Posts filed under ‘Excerpt’

Excerpt from “Safe Mode”

Even if you think you have nothing to hide, it always makes sense to cover your e-tracks. When it used to matter, I had three browsers I’d use for different purposes. Google Chrome was for email, LinkedIn, casual browsing, and other activities I generally didn’t need to purge from my record. Firefox . . . I forget. And then there was Internet Explorer.

At one point, I had two YouTube accounts—one I’d open with Google Chrome, and the other I’d open with Internet Explorer. But then they made you link your YouTube account to your Google account. So I linked my “legit” account to my Google account and dropped the other one, the Internet Explorer one. So there were some videos I just didn’t get to see after that. Which was a shame. It wasn’t like they were illegal or immoral or wrong or anything. I just felt paranoid about looking at anything restricted through my Google account.

I liked at least to pretend I was anonymous. That’s what I’d use Internet Explorer for—all of my anonymous activities. I had some silly username like gemini84 (I’m a Sagittarius and wasn’t born in ’84), and I’d change my password regularly (It would always be something nonsensical like &%$#fraDujlKja9899i9W23). None of that ultimately mattered, but at least I felt I had a sense of autonomy and privacy in a world of virtual spotlights and actual predators.

Turns out I was wise to drop that YouTube account, never to enjoy those restricted videos. Somewhere out there, they really do have more records than the KGB.

December 5, 2011 at 12:28 am 2 comments

Excerpt from “Safe Mode”

Professor Heart Attack (not to be confused with Professor Heartache) used to always tell me that the future—and the now (then)—was all about information sharing and social networks. He had a bit of an obsession with Mark Zuckerberg (and, incidentally, with me). He used to tell me things like, “If I were Mark’s father, I’d tell him to marry you.”

It just so happened that I was a freshman at Princeton when Mark Zuckerberg was a freshman at Harvard. (No, I don’t know him personally. I know a handful of people who went to Exeter with him, but whatever. It doesn’t matter.) When I joined Facebook my sophomore (or was it junior?) year in college, back when it was called “The Facebook,” I had no idea what a key role it would play in my undoing.

I used to resent that Professor Heart Attack, more than 30 years my senior and (last time I heard) without a cell phone or personal email account, was so ahead of my time. He was seemingly compassionate, extremely intelligent, not at all attractive, cosmopolitan, wealthy, and—it turns out—deeply insecure and duplicitous. It seemed cruelly ironic that he—of all people—appeared to escape the disaster when most of us had our worlds ripped out from under us.

Of course, he hadn’t anticipated the ultimate irony. Neither had I.

October 19, 2011 at 9:37 pm 6 comments

Excerpt from “Who Wants to Marry a Savant?”

Edgar and I were talking in front of my bathroom mirror as I put on makeup to go out in. I was in the middle of telling him about all the problematic men I had dealt with over the last few months. Dating had become so tiresome.

I just wanted to dance the night away without thinking about hooking up or playing games or trying so damn hard. We were going to meet a few friends from college at a gay club a few blocks from my apartment. It had practically become a monthly tradition at that point. This was before I knew Edgar was straight and, incidentally, madly in love with me.

“What about that guy who was inexperienced but good in bed?”

“He turned out to be an uptight pothead if you can believe that.”

“I don’t think I’ve ever met one of those. I’ll take your word for it. What about that guy who was pretty stable and treated you with respect and always paid when you went out?”

“He’s still in love with his ex. I refuse to play second fiddle to anyone. Hell, if I’m gonna be with someone, there better not be any other fiddle he’s listening to! I know it’s one of those ‘it’s not me, it’s him’ sort of situations, but it still sucks and I can’t not take it personally.”

“I hear ya. What about . . . I think his name is Paul? What’s the problem with him?”

“Paul.” I couldn’t keep from smiling a little at the sound of his name. “Well . . . nothing.”

“Then what’s the deal?”

“He’s honest with himself. And he’s honest with me. He’s not at a point in his life where he can completely give me what I need.”

“He can’t? Or he won’t?”

“Does it matter?  He doesn’t.” And, with that, I broke into song: All my hangups are gone / How I wish you felt the same.

“I love it when you sing Prince or The Artist or a symbol or whatever his name is these days. Are you ready yet? You look great.”

I put my arm around his shoulder and gave him a peck on the cheek. “Let’s go, baby!”

September 30, 2011 at 8:06 pm Leave a comment

Excerpt from “Who Wants to Marry a Savant?”

I was performing what I liked to call “accident reconstruction.” “Can you believe he said that?! I haven’t been this offended in…”

“It’s so immature and inconsiderate, but I hate to say it’s not surprising.” Gina Q. put her arm around my shoulder as we sat on her bed (the most comfortable bed I’ve ever been in to date). “Wasn’t there a similar episode a few months ago? And by similar, I mean similar in level of offensiveness—not with respect to the underlying details or the offender.”

“Yeah. Pretty much. Same old fucking song even if the lyrics and performer change. But I’m just so damn sick and so damn tired of the games and the gaffes and the lies and the bullshit! And don’t tell me it’s a life experience and that everything is a lesson and all that The Secret stuff. It doesn’t make be feel better.”

The tears came with almost no warning. I rocked back and forth in Gina’s arms and sobbed like I did when I was 7 and the babysitter’s son beat me up in his tree fort. It had been months since I had cried that completely and unabashedly. I needed to do it. It felt cathartic. (And I even felt a little thinner to boot!)

The emotional force evaporated as quickly as it had emerged. My body and body language reflected this, and Gina noticed. She waited until the last thread of tension faded from me before saying anything. “Well…if nothing else, it sure does make for a good story! Change names and immaterial details, and people would wanna read that, especially the way I’d imagine you’d write about it and just about anything else that inspires you. Hold on a sec…I want us to talk about this more, but let me get you something to drink first.” Gina skipped over to her kitchen to get a locally brewed beer for her and a Diet Pepsi (“not because you should be on a diet or anything like that, but because it’s your favorite so I try to keep some for you,” she’d always say) for me.

I felt like I had vertigo or whiplash or something. Having traveled  the spectrum of emotions over the course of the night, I felt intoxicated, dizzy, disheveled, hot (bothered?). A serene, empowered smile overtook my puffy face as I realized Gina quite possibly had said the nicest thing anyone had ever said to me. And many really nice things had been said to me before.

In that moment I felt that—notwithstanding the bullshit and pain and suffering and frustration and unfairness of it all—most of the time life (stranger than fiction, isn’t it?) was usually mostly all good.

June 7, 2011 at 1:29 am 2 comments

Excerpt from “Who Wants to Marry a Savant?”

“I mean, I want a two-story house with a white picket fence, 1.78 children, and a friendly dog.”

“So do I,” replied Gina Q.

“But one of those things you and I can’t have.”

“Says who?”

“Says biology.”

“We could adopt or try other options.”

“But it’s not the same.”

“Social Darwinist.”

“Highbrow snob.”

“Closed-minded philistine.”

“Feminazi bitch!”

Apparently, I had gone too far (as if calling me a philistine wasn’t crossing the line). Gina grabbed her keys and slammed the door in my face.

May 17, 2011 at 10:04 pm Leave a comment

Excerpt from “The Little Black Box”

He wanted to know what she thought about when she masturbated—or even when she made love.  She told him the secret was inside a “little black box,” to which he did not have access.  He asked her how to obtain access.

She said he couldn’t:  Obtaining access would be akin to meeting the man behind the emerald curtain.

November 10, 2010 at 8:48 pm Leave a comment

Taking Back the Night: A Feminist’s Response to Yale’s DKE Incident

No means yes! Yes means anal!”  chanted the Delta Kappa Epsilon (DKE) fraternity pledge class while marching across the Yale campus last week. This egregiously offensive and threatening speech must be punished, and we need to open up a dialogue about the prevalence of sexual assault on college campuses in general and by fraternity members in particular.  While I commend Dean Mary Miller and President Richard Levin for making a public statement condemning DKE’s actions, this should just be a first step in a longterm, comprehensive plan for creating a safer social environment in colleges and universities across the country.

Unfortunately, the DKE incident does not surprise me, and I can no longer remain silent about my experience.  In an ongoing attempt to reclaim my agency (which was, to borrow the words of Billy Joel, “something I’d never lose, something somebody stole”), I share my story and take back the night that fundamentally and almost catastrophically changed my life.

The president of a Yale fraternity raped me when I was an undergraduate.  I didn’t tell anyone about it for over a year because I was in denial about what had happened.  Like so many victims of sexual abuse, I blamed myself.  Shortly after the incident, I became bulimic and extremely self-destructive.  I cried myself to sleep almost every night—and, although I was never suicidal, I had a sincere death wish. Seven years later, I have overcome most of the shame and hurt associated with such a devastating loss of agency, but I continue to suffer.  Writing has really facilitated my ongoing quest to reclaim my autonomy and self-confidence. Below is a post I previously wrote about the incident.  I changed names and immaterial details to preserve anonymity:

I strode along the curb of Prospect Street toward Alpha Nu as he ambled—slightly drunkenly—on my right.  I met Tex, a Bulldog linebacker and president of Alpha Nu, at Josh’s track party that night.  The cross-country team had already had its first race of the season the day before, and I still felt a bit high from performing well.  It was the beginning of September, and fall always seemed to arrive early in New Haven.  The temperature must have dropped 20 degrees since the track party had come and gone, and I started to wish I had worn a jacket.

A black Escalade zoomed by, nearly splashing me with a wave of cold, grimy water.

Tex tugged me away from the road.  “Whoa! Let’s switch places. I’m more than twice your size.  No one’s gonna hurt me, and no one’s gonna hurt you while you’re with me.”  He ran his fingers through his dishwater blond hair, sweaty from dancing, and winked.  We held each other’s clammy hands. “That’s kinda sweet,” I thought.

“You’re big and strong and all, but that doesn’t make you invincible.”  I dropped his hand and softly punched his shoulder.  (This was my attempt at coyness.)  I had a weakness for “teddy bear” guys because they seemed so manly and so eager to protect, but I figured it was too early to let on that I might actually be into him.  I hoped to continue the interesting conversation we had begun at Josh’s apartment, and maybe we would kiss and caress for awhile. I hadn’t had many sexual partners, and I just wanted to date people and to generally take things slowly.

“Well, I promise you’re safe with me.  Besides, we’re almost there.  I apologize in advance for the mess.  I didn’t know I’d be meeting such a lovely lady tonight.” Tex put his arm gently around my waist, pulling me closer to him.

But Tex didn’t keep his promise—and, although he apologized for the bite marks in an email the next day, he never said he was sorry for all that transpired later that night.

I wish I could truly take back that September night, but I will never forget what happened.  When I talked about it with some close girlfriends, two of them admitted they had also been raped at Yale.  Both friends chose not to report the events because they didn’t think anyone would believe them.

In light of this, I don’t think hate speech like DKE’s chant should be protected by the First Amendment.  When one form of expression is so abhorrent and so offensive that it chills the expression and threatens the emotional well-being of others, the government should be able to impose liability.  Not only did some of DKE’s members deeply offend many students, but they also voiced support for a culture of sexual violence.  The young men who chanted and/or incited such hateful speech should, at the very least, be suspended.  They have assaulted the vibrant, tolerant marketplace of ideas that should thrive at all institutions of higher education. Through hate speech, these men supported heinous mentality and behavior, casting a pall over the Yale campus and beyond.

I am symbolically taking back the night that had taken so much from me.  Although I’ll never forget what happened, its effects continue to fade into a seemingly distant past.  I hope we all take a moment to consider the individual and societal ramifications of sexual abuse and hate speech and how we can learn from this recent assault on intellectual freedom, social progress, and humanity.

October 21, 2010 at 11:31 pm 3 comments

Excerpt from “Who Wants to Marry a Savant?”

When she sat “Indian-style” in front of me, I realized she wasn’t wearing anything under her orange sun dress.  I also noticed she didn’t shave like I did.  Months later, Gina Q. would tell me to throw away my razor—at least when it came to “down there.”  She didn’t think it was natural, didn’t think I should look like a twelve-year-old.  I resisted at first, but I quickly came to my senses.  “I want you just as you are,” she would sometimes whisper as she unbuttoned my pants.

When I first met Gina Q., she had cotton candy colored dreadlocks, a cute amount of cleavage, and a slight southern accent.  But it wasn’t until I ran into her at a screening of postmodern feminist pornography/erotica that she really made an impression on me.

August 19, 2010 at 9:46 pm Leave a comment

Excerpt from “The Rental Property”

“He’s like in this band called Orange Penis, and he only showers once or twice a week—but that’s okay with me—and he has this sorta androgynous hairstyle, and he went to Duke or Carnegie Mellon or maybe Swarthmore…” Aubrey inanely boasts.

“Sounds like a real charmer,” I roll my eyes and light a joint.

“And, I mean, his girlfriend has like the perfect body… I mean, I wouldn’t want a body like that (I don’t want to be fat!), but it’s perfect, you know?” Aubrey plucks the joint from between my fingers.

“He has a girlfriend?” I shove a handful of Nacho Cheesier Doritos into my mouth. “Are you like some sort of wannabe-indie-hipster garage band groupie or something?” Underwhelmed, I fall back into the neon green overstuffed beanbag chair in Aubrey’s living room.

“No! It’s like a post-modern meta-garage band.”

July 14, 2010 at 4:44 am Leave a comment

Excerpt from “The Rental Property”

I wanted to wear something special for the SAE formal, so I asked Lera if she had anything I could borrow.

Lera was the kind of woman who thought she was prettier than she really was.  You know the type: a “six” who thinks she’s a “nine,” a woman who dresses as if she’s 30 pounds lighter and 10 years younger than she actually is. She also had an inflated sense of intellect, parenting skills, and sexual prowess. In the beginning, I didn’t notice her superficial or personality flaws. Once the relationship started to sour, however, she began to disgust me in the strangest of ways.

“Try this blue cocktail dress. It’s too big for me, so you can keep it if you like it.”

The dress was a size 6, so I knew it would be too tight. I took it into the master bathroom and pretended to try it on.

“Oh, this is way too big,” I hollered. “I think I’ll just wear the one I bought.”

“Let me see,” Lera requested skeptically as she opened the bathroom door without knocking.

“Oops! Too late. Here ya go. I gotta get ready.” I casually handed her the dress and turned on the shower, hoping she’d take the cue.

She didn’t.

June 5, 2010 at 10:00 am Leave a comment

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