careless, uneducated, assumptions, has a world of truth to it. I know. I’ve experienced it. I think every girl, at one point or another, has experienced it. But that’s no excuse. That’s no excuse to be mean and unsympathetic to, or blindly judgmental of, other women—especially when you don’t know those other women on a personal level. It’s no excuse to make self-righteous generalizations that separate you from your gender, because like it or not, at the end of the day: You are a girl. And you probably have a lot of the same experiences as other girls. And you probably feel a little weird, and like something isn’t quite right, about some of those experiences—just. like. other. girls. And, honestly, it sucks to navigate this sexist world alone, so get off your high horse. The idea that this exception to the rule—that the “cool-happy-go-lucky-will-eat-dirt-for-the-guys” girl—exists is a myth, and you’re just as oppressed as the rest of us: Now, sit with us.

And I swear, the moment I understood this, the moment I made a conscious effort to understand my gender on a collective level: I was never as lonely as I used to be, ever again. I was open and not guarded with other girls. Female friendships happened like magic because: I finally understood what it meant to be a good friend to other women.

So, a word of advice: Always sacrifice male-attention for a friend’s emotions, always, always, always…

Because there has never been a time when I prioritized male-attention over a friend’s emotions that didn’t leave me lonely.

☁︎

So this really funny thing happened, where me and that friend—the one I ran away from—didn’t end up getting mad at each other. We actually wound up laughing because: the guy she used to like decided to be into me for a minute, and the guy I used to like decided to be into her for a minute, and we both wound up kind of betraying each other by mistake. Like: Whoops—that was stupid—sorry, girl.

The whole thing resulted in a conversation that went like this:

Her: I’m so sorry, I really thought I was doing you a solid by talking to him, and honestly—I can turn into the biggest asshole when I drink—I’m so, so, sorry. I know you’re really sensitive, and you have every right to feel hurt anyway. It’s unhealthy for you to know anything about him at this point; I shouldn’t of done that. Why did I do that?

Me: I’m so sorry, honestly, I just wasn’t thinking. I can be really oblivious to guys and their intentions, and I just, I really didn’t think—because you and I are friends—he would ever even consider pursuing something with me in a thousand years. I’m just stupid, because it was super obvious, and the whole time I was just thinking: Oh look, a new friend! I’m sorry; I don’t know why I didn’t realize what was happening.

Basically, we said “sorry” and “honestly” a shit ton, and then we both rejected those guys out-right in favor of laughing with each other because: Really, they believe our friendship is that fragile and frivolous?

☁︎

In Taylor Swift’s interview with GQ she said, “I honestly think my lack of female friendships in high school and middle school is why my female friendships are so important now…because I always wanted them.” And I remember thinking in response: Saaaaaame, girl. Just, I’m at this point in my life where I finally have the female friendships that I always dreamed of; female friends who say things like I love you, and I’m sorry, and are sincere.

Truly.

My. friends. are. so. special.

Mystical enchantresses of everything.

They all show me things about the world and myself that I know I would never be able to recognize on my own; they’re all better than me—emotionally generous in a way that I can never appreciate enough. You see, they protect my heart as if it were their own, and even more importantly, they tell me when I’m being an unappreciative bitch—they force me to have fun, even when it seems like everything’s falling apart.

Like, it’s just true: being a girl in her twenties feels exactly like the song “22”: Happy, free, confused, and lonely at the same time / It’s miserable and magical… And when I was 22, and still naïve to just how cruel some guys can be, I remember, one night Emily A.—who hardly knew me at the time—saw tears welling up in my eyes (I cry a lot, in case you haven’t noticed) and she immediately snapped at me, “STOP IT,” the verbal equivalent to a slap in the face, “YOU STOP IT RIGHT NOW! I’M NOT DOING THAT WITH YOU TONIGHT! HE’S A PUSSY BITCH AND YOU’RE THE HOTTEST EVER! YOU’RE GOING TO LOOK THE OTHER WAY AND SMILE LIKE YOU’RE HAVING FUN BECAUSE I LOVE YOU AND EVERYBODY LOVES YOU!”

Then she grabbed me by the hand and pulled me into a taxi full of dudes who were impressed by my Sriracha to grilled cheese ratio and didn’t bother me when I fell asleep on their wet-dog and spaghetti scented couch. That night, I dreamt I was best friends with Lumpy Space Princess, until morning, when Emily woke me up by strumming on a guitar and singing, “WHOSE PANTS ARE THESE?” in a French accent. We both laughed so hard I couldn’t be sad anymore. And that’s just it—if there’s one thing Emily A. has taught me, it’s the art of not caring.

And then there’s Keri…

I am convinced that Keri singlehandedly kept me alive when I was 19, the year I was the most depressed and anxious I’ve ever been. She took aimless walks with me at three in the morning, she got me hot n’ spicies during a tornado warning, she watched me cry into a plate of eggs over absolutely nothing. And, for a time, she was the only person who made me genuinely happy, because, with her, nothing was ever boring—she was always ready to go, go go…to go stargazing, to smoke hookah after hours in a T-shirt shop, to walk on ice, to kick vodka bottles into the woods and scream, “I WANT TO BELIEVE!!!!!” after a weird green light appeared in the sky…

And, yes, we’ve gotten into ruthless fights before, fights like Marnie and Hannah from Girls. The kinds of fights where we both totally wanted to scream at each other, back and forth, “You’re the wound!” — “No, you’re the wound!” *chucks tooth brush* — *slams door* Until, finally, we’d get so envious of each other that we’d have to set each other free, because that’s the rule: If you love something… And then all the time we’d spend apart, we’d spend idealizing each other, until finally we wouldn’t be able to take it anymore, until finally someone would wind up saying: I’m sorry, I love you. And the other would respond: I’m so glad you said that…

Keri has taught me that it’s okay to be both happy and depressed; she’s taught me that it’s okay to be complicated, and to not apologize for it; to be a walking contradiction with no defined edges. She’s taught me how to say no to people who aren’t good for me, to say no to people who are only an insult to the strange and neurotic person that I am. And I love her, I love her for sharing a unique sadness with me, a sadness that left us laughing in her bed after a long night out, taking turns reciting Lorde lyrics in a vain attempt to cure our hangovers: You’re the only friend I need — Sharing beds like little kids — We’ll laugh until our ribs get tough — But that will never be enough…

Or there’s Emily B., who I woke up next to on a twin bed between a kitten and a Hot Wheels track, and when I looked over she was staring at the ceiling, musing about the latest dickhead, “Pretty sure he was conceived anally…” I buried my face into the pillow because, “REALLY THAT’S YOUR FIRST THOUGHT IN THE MORNING?!” and we laughed for ten minutes straight. We laughed down the hallway because, Why is there a toilet in the hallway? And we kept laughing through the doorway because, Why do I feel like we’re in an insane asylum? We laughed as we opened our eyes to a street that was too bright, and we giggled as I put the key into the ignition and said it once more, “Conceived anally. What the fuck is wrong with you?” Then we listened to “New Romantics” the whole way home and sang along to every word because we get it, we are the new romantics, we’re free and that’s what the best people in life are: The best people in life are free, goddammit. It’s so true! Emily B. has taught me to love recklessly in spite of being recklessly rejected, to wake up everyday and replace heartache with a punch line like: “Tell him you changed your number back to 1-800-YOU WISH…”

And Rachel, Rachel who I do basic bitch shit with, like going to Fredonia and realizing how jaded by life we are, because: QUAD NIGHT IS MAGICAL! *takes four shots of fireball* Rachel, who for Christmas, I gave one of those annoying home décor signs that says something cheesy like: Best friends are like stars…except, the one I gave her said something a little more applicable, it said: A good friend knows all your stories, but a best friend helps you write them. I swear, the moment I saw it I knew it belonged to her, because ever since we awkwardly got coffee together: This feels like a date. — I know, right? — How do girls make friends without being weird? — There should be an app for girl gangs, she has been present in all my essays, some smart thing she said always being the turning point…

Our conversations are the kind that last so long my mouth goes dry, and every time I walk away from her, I walk away enlightened. There’s so much I never would have realized without her, but I think the number one thing she’s taught me is this:

It’s not all in your head. I feel it, too.

☁︎

I have the line: You will never know why, tattooed on my rib. It’s from a Deerhunter song that’s all about letting go, which, I know, it’s ironic that I got a tattoo about letting go—

What hangs on longer than a tattoo?

Not a whole lot.

I know.

But, regardless, I got it because I want to remember to embrace what I can’t change, and what I don’t understand; to accept that not everyone will come with an explanation for why they are the way they are, and that’s okay. They don’t owe me that; the world doesn’t owe me that…

Getting to know someone is a gift; someone letting you into his or her life is a gift. And sometimes, you don’t get it from the people you want, or you don’t get to keep it, and more often than not, you never find out why, which is painful.

It always is.

I’ve always believed that: I want to know you, is the most vulnerable and romantic thing you can say to anyone, so, it’s painful when that desire isn’t matched. It’s painful when your OPEN sign’s flashing and someone chooses to walk right past you like: Nah, that place just isn’t for me. It’s painful, and it’s sad, but eventually—

You’ve got to let it go and remember how many people love you; you’ve got to remember how many people walk into your life and do more than just visit; you have to remember the ones who stay.

And my female friends (and some of the guy ones, too) are the ones who stay. They are the ones who accept me, even when I’m depressed, and angry, and eyebrow-less. They are the ones who haven’t shied away from being a part of my life because; they love me for what makes me foolish. They love me because my life is one vicious cycle of heartache and laughter, of kissing strangers and crying my eyelashes off. They love me for the ways that I love because it’s similar to all the ways that they love—recklessly and stupidly and hilariously…

They are the ones who keep my spirit indestructible; all the reasons I look like a love-struck emoji in pictures.

They are the ones who remind me, constantly: Never settle, unless you meet someone who walks in the room and knocks you the fuck out.

They’re the ones who, when I arrive morose and tired from the latest rejection, slap me in the face with the reality of what I deserve and don’t deserve, and then, all at once, make me laugh.

Just,

being close to them makes me remember who I am,

and when I look at them,

I don’t know how to feel anything but grateful,

like:

Thank you; thank you so much for never making me pretend to be less than I am.

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Come Over, I’m Dreaming: My New Year’s Resolution is to Never Stop Looking for Meaning Even Though I’m Always Depressed and kind of Mad

So all the cups got broke
Shards beneath our feet
But it wasn’t my fault.
And everyone’s competing
For a love they won’t receive
‘Cause what this palace wants
Is release

—Lorde, “Team”

12/31/2015: I keep forgetting about the approaching New Year. At work, customers keep saying it, “Happy New Year!” and every time I regard the polite gesture like a slap in the face. I say, “Wait, what?” instead of the only appropriate response, “You too!”

Just, what even happened in 2015?! Who am I?! Where have the days gone?! I feel like I just woke up from a year long bender, like, the only evidence of 2015 is the crusty sleep sticking to the corners of my eyes as I roll over and interrogate, “Where am I? Who are you? What happened?!?”

I’ve just been so indifferent. I feel nothing about the New Year except: I want to drink.

See, for me, a nice dull state of depression has set in like the weird humid fog that has embraced Western New York in a semi-warm temperature that isn’t characteristic of the holiday season. Like, I think I’ve given up on feelings the same way the climate has given up on winter…

This is nothing new though. I have a habit of mentally checking out for weeks at time. I’ve been this way ever since the first grade when all my teachers told my parents I was mentally challenged because I spaced out a lot and never spoke to anyone. Obviously, however, I was not mentally challenged. I was just bored. You know. I was busy—busy dreaming of a world where people didn’t just assume I was mentally challenged…

Anyway, that’s how December has felt: like a sad dream birthed from dissatisfaction and boredom. Sleeping has become a highlight and avoiding everyone is an effortless pursuit. All I’ve wanted to do these past few weeks is stare into the fridge and eat nothing, read essays by up and coming angry white dudes, day dream at my job that I’m way overqualified for, and drive my car around listening to Lorde’s album on repeat as I feel nostalgic for shit that’s never even happened.

God.

I am so fucking bored—I feel in want of nothing. Nothing pains me; nothing excites me…I just want to be alone and detached, to float past anger and disappointment as if none of these things were ever mine at all…

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! *kazoo!*

So, this morning—New Years Eve—when I woke up from a dream about hiding from an angry mob in a snow castle with a has-been pro hockey player named Chester, I thought: Maybe I should try interpreting this dream, or doing something, anything, remotely out of the ordinary. So I Googled—because I have the journalistic skills of a monkey—“dreams about snow”. And the first explanation I got was, “snow means you are feeling indifferent, alone, and neglected” to which I thought: Okay, no shit. Then I searched an online dream dictionary for “castle” and read, “this dream indicates your desire to escape from life’s daily problems…to live in a castle represents your extreme need for security and protection to the point where you may be isolating yourself from others.” And the gullible part of me that reads horoscopes and takes every word to heart was like: Truuuuuuue. Until, finally, I looked up “hockey” and got a simple interpretation, “hockey is analogous to how you are achieving and protecting your goals. It also suggests that you may have dealt with a lot of hard blows in your life.” After which I deflected: Damn, poor Chester.

Final analysis: I should probably stop hiding in the metaphorical snow castles of my subconscious—this weird state of indifference—and actually start pursuing the next chapter of my life because, you know, years fly by and one day you wake up and shit—you’re a has-been like Chester, or, even worse, you’re MARRIED to fucking Chester. So, armed with this analysis, I started to actually contemplate 2015. I started recounting everything that happened, in retrospect: What happened at the beginning, and what happened at the end? How do I feel about it? What do I want? What does the future hold? Do I have any control? Then I began to form, for the first time ever, a resolution that I think I’ll actually be able to keep.

☁︎

2015 started like this: The ball dropped and, with no one to kiss, Emily and I hugged like the world was ending. For that second, 2015 was beautiful—Everything was beautiful and nothing hurt, goddamit!—but then some onlooker, a guy, said, “MAKE OUT WITH EACH OTHER!” and the moment was ruined. Welcome back to reality, ladies. It’s 2015, and you’re still in this slimy bar with these slimy dudes. *one more time, kazooooooo!*

The night that followed involved me accidentally shooting whiskey out my nose and offending a guy because I told him that he had a “body like a cactus.” Who am I even? Another guy put his hand on my leg when I said something about feminism and I felt the incoming of a chastising thought: That’s what I get for wearing fishnets. Then me and Emily made out with the same dude. Happy New Year! I’m gross and so are you!

I remember thinking: It takes years to change, not one night, not one week leading up to that one night. We should reflect on our choices and the course of our lives for more than just the one designated day in the year that makes us feel obligated to reflect in the first place…this is why I have never liked making resolutions. It’s why I’ve never taken New Years seriously. When the clock strikes midnight, we’ll still get drunk. We’ll still make mistakes. We’ll go back to our lives, not much different than the way they were the day before. Real change takes time. Not just this one week; not just this one night, this one time of year. Let’s have fun now. Worry about it tomorrow. Or don’t. Who cares.

“You have a body like a cactus.”

Get over it, or do something about it. Either way, stop taking yourself so seriously.

☁︎

12/31/2015: All the Christmas gifts I received from my friends this year seemed to share a common theme: Laziness. No joke. Every single gift I got from my friends emphasized a different component of my newly developed I’m-Indifferent-To-Life complex. The first one being: Social Laziness. I ripped the tissue paper off a wine glass that said, “I will never be drunk enough to like you.” Then, the second one: Professional Laziness. I uncovered a T-shirt that said, “I hate my job.” (My friend would defend this purchase by saying, “You know, you like writing. But you always hate your actual job…that’s why I got it. Don’t hate me.”) And finally, the third: Hygienic Laziness. Another T-shirt that said, “Straight ‘Outta Bed”, in the style of “Straight ‘Outta Compton”…

I remember sitting there, in a pile of I-could-care-less-about-everything-and-you paraphernalia and wondering: Wow, is my lethargy THAT obvious? I really thought I was doing a good job at faking an interest in being a functioning adult…

Which only led to more self-conscious thoughts like: Maybe this is the year I finally cross over and become a full-fledged nihilist. I sleep next to a crusty bowl of yogurt every night. So. Yeah. I’m preeeeetty hedonistic…

Brief hiatus: Recently, at work, a customer mocked me to my face.

I was just trying to explain why her dumb ass gift-wrap was ringing up a dollar fifty instead of fifty cents—I know, right? God forbid she pay one fucking dollar more than what she initially expected. But anyway, I simply said, in a monotone voice, “This wrapping paper was originally three dollars, so like, you’re still getting the fifty percent off sale. It just wasn’t one of the dollar rolls. That’s why it’s ringing up this way.”

And I shit you not, she closed her eyes half-way, swayed her head around like she was trying to keep her balance, and made this weird monotone stoned-person voice as she restated what I’d said, “So like, you’re still getting the fifty percent off sale…Who’s your manager? Where’s a real worker?”

My jaw actually dropped. It took everything in me to not say: You presumptuous cunt—YES, SHE DESERVES EVERY CONSONANT AND VOWEL!—forgive my lack of enthusiasm. I’m not exactly happy about being overqualified, underpaid, and then constantly shit on because of trite crap, like your dying dream of getting gift-wrap for free. But I didn’t. I clenched my teeth. I hissed out a smile and directed her to a “real” worker, “The store manager is over there. Have a nice day.” *poop and sparkle emoji, bitch* (I now wear my “I hate my job” T-shirt underneath all my work clothes. I delude myself into believing that a world exists where I can rip off my work polo like superman and reveal who I truly am: I hate my job; I quit. Thank you for the gift of semi-liberation, Emily.)

Anyway, the whole point is, on top of my apathy—I. Am. So. Angry. At all times. I honestly believe my conscious effort to maintain a state of indifference is actually just my only alternative to not being in a constant state of rage. So yeah. 2016? Suck my dick. I don’t have the time or energy to contemplate resolutions, new beginnings, “looking forward” to a glittering something. Because, right now, my main focus is maintaining a certain level of cool—not ripping the first person to rub me the wrong way a new one, every second, of every day. Like: Don’t explode—be cool—don’t explode…

Well-meaning customers say, “Happy New Year!”

And I think,

I hope the sun explodes so I don’t have to.

Right before I smile and lie,

“You too!”

☁︎

2015 ended like this: Life sucks, guess I’ll wear a giant bow. I put the gaudy thing on my head and felt satisfied with myself for a whole two seconds. I strapped a sparkly pink purse shaped like a unicorn to my body and thought something insane like: Now I’m ready. I’m ready to be happy. Emily and I pre-gamed and watched Pippi Longstocking as we got nostalgic for A Little Princess. “Oh my god I loved that movie more than anything,” she said, “I think I’d cry if I watched it now.” And I said, “Dude, I was that girl. I daydreamed and made up stories all the time because the world felt so boring until I had time to rearrange it all inside my head.” Coincidentally, I said this as Pippi Longstocking punched the shit out of a dunce cap and, eventually, flew away from all her problems.

Later, at the bar, an acquaintance sat down next to me and asked, “How’ve you been Cat?” and with my social-filter worn thin by vodka I said, “You know. The standard. 100% indifferent to everything.” He said, “Same.” Then we giggled over Nihilist Arby’s tweets like: “Dildos, Arby’s, and the finality of death”, and “Your life will be forgotten, enjoy Arby’s”, and “Come to Arby’s and contemplate how old you’ve become”, and, finally, my personal favorite, “Pretend you’re not dying. There is no God, from Arby’s”. After that one, still laughing, I said, “What if that was how people capped off casual everyday statements? Like: Happy New Year, there is no God…Why is it so funny?! How did roast beef find nihilism?!” He laughs and I’m so glad he gets the joke. I’m so glad he’s got sleepy blue eyes that understand why I need this pillow-y dream called depression. I’m so glad that something about him reminds me of a Dalmatian Ty Beanie Baby…But—you can only be comfortably drunk and enjoying the company of a guy who actually appreciates you for so long before your vices sense your newfound fun and decide to disrupt everything via text:

Where are you?

The whole time I was thinking: Do not text back. It’s a trap. It’s always a trap.

But a knot in my gut—a reckless hope that maybe he was finally ready to be normal—had taken control of my thumbs and, suddenly, I’d started typing against my will: I’m at location A. Where are you?

Location B, he typed, About to go to location C. Who you with?

And drunk-me texted back, a little passive-aggressively: The world.

Which was a joke. Like, I was drunk—just being stupid. There was nothing to get. The whole conversation didn’t have to crumble because my drunk-self sent one text that didn’t make any sense…

What? He asked.

Do you want me to come to location C? I sent back.

Nope. He said.

And with that final ping-sounding rejection, I felt it coming. I was about to explode.

Why even text me? That’s idiotic. I sent.

And with every minute that went by without a response I was thinking: Be cool. Don’t explode. Do not explode. Be cool, be cool, be cool…But no, I violated the number one rule when communicating with unrequited crushes. I double, triple, quadruple, texted:

Why are you so mean to me?

What’s even the point?

*middle finger emoji*

☁︎

2016 started like this: I let forty-five minutes pass without an explanation, and during this time, I contemplated every awkward situation, every weird and confusing position, this guy has put me in. All the times he’s told me to do one thing, and then just as quickly said, Wait no, don’t. Literally. One time he texted me verbatim: Come over, I’m sleeping. Which is practically the equivalent of saying: Come over, I’m not home. Like, I don’t know what you want from me dude. You’re going to have to be a little more explicit. Or. Just. You know. Don’t contact me at all…

I recounted all the times I flat out asked him to just give it to me straight, to say something cut and dry, like: I just don’t like you that way. How he refused to do it, because surely, I was an ego boost that felt really good whenever he was alone—Why give that up if you don’t have to? I count the times I’ve told him, “If you don’t really want anything to do with me, seriously, just leave me alone.” Like, honestly. Don’t contact me. Please. I’m begging you: IGNORE ME HARDER. But he won’t. Instead he continues to ruin my fun, through his fucking cellphone.

How selfish. How calculated. How fucking mean. And I know you can’t control people. I know there’s nothing you can do to change them. But fuck, I thought, so what if he’s emotionally impenetrable, so what if it won’t change anything—It’ll feel so good—for me—to say what I think…

And suddenly, I had one resolution: Explode on this motherfucker.

I put it into action. I typed it all out:

I’m trying to figure out all the ways to tell you to fuck off, but seriously, fuck off. Do not talk to me. At all. For any reason. I don’t like you at all as a person, and you are exactly who I thought you were. So. Just leave me alone. Fuck off.

And the moment I hit send, I smiled like a maniac because: I was so relieved.

Don’t get me wrong; I was still miserable as fuck for the rest of the night. One poor guy almost got caught in the crossfire. He approached me, moments after the big send-off, saying, “You’re too beautiful to be so sad.” Which, lucky for him, my friend noticed my head spinning around like the exorcist and intervened before I got the chance to rip his face off. “No…that’s okay. We’re good,” she said.

Another person said, “Don’t worry, you’ll find someone.” And I know this consolation was supposed to be a nice gesture, but I couldn’t help but totally bristle at it. Because, like, I really couldn’t give a flying fuck whether or not I “find someone”. I just want evasive jerks to leave me alone. Or, you know, for someone to match my sincerity instead of taking advantage of it for a change. *resting bitch face*

I was relieved, but I was also exhausted.

All I wanted was to be alone…

And then I heard that un-holy ping of my phone. Apparently my “fuck off” explosion had provoked a response, the message said: Come to location C. Please.

“Is this a joke?”

I responded: No.

⭐︎

When I finally got home, I looked in the mirror and checked the symmetry of my face to make sure it was still there: Too beautiful to be so sad. I thought in response: Yeah, that’s what they all say: “Too beautiful, too beautiful…” What the fuck is my life? Am I Effy Stonem on a bad trip in the woods? Am I that sick in the head? That desperate? Startling the nearest “nice guy” awake by screaming, “Hit me! I want to feel something!”? Getting reprimanded like: “Too pretty for your own good, that’s why you destroy everything you touch”? Ugh. Fuck off. Quit bringing peoples’ faces into this. It doesn’t matter how beautiful you are, people still treat you like shit. You’re still always going to be enchanted by the one person who refuses to see you…

I crawled into bed, my makeup still on and already irritating my skin—but I didn’t care. My mind was finally shutting up and all I can remember is the last thing I heard, right before drifting off to sleep for the first time in 2016…All I remember hearing is Lana Del Rey’s sad-siren voice, brainwashing me: You’re my cult leader / I love you forever / I love you forever…

☁︎

I feel really out of control when it comes to pretty much everything in my life. Can’t you tell? Isn’t it obvious? Good. I’m over pretending. I’m over smiling and saying, “Have a nice day.” Because it’s not nice at all, it’s actually like this: There is no God. Enjoy your roast beef sandwich.

Just kidding.

Sort of.

I don’t know.

I’m just so sick of being treated like I’m light and silly.

Like I’m air:

Where’s a real worker?

Do you want to see me?

Nope.

Every single external aspect of me is a conscious effort to not be perceived as light and silly. Armor against my reality: I am naturally inclined to see you before me; one of those girls who says her pain’s a two when it’s actually a ten, because—I don’t want to discredit whatever level yours might be. In a word, I am Vulnerable. Extremely susceptible to the whims and charms of anyone who lacks a moral compass that only comes by being acutely self-aware.

Therefore I wear black to seem more intimidating—boots and high top sneakers to disrupt my obvious femininity. I try to be as thin as my health will allow because bone visibility implies that I am not afraid to go without: Hold me around the middle and comment on how small I am. See? I don’t want anything from you. You make no difference to me. I keep quiet in numbers—around anyone I don’t know intimately. Playing stoic is my go-to defense because the moment I open my mouth, I blush or I stutter. I apologize. I punctuate every statement with, “It’s stupid. I know it’s so stupid.” Everyone will find out that I’m scared shitless of what they think.

Ugh.

Constantly I’m wondering how I can think so much and still have nothing to say…still feel as if I have nothing to offer…

Yes. Parts of me are light and silly: I try not to take myself so seriously. I try to laugh everything off because: It’s okay. If it’s okay for me, then maybe it’ll be okay for you. And when I let go enough to reveal this part of me it means I trust you; it means I’m going to try my hardest to only see the best in you. But what you don’t seem to understand is that, my doing this is not an invitation to take me for granted; to rationalize my existence as being less real than your own. It’s not an invitation to trap me in a box marked “EASY”—to force me into something that is all yours for the taking and leaving…

I’m light and silly, but there’s depth to me too.

Quit trapping me in boxes…never mind, fuck it, I’ll do it to myself.

I have no control over anything.

Box me up.

☁︎

New Years Day: I met a self-described “mystical” gay man who could tell I had a tilted uterus just by looking into my eyes. (This is not a joke. I am not making this up. This happened. Nobody believes me! But this shit happened.) He looked at me and said, “Honey, you have a bad uterus.”

I quickly shielded my pelvis from his third eye, “Excuse me?! What?!” Which is actually a really polite response considering he was a bug-eyed stranger making bold statements about my reproductive system.

You’re uterus,” he emphasized, keeping a straight face without losing the sass, “Is tilted.”

I glanced around the room to make sure no one was around to watch me take him seriously. “Are you psychic or something?” I asked, inching in closer, “Because—I do, I do have a tilted uterus.” (I know this because my gynecologist can never find it, which is awkward as fuck…)

“Yes,” he said, “I am.”

So matter of fact.

Like dude, you can’t just walk around telling women their uteruses suck! Control yourself! Unless, of course, the woman you’re talking to is me, in which case…

“Tell me more!”

I pulled up a stool and he made me look into his eyes, which, I know—I totally know—he was so fucking with me. He was totally going to speak in absolutes and trick me into believing that he was unraveling my “special” fate and not just some variation of everyone’s shitty reality; a series of verbal placebos…But I couldn’t help myself. I needed to feel as if I had some semblance of a grasp on my future—no matter how phony—and he knew it.

So.

Tell me more.

“The person you’ve been thinking about,” he said, “You don’t want him. You think you do, but you don’t.”

“Oh my god, I fucking hope not,” I said, a little too quickly, right before I consciously shut up. I reigned myself back in. I didn’t want to reveal too much by mistake; I wanted to test how good this guy was at his whole pseudo-psychic-messes-with-a-gullible-girl front. So I collected myself, “Good—I mean—I could have told you that. But good. I know I don’t want him.”

“But you do want him,” he said, rolling his eyes, “At least you think you do.”

“Well, I figured I’d just wait it out. So—so what? You can want something but also know you don’t really want it. I’m just waiting it out. Does it really matter if I ‘think’ I want him?”

“Yes because you think you can handle any man—you’re very tame in the sense that, when you’re done, you’re done…but him, you can’t handle. Trust me. You’re not going to see it coming…”

Um is it just me, or did shit just get dark?

“What do you mean by that?” I asked.

“You think you can tell what a lot of people are going to do before they do it, and most of the time you can. So you put your intuition on hold in favor of experiencing new things and understanding people who aren’t like you, but…you can’t do that with him. Trust your gut; everything you’ve been wondering about him is correct. If you want proof, you’re not dumb, do your research.

When he said “do your research” he did that sassy dismissive thing, like snapping your fingers in someone’s face without actually making them snap. Then he took a very satisfied sip from his drink as if life were a meme and he was Kermit, drinking Truth Tea: That guy you crushin’ on is Satan…it’s none of my business though…

“You’re going to have to be more specific,” I said, “Like…what is it that I’ve been wondering about him that’s true?”

“That…” He took a minute to gaze into my “soul” before he continued, “He has a lot of rage, and…” he trailed off as if he were trying to think of the right word, but then he just kind of settled. With the energy of a deflating balloon he finished his thought, “Sadness.”

Vague. But. Okay.

“Yeah, well, everyone has their shit,” I said, trying not to make eye contact.

“But you don’t!” He said, “You see and appreciate more than a lot of people; you have depth but you’re not angry about it…he’s not what you want. It makes sense that you’d want to lose yourself in an opposite, but, at the same time, you’re good and there’s nothing you can do about it.”

My eyes averted like: Who is this strange man sipping Grey Goose and spewing deep truths in downtown Jamestown? Like: No. Go home. You are fucking with me. Why does this always happen? Why am I so receptive and gullible? Now I’m going to analyze this conversation for days. I’m going to wonder, on and on; all because some guy took a chance and used a statistic he found on Google—Fun fact: 30% of women have tilted uteruses—to his advantage. I’m going to keep asking myself over and over: Why do my feelings never match up with what I think or what I want?

My eyes moved to the floor, I didn’t want to give away my obvious state of confliction, that I’d heard some truth in what he’d said. I was about to say: Thank you for confirming that I’m as out of control of my own life as I think I am—Happy New Year.

But before I could, he changed the whole game. He quickly added, “It’s your choice though. Everything’s your choice.”

☁︎

After that whole weird exchange, I kept contemplating clichés about lightness and darkness: You can put the light in the dark but you can’t put the dark in the light. I typed out melodramatic prose with the notepad on my iPhone: “Being with you is like being trapped in a dark box; I don’t know whether left is right or right is left. I can’t climb my way out; there are four walls and nothing to grab onto; there’s nothing to look at and there’s no easy way out. All I can do is keep clawing at the first wall I make contact with, keep clawing until shit gets so worn out that something’s either got to give or…”

I gave up typing.

I didn’t know who or what I was writing about and that’s the whole problem. It’s the inverse of “like a moth to a flame”—How do I describe it? Does that image exist? It’s not the light—some concrete thing—that I’m being drawn to. It’s the dark-nothing I’m being forced into. The best image I can come up with is a black hole, or a sinkhole. Just, everything suddenly caving in beneath my feet; slipping into dark other-worlds and cutting real-life like cutting college classes; some real soul-sucking loopholes: Alcohol? The evasive jerk of the week? The four collaged walls of my childhood bedroom?

I don’t know what I want.

This is always when the trouble starts.

When I don’t know what I want, I start setting my mind’s phasers to: SELF-DESTRUCT. When there’s nothing to want, nothing real to be drawn to, I allow myself to get all sucked up in the exact opposite of what I need. I make prisons out of people and places and things. Like, I must be wildly unhappy with myself. Otherwise I wouldn’t be so complacent with being forced into this thing that’s not even a thing. But, god, it’s so G.D. comfortable at the bottom of a sinkhole where there’s nothing to lose; where everything’s always going deeper and deeper, and getting darker and darker, and you can pretend the whole world’s in your orbit. Where dreams can circle round your head and you don’t have to sacrifice any of them because—they’re not tangible. You haven’t even tried traveling to them yet. You can put the light in the dark but you can’t put the dark in the light: Fuck, I love the dark so much. I could quietly burn away in it forever, until natural causes snuffed me out…

But. 

I don’t want to live a life like that!

Not really!

I don’t want to be boxed away forever! 

I’ve got to claw my way out. But knowing this doesn’t change the fact that getting out is going to be painful as hell. It doesn’t change the fact that whatever’s on the other side might not be any better than all the nothing I’m leaving behind…

“It’s your choice…everything’s your choice.”

Goddam you, Psychic!!! I was so happy being indifferent and engaging in 0 self-reflection before you guessed the correct position of my uterus.

See, I forget all the time that we can change—that we have some control over our futures. I forget that it’s easy to point at some trite list of misfortunes and say, This is why I can’t do A, B, C, D… It’s easy to do that, and it’s hard to actually bite the bullet, to wake up and do things that might actually make a difference.

All the time I hear myself saying: I can’t leave this place that I hate, filled with people I don’t respect, where I don’t fit in, because I’m over my head in student debt and I’m poor. I say: I’ll never get paid to write what I want because I’m not affluent, so, who would want me? What grad school, what publisher, what credible platform with any real literary pull, would ever want borderline anonymous Catherine Olson from Jamestown, New York? Sounds like a liability. I’d rather drive in circles. I’d rather keep singing along: “It’s so easy in this blue where everything is good…”

I know the resolution’s simple.

We can change.

It’s our choice.

But…

But what?!

What do I want?

☁︎

01/07/2016: I really suck at writing endings lately because the first ending I wrote for this post read like a fucking sitcom—which just isn’t me. See, I don’t believe in fate, but I’d like to say, “everything happens for a reason”, and “I feel so lucky to have a heart that can be broken”, and “my resolution is to finally start wanting what’s good for me” but—that would just be one long string of bullshit, and I wouldn’t feel good writing any of it.

Some stuff happens and it’s just shitty for no reason. Actually, all bad things that happen are absolutely pointless and accidental; a sick joke. Or, in another sick twisted way, they’re not accidental at all. Sometimes you stick your toe in a sinkhole that you totally saw coming and say, “Whoopsi!” as you fall. Like you weren’t totally planning to make a cozy prison out of the bottom, like you weren’t totally waiting for some opportune trauma to come along and distract you from figuring out what’s actually hurting you and holding you back in the first place.

And what’s holding me back?

The fact that I love this rundown place that is my home: I love these roads where the houses don’t change. I love how the other night I was at a college-kid apartment with a drawer full of plastic forks. How we ate Kraft mac ‘n cheese mixed with pepper jack and drank peach whiskey straight from the bottle as my could-have-been high school sweetheart swatted at an overhanging wire like a giant kitten. How water-damaged joker cards littered the coffee table like an ill-fated tarot reading. How all the guys here have dirt or oil beneath their fingernails, how they’re all masculine to the point of toxicity; callous rage-filled types who drive big trucks and think I’m pretty but will never be well-read enough to love me back. How easy it is to be detached here, how easy it is because real life is always happening elsewhere, how this makes us all act frozen and manifests a kind of grittiness that we can’t seem to wash off no matter where we go. How it makes me feel like I’m trapped in a frayed box that was used and kicked to the curb by the real world one too many times…

My cozy dark prison is my home and I know it’s never going to love me back. All the potholes—the dead hard ground—the kitchen floors boasting detritus…none of it’s ever going to love me back, because, it’s fucking detritus—it can’t feel for shit. But god, these ordinary things break my heart in a way that leaves me nuzzling them at all of the rough spots. This place is mental illness and I’m nothing but a lovesick bitch for it, consciously avoiding it and telling it to fuck off a thousand times over. Always running right back to it the moment it starts calling at three in the morning…

Come over, I’m dreaming.

I guess my resolution is to never stop taking the ugly—painfully ordinary—things that happen to me and turning them into something meaningful, to never stop rearranging them in a way that looks beautiful and worthwhile. To never stop making sense of this life that I believe is utterly senseless; a big dumb joke in which I just roll with the punches and mock everything in a way that only a poet can…

As for what I want? I’d like to say that I want to start wanting what’s good for me. But. What’s good for me? I can’t tell. I just know I want 2016 to be a year of actually doing something—no more dreaming! I want 2016 to be a year of saying, “fuck off” to this place for the last time, and then, maybe, finally, actually, clawing my way out…

 

Wanna Play a Game With My Dignity? (A Personal Essay for Girls Who Are Always Waiting for Guys They’d Hate if They Could)

“Was I not guilty of letting a boy be drawn to self-hatred?”

 —Sylvia Plath

 “She was steadfast and loyal, and she did not know it.
She thought she was just a lovesick bitch.”

 —Mary Gaitskill

About a month ago, my friend and I went out in Fredonia and the whole night we kept having this epiphany like: We are old. Well, okay, not old, but: Too old for this. Which was both liberating and unsettling for a number of reasons, but before I go any further, let me back track for a second and summarize the context of the situation: My friend was going to Fredonia to meet up with a guy that she knew and kind of liked in college. However, she didn’t want to go alone. So when she asked me to come with I was like, Cool, whatever. Something to do, totally forgetting that I hate “party-school” environments and that every experience I have ever had in Fredonia has always been really bad and a little sexist. But—

“Sure, cool, I’ll come with.”

The night that followed gave me that everyone-in-the-world-is-upside-down-but-me vibe—kind of like the feeling you get when you go to the county fair for some bizarre reason that you can’t totally justify. (Um, alligator jerky?) Something about everything and everyone was just, sort of, one dimensional and kind of tacky, and I was failing to connect to anything. I felt like, all night, I was floating around in a state of disassociation, trying to comprehend everything that was happening without getting pissed off. It was just, the most overtly aggressive and sexist environment I have ever been in, and on top of all that, we had to embark on this ridiculous boy-chase that made me want to stab everyone in the face. (I wish I could use my words a little better for that one, but nope. I wanted to stab everyone in the face and start the whole world over.)

Ultimately, it was a weird night of epiphanies, the big one being: We are too old for this.

This realization eventually led me to consider an infinite number of sexist everyday things that happen and how other girls and myself, condone them or don’t condone them; how we navigate the single world in our twenties and how we succeed and fail to value ourselves; the allure of dudes we hate and this bizarre game we play with our dignity; why it can be fun and why it can hurt; what girls “want” or expect when they say they have a “crush” on someone…Basically, that one stupid night in Fredonia made my thoughts about modern girls and their romantic pursuits scatter all over the place. And then the whole thing was followed by a “romantic” encounter that, if someone had told me was going to happen one year ago, I would’ve laughed in their face and said: Fuck no! But before I get to all that, here is a summarized list of everything that happened in Fredonia that inspired me and my friend to say: We are too old for this.

☂ 1 ☂

It was a cold night and my friend initially got out of the car without her jacket. When she realized how cold it was she, self-consciously, asked, “Should I wear my jacket?” and I said, “Girl, you’ll be more comfortable. Wear your jacket.” However, once we started walking around we realized none of the other girls were operating under the same logic, because none of them were wearing pants—no tights, no leggings, nothing! Just strapless cocktail dresses with the very rare appearance of a cardigan. At one point in the night two girls in dark lipstick and slouchy beanies walked by and I think I gasped as I said it, “EVEN THE GOTH GIRLS AREN’T WEARING PANTS!” And then we went on to have a conversation about how, it wasn’t that we were judging them, or thought they were dressed “skanky”, or something mean and catty. It was just—they weren’t dressed appropriately for the weather and they looked really uncomfortable. Like you would have thought they were all in Miami and not western New York on a cold November night. Bottom line, we just knew all those girls were sacrificing their comfort to look “hot” from the male perspective, like, it wasn’t even a sacrifice for fashion’s sake. And we both just kind of looked at each other like: I’m so glad we are past that. Girl, you look comfortable as hell in your damn jacket. We are too old for this.

☂ 2 ☂

We made the bartender explain the concept of “quad-night” to us at least three times because we thought she was lying, like the notion of four shots for four dollars was just too good to be true. We laughed so hard at ourselves as my friend said, “Are we really that jaded by life?! We can’t even accept that a bar has a drink special?!?!?”

☂ 3 ☂

We went to Sunny’s—a safe haven for underage drinkers—which, should’ve been an automatic: We are too old for this. But anyway, we went to Sunny’s because my friend was trying to track down the guy she was supposed to meet up with, all night. He never texted her when he said he would. He never told her where he was. And this was frustrating because he invited her there. Like, in these situations, there’s a fine line between “communication error” and just being fucking rude, and he was being fucking rude. She went out of her way to go to place where she doesn’t live, because he said he wanted her to. He said he wanted to have drinks with her, and she made the effort to show up because she likes him. And then what? No response to any of her texts until 1 fucking AM—we got there at 9—and all his text said was: At Sunny’s. Something my ex-boyfriend from high school—who was there for some reason?—would comment on like, “He’s at Sunny’s? Catherine, you’re smarter than that. Tell your friend if he’s at Sunny’s he’s not a man.” And I shrugged like, I have to do this for her, as I thought over and over again: We are too old for this. Too old to be dragged around like this. She’s too cool and refined to have a crush on someone who doesn’t value her time.

☂ 4 ☂

When we walked into Sunny’s, we walked into an environment that my friend would later describe as, “very aggressive.” It was like everyone was on some gross combination of Adderall and Fireball, except us, which was probably exactly what was happening. At least twenty bro-dudes rammed their broad ass shoulders into me as they walked by, and all I could think was: Are we even people? There’s enough room in this place to be considerate, be fucking considerate. Then I overheard one guy talking to a group of his friends, saying, “She’s different though, like, sometimes she says things, and they’re… funny.” And I felt like asking him: Do you feel like you’ve been unplugged from the matrix? But then I didn’t because I have a genuine fear of bro-dudes. I knew being sassy with one would probably provoke some kind of self-conscious backlash, like, “shut the fuck up you ugly hyena laughing bitch”, because that is exactly what happened the last time I got sassy with a bro-dude. However, it wasn’t until I became conscious of how I was standing in a corner, clinging to my drink and sheltering the top of it from roofies, that it occurred to me again: I am too old for this—too damn smart for this.

☂ 5 ☂

When my friend finally found the guy she had been looking for, he was bopping around on the dance floor in a suit and tie, and something about his ignorance to just how rude he was being really, really, made me not like him. But I let it go. He came up to my friend and acted like they were just running into each other out of some spontaneous twist of events and still I resisted the urge to be like: Dude, you orchestrated this whole thing! Take some responsibility! Explain your rude ass behavior! See, I let it go, and it was fine. They did their thing and I tried conning some bro-dude into giving me his bomber hat. It was fine! But then 1:50 rolled around, and my friend was buying shots when her guy suddenly vanished. She looked at me and said, “I don’t know what I’m supposed to do. Is this weird? I just feel like he should be a little more attentive, but, I guess it’s possible that I misinterpreted something or…” Everything she said about the situation was addled with so much self-doubt and all I was thinking was: No, you are not misinterpreting anything. He’s a fucking douche. But I didn’t say that because I understand that, in these situations, it’s really easy when you’re on the outside looking in to just call it like you see it: DOUCHEBAG! Unfortunately, when you’re the one with the crush on the douche it’s always easier to question yourself than it is to accept that someone really is that inconsiderate. You’ve got your love-lenses on and you’re not mentally prepared to accept that this person, who you admire, is actually really careless. So I kept reassuring her for her sake. But then I watched him reemerge behind her back. I watched him take the shot that she bought without saying a word to her. And then I watched him disappear again. I don’t think he thought either of us noticed. But I noticed, and that was enough. Sometimes you watch a person do a tiny thing like that, and you realize it’s a summary of their entire character. After that, I couldn’t give him the benefit of the doubt. I immediately thought: You’re a sneaky asshole. You’re old enough to know that you’re being inconsiderate. That’s all I need to know about you before I say—you don’t deserve my friend. She was considerate enough to come here. Considerate enough to wait. Considerate enough to not tell you just how inconsiderate you are. She’s too good for you and you’re a coward.

☂ 6 ☂

After we went outside. I didn’t say anything to her about what he did because I was trying my best to be sensitive to her love-lenses. I watched her text him feverishly, and all I could think was: Shit. I would have been so done a long time ago. How is she still texting him? We could be guzzling quads and laughing at bro-dudes right now. It was just obvious that she liked him more than she was willing to admit because that is the only possible explanation for why she never said: Fuck you. Anyway, we watched him run away across the street and into a house with a posse of girls on the verge of hypothermia in their cocktail dresses. “I just want you to know that we just watched that happen,” I emphasized, “he really just did that.” But it was no use. She waited until he finally texted her back like “Oops, lol, *winky face*, you can come upstairs.” And I wanted to stab myself and her and him and everyone, like let’s just end this whole thing like a Shakespearean tragedy. I. Am. Done. It was killing me to watch her, let him, make her wait. I wanted to pry her phone from her fingers and text him back in a fury: I think you take advantage of the fact that a lot of girls will question their own behavior and perceptions a thousand times before they will ever question yours—YOU HAVE THE PERSONALITY OF AN ADDIDAS SANDAL! WE’RE TOO YOUNG AND RESTLESS FOR THIS!!!

☂ 7 ☂

When we got into the apartment, we walked into a room full of dudes talking over each other, and girls—probably because they liked a guy—lying around and looking bored as hell, waiting. Just waiting. All of them were sitting next to their “chosen” guys with this look of expectation on their faces like something more was supposed to be happening. And I felt like forming some kind of union with them where I sat them all down and explained: What’s going to happen is he’s going to ignore you all night. And then he is going to try to have bad sex with you when no one is looking. I think I actually cringed when one girl tried to contribute to the guys’ conversation and they all just ignored her like: Oh, that must have been the wind. I was half-asleep when one guy finally asked me who I was, and I’m pretty sure he only did it because I had resting bitch face. “Who are you? You’re like, up here right now.” He made an upward gesture with his hand when he said “up here” and what he was trying to imply was that I was being an uppity bitch—I get that a lot from bro-dudes. It’s a defense mechanism: Be as unapproachable as possible and you won’t even have to entertain his bullshit. God! It was just something about all those bored girls, lying around in their cocktail dresses and covered in goose bumps, waiting; something about my friend, waiting, all night—for a text, for a glance, for a conversation—that was either not going to happen, or, would ultimately be unsatisfying, that made me want to pick every girl in the room up by the scruff of her neck and say: We are leaving! This is rude! We are going to drink quads and laugh at everything and then over-tip the female bartender like a bad Dane Cook joke and it’s going to be more fulfilling than this. We are too old to be wasting our youth, waiting for our dumb “crushes” to want to get to know us.

☁︎

A few days after the Fredonia boy-chase, my friend asked me to get a drink with her because she finally comprehended everything that had happened and wanted to talk about it. She said, “I just don’t know what to do. I’m glad the whole thing happened because now it’s like: Okay, now I know what to expect from you. Fine. But I also kind of think he should know that what he did wasn’t okay. I want to ask those rhetorical questions, like: Do you think that was good? You really feel okay about how you acted?

And I told her that I understood the feeling, and then I told her, “Don’t even bother.” I said, “From what I’ve learned, you can’t teach an adult how to be considerate…or self-aware. You just can’t. You can’t control people, and you hurt yourself more when you try and you don’t get the response you want. I know it’s driving you crazy, but just don’t even talk to him. It’ll probably just give him some displaced ego boost, and he’ll make you feel guilty for confronting him.”

Then I added, “I think what really bugged me is like, he is twenty fucking four—take some control over the situation you created! He invited you, what if you had gone there on your own?! He should have felt some obligation to actually follow through and have one drink with you—one real conversation—because he said he would.” Then I started to say: BE A MAN! But I stopped myself, and thought for a moment, because I hate that phrase. I think a man can be whatever he wants to be as long as he’s a good person. So I re-tracked the statement, and replaced it with, “You know, fucking grow up. Be decent.”

☁︎

I initially decided to write this essay because, recently, I caught some feelings. (Welcome to the millennial generation, where we “catch” feelings instead of having them in the first place.) But I caught some feelings for someone who I thought I hated, but apparently I don’t, and now a major topic of discussion between me and my friends is how we hate having crushes because they make us feel gross.

So, so, so, gross.

Being a girl with a crush is like, having a really nasty scab that you can’t quit picking at. Like you just sit around all day examining your nasty scab until you can’t take it anymore, so you start making all your friends look at your nasty scab as you ask an onslaught of self-conscious questions about it like, “Does this shit look infected?”

Or at least, that’s how it feels when you have a crush on someone you hate, which is my current dilemma. He fucking tricked me okay! Dude was persistent. I can’t even remember why I used to hate him, I think he called one of my friends a ditz or something, and after that, he just took the form of everything I don’t like about men—something that made me face-blind to him for an entire year. Seriously. One time, I called him a “that” to his face. I looked at him, and said it like a bad taste in my mouth, “Oh…that.” Another time, he said my name, and I just threw him the Jenna Marbles “face” like:tumblr_m0oo8567xt1rq8xcoo1_500

and then I ran away. Recently he texted my friend for my number, and she replied with “1-800-YOU-WISH”. Then he added me on Snapchat and even the little ghost next to his name looked like it knew how much I hated him:image-5

Basically, I dragged this guy through the mud all because he called my friend a ditz once—and I’m pretty sure he was the mastermind behind an infamous string of eggplant emojis that triggered a psychotic break in me like, “WHAT THE FUCK IS YOUR PROBLEM?!”…but he has a selective memory and he’ll never admit to any of it. So…I’m in a sixth grade romance and my name is Helga Pataki.

Anyway, after the 1-800-YOU-WISH incident, he finally just came up to me like a human—the last time he tried to communicate feelings he did it by hitting me in the face with a coaster—and, with a little bit of humiliation, said, “I just think you’re cute, and I wanted to talk to you.” And all I could think was: Oh, fuck you. Don’t make me empathize with you. But I did, and with that I thought: Okay you’ve earned it, I’ll entertain this. And the moment I let my guard down he became the first person I’ve laughed with for a stupid amount of time in ages, and then I heard myself saying it out loud, “Gross, I fucking like you.”

tumblr_ninnk6qsnb1qka4t0o3_250tumblr_ninnk6qsnb1qka4t0o4_250

Genuinely, I’m annoyed that it happened—see the scab analogy—because it was a lot easier to hate him than it is to like him. Like, now I have romantic feelings for someone who I’d always suspected was a “bad” person, or more specifically, a type of man that I don’t naturally trust, and this leaves a lot of room for confusion: Does this shit look infected?

I should probably elaborate on the whole calling-my-friend-a-ditz story if this is going to make any sense. But the night I met him, which was probably about a year and a half ago, he called my friend a ditz after what had been a horrible night to begin with—so I want to emphasize that I was more irritable than usual. Anyway, he called her a ditz behind her back after she rejected him, and it rubbed me the wrong way because it seemed like he was only insulting her to compensate for his disappointment. Like you can’t aggressively pursue a girl and then the moment she’s like, Nah, be like: Whatever, you’re kind of a ditz anyway. It’s a very elementary sort of logic, and it was especially annoying to me after an onslaught of annoying things had already happened. So I got a little confrontational and said, “You do realize she graduated from college with a 4.0, she’s a thousand times smarter than you’ll ever be and you’re just bitter. You don’t know her, so please, shut the fuck up.” And he looked really taken aback before he responded, “Wow, you’re really mean.”

And in retrospect, I agree.

I can be pretty mean…

to certain men.

With certain men, I just can’t hold back. When you’re someone like me, someone who reads about social issues, especially feminism, you’re very aware of those tiny subconscious everyday prejudices that certain men exercise against women, and it’s hard not to be angry, and yes, a little mean. It’s hard to not to write a mean essay about a guy who gave your really kind and smart friend the run-around when all she did was exactly what he asked her to do; it’s hard not to have mean thoughts about a guy who is genuinely shocked to have met a girl who says “funny things”; it’s hard not to place a presumptuous hand over your drink in a club full of guys who must understand that they have a natural physical advantage over you, and still, ram into you as hard as they can because they want you to move; it’s hard not to put your resting bitch face on when you’re in a room full of guys who ignore the only girl who tries to contribute to what should be a fun conversation among peers; it’s hard not to put an ultra negative vibe up against those same guys when you notice all those bored girls who admire them, just waiting for them, in uncomfortable dresses they wouldn’t be wearing if it wasn’t for them. Bottom line: It’s hard not to be mean—to not hold a grudge against—a guy who calls your wicked intelligent friend a ditz just because she won’t hook up with him.

It’s hard to trust this type of man, and it’s even harder when you can’t control the fact that some confused part of you kind of likes him.

Hence: 1-800-YOU-WISH…

Or not.

Or yes.

Or maybe.

So call me maybe.

No!

Yes.

 No!

☁︎

I think some people think I hate men. Which is very, very, untrue. I wouldn’t spend this much time analyzing and criticizing them if I didn’t admire them a shit ton—which, I do. I’m like, one of those annoying doe-eyed girls who says stupid cliché things like, “I have many soul mates.” I write about and for men, constantly. Basically, I think most men are majestic creatures who smell really good and create the noise I find fascinating. But what I don’t like is that—some men—make me feel small and insignificant, like my having a brain and depth is something to be ashamed of. Or like I’m foolish to believe I possess these things in the first place. See, not all men, but enough men, have made me feel this way and so, it’s not that I hate men, it’s just that—I’ve learned to distrust them in everyday exchanges and relationships. For example:

I don’t trust them to not take advantage of me.

I don’t trust them to not treat me like a novelty; to not use me as an ego boost, or a pawn, or a prop, or some blank template to project whatever they think I’m supposed to be onto.

I don’t trust them to withhold cruel judgments in the moments when I’m primal and not ideal.

I don’t trust them to not underestimate me.

I don’t trust them to say what they mean—to be honest, even at the expense of my feelings; to not be manipulative in conversations about emotions and expectations.

I don’t trust them to respect my time, to fully comprehend that I have a very real life, and very real goals, and very real things to do, too.

I don’t trust them to not minimize, or make a joke of, what I’ve been through, to not use what I believe in, and what matters to me, as some “fun” topic for debate.

I don’t trust them to wonder who I am when they’re not around the same way I wonder who they are when I’m not around.

And I don’t trust them to understand why this makes me act bitter and jealous in a way that I can’t always explain.

☁︎

“Honestly, I used to think you were a joke who was fucked up all the time,” says my Hate-Crush. I resist the urge to respond like, Well that perception is a two-way fucking street, and instead I surrender, “I am fucked up all the time.” Because, honestly, we could do this all night:

You’re the joke.

No. You’re the joke.

And, anyway, I know I’m not a joke. I know there’s more to me than that. I don’t need to waste time convincing him to change his perspective by saying things like, Really? Am I a joke? Or is it that you couldn’t figure me out so you just put an unflattering label on it and called it a night?

Because earlier in the week, before this conversation, I walked out on him and I think it blindsided him a little bit. It was one of those situations where I thought: Okay, I had a good time with you once; I would like to do it again. So I met up with him for drinks and it wasn’t like he did anything overtly terrible, it was just, those subtle inconsiderate things that some guys do that I know all too well. Those subtle things that imply: I do not value your time. This doesn’t mean as much to me as it does to you.

First of all, I kind of got the vibe that he’d initially come there with another girl and then just sort of, nudged her off the face of his earth to hang out with me. Which is pretty uncool. I don’t find guys ditching other girls for me flattering. It just makes me wonder: What am I doing with a person who would do that to someone? I’m not special. He’ll eventually do it to me too. Bottom line: It makes me question the integrity of my character. So. That was one cryptic situation that had my intuition nudging me to go. Then it was fine for a little bit, we talked…until he was abruptly like, “Be right back, watch my cell phone,” and then he ran off to play a game of pool which is not a “be right back” kind of hiatus. And ultimately, it’s just rude. Like: Hey, I know you came out to see me, but please do me a favor and watch my things while I go do what I’d rather be doing.

Anyway, I remember waiting with his cellphone and thinking about how me and my friend ran around Fredonia all night looking for that idiot when we could have had a way better time hanging out without him. I started to consider how I was waiting for something I wasn’t entirely sure I wanted. Then I thought something really nerdy like: I could be reading a really good book right now. Until finally, after five minutes of staring at his cellphone, I thought: I am too old for this. I’ve done the pretty girl in the corner thing and I’m bored with it. Getting to know someone should be fun, it shouldn’t make you feel like shit. This is making me feel like shit. Stop waiting for him to want to get to know you. Quit picking at your nasty scab and wondering why it hurts.

And with that I got up, walked over to him, said, “This is rude; I’m leaving,” and walked the fuck out.

☁︎

Of course the next day he was all like: Why did you leave me? And I was just like, Why did I leave you? Why did you leave me!! *cue Justin Bieber* WHAT DO YOU MEAN?!

These types of confrontations with guys where the main mystery is: Why are you mad at me? are always kind of comical because there’s always this implication that women and what we want is just SO complicated. When really, I don’t think what we want from our “crushes”, or who we like, is ever actually that complicated. Believe it or not, sometimes we mean it when we say we don’t want a boyfriend—or at least, it’s not our main motive when we’re first getting to know someone.

I honestly believe Lana Del Rey’s “Born to Die” is just one summary of what girls expect from their “crushes”, like: “Don’t make me sad / Don’t make me cry… / Keep making me laugh… / Let me kiss you” the end. IT’S NOT THAT COMPLICATED! And all I was trying to communicate when I left my Hate-Crush was: I want to waste time with you—not because of you. Life’s too short to spend time pining and losing your sense of self-worth for someone that might not be all that great to begin with: Don’t want no paper gangster!

Basically, this is what I “mean”: All I’m expecting is for you to want to get to know me the way I want to get to know you. I’m not asking you to slit your wrists or anything. My emotions are not that drastic and you are not that great. But you might be—to me—somewhere down the line, and the main point is, I’m not asking for anything I’m not willing to give—but, I think you kind of are. And I’m not cool with being taken advantage of like that. Not anymore. So don’t waste my time, because there’s still so much out there that I could be admiring, and I’m too old to be wasting my youth waiting for someone to see what I see. Now *semi-sarcasm* pay attention to me.

☁︎

“Well…” my friend begins, laughing, “The heart wants what it wants.”

Her response to my recounting of the events leading up to my Hate-Crush has me retaliating like, “Do not compare this to Selena Gomez and Justin Bieber!! GROSS!!!”

“But I’m serious!” she says, “I know you can’t help it, and I’m just saying of all people, I didn’t expect…that.”

I appreciate her allusion to my former sass because, at this point, I’ve temporarily lost that spark. Like, Goddamit, why?! Let me have this one thing!

Hate-crushes never let you have this one thing and that thing is your dignity. Instead they mind-fuck you with apologies that seem sincere and, ultimately, cancel out your initial decision to reject them. “I’m sorry, it wasn’t my intention to make you feel like an idiot,” he says, and this shouldn’t be good enough, not if you want to win the game. But you don’t have a proper understanding of the rules, so you fumble and wind up tossing your dignity back in his direction because: The heart wants what it wants.

Now can we just take a minute to talk about how much I hate that song and music video?

The first time I heard / saw Selena Gomez’s “The Heart Wants What It Wants”, I got annoyed because I found the whole thing pathetic and self-indulgent. Like: First of all, Emily Dickinson said ‘The heart wants what it wants’, not you Selena. Second of all, the person you are publicly crying over is Justin Bieber. Stop taking him seriously! Nobody else does…But then my train of thought shifted and I realized that I was harshly judging Selena Gomez’s public display of heartbreak because there wasn’t a naked girl swinging on a wrecking ball to distract me. It was crude and, ultimately, just sad. A sad sob-fest over Justin Bieber, like: “Oh, that.” And I couldn’t stand that a huge part of myself—one that I wasn’t dealing with—could relate to it. I didn’t want to deal with the fact that I, myself, have probably also looked that pathetic, and self-indulgent, and dumb, over a really flakey dude who only ever liked me when it was convenient. Which is a really hard thing for me to accept and an even harder thing for me to watch.

It’s hard to watch someone obsess over and pick at something that looks really gross and like it really hurts. This is why I wanted to rip my friend’s cellphone out of her hands during the Fredonia boy-chase; it’s the only reason I wanted to drag all those cocktail-dress-wearing girls away from their terrible, boring, fuckboys. When I looked at them I felt like I was looking at myself, and all I wanted to do was make them do what I can’t do for myself. I wanted to make them happy; to make them stop; to make them value their own time, to make them value themselves. Because I know how it feels to be unhappy with a “romantic” situation and emotionally incapable of stopping it. I know how it feels to not value my own time by waiting for a guy who would never, in a million years, do the same thing for me. I know how it feels to have a dude—who I admire—push down my pillars of confidence like dominoes and then, to just, not even react; to just let it crush me. And I wouldn’t wish those feelings on my worst enemy. I would look at her and say: Stop doing this to yourself.

☁︎

Maybe I’m just self-conscious, but I’m having a hard time ending this. I’ve rewritten the ending at least three times now, and it’s a struggle, because every single one is mean—beyond reason—to my Hate-Crush.

And I don’t want to be mean beyond reason!

I can’t be mean at the expense of being honest!

It’s my job as a writer to not take advantage of you as a reader and every single ending I’ve written before this one was like that one T-Swift lyric: So casually cruel in the name of being honest. Like, every ending I wrote before this one was manipulative; cruelty under the guise of honesty—just compensation for my own fears and for how I have zero control over those fears; how I have no control over the number of times I rip my nasty scab off and watch it grow back…

Ugh.

Just.

One half of me believes I’m at the point in this game of dignity tossing where I’m starting to value myself less. One half of me believes my Hate-Crush is chiseling away at my confidence the same way he weaseled his way into my life—subtly. One of half of me believes he doesn’t deserve my time and admiration because, when I’m with my friends, I hear myself sayings things like, “He tried to quarantine me in a room—with Fox News on and no remote—because he didn’t want me to hear what him and his friends were saying,” or, “He half-jokingly called me a bitch for walking out on him,” or, “He wouldn’t kiss me in the morning,” or, “There’s always this vibe like: I want you here for now, but you can’t stay,” or, “He tells me he wants to do one thing, but never follows through—hanging out is always spontaneous and never exactly when I want to,” or, “I feel like my existence only occurs to him when I’m standing right in front of him,” out loud, and something about it makes me wonder if I’ve been rationalizing a lot of situations that are very black and white. See, incidents like these, in isolation, never seem that bad, but then you hear them recounted—one after the other—and suddenly it’s like: Oh shit, I’m being played.

Like: Maybe I should’ve done a little more than walk out on him one time. Maybe I should’ve walked out on him every time. Or maybe I should’ve just never let this happen in the first place…

And then that one mean streak in me starts to get defensive and self-conscious like: How could I let this happen? Am I not guilty of letting a boy be drawn to self-hatred? How am I blaming myself for someone else not being all that considerate of a person? It’s fucking backwards! He should be addled with self-doubt right now. He should feel guilty. He should be forced into bouts of unflattering introspection. Not me, someone whose only intention was to get to know someone else—to have fun and give away time and affection. Why should I be ashamed of that? I’m fucking not. I’m not ashamed of having genuine feelings. Like sorry for my fucking pulse, but not really: I am steadfast and I am loyal, but I don’t always know it. Sometimes I think I’m just a lovesick bitch. But I’m not—I’m not a joke! What I am is decent!!!!

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And then the other half of me, the much less judgmental and self-righteous one, is just like: Stop. Cut a dude some fucking slack. Which, everything in me immediately seizes up and retaliates against this notion, like: NO! NEVER! TOO MANY PEOPLE ALREADY CUT MEN SLACK! FJDKHGJKDSHGJKD!!!!!!!!!

But after the first ending of this post was written, one of my friends said, “Maybe when he separated (Earlier I used the word ‘quarantined’ because I’m an asshole who exaggerates, whoops) you from his friends it was his way of respecting you; it’s not the right way at all, but, you are intimidating. He probably just didn’t want you to be around people who were going to upset you. He probably really just doesn’t know what to do with someone like you,” and it helped me reign in some of my judgments, just the tiniest bit. Just enough to make me realize that: Holy shit, maybe I’m the one who’s compensating for something now.

Because, okay, my Hate-Crush isn’t bad. I don’t think he’s a bad person. I don’t even actually hate him—I like him—I think he’s funny. I also think he’s pretty cunning. I think he’s more sociable and likable than me. And I envy that shit. Okay. It’s over. I said it. And I hate that I like him, and I hate how out of control that makes me feel, because: Like me back, dammit. See, my ego is a tricky girl. I can’t quite figure her out. Sometimes she needs to be and should be a raging lunatic, and other times, she needs to just chill. And when it comes to this whole thing, she needs to just chill, like: Chill Felicia. Okay. *Trying to channel my unbiased un-self-righteous side*

It’s just…this other half of me, which is starting to feel like the honest half of me, realizes that the lesson in this whole thing is—my fear of being taken advantage of by men is so great that I actually push men that I really like away, all the time. It gets to this point where I feel so out of control of my emotions that I slap on my ice queen face and turn whoever I’m interested in into a sociological experiment, because: I don’t want to hurt. I don’t want to watch my friends hurt. Or other girls hurt. I want to avoid this. All of it. Go the fuck away. *Jenna Marbles Face*

Do guys experience this confusing, very invasive, feeling? Does their sense of autonomy feel that fragile? I just don’t trust that it does. And I know my suspicions are unfair, but I can’t help it. It’s a genuine fear at this point in my life. I have so many firsthand experiences to back it up, and I know that doesn’t make it right…but, damn. I really would stop it if I could.

It’s exhausting being this suspicious of men and this possessive of my autonomy. All. The. Time. And I don’t know how to convey that to anyone without sounding combative. Which is probably why my G.D. mouth always feels like it’s wired shut around men that I really, really, admire. Like, I don’t know how to say: I really, really, really, want to get to know you. But I’m afraid you’ll take advantage of me. So. I get mean. And then I get nice. And then I get mean. And then I get nice. And I don’t speak up when I should. Or I don’t just say what I mean or want or need. Because, I don’t trust you to understand.

Maybe this is why being a girl with a crush feels so gross.

This not trusting happiness when that happiness is related to a guy.

Because guys, so often, won’t let us stay.

Or they don’t text back.

Or they don’t do what they say they will.

And you rarely get an explanation why and that shit stings

every time.

So.

I don’t know how to end this…

What’s Wrong With Me? – What I’ve Learned About Dating and Respect

“Girls are not machines that you put kindness coins into until sex falls out.”

—Sylvia Plath

“When someone shows you how little you mean to them and you keep coming back for more, before you know it you start to mean less to yourself. You are not made up of compartments! You are one whole person! What gets said to you gets said to all of you, ditto what gets done. Being treated like shit is not an amusing game or a transgressive intellectual experiment. It’s something you accept, condone, and learn to believe you deserve. This is so simple.”

 —Lena Dunham, “Girls and Jerks”

A few months into my 22nd year of life I experienced, for the first time ever, a boy running away from me.

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I’d recently broken up with my serious boyfriend of roughly two years and was in the beginning stages of a two-year period that I would navigate relationship-less. Prior to this point in my life, I had always had a boyfriend, with only a few months of single-time in between. Therefore emerging, with little to no warning, from the bubblegum-like dating rituals of an 18 to 20 year old, and into the confusing world of Tinder and cryptic circumstances, such as “Netflix and chill”, was like, culture shock. The last time I was single the boys were beating down the door for me, they weren’t running away from me.

 I remember watching that boy who—I thought—I was kinda, sorta, dating, look me in the eye and then bolt away around the corner, giggling with all his friends. Then I remember feeling taken aback and, humiliatingly, hurt. I remember thinking: Is this what they call a fuckboy? Have I been spending time with a fuckboy? How do you know? What makes a ‘fuckboy’? Then, in the face of such obvious rejection, I wondered the inevitable: What’s wrong with me?

Now, let’s look at the situation through the lens of a regurgitated generalization for a moment and say: All guys care about are looks. Because when I was “dating” the guy who ran away from me, I was probably the most attractive—by society’s standards—that I had ever been in my life. I counted calories, ran like crazy, and renounced carbs. My body was tiny and tight. I had the peaking glow and bone structure of a girl in her early twenties. (Oh, and on top of all that I had a 4.0 GPA and generally, people said I was “really funny”.) I looked good and I felt good about myself. I liked who I was. So. What was I missing? What was I not seeing or understanding about myself? Because I had always been told that guys only cared about looks anyway.

So, I decided to confront the guy via text about the incident:

Me: Why have you been avoiding me all night?

Him: What? What are you talking about???

Me: I just saw you and you ran away from me.

Him: What? I’ve been in my bed this whole time. Your text woke me up! You’re being crazy! I shouldn’t buy you shots of Fireball anymore because you can’t handle it.

I remember being shocked by the boldness of his lie. Like: Dude, do you think I’m stupid? I. Just. Saw. You. I didn’t imagine the whole thing! My friends watched it happen too! But my anger didn’t totally set in until I realized that in that moment, he was basically saying that I didn’t deserve decency, or the basic human respect that comes by being honest with someone who you’ve seen naked. I really don’t think it’s that hard to answer: Why have you been avoiding me all night? With the truth: I just don’t want to hang out with you anymore. Why didn’t I deserve that? What’s wrong with me?

After that night, I went into a tailspin of self-doubt about every aspect of who I was, except for my appearance—which felt backwards. I’d learned all about the importance of self-esteem in relation to appearance, especially when it came to how men perceived me—about not allowing the “male gaze” or societal standards to convince me that I was “not beautiful”. But I couldn’t remember ever being told about the importance of self-esteem in relation to my personality, or intellect, or character, or weird mannerisms—in relation to my complexity, to the things that made me interesting.

At the time, I remember constantly thinking and believing: I’m beautiful but I’m still too [this] and too [that]. After a series of failed relationship attempts with guys who dismissed me for “expecting too much”; who summed up what most people would have described as a relationship with me as, “just sex”; who, whenever the conversation called for their honesty, told me I was “being crazy”, I remember wondering: Am I both too much and not enough?

In my relationships with men, had I been too eager or too earnest? Did I go too deep on that one subject? Did I have too many opinions on that one thing? Was I too intelligent? Was I coming across as a showoff? Was I too sexual? Was I not sexual enough? Was I not sexual in the ‘right’ way? Was I not feminine enough? Did I make him feel bad about himself? Did I not ask the right questions or do the right thing at the right time? Was I too clingy? Did I come across as pathetic because I was too open? Too up front about who I was and what I wanted; too honest, too aware of my right to honesty in return? Too complicated?

Like, maybe I was mistaken when I believed these guys would find me—as a person—interesting.

I’d honestly be more okay with a guy saying: I’m just not attracted to you solely based on your appearance. Than: “You’re expecting too much.” “You’re crazy.” “You’re just sex.”

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(Obligatory sarcastic GIF set)

It really, really, bothers me if the honest reason these men didn’t “like” me was because I demanded more respect than what they deemed appropriate or deserved, and for whatever reason that was a “turn off”. But that’s what a lot of blogs, surprisingly written by woman, have harshly told me. If you Google: Why doesn’t he like me? Many of the top blog posts have: “you’re too opinionated” as a point on the list. And I even remember one post that essentially concluded, Men aren’t intimidated by you, they just aren’t attracted to you because you don’t have feminine energy.

I find both of these sentiments problematic because A.) The woman on the other end of this “not liking” is the one being told she has to change like: There’s something wrong with you, when in fact, B.) There’s something wrong with a man who doesn’t want an opinionated and forthright woman, because this standard (or lack of) implies that he believes an opinionated and forthright woman is “not feminine enough” instead of accepting the truth: She is being herself.

I’d like to say it’s another double standard, but it’s more than that. It’s like, Wait, I’m not supposed to have thoughts and feelings on par with yours because it makes me seem masculine? I’m supposed to deprive myself of my own humanity for you to like me?

It’s kind of a thing: Our society doesn’t, generally, like complicated women on the big screen (Did you see Jurassic World?), or in life. And this was a giant spoonful of reality that I wasn’t totally ready for when I started navigating the dating world. I didn’t know that it was, perhaps—shallowly—beneficial to hide parts of myself when pursuing romantic relationships. So I was constantly giving guys the unedited version of who I was without even batting an eye. There was no mystery in my game. I said what I meant and I meant what I said. I asked for the truth. I overtly wanted respect. And when I didn’t get it, my first instinct was to question myself.

Why?

What’s wrong with me?

 Why doesn’t he like me?

I’ve realized that I questioned myself because nobody ever told me I was entitled to my own complexity, or that other people should respect it. All I heard was, You’re beautiful, you’re beautiful…but never: You’ve got a lot going for you, and you know that about yourself—you’re entitled to know that about yourself. If some guy, some person, makes you believe that who you are is all wrong and for this reason, they don’t believe you deserve their respect, well, then there’s nothing wrong with you. There’s something wrong with them. What matters is whether you’re happy with who you are when you fall asleep at night. After that, you’ll realize that any external force saying you’re too [this] and too [that] just doesn’t get it, and maybe they/it never will. But you can’t dwell on it. You’ve got to keep being your unapologetic self—no matter what—under the hopeful pretense that, someday, the world will catch up.

I’ve recently started telling myself that, and now I’m telling you that. I’m telling you because, as women, as humans, our problems—the issues concerning us—are more complicated than: I don’t feel pretty. Because everything about women is more complicated than that. I’m telling you because being liked is not synonymous with being respected, and I hope someday we can all get to a point where we’d rather be respected—by men, by our female friends, by the women who aren’t our friends, and by ourselves.

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Confessions of a Voluntary Misfit: High School and Friendship and that “Left Out” Shit

high school angst2“In adolescents, the need to break away from the past is as powerful as the drive to reproduce the species.” –Joyce Carol Oates, “What Sin to Me Unknown”

I’ve been itching to write about high school and friendship because the signs that say: This. Essay. Needs. To. Happen. Seem to be cropping up everywhere—Poems written by Thirteen-Year-Old-Me have surfaced. Last year, a childhood friend simultaneously complimented and insulted me. A few months ago, the guy I pined for my entire freshman year pulled my hair. This time last week, a bitch waved at me…See, I’ve been avoiding this topic because I know it’s going to get ugly—as dealings of the teenage heart often do—and I don’t want to offend anyone. I don’t want to rehash old wounds and put a damper on anyone’s newfound “maturity”. I want to be what the real housewives call the “bigger” person. I want to rationalize everyone’s shitty behavior and say: It probably wasn’t as bad as I remembered. *phony laughter* We’re so grown up now! Let’s talk like we’re 40 even though we’re actually 23! Let’s pretend like high school wasn’t five minutes ago! *rainbows, butterflies, poop emoji*

But then I came across that poem written by Thirteen-Year-Old-Me, titled, “Mom, I’m Fine. Just Leave Alone in My Room to Die.” and I had a rude awakening—it was definitely as bad as I remembered.

The poem was about being alone in my room on a Friday night while everyone else was accumulating the inside jokes that would eventually decorate their AIM profiles and leave me with that nauseating “left out” feeling. At first, Now-Me found the whole thing hilarious. Like: That title is melodramatic as fuck and those closing lines are just tragic. (I wish I was joking, but the closing lines went: “Lie on my bedroom floor / sing to the cat / yeah my life is basically kind of like that.”) However, after laughing, I got this horrible sinking feeling for Thirteen-Year-Old-Me because Now-Me realized that her memories of being left out were real—the evidence was in my hands, straight from the shitty poem writing horse’s pen, circa 2005.

I shoved the notebook back into the dusty bookshelf from whence it came and tried to forget about it.

But I couldn’t forget about it.

All I could think about was high school and friendship and that “left out” shit—imaginary social divisions and random acts of teenage cruelty. Then all these unwanted interactions with people I hoped I would never see again happened, and I thought about it all even more: Leaving dances early, switching lunch tables, faking sick four times a month, loyalty as an endangered principle, critical thinking as the greatest threat, frequency of text messages as validation, everyone deriving false confidence from the misguided certainty that they know more about you than you…I don’t want to put a damper on anyone’s newfound “maturity” but I’m going to.

I’m going to write about high school and friendship. I’m going to rehash old wounds, and if that makes me the “lesser” person, so be it. I don’t care. The number one rule for writing personal essays—don’t be the hero—says I should be the lesser person anyway. So fuck it. This is my chance to be the exact opposite of the hero, the anti-hero. I’m the Walter White of this essay and I don’t care because what I’m really trying to say is: I don’t forgive you.

☁︎

“You’re really pretty now.” Someone I knew from high school said that shit to my face. And. I. Just. Froze. Like: Excuse me? Now? It’s the kind of compliment that leaves you feeling mugged. One that brings back all the insecurity you felt in the years leading up to it. You ask yourself: If what she said is supposed to be nice then why do I feel like punching her in the face? Oh, because it was actually a really rude thing to say, and this person wasn’t always very nice to you—especially when it came to your appearance and clothes. That’s why.

“You’re really pretty now.”

I smile and say thank you through clenched teeth because I’m as twofaced as everyone said I was in middle school—I can’t wait to turn around and complain about this to my real friends.

Then she says something mildly surprising, “You know, I feel kind of bad whenever I see you…” I’m about to renew my faith in humanity if the next thing to come out of her mouth is an apology, but it’s not. It’s this:

“I feel kind of bad whenever I see you because everything is so different in high school. You know. There’s just this way of thinking in high school that says: This person is this way, and that person is that way…”

It’s a non-apology just like the first thing she said to me was a non-compliment. It’s saying sorry without actually saying sorry, like being nice without actually being nice. She thinks she’s leveling out the playing field. She’s saying because I was different from her in high school she was never obligated to be decent to me. She’s not saying sorry. She’s saying: That’s just the way things were. No hard feelings, right?

 And. It. Makes. Me. Livid.

I resist the urge to say: No. I don’t know what you’re talking about. I resist the urge to ask: Am I really pretty now? Or were you just never looking at me correctly? Have you ever considered that maybe your view of the world has always been majorly fucked up? Have you ever considered any perspective beyond your own? Maybe it’s not your place to decide what beauty is and isn’t. Maybe I don’t need to hear that you think I’m pretty now.

I resist the urge to say anything. I just smile and nod knowingly. I play dumb like I always do. We hug and she walks away with a clear conscience. I let her have that reassurance because I know something that she doesn’t know—How beautiful it is to be misunderstood. Like: Thank you for contributing to the social anxiety that has made me the steadfast, self-aware, and perceptive person that I am. I wish you well, but I don’t forgive you.

☁︎

There’s an episode of HBO’s Girls where Adam takes off into the woods for an impromptu hike and in response Hannah just flops on the ground and says, “It’s really liberating to say no to shit you hate. So you go ahead. You live your truth. I’ll be here, living my truth.” I love that scene because, even though it’s just one more example of Hannah’s unwavering laziness, it emphasizes a power that everyone seems to become conscious of in their twenties: The ability to say no to shit you hate.

Want to work a double tonight? Nope. Would you like an Adderall? Not really. Want to engage in a stimulating conversation about music with hipsters? Trick question: Nah. Netflix and chill? [No response.] Are you going to wave back to that girl who was supposed to be your friend but then put your sex life on blast in her AIM profile when you were in 10th grade and, apparently, has the nerve to act like it never happened? Fuck. No.

I see you waving and all I see is, Go suck another fat kid’s dick, written in tiny black Arial font and highlighted in aqua. You’re waving at me and saying my name in a voice that’s one too many octaves above natural. Go suck another fat kid’s dick. I wasn’t a role model, and I never claimed to be one. I wasn’t some blank template for you and everyone else to project their weird ideals of virtue onto. I wasn’t even a hypocrite. Go suck another fat kid’s dick. I was a teenager, just like you—eager, impulsive, confused, human. I was a girl who didn’t deserve what happened because none of us did, or do, and you know it. Go suck another fat kid’s dick. That’s all I see when I see you.

You’re waving at me and saying my name in a voice that’s one too many octaves above natural. You’re trying to pretend like you didn’t urge anyone to ostracize me six years ago. You’re trying to pretend like we were always friends and it never made you happy to watch me fuck up—like you weren’t always rooting for me to fail.

I see you and I don’t have the energy to wave back to you, not anymore. You have to understand that there are some wounds that are too deep. Too real. A big smile and a friendly wave won’t mend them. It’s as simple as this: I’m sad because you hurt me. I’m angry because you’re trying to act like my pain and what you did to inflict it was never real. I don’t understand your sudden and aggressive acts of kindness, and I won’t respond to them.

I see you waving and I’m going to walk right past you.

It’s really liberating to say no to shit you hate.

☁︎

About a week after my college graduation, I went to drink with some guy-friends from high school. The group was small and everyone there was someone that I still consider a friend—people I care about and genuinely like—with the exception of one person…

“Cat Olson?! Where the fuck have you been?”

My brain panicked as it scanned his face and gathered the details: He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, 1st Asshole you ever liked, sat at your lunch table freshman year, picked apart your physical characteristics daily, once feigned affection for you just to prove you had a crush on him, constantly used you to make other girls jealous, always smelled really good; thank god his hairline’s receding…

I thought: I can do this. I can be civil. It’s okay. Just don’t smell him.

But it was not okay because twenty minutes later he pulled my hair, like full on grabbed my messy bun and tugged the shit out of it. He pulled so hard I had no choice but to lurch backward. He did it just because. Toddler’s logic, like: I see something I want to touch and not only am I going to touch it, I’m going to wreck it. And I don’t know if it was the beer, or feminism, or the infantile stupidity of his action, but like a reflex I stood up and screamed: “YOU DON’T GET TO TOUCH ME NOW!”

And the look of shock on his face somehow made me angrier, like: Doesn’t this dude understand that when you pull someone’s hair, that shit hurts? Didn’t any of us realize in high school that there are people, just as real as ourselves, on the other end of our actions—on the other end of our cell phones and computers and fingers and words? Did anyone realize this before the age of 20?! Because that look of shock on people’s faces whenever somebody gets upset has me wondering if nobody did, and some people never do.

When you pull someone’s hair, that shit hurts.

Now face it motherfucker.

☁︎

I should probably say that I was severely depressed in high school—the real kind, the diagnosed kind. And I know it’s unfair to blame that on anyone, or even to say: I just wish someone had noticed. Especially when I didn’t even know I was depressed—at least not until my senior year. It’s unfair. I know it’s so unfair. And I know my anger seems so trite like: Why the fuck are you holding onto this shit? But it’s just—I really wanted and needed friends. Girlfriends. Real friends. The kind that just wanted to do dumb shit and laugh about it; the kind that said I love you and I’m sorry and were sincere.

I didn’t have that.

I didn’t have some band of girlfriends that I’d known since I was twelve validating my existence and reinforcing my every choice and opinion, or even wanting to compare schedules with me. For the most part, I took on everyday alone—my likes and dislikes, my interests, my classes, music, fashion, makeup, boys, heartbreak…I trudged and waded through all that bullshit and figured out who I was on my own.

And on some level, this is my fault: I’m a misfit who chose to be a misfit. But on another level, I also know, I was very earnest in high school—very willing to forgive and love and apologize to anyone who demonstrated some semblance of respect for me.

I have to stand my ground and say: I know I’m not perfect, but I’m a really decent person at heart.

I don’t think my memories of being mistreated are inaccurate.

I don’t think my anger is misguided.

I’m tired of rationalizing everyone else’s shitty behavior.

☁︎

When I was thirteen I wrote: “There’s nothing but outdated earth behind me.” And I find it kind of hilarious, like: Who the fuck did I think I was, Thoreau? But I also find it surprising. I find it surprising that, at that age, I understood that there’s so much more to life than this—Jamestown and its weird social hierarchies, its prejudices and aversions to anything new or honest or real.

Like goddam, life isn’t high school!

Just because you’re in what everyone likes to call “dumb” classes, doesn’t mean you’re not intelligent. Just because people make snide comments about your clothes, doesn’t mean you don’t look good. Just because you’re quiet and mousey, doesn’t mean you’re not listening, that you’re not there! People can talk all they want but They. Don’t. Know. They don’t know more about you than you. If they don’t “get” you one day, that doesn’t mean they won’t absolutely want to someday. And when that day comes, don’t kill them with kindness; just totally annihilate them with the truth. You’ll be so far ahead that it won’t even matter, there’ll be nothing to lose, like: Nobody can touch me now…

Confession: I was listening to a lot of My Chemical Romance when I wrote this.

I looked up the music video for “I’m Not Okay (I Promise)” and felt the rage. There’s just something about Gerard Way wailing I’M NOT OKAY!!!!!! in, what appears to be, a steadily increasing fever that makes you want to go back in time and walk the fuck out on every math teacher that had the nerve to publicly underestimate you. (Mr. Salvaggio, what’s good?!) I seriously think, in retrospect, that the greasy kids who shoved paper clips through their earlobes and got kicked out of class constantly were doing something right—God bless them, every single one.

But my point is: Where would all the voluntary misfit girls of the 2000’s be without My Chemical Romance’s honesty?!?! I was fourteen when Gerard Way first said, “I’m not okay,” And. It. Was. So. Vindicating. Enough of that I’m okay bullshit, I’m not okay. I’m not O-fucking-kay. You wear me ouuuuuuuuuut…He said it, and he looked it, and it was awesome. We needed that! Then MCR’s single “Sing” came out in 2010 and I realized that I’m a major sucker for artists who root for the underdog because one of the song’s lyrics are: Girl, you’ve got to be what tomorrow needs, and it’s lame, and I’m corny, but I find that shit so inspiring. Be what tomorrow needs.

The voluntary misfit girls of tomorrow don’t need our good vibes-bigger person-I’m so mature now-bullshit. They need the truth. They need what’s real, and what’s weird, and what hurts. They need all that with a little bit of hope at the end. Because when I was 13, 14, 15, 16, 17… I needed My Chemical Romance. I needed Harry Potter and Sloane Crosley and Lady Gaga and The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath. I needed Taylor Swift to embarrass the fuck out of John Mayer by putting his name in a song. I needed someone to be honest—I’m not okay. I’m not o-fucking-kay. These things and their creators, they were what tomorrow needed! So just:

Sing it for the boys
Sing it for the girls
Every time that you lose it sing it for the world
Sing it from the heart
Sing it til’ you’re nuts
Sing it out for the ones that’ll hate your guts
Sing it for the deaf
Sing it for the blind
Sing about everyone that you left behind…

Bottom line: If you have the guts to go above and beyond what Today expects, some people just aren’t going to understand you. Some people are even going to hate you. But that’s okay. All it means is that you’re doing something right. Like Emerson said—To be great is to be misunderstood—you’re doing what it takes to be great.

☁︎

A few days ago I ran into a girl I knew from middle school and high school. This girl and I were never really friends. I mean, we just never knew each other very well. She ran with a clique that wasn’t always the nicest or most inclusive, so I could kind of feel myself approaching the conversation with a level of passive-aggression that I’m not entirely proud of. But whatever.

She was talking about how she’d studied abroad when she said something along the lines of, “You know, I was kind of nervous about going away. About being out of the loop here, for that long.”

And I just shrugged my shoulders and said, “Well, I mean, I don’t know. I was never really in the loop, so I don’t know what it’s like to worry about that. Like, honestly, I never really felt like I fit in.”

I didn’t mean it maliciously. Of all the run-ins with people from high school that I’ve described, this was the first one where I didn’t mean for anything to be malicious. I said what I said as a matter of fact. I said it because it felt good to say.

“See,” she said, “that’s so sad.”

And in my dream-like, vodka-induced, state I could practically feel the stars aligning in my eyes as I said, “Actually, it’s not. I feel kind of lucky.” *sparkles, glitter, Britney Spears*

I just realized in that moment that this girl is nostalgic for high school in a way that I will never be, and maybe that’s not such a bad thing. I mean, I think I already knew this. I think I already knew I would never be nostalgic for high school because when I was in high school I was constantly nostalgic for…something more, something else:

I wish I could explain myself.
I wanted to melt into school walls
rather than shed tears on my silk dresses.
I wanted to be a part of your shiny floors
but I liked corners
and feeling nostalgic for the life of someone else.
I count on you all way too much.

Go away.

I wrote that shortly after high school graduation, and it’s pretty clear that I had this dire need to get the fuck out. High school, this place, these people, it was all holding me back from something more. And weirdly, I still wanted so badly to be a part of it: I wanted to melt into school walls…I wanted to be a part of your shiny floors. But it all went completely against my nature—I liked corners, dammit! Gimme that dunce cap and I’ll rock it like a crown. This is my space now, go away. I don’t forgive you!

No. Nostalgia for high school is a nostalgia I’ll never experience because I think, in high school, I was always nostalgic for the life that I’m leading, and the person that I am, right now. I’ve got a healthy sense of humor. I dress like the bad bitch I always knew I was. I have girlfriends who I love because they like to laugh and fuck up and then laugh some more—they give no shits about what anyone thinks and they never laugh behind my back. I have a boyfriend who reads as much as I do and never makes me feel as if my eccentricities are something to be ashamed of—not even my random feminist outbursts. I might not be rich, but I’m getting by. And no matter what happens, I’m going to be fine because I’ll always have writing to come home to. I’ll always have an endless imagination to get me through dark times because, even though I know what it’s like to be hopeless and angry, even though I’m hardwired for depression, at my core there is so much joy.

HASHTAG BLESSED MOTHERBITCHES!

I Got Attacked By a Demon in My Sleep (a.k.a. I’m an artsy millennial with a dream and a degree and no money and I hate corporate America and it’s all really stressing me out but #YOLO)

About a month ago, I woke up around 3 AM to find that I couldn’t breathe or move and one of ram man2-3my arms had gone completely numb. The whole thing felt like some crazy attack with no source—I was being attacked by nothing. However, that didn’t make the situation any less terrifying, and the entire time I had this desperate feeling like getting out of my room was my only chance of survival. Which—I know—makes 0 sense. No one dies from choking on air.

But regardless, with what felt like a last ditch effort, I somehow managed to drag my lifeless body from my bed. Then, I stood in total darkness, swaying for a good two minutes with my one numb arm flopping around and trying to catch my breath. (I imagine from a surveillance camera eye’s view this probably looked like some kind of attack from the other side. Like, I was that chick Katie from Paranormal Activity and this was the beginning stage of my possession—the one right before I start inexplicably watching my parents sleep for 3 hours every night in a trancelike state. This is all hypothetical, of course.)

Once I realized my lungs were working, still in my half-asleep state, I clawed my way through the house, switching on every light as I went, and made myself a bowl of Greek yogurt because…the subconscious wants what it wants after a long night of simulated near death experiences? I have no fucking clue.

But, after that, I went back to bed, and right before I fell completely asleep again I dreamt (hallucinated?) that I could see the silhouette of a large bulky man with the head of a ram staring at me sideways from across the room—like he was curious about me, or waiting for me…

Either way.

It. Was. So. Fucking. Creepy.

So the next day I decided to Google: Is it normal to wake up gasping for air?

The first link to pop up directed me to a question forum like Yahoo Answers, but sketchier, and I read a response that was like: OMG! I STARTED WAKING UP NOT ABLE TO BREATHE OR MOVE AND I’D HAVE THIS WEIRD DREAM ABOUT A SCARY DEMON THING CRUSHING MY CHEST. I DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT INCUBUS ATTACKS UNTIL THIS HAPPENED BUT THEY ARE REAL!!!!! I SEARCHED THEM AND ALL THE IMAGES THAT CAME UP LOOK JUST LIKE THE THING I SAW ON MY CHEST! OMG!!!!!!!!!!!!!

God dammit! I thought.

Like, I just wanted to know if I should go see a doctor. But then my curiosity became unbearable, so I Googled: Incubus Attacks, and clicked on, Images. And I’ll admit, it was kind of jarring to find tons of depictions from different cultures, religions, and time periods, that all showed the exact same ram-man as the one in my dream.

I had always assumed that my “Ram-Man” nightmares had to do with being raised Christian and, from a psychological standpoint, were just a manifestation of my own, personal, childhood fears. I never once thought that this was a nightmare that thousands of people across time and space, from secular to various religious upbringings, had experienced. But after surfing the Internet, I found myself in a state of Google-induced paranoia that had me believing the Ram-Man was embedded in the human collective subconscious. I couldn’t decide if this made me feel better or worse, so I proceeded to educate myself in the ridiculous subject that is “Incubus Attacks” in hopes of finding a more practical explanation for my sleeping problems.

Apparently an Incubus Attack is when a person wakes up to find that they are being held down and sexually assaulted by a demon—this is my lazy, amateur, explanation, but—for real though—people actually believe in this shit.

One article I read was like: Ghost Sex: Could aliens be responsible? While another article went in a less speculative direction and was more reprimanding, saying verbatim: “If you’re reading this, you probably clicked on this link looking to learn more about Incubus Attacks for impure reasons. (You must stop making contact with the devil!) If you are one of these people, somebody sent you here—a TV show, a book, a singing sorcerer…” I promptly spit out my coffee—a singing sorcerer. Seems legit. And finally, one article went as far as slut-shaming my brain by saying: “Basically if a person has a loose mind, one prone to fantasize and lacking in self-discipline, then that person [deserves to be raped by a demon in her sleep.]”

Seriously? A loose mind. Like sorry I’m not boring, bitch.

Meanwhile Science was just like: Stress.

Stress, anxiety, mental illness, repressed memories…these are the real culprits behind sleep paralysis, otherwise known as “Incubus Attacks”, and the two groups most susceptible to these culprits are people in their twenties and the elderly—two stages in life when humans are most directly confronted with the unknown. Therefore it would make sense that sometimes, our waking minds, so overwhelmed with the reality of our impending futures or impending deaths, would conjure up a physical manifestation of everything we can’t explain—at least not yet.

The truth might be underwhelming, and infinitely less fantastical, but I went to college. I got a degree in Shakespeare and defamiliarization and carefully crafted sentences. I understand literary theory. I can’t watch a movie or read a book or even have a basic human interaction without turning it into some kind of analysis. I spent the past five years obtaining a $60,000 brain that I can’t afford and, who am I now?

A clumsy waitress at a yacht club for the overly privileged and mostly delusional; for all the pretend commodores of imaginary ships—people who would gladly have me thrown out to sea because, god forbid they receive one complimentary dessert instead of two. No wonder I wake up in the middle of the night completely convinced that I’m drowning. This cannot be your destiny. That is what the Ram-Man is trying to tell me. Wake up! He says. Do something! But I can’t move because he’s the unknown and he’s in the room and I don’t know what to make of him or anything.

☁︎

When did the future switch from being a promise to being a threat? Seth of Chuck Palaniuk’s Invisible Monsters writes this thought on a shabby post card and sends it sailing through Seattle to nowhere in particular. And now I can’t stop thinking about it. It’s such a simple sentiment, but I can’t stop wondering: When did the future become a threat? It’s like I spent my entire childhood and adolescence promising myself: Someday, Someday… And now, Someday is To-day, and I’m still trying to figure out a game plan. Like, I haven’t even gotten to the putting-plans-into-action part yet, and it’s making me reckless in my decisions. Shit, everyone knows that recklessness rarely ever leads to success.

Or maybe it does.

I don’t know. It’s like this: Someday has become Today, and with Today I have this anxiety that, at any moment, it’ll turn into Yesterday. Yesterday meaning that, I blew it. Nothing turned out the way I’d hoped and I’m a total failure. So in some ways, I’m just like: I might as well be reckless. Why waste time building a bridge when I can just jump off one or, even better, burn one? I want the applause, the approval, of things that make me go…

And now I’m just quoting Lorde lyrics.

But I’ll get to the point. This is how I hope things turn out, this is the summary of my dream—Someday I make a living writing whatever I want. No one tells me what to do, at least not in terms of what to think or how to be. Nothing would ever be a demand, only a suggestion. People would trust and respect my opinion because my books, or whatever, would be good enough to entitle me to that kind of power…

Do you have any idea how bat shit crazy this “dream” is?

I’m pretty sure only 1% of the population ever actually gets lucky in terms of making a living solely from their art, and who knows what percent of that 1% is comprised of writers. (Even less than one percent, that’s for sure.) Meanwhile, I’m just a speck in the 99% that is my competition.

And despite all that, I still keep promising myself: Someday, someday, because writing is the only good thing I’ve got.

At times, it feels awesome. Like I have this secret weapon—I can turn anyone who ever hurt me into a story or a joke or a lesson. I can say everything I’ve ever wanted to say, with tact. Nobody can interrupt me. Nobody can put me down half way through. It feels awesome. It feels so, so, awesome—sometimes.

But most times, it just feels like some kind of affliction. Like I’ll never not write. I’ll never not think so much that I need to get it out of my head before it’s gone. I’ll never stop hoping what I write will matter someday while also understanding that nothing really matters and it’s selfish to hope to matter anyway. Simultaneously narcissistic and self-aware. Hopelessly hopeful. Idealistic to the point of delusion and self-loathing and everyone-else-loathing—This is what it means to be a writer.

It sucks because it’s lonely.

I feel like an alien.

I feel like the oldest girl in the world to still believe in magic.

Doesn’t anyone else feel that, or am I really the ridiculous person I pretend to believe I am?

☁︎

Is now a good time to say that I hate corporate America? Ever since I got my writing degree I’ve learned to hate capitalism more and more everyday because of what it does to people like me—Artsy kids who don’t come from rich families. I think Bret Easton Ellis created a kind of allegory for what happens to artsy-kids-with-no-money in his novel, American Psycho, when Patrick Batemen—a character embodiment of all things capitalist and money hungry—says this:

“I have no patience for revelations, for new beginnings, for things that take place beyond the realm of my immediate vision. A young girl, a freshman, I met in a bar in Cambridge my junior year at Harvard told me early one fall that ‘Life is full of endless possibilities.’ I tried valiantly not to choke on the beer nuts I was chewing while she gushed this kidney stone of wisdom, and I calmly washed them down with the rest of a Heineken, smiled and concentrated on the dart game that was going on in the corner. Needless to say, she did not live to see her sophomore year. That winter, her body was found floating in the Charles River, decapitated, her head hung from a tree on the bank, her hair knotted around a low hanging branch, three miles away.”

It took me 240 pages before I finally understood why I found American Psycho so unsettling, but then I came to this passage and I got it. I found the book unsettling because I’m the hopeful girl who winds up metaphorically dead and dismembered. I’m the one who talks about possibilities and what the world can be; I’m the girl who devotes her life to ideas instead of money, and winds up only ever being humored—washed down with a Heineken and confined to a 9 to 5, somewhere. Who cares. Money, money, money. Die. The world never gets better because the masses don’t really give a shit about what it’ll look like for our surviving generations.

For an idealistic girl like me, total realization of this truth feels like decapitation; like my body was just found headless in some river, never really experiencing life, just floating—just getting by—and not by choice.

Uuuuuuuuugh, I can’t help but worry my future is going to be some horrible corporate-devoted nightmare because, at this point in time, working for a corporation feels like my only option, like the only way I can ever make enough money to pay off my student loans. But settling for offices, call centers, break rooms, assembly lines…the redundancy, the blank walls, the cubicles, the recruiting propaganda that lies: This company is community and family oriented! Just makes me nauseous. It all makes me want to resign to a life spent living out of my car or off the grid. Is it too late to be raised by wolves?

I mean, I’ll admit, I used to think corporations weren’t so bad. I assumed anyone who had strong negative feelings about them was just kind of lazy and didn’t understand the concept of: Life isn’t fair. But recently I interviewed for a job at a major insurance company, and the more the interview went on, the less I wanted the job.

First of all, I’m convinced the HR person interviewing me was a cyborg; like I’m positive [insert major insurance company name here] just plugs her into a wall every night and downloads different policies and protocol into her system because she was fluent in business jargon and political correctness at a robotic level. Also, she never stopped smiling, which was disconcerting because it was obvious half way through the interview that I didn’t want the job and she wasn’t going to give it to me.

I put in less effort with every question and answer because it felt like everything I said had the potential to be, and inevitably would be, used against me. At one point, I made the mistake of saying that I didn’t mind constructive criticism and, as you can guess, the cyborg immediately pounced on this statement:

“Tell me,” she said, “About a time when your employer criticized you constructively.”

I remember pretending to think real hard before I said, “Gosh! You know! I can’t think of anything!” Then I thought: Can I go home now?

But after that, the cyborg went on to explain that [insert major insurance company] was a goal and performance based environment, “If you saw your name at the bottom of the results chart,” she said, “How would you handle that?”

And I said, “I would try to do better at my job…I’d ask my supervisor for tips on how to improve, and I’d make improvement a goal. I’d ensure that my results were better next time.”

When I finished talking, she looked kind of taken aback—like I’d just come out of a tourettes attack—and all I could think was: Shit-fuck! What do you want me to say?!?!

I’d kill myself.

If I saw my name at the bottom of the results chart I’d kill myself. I’d shoot myself right in front of it and repay the insurance gods by spewing chunks of my $60,000 brain all over the chart graphing my personal failure. Happy, Cyborg?!?!—Later I told my boyfriend this dramatic internal monologue, verbatim, and being the rational levelheaded person that he is, he said, “You could have just told her that your name would never end up at the bottom of the results chart.”

And all I could do was bury my face in a pillow and loathe him for being right. I should have just given her some bull-shit-too-good-to-be-honest response because that’s what job interviews, and corporations, are all about—bullshit.

For example, I have this ex-boyfriend who is a bullshit genius. Like one second he could be the corporate cyborg, saying things like, “The company, and the company. Here’s my action plan. Now let’s go air this thing out, come to an agreeance. I think we can hack it. Did I mention the company?” Then he could turn around and be a real person again, like, “What company? Oh. That’s just where I make bank off being good at bullshit.”

He’s going to be a millionaire someday. Isn’t that infuriating?

Well no. It’s not. I actually think the world, to a degree, needs people like that. Good bullshitters make the world go round. But my real issue is that, A.) It’s much, much, easier for this ok-with-bullshit type of person to be successful opposed to anyone else, and B.) I’m definitely not an ok-with-bullshit type of person. Like I just don’t think I could ever be so passionate about money that I’d be willing to spew bullshit for it. I’m too honest. I could never actually look that cyborg of [insert major insurance company] in the eye and say, “My name would never appear at the bottom of the results chart.” Because it’s a lie. I’m a shit salesperson! I’m a shit salesperson like I’m a shit bullshitter.

At the end of my interview with [insert major insurance company] the cyborg asked, “So, do you have any questions for me?”

And as she stared at me, expectantly, with her unblinking black hole blue eyes, all I wanted to ask was, “What happened to your soul?”

☁︎

“It’s all about who you know,” says the aspiring rap artist giving me unsolicited advice on creative writing at the bar. This is after I’ve told him that I have a degree in the exact thing he’s trying to school me in, so I’m impatient with his false confidence.

I say, “It’s also about talent and ambition, you know. I’ve been writing everyday since I was twelve…I got a degree in writing knowing it wouldn’t make me any money but at least I would have an incentive to write—which is the only way you get better…knowing the ‘right’ people can’t inspire a person to be that ambitious or naturally inclined to…”

He cut me off.

He doesn’t get what I mean because he’s not a real writer—he’s just a bored dude talking out his ass in a vain attempt to seem interesting because he’s got nothing to lose, and I don’t feel like a bitch saying that. I can tell the difference between someone who just wrote a cool sentence one day when they were high and a real artist—writing is the only thing I reserve my right to be this cocky about. The only subject in the world I feel comfortable interrupting people on and saying: I probably know more about this than you. I mean, I’mma let you finish but…

I swear I had a majority of this post already written before Kanye West gave his Video Vanguard Award acceptance speech at the VMAs. I had already written that I wanted to lead a life motivated by ideas instead of money, despite how “practical” other modes of being might seem, before he said,

“I will die for the arts, for what I believe in, and the art ain’t always going to be polite… I don’t know what’s going to happen tonight. I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow…But all I can say to my artists, my fellow artists: Just worry how you feel at the time…Just worry about how you feel… I’m confident. I believe in myself. We the millennials… This is a new mentality. We not going to control our kids with brands. We’re not going to teach low self-esteem and hate to our kids. We gonna teach our kids that they can be something. We’re going to teach our kids that they can stand up for themselves. We’re going to teach our kids to believe in themselves… I don’t know what I stand to lose after this. It don’t matter, though, because it ain’t about me, it’s about ideas… New ideas. People with ideas, people who believe in truth.”

And regardless of how rambling or confusing or weird his speech might have been, he meant something real by it, and it was refreshing to watch someone with such a diverse and massive platform be so unapologetically idealistic about the future of our generation; for someone of that caliber to express the same frustrations and sentiments I’ve been feeling and thinking for the past few months.

I’ll admit he lost me the moment he said he would be running for president—unless he wasn’t being serious, who knows—but up until that point, he had me.

It was admirable how he tried to explain himself, what was going through his mind when he interrupted Taylor Swift at the VMAs six years ago. How all he was trying to say was that he didn’t want to be a bullshitter. He just wanted to be honest. He was trying to say that art is about more than awards and competition and getting the most votes, about more than popularity and making money. That it’s about ideas, and how much an artist is willing to sacrifice in order to remain true to their ideas, even at the expense of popularity and success; about being a visionary first, and a good businessman second.

It’s not all about “who you know”.

☁︎

My favorite writing professor constantly told us, “You have to be ruthless.” Like: Don’t kid yourself. Be brutally honest. Always choose writing over anything else. Don’t apologize for believing you have a shot at this. Don’t be afraid to burn bridges for the only thing you’ve ever really wanted in life—to say something that will be taken seriously.

It’s a lot of pressure, actually having the nerve to believe in yourself—that lame bullshit cliché that millennials are so often accused of believing in too much.

But I can’t help it. I believe in it. All the time. To the point where, to actually tell people what I hope for—out loud—feels like admitting I still believe in magic. Like I’m seriously delusional, like: Hey, I’m twenty-three and I’m still walking around with this lame ass thing called a dream, and because I believe in my lame ass dream so much I will never, ever, allow myself be passionate about a corporate agenda, or brand names, or all-inclusive vacations, or starting a family, or even paying my student loans on time…fuuuuuuck!!!!!!!

 How am I ever going to be truly, fundamentally, happy if this one thing that I want never happens?

That’s the question waking me up in the middle of the night; that’s the pressure on my chest at 3AM; that’s the Ram-Man—the unknown—appearing by moonlight to jolt me awake and say: Get up! Do something—the future is switching from a promise to a threat!

And the more the future, my unknown, weighs down, the less certainty I have in who I am and what I’m here for. And when stress-induced sleep paralysis won’t let me rest in peace and I start to feel that ominous presence, that simulated attacker in the room, I just remind myself over and over: It’s a lie. It’s a lie. Then I think of my dad, who, on the days when I look defeated after serving shifts or failed interviews, takes a moment to say, “You’re an artist…Don’t settle for anything. Someday it’ll happen for you.”

And finally I fall back into my dreams because I’m a self-indulgent millennial and I believe what he says is true.

Poetry for Lost Girls

lost girlI was in the midst of a Red Bull induced panic attack. Sometimes I took my Citalopram and sometimes I didn’t. I never went to class. But I remembered the defense mechanisms from the one day I spent in psych class like some kind of prayer that went:

Repression

Regression

Projection

Sublimation

and…

Displacement?

They became the titles of poems I wrote when I should’ve been in bed. None of them were any good. But I wrote one called “The Incentive to Relate” because that was another thing I learned about in Psych class.

The final lines of it went: I even wore their shoes around and said / “see you’re not alone.” / and every single one told me / “but I still feel it.” Because I felt that, and I didn’t want anyone else to feel that, but I guess it’s inevitable when you’re 18, 19, 20…and trying to find your way out of the woods that was your adolescence.

☁︎

Me and K were like Wendys among lost boys.

We spoke in code about our feelings for the types of men we were among. All emotions were dumbed down into cave-talk; summarized in twos like: Hot n’ steamies, cold n’ empties, warm n’ fuzziez, numb n’ pricklies…

One guy told me he didn’t trust me because my eyes moved too much, and at the time, I had this paranoia that I was a bad person in disguise, so I said, “You shouldn’t. I definitely don’t trust myself.”

Then K, with a stomach full of absinthe, looked outside and got all misty-eyed for the frozen lake. We ran out the backdoor and walked on ice like life was Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and not cold or uncomfortable; a place that could actually be beautiful and ugly all at once without the worry of some ideal illusion suddenly cracking and caving in beneath you; more like a movie, something you watch and feel but never really live…

We ran back inside, and met this guy who after one too many jäger bombs started referring to himself as The Oracle. We asked him questions, and he started rubbing his temples, pretending like he was summoning the other side and not just staring at the insides of his eyelids.

“Will we ever be happy?” we asked.

He opened one eye and smirked like he knew something we didn’t know.

“No,” he said curtly.

And we laughed in spite of everything.

☁︎

Our friendship was like this: I was Heartache, and she was Wrath, and together we made Misery because that’s how much we loved each other’s company.

We joked about super moons, and second comings. We got McChickens during tornado warnings. We gazed out kitchen windows and watched as lightning turned the sky into a touched plasma globe…

Some guy said the rapture was supposed to happen. But we weren’t surprised when nothing happened.

We knew that nothing probably happened to anyone—or we weren’t chosen.

Either way, it was all one giant joke to us, one more ironic reason to buy a T-shirt.

And that’s the simplified version of things.

☁︎

I had a boyfriend at the time, but he was more like a third wheel; our teddy bear and designated safety blanket.

He was a grizzly guy—tall and tree-like—with a design like veins and vital organs tattooed all around his forearm. He wore glasses from the sixties and had skin like nicotine.

His name was M and we took him everywhere.

One night we were all at K’s apartment on campus. Our friend had just traded us whiskey for vodka across train tracks, and we squeezed the last few drops of wine from a box. We pulled the empty bag out and blew it up like a balloon. M labeled it “my happiness” and we played a metaphorical game of capture the flag.

I remember I got it, but then M snatched it back and popped it.

“Cheater!” I shouted.

“That’s life!” he retaliated.

I glared, but got over it because he molded me a dinosaur with the wax of a candy soda bottle as a peace offering.

Meanwhile, K had been pounding back whiskeys, and she was ready to make her way across campus to whoever it was she wanted that night.

She left, and when it was just me and M, I remember he started talking on and on about how he wanted to watch the moon explode—to see what happened when the oceans engulfed us.

I stayed quiet; I just stood there and listened.

M was an artist who created things that were beautiful but had no meaning. This is why he felt nothing when he burned them or broke them or popped them. Knowing this, he looked at me and said, “You’re all morals and I’m all impulse. We’re never going to work out.”

And I stared back at him, just blinking, like I didn’t know anything. Like I didn’t know he was crazy, like I didn’t know he was right; like I wasn’t the same girl who’d cringed every time she felt a spring peeper pop beneath the car’s tires that night; like I wasn’t someone who would only ever love chaos in theory.

I kissed him as a means of filling the space, and the next day we found K grinning at Starbucks with a bruise on her knee. “Let’s go,” she said, and we sang along to “Missed the Boat” by Modest Mouse the whole way home, like we didn’t know it was the anthem for everything that was wrong with us:

While we’re on the subject
Could we change the subject now?
I was knocking on your ear’s door,
But you were always out.
Looking towards the future
We were begging for the past
Well, we knew we had the good things
But those never seem to last
Oh, please just last…

☁︎

I always wore this fuzzy hat with bear arms and bear ears. We called it Balloo—like The Jungle Book. And I often slept on couches and floors; dorm beds, and reclining chairs; all the futons of faraway places, with my hands tucked into Balloo’s paws like mittens; the rest of him bundled up and doubling as a pillow beneath me.

I did this while K found herself in the bunk beds and basements of Victorian mansions; lying on the cot of an off-the-grid shack-house; nestled away in trees sprouting from coves on the shore of Lake Erie; kicking up water in her underwear while some envious girl got mad; clipping feathers in her hair and saying, “Let’s go,” just when the moon got full.

I was beginning to believe we were less like Wendys and more like the lost boys—lost girls, if they would’ve been written to be a thing—taking on each night like: Second house to the right. Who cares til’ morning.

 ☁︎

One night we found ourselves at a big house in the middle of nowhere. It was the kind of house that’s tall and looming, Victorian, and weirdly gothic with black shutters and barred windows that all come to a point; a house that looked expensive from the outside but, upon closer inspection, was actually a fortress of cat piss and dogs without leashes.

On the back porch, which was sunken and caving in, we found M in a drum circle of bored looking white kids with dreadlocks.

K and I knew we didn’t belong so we stole their vodka and fifteen minutes later M laughed because he found us crouching behind a bush. We were taking swigs in the name of social anxiety until liquid courage coaxed us out—a.k.a. we killed the bottle and kicked it into the woods.

Everyone had moved from the porch to a bonfire out on the lawn at that point.

One guy was playing an acoustic version of “Sweetest Girl” by Wyclef Jean on guitar and everyone was singing along harmoniously, like they took this ritual very seriously: Cause I’mma tell you, like Wu told me, cash rules everything around me, singin’ dolla dolla bill ya’ll—DOLLA DOLLA BILL YA’LL!

We looked at each other like: What year is it? Where are we? Is this real life?

And I realized that the place was a purgatory for lost childhood.

I found Batman with his face scraped off; Mountain Dew cans everywhere; a stuffed Barney, abandoned and still smiling on the pavement, like he was clenching his teeth and mumbling to me: Is this real life?

Later, M and I got into a fight about the state of our relationship because I was never not mad at him about something.

We were both standing at the top of a hill overlooking the road and, at some point, a beagle scuttled past us. We didn’t think much of it because I had just gotten done saying something that put M over the edge.

It was the first time he ever snapped at me; he blindsided me with a level of honesty that I didn’t know he was capable of.

He said, “One minute you’re so vulnerable and gentle, and the next minute, it’s like I can literally feel how angry you are. It’s like the calm before the storm, except, the tension never really breaks. I swear to god, you have this crazy fucking ability to dictate the emotion of an entire room. All you have to do is shift your eyes a certain way, or twist your mouth—like you’re finally going to say whatever the fuck is on your mind, but then you never do, and nobody ever knows what’s hit them; no one ever suspects that you’re the reason there’s a knot in their gut because who’s going to blame the quiet girl? Especially when she’s always got this stupid lost look on her face. But I know you, and you’re not vulnerable or stupid, and you need to stop pretending like—”

That was when we heard the thud. It came from the road at the bottom of the hill.

It was like a thud-crack; like the sound of a car hitting a large stick.

“What was that?” I asked, not entirely sure what I was asking about—the rest of M’s sentence, or the sound?

But M ignored me. He just said, “Shit,” and ran away, down the hill toward the road.

I edged closer to a part of the hill, where the road was visible, and I saw the little lifeless blob.

I knew what it was.

It was the beagle that had scuttled past us just a few minutes ago. Only now it was dead.

My stomach clenched and I don’t know why I started crying over a dog that I didn’t even know. But it all felt like Peter Pan, and bedtime—the time when Neverland was said to become threatening; when the benign world that was your bedroom became malignant beneath the cover of night and something as unthreatening as a chair could look like a lurking figure; a looming disaster…

Except, this was different.

The dead dog was definitely dead, and the looming disaster wasn’t just a trick of the eyes.

Nothing was make believe anymore.

Up until that point, I’d told myself, and I’d told myself, that everything around me was make believe—that this was all a trial run. That a truck was a truck and a dog was a dog, and everything was that simple. When in reality, a truck was only just a truck and a dog was only just a dog until the two collided, and one kept on going while the other was reduced to a shell of thing that was no longer alive. And I realized: Beauty fades and puppies die and this is real life.

After that, K and I stopped hanging out. I started going to class. She got a boyfriend, and I eventually dumped M for a guy who was the opposite of crazy.

Getting Over Myself #MYSTRUGGLE What’s Yours?

I recently took the Myers-Briggs personality test and found out that I am an INFP.

What the fuck does that mean?

Yeah. That’s what I said too.

So I Googled the basic traits of INFPs, and I won’t bore you with the details of my personality, but everything I read seemed pretty accurate. So I kept reading until I came to a part in the article that basically said: INFPs comprise only 4% of the population, so no one will ever really understand you, and you’ll probably die alone.

I’ll admit, one half of me was like: Fuck yeah! I’m basically the Loch Ness Monster! While the other half of me was like: Oh. That’s depressing.

loch ness betch-1So, just to torture myself further, I decided to look up the INFP compatibility chart.

The chart was color coded, so personality types that were my ideal match showed up blue, and personalities that were a definite No showed up red, while all the in between-ers were green.

You can probably guess what happened.

Half my chart flared up red like: Fuck everyone! Apparently, my personality doesn’t get along with a whole lot of other personalities. When I compared my chart to everyone else’s, I found that theirs was dominated by lax shades of green, while mine was half red, and kind of green, with only two, very isolated, blue boxes.

I thought: God. Why am I such a difficult person to love?

I mean, I’ll admit, I’ve always preferred people on an individual basis. I’d rather have a few close friends, over a large social circle of acquaintances because I don’t trust group mentalities. Like, there’s just no fucking way that many education majors actually like wearing Uggs, and there’s definitely no way that many bro-dudes truly enjoy maintaining their Hitler Youth haircuts.

Or maybe they do. In which case, I’m sorry.

But my point is this: Jonestown. Scientology. Charles Manson. People who believe Kurt Cobain was a genius…

Like, seriously, fuck groups.

However, the complicated flipside of my deep aversion to groups is that I have always struggled with loneliness. I have always wanted, desperately, to belong somewhere, because I have this constant nagging feeling that I’m both too normal and too weird to actually fit in anywhere.

Now top this feeling off with a reckless need to be universally liked and you’ve located my problem: I want to be popular. I want to be the kind of girl who is un-hate-ably special.

It’s stupid. I want you to know that I know it’s stupid.

But I saw a picture of Taylor Swift in a swan floaty with her current boyfriend (Calvin who?) on Instagram and it had 2,059,243 likes. I remember wondering: What’s it like being that liked?

Of course I know there’s probably a shit ton of crazies who hate Taylor Swift so much that they want to chain her to a pipe in their basement, and god only knows what else. But, at the same time, I highly doubt the few thousand trolls who take a minute to dislike her videos on VEVO are keeping her up at night. Especially after she’s tucked in all four of her multi-platinum albums.

Like, I hate celebrities, and even I love Taylor Swift. So, seriously: What’s it like being that liked?

I think this is a question our generation is always subconsciously asking itself. With the rise of social media, and the phenomenon that is the selfie, there’s more pressure than ever to be liked. It’s no longer just the people we actually know that we’ve got to impress, but also a vast array of people who don’t really know us at all; our followers. (HOW CREEPY IS THAT SHIT WHEN YOU ACTUALLY THINK ABOUT IT?!?!)

This bizarre, narcissistic, cultural shift can be summarized nicely with a quote from John Green’s YA novel An Abundance of Katherines: “Famous is the new popular.”

When I read that line I remember thinking in response: You fucking bet it is.

Because the Internet and reality TV have made fame within everyone’s reach. All you really have to do is convince enough random-ass people to like you—something I’ve been vainly (stupidly) jumping through hoops trying to do for what feels like my entire life up until this point.

I swear to god.

Do you want know how much I have literally invested in being liked?

I mean—I wish I woke up beautiful and likable with smoky mystery girl eyes and an even complexion, but unfortunately, no. My acne has remained steadfast well into young adulthood, and I don’t have eyebrows. So it costs me anywhere from 40 to 60 dollars in cosmetics per month just to compensate for not being Beyoncé.

Then, on top of that, it costs me anywhere from 20 to 100 dollars a month (depending on my income) to run around clad in funky tights and ironic T-shirts because everybody likes an edgy girl with a wardrobe that keeps them on their toes.

Now let me note that 25 dollars is automatically sucked from my bank account every month to pay for a gym where I run on a treadmill like a lab rat testing the Kate Moss theory which says: Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels. (If you’ve ever run 6 mph, for an hour, on a treadmill, then you know that Kate Moss is a fucking liar.) But according to our media, bony chicks are likeable chicks. And who am I to challenge supermodel authority? So I pay monthly to painfully trudge my way to a low BMI.

And, as if this weren’t enough already, add a 99-cent Afterlight app to the bill because likable bitches need 40+ Instagram filters. You think my features are really vivid enough to appear that smooth and glow-y beneath a standard flash? Think again.

Now hit me with at least ten shots of vodka at 5 dollars a glass so I can forget how much I fucking hate myself.

It took me years to realize that overcoming self-hatred doesn’t mean learning how to love yourself.

Really. As much as your Tumblr dashboard wants you to believe it does, it doesn’t.

Because, paradoxically, a lot of self-loathing people are actually pretty pleased with themselves. Seeing other people like little red boxes in a Myers-Briggs compatibility chart, it’s other people that self-loathing people can’t stand. Other people are the ones who won’t give them the recognition or the affection that, for whatever reason, they have the tenacity to believe they deserve.

No.

Overcoming self-hatred does not mean learning how to love yourself.

It means becoming aware of how your self-loathing affects the people around you; the people who give you their time and attention; the people who truly know and love you. Because they’re the ones you shit all over every time you hurt yourself. They’re the ones who wind up feeling like their love isn’t what it should be: Enough.

For the longest time, I didn’t get that.

I was just another monster crying, “More, more, more!” and wondering why everyone had turned into red boxes.

My initial lesson in overcoming self-hatred didn’t happen until I was nineteen.

One year and six months out of high school, I found myself talking to a guy at a party who had graduated two years before me. It was a pretty standard I’m-so-glad-high-school-is-over conversation. We talked about hating it, and everyone. But when I said: “Yeah. I don’t know, I just never felt like anyone really noticed me, or cared about me, so I just kind of embraced it.” He suddenly got real with me. He looked at me and said it dead straight: “Cat. Everybody saw you.”

I was pretty taken aback. I got defensive and retaliated with: “Yeah, but nobody wanted to know me.”

And the moment I said it I realized I was talking to a guy who had a drug dealer for a father and an institutionalized schizophrenic for a mother.

I was such a self-obsessed bitch.

I was a fucking cliché. The wayward woman who couldn’t see anything beyond her own self-induced depression—not one thing beyond the aftermath of the hurricane that was her own self-destruction.

Who the fuck was I to complain about anything?

Everyone was lonely in high school. Nobody really fit in.

How could I have ever possibly believed that this was a real problem?

The wayward woman is everywhere in fiction. Which is probably why (as an English major) I know her well. Honestly, I kind of love her. I mean. Everyone loves her. She’s a smart ass bad bitch of few words. She wears stockings and mini skirts. She stomps out cigarettes with her combat boots, and can’t make up her mind about anything. Then something bad happens to her as a result of her own indecision. And on top of all that, she’s lonely. She’s so goddam lonely…*eye roll*

In Leslie Jameson’s essay, “Grand Unified Theory of Female Pain”, she points out that we love to watch the wayward woman—the beautiful deviant woman—crash and burn at her own accord.

And it’s true.

I can think of at least three iconic wayward women off the top of my head: F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Daisy Buchannan, Skins: Generation II’s Effy Stonem, and John Green’s Alaska Young.

What do these three fictional women have in common?

Everybody loved them, but they absolutely hated themselves.

Alaska Young probably killed herself, Effy Stonem tried, and Daisy Buchanan chose to run away with her belligerent asshole of husband—which is a kind of suicide. None of them were ever gentle with themselves, and it made them all very difficult, miserable, people to be around. Because, no matter what, what they had was never enough. And it showed.

I don’t mean to be harsh, but maybe these three women’s problems had nothing to do with being misunderstood or lonely. Maybe the real problem was that none of them knew how to take a minute to get the fuck over themselves and appreciate what they had.

Or maybe I’m just projecting—I’m probably just projecting—because I’ve recently realized that my greatest struggle has, and probably always will be, getting the fuck over myself. Because getting over myself means finally shutting the hell up about my petty problems and taking a minute to say thank you to… Life? The universe? The way things are? Whatever. It just means doing something that shows gratitude.

Because shit’s really not that bad for me: I have a button nose, straight teeth, a critical mind, a sense of humor, passion; a burning itch in my brain that drags me out of bed every morning and makes me do what I love despite the fact that in the end, I might be the only person who ever really gives a shit about it.

Regardless, I’m lucky. It took me forever to realize it, but I’m so lucky to live in a reality where that passionate feeling is possible, because so many don’t. So many live in a reality where survival is their lifelong struggle.

Not just hoping to be liked. Not just scribbling words down on a piece of paper and hoping somebody will like it. But hoping that they won’t starve, or someone won’t abuse them, or that they’ll wake up in a body opposite of the one they were born in, or that they won’t be the subject of a hate crime…

See, hope’s a real bitch to a lot of people. There are so many hopeless realities that I will never even have to struggle with—hardships that I’ll never even be able to comprehend. The least I can do is not be one more ungrateful bitch.

So I admit it: I’m lucky. And now, when I say my biggest struggle out loud, like: I wish more people liked me. I wish I was special. I might as well be saying: I once drove for forty-minutes with a Big Gulp between my legs because I overestimated the size of my cup holder, and the insides of my thighs went numb. #MyStruggle

Like, that’s just not a real problem. So what if half my compatibility chart lights up red like a Christmas tree, so what if I don’t have good people skills, or this weird made-up thing called likability. I’ve still got a whole lot.

And the fact that I can admit this, and the fact that I know my struggle is getting over myself, doesn’t mean that I’m no longer selfish, and it definitely doesn’t mean that I’m never ungrateful. But it does mean that I’m open.

Admitting my faults, and that I haven’t experienced everything—and I probably never will—has made me open to other people and their stories; their realities. I learned how to listen and understand; I became receptive to the struggles of others…

So here’s my major point: We get so caught up in our own problems that we forget how to listen when other people try opening up about theirs. Instead of making a true attempt at understanding, and making a hurting person feel heard, we turn it into a pissing contest of who’s been hurt worse; who’s got the harder life; who’s really earned that chip on their shoulder.

I don’t want to do that anymore; I don’t want any of us to do that anymore.

The Oxford English Dictionary defined “struggle” as: “A strong effort to continue to breathe.”

And I thought: Isn’t that just another way of defining the human condition?

Then, like a bag lady on a street corner, I answered my own question: Yeah. It is.

We’re all making a strong effort to “continue to breathe” everyday.

Of course some days are easier or harder than others…but it’s there. We all struggle. We all overcome things. We all fail to overcome things too. It’s just a matter of time. Nobody’s life is easy. It’s not really whether you fail or succeed that counts, it’s how you handle it. So.

What are you going to do about it?

Tell me and I’ll listen.

This post was written for my friend’s lifestyle brand Struggle & Co. Check out his site and share your struggle @ http://www.struggleandco.com/ or by using the hashtag #MYSTRUGGLE ☻

Nine Non-Romances Between Then and Number Ten: A Summarized List of Shit That Happened When I was Single

Over the past two years—the two years that I was very, very, single—I learned that there is a certain romance in detachment; in walking down the street, your eyes itchy from too much black makeup, caked on your face for too long, with one of your boots untied and a snag in your nylons; in being the lone wolf of a girl with curls turned to tangles and a headache over her left eye like a wound that only she can see.

It was on these mornings—the mornings after girls’ nights gone awry (because they always went awry)—that I felt like a ghost walking back to myself; a crescent moon of a smile waxing at the corners of my mouth because I had a new story to tell…

The Story of 9 Non-Romances + 1 Romance

  1. Toothpick: I hung out with him when I studied abroad in Turkey. He was a tiny, angry, shaggy-haired, metal-head, with a nose ring and Napoleon-syndrome. At night I’d go to his dorm room and he’d make me watch Drive (yes, the Ryan Gosling movie) trailers and scene clips on YouTube for hours. Eventually I noticed that whenever he wasn’t smoking, he was chewing on a toothpick. I put the pieces together and realized that he wanted to become Ryan Gosling’s character from Drive. He split the cost of an acoustic guitar with a guy who also shared a name with him (a common country club white guy name). On our last night in Turkey, he serenaded the group by playing the same verse from “Play Crack the Sky” by Brand New over and over again while the sun set over the Bosphorus. He paused every so often to scream at the locals for playing music on their phones instead of listening to his broken record rendition of one of my favorite songs. The most interaction we had in America was through an angry Facebook message in which he accused me of EXPECTING TOO MUCH! Because our friendship…relationship?—our whatevership—didn’t exist in America. He lookedsk8er boi2-13 like James Franco—I’ll give him that—and he wrote me a nice rejection letter. He utilized the age old cliche, stating that I was “too good of a person” for him. I want to take this moment to say: Yes. I was way too good of a person for him.
  1. Hotdog: I wrote a literary analysis / personal essay hybrid about American Psycho in which I compared him to Ted Bundy and Patrick Bateman—yes, he sucked that bad. He was a clueless rich kid who made me realize that I have a knack for turning Assholes into A papers. When I first met him I hated his guts, mostly because the first two things he said to me were pretentious (if not desperate): “If you like wine cold, then you don’t like wine,” and “My parents have a wine cellar in their basement.” A.) That’s not true, B.) Emphasis on your parent’s wine cellar, but C.) You’re really attractive, and since I’m new to the dating pool and have yet to realize that men will have no problem using me like a rag doll, I’m going to run with this. Our two week fling ended when he posted a picture of himself on Instagram making out with a girl wearing a tiara. She had the word TEETZ written on her arm in black Sharpie. When confronted, he defended his actions with: IT WAS HER BIRTHDAY! And I ferociously texted back with: NEVER TALK TO ME AGAIN! Then, three months later he broke our again-7textual silence with a string of eggplant emojis, to which I responded: WHAT THE FUCK IS YOUR PROBLEM?! Another three months of silence went by. Then he invited me to a party where he hit me in the face with a hotdog. Never again. Never, ever, ever…
  1. Sk8er Boi: I sang “Sk8er Boi” by Avril Lavigne to him once because I thought it was funny. He didn’t. We were doomed. He was a tall Jack Skellington limbed skateboarding dude with a lot of tattoos. His car looked like it belonged on a neon Hot Wheels track, and he had awesome slicky-back hair. Much to my delight (or dismay, I can’t decide) he was one of those guys who’s so attractive he doesn’t even have to try. His daily routine probably consists of rolling out of bed, wiping the drool from his mouth, slipping into an unintentionally holey white T-shirt, and voilà: Life is a Lana del Rey music video and he’s the guy she’s going to make out with on a car hood. He was so good looking it hurt—like he could get away with saying, “I know, I kill it!” instead of “Thank you.” And, secretly, I hated him for it as much as I liked him for it. (Full disclosure: Being around him never actually made me feel good. It only ever made me feel anxious, and kind of alone…and at the end of the day, I think we were both just too selfish for each other. We were more like a competition of who could withhold / get more attention than a genuine stab at a relationship. But I tell myself he’s just a self-proclaimed “mysterious” asshole who works at the mall because it helps me sleep at night and prevents me from thinking of him whenever “Style” by Taylor Swift plays on the radio—I know, I clearly lost the competition, but I still want to kick him in the ball sack for being so goddam hot.)
  1. Solid Shirt Guy: Leave it to me to find the only guy wearing a leather jacket and slouchy beanie at a sports bar. We gazed at each other from across the pool table and it was love at first sight…until this guy wearing what Louis C.K. calls the ‘stripy-button-down-going-to-get-laid’ shirt flew out of the woodwork and ruined the moment by interrogating me about who was going to win the stripes-8pool game: “Stripes or solids? Stripes or solids?” He kept asking. I gazed back over at the object of my affection and saw that he was wearing a solid black shirt: “Definitely solids,” I said. Stripes must have been winning the pool game because Stripy Shirt Guy looked confused and said: “You really don’t get pool, do you?” Still staring at Solid Shirt Guy I said: “You really don’t get metaphors.” Then I bolted for Solid Shirt Guy and introduced myself as if my life depended on having a tedious bar conversation about what we do. He told me he liked my sparkly headband and I told him I liked his slouchy beanie (these two compliments were code for: I have been objectifying you all night). I was chewing a piece of cinnamon gum. He told me he wished he had a piece of gum. A public make out session ensued. He got my piece of gum. (Sharing my ABC gum with atooth pics-9 stranger is probably the grossest thing I have ever done, now it’s published for the world to see—you’re welcome.) Immediately following the incident my roommate tapped me on the shoulder—we had to leave ASAP. I ran away to a cab, calling over my shoulder, “It was nice to meet you!” right before me and my sparkly headband disappeared into the night like the manic-pixie-dream-girl I wish I was.
  1. The Anti-Feminist: I had to entertain this idiot while my friend made out with another idiot in the bathroom. An iPod was playing on shuffle and the song “Help I’m Alive” by Metric came on. Trying to make conversation, I said: “This song is in a famous feminist documentary.” And like a senile old man who had just been jolted awake he exclaimed: “LESBIANS?!” Already annoyed, I bristled at his reaction. “No,” I said, “People need to stop associating feminism with a conception of lesbians that is totally false to begin with. A lot of women are feminists now, and anyone who isn’t is still living, like, two decades ago.” Then the Anti-Feminist put his hand on my leg and we sat like that for a few wildly awkward seconds (me fuming with my arms crossed, staring at the wall, trying to ignore his unwanted hand on my leg with the ambiance of Metric in the background: Help, I’m alive, my heart keeps beating like a hammer / hard to be soft, tough to be tender…) I finally said: “Don’t touch me,” and he eventually got the message.
  1. AE: It happened. I got an OkCupid account, thinking: Why not? This could be fun. And soon enough I was talking to this guy: A tall blonde-haired blue-eyed boy who worked at American Eagle and wore khakis in his daily life. He seemed extra normal. Perfect! We arranged to go on a date the next weekend, and we texted the whole week leading up to it. We even Snapchatted to confirm that neither of us were being caftished! Things were going great…until our date. He took me to a college frat party. (The kind that’s in someone’s basement and has a Jonestown suicides vibe because everyone is drinking from a vat of jungle juice without question.) I told AE: “I feel kind of old for this.” And he said: “Sorry, I kinda missed out on this part of college—I just study all the time.” Eventually I’d learn that my date was completely socially inept. First he’d tell me that I “overcompensate well” for having small boobs, and then he’d insult where I went to school: “Oh, I thought you went to U.B., like a real school.” At which point, I wanted to dump the vat of jungle juice on his head and say: Listen, we’re the same age and you’re still in COMMUNITY COLLEGE, ok? Meanwhile, I’m going to have two bachelor’s degrees in the time it’s taking you to get one associate’s degree, so pipe the fuck down about “real schools”. Also—YOU LOOKED BETTER ONLINE!” But I didn’t because I’m a nice person, and judging by his khakis, he’d cry.
  1. The Poet: After an onslaught of horrible OkCupid dates with age appropriate guys, I changed the preferred age range on my profile because I decided it was time for a nice, mature, almost age inappropriate, 30 year old. The online dating gods answered my prayers and matched me with The Poet. On paper he was everything I wanted in a man (*wink, wink*; I hate myself). He had an MFA in poetry and a PhD in English. He had chapbooks published; he was a PROFESSOR! We met up for drinks, and although he was perfect on paper, and even handsomer in person, he also loved playing devil’s advocate and was shamelessly pretentious. “I feel like your advisor,” he said. I tried to change the subject: “What’s it like being published? That must be cool.” I swear, a faint rain cloud formed over his head as he answered: “Not really. It’s more about being part of a literary community than it is about being published.” I thought: Oh get over yourself and admit it—you love being published. But instead of saying this I asked: “What’s your poetry like?” And, I’ll never forget, he said: “I write a lot of grotesque sex poetry.” He went into detail and I stared at him like: Oh my god, you are a serial killer. Then he asked: “So, what exactly do you want to do with your writing?” I said: “Honestly, I don’t like telling people this because I know they assume I’m going to fail, but, I want to get a book deal someday. I want to publish a memoir or a collection of essays.” And he said: “People probably respond that way because it is a really far-fetched goal. No one reads anymore, there’s hardly a market for any writer.” And I said: “I know, but I’d be lying if I pretended like it isn’t something I hope for, and besides, a lot of people don’t realize how good I am.” His eyes widened at the last part, I could tell he was taken aback, like: How could she possibly have the nerve to believe she’s talented?!?! He said: “Wow,” and condescendingly mimicked what I had just said before stating: “You’re bold, because you’re naive.” Then I retaliated: “No. I’m idealistic.” And right before taking a large gulp of beer, like he was this wise old talking willow tree with a bajillion stump rings, he snorted: “Yeah, I used to be idealistic too.” And all I could think was: Are you fucking kidding me? You’re not that old man. Has the limited market for grotesque sex poetry really made you that bitter about life already? I’m sorry, but you’re not me. You don’t know me. We’re not the same. I want other people to be happy and I’m going to be happy—even if I fail—unlike you. He gave me the stiffest hug goodbye, and I bolted down the street, away from him, as fast as I could, because he represented a bitter life of mediocrity that I wanted no part of. He probably thought this exit was childish—to be expected from a 22 year old. I thought: Let him think what he wants.
  1. The Marine: I found him at a 7-11. I was out with a friend and she stopped for cigarettes. When she got back in the car she said: “Hey, want to go hang out with those guys in the truck next to us?” And being the impulsive person that I am I said: “Yeah! [Let’s go hang out with two potential axe murderers!]” We followed them back to their apartment, and as usual, I wound up having to entertain one guy, while my friend ran off with the other. My guy was a marine recently back from Iraq; a southern boy from Savannah Georgia who spoke as if we were living in the 1950’s and drinking iced tea from a pitcher (“Yes ma’am…No ma’am.”); he loved Ernest Hemingway and, because of this, he assumed we would have everything in common. He seemed to like me. It was nice…until it got weird. After one too many vodka waters he started referring to himself as the “infantile male” and apologizing profusely for the male gender. I kept saying: “It’s alright. Dudes are all right. I like dudes.” Eventually I laid down on the couch and fell asleep. Around 4AM I was awoken by something slimy—Is that a fucking dog? I looked over and…THE MARINE WAS SUCKING ON MY FINGERS! I promptly hit him in the face. Then he dramatically asked: “WHO HURT YOU?” (I think he interpreted my hitting him in the face as a fear of intimacy.) I said (just as dramatically, like a damsel in distress): “HEART BREAK IS IRRELEVANT! DON’T SUCK MY FINGERS AGAINST MY WILL!” Then I fainted. Just kidding. But my friend and I did laugh all the way home like: WHAT IS LIFE?!
  1. Frenchie: This psycho. All I know is that he grew up in France and then, as soon as he was old enough, his parents shipped him away to America. He would hang out at my roommate’s boyfriend’s apartment, where I’d sit in the corner and quietly observe him, trying to diagnose him with some kind of personality disorder. He was always on a combination of Xanax and somebody else’s vodka. (Hide your bottles, or else he will shove them all down his pants and when he’s confronted about it, like: Frenchie, either you have a tumor the exact size and shape of my Smirnoff bottle, or you’re trying to steal from me. He’ll respond, casually, like: What? No! I was born this way! That’s just my dick.) He’s one of those guys; a likely inspiration for the Scumbag Steve meme. Anyway, one night he took a liking to me by inviting himself to sit on my lap, crushing my lime-a-rita (which was in a Starbucks cup, because I am classy) and getting sticky alcohol all over his ass. “That’s not my fault,” he said. Humoring him, like he was nine, I responded: “Of course not.” Then his friend came flying head first out of the bathroom and into the kitchen window, making himself stagger like a cartoon character seeing stars. Frenchie commented: “What a psycho.” And I openly laughed at the irony. Eventually my roommate tried to help me escape him. We left for the bar, thinking he wouldn’t follow because he never has cab money, but we looked behind us and, sure enough, there he was, following and foaming at the mouth like a drunk zombie. I sat in the front of the cab to avoid him, but he tapped on the window, and the driver rolled it down. He stood there, with his eyes closed, until he finally blubbered: “What the fuck?” And I said: “What? I’m going to the bar.” Then he just kind of kept standing there—with a beer, outside—until the cab driver slowly rolled the window back up. Force field! Frenchie stormed off and we all watched in awe as hiseggplants-3 beer splattered in the glow of a streetlamp after he angrily chucked it across the lawn. The cab driver was laughing: “Is that your boyfriend or something?” And I said: “No, but I think he thinks he is.” The driver found the whole thing hysterical because he was still laughing when he said: “Take it as a compliment.” And I replied with sarcasm: “Oh, is that what that was?”
  1. Michael & The Sexist: Michael’s always brooding in a corner somewhere. Skinny and pale with dark Albert Einstein hair that he has to gel down into a good kind of crazy—he’s like a member of the Adams family. He was in a lot of my classes, but we didn’t talk until my final semester of school. However, I can remember the moment I became overtly conscious of him. We had a fiction writing class together and it was the day my classmates were going to workshop my story. The story I wrote to be workshopped was a conversation between two acquaintances that re-connected through Tinder-like circumstances. I wrote the story to emphasize the general disconnect that exists between the men and women navigating modern romance—even when / if a genuine respect and attraction is there. I wrote my male character to be indifferent to his own desires, and the feelings of others as a result. While I wrote the female to be extremely confused about her desires, and ultra-sensitive as a result. The conversation between the two is addled with communication errors, causing the female’s emotions to abruptly spike and then plummet, while the male’s emotions simply stagnate. The two characters don’t wind up together; instead they practically run away from each other and…end scene. The class didn’t discuss the story’s contents; they didn’t even discuss the basic mechanics of the piece. Instead everyone became weirdly fixated on fact that I chose to write the story from the male character’s point of view, and even weirder, all the guys in the class seemed offended by this choice. They criticized my male character for not being masculine enough. One particular guy (The Sexist) even went as far as saying: “I thought this story was actually about lesbianism,” (you read it correctly, not lesbians, but lesbianism) and, while everyone nodded in agreement, he added: “I also thought this guy flicking beer foam off his fingers was kind of effeminate.” How a guy flicking beer foam off his fingers is effeminate, I will never know. Regardless, I was annoyed because my classmates were all demonstrating the exact problem with our society that my story was criticizing: That our ideals of masculinity and femininity are damaging to individuals, and male / female relationships, because they don’t acknowledge the fact that the human mind is androgynous, and ultimately, because they force us to divide the world—unnaturally—into shades of pink and blue. I was about to lose all faith in my male peers when Michael, my glittering voice of reason, said: “You’re all just saying that because you know a girl wrote the story. If a guy had written this, it wouldn’t even be an issue right now.” I perked up at this remark. I remember wondering for the first time in a long time: Who is that?

A semester later, we started talking, and that workshop day was one of the first things we ever talked about: “When did you realize you liked me?” I asked, and he said: “Well, I always kind of noticed you—but the day we workshopped your story and you stood up for yourself, that was the first time I had ever really seen you be serious. I liked it.”

After The Sexist criticized my male character from a misogynistic point of view by saying things like: “No guy would ever pay that much attention to a girl’s face”—seriously! He said that!—I gave the class my two cents: “I don’t think my character’s masculinity is the issue here. It’s not my job to write him in a way that makes you feel comfortable. However, it is my job to make him complicated—which I did.” Then I remember looking at the floor, because I was genuinely disappointed in everyone. I said: “I’m very open to criticism that’s constructive, but I’m not going to change my male character.” The whole room became tense. I felt like a bitch saying it because The Sexist looked kind of ashamed…it was awkward, but I knew I would regret it if I didn’t say it.

Michael asked: “Do you think you’re likeable?”

I said: “I don’t think I’m insufferable.”

He said: “I think you’re likeable.”

Of course, when I responded to The Sexist, the last thing on my mind was maintaining likeability. I knew a majority of the guys were crossing their legs to me at that point. Probably thinking that I should lighten up, be nice, take a hint; just accept that I can’t write men—whatever. But the thing is, when someone attacks my writing, and my characters, and my stories in a way that I find unfair and irrelevant and especially sexist, it feels like they’re attacking my baby.

My creative work is my baby.

I don’t give a fuck about being appealing to men when it comes to my writing. I don’t care about sexy, or about being charming, or sweet. I become a mother Bear—like, step the fuck away—because, in these moments, all I care about is survival; about being the fittest. And if you’re challenging my ability to be exactly that—well, I hope my response makes you uncomfortable.

But, here’s the thing about Michael: He decided he liked me in a moment when most guys were deciding that they didn’t like me, or at least that they could never date me.

He liked me the moment I demonstrated passion, dignity, assertion…a number of things that our society deems unfeminine, and instead of being threatened by it, he was interested.

This might be bold, but I think that’s a rarity among modern men. I think it’s rare to find a guy who whole-heartedly wants a complicated individual for a girlfriend; to find someone who allows you to be a whole person in his presence and doesn’t think there’s something wrong with you because of it.

I asked Michael why he liked me and he said: “Because you’re funny.”

To me, that’s the ultimate compliment, and what makes it even better is that Michael likes me even when I’m not being funny. He likes me when I’m being serious too.

And I like him because he gets writing and he gets literature—but in a way that runs deeper than a lot of our idiot classmates.

I like him because he’s a good listener; because he’s humble; because he loves animals so much that he saves turtles from the street despite the fact that they might snap at him.

I like Michael because he is already good, and he still wants to be better…that’s a rarity among both modern men and women, I think.

There is a certain amount of romance in detachment; in being the lone wolf of a girl hunting down stories; experiences. But, there is also romance in the mundane reality that is being in a relationship, especially when the relationship is right.

And with Michael it’s not like: OH MY GOD THIS IS MY SOULMATE MY BETTER HALF MY EVERYTHING MY BAE ALL RELATIONSHIP GOALS ARE MET RAWWWWWWR!

No.

It’s better than that. It’s content.us-2

Down the Rabbit Hole (a.k.a. I Just Graduated)

Every time I come home it’s like I’ve fallen down a rabbit hole; like I’ve fallen down past the radio towers emitting frequencies of “Shake It Off” on a loop; down past misplaced confederate flags, abandoned swing sets, and Halloween decorations in June; down to a place where romance is: Do you remember that time we made out in the CVS parking lot?

Jamestown is a pretty hopeless place. My first semester away at college I wrote an essay about the city, and the premise of it was basically like: If you’re not on crack then you’re doing OK and Lucille Ball is our savior. Everything I wrote was true, and most of my classmates said: No way. They couldn’t believe such a hellhole existed. I even remember my professor saying, “You know, some of the images you’ve created are things you’d see in a third world country.” And in response I said, “Yeah, exactly.”

The very first day of that same semester, another professor, whose class I would drop immediately, asked where I was from and I answered, “Jamestown.” Then he said, “Congratulations!” And I said, “What?” Because it’s not a word you’re supposed to hear the very first day of college. Then he explained, “You got out.”

And now I’m laughing hysterically because I’m back—again—and if we’re being completely honest, I never really ‘got out’.

This time around, a long island iced tea with my best friend is on the other side of the rabbit hole; sitting on the same stools, in the same bar, and directly across from a group of long island-13guys—one of which I’ve probably hooked up with—all wearing the same plaid shirt, creating one annoying optical-illusion-y zebra affect of douche-bag: Is that a hot guy I see? Oh, no, that’s just a cloud of Axe body spray.

My best friend, who I’ll refer to as A, is talking about her new job. The conversation quickly transitions into how she went to some rich guy’s mansion, and how his property was covered in mating frogs: “I tried to touch one and it bit me,” she says, “I didn’t know frogs could bite!” Then she tells me Rich Guy found out about the frog bite and decided to grab his shotgun: “He shot every frog he saw, and they, like, hopped, and back flipped, and then exploded!” I suck down half of my long island in one gulp, and look at her like the emoji with the eyes that bug out before she says, “It was kind of sad, but then I got drunk and after that it was kind of funny.”

Apparently Rich Guy concluded the frog massacre with: “Nobody bites my house guest.”

For the most part I don’t realize how bizarre this conversation is. Living here has given me a high threshold for nonsense and a solid indifference to general human depravity. However, luckily, what I do realize is this: Not a whole lot has changed since I’ve left other than A got a job and there are a few less frogs in the world.

I go home and fall asleep on a bed of sheep pillows until 1 PM. Then I roll over and watch The Real World: Skeletons on Hulu for four hours straight. I’m just about to get self-conscious about the fact that I’m 23 and have never been a cast member on The Real World when my dad walks by the TV and says, “Don’t these people know there’s a war going on?” In which case, I get weirdly defensive about the millennial generation, as if I don’t totally agree with the assumption that we’re all a bunch of hedonistic pigs with dreams of getting drunk for a living. In retaliation, I say, “Do you know there’s a war going on?” Because, seriously, does any American navigate their daily life like they know a war is going on?

I shut the TV off in a huff and stomp to my room pre-teen style where I lie in a bed of kitty cats and compare Jamestown to a black hole—wait—a rabbit hole!

The thought inspires me to retrieve my copy of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland from a pile of dust and glitter. I open the book to a random page, like I’m back at church camp and bible dipping for a sign that ensures I’m not going to hell. The page says: “If you drink much from a bottle marked ‘poison,’ it is almost certain to disagree with you, sooner or later.”

This was clearly a sign that I deserved a beer. So I went to the fridge and awarded myself with exactly that.

My final semester of college wasn’t my best. Prior to it, I was an A student who somehow managed to maintain an excellent status despite the fact that I used my bra as a pillow every weekend. But then, during the last few months of school, the work hard / play hard lifestyle caught up to me, and my body and my mind were like: Enough of this shit. It’s alcohol or academia.

My brain pleaded: Academia! But my physiology demanded: Alcohol! And my 3.9 GPA was history.

I walked the stage and received my bachelor’s degree with two gold chords around my neck and felt like a total phony. Then, my fellow writing majors would confront me, saying something along the lines of: Cat, we saw your Snapchat story. You were drinking beer from a dirty broom ball trophy; we’re worried about you. And my only excuse was: “Sorry guys, I’m moving back to Jamestown so…”

Anyway, my final semester was difficult for more reasons than just laziness and an extreme case of senioritis. I had a professor who was doing some pretty slimy things to me, things that were bordering on harassment. Either way, what he was doing was enough to inspire me to Google the criteria for emotional abuse.

He was making me question the integrity of my character and the validity of everything I had accomplished simply because I missed more than six of his classes. He was trying to make me believe, on this premise alone, that I didn’t deserve to graduate magna cum laude or obtain two degrees. And it sucked. It sucked because my academic accomplishments are a major component of my identity, and I internalize negative criticism very, very, easily.

For the next few days I wasn’t eating or sleeping because my stomach felt like it had twisted itself into a pretzel, and I was too busy questioning my ability to get shit done: Would I pass all my classes? Am I that lazy? Would I be able to crank out over 30 pages of writing in a week? Maybe I’m not as smart as I thought. But soon it occurred to me that it was utterly ridiculous for me to be questioning my ability to do these things because they were all things that I had been doing, and doing well, for the past four years.

After this realization, I made the mistake of meeting with this professor with the intention of defending myself because, for whatever reason, some strange part of me really wanted his approval and respect.

I went to his office, and the moment I walked through the door it was like he was already mad at me. I said, “Can we talk?” and he said, “I thought we already did that.” And from that point on it just got worse.

I told him I felt misunderstood and that I believed I deserved a higher grade than the one he intended to give me. He responded with, “Technically I could fail you at this point.” Then he accused me of asking for favoritism and added, “I feel like you think I have something special against you.” At which point, I started getting angry, I said, “Because you do. You do have something special against me—I don’t see you pulling any of the other students out in the hallway in the middle of class to chastise them like some naughty high schooler.” (He did that! He pulled me out of class one day in front of everyone to scold me about attendance and to essentially flat out state that he preferred my presence to any of my classmates’.)

After I brought this up, his eyes darkened and his mouth tightened. He had a look on his face like he wanted to lurch across his desk and choke me. But he didn’t. Instead he responded, “See this is why I can’t have a conversation with you. You just freak out. You completely overreact and I can’t take you seriously.”

At this point I remember getting tunnel vision—a side effect of the messy combination that is disappointment and rage.

This was a man who had no problem showing me favoritism based on the quality of my first essay, and every essay after; this was a man who had shown me favoritism until he started taking my absences personally; until his ego got hurt. Then he ripped the rug out from underneath me and tried to frame me as a narcissist. He wanted to punish me for being a woman who had the nerve to believe she deserved more than what he was willing to give her; to be respected. His disapproval for me had nothing to do with who I was as a student, and everything to do with who I am.

Of course I started crying.

Then he decided to throw some salt in the wound; he said, “You’re supposed to get out of Jamestown—not go back.” And I realized that this asshole was the same professor who congratulated me for ‘getting out’ my very first day of classes. Now here we were, in the final weeks of my college career, and while I thought I was climbing up in the world, I had been walking in circles.

I’m not unhappy about being home, I’m just misty-eyed and restless and a little lost. I re-read Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland a few days ago and interpreted it as one long metaphor for how it feels to navigate your twenties. Seriously. Alice totally embodies the problems of any twenty-something.

She falls down the rabbit hole thinking she knows everything, only to find out that she knows nothing; a logical child thrust into an illogical world of interruptions, uncertainties, and difficult beings. She progresses and then regresses—up and down, back and forth. Sometimes she drowns in her own tears, and on more than one occasion she finds herself wishing she hadn’t drank so much. Then she meets some smoking asshole caterpillar who creates a conversation that keeps going in circles, and challenges her entire being with a simple question: “Who are you?”

If there’s anything that I’ve learned in these past few months (and what I’m sure I’ll continue to learn for years to come) it’s this: Being in your twenties is a confusing and terrifying time for everyone, and there’s always going to be some conniving caterpillar of a person blowing smoke in your face and trying to throw you off track; hoping that you’ll doubt yourself and won’t become the great person that you’re capable of becoming.

When this happens, it’s important that you don’t listen. Remember it’s not true; it’s just smoke. And if the person rooting for you to fail has some kind of authority over you—start looking for loopholes. It doesn’t matter how you get to where you want to go, it doesn’t even matter if you know where you want to go. All that matters is that you eventually become someone better than the person you were the day before; that you continue to learn and grow. Sometimes this means going home for a while, other times, it means going someplace new, for many people, it means doing both. Either way, there’s no right or wrong way to do it, as long as you do it—like what John Mayer (that asshole!) said: There’s no such thing as the real world, just a lie you’ve got to rise above.