Shift

I’m trying to make a shift in my life. How is it going? Not so great. Half the time it’s like—what am I even doing? Why am I here? How did this baby capybara end up in my house and where did I put my will to do anything resembling “meeting adult responsibilities”?

Change is hard, baby, but paying rent is even harder. Nevertheless, she bought a scooter (this is true, unfortunately).

I’ve been writing a bit about writing and how fucking terrifying it can be to write, or more accurately, to put yourself out there in writing.

I think almost every single job I’ve had over the past 8 years, I’ve had this fear of “I hope they don’t find my blog.” I’ve worked very, very, very hard to hide. And that makes a ton of sense, given what I tend to write about.

But I guess the truth is that when you hide from the people who turn out to be unsafe, you give up something in the process.

Because the truth is, all the things that I’ve done to stay safe haven’t actually kept me safe at all. That shit DOESN’T WORK—not the hyper-vigilance, not the avoidance, not the crawling under a rock, not the being perfect so I can be loved, not the loading the dishwasher perfectly so I won’t be criticized, rejected or abandoned—

It would be easy to say that I’m tired of hiding, but I’m not. I don’t know if I ever will be. There is a part of me that will always feel safer in the darkness, in the dim light of the closet, pulling blankets over me and around me, trying to drown out the sound of something terrible happening outside.

The people who are unsafe—those people would’ve hurt me with or without my writing—I didn’t bring it on myself by being vulnerable and honest about who I am. I didn’t make them abusive or shitty. That was all on them.

I think one of the greatest lies of trauma is that you caused it or you could’ve controlled it—that you were able to change the outcome. So maybe next time, if I just do things differently—

But none of that is true. There is no safety. There never was and there never will be.

Hyper-vigilance is a fucking lie.

And so I’m trying to make a shift.

Process

Welcome back to my unofficial series on writing! It’s a brand new day to write, woohoo! Yeah. I’m tired as hell today and über-sensitive to match (You don’t hate me; I hate me). But onward and upward.

So, let’s talk about process and how writing is always a process, life is always a process, we’re all in process, blah blah blah, spare me.

I had a professor in college who…maybe didn’t quite subscribe to the idea that education is a process. Traditionally, we’ve seen education as a process of enlightenment. You don’t know shit. Then you know shit. It’s like magic!

I was taking a class on literary theory and, as in most classes on literary theory, each week or so we would learn a new type of theory: reader-response, feminist, marxist, post-colonialist, etc.

When I started college, I had this weird, classical education, quasi-Christian view of literature: great art is about transcendence, truth, meaning and probably Jesus.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the forum. Maybe it was going to college. Maybe it was going to Cambridge. Maybe it was my ever-expanding frontal lobe.

But—I started to take a slightly different approach to the Great Books™. Call me groundbreaking, but I saw each of the different theories we were studying as just another set of tools for exploring and understanding the text.

There was a sense of play—and a sense of being in process instead of arriving at one static meaning. I didn’t see each of the theories as True with a capital “T.”
I didn’t think I needed to choose only one possible truth from a set of available options.

My professor was not having it: She saw me as inconsistent and inconstant instead of in process. To her, I was just bouncing back in forth between Marxism and reader-response theory like a kid at trampoline camp.

This was 10 years ago, but I think it was a precursor to a shift that we’ve seen in education (or is it on Twitter?), from operating from a place of process to operating from a place of purity—

Be right. Be right all the time. If you’re not right, then shut the fuck up and don’t say anything at all.

When the truth is, we’re all in process. Hopefully. What other option is available to us, other than death and decay? I probably don’t agree with half the shit I believed 10 years ago.

This is where I awkwardly transition into arguing that when we cancel people, we shouldn’t cancel their work. We shouldn’t pretend as if Louis C.K. never wrote a TV show or that R Kelly never penned a pop song. For the love of theory, please don’t cancel the text. Because the text, believe it or not, is always in flux, always open to a new reading or interpretation.

Free the text.

There is no creativity without process.

Precious: Why Writers Are the Worst About Writing

I hear this a lot: Don’t be precious about your writing. Hold it loosely. So loosely, perhaps, that it slips from your grasp and into the fires of Mordor.

I think when people say “Don’t be precious about your writing” they mean “Don’t be precious about what you have written.” But what about the capacity of most writers to be precious about the act of writing itself?

As a writer, I can be so fucking dramatic sometimes about writing. So much of writing is literally just psyching myself up to write.

I was listening to a podcast episode the other day, and Dan Harmon was talking about how the only time he loved writing was when he was blogging every single day on Myspace (a drunken (?) rant worth listening to in full, starts at 46:55).

I too had a Myspace blog (RIP). And he’s right. It’s addictive. There’s something about writing everyday or writing just to write that gets under your skin, or more accurately, into your bloodstream, bypassing some of your preciousness about the act of writing.

It’s like writing can be this deep, profound thing and it can also just be complete trash. It’s like writing doesn’t have to be something that you suffer and bleed for—it can just be words on a page or screen.

I have a martyr’s complex when it comes to writing, and yes, sometimes you do sacrifice part of yourself, but—

Sometimes you just have to write for the sake of writing. Process be damned. Outcome be damned.

I think when you start to get away from the basic point of writing—which is to communicate an idea or a feeling—you start to go off the rails a bit (is writing like a train? If writing were a form of transportation, what form of transportation would it be? If you were a train, what kind of train would you be?).

I tend towards vulnerability in my writing and I also write about personal things, but I don’t think any other writer’s writing is somehow less risky or vulnerable. To create is to take a risk, to make yourself insanely, desperately exposed to the rest of the world.

I don’t think I like the word “precious” in this context. I prefer “fragile.”

I’m so, so fragile.

But sometime it’s just words.

This is the lie I need to tell myself: None of this matters. No one will read this. No one cares. Nothing will come from this.

You have to hold on and let go at the same time in order to write. It’s a balancing act.

Was I precious about writing about being precious? Maybe.

But sometimes you have to lie to yourself to get to the truth.

Don’t Touch Me

I got something on my mind. Or is it on my butt? I’m not sure. Maybe it’s on my left thigh or on my waist or my hair or my head or is it my ribcage, just below my breasts?

Your hands gripping both sides of my head. Your hand around the small of my waist. Your fingers in my hair. Your crotch pressed against my butt.

Yesterday I went to a free workout in the park with a TV personality you might recognize from a long-running franchise on ABC that uses roses as a metaphor for love— as you do in LA, or should I say, as I do in LA.

We took a picture together at the end, all hot and sweaty. And as we pressed in for the picture, I could feel the guy behind me press his frontside into my backside.

Is this really happening? Is this what I think it is?

I grew very, very still for a few seconds. Finally, I moved imperceptibly away from the pressure of his body.

I was wearing tight spandex leggings (because working out). But still (get it?). I know it’s irrelevant, but the thought still flitted through my mind.

Earlier this week, I messaged a guy on a dating app to tell him I didn’t like the way he kept touching me during our date—it wasn’t sexual, just overly familiar, seemingly more a result of his own impulses than my comfort level.

It was only after he left that I shuddered and thought, “I didn’t like that.”

I wrote earlier this year about being physically grabbed during a different photo opp, although I didn’t go into detail in that post because the details felt somehow traumatic: A man I didn’t know very well grabbed both sides of my head from behind in order to move it out of his way.

Why do I say all this? Why am I playing show and tell with my body, especially those parts that I never talk about, that are simultaneously invisible and hypervisible, this body of mine that at times doesn’t even feel like mine, doesn’t even feel like a body, and yet nevertheless continues to exist in the world, to take up space?

Something about even bringing all this up feels gross, like I want to claw off all of my skin just thinking about this guy pressing himself into me or all the other times men have grabbed me, groped me, treated my body like the person inside wasn’t even there.

I’m not sure.

All I can say is that I tend to freeze when someone touches me in an unwanted or objectifying way—I don’t say anything in the moment. I barely think anything in the moment. But I can feel a scream building up within me.

Don’t touch me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Was I Groomed?

Trauma is a weird thing—it often feels cyclical and repetitive. When I see someone keep repeating the same story and going back to the same moment in their lives, I think, “Oh yeah, trauma.”

Time feels different with trauma, as if it both never ended and never began.

And the same thing goes for questions, questions that circle around and around, trying to make sense of something that ultimately doesn’t make any sense, that refuses the sense that I try to make out of it. All the questions seem to be some version of “How did this happen?”

Last month I went to a panel at the Hammer Museum on Black Women and the #MeToo Movement.

Supermodel Beverly Johnson spoke first, about being drugged by Bill Cosby in an attempted assault. She talked about how Cosby groomed her prior to the assault by inviting her to the set of “The Cosby Show” and introducing her to his family, his wife and kids.

When you introduce someone to your family, you’re saying: You are safe here. We’re all family. You belong with us.

The word “grooming” is commonly used to refer to child grooming, which Wikipedia defines as “befriending and establishing an emotional connection with a child, and sometimes the family, to lower the child’s inhibitions with the objective of sexual abuse.”

But in the context of abuse or assault between adults, what does it mean to be groomed?

Dee Barnes spoke next of being brutally assaulted by Dr. Dre in 1991. But some of the first words out of her mouth were, “Was I groomed?”, as if the question had never crossed her mind before this moment.

She described Dre as an intimate friend, someone who treated her like a little sister, someone who brutalized other women but would never hurt her. She was family. You don’t hurt family.

Barnes ended up repeating the question “Was I groomed?” over and over again during the panel discussion, as if to ask 28 years after the fact:

Was I set up to be abused? Was I deliberately made to feel safe and protected by someone who intended to hurt me or at least had no intention of actually keeping me safe?

Maybe it was an arm around the shoulder or a whispered inside joke. Maybe he teased her constantly or called her “lil’ sis.” Whatever he did, he made her feel safe enough to go into that fateful night without any kind of protection, physical or otherwise.

She wasn’t attacked by a stranger. She was set up.

I don’t know how you deal with that kind of hurt, that kind of betrayal.

I think one of the hardest things to articulate in the aftermath of any kind of abusive relationship is all the nice things the other person did for you, the thousand small moments of care, empathy, compassion and love, the tucked in blanket and the Hallmark movie moments. These things feel so impossible to explain—at least not in any kind of way that makes sense—given what I know now.

Trying to explain why something was traumatic feels like trying to explain why every time you sneeze, someone in another state mispronounces the word “ingenuous.”

Me: You don’t understand. He found out I liked chocolate croissants and then he bought me sooooo many chocolate croissants.
Other person: [blank look] Uh huh…

It’s been years for me too, but a question came up for me like a slap in the face, writing this:

Why would you agree to go into a room alone with him?

Because I didn’t know. Because I felt safe.

Was I groomed too?

 

 

 

 

I’m Giving Up Male Tears for Lent and I Feel Fantastic

Maybe it was that rehab scene in “A Star is Born” where Bradley Cooper sobs as Lady Gaga tells him it’s not his fault he ruined her big moment at the Grammys (um, I was there, it was definitely his fault).

Maybe it was R. Kelly. Or Brett Kavanaugh. Hell, maybe it was this latest season of “The Bachelor” and Colton’s buckets upon buckets of tears.

colton_crying

So. Much. Crying. via tvinsider.com

But fuck it, I’m giving up male tears for Lent.

I think it’s safe to say that they are no longer sparking joy for me and it’s time to KonMari that shit.

I hope it’s not too late. I know we’re already at least a week into Lent. Maybe God will make an exception.

Anyway, here are my reasons:

Male Tears are Reductive

First of all, it’s so hard to know what all these tears even mean. Is Tom crying because the Patriots won? Because he feels guilty about leaving his dishes in the sink? Did the local gas station run out of Miller Lite? Did he just watch “Field of Dreams” and “Braveheart back-to-back? Was he recently accused of sexual assault and a pattern of abusive behavior in a six-part documentary?

It’s so hard to say.

Yes, I can see that water is leaking from Bob’s eyes right now, but that tells me literally nothing about what’s actually going on. If men would just stop crying for two seconds and use their words instead of their tear ducts, maybe we could see clearly now the rain is gone (yes, I hate myself for this).

As Freud famously asked, “Why you crying, bro?”

Male Tears Take up Valuable Space

Simply put, male tears are taking up valuable real estate that could be invested in more profitable ventures.

I’m sure I’m not the first person to make this observation, but male tears take up so much fucking space—space that could be used to plant a sustainable five acre urban garden or build a new community center for kids whose mothers didn’t star in “Desperate Housewives” or “Full House.”

A single man starts to tear up and suddenly we’re all drowning. All the life instantly gets sucked out of the room. And then there’s the sobbing and the heaving and the guttural animal noises—for the love of James Van Der Beek, pull it together, dude!

You’re scaring the baby goats.

Male Tears are False and Manipulative

Unfortunately, as a woman, I am especially susceptible to the siren sob of male tears—when I see Bradley Cooper crying, all my literal and metaphorical womb wants to do is reach out to comfort him.

Bradley Cooper crying

We are all Lady Gaga in this scene [from “A Star is Born” via youtube]

There, there, now. Shhhhhhh. Your pain will always matter more to me than anything else, especially my career.

I’ve been raised since birth to caretake male emotions. Case in point, when I was 21, I begged my emotionally distant father, in tears, for even a tiny effort at empathy. He started to weep and said that I needed to try to understand him. I stopped crying.

This shit works, y’all.

White, straight, male tears may be the most powerful substance in the entire world, capable of rewriting history, transforming the most vicious of criminals into the most vulnerable of victims, and completely and utterly erasing any type of pain that isn’t also a type of power.

Male Tears Make Unwarranted Claims to Victimhood

Sure, Blake called you a “bitch” and hurt your feelings, but he feels SO SO SORRY and—oh shit, is he crying??

Todd just punched you in the face—but that was your fault for not listening and he’s really going through a tough time right now at work and his mom never loved him, never said “I love you,” not even once, and now you’re comforting him because he’s in a lot of pain right now.

brett_tears

via bitchmedia (Photo credit: Michael Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images)

And let’s not forget Jack, who may have sexually assaulted you in college when you were too drunk to consent, but that pales in comparison to the parking ticket he got last week for parking in a loading zone and it was so UNFAIR and UNJUST and what were we talking about again?

Male Tears Avoid Personal Responsibility & Culpability

As we all know, it’s not abuse if he cries about it later—or if he cries about anything at all, so powerful are male tears to change and chart the course of reality.

And how many times has a woman comforted a man for abusing her? How could anyone possibly hold something so weak, helpless, and pathetic responsible for its actions? It would be like putting an itty-bitty widdle kitten on trial for murder. Male tears implicate us as cold and heartless, incapable of empathy, compassion, or concern.

We are the monsters, tormenting and persecuting helpless men.

Male tears are actually innocence in its purest liquid form.

Male Tears Carry the Threat of Violence

I know—I’m taking a huge risk here. As much as I want to give up male tears, I have the sneaking suspicion that this might make some men not just very, very, very sad, but also very, VERY angry.

If I meet male tears with indifference, I suspect that my apathy will be interpreted as active hostility:

I am breaking the contract (I didn’t sign) as a woman to always put male needs first, to prioritize male feelings, male pain, male reality, male hopes, male dreams—if I don’t center men in my own story and treat this narrative as THEIR narrative, then they will fucking destroy me.

Too bad then, that giving up male tears brings me what I can only describe as pure joy.

 

More:

The Tears of Brett Kavanaugh

The Manipulative Power of White Men’s Tears

Brett Kavanaugh and the problem of “himpathy”

‘A Star Is Born’ Has Always Been About Emotional Abuse

 

Not a book review: “Shameless”

I recently read [listened to the audiobook version of] Nadia Bolz-Weber’s book, Shameless: A Sexual Reformation. And it made me wonder if I’m still a Christian, though not for the reason that you might think. The deal breaker wasn’t her ideas about sex—Bolz-Weber offers up the most inclusive, affirming vision of godly sexuality I’ve ever seen—it was more about the tone of the book.

Maybe it’s worth mentioning here that Bolz-Weber is a Lutheran pastor known for her give-no-fucks attitude and persona. It’s not just the motorcycle (?) and the leather jacket (?) and the tattoos, it’s her biting sarcasm and scathing invectives against conservative Christianity.

As much as I love both sarcasm and invective, I got the sense at the very beginning that I am not her target audience.

In the introduction, she tells those who have followed the narrow edicts of gender and sexuality in evangelical Christianity (those who have achieved a gold medal in good Christian sex) to help themselves to the plethora of resources available at any Christian bookstore—because this book is not for them.

It was sarcastic. It was scathing. It was also pretty damn smug. And this wasn’t directed at the people who made up the rules, but the people who had succeeded at following them.

God knows I don’t fit into this group of people—but still, telling them to GTFO felt…off-putting.

Maybe it’s this underlying self-satisfaction that didn’t sit well with me (what a strange analogy) during the subsequent sermons in the book (yeah, I would describe them as sermons with a beginning, middle and end).

It’s hard to describe, but when she would launch into this particular cadence of speech, fervency of feeling, breathlessness of voice—I was turned off.

I felt the same way when I went to church for the first time in forever a few weeks ago. There were all the markers of a socially progressive church: the one pastor who wasn’t white, the Hallmark story (his words) of man reconciling with his conservative Christian family after coming out as gay, the mini discussion groups during the teaching. But when the pastor got on stage, that same earnestness, sincerity, and purity of heart was still there from church days gone by.

I don’t know why it bothered me so much. I’m sure I’ve used that tone before, even in my writing. I don’t know why it doesn’t ring true for me anymore, why it grates on my very last religious nerve. Maybe the rhythm of speech itself comes off as manipulative or coercive, trying to hijack the brainwaves of the person listening, to inculcate them into the language and rhythm of belief in God or in sex.

I admit that I want to be drawn in first. I want there to be trust, connection. I want to see the struggle and the process, how we got from “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” to “Shameless,” but I feel like this messiness and doubt is exactly what a writer/preacher is least likely to give me.

It’s like sex without the foreplay. I want more questions and less certainty, more exploration and less declaration.

Why is Church Cliquey? Part 6

It was the end of 2018 and over the course of about a week, I had several different experiences that left me feeling like I didn’t exist—not really, not in a way that other people could touch or feel or see.

First, I went on a camping trip with people that I knew through facebook (as you do) and during the trip one member of the group grabbed me in a way that made me feel like an object. It wasn’t sexual. It was matter-of-fact.

Second, I got my hair cut and felt like the stylist didn’t actually register my presence. At one point, she snipped my neck and didn’t say anything except to briefly dab at the spot. At the time, I couldn’t believe it had actually happened.

Third, I went to a community arts event and a man took my seat when I left the table to get more coffee. He ate the food I had left on my plate and I was left to sit on the outside of the group, staring at his back.

With the accumulation of these events, I could feel something building inside of me, pushing me to the edge of myself.

I thought about what I would say to the man who grabbed me. I took a picture of the tiny scab on my neck. I took a picture of my empty plate, once half-filled with buckwheat pancakes and a huge helping of Nutella, because Nutella is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.

I wondered if I should have said something in the moment: to the stylist, when she accidentally snipped my skin. To the man who took my seat and ate my food. To the man who grabbed me so suddenly, so unexpectedly that I froze.

I know I should have said something, but that doesn’t seem to mean anything in the moment.

I felt angry and also guilty for not speaking up, for not taking up more space. I needed to know, needed to figure out a way to take up more space so people wouldn’t treat me like I’m invisible.

Take a self defense class? Learn public speaking? Scream and yell at people who get in my personal space? Say, “Fuck this,” and only go places and spend time with people who actually see me?

But deep down I felt the futility of trying to make myself more visible, more alive to those around me.

In the first incident, I couldn’t help but wonder if this man would have treated me the same way if I were white, if I were “popular,” if he could see himself dating me.

At the core of it, I felt that he didn’t “see” me—that because I could do nothing for him and he wanted nothing from me, I basically didn’t exist, not fully.

But it went deeper than that. Yes, I had gone on this camping trip with no real expectations, but this was a group of people who all seemed to feel like they had finally found home in each other—a space of belonging and connection.

And instead of belonging, I got something else entirely.

And this is how I wound up crying uncontrollably at the end of the new Nicole Kidman movie, not because of the bleak ending but because I thought, “If I don’t feel safe with this group, I will never feel safe anywhere.”

There would never a place for me. A single moment of unwanted touch could disrupt this fantasy of community, love, friendship.

I knew I wanted to confront him about what happened, but I wasn’t sure how he might respond. For many reasons, I thought that he might not take it well and I had no real way of knowing.

So I did something I wouldn’t normally do, and I told someone else instead. I reached out to another person who went on the same camping trip and described what happened without going into detail.

He listened and offered emotional support. When I confessed that I felt like this meant I would never feel safe anywhere, he told me, “There absolutely should be a space for you. And it’s a failing that there’s not.”

I cried—loud audible sobs, not silent tears or anything contained like that. It felt healing and destroying, wonderful and terrible at the same time. I had been intellectualizing what happened and speaking in reasonable, rational terms about trauma and the ways in which people hurt us without ever intending to. I had been talking about it like it had happened to someone else, to their body, not mine. And all the pain just came rushing back—the pain of being unseen, of not belonging, of wanting and hoping for something that doesn’t even seem possible anymore.

Later, he added someone else who had been on the same trip to the chat for support and I felt like they were both on my side, that they were for me.

There was a moment when I had the thought, “How does anyone survive without the unconditional love and support of a group of people? How do people make it through a single day without this?”

I’ve been trying to write about this moment for like, at least a month, trying to capture how it felt to hear someone tell me that there is space for me and to feel loved and supported on the level of community.

I’ve struggled with writing this because I want to know and believe that the moment was real—I don’t want to lose it. I want to tell a different story about love and belonging in my life. I want things to be different. I want to have the hope that things can be different. I don’t want this experience to just fade away into memory, but that has mean reliving the good and the bad—the pain of feeling unseen and invisible and the incredible gift of being seen.

I feel grateful. I feel happy to be here.

My Name

I don’t like the way my dad says my name.

Six letters. Two syllables, one falling right after the other. Unstressed. Stressed. Unstressed. Stressed.

When strangers get this simple rhythm wrong, putting the stress on the first syllable instead of on the second—I instinctively distrust them.

But my dad.

My dad.

He speaks my name like a rebuke, both syllables harsh in his mouth, like he is spitting them out, his voice an unnatural growl. Each part distinct, separate.

I don’t like the way my dad says my name.

Last year, something finally gave way. Overcome by pain, I tell my dad that I am hurt and I am angry. He writes back. He tells me that I am full of hate. That I am full of bitterness. That I am full of rage.

I understand his meaning: I am ugly, on the inside. He sees through me, sees past the pain to the ugliness at my core.

I hold this truth.

Until one day, I am at a trendy bar in downtown LA, and in the blue light of the fish tanks, I listen to the man I have been seeing for three months tell me how he feels about me. He says that I am his type and his type is a “beautiful mind.” I laugh.

But in his words, I hear more than just Russell Crowe and his room full of crazy. I hear the echo of my name. I think about the two syllables. Two Chinese characters. Together, they translate to “Beautiful Spirit.”

My dad. He named me. Before I was born.

He called me beautiful. Beautiful, on the inside.

Christians Suck at Consent, Part 2

It gets worse.

Chuck II

The same day all that other stuff happened, another guy messaged me. We’ll call him Chuck II, because, again, I don’t know anyone named Chuck. Unfortunately for Chuck II, I was on an honesty kick, because of a lack of sleep and what had just transpired with Chuck I.

So when Chuck the Second sidled up to me via facebook messenger and said he was also interested in the project I was working on (translation, “Heyyyyyyyy there”), I told him the truth:

That I felt like he was physically pushy when we dated (we went on two dates total) and that it made me feel disrespected.

His response wasn’t great. In fact, it may have filled me with inchoate rage.

Let’s go back in time again to a few years ago.

On our first date, we went to coffee. So far, so normal.

At the end of our second date, Chuck II tried to shove his tongue into my mouth after we hugged goodbye. I was taken aback. Again, it felt like it had very little to do with me or with us having a “moment” (I’ve had moments before. This was not a moment). There were no signals coming from any direction that said, “Now is sexy, sexy make-out time.” Was it the bright sunlight of a Hollywood afternoon? The ambiance of the brick walkway in front of my rent-controlled apartment? Who knows.

I pulled away in surprise and soon texted him that I “just wanted to be friends,” because apparently things were escalating quickly. He apologized and said he wanted to take things at my pace. I think we settled on something like friends with the potential for more.

The next time we hung out, he was all over me. And when I went to hug him goodbye, he didn’t let go of me at first, but instead held me tightly and said, “What if I ask this time?”

And then he pressed me about why I just wanted to be friends as I was about to get into my car to leave.

THIS. This is why.

So when I told Chuck II that I felt like he was physically pushy and he didn’t respond well, I got angry.

His response? He wasn’t physically pushy—not from his perspective. In fact, he is “hyper-aware of [implied: all] the choices and moves” he makes. Respecting me had been really important to him because he liked me. And I had judged him too quickly.

Not only that—he was hurt that I felt disrespected

Come again? He had violated my personal boundaries—violated my body—but it was his feelings that truly mattered. I had misjudged him. I was wrong, and it was all my fault.

When I said that the conversation was upsetting me and I was ending it, he blithely suggested we meet up for coffee so we could “make amends.” And that’s when I really lost it.

Again, I felt like a face and a body that a man had projected his wishes and desires onto, not a real person. Hyperaware though he may have been, Chuck II made no mention of being aware of what I was thinking or feeling. I guess he meant, “I was hyperaware that I wanted to kiss you. And so I did.”

I felt like a non-entity—Chuck II didn’t think he was disrespectful, Chuck II thought he was very respectful. In fact, Chuck II was extraordinarily confident and wildly intentional about all the choices he made during the brief time we dated.

To put it graphically:

Chuck II was more confident about sticking his tongue in my mouth and pressing his boner up against me on a second date than I have ever been about anything in my entire life, ever.

It feels like I’m mocking him (which isn’t nice, I know), but I’m actually dead serious: I wish that I had that much confidence about anything—ANYTHING at all—choosing which mismatched socks to wear in the morning, my career, my decision to live in Los Angeles, anything.

With credit to Sarah Hagi for the original version of this

Lack of dating experience or something else?

It’s not like I met these guys on the internet—we met through mutual friends and still have many, many mutual friends. We met in “Safe,” “Christian” contexts. They are “nice guys.”

It’s easy to look at these incidents and think, “Well, maybe he just doesn’t have a lot of experience.”

I’ve dated Christian guys like this. They’re not always good at dating. They make mistakes. Obviously, not all of them are this bad.

But there’s something deeper going on when a guy corners me in his car and almost demands that I give him a chance and go on a date with him (Chuck III?) or when a guy takes my picture after a couple of dates so that he can show his friends a picture of his “girlfriend.” Or when a male friend tells me I’m too closed off and judgmental because I don’t automatically assume that a stranger who approaches me in parking lot, at night, is safe (because what if he’s just a nice guy, standing in front of a girl in the parking lot of Sprouts, asking her for her number, even though all she wanted was to buy some Brown Cow maple yogurt because that sh** is delicious?).

I feel like something is deeply wrong when I’m expected to educate men in their 20s, 30s or even 40s about the fact that women are people too, or when I’m expected to “give a chance” to someone who doesn’t even respect me as a real person entitled to make her own decisions.

What doesn’t seem to factor into any of these situations is me—my thoughts, my desires, my body, my decisions, my judgment, my intuition.

And I’m tired. I’m tired of feeling like I have to scream “NO” at the top of lungs to get someone to leave me alone. I’m tired of feeling like my pain doesn’t have any meaning or significance unless I’m literally bleeding to death or dying of cancer.

I’m tired of being so disconnected from my own body that I only feel the rage of physical violation weeks, months, or years after the fact.

Consent isn’t just about sex

Consent is about treating the other person like a person—not a body, not a good-looking accessory, not a blank canvas on which to project fantasies of marriage and children, not a character from a movie—but an actual person.

And these two stories in particular (though kind of funny) have been painful to write about—I’ve had to sit in it and think about why I felt so violated in the first place.

I’ve thought about how scary it is for a man to physically grab me out-of-nowhere, against my will, and start tipping me backwards. I’ve thought about how f***ing scary it is to have someone you don’t know very well not let go of you (restrain you) and pressure you for something sexual that you don’t want to give. How out-of-control and terrifying it is to feel like in that moment your body is not your own, is out of your control, is in the hands of someone who doesn’t even see you.

I don’t know how to describe it except to say that it cuts you off from your own physical being. That when you do start to tune back in from the numbness, all you can feel is pain.

It feels like sh**. That’s what.