I can feel him in me: the demon. Fuck. There he is, sloshing between my legs, snickering and sneering as I drive 90 miles an hour down the freeway, hoping to get to where I’m going and not really caring if I get there alive. Dammit. I’m manic again. Which means that the next 5-15 days are going to be filled with a slew of unsavory yet scintillating activities which may or may not include: finishing my novel, having sex with a stranger from the Internet, getting black out drunk, doing a ton of ketamine, buying hundreds of dollars worth of shit from the Internet and/or antique stores, stealing shit from everywhere I go into, fighting random people on the street, starting lots and lots of new craft projects, falling in love with anonymous people, oversharing with my family, walking around more naked than usual in public. All of this like a flash in the night until, of course, inevitably, I simmer back down into the ‘nice girl’ that I think I am and wonder why the fuck did I do all those wild things last week. I guess that’s the worst thing about self aware mania: god, I love being manic, but it is so damn fleeting, and the person I am when I can do a million things all at once is the person I want to be always, but it’s not, so even while I’m here, this manic moment is tinged with the disappointment of knowing that this me, my best self, and I can only be my best me when my neurochemistry is imbalanced in just the right way to make me feel shiny and perfect. I will try to be good and write my way through all these sexual compulsions, but I can’t stop looking at every man I see and fantasizing about what it would feel like if he raped me. Dammit. I am going to get very, very drunk. I am going to finish my fucking novel. I am going to fall in love. I feel good. I feel great. I feel like I can conquer the world. I feel like superwoman. I have a super pussy. I am the smartest person I know, and I am beautiful, too. Nothing can stop me. Nothing! Money is a concept, love is infinity. I am happy, I am happy, I am happy, I am happy. Someone please stop me or at least bring me drugs, I thought that these flights of fancy would have stopped by now, or that these little episodes would be relegated to my 20s, but it turns out, instead, I am probably going to be like this for the rest of my life. I am going to be ebbing and flowing through this emotional turbulence til the day I die. It turns it was not a phase. I am just getting older and while certain things slow down, the desire to watch a man bleed to death has not. I will be like this forever, regardless of whether or not I ‘discipline’ myself. Regardless of whether or not I ‘stop.’ There is no ‘becoming a better person’ or ‘making better decisions’ when moments of mania compel me to – compel me to what? Oh, god, what will I feel justified in doing this time? Who will I try to break today? And next time? And the time after that? Why do I hate myself because of my mania. If only. If only I could fly. I feel like I could fly. I think I can fly. But I’m not flying. I guess that’s the best way to describe the chaos and confusion of this manic episode. I feel like I’m soaring over the city, but when I look down, here I am, sitting in this chair, and it doesn’t make any fucking sense. Will somebody please make sense of this word salad – I’m convinced that there’s genius in here somewhere, but I don’t know. I couldn’t say. All I can do is sit here and vibrate – and I’m not sure if it feels good, and I’m not sure if it feels bad, so I will drink until I can tell the difference. Because, ultimately, I am afraid. I am afraid of that moment when my feet touch the floor again. I am afraid of when my knees buckle and my body crashes. I am afraid of the bloody and the bruises that await me down there, which is where I am going, which is where I am always going. I am afraid to be here, in this manic state, because inevitably comes the ground with me all over it. How can I enjoy flying when I know I will crash. But maybe if I am bomber and I destroy everything beneath me – then I can just float forever. I would be happy forever if the rest of the world didn’t exist. So I must go now, because I have my work cut out for me.
They say that the world is ending, so then why am I still in it? The sky is black with someone else’s rage, yet here I am, still sitting in my room, waiting for something to happen. It’s not that nothing is happening, it’s just that it’s not happening to me. It’s happening around me, and as I wait for the punch in the face of reality, I’ve come to realize: maybe it will never happen at all. The world will end, and I’ll still be suspending here, in my American amorality, with no big decisions, no sweeping finales, no crash, no boom, no bang. Or it will be far away. It will happen to other people. And after the world ends, I will still get up. I will still go to work. I will still eat my lunch. Then go home. Go to sleep. And wonder what all the fuss was about while other people’s worlds ended and mine just stayed the same.
I’ve been living someone else’s life lately. Standing in the kitchen in my lingerie, frying chicken for a boyfriend I don’t have like a girlfriend to none. Washing the dishes ceremoniously with my lipstick still on. Drinking water and making protein shakes so that my body can look better for the people who don’t see me. I’ve slipped slightly into a dream state, puttering around with a broom in my hand, cleaning up after the children I don’t have. Living a life that is unlike the one that I have, yet somehow after living it – it has definitely become mine. The quiet nights in. The full nights of rest. That easy feeling in the morning when my feet touch the floor and it doesn’t even hurt. It’s a strange feeling as I slink around, staying inside for as long as I can, like I am ready to do something that I know will never happen. There are no more hangovers, no more biting regrets. The panic of the day to day has subsided, and in its place: a person I don’t believe exists. I don’t think this is really me. I don’t think it can be me, even though it is me for right now. In this moment, which I know is fleeting, I am someone who couldn’t possibly exist within the the normal bounds of reality. So, do I relish it? Or do I recoil. The thought of feeling so okay in such a quiet way is unsettling, not because there is something upsetting about all of this, but because there is something in my nature that can’t grasp the possibility that everything can be okay. Or, even if everything could be okay, that I would be the one to live it. Maybe I don’t want this to ever end. Or maybe I just hate myself in a new way, and finding out all about that will be just as comfortably horrible as the rest of life as soon as I figure out how to take it, how to hold it, how to let it be a part of me.
It has been six months since quarantine started, which means that it has been six months since I have had to interact with random men on a daily basis. And things couldn’t be better. I didn’t realize how good things were until I went out into the world for work yesterday. All of a sudden: men, everywhere. At first, I didn’t notice the toll it was taking on my mental health to be ogled as an object and crowded in the streets by all the men. To have to engage in the strange physical interactions that men demand of women. To be commented on by men simply for the sin of existing in public. To have men demand attention from me as I stroll down the street. But by the time I got home, I was awash with a fatigue that I hadn’t felt in months. The fatigue of being a woman in public. Even though I was all covered up with face mask, gloves, and head wrap – it still wasn’t enough to protect me from the virulence of men. I crawled back into bed, eager to hide yet again from the men of the world. I think it will be months again before I venture back out into the world. It’s not that I am not strong enough to deal with men anymore, but rather that I am too strong to let myself deal with such unnecessary unpleasantries on any frequent basis. In my world without men, things have only gotten better. I sleep better, I eat better, I feel better. My skin has cleared up, and day to day by mood has improved considerably. Six months without men has done what no diet, no exercise routine, no amount of sleep, no expensive face cream has ever done: it has cured me. And I am not going to give up this cure without a fight.
Even though I only made $9 an hour working as a clerk at the thrift store, I still liked buying $3.50 + tax kombuchas from the health store because at the young age of 19 I believed that drinking these sugar-laden, probiotic beverages would be worth it. Were there better things I could have been spending my money on? Absolutely. I could have been eating something other than boxed soup and cold cuts for lunch. I could have been saving up to buy a more comfortable pair of shoes to work. I could have bought a book on health and nutrition and read that instead. But, no. I had to have my kombuchas, which were expensive to me at the time, because I thought that the invisible and frankly also intangible health benefits would somehow counteract the things that were truly troubling me: my anxiety, my constant fatigue, my hangovers which I caused by drinking too much liquor that some random man had bought for me the night before, my nagging sense of being overweight at 125 pounds. Those kombuchas were going to cure me. If I drank enough of them, one day I’d wake up and my skin would be glowing. I wouldn’t be bloated. I’d wake up in a good mood. Men would want to fuck me, and women would want to be me.
But that never happened. Instead, I was just out $3.50 (plus tax) and filled with a sense of superiority to everyone who didn’t drink kombucha. I guess you can’t really put a price on that, but if I could it would be the price of all those kombuchas I drank over the years. Of course, I eventually came to my senses and realized that drinking kombucha didn’t really make me feel that much better. So I stopped drinking kombucha, which in turn made me feel morally superior to all those plebian kombucha drinkers as I drunkenly stumbled my way into the next fad: coconut water. Long story short, I don’t drink coconut water anymore, either. But after coconut water came the ashwaganda supplements and kava root teas. Of course I had a yoga phase. I dabbled in vegetarianism, had a brief stint with veganism, and at one point I was all kale everything. I switched up my face wash, bought an expensive moisturizer, and drank my collagen every day. Nowadays, I’m doing HIIT workouts, eliminating carbs and exfoliating.
Throughout it all, I drank all the fucking time. Saying that now, well, duh, of course I felt like shit because I drank all the time, did coke, stayed up late, fucked around, overslept, underslept. You know, all the standard things that fucky young things do when they’re in their 20s. There’s something to be said for the cognitive dissonance of spending half of my disposable income on getting fucked up and the other half on cures for getting fucked up. You’d think that somewhere along the line, I would have picked up on the message that if I drank less, maybe I wouldn’t feel the need to treat myself with all these hippie, woo-woo pseudo cures if I didn’t intentionally make myself feel like shit. But, then again, now that I think about it, of course I never heard that. If I didn’t make myself sick with liquor, then I would need to find a cure.
Which explains the strange coexistence of the health and wellness industry in America, which is hellbent on overconsumption, alcohol and working ourselves to death. Who will buy a cure when no one is sick? And while, yes, I could launch this rant into a missive about everything that is wrong with the health care industry today and accessibility to medication, I’d rather take a look at the more pedestrian presence of ‘health’ in our culture. The way that we experience what it means to be well within the sickness of the market forces that dictate the way we buy our way into our own wellness.
Within American culture, ‘health’ doesn’t simply mean “the way you feel good in your body.” No. Instead, health has become a class indicator that we must wear like designer clothing in order to separate the healthy from the unhealthy. The rich from the poor. The beautiful from the ugly. Health has a pantone-approved color palate. Health has a myriad of hash tags. Health is in partnership with a handful of brands – juiceries, gyms, and therapists – so that we know what health looks like without ever really knowing what it should feel like. Health is a dewy glow on Instagram. Health is a twenty six inch waist. Health is acai bowls and celery juice. Even though none of those things actually translate to health in the truest sense, it is what we have come to believe health really looks like. We are so separated from our own health that we don’t even know what ‘healthy’ actually feels like, which is great from a marketer’s perspective because your product doesn’t even have to work if your customer can’t tell the difference. Health as a product is just a distraction from genuine health.
Health that isn’t accessible isn’t true health. Of course we know that poor people are kept separate from their health in the most egregious way possible, but if health is being gate kept, can it really be health? If these so-called cures are really that effective, then why haven’t we as humanity cured ourselves, down to the very last one of us? If kombucha was really going to cure me, wouldn’t we all be drinking it? Wouldn’t the market have released an affordable kombucha for the guy on food stamps? And wouldn’t it be worth it for him to drink kombucha, too? Or is kombucha just another sugar pill that at the end of the day didn’t make me any healthier and by extension any happier than anyone else.
The kombucha is just the carrot on the stick, the one that makes me think it’s okay to drink like this, or to work like this, or to live like this. At the end of the day it doesn’t actually do anything for me. Drinking one kombucha one time or drinking it every day – I can’t say that here I am, years later, really patting myself on the back for drinking all those kombuchas. I still hate getting out of bed every day, I still hate my body, I still hate. It’s still hard for me to rectify the decisions I’ve made with my life, but at one point kombucha made me feel better about those decisions.
At one point did my pursuit of my own health become toxic consumption? And if the pursuit of health can just become another mindless aspect of our participation in capitalism, can it ever truly be healthy? Or is it just a different way to dress up the same thing that is making us sick.
After listening to a podcast on anti-dieting, I’ve decided that anti-health is the next cure I will explore. Unless you are my doctor or the CDC, I’m not doing it. I’ll stick to my iron pills and my 8 glasses of water and my exercise 3-4 times a week, and that’s it. It will certainly be cheaper than anything I’ve done before. Maybe if I stop obsessing over the minutiae of my diet and my exercise and my skin care routine and my vitamins and my minerals and all this so-called health, I’ll have the mental space with which to examine the things that are really making me sick. Maybe if I stop spending time trying to have my image of health validated on the Internet, and if I stop using other people as the litmus for what health should look like, then maybe I’ll start to feel healthy again. Maybe if I give myself time – which, by the way, is my time – and stop giving it to the cures, to the images of health, to the performance of health – maybe I’ll find something there. (Speaking of time: if you did that quick math at the beginning of the essay, you noticed that I made $9 an hour and spent $3.50 (+ tax) on my kombucha. Thinking about my net income, I basically worked 30 minutes in order to afford my kombucha. I would have been better off working 30 minutes less than drinking that kombucha. But that time is gone forever, so instead I just pledge not to sell thirty minutes of my time to the health and wellness snake oil industry.) If I do, I promise I won’t try to sell it to you. I probably won’t even post it on Instagram. Or write about it again. Because it’s my health. My health is about me, and seeing as I don’t like to post about my sicknesses on the Internet, why would I flourish my health there either? All of it – good or bad – is something I want to keep to myself.
It’s not lost on me that I’ve started to feel incredibly angry about health in the midst of a pandemic and also while the air outside is unbreathable. Maybe there’s something about watching the health of myself and everyone around me slip away that has made me realize that I never actually knew what health ever was. Now, maybe I never will.
The last time I dated a white person was five years ago, and it was a horrible experience for lots and lots of reasons that I don’t even have to time to write about here. So I’ll keep it focused on one aspect, which is: race. He was Southern Italian, and anybody who has seen a map knows that Southern Italy is very close to Africa. Southern Italians are known for being swarthier and having darker features from generations of interracial families. I, however, didn’t really care about any of that until said ex decided that it would be cute to lord his heritage over me, a Mexican-Filipino-Dutch woman who is the product of second generation interracial marriage. He liked to say things to me like, “I’m darker than you” and “I’m more of a person than you are” because of that. Five years ago, my praxis was still evolving, so I mostly just wrinkled my nose at him and ignored it. But after reading about the recent Jessica Krug scandal, I wish I had punched him in the face.
Apparently this is a fairly common mentality among white people, and it’s something that needs to be actively called out and shamed before it metastases even further. It’s easy for white people to look at the aesthetics of race and think, “I’m not that different from them.” White people can get their tans, get their hair done, put on hoop earrings, get lip injections, and voila! Race is a social construct that can be cosplayed whenever convenient. The lived experience of race in America doesn’t register to white people who can’t fathom that not being white in America is inextricably linked to American racial identities.
When I look at white people dressing up as POC, I realize, oh, shit, as a white passing, racially ambiguous, half white woman: I am the grey area that white people slide through in order to come out the other side as fake POC. This is my territory. It’s my job to hold this down and hold people in this space accountable.
But I am so confused. And I don’t know how to do that. I feel fucking harmed by white women who dress up as people of color. They look like me! In some cases, they look more like a person of color than I do. In doing so, I feel like my experiences as a white mixed race woman are invalidated, and the conversation I want to have with other people like me becomes irrelevant, invalidated and easily cancelled by snakes who want to coopt that experience. But the difference is that they are white and they have lived their lives as white people. We are not the same.
This insidious, snake-ass bullshit undermines the trust that BIPOC can have for those of us who are in the racial middle. I get that being an ally means that every day we have to prove ourselves to be an ally in a renewed way because of people like Jessica Krug. But because of people like her, we have to find new ways to build trust. The only way that we can rebuild that trust is to always give our seat at the table to someone whose voice is more marginalized. It is on those of us who are light skinned or white passing to use the privilege afforded to us by colorism to end the pernicious cycle that excludes our friends with darker skin.
In many ways, my ex was just trying to invalidate me and invalidate my experiences growing up in a mixed race household. Which is, ultimately, the whitest thing he could have possibly done. These small incidents of erasure might be funny to white people who don’t understand the difference between darker featured white people who were reabsorbed into white culture and lighter featured POC who are still not purely white. But for those of us know what the fuck is up, let’s make sure those fuckers know their time is up.
“Did you say no?”
I finally worked up the courage to tell an ex-lover of mine about a certain sexual impropriety he had a habit of committing against me. For some reason he only initiated sex when I was asleep, and then I’d wake up, getting fucked, but not particularly enjoying it or interested in it because he only did it when he was coming off drugs and needed to cum in order to calm down enough to go to sleep. It sucked. Sure, I probably should have said something sooner, but I’m constantly working on myself, so talking about it a year later is the best I can do right now.
Of course he wants to know if I said no. If I tried to push him off me. If I told him to stop. He wants to know if I’m telling people he raped me. He wants to know if I think he’s a rapist.
But it’s more complex than that. Yes, I could have said ‘no.’ Yes, I should have told him to stop. But I didn’t. Because even then, I knew that it would be easier for both of us if I kept it to myself, if I kept my hurt feelings to myself, like the good little Catholic girl I am. I couldn’t even imagine saying ‘no.’ Because as soon as I said ‘no,’ I would have had to deal with either one of two possibilities: him not stopping or him stopping. If I said ‘no’ and he didn’t stop, then, yes, he would be a rapist, and I would have had to deal with the emotional burden of telling him he’s a rapist. If I said ‘no’ and he did stop, then he would have been a rapist, but with some gray area to it. It was easier for me to not say anything and not have to deal with the emotional pitfalls of accusing him of rape.
Instead, I didn’t say ‘no,’ and I waited a year to talk about it, and, no, he’s not a rapist. But he is the type of guy who likes to fuck unconscious women, and that is its own kind of gross.
I scoffed at the text message. Which he sent at 1am. Asking me why I didn’t call him.
I got an email from someone who saw me on Tinder, looked me up, found my email address, and entitled it, ‘Dating.’ That was creepy as fuck.
Another text message from a recent tepid hook up, asking me for the opportunity to ‘fuck the shit out of me’ after I stopped hitting him up because he had mansplained to me why La La Land was better than Moonlight. Such cringe.
I did a bunch of ketamine with my local drug dealer a couple weeks ago and then had a panic attack that I got coronavirus just because of course my throat felt a little achey after blowing lines. Duh.
Currently hoarding Viagra and Cialis.
I hadn’t been to a bar in months because, y’know, there’s a pandemic and shit, but it was my birthday and my best friend needed to buy me drinks because especially in times like this, tradition is more important than ever. So I did what I always did: put on a tight, short dress, five inch heels, and hobbled over to the bar right at opening so I could drink two bottles of wine and various shots with my best friend. I was very excited to be perched at one of the sparse, outdoor tables at the bar, watching the people coming and going, pretending like everything was fine as we traded stories of our relatively un-debaucherous quarantine lives, when of course people started milling about. Oh, yeah – I wasn’t the only person out there who was desperate for a simulacrum of bar life and socializing. This, of course, meant that all the most lonely, pathetic people were coming out of the wood works. As I sat there, sneering into my drink, I couldn’t help but judge all the people who were coming to the bar for a drink during a fucking pandemic, while also reminding myself that I, too, was there. That being said, it was only a matter of time before someone irritated me, and seeing as I was six drinks in already, I couldn’t help but pop off after this rando who had ambushed our table declared, “I have only slept with two black women in my life!” Ugh, please, I did not leave the house today so I could experience a helping of casual racism. So, true to style, I started screaming at him to shut up! Shut up! Shut up! Shut up! Because it was my birthday, and I was turning 33 years old, and screaming at someone while drunk felt like the appropriate thing to do. However, the people at the table next to us did not appreciate my screaming fit, which then devolved into me screaming at them, so…
It sounds like you’ve been in toxic relationships.
I had been texting the boy du jour about the miscommunication patterns in my two pivotal romantic relationships when he sent me that. Ugh. Gag. I had been trying to explain to him that while, yes, a person’s true nature – e.g. their motivation in life, their character, their core desires – don’t change, the way that a person’s personality manifests varies based on the circumstances, and sometimes their partners create the circumstances which can cause a person’s behavior to change. I don’t know how that turned into him pitying me for having gone through some toxic bullshit, so I let him know Yes, and I am the common denominator in those relationships. Because I was trying to be honest with him because of course I actually like this one, but then again I always like the boy du jour until the jour is over.
Really? Maybe you’re just unlucky.
Ugh. Fuck. Here I am, trying to be honest and vulnerable about the fact that I am an adult woman who consensually opted into long term romantic relationships with people who were no good for me (and for whom I was no good), and this is a recurring theme in pretty much all personal relationships, and I know that I do that, and I’m not trying to stop, and…it just fell on deaf ears. I’m just a toxic woman, looking for love, and I’m trying to be accountable and responsible throughout this process! Where is my BuzzFeed think piece on ethical dating for toxic women, or my Vice News ‘how to’ guide?
My friends pity me for my ‘bad’ relationship choices, too. As though I’m a victim of some extenuating circumstances that have lead me into great love and grand heart break. But I am beyond circumstance. I have made these decisions, whole heartedly and fully aware of the consequences. I have no problem taking ownership of my narcissistic, self indulgent decisions that have lead to blow up after blow up. But perhaps my friends are just trying to be good friends. Perhaps they are sick of watching me self harm through romantic relationships over and over again. If only somebody knew how to make me stop.
I have no desire to be a leader. Or a manager. Or a boss. Or an owner. I am an anarchist, and as such I have a duty to be the most disruptive follower out there. I demand of my leaders that they lead me, that they steer my wayward, meandering ass towards the place where I want to go. I insist that my managers manage me, that they cope with my personal shortcomings, my sloth, my insouciance in order to get the best out of me. To own me is to the do the hard work of making all this potential become worthwhile. To boss me is to labor under the hope that I will be worth it. Being a follower is not a passive, sheep-like occupation. It is a constant act of rebellion. It is a pure expression of selfishness to stray from the pack. I demand to be lead to a better place, and I demand that my leaders take me there. Or I will go there myself, and anyone who wants can tag along, but I will not be leading the way.
Because it feels so fucking overwhelming right now. Moreso than ever before, it feels futile. I am stranded in the chaos of the moment, and writing these words on this page feels hopeless. An exercise in obsolescence. More moaning in the background. What do I hope to accomplish by writing when the world is on fire. There is no making the world a better place. There is only survival.