The fact of the matter is: I like being a bitch. I like being mean. I like my superiority complex and my condescension. My mother saw that mean streak in me, and she tried to moralize it out of me. But that didn’t work. I’m a shit talker. A shit starter. An instigator. An asshole. A gleeful spectator at the sideshow of human misery. No amount of ‘loving God’ is going to change the fact that I am mean to the people I love, and I enjoy it. I like demoralizing the people around me. Putting them down. Watching them realize that they are pieces of shit. I don’t know why I enjoy this so much, and I don’t think I’ll ever stop. Perhaps there’s a better way to direct this energy than sabotaging my relationships and undermining the self esteem and confidence of the people I love. I try to pour this wrath into my work, into my writing, into myself. But it always comes back to the people I love. It always comes back to me. Perhaps it’s the self loathing bursting beyond my limitations of myself. Everyone is pathetic. You are all fucking pathetic. Just as I am pathetic, and we must look at how pathetic we are. Up close and personal. We must feel together what fucking losers we are. In this, we will be liberated to be the worst versions of ourselves, vociferously and unrepentantly.
I recently found a copy of the seminal 2000’s dating advice book Why Men Love Bitches. There are a lot of problematic aspects to it, first and foremost that a white woman wrote a book that coopted AAVE language with chapter titles such as “The Mama/Ho Complex.” Okay, eye roll. But apart from that, there’s a lot of dated, cringey advice that honestly I had to laugh at because while, yes, I have subsumed some of these ideas into my personality, reading all these frankly misogynistic ideas written on a page is just ludicrous. Such as chapter titles: “When Women Give Themselves Away and Become Needy” and “What to Do When He Takes You for Granted and Nagging Doesn’t Work.” Basically it’s just a book that tells women not to be needy or nag their men.
My personally favorite chapter is “The Other Teams Secret Playbook: Thing You Always Suspected but Never Heard Him Say.” This one is filled with a slew of contradictory and petty quotes from various men that basically add up to, “Women talk too much.”
Yes! Women talk too much! God, I remember that cliche romcom line. As a woman who talks too much, I really have to roll my eyes at this classic cultural neg against women. As a former bartender and a current member of the hospitality industry, the idea that women talk too much is just…omigod, I seriously can’t believe people used to say that. We talk too much? Damn. To me, the ability to hold a conversation is a sign of intelligence. Knowledge on a variety of topics is sexy and knowing how to weave that into casual conversation makes for a scintillating first date. It’s almost as if men were collectively admitting that they had know experience in the art of communication from casual conversation to intimate arguments. Men idolized the ‘strong, silent type,’ as though that were a cop out for communication of any ilk. Honestly, I’m shocked by the lengths that men will go to in order to sabotage their relationships.
Suffice it to say: I refused to shut up. Now more than ever. I am going to run my fucking mouth as much as I god damn please, men of the world be damned!
Maybe if I can stem the nausea that this book is galvanizing in my stomach, I’ll have more pithy analysis of this misogynistic book, but I kinda don’t want to put myself through that kind of torture, so I think I’ll just stick it on my bookshelf as a living example of how our culture hates women.
Yes, those passe, self indulgent, restaurant driven hipsters. Always so annoying on Instagram with their manicured coffees and extravagant sandwiches. But now, in the age of the decline of the restaurant, in an era where there is no more table side service, or ambiance, or unique vintage glassware, or mood lighting, or tweezer plating – it is a great time to be a foodie. To just revel in actually enjoying food rather than succumbing to the anxiety of looking at what everyone else is eating and wanting it. Most food doesn’t look beautiful in a cardboard to go container. Brandishing your $75 dollar meal is a bit gauche, especially because photographing it in your own kitchen, which might be messy or full of dirty dishes or just not that great looking. Everyone’s cooking at home, and, well, they’re not all very good at it. So it is a great time to be a foodie. To quietly and triumphantly nourish yourself. To cleave yourself from the inferiority complex of eating on the Internet. We can all just sit at home in silence and alone and eat the way we always should have eaten.
I have always thought there was something physically wrong with me. Every ache was an indicator of some sinister, underlying health issue. Every pang of fatigue meant that I was succumbing to a mysterious autoimmune disease. A stomach ache was a sign of the collapse of my entire body, of cancer, of death. I have always been convinced that this body of mine is not functioning properly. That this body should be doing more.
I’m not sure where I got the idea that I am operating beneath my physical peak. I’m the type of person that sleeps 8+ hours a day, which is the amount of sleep that doctors recommend we get. It must have been at some point in high school when my peers started staying up all night to write papers and do homework that I realized: people out there are getting 4-5 hours of sleep and being totally functional throughout the day. I was jealous. I’m a wreck on a 4-5 hours of sleep – my body just can’t handle it. But at that young age, I was ingrained with the idea that I was lazy because I was missing out on 4 extra hours of productivity.
But it wasn’t just my need for more sleep that convinced me that I was biologically inferior to my peers who slept 4-5 hours a night. It was also the mood swings. The mother fucking mood swings. Which were oscillated by a slew of varying factors: my period (first and foremost), my diet (and the ensuing stomach aches that came from constantly being undernourished by whatever fad diet we were all doing), alcohol (which I got plenty of), exercise (which I got none of), sunshine (which I avoided). Some days there was depression. Some days there was mania. Some days I didn’t want to get out of bed and leave the house. Other days, I felt fantastic, like I could go out drinking all night, wake up, go to work, come home, write my novel, fuck like a champ, and do it all over again the next day.
It was those flashes of mania that convinced me that I was somehow sick. In mania, I could do anything and everything. In mania, I could sleep 5 hours and feel fine. I could do a work out and be bursting with energy. I could eat fewer calories and still feel energetic. I could be witty and winning and work, and sexy and fun afterwards. I could do everything I set out to do, and I could feel fine. Mania made me feel like I was finally the person I thought I was supposed to be. Mania made me feel perfect. Optimal. Fine tuned and functioning.
But then it would fade. Sometimes it would slip away slowly. Other times, it would come crashing down, and all the sleep I hadn’t gotten would come back to get me: 9 hours a night. 10 hours a night. 11 hours a night. And I would feel like a failure. Again.
I was convinced I was unhealthy. That there must be something I wasn’t doing or wasn’t eating or wasn’t drinking that was making me come crashing down like that. Which is how I wound up spending so much money on different supplements and work out classes and fancy, reinforced meals. One of those things would stop me from crashing. Maybe all of them combined would keep me buoyed in a permanent state of luscious mania, where I could be clean and pure and perfect. If I could stay up, then I would be beautiful. When I was manic, everything I said was the right thing to say. Every day I looked prettier than the last. Even my shits were perfect. Me when I was manic – that person didn’t lie or cheat or steal or hurt the people she loved. I wanted to be that me forever, suspended in moral purity and peak physical condition. I was convinced it could be achieved. All I had to do was find the right supplement, the right tea, the right work out class, the right expensive, organic certified mattress. And then I would be okay.
But here I am. And I’m exactly the same as I always have been. No amount of consumption or denial has changed that. I still eat every day. I still sleep every day. I still shit every day, just as I always have and I always will. The fact of the matter was: all I needed to do was listen to my doctor. I know, I know – we all hate Western medicine these days. But hear me out.
The doctor says: eat a balanced diet. Sleep 8 hours a night. Get exercise or at least be active. Don’t drink too much alcohol. Avoid processed foods. My doctor told me to take iron and B vitamin supplements and Lexapro. It was all very simple advice – but it was the best advice. I didn’t need to take chlorophyll and bleach my asshole. Sure, maybe a kombucha here or there would make me feel better on occasion, but both the short term and long term benefits of drinking kombucha were negligible.
In Silicon Valley, they’re obsessed with human optimization and biohacking. In Berkeley, the hippies are convinced that crystals and yoga and veganism will make you feel better. But me? I’m already optimized. I already feel better. In fact, it turns out that I’ve been feeling fine this entire time. The human body as it is performs at its peak when it is taken care of on the most basic, fundamental levels. Yes, there are flaws in the system, but you can’t get rid of the flaws without destroying the entire system.
There’s nothing wrong with me. There’s nothing wrong with sleeping too much or bad moods or stomach aches or manic episodes. There’s nothing wrong with being energetic today and sleepy tomorrow. I am perfectly healthy, even with my ingrown hairs and pimples and diarrhea. I can’t improve on a perfected system. Perfected, not perfect. All those health fads – sure, they might do something for a day or two. But the amount that health fads improve your quality of life and your ability to function are ultimately insignificant. The changes that they make are too small to really be worth all the effort and the underlying anxiety of being convinced that your body isn’t working. That you are missing out on the peak human experience. That average human health is itself a sickness. Able bodied people are somehow still victims of ableism. Or maybe it’s ultra-ableism. Anything that tells you to consume more in order to cure you of the things you consume is a scam, but that’s what health under capitalism looks like.
So why are we so obsessed with this false paradigm of health. Why is it pervasive from Silicon Valley tech bros down to gluten free yoga girls. What is it about this culture and this self loathing that has convinced us that we aren’t enough as we are. That our health isn’t healthy enough. Why do we need to work more, sleep less, play harder, always smile, never fart, be perfect. Why can’t we just accept: this is who we are, flaws and all. And all those people who sleep 4 hours a night and work 14 hours a day and work out and make money and have power and look great and eat clean and take chlorophyll and drink ionized or deionized water – is that really who we want to be? Has capitalism convinced us that success at the cost of our bodies is the definition of happiness in America? Or is thriving just as we are an excellent act of rebellion.
Keeping track of the political discourse these days has become a dizzying endeavor. It’s hard to keep up with the who’s who of destroying America these days, so I’ve decided to take a step back and look at the larger picture here. And what I’m seeing is: we’re all going to hell in a hand basket, and it’s pretty apolitical. The intermittent violence punctuated with apathy to anything that isn’t one’s own niche issues has convinced me that perhaps none of us want this country to survive the next few months. We’re manifesting a particular brand of American nihilism that indicates a pervasive lack of cultural discipline. It’s as though we decided: United We Stand, Divided We Fall, but let’s be divided now. Everyone is hell bent on destroying this place, like a bacchanalia of chaos, and even the sane people are letting this place and everyone in it burn. This planet.
Let it burn. This is humanity. We will rise from the ashes to live another day so we can build something beautiful that we can burn to the ground.
I woke up early so I could marinate my chicken in buttermilk, turmeric and paprika so I could fry it later. Then I did the dishes from my dinner the night before and brewed a fresh a batch of iced tea. Then I sat in the kitchen a rewrote my grocery list to include everything I needed to make a low carb tiramisu because tiramisu is my hands down favorite dessert.
As I sat there, lovingly penning a list that included mascarpone, almond flour and cream cheese, I realized: wow, things have really changed around here. A year ago, I wouldn’t have known what the fuck to do with paprika and buttermilk. That’s because a year ago, and for all of my adult life, I didn’t cook. Not because I didn’t know how to cook. I spent years as a bartender, and I have a good understanding of flavor pairing, prep work and meal planning. I used to say that the reason I didn’t cook was because I worked in the restaurant industry. As a bartender, I ate free meals every shift, usually from sprawling spreads of leftover food from the high end restaurant where I worked. Who needed to cook when I got a plate full of meatballs, pita, hummus and salad every night? As a sales rep, I had an expense account so I could pay for my meals on the company card. Why pay for groceries when I can get a free meal?
I thought those sounded like good excuses for only stocking green tea, cashews, candy, yogurt and the occasional bunch of kale in my kitchen. But the fact of the matter is: the reason I didn’t cook was a lot deeper than financial convenience. Here’s the thing: I always knew how to cook. My mother cooked dinner for our family of four every week night. She made all my school lunches. She loved going to the farmer’s market for seasonal vegetables and the bread store for fresh bread. She had a good collection of cook books, a fully stocked and outfitted kitchen. She taught me how to cook when I was a girl. I remember the joy of cooking meals myself for the family, baking cookies, whipping shit up for myself.
But somewhere along the line I lost that. It started when I was a teenager, when I suddenly became aware of my body. I grew up during the low fat diet trend of the late 90s and early aughts. Growing up in the Bay Area I was exposed to the vastness of hippie health culture, which encompassed everything from veganism to organic food to kombucha to alternative baking. Between low fat diets and the cultural sway of veganism, I resigned myself to eating what one friend once called ‘squirrel snacks’ – basically a low-nutritional diet of small portion, non-meal foods punctuated by occasional doses of protein. I thought that eating yogurt for breakfast, chips and hummus for lunch, and four shots of tequila with a taco plate for dinner would keep my skinny. And if I were skinny, then I would be beautiful.
Of course my disdain for cooking was tied up with my sexuality. On the one hand, not eating enough foods or the right foods would keep me thin, and if I were thin then men would want to fuck me. On the other hand, the ability to cook full meals was something my mother did as an act of subservience to my father, and I was never a subservient woman. I was never going to do something as desperate and pathetic as cook a meal for a man. To me, there was something so gauche and unsettling about the idea of a woman who thought that feeding a man would make her worthy of love. I had seen so many women who fed men have their hearts broken, be abandoned, and left alone by their men. But skinny bitches? No one ever walked away from a skinny bitch. Right?
I have no idea how the fuck did I wound up working in the restaurant industry with an attitude like that. Working in restaurants is about nourishing people, hospitality and a sense of home. But I had made a habit out of ‘starving out’ my boyfriends. I thought I was so clever and funny for never offering breakfast to my boyfriends – if they were hungry, they’d have to leave to eat, which was fine by me because I wanted them gone anyway. Not eating was a way for me to validate my self loathing, and it was also a great way to push away people that I liked to fuck. No wonder I attracted men who didn’t respect me.
But all of that has changed. After a recent break up, I decided that it was time to become a bomb ass cook. I decided that I was going to eat protein every day, and not just when I started to feel light headed and woozy. I decided that I was going to use the culinary skills that had made me a well respected and award winning bartender to feed myself. It was time to face my demons in a way that I didn’t know I could: I learned how to cook.
And I fucking loved it.
I have discovered a certain joy and comfort in cooking that I didn’t know was there. There’s a simple passion in cooking, one that makes me feel both beautiful and invincible. In cooking, I have faced my fears. I am neither fat (or, rather, unhealthy) because I cook. Nor have I leaned into cooking because I am desperate for a man’s approval. I am, simply: nourished. There is something about casually whipping up a complete meal for lunch on a Wednesday that makes me feel whole. Like I can do anything. There’s a satisfaction to be had in picking out spices, turning on the oven, waiting for my food to cook, and cleaning up. It’s a process of patience and reward. There’s a calmness to the contentment of feeding oneself and feeding oneself well.
But I’m sure you already knew that. Which is what makes me sad about all of this. I thought that cooking would somehow make me ugly or cheap. Even though I feel more beautiful than before. My self esteem, my self confidence, my sense of self worth – it’s all so much better than before. I just didn’t know any better than to use food as an instrument of self harm. But, now that I know: never again.
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.