mirena

Men who talk about IUDs are Sexy

I recently had a Mirena IUD inserted. Men especially, please continue reading.

 

What’s an IUD? A small plastic contraception device inserted into the uterus, where it lives for around 5 years and — more effectively than birth control pills — prevents pregnancy while regulating menstrual cycles. There are a few different types of IUDs that have slightly different effects.

mirena

Before making my decision, I talked with women friends. Some already had them. Some didn’t. We compared notes on our contraceptive experiences. Amidst unanimous support for the IUD, I decided to look further into it.

 

And that’s when I consulted male friends. Yes, before a doctor. I consulted a doctor as well, don’t you worry. But in the phase of informal discussion with friends coinciding with google searches, I talked to male friends because I wanted the male perspective. Did their girlfriends have them? What was the male experience sexually? Yes, you can feel it during sex, they said. It’s like two tiny strings on the sides of the vagina. No, they said, it wasn’t a bother and wasn’t painful. In some cases, my American male friends knew more facts and figures about contraceptive methods than my female friends. Needless to say, I was thoroughly impressed with their knowledge of both female anatomy and menstruation in general. As one friend put it: “Well, if I’m going to care about my girlfriend, I should care about her health too.”

 

I talked to my boyfriend. He had never heard of IUDs. He had no clue what they were, how they worked, what types there were – Nuthin’. But his initial reaction was DON’T DO IT. To him, it sounded invasive and dangerous. I told him more. At the end, he said to talk to my doctor and fill him in on risks. He was concerned, but added diplomatically, “It’s your body. Do what you think is right. I just worry about your health and how this might affect our life.”

 

So, I talked to my doctor. While there was a nasty batch in the 70s that resulted in numerous women being sterilized, technology today is extremely safe. The greatest risk is infection, which is immediately detectable and treatable. Additional risks include migration (it moves out of the sweet spot), which would be accompanied by severe cramps and unusual bleeding, indicating a problem. No risk of sterilization. Just mild discomfort until a doctor does removal. The insertion procedure, she explained, would take about ten minutes and include some discomfort for up to 48 hours following. I could even drive myself home, she said.

 

So, I did it. And let me tell you – that insertion procedure is not ‘mild’ discomfort in the least. I couldn’t drive myself home. I may have even been convinced not to give birth vaginally. If it’s even a fraction of that pain, I’m not down. I have a much greater appreciation for all mothers now. Kudos to you. But it was over indeed quite quickly and I was happy with my decision.

 

I called my boyfriend and told him all the gory details. His reaction? Ew.

 

And this upset me.

 

I wasn’t angry, per se. More disappointed. He didn’t react that way to upset me or because he didn’t care about my health. But more because it was new and it was related to a subject he’d been taught – like many men have been – that is ‘gross’.

 

There’s a running joke that women can clear a room by mentioning ‘that time of the month’. Another that only whipped men buy tampons for their girlfriends. Another that she’s acting bitchy because she’s bleeding.

 

We use euphemisms. Aunt Flo. Aunt Irma. The communists are coming. Shark Week.

 

Periods are viewed as a woman’s issue, exclusive of men. But men enjoy our reproductive organs. Intimately. They ask if we’re on the pill or use condoms to avoid unwanted pregnancy. And many men draw the line there.

 

Tell me it’s all good, and we’re good. Don’t give me details. I don’t want to know. That’s your stuff. The sex is in that couple realm of ‘ours’. Everything else that happens in there is your body, your concern.

 

But contraception is part of sex for couples who don’t intend on pregnancy. The breadth of knowledge expressed by my male American friends impressed me, but I realized that they shouldn’t be the exception – they should be the norm. And they’re not. Most men, like my boyfriend, have never been in environments where it was okay for men to talk about women’s periods, or for women to do so in front of men. It’s a taboo. I’ve witnessed my boyfriend listen to lewd stories about penises and vulgar jokes. He doesn’t flinch, so long as the conversation isn’t dipping into rape culture rhetoric. But mention a bloody pad? His face gets all scrunched and he makes noises akin to ‘eeek’.

 

Why? Why does our society teach men that the thing that happens to 50% of the global population twelve times a year is ‘gross’?

 

I still remember an aunt once telling me to never mention periods in front of men. It’ll just gross them out, she said. I wish I could go back to my sixteen year old self and ask bluntly back, why do periods freak them out and not squirting? Both include liquids. One is stigmatized and the other is praised as a product of sexual agility. Making a woman squirt is the ultimate goal represented in porn and sought after, mostly futilely, in reality. Men see squirting as a result of their own manliness, while menstrual cycles are just lady parts doing their own ‘gross’ thing.

 

So let’s talk about this under the lens of intersectional feminism for a moment – a feminism that values the male perspective and seeks an inclusive movement for both sexes to improve gender relations in pursuit of social, political and economic equality. My aunt might think herself a feminist, but she’s not by the modern definition.

 

I was raised in a society where I knew about dicks by 9 years old. I knew about circumcision, about how men masturbate and even more advanced information that boys felt was acceptable to discuss on the playground. I didn’t know how women masturbate for years after I learned how men do. It wasn’t talked about. It wasn’t shown in films. It wasn’t part of sexual education. Female pleasure was, as far as I knew, only derived from intimacy with a man.

 

Likewise, we were told not to talk about menstruation by an older generation that so poorly defined the terms and goals of feminism that it’s now often misconstrued with anti-male sentiment. And today we’re in a race to reclaim the rhetoric – to represent feminism as it should be. Yes, a bit combative. Sometimes, you have to speak a little loudly to be heard. But no, not anti-male. Just anti-anti-female issues, like pervasive rape culture. The male disgust with female menstruation is another one of those little pieces of our society that serves to alienate the genders — to draw lines that can’t be crossed, separate spaces of intellectual habitation.

 

I don’t want a man to insert my tampon for me. I’m grateful that I knew about men’s bodies before I touched one. I understood them theoretically, and that made practical application more approachable and comfortable. I’ve lived in cultures where women didn’t even know what penises looked like prior to marital consummation, and their fears prior to that first night edged on pure terror. I wanted to know what to expect, both in sexual encounters and in life living with a man prior to actually doing it. And because our society allows for discussions of the male experience to be regularly discussed, I was prepared as much as I could be.

 

But men aren’t. Because women’s issues aren’t discussed. The gritty details are foreign to many men. They move in with a girl and have no idea why the toilet paper goes so quickly during that one week a month. And then they have been taught that it’s not proper to ask. The gender divide widens.

 

There’s no need for periods to be ‘gross’. It’s a constructed stigma. The more men know and understand about women, the better partners they’ll be and the better relations we’ll have with one another.

 

I’ve explained my views on all this and more to my boyfriend. He’s been supportive and understanding. He doesn’t flinch or squirm anymore. Especially after we had a late night discussion with another male friend about his girlfriend’s contraceptive experiences. My boyfriend was surprised – he didn’t think he knew any men who took such an active interest. But then he realized, maybe a lot of men do participate fully in that aspect of a relationship, but don’t tell their male friends. Maybe men in long term relationships have to learn to be active participants in their partners’ lives, but do it quietly and privately so that no one knows it’s actually normal.

 

Even if the stigma isn’t there between a couple like it sadly was for my aunt’s generation, it still is between men. Men will tell each other about their sex lives, but will not compare notes on contraception past lending condoms. There’s still this sense that women talk about that – not men. Why? Both parties are engaging in sex. Why is the woman’s duty to research pregnancy prevention and not the man’s? Shouldn’t both take an active interest?

 

Recently, when I didn’t attend a party because I was experiencing menstrual cramps, my boyfriend confidently explained the real reason for my absence to our friends. I didn’t prompt him or tell him to do so. He didn’t tell me he’d done it. A female friend did, a week later, impressed with his casual explanation. He said it factually and briefly, before moving on to grab a beer, she said. And that’s how it should be. A fact that happens and isn’t embarrassing for women or men. Maybe by talking so nonchalantly as a man, he made a little more room for men who think periods are ‘gross’ to talk about it. Maybe he broke down that barrier just a little.

 

In any case, there’s a he for she I can be proud of.

A guy who recognizes that periods are a part of life for 50% of the world’s population and doesn’t think it’s a big deal is a man who understands women, and that’s what we really want – A guy who actively cares.

A man who can talk about IUDs is sexy.

 

 

Things that baffle me (an agnostic American) about my boyfriend (a Pakistani Muslim)

 

“It’s just a cultural difference,”

he says.

 

Ah, ‘cultural differences’. One of those bland rhetorical tonics for every disagreement that may temporarily (or permanently) obstruct forward progress of an otherwise cohesive interreligious relationship. And the conclusion to many a disagreement in the apartment I share with my Pakistani Muslim boyfriend and his childhood friend, also a Pakistani Muslim.

I occasionally express some incredulity when we use this little ‘get out of the dog house free’ card. My boyfriend, while the kind of Pakistani who says ‘w’ for ‘v’ (head out on the highway, looking for adWenture), is also the kind who likes a cold beer, bad pop music and, well… We live together. Take that how you will. He grew up partly in the UK, and our roommate partly in the US, each carrying dual citizenship and patriotism. They feel native in both their respective mother countries, speaking a dialect amongst themselves that I’ve dubbed Urdish (Urdu + English).

So, when my boyfriend and I end a discussion with, “Well, you know, we come from different cultures, so we have some different values and we have to compromise,” I am often baffled. Because, to a large extent, we do share culture, and sometimes the ‘cultural difference’ catchall just doesn’t feel justified.

But in any case, there are repeat discussions that wheel in and out like a merry go round of cultural differences’ greatest hits. These are the ones that circle back most often in our happy home and continue to baffle me.

 

 

  1. Biryani

    Chicken-Biryani_3464
    Photo credit and bf approved authentic recipe

    I’ll kick the list off with a big one. I. Do. Not. Get. It. I apologize to all Desi food lovers of the world. I’m sure you’re slapping your foreheads and wondering what in the White-West-I-Hail-From is wrong with me. I’ve heard it before. But, come on. It’s chicken and rice – I’m aware there are other meat/meatless options, but this is the common variation in our house. Why does it take sooo long to make? It’s chicken and rice, people. My boyfriend and our roommate will spend over twenty minutes discussing whether a biryani is good or not, swirling it around in their mouths like professional sommeliers tasting a fine wine, considering every spice, every chicken chunk, even the texture of the rice. And they usually conclude it’s just ‘alright’ before devouring it with a speed that the Flash would envy. In all our time together, my boyfriend has only once given a biryani the official stamp of ‘it’s good’, at which point I excitedly tried a bite to see what all the fuss is about. And you know what? It tasted like all the other biryani bites I’ve had. Chicken and rice.

    It troubles my boyfriend that I fail to grasp the rare culinary majesty that is biryani. And it baffles me that he craves this dish every few days, returning to shops he’s declared subpar just to see if they can get it right this time. “Cultural difference,” he says, and we compromise. He gets Biryani. I eat something else. We sit and stare at each other over our plates in pure disbelief.

  2. Cricket

    p cricket
    Let’s take baseball and make it not fun. So said the creators of cricket, a game that lasts days (DAYS, dear readers, DAYS) and features guys standing around waiting to run back and forth between two sticks. Full disclosure – I’ve dated a cricket player before. I knew the risks of such a union. I’ve been dragged to games. I’ve even attended practices, being the dutiful and supportive gal I am. My boyfriend doesn’t play often, much to my relief. But, he watches. And so, we watch, because of all that stuff I said about me being supportive. “Cultural difference,” we agree, and compromise. I kind of watch, but actually read my book. He doesn’t try to explain the rules to me because they don’t make any sense.

  3. Friends

    central perk jpg
    Not, not the people you call to see a movie or go dancing with on Friday night. That kind we agree on – they’re good to have around and we share them comfortably. Nope, I mean the TV show. You know the one. Rachel. Ross. Smelly cat. Etc. Now, I like Friends as much as the next person. But not as much as Pakistanis. No one loves Friends as much as Pakistanis. This, I did not know until recently. It’s a thing. They have a Central Perk in Lahore. It’s popular. In 2016 (this year!). I can put on any episode, picked at random, and my boyfriend will know every single line. There are 10 seasons comprised of 236 episodes. He’s seen every episode enough to have the lines memorized. And this, to me, is baffling. Because, while Friends heavily influenced my childhood – I, like many others, believed I too could afford a Manhattan apartment in my twenties – I’m not about to memorize all of Chandler’s quips as a vehicle to that dream. My boyfriend idealizes NYC largely because of the show, believing we could move there tomorrow and afford to get coffee every day at a Manhattan coffee shop. No matter how many sobering financial realities I throw at him, his Friends dream is unshaken. And this boggles the mind. “Cultural difference,” we say, and compromise. When he moves to NYC someday, he’ll find out for himself. And I don’t shut him down even if the temptation to roll my eyes sneaks up from time to time.

  4. Social Media silence.
    face

    My boyfriend does not post often on Facebook, and rarely about me. Yes, he is ‘friends’ with some colleagues and wisely chooses to keep Facebook PG and professional. But occasionally, I like to post about what we’re doing or the fun we’re having. And he does not. At all. And it baffles me. Because, while I hate the ‘look all our kissing selfies’ couples as much as any rational adult, I think it’s nice to occasionally express gratitude for a gift or show a positive aspect of our relationship publically. To me, that’s a way to declare our appreciation, so long as it’s done tastefully in extreme moderation. But to him, posting ‘look at our happy life’ entries on social media is a form of belittling the relationship and arrogance. He’s explained it to me like this: Our relationship is between us and displaying gratitude is something we do between ourselves, and he doesn’t want to denigrate that by perpetuating the idea that we need external validation. Plus, he thinks that I’m wonderful and beautiful and everyone will think that he’s just bragging about being in a relationship with me etc etc butter me up. While I understand his perspective and respect it, it still baffles me. Because I never see a tasteful of a couple I respect doing things together and think – DAMN those jerks are bragging! Rather, I think – oh cool, they’re doing that together and it looks fun. Good for them. “Cultural difference,” he says, and we compromise. He very occasionally posts a photo of us when I request it, and I can tag him in a post occasionally. I gained his approval before making this post.

And that’s the greatest hits list. All said and done.

I bet you were expecting a different kind of list. Or maybe hoping for one? You were thinking there’d be mention of mosques, or hijabs, or dietary restrictions. Or maybe you were expecting disrespectful language, demeaning attitudes towards women, sympathy with extremists, or conflicting moral judgments.

 

Sorry to disappoint. I come up short on those points.

 

Truth is, religion doesn’t come up often. My boyfriend is a secular Muslim, and he grew up in a developed, peaceful environment with access to excellent education and positive role models. He goes to the mosque for Friday prayers and leads what I consider to be a moral, ethical and kindhearted life. And he doesn’t talk about his religion unless he’s asked, same as I do.

 

So, to answer what I’m sure you’re wondering – When do real cultural differences affect our life together?

 

Often.

 

But not in ways that baffle me.

 

One of the positive role models in his life was his grandmother. She told him that he could gamble and have fun, of course, as fun is a necessary part of a happy life. But never keep winnings, because that’s where addiction starts. And a future should be decided by merit and work ethic, not chance. So, he and I go to the casino. We play blackjack. Sometimes he loses. Sometimes he breaks even. But he never wins. And he only plays with money he earns working, disposable income he’s okay with losing entirely because it’s a fun night out, not a way to change your life with one hand. I respect that, because while it’s different from how my family plays the lottery, there’s something I can learn from it. I’m not baffled. I’m enriched.

His father, a man who’s taught him humility and empathy, said that you should always be charitable, even in small ways. Never waste food. That doesn’t mean eat everything on your plate when you’re full, because in Karachi, there was always someone hungry outside delighted to receive leftovers. We currently live in a developing country, where likewise there are always hungry mothers and children on the street. He never lets the waiter dispose of leftovers. He has them packed nicely with plastic utensils and napkins. Then he walks the streets until he finds someone who is hungry. I never thought to do this before being with him, but I damn well respect it and I’ve changed my behavior to do the same, even when I go home to America. In American cities, there are also hungry people on the street. And I walk for blocks sometimes to find them. I’m not baffled. I’m bettered.

He is respectful. And I want to emphasize this one, because Muslim men get a lot of smack from some certain corners of the world for being disrespectful toward women these days. I’m not saying all Muslim men are or aren’t. I’m saying this one is, and it’s a cornerstone of his character and our relationship. He respects me, my career goals, my personal choices, my interests and my beliefs. He doesn’t patronize me. He actively listens to my concerns, enthusiastically celebrates in my triumphs and encourages me to pursue my interests. Even if they conflict with his own. Because our cultural differences have nothing to do with our human feelings. And our cultural differences don’t intrude on that genuine sense of wanting the best for each other.

At the end of the day, I have to shrug when people ask me when real cultural differences affect our life together.

Sorry to disappoint, but really the biggest one is Biryani.

 

 

A long time later (3 years), on a computer far, far away

Hey blogosphere!

It’s been 3 years and honestly, I forgot about this blog. It helped me sort through some issues when I was in university regarding family and angst thereabout, serving as an anonymous medium to send my thoughts out into the ether. For a little while, it served excellently and I was happy as can be. But then, my mother got a hold of the blog (she was as supportive as I was embarrassed, which is to say extremely), and I was Freshly Pressed and suddenly we had some major traffic. Which was wicked cool! Don’t get me wrong – I was encouraged and it was all very exciting. But then, an acquaintance (in real life, mind you) asked if I had written that crazy piece on Freshly Pressed about deeply personal issues no one would want an acquaintance to know because it sounded like me? Ya. I dropped this blog like a hot sack of potatoes, went on with life and promptly forgot allllll about it. The things you leave behind, right?

And then, time went by… I’ve been fortunate enough to be involved with some really fantastic organizations. I work internationally, primarily with INGOs and NFPs (development sector). I’m about to embark on a new job in a new country, about which I’m utterly thrilled and anxious (another new language to learn, oh my).

Which brings us to today

 

I was sorting through some personal emails when I clicked on ‘spam’ for the first time in a while and low and behold – WORDPRESS COMMENTS. From just last week. I could not believe this site still has traffic, and people are responding to my words. It was like a time capsule opened and had grown this dynamic ecosystem in years of isolation. I was shocked.

Well, I needed to approve the two I saw for sure. Both were emotional. One empathized with a post. The other sharply condemned a post. But both posters shared opinions and stories that I felt deserved to be visible on the page. They were important perspectives, and I wanted to sign on and approve them.

I didn’t even have my password anymore. I had to get a new one and go through the admin troubles. Finally, I signed on and found the page with comments and WOAH. I signed in to find a backlog of comments needing approval spanning 3 years and lots of stories. Obviously, a few of my posts touched some nerves.

I’m not going to respond to each one individually – that would take serious time. There were primarily two categories of comments, so I will respond in bulk to each type of poster.

On the one hand, there were people who stumbled on the blog and related to posts about me writing to my father in deeply personal ways, and were generous enough to share their own stories. To you, I say thank you. It’s been 3 years of reconciliation and I will post a follow up, as many of you asked for it. But even now, very much at peace with my situation, I was deeply moved by your words of compassion, empathy and encouragement. Thank you, and I hope you are all doing well now. Keep writing. Keep sharing. It is therapeutic.

And then the other hand. As I reread one post, three years older (and hopefully wiser), I will admit to some cringing. I remember writing it late at night, feeling upset and confused, and quite confident very few people would ever read it. Please keep in mind, I HAVE NOT and WILL NOT share all the details about my family situation. There are a lot of complications that still greatly upset me and I can’t write down. So, picture me in a dormroom with a lot of mixed emotions and full confidence it could never come back to bite me (youthful folly), writing this. And it got Freshly Pressed. So, lots of people read it. And while some people responded empathetically, many didn’t. You can read the comments to get an idea (I’ve approved them all, except obvious spam). To those who commented critically, I say thank you for sharing and putting the situation in a different perspective. I could try and explain by saying it was hyperbole, or that I didn’t mean it literally, or that I unintentionally used offensive examples in explaining a fair feeling, or that my feelings were real but not fair, or that they were real and fair… the list could go on. In truth, looking back, I don’t think it’s as simple as any one of those explanations. It was a mix.  Nothing is simple right? There’s a grain of truth in everything, and I think that grain was present when I wrote that post. Looking back three years later, I understand why it upset people. And I’m sorry to have misrepresented or belittled any experiences. That was not my intention, and I am grateful you responded to call out what needed calling.

In any case, I’m back online. And maybe not for too long. Maybe not regularly. But, maybe here and there I’ll put up a post or two. No promises. But, I will continue approving comments. Because a lot of people put a lot of themselves into these comments, and they deserve visibility.

Thanks for following.

 

p.s. Probably won’t do pictures anymore… Too much effort.

 

Never Insult a Trekkie: A Lesson for J J Abrams

I am a fan, not a fanatic, when it comes to Star Trek. I grew up watching the Enterprise float around a Styrofoam universe and I have a special place in my heart for William Shatner, despite the whole thing of him being William Shatner. Still, I’ve never been to a convention or a Klingon-translated wedding. I don’t own any kind of Starfleet getup and I never really got into Next Generation (the geeks in the gallery gasp!). I still, however, think J J Abrams is a dick for what he said.

(Click here to link to a larger gif)

jj abrams jpeg

Yeah, it’s shocking right?! (Geeks in the gallery gasp, again!)
Let me level with you—Maybe Star Trek doesn’t fly your space ship. Kirk getting it on with aliens and Spock’s pointy eyebrows turn you off. Fair enough—I don’t hold it against you. Honest, I don’t. Scifi is not for everyone, the same way Twilight is not for me. If someone tried to convince me to appreciate Bella’s whiny little pouting voice, I would get a bit hot under the collar. Maybe you’re shrugging your shoulders right now, pursing your lips and declaring, ‘So what? So he doesn’t like the original series. Neither did I and the new movie was kickass. Why should I care?’

Well, dear movie-goer, this is why you should care:

The Star Trek franchise is one of the most lucrative in the history of film and television. Collectibles, Memorabilia and Games have grossed approximately $4 billion while the Films & Series themselves post revenues of approximately $1.76 billion. That’s a lotta moula.

Why? Why is a crossover science fiction show that began in the sixties and has been successful despite producing a movie about a whales in the eighties making so much damn money?

Startrek-voyagehome

Let me tell you a little something about Trekkies. They are not your average fans. They aren’t your average teenage girls lining up to pout and whine while waiting for Stephanie Meyers to sign their little black books. Scifi fans love their worlds. For them, the moment doesn’t end when the program does. It is alive in their imaginations forever. If science fiction has taught me anything it’s that every world has its wonders. And as long as you look at those wonders in your own world with the eyes of a galaxy-travelled newcomer, you can appreciate them all the more. Star Trek was the first thing—before teachers or experiences or anything—that taught me to appreciate life and to philosophize about what is all means. And I love it for that.

spock-leornard-nimoy-star-trek-tos

But enough sentiment. The important part is all that moula we mentioned earlier. Sometimes keeping the magic alive means spending a lot of money. And if you’re going to spend that money, you’re going to be a purist about it. Hitch your wagon to the right teleporting-cart, you know what I’m saying? (the geeks in the gallery nod)

So when these dudes who travel half way around the world and spend hours picking out face paint, you can see how they’re going to be pissed that the man handed one of the highest grossing franchises in the history mankind, the man handed a ship that has been a part of their lives for years, the man handed a storyline that has informed their philosophical development as human beings—that man goes on the Daily Show and has the balls to say he’s actually not that into it? Is he kidding?

He’s just alienated (haha, because this is a Star Trek post) the purists who were going to spend the most amount of money on whatever memorabilia his reboot produces. He just made the most dedicated fans in the world angry that he disrespected the thing they love and treasure.

Doesn’t he get that? How stupid do you have to be?

And furthermore, we’re giving this guy Star Wars? Come on universe! Give me a break!

And sure, you can say he made up for loss of profit from that niche market by making the film more accessible to the average moviegoer. Fair. Maybe he did. But what does that mean for the values of Hollywood? Are the fans only as good as the money they’re willing spend. If a niche market that really loves something isn’t as financially impactful as your average mother-in-law who will throw away her ticket stub while reminiscing about the coming-soon commercials, then is that niche market not worth pleasing?

Maybe we’re dipping too far into sentimentality here. I get that Hollywood is a business. Jobs depend on the success of a film, or the failure. But it still makes me sad that a guy like J J Abrams is so confident in the business model of his film that he doesn’t think twice to shit on the original version, the version that made all the moula he collected even possible.

You can say a lot about Star Trek. It’s geeky, cheesy, too philosophical, overacted, the costumes are ridiculous, etc—but it captured the imagination of generations of viewers. It made the universe a bigger, more potential place. And I wish he would have respected that, if only on tv. I wish he had invested a little more effort in keeping the magic alive.

I got freshly pressed! A retrospective on my blogging experience thus far.

fresh press

 

Hi blogosphere, new followers and old!

I just wanted to say thank you to everyone who’s been visiting and interacting on my site. I gotta admit–I never expected too much out of blogging. I kind of did it for the hell of it, you know? An everybody-else-has-one-and-I-should-too kind of attitude. I originally intended to just to post some writing pieces, sprinkle in some poetry, maybe the humorous anecdote or two to add some variety. A sideshow type deal. 

But I was really surprise by the quality of bloggers I met through messages and comments and posts. I was more than surprised–I was inspired. Y’all are pretty awesome, in a very real honest way. Obviously, there’s bad apples in every bunch. But all you have to do is click ‘unfollow’ and they’re rooted out, in a sense. It’s an pretty cool system and I got comfortable.

This happened to coincide with a time in my life that my father showed up after ten years of absence and a lot of heartache. I’m living abroad and I’m a bit disconnected from home. Although I have friends, coworkers, flatmates, etc here, I felt uncomfortable dumping that on them. No one wants to be the girl who starts talking about Daddy issues at the pub a month in…

So, I wrote a little letter to my father. And, in the middle of the night, I posted it on here to see what people would say. And I was blown away by how encouraging and kind the comments back were. I mean, really awesome stuff. And, even more incredible, I actually felt better. The words typed on computers half way around the world, by fingers of complete strangers I will never meet and can only recognise by gravatar handles–those words helped me. I felt a little less alone in it. Even if my friends didn’t know that I was struggling to wrap my brain around my–ugh!–family problems, the people belonging to those gravatars did! That’s so awesome. That’s so special. Modern technology is wicked cool.

So, I’ve recently been freshly pressed. I’m pretty pumped about it–I am a writing student, after all, so to my vanity I do love recognition of my writing. But, more importantly, I just want to thank everyone who’s read what I’ve written. Everyone typing on their laptops, desktops, tablets, smart phones, etch a sketches–whatever you’ve got. You really have helped me figure this stuff out, if only because I knew someone was reading. If only because I know I wasn’t alone out here.

Thanks. 

Blog on, blogosphere. Keep typin’.

The Writer in Him: A Poetic Question

Anyone ever date one of those pretentious writers who likes adventures because he wants to write the next-great-soul-exploring-eye-opening-bestseller/moneymaking/famefanning novel? Well, I did once. Alas, the old adage rings true: This too shall pass. Although I think the memory of our parting stayed with him for a few weeks after… In any case, happy Friday WordPress. I’ll be trapped at work tomorrow (yes, yes, it’s terrible), so really I’ll be reading your wonderful posts to break up the monotony. Have a lovely weekend!

 

 

The Writer in Him

 

 

 

It was the writer in him

Grimacing and grinning

Sowing and sinning

Insinuating beginings

That didn’t have endings

Sending false signals, pretending

It wasn’t a story

When that’s all it was to him.

 

And it was the writer in him

Blubbering and blistering

Broiling and brimming

Flaming and kindling

A fire kept from dimming

By his constant fingering

Lingering glances my way

And eyes meant to say

It wasn’t just a story

When that’s all it was to him.

 

But it was the him in him

Who said he was sorry

The party was only partly

postponed by his metaphorical farting

the rest by the writer

Edward scissorhandsing inside him

Skipping and thriving

Stretching and writhing

Looking for stories in young girls eyes and

Saying he loves me

When it’s more than fiction,

It’s lies.

 

But then, my ultimate question:

Was he or the writer in him

Whose balls, when struck with force, I kick in?

Dear Tommy: A Short Story

Dear Tommy,

 

It was the summer I wanted to be Hunter Thompson and Tommy got pretty serious with coke. An abusive relationship, he called it. But I never knew who was abusing whom.

It was the summer before college, when drug people were my people. There was this sense we were floating on the same ocean, and everyone else was bustling about on the shore. We could speak to the land dwellers. We could text them, even. But they didn’t feel the vibrations. They weren’t dizzy the way we were dizzy. They weren’t riding the waves, man. 

 

Sweet little Leila caught ADD and we had adderol. We sliced open her pills, crushed the granules and drew lines on Tommy’s cell phone. Leila got first whiff, being the supplier and all. From then on, she was good people. Sweet little Leila grew her brown hair long and pierced her eyebrow. She belonged to it.

We got creative with our addictions. A little of yours, a little of mine, and a little of the stuff nobody should want. We felt like chemists. One line adderol, plus two powder, plus a shot of whatever was around, plus gum that shit and you had a hell of a high. 

It was a hell of summer. I fancied myself a radical. We thought Baltimore was above the influence. Above weed and free love. High, up on a whole other level. I wrote pages and pages about American swine and the uselessness of breathing. Stories that began in Congress and ended in Pizza Hut. Or, more often, didn’t end at all.

 

One night we’re smoking something or other on my porch and Tommy asks what I write about, anyway. He’s leaning against the side of my house, picking at the peeling white paint mindlessly. Lost in it. I can still see him. Deep brown eyes staring off under overgrown dirty blond hair. Strong jaw jutting out, but still tucked away somehow, like he didn’t want to seem too defined. Lips just a little parted, enough to look ready for action but not committed.

“I don’t know.” I say. 

“No, really,” he takes a swig of the cheap Chardonnay we were into back then. “Tell me a story.” 

There’s this twinkle in his eyes, like he’s hungry. Curtis, another guy who belonged to it, nods his head and makes out some kind of encouraging words. He’s a big lumbering guy, with dark frizzy hair that stands up straight, like its been electrocuted.  Even crouched down on the porch, he looks too large. Awkward, like he’s on the wrong planet. I guess we all related to that. I shrug and hit the bowl. 

“Well, there’s this one about this guy,” I hit again. “Buck.”

“I like that name,” Curtis says.

“Let her tell the story,” Tommy whispers harshly. 

“Well,” I start. “Buck’s this circus guy, right. He cuts things, like metal, with, like, rusty scissors.”

Time’s a funny thing for drug people. It’s fast and slow; tides coming in and going out on top of each other, with the force of a monsoon and the size of a ripple after a small pebble falls through the surface of a pond. Sometimes we talked for hours and sometimes just seconds, but it all passed the same. That night, I may have discussed Buck on end or I may have mentioned him. I’ll never know.

“And this circus performer,” I continue. “He lives in this dystopia where Fox News runs the world.”

We laugh. 

“And he decides that the world has gone to shit. And, like, everybody’s got this pain balled up under their ribcages. And so he goes on this journey to find God and the source of pain–the reason it all is the way it is and not better.” I shove my head into my hands. “I don’t know. It’s stupid.”

“Naw, man.” Curtis furrows his eyebrows. “Deep.”

Tommy boots. Dark red with green chunks and a dank, acidic smell. We watch and wait. He finishes.

“Man.” Curtis hits.

“Sorry. Shouldn’t have railed that addie.” Tommy’s eyes are bloodshot, rimmed with red. He looks like a drug addict. It occurs to me he is. We all are. Grunge. Alternative. Kids without a cause–both genesis and crusade. Hell, I wasn’t even sure if we were breathing. Or, for that matter, if we should have been breathing.

“Don’t sweat it.” I shrug. “The dogs will clean it up tomorrow.”

The next morning I let the dogs out and the evidence is gone as easy as eating breakfast. 

 

I always wondered if my father knew. I like to think he didn’t. I like to think he worked long, hard hours as the Red Ginger line cook. I like to think that it tired out his eyes and dulled his mind, so that by the time he stumbled in and dropped down on his bed, he couldn’t figure me out. I like to believe all that so I don’t have to believe he knew and did nothing for me. That he never asked where I was or who with because he never suspected it was all wrong. I like to believe my father was as good a father as circumstances allowed, even if he wasn’t a good father. He’s all the family I have and that means something to me. I loved my father. Of that, I was almost sure.

 

It was the summer we didn’t go places, we showed up. Popped up, out of whatever oblivion we came from. A puff of magic smoke and there we were, sloppy and flopping about–fish out of water. We weren’t land dwellers and when we came to shore, we tried to bring the waves with us. 

So one day or night we show up at Curtis’s place. It’s the kind of decorated formstone row house that line the city streets. Muted purple paint with green trimming and a busted second story left window covered by fraying duct tape. Flanked by identical abandoned shitholes, barely boarded up and home to faceless spotters and rats. A black magic type dream catcher hanging over the door next to an ivory cross. We mixed more than drugs, in those days.

Tommy, Leila and I stumble out of whatever bus got us there and skip down the street, up the uneven concrete stoop steps. We bang on the wooden door–short staccato raps that sound like rhythm to us. 

Curtis answers. He’s wearing black boxers that are too tight and a grey wife beater, with a red stain over his right nipple. Funny, the things you remember.

He stands in the doorway, eyes a hazy shade of half-shut.

“What?” He mumbles, lips barely moving. 

“We came here,” Leila begins, before looking at me inquisitively, “for a reason.”

Suddenly, we can’t remember.

“Come chill with us,” Tommy flashes a stupid smile and puts two thumbs up. 

I chime in, “We’ve got shrooms.”

Leila’s gone silent on us. Shrooms. Pesky things. Sometimes you’re so in it, you can’t escape. And sometimes you’re under water and nothing’s really happening down there. 

“We’ve got shrooms,” I repeat, maybe once, maybe more.

Tommy nods enthusiastically. Curtis just blinks.

“Naw, I’m good.” Real drug people never say no. We’re lost for a moment, but we recover. 

“But, why not?” Tommy asks, stupid smile morphed into a drooping jaw and wide eyes.

“I’m quitting.”

I’m silenced.

“Quitting what?” Tommy asks.

“Everything.” Curtis’s face doesn’t move. “I’m done.”

Leila sits down on the stoop and buries her head in her knees. Tommy gets angry fast.

“You fucking scab. Turncoat traitor.” Angry drug people are unpredictable. Rage can turn violent, or dissolve. Sometimes it fizzles. Sometimes it fans. When you’re living so close to suicide, it doesn’t seem strange to be irrational. Hell, life is irrational. And in the words of Kurt Vonnegut, we didn’t ask to be born in the first place. 

Tommy punches the wall with his fist. Nobody flinches. We’re far beyond that. His outburst leaves a blot of red blood on the flaking purple paint. 

“Chill, man,” Curtis says.

“Bullshit you’re quitting.” Tommy breaks out into manic laughter. “Bull. Shit.” He’s howling like a hyena. He doubles over and tugs at his hair with both hands, blood dripping from his slashed knuckles. “You can’t counter counterculture. It’ll beat the shit out of your fat ass.”

He’s in an uproar.

“Keep it down, man. I’ve got neighbors,” Curtis says. He turns to me. “I keep shaking.”

I look him up and down. Tommy’s still shrieking, but I can’t hear it anymore. 

“You don’t look like you’re shaking,” I retort in a voice that doesn’t sound like mine. It’s high pitched, almost childish. It sounds like I’m begging him to not be shaking. It sounds like I’m shaking.

“I had to drink a little to get to sleep.” He clears his throat. “Whisky helps it.”

Tommy shrinks into a ball next to Leila, clutching his knees to his neck and humming. His face is bright red and blue veins push through his temples. 

“You should get clean,” Curtis says to me. “I don’t get why we turned to it in the first place, really.”

Neither did I, but I don’t say so. I pull my kids down the stoop and we get home somehow. But as the purple line clanks away down the block, I look back and watch Curtis standing in the door through the dirt caked window, his eyes still half shut, and I think I see him shaking. But I dismiss it–probably just the bus vibrations. 

 

We had chemical imbalances to begin with. They gave us drugs to right us, and when the serotonin and dopamine in their prescriptions wasn’t enough, we got our kicks elsewhere. We grew up in a place where the American dream waned and the people were left behind. This wasn’t charm city, but a confused conglomerate attempting to resurrect the dream that was. And when they couldn’t, there was always a different dream calling from the shadows, lurking behind the construction sites and grant money that never went to where it should. The city had chemical imbalances to begin with. We righted ourselves because we couldn’t right the streets. And who could blame us for that?

 

One night I found myself sucking Tommy’s dick behind the concrete ruins of one of Baltimore’s industrial era masterpieces. The kind of place that used to bustle, and now just sits there for kids to graffiti and bums to pee on. I’m not sure why it happened there, or how, but we both knew it would someday. I guess that moment felt as good as we supposed any other would. 

He finishes and I get up off my knees, wiping my mouth with my shirt. It’s dark and we’re coked out. Jitters. Heart beating fast. Feverish. Unsure if it’s happening, or just dream. Still, unsure.

We stand there, Tommy’s pants wrapped around his feet. I can’t stop swaying back and forth, but I think it’s in my head. Tommy doesn’t seem to notice. I sniff and smell chemicals and harbor winds. Cum and blood. My nose is bleeding.

Tommy jerks his hand towards my face and I flinch, but he’s just wiping the blood away. 

“It hurts,” I whisper.

“Just a dream within a dream,” he whispers back, an allusion to something we read a long time ago. 

“I’m in the red,” I stutter hoarsely, breathing uneven. “We’re in the red, you know.”

He nods. We lock eyes.

“I love you,” He mouths, barely audible.

I don’t love him. I don’t know if love is even real. Sometimes I think it’s just some great conspiracy used by the poets to sell books. I wasn’t radical. I was broken.

“Do you really believe that?” I ask. 

Tears drip from his eyes, staggered. He’s not crying, so much as dripping. It occurs to me that that’s what we’re doing: dripping. Dripping into waves. Into nothing.  Ruins that bustle no more. And the vibrations are an illusion. Hollow.

“No.” His eyes look through me. “No, but I wish I did.”

 

It’s a thing rare to get straight in this town. For most, the old factories that frame the city mutate into concrete catacombs, where the ghost of the great American dream mingles with the souls of people who died belonging to it. People who died because they belonged to it. 

Leila straightened out, but we all knew she would. She was a swimmer, even if she did belong to it. Swimmers are a slippery bunch. You can count on them to dive to shore when the sharks come around. She was in it for the thrill, for bucking her parents, for doing something stupid the summer before college. She joined a sorority and learned to do coke socially. She drifted to shore, and I doubt she’s looked back with anything but amused nonchalance. 

Curtis went on to work at the same manufacturing plant his father did. I hear he’s something of an alcoholic, but in an acceptable way. A few beers every night with the boys and then home to the girlfriend and son, who will grow up, experiment with drugs, and work at the same manufacturing plant someday if it stays open. If not, he’ll find another one just like it. That’s American engineering at its best. 

Leila and Curtis weren’t like me and Tommy. We were doomed by the drugs inside us, by the feelings that stirred and twisted and tortured us. We did drugs to keep from killing ourselves some other terrible way. But it doesn’t really matter, why I was the way I was, or Tommy, or Leila, or Curtis. We spent that summer together in the red, on the waves. And that’s got to mean something. God, I hope it means something.

Tommy moved to California that Fall and I haven’t heard from him since. Sometimes I look for him on my computer keyboard. I search for his face in the blank documents on my screen. I write about lost men, looking for answers in places that don’t have them. Sometimes I think I find him in sentences about longing and apathy, but then I lose him. A fleeting silhouette of the boy I once knew, I love him now more than I thought I ever could. And for that, I hope he’s dead somewhere, because wherever he is, he’s not clean. 

Then there’s me. I went to college and my father kept on pretending everything was alright, but it wasn’t. I wasn’t alright. One morning I woke up and felt done in. Beaten. Bushwhacked by my intolerable habit of breathing. So I did something about it. But that something didn’t work and when I woke up I was told I could make myself a better life. Put a little polish on the old breathing act. 

So, I did. And I shook like Curtis. And I booted like Tommy. And I went silent like Leila. And I found clarity, and all of that. And it hurt, and it still does, and sometimes I wonder if it’s better this way. There’s a song by Bright Eyes about drugs. I think about it a lot. 

 

I wouldn’t recommend it

But it is one way to live.

Cause what is so simple by the moonlight

By the morning never is.

 

He’s strumming my soul right there. In the words of Billy Joel, another poet, And so it goes, and Tommy, you’re the only one who knows. I thank you for understanding, even if this whole nostalgic explanation makes no sense at all. Knowing you existed, that another person on this planet has felt the red dizzy them up and take hold, makes it so much better. Thank you, Tommy. That’s what I want to say. That’s all.

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Happy Mother’s Day

My first Mother’s Day not spent with my mother–and goodness is it strange! Scotland’s ‘Mothering Day’ occurred way aways back in March, so the festive nature of the holiday isn’t really felt about Edinburgh today. And while I love my city and I have a million and a half chores to do (eg shopping…), I would give anything to be back in New Hampshire with the crew of women who raised me.

But on the bright side, one of my chores is scouring Ryanair flights for a weekend trip to Paris in July to meet my dear old mum for the weekend and to pretend that watching the Tour de France is entertainment. We’ll see how the latter goes…

In any case, happy American Mother’s Day from a girl sending love to all the moms who done right by their kids. Congratulations!

A Brief Thanks to Moms

I’m very close with my mother. As some of you are aware, it’s been a rocky road with my father. But my mother’s that special type of parent who would kill for me–no questions asked aside from, “Where do you want to bury the body?”

 

Because of my dad, I’m only too aware of how lucky I am to have a great mother to advise me, love me and show me how to be a good parent. I have limitless respect for mothers, single, married, remarried–what have you. So to all you mom’s out there (especially mine) thanks for doing the job! Even when we yell at you for making us clean our rooms or being a bit pushy on real estate advice (I didn’t make it to the open house, mims… I think they’re giving the flat to someone else), just know we push because we’re comfortable with you. That’s probably not fair, but you’re the person we trust the most if you’ve done your job right. Sometimes that makes us bratty. But like our explanation for why the dog attacks the mailman, it’s because she loves ya🙂

 

Love you mims!

 

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