The Beginning of Us

"We loved with a love that was more than love" - Edgar Allan Poe

When I first met you—you with your tight lips, tense jaw and green velvet jacket—I wasn’t sure.

Not about you, I mean.

I wasn’t sure about me. I wasn’t sure what I would do with someone as smart as you. Someone as grown up. All I’d ever known was men who needed baby-sitters for girlfriends.

Then along came you.

Successful and independent with this fine-tuned sense of self. You knew who you were, and you weren’t afraid to share it with anyone. With everyone.

Not even an hour into our in-person meeting and you raised your white linen shirt above that pink rhinestone-studded belt of yours to reveal half a torso covered in tattoos and scars. Your own demons inked across your skin. Your pain made into a painting. You made no excuses or apologies for any of it.

I wanted to press my lips to them. The ribs. The scars. The darkest parts of you. I had no excuses or apologies to offer you either.

You could afford to buy me all the Jack and Coke I’d ever drink that night, but you didn’t mind if I needed to pay for a few rounds on my own. You let me be me.

I asked question after question after question. I fought for a smile. Then pushed for a laugh.

I ended up with your hand wrapped around the nape of my neck as you held me against a wall in your bedroom and kissed me in a way that felt like an entirely foreign experience—like a complete revelation.

I knew then. Even then. I never had a chance.

I lost myself in the feeling of you. The candle-lit darkness of your downtown apartment. The swirling of alcohol in my head. The melodic urging of “The Discussion,” a playlist we curated over text messages before we even met. I lost myself in the falling for you.

Because fuck it if it was too soon. And fuck it if you told me not to.

I wasn’t going to not love you. I wasn’t going to deny myself that kind of pleasure. The once-in-a-lifetime kind.

So love you I did. And incredulously, you loved me too.

Two years later and I still struggle to believe this reality is my own. Some days I’m so happy that I can’t help but expect something horrible will happen to one or both of us at any minute. Because that must be what comes next when you get everything you want. Some days I panic about not being present in every moment with you. That’s how happy you make me. So much that it actually stresses me out. And then you’ll sneak up behind me while I’m getting ready for work and kiss the back of my neck, and I swear to God my knees give out and I fall from the very top of our love all over again.

Last November, when you proposed to me—me with my unwashed hair, sloppy cream sweater, and oblivious laughter—I wasn’t sure.

Not about us, I mean.

I wasn’t sure how I would ever repay you for making me the happiest human that’s ever existed.

I still don’t know how I’m going to do it. But I’m so grateful you’ve given me this lifetime to figure it out.

I am not WITH her.

I am not with her. No.

I am not with her. But I am with the woman who waited 95 years to cast her vote for a female president.

I am with the woman who took her three young boys to stand in line on a historic Tuesday in November to visit Susan B. Anthony’s grave.

I am with the woman who winked at a fellow pantsuit-patriot when she came across her in the office elevator this Election Day.

And I am with the man who wore his wife’s pantsuit to the polls this morning. And the one who wore standard dress—polished off with a pair of high heels.

I am with the woman who voted because she feels mocked by a candidate or party—for her race, or country, or religion, or sexuality, or disability, or femininity, or ANYTHING.

I am even with the woman who won’t vote for HER at any cost—because the sanctity of her own beliefs. Yes, in some ways, she and I are just the same.

And of course, I am with the 30-year-old woman who waited for two hours in four-inch heels among a sea of camo-clad men in Johns Island, South Carolina to cast her first vote ever.

And I am absolutely with the woman who enjoyed e v e r y  l a s t  m i n u t e  of that wait.

No, I am not with HER.

Because I am her.

I am the woman who is running for President of the United States.

Because she is every woman.

(Even if she is not your woman.)

And this victory belongs to all of us.

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Burn the “Locker Room” to the Ground

Donald Trump Holds Campaign Rally In Nevada

I was in seventh grade when a boy in my pod came up behind me during locker break, ran his hands up between my flared Gap blue jeans, squeezed, and walked away.

I was in high school when I made the choice to have sex with my first serious boyfriend. He proceeded to brag about it to all his friends at school. Word spread to the church we both attended, and I was summoned to the choir director’s office for questioning and counseling. He was left alone.

I was in college when, after a night of heavy drinking with my girlfriends, I fell asleep in a guest bedroom of a friend’s home. I woke up to a man on top of me—a roommate of the homeowner—and in my half-asleep, half-drunk state, was only able to mumble “no” over and over again until he finished raping me.

Those three stories don’t even begin to cover the number of times that men have harassed, debased, and assaulted me in my brief 30 years. And my story is far from unique.

From ass-slapping and crotch-grabbing by complete strangers to full-on unwanted sexual intercourse by men we think we can trust, women are treated like sex objects, like toys to amuse and arouse. And let’s not even get started on the daily onslaught of disgusting, unprovoked verbal comments thrown at our gender every day as we go for a jog, fill up our gas tanks, or simply walk down the goddamned street.

This issue. This mistreatment of women. This abhorrent disrespect. It’s personal to me.

So when you tell me that you’re going to vote for Donald Trump, I won’t just say, “That’s your right. You can vote for whatever candidate you choose.”

Because having the right does not make you right.

Your support of a man who has always and continues to degrade women perpetuates a misogynistic culture that directly results in how women are treated today, myself included.

Your support tells Donald and men everywhere that they can say these disgusting things about women, that they can do these disgusting things to women, and not only is it okay, but you’ll stand behind them. Hell, you’ll even vote for them if they run for president.

For every time a woman you love has been violated by a man and you could do nothing to protect her, for the women who’ve been grabbed in the pussy by men in positions of power, for the ones who’ve been scandalized and scrutinized for their sexuality, this is your chance. This is your chance to say, “I will not support this behavior. I will not perpetuate this culture. I will not endorse a man who treats women this way.”

It’s not political. Not anymore. It’s personal.

It’s personal to me. And it should be personal to you too.

Hush, Hush: A White Lives Lullaby

Hush, little baby, don’t say a word.

Just ignore the news you heard.

All those shootings, all the dead—

Need not upset your little head.

Don’t you fret about traffic stops.

You’re no threat to any cop.

When the blue men draw their guns,

You’ll be fine, my precious son.

And when the bullets pierce the night,

Just shut your eyes ‘til morning light.

Even when the riots break,

There’s no need for you to wake.

Ignore all inequality,

It’ll work out fine for you and me.

Your world is beautiful and bright.

As long as you have skin that’s white.

So hush, little baby, don’t you cry.

America cares if you live or die.

__

 

APTOPIX Million Man March Anniversary
 (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

This is America (A Tragedy)

This is America.

Land of the free. Home of the brave.

We eat burgers. We drink Bud Light.

We love Starbucks. And football. And ourselves.

This is America.

We’re outraged about dentists who hunt lions in Africa.

Gorillas shot to save small children.

And whatever Donald Trump has to say on Twitter.

This is America.

When we heard a gunman opened fire in a crowded movie theater, we gasped in disbelief.

When we saw babies slaughtered within the walls of their own elementary school, we wept in unison.

When we bore witness to a boy turn a bible study into a bloodbath, we lowered our heads in  uncomfortable shame.

Because this is America.

This is where we arm the destroyed, the desolate, the disturbed. The weak. The weary. The warlords. The misinformed. The tragically misled.

This is where—in the wake of violence and death—we scream “RIGHT TO BEAR ARMS” loud enough to drown out the wailing of the mourners, the agony of tortured survivors, the living witnesses to hate incarnate.

This is still America.

When we woke up on Sunday morning to the news of 50 more beautiful humans taken from our homeland, we fell silent. We went numb.

This is America. And what else is there to say?

Arm all the bartenders. And the teachers. And the preachers. Give bombs to the babies. Give glocks to the gays.

We shout, “DO NOT TAKE AWAY OUR FREEDOM!”

But overlook the 49 in Orlando. The 9 in Charleston. The 26 in Newtown. The 12 in Aurora.

Were they not free?

Were they not taken?

This is America.

We hold vigils. We pause with grace and dignity for moments of silence. We create supportive profile pictures on Facebook. Maybe we even write this blog post.

But the truth remains that this is America. So really, we do nothing.

The bullets buzz by our ears, and we pretend that we’re defending amendments. The blood soaks into our shoes, and we make believe that we’re fighting in the footsteps of our founding fathers.

We are too scared to be smart. Too scared to change. Too scared to be the home of the brave.

So we’ll settle simply for land of the free.

Unless, of course, we’re already dead.

 

Nothing Tastes as Bitter as a Cheat Day Feels

Years ago, when I tried to mentally motivate my way through another diet, I started a Pinterest board called Fitspiration. I pinned images of sports bra-wearing fitness models with the glistening abs, biceps, glutes, and more that I so desperately wanted.

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I pinned links to all the pump-you-up Nike commercials I could find.

Candid shots of celebrities in swimsuits.

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Inspirational blog posts about weight loss success—with the obligatory before-and-after photos.

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And quotes I wanted to pound in my head.

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One of those quotes was this gem:

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I looked at those words constantly. I looked at it before I ate something I thought I might regret: a cookie, a cocktail, a carrot dipped in a smidge too much peanut butter. I looked at it when I wanted to back out of my workouts.

Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.

Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.

Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.

I visualized skinny-me. I marveled at how good achieving my dream body must feel that it would inevitably trump the deliciousness that is French fries and biscuits and hot fudge sundaes.

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Now, having successfully lost the weight and kept it off—with no thanks to the Fitspiration board, by the way—I need someone, anyone, everyone to know this truth:

Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels is bullshit.

That’s not to say I’m not happy. I feel amazing. Shedding the fat, the shame, the guilt, the bulbous burden I carried on my body, in my head, on my spirit my entire adult life was absolutely worth the hard work, the sacrifices, and the sometimes-tough choices.

But Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels is still a bullshit philosophy that pins happiness against satisfaction in an unhealthy way. In an impossible way.

Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels says you’ll be happier if you don’t eat a slice of cake. Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels means that under no circumstances is enjoying what you eat acceptable. Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels tells you that when you lie awake at night with hunger pangs, you can take comfort in the fact that your thigh gap is widening. Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels teaches us not to enjoy food, but instead to enjoy the way our bodies look when we’re starved for it.

And that approach to health and weight loss and happiness is not sustainable.

So instead of “cheat days” when we’re allowed to indulge without feeling guilty—and still feel guilty anyway—why don’t we empower ourselves to make smart choices all day, every day based on what we know about our own bodies?

Instead of punishing our weekend indulgences during a Monday workout, let’s make fitness a sacred time and space where we take care of ourselves, where we invest in ourselves. Where we cut ties with everything that drags us down, sweat out stress, and celebrate every triumph.

Exercise is not a punishment any more than indulgent food is a reward. Because one day, after you’ve had an balanced breakfast and a healthy lunch and you plan to go for a run after work, cookies may show up in the break room at your office.

And you may decide to eat one. And it will taste good.

And that’s okay.

Because cookies do taste good. And bagels taste good. And heavy-handed pours of malbec taste good. And power foods like avocado and sweet potatoes and salmon and raspberries and almonds taste good.

But being healthy, putting healthy things into your body, investing in your health and happiness and well-being, that’s what feels good.

It feels better than skinny. It feels better than fat. It feels better than over indulging or dieting or cheat days or juice cleanses. It even feels better than watching the numbers go down on the scale.

So if you want to be healthier, lose weight, or simply be the best version of yourself, here’s my advice: Forget Fitspiration. Forget cheat days. Forget what everyone else looks like in a bikini. Forget what society says you’re supposed to look like in a bikini. Forget how far you have to go. Forget how many times you’ve tried and failed. Forget the mantras. And definitely forget Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.

But please remember this:

Nothing feels as good as taking good care of yourself.