* 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
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.
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.)
As most of you know, I no longer attend 12-step meetings. When I first told people I was backing away, I made a conscious effort to not offend anyone or talk shit on the program. Okay, well, I’m done doing that. Toxic people and systems encourage the kind of fear I’ve been sitting with — the kind that keeps people silent.
Y’all fucked with a big mouth.
Let’s start with a disclaimer: “Bottle Up and Explode” Syndrome is not a real thing. It’s actually the title of an Elliott Smith song that pops into my head every time I have an emotional breakdown.
Hi. This, on the surface, is a story about the uncomfortable process of falling in love. Dig a little deeper and it’s a story about how trauma complicates love. Be warned: this is a rough draft with minimal edits. Also, I glossed over certain traumatic details because I don’t feel like dealing with them right now.
I’m two weeks sober today. It’s not much, but I haven’t been clean for this long since last October.
And I haven’t experienced cravings like this since…. ever.
First day back in the States. Not looking so hot.
On September 23, I woke up in Prague on an L-shaped couch, head to head with a 30-something party boy from the suburbs of Chicago. He was sniffling in his sleep, occasionally pinching his nostrils to remove residual cocaine.
He sat up abruptly, checked his phone, sprang off the couch, buttoned his pants around his skinny boy beer belly, and scrambled to find the document he had picked up from his bald Australian friend’s house the night prior.
Admire my hairy wrist. Thank you.
Hi. My name may or may not be Leif and I’m pretty sure I’m addicted to men.
But not the good men. No, the good men terrify me. I’m addicted to the addicts, the alcoholics, the emotionally abusive, the eternally confused, the self-loathing, narcissistic, nihilistic boys for whom I come second. Or last. Or never.