Essay, LGBTQ, Life, Love & Romance, Millennials, Movies, Thinkpiece


I watched Call Me By Your Name on a flight back from Amsterdam recently (brag!). And whether it was the combination of airplane red wine and altitude, or perhaps a human, beating heart, I was so deeply affected by the viewing that I’ve floated in a fog the last few days, one that I’ve characterized as a “gay funk.”

A gay funk is a peculiar and particular kind of funk for me – and trust, I’ve got plenty of funk genres. It comes from a place of mixed happiness and sadness – the font of queerdom, the well of homosexuality.

I’m not going to get into it here – for a multitude of reasons, including that you are not paying me, sis, and also I doubt my psychiatrist would recommend that I do it – but I’ve spent the last few months coming to terms with the fact that a lot of my high school experience was fucked-up, and painful, and distinctly not okay. It’s hard in a lot of ways, to recharacterize something after the fact, but I’ve felt lighter for it.

So the idea of watching a movie that essentially splays out the past traumas I’ve been dealing with – youth and queerness and masculinity and love – sent red flares in my vision and, if I’m being honest, I actively avoided seeing the movie. But with the stretch of eight hours ahead of me and nothing to do but sit, I finally relented.

It also comes from a very legitimate place of cynicism. Queer men, particularly gay, white men, are luckier than others in our community in the fact that we have had more and varied representation in the media. But still, the idea of a movie that depicted my experience made me wary and scared. We get so few chances, and I didn’t want one to be squandered. I wanted to remain unseen.

But in a similar way to Lady Bird, Call Me By Your Name truthfully and honestly depicted shades of my life in ways that felt like a tribute, rather than an exploitation.

It was painful to watch, Call Me By Your Name, but it was a curious pain because I felt it lancing me softly and beautifully. I felt parts of me uncoil, spirals of sadness that have been clamped up for so long. I was sad watching the movie, and jealous in ways, and unjealous in others.

Surprise, surprise, but I did not have a love story like Elio and Oliver’s in my high school experience. I had one, very intense and unrequited love – in the way that only seventeen-year-old closeted kids can love – but I related to the breathless, heartsick trill of their relationship. And honestly, I can’t ignore the fact that Armie Hammer is of the same mold as my high school crush: blonde and strappingly all-American.

So much of the romance in my life has been wrapped up with shame, longing, sadness and guilt, and that what I felt the movie portrayed so honestly. How love is propelled by a desire to satiate your own loneliness, quell the turmoil and the self-sabotaging desire to jump. Despite growing up in a world that was growing more and more tolerant of being gay, I don’t recall any positive representation of queer love in my childhood. I had no interactions with gay people, had no inkling that they could be thriving adults.

Watching Call Me By Your Name invoked a sadness similar to the first time I read Giovanni’s Room, sadness that our experience of love is so often colored by pain. I know that this can be a universal experience, but it feels particularly like the nexus of queerness. It’s sad, but it’s also comforting; that we’re a part of a lineage and history that extends beyond your singular, mortal self, despite that mantle being so wrought with pain.

Hence the gay funk: so many of the queer people I know didn’t get to have clean, cut-and-dry first experiences. They were tainted by who we were, and how the world treated us. So watching Call Me By Your Name made me viciously jealous of a tenet of teenhood that I missed out on. The movie made me sad for the kid that I was. The kid who was robbed of so many things, so many experiences. For all the love that I did have, there was so much love spilled on the ground, wastefully draining away. I’m sad for what he had to go through, for what he didn’t realize he was going through, and for what he would be going through.

But the movie made me happy in a lot of ways, because that pain was clarifying for me – it crystallized, for good and bad, the person that I am. It made me a fighter and empathetic and clumsy, complex and ruthless and fragile. It made me question who I was – it made me fight for myself. It grounded me in my own soil. It also reminded me that, in spite of it all, I loved being a teenager. I loved feeling all the nuances and complexity of emotions – first best friends, first break-up, first disappointment, first triumph. Like Mike Phelps was built for swimming, I was built for feeling things deeply. A lot of that (lol) was depression, but I think that even without being depressed, my body would be carved for intensity of feeling.

And it’s funny, because if I saw that kid – seventeen-year-old me – I would think that he was beautiful. I would admire his grit, his humor, his broken attempts at concealing how deeply and tumultuously he cared. I would’ve found him brave, and witty, and endearing, even as he attempted to be as spiky as possible. It’s the lasting echo I’ve carried with me since watching the movie: deep, bursting love for the kid that I was, despite everything, despite all the pain. And that’s what the end of the movie was about. Closing yourself off from grief is another kind of trauma. Feeling things deeply is not a curse, it’s part of the experience.

So much of life is love tempered with pain. One doesn’t exist without the other.

Body Health, Essay, Mental Health


In my first-ever gym class of high school, we underwent a fitness diagnostic. Our gym teacher required the students to perform as many chin-ups as they could. If they were not able to do a chin-up, he offered, they could simply hang from the bars.

The oddness of those two choices – to either perform an act or engage in something that arguably proves nothing except the presence of fingers – was further underscored by the vast breadth of physical prowess. If you had hit puberty by then, you could do chin-ups. If you hadn’t, you hung like a limp flag or, more realistically, the trussed and plucked chicken hanging in a meat shop. Since I’m barely hitting puberty at 22, it’s an easy guess to figure out which camp I fell into.

That did not stop me from pathetically attempting a chin-up. I didn’t realize that it’s nearly impossible to do a chin-up from fully-extended arms, so I tucked my knees underneath me and tried to pull myself up from ramrod-straight arms. After several tense, physically agonizing moments, I let myself hang quietly before dropping back down to the floor.

And I remember, in the seconds that I hung from the bar, thinking how completely pointless this exercise was. Gym class proceeded much in the same way; after freshman year, I just opted to do homework with a clutter of the other unathletic boys while the fitter ones fucked around with dodgeball, or whatever. By senior year, I was skipping out of gym entirely – using my senior privilege and status a runner to avoid it. But, to be honest, having a gym class once every six days wasn’t doing me, or anyone, any favors.

So for most of my life, the chin-up, and any desire to do it, eluded me. When I started working out in college, I hopped in and out of the chin-up phase. Once I realized that clinging to the bars and literally leaping up into a chin-up position didn’t technically count, I swapped to the assisted pull-up machine and avoided it whenever I could.

The assisted pull-up machine requires you to put your knees on a pad and subtract weight from your total mass. So if you’re 160 pounds, and you subtracted fifty pounds, you were doing the chin-ups with a body weight of 110 pounds. I was subtracting so much weight that I was actually flinging myself upwards with every pull and reaching an exosphere orbit.

I would eye the people who could do a pull-up or chin-up unassisted with hot glowering envy. It seemed literally impossible, and then I saw people actually adding weights to their own self and doing repetitions with that. That was as unbelievable to me as those stories of mothers lifting up cars to save their loved ones – actually more unbelievable. I began to measure my prowess in terms of how many unassisted repetitions I could do – one was bad, two was better, three was ideal.

But as I worked out more, I began to reacquaint myself with the pull-up machine. As I lost weight and gained muscle, the notches of the weight began to shift lighter and lighter. Eventually, I was doing ten to twenty pounds of assistance, for a weight of roughly 185.

And then, a few weeks ago, I decided to leave the pad entirely. Straining, I pulled myself up – my elbows narrowing into neat acute angles – and down. When I completed sixteen chin-ups, four repetitions in four sets, I fell into a crouch and felt my heart pump blood headily into the aching muscles. But I kept doing it. every day, at the beginning of my workout, I did sixteen chin-ups – always in four sets of four – before moving onto the rest of my workout. I found that the less I focused on what I was about to do, the better I performed. If I hesitated, arms extended upward but feet still on the ground, I could barely get myself into the air.

I began to change it up – I added another set of pull-ups to the routine. Eventually, I switched to sixteen pull-ups (working the back muscles, shoulder muscles and the latissimus dorsi muscles). I tacked on a set of chin-ups, and on arms days, I would do sixteen of each.

I’ve noticed more muscle changes in the few weeks that I’ve started doing unassisted pull-ups. My shoulders are squarer, my collarbones swoop with the graceful lean of ship’s bows, and my biceps are bigger. In the shower, I catch glimpses of back muscles rippling in ways that they didn’t before. I’m obsessed with my shoulder blades, their hookedness like two eagle beaks.

Unfortunately, like a lot of people, I have a complex relationship with my body. And I’ve often leaned on the gym in unhealthy ways, eviscerating myself on days when I had to skip, or punishing myself for days that I didn’t push myself as far as I could’ve. In my most depressed, the gym becomes more of an outlet and a crutch. Before, when I looked my best, it’s often because I was feeling my worst. At a particular low point in college, mental health-wise, I would escape to the gym for hours every day, later pinching the fat on my hips as it melted away. I obsess over my body’s aesthetic, how this looks and how this lays.

I’ve always carried that anxiety when going to the gym; that I could backslide and become obsessive again. I still have lingering habits, a twinge of despair when I weigh myself, or a slight internal battle about how much cardio to do. I take my backslides softly, and slowly, and I’m trying to treat myself gently. It doesn’t always work, maybe not even half of the time, but I try.

Doing these pull-ups aren’t about how they will make my body look. It is a physical challenge, a test of my own strength – something that doesn’t come from aesthetics alone.

But this feels different for me.

When I’m doing pull-ups, I revel in the strength as I lift upwards. I imagine all of the scenarios where I can pull myself up. Action movie scenes, where the ground falls away beneath me and I have to swing myself up from the lip of a cliff. Deep dark holes that I’m trapped in. American Ninja Warrior monkey bars. I revel in getting stronger, and it feels wholly unconnected to aesthetics or attractiveness. In every muscle micro-tear, I steel myself with strength. I feel myself getting stronger, and I nourish it like a seedling. I picture myself as a warrior, each line of muscle meaning that I am more capable, more sturdy, more indomitable.

It isn’t about how I look – it’s about how I feel.

And damn, sis, I feel good.

Humor, Mental Health


Written after eating Talenti coffee gelato and trying not to hate myself. 

See that right there, that “trying not to hate myself” was a great act of self-care. I’m already off to a fantastic start. Go you, me!

Monday I wrote about my anxiety-ridden weekend, so I thought it would be nice to write something medium-positive to take the sting out of pouring my emotions out for the homies. It was either this or go in the complete opposite creative direction to make you forget completely that I can ever be a sensitive human/sentient robot.

So I was doing my daily ritual of light incense, meditation and cleaning out my “YouTube Watch Later” playlist, which at some points is longer than my list of friends (short list of friends or long list of to-be-watched videos? You be the judge), and I watched a video of Tyler Oakley’s called “Five Easy Ways To Self-Care” or something like that—idk I’ll put it below, don’t make me look it up rn—and that triggered/inspired/thinspired me to do something similar, but a little more…me.

A lot of times when I see self-care things, they’re by “nice” people and all of the suggestions are helpful but not very appropriate for someone who spends as much time praying that “vibing” people with negative thoughts will make their lives worse.

See I also just watched the season two premiere of Difficult People, which if you’re not watching, you should be, and if you are watching, stop taking my thing, and that’s much more me—a couple of 7/10s running around, being mean/funny to people. For a lot of people like me—hot but mean—we can’t really identify with traditionally “nice” people. So here is the self-care guide you need if you’re a little bit of a dick and a lot of a mess.

Obviously there are the obvious things—obvi duh—like exercise (because exercise releases endorphins, endorphins make people happy, and happy people don’t kill their husbands, duh!), drinking lots of water and eating healthily, and getting plenty of sleep. But you didn’t come here for a regular self-care guide—you came here for the Naomi Campbell of self-care guides (dangerous, beautiful, unpredictable).

1). Scream so loud: This is actually (semi)therapist approved. I once had a therapist who suggested that, as a way to get out my deep-seated anger, I get into my car and scream. Loudly. For as long as I could. When I, repressed as I am, finally did it, I was amazed at how good I felt. The primal and visceral reaction of screaming out loud, or into a pillow, or silent-screaming, is shockingly effective. It releases tension, it untwists the anger coils in your chest, and it’s so flagrantly weird that you have to laugh. At least, that’s what it makes me do. Alternatively, you could fake-laugh-scream at something, which always makes me actual laugh. Because I can find nothing real-funny until I find it ironic-funny. I’m a millennial.

2). Throw out your scale (or if it’s expensive just don’t use it): Seriously, if it’s money, just put it out of sight. I’m on a budget too. When I was at school, I didn’t have a scale and it actually really improved my mood. I know this because when I got home for the summer and discovered our fancy digital scale, I became obsessed with weighing myself. A lot of the anxiety-driven part of my depression manifests in body obsession and that translates to needing to know how much I weigh at any point. So I decided to stop weighing myself again and just let myself live. And it really helps. Numerical weight is such a scam anyway; a number can’t tell me how I feel about myself, or how the weight carries itself. I can be at my heaviest, but if I feel good, then that number is irrelevant.

A lot of self-care is cutting out unnecessary stress and stressors in your life, and trying not to give a shit about your weight—within reason—just seems like a no-brainer.

3). Pep talk: I don’t know how most people think, but I don’t think in words as much as I do in images and visceral emotions. Like, I don’t think, “Oh I’m nervous about work.” I feel it much more deeply and see it play out before me. And because of that, I don’t really have any sort of internal dialogue with myself. So when I’m feeling like I need to self-care, I’ll have a pep talk for myself, out loud in the mirror. In his video, Tyler actually said to treat yourself like your best friend, and that means to be nice to yourself and to lift yourself up. Alternately, I constantly sing out loud to myself. I’m not a good singer, but I do it when I walk, or do dishes, or fold laundry. Singing is a good, very healing thing to do. Emote, bitches.

4). Unfollow unhealthy social media accounts: I talked about this a little in my last post, but I can’t stress enough what a difference it has made. I’m not just talking about unfollowing boyz who you think are out of your league but are actually too emotionally withdrawn to like you; this totally works for cleaning out your social media followings. Unfriend that person you haven’t seen in forever; don’t force yourself to click through the Snap story of a colleague from four years ago who you only follow in the faint hopes of a shirtless moment. A lot of self-care is surrounding yourself with positivity and people you love; ditch the acquaintances.

 5). Watch videos of people falling: Funny as shit.

There are other, simpler things—good music, time spent outdoors, snuggling with cute animals. Then are other, more extensive things—a good therapist, self-reflection, journaling. It all depends on what you need. Also always remember to try to look on the positive…is the most annoying thing that anyone can ever say to anyone, but it’s honestly true. Even if you don’t have depression, it’s so easy to be stuck in the rut of negativity; taking active steps to appreciate things around you—nice eyebrows, the sunlight effusing a green leaf, old people holding hands—can change the roadways of your brain and rewire you for a happier outlook. Idk if that’s true; I read that somewhere.

If all else fails, start small. Smile. Take deep breaths. Close your eyes and just sit. And then read through all of my blog and tell me how smart, but how humble, and how funny, but how unintimidating, I am. Also someone sponsor me!!! Give me that $$$ so I don’t have to write “60 Ways To Get Your Sexy Back” listicles for the rest of my life!

Also I’ve been frequently changing up my header image to convince myself that I have some semblance of control over my life. What do you think??

Screen Shot 2016-07-13 at 10.41.30 PM.png

Source: Danny McCarthy via The Wunderkindof

Inspirational, Life, Love & Romance


Friday, February 26

“Also, I was fat this week, and that really sucks.”

It’s minute 42 on what should have been a thirty-minute meeting with my psychiatrist, where we would ideally—like, idk—talk about my medication and stress levels. Instead, with the blind ambition of Donald Trump, I barreled on through a hefty dissection of what had happened to me in the two weeks since we last met.

I’m a relatively busy person—I write for this old whore of a blog, I contribute to an online publication, I’m an editor for a campus magazine, I work out five times a week, I am taking classes, I have a job, and I try to find time to watch Netflix because god knows I’m still only human. So, all in all, that really does actually take up quite a lot of time to relay.

I’ve been taking meetings this week with a couple of new writers for my section, which requires me to meet them and talk about what we “do” and what I’m “expecting” from them, and I’m not sure if it’s the stress getting to me, or if I’m actually turning to wax, but my mouth kept doing this odd, robotic twitching—almost a lock-jaw—because I was so hyper-aware of how I was talking. So with my weird mouth and my penchant for talking, the roof of my mouth has become that sick mixture of too dry but also too saliva-y after yammering on for 42 minutes.

And at the end of a long diatribe about housing for next year, I decide to tack on the sentence about feeling fat.

An acute dislike for my body—body “issues”—has always been a facet of my personality, long before I realized that it wasn’t normal to hate your body and think that you look like a troll baby. Apparently I’m dumb as rocks, because it also took me 18 years to realize that being super depressed and constantly bottling up one long scream isn’t normal either. But there’s a learning curve. And with my psychiatrist, the ideas of dating and body are always intertwined.


Source: Imgur

And because I felt fat, I felt undeserving of even thinking about other guys. There was this guy at the gym who is a total LA beach Ken-doll twink (not exactly my type but I’m mesmerized by his bleach-blond tips) and I was like, “Who do you think you are, you Joey Fatone, looking at him?” Which is absolutely the most fucked up thing that I think. Because I’m not nearly as judgmental of other people as I am of myself. And even the guy that I’ve liked the most, even though he was so cute—omg, you guys would dieeee—it was his humor and how smart he was and his ambition that made me interested.

And I went to lunch with a friend after the meeting—well, first, I went to the gym—and I ate a salad. I hate eating salads. I like salads with attitude, with panache—a little smattering of caramelized pecans or a slab of goat cheese or a sick dressing—but dining hall salads only serve to make me feel like I’m gnawing on a piece of Astro-Turf. And so when I was thinking of stuff to cook for dinner, I was kicking myself for not defrosting a chicken. And I thought to myself, “Well you can’t have pasta, you little tubby Howard Taft” and then I got mad at myself and said, “Fuck that,” and I ate pasta.

(Actually, hold on, I’m going to defrost a chicken cutlet right now.)

Literal minutes go by.

(I put it in the refrigerator to defrost; the cutlets were all frozen together so I had to 127 Hours one away from the rest.)

I think that this casual disdain I have for my body is almost as negative as me outright protesting against it. Because this way, this subtle “fuck you” thinking, sinks into my skin and my brain and my way of processing. And I want to get to a place where I can eat pasta and work out and not feel guilty or stressed or vile for having done one and not the other.

And so I’m going to type this out because Lord fucking knows that I don’t believe it. But sometimes writing out positive things helps to balance out the Macarena of Negativity in my head—also that’s totally the next big dance craze. So I’ll say this: you’re never really, really, really that ugly. You’re never unworthy of talking to someone or looking at someone. And you’re 1000x harsher on yourself than you are on anyone else or than anyone else would be on you, aside from if you were a contestant in that beauty pageant in the “Pretty Hurts” music video. But regular life isn’t like that.

Like yourself even when you don’t love yourself. Find one positive thing to say about that old burlap sack of meat you call your body. And maybe start by not calling your body an “old burlap sack of meat.” Call it a “human clothes hanger” or “a moving mannequin” or something funny. Respect your body because it’s how you interact in this world. Acknowledge the fact that millions of years of evolution—yeah, I went there—have coalesced into a four-limbed, fragile, resilient human body with the capability for love and hate and passion and fear and bravery—respect that your body is the product of a billion years of test-drives until you arrived on the scene.

Don’t treat yourself like a test-drive or a crash course. Treat yourself like a Mercedes G-Wagon—beloved, cherished, and competitively stalked by me from the sidewalk.

And, I think, cherish things beyond your body. Because when you acknowledge how amazing you are—inside—it becomes easier to accept your outside. Think of yourself like how I thought of that boy—smart and clever and yeah, maybe his cuteness was an added bonus, but his substance was infinitely more enticing—and treat yourself like a g*ddamn queen.