THEY WERE HERE (12/06/17)

On December 6th, we were able to stop again on our way back to South Carolina to pay respects at Pulse in Orlando, the sight of the now second biggest massacre in American history. Since June 12th, 2016. We’ve already had something top it.

What a sickening thought.

I believe my first trip to Pulse was late last year or early this year, and it was just as painful to witness and behold. There is no preparation for what you will feel when you pull into that lot and imagine what happened there, the senseless carnage and the cruelty.

The surrounding community has most definitely not forgotten these beautiful souls – even the Wendy’s across the street, where we changed clothes before the long ride home, had encouraging signs stressing the need for acceptance and equality posted behind the counter, and a framed print listing the names of the lives lost that night. From the window of the Wendy’s, you could have a burger and stare at the memorial. The sad thought turns my stomach. The crosswalk in front of the club had been painted rainbow, and ONE ORLANDO signs hang boldly for all to see.

It makes me so profoundly happy to see that this place is being taken care of. A live Christmas tree is up now, with jugs of water placed nearby, encouraging those who stop by to tend to it. And they do. People protect this place.

A sign, attached to the official Pulse sign, which is new as of my last visit, states that it will eventually be a permanent memorial and museum. Not a single soul is unrepresented or forgotten. I am so grateful for the people who are tirelessly tending to this precious place, who are keeping hate away from it. Who plant flowers in multicolors and share smiles and urge us, the shocked and horrified passersby, to walk away from this painful place feeling inspired to be kind, understanding, and above all things, tolerant.

I’ve included photos below the cut, with a trigger warning because of the obvious reference to LGBTQ+ violence and slaughter. As I’ve said before – I do this not out of voyeurism. I want people who are not able to visit Pulse, whether for travel reasons or perhaps just an emotional unreadiness, to know that these people have not and will not ever be forgotten. I’ll never stop visiting them and praying for them.

I was not a Pulse attendee. Orlando is not my true home. But I identify as a pansexual woman who spent many nights at my own personal Pulse with my many LGBTQ+ friends, feeling safe and free to be ourselves in a designated “safe space”. In many ways, that innocence is lost – there is no such thing as a safe space anymore. But all we can do is promise to remember, and to do our absolute best to prevent it from happening again.

There will always be a Pulse, as long as we promise to never forget. And I never will.

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INSTAWHAM

I have a social media problem. Primarily instagram. I’m not afraid to admit it. What I AM afraid of, however, is the damage it is doing to me as a young woman and a human being. And while I am in this inbetween season of my life wherein I am trying to get a better and healthier grasp of my mental health, preparing for funeral board exams, and eventually finding a place in the funeral industry, I have promised to come clean and honest with every mental and emotional problem that I endure or suffer, in the event that me spilling my guts could possibly help someone else. There isn’t much that I can do right now, other than wait for life to open the next door. So here goes.

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YEAR ONE

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For the first three months of our relationship, I probably tried to break up with Tyler at least 400 times.

“We have different thoughts about politics, we should break up.”

“The sky is blue, we should break up.”

“The cat yawned, we should break up.”

Any excuse, any absolutely asinine reasoning that my mind fell to, I was ready to bail. And holy shit – after he told me that he LOVED me?! Instead of feeling joy, I felt panic. I felt fear. I felt an enormous sense of responsibility. I felt, more than anything, incapable. What had I done? I couldn’t do this. This was too much, I wasn’t ready, it would never work, I would just get hurt. I came home and went over and over us with my fine tooth “should we break up” comb and tried to beg a reason into existence. In those early days, I asked my mom, my brother, every friend I had, “do you think Tyler and I should break up?” and they all just stared at me like I had grown a second head and told me to calm myself down because he was an incredible person.

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SAY UNCLE

Around the time that I had my first period, I also grew a small, dark beard.

You can imagine how delightful THAT was – I was an overweight tweenager who was constantly bullied for my looks (fat, brace face, too tall, not wearing the right clothing) and my desperate affection for the band Hanson that somehow was enough to warrant near daily physical threats of violence. Even the uncool thought I was uncool.

I admit, I was a tad thrown re: the beard. I’d been to sex ed and I knew all about and expected the period business – but I was not prepared to develop what was a nearly full mustache and beard seemingly overnight, and I did not think the two had any distinct connect (spoiler alert – they totally do). I vividly remember sitting across from a friend at McDonald’s after we saw a movie on a Friday night and she motioned to the mustache and beard with her finger in a way that can only be described as “delicately concerned” and she asked “so … what’s that about?”

Well, I had no clue. I presented it to my mother curiously in its various stages of growth, my panic increasing as the beard threatened to take over both town and country, and she would hand me a pair of tweezers, because what else do you do with your 12 year old’s small beard? I would try to maintain it, but sadly, it grew at such a rate that a pair of tweezers were nothing compared to its ferocity.

Excitingly, not long after the beard appeared, a pair of sideburns started to grow in. You can only imagine my joy! Not only was I suddenly ballooning in size – my weight was more unsteady than the last shambles of a well-played Jenga game – my beard, sideburns, and mustache were well on their way to connecting into a full LEWK. I wore my hair down constantly, tried to avoid fluorescent lighting, and hoped and prayed I would look super fat in my jeans and that would attract more attention from my tormenters than my hairy predicament.

It never really occurred to me to dial up on AOL and ask Jeeves why I was starting to rival a member of ZZ Top, because that’s not really how life worked back then. I just accepted the hand I’d been dealt and that really seemed to work, because for a while, no one really mentioned it (perhaps they were just as stunned as I was and didn’t know how to formulate an insult).

Not you, though. You always noticed everything about me, I SWEAR, I’d come around you and pray beforehand that you wouldn’t notice what I had to hide or what I felt ashamed of, and it’d be the first thing you mentioned, like you could read my mind. We would meet you and the rest of the family and as I grew closer, you’d already be smirking like the cheshire cat, and I would hang my head and wait for whatever you planned to deal out to be over.

Every Friday night, my family met at a restaurant called Pelham Palace, run by the sweetest Greek family that we had grown close to over the years. We always sat at the same table, and we never missed a Friday – it was our time to see each other after the long week and catch up. There was a beautiful boy that worked there and I had the biggest crush on him. You knew that, and it was such a game for you.

In my attempt to try to fit in with what everyone else was wearing, I wore men’s boot cut jeans that I hoped resembled bell bottoms (they so didn’t). Fashionable plus size clothing literally did not exist when I was young, so I had two pairs of men’s jeans that I alternated every day, and each pair had a “hammer” holder on the side of one of the legs. When we would head to the counter to pay each week, you would grab me by the “hammer” and pull me as I tried to walk, and I would stumble, in a blubberly slow motion, with you only stopping when you succeeded in tripping me in front of the boy I had a crush on. I remember struggling to get away from you and what it felt like to be so damn embarrassed like that, with everyone who could see us staring unabashedly at the display.

The jeans tided you over for awhile, but one Friday – you spotted it. The beard. You didn’t outright say anything, that wasn’t your style. You started to call me Billy Goat. You started to call me Beardly. I begged you to stop, to not talk about it, but you would stare at me from down the table and stroke your own beard.

“Soon your sideburns will really come in and you’ll have a beard as good as mine!” You’d say.

“Please let me shave my beard so _____ can’t make fun of me tonight.” I started to beg my mother before dinner. I had been shaving my legs for awhile, so I didn’t understand why I couldn’t shave my beard, too.

“You can’t do that, the hair on your face is different than the hair on your legs, and if you shave it, it will come in darker.” she apologized. Well, the last thing in the world I wanted was a worse beard, so I felt stuck.

After one particularly brutal exit wherein you lead me by my beard out of the restaurant in front of all of the waiting patrons and my crush, mom had an idea – we went right to Wal-Mart to get some Nair. I can still smell it, can still feel it, goopy and cold as I slathered thick coats over my mustache, my sideburns, my beard. It worked, but not for long enough – the hairs would sprout back in almost immediately, and the constant five o’clock shadow was nearly as horrendous as the beard itself.

One night after another core-shaking, humiliating Friday dinner, I snuck in the bathroom, drew water in the sink, and defiantly took the razor to my face. Angry, broad, carless strokes, I didn’t care – it just HAD. TO. GO.

The next Friday night, I felt like I could breathe for the first time in months. But, lo and behold, it didn’t matter that my face was smoother than a baby’s ass now. You still called me Beardly , did so well into my teens, now adding a series of oinks while you did it, as my weight continued to spike. You still stroked your face while looking at mine, like you were telling me that you could still see it: the shame, the embarrassment.

I try not to actively be around you much anymore, because you make us all miserable, you hold us all hostage with your judgement and moods and attitudes, but for some reason, like the literal victims of abuse that we all are, we still try to dance in hopes of making you clap your fat little hands. You came to dinner with the family last night, and I watched you laugh at me when I offered my small, polite, educated response to your question of why I would protest the president when he comes to town. You laughed bodily, your nose in the air, silencing me immediately, my words dead in my throat. You belittled me in front of the whole family while rattling off to me the reasons why I’m not allowed to have valid thoughts, feelings, or deductions regarding our political climate. I felt so small, like me and my sad ole beard did all those years ago, like you were dragging me to hell and back with the hammer pants. I could feel the shame burning in my face as I tried to smile and not let the tears that threatened to spill pour right out, and I turned myself off and agreed with everything you said – and I STILL called you “sir” out of respect as you ripped my little snowflake ass to shreds.

I came home and I felt this overwhelming sense of unrest, of upset, like a dam had burst within me. I thought long and hard about you. I thought about how many times you’ve called me a felon or an inmate, because I have dyed hair and tattoos. I thought of when you told me that you weren’t having “f*gs” over to your house for Thanksgiving, so my best friend wasn’t welcome. I thought about how you still make fun of me to this day for the trouble that I got into when I was SEVENTEEN YEARS OLD. I thought about last fourth of July, when you said in front of the whole family and our guests that I was not even good enough to be raped. I thought about how I’ve been answering to “Asshole” and “Assley” since I was a child. I thought about how you used to brag about seeing my Dad at work, and I’d try to act like I didn’t care that you brought him up, but I’d still casually ask you about him and you’d dummy right up, keep every tidbit to yourself, because you’re so selfish that you can’t even let a child whose father left her have any minor detail about him.

I thought about my fucking beard. My poor, sad beard. And of how scared I was of you then, how I never spoke up because I was confused and it hurt – you used to be someone who was fun, you were my friend – you had a water bed and let me name the cat, you got me my PeeWee Herman doll – and somehow you had instead become the cruelest person who has never once refrained from telling me how wrong or stupid I am. I thought about how what you did to me was abuse. What I endured from you was constant abuse. It isn’t the way you are, the way you joke, any of the excuse the family has offered for you over the years. It is and has always been terrible abuse.

I see you in the mirror every day, when I shave my face. I still have to do that, because I would eventually grow up and find out that I have an ovarian disease that causes facial and body hair growth. You are a man who made fun of a sick child for sport. I grew up to have a phobia of having my face and throat touched that is so intense that I feel immediate nausea whenever any well-intentioned person attempts to brush an eyelash off my cheek. What was it for? What did you gain by doing this to me?

I used to think that family was an obligation, a blood debt that you honored above all things, no matter what. You have taught me otherwise. I asked myself what I would do if a friend of mine had treated me the way you have – and the answer was clear cut. I would remove that person from my life immediately. If I had asked you the same question you asked me last night, if you felt so passionately against something that you wanted to protest it, the difference between you and I is that I’d really want to know why you felt that way, because I would know that you were hurting and I’d want to help.  And I would listen to you. Even if I thought it was the stupidest thing in the world, I would listen. I guess the last thing that I have to say about you is what you hurled against me, when I didn’t fold right over immediately, when I tried, for once, to speak up for myself – “there are some people who aren’t even worth talking to because you’ll never change them.”

Beardly, out.

Lavender 

I used to think you lavender

And myself a shade of blue

Because when you came round

You lit me up

And replaced my blue with you

Lavender was all I craved

Steadiness, warmth, and calm

When you called out to me

It was your lavender I slipped on

You waved away my cloudy days

With just a flick of your hand

You steadied all my careless ways

And helped me understand

It was okay to be blue, you’d say

After your fourth or fifth beer

Just don’t get too crazy, babe

You’d remind me with a jeer

I lay with you in your bed at night

Knowing I wasn’t the only one

Who laid at night with lavender

True blue, I bit my tongue.

Days to weeks and weeks to months

And now it has been years

I’m always blue, and only blue

Until lavender reappears

So many times I’ve wondered

And then I’ve stopped myself

Was I truly blue when you found me?

Or did you declare me blue yourself?

Was it my state of being

Or an opening you saw –

Was I ever something other than blue

Or were you the blue one after all?

That’s the funny thing about time

And growing past a problem

You start to see with clarity

You start to learn to solve them

If I saw you now, you’d smile that smile

That you saved just for me

And I know I’d squint and

For just a moment

The predator would be me

I loved you once

And I swear some days

I wish I could turn back time

But I stop myself, remembering

How blue you made my mind

Because that’s the thing

That took so long

For me to understand –

You were the rough and bellowing sea

And I was the safety of land.

I thought it was in reverse

You the savior, I the damned

But when the fog cleared

And the sky beamed down

I saw it was all lavender in my hands

The house to ourselves, the captain’s chair

You called me “Pink” to all your friends

A knowing look, your strut, your sway –

Third Eye Blind’s “Dopamine” on replay

The bad was bad and the good was good

And that’s all I can let it be

In the succession of your blue girls

I never fell in line

I protested, I fought for myself

And now color is mine

I found out what you never wanted me to know

The truth you kept under your thumb

The lavender was always me

It was you who was blue all along

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I ALWAYS KNOW WHERE THE BATHROOM IS

I always know where the bathroom is
In every building that I go
I always know where the bathroom is
Because that is where I’m safe, I know

I always know where the bathroom is
Flushed red chest and wild eyes
I always know where the bathroom is
Where I can pretend I’m not alive

I always know where the bathroom is
Sweat trickling to the cold tile floor
I always know where the bathroom is
Escape just behind the lock of a door

I always know where the bathroom is
Murmured conversation all around
I always know where the bathroom is
The place where I’m allowed to be upside down

I always know where the bathroom is
Hand to the wall, breathe in, breathe out
I always know where the bathroom is
Where my mind is free to shout

I always know where the bathroom is
A concerned friend texting from outside
I always know where the bathroom is
My head pressed between my thighs, “Oh, I’m fine!”

I always know where the bathroom is
You see, that’s where I stay
I always know where the bathroom is
There’s nothing else, game over, no other way.

A Public Apology

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It was brought to my attention the other day that I have been somewhat of a hypocrite, as far as relationships go.

Rewind about five months ago. A classmate (and now friend) of mine was asked if she had any plans to start looking for an apprentice funeral director/embalmer position, and she answered no. She was going to finish school and then see what her boyfriend wanted to do, as far as his career and his location plans were. She looked right at me.

“Don’t judge me.” She said.

I scoffed.

“Too late,” I replied back.

Fast forward. With the same classmate/friend in tow at the Midwinter convention that we attended as a class last week, I found myself saying shades of the same. “I don’t have any plans to look for an apprenticeship right now. I want to really focus on school and then see where my boyfriend is at at that point, because one of us may move if a job opportunity comes up.”

Erika called me right out, and rightfully so.

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WORSTS

**AUTHOR’S NOTE:

I am dating a really wonderful guy who doesn’t let my exorcism of old demons bother him because he is an actual angel sent from heaven. Please don’t be the sort of internet snoop I attempt to be and assume that something is wrong between Tyler & I because I have posted this. This was simply backlogged in my draft posts because I was afraid to share it for some time, but I’m not afraid of upsetting this person anymore, and I’m trying to get on top of dat blog game. It’s actually kinda funny to read this back and think that I ever thought I felt so seriously about this fella in the first place. Bless it.

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