Thursday, March 28, 2013


I am impotent. I sit here, reaping the benefits of my marriage to a wonderful man, drinking my coffee gone cold, scribbling notes of beauty and nothingness, knowing all the while that I, Alice, got to bind myself irrevocably to the person I love.

I've been mulling the past two days over, reading every snippet I could find and watching the sea of red and pink and love swell up over my friends and family on Facebook. I've been crying. I've been brought up and down by support and viciousness. I've scrolled through comments on CNN, on Yahoo, on Jezebel.

And I have felt useless. Mute. Shamed.

All of my words, my desire to write, have dried up and stretched out like parchment or tanned skin. I find I have nothing good to say, because my words are so powerless in the face of the bravery of men and women who are standing up and speaking out because they need to, because they must, because somehow the promises of the constitution are null and void when it comes to love. And I don't know how to place myself in that fight.

When I was a little girl I was fearless, defiant, stubborn, outspoken, fierce - until my teachers started to show us footage and poetry and songs of freedom, of civil rights. The echoes of Dr. Martin Luther King reverberated in my gut, and the faces demanding justice, civility, respect, made me hot, made me full of longing, made me proud. On those days I felt a burning in my chest; I was helpless, and I was wrought with something I had never felt before, some mixture of deep shame and of wildness. I cried, every time. I felt like throwing up.

That's what I've been doing, these past few days, and I've known that my life in a heterosexual union has been a life of privilege. No one is here to deny me the rights guaranteed by the founding documents of and inspirations for this, our great myth, our goal and our struggle, America. I have so many rights - over one thousand - that my marriage as a woman with a man affords. And I am so lucky.

It could have easily gone the other way; my only real relationship, other than that with G, was with a woman.

I would have been the same person. I would have been in love, committed, passionate, and above all, equal.

I am an American citizen, and a consensual contract of marriage should not change that. The rights I am supposed to have - the rights we are all supposed to champion and believe in - would be and should be immutable.

And I still feel that burning, longing, sobbing, near-vomiting, even from my place of heterosexual union, and I still hear the voice of Dr. King, and I remember the little girl who loved freedom but who realized, with fear, that she might not be like everyone else.

That's the thing, isn't it? Believing in equality while the world pushes back, says no, quotes antiquated texts, makes comparisons as ugly and disgusting as bestiality or incest, makes love into sin - that's why, that's the reason, that we as Americans need to believe in the true beauty of equal protection under the law.

Because no one should be treated as anything less than human.

Because little girls who cry, inexplicably, uncontrollably, in reaction to civil rights, should not see any part of themselves as other. As wrong. As frightening.

Because the constitution of the United States of America says that we are equal, already.

It's so easy to say that the Supreme Court should know this - and yes, they should. But what those nine women and men need to know, while studying and debating the law, is the truth of the matter. I understand that I am not knowledgable in how Supreme Court cases work - I, like most people, know mostly what online discourse and a high school education has taught me. My technical appreciation for the cases is limited.

I still think that there is a basic truth, though, which must be stated, must be upheld. It's the truth of Edie and Thea, Kristin and Sandra, Paul and Jeffrey, and countless others: it's the truth of the very real consequences of denying constitutional rights to people who dare to call themselves American citizens, equal under the law. It's the truth of their love - which might sound too vague or too emotional, but which is recognized and validated in heterosexual marriages without a second thought. It's the truth of how all of us should be treated, how all of our love and commitment stems from a fundamental need for companionship, for family, and for respect.

I keep thinking about that little girl, about all the children who might understand something about themselves which feels scary, which is publicly judged, which is militantly denied through religion or law. And I still feel powerless.

Maybe that will change.

We won't find out about the Supreme Court decisions until the summer. It's a terrible wait for a basic right. But maybe, oh, how I hope, there will be a girl or boy out there, years from now, who watches footage of Edith Windsor speak about her marriage and her rights, and who feels pride, and who doesn't need to cry.

Who is strong. Who is always equal. Who is fearless.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Winning the Lottery

I walk to the convenience store.

I go there for wine, sometimes, to go with pasta and marinara, and I go there for diet cokes from their fountains on hot days, and I go there to get lottery tickets which I know will not win, but which fill me with a pleasure like cigars and scotch on New Year' Eve.

As I walk, I traverse an ever-changing strip of street. What once was a quiet half-block of grass and industrial buildings is now home to white signs sprayed with cobalt graffiti, bits of refuse like beer bottles and the occasional sanitary product, cigarette butts and candy wrappers. When I get to the shop, a group of young men hover at the end of the strip mall, eating slices of pizza and smoking, cursing like mother's milk. This week, a handsome fellow with a quick grin asked me, "You walked all this way, for wine?" I grimaced, held up my power ball tickets, and said, "I'm going to win the lottery."

And I thought about rape.

I never really thought about it, before - before I saw the graffiti, before I noticed the kids on bikes who were never in school, before I found a used tampon in the grass. I saw that fiercely attractive young man and knew that he noticed me. He was friendly, charming, a bit inquisitive but mostly young and harmless.

And I had been so much a fool.

I don't need to go over the Steubenville rape case - I'm sure that anyone who reads this blog is well aware of what happened in a small town in Ohio, which could have been, and most likely is, every town in the world. But I think that the visibility of this case has made America a little bit more aware, a bit more cautious, certainly more disgusted and horrified and pained.

We've seen coverage of those young men - football heroes, good students, attractive in an almost unthreatening way - as they've cried at their just (but limited) punishment. News aggregates have commented on the tragedy of two kids who made a mistake. Who didn't know that what they were doing was wrong. Who were frequently exculpated by their parents, coaches, teachers. Who shoved their childishness and hate and rape and sex and power in a girl's face as she vomited and forgot their dirty hands. We've seen it all.

For rape survivors - they've lived it.

For potential victims of assault - we live it.

I don't want to think about it, and I didn't. I never imagined that it could happen to me, to anyone a I knew, because of location or race or age or gender identity or any of the million reasons why women. Shouldn't. Be. Raped. I thought, instead, about the small playground behind my condo, and the path between trees and brackish water to the gym, and the rows of neat, affordable houses, untouched by any blemish of fear. And then I walked to the minimart, and someone noticed me, and I noticed the climb of smoke spirals from the mouths of smiling idleness; I thought about the graffiti, and I thought about Steubenville and their hall of heroes.

And - pardon my language - it has to fucking stop.

Why is it okay for me to be afraid of my neighbors? Why does the news tell me to urinate or vomit in case of attack? Why is the blame placed on me, a young woman out for lotto tickets and a brisk walk in the sun? Why is a girl - why is anyone - blamed for rape or simply ignored because she was incapacitated and unable to say no? Why do I have to look at a handsome fellow with a cheeky grin as a man who may assault me?

And why did it take so long for everyone to see, for everyone to notice, that rape happens every day, all the time, to everyone and anyone in this culture of victim-blaming and rape-apologists? Why was the stupid trash in my neighborhood the selling point of me thinking that I might be raped? Why did Steubenville have to be the catalyst for a larger discussion of rape in our society?

And why does it have to happen? That's the real question, of course.

Why is not being raped akin to winning the lottery?

I, like many women, am not going to stop. I've got lotto tickets to buy, wine to sniff, diet coke to slurp, and many sunny days ahead of cropped skirts and ballet flats. But, I swear to God, this rape culture - and this mindset of always being scared and never knowing what a young man may think is right - needs to stop. It's not about the soft-edged spray of paint, or the kids on the corner, or the sound of laughter as I enter the one convenience store I can walk to. It's about human decency. It's about the boys and girls which made what should have been a fun night in Ohio into an evening of nonconsensual sadism and humiliation.

I'm going to keep going to my corner store. I'm going to read the news, and I'm going to be terrified.

And I'm going to know that at any moment, for any reason, my body could not be my own.

And God, I wish I could have looked that beautiful young man in the face, and smiled.

Friday, March 15, 2013

All Good

Today is a day in which I feel dumb.

You know my last post - that navel-gazing introspection of why I don't really want to go to grad school? It had an uncanny, unexpected, and all-consuming affect.

Paranoid email checking. Keeping my phone charged in case I get a call. Waiting for the mail to come, and then being disappointed with the flyers from Bed Bath and Beyond, HoCo community college, and my church. And worse - googling and twitter searching and Facebook stalking anything which might include, JHU, Writing Seminars, acceptance letter, admissions notice.

Ugh. Ugh!

I don't think I really cared - until I wrote that I didn't care. My brain, ladies and gentlemen, is a mess.

My life, though, is pretty great. How many young writers have the time, opportunity, and platform to practice their craft publicly? Though this blog doesn't have a wide readership, I still have my moments of coffee and creativity which make me feel that yes, I am a successful writer. I spend at least three hours a day on a daily practice, which I was never able to do in college. If that isn't some small piece of success, I don't know what is.

And I like it. I'm really happy. I see paths in my future as blissfully unexplored and full of possibility - with this blog, with a friend's new site in May, with maybe-babies, with house buying, with weddings and celebrations and feeling what it is like to be twenty-six and not really knowing what comes next.

It is a good time of life, and I am having a good time. I just hate, about this particular letter or email or phone call, the unexpected. The not knowing. The feeling of being cut off from my future, having one small detail be so important and game-changing. Does anyone really like what they don't know?

This post isn't my usual passionate stuff, and that's evidence of how distracted I am. Yesterday I took an afternoon nap, turned on the Deep Space Nine and cuddled my Tempur-Pedic pillow, just to stop worrying. I didn't care before! Really! But now, somehow, I do.

Putting this on my blog is hard for me, because, of course, I could get rejected, and public rejection is a lot less pleasant than the public meanderings that make up this drama of words and emotion. I've rehearsed how I will announce an acceptance - to my husband, to my parents, even to Facebook - but I haven't quite summoned up the guts to practice what I will say if I am refused admission. The latter is certainly more likely, but harder to swallow.

I've given myself today as the last day for worrying. If I get an email or letter or call, great - and I won't dwell on it anymore if I do not. Today will be the goodbye; I refuse, after the sun goes down and the post is in, to dream and anticipate and obsess over this one, relatively insignificant, bit of news. I've told G that once the day is done I will resolve myself, gird my loins, prepare for rejection.

One last twitter search - #jhu #rejected; one last email check - Groupon, Gilt, Rent the Runway; one last stalk of the Hopkins Facebook page; that's all I have left. And that's okay.

I've turned on Flogging Molly, the Chieftains, the Pogues, and sat myself down on the porch furniture with a glass of tea and my word processor open. I'm worrying, but that worry is coming to a close - I'm here, as I always was, writing and listening to music and ready for whatever comes.

There's a lot more of my life to live. And it's all good.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013


I'm waiting for a letter.

College acceptance or refusal letters come in two sizes - large, full of information and tantalizing photographs for the former, and small, with paltry words of, it'll be alright, for the latter. My mailbox is small - they're all lined up in a neat row of condo-dwelling - and I don't know if the big envelope will fit, and I don't know if I want it to.

When I was working, I decided that applying to graduate school would be the catalyst for a graceful exit, the moment of triumph which would allow me to declare, I'm not coming back. I signed up to take the GRE, knowing that my math skills were atrophied and pitiful, and actually began to study numbers, take practice tests, beg for algebra lessons from my logical, genius husband. I dedicated myself to an hour of study each day, interspersing equations and word problems with vocabulary and essay practice. I poured myself into it, not sure if I would succeed - but I had to. I had to get out.

I took the GRE. I performed highly in verbal and written assessments, and poorly in math - unsurprising.

And then life took its natural course, leading me on the inescapable path of never knowing what would come next. I went back into therapy, mandated by my doctor. I spent two months talking, laughing, crying, building up the confidence to admit to myself and others that I could not continue, I could not maintain a life which was slowly and inexorably graying, fading, too beautiful and ugly and painful to endure.

I started writing again. I assembled short stories for my application, and began to dream about what this blog could be. I became a housewife.

Now, waiting for my letter, I'm not sure which envelope I'm hoping for. Graduate school was going to save me - I was going to rededicate myself to my truest passion while having the perfect excuse to leave my job. My acceptance at JHU would exculpate me, my weakness, my growing despair. I really, really needed it then; I'm not sure if I want it, now.

I love what I do - and I think it is the first time I've been able to say it. I loved college, but was restless for something more; I loved my jobs in retail, but hated the hours and physical labor; I loved my work as a special educator, but it wore me down until I was breathless as the ocean and salt-heavy with tears.

It bears repeating, then - I love what I do. I love writing, solitary, drinking coffee and sitting on the porch, and I love walking to the gym, each footfall a word in the growing story of my life. I love taking care of the house, and sometimes I really do love folding laundry.

Waking up is a joy, with no regrets and no desire to hide under my layers of quilts. Going to sleep is a blissful experience as I plan what I'll do the next day. I've become a better person - my relationships have improved as I have gained a measure of self-respect I never knew was possible. I am not scared; I look forward to things, like talking to my parents on the phone, seeing new friends in May, going to the gym and not caring about my sweat, heavy breathing, worn t-shirts and former insecurities.

And then - oh God, what letter is coming? What letter do I want? Am I willing to face a new challenge, or am I perfectly content here, listening to the birds, typing out missives of who I am and who I can be?

When I think about graduate school, I imagine something grand and noble - that creative life of wine and writing and swift lines of ink like Hirschfeld and Picasso and Joyce. I think about leather bags filled with papers and scribbles and the smell of tobacco and tweed. I conjure images of my former TAs, so intelligent, so quick with advice, kind words, cold beers. All of that sounds so amazing, and I think about driving to Baltimore and seeing the sun rise over tall buildings and the football stadium, passing the new theatre space on North Avenue, parallel parking and climbing the hill to the upper quad and grabbing a cinnamon latte in the library cafe.

It's all very romantic.

But is it what I want?

The point, of course, is moot - I'm still waiting for my letter, whichever it will be. But I'm beginning to realize than when I compare the two possible paths, I see myself writing as a housewife - blogging here and, in May, another space - and I'm not quite able to picture myself composing the Great American Novel at JHU. Grad school has a lot to offer, from the free tuition to the workshops with published authors to the pink magnolias and the smell of spring.

This life has a lot to offer. This moment, in my pajamas, doing what I love most.

I'm not sure I'm ready to give that up.

I'm waiting for my letter.

Monday, March 11, 2013


Walking back from the gym, taking pictures of budding daffodils and mustard-yellow berries, I realized that for so long, I have been a victim.

No, not a victim of others. A victim of myself.

Middle school sucked. I could fancy that up a bit - change the language, make it full of longing and pain and sadness - but plain and simple? Middle school sucked. It sucked a lot.

Going into sixth grade, I was a healthy girl of average weight and height, full of self-confidence, imagining myself as a modern day Xena and future champion for civil rights, feminism, and creativity. I had a lot in me, from delicious crushes on boys to an ardent love for literature, from an appreciation and talent for math to a desire to sing Tori Amos until my voice gave out. I wasn't perfect - even as a younger child, I had hated that my thighs were thicker than other girls', and that I was shy and awkward in the worst possible moments - but I had the support of my family, the inner truth of my identity, and a call to arms which I feel all young people must hear in their hearts to be good, strong, powerful. Passionate.

And then I entered a world of shiny plastic, toothbrushes melted into bracelets, a pink mouth guard for field hockey, the smack of the ball, the way girls rested on their left hip and jutted their right foot forward, cradling the core, the beginning of breasts. It was a world of blue and green and hard metallic mouths, of glass-shard glances with brittle laughter, of training bras and deodorant which smelled like candy and sex and salt.

It was a world in which I got thinner. And thinner. Thin until I could see my vertebrae climbing and clicking along the length of my back; thin until my friends begged me to eat; thin until my mother was pale and panicked. I started failing math. I fell in love with a ballerina who was like a charcoal sketch and smelled like Shea butter and got thinner than I did, who ended up in the hospital, whose dark hair was dry as I ran it through my brush.

Those other girls scared me - those pretty perfect girls of blemishes and no shame - and I think I scared them, too. I was strange, I read dirty books and wrote poetry, and to them, I was the worst thing I could possibly be: I heard from a boy at a neighboring school that everyone knew I was that fearful thing, a lesbian.

I held on to that. I held on to all of it, and at some point in the healing process I forgot to let it go.

Maybe I didn't forget. Maybe it was a hurt I nursed in me, so much a part of me that I refused to relinquish my petulant and pitiful little girl pain.

Before I went on my recent trip to Las Vegas, I was terrified. Overweight, shy, feeling like the girl who was an outcast at the age of eleven, doubting I could keep up with other people who were clear plastic perfect, I forged barriers around my heart of that old friend, victimhood.

And then something amazing happened. I had fun.

Put like that, it seems so simple, as if having fun were the answer to all of life's problems, including mine. But in some way, going to Vegas was a baptism. It was a rebirth. A weight lifted from me - a heavy load of rebounding from anorexia through eating my feelings, of being scared to dress up because I wouldn't look like girls in magazines, of always feeling like I should be hurt forever by something which happened over ten years ago. God, it was fifteen years ago.

I walked into the red and blue lights of a Las Vegas nightclub, folding my arms under my breasts, cradling a core of imperfections and insecurities, and when I walked out my arms were loose and I had a joyful moment of loss.

It's taken me a week to write about this - my first draft was horrific, manic, wrought with emotion - and in that week I've done a few things. I've signed back up for the gym and actually worked out; I've been spinning and jogging and lifting weights. I've recommitted to following a meal plan and noticed that my hunger doesn't hurt as much as it used to. I've cut back on alcohol and started drinking more tea. Kombucha instead of beer; activity instead of inertia; delight instead of fear.

It's hard, but it's worth it. I am worth it.

The daffodils aren't in bloom, yet, but they are budding - so am I. Walking home after a tough workout, I'm filled with something like peace, a contentment I never knew I could have. I'm hungry, and it's a good thing, a natural thing, and I'm looking forward to some yogurt and berries and maybe a glass of red wine with dinner. I'm tired, and it's a fatigue not of my soul but of making my body stronger. And now, sitting on the porch, I find that the sound of birdsong is the music which comes after a long, hard winter of clinging to a pain too great to bear -

And it is beautiful.