The Man

Of course this article is publishable in 2018:

When the Cause of a Sexless Relationship Is — Surprise! — the Man

I blame the patriarchy. I blame toxic masculinity. Women are taught men want sex all the time. That’s why we can’t walk home alone at night. That’s why we carry our keys in our knuckles as we cross the grocery store parking lot. That’s why we wear the push up bra and the high heels (partly, kinda, sometimes). How we navigate being fuckable in a world that teaches us we are objects to be had, rather than agents of our own sexuality and sexual lives.

What a dumb system –that men are taught to prioritize their desire for sex, while women are taught to be ashamed of their desire for sex. Yet, some men and women are supposed to somehow figure out how to have sex with each other. How do you ever navigate the sexual understanding, the sexual world of another person? Across this great divide. If we were all in a relationship with someone of the same gender role, I wonder what the world would be like? If we weren’t trying to engage in across the aisle sex? So to speak. If you took gender roles out of sex ed. If you took the patriarchy out of the uterus, out of the ball sack.

Some of this is related to what’s happening with the MeToo movement, right? Women are taught it’s not okay to speak up, women are not given the words for navigating their sexual desires and their sexual escapades. Heterosexual women are taught to lean in to men’s desires, for the sake of their survival and the sake of their sexual experience. Men are only given so many words. Neither party is granted much complexity in their expression or understanding of sex. Everything is sorted along this binary of good or bad, when so much exists in between.


Yours and Mine

I am obsessed with women. Is that right? I am obsessed with the gendered experience. How we learn to be in this world.

On a lazy, sleepy whim this afternoon, I watched the Amanda Knox documentary on Netflix. I’ve put off watching it for months, assuming as I usually (falsely) do, that I know the story. Knew her story, even though I can only remember watching the Lifetime movie version of the case and nothing else remotely factual comes to mind.

I was struck immediately by the sexism apparent in some of the key players — the journalist and the Italian prosecutor. I was struck by the latter’s old school Roman Catholic persona. I was struck by the lack of, as Amanda calls it, “objective evidence.”

Mostly, I was struck by her.

And I remembered why I thought I knew the story. Because I, too, was a 20 year old college student in 2007. Amanda Knox and I were born 2 weeks apart. And I thought about how at age 30, how different the world is now, but especially, how different it must feel to her now. The context of the years. I sat around and thought about her case from the perspective of the U.S. in 2007. I tried to remember what the world felt like then, who the President was then. How the country felt as we slid into recession. What it was like to be a girl then. How the white girl abroad seemed then. How easily I consumed the narrative at the time, of the monster that she must have been. I remember thinking for sure she was guilty, and how arrogant she seemed in the news briefs. How her American eyes and cheekbones seemed to flaunt her guilt. How doomed I thought she was.

How easy it was to hate a beautiful woman in 2007. To assign her all the guilt.

Now, going back through the story, how quickly that assignment is erased. How easily my mind moves to empathizing with her. To reading over her words with sympathy, to trying to imagine what Meredith Kercher might have been like. To befriend the British girl in the flat. How much the U.S. has changed in 10 years.

I think about miscarriage of justice. I think about prison. I think about all the people who live through this. I think about all the circumstances that allow this, that lead each individual to the cell. The perfect storms. One time I told a friend about Angela Y. Davis and her book, Are Prisons Obsolete? and I remember the friend looking at me with near disgust, aghast: What will we do with the bad people?  And I try not to think about all the good people in prison. The less than perfect people. The dumb mistakes and the serious mistakes — theirs and not — which led them there. I try not to think about the ruin of prison, and the luck of pretty girls, and the fate of ugly men.


“You are in this space to be inoculated against feeling that your failure is the end… Your rightness does not help anyone.” – London Coe

London Coe spoke at a conference I attended last week. Her theme was failure and how in doing, you fail, and how there’s no way to prep for that other than to do. And I really appreciated her talk, her encouraging us to be open to failure, to embrace the failure of others. To acknowledge it and keep moving. I am really frustrated with the current state of the world and this overwhelming feeling of fear. WE HAVE FAILED. Let’s move on.

This inability to acknowledge our weaknesses, our shortcomings, our inability to be honest and open and vulnerable.

Say it. Say you fucked up and let’s move on.

Especially I feel this pressure at work. Don’t fuck up. It’s lessening. Most of it is in my own head. I have to get comfortable with saying, yeah, I messed up. I have to let that pressure go. Pace myself. A fuck up here, a fuck up there. It’s not the end. What a lot of time we waste, trying to ensure we do everything just so.

What we talk about when we talk about women

International Women’s Day came and went, and it left me feeling a lot of things. It’s only been recently that I even noted this day, that I even realized it existed. Was it really a thing before the Internet?

According to this New Yorker article about Kim Walls, the day has been around for 108 years. But what are we celebrating when we celebrate International Women’s Day and what are we supposed to be reminded of?

On the campus where I work, a student org hosts a panel featuring women from campus and asks them to share their experiences of being women in the world. Topics range from feminism to sexism to gender roles. I participated last year, and it was the highlight of my year. I thought it was such a cool way to hear the stories of women on campus, and to connect women across the faculty/staff-student divide. I did not grow up with many female role models, and I do appreciate that this might provide a way for college women to identify someone they can follow. To reflect on their own experience as up and coming women.

I was asked to step in at this year’s event because one of the panelists had a family emergency and needed to step down. I have been sick all week, almost delirious in my waking moments, sleeping when I’m not trying to catch up at work. I agreed because I was going to be in attendance at the event anyway, and I wanted to help out the students. But now, days later and with a return to a state of health, I feel I made some major mistakes in my participation. Both with my presence and in my topics.

I wish I had stood up and said, “no, I won’t be participating after all. I think we should leave this space empty to recognize mothers. To recognize women whose stories we’ve missed because they turned away to be with their children. Because their children called and they answered. Because they had no other choice. Because they had no one else who could step in or because they felt it was only their responsibility to bear. If this is really a day to celebrate women, let’s let this absence fill us up. Let’s recognize it for what it is: The sacrifice of a mother. The reason we’re all here.”

But I didn’t think to say that in the moment. Maybe it would have made a difference, maybe it would have resonated, maybe not. (Thanks, Ofelia). I talked away, rambled away, through the congestion in my head and the ache in my throat. Not saying much of substance, not connecting the shiny points in my mind I wanted to share with the audience. I wanted to talk about the internalized misogyny I grew up with. I wanted to talk about how long it took me to recognize it as such, thanks to an intro women and gender studies course in college. I wanted to talk about how much that class made sense to me. How easily I absorbed the concepts and the scholarship. I wanted to talk about how I flipped to the extreme, from modeling my personality on toxic masculinity to modeling it on flighty femininity. I became superficially kind. Superficially sweet and giving. How unhealthy that can be.

I wanted to talk about how I got to grad school and still didn’t feel safe. Still didn’t feel like I had feminist mentors in my life. Still felt like the world was out to get me, was waiting for me to fail, was waiting to say, I told you so.

I didn’t recognize my voice as something to be heard. I didn’t recognize the lack of complex, positive female images in the world. The missing from my tv, my movies, my books. How so often, the women roles were written by men. Men who had incomplete ideas of what it was to be a woman.

I wanted to talk about how I’ve watched the women around me hate themselves, hate their bodies, and spread that hate to other women. I wanted to say, “yes, I’ve dealt with a lot of shit from men, but what’s become more shocking and stinging to me has been the lack of solidarity from women.” How quickly the women in my life have failed to choose my side, have failed to recognize my failings for what they are — a woman in the world trying to build her voice.

I wanted to talk about how 53% of white women voters chose the current President. The man who said, “grab them by the pussy.” A man who uses the word pussy and thinks women have a pussy, yet women still believe he will lead the country somewhere worthwhile. That doesn’t even roll off the tongue, “grab them by the pussy.” It doesn’t even ring. Maybe he will create the jobs, maybe he will make America great again, but do you think it will be great for anyone with a pussy? Do you think there will be jobs for the pussies? I wanted to talk about the women who stand by their man.

Do you know women make up 50.8% of the U.S. population? So, why aren’t there more of us in places where it matters? It’s 2018, and we have the first senator to give birth.

Excuse me?

What about the fact that we still don’t have spaces for transwomen, for women of color, for anyone a little different cognitively or physically or emotionally? How often are women in charge of the spaces, yet they’re still not making space? What about how white women still aren’t recognizing the experience of men of color?

I’m thirty years old. I’ve become financially independent. I’ve had the privilege to control my own reproduction. I’ve had the perspective of a multiracial world. The struggle is real, and it’s different for everyone, and you have to get out of your own head. You have to get out of your own world. You have to remember there are stories you don’t have access to. Stories you don’t have a right to. Stories you’re ignoring. You have to think about how you’ve been groomed, how you’ve been taught, what lies you’re carrying around everyday, spreading like spores.

You have to make space for the maybe of life.

And what does it say about me, that I’m ruminating over this? Over my miss? That I feel, as a woman, that when I’m given the space to talk that I better not mess it up. That I better make it right. That I better say what I want to say perfectly. That I will only have this time and this chance, and that I better not let anyone down. And how heavy it weighs, when the moment passes.



I think there’s a special place in hell for people who fly with their pets. Can you imagine what that’s like for an animal? I can barely stand to fly. Maybe if you don’t have a car, or are moving across an ocean. There seems something inexplicably cruel about making a dog hang out in an airport.

An airport is the only place I feel 100% comfortable being alone. Where I feel like I can be truly obliviously alone. I watch the people. I eat the weird food court food. A couple next to me wolfs down root beer floats and onion rings. It’s 830 in the morning. I sit in the sun. The sun flooding through the wall of windows. My coffee is steaming.

Travel is maybe the time I feel most like myself. I am everything and nothing. I am from nowhere with somewhere to go. I have a million stories that might never get told. The pace, the fleeting presence, the people from everywhere. Maybe we should be nomadic. Maybe we should always be ebbing and flowing. Moving onto the next. Maybe our homes and yards should come to an end. Our boundaries should be tested. Our minds should stop being made up. Travel does not show me something I don’t already know about myself. Travel reminds me who I am and what I’m capable of. Travel reminds me of all the skills I’ve learned and the knowledge I’ve gained. I’m not alone when I travel. I’m not a weirdo when I travel. I become a part of a larger whole. I find my place in the world of busy bodies.

20 years of dead children

When Columbine happened I wasn’t quite twelve, and I was horrified. I remember reading the articles, staring over and over again at the video footage of the shooters stalking the halls with their guns. I remember reading everything, anything, trying to understand why they did it and what the warning signs were and which of the victims said what and where they died. Where they were hiding and how anyone survived.

I was traumatized.

A friend read Rachel’s Tears — about the girl who said she believed in God and then was shot? I remember the drawing of the flower with the 13 tears. I remember that cold, sick, hollow feeling in my chest. What if it happened here.

I remember one of my best friends getting arrested the next year. Someone had found plans and maps, notes and anger. He was going to shoot up the school. The cops came and everything. He was put on house arrest and we were never classmates again. We would talk on the phone and he would complain about his ankle brace.

Arkansas? Newtown? I don’t know. Washington state? Where do these things keep happening? I don’t read about them or dream about them or stare transfixed at the news about them. Not again. Not anymore.

Florida. 2018. It’s been almost 20 years since Columbine. Can you believe it? My eyes well up just writing that sentence. Just thinking those words. 20 years. This has been my whole life. My entire adolescence and all of my adult life to date. I found myself at the library last night, my favorite place. My favorite ugly building in all of downtown. Feeling so good and cutting myself off in the middle of it: what if a shooter came in right now. Where would you go? Would you have time to live?

We have drills at work. Everywhere I’ve worked. Colleges. Where would you go if someone came in with a gun? Don’t run. Hide. Do you know where the light switch is? Do you know where to sit to avoid the trajectory of a bullet? Think about it. Think about it now before it’s too late. Play dead. Block the door. Take these drills seriously. This is serious.

I have changed. This has changed. Our mindset. But nothing else. The violence and the pain and the death continue. We continue to fail.