There’s something about writing, about calling oneself a “writer,” that instills deep feelings of self-consciousness and doubt within me. I’ve never been bold enough to consider myself a “writer,” not truly, despite the fact that I’ve been journaling since I was 9 and do indeed write things that people read from time to time.
Even now, in writing just this short bit of text, I’ve already edited and rewritten and erased three other paragraphs.
There’s an insecurity that hovers over you as you write something for public consumption - a fear that readers will misinterpret you, or worse, that they’ll give absolutely no fucks about what you have to say.
When writing, you wonder to yourself, “Will anyone care about this beside me?” “Is this completely banal?” “Do I sound like an asshole and/or a narcissist?” These are real fears, because writing about yourself with any amount of frequency necessitates a certain level of self-importance and narcissism, and it can be difficult to step outside of yourself long enough to predict how others will perceive you.
Despite any praise or recognition I’ve received for my writing, I still approach the task of writing with fear and uncertainty. Some of this fear most likely stems from my history of sex/relationship writing, and all of the scrutiny and criticism that came with it.
However, I’d like to get back into the habit of writing more frequently around a wider range of topics, beyond the activities that take place (or don’t take place) within my bedroom. I feel like I’ve been discrediting myself and have been avoiding writing about a number of things, out of a fear that I have nothing new or intelligent to add to life’s discussions.
But I’d like to tell you everything. I’d like to tell you about my life and all of its random coincidences and insanities, about my observations as a 25-year old working in the tech industry in beautiful San Francisco. I’d like to tell you everything about me, unfold all of myself before you, and eliminate the fear that’s settled deeply in my chest that you won’t give a shit about me, because that’s no way write, and that’s no way to live.
Sometimes I feel as if I’m taking a walk outside of my skin. I peel back layers of flesh and muscle and nerves and tendons, I release my bones to let them breathe. Sometimes I feel like such a stranger, here, in a body that doesn’t belong to me, in a body that I’m borrowing.
In the last few weeks I’ve woken up in the middle of the night with heat pouring out of me, my scalp slicked with sweat, as if my soul has been running and I’m awaking just as it’s returning to lie down again. I have felt restless and unsatisfied, imagining several different and incomplete iterations of myself, in which I am a writer or a yogi or an artist or a freelancer.
Sometimes I just want to shed this body and leave it behind, to live momentarily unbounded and free, and to pick it back up again like an old hobby. I just want to spend a few hours feeling like myself again, to not feel all of the obligations and responsibilities that weigh on this body, the alarms and the deadlines that mark its days, the meetings and the gatherings that necessitate its presence. I want to no longer feel like a captive in this skin, a prisoner to its schedule.
I want to crawl out of this life and into another, and spend a few precious moments beholden to nothing, nothing at all, but myself.
My first visit to the optometrist (and a lesson on avoiding assholes)
My vision has been steadily on the decline for the last few years, but it’s only been in the past 6 months when the world ten feet in front of me started to become fuzzy around the edges, a light blur of shapes and colors, that I finally felt the impetus to go to an optometrist.
I didn’t know what to expect when I walked the three blocks to my new optometrist’s office, but from the moment we shook hands, my optometrist proved himself to be a wonderful, gentle person. Another Cal grad who attended Berkeley exactly 40 years before me, whose eyes almost glistened as he recalled the days when he lived right in the thick of the anti-war movement that had overtaken the city, the tear gas from People’s Park that would waft into his dorm room.
The appointment itself went normal enough - he put dye in my eyes, asked me to identify letters, shone light into my pupils, and told me I was doing a great job, as if to validate that yes! That is the letter ‘E,’ and yes, that second ‘E’ was definitely fuzzier than the first ‘E,’ my semi-blurry eyes are such champs, running on all cylinders despite their near-sightedness.
By the end of the appointment it was no surprise when he said I needed glasses. He directed me downstairs to his secretary, an older woman with a superficial smile that sat like a plastic attachment on her face, one that you could peel right off like a Mrs. Potato Head.
She quickly told me how much my insurance would cover for new frames and then immediately directed me to the cases, and I, being new to the optometrist, was confused and told her that I hadn’t planned on buying frames today and that I was planning on buying glasses from Warby Parker. She then looked at me with the most condescending stare, as if I was an idiot who had just told her something completely ridiculous, like, “Actually, I’m going to pass on glasses, I’m just going to go home and squeeze some peach juice into my eyes because I hear the natural acidity is supposed to clear near-sightedness right up!” As if I had wasted my time even coming to the optometrist if I wasn’t going to get glasses, and wasn’t that obvious, you plebeian fool.
Eventually I caved to her condescension, because, again, optometrist virgin here, and I let her half-heartedly present me with 5 or 6 frames, eventually selecting some cheap pair that looked like something I could have bought at Claire’s 10 years ago for about 1/20th of the cost. I paid, I left, and then I immediately called my sister and my mom, both of whom are seasoned glasses-wearing optometrist pros, and had them confirm what I already knew - this woman had fucked me and had tricked me into thinking that I’d asked her to do it.
I went back about 15 minutes later armed with my sister, and I spoke to a different, younger woman who reversed the charge without question, set up a new appointment so I could get contacts, and spoke to me in such a soft, soothing manner that it almost seemed as if diffusing this type of situation was already familiar to her - I imagine it happens a lot with the other woman I spoke with first.
Reflecting back on my interaction with the first woman, I find myself rattled and discomforted by the whole event. While I, admittedly, am somewhat of a manipulative person, the boundaries of my manipulation only extend as far as convincing my friends that they want to get dinner where I want to get dinner. There’s no malice in it, it’s never at the expense of another person’s comfort (and please, when it comes down to it, my friends know that they are well-fed people because of me). So I find it difficult to digest when others don’t seem to follow the simple philosophy of ‘Not Being an Asshole.’
This woman took advantage of me knowing that it was my first visit to the optometrist and despite my explicit declaration that I wasn’t interested in buying frames today. She took advantage of my knowledge gap, wedged herself inside, and played me like a puppet with her hand up my ass.
While I resent her for the experience, I do appreciate that because of her, I will never be fucked at an optometrist again. I know to stand my ground and to say an enthusiastic, “Fuck no, and fuck you!” to the next person who tries to peddle some shitty, marked up Walgreens frames to me.
So to the woman who treated me like an idiot today: fuck no to your shitty ass glasses, and fuck you, thanks for nothing!
How to survive a long-distance relationship.
As of this month, I have officially been in a long-distance relationship for 2 years. I have spent, over the past 2 years, the past 730 days, about 1/8th of this time with my boyfriend. The other 7/8ths of the time I’ve fought loneliness, I’ve woken up in other men’s beds, I’ve discovered yoga and other new interests, I’ve pursued personal goals, I’ve made new friendships while reinforcing old ones, and I’ve learned to live an entire life outside of him, parallel to him, with him.
I can’t claim to have mastered the secret to living in a long-distance relationship, because there is no secret. It’s just work. As a student you study to learn, as an employee you train to advance, and as a significant other in a long-distance relationship you communicate, you focus, you persevere to stay in love. Hint: it’s easier when you’re already in love.
For those in or considering getting into a long-distance relationship, some advice:
Communicate everyday. A common fear when it comes to long-distance relationships is the fear of growing apart - of acquiring a whole new set of life experiences that exclude your significant other. This fear is real. People adapt. They move on. The passing of time ensures this inevitability. The trick is to communicate as much as possible, whether for seconds or hours at a time - via text, via IM, via phone calls, via Skype, via any of the numerous communication mediums that exist today - and to talk about everything, from events as significant as a promotion or raise at work, to the mundane, like deciding between apple varieties at the grocery store or seeing a new hairdresser.
Distance inherently excludes you from each other’s lives. Communication bridges the gap.
Be reasonable. You deserve a life. Your significant other does too. You both deserve friends and happy hours and raucous nights out and spontaneous daytime excursions and fun and laughter and more. People tend to do funny things when they’re lonely - they get jealous of experiences that don’t involve them, and resentful of memories that don’t include them. Don’t be that person. Go out and make your own memories. They’ll become great conversation fodder when you’re digging for new things to talk about.
On that note, sometimes, when you’re in a long-distance relationship, you’re lonely and you probably haven’t had sex in a while and a cute stranger will brush past and make eye contact with you at a bar and you’ll interpret that as an invitation to make out and, basically, sometimes shit happens. Not for everyone, but consider a safety clause (and communicate the conditions of which VERY explicitly). Sometimes, and no couple is exempt from this whether long-distance or not, you’re attracted to other people. It happens. There are millions of beautiful, interesting people in the world, and sometimes, by chance, one of these people will be in a room with you while your significant other is not.
Being attracted to another person doesn’t make you a bad person. However, acting on this attraction without the express, explicit approval of your significant other can make you an asshole. If you think you can handle it, talk about this type of situation in advance and lay out specific ground rules. For example, third-party guests must be objectively uglier. Or they must be a visiting student from a foreign country with a Visa that’s about to expire. Or they must have an uncommon physical quirk, like a lisp or a missing hand.
Finally, be honest, be in love. Being in love makes being in a long-distance relationship easy. If your love is effortless, if it branches and grows like ivy across a brownstone, reaching and settling into every nook and crevice, being in a long-distance relationship will be a breeze.
So be honest with yourself and your significant other. Be in love. And if you’re not in love, then end it. This is how you survive a long-distance relationship.
On you, on this love, on this fever, on distance.
I live in a perpetually fevered state.
From the way that I walk to the way that I dance to the way that I practice yoga to the way that I engage (or disengage) others in conversation, I handle all areas of my life with a very specific intensity. I often arrive at my destinations panting, the heat from my cells radiating outward and increasing the temperature in the room ever so slightly. When I interact with people, I either make zero eye contact or lock eyes with such ferocity that it just makes all parties uncomfortable - there is no middle ground.
I make swift, yet firm decisions about places to eat, about life choices to pursue, about people with whom I want to surround myself. I do nothing casually. Even when I write, I either completely unfold all of my truth, all of myself into my words, or I say nothing substantive, choosing to instead hide behind carefully crafted bullshit masquerading as prose.
And when I love - god, when I love. It is consuming. I’ve always found it difficult to mask my feelings, any of my feelings, and when I love, most of all, it’s so obviously apparent. My love pours out of me, it floods my conversations; I find myself wading through it, trying not to drown in it. This love, this overwhelming, encompassing, ubiquitous love.
It’s no secret that I’m in a long-distance, open relationship. And to be perfectly honest, on a day-to-day basis, it’s not even that difficult to maintain. We speak everyday. We live our own lives. But it’s when I see him, wake up next to him with our limbs tangled together, spend afternoons doing nothing except merely breathing in each other’s air, and unceremoniously soon after have to say goodbye - everything stops and suspends for a while. An ill-constructed dam has popped up to bar my love.
I swell, I burst. I am overtaken with a desire to seek warmth and affection, to quell this fever, to sate the urge to have my love met.
It’s been 2 years of this distance, and I make no apologies for the attempts that I’ve made to connect with others, to fill the space that’s been left behind. Because when I think about him and I think about us, I know that this is it, this is my forever.
Whether my love leaks out of me is of little consequence. Not when there is so much of it to offer.
Chemistry is an elusive thing.
How to explain the way our cells attract, the way our atoms gravitate towards each other? How to explain the way the chemicals in our bodies react the way they do, the way that tension builds between us like a thickness filling the air?
When I’m with you I can feel your skin pulse beneath my hands, my palms, heavy, searching your torso. Your flesh responds so viscerally - warming, tensing, softening, bending to fit the curves of my own. Is there anything in this world more real than the heat that manifests during the moments we share together?
We are opposite poles being inexplicably pulled together. We are magnetic.
On eating (or not).
This may be an unfair assumption, but I believe that all women struggle with unhealthy eating habits at some point in their lives.
When I was 16, I started dating a boy. It wasn’t really a “relationship,” but it lasted 3 months, and during the brief space of time in which I called this boy my “boyfriend,” there existed a constant tension between us, an incessant push and pull. It was simple, really. I wanted his attention and affection, and he didn’t want to give it. It ended because he was never really emotionally present.
Also during this brief space of time, I genuinely thought I was anorexic. I was in such a depression over this boy, I would go days consuming only the bare minimum required to merely sustain consciousness. I would go so long without eating, I wouldn’t even notice the sound of my stomach grinding against itself with every inhale and exhale, the sound of it caving as it essentially ate itself.
It’s surprisingly not difficult to withhold food from yourself. The hunger hits like a wall after the first 12 hours or so, but after that - if you climb over that wall, if you ignore it, your appetite suddenly wanes. It hides as your mental determination beats it into submission. A vague weakness passes through you, but for the most part, you can carry on about your day without too much distraction.
I climbed over this wall a lot while I was busy moping about my “boyfriend,” the physical and emotional pain paralleling each other. Because I was consuming such a minimal amount of food during this time, even the small bits of food I was eating were hard to keep down. I wasn’t exactly binging and purging - just purging the little that was even there. I weighed 79 lbs when I was 17.
Anyways, the reason I don’t think I had an actual eating disorder was because it only lasted for a brief period of time. I believe my eating habits were strongly tied to the way I felt about my boyfriend rather than a misguided body image, and as I got over him, I also got over the desire to suppress my appetite.
However, this is not to say that I don’t still encounter and struggle with the occasional starvation binge. Being skinny can be an addiction. When clothes that once hung loosely off your body suddenly start to hug it, it can be terrifying. In 2011, I weighed the most I’ve ever weighed, and it was only 105-fucking-pounds. It took me 20-something years to break 100 lbs, and when it finally happened, I freaked out. That December I got sick with a fever that confined me to my bed, and even though initially I couldn’t eat because I was sick, I eventually didn’t eat because I wanted to see how much further I could push myself to shave off just a few more pounds. And indeed, there was a period of time when withholding food for a couple of days at a time was my go-to activity to get skinny fast.
I talk about this frequently, but I fucking love yoga, and a big reason for this is that since I’ve started practicing and going to the gym on a regular basis, I’ve stopped feeling the impetus to step on a scale every time I leave my apartment. I haven’t weighed myself in months, but it’s empowering to know that even though I probably weigh more than 100 lbs now, some of that weight is muscle - muscle that allows me to do more push-ups, that gives my core the strength to hold an inversion, that lets me balance my entire body in all sorts of standing and arm balance positions. I’ve learned to prioritize strength over how skinny my arm looks on my hip in photos, and I don’t have to force myself to eat on a regular basis, because I can’t go to the gym if my limbs are shaky, I can’t go if there’s a chance my legs will buckle beneath me.
There are still rare nights when I have to force myself to eat dinner, which is strange to admit considering my infamous reputation to eat out for every meal. But though the drive to stay petite is still something that sits faintly in the back of my mind, and will probably forever sit, I feel confident in the fact that it’s no longer something with which I “struggle,” because I’ve learned that strength feels much more gratifying than the literal emptiness of starving to be skinny.