18 January 2018

The Aftermath

I've been hesitant to write much in the last little while. The #metoo movement, while powerful and gratifying and very, very important, has also basically turned the world into one giant trigger.

I am not a thick-skinned person, and frankly, I don't really want to be. I have never figured out how to purposely block the bad stuff from getting in without blocking some good stuff in the process, and I would rather be a person who feels everything easily and over-abundantly than a person who struggles to feel anything at all. That's a personal choice, not an indictment of anyone else's way of experiencing the world. There have certainly been times in my life (usually when crying in front of someone who doesn't deserve and has not earned my vulnerability) where I've wished for a shell. But I don't have one, and the conversations currently swirling around sex and consent are unrelenting; it's less of a knockout blow than it is death by a thousand papercuts.

Full disclosure: I haven't been touched in a long time, not sexually. By choice, insofar as avoiding trauma is a choice. Sometimes I miss it. Other times, even masturbation leaves me in a sobbing heap.

My current profile labels me a stone femme. I think about those words a lot. It fits me, as I understand the term, and yet I don't quite understand how I can be stone and so easily hurt.

I think a lot too about Susie Orbach's "Fat is a Feminist Issue", and whether my body – my weight, my buzzed hair, my always-full-coverage clothing – are my defiant slashes to the patriarchy or another piece of armour I don't remember building.

I think about the people I've loved, and how we've hurt each other, and why some wounds heal so cleanly and others never do.

I think about how the older I get, the more I learn and grow, the harder it is to forgive myself for being harmed.

Twice, in the last two years, men violated my consent. In both cases they were men I knew well; in one case, a man I loved. They both skated expertly and neatly down the line between assault and "that sounds terrible, but…". I say this mainly as a lawyer; even as I lay there, panicked, hoping it would be over soon, I had run through all of the arguments that what they were doing was unlikely to be realistically prosecutable. In both cases I said no, but did I say it repeatedly and forcibly enough? I didn't fight. I didn't scream. I froze. We had pre-existing sexual relationships. Both were married to other women. None of these things should matter once the word "stop" left my lips, but they would be a non-starter in court, if I ever wanted to pursue that option.

In any case, I didn't. I wasn't upset because I was the victim of a definable crime, I was upset because people I cared for had treated me as though I didn't matter. I cried quietly during, and loudly later on, alone in my bed. But the physical experiences aren't the source of my trauma.

It's in my nature to give too many chances. Whether that's out of kindness or stupidity is really up for interpretation. Both of these men proclaimed themselves loudly and frequently to be feminists, and to care deeply about consent. The second, in fact, knew about the encounter with the first, and made a great display of having to restrain his full and manly fury toward my violator.

And yet and yet and yet.

Enough time has passed that I could describe what happened those two nights without too much pain, if I wanted. The way I curled into myself. The "stop", and then the "no", then the "please no". The chill in my body and the feeling of being somewhere else. Thinking about those things makes me quietly sad.

Thinking about the aftermath makes me angry.

I was a Good Communicator. I followed up. I explained how I had felt that night, how scared I had been, how it had surprised and then terrified me to find myself so unsafe in the company of people I trusted.

One told me that he "should have known" that I, with my (disabled, abuse-survivor) past, "couldn't take a joke." (When I replay this conversation, every time, in my head, I wittily respond, "are you calling your dick a joke?" Alas, in real life, I just cried more.) The other told me that this was not something we could discuss, because it "hurt him too badly to think that he had hurt me." When I told him I needed space to process, he followed up with aggressive and repeated proclamations of love. When I finally told him I still cared for him but did not feel safe being physically intimate with him anymore, he abruptly blocked me from contacting him, after a two year relationship.

I have been violently raped, in the universally accepted definition of that term, and I have dealt with that experience over a long period of time and with a lot of help. What made that easier was having a villain. I was hurt by a Bad Man. When the self-proclaimed Good Men hurt me, it didn't heal. They left something poisonous behind.

I don't have some brilliant insight into the current zeitgeist. I don't have a pithy moral. I have some pain, and I have some sadness, and I have some people who love and support me through that. I have had to let go of some of the ways in which sex used to feel central to my identity, at least for now, and for awhile I mourned that. I have to put a bit more energy these days into trust and into seeing the best in people, but it feels ultimately worth the effort. Not for anyone else's sake, but for my own.

With great love, always,


22 July 2017

On Loving the Broken Bits

When I was 16 I loved a man who did not love me back.

I say a man, not a boy, because that’s what he was. In his early 20s, I met him hanging around at my high school’s battle of the bands. He smoked but was trying to quit, and he had a bad tattoo his aspiring-artist friend had given him as “practice”, and he told me a slightly sad tale about his no-more-than-normally sad childhood. If you want to just replace his face with a neon sign reading “Cliché” for the rest of this story, I won’t hold it against you – that’s about how much of him I remember too.

If you ask me now how I lost my virginity, I will pause, and I will scrunch up my eyes, and then I will finally remember. Not because I was drunk, or high – I was a Very Good Girl, the subsequent Fucking by the Cliché notwithstanding - but because it was such a non-event.

On our second date, I asked him if he’d ever had sex before and he said yes, of course, what did I think of him, he and his old high school girlfriend, they totally did it. More than once, even. He showed me her picture and I was instinctively ashamed; she had perfect red lipstick and didn’t smile in photos; I had just gotten my braces off and my hands shook whenever I tried to line my eyes with dark eyeliner like the skinny goth girls who hung out under the stairs at school. I asked if we had to have sex to keep dating and he said yes, and that was that conversation.

When it came time to do the deed, on our third date, I asked if we could pause the TV, or at least turn off Jackass (I wish that were a joke). He put on American Beauty instead and took my clothes off clumsily while in the background Kevin Spacey fumbled his way through the ennui of middle class suburbia by trying to seduce his teenage daughter’s cheerleader best friend. He probably kissed me – I’m assuming he kissed me because my god, wouldn’t he have kissed me? – and then I laid down on my back and closed my eyes. I knew that the girl needed to lay still so the boy could thrust, and it would all be over soon and he’d be able to keep being my boyfriend. I’d touched and been touched before, at the back of the bus with the boys who’d heard I wouldn’t move my hand if they put it in their lap, and in the basement with the older brother of one of my best friends where I acted my way through my first faked orgasm to stop him from jamming his guitar-calloused fingers full force inside me.

I wasn’t the kind of girl who had friends who would tell her what to expect, or parents who would have talked about my right to my own body. I’d had some animated videos in third grade when my mom took me to a class with a public health nurse where I embarrassed myself by asking if boys had to wear pads to bed in case of wet dreams, since the takeaway I got from the available literature was that puberty brought pain and blood for girls and spontaneous nightly pleasure for boys.

I don’t carry that first time with me, not really. Not the act itself. It hurt a little, and then it didn’t, and then it was over. I cried, and he told me to get dressed because his mother would be home soon. We did it twice more before he told me that I was a cold fish, that there was something wrong with me, and that he was going back to his more age-appropriate girlfriend with the red lips and the angry glare.

I didn’t understand. I had tried so hard; the third time I’d even climbed on top of him like the girls in porn, although we were interrupted mid-way through when the library called me about an overdue book and I had to start over. I tried to seduce him back to me the only way I knew how; with logic and numbers. I told him if I loved him with all my heart and he loved me with half of his then didn’t we already have three quarters of what we needed? He laughed, and he left, and that was that.

I don’t carry the act with me, but I carry its implications. He’s a non-entity; I could barely conjure up his name as I wrote this. He’s never come up in therapy. But that dissociation I felt, apart from my body, and the knowledge that he knew, he knew I was no good at this, just as I had already suspected. I was no good, and he could feel it all the way down to his dick. That’s what embedded itself through my body like shrapnel.

I talk pretty openly about trauma. I don’t see why I shouldn’t. I carry with me no noticeable shame from events that occurred without my permission. I was raped, and then raped again, and then raped a third time for good measure. They pile on each other in my head, sometimes blurring until I don’t remember who did what. They pop up when I least expect them; when a friend touches me spontaneously, when I’m alone in a room with a man. But they’re not always there.

I’m thirty years old, and I’ve had sex with men where I wasn’t thinking about my trauma at all. I’ve had sex where I genuinely, 100% trusted my partner, and where he genuinely lived up to, at the very least, my expectations for a consensual experience.

But I have never, not once, across dozens of partners and almost fifteen years, had sex where I didn’t somehow, at the back of my mind, remember that I was no good at this, that I was a “cold fish”. Nobody with whom I could hold back from second-guessing myself at every touch, no one with whom I could refrain from asking over and over again, “am I doing this right?”, until they tired of my questions and moved on from me.

I’m not sure why I decided to write this all down. A friend asked me the other day to stop berating the parts of me that I think are broken, and to try loving them instead. It’s a hard ask. But if there’s one thing about me that my whole adult life I’ve been absolutely positive is a failure, it’s that inability to connect, that inability to let go and trust myself in the moment. And it’s made me so bitter, because I look around and see everyone else doing nothing but connecting, so easily it seems. I’m not ashamed of things that have been done to me, but I’m ashamed of things I haven’t been able to let my body do or feel.

I don’t know if I can love those bits of me yet. But I can be a little kinder to them, I suppose. A little gentler. There’s a whole part of me I’ve never bothered to nurture because I just didn’t see the point; I thought I already knew that nothing would grow there no matter how hard I tried. But it’s an empty space, not a dead or even necessarily damaged one. Maybe I’ll just be a little kinder.

Just as a start.

With great love,

18 May 2017

Riding Out My Depression Rodeo

This isn’t my first depression rodeo.

I had that thought this morning while trying to convince myself that yes, I could and should get out of bed, and yes, I could and should go to work, but mostly that yes, this too shall pass in time. It was a fortunate thought, because it made me giggle, and a good giggle can work momentary wonders when I’m still in the opening act of a depressive episode. Further down the line giggling gets harder, but while it’s still possible, I highly recommend it.

The thought of a depression rodeo elicited this response because I immediately pictured a rodeo made up entirely of terribly sad clowns, some slowly trying and failing to pull themselves up onto bored horses, some simply leaning against a fencepost while singing “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen” in a slow, moribund baritone. I hate clowns; the giggle may or may not have been mostly schadenfreude at the delightful thought of a clown having a miserable day. I can’t be a nice person all the time, you know.

Seasonal Affective Disorder largely hits people through the winter, but having been a dedicated non-conformist from a very early age, I fall into the 10% of SAD sufferers whose depression develops or peaks in the summer months. My best mental health generally starts when the leaves begin to fall and everything withers and dies - did I ever mention I was a goth in high school? - and drops back when the heat begins to climb in the spring.  And while the very deepest darkest days of December do indeed take their toll on me, it’s really the relentless summer heat that does me in; my dreary Montreal winters can mostly be mitigated by basic Vitamin D supplements. (*I actually take Vitamin D year-round, as my skin is the of the variety kindly described as “porcelain” and not-so-kindly described as “possessing a sort of deathly pallor”, so the most natural source of vitamin D mostly just causes me to turn a bright cooked lobster red. We can’t all tan, you know. Ask your doctor if sunshine is right for you.)

There are some bright sides to my annual depression rodeo. I write more, for one thing, taking the therapeutic approach of documenting my crushing sadness for posterity, and in my humble opinion, my writing actually becomes funnier. It’s sardonic humour, gallows humour, but it’s there. Given that my usual approach to humour is a mix of bad puns and an inability to understand other people’s jokes, this can only be seen as an improvement.

My social life is also enriched by depression, if only because I go from having very few conversations in my introverted daily life to having multiple chats with the mean girl who lives in my head. “You’re disgusting and worthless and will never amount to anything” I hear immediately upon awakening, and after checking to make sure it’s not just a voicemail from my oft-disappointed-in-me-Father, I realize I’m in for another full day fielding such constructive criticisms from somewhere in the depths of my crooked brain. Depression is the friend I can take everywhere, from sobbing in the shower to barely containing my sobs on the metro. Who needs to seek out healthy companionship and love when you’re never actually alone?!

My ability to find new flaws in my body, a body that fluctuates throughout the year but usually reaches peak squishiness in my happy dark winter days, is heightened during this period as well. My capacity for uncovering new modes of self-hatred becomes almost a sixth sense; I spent yesterday dreading every time I needed to leave my desk for fear that the swish of my legs rubbing together as I walked was making me “sound fat.” Did you know fat had a sound? You would if you had my Depression Superpowers.

Keep in mind, this depression is not yet full-blown. Oh no, not by a long shot. I am merely melancholy on the cusp of despondent. Historically speaking we are still weeks, or even months away from the point where there is nowhere to go but up. And yet –
Up is nevertheless still an option.

I forget that, usually, around this time. “Here we go again” I comment morosely to my inner voice. “Here we do indeed, you unlovable cunt” she gleefully agrees, before enumerating my many flaws with staggering thoroughness and accuracy.

Giggling at my sad clowns this morning, though, I found myself thinking of my mom, who is one of those remarkable people who can find the light in almost anything. And not in that obnoxious, “everything happens for a reason, always look on the bright side” way. She just somehow sees the quiet thread of humour running through even the darkest night. “Well, you have to laugh” she often tells me, sympathetically, after I’ve recounted my latest anxiety or defeat. And she’s usually right. Depression is horrible and monstrous and debilitating, but it is also often, at its core, a bit ridiculous.

Maybe the idea that my own personal depression rodeo is an annual, inevitable summer-long event that will happen rain or shine and despite my every precaution is a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Not because you can will away depression – oh Lord, if only – but because here, before the tipping point, there is still time and space for me to laugh in its face. To communicate my fears and needs with loved ones, to seek support where I can, and to face the various absurdities of my thought patterns head-on.

There is still time hang a sign that says “Depression Rodeo Cut Short Due to Unforeseen Circumstances; Come Back Next Year. Or Don’t.”

It might put some clowns out of work, but hey, isn’t that just an added bonus?

With great love,


21 February 2017

There Ain't No Party Like an Autistic Party (Because I Just Stay Home)

I wish I’d known what a shutdown was when I hid in my Disney Princess Tent in a corner of SadistFaction’s apartment, waiting for the party to be over.

Some of you will remember that party, a few years back. It went until 3am. I had been excited to see my friends, excited to play. Until the party kept going, and going, and going. I was supposed to be staying the night, and at that point still lived on the other side of the city. I don’t handle cabs well (something about being alone in a car with strangers. Let’s not go there). So I stayed, hiding in a children’s tent Daddy had bought me to colour in while he watched hockey. I hid, and I shook, and I cried.

I remember friends checking in on me, and the assumption, as ever, was that I was not very good at handling being present when my Daddy was playing with other people.

Which, uh, yup, this is a true thing about me. Fact! I do not handle that well. It took me a long time and conversations with much wiser people than me to finally grasp that being poly didn’t mean I had to actually be comfy physically watching my partner play with others. Fancy that. That I wasn’t some green-eyed monster for preferring to just let him have his fun without me and come home for snuggles. Which is what I do now, which enables me to watch whatever I want on his huge TV AND have a satisfied Daddy come home to tuck me in. WINNER.

However. Hiding in the tent. That was something else.

When people think about Autism, one of the things they think about, whether they know that’s what it’s called or not, are the meltdowns. If you’ve watched a movie or TV show with a stereotypical portrayal of an Autistic person*, then you have seen a meltdown. Rocking and screaming or crying, head banging into walls, flailing arms, self-harm. Part of being Autistic means that it feels like the volume on everything – all your senses – is turned up to eleven all the time. So overwhelming environments, especially ones where you feel trapped – those are turned up to more like fifteen. Cue the headbanging (which, yes, I have had and continue to occasionally have this type of meltdown. And let me tell you, if you told young living-in-a-small-punkrock-free-town me that when I was thirty and marginally cooler and living in an honest-to-goodness city that this is still the only kind of headbanging I would be doing, she would be *sorely* disappointed.)

What I had in the tent, though, that wasn’t a meltdown. The meltdown came later, when everyone finally left, when I managed to shuffle out into the kitchen to wave goodbye to the last stragglers before collapsing in a sobbing heap on the floor, unable to breathe. Nope, in the tent, what I had was a shutdown. I have two theories about why you see more meltdowns than shutdowns in media portraying folks on the spectrum. One, anecdotally, shutdowns seem to occur more in women than men, and most Autistic characters in movies and TV are men (that’s a whole other rant). And two, shutdowns are just not that interesting, visually. It’s literally just like powering down your computer. Well, actually, it’s more like your computer overheats and crashes and you start to panic because you really really need to use it, like, stat, for something really important, and you’re not sure how long you’re going to have to let it cool down before you restart.

When I’m in a shutdown, I have very little ability to function. I generally go non-verbal, or if I am able to speak, it’s in short sentences, barely above a whisper. I cannot keep myself safe. If it happens in public, I am utterly vulnerable. My body more or less shuts down. I remember that party so vividly. I remember trying to force myself up and out into the main room, to speak, to cry out, anything. I couldn’t move my body, not even to go ask for help. I covered my ears. I curled up in a ball.

The thing that people don’t seem to get sometimes about what I experience is that it’s not the same as anxiety. That’s not to say that anxiety isn’t debilitating as well; I have expertise in that area as well. But the kind of overwhelmed that I get – it’s physical. It is a physical pain. Sensory overload is basically when all your senses go “nope, I’ve had it, that’s enough for me, thanks”.

I’m writing about this now because, honestly, I’ve been feeling bummed out about missing my friends from the scene. And I don’t need to justify myself to anyone, I know that. But it kind of helps to justify it to myself. I can’t go to parties anymore. Period. A couple of times a year, I go to a queer party, and I stay a couple of hours, and I leave before the playing starts. The specific events I go to are ones where I know I have a safe space, where I know that there are people there who understand my challenges and who know what to do if something happens to me. That’s it for me.

But I was at a munch on Saturday seeing wonderful friends, and everyone was talking about the party they were all going to that night, and I felt a pang of regret. I miss everyone so much. I really do. More than I can describe.

I’ve been working so hard on my self-care lately. I don’t want to dwell on bad things that have happened in the past. But out of the six years I’ve been part of the Montreal fetish scene, I spent about five of them trying to pretend I wasn’t Me, trying to pretend that if I pushed myself past my boundaries enough times then they’d stop being boundaries. And as much as I miss you guys, I don’t miss the shutdowns or the meltdowns. I don’t miss wondering what was wrong with me every Sunday morning when I’d wake up in tears.

There’s probably a happy medium for me somewhere. I’ll keep working on finding it, and I’ll keep treasuring the people who have taken such good care of me while I’m looking. But I won't regret taking care of myself. Not for one more minute.

With great love,

 (*side note: I use identity-first language, i.e. Austistic person, not person-first language, i.e. a person with Autism. It’s not something I’m afflicted with; it’s a fundamental part of who I am that can’t and shouldn’t be separated out from me.)

31 January 2017


Is a place that I know well 
It's the distance between us 
And the space inside ourselves 
And emptiness.... 
Is the chattering in your head 
It's the call of the living 
And the race from life to death 
Woa and I know Yes and I know What you feel... 

And I've got a longin' 
That's hard to find 
Won't give me no peace of mind 
Something that I've lived with all along 
Days and weeks and months and years 
Filling in the time my dear 
Tryin' to find the place where I belong

- Annie Lennox, "Loneliness"

I feel unbearably lonely lately.

Not the loneliness of being actually alone. I leave my house, I go to work, I make myself socialize. I have individual people I love, individual people who love me back. I am lucky in that sense. I am not alone.

I’m feeling the loneliness that stems from the lack of a community, I think. Or maybe my lack of close relationships just becomes more acute without at least a group of peers. Up until a few years ago I was mostly able to stave off these feelings because I at least marginally belonged to the artificially constructed community created by school. But in truth, I’ve never had a group of friends, and that’s something that bothers me more and more the older I get. I struggle with all interactions, but I especially do not know how to interact with groups. If I absolutely have to interact with more than one person at once, I’ll cling to the person I know the best and basically focus all of my attention on them. Most interactions in general leave me feeling lonelier than when I started, because I'm not making any kind of connection with the person or people in front of me.

I find this so difficult to explain, because when I do, people just reassure me that “everyone feels this way” before they rush off to have coffee with their group of friends or “catch up with their old gang” from high school. And for a long time, I assumed it was an autism thing, but the more I interact with other autistic folks, the more it seems like it’s just a me thing – even the most socially awkward of my friends on the spectrum have their gaming group, or their knitting group, or even just a group of online friends they have in jokes with. They have people they can be themselves around.

Lately this is eating at me for reasons I can’t quite explain. I burst into tears at tweens an actual third of my age (when did I get old enough to equal three times a tween???) hashtagging their squad goals, whatever the heck that means. I cannot watch a fucking yogurt commercial, where women in Lululemon pants laugh together about how great their digestion is going to be after all these probiotics, without teetering on a meltdown. It feels like I am missing some fundamental part of the human experience that is only closed off to me and that is just this casual, everyday, taken-for-granted thing for everyone else.

Again, none of this is technically new to me, even from when I was a little kid. I have always been weirdly close with my family while not actually feeling as though I am a part of my family, or like we are anything but a random assortment of people who happen all relate to one another. They are a bit like strangers I love very much. I am closest with my mom, and we talk almost daily, but I would still never dream of telling her an emotion I was experiencing about a personal matter.

Interpersonal relationships puzzle me on so many levels. The girl I consider my best friend is someone I’ve known since I was five, been close with since probably fifth or sixth grade, I’m an honourary Auntie to her amazing daughter… and we speak once, maybe twice a year. When we do talk, we talk almost entirely in a set of pop culture references that are really only funny to us. I love her to bits and I’d fight dragons for her if it ever came to that. But all this without any actual communication or feeling of connection.

I’ve been pushing myself to be more social lately, and I think that’s contributing to the lonely feelings. Every interaction just seems to drive home to me just how little I understand about having friends. Some of it is that I am trying really hard to be a somewhat social person – as much as my spoons will allow – and people seem to be excited to hear from me and see me when I make contact, but… I don’t think anyone has initiated contact and reached out to spend time with me in… well, years, actually.

People like me. That’s not the issue. I’m generally a likeable human, apart from being someone who talks WAY too much and always realizes they're coming up on a boundary shortly after sprinting/skidding across it. And it’s not a matter of not trying. I’ve pushed myself onto the fringe of many a social group and been more or less tolerated. In junior high, for about a year I went every day to lunch with this group of three girls. They were already a group of friends but they seemed okay with seeing me every day, and I was over the moon. I remember saying to them one day that I was excited to be part of their group, and they all kind of did this little side-eye thing before the nicest one said in her kindest voice: “well, I mean, you’re not really one of us”.

I think, what I want more than anything, is to be part of an “us”. It kills me that I don’t know how to do that. If they gave out points for trying, I’d be topping the leaderboard, believe me.

I don’t really have a clever or pithy way to end this post. Usually, when I write about something I’m facing, it’s a way of helping me to work out a solution. My best guess for a solution in this situation is that I need to just suck it up and accept that I’m not meant to belong in that way, but that feels like it’s going to leave me more depressed than I was when I started writing, so that won’t do.

Somewhere, deep in the dark recesses of the internet, there’s a still-existent website that hosts much of my wonderfully terrible teenage poetry, which, in true Katie fashion, runs the gamut from philosophical musings on Tigger from Winnie the Pooh to alarmingly angsty stuff that is thankfully not searchable by my name lest it be a red flag of psychological unwellness to my future employers. And while I know that “nobody understands me” is basically the battle cry of teenagers everywhere, it feels like everyone else either outgrew it or learned to hide it better than I have.

On a near-daily basis I ask my Daddy some variation on “am I yours?”; “will you keep me?; and “do I belong to you?” I know he wonders why it never seems to sink in that the answer is a resounding “yes”, but the thing is that I already know the answer – it just helps to keep hearing it. Belonging, to me, is an emotion as much as a state of being, and it’s one that’s always felt out of reach to me. For now, though, feeling for that one minute a day when I ask that question and get my answer that yes, I belong somewhere, to someone – there is at least one “us” to which I am an integral part - that’ll have to be enough.

With great love,

08 January 2017

On Letting My Soul Shine in 2017

When you can't find the light/That guides you through a cloudy day,
When the stars ain't shinin' bright/You feel like you've lost your way,
When those candle lights of home/Burn so very far away,
Well you got to let your soul shine/Just like my daddy used to say.

He used to say soulshine/It's better than sunshine,
It's better than moonshine/Damn sure better than rain.
Hey now people don't mind/We all feel this way sometime,
Got to let your soul shine/Shine till the break of day.

-The Allman Brothers Band, Soulshine

2016 was a year of spectacular suckitude for many of us. The deaths of our musical, athletic, and cinematic heroes aside, it feels more broadly like there was an overabundance of woe and calamity, from ill health and loss on the personal level to the world going to hell in a handbasket more generally. Whether this is just due to how our brains perceive the universe, acutely picking up on pain while ignoring beauty, or due to some sort of actual quantifiable calamity is kind of moot (and hearing how other years “had it worse” is not helpful – way to be super tone-deaf, New York Times.)

Globally, I have pretty limited control over whether or not 2017 carries on in 2016’s proud tradition of sucking donkey balls. We certainly have plenty of reasons to think it’s going to be a tough one. On the personal level, though, I have some thoughts.

See, I haven’t made any resolutions this January. I’m not really big on resolutions. I did make a number of plans and colour-coded schedules (god, that should be a fetish), broken down into achievable steps and goals. These mainly involve Very Boring Grownup Tasks, like sticking to a bedtime that works for me, planning my meals ahead, and flossing on a semi-regular basis (i.e. more than just directly before every dentist's appointment. Apparently, you can’t just skip the rest of the time and then aggressively attack and inflame your gums for ten minutes twice a year. WHO KNEW?) These tasks mainly have to do with knowing what it is I need, as an Autistic introvert, to keep myself in good enough mental and physical health to maintain healthy relationships, and to have the energy to pursue the things I love. 2016 was a year of even deeper solitude than usual for me. In some ways, that gave me some rest I needed. In other ways, though, I lost out badly. I had relatively little human contact, and could manage less and less as the year went on and my health spiralled (Side note: 2016 was also the Year of the Auto-Immune Diagnosis for me. Don’t look for it on the Chinese calendar; I think it’s one of the ones that got dropped in favour of the Year of the Snake. Solid choice on their part; snakes are much cooler.)

So no resolutions, just taking advantage of that “fresh start” feeling of January to try create a space where I can take better care of myself throughout the year. Secretly, though, I do have something in the way of a larger (and thematically richer) target in mind.

The thing about the relentlessness of the pain and the sadness out there in the universe – pain and sadness that has been there forever but that has felt a little too close to home for many of us recently – is that it can blind you to some of the neat stuff. And when I say neat, I mean breathtakingly beautiful. Glorious. Dazzling. One of the fun things about the way my brain works is that I feel everything a little too much (I may know I’m autistic now, but as a kid my parents basically just had to keep reading “Raising Your Highly Sensitive Child” over and over again.) My capacity for hurt is set way too high. So too, though, is my capacity for joy, when I have the energy to find the space inside me for it.

So, yeah. I guess I have a resolution after all, if we have to call it that. I’m not resolving to socialize more or practice my guitar more or do anything else that brings me happiness but requires energy, because I know those things will come when I am ready. Instead, I’m just resolving to be good to myself in very practical ways. To put away my laundry and make my bed and write up my grocery lists far in advance, not in the name of self-care in the abstract or earning the every-elusive Functional Adult Merit Badge, but as a concrete way of rebuilding my joy-capacity. Like changing the oil in your car not because the little light comes on and you know you should, but because you know it will provide you with better performance in the long run (Look Daddy, a car metaphor just for you! Did I do it right? Is that what that light means?). And it will be tough and painful in places, and I will call myself an idiot multiple times for thinking that flossing = noticeable overall increase in jubilation.

But I’m going to try, because futile optimism à la Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt has always been one of my best qualities.

In 2017, I resolve to let my soul shine. Just try and stop me.

With great love,

04 December 2016

On Being a Happily Unsexy Penguin

A Yo Yo Ma concert is a weird place to realize you’ll never be sexy.

I mean. I’m not sure there’s a really normal place to have that thought? And I’m not sure what sort of thoughts classical cello is meant to inspire. Nevertheless.

The thought itself wasn’t Bach-related. There was a stunningly beautiful woman seated ahead of SadistFaction and I. She seemed more interested in taking selfies than in the music, which bugged me, but it bugged me in different way than the guy on the other side of me texting did, which is how I knew I was jealous.  She carried herself with the full knowledge of her beauty, a degree of confidence that felt shocking and invasive to me. Tight pants, and a bra peeking out from under a fitted blazer with just one button done up. Sweet Jesus. As a queer, insecure girl, when looking at a woman like that the line between attraction and envy for me can be so fine I never know what side I’m on (the real answer, of course, is that I’m usually straddling it). I looked at her, and I thought… “Damn. I could never be like that.”

When I say I’ll never be sexy, I don’t mean, of course, that I don’t think anyone will ever want sex with me. I don’t even mean that I don’t think anyone checks me out, or likes it when I post scantily clad photos. But when I try to be consciously sexy – the pout, the posture – I am trying. Hard. It is an effort. And more often than not, I’m asked instead… “Why aren’t you smiling? You’re cuter when you smile.”

And I am, you know. Super cute. Devastatingly cute. Lovers fall prostrated before my cuteness, dontcha know. I can be hot, too. I have some low-cut tops and some bras that create a truly glorious illusion of cleavage. I have serious hips, hips that don’t lie, hips that if they knock you down, you stay down.

But sexy? I’ve wanted to be sexy since well before it was a healthy idea/ideal for me to be aiming toward. I tried being thin, and being overeager. I tried being innocent, and I’ve tried being bold. And every time, it was like putting on a skin that didn’t fit. And I thought I just needed to try harder.

That’s not the answer, though. There’s not a magical weight, a magical amount of self-confidence, or a magical posture. I am not sexy, in the same way that I am not athletic. I can work hard and trick people’s perceptions for a moment, in the same way that I can run fast for terribly short distances.

I used to sob after gym class, every time, because I was not used to failure. I worked so hard, but my body is meant for other things (tripping while walking *up* stairs, primarily.) For years, as a competitive, people-pleasing perfectionist, this devastated me. My brain could always do anything I asked it to. Why couldn’t my body?

Eventually, though, I accepted that I could be a klutz, a dork, a graceless penguin, and… I could still do sports (I mean, not a lot, as evidenced by the expression “do sports”). Actually, when I stopped pressuring myself, they started being kind of fun. Did you know that if you can laugh when you accidentally hit yourself in the head with a tennis racket instead of hitting the ball – and yes, I’ve done that – it becomes funny instead of embarrassing?

I need to learn to laugh at myself more. That’s never been my strong suit, but unlike innate sexiness, I’m fairly sure it’s an attainable goal. I need to learn that if I’m happiest when dressed like my Hard Femme Pretty Princess self, combat boots and flowery tights and 50s dress, then that’s when I’m my best self. I need to learn that appreciating what I have is healthier than bemoaning what I don’t.

They took pictures of us at work recently for our website, and we just got them back. I hated mine. It was taken from alarmingly close-up (like, do people checking out my office online need to see my pores?), and I thought I looked a bit like a chipmunk with too many chins storing nuts for the winter. I asked a co-worker what she thought, cringing as I waited to hear the bad news.

“Oh my god, your smile is amazing!” she said. “You have a smile that makes me feel like you’re everyone’s friend!”


I think I’ll leave the sexy pouting to the professionals.

With great love,