6 Months Without Men

Dear Internet,

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.

Health Fads Are Killing Me

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.

Notes From A Half White Girl

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.

Violation

“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.

Desperate Times Call For Desperate Pleasures

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.

The Menace

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.

Away From Writing

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.

BLM for Babies

“I don’t care if I die at this protest!”

I’m driving my teenage niece to her first BLM protest because she’s been radicalized by TikTok praxis and wants to get with the shit. I think it’s cute, mostly because she’s been telling me about how to avoid getting tear gassed and how to film police not protesters. She’s so idealistic about this whole thing, and it’s giving me life, but I also told her: protests are basically just political exercise. We’ll probably walk around for a mile, listen to some speeches, then go home. She thinks that we’re going to get assaulted by the police, but first of all, Oakland on a Friday afternoon is not going to get poppin off like that because these are community events and it seems like there’s a tacit agreement to not assault protesters when the families show up during the day. That’s a night time activity. Secondly, fuck no I am not bringing my niece to one of those legit ass dangerous protests. Yes, they are fun as fuck, but does my niece seriously think I’m going to take her to a protest where she might die!? Jesus, I’m not that irresponsible.

So I tell her, “Well, I care if you die, so you’re not going to die at this protest, but I appreciate the passion that you’re bringing to the table. But, you should know, as a young woman of color the most radical thing you can do to piss off the man is live a long, prosperous life.”

I don’t think that comment really sank in, but that’s okay. Today is the first day of us being comrades in arms, so there is plenty of time for me to indoctrinate my niece with my particular brand of PMA anarchism. Which is weird but also thrilling because I didn’t even realize that we were bringing the next generation of political activists into the fold already! We are bringing these babies into the future!

But also, yes, I must admit it: I am getting old. Which makes me feel slightly self conscious because that probably means that some of my political ideas are likewise dated. My niece is going to take the praxis that me and my friends developed over a decade of BLM and Occupy protests and make it work for their generation. We only accomplished so much in our time, and now the next generation is going to let us know how our ideology failed them.

Whatever. I’m hella proud of my niece for her interest in politics. It’s weird to realize that she’s not four years old anymore. She’s with the shits now, and as I listen to her rant about social injustice I realize, damn, it won’t be long before she’s out there doing the maniest shit possible, just like I used to do, and that scares the shit out of me. I can feel it happening. I can feel myself wanting to say, “Please be safe,” but I can also feel myself screaming, “Safe! Safe!? The world is unsafe so who cares if I’m in danger at the protest!” Oh, god, my niece is going to be out there getting arrested and rubbing elbows with  people who might hurt her. Fuck! When I did that, it was fine because it was me, and no one in my family knew, and no one had to worry.  But know that my niece is doing it, and also because I know exactly how grimey it gets out there, this shit is not cool, guys! Fuck. Women are still out there getting sexually harassed, and now that I know my niece is going to be in the line of fire, I’m experiencing this new, special type of vengeance that I never felt before. Why didn’t I change the world when I had a chance? Now my niece is out there, trying to change the world, and I feel like such a fucking failure. Oh, and that makes me mad. So, to the protest we go.

Sitting in Silence

I have no desire to add to the din of the moment, but the inertia of sitting here and stewing inside of everything that is happening right now is dizzying. Or, it’s not that I don’t want to say something, it’s that my voice isn’t needed here. I have nothing to contribute to TikTok praxis, no release to be had at the riots, no platform in which in my opinions matter more than someone else’s. I’m a grown up now, and as I have grown into this racist, sexist, capitalist society, I have become entrenched in its mores and indebted to the system. But fuck the system. I have always known that, even as I sink slowly into its clutches. This is a racist system, and as someone who has one iota of power and voice in the system, it is now my responsibility to use my voice in my tiny corner of the system to try to change it. Which is why I’m not going to protests with any regularity or fervor. I have been to protests. I know what they accomplish. Or, I know what they’re supposed to accomplish: convincing people like me that we should do something in our own backyards. So while everyone else is screaming, I am sitting in relative silence, although it’s not really silence. I just know that no one can hear me over everything else that is happening.

I’m trying to imagine a better society, one that is not racist and not sexist, but I can’t. I can’t imagine changing this society enough to a point where equality is achievable. This society is rotten to the core. It is corrupt. There are too many people here who have reaped the benefits of discrimination. I could never trust that this society could truly change. It would always feel like a ruse, a trap. In this society, we cannot fight for equality. This society is designed to be ruled by the person who fights hardest for their own supremacy, but whoever wins that fight will always be the villain. Equality cannot be found here. Equality was never supposed to be a part of this society. I have spent too much time in this society to believe that it can do anything other than lie to me. This society will tell me that I am equal, and then sneak behind my back and strip me of rights I didn’t know that I had in the first place. I am afraid that none of this will ever be enough. I am afraid that total destruction is the only answer. Perhaps this is why I prefer to be unheard. I fight like there is nothing left to be salvaged from this society. It is a hellish way to fight, and I hope that no one else has to fight like this anymore. I want to watch everyone else fix the system and succeed so that I can take my cynicism and waste away on my own time.

Man Eaters Have Feelings, Too

Several people have called me a ‘man eater’ which has given me pause. I looked up the definition of a man eater, and it seems that man eaters are considered to be promiscuous, manipulating, cold hearted, withholding, deceptive, and hell bent on under mining men’s confidence and self worth. I mean, sure, fine, ok, maybe I’ve got a touch of all of that in my heart, but, also, um, excuse me! I more than just a cold hearted bitch. I have feelings and needs, too. Just because I have given ‘a chance’ to men who I kinda knew weren’t up to the task of dating me, and just because I walked away from those relationships with no remorse or regret, doesn’t make me a mean person. If anything, I think I’ve been pretty open and honest on a social media level about my expectations of relationships, dating, sex, etc. If someone hasn’t done their research, that’s kinda on him. I do my research. If anything, I yearn for love. I love being in love. I like relationships. I’m open minded when it comes to dating, and I accept that I will make mistakes, and I’m not too hard on myself about it. If that makes me a man eater, then, damn. Fine. I just rue the idea that female confidence is always flipped into a pejorative. But whatever. Anyone who’s worried about labeling me a ‘man eater’ probably isn’t my caliber of person anyway.