When I was a child, I thought it was the clothes.
The girls in my class who were safe? They all seemed to have the same clothes. They wore glitter nail polish and jelly sandals, hoop earrings and the same short black skirt. I watched them and I tried so hard to mimic them, the way a less powerful animal will mimic a predator many times its size.
My family spent money we didn’t really have helping me fit in. Like so many Jews of my generation, my parents pushed assimilation as a survival strategy. As the only survival strategy.
What do we talk about when we talk about toxicity? Is it the landlord who refuses to make minor repairs out of an unspoken grudge against single women, queer women, Jews? Is it the supervisor who finds fault to avoid taking responsibility? Is it the date who stands you up, claiming he forgot, but perhaps enjoying your misery and humiliation a little too much? Or is it the man who says he loves you, while staring at another woman’s breasts over your shoulder?
All of the above?
Yup, all of the above.
We all struggle, and we all fall short…
My body is a map of who I really am. Black curving lines spiral down my arms and legs, some expressing words and some merely representing images of power. I choose self-expression that matches who I wish to become. I write on my body to remind myself that I can write my own destiny, if I choose.
Some of these images are what you might expect from a young woman raised in Berkeley, home of the hippies and birth of the Free Speech Movement. I have a snowflake in the crook of my right arm to remind me unironically that…
I was celibate for ten years, and I wanted everyone to know it.
There are many ways to tell this story. I had sex with a man and I can’t remember it because maybe I was drugged. I was raped by someone my own age after a childhood of being abused by a relative. I was gang-raped in the woods and I don’t remember who did it. I reported the rape and the detective insisted it was consensual sex. …
My friend killed herself, and for the longest time I thought it was my fault.
That night, she was drinking. D was always drinking, by then. She drank during the day. She drank all night long. She drank and sometimes she popped pills, but why would I worry about that? She took pain medication for her back because of scoliosis when she was growing up. She had Sesame Street characters tattooed on her calves. I was in awe of her.
Everyone was in awe of D. In the film, everyone was in awe of Nina, the dead girl, the best…
When Snow White and Prince Charming send their baby through a portal into another universe….
Just hear me out.
When Snow White and Prince Charming get pregnant on Once Upon a Time, they are so happy. Their daughter, Emma, is perfect, and wanted, and very much loved.
And then the evil queen comes around and tries to ruin it all. Because what else do evil queens do?
She sends a dark curse, because blackness must always be evil, so she sends a dark curse through the fairy realms to torture Snow White and Charming and their newborn innocent little girl…
That’s where I come from.
Only, I didn’t know it until very recently.
I can’t remember how it happened. I think we were driving to Monterey for our annual mother-daughter vacation. She turned to me and said, they died.
No, that’s not right.
You see what memory does to people who spend too long in the shadows built by these lies. Our memories slip away into the darkness, preceding us. Then we too begin to fade.
She turned to me and told me, your namesake came to the US in the 1930s with her sister. …
I lie about the strangest things.
When my head hurts so badly I can’t stand up, I tell people I’m having a bad day.
When I have to excuse myself to go be sick in the bathroom for half an hour, I come back and pretend nothing happened.
When I get sick with bronchitis and I don’t get better for three months, I lie to myself and everyone else that it’s not so bad, really, and anyway I’ll get better any day now.
Any day now.
When you’re sick all the time, you learn not to worry people. You learn…
I really don’t want to be grabbed, of course. Except when I want to be grabbed.
I really don’t want someone to come up and put his hand around my throat but I would be interested in that one man putting his hand around some other part of me and refusing to let me go.
The problem with modern consent is that there are also women like me.
I grew up reading NC-17 rated fanfiction and fantasy novels in which women born to be attracted to a little bit of pain had a lot of kinds of rough sex all…