We Lie the Most to Ourselves

I did nothing this weekend so today I will be working my ass off and then I will rinse and repeat for the rest of all time. Or something. 

We have places that can be marked on a map with bright red Xs and beneath those bright red Xs are memories and moments we have shared. This could mean nothing. It could mean everything. We have places. 

I baked last night—cherry brown butter bars. I don’t know why. I was bored. I had a lot of cherries. I still have a lot of cherries.

First, I melted some butter and I did it in a pan instead of the microwave because I was like, “Let me keep stepping up my cooking game.” 

No sleep last night. None. I was up thinking and staring at the ceiling. I was mostly up because I have chronic heartburn. I take medication but sometimes my stomach stares down that medication and laughs, cruelly.

All night, my stomach churned with acid. My stomach is still churning. 

When the butter was melted, I added sugar, vanilla, and a pinch of salt.

I have chronic heartburn because I used to make myself throw up after I ate. There’s a word for this but it always feels strange to use that word with regard to myself. I didn’t do it for that long, I tell myself. That’s not really the truth. I did it for about two years which isn’t that long but it is long enough. Or, maybe I don’t want to use the word because it was so long ago, which is absolutely not the truth. I stopped making myself throw up about three years ago. 

Next into the butter sugar melt went flour. 

When you’re fat, no one will pay attention to disordered eating or they will look the other way or they will look right through you. You get to hide in plain sight. I have hidden in plain sight, in one way or another, for most of my life. Willing myself to not do that anymore, willing myself to be seen, is difficult.

I was not fat and then I made myself fat. I ate everything and I felt safe. I needed to feel safe. I needed my body to be a hulking, impermeable mass. I wasn’t like other girls, I told myself. I got to eat everything I wanted and everything they wanted too. I was so free. We lie the most to ourselves. I was free in a prison of my own making. 

With the flour added, this thing started to look like dough. I pressed it into the bottom of a parchment lined pan. I don’t have a square baking dish so I used a round baking dish. 

I got older and I kept eating mostly just to keep the prison walls up. It was more work than you might imagine. Then I was in a great relationship with a great man and I was finishing my PhD and my life was coming together and I thought I could see a way out of the prison I had made. 

We suffered a loss and it broke me. I needed to blame something or someone so I blamed myself. I blamed my body for being broken. My doctor did not dissuade me of this blame which was its own kind of hell—to have your worst fear about yourself affirmed. 

I put the crust in the oven at 375 for 18 minutes and set to pitting cherries. Here is my cherry pitter. I am very fond of my cherry pitter. 

My body was to blame. I was to blame. I needed to change my body but I also wanted to eat because eating was a comfort and I needed comfort but refused to ask the one person who could comfort me for that comfort. This was something I had long known so well. Before then I had often joked that I wasn’t bulimic because I couldn’t make myself throw up but when I really want to do something, I get it done. I learned how to make myself throw up and then I got very good at it. 

I pitted a quantity of cherries—enough to fill the bars. I eyed this visually. I am not so much with measuring things that feel complicated to measure. See also: parsley. 

When the crust was ready it had puffed slightly and was lightly browned.

I am fat so I hid in plain sight, eating, throwing up, eating, I am perfectly normal and fine, I told myself. One day, my boyfriend found me in the bathroom, hunched over the toilet, my eyes red and watering. It was a nasty scene. “Get the fuck out,” I said quietly. I hadn’t said more than a few words to him, to anyone, in months. 

He grabbed me and pulled me to my feet. He shook me and said, “This is what you’re doing? This?” I just stared at him because I knew that would make him angrier. I wanted to make him angrier so he could punish me and I could stop punishing myself. He deserved to punish me and I wanted to give that to him as penance. He is a good man so he wouldn’t give me what I wanted. He uncurled his fingers and let go of me and backed out of the bathroom. He put his fist through a wall which only made me angry because I wanted him to put his fist through me. 

It was time to prepare the filling so I cut up a stick of butter and put that in my saucepan. 

After that, he tried to never leave me alone. He tried to save me from myself. Ha! Ha! Ha! I’m better, I told him. It’s over. I was better, I suppose. I was better about hiding what I was doing. He couldn’t follow me everywhere. I learned how to be very quiet. We were better or as better as we ever were going to be and then I graduated and I moved and I was finally living alone and I could do whatever I wanted. I was an accomplished professional so it was easier than ever to hide in plain sight. 

In a separate bowl, I whisked two eggs and some sugar then added vanilla, a bit of flour, a pinch of salt and I went rebel by adding some almond extract. 

In the new town no one really knew me. I had “friends” but it’s not like they came over to my apartment or knew me well enough to know anything was off. When out to dinner, friends remarked on why I went to the bathroom after I ate. “I have a bad stomach,” I politely demurred. It was a half-truth. 

I was, immediately, extraordinarily on the rebound, involved with a guy but the one time he caught me throwing up he said, “I’m glad you’re working on the problem.” 

For him, the problem was my body and he never let me forget it. He punished me and I liked it. Finally, I thought. Finally. He made his cruel comments and gave me “advice” which only reminded me that everything wrong with my body was, indeed, my fault. “Why are you with this asshole?” so many people asked.  The longer I stayed with him the worse he made me feel and the better he made me feel because at least, someone was telling me a truth about myself I already knew. 

I added the cherries to the cooled dough. This was relaxing, carefully placing the cherries.

Something had to give. Something always gives. My grief began to subside. I was way too old for this shit, I realized. The heartburn had started up and I realized I needed to stop punishing myself. I had finally, after more than thirty years, found a best friend who saw the best and worst parts of me and even if I didn’t talk about what was going on, she was there and I could have told her what was going on and it would have been fine. That’s a powerful thing, knowing you can reveal yourself to someone. It made me want to be a better person worth revealing. 

I wanted to stop but wanting and doing are two different things. I had a routine. I starved myself all day and then I ate a huge meal and then I purged myself of that meal. I made myself empty and I loved that empty feeling. I ignored my yellowed teeth and my hair falling out and the acid burns on my right fingers. “Why is my hair falling out?” I asked the Internet, as if I didn’t already know. 

The butter needed to brown and I wasn’t entirely clear on how I would know the butter had browned but I decided to go with common sense and my eyes.

I became a vegetarian about three years ago now. People always ask why I became a vegetarian, particularly so late in life. “I’m not a moral vegetarian,” I say. “I just loved meat too much.” And my mom has been a vegetarian for most of my life. These things are all true. 

When the butter was browned, I whisked it with the eggs and then poured the mixture over the cherries. I may have overbrowned the butter a wee bit but worry not. 

The truth was more complicated. I didn’t know how to tell people the truth because it would mean confessing this secret that really, no one knew about me and that no one would probably want to know about me because a fat body is a problem that needs to be solved by any means necessary. We have to worry about the emaciated girls being fed through a tube in the nose, not girls like me.  And also, I was really so old to be dealing with what we think of as an adolescent problem. I was embarrassed. I am embarrassed. You can’t look up to me. I’m a fucking mess. 

I can’t even believe I am writing this right now but I was up all night with my stomach killing me and also I had seen The Purge 2: Anarchy and I guess I needed to purge in a healthy way. I became a vegetarian because I needed a way of ordering my eating in a less harmful way. I needed something to focus on that didn’t involve bringing my guts up every day. I thought I would only be a vegetarian for a year but it seems to be sticking. I am finding better ways to change my body. My body is not a problem. My body is my body and I am ready to live in this body without keeping it a prison. 

I baked the bars in my lie oven for forty minutes and when they came out they were probably a bit overdone. I just really hate my oven. It never can make up its mind about how to perform. Regardless, the bars are delicious and I recommend making this for brunch or something. Ina really loves brunch. She likes to brunch with friends. 

The word heartburn is rather misleading. It has nothing to do with the heart. Or it has everything to do with the heart only not the way you might think. 

My Whole Damn Heart

I was watching Barefoot Contessa and she made a pasta dish, pasta with pecorino and pepper, that looked delicious so I decided to make it. In case you were wondering, Ina’s three favorite herbs are chives, basil, and parsley. I approve. 

First I boiled some salted water for the pasta. 

This week has been long. To come back to this life after living that life is like going from technicolor to black and white. We. Us. Me. I am quieted without you. A best friend. A best everything. I don’t have easy answers but I am here. We are deserving. 

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Then I chopped a quantity of parsley. The recipe said something like two table spoons but who has time to measure that in terms of parsley? Not I. Then I added two scallions because I wanted to give a little kick to the dish. I love freestyling on Ina recipes. It makes me feel like such a rebel.

This has been a really good year. I’ve been afraid to say that aloud, but man, this has been a really good year. Great things keep happening. I can’t wrap my mind around it as a whole so I focus on the smaller pieces of good and try to fit them all together. I am allowing myself to enjoy this. I’m allowing myself to believe I’ve earned this. Yes, luck is involved, but I work hard. I will always work hard. It means so much to be able to share it with youin the ways I can. 

I wrote my novel with my whole damn heart. An Untamed State is the clearest representation of who I am as a writer, as a woman. That book is my whole damn heart. 

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The recipe called for a thick egg pasta. I don’t like thick pasta. I like angel hair but I wanted to be as true to Ina’s intentions as possible. I used fettucini which I don’t love because it is so thick but I made sure to boil it extra so it would be soft. BOIL BOIL BOIL. 

When the pasta was ready, I drained most of the water but left a little because Ina said so. Then, I put the pot back on low heat and I added a lot of cracked pepper, butter, parsley, the rebel scallions, heavy cream, and some parmesan. I couldn’t find pecorino. Whatever, hard Italian cheese is hard Italian cheese. I tossed the deliciousness together. 

You have questions. I have answers I hope might help. 

Hi Ms. Gay,

I’m a 21-year-old virgin. Sort of like Mireille (though she was a bit older). But different than her, I’m a virgin in all senses of the word. I’ve never kissed a boy (or anyone) or really gone past any of the ‘bases’ or anything. And I know that out of all the things to be, this is not the worst. I’ve realized that a lot of it has to do with me—being scared about what happens when you enter the uncontrollable situation that is the realm of love. You described it so very aptly in the first round of question-answering that you did (big girl self-esteem issues—though I wouldn’t classify myself as a big girl, I certainly have those issues. I think maybe ultimately, it all stems from not feeling worthy, regardless of what it was that spawned the issues). I’m bad at asking questions of life and better at just responding, but here I am asking you. Because I think of myself as a feminist when I have to give it a title and I don’t think virginity necessarily makes anyone more valuable or less valuable. I also don’t think that men should be the defining factor regarding the worth of a woman, but I often feel that this lack of experience means something about me, that I am somehow unloveable and undesirable and never will be loved in the way that I want. I’ve had situations that have hinted at possibilities different from this, but at the end of the day, I always come back to this lonely feeling of being unwanted. This isn’t really a question anymore. I’m just not really sure how to deal and was hoping that maybe you could lend some insight.

Thanks,
Not Cinderella  

Dear Not Cinderella,

Call me Roxane. I’m just a girl, who will try to answer your question. You are not unlovable and undesirable. You are only twenty-one. There is a lifetime between you and being unlovable or undesirable.  

Virginity is kind of a foreign territory for me because I never really got a chance to be a virgin. I only say this because I don’t want to lie and tell you, oh I know exactly how you feel. I don’t. But. I do know you are lovable. I know this because you’re gutsy and I love gutsy people. I know you’re gutsy because you reached out like this. 

I do understand thinking, “I am never going find someone who wants me.” This is something most people feel at one time or another. During long spells of being single, I find myself thinking, “I am going to die alone.” I’m not proud of this and it is super dramatic but it’s hard to feel differently when there is no evidence to the contrary. It is hard to have hope when you don’t see any potential for evidence to the contrary. It’s hard when you don’t believe you deserve any evidence to the contrary. Self-esteem is a motherfucker. 

Conventional wisdom tells us we shouldn’t put our self worth into whether or not we are desirable to others but our human hearts really don’t follow conventional wisdom. It’s nice to be wanted. It is nice to be loved. It is absolutely okay, in my book, to want to be wanted and loved. We deserve nice things. 

Right now, please know you are not unlovable or undesirable. I know, without a doubt that the right person, nay, the right people, are going to come along and you are going to rock each other’s worlds. Try and allow yourself to get out in the world and be in situations where the right people can find you. Meet new people! Go to events and stuff. This is me winging it because I am shy and I don’t know what outgoing people do to meet others. I mostly use the Internet. Eeek. 

Virginity is this THING in our culture but it doesn’t have to be. Your virginity has absolutely nothing to do with your self-worth. Try and hold onto that which I absolutely know is so fucking hard to do but please do try. Your lack of experience only means that there are a lot of good things ahead of you. You are a glorious, undiscovered country. 

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I added some more cheese to the tossed pasta and then tossed all that together and I started getting excited because I could tell that there was soon going to be a party in my mouth. 

Hey, Roxane.

I am not one to normally email people I’ve never met. But you tweeted a bit ago about people emailing in for love advice. Well, you’re a great writer and blogger and I enjoy reading all that you write — so here goes:

Love is sometimes a road paved with unanswered questions, and maybe questions that will never be answered at all. My road is 500 miles long and leads to a boy named S. We went to college together and at the end of senior year I fell for him (I wish it had been sooner). Graduation came and we went our own ways. Now, 4 years on, we live in different states but are still very good friends. We text, video chat with other friends, tweet, etc. I miss him. He isn’t happy where he is and would like to live where I am. But finding a job out here in his field is easy to want, hard to achieve. I want him to be happy, so I hope he moves soon, even if it’s not to here. But I will see him soon at an event. Maybe I shouldn’t say anything about my feelings (I don’t think he knows; maybe he does), but I am so excited/nervous to see him. Any advice on how I can at least show him I care? Should I make a move? Would it make our friendship awkward if he only sees our relationship as platonic? And, of course, there’s the distance problem. Gah! Unanswered questions galore, Roxane.

Sincerely,

Q without the A

Dear Q without the A,

Thank you for the compliments! You make me blush. I think you already know if you should make a move or not. When a friendship turns into something more, it can be terrifying. What if the feelings aren’t reciprocated? What if they are and you embark on a relationship and that relationship doesn’t work out? What if the friendship is then ruined? Was the relationship worth sacrificing the friendship? There are so many questions without easy answers. What are you willing to sacrifice to tell him how you feel? Once you can answer that question, you will know what to do. 

To show him you care, maybe you could be more affectionate than you normally are. Or you might look at him in a certain way. I’ve found that even when we want to hide what we feel, we can’t, not really. 

I do think  the friendship will still be there if you declare your feelings for him and he wants to be platonic because true friendship is a foundation that can withstand most anything. 

My opinions on distance have changed in recent years. Distance is inconvenient and often painful but it is not insurmountable. When the relationship is strong, when the relationship is something you both need and cannot get away from, distance is nothing. 

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Here is what the dish looked like when it was done. It was delicious, absolutely delicious. Total date night dinner. Very rich, though, and not something I would put in the regular rotation. Maybe someday I will make this for you.

Here is one last letter:


Anyway, there is this guy that has just really, really blown me away. I just started taking a karate class in my town, and he’s one of the black belts who helps Sensei with training us. He’s smart, funny, a geek (the first time he came in, I *heard* him before I saw him and he was ranting about Spider-man in the movies versus the comics, then proceeded to make a Princess Bride reference) and it doesn’t hurt that he is incredibly kind and patient with not just me but the other students as well. He loves dogs, and he actually brought one of his fur babies to class, which really made my day. 

My problem is that I want to find out more about him/possibly make friends/possibly ask him out, but I don’t have any real relationship experience, I’m not sure how or if him being a more experienced student and me being a beginner would be problematic or not, and he is incredibly attractive and I feel like he is WAY out of my league. I’m not small and thin, I’m trying to develop some appreciation for my body’s shape (it’s hard) and from past experience I’ve dealt with guys who absolutely do NOT like girls who can (in this case, quite literally) throw them, even though every time I end up tossing him, he bounces right back up with a smile and laughs. 

I’m just a mess inside because I really, really want SOMETHING with him, even if it’s just friendship, but I’m afraid of approaching him because for all his talking, he’s never mentioned a girl friend (or boy friend, I certainly wouldn’t judge). I’m also a bit of a mess when it comes to him because I just found out that he is somehow a person I have no problem turning my back on, and having him put his hands around my neck from behind (for practice and such). I CAN’T do this with the other people in class- I start shaking, I tense up, and instead of doing what I’m supposed to, I panic. When I was a teenager, I had a nasty experience with an older guy who, after giving me a ride home, grabbed the back of my neck and tried to force my face into his crotch. I got away by twisting and breaking his fingers and booking it.

So…I’m kind of a messed up ball of emotions. I’m happy because he’s nice and I enjoy seeing him, I’m frustrated because I’m a coward and insecure, and I’m confused because I’ve only been in two month’s worth of classes with him and somehow I trust him to such a degree already.

Any advice or suggestions would be welcomed at this point, before I drive myself bonkers.

 Dear Bad Ass Finger Breaker,

I love that you are taking karate. I want to drop about a hundred lines from The Karate Kid, but I will try and control myself.

WAX ON WAX OFF!!!!  

Clearly, self control is not my strong suit. 

It’s good that you trust this guy in ways you can’t trust others. It means  you’re letting someone in and it is good to let people in, to break down force fields. 

This league thing keeps coming up and it sucks that we have this way of thinking about how people pair off. She’s out of his league. He’s out of her league. He’s out of his league. She’s out of her league. Fuck all that, she says, recognizing this is far easier said than done.

I tend to believe I am in the paltriest, most unworthy of leagues. I am generally the person who thinks she wants someone who is way out of her league. It’s a terrible feeling, particularly when it is tied up with body issues. What right do I have, I often tell myself, to want him or her? What right do I have to express that want when I am just me? It takes courage to overcome these harmful things we do to ourselves, to believe we are worthy and deserving. 

It is so damaging that we equate small and thin with attractive. This is not true, she says, recognizing that this, too, is so hard to believe.

It’s amazing that you can flip this dude around. He might think so too. You won’t know unless you find out. I wouldn’t dwell on the conflict of interest thing. It’s karate not college, you know? What you need right now is courage. You dig deep down and you reach the best parts of yourself. You do what you do when you want to look and feel good, whatever that might be. Ask him out for coffee or to go to a comic book store or a movie. Find the courage to look him in the eye whether he says yes or no. The bravest thing we can ever do is ask a question for which we do not know the answer. I already know you are that brave. 

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As per usual, there was a correction at the grocery store. I sure did take a picture. I move in like 11 days! I have so much to do! It will get done because it has to get done. This weekend, though, I am just taking some time to breathe and to be. 

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I know now why we found each other. We earned it. Here is a glass of all I want for you. Open your eyes. See how it swells with so much want and possibility, how it threatens to shatter but holds steady and strong. Close your eyes. Drink. 

Beneath the Same Sky

I love looking up when I am in Los Angeles.

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Everywhere, palm trees, blue skies. 

The cars, though, are ridiculous. I am not a car person but I have brothers so I know some basics about ridiculous cars. I saw a Louis Vuitton Bentley or somesuch and I thought, “Why would you do that to such a pretty car?” It basically looked like it was covered in tacky decals. It was truly the worst thing one could do to a car. Why would Bentley even allow that?

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I saw a Maclaren and it seemed cool, sleek, worthy of James Bond. I saw a black Lamborghini that basically looked like Batman’s car. I peeked inside and there were all kinds of buttons and gadgets and consoles and I wondered how that car is even driven.

I drive a Ford.

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Coming home is always a coming down. 

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This place feels like a different planet. This place is a different planet. This is my backyard. I stand on my balcony sometimes during the day, and sometimes during the night, and remember that you are there and I am here, but we live beneath the same sky. I too have mapped the distances between us. There are tolls but I am willing to pay them. 

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A photographer came to my house today. I am loathe to have my picture taken under any circumstance, so it was trying. It was also a lot of fun. “Let yourself enjoy this,” I reminded myself, and so I did. She and her assistants were here for two and a half hours, posing me like an action figure. I am a writer. It was all surreal. I took pictures of them taking my picture. 

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Speaking of Bad Feminist, let’s do a giveaway. 

The first SEVEN people to buy Billie the Bull by xTx and forward me the receipt (roxane at roxanegay.com), will get a GIFT BAG including Bad Feminist, An Untamed State, a t-shirt, a tote bag, a magnet, a key chain, and a pin. Along with the receipt, send your name, address, and t-shirt size.

The next oh, EIGHTEEN FIFTEEN  FIVE people to buy Billie the Bull by xTx and forward me the receipt at roxane at roxanegay.com, will receive a magnet, key chain, pin, and copy of Bad Feminist. Along with the receipt, send your name and address. 

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Last month, in Los Angeles, these buildings were covered with an ad for the iPhone 5C. This month, the ads had been painted over. It was a blank canvas and startling to come upon, these huge swaths of nothing, and how temporary that nothingness is. 

Something I Googled: How do you let someone go? The answers were not satisfactory so I moved on to another search, recipes, probably. Who knows? I am always searching for answers. I am an inquisitive person. I enjoy the delusion that the most difficult questions might be easily answered. 

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I had dinner with my friend Mallory and we enjoyed these Parker House rolls that also had parmesan cheese baked on them. It was kind of a holy experience. I can’t even get into the burrata but it was so good that Mallory shouted, “I hate you for not having put this in your mouth yet.” It was… that good. 

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I love murals. I love how bright the colors are. I love how they remind us that art and beauty can be found everywhere and anywhere. 

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In a Westwood cemetery, rests Marilyn Monroe. All the marble slabs around hers are gray. Marilyn Monroe’s marble slab has turned pink over the years because when people make the pilgrimage, they touch the stone. They caress it with their lips. The marble of her memory has pinked with human oils. She has been dead for more than fifty years and still, people mourn her. They leave a piece of themselves with her. It is astonishing, the hold love can have on us, how unwavering and constant it can be. It is not something you can let go of, whether you should or not. 

Recent ITEMS of Note That Have Also Made Me Feel Like I Might Make a Go Of This Writing Thing

1. OPRAH (genuflect)

2. VANITY FAIR (It Girl???)

3. THE AV CLUB

Best opening with a conclusion that lives up to it: AN UNTAMED STATE”

4. THE L MAGAZINE 

Here is an interview, that will also appear in the print magazine. 

5. CBS NEWS 

I offer some thoughts about the inequalities we must address as a society. 

6. CHICAGO MAGAZINE

An Untamed State, Best Debut Novel, 2014

Halfway Between Her and Hollywood

I keep coming back to this place. I stay longer each time. Things are softer each time.

Los Angeles draws me in.

Because the freeways are glittering and hypnotic and chaotic and overwhelming. 

Because the sprawl.

Because the streets stretch over incredible distances.

Because not far, there is blue water. 

Because not far, there are mountains. 

Because there is so much to see, and it is all so different from everything I’ve ever known and I want to know more of this different.

Because the weather, the air, the sun impossibly bright. I did not know I needed the sun. I did not know a person could be the sun.

Because it feels like home in a way no place has felt before. 

I take a vacation; it is a much-needed visit.

Los Angeles is a woman and we have lunch, at a place where we have lunched before. There is no small talk. That evening, drinks. There is no small talk. There is nothing small between us.

I go to a casino. I am the only woman at the poker table. For the first hour, I purposefully play terribly. The men around me act like men. There is talk of sports and I pretend I know what I am talking about because I read about LeBron James and his Decision. My friend Sal Pane, who is my main basketball person, would be so proud. When the men say vulgar things, they look at me and apologize as if my ears are too delicate for such things. Then, I play for real, and I take all their money. I drink. Cocktail waitresses, not beautiful, mostly worn but so young to look so worn, walk around in tight ugly spandex dresses, their faces caked with make up, dully droning, “Cocktail.” They carry trays heavy with drinks. They smile wanly at the lame pick up lines they are offered. They leave the drinks with a little cart. Waiters walk around with stained aprons, the pockets heavy with menus—cheap bar food and, strangely, a robust menu of Chinese food. I have a salad, not even a Caesar salad, and it is surprisingly good.

The next day, a brunch with a person who could make something amazing happen. I want to share this moment with her and so I do. With her, the good things seem real. We are in a crowded West Hollywood eatery, one of those tiny restaurants that seems to deliberately make it difficult to get a table but makes the wait worthwhile. After we are seated and our food arrives, the bacon is amazing, she says. I am pretty sure she has been ruined for all other bacon. We taste from each other’s plates—her pancakes, my potatoes. During the brunch meeting, I am asked by our companion why I am staying downtown. I explain that it is halfway between her and Hollywood. She is a compass point. She is true north.

A bookstore full of mysteries to explore and then a futile errand and my first Slurpee, sweet and slushy and cold.

Twice, in different parts of the city, I am recognized and it is unbelievable but it feels real because she is there to witness. I don’t know how to make sense of people recognizing me. I’m… just a girl with words and a foolish heart.

We get sort of lost downtown in a place that feels like an entirely different country—bright everything, dresses that look like confection, crowded sidewalks, street vendors, food carts.

She is right about most things. We are bossy with each other but not in a bad way. We are two halves of a whole. It has always been this way, always will be. Always.

We’re back at the hotel. We have a drink in a fancy place with an incredible view. “Look at the tiny cars, the tiny boxes” she says.  “Maybe Lord of the Rings” is on,” she says. Then we’re in my room, an extravagant room, an unexpected upgrade, bigger than my apartment, you can get lost. We get lost.  There is so much between us and nearly no air and still we breathe.

There are words we say to each other, small acts of possession that sound natural to the ear and feel natural to the mouth.

We will never, not ever call each other, “bae.” What is that, even? This is our first, “OMG WE ARE OLD LADIES” conversation. It won’t be the last.

I think about unstoppable forces, and how there are two of them. We are on the same page in different books.

After she leaves, I go to a reading for an anthology I have a story in, but where my attendance is not expected. It is a needed distraction. It warms me to see how my presence is appreciated, how my (????) showing up is a joyful surprise. I enjoy my friends. This is what life could be like, I realize. I decide to figure out a way to move to the city. For me, to be clear.

The reading is good. I share from a story I’ve not read before, borrowing someone’s copy of the book. I sign things. “This is what my life is becoming,” I realize. It feels unbelievable but I have promised to work on accepting these good things and how I have made them happen.

She texts me the name of a song, and later during the trip, it will unexpectedly play in the car at the best and worst moment. There are, across the days, all manner of signs. They cannot be ignored.   

The next morning, she is there again. We go to one cemetery and then another and the weather is perfect. Something pleasantly sharp shoots through me. We never seem to argue but when we drive together, she says, “slow down.” It is endearing and familiar. We are on a freeway, traffic is light, and I say, “The 405 doesn’t seem so bad,” because I always hear people complain about the 405.  “We’re on the 10,” she says dryly.

Before long we are back to the hotel and we lose ourselves once more.  

I return to the casino, play higher stakes. This time, I am serious from the moment I sit down. No girl games. The menfolk are the menfolk. They love to analyze how I play. They think they know what I’m doing. They are nearly always wrong. One man in particular is the complainer at the table. For seven or eight hours, he regales us with the story of a hand we play early on, one where I used discipline to fold trip Aces against a potential flush. He simply cannot believe it. This is why women are good at poker. We know how to play smart, think ahead. We aren’t afraid to lose when we know that eventually we will win.

He also is rude to the dealer, never lets up. She is a kind woman so I try to be as soft as possible with her. I tip her well. Solidarity. I hate him. She, not the dealer, tells me to decimate them so I do. I take all their money.

We have a bucket list.

Another stolen moment, lunch, another cemetery, fatigue, comfortable quiet, In –N – Out grilled cheese. I ask her to do something so these separations we live with won’t be in vain. This is goodbye, always difficult, always too soon.

There is so much to say.

I meet a friend in Hollywood and she is delightful. We go to The Grove and wander the farmer’s market. In a moment of vanity, I buy a copy of Vanity Fair that mentions Bad Feminist. I am referred to as an It Girl. I have never been an It Girl before.  My friend and I go to a fancy old hotel and lounge on a settee and enjoy drinks. We have an incredible dinner and lively conversation. I have trouble ignoring my phone.

The final morning, I quietly slip from the anonymity of the hotel. I leave for the airport and I am filled with so much feeling. She works near the airport and I think about stopping there, to let her know I am in the parking lot. I want to stand in front of the window with a boombox over my head. See me. Say anything. Say everything. 

The airport, as always, is a pit of grime and despair. I will never understand how such an amazing city has such a shitty, shitty airport. 

She has pushed me away. I will stay away so things can be easier for her. Easier isn’t the right word. Nothing is easy about this for either of us.  I am bereft. I am full of joy and these lovely instances of remembering a conversation or a moment and smile. My cheeks ache tenderly right now. We just always have so much fun, so much everything.

This is not tragic. This is life—messy and complicated, difficult and inconvenient, enthralling and unexpected. This is love. If and when she wants me to return, she only needs ask. I will be there. I will always be there. I have no regrets. I will leave my heart halfway between her and Hollywood.

joINT Literary Fundraiser (Help some writers out)

There are many reasons why I’m a control freak, but this tendency has really flared up over the past year. I blame my mother, who is extraordinarily fastidious, but this flare-up started with travel, which I do frequently, and hotels. Because I spend so much time in hotels, I began paying minute attention to everything about a hotel room, especially the bathroom. If anything was untoward or out of place, like a stray hair on the duvet cover, I obsessed and stayed up all night, afraid to let any part of my body touch the “contaminated” surfaces of the hotel room. I realize how this sounds.
— Read the rest of this essay: Radio Maria - The Morning News

Sometimes, It Is Something Else

The problem with cooking for several days, at least for me, is that I get sick of the dish after two days. I couldn’t eat the delicious summer pasta for a third day in a row. I just couldn’t. I am probably going to eat blueberries for dinner tonight. 

I spent my day being ridiculous and basically like a high schooler hanging around a locker waiting for a note, my palms sweaty. 

Over the past year, I have been solicited for four separate projects about women choosing not to have children. I have declined each of these invitations, all from really talented, capable editors I like and respect. It has made me think about the assumptions people make when you are a woman, nearing forty, who does not yet have a child or hasn’t publicly offered up evidence of having a child.

Even among thoughtful, well-meaning people, this assumption is deeply ingrained. A 39 year old woman without children? She must be child free by choice. That assumption is nearly as frustrating as the assumption that a woman of that same age is bereft and unfulfilled if she has not yet had a child—there must be something wrong with her? One of the many universal experiences among women is that we are always defined with relation to motherhood. We are always mothers, potential mothers, or we are not mothers.

I love children. I would happily have a child. Once upon a time… I held onto the idea of a child and then it was more than idea and then shit happened. That experience nearly broke me. I don’t write about it, explicitly. I don’t talk about it much with the people in my life. I don’t know if I’m going to have a child at this point. I won’t be devastated or hollow if it doesn’t happen but being childless is not always a choice or a curse. Sometimes, it is something else. 

People have more questions. I have more answers. And yes, you can send me questions about anything, it doesn’t have to be about love.

I am almost fifty, queer-divorced for five years now and actually enjoy living and being on my own with just my cat for company. But I neither want nor see myself spending the rest of my life single, even though I know I could easily end up that way (like a lot of women my age). I know the solution is to just go out and meet a bunch of people but I tried that right after my divorce and discovered some problems. 

1)  As you have also have discovered, OK Cupid is just awful. I wrote a funny and very specific profile with a killer main photo and only received replies from people who were completely inappropriate, including a woman I knew but didn’t know was queer because, back when I was with my ex, we had spent the night at the house this woman shares with her husband. (I realize a lot of people are just fine being in relationships with married people, but I am not one of them).

2) I want to date women who are about my age (though not much older) but am having trouble meeting ones who share my interests. I like going to loud live music shows that aren’t, you know, crap nostalgia bands from the 80s. I don’t have a dog, an SUV or a place in the suburbs. I like to stay up late. I know I’m not the only one, but sometimes, especially where I live, in a college town, it kind of feels that way. And I’m really not interested in dating someone significantly younger than I am. Younger people are frequently nice to look at and talk to, but my ex-spouse was 12 years younger and part of the problem between us (not the only one, see below) was: we were at different stages in our lives. I don’t want to repeat that mistake again. 

3) I met and married my ex-spouse late (past 40) and really felt like I had found the right person: one who shared my sense of humor, was on my side and made me feel safe. Except she turned out to be an abusive asshole who didn’t give a shit about my well-being. When we split up (because she had a violent incident and wouldn’t get therapy for it), I would’ve been homeless if I hadn’t had friends and family to rely on. I’ve always prided myself on my common sense and good judgement, especially about people, but I turned out to be so wrong about her, it’s hard to trust my own instincts about anything, even now, five years later. I made this item #3 but I realize it’s really the crux of my problem. Do you have any advice for me? 

Dear Looking for Love,

OK Cupid is the worst. I was so traumatized by the experience I simply deleted my account after several months. For one, there were a shocking number of people who posed for their profile pictures in front of wood paneling. That was really too much. Then there were the illiterate and often gross messages and the stupid profiles. I did not meet a single person on OK Cupid that I could introduce to friends, family, or even my worst enemy. It works for some folks, but clearly, not for all of us. 

Have you sought out other online dating networks? I hear match.com is better than OK Cupid. The internet also suggested the lesbian dating sites pinkcupid.com and pinksofa.com but I know nothing about them and their splash pages don’t instill confidence. Sorry. It’s hard out here.  You’re right, as you note early in your letter. You just have to get out there any way you can, and hope for the best.

I would gently suggest that one of the things you may also need to do is broaden the range of women you will consider dating. This does not mean you should lower your standards, but there is no such thing as having it all. There is no perfect mate though there are people out there who are perfect for us with all their imperfections. Maybe you might open yourself to dating a woman your age who has no interest in staying up all night or going to loud clubs. There are likely many other things you could still have in common but you won’t know if you don’t give it a try. I’ve found that dating is like playing scratch tickets. You just never know what the fuck is going to happen but it is still exciting to scratch and hope.

But the real issue  is how do you trust your instincts more? I have no idea. It’s hard to have faith not only in ourselves, but in others. Still. What is the alternative? Having no faith is untenable. I have had times in my life when I was faithless and I was not well served. Trust your instincts. There is no way to guarantee your instincts will always be right but your instincts are well honed and your faith in them will always be well placed, even when they are wrong. 

So I had been dating this girl for about a month, whom I was quite enamored with. She’s ambitious, eloquent, well-read, and very attractive. She’s also 25 (has big girl job/ apartment), and I am 21( college student/intern/living with my parents). The first couple dates were fabulous, she was interesting to me and quite interested in me. Then sex came up. I was a virgin. She was not. And she freaked out and said it gave her anxiety to be my first. We talked it over, and I said if her being my first time was really such a big deal, and too much pressure for her, then I could walk away. Like if someone doesn’t want you, then I see no reason to stay. I guess I just don’t really understand or value virginity. The concept of virginity always seemed a bit silly to me. Anyway, she thought it over, and decided that she was okay being my first. So we had sex. It was meh, a lot to take in I guess, a bit of sensory overload. Afterwards, when we talked about it, I said I had no idea what I was doing during this sex thing, and she said “that was kind of obvious.” Which hurt me. But she said that she was willing to teach me.

The next date we went on after that night was quite delightful. We were connecting and laughing, and gosh, just holding her hand made me giddy as all get out. We made out when we got back to her place that night. And then she started touching my clit, but I was just not in the mood for that sensory overload again. So I said no to sex. And then she got upset with me, and said that me saying “no” made her feel “unsexy.” Which made me feel like an awful human being, and I told her she was oh so very attractive. We cuddled a bit that night, and when she initiated sex that morning, I felt so guilty about that last night, I let her finger fuck me, more or less out of guilt.  

After that she was kind of passive aggressive, like not answering my texts as verbosely as before. So I asked her what was up. And she said that she believed we were at different places in our lives as far as relationships, which I completely agreed with. She also said that she really liked me though, and wanted to continue to see me. She apologized for being an asshole about the sex stuff, and blamed it on her ego. I suggested we could be friends with cuddle benefits, which she agreed to. 

Our first hang out session as “friends with cuddle benefits” turned into making out. Then making out topless. It was lovely. Just as lovely as those first few dates. She was a sweetheart, apologized for all her asshole-ery and cuddled me gingerly.

Two days after, via text, we talked about boundaries, since what we did was not within the realm of “friends with cuddle benefits”. She said that said she could only do the benefits part if she separated her feelings from me, which she didn’t think was emotionally healthy. Which I was not into. I mean, I wanted the “friend” part of the “friend with benefits.” I quite liked her though, and still wanted to be her friend, even minus benefits. She said that it was too hard to be around me and not want to kiss me. I mean, I was all over her too. So I agreed with that. So now, we are not talking, because we decided that talking just kind of turned into making out for us. But gah, I miss her. And I wish I could just start over with her. She was so witty and cute. So I’m thinking of texting her, and saying that I miss her and wish we could start over. But is that too pathetic? It’s been a week and a half since we decided to not talk anymore, and I just miss her. I can’t decide if I’m lonely for her or just lonely. Like I understand there were a few points where she did not treat me nicely, but she always apologized and was so sweet after.

Bleh. Do I text her? Do I not? I want to. But….hmmm. I would love love love to hear your advice. Thank you so so so very much :)))


Dear Young One,

GIRL. I mean, GIRL. NO! You don’t text her. There are other cute, witty girls out there who will not make their feeling unsexy for hearing “no” YOUR problem. As an aside, you are adorable and I just want to squeeze you and hang out with you.

I am just going to be blunt  so maybe also ask your friends . I think this girl is manipulative and has a SERIOUS problem with boundaries. Also, you never throw someone a fuck because you’re feeling guilty. I mean, yes, we all do it from time to time, but don’t do that. You will always get the short end of that stick. 

This woman seems to not quite know what she wants.  Not wanting to sex you because you were a virgin? And then telling you she could tell you weren’t experienced? I’m sorry but that rudeness, alone, would get someone kicked to the curb. A comment like that, after my first time with someone, would break my heart. I am a delicate flower.

No matter what your sexuality or gender is, the first few times you have sex with someone are generally awkward, even if your chemistry is on point. It takes time to get to know each other’s bodies and what really gets you going and what doesn’t. It takes time to be truly invested in someone else’s pleasure. There are, of course, exceptions but mostly, it takes time. 

To sum up: kick her ass to the curb and go find you an awesome woman who will treat you right.

So I’m pretty in love with this dude and he’s pretty in love with me, which is great and not something that normally happens in my life and brain. I am into it. But! He and I are from different countries (I am currently in his) and eventually, i.e. in about half a year, my various visas will run out and I’ll have to go back to my part of the world. 

The thing is, I’m emotionally serious about this but I’m not a particularly serious person when it comes to relationships, and I’m not thinking that we’re gonna get married and have a million babies because that’s not really something I ever think about anyone. And we haven’t been together that long (good friends for a year, dating a month or so). And my instinct is to stay with him as long as possible and then bundle him back to my home country for as long as possible and then I don’t know, run away to Mars or something. But is that ridiculous? How much should we actually shape our lives around our relationships? My answer for my whole life has been “not really at all” and now I WANT to and it’s bugging me out. He’s younger than me and he loves me and I honestly think he will run away wherever I suggest we run away but I don’t want to ruin him or enable him to run away from becoming an adult just because he wants to be with me and I want to be with him.

So I guess the problem is: I feel like I have to start making moves and decisions to stick with a relationship that seems good but is quite new before it is seasoned enough for me to know if I should be making those moves. 

Do you have any advice about that? It is okay if you don’t but (from your twitter) you seem like a person who is thoughtful in a very singular way and thanks you letting us all ask you questions. I feel like this is a silly question but I’m also trapped in an airport forever and so everything is filled with just a bit more despair than it otherwise would be. 

Dear Making Moves,

Damn. Slow your roll. You’ve been dating for a month or so!

Now, and this is awkward to admit, but I am a HOPELESS ROMANTIC. I’m the kind of person who starts planning the whole future the DAY I start seeing someone I like, but I also keep all that musing to myself. It’s just for me until it isn’t. 

You don’t need to figure everything out today, tomorrow, or even when you leave his country in six months. Why not just see what happens? If he will follow you anywhere, and you like him, why not let him? I see women all too often get very attached to this identity of not being “particularly serious” when it comes to relationships. That’s totally well and good but you are, in fact, in a relationship so allow yourself to be in the relationship. Don’t make relationship decisions for you and your partner alone. He is, in fact, part of the relationship. He deserves to have an opinion on the future you two may potentially share. 

I am also really happy you are pretty in love. (See: hopeless romantic). Allow yourself to enjoy the rush.

You know that feeling when a relationship ends and you can’t imagine how you could ever possibly be with another person, let alone find someone else? You can’t even begin to picture what it would be like to love somebody who’s not that person, to feel the urge to practically stranglehold someone else with your affection and need and desire. I know you know that feeling. Everybody knows that feeling. But of course, almost everyone is capable of loving again. Everyone is capable of making a connection with another person.

I was with this girl for three years. We lived together, and then we didn’t. And it was hell, because we had talked about spending our lives together, but then eventually she did some thinking, and all of the sudden I had moved across the country to escape what happened. You think it’ll be impossible to go on, but you do anyway. She got a new boyfriend, and it hurt a little to see pictures of them together on Facebook, but one day I woke up and I cared a little less. And the next day I cared a little less. And the next day I cared a little less and I remembered such and such thing she used to do that drove me crazy but that I had been ignoring for the sake of love. And after more and more days like that I came to understand that it was a wonderful relationship, but no truly wonderful relationship ends. There were good reasons we shouldn’t have stayed together forever, and good reasons we’re no longer together.

But when you spend three years with someone, that space they used to occupy has become so imprinted with their shape that even though you know you’re better off with them not in it, you still can’t imagine how another person could fill that space. That’s where I was at not too long ago. But I signed up for OkCupid, anyway. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried online dating, but at least for me, I had to pretend it was a joke to even be able to do it. I had to imagine that, if anything, I was only doing this for the stories. I only got one story out of it, really. I had coffee with this girl who spent the whole time going on about how she used to raise and show rabbits as a teenager. She had a parmesan quiche while we talked, and after 45 minutes I said I had to go home and get some work done, which actually wasn’t a lie, but a very, very convenient truth.

When I said I only got one story out of it, what I meant was that I only got one funny story out of it, because the day after my date with Rabbit Girl, I had another coffee date with this other girl who had impossible, blue eyes. Impossible, as in I have never seen this shade of blue in nature other than on tropical flowers and peacocks and hummingbirds. We met for coffee and five hours later the date ended, but only because I had to go home to meet some guy who was hoping to sublet my roommate’s room.

This was only a month ago. We’ve been seeing each other a lot since, and very quickly became quite physically affectionate. We established that we’re going to be exclusive. It all feels good. It all feels right. I put my arm around her while we’re watching Netflix, and my arm finds the place on her shoulder where it’s been accustomed to sitting for what seems like years.

This brings me back to my first point about how impossible the idea of finding someone else seems just after you’ve broken up with someone. I was with my ex for three mostly great years. My entire world collapsed when we ended. And now I couldn’t care less. At least in the immediate sense, the affection I feel for this new girl has almost entirely supplanted that sense of loss. I know that I was lucky to have found someone online right away, and I highly doubt I’d be able to do it again with so much success; but what does this say about love if it’s that easy? This relationship feels just as special as the early stages of the last one, except that now I’m beginning to doubt how special it actually is if this feeling is so replicable. Obviously, finding a compatible person in the first place is a whole ordeal, but once that happens, why should we vest so much importance in love if it’s possible to duplicate, just like that? Why get attached to people if they are, ultimately, replaceable?

Hope this wasn’t too much a bummer. But do you have any thoughts?

Dear OK Cupid Success Story,

Hmmm. It is interesting that you think your feelings for the new woman are the same as your feelings for your last girlfriend. I don’t think that is a statement about love being ultimately replaceable. It is a reflection on you, because you are the common denominator in the situation. If you are simply moving someone else into a void, is that love? I wish I could better answer this question but I have never found love to be replaceable. I have found new love to be similarly satisfying but the nature and texture of new love is always different from love I have lost.

Why do we get attached to people? Why do we invest so much in love? Not everyone does. I probably do, and I do so because it’s nice to know there is someone who is standing by your side, who has your best interests at heart. It’s nice to have someone, as you so well put, upon whose shoulders you can comfortably rest your arm while watching Netflix. It’s nice to have someone to share the news of your day with, even when your day was, “I watched Food Network all day.” When the greatest moments can be shared with someone you really love that greatness is amplified. The worst moments are tempered by the comfort and solace of another person. Even when that person works your last nerve, you’re often glad that they are in your life to work that nerve.

Why? Who knows. The heart doesn’t like to be lonely. Why? That’s a question you will ultimately need to answer for yourself. 

BAD FEMINIST TOUR DATES

August 6, Lansing, MI, Schuler Books, 7 pm

August 7, Ann Arbor, MI, Literati Bookstore, 7 pm

August 8, Milwaukee, Boswell Books, 7 pm

August 27, Chicago, Women & Children First, 7:30 pm

August 29, St. Louis, Left Bank Books, 7 pm

September 21, NYC, Brooklyn Book Festival, TBA

September 21, NYC, Book Court, 7pm

September 22, NYC, TBA

September 23, NYC, Harper Perennial 50th Anniversary, Housing Works, 7pm

September 24, Berkeley, CA, Mrs. Dalloway’s (w/ Ayelet Waldman), 7:30 pm

September 25, San Francisco, CA, City Lights, 7 pm

You can see other places where I will visit, beyond these dates, here.

The Softest Parts of Ourselves

I got into something of a cooking frenzy, yesterday. I blame Ina, because I was watching her show and she made this summer pasta dish and I thought, “I can make this and then I won’t have to cook again between now and when I go out of town on Thursday.” 

The previous night, I fell asleep thinking, “I am going to bake a cherry pie.” I woke up thinking the same thing. I have no idea, so again, I turned to Ina for the crust, and then Smitten Kitchen for the pie, a sweet cherry pie, which of course, had me humming, “She’s my cherry pie,” all night long. Eighties rock is still the best. 

The pasta was going to require some time and something involving maceration which, (I LOOKED IT UP), means to soften by soaking in liquid. 

Usage: I macerated myself in the bathtub this morning. 

I halved a large quantity of tiny tomatoes. The recipe called for four pints but the containers I bought were in ounces and math is hard and I just decided to go with three containers and hope for the best. 

Next I fake julienned a quantity of basil which is to say I was not graceful in my knife work, added some minced garlic, salt and pepper, as well as a cup of olive oil and mixed that all together. I covered the situation with plastic and set it aside, to macerate, at room temperature for FOUR HOURS. That is ridiculous, but I am good at following instructions when I respect the instruction giver and sometimes, even when I don’t. 

I have been thinking about my first boyfriend, the boy I loved who then served me up to his friends after I thought I had already given him everything he could possibly want. I am loathe to even call him my boyfriend, but it’s the most convenient word to contain what trespassed between us before I became the girl in the woods. He was not a good boy. I think I knew that even then. He was very controlling and sadistic and he took so much from me, long before I understood that I could say no in such circumstances. I was a baby. I knew nothing about anything. I hate thinking about him but I am still plagued by the question of why I thought I loved him and why I let him do the things he did to me and why why why.

While the macerating was going down, I began to prepare the pie dough. I mixed the dry ingredients—flour and salt and sugar. Ina said to use a food processor but my Kitchen Aid was up to the task. I had faith and my faith was rewarded. 

I was thinking about this boy and how the most unexpected, and sometimes uncomfortable or unwelcome things can shape your sexuality. I have never felt shame about bisexuality. Women are attractive and intriguing. I am into it. I struggled a bit with accepting that I desire men because I had so many reasons to be terrified and repelled by them. We want what we want, though. And, as we all know, #notallmen. I enjoy them. 

I’ve realized, especially recently, that for me it’s about the person. If the right someone makes me laugh and think and smile when I least expect it, if they are all too often on my mind, if I want to take care of them and be taken care of by them, if I think about the softness of their skin and the coolness of their lips, if I can’t or won’t imagine not having them in my life, I don’t care what gender they are. This is just me. I understand that this is all so very individual. We want what we want across the spectrum of sexuality. We’re wired how we are wired. Can we change? I doubt it. Maybe we can, however, evolve. 

But, I keep thinking about this boy. I try to ignore the definitive line between the things he did to me and what fuels my desires now but that line is there, and though I feel no shame, though I accept myself, I hate that line. I want to evolve.

I added VERY COLD BUTTER and some COLD vegetable shortening (eww) and ice cold water to the flour and got that going until it firmed up and began to resemble dough. Totally worked. Baking is magic. 

I was on Twitter chatting about how I love giving love advice even though my love life is often prone to disaster and then people e-mailed me questions and I am going to give them answers, here!

First up:

I’m falling for my smart, funny, thoughtful, and, oh dear God, HOT roommate. I haven’t said anything to him about it but I’m pretty sure he doesn’t feel the same way. (There might be residual fat girl self-esteem issues to get into here but that’s probably for another round of Ask Roxane.) I know I need to put some distance between us, but it’s hard to stay away when I like talking to and hanging out with him so much! (Moving out isn’t an option at the moment.) I don’t want to lose a great friendship with a sweet guy. Any ideas on how I can get over this?

 Love,

Hopeless At This Shit

Dear Hopeless,

Oh girl… oh oh oh. There are, likely some residual fat girl self-esteem issues here. Those are issues that, I often worry, stay with us for a lifetime. I have a theory about us girls with these issues. We often focus our desires on people we view as unattainable so we can at least enjoy the rush of crush and the taste of want and feel a little more alive but we do so in a way that keeps everything at a distance. If we love or like someone who we are rather certain won’t love or like us back, we can better prepare for the inevitable heartbreak. We set ourselves up, not because we want to but because we don’t think we deserve any better. We give ourselves a known outcome because the unknown of a mutually reciprocated relationship is terrifying.

Maybe I am projecting.

That said, what is “unattainable”? I refuse to buy into these notions. Despite everything, part of me still believes anything is possible. This is, likely, not at all helpful for you. But. He’s hot. I’m guessing you are too because I have a good sense about these things. You could be hot together. Trust your instincts, though. If he’s not into you in that way, don’t stay stuck in that place of unrequited desire. 

Clearly, the friendship you have with this guy is strong so don’t deprive yourself of that relationship. At the same time, you do want to make sure you’re creating other social and maybe dating opportunities for yourself. Get out in the world. Treasure the friendship you have with your roommate. Treasure yourself more. 

I wrapped the dough in a ball and put in the refrigerator for half an hour. So much waiting. 

Next up:

I have started seeing Someone New. She is very sweet and giving in all the ways I hoped for in someone I date. The thing is, I have an extremely difficult time with short tempers; while, intellectually, I handle it very well in the moment when someone gets super angry, my whole body rebels in response: I get migraines, feel the need to panic and flee, get nauseated, etc. This is all due to growing up in a super abusive household filled with physical violence.

Someone New and I have friends for a year and seeing each other for about a month now. She has told me she has a temper and that she knows it’s a dealbreaker for me. She has never in her life gotten physically violent; she just yells and talks some shit. We haven’t had any angry scenes at all, and we’ve been able to talk through any misunderstandings in a healthy and rational way. 

If/when she does lose her temper around me at something, but she’s still treating me super well, how can I rewire my brain to not be terrified? I’ve been in therapy for a few years, but any ideas are appreciated!

Lesbian Who Appreciates Roxane’s Ideas About Dating (LWARIAD)

Dear LWARIAD,

First of all, how thrilling that you’ve met someone and it’s all new and lovely. I am so happy for you. 

The old wounds we carry are heavy indeed. Your new lady has a temper and she has told you about it and she knows what your limits are and frankly, you guys are in a wonderful place where you are being open and healthy and communicative. Bravo! 

Don’t sit around waiting for her to lose her temper. That’s no way to live or love. Will she lose her temper at some point? Of course. Life happens. What you have to do is take care of yourself, whatever that looks like. I don’t know if you can rewire your brain to not be terrified. Those gut reactions are forged in often permanent ways.

Perhaps you can rewire what happens when the moment of terror passes. Breathe deeply. Try, in that moment, to remember the difference between the present and the past. Your new lady is not your past. She is not the person or people who hurt you in such terrible ways. She will, I am hoping, never hurt you in such terrible ways though I cannot guarantee she will never hurt you. We hurt the people we love sometimes and then we hope we can earn their forgiveness. 

I would also urge you, if her temper flares around you, to remember the foundation this new relationship was built on, the friendship you shared, and how open and lovely you two have been with each other. When you start from such a strong place, it will always be possible to get back there. 

While the dough was chilling, literally, I had to pit two and a half pounds of cherries. I have an AMAZING cherry pitter that pits four cherries at a time so this wasn’t as terrible as it could have been. Of course, I was watching The Bachelorette at the same time and that was precisely as terrible as it could have been. It was really painful watching Marcus get shut down like that. 

When the dough was ready, I cut it in half and rolled out one half, gently laying it in my pie pan. It was pretty ugly and I had to do some patch work. 

There is, I must admit, something very satisfying about making things from scratch, to know  every component of a dish was made by your own hands. As a lazy person, I’m a fan of pre-made things but it was a lot of fun and deeply relaxing to make my own dough and my own cherry filling. I felt productive and capable.

I thought, “Look what I can do with my two hands.” 

To prepare the cherry mixture, I added corn starch, the juice of a freshly squeezed lemon, almond extract, a bit of sugar (nowhere near as much as the recipe called for), and then I freestyled and also added some bourbon vanilla, because vanilla is amazing. I stirred all that together and it smelled really good.

I love cherries. I really, really do. 

Another question:

I’ve got a crush on my teacher. He’s 20 yrs older than me.
I kinda think something might be there between us, but I’m not sure how to go about changing the dynamic. Help.

FYI, I’m 34, I’m not opposed to the age difference.

Dear Student,

It’s totally understandable to be hot for teacher and because you are 34 and not a traditional undergrad, I am not as worried as I might normally be. Still, the dynamic between a teacher and student is imbalanced, no matter what your ages are. He is responsible for a part of your education. He gives you grades and mentorship. In a romantic entanglement, you will always be at a disadvantage. Don’t put yourself at a disadvantage. 

If there’s something between you and teacher, I would suggest waiting until you will no longer be taking courses with him so the conflict of interest is diminished. Send him an e-mail or stop by his office and ask him out for coffee or a drink. In a non-academic setting, you will be able to better get a sense of what, if anything, there is between the two of you. If he is an ethical teacher, he will not make the first move no matter how attracted he may be to you. 

I added the cherry filling to my ugly pie crust and then chunks of one tablespoon of butter.

Another question:

How do I make a man who loves me but has given up on me stop giving up? Or maybe it’s, how do I figure out how to let a man who loves me go even though I still love him because we’re not good for each other?

Some bad things happened to me in my past, far back and then farther, and I don’t like to talk about them but they’ve made me afraid of intimacy to the point that I can’t even stand to cuddle most of the time. I was in a very long distance relationship, across the ocean long distance, for five years, and as much as I wanted to build physical trust to go along with the emotional trust that was already there, as badly as I wanted to be intimate with him, I never could. I think we didn’t have enough time together in person for my body to learn that he was safe. Lots of things over the years threatened to tear us apart, most of them my fault, or at least instigated by me.

I’m a difficult person, especially for those who try to love me. He always held on, always said he wasn’t going anywhere. I finally trusted him and his solidity.

And two weeks ago I guess it was finally too long. He said he thought this was something we needed to work on on our own, not together. He said he would miss me, still loved me, but he wanted more than I could give him. He said he wanted a girlfriend, and everything that goes with that. I’ve texted him too many times, too desperately, tried to get him to have another conversation about it because I don’t think he has all the facts about what I want (which is the same as what he wants) and how much I’m willing to work on it, and finally I’ve deleted him from my online spaces and from my phone and I’m trying to leave him alone. I want to tell him that it’s not something I can work on alone, it’s something that needs time and patience and another person, but I think he’s through hearing me.

I feel broken, not just by this ending but by my body that betrays me at every turn, and I still love him desperately and I can’t stop thinking about him being intimate with someone else, loving someone else, and wanting to die. I realize this is so dramatic and unhealthy a response to this situation, but it’s the one I’m having. I want to stop having it, and to be able to display as little emotion as he’s displayed throughout, and I don’t know what I’m asking really but I’ll take anything you’ve got.

Dear Feeling Broken,

You are not broken. You have been hurt and there is a difference. You’re also not being dramatic and unhealthy. You are hurt and this is how you are showing that hurt. If you’re still sending him desperate texts in like a year, you will probably be in unhealthy territory.

This letter hit me hard because so much of you write I could have written myself. I am difficult to love. I know this about myself. Intimacy is hard for me. My body recoils from so much, not because I want to, but because it’s my body’s natural instinct for flight, for self-protection. Someone in my life calls this instinct my force fields.

I am trying to tear down my force fields. I wish I had a step by step guide but I don’t. The truth is that I don’t know how I’m doing it, and it’s not easy, and for every step forward there is a stumble back.  I do know I have a lot of help and am doing more to spend intimate time with people my body can trust. Sometimes, we have to, despite our better judgment, trust the softest parts of ourselves to someone else. Are there ways you can do that with your inner circle? Are there people in your life with whom you can be intimate (which is not necessarily sexual), to whom you can talk and touch in ways that might help those force fields weaken? 

It sounds like this guy has reached a limit and I don’t know that you can change that. I would not assume he is acting without emotion. He might be. Or. He might simply express feelings differently than you. It sucks and I wish things could be different. I wish he would see how much you have to offer once your force fields start coming down. I’m sorry this isn’t the case right now. I want to punch him, not in the face or anything. You’ve made a good step forward by deleting him from your various online and cellular places. If only it was that easy to delete your suffering. 

Have you been in therapy? Do you talk to anyone about these difficult things from your past? Unburdening can do so much.

Allow yourself to hurt right now. When you’re ready, it’s time to focus on working on these force fields. I don’t think we ever wholly rid ourselves of them, but we can, I think, get to places where the force fields fall enough to allow the right one one. Get ready. 

The pie was ready to be covered so I rolled out the second half of the dough, GENTLY lay it upon my pie, and brushed an egg wash over the top. The recipe called for covering the crust with coarse sugar but I didn’t have any of that. I used brown sugar instead. 

You want some of this brown sugar.

Heh.

FINALLY, the tomatoes were fully macerated. I boiled pasta, then added it to the tomatoes along with a cup and a half of parmesan and I tossed it all together.  This is a kick ass dish. It tastes perfect. It will last for days. It can be eaten warm or cold.  As Ina would say, this dish is FOOLPROOF. 

This is how my cherry pie turned out. I allowed myself one piece and then gave the rest to a friend which is probably a little tacky but she likes pie and it’s not like I licked the pie or anything. My pie was ugly but fucking delicious, the right amount of sweet and tart. At least two other people agree. 

Here’s the thing. I don’t expect you to be anything else. I don’t want you to be anything else. You are perfect exactly as you are. No matter what happens, even if it ain’t easy or simple or ideal, we’re going to be great.