* This essay was originally published on Lunch Ticket, Antioch University Los Angeles’ student-run literary journal. Check out our website for handpicked fiction, poetry, translation, memoir, and more.
Myths of Men
I am a myth-maker; I make myths of men. My journals and essays and mental spaces are filled with names like Jared, Jeter, and Jefferson, all of them monsters I tried to tame with a pen. My version of myth-making is a form of self-deception. I don’t do this on purpose. It’s a defective coping mechanism—a way to withstand unbearable situations, like drinking to warm yourself on a cold night. You may fool your brain into thinking your body is warm, but it doesn’t stop your body from developing frostbite. These myths may pacify my terror around abusers, but they don’t stop the abuse.
This is where the perennial truth versus fact debate in creative nonfiction gets even more complicated. What happens when I feel like I’m telling the truth, but it turns out to be a lie? What if the facts are correct, I just left some out? What if I feel just as duped as the reader when the truth reveals itself? Continue reading
I’m very grateful to announce that my second published piece of memoir is now up on Entropy. “La Petite Mort” is an essay about sex, love, drug addiction, and a dear friend of mine.
Read it here!
Last night, I invited y’all to suggest topics or questions for blog posts via my contact page. The first question landed in my inbox this morning. It’s a complicated one.
Rebecca H. writes:
“My question to you and one I’ve struggled with in the past is the line between feeling gorgeous and sexually empowered and the feelings of being a vessel men use and abuse for their own gain . . . In the U.K., stripping is one of those ever growing things and more and more clubs and bars are opening. It’s one of those topics that most women cannot agree on. Is this degrading or are we showing how strong and beautiful we are by getting naked for paying men?”
This is a difficult question to answer because it’s one that must be addressed on a case-by-case basis. There’s no single opinion about sex work among sex workers. Our stories and experiences are too varied. Some people are forced into sex work. Many enter the industry by choice. Others do so out of desperation. And these factors are just the tip of the iceberg. Sex work comes in a multitude of forms — stripping, fetish work, camming, prostitution, the list goes on — which makes it impossible to pin down.
2012: alcoholism at its worst.
My sober date is September 23rd, which, coincidentally, is also my middle brother’s birthday. Zach has always been my harshest critic.
On Christmas Day, 2012, Zach staged an informal intervention in our Chicago living room after a particularly brutal Christmas Eve, during which I drank a bottle of champagne and told Luke’s Japanese teacher my life story in explicit detail over holiday dinner. The next morning, Zach said that if I didn’t change, he would remove me from his life. He said I was an embarrassment. A disaster. He couldn’t handle it.
My plan was to move back to Minneapolis from Chicago (where I’d gone to treatment and subsequently relapsed) on January 1, 2013. First, though, I would wreck myself on New Year’s Eve in Milwaukee with booze, speed, and hallucinogens. On New Year’s Day, I sat through breakfast with my friends, brainstorming ways to kill myself. I was sober for the next 20 months.
I will never again read a book about mental illness by someone who doesn’t suffer from it. Yesterday morning, I found my mother’s copy of a book on borderline personality disorder that I’ve long resisted reading because of its name: I Hate You — Don’t Leave Me. I decided to peruse a few chapters, hoping they might shed some light on the increased rage I’ve been experiencing. This was a mistake.
A few paragraphs in, the shame was dripping like sweat down my body. The borderline’s outbursts of rage are as unpredictable as they are frightening… Most therapists will, whenever possible, try to limit the number of borderline patients they treat.
I want to tell you about a very stupid and embarrassing thing I did this morning. (If my shame list was still being written, this would be on it.) When I got home from Milwaukee last night, I squeezed ketchup and mustard all over my face and took some pictures of the aftermath in one of many personal attempts to challenge aesthetic conventions. And then – big mistake – I posted it on social media. It went mostly “unliked” and, feeling humiliated, I deleted it. I do this quite often. I post a photo, wait to see if it’s worth any social capital, and, if it’s not, I virtually incinerate it. I then spend a few hours fighting the urge to put a Jewel-Osco bag over my head.
How’s that for an unflattering truth? I’m mortified to confess that I’ve enlisted myself in this battle for online attention, but I’m doing it because you’ve probably enlisted yourself, too.
Holy shiz, yesterday was Big Mouth’s first year anniversary. Time continues to mystify me.
I started this blog shortly after my wedding was called off and I returned home from Europe. The first post was both an apology and a goodbye letter — an apology because I felt like I fucked a lot of people over in my runaway bridehood and a goodbye letter because I would soon sprint back to Europe under the guise of needing to “find myself” — the empty claim of every 20-something runaway ever.
I wasn’t as candid then as I am now and there’s finally enough distance for me to be honest about what happened.
Shame sucks. It’s seriously one of the most detrimental feelings a human being can experience. Its goal is to cut you off from the rest of the world so that no one else has to see how horrible/disturbed/disgusting you really are. Shame shows itself in red faces, clenched fists, and lacking eye contact.
Guilt, when it’s justified, can be useful. Guilt inspires positive change and keeps us from repeating the same mistakes. Don’t know the difference between guilt and shame? Guilt is feeling shitty about something you’ve done that violates your own moral code. Shame is going from “I did a shitty thing” to “I am a shitty person.” Shame revolves around the idea that there is something inherently wrong with you. It’s triggered by rejection, by ostracization, by embarrassment… any number of things, really.
Guilt promotes forward movement. Shame keeps you stuck and scared and small. Shame prohibits growth.
A few months ago, a friend suggested that I write something about shame. I’ve resisted doing so until now because a.) shame is an enormous topic b.) it sucks and c.) it permeates pretty much every facet of my life, so WHERE WOULD I EVEN BEGIN???!!!
(Caps aren’t appropriate for professional writing, Leif.)
(Fuck you, subconscious parenthetical voice.)
It’s been a few months since my last themeless blog post, perhaps because I’m obsessed with attaching meaning to senseless shit