Now that you’re starting T

I just want to say that once you guys step into the world of being guys with the addition of testosterone, you lose the privilege of commenting on women’s bodies.

You don’t get to say things like “She’s really good in bed, but her face looks like a horse.”

You just don’t get to. Not that it was OK before, because if you’re fucking someone, and seeing someone in that vulnerable position, maybe you should like them, and horses are actually kind of cute if you take the time to look. And really, commenting on your sexual exploits? That’s a very male privileged thing to do, and it comes at the cost of women.

You don’t get to tell people the girl you are about to start dating isn’t really that cute. Maybe you’re not that cute either. And it sounds like she’s putting up with a lot too, what with your fat ass mouth and shitty attitude, anyway.

In your blooming adolescence, you don’t get to trample on the spirits of the women who are supporting you. It’s cruel and unfair. You don’t get to claim you are woman identified, that you are feminist, when you are so clearly denigrating women in your quest to grab as much male privilege as you can.

You don’t get to be like every other man who went through puberty at 13, learning to trash women and their bodies in locker rooms and bathroom stalls, growing up the spitting image of the patriarchy that supports them. You don’t get to be the guys that scare us on the street, the frat boys who sexually harass us, the businessmen who grope us at the bar, the half-dressed man at a dance party who shoved his tongue down our throat. The men who pinched our nipples at the bar, making us flee into the night. The guy we check for in the back of the car every time we get in, to make sure we don’t get raped. The fathers who abused us. The men who yells fat pig out the car window. You don’t get to do that to us. It’s a betrayal to your sisters. Your heritage. Yes. As much as you don’t own it, it is still yours.

You may think that you are still operating in the queer realm because you are dating queer identified girls or you identify as queer. But to the world, you might look like a het dude. And your relationship may look straight. All the more reason why you don’t get to say things about women’s bodies. About your sexual conquests. About your girlfriend’s flaws. We don’t deserve to pay the price, again. How much blood can we give?

I expect more of you than other guys. Because you’re more than other guys. In my soul, you’re still my sister. My confidante. My best friend. And I won’t let you betray me like men have. I hold you to a higher standard, a better principle. I won’t let you take on the privilege of beating women down into submission by shaming us for having a cunt. For bleeding with the moon. For having passions as full as the ocean. I won’t let you call us slut for liking sex, or tell us we’re ugly for turning you down. I won’t let you scream at us in a bar for refusing to go home with you, and I won’t let you treat me like a house maid, catering to your every whim while you do important man things like Work and Watch TV.

I am a woman, and I deserve better. And I expect it from you.

There is something fundamentally different within my heart and soul that was not so two years ago.

I am missing something, my wordlview has been shattered, things have been too hard on me, and I am just a little bit too broken to continue sitting on the shelf. I’m expired, damaged, and should be thrown out. The sell-by date has come and gone, and I can feel it in my bones.

I have less hope than I used to, a less optimistic outlook on life, a less sure footing in the world. I am persistently waiting for the other shoe to drop, and consistently the world drops it for me. So I suppose, the world is really poised like Kali, a slipper or stiletto or Jimmy Choo dangling from each arm, the closet of Imelda Marcos at her reach; there is an eternity of shoes waiting to be dropped, and I don’t know how I can continue hair-trigger waiting, cocked and taut, safety off.

I am tired, to be sure. I never thought “too much” would be “too much.”  The brain surgery, the moves, the divorce, the job change, the inept graduate program, the unsatisfactory employment, the chronic pain, the life-altering diagnosis, the parental disownment, their theft of my personal property, the coming out, the estrangement from friends, the death of grandparents, the nomadic lifestyle for a year, the transition. The list alone is exhausting. I am sure I have not detailed it all of it, and then to remember that I lived through it, am living through it, and am still feeling its ramifications every day … well, I’ve become blase and unfeeling. I am rather numb. I see the world as gray. Every day is gray. I fear sunshine, as it may make me feel too much. No day is too happy. No day is too sad. I am just getting through. I am not depressed, but I am not happy. I just am. And that’s no way to be, really.

Most days I think about being dead. I think about how it would be a lot easier if I were dead. Not because I want to kill myself. not because I am in any psychic pain overtly. Physical pain, yes, somedays immensely. Somedays that almost drives me to suicde admittedly. Most days I think about dying because the living is so pedantic. I barely feel alive most days, within my soul. This business of life has become so tiresome, so full of the bad, I’m ready to give it up. 

I guess what I’ve lost is my spirit. And I’m not sure any therapist or shrink can give that back to me.

Brain/body

I don’t have any happy things to say today. No good morals to the story of my life. I am sad and worn out, and I want out.

I have cried myself to sleep three nights in a row. I am tired of nighttimes, where every dark thought creeps its way into my head, and there aren’t good answers to the problems that I have found myself in, and I wish I was 20 again and a smoker and a full of an arrogant resolve that said I could do anything.

I am trapped in a body that I hate and don’t want, didn’t ask for and don’t identify with. I pinch the flesh and curse it for being fat, for being crippled and broke down and in pain. I am angry that it continues to betray me after all these years. I throb in pain as I cry silently, and know that this is my fate: a loneliness that no one can ever know but me: to have a spirit that is alive and full and completely unable to be be expressed by the lemon that I have been given by my asshole parents, who topped off the recent brain surgery by mailing a 46-pound package to my house with the remnants of my childhood stashed inside. It bespoke the evidence of their hatred toward me. I am a castoff, a degenerate: they hate my flesh too. And I don’t blame them. I am ugly, a scar, a mar on everyone who comes into contact with me.

The incision from my posterior fossa decompression has not healed yet. It’s been a month, and there it is, a festering wound on my neck, white and pink and red. It’s ripped open in the middle while the rest of the scar has heled up into my hair and down my neck. It’s a reminder that my body sucks. It won’t do what it is supposed to do, so that I may be subjected to additional atrocities such as cerebral spinal fluid leaks and spinal taps and medical residents so that I can live out my own personal Grey’s Anatomy anytime I am ushered to the Emergency Room.

Daily I am greeted with a pounding headache, worse than what I had before the surgery. My surgeon dismisses me: “I am not concerned about these headaches,” he says. When they abate, I find myself with my hip giving out and my leg buckling. A trip to Target is like navigating a minefield: Can I make it throuhg Health and Beauty without faling down? Should I rest in the candles before venturing to the registers? I will not use a wheelchair. That is admitting defeat, and I don’t look like I have a disabililty. I just look fat. And therefore lazy. And I’ve already been fighting that all my life.

I am afraid of the ice that has fallen already this winter. I am terrified of leaving my house. What if I fall and hit the back of my head, where they have grafted a patch over the dura, the membrane that covers my brain? My condition renders me naturally graceless, and I always fall on the ice.

I am afraid of drivind, and turning my head. What if I dehissicate my wound further?

I am afraid of walking to far? What if my leg locks up for good?

I am deathly afraid of the hospital. What if they decide on another spinal tap? They already told me I was too fat, so the chances of getting it done within a few pokes were low. One resident told me that he has poked people, dug around in their spinal cord, for up to 30 minutes. What if that’s me? Because I am too fat? I am having a panic attack thinking about it right now.

This is the rest of my life. Spinal taps. Maybe another brain surgery. One resident told me maybe it didn’t work. The surgery. An inability to walk properly. Hand tremors. Twitches all over my body. Brain fog. Dementia. Chronic, neverending pain. MRIs. Painful IVs. Fighting over pain medications. No career. Maybe quitting graduate school. Here I am 31. Two years ago, my body could do anything. And now, I live by the whim of my body. I feel like my life is over. And really, I wish it was.

Yellow Leaves

I am looking out at the yellow leaves above my car. I am in pain today. Head pain. Sometimes back pain. Mostly head pain. And I am not alowed to take advil or aleve. Only Tylenol. Which I took about an hour ago and it did nothing, and so now I am having an internal debate about taking more because what the hell, my liver is shot anyway with all the medication I have been on for the last few years, so who cares if I have to filter Wal-Lynol through it just so I can stop feeling like my eyes are going to push through my sockets for a few brief hours.

I have had a headache for a few days now. I hate them. They make me moody and tired and foul and angry. My neck hurts, and I can just see all the fluid that is supposed to be cushioning my brain and my spine blocked up in my neck and I imagine that if I were to drink Draino that I would fix the clog that has caused this headache and I wouldn’t have to take so much Wal-Lynol, and have a debate about taking Vicodin after that and then have a debate about smoking weed after that. Because all I really want to do is make a loaf of pumpkin chocolate chip bread and watch The Shining and then maybe finish the book I am reading, called The Curious Incident of the Dog in The Night Time. But all of these plans seem so tiring that instead I am imagining the clog in my head, and my neck as the pipe they show in the old Draino commercials, and am willing the hair ball or the cat toy or whatever that’s stuck in there to just dissolve away.

Except what’s stuck in there is my brain, and nothing is going to fix is except a surgeon, and that’s two weeks away.

I go back to looking at the leaves outside. And I see the painting I started three weeks ago, which is a nice blue green color. It’s got a thick coat of acrylic paint on it. I like when paintings have thick paint on it. I got an urge to do it. Just like I got an urge to start a scarf, which is sitting under my bed right now, sometimes chewed upon by the puppy. Just like I got an urge to start sewing. I get all sorts of urges to do something artistic but then I remember how I am not creative or artistic so I have all sorts of half-finished projects all over the house, like abandoned children, reminding me of the under-developed parts of my ego.

I wish I were an artist, or a scientist, or a good cook, or an academic, or a vegan, or a an animal rights advocate. I wish I were something that had a clear label, something that boxed me in, in a certain way. Something that was defined, so that when people said my name, they thought of one thing that clearly meant, Me. But I’m amorphous. A cloud. A mist. A fog. I am undefined. The unknown quantity, X.

I keep thinking, I am having brain surgery. People “find” themselves after brain surgery. You always pick up People magazine, or Reader’s Digest, or hear on Dateline about the people who have recovered from some strange illness, or overcome immense odds, and then they climb Mt. Everest, or go on to found a charity. If they are a woman, they will help other women like them. Of course it is gendered. That is besides the point. The point is, people are supposed to have their head cut open and then do magical things. Like ride around on unicorns, or change water to wine. Maybe they will lose a thousand pounds, and resolve to live a life of salvation. They are transformed, humbled, never the same. This is what we expect from people who have lived through major illness. They are suddenly defined by their illness, and their subsequent non-illness.

But what if that does not happen to me? What if things just go on the same? When I get home, what if I am still looking at the same yellow leaves? What if I don’t get magically better, and I am a case that requires more brain surgery, a shunt in my back? What if I am not the miracle, and the unicorns don’t come, and the wine truly has run out at the party? What if I just am sick for good this time?

What then?

And what if I just don’t feel any different in my heart, and I don’t go on to lose a thousand pounds, live a reformed life, do anything any different, and all that’s changed is I have a big scar on my head and I’m not in pain? Will I be a disappointment? I feel a pressure to be something other than I am now. A mandatory shapeshifter. What if I don’t want to do that? What if I can’t? What if I want to look at the yellow leaves outside my window, because all I want is for things to be the same?

I don’t know what it means to be: That girl who had brain surgery. I don’t know if I want to know. Do I? I have struggled for definition my whole life, and now this? This is it? This will be THE thing that people remember me for? As the girl with the scar on her head and neck? What does that mean?

In the quietude of my apartment, yellow leaves falling madly while autumn marches on, I am forgetting those questions for this brief moment.

In the mirror.

I am learning new things about my body, now that I am thisclose to having my head cut open.

For instance, today I feel very secure and warm in my body, and it’s all because of the clothes I am wearing. The jeans are long enough and stretchy enough, the sweater is soft and hits at the right places. There are problems: not enough contrasting color, too plain, not funky enough. But overall, my body feels warm and soft, so I can overlook the nagging voice in my head that is telling me how bad I look. Feel trumps look.

I have this thing, this problem, this obssession with what I am wearing. Every year it gets worse. I have spent a fortune on clothing trying to fix my flaws, trying to get the perfect wardrobe so that I will feel just right every single day, so that I can make the voice in my head that tells me how bad I look every day to shut the fuck up for once. I imagine that every single person is zeroing in on the things I see in the mirror: hips that are too wide, thighs that are massive, legs that are vein-y and repulsive. My current obssession, outside of fixing my hips and thighs: eyebrows. Past obssessions: maintaining perfect hair, having a perfect pedicure, masking my double chin, and hiding my upper arms. These things can become so overwhelming I spend every portion of my day that is not occupied with something else worrying about how to manage my body. Busyness with something else is my respite: work, school, the dog, cleaning the house: I welcome these distractions. Otherwise, the anxiety about my body is there, waiting in the shadows.

Clothes may not pinch. They may not be too tight, nor too loose. Pants may not be too short, or too skinny at the ankle. Shirts may not ride up in the back. Shirts may not be higher than my belt in the front. I always wear a belt if there are belt loops on my pants. I almost never buy pants without belt loops, because then I cannot wear a belt, which means you could see that my waistband does not lay flat against my stomach, because my stomach is not flat, and that means I am fat. That really doesn’t matter because I have to wear shirts that are longer than where my belt hits, but it is still the rule, and a rule is a rule, so there.

Sleeves must not ride up on my upper arm. They must not be too tight. For a long time I did not wear ruffled or flutter sleeves because that made me feel too feminine and it made my shoulders look too broad and I felt not right so it was best to forgo them lest I feel wrong all day long.

Skirts were another problem. They made my calves look too wide. Just like flats. So if I wore a skirt it had to be with wedges or heels, and the same was true of shorts, but not with capris or crops because they were almost pants and made me feel safe about how much skin I was exposing and so my ankles and calves looked normal and I could wear flats with them. The last few summers I broke these rules as I had too much running around to do and I hurt too much so practicality forced me to grit my teeth when viewing my calves in the mirror under the frill of a skirt.

Tanning took care of the veins on my calves. Living in the Midwest means my skin is a bit pasty, and I’ve inherited a tendency toward spider veins. They’ve lined my calves now for a few years. Having stood on my feet for years in countless retail and food service jobs hasn’t helped my plight, and has only added varicose veins to the mix. I see my calves as hideous blobs of moving blue cheese. I tried saving money the last two years and used self-tanning lotion. It gets expensive, all this body management.

I stare at other women, envy the way pants fit on their bodies. Other women always seem to have the perfect jeans: long enough, fit at the waist just right, flared at the ankle perfectly, a good rinse and weight. I always think: If only I had the right pants, things would be perfect. I believe this is key, the entry into the world of the privileged bodies. Thin women have so many options with their pants: different lengths, different washes, different amounts of stretch, different rises, different designers, different leg widths. Men have this luxury, too. Fat women? We get a 31 inch inseam, two rinses, and three couture designers who make two kinds of jeans a season out of last season’s scraps and sell them to one store that doesn’t restock sizes so all the fat women in town fight over them. There is no choice, not really.

And so I gawk, and think: If I just had the right pants, maybe my legs would be the right legs. Maybe my ass would be the right ass. Maybe my thighs would be the right thighs. If I look in the mirror, I stare at my hips and wonder what other people see. Because I think, they probably don’t see what I see in the mirror when they look at me.

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