New single!

My band, Wild Spells, released a new single called The Storm today.

 

Wild Spells is a collision between the heaviness of doom metal and the intricacy of folk, with soft vocals and shimmering keys contrasting heavy guitar and bass. The Storm is a song about my struggle to come to terms with an abusive relationship over a decade after its conclusion, recovery, and the stigma of talking openly about abuse. 

I’m still unlearning toxic behaviors I internalized as "normal" at such a young age. It’s funny how predators can identify when a person is at their most vulnerable and take advantage of it. My abuser, who was nearly 20 when he targeted me as a 15-year-old, pressured me to enter a relationship during a time of immense transition in my life.

The years I spent in a physically and emotionally abusive relationship have shaped who I am today. For years well into adulthood, I've struggled to allow myself to express vulnerability around others.

It’s no accident that nearly every person close to me in my life is a victim or survivor of similar abuse. We all gravitate to each other because we get it. There’s no explaining away our triggers or trying to ignore our anxieties—we just feel openly and express willingly.

The good news: the current people in my life have demonstrated that kindness, unconditional love, and healthy vulnerability is possible. My bandmates and friends have done everything they can to encourage discourse about abuse, keep abusers out of our music scene, and protect other young, vulnerable women who might be in the same position as I was.

This song is my attempt at presenting this emotional evolution to the world. If you’re a person who has felt threatened by patriarchal power structures, this is for you. If you’re someone who has wondered how it must feel to live a life without abuse, this song is for you. If you have survived, you’re recovering, or you are a victim, this is for you. I love you, and you are worthwhile.

Old Poetry: Meter Shower

Delicate mauve stinger
drifts through sunlit aqua shadows.

Above, a chunk of bone-white moon
hangs between molar clouds.

Peaks bare their fangs in response.
The invertebrate shimmers and shines

as chondrites smatter the ocean’s surface.
Tentacles split apart. Lappets float free
among glass spheres and death stones.

Oh, how we press on.
How we slink onto the porch

to drink morning coffee and submerge
in wordplay black-and-whites.

How we unhinge our jaws
at the sky as it grins back, sinister.

And the air rains rocks
and the jellyfish is torn apart
            and the woman crosses out
another folded paper answer.

Transitions

In two days, I'll have been single for a year.

One year since I broke the heart of someone I will always love deeply. One year since I drove away from the home we shared with a bag packed, crying so hard I couldn’t breathe. Calling Katrine over and over again from my car, screaming and praying she would pick up. Pulling over twice on the way to her duplex to try to calm my gasps, worried about veering into the other lane and crashing. Feeling my seams split and gossamer threads loosen out, myself unwinding, unfurling out and out and out until I was only a straight thread.

One year since unpacking my clothes in dim light in Katrine’s spare bedroom at 1am. Remembering I forgot my anxiety meds at the house. Realizing it was no longer “the house.” Staring at the wall in the dark and listening to my own raspy breath.

One year since unpacking the last box in the kitchen of my new apartment. Sitting in the middle of the floor, watching the drywall shapes on the ceiling change until I realized I was crying again. Feeling the loose seams of myself I had barely sewed together split apart again because this was my home now.

One year since arranging my furniture and donating most of my clothes. Resisting the urge to cut off all my hair. Buying bath bombs and cooking fresh meals and engrossing myself in the same six lighthearted sitcoms so I wouldn’t have to think too much about the constant pit in my stomach. Feeling it shrink a little every day, but the difference was too small to notice.

One year since I learned who this new person was. This Erin, post-college, post-four-year-relationship, post-first-adult-job, post-trauma, post-everything. This new woman who gets to be only her and no one else.

I’ve survived. I’m on the other side of it all. The seams of me are neatly sewn. I’m full of only myself. I even feel lonely again, but not that kind of familiar post-breakup loneliness. It’s more of a knowledge that I want to be with someone again. That I’m ready and looking forward to it. That I’m tired of waiting for my person, but we’ll find each other eventually. But for now, I’m good. I’m good.

On Grammar and Pretension

I just don’t trust people who are into “proper grammar” and “correct punctuation." What lies just beyond that brand of smug superiority is sinister classism that gets acutely racist in a red hot minute. So, for similar reasons, I’m instantly wary of anyone who takes great pride in their love of “logic” and “intellect." It's a dark part of pretension that I used to feed constantly. 

I’m kind of a jerk. I won’t drink PBR because I think it tastes like an armpit, which results in me buying exclusively microbrews at bars--even dive bars with four terrible domestic beers and one Sierra Nevada on tap. I’ll buy that Sierra Nevada even though I hate Sierra Nevada no matter what it costs, whether I can afford it or not, to avoid the taste of a PBR. Just because I hate one thing a little less than another. That’s pretentious.

I like living in the North End because I feel more comfortable in my little pocket of Boise, as opposed to settling in the suburbs among the sprawl. I get anxious driving out to Meridian because I know I won’t be able to find a local coffee shop. That’s pretentious. 

I buy $5 half gallons of organic milk from a local dairy farm that lets you come pet their cows. That’s probably the most pretentious thing I do.

I could go on, but you get the point.

However, I'm not the kind of jerk who determines that the quality of a person's thoughts stems from your ability to communicate them using elitist systems like grammar and punctuation. And, believe me, I used to be that jerk.

In college, I was the ultimate champion of grammar advocates. I used to strain my eyes late at night over my classmates’ workshop stories, aching to catch the next comma splice or misspelling of the word “weird.” People hated me. They referred to me as the “grammar nazi.” Of course, I pointed out how problematic it was to use the word “nazi” in such casual ways (can we not belittle the experience of six million people who suffered terrible deaths and the others who barely escaped with their lives?), and the cycle of pretension continued.

I digress: people who pick apart the grammar of others who want to be included in conversation but might not have the educational tools to articulate fluently and perfectly . . . just suck. I sucked. It took a while for me to realize that not all people are privileged enough to enter an educational system that teaches proper grammar (often due to systems of institutionalized racism and classism like redlining). Eventually, I learned that good ideas and thoughts come from people without formal education and I became a better person.

Those who can't articulate with perfect precision still have good ideas worthy of consideration. Just because I'm a trained writer doesn't give me the authority to dismiss a person's worthwhile ideas if they aren't written to my standards.

Pretentious, to me, is not a permanent state of being. It’s my ability to admit my many flaws and problems because I’m growing and changing and blinking my eyes and waking up every morning with the purpose of getting better. There are some pretentious jerks out there who aren’t going to recognize their problems, and they’ll be stuck in the same rut of falsified intellectual superiority for the rest of their lives until everyone becomes sick of their smug sense of self and bails. That's real toxicity. 

The Gal in the Band

I had a really interesting and frustrating experience playing The NeuroLux with Wild Spells back in April.

The band was setting up, and I realized I left my 1/8 to ¼ cable that connects my laptop to the bass amp at the practice space. We had been messing with our setup the night before and I forgot to unplug it from the PA.

I realized my mistake quickly once I started setting up, and I let Eric know because he had the keys to the van. I figured I would run back to the space, grab the cable, and race back for sound check.

The sound guy overheard me saying I was missing a cable, but instead of coming directly to me, the person on stage who was playing this instrument, he went straight up to Eric and asked what kind of cable I needed. I tried to interrupt Eric and tell the sound guy myself (especially because the guys often forget I need a 1/8 to ¼ instead of a generic ¼ to ¼ instrument cable), but Eric replied anyway with the wrong answer. The sound guy disappeared and then reappeared with the wrong cable. He handed it to Eric, who handed it to me.

This was frustrating for so many reasons. I hated feeling dismissed by the sound guy, like asking me what I needed wasn’t even an option. I hated that he automatically gravitated toward the closest man on stage to answer a question about my instrument that would have taken a lot less time for me to explain. I hated having to go back to the sound guy and ask for the correct cable and having him sneer in my face, like somehow the mixup was my fault. I hated knowing that if Eric was missing a cable for his setup, that sound guy would have never come to me to ask what Eric was missing.

And the thing I hated the most was my band mate–-one who I have had so many discussions with about gender and feminism in music--responded to this like a microaggression wasn’t happening.

Now, to Eric’s defense, he did realize his mistake immediately when I (angrily) pointed this out. He was great about it, listening to my frustration without getting defensive, and he almost immediately apologized for the encounter. He promised to send people my way if they had questions about my instrument or setup in the future. It was awesome, and I’m really appreciative of the way he handled it.

This wasn't the first incident of blatant sexism playing with Wild Spells, and it’s not even close to being the last. I’m worn out. I’m so lucky to be playing with such amazing dudes, but there’s always so much to work on in the music industry, both with microaggressions and institutionalized sexism.

Old poetry: Finding a Lover in St. Mungo's Cathedral

Deceivingly Presbyterian,
St. Mungo leers at human faces
through Scottish fog.

Inside, groves of stone saplings
sprawl up and hold hands
at the corner of the cathedral.

I look for your frame
in every arch.

Chart the topography
of your collarbone
in every column,
and study the lovely
architecture of your back.

Through your bending bones
stained light breaks
Paul’s face in half.

The rays, like leaves,
brush my arm,
warm, and
soft.

I wrote this three years ago and nothing has changed

Last night I made a lot of terrible choices. This isn’t even a drunk story. I wish it was a drunk story. That way, I would be able to excuse myself from the things I did last night. “Yeah, yeah,” I’d say, waving my hands in front of the mouths of forlorn friends, “I was drunk, though. Drunk Erin doesn’t have a lot of hindsight so she just kind of does whatever. It’s fine.” But no. I can’t excuse how bad I was at being an adult last night. No exceptions. Just regrets.

I was already tired from hosting an event at the bookstore, so I figured the best way to make my life miserable was to do the complete opposite of everything I needed to do, which was go home, have a healthy dinner, and get extra sleep before my staff meeting at 8:30 the following day. Instead of doing any of these things, I went to Spacebar and distracted myself with beer and Galaga for a solid hour, then I took myself to see Star Trek, skipping dinner, of course.

(Star Trek, by the way, was completely mediocre. I have a running theory that I am, once again, set adrift to sail to the “Island of Misfit Hipsters Who Don’t Like Things Hipsters are Supposed to Like” because the entire movie was like, “PREDICTABLE PLOT TWISTS” and “EXPLOSIONS/COOL GRAPHICS/SOUND IN SPACE” and “SPOCK DOESN’T HAVE FEELINGS BUT HE DOES” and “EVERYTHING ALWAYS WORKS OUT AND THERE ARE NO EMOTIONAL OR PHYSICAL CONSEQUENCES.” I get that it’s Star Trek. I get it. But I still wanted more from it, like what I took away from the first film where characters were emotionally conflicted beyond what was going on externally around them and not every scene with dialog was committed to clever witticisms that winked at the original show. I digress.)

As I sat in the theatre, alone, taking up one seat with my greasy, oil-soaked popcorn and another with my purse. Couples scrambled to find seats next to each other. I did not budge. I did not even twitch my arm in the direction of my purse to see if I could make extra room. This was my date night. Not yours. Mine.

I shoved another fistful of popcorn in my mouth aggressively in their direction. My stomach was beginning to hurt from all the grease. I ignored it.

The movie ended at 11:35 exactly. I had to be up in less than eight hours for the meeting, so I went straight home. By then, the popcorn had congealed into a concrete block at the pit of my stomach, and I knew it would only get worse if I didn’t eat something. 

At this point, I had already made the mistake of consuming gross theatre popcorn and beer within hours of each other and depriving myself of the sleep I knew I needed. The last thing I wanted to do was prepare an entire meal for myself at midnight. I was conflicted. I opened the freezer and saw a crumpled, mostly empty bag sitting alone in the far left corner. Pizza rolls it was.

Ignoring the obvious freezer burn, I shoved about 15 rolls in my toaster oven. 25 minutes later I pulled them out, but they looked flat and deflated. The brick in my lower intestine hardened even more and my stomach made a sad, drone-y type of noise. It transcended a growl. It was more of a cry for help. A, “please, don’t, but do” kind of noise. I threw some hot sauce on and called it good. Everything can be fixed with Frank’s Red.

About a half an hour after eating the pizza rolls in bed, I started to feel nauseous. “Noooo,” I said to myself as I clutched my cat for comfort. “This isn’t going to happen.” Marlowe blinked back at me and casually hopped off the bed, leaving me alone to suffer.

I managed to fall asleep for about an hour before I woke up and projectile vomited spicily all over my bedroom floor. This continued for about four hours throughout the night. I poisoned myself. Almost knowingly. Out of laziness. I am an adult woman who actually poisoned herself with old pizza rolls that were obviously not safe to eat and greasy popcorn I didn’t even enjoy.

I contemplated not coming to the meeting, but I was so amazed at how terrible I was at living in those 10 hours that I forced myself to get up and try to feign adulthood by doing the responsible thing. My stomach started to settle by the time I got in the shower. Everything was going to be okay.

But here I am, at 2:30 in the afternoon, sitting here with a stomach ache and droopy eyes, reliving last night with absolute mortification. And the best part is I could have kept it to myself. I could have told no one. It would have been my embarrassing secret, but I think the internet needs to know that I, in fact, do not have a single shit together. Not. a single. shit.

What is it like to have Seasonal Affective Disorder and Other Winter Nonsense

I wake up.

The days are similar. I wake up, shower, and run out the door with only 10 minutes to spare before work. I take the same route to my parking garage every afternoon and park in the same spot facing 9th St. The snow is crunchy under my feet these days. It falls overnight, melts during the day as the sun pulsates on the roof of Hotel 43, and freezes again when the sun sets at 5pm.

I walk into work right on time and talk with my desk mate for a while. Her name is V, and she’s my favorite person in the office. We catch up about our weekends, what weird stuff her husband has done lately, my headaches and her back pain, and how cold it is sitting next to the window. I unfold my laptop, drape my scarf over my chair, and check my email.

Sometimes, I get distracted by how pretty the view is from my window. I’ll be in the middle of writing a case study and I’ll look to my left. Suddenly, snow is billowing down from the sky in swirling tufts. It feels so different to be three stories up to witness snowfall. We’re so close to the action. I get to watch the flakes fall all the way to the ground.

Wednesday evening, we have our company Christmas party. Everyone from the office is there, huddled around a banquet table at Solid. I sit awkwardly next to K (my other favorite person in the office) and V. Almost everyone has a “plus one” except for me. I’ve asked a couple of friends if they could come, but they’re all either with family for the holidays or working. I feel vulnerable at the table. Alone. I’m the only person who decided to wear a dress. It’s navy blue with pockets so I don’t have to constantly dig for my phone. Why don’t more dresses have pockets? This is a seriously untapped market. I’ve curled my hair and pinned one side back, revealing my shiny, fake diamond earrings. I’m overdressed compared to everyone else, but this is the first work Christmas party I’ve ever been to. I wanted to be.

K and V laugh at my dumb jokes during dinner–I can’t figure out if it’s out of pity or they genuinely think I’m funny–and we take a goofy selfie together. I’m actually happy with the way I look in it. K says he looks like a doof, but I think he looks just like K. Funny in that “I could give a care” way. I’m glad he’s here to chat with me about Marlowe and the Pokemon tournament we’re holding at work.

After dinner, we go back to the office for drinks and fudge. I build a quick playlist on Spotify called “Actually Good - Christmas Songs for People Who Don’t Suck” for the evening, and everyone seems to really like it. Did you know Twisted Sister has a Christmas album called Twisted Christmas? I have a glass of wine and a cup of cranberry punch V and I make in the kitchen. We laugh as we pour an entire bottle of champagne into the punch bowl, wondering if anyone will even drink it. 

At FFW, we have an annual holiday tradition. The week before the party, we all jot down three lies and one fact about ourselves and send them to K, who enters them into a Google doc. Everyone takes this quiz to determine who knows everyone best in the office, and the winner gets a gift card to the coffeeshop across the street. The person who gets the fewest answers correct has to keep a hideous ceramic statue of a cowboy on their desk for the rest of the year. Surprisingly, I win the competition, and I feel guilty since I don’t drink coffee anymore. It fucks with my anti-anxiety medication. I pocket the gift card anyway. I’ll buy everybody coffee on Monday.

K, L (another cool person from the office), and I are the last ones at the party. Others either have to travel the next day or have families to get home to. K and L help me carry the decorations I brought for the party back to my car. I stuff the wreath, some garland, Christmas lights, and fake flowers in my trunk. I still feel a little tipsy, so I walk to 8th St. to sober up. The whole city is quiet. So much snow is falling that you’d think you could hear it smack the ground. Big, fat flakes pour down from the sky and soak my hair, ruining my curls. I don’t mind. I keep walking. It’s so, so silent.

I get to Bittercreek and ask if a friend who works there is cooking tonight. The gruff kitchen manager grumbles to me, “He left forever ago.” I leave and head back to my car, marveling at the silence. I can only hear my footsteps clattering on brick in The Grove. 

I sit in my car for a while watching snow pile on the windshield and think about how different next year will be.

My essay, "Water, Earth and Gender" is available now!

Last year, I wrote a piece for a book published by Boise State University called River by Design. The book debuted in Sept. of 2015, featuring a myriad of talented writers from the Idaho area.

 River by Design, 2015

River by Design, 2015

My chapter is on Mary Hallock Foote, one of the first settlers to come to Boise. Mary was the breadwinner in her family for much of their time in Boise; she sold illustrations and articles to magazines around the West and document early life in the area. She published several books of poetry and prose and was known as one of the most prolific writers of her time.

Then, Wallace Stegner appropriated a ton of Mary's work for his novel, Angel of Repose without crediting her and she became the center of a bitter literary controversy still debated today. You can buy the book by following the link above, or at my favorite local bookstore, Rediscovered Books.

On mental illness, relationships, and abuse:

Abusive people who also happen to have mental illness can often use their mental illness as a manipulative tool to convince victims/survivors to stay. Often, rhetoric makes its way around the internet that says we must support a person with mental illness fully without question, and while that’s true–we should offer our support for those we know with mental illness when they need us–this belief can be dangerous because victims of abuse feel like they have to abide this rule, even if they’re being abused. I want to share my thoughts because this absolutely happened to me.

I was trying to explain this concept to E last year. I met his sister, D's, boyfriend when we went to LA in February and he raised a lot of red flags for me. Since I dated an abusive man with bipolar disorder for over three years in high school, I recognized the signs quickly.

E really liked the (now ex) boyfriend, and I pointed out that E likes literally everyone upon first impression because he’s a human dog. He loves everything, which is adorable but also an example of how his privilege has shaped his interactions with the world.

I am much more wary, having been in several abusive relationships, and this three year high school relationship still lives in my memory every day. It was my first formative connection to a person. It stole three years of my life. It taught me all the wrong things about how to love another person and how to relate to the world. These are things in still unlearning every day 10 years later.

So when I met D's boyfriend and I saw these little similarities in personality (he was suddenly deeply involved in conversation and then suddenly withdrawn, he would ask to leave family gatherings early, he would snap about small things D said) it made sense to me when he mentioned he had bipolar disorder. After a long struggle, my mom was finally diagnosed as bipolar November of 2014, so I obviously felt terrible for feeling wary of this guy because he struggled with a very real and difficult mental illness. I felt like a judgmental jerk.

But I wasn’t just seeing the signs of bipolar disorder. I was reliving what it was like to be in a relationship with someone who has abusive and happened to be mentally ill. Someone who used his mental illness as manipulative tactic to convince me to stay for so long. When I talked to E about it, he didn’t see it. The boyfriend was trying hard to earn E's trust and get in his good favor, but I wasn’t as important so the boyfriend focused on being polite to me less. I could see all the cracks in his friendly demeanor.

E, D, the boyfriend and I all got spent time together one night in LA at D’s little house close to Los Filles. E and the boyfriend went outside to chat for a bit, and she asked me, earnest and drunk, what I thought of the relationship. D doesn’t date a lot of people, and she was serious about him. The relationship was somewhat new and raw. I clumsily tried to express to her that I was happy she had someone she loved and could take care of, but I was so familiar with that type of love–the type of love that drains you, teaches you to stop caring for yourself and dedicate all your energy to someone who abuse me physically and mentally the longer I stayed–which is hard to talk about eloquently when both parties are tired. But, she was nice about it and reassured me that she didn’t feel like she was being taken advantage of. That was that.

Then the boyfriend reappeared from outside. He was blacked out and yelling. He stumbled around the kitchen not even registering D and I were in the room, and D knew it was time to put him to bed.

I don’t know why this moment felt to weird to me. Until then, I was trying–struggling internally–to give the boyfriend a real chance. He mentioned he was bipolar and off his medication, so I was trying hard not to judge his behavior and understand that this mental illness is so, so hard on people. But D and I were just talking about how she is an actress, and she often has a hard time practicing self care and mentally calibrating after she finishes intense plays in her MFA program. She stops paying attention to her own needs. And then the boyfriend stumbles in, obviously angry about something and directing it at me, a person he barely knows, and D has to cut short her conversation–our heart to heart–to take care of him. And I hate the way he grabbed her arm too tightly and way he slammed the bathroom door and the argument I heard through the wall of her bedroom. It felt so familiar, like when two years in to my abusive relationship I tried to eat dinner at my best friend’s house and A called me 67 times, screaming about how I wasn’t there with him when he needed me. It was the first time I had seen my best friend in months because I was spending so much time with him, and he couldn’t let me have this one thing. A night to myself. Away.

I realize this is much more dramatic comparison to D’s situation, but it still rang true. I can’t understand it. I just felt it. But I was still an outsider in seeing their relationship, so I stayed out of it. I didn’t bring it up again with the exception of a private talk with E the next day.

D and the boyfriend broke up a while ago. I probably shouldn’t be writing about this because I don’t even know why they ended things. We haven’t had the chance to talk about it (I started a new job and she’s finishing her last year in grad school), but I hope she’s safe. I hope she’s taking care of herself. I hope it’s because they both want to be healthy.

I want to be clear: I’m in NO WAY saying people with mental illness are more prone to abusive behavior or are abusers in any way. I'm mentally ill. Mental illness runs in my family. I get it. But an abusive person can have a mental illness and use that mental illness to justify and validate their abusive behavior. It happened to me, and I see it happen to others.

For those of you who are following me and have a mental illness, please call me out if I have said anything problematic, ableist, or inaccurate. Your input is valuable to me.

Elliot Rodger killed women because of misogyny, not mental illness

Back in 2014, Elliot Rodger murdered several men and women for "rejecting him for living a more enjoyable life than his." Soon, it came out that Rodger was diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome, and the media's reaction was to use ableist assumptions to make the connection between Aspergers and violent tendencies. There are problems with this logic. As a person who struggles with mental illness every day, this hit me hard. Let's discuss.

Blaming the Elliot Rodger shootings on Asperger's is insulting and a misrepresentation to that community and the mentally ill community as a whole. It's easy to detract from the actual causes of this violence: misogyny, MRAs, and societal embracing of sexual entitlement. Bringing up mental illness is a reflection of the semantic squabbling used as a defective tool to avoid talking about the real core of this issue. 

We can look at any sensationalized headline like, “Bipolar man strangles woman in her home,” and see how easy it is for the media to perpetuate the bias that mental illness is linked to crime. While those headlines define two elements of the perpetrator, they exist separately. These headlines use a rhetorical tactic that attempts to create a link between the diagnosis and the crime. This is a false correlation.

Let’s look at the facts: in 2008 the American Journal of Psychiatry published a study from Oxford University’s Department of Psychology and the Karolinska Institute of Sweden that looked at population data on crime over 13 years since Sweden keeps population data on mental health and crime.

The data showed:

  • 1 in 20 people with severe mental illness was responsible for violent crime.
  • 5.2% of violent crimes over that 13 year period were committed by people with severe mental illness. Severe.
  • 5% of sexual offenses, 3.6% of robberies, and 3% of common assaults were committed by people with mental illness.

Remember, we’re looking at the criminal population of Sweden as a whole.

More facts: several more studies done in the U.S. suggest that individuals with severe and persistent mental illness are responsible for no more than about 3% of violent crime. Coupled with alcohol or drug abuse, that number rises to 9-15%.

As we can see, mental illness and violence do not have a defining correlation, but the media is adamant to make it appear that they do. The data shows that the vast majority of rapists, abusers, harassers, and murderers are, in fact, "sane" people. So what explains all these shootings, rapes, assaults, and murders of women we hear about all the time? Misogyny, sexual entitlement, and patriarchy. The idea that men should be rewarded with sexual favors by women because they exist. The concept that women are subhuman. Constant exposure to these ideas that men absorb and repeat over and over again until they build a rage against the female gender that results in women dying.

The negative stigma surrounding mental illness is already so permeating in our society that it presents a danger to those who suffer from mental illness. People with mental illness are marginalized for something they can’t control, and every time another sensationalized headline hits the papers, it perpetuates this ableist treatment of the mentally ill in our society. This is why it’s important to look at the research and talk about why Elliot Rodger did what he did, disproving this idea that mental illness causes crime and death. It doesn’t.

Misogyny is not a mental illness. It is a learned behavior supported by patriarchy. It’s in our media, our homes, our schools, and our politics. MRAs enthusiastically supported Rodger’s hatred of women on countless online forums, and that’s what caused this violent rampage. He was encouraged by many other men who supported and validated him. Are all of them mentally ill? Doubtful.

Furthermore, using this logic, anyone thinking this was not purely a hate crime should also correlate every straight person who has killed a gay person with mental illness, or any white supremacist who killed a black person with mental illness. Do we do this? No. We manipulate the headlines to say things like Former Stanford swimmer appeals sexual assault. We humanize the perpetrators and demonize the victims.

"Mental illness” is used far too often to mask hate crimes against women as random acts of violence, emphasizing that this is not a cultural problem, but an individual one. The cause of the Santa Barbara shootings was not “mental illness” because violence against women is committed every day, and Elliot Rodger had access to a wealth of support in the mental health world. But what did he do? He went to MRA support groups who perpetuated and supported violence against women, who told him, “YES. Your feelings about sexual entitlement are valid. And YES. Women deserve to be killed.”

And he had access to a gun.

A bad thing happened to me in a bar one time, so I wrote a piece about it.

I am at the bar.

My friend is telling me about her current love interest. I tell her she’s beautiful and that her mohawk is awesome. She doesn’t need to impress anyone.

A man approaches us. He is wearing plaid. His hair is spiked up with gel. It looks greasy, and he leans in so close to my friend that I can almost see each individual follicle.

He takes two white Tic Tacs and holds them between his thumb and index finger. He throws one at my friend’s drink and it bounces off of her whiskey glass. It hits her in the face. She looks confused. She bends down to the ground, wondering if her nose ring has fallen out.

The man takes the other Tic Tac and tries to toss it into my drink. He misses again and it rolls onto the bar.

He looks at me half-apologetically.

“I’m just trying to win fifty bucks,” he says.

My friend puts together what’s happening.

“You were trying to pretend to roofie our drinks?” she asks.
“Yeah. It was my friends over there. They dared me to do it.”

My ears are hot. I can’t breathe. My friend is stunned and can’t find words.

“You think this is some fucking joke?” I say. “You think that this isn’t traumatizing for either of us? You really think you can come over here and pretend to put drugs in our drinks and have that be okay? Like neither of us have been roofied before? Like this is some normal thing people do to each other?“

My friend makes eye contact with me, and then at the man.

"She’s right. This isn’t funny, dude. I’ve been roofied before.” she says.
“Hey, we’re all cool here. I don’t want to start anything. My friends over there want to buy you both drinks for your trouble.”

The words slither out of his mouth. I feel sick, like I’m the one in the wrong here. I swallow and push my anger up to my throat.

“I don’t want your fucking drinks,” I shout. “I don’t want you anywhere near me. I don’t feel safe around you. I hope your fifty dollars was worth it. I hope everything you’re doing to us is worth it. I hope you take that fifty dollars and invest it in the Women’s and Children’s center, or some charity that advocates human rights, because what you’re doing right now is sick. Pretending to drug someone is not some fucking joke.“

The whole time I’ve been shouting at him, the man’s eyes fill with something that looks like pity. Then, he glances over to his friends and they harden. He says, “I’ll go buy some women’s pantyhose with it. Then I’ll untangle them.”

I’m so shocked that I hardly notice that the bartender has approached us and has been listening to our conversation. Before I can respond, he interrupts:

"Everything okay over here?”
“Nothing is okay. I don’t want this guy’s drinks. I don’t want this guy around me. I don’t feel safe.”
“Gotcha.” The bartender looks at the man. He says one simple word.

“Out.”

The man and his friends leave the bar. I go out to the patio and bury my face in my hands. I wonder what century we’re living in. I think about how many miles per hour the world turns (1,038) and I try to find Orion. I pull a hangnail off my thumb. I try to ask myself if I’m still a victim. I probably am. It’s hard to tell with these things.

For the first time in a long time, I don’t feel bad for yelling or swearing.

 

Please don't hit on women at work

Sometimes, women working in customer service are cornered by men who misinterpret their politeness (i.e. doing their jobs) as flirting. 

The situation can often escalate to dangerous levels, leaving women afraid for their lives. I've encountered this several times.

I coordinated events at the bookstore for years, and I worked with many authors in the process. Some were friendlier than others, and it was my job to show them hospitality at the bookstore and make them feel comfortable working with us. I once had an author who was aggressively friendly to me. He would stay at the bookstore for way too long talking to me, asking me personal questions, and bogarting my time to the point where it made me extremely uncomfortable. Eventually, every time he would come into the store, I would run and hide in the back.

Then, one Saturday when it was busy and I couldn’t leave the floor, he saw me standing at the register and bolted in, cornering me there. My coworker was in the back of the store, totally unaware of what was happening. He asked me how I was doing, why he hadn’t seen me in a while, and if I was busy that week. The entire time I didn’t make eye contact with him and tried to be short with my answers to signify I was not interested in talking and the store was so, so busy. He grabbed me by my arm and forced me to make eye contact with him. And that’s when he asked me out on a date. In front of his 11-year-old daughter.

I was so horrified at the gesture and so full of anger (don’t put your hands on me ever??? Especially when I’m at work???) and terror (your sense of entitlement is astounding) and confusion (the store is so busy; are you manipulating me to get what you want because I’m under pressure right now from you and from customers and your daughter???). I could barely stammer out a “no.” And when I did, he pushed me on it! So I had to give that gross, “I monogamously live with my boyfriend” excuse to move on and escape.

Oh, yeah, and I forgot to mention: this author is a just a handful of years younger than my father.

I told my coworker about this exchange (she is in her 60s) and she auto-responded with, “You can’t help that you’re pretty!”, which is essentially a “boys will be boys” response. That sent me into an internal rage because there is no excuse for this, guys.

Cornering a woman at work is manipulative and predatory. We cannot say the things to you that we want to say when you treat us like less than human, and our politeness is a result of an American customer service set of standards that forces us to interact with you this way. It’s not “misleading” to do our jobs and try to get by, whether you’re a customer or a coworker. Do not corner is, do not prey on us, do not comment on our appearances, and do not ask us out. We just. want. to do. our. jobs.

How to Not Deal with Anything: A Brief Memoir

One winter night, I accidentally found myself at an awesome Tera Melos show due to a series of strange events. They occurred in this order:

  1. E needed a ride to work because he was running late.
  2. I drove him in sweat pants and crappy t-shirt because I’m a beautiful tragedy of a person, but he left his long board (his ride home) at the house, which required me to head back to the house, put pants back on, and return to Pie Hole to drop it off.
  3. From there, I decided that since I was already wearing pants, I should go to that cool show everyone was bugging me about earlier today.
  4. I arrived at the show, realized I did not have any cash on me, and gave the nice but slightly judgmental girl at the door all the change in my wallet.
  5. She looked kind of pissed but stamped my hand anyway, so I figured we were cool. I made a mental note to buy merch later if I stumbled upon any cash. Let me gently remind you that earlier I was wearing sweatpants, which meant my hair was disheveled, I had a gross shirt from high school on, and the only thing gracing my skin was a layer of tonight’s acne cream.
  6. Upon observing my surroundings, I quickly realized that my ex-boyfriend (whom I have not seen since the day we broke up on horrible terms) and his (adorable) girlfriend were at that show, and so I did the mature thing and decided to pretend they didn’t exist. This had almost everything to do with the fact that I looked like human trash. Of course I would run into them for the first time in four years after I have literally just rolled out of bed.
  7. I vigorously avoided eye contact.
  8. I mean, it couldn’t have been more pathetic.
  9. At one point, I think they might have come over to talk to me, but I became extremely enamored by this weird prop sitting on the stage. It was a bodysuit with a hot dog sewn on the head, and I got down on the ground to pose with it. I know it sounds weird.

 

      10. Seriously. These are the things I do to avoid awkward situations.

But really, what do you do when the time comes to confront the reality that your ex still exists and likes some of the stuff you like and is a person that breathes and goes to the same shows as you? And his girlfriend is really nice and they both seem good together and you don't want to bother them with your presence? How can you gauge how these humans feel about you four years later? Do you make them uncomfortable? Is it a dick move of you to think they even care? Are you the dick for caring? How do you adult?

I suppose all my problems would have been solved had I just talked to them like a human woman, but it all felt so forced and awkward (because I made it awkward). Instead I put my purse over my face and posed with the hot dog. I did not buy any merch. I laughed a lot with my friends to distract myself from these two strange humans that I do not know how to be an adult around.

I should be sent to the island of misfit toys. Ship me off with the hot dog. We look good together anyway.

Why I avoid public restrooms:

Here's recount of the most awkward bathroom moment of my life.

Long ago I made a rule for myself: using a public restroom can and will be avoided at all costs. The thought of someone listening to me go to the bathroom is weird. I’m not sure why and I don’t want to get into it until I’m 40 and undergoing deep psychoanalysis. For now, I’m fine with it.

When you enter a public restroom at the same time as another person, you make a contract with that human. You will listen to them go to the bathroom. That’s a part of your reality. Does nobody else think this is weird? Just me? Okay. Moving on.

Let me set the scene for you: senior year of college. Finals week. Desperation. Exhaustion. Hunger. On the verge of tears. Had to go.

Like, I really had to go. Avoiding a public restroom was not an option.

I went downstairs to the basement of the library because it’s usually quiet. It’s the safest bathroom on campus. Nobody is around to disturb me, and usually, all my bathroom anxieties instantly dissipate when I enter. I always know I’m safe because the lights are motion activated, so when I walk in I’m submerged in a safe blanket of darkness for a couple seconds.

Today was different.

I pushed the door open and smelled citrus in the air. The lights were already on. Something was wrong. As I headed for a stall I looked in the mirror and locked eyes with a gal I’d never seen before. She was standing over one of the trash cans, slowly and deliberately peeling an orange. 

Peeling. an orange. in the bathroom.

I didn’t have time to process. By now the combination of my need to go and the intense bathroom anxiety had cumulated into a dire need but my organs clenched shut and I stood helplessly in the stall, defeated.

I could have just walked out and searched for a different bathroom, but the thought of another human watching me walk into a stall, stand there, and then march back out immediately was too uncomfortable for me to handle. I froze.

I miserably waited there for at least five minutes listening to the sound of this fucking gal peeling her orange in the bathroom, smelling citrus and trying not to cry. “Please, just go,” I whispered to myself. “Please, the bathroom is no place to eat your lunch anyway. There are germs in here and jesus christ who even does this?" 

When I finally heard the door shut I contemplated crying some happy tears. 

Some people hate rush hour traffic. Others don’t like confrontation. I just hate knowing that people can hear me in the bathroom. I don’t care what your reasons are: eating your lunch in the bathroom is weird and defamiliarizing and I didn’t appreciate it one bit, orange-in-the-bathroom-gal.