Rambles, Life, 2018

GOLDEN HOUR

Written while sitting outside Starbucks in the sun, surrounded by wealthy mothers with Goyard totes, sipping on a tall cold brew (in a grande cup, for maximum product!) and streaming Kacey Musgraves’ “Golden Hour” off the titular album.

I just got back from a weekend trip to Boston (Chic! Tea!), and it’s the first time that, despite having gone back for weekend trips before) that I stepped actual feet back on my college campus since I graduated almost exactly eleven months ago.

When I went back up in October, I was fresh and wounded from the school year having started (the first one that I was not there for) and so I avoided it on purpose. I was starting a new job, but I was definitely far from settled, and didn’t know what I was going to do with the rest of my year, let alone my whole life. I still don’t, but things are slightly more settled.

This year has been an unintended sabbatical and break for me. After graduating, I had these unformed plans of “Graduate. Move home. Find job. Rinse. Repeat.” I graduated; I moved home; I started applying for jobs. I rinsed, I repeated.

I emailed a local magazine on a whim to do an informational, and ended up with some freelance writing. I got a job doing freelance copy-editing and dipped my toe into a full-adult-human workday. To make up the in-between, I applied for a job at a local Trader Joe’s. I started studying for the GRE and began researching graduate programs. Slowly slowly, I began to fill up my days and the months began to pass. The panicked, failure feeling began to dissipate (not completely, but in small bits).

With the extra time, I dove (well, tepidly stuck my toe in and then dove) back into therapy. There were serious things that I wanted to tackle, things that I had not had the time, mental capacity or vocabulary to tackle before. Before, addressing certain topics would make them real, which would make them impossible to ignore, and would therefore open me up to vulnerabilities. This year was an entire twelve months of vulnerabilities, so I figured there was no time like the present. Why not knock out all of my anxieties and issues in one fell swoop? (It’s not that simple or that clean, but honey let me have this!)

I have not successfully come out on top of any of the issues that I wanted to tackle (if anything, they’ve proved to be more complex and multifaceted than I originally believed) but they no longer feel insurmountable. They no longer feel like cracks in my pavement or deal-breakers. In short, I no longer feel unfixable.

I’ve also incorporated more color into my wardrobe. If you’re thinking, “Whoa! This is a shift from talking about psychiatry!” then you’d be right but you’d also be not in my brain. A lot of how I dressed, dark colors and baggy cuts, was to detract attention away from my body. I wanted to have attention, but I didn’t want my body – or what I considered to be a coterie of problems – to be at the nexus. But over the last few months, as I’ve been opening up about the sources of those issues, I’ve felt myself craving color on a level that I never have before.

I wore a glorious gold hoodie over the weekend, and endured some teasing from my friends about its vivacity. But I didn’t care because it was so sunny and beautiful and eye-catching. I picked up two t-shirts – one pale pink and one pale yellow – from a local thrift store, colors I would never usually gravitate towards. But I’ve felt more confident, and with wearing color, I feel like I’m saying, “You can see me. I’m okay with it.”

I’m hitting a golden hour of sorts. I’ve endured gray moments over the past year, some downright turbulent and stormy, but I can feel myself hitting my stride. Large parts of that are due to being more settled – in life, grad school, and myself. But I think it’s also that I’m, for the first time, allowing myself to be seen – to be opened up in different ways.

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2018, Life, Things Happening RN

TRYING TO BE HOT AT MY FIVE-YEAR REUNION

On Saturday, I had my five-year high school reunion.

I went in with low expectations, and by that I mean that I went in with the highest expectations and fully expected to be disappointed.

I regularly make jokes about the kind of person I was in high school; “I looked like a thumb with eyes” is a common one, given the fact that I had red, horrible skin, didn’t figure out a haircut that worked for me and I plucked my light eyebrows into impossibly high, thin arches that rendered them completely invisible in photos.

Embarrassingly (although everyone is guilty of this) I was obsessed with maintaining a façade even more than I was obsessed with maintaining a severe eyebrow arch. I probably even loved saying the word “façade” in high school. Difficult pronunciation and a squiggly accent mark? Chic! Essentially, I was kind of geeky and not-chic, except that I thought I was the most chic. Animal-print? Yes please. Neon? Why not! I was also perhaps most famous in high school for having a blog, and by that I mean, I was gay and literate and wrote about it.

Going into this reunion, I had one main goal: make everyone want to kill themselves with jealousy.


I assumed that this goal was very much attainable and also very much in the bag. However, things started to unravel very quickly. A tussle with a sheet mask ended up with me having a slight allergic reaction. A haircut ended up looking a little too egghead. My skin, which has been on a journey not dissimilar to Arya Stark trying to find her way back to Winterfell, decided to have a flare-up! Everything was coming up rosacea!

For reasons that I discuss extensively in therapy but will not disclose here, I feel a powerful need to prove myself to everyone, but particularly people who dislike me. Given the fact that I went to an all-boys Catholic prep school and was gay/wore leopard-print, I was not wanting for enemies or bullies!

I showed up to cocktail hour an hour late and dressed fucking cute, and immediately realized that I would not get through this night without alcohol. I was sucked into a conversation with a former classmate about his career track. He does something client-facing, and wears ties, and honestly that’s all I could remember because I was too busy scanning the faces of other classmates and making mental notes of everyone who got hot.

As I mentioned, I went to a prep school, whose main exports are insecurity complexes and people who work in square professions – finance, real estate, anything that has you start as an “analyst.” I was one of maybe four people who was in a creative industry, and reminder, I barely have a job! I was back in an environment that both fostered trust-fund fist bumps and discouraged me making any sort of “anal-yst” jokes! It was tough!

To overcompensate, when people asked me what I did, I formulated a square and safe response. “I’m a writer, and I’m going to grad school in July.”

Over the course of the evening, I got progressively looser and more annoying. “I’m a writer” became “I’m a freelancer writer,” which became “I’m a freelancer writer and I work at Trader Joe’s,” which somehow devolved into “I write about gay stuff!” and then completely deteriorated into just “Gay!”

To be fair, it always ends up that way.

But sometimes I realized, as my answers about “What I’m Doing” became sillier and more honest, is that people responded in kind. I got an accountant to admit that if I don’t pay taxes, there’s a possibility that nothing will happen (don’t do this though, pay your taxes). I asked a civil engineer if he got inspiration from that underground cavern in Marvel’s The Defenders. He did not laugh!


When I was saying hi to somebody, the person next to him saw me and made to do the “How are you doing!” facial shift.

The problem with this was that we never had a conversation in high school. I knew who he was because he’s hot, and he knew who I was because I’m gay, but no words passed betwixt us. So when he said, “How’ve you been?” I responded with “I’m good – I’m excited to have our first conversation ever!” And all he could do was laugh because literally it’s true.

And once we got over the truth, we actually had a conversation. We talked about high school, his work, my work, marijuana dispensaries and being hot.

I detest small talk because it kind of defeats the purpose – it’s meant to facilitate conversation, but it actually becomes a barrier against having real conversation. It becomes “Where did you go to college again?” and “What have you been doing?” instead of “Did you love college?” and “What do you think of Cardi B?”

By the way, people have high praise for Cardi!

I understand the impulse to put your best foot forward – I’m the fucking mayor of Putting Your Best Foot Forward – so I’m not sure exactly what snapped in me, but I’m glad it did. Because instead of exchanging meaningless pleasantries, I actually dug into real conversation with both old friends and people that I had never connected with in high school.

High school was messy in roughly eight thousand ways, and these all made going back into the Vineyard Vines viper’s pit quite stressful, which is probably why I became acutely obsessed with my appearance. A classic redirect to avoid confronting past trauma, sis!

But despite it all, I’m glad I went. I got a chance to look hot in suede boots, call everybody “hon” and “handsome” and snag an alumni baseball cap. And at the end of the day, that’s really all I could ask for.

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2018, Mental Health

MARIAH CAREY COMES FORWARD WITH BIPOLAR II DISORDER DIAGNOSIS

Header image source: Wikipedia


I’ve come out three times in my life. First as gay, second as depressed, and third as a ride-or-die Kelly Clarkson stan. Strangely, it’s only the last that has caused permanent strife in my family. I expected that; the truth is hard to hear.

On Wednesday, skinny legend Mariah Carey announced that she has been dealing with a diagnosis of Bipolar II Disorder. In an interview with People, Carey described that, while she was first diagnosed in 2001, it was only in the last few years that she fully accepted and grappled with treatment.

“Until recently I lived in denial and isolation and in constant fear someone would expose me,” she said to People editor-in-chief Jess Cagle. “It was too heavy a burden to carry and I simply couldn’t do that anymore. I sought and received treatment, I put positive people around me and I got back to doing what I love — writing songs and making music.”

It’s easy to drown this announcement in platitudes and inspirational sayings. It’s easy to say that Mariah is brave. It’s easy to say that this is important. It’s easy to bury this in well-wishes and forget how desperately important this is.

So it needs to be stated regardless: this is fucking important. This is fucking brave. And this is life-saving.

I was fifteen when I started going to therapy. I was nineteen when I went on medication. I remember the first time I went to CVS and picked up my prescription. I carried it back to my apartment, the small paper bag crunched up into my sweaty fist furtively. I eyed the small blue ovals with displeasure, and resented every swallow, every day, until one day I didn’t.

I am, relatively, extremely lucky. I live in a bubble where my mental health does not limit or define me. I have friends who have their own struggles, and I have parents who have advocated for me. It’s easy for me to forget the magnitude of disclosing mental health now that it has become so normalized for me.

But I let myself forget sometimes that I started writing about my depression and anxiety because when I needed it most, there was no literature that I found helpful. There were dry, clinical descriptions, and there were void-swallowing depressing missives. There weren’t people that I could relate to, people who were “normal” and functioned.

And in 2001, I can’t imagine the hostile environment that Mariah was facing when she received her diagnosis. It would have probably been career-ending to come forward, as a woman and as someone with bipolar disorder. She would’ve been labeled disruptive or crazy or entirely unreliable. She would’ve been a national joke.

It’s only the last few years – if that – that I’ve noticed a shift in the conversation surrounding mental health.

If I had had someone like Mariah – or Demi Lovato or Kesha or Dwayne Johnson – when I was fifteen or seventeen or nineteen, I think that I would progressed out of that shame a lot more quickly. I probably wouldn’t have been so reticent to accept help. I didn’t know that you could be successful and also depressed; I didn’t know that this didn’t have to be a life sentence or a limitation.

Despite the strides we’ve made, disclosing mental health issues is still a major risk. There’s a stigma attached to it, stigma that could eliminate job opportunities or personal relationships or credibility. That stigma is reduced when people disclose their own struggles, and represent as people who are functioning, productive and driven. It also opens the conversation to the ways that mental health can contribute to people’s downfalls, when people aren’t functioning or productive or driven. It can open the conversation about the ways that we are failing people who struggle with mental health.

Because there are people like Mariah, who had wealth and time and resources to understand and cope with her diagnosis. There are people like me who have a supportive family and a network of people.

But there are so many people without those resources, without the access to therapy or medication, for whom mental health can be detrimental. This helps them.

“I’m hopeful we can get to a place where the stigma is lifted from people going through anything alone. It can be incredibly isolating,” Mariah told People. “It does not have to define you and I refuse to allow it to define me or control me.”

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Things I Like

MARCH : EVERYTHING I’M CURRENTLY LOVING

I’ve developed an obsession with the NYMag.com shopping offshoot, The Strategist. It’s an entire site dedicated to the in’s and out’s of shopping: gift guides for every type of person you can imagine, deep dives into the best skincare and clothes and traveling necessities, sales you need to be aware of. They also do a monthly “Shopping Cart” where the editors and writers of the Strat detail what they’ve bought/loved in the last month. Inspired by that, and Easter, I’ve drummed up a few things that I’ve been loving so much recently that it would be downright unchristian of me not to share.

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Have you ever discovered a one-off song on Spotify, listened/jammed to it for a few months and then let it go? That’s happened to me with The Vaccines, except over the course of a few months, I steadily and accidentally listened to half of their entire new album, Combat Sports. They’re an English indie rock band that somehow sounds exactly like what would be playing in the basement of your middle school friend with a cool older brother. They’re fun and goofy, a little Americana-nostalgic and have a worn-in feeling. My current favorites off the album are “Your Love Is My Favorite Band” and “I Can’t Quit.”

 

 

Other new albums that I’ve been mulling over are Hayley Kiyoko’s Expectations (spectral and queer and full of bops) and Kacey Musgraves’s Golden Hour (this is so basic of me; every Twitter gay has been lauding “High Horse.”)

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If we have a conversation for more than twenty minutes, I bring up a podcast. I listen to them constantly: doing cardio, folding laundry, unloading the dishwasher, walking and falling asleep. I’ve now subscribed to enough where I always have something to listen to, and I actually just discovered TIME’s “The 50 Best Podcasts to Listen to Right Now” and have expanded my repertoire.

But regardless, Babe? is, week to week, the one podcast I am consistently most excited about. It’s hosted by Lara Marie Schoenhals (White Girl Problems, Sexy Unique Podcast) and Ryan O’Connell (Special, Awkward, Thought Catalog), real-life 30-something best friends in Los Angeles. It ranges from the extremely outrageous to the deeply personal, but tethers on the idea of “babes,” people who are acting out in Hollywood. There can be Babes? (cause for concern), Babes! (a Babe? that turned victorious), Babes… (what’s even happening?), and Babes. (we need to talk right now). They also fight like best friends, which reminds me (narcissistically) of my relationship with my own best friend.

It spans politics, pop culture, and sex, with a hearty sprinkling of only-in-Los Angeles stories.

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I bought these navy trousers (and yes, they’re trousers, and yes, I’ll continue to call them that) a few months ago after hemming and hawing about a similar pair that, before I could make a decision, went out of stock. To avoid that happening, I snapped these up when they were majorly discounted in the Zara sale.

I bought these with dreams of wearing them for a new job I had interviewed for. When I didn’t get that job, I was gutted and a little annoyed that I had bought these (in my mind) useless, suit pants. To avoid wasting my money, I thought about ways of incorporating them into my wardrobe and found them incredible versatile. They have white side stripes, which, with the wrong outfit, can bear an unfortunate similarity to track pants. However, I’ve found that pairing them with Chelsea boots can negate their sportiness. I’ve worn them with a tucked-in t-shirt, flannel and denim jacket, I’ve worn them to dinners with a navy sweater, and I wore them to Easter mass with an oxford shirt and camel coat.

They weren’t expensive to begin with, but I majorly lowered the cost-per-wear and upped my style game in the process.

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In my life, I’ve had really bad skin. In high school, it was particularly bad – red and acne-prone and dull. Since then – going on acne medication and realizing that shaving against the grain was not the tea – my skin has gotten miles better, but it’s still super sensitive. I’ve had a journey discovering the perfect moisturizer – I had combination skin, so finding something that was hydrating without leaving my skin too oily was tough, but I think I’ve found my Holy Grail.

On a semester abroad in London (brag!), my moisturizer ran out so I went to my local Waitrose and browsed their skincare section before settling on a Nivea Soft moisturizer. I had never seen it before, but it completely changed my life. It’s super hydrating, melts into your skin and doesn’t leave behind any residue. I used it after shaving, on my tattoo when I first got it, and on any dry patches. I tried to repurchase it in America, but couldn’t find it anywhere. I later discovered that it didn’t exist in America. ‘Lo and behold, I was in ShopRite a few months ago (relatable) and found a display of it. After some research, I learned that it had made its way across the ocean. I’ve repurchased it several times now, and it’s my go-to. I’d die for it.

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I don’t talk about this as much outside of my sister and a few friends, but I watch YouTube a lot. I was an early adopter, and it’s crazy as to how much the medium has evolved since I started watching. Lately, I’ve been really into the videos of this girl Alex, who runs her own jewelry line, HRH Collection. She is, without a doubt, comes off originally as the whiniest person I’ve (n)ever met. I originally found it off-putting, until I realized that her complaining was as natural to her as breathing was to me. She’s actually surprisingly sweet, and her rambling commentary draws you in without even realizing.

 

She buys expensive shit (which is my crack to watch) but I mostly watch her because she films like an early 2000’s YouTuber: fish-eye lens and a lack of edits or cuts. A lot of YouTube is high-production and expertly edited; I’m not hating on it, but it’s kind of nostalgic to find someone who does it the OG way. Love! I listen to her in the background when I’m online shopping, writing invoices or checking my emails. It’s a super-whiny white-noise machine and I hope she never stops making videos.

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