I am done dealing with certain people. The ones who tell me my truth is incorrect. I tell my story, and they tell me I’m wrong. They rewrite my narrative with their own, telling me what I think and feel, and what is best for me.
How can that be?
How can someone simply slip into my head and dare rewrite a story they’ve never seen? And why would they?
I am done placating these people. These people who replace my narrative with their own thoughts and feelings, and when told their truths are not my own, they pounce like a wild animal defending their young. Yet the thing they defend sits in my heart.
What an odd behavior.
I am working diligently to write my own narrative, and get it right in the way that most genuinely reflects what I think and feel. What I am and wish to become. But they come for me. With their ideas and their stories with constant attempts to negate my own, with this toxic spit slipping from their lips as they denounce the story it’s taken me 36 years to write.
And will keep writing.
"How can I defend myself," I ask myself, as I turn this acidic pit in my heart.
"Don’t," she said, so freely, as if this simple truth was looking her in the face all along.
And with that, she was free.
(This post was triggered by a comment from a family member. While they were well-intentioned, it brought up a lot of shit for me. I decided to unpack it through my writing and share it for those who need to hear it. To that family member, because I know you will read this: thank you. For that entire dialogue. I love you, and you are now a part of my liberation. You are my cheerleader, and I am forever grateful.)
In 7th grade, I remember having a friend over on a snow day. I spent a lot of time with her in junior high, and we were very close. She was lying in the snow and something came over me. I tried to kiss her. She was NOT having it (lol), but it wasn’t just a moment for me. I kept thinking about her and that moment, fantasizing about what it would be like to touch her, kiss her, be more than friends.
Looking back, that didn’t seem out of place considering our friendship. We would sleep next to each other in the same bed at sleepovers, hold each other, and share our hearts. (AND listen to a lot of 90's R&B while we did.) But I didn’t think anything more of my thoughts or feelings. They didn’t seem to matter. These thoughts and feelings felt NORMAL to me. I had the same thoughts about Aaliyah and Gwen Steffani. They were perfect in my eyes. I also wanted to make out with Angelina Jolie from the moment I saw her. Didn’t everyone?
Fast forward to the NSYNC days of my teen years and WOW, look at Justin Timberlake. Damn, okay, you’re hot. And Han Solo? I ADORED him. And then Usher with that My Way video. Okay, hi, I see you. I plastered my wall with pictures from those teen magazines, ya know, the ones where no one ever read the articles; they just looked at the pictures of hot boys? So now in my teen mind, girls and boys were hot. I had ALL the feelings. For everyone. The fantasies grew, but something else was also brewing—shame.
Fast forward to my first retail job, and my nickname was “the lesbian,” which, upon reflection, I’m not even sure how I got it. I may have told one of my co-workers I was bi, but I also think there was some stereotyping there. And this stereotyping happened in most of my work spaces. I was addressed as “lesbo” and the notes left in the stockroom followed suit. I didn’t get it. Couple that with so much biphobic shit like, “it’s just a phase,” “every girl has a lesbian relationship in college,” and the disdain of bi folks from some of the LGBTQ+ community, and I became riddled with confusion. Now, I realize how, little by little, society just boxed up my feelings for women and hid them deep inside my body. I told myself I was just going through the motions of “growing up.” Society told me boxing these feelings up was normal.
But the feelings never went away, and if anything, they were coddled and cultivated in the club/rave scene. No one gave a shit who you fucked or why or when. Gay nights felt safe, I worked with a lot of drag queens as a go-go dancer in Boston who taught me everything I know about makeup and stage presence, and the more I talked to my friends, the more I realized there was a whole community of bi folks out there who had the same feelings I did. It felt like home. Once again, there was no shame, and the feelings didn’t matter. I could just live my damn life.
However, after my second trip to rehab, I needed to leave the scene, for a long time. The club world was replaced with an undergrad program and a campus that was supposedly inclusive (whatever the fuck that means). But when I returned to college, being bi felt like a novelty for most people around me, and maybe it did for me, too. I am bi, but most of my relationships were and are with men. I had the privilege of not fighting for that right. Looking back, it seems that part of my identity slipped away. Maybe I believed them. Maybe it was just a phase…but now I know all I was doing was packing my heart with shame and guilt to suppress who and what I was and am. I didn’t realize society and my own internal dialogue was feeding the shame monster and that it would continue for years to come.
Thankfully, attending Simmons gave me more of a foundation to find myself. While the grad program is co-ed, the undergrad is all female. They had a lot of classes and programs centering on gender studies and queer theory, and the experience allowed me to feel home and find community somewhere outside of myself. As a TA, most of my students identified as a part of the LGBTQIA+ community and were comfortable writing about it. They inspired me and gave me hope for myself.
But at the end of the day, I never really confronted this part of myself. I knew where I stood but not sharing this aspect of my sexuality with everyone in my life was due to shame. I would pick and choose who knew, and I realize that came from a place of wanting safety. I never realized how much that shame held me back. I couldn’t tell most men because it immediately turned into a conversation about lesbian sex or a three-some. And even most women weren’t very supportive because apparently there is a “right way” to have feelings for women. It became a battle of “you’re just not gay enough.”
In any case, I’m writing this during Pride month and the world’s largest Civil Rights movement, and part of me still doesn’t feel comfortable, still doesn’t feel like I’m being authentic. I’ve always felt like a fraud identifying as bi because of shame, but today, I realized those feelings are not mine. The conversation this morning with my family member made me see that. It pushed me into the shadows of my sexual past and my dating future which resulted in an added therapy session to work this shit through. I never felt like it was “right” to speak on these issues for myself. I always spoke from the place of the ally, not realizing I wasn’t being an ally to myself.
To anyone still reading this, needing comfort from homophobic comments, to anyone reading this who is confused and figuring things out, to anyone who has already done this work and is fighting tooth and nail for justice: I see you, I love you, and I support you. And thank you, for being everything that you are—without conditionals—so I can be who I am, too.
Love is love. Don’t let anyone define it for you. Ever.
I know it's been a while. Like everything, life gets in the way. I've stopped apologizing for that. Here's something I've been working on, but for once, I refuse to perfect it. Enjoy.
Part 1: The Story
Trigger Warning: Alcoholism, Addiction, Sexual Assault
(If you don’t want to read the story, you can scroll down to Part 2: What I Learned)
I put myself into my first outpatient program in December of 2008. It was the day after Christmas. I was at work which at the time was at a Physical Therapy office. We didn’t have any patients that day, but someone needed to be there to cover the phones. It was me and my boss. We were “on call” in case of "emergency." Two hours into work, and I had a total break from reality.
I remember pieces of it. It was like in the movies when someone dies on the operating table and they watch themselves from afar. I was sitting outside of myself, watching my body go through the motions. I watched myself get up from my desk, robotically walk into my boss’ office, and tell her I needed help. She slowly picked up the phone and called the main hospital in our network to get me an appointment.
I waited at my desk for the appointment time and called my best friend, Pete. He came to pick me up and drove me to the psych building because my boss feared me in a car alone. I remember cranking butts the entire way, something he would have never let me done in his car, but this was an extenuating circumstance.
As we blasted our emo playlist, tears slowly rolled down my cheeks. After almost four months clean, I was still a mess. It was time to stop drinking. For good. We got to the psych building, and it was packed. It’s the most wonderful time of the year, huh?
Let’s rewind a bit. I spent that Christmas Eve in a parking lot, ripping butts, blasting music, waiting for my abusive ex to meet me. This is what he did. He would twirl me around his finger and manipulate me into doing the dumbest shit. I waited for hours, but he was never going to show. After years of abuse, that was the night that broke me, and I am forever grateful.
I went home late that night, took way too much of my prescribed sleeping medication, and slept for 14 hours. I’m not sure if I came downstairs that year to open presents, but I remember my Nana coming over and wanting me to eat something. I don’t think I saw my family that year.
Fast forward, and I’m in a psych office waiting for my intake. I had to do a whole lot of paperwork and a drug test. I saw two social workers, a psychiatric nurse, and some doctor, all of whom were clearly in over their head with holiday madness. No one really listened. They gave me two bottles of pills and sent me home because they had no place to send me, and I wasn’t suicidal enough in their eyes. I don't blame them. We have a shit system.
Fast forward. I’m 31 days clean and sober on weird meds that were giving me horrible side effects, I don't have a therapist or treatment support group, and I had the same groups of friends who weren’t able to comprehend what I was going through...I remember meeting everyone in Boston after some event. We were bowling at Jillian’s. It took two hours for them to break me, and I do say break me because they bought me a vodka redbull and literally put it in front of my face. Literally taunted me with a drink. My favorite drink. I quickly relapsed, started doing shots, and I’m assuming someone drove me home. Couple that with the last time a saw my ex that February when he broke a door an inch away from my head, and I was ready to make a change. However, that change wouldn’t come for another year.
Fast forward. It’s spring of 2009, and I suffer trauma from a good friend raping me. The next day, I checked myself into rehab. I started an IOP program (Intensive Outpatient Program). I had to work the day shift at my retail job, clock out at 4:30, and get to the rehab center by 5:00. I’d be there until the program ended at 10pm. The point of IOP is to keep you busy during any hours your don’t have an obligation such as work or family. It's also your own option next to inpatient treatment.
This program changed my life, but I’ll leave that for the next section. During my weeks in IOP, I was preparing for my first trip to Europe where my new boyfriend and I were going to backpack 7 countries. However, he was an alcoholic, and I was newly sober.
Fast Forward: I’m crying at a café at midnight with some random British girl who had just left everything at home to get her dream job in Madrid. She kept me sober that night and got me dinner. The next morning, I got on a plane by myself and flew home. I wasn’t going to relapse this time. And I didn’t.
Fast forward: It's between 2013 and 2015 during my first few years teaching. I started drinking again, but I wasn’t being crazy. I would go out once a week and drink with the crew, but what I didn’t realize was that I was using alcohol to cope. Back to rehab I went. This time, I did so privately. I went to group sessions at night for a few weeks to get me back on track. I needed a reminder of who I was and the possibility of fucking up my entire life. I didn't want to start over. AGAIN.
I still drink today, but only on rare occasions. I don’t keep alcohol in my home, and I usually get a ginger ale when I go out. I’m cautious about when I drink, where I drink, and with whom. Some of the sober community shuns me for this and others “get it.” But here's the thing: my problem was never with drugs or alcohol; my problem was trauma and lack of coping mechanisms. My problem was that I was hurting, I was in a deep dive of codependency, and I had so much to unpack from my childhood/early adult years that I physically couldn’t handle reality. Once I got clean and sober and started actually doing the inner work, the rest began to fall into place.
Even during rehab, I knew I wanted to be able to have a glass of wine for the taste. I LOVE MALBECS. I wanted to have that crisp, malty Belgian beer at dinner with a friend. I LOVE DUVEL. And I fought for it. I did the therapy, I did the rehab groups that focused on being able to live like I am now, and I still do the work today. This won't be the path for everyone who is struggling with substance, but it was for me. That's a choice you'll have to make with your team and your heart. You always have to ask yourself WHY you want the drink. If TASTE isn't your first answer, put it down. I do. Every time.
Now, I am 11.5 years clean, I barely drink, and I’m happy. Genuinely happy. But the number one thing that brought me to where I am now was isolation.
Part 2: What I Learned
Have you ever blown up your life? Took a figurative grenade to it and said, okay, I am ready to change? I have, a few times, because I desperately wanted a new life, one where I was clean, didn’t NEED alcohol, and was enacting my dreams. But this is what people don’t realize about changing their lives, and I don’t just mean through recovery. Change means change. Change means you can’t do the same things or hang with the same people or have the same damn ideas about the world. It means sacrificing everything you have now for something better. And more often than not, when you're in the pit, you have to blow your life the fuck up to get out.
When I went sober for a year, it was wild to see how many friends I didn’t have. How many people picked alcohol over me. How many people HAD to keep going to the club. It really fucking hurt. But that was their journey, not mine. My body was a mess, my mind was a mess, and I was alone. They said the road to sobriety was one you didn’t have to walk alone, but that wasn’t my reality. I had never felt "loneliness" like this...minimal friends, no substance, and no one who understand my pain. At all. Thank the Heavens for my medical support team and the few people who didn’t leave my side. But at the end of the day when I went home, I had to deal with me. I was the only people who could save me. I had to learn to self-soothe.
Just like Odysseus says to his men as they turn to face Scylla and Charybdis, I now say to myself quite often: Haven’t we been through worse? Haven’t we faced our demons and other tragic trials and tribulations along the way? This is nothing compared to that. This concept brings me comfort. Why? Because back then, I didn’t have a stable place to live, I didn’t have a stable job, I didn’t have stable friends, and I didn’t have a stable mind. Now, I look back from the top of the mountain I climbed and thank life for the challenges, because now, I can sit with myself and find peace. Here’s how:
So, how did rehab prepare me for quarantine? It taught me that I am enough. I don’t need more. I don’t need anything external. It taught me how to sit with myself when everything else has to be put in an extended time out. It taught me that I have a whole lot of privilege, and I should show gratitude for it every damn day. It taught me that I know nothing and have so much more to learn. It taught me that sometimes life is in a way that you can’t control, and instead of trying to control it, find the lesson and make the best of it.
There is shit beyond our control, but life is in constant flux. There is a reason one of the taglines for recovery is “this too shall pass,” because it will. For those who need to hear it, this quarantine shall pass, like the waves rolling in and out of the shore. Take a deep breathe, and let that wave wash your troubles away.
After watching the FYRE festival documentaries, I began to ponder some existential musings about my generation and the concept of social media that I had always acknowledged but attempted to ignore due to my snowflake heart. Most conscious citizens are aware that what people post on social media isn’t a true reflection of the person behind the screen, and just because someone’s life looks wonderful, deep down, we know it’s a façade, the filtered face of a calculated identity. But these documentaries exposing such a gross injustice forced me to think about the people involved—the perpetrators and the victims. Because they all had one thing in common—they were millennials. Older generations are quick to place blame and judge this demographic, but this documentary made me go back, go beyond the stereotypes to the genesis. Where did this generation come from, and why are we the way we are? I decided to turn to my 8-year-old self and see what she had to say. Maybe she could shed some light on this label: Millennial. She quickly responded with two stories for me to assess.
In the US, we are conditioned to believe in a few things from birth:
I devised a plan to see if, in fact, Santa was real. I had a fascination with flying saucers and aliens (no one is surprised), so I created a significantly detailed blueprint of the spaceship I desired and mailed it to the North Pole, undetected by my parents. Needless to say, I never received the gift, so I outwardly asked my parents if Santa was real. They said it was clear I already knew the answer, and we moved on. However, the thread I began pulling would soon be my fall from Grace.
When I was 7 years old, Bill Clinton was elected for his first term as President. I really liked Bill. He seemed personable, and as my parents implied, I was born a Democratic Socialist. I still don’t know what those words mean, but I guess it suggested he and I should be friends. I played the flute and thought it was super cool that this politician played the sax. How much more human can a guy seem at 7?
In 1992, my elementary school informed us about the electoral college and democracy. That November, we became ambassadors for the election. Our school held a faux-election, and Clinton won. The experience inspired me to write to the President. I thought he was so cool, so I wanted to tell him all my thoughts and dreams. I needed to tell him I wanted to be president, too, and that someday, I was going to live that dream. I asked my mom to help me mail it, and off my hopes and dreams went to the most important building in the US—the White House.
Eventually I received a letter back in return. I couldn’t contain myself as I ran my fingers over the stamped seal on the outside. I tore open the letter, and out came two pictures and a typed piece of paper. I’m going to be honest, I don’t remember what the letter said. I burned it. But not right away.
Fast-forward to the Clinton sex scandal. In the final months of 97’ into the early months of 98’, I was in 7th grade, and my existential world came crashing down. How could my hero be a dirt bag? Not only was the ideal I created of this man false, but I was convinced the President would want to speak to me personally. Why wouldn’t he? I’m awesome, and I thought he was cool. However, I was too naïve to realize the disconnect between the public and the government. Us and them.
At the end of the day, I was bummed I wasn’t special. And I was super bummed that, later in his Presidency, he lied. I learned a hard truth that day: The President is just a man. Just a man that, like all of us, is human. Every other kid in America got the same letter, and they also had the same crappy man as their president.
Here’s why I burned the letter: I realized Santa wasn’t real. It was in this moment at 13 years old I woke up, became conscious, and saw the veil of the matrix in front of me. But it didn’t end with politics. I lost my faith. I refused to go to church. I started having nightmares. Hyperbolic? Maybe. But for me, this was a defining moment in my life. If parents, politicians, and society could lie about so many things, and deem this transgression a completely normal aspect of our daily lives, what else didn’t I know? Who else was lying?
I am considered a millennial, a word I despise because it’s been given a negative connotation. We are called dreamers, lazy, unrealistic. We are stereotyped as broke kids living in their parents’ basements. We are labeled privileged, unemployed, and ungrateful. But here’s the kicker: all these adultier adults that hate on my generation raised us. They fed us these lies without question, they voted these liars into office, and they continue to do so. They bitch about the system yet despise change. Then they look to my generation to make these changes but constantly tell us we are doing it wrong. Why do people hate millennials? Plot twist: Because when they look at us, we force them to look in the mirror. To look at their teachings, their wisdoms, their failings and short-comings. This is where the heart of the millennial genesis lies—in all of us.
I think, deep down, we all want Santa to be real, and maybe that’s why older generations are so mad. Because they wanted to believe, too, just like we did. But instead of creating a divide, maybe this is the key to bringing humanity together, through the love of magic and a sense of wonder we all wish to share.
I can’t tell you how everyone else is dealing with their loss of Santa, but for me, through all the ups and downs, I’ve found hope. By watching imagined realities fall apart, I realized I can create my own beautiful world of authenticity. By watching politicians lie to the public and make horrible decisions that do not benefit the masses, I realized I can change the world, day by day, by having integrity. Surprisingly, my fall from Grace landed me in a cloud of optimism, and while that concept may be the ultimate gift and curse, it taught me to persevere, even in the face of false idols and cranky old white men. You may say that I’m a millennial, but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us.
Check it out, and let me know what you think!
Last week, I started my first byline writing gig at Healthyplace.com, a website that aims to help anyone and everyone with mental health issues, relationships issues, addiction, and so much more. I am beyond grateful.
I was hired as a writer for the Verbal Abuse in Relationships blog. Many of you probably don't know about my past abuse. It's something I may speak of in passing when discussing my "worst relationships," but this opportunity is allowing me to dig deep and share some personal stuff in hopes of helping others safely leave abusive relationships.
In our society, it's easy to see verbal abuse as yelling, screaming, and name-calling, but abuse can be passive and sneaky. You may be the victim and not even realize it.
I hope you'll follow me on this journey through the depths of my relationships and take something from my mistakes, missteps, and misfortunes. Today, I get to own all parts of abuse, stand in my power, and help others do the same.
Here's the link to my intro!
Click Here: HealthyPlace Blog Intro
Peace and love
As a teen, I was led to believe the drugs were coming in from other countries, that we, Americans, weren’t the problem. That the rest of the world was causing drug addiction. I was led to believe that junkies were crazy people that shot up in the streets and meth addicts were something that existed far away from Boston, MA. I was led to believe the war on drugs was something our government was fighting against, that they were trying to protect us from addiction and pain and suffering. But then I had surgery.
I was 17, going into my senior year of high school. It was the last summer of being a kid without any responsibilities because the following summer, I would prepare for college life. This was my first surgery. I was terrified. But a tonsillectomy being such a common operation gave me solace. I felt everyone involved must know what they were doing, and they must have my best interest in mind.
After the operation, I felt great because they had given me a shot of Demerol, a heavy-duty pain killer found in hospitals. Come to find out, it was one of the meds Michael Jackson reportedly abused. Once I got home, the pain meds wore off, and I was in a world of hurt. I couldn’t swallow my own spit, and I was puking from the anesthesia. This was a new level of pain. However, the doctor prescribed a large bottle of liquid Roxicet. Its other name? Percocet. The bottle read: “High risk for addiction and dependence. Can cause respiratory distress and death when taken in high doses or when combined with other substances, especially alcohol.” Cool.
I downed the Alice in Wonderland size cup that provided me relief. But it was more than relief. I felt like I was floating. All my problems disappeared. I felt warm and protected and happy. But the happiness soon faded, as the tiny drink would send me into a downward spiral, one that kept me on the streets looking for pills and in nightclubs looking for the next high. A real-life Wonderland.
The addiction started by taking the medication as prescribed every 4-6 hours for pain. After a week or so, the pain stopped. But I didn’t stop the medication. It helped me sleep, and that became my excuse. I learned others were already abusing said medication, so I brought it around them and started enjoying the substance with others. Wow, this was fun! Or so it seemed, until I began taking way too much which always ended up with me puking my brains out. But puking wasn’t even close to rock bottom. It was simply a side effect I acknowledged.
Then the bottle ran out, but thankfully, people in my friend group knew where to get more. This time, it was in pill form. I took whatever they gave me. Sometimes they were free. Sometimes I paid. Sometimes I would just date the person and sex seemed like an easy trade. Nothing else really mattered than insuring I had at least a few pills on hand. Years later, I would come to find out I was taking OC 80s—a high dose of OxyContin. No wonder my life was such a mess.
The next few years would consist of working in nightclubs as a shot girl, a bartender, and eventually, a go-go dancer. The next few years would consist of multiple sexual partners which left me with HPV, cancerous cells and surgery. The next few years would leave me broke, uneducated, and removed from real friends and family. I OD’d in a bathtub. I hung out with big name DJs. I partied at festivals all over North America. On the outside, it looked like a movie. On the inside, I was depressed. I was anxious. I was terrified. I was exhausted. I was scared. I was confused. And most importantly, I was an addict. And I had no idea what that meant.
I can’t tell you how many times I came close to death, looking for that same high that I felt with pain killers. Ecstasy was cool, but short-lived. Vodka made me sick and violent. Adderall’s main job was keeping me functional during the day. I wanted my pain killers, but the next best thing were benzos. I would eat any pill I could find. Ativan, Xanax, Klonopin. Why? Because it took the anxiety away. It took the pain away. It took the withdrawal away. Ultimately, it took reality away. So where did that leave me? A twenty-nothing in a severely abusive relationship who failed out of college twice, who barely spoke to her family, who had no idea who the fuck she was. And honestly, the only thing that kept me away from heroin was my fear of needles.
What did I learn from three stints in rehab and a long climb out of a dark hole? All of my assumptions were wrong. My best friends were shooting up and doing meth. And they were white, privileged, had money, careers, “real lives”. Where did my drug addiction come from? Not Mexico. Not Indiana in a trailer. It came from big pharma. It came from a local pharmacy that I bought toilet paper and mascara from. It came from a doctor who was supposed to have my best interest in mind. What did I really learn from this entire experience? Capitalism will be the second fall of Rome.
Please don’t touch me.
It feels like a simple request. It feels like it shouldn’t have to be said. It feels, ridiculous. And I also feel I shouldn’t have to say please.
But even in 2019, because I am covered in tattoos, apparently, I am a petting zoo.
It doesn’t matter where I go: supermarket, bar, night club, my school. People react to my body by wanting to touch it.
And let me be clear: this is men and women, but I do feel a little less bullshit when a female touches me. And that’s a whole other can of worms regarding safety we can open at another time.
I can’t tell you how many times a man has come up to me and simply reached for my arm, some actually touching it before I could pull it away. The responses I get are incredible. I get called a “bitch” or a “whore” when I refuse to let them touch me. I have men immediately turn the tension around on me with them backtracking and demanding I read the situation incorrectly. Can you imagine that level of privilege? I don’t want to be touched, and because my response is not necessarily polite and/or matching their expectation, I am the one that is then shamed and blamed.
Now, there are people that will read this post and say, “You chose to get the tattoos. Obviously people are going to stare.” Great start. Nope. No, they don’t. They don’t have to look at me. And they definitely don’t have to touch me. And if they feel this way, then there is a level of entitlement they need to be knocked down from. (Quickly, to clarify, the tattoos are not a child’s sensation book. They are flat to my skin. THERE IS NOTHING TO TOUCH.) I’ve also received several, “Obviously you want the attention, or you wouldn’t have done that to your body,” remarks. Again, cool, but no. Not so much, little man. With this current narrative, my choice, my free will, is negated with their anger.
This is where the narrative needs revision. This concept of entitlement regarding a woman’s body. No, sir, you don’t get to stare because I look different. That’s rude. No, sir, you don’t have the right to ask or touch or even engage with me. Engagement is a two-way street, and both sides must consent. I do not owe anyone a conversation, an explanation, and especially, a physical encounter.
As I reflect on these moments, I begin to make connections to other subversive norms. It reminds me of the argument about women wearing scantily clad clothing. WHICH THEY HAVE EVERY RIGHT TO DO WITHOUT FEELING AS THOUGH THEY ARE AN OBJECT. I grew up with the idea that it is a woman’s fault if something happens to her based on her clothing choices. It is on her, not the other person who may be cat calling, touching, or far worse. But if we continue to allow this premise to be true, then it means everything from touching to sexual assault is a woman’s fault. And I sure as hell ain’t living in that reality.
Think about this objectively: a woman has cleavage, and that gives someone the right to judge or touch or take? A woman wears a dress that hugs her curves, and that gives someone permission to stare and cat call? HELL to the no.
I know this isn’t a new topic. I know many women before me have written and yelled and cried about it. But it’s still happening, so here I am. Now, the solution--how do we rewrite this? One word: accountability. It’s time to hold people accountable, and I am quite thankful for all the women that were brave enough to stand the fuck up and start every movement that brings women to an elevated platform of safety and respect. I am so thankful I have myriad role models, from my friends to celebrities that are showing me I can do the same. I can stand the fuck up and call someone out for their negative behaviors. And I don’t mean chastise them, although sometimes it does come to this. I simply mean pointing out the wrong and trying to help someone find their accountability. With love, peace, and grace. Unless they’re a dick, and my safety is threatened. Then the “bitch” will absolutely come out. Without apology.
What does this have to do with tattoos? It’s all the fucking same. Just because I have them does not give anyone the right to ask about them, touch them or simply judge my character/integrity. If I wear a short-ass skirt, it means the same damn thing. We don’t walk up to people and ask, why do you have that mole? Why is your hair brown? Why are you choosing to wear a collared shirt today? Those are asinine questions. As should be the ones directed at myself and other women on a daily basis. If you disagree, I ask that you dig deeper into WHY you think one behavior is okay and not the other.
People need to start taking responsibility for their actions and acknowledge that a woman’s body is sacred. And no one outside of that woman is owed shit. Leave the pregnant woman alone. Leave the confident-ass female with her amazing boobs alone. Leave the girl with pink hair and piercings and tattoos and fur coat alone. Smile at her, but realize she’s a doctor, soldier, a teacher, a lawyer, a mom, barista, a tattoo artist, a grad student, an addict. She just had a long-ass day at work. She just dealt with abuse at home. She just got a promotion. She just landed her dream job. She just got married. She just finalized her divorce. She is MORE THAN WHAT YOU SEE. And if you want to start a conversation with a woman, it’s easy. Start with “hey,” and ask about something beyond her physical appearance.
To all the women that have suffered this fate: stand the fuck up. If you feel uncomfortable, say it. You are in the right. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. That’s old programming.
To all the men reading this: I’m just asking you to take a look at your behaviors and become more cognizant of how you treat women. Maybe you’re a good dude. Cool. Maybe you’ve made some poor choices in the past—no worries; we all fuck up. But stop that shit. And if you’re the dude that isn’t doing this shit, you have the most important role of ALL—negating this perpetuation. If you see a friend/another man doing something like this, tell them to knock it off. If you do and say nothing, then are you not an ally. Remember that. Help us help you!
I’m not the feminist that says all men are bad. I am the feminist that simply wants to point shit out so we can start rewriting how women are perceived and treated. Because EVERYONE on this planet, no matter how you identify, no matter what you wear, should be treated with light, love, and deep-seeded respect.
I used to wear makeup to work. Every day. And it took me what feels like a lifetime to answer the question why? There are the obvious reasons: I want to look good. I should look good. I look more put together when I wear it. I feel better about myself when I wear it. But that rabbit hole starts to get reaaaaaaal dark if you keep climbing down. Wait, why does makeup make me feel better? Don’t I look good without it? But society dictates…and so on.
Why did I stop wearing makeup? Because I fucking felt like it.
I remember when I started to fade out makeup use. I got a lot of, “Ms. C, are you sick?” “You look tired today.” “Is everything okay?”
Cool. This is helping, she said, sarcastically.
Can I blame them? No.
Okay, I absolutely did for a minute. Because wtf. If you don’t have anything nice to say…but that was the turning point—people believe this behavior, these comments, are nice. The question “are you okay?” comes from a place of concern. But really, it comes from a place of subversive norms.
And that’s where the rabbit hole takes you. And if you keep going down that aforementioned rabbit hole, you can see why. In the 90s, all my favorite catalogs, yes catalogs, featured grungy, punk, goth-style females that weren’t airbrushed or covered in foundation. Delia’s, Alloy, Zoe. I miss the 90s…Fast-forward to 2019, and we are living in a completely different marketed world. Between filters on Snapchat/Instagram and every airbrushed/botoxed celebrity, how can a female FEEL good every day simply being themselves?
To be clear—I will never put down a woman for modifying her body. And I actually love putting on/wearing makeup. I’d like to point out I have myriad pictures on this website that are airbrushed and creatively inspired. And I love them. My best friend and I had a blast working on these creative shoots. But what have I learned over 34 years? They are just that—an artistic expression—a moment in time that does not need to be fulfilled every day I get up and leave my house. And that’s the takeaway. I stopped letting it control me. The feeling of “have to.” The feeling that people won’t like me or care about me without my mask. Because that is MY personal takeaway. I was being controlled by an external force, and my intentions were driven by fear.
Sadly, it feels true and is often reinforced on Instagram. I get the most “likes” from filtered selfies. I get the most responses from pictures with loads of makeup. And that’s okay. Now. After a lot of self-work and self-worth.
But to those that are still struggling to find the balance between I love myself/fuck makeup, and I will NEVER leave the house without it, here is a reminder: it’s okay. It’s okay to wear it. It’s okay to not wear it. It’s okay to wear it every day. It’s okay to wear it on a special occasion. But if the conversation in your head is fueled by negative self-talk and societal standards based on fear, it’s also okay to start exploring the why, just as I did.
Check out my inspiration page for some books that can help you feel better about all of your choices, no matter what those choices look like for you. But at the end of the day, no one should feel they “have to” do anything. Especially if that negative “have to” is coming from your own damn mind! Except maybe go to work…we gotta eat, right?
But that’s why I stopped wearing makeup. Because now, I get to sleep in longer and call myself beautiful every day, in a way I never thought possible. Free your mind. Free your heart. And free your damn face.
[If you are the person that needed to hear this, please leave a comment! Even if it’s a simple smiley face. If you hated this, please leave a comment. Even if it’s the middle finger emoji.]