“Not So Bad”

There is a difference between hesitating and saying, firmly, no. What is the name for that place? I imagine it to be vast, to be full of women who said okay, who whispered it, or didn’t. I imagine it to be full of shadows, and a difficult place to leave.

I started writing this essay in Freiburg, in Roxane Gay’s non-fiction writing class, Beyond the Self. Now, it’s up at The Toast. It was shared on Scarleteen’s Facebook page. And  Jess Zimmerman tweeted it and said, “Men are terrified of writing like this.”

It’s been a pretty wild day.

 

Firsts

My Teen Diary asked me to read my teen diary & write about it, so of course I did. It was super angsty but also really fun! And, excitingly, it scored me my first TOP HIGHLIGHT, which I present for you here:

The body is not a temple, it is a body, and it is yours to do with as you will. The disrespect and callousness a person shows you does not mean that you are creature undeserving of love, of tenderness. It doesn’t even mean, really, that those who treat you callously are bad people—they’re just young, just careless, just taught different, though similarly toxic, things about sex than you are taught.

I also discovered this photo of me & my one true love, cardboard Legolas Greenleaf:

IMG_0594

Baring it all, etc

Naked for Cosmo

When I was in high school, I started a feminist club called F.A.T.E. The acronym makes me cringe now (“Female Advancement and Teen Empowerment” — I meant well, at least?) but anyway — one of the things we did each year was create posters for Love Your Body Day (which, if I remember correctly, was October 19th.) Still, even with the best of intentions, it took me much longer than that to really internalize the Love Your Body message. Sometimes I still struggle with it.

I’m doing better, though, and today Cosmo ran a piece I wrote called Why I Love Being Naked.

I started to look in the mirror, every single day, with deliberate and positive thoughts…These are my thighs, I thought, strong and brown, firmer in the summer months when I spend hours walking and running and dancing. These are my hips, wide like my grandmother gave me. “Childbearin’ hips,” as if that were not a choice but a given. This is the little pouch of my belly where my love of cupcakes and French fries resides; my skin is softest here. Here are my breasts, with stretch marks creeping across the tops of them like ivy; I’m told I have a lovely décolletage.

Gettin’ there.

Books I’ve Read So Far in 2015

SPOILERS AHEAD.

This is kind of a freebie, since I read most of it in 2014. My dad has been on my case about Outlander every since he started reading it a few years ago, which I think is a little funny, considering it’s pretty romance-y. BUT HEY. Shame on me for buying into gender norms. My dad can read romance novels if he damn well pleases.

Part of the reason why it took me so long to read is because my dad and I were sharing a copy. He bought it at Amazing Cheap Books in Astoria one balmy summer night. I bought about five books about vampires and ghosts and serial killers (all for fifteen bucks!) and then treated the family to gelato. But it also took me forever to read because Gabaldon is verbose. The font was TINY and the pages were thin, and there were many of them. And I’m a pretty voracious reader, so that’s sayin’ somethin’.

It wasn’t my favorite. Claire isn’t really my cuppa, to be honest — I am all about Geillis the witch, though (is she really dead? She can’t really be dead!) and Jenny Fraser (girlfriend gave birth, then went tramping about the forest to rescue her nincompoop brother. She actually, literally sat on a log and PUMPED HER OWN BREAST MILK [sans breast pump of course because its the 1700s], not to mention the fact that she was riding around on horseback DAYS after pushing out a bairn!).

One of the things that my dad said that got me to finally agree to read the book (aside from forcing me to watch the show, which is really a thing of beauty) was: “You’ll like it! There are gay characters and everything!” My dad knows me well. This was kind of a tone deaf Dad Moment on his part, though. Why? Because the only gay character in Outlander was Captain Jack Randall, sadist extraordinaire.

DAD. Daaaaaaad. That is so far from what I meant! So, yeah, my dad and I are probably going to have little chat about what representation in fiction really means. (Hint: It’s not that your gay characters are all sick and twisty, and their sick and twisty-ness is directly tied to their sexuality!)

So the first book I actually read, in its entirety, in 2015 was this memoir by Angelica Harris. I read it because my godmother brought up Angelica and her work on Christmas Day; they’ve been friends for years. Angelica, who I met last Saturday!, is also the author of a King Arthur YA series and the founder of the Excalibur Reading Program, a local tutoring organization. I visited their office in Glendale last Saturday to meet with Angelica, and I’m going to be tutoring there starting next week. I’m also working with Angelica to get a writing workshop for adults, as well as teen & young adult workshop, up and running by March!

Angelica is also the founder of the Unicorn Project/Raven’s Hope, a non-profit designed to help families in crisis because of domestic violence and sexual assault. I’ll be working with her in this capacity as well.

Far and away my favorite book I’ve read so far this year is The Girl in The Road by Monica Byrne. This book is what Firefly should have looked like if Joss Whedon hadn’t so insistently whitewashed his cast. It takes place in India and Ethiopia, and on a bridge called the Trail that crosses the Arabian Sea (and gathers wave energy.)

Things that are great about this book:

  • EVERYONE is a POC.
  • There are two protagonists, both women, both queer. Meena, one of the protagonists, is bisexual in a way that sent my whole body humming with recognition, and that has never happened to me before. I’ve always been pretty dedicated to diversity in fiction, but for the first time I’ve really felt it in my bones and it was powerful.
  • Pretty much everyone else is queer too.
  • The world is beautifully crafted. It’s set several decades in the future, and it has this sense of strangeness yet believability about it. Like, this is what the world could look like in sixty years. Also, Byrne has a BA in Biochemistry and and MA in Geochemistry, and this, I think, really shows in the extent of her worldbuilding.
  • Byrne is pretty insistently in media res the whole time (the book literally opens with Meena waking up fleeing her house in a manic state, because a terrorist organization has just attempted to assassinate her), so the story unfolds slowly, as does your understanding of the characters. Which I find pretty delicious, honestly.

HAVE YOU MET ALLISON MOON? No? Well, you should.

Allison Moon is the author of one of my favorite books I read this summer, Lunatic Fringe. It is about lesbian werewolves. That’s all you need to know. Go read it.

Bad Dyke was a joy to read. I read it in a day. It’s a short collection of personal essays about Moon’s sexual experiences, and the ways in which she has identified over the course of her life. It’s just a really joyful, celebratory account of sexuality and sex in all its forms. (And she knows Jiz Lee, which is SO COOL.) Moon is a sex educator; she’s in an awesome, healthy poly relationship; she’s a great writer…She’s basically inspiration for my entire life.

So, there you have it! Four books in two weeks! Goal is to read another four by the end of the month, because my Goodreads goal for 2015 is 63 books (up three from last year, because I was short three in 2014.)

HAPPY READING, everyone!

I Am The Whitest Person You Know

When I look in the mirror I see a girl. I see a girl with my dad’s nose and eyebrows, and my mother’s eyes and olive skin. I see a girl with a Tesoro chin, with my grandmother’s mouth and her accompanying habit of getting her foot stuck in it. According to Michael Kimmel, straight white men are the default from which everyone else deviates, and it is easier to see the deviations than the ubiquitous norm. Despite this, when I look in the mirror, I don’t really see a mixed race girl. I do not see a person of color unless someone reminds me.

I wrote about “feeling white” while not really looking white over at Medium.