GET. PISSED. OFF.

I sat on a toilet in a public restroom tonight. Graffiti littered the walls, but one scrawl stuck out to me:

Fuck liberals. Get a hold of your FEELINGS.

This is the America we live in. This is Donald Trump’s America. And this is MY America.

I recognize none of it.

Unlike what’s considered appropriate for women (yes, even today), I have a lot of opinions. And I share them. Loudly. Unapologetically. Sometimes with curse words. (Let’s be real, usually with curse words.) So people ask me what the fuck I think about what’s happening with Kavanaugh. And they can’t even get his name out of their mouths before I tell them AAAAAAAALL my LIBERAL FEELINGS.

I tell them how harmful it is for our culture to counter a sexual assault with THESE responses:

“Oh, but that was THIRTY years ago.”

“Boys will be boys.”

“Why should we believe HER?”

“She shouldn’t have been drinking.”

“It wasn’t ACTUALLY rape.”

“Why didn’t she file a report?”

I tell them how I was raped TWICE in college and NEVER reported it because I ONLY blamed myself for what happened. It never even OCCURRED to me that a crime had even been committed. (That’s how fucked up our society is by the way.) I just thought, “Stay away from those guys. You thought they were your friends, but it turns out that they’ll fuck you whether you like it or not.”

I tell them this country cares more about winning than it does about ethics or morals or justice or REALITY. The right would rather have Justice Satan (literally, not a metaphor for Kavanaugh) on the supreme court as long as he’d overturn Roe v. Wade.

I tell them that the most disastrous part of all of this occurred just days ago when Trump managed to divert this CRITICAL conversation from how we treat women to how we treat MEN. In one low-life speech, he managed to make his non-thinking-sheep believe that men are the VICTIMS in all this. That men need to be vigilant. Look out for each other. Look out for WOMEN. We could destroy them at any minute.

These are my LIBERAL FEELINGS. Please. Tell me they’re unjustified.

I fucking dare you.

love trumps faith

Photo by tyler gebhart on Unsplash

“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

1 Corinthians 13:13

Curious as it seems, the Bible tells us that love is more important than faith. The first and second greatest of all the commandments. And the cornerstone of the entire religion.

In the 2016 election, 81% of the white evangelical voters cast their ballots for Trump.

Still today, they’re as faithful to him as ever; their support of late at an all-time high. They claim Trump stands for Christian values, but his adulterous indiscretion with a porn star is “Between him and God.” They believe he represents the Christian family but ignore as he rips immigrant families apart. They applaud him for keeping his campaign promises, regardless of how those promises hurt others. They think he follows the Christian faith; they have forgotten about Christian love.

I liked going to church growing up. I liked the performance of it, the fellowship, the tradition. The candles and the stained glass. The robes and rituals. Above all else, I liked the hymns.

Our church had an organ. The choir led the way in song. The congregation followed. I read along in silence, baptized by each word. Poetry set to music, haunting and true.

 

Last week I ended up behind a Jeep Cherokee on my way in to work. It was polluted with bumper stickers that ranged from rainbow-infused “Love Wins” and “Proud Democrat” to messages of equality and hope and peace and kindness.

On the way home from work, I ended up behind a Ford F-150 with a single bumper sticker. It read, “Trump 2020: Make Liberals Cry Again.”

A cross hung from the rearview mirror.

“Here Is Love Vast as the Ocean” was one of my favorite hymns. It captured the might and relentlessness of God’s love. It summed up my belief system better than any Bible verse or parable or Sunday school lesson ever could. It all comes back to love.

At 22, I got those words inked into my rib cage, just beneath my heart.

Yesterday, the supreme court ruled in favor of a Christian baker who refused to make a cake for a gay couple. The baker insisted gay marriage went against his religion.

Even more than faith over love, now we’re talking about faith against love. It’s religion I can hardly recognize, much less call my own.

Outside of funerals and weddings, I don’t go to church much anymore. After watching evangelicals use Christianity to stand by Trump, I doubt I ever will.

But I still have a tattoo on my ribcage. And I still have a hymn in my heart.

So here is love, vast as the ocean. May it one day be the greatness of faith.

Disprespecting the Dead

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Photo Source: Steve Marcus / Reuters

Do you know what’s actually disrespectful to the 59 people who were murdered in Las Vegas on Sunday evening?

Pretending it couldn’t have been prevented. Silencing a conversation that could have saved their lives. Believing that the right to bear arms is more important than the right to live.

The same people who say the national anthem is not the time for protesting racial inequality are the ones saying this national crisis is not the time for a discussion of gun laws.

And I’m here to tell you that kind of thinking has led us to exactly where we are.

Maybe if we’d had a discussion about gun laws back in 1999, when 12 were slain in a high school. Maybe if we’d opened up a conversation in 2007, when a boy with an assault rifle killed 8 at a mall. Or after 12 died at the movies in 2012. Or when 26 were slaughtered in an elementary school later that same year. Or once 9 were murdered during a Bible study in 2015. Or when 49 were killed in a night club in 2016. Or after countless others died in mass shootings somewhere—anywhere—in between…

Maybe if we had talked about it then, maybe if we had pushed for stronger legislation, maybe if we hadn’t been silenced by an outspoken minority group who cares more about an ideal than it does about the actual problem it creates, maybe then a disturbed 64-year-old man wouldn’t have been able to get his hands on semi-automatic weapons and unlimited rounds ammunition.

Maybe that country music festival would have run until completion—with applause and ovations and encores. And maybe everyone would have gone home to their families and friends—safely, wholly, happily.

But we were told it was not the time. And the conversation was muffled and muted. Again. And again. And again.

Now we have another black mark on our calendars. Another day of the year when our flags will fly at half-staff. Soon enough, those Stars and Stripes will stop seeing the top of the pole altogether.

You can keep sending your thoughts and prayers. You can pause as long as you want for a moment of silence.

But if you’re unwilling to recognize this country is broken…Our gun laws put our people at risk…America has a mass shooting epidemic that doesn’t exist in any other developed nation…

If you’re unwilling to fight for change…If you’re trying to silence those who are, your thoughts and prayers are not only disrespectful to the dead—they’re a complete hypocrisy.

Liberty is precious. But so is life. It’s time we find a way to protect both.

So, let’s talk about it.

In Defense of My Right to Be Me

I am the granddaughter of two southern preachers. Named after both.

Spiritual but not religious. Young but not ignorant.

Thoughtful with much to learn.

I’m a Gemini. Earth sign. Born the Year of the Tiger.

5’6”. 150 pounds. Brown eyes. Red hair. (Most of the time.)

Three tattoos…Four if you count the cover up.

I pose for an occasional selfie. I’m bad at taking pictures.

My mom is dead. My dad is amazing. My sister is my best friend.

I’m high school valedictorian. UGA alumni. Charleston resident.

The writer of my story. Sometimes, even the protagonist.

 

I write what I feel.

I say what I think.

 

I’m a white person who believes #BlackLivesMatter.

A hardworking Millennial.

A feminist who can’t wait to get married.

A democrat who didn’t care about politics until 2016.

An American who can see the United States is flawed.

A patriot who kneels with Colin Kaepernick.

 

I write what I feel.

I say what I think.

 

I’m afraid of North Korea, fake news, and hate.

I’m against the death penalty. I’m pro having a conversation about that.

I’m for vaccines. And human rights. And equal pay for women and minorities.

I don’t care what bathroom anyone uses. I think all bathrooms should actually be rooms.

I think gay people should get married. I think gay people are just regular people.

I’m for women having the right to choose what happens to their own bodies.

I’m not afraid to admit that black people aren’t set up to succeed in this country.

I don’t mind that some of my paycheck goes to help those who need it more than me.

I do mind that some of those people never had the same chances I had.

I struggle to understand Trump supporters.

I understand that Trump supporters struggle with me.

I think it’s hard to be a Muslim right now.

I have a hard time being a Christian right now.

I think gun control would help with gun violence.

I’m sad I missed the Women’s March on Washington for a bridal shower.

I think I’ll never stop regretting not being there.

 

I write what I feel.

I say what I think.

 

I believe this country will get better.

I believe my generation can help.

I believe #LoveWins.

I believe change takes time. And determination. And strength.

I believe change happens when people stand up for what they believe.

 

I write what I feel.

I say what I think.

 

This is who I am.

 

And this…this right here…this is where I share, discuss, support, console, lament, and grieve.

If you do not like it, unfriend, unfollow, or uninvite yourself from this space. My space.

But do NOT tell me what I can and cannot say here.

Do NOT tell me who I can and cannot be here.

Not here in this space that I created and YOU have stepped into.

This is who I am.

And who do you think YOU are expecting me to be someone else?

 

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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 moment 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.

Keibler's bikini body

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

KelseyByersWeightLossTransformation

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.

I vote for the dead.

Whether you like it or not, we do not vote for politicians. We do not vote for parties. We do not vote for conservatives or liberals or left-wings or right-wings or donkeys or elephants or red or blue. We do not vote for good looks or smart policies or years of experience or spotless track records.

We vote for the causes that matter to us. We vote for the issues that impact our lives. That define our generations. That determine our futures.

We vote for the one thing that lights a fire in our lungs. That makes our voices quiver or shudder or shout. The one thing that brings out a passion and fervor and adamancy within ourselves that we did not even know existed.

This is an election year. And I cannot say what that one thing is for you. But I can tell you this is mine:

I vote for the dead.