Personal

to the man who commented on my body at a mr. fuel station in indiana

trigger warning: sexual harassment

while I was filling up the van you drove by in your red truck + your baseball cap + your grey mustache

the comfort of a vehicle, a town, a country that is yours

+ said

“you have absolutely perfect breasts.

perfect.”

 

+ drove away

 

I stood there

the smell of gas asking me to light a match

because I had actually forgotten

for a little while

that my mother birthed me + gifted me her body to be looked at by men like you

 

(I hadn’t forgotten

but it’d been a few days (hours)

since I’d been forced to remember)

 

who would I need to be for you to pass by silently

if my goddamn heaven-sent tits remained the same

but I were old

or fat

or wearing a hijab

or in a wheelchair

or with a child

would that shut you up?

do you save up your unsolicited unwanted opinions for cute little white girls?

 

your words are misogyny + objectification + rape culture + patriarchy + male privilege + the senate appointing brett kavanaugh + all the men who have violated me

if I told you any of that you wouldn’t know what it meant

or you’d say “i didn’t say any of that

intent is less than impact

you may not have said it

but I heard it

and I still hear it days (years) later

even though I said nothing

 

I wish I had flipped you off

I wish I had said “die”

I wish I had said “fuck off”

I wish I had sprayed you with gasoline

I wish I had done anything

 

maybe you went home + had dinner with your wife + told your side of the story

and maybe she was horrified + slapped you across your self-satisfied face

or maybe she shook her head good-naturedly because

boys will be boys and

men will be men and

harassers will be harassers (and. and. and.)

 

I know you didn’t tell her.

because you didn’t give it a second thought

because it’s second nature

because you have never practiced biting your tongue

meanwhile my mouth fills with blood.

Personal

try try again

inspired by nayyirah waheed, rupi kaur, and poetry by boots (find more like the above sticker at her instagram)

he’s telling me the things he thinks about, dreams about, worries about, writes about, wonders about. and i listen. (february 2012)

reading what you’ve written sends a flutter from my chest through my limbs. like there’s a sun burning behind my teeth and others will have to shield their eyes if they look directly at me. i keep repeating it (maybe it bears repeating) — i feel like a teenager again, but different. older (a quarter of my life), smarter (went to college), surer (more sure of myself, surely).

is this what it’s like for you with my writing?

five months in i show you five poems; you read them and beam with next to no words (october 2012)

the first night, i almost cry as i hold onto you, worried i’ll have this and lose it again.

we are just awake enough to hold each other and make it count (april 2012)

it’s scary to write about you again.

i was meant to fall harder and you were meant to be written about. (november 2012)

and exhilarating. because how many people can say they got the chance to have all those firsts for a second time with the same person?

for the first time, he’s written for her; at the moment, all the emotion, she could brag for knowing what love is. (august 2012)

and we don’t need to use that word (yet) (again), don’t need to name it so that we can say it happened. at least, i don’t need to hear it right now. because i’ve read that if you are softer than before they came. you have been loved. and i realized a long time ago that you never lied about loving me.

a part of him has been inside a part of me, shared the most intimate midnight moments, nothing between us but white sheets; and now we video chat on Christmas, 400 miles and five years away from the way we used to be (december 2017)

i can get to know you again after years of getting to know myself. learning to love myself the right way.

when it ended i convinced myself that everything we had meant less to you. i can finally let that go. our new first weekend together showed me that you remember just as much as i do.

and suddenly it’s like it’s the first time i’ve really seen him. (january 2012)

now in our separate cities, i see how your phone shakes when you laugh at something i say. at the beginning and the end of the call i hear you admit that you miss me. and maybe a month and a half doesn’t seem so far away.

the day’s not so daunting with your tired smile and my cold hands (august 2012)

Personal

red letter

six months ago I ordered four bamboo toothbrushes each for my partner and me.

(that’s a year’s supply — change your toothbrush every three months.)

the toothbrushes were identical, so I marked mine with a letter A written in sharpie.

I did this twice.

I just threw away my last toothbrush marked with an A.

because I have the only toothbrush in this bathroom.

because my parents don’t use bamboo toothbrushes.

because it was time to change my toothbrush.

Personal

it follows me wherever I go

currently listening: self-titled album by Jukebox the Ghost (blog title taken from “Show Me Where It Hurts”) & my parents watching Antique Road Show

In what can only be described as a revolutionary discovery for my artistic life, my mother has gifted me a giant whiteboard for my room in the basement.

I’m a nonfiction writer. What this looks like: taking notes, everywhere, on everything. I have documents on my computer and pages filled in notebooks that are lists of ideas, half-formed, leaping from one thought to the next, a discussion between my brain and my hand. Words circled that I can’t read, question marks typed next to connections I can’t follow. Naked nonsense, bones missing flesh. I scribble key words on napkins, post-its, concert programs, receipts. I send myself text messages that look like deeply coded collections of random words. I can only hope I read what I’ve written before I forget what it means.

30 August 2017, 11:36 PM
subconsciously sleeping on the right side of the bed. maybe just farther from the wall? make an effort to switch now

Six weeks of sleeping alone. Plugging my phone and my laptop into the outlet by the left side of the bed. Tossing and turning on the right. I could say that I keep to one side because it’s closest to the coffee table, where I keep my glasses, water bottle, PlayStation 3 controller, and TV remote. I could say I don’t want to be hugging the wall. I could say a lot of things.

I wake up. My toes are cold; my arms are clinging to a corner of the blanket. Like a ghost stole the covers in the middle of the night.

One of the many adjustments I’ve had to make since moving back in with my parents is I don’t walk around in my underwear anymore. I don’t even want to. For one thing, it’s cold. I’m huddled on the couch right now in jeans, long socks, and a sweatshirt. For another, there’s no telling at any given point who might be in our house. My mom and I nanny for my almost-2-year-old nephew, and while he would no doubt be the most understanding of a desire to remain unclothed, he’s usually running in and out of the house, fascinated by trucks and dogs and birds.

The main reason I don’t walk around in my underwear anymore is because I don’t sleep in my underwear anymore. I tried it the first few nights I was here and found myself starved for warmth. So I started wearing shorts and tank-tops to bed. Not enough. Fine, I’ll wear socks to bed. Not enough. That’s it, then? I have to pull on pajama pants that have been waiting folded for so long that they’re no longer clean. No sweat or stains to wring from the fabric, only dust and the strange scent of disuse.

I’d take being cold over being hot any day. I’m Minnesotan. The cold is an old friend. I become a literal baby whenever the temperature gets into the 80s (and don’t get me started on the horror that is humidity). But this is a different kind of cold, one that doesn’t set in until I’m curled up alone.

My ex-partner and I both have warm bodies. Except for a few days during winter, we never needed anything more than a thin sheet while we slept. Sometimes I’d cuddle up to him while he was reading a fantasy novel, feel the way our forms fit together effortlessly. He’d hold his book up with one hand and thread our fingers together on his stomach with the other.

Inevitably, one of us would get too hot and have to withdraw from the contact. I’d turn away from him like we’re a troubled couple that needs to feel the distance (Emma Thompson’s character in Love Actually comes to mind immediately). That’s just the way we were, the way it was, I know it, but the stupid romantic part of me wonders if I should’ve seen it coming. Surely two people who are right for each other can spoon comfortably all through the night.

(My parents disprove this theory. Comics I’ve seen on the internet disprove this theory. The hundreds of works of fanfiction I’ve read disprove this theory.)

I’m a nonfiction writer. What this look like: searching for patterns, everywhere, in everything. It’s why I’m good at music, why I was good at conjugating verbs in Spanish, why I get so invested in self-referential fictional works. Repetition, commonality, seemingly loose threads weaving their way together — it’s all soothing to me. It’s probably why I pick my nails. (My current theory is that clipping them right after I shower will decrease the temptation. I’ve yet to test this.) It’s why I’ve started to twirl my hair (which could be prevented by cutting it). It’s why I enjoy crosswords, concept albums, memes, and mindfulness meditation. It’s why the complicated, challenging framework of intersectionality makes beautiful sense.

Patterns. Hugging my family and friends more often, desperate for consistent human contact. Moving back into my childhood home, sleeping with a stuffed monkey and a SpongeBob quilt. Reading at least one chapter of Harry Potter to my mom every day. Holding my nephew close, his skin soft and warm, after he wakes up from his nap.

Sleeping on the right side of the bed.

Personal

make and/or break

currently listening: upcoming EP by Pretty Still (keep your eyes out for this y’all) & the BBC Sherlock soundtrack

I sit on the futon in my parents’ basement. This futon has been my bed since I moved back in a little over a month ago (except for the weekend relatives were in town and I slept on the couch). That’s when I split up with my partner of four and a half years.

I get embarrassed and frustrated whenever someone asks why we broke up. I feel the reasons slip through my fingers, flimsy and fluid, because it doesn’t matter, in the end, that I was sick of always doing the dishes, or that I want to see the world. I settle for an answer that either sounds really deep or totally bogus: “If we were both going to do what we love, there wouldn’t be any room left for ‘us’.”

Beyond the initial crying spells when it happened and when I arrived at my parents’ home and told them, I haven’t gone out of my way to sit with the loss. I was teaching at Girls Rock Camp through the first week of August, and just a few days later I left on a six-day tour with my band With Iowa In Between and our now best friends Pretty Still (that’s how I’m lucky enough to hear their EP before it’s even been released). Touring and teaching are pretty much my favorite things, and they were perfect environments in which I could avoid processing my grief. Surrounded by people who love me, kept busy playing music, too tired at the end of the day to do anything but eat and sleep.

But now it’s time. I had several weeks to put the break-up out of my mind. Now my days are filled with unpacking my stuff, which I hesitate to do, because I’m going to move out again eventually, right? Oh yeah, my ex-partner and I had just moved into a new apartment at the end of April. I know, I’ve got amazing timing.

Speaking of things I’m amazing at, I created this blog months ago to showcase my work as a feminist pop culture critic. As you can see, I wrote one (1) blog entry and then disappeared. Maybe writing through my loneliness will naturally lead to analyses of movies and video games (I’m going to write about season four of Sherlock even if it kills me (though the episodes themselves already did a good job of that)), but at this point I’d rather use this space to help me heal. I’m trying to practice self-care, and for me, writing is always an integral part of that journey.

In order to make sense of this newly jumbled mess called my life, here is a numbered list of some emotional reactions I’ve had the past few weeks:

Things That I’ve Cried About Recently

  1. The film Philomena. I watched it last night with my mom and positively wept. It’s about an old Irish woman whose son was taken from her fifty years before — a good ol’ Catholic way to punish her for having sex without being married. She goes on a journey to find him and hnnnnngggg so many tears. I don’t know if I could ever be a parent. I sometimes get overwhelmed thinking about my role just as an aunt.
  2. A truth-telling event on Break the Silence Day. Survivors of sexual violence bravely shared their stories to a room full of people, some of whom were fellow survivors, while others (like me) were allies there to show their support. I’m passionate about a lot of social issues, but sexual violence is definitely one of the big ones, and it was beyond heartbreaking to hear so many stories of violation and abuse.
  3. The goodbye letter my ex-partner wrote. Yeah, really no way around that one. For some reason I read it in the van on tour. We were driving through North Dakota and I was gazing out the window as the rain came down. Whoever was in charge of the music put on the band Camp Cope, and the atmosphere just clicked. I probably scored major emo points for the way my tears mirrored the raindrops on the other side of my window.
  4. The musical Dear Evan Hansen. My bandmate is obsessed with this show. We listened to it all the way through on tour and guess what? Now I’m in love with it too. One of the final songs (“So Big/So Small”) is sung by the protagonist’s mother, and at the repeated lines Your mom isn’t going anywhere / Your mom is staying right here I absolutely lost it. I remembered showing up at my parents’ house and seeing the look on my mom’s face — like her heart was breaking right alongside mine. She tucked me into bed that first night. At 23 years old, a child being comforted by her mother.

On that note, I’m gonna go hug my mom. I’ve had quite enough of this for the time being. Same time next week?

Film Criticism

Sometimes a Sausage Party is Exactly What It Sounds Like

Trigger warning: discussions of sexual assault/rape, misogyny (including slurs)

Good news! Sausage Party totally lives up to its name by being a literal sausage fest featuring Seth Rogen and all his white boy friends.

The film opens in a grocery store, where an ear of corn starts singing the one and only musical number in the movie. It feels like something right out of a Broadway musical – probably because champion Disney composer Alan Menken wrote it. This song was the most enjoyable part of the experience for me. Once I heard Seth Rogen’s voice coming out of a hot dog’s mouth, things went downhill fast.

Our protagonists in this pseudo-romantic comedy are a sausage named Frank and a hot dog bun named Brenda (really? couldn’t think of a bun pun?). They can’t wait to escape from their packages so they can finally have sex. Nothing about this is subtle. All of the buns are ladies, and just in case we had trouble understanding that, they all have boobs and eyelashes and lipstick. All of the hot dogs are dudes, and apparently men have no defining features other than being shaped like a phallus. Oh, and all the dudes have actual names and are voiced by Seth Rogen’s bros.

Right from the get go, penetrative penis-in-vagina, or sausage-in-bun, sex is established as the most important – the ultimate goal. And because that’s not funny enough, we also get lots of misogynistic attitudes surrounding virginity. Brenda worries that she’s a slut while Frank is focused on his heroic quest.

This is about the time I started to wonder: why does Sausage Party limit itself to the typical tropes and conventions of every Hollywood comedy? Other than some cool ideas about food being sentient, why isn’t this movie saying anything new?

But if recycled jokes were what made the movie problematic, I wouldn’t be as upset as I was. I would just be bored. I have never been more disturbed and seriously considered walking out of the theater than during a scene about thirty minutes in.

Here’s some set-up: the main villain is an actual douche, almost purchased by a woman who was too ashamed to pick it up after dropping it and whose itchy crotch was probably caused by a yeast infection. So I get it. Douching is bad. “Douchebag” is an insult. The bad guy is a douche. This isn’t lost on me.

A “clean-up on aisle three” situation leads to a Saving Private Ryan style tragedy for all the grocery items involved. The douche in question ends up with a bent nozzle and a cut leaking all his flower-scented vagina-shaming Lysol. Faced with his imminent death, he erases any doubt of his villainy by violently raping a juice box.

No one in the theater laughed as the douche threatened to kill his victim if they ever told anyone. No one laughed when he growled “yeah, you like that?” and the juice box struggled to get away. No one laughed because we didn’t sign up for this. We are not stupid. It was all too easy to substitute people for the objects and imagine a man forcing his mouth on the most intimate part of a female body.

It has taken me days to write this review because this scene was so utterly fucked up. Each time I replay it in my head, I picture all the writers and actors watching their own film and laughing. They must think this is funny; otherwise, it wouldn’t be in the movie.

No, Sausage Party was not one hundred percent awful and evil. I liked that a bagel and a lavash representing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict ended up as gay lovers (and inspired some glorious fan art). I thought it was cute when the deformed Michael Cera sausage found a bun who had been smushed, even though this suggests that the only hope “ugly” folks have for love is to find another ugly person. I thought it was hilarious that the food saw the world outside the grocery store as a paradise, even though later they disavow this idea and pretty much deny that religious traditions have any merit.

That being said, the positives of the film definitely were not enough to make up for the rape scene, the three uses of the word cunt (not in a context that reclaims the word), several more of the word pussy, or the fact that only two characters in the huge comedic ensemble were women (which goes to show that passing the Bechdel test in no way ensures a feminist or even just a decent movie).

When it comes down to it, if given the choice between watching Sausage Party or this obnoxious video of Seth Rogen laughing, I’d choose the latter every time.

This review was previously published on tumblr.