Posts tagged ‘Life’

Excerpt from “Who Wants to Marry a Savant?”

Nicole Mitchell was her name. All of the girls at our high school called her “Nicole Bitchell” because, as I often overheard, she was a “heinous bitch on wheels.” I didn’t know Nicole well enough to confirm the accuracy of all the rumors that surrounded her, and I didn’t care. All I know is that she had an exceptional voice.

I was a freshman. She was a senior. We had dress rehearsal the night before the opening of the spring pop show, and all the choirs were practicing together for the first time. The freshman show choir had just finished our final song, and we sat on the risers instead of leaving the stage. We cleared a path in the middle for Nicole, who planned to begin her performance of “River Deep, Mountain High” right after our number ended. Our choir director told us to pretend we were at a concert with Nicole as the main attraction.

Nicole entered the stage at the top center of the risers as the fog machine began to gently huff. She wore a white, strapless dress that was so tight you could practically see the outline of her ovaries and so short you could . . . Her curves spilled out of both sides of the dress, and her tangerine stilettos added nearly half a foot to her petite stature. The background music began to play as Nicole slowly strutted down the risers. I gazed upward at her, as instructed by our director, as she drew the microphone to her plump lips.

When I was a little girl
I had a rag doll
The only doll I ever owned
Now I love you just the way
I loved that rag doll
But only now my love has grown  

Nicole paused on the last step. She tilted her neck back.

And it gets STRONGER in every way
And it gets DEEPER let me say
And it gets HIGHER day by day

Nicole arrived at the front center of the stage just before she began singing the chorus. Her chestnut hair cascaded down her back, ending at the top of her ample backside.

And do I love you, my oh my?
River deep, mountain high, YEAH, YEAH, YEAH
If I lost you, would I cry?
Oh how I love you, baby, BABY, BABY, BABY!

When she began the next verse, I felt a sensation—foreign yet familiar. I don’t remember the rest of the performance. I just remember feeling giddily nauseated by her white-hot aura.

March 9, 2012 at 8:15 pm 1 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

Death Perception

I’m back in Texas to visit my family and friends, and today would have been Alex’s 25th birthday. They say losing someone gets easier with time, but I am not convinced. Sure, the pain is no longer acute (most of the time), but it seems to have seeped into every fiber of my being. I can feel it within my marrow, in the roots of my teeth, and on the soles of my feet.

When I first learned about death, I remember staying up at night and crying. The thing I struggled to process was the fact that I would probably live to bury my parents. I wanted to die before they did so that I wouldn’t have to endure that kind of loss. I never really thought about losing my brother. 

Almost two years ago, I moved for the first time since Alex passed away. On one hand, it was nice to get out of Portland because it was there that I received the horrible news. On the other hand, he was still alive when I moved there in October 2008. What I am painfully realizing is that every literal and figurative move I make from this point forward will occur without his earthly presence. That’s unsettling to really think about.

My last few visits to Texas didn’t feel as depressing as I had anticipated. It almost seemed like Alex was in summer school or on some fun trip. It felt like he simply never came back from college. Sometimes I caught myself eagerly awaiting his return, but I would inevitably remember that he’s not coming back.

Since the last time I came home, my mom moved from the house we grew up in. Now it’s clear he’s not coming back. I don’t even get my hopes up anymore.

I often feel sorry for myself. Then I feel bad about feeling sorry for myself, and then I feel justified. But sometimes I embrace my sadness. It is here to stay, and it’s an important part of me. At a certain point, the grief becomes so profound that it seems to transform into an empowering, enthusiastic force that propels me upward and forward. Maybe that’s what happens when we die: the agony and injustice and bullshit of this life launch us into a euphoric, boundless ascent.

May 11, 2011 at 4:17 am 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

Lies About the 1L Experience

“If you’re a good writer, you’ll have a huge advantage as a student.”

Most first-year legal writing is almost entirely devoid of creativity and requires a penchant for monotony and verbosity.  Even during second semester exams, I was very distracted by my instinct to write good prose.  On a timed exam, your spelling, grammar, diction, and syntax aren’t worth a damn.  And for every second you spend thinking about how to rephrase something so it flows better, you’re losing precious, precious points.

“You should learn to think beyond the legal doctrine.”

Professors will tell you it’s not about the black letter law, but it really is.  And it’s about IRAC (Issue, Rule, Application, Conclusion).  That’s it.  Nothing else really matters.  The most fascinating things—policy concerns, socioeconomic implications, historical backgrounds—are rarely tested and, for all intents and purposes, irrelevant during the first year.

“Having a life is not mutually exclusive with being a 1L.”

You can have a life.  People do it.  But those people do not get very much sleep, or they simply do not care about their grades, or they never had lives to begin with.  To really have a life as a 1L, you have to…painstakingly…carve…out…your…opportunities.

But, hey, at least it’s not med school!

September 21, 2010 at 10:06 pm 2 comments

Goodbye for Now, Boyfriend

I just found out that our beloved cat, Boyfriend, died yesterday.  He was at least 12, but we’ll never know his exact age because he just started coming by our house one day and eventually decided to stay.  He was blind in one eye and had a cute little birthmark on his lip.  Boyfriend was a pacifist, a diplomat, and a master snuggler.

It’s been over a decade since I lost a pet and less than two years since Alex died, so Boyfriend’s death is really difficult for me.  I like to think I’ll see him again, though, and I find solace in that hope.

When asked whether animals have souls and could experience an afterlife, author and veterinarian James Herriot replied, “If having a soul means being able to feel love and loyalty and gratitude, then animals are better off than a lot of humans. You’ve nothing to worry about there.”

Cats really are just little people in fur coats.

September 9, 2010 at 11:48 pm Leave a comment

Help Wanted (2010)

This California schoolgirl
Feels like Tom Hanks in Big
Dreams of purging and flying
Is at once worldly and naïve
Lacks bargaining power

Needs agency.

August 6, 2010 at 10:50 pm 1 comment

Celebrating “Semi-Charmed Life”

In the summer of 1997, my girlfriends and I camped out in a backyard tent and listened to “Semi-Charmed Life” on repeat for several hours. I’m the kind of person who tires after hearing a threshold amount of even the best music (How many times can a person really stand to listen to The Joshua Tree or Thriller?), but this Third-Eye Blind hit has never ceased to astound me.

As thirteen-year-olds, we only somewhat understood the sexually and chemically charged lyrics. Also, the breezy, fast-faced tempo made it difficult to decipher what lead singer Stephan Jenkins was even singing. It didn’t help that we couldn’t just “Google” a line from the song and retrieve the lyrics. I recall mistaking “And I speak to you like the chorus to the verse” with “And it speaks to you like the birds in the forest.”

Now, of course, I realize that “Semi-Charmed Life” is the seminal anthem of sex, drugs, and rock & roll. It was also my brother’s theme song. We played it at his memorial service, and it was awesome to hear “Doin’ crystal meth will lift you up until you break” and “How do I get back there to the place where I fell asleep inside you?” blast in a room full of relatives, young people, old people, Christians, atheists, and floral arrangements.

I went to Newport Beach this past weekend and had a great time slowly running my bare feet through the sand. I thought, “I believe in the sand beneath my toes / The beach gives a feeling / An earthy feeling / I believe in the faith that grows.” I thought about how hard it really seems, sometimes, to get through this bittersweet, ironic, defeating, gratifying, semi-charmed life. I thought about how I can’t not believe that there’s life after death. I simply cannot accept a reality in which I will never see Alex again.

I’m not listening when you say goodbye…

April 1, 2010 at 6:14 am 1 comment

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