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.


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.


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.



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.

Christians Suck at Consent, Part 1

We’ve all heard (and in my case, written) about how weird Christians can be about dating.

But I believe it goes much deeper than that.

A couple weeks ago, two different guys messaged me on Facebook after I posted about a project I’ve been working on.

One of these guys, we’ll call him Chuck because I don’t know anyone named Chuck, was someone I’ve had on my DO NOT ENGAGE radar for a long time, ever since I moved to LA five years ago.

You see, we kind of had a thing. Except that this thing was exclusively one-sided.

I had just moved to LA and didn’t have very many friends, but somehow Chuck was always available to hang out. I can’t really remember the first time he hit on me. He was the brother of a close friend, so I assumed he was safe.

I explained I just wanted to be friends and left it at that. Except, that wasn’t enough for Chuck. It wasn’t enough the first time. It wasn’t enough the second time. Guess what, it wasn’t enough the third, fourth, fifth, sixth or seventh time either.

You might wonder why I kept hanging out with this guy. I wonder the same thing. Was I leading him on even though I had explicitly stated that I didn’t want any kind of romantic relationship with him?

One night he grabbed me suddenly and tried to dip me for a kiss (this after I had just given my semi-tri-annual “just friends” speech). I was shocked and taken aback. He explained that he was taking notes from the movie “Hitch” where the titular character explains that you go half way in for the kiss and then wait for the girl to go the rest of the way.

I’m not sure which was more disconcerting—that this guy was taking notes on dating and romance from a Will Smith/Kevin James comedy or that physical contact bordering on sexual assault was now somehow considered a move that you pull on someone who has just turned you down.

I stopped hanging out with him (finally). And yet still, he would call me, wanting to go to an event that I had posted on Facebook. Or he would text me, referencing a show that I liked and suggesting that we watch it together.

I felt threatened and alone—how could I explain to anyone else, especially my friends, that I felt harassed by the sweetest, gentlest guy in the world?

It took me a long time, but I eventually got angry. How dare he disregard my stated wishes and boundaries. How dare he GRAB ME AND TRY TO KISS ME.

Back to the present: he messaged me on Facebook asking about working on the project together—and I said, “No.” He apologized for his immaturity. I said that I didn’t think that not taking “No” for an answer was simply “immature.” He apologized for not respecting my boundaries, and then…


I kid you not—after I referred to his actions as “more scary than anything else”—he told me I was “beautiful,” and wrote, “I never want to take myself out of the running for more.” He ended with:

“I will always think of you as a friend, Mulan.”

It was too perfect. It wrapped a huge, obnoxiously pink bow on everything.

It proved to me that I could say anything to him, ANYTHING: “F*** you. You disgust me. I hate you. I never want to see you again. I will never, ever date you” and it would not matter one bit. Why?

BECAUSE I DON’T MATTER. I don’t even exist to this guy. I am a fantasy, not a real person. I might as well be a two-dimensional drawing from the Disney canon.

So often with Christian men, what I think or feel or desire or say just doesn’t matter. All that matters is that he wants me. I’m less a “person” and more a face and a body that he can project his own needs and desires onto.

In the end, I feel strangely justified—because so often women are faulted for “leading him on” or “Obviously, you didn’t say ‘No’ loudly enough or firmly enough for him to get the message.”

NO. He violated my boundaries. And it was not my fault.

We whittle women down into finer and finer points—Don’t wear that. Smile. But not at the wrong guy—that could get you killed. Don’t walk there at that hour. Don’t drink. If you must, make sure it’s around people that you trust with your life. Don’t encourage him. Stop breathing. Why are you breathing? If you would just stop breathing, then he would leave you alone. If you could just—not exist—for a minute. Thanks.