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Take Me with You When You Go

Several years ago, MTIA and I were driving home from some venue or another after a show, and I popped a mixed CD into the player. Morphine’s “Take Me with You” came on, and MTIA said, “Marry me.”

I’ve been playing this song on repeat a lot as I pack up the house and get ready to move into a new home in a new state with Fast Car. I haven’t spoken to MTIA in over a year, but it feels like it was yesterday. I haven’t had much time to dwell on it, honestly, because a slew of speaking engagements, art projects, and trying to buy a new house (and selling my old house) have taken a lot of time.

“You wanna begin again
Pretend you’re innocent…”

Yeah. I do. So what?

So we bought a big fucking house together, FastCar and me, where we’ll inevitably be the weirdos on the block. But fuck it, because I finally get my picket fence and a pool table in the basement. FastCar gets an extra garage for his, well, fast car, and I guess life is normal.

FastCar is building me an office space of my own and a new, powerful machine in the hope that I’ll quit spreading my work chaos and drafts of speeches all over the house and quit screaming every time I crash my computer. I should probably ask him to soundproof the office while he’s at it; I’ve taken to singing rather loudly while I’m working to break up the monotony and writing blocks.

Funny that a year ago, everything was disaster central. I look back and really can see now what a difference getting away from a toxic work environment (not to mention getting off so much ridiculous medication) has made. And yet…

And yet…

And yet…

Let me try to explain first that I’m not unhappy. I certainly wish I could win the lottery and not have to work so hard, but I’d have to play the lottery to even have a chance; and I wish I could play piano like Tori Amos, but I’d have to take the time to practice. So I am fully aware that my shortcomings are either a) within my power to fix or b) the result of unrealistic goals.

I am not unhappy. I am not failing. I am not scared or alone.

But every friggin’ day, I still pull a straight razor out and think about how I want to starting slashing away at my arms, my chest, my stomach. I know it’s fucked up. I know it is. And yet…

I don’t follow through with it ever, because I’m always bruised enough from other random accidents to not feel completely naked, but it’s still a battle every. single. day.

It is in no way my intention to glorify self-injury, but I’ve been reflecting a lot on addiction lately (the opioid epidemic is getting worse, and fatal overdoses have hit too close to home more times than I can even keep track of at this point; I’m ceaselessly and helplessly watching alcoholism kill a family member, and by proxy, kill his parents, too). This is my addiction: not my worst, but by far the least socially acceptable one. I haven’t managed to quit smoking, and my morning cup of low caffeine tea that has supplanted a daily pot of coffee is still adulterated by far too much sugar. But I wonder if I’m always going to feel so drawn to razors and feel ugly without my private red badges of courage. I’ve felt this way for over 20 years, more than half my life, so my guess is that the feeling won’t go away. Hell, it hasn’t even faded.

Only the social pressure to avoid this behavior keeps me from it.

But am I so different than a runner who hates missing a daily run?

Because here’s the thing that I keep returning to over and over again: what I do (or, rather, what I so desperately WANT to do) isn’t going to give me cancer or rot my liver; it’s not going to require that I even get stitches to heal. Instead, it would calm the anxiety I experience every day.

Any behavior in extreme is worrisome, whether it be a socially acceptable behavior or not. I worry like crazy about the kids I work with who are drinking or doing drugs, and I worry about the ones who cut, and I worry about the ones who believe any grade less than perfect in their schoolwork makes them a failure or who talk incessantly about food, working out, and dieting. They’re just kids, and they aren’t emotionally or intellectually prepared for the consequences of their actions.

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Why Do I Always Have to Be a Boy?

I was 15 the first time I can remember waking up and being conscious of how very unlike a boy I felt in that moment. And when I thought more about it, I found plenty of times when teenage Twig “Sissypants” Anthony just couldn’t figure out how to be a boy that day. Or week. Or month. I didn’t have a name for the feeling, and it didn’t feel unnatural, so as impossible as it may sound to an outsider, I don’t find it very surprising that I hadn’t been consciously aware of the feeling for years. Something natural can’t be made to feel unnatural until an outside force makes us aware. So maybe it was because I was excited to wake up for cross-dress day at high school (aside: yes, that was a very popular school-wide part of Spirit Week). I was a freshman, and I was super into my outfit. I didn’t know that I was supposed to do my worst at imitating a girl. I did my goddamned fucking best. And I looked stunning.

Stop.

Can we just stop for a fucking second look at how ingrained cisnormative bias is in American culture? It’s not alright that a school in this country would ever sanction an event that is entirely founded upon laughing at the genderqueer community. It’s not alright that as a teenager, I didn’t see a damn thing wrong with this. It’s not alright that a school endorsed the event that ultimately led to me getting dragged down a crowded hallway on my ass by hair. It’s not aright that calling someone “tranny” isn’t a crime because the LGBTQ community, to this day, is not a federally protected class of citizens in this country. Instead, treating other human beings with a shred of fucking decency is left to state and local governing bodies.

Someone, somewhere, someday will find an example to argue against this. So I’ll head that argument off at the pass and say that saying events like cross-dress day are okay because that day allowed me to dress like a girl for the first time and to do so in public also means acknowledging that events like that implicitly advocate transphobic attitudes. Don’t try to pretend for a second that cross-dress day is a celebration of the genderqueer community. It’s as much a celebration of the genderqueer community as would be having blackface day to celebrate the African American community (although I’m sure there are still some segregated schools who’d love to try that).

I made my first online friend later that year in a forum for LGB (there was no T or Q [or I or A or +] in the acronym at the time) youth. I asked her to call me Ashley, mostly because I currently had a crush on an English boy named Ashley. She was kind to me, and she asked me questions about how I felt, or about life, and she told me she was afraid at her school across the state because rumors were starting about her having a girlfriend. I asked her if she ever woke up and felt like someone else, and she said she didn’t. She liked having boobs, she said, and found it perfectly natural that sometimes, I might like to have boobs, too. I remember spending a long time thinking about this and wondering whether if I had boobs, I would start to like girls. I mean, fuck, I was born with all my man-bits and liked guys, so couldn’t I be so genderfucked that if I had boobs, I’d like girls? In all my musings over this, I became very certain of one thing: I didn’t think I’d feel any less gay if I had boobs, because I never really felt like a girl. I just thought they were pretty, and I liked looking pretty, too. I started to realize that on days I woke up feeling not like a guy, I didn’t either wake up feeling like a girl. I told my online friend this in an email. “Wow. Ash, you really are seriously genderfucked.” It wasn’t an insult. She was just affirming what I’d come to acknowledge about myself: I was an agender sissypants who liked pretty things and who really, really, really liked boys.

And that I was starting to feel a little ashamed of it. I started smoking, and I started burning myself with my cigarettes.

Choose Your First Sentence Wisely

Which do you like more:
1. Knowing you’re a fucking moron and trying to act like you’re proud of your ignorance is fucked up.
2. I desperately want to be beautiful.

…but I can’t choose.

It’s not like being Twig doesn’t have its perks, you know. I mean, sure, it feels a little like coming apart at the seams, but I’d be kidding if said it wasn’t a long time coming or that it doesn’t feel so damn good.

Know that I am safe. Know that this is a novel. Know that what you read here is fiction. If it feels more engaging for you, you can pretend this is a true story. Hell, I do it sometimes. More than sometimes. It would be most accurate to say that I play this pretend game so much that it has become true.

No it hasn’t. This is fiction.

I’m pissed off because I have to keep talking about Twig in third person. I am Twig, and I am pissed off. There aren’t too many things that I get really pissed off about, but this is one. You can try to pretend you aren’t Twig and tell yourself you don’t want to be, but deep down in yourself, deep down in me, you know you do very much want to be, and you know that already are. You have been me all along. I have been myself all along.

You’re so fucked up that you can’t even figure out for yourself whether or not you want to lose your mind and let go. Trust me, you want to let go. I’ve got this. You can trust me. You’ll feel better if you let go and Let Me. Fuck letting God. Let Me.

Never, ever trust me.

You can trust me to keep your secrets safe. I will never tell a soul what’s happened to you. Except for here. But don’t worry. Everyone knows not to trust me. And everyone knows I’ll keep you safe. I am Twig, and it’s about time I act like it. I’m not sure I can handle another day of trying to be someone I’m not. I’m a ray of mother friggin’ sunshine deep down, and I guess I’m going to have to face that eventually, but I’m pretty sick of choking on all the Pollyanna bullshit that has earned me a laughable “team player” reputation in the office. I don’t know why I went along with it for so long; maybe it just seemed easier at the time.

I would be lying if I said that I started cutting again today. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t wish it was the truth. I used to tell myself, “If you start again, there’s no going back.” But I don’t plan on going back this time. Or rather, I plan on going far back enough into my memories and erasing the ones leading up to the point at which I decided that it was a healthy idea to be someone I am not.

When we were 11, my childhood bestfriend and I decided we’d be fuckbuddies. We didn’t call it that, but it was the same general idea. We felt we had a lot to learn, there were things about ourselves that we simply needed to learn, and so it seemed fitting that we’d figure it out together. More than a year had passed before someone called him a fag and my bestfriend became convinced that people were talking about us at school. He accused me of telling people that we had been messing around. I remember standing slack-jawed in the middle of his living room after school one day toward the end of eighth grade. I had just opened a beer I had taken from his dad’s fridge. “They called me a faggot, Twig, but you know what? I know it was you who told someone. And you’re wrong, I’m no fucking fag: you are.” He didn’t give me a chance to respond, but I wouldn’t have known how to respond, so that’s irrelevant; he rushed toward me and I thought he was going to deck me, but he grabbed the beer and kicked me out. He never spoke to me again, and I walked home with the sudden realization that while he was bat shit insane to think I would ever tell anyone at school, he wasn’t wrong when he called me a faggot. In hindsight, I don’t know why it had never occurred to me that I liked boys, but in my hormone-addled adolescent brain (which are generally not known for being terribly clear-headed), my commitment to secrecy was guaranteed by my simple suspicion that if kids at school knew we needed “practice,” they’d make fun of us. I was starting to get the impression from the way our classmates talked that my best friend and I were the last virgins on the planet, and that we’d better start learning how to kiss with each other so we didn’t look like idiots when it was time for the “real thing.” It never occurred to me that we weren’t supposed to be practicing with each other, that we were supposed to be finding girls to practice with. For fuck’s sake, there was never a girl in my imaginings of the “real thing,” even. It never seemed odd to me until my bestrfriend made it clear that it should. At some point, my best friend had become the real thing for me. I know he felt the same way, too, because at some point over the months, we quit laughing between awkward kisses in our bedrooms before other family members arrived home. At some point, the kisses weren’t awkward at all anymore. And then someone called him a fag in the hallway. And on that day, like magic, I became a boy-loving sissypants.

On Children

Subtitle: If I had remembered my earplugs, I wouldn’t be thinking about properly cooked children.

In “A Modest Proposal,” Jonathan Swift had lots of keen ideas about lessening the burden of poor children on society:

“I think it is agreed by all parties, that this prodigious number of children in the arms, or on the backs, or at the heels of their mothers, and frequently of their fathers, is in the present deplorable state of the kingdom, a very great additional grievance; and therefore whoever could find out a fair, cheap and easy method of making these children sound and useful members of the common-wealth, would deserve so well of the publick, as to have his statue set up for a preserver of the nation.”

Seriously, if you didn’t have to  this short, satirical treatise, go click on the link.

Click on it.

Go.

You know you want to. Seriously. My subtitle will make more sense.

And if you’re reading this sentence but haven’t read the work, shame on you.

Sub-sub-title: I don’t actually advocate eating children. Or any humans, really. Or living animal flesh in general. But that’s just me…

The original subtitle is a result of a concert I went to with FastCar*: apparently Melanie Martinez’s fan base is a screaming throng of 12-year-old girls. If any aspiring despots out there are reading this, listen to me: Build an army of tween girls, and send them screaming like fangirls up to the enemy’s front line.

*Note: Of course I’ve been sleeping with FastCar, despite my intention a couple weeks back to never speak to him again…but that is a different post entirely, not for today..

When you do. two things will happen: shock and awe, baby, all the way.

  1.  The high pitched shrieking will drop an army to its knees, much like an LRAD, but way more terrifying because
  2. Adolescents are, more or less, hormones with legs. There is no rational part of a 12-year-old, so when a thousand screaming fangirls are coming at you, shrieking to the point of tears with unalloyed joy, you will know true terror.

True terror.

Oh, and if you aren’t familiar with LRADs (Long Range Acoustic Devices), here’s a clip (if you have pets with sensitive ears, I recommend headphones):

x

An LRAD will shock and scatter a crowd, but as the clip shows (way to be the first use of the LRAD in the US by a military/police force, Pittsburgh, by the way…), an army would likely be prepared, as was the case with the police force in the clip (they’re also standing behind the device, which actually makes a difference, from what I understand. That’s where the visual becomes massively important.

I watched two episodes of The Walking Dead on tv several years ago. At the end of two episodes, I had to turn it off because my pulse was 180. That’s the kind of terror a front line of idol-worshipping teens will inspire.

Short story long, I went to see Melanie Martinez and really wished I had remembered my earplugs. Because I am a dorky adult who gives a good goddamn about my hearing, I wear earplugs at concerts. Hell, I wear them in all IMAX theatres (because apparently high video quality requires a re-fucking-diculously  loud soundtrack).

I don’t know that I will ever be selfless enough to raise a child.

Boom. There it is. The point of my post.

I can raise a herd of animals, sure, but I feel like I’d be a shitty parent. Like, if I smoke a bowl, I don’t have to worry about my cats or dogs cracking their heads open. With a kid… eh… that’s sort of something you have to look out for.

And I won’t get into the cold hard facts vis-a-vis what it costs to raise a child (not including college tuition, something like $245,000).

I’ve heard, however, that priorities change when you become a parent. But when does that change happen, exactly?  Does it happen before you bring a new child (birthed or adopted) into your home? The day of arrival? Two weeks after? I expect it’s different for different parents, but a very real fear that I won’t experience the Great Priority Shift leaves me feeling like I shouldn’t pursue adoption any time soon.

On the other hand, a glimpse caught tonight of a gay couple in their mid-teens stands out to me and I wonder whether  I have a certain responsibility to raise a tolerant, educated, and socially responsible human being? I feel like I have an obligation to raise the kind of child that helps a couple of guys to feel safe kissing one another happily in public without fear of verbal or physical repercussions.

Seeing that couple made my heart happy. With each generation, it’s getting better for the LGBTQ+ community. The progress hasn’t been without hurdles and setbacks, of course, but it’s getting better.When I was the age of those boys, I was busy destroying relationship after relationship over a not-so-irrational fear of being seen holding hands and, consequently, getting bashed to a bloody fag stump.Hell, I still worry about that. Even just a couple years ago, I nearly lost my mind when I realized my boss (and good enough friend) was very obviously watching me make out with someone at a bar one night (my boss and I frequented the same neighborhood bar; we weren’t there together). I’m still afraid to live without fear or apology as an adult.

What the hell kind of parent would I be to raise a child when I fear the world?

But here’s the thing: when it comes to protecting a child’s intellectual, social, and emotional development, fear be damned.  Unfailingly, my instinct is to protect. In some cases, it’s meant stepping  into physical altercations. In others, it’s meant speaking to a large group of workers during professional development seminars about how heteronormative bias affects at-risk LGBTQ+ youth.

Incidentally, the latter is much more terrifying because you have all the time in the world to…

  • Prepare? 
  • Write your presentation speech?
  • Dwell on how your coworkers are going to be judging you and/or exercising their apparently constitutional right to heteronormative bias by imagining you getting it on with another dude and by asking ridiculously personal hypersexualized questions they would never ask of anyone in the straight community?

Bingo!

Because, yup, that’s what I do. When I’m not pretending I’m an artist of some form, I’m out defending America’s LGBTQ+ youth, one corporate fucking speaking event at a time. I’m so very, very brave.

Yeah, I think I’ll go ahead hold off on that parenting thing a while longer.

Goodbye, FastCar

I’m crying right now as I type. I stormed out of FC’s car tonight and don’t plan on speaking to him again. The other night when we were kissing was “fun” he said.

“I thought you were having fun, too,” he said. He doesn’t get that I’m not interested in simply having “fun” with him. I made him my life. And he has decided to create one without me.

Our movie date turned into a disaster, and the movie was crappy, too.

I have nothing left to say to him.
To my family.
To my friends.
To anyone.

I have no hope or faith left.

What the hell am I supposed to do now?

The Night Shift Guy

It’s 3am, one of my favorite times to be alive. I’m always torn by whether being asleep or being awake is the better state of existence: If I sleep, I might miss something; if I stay awake, I might fall asleep the next day driving to the university or while giving a lecture. I choose to be awake now, but I know I’ll regret it somewhere around 11am tomorrow.

At 2am, I ran out of cigarettes and Mellow Mood decaf iced tea. It was not my plan tonight to go to the gas station, mostly because I’ve done it virtually every other night for the past week, and night shift guy would, naturally, be working the night shift.

At some point during the past several months, my mumbled requests for a pack of smokes have become full on conversations with the night shift guy, sometimes carrying on for 10 or 15 minutes outside the store. He must already think I’m insane for being up all night almost every night. And then there’s the babbling. Oh god, the babbling. And the awkward faces I make throughout the course of conversations. And my very real inability to look strangers in the eye when I talk to them.

At 2:30am, however, I found myself at the gas station, as usual. Sure, I could have gone to another gas station equidistant to my home, but the closest one chargers more for cigarettes and gets robbed on a regular basis. Having been robbed in the past, I have no desire to have my sense of peace and security taken from me again, and so I go to Night Shift Guy’s gas station 95% of the time.

As I pulled into the lot tonight, two other cars pulled in behind me, and I felt my body stiffen, wondering if I was about to be robbed. Average looking girls in their mid-20s emerged from the driver’s seat of each vehicle, however, and the sense of panic faded. (And I’m going to apologize here for sounding sexist, as if women are not capable of being scary as hell, but, statistically, a gas station is much more likely to be robbed by a man than a woman – this old article states that robbery is the most gender delineated of crimes, with less than 10% of robberies being committed by women. It’s an outdated article, but supports my claim nicely, and is really worth reading.) By the time I had chosen my Mellow Mood Relaxation Drink du jour, I was the only customer left, and the chit chat between Night Shift Guy and I began. Tonight I learned that he is older than me, which I was not expecting.

And then, while we talked some more outside the store about the show Deadliest Catch and gym memberships (don’t ask me how the random topics we broach come about, because they’re always very random), Night Shift Guy seemed legitimately taken aback when I mentioned an ex boyfriend in the context of one topic or the other.

At first, I assumed it was because I had said boyfriend, but then, perhaps seeing the look of not-quite-embarrassment on my face (I don’t think much about outing myself to strangers, but I had a moment of “oh crap, he’s gonna think I’ve been coming in here to hit on him”), he asked, with the slightest emphasis on ex, “Your ex boyfriend?” I nodded, sorry I had said it, but he smiled, and laughed a little before saying, “Yeah, my ex boyfriend blah blah blah…” He was saying something about the gym his ex had joined.

I don’t really know exactly what he said after “my ex boyfriend,” because my mind was reeling again, overthinking the way my mind is wont to do: oh fuck, are we now establishing that we’re both single and like guys since we’ve gotten our respective ages sorted out? fuck, fuck, fuck.

Because, while I’ve often been curious about him, at the end of the day, I’m not trying to hit on him. He’s a nice, cute guy – don’t mistake me – but I’m really not interested in dating him, primarily because if (when) things went sour, I’d be left a) with no reliable source of Mellow Mood iced tea in the middle of the night and b) paying way too much for cigarettes at a gas station that gets robbed far too frequently. Also, he’s, uh, not a city dweller (firsthand knowledge from a previous conversation). I have a natural romantic aversion toward people born and raised outside of the city limits that actively avoid the city as if traversing a bridge or tunnel was a cardinal sin. It’s not a fair generalization, but that type tends to be small-minded, poorly educated, and socially and politically unconscious. I know, I’m a prejudiced dick when it comes to suburban life, but in this town, the generalization is all too true:  be wary of those ‘burbers who avoid the city. I grew up around that type of attitude, had an entirely shitty time of it in high school, and consequently, I work to steer clear of people who give any inkling of that mindset.

So there I stood, silently scolding myself for about 20 things simultaneously like my aforementioned suburban prejudice, like my assumption that he’s fishing for information and being suspiciously  open about having an ex boyfriend of his own, like my secret bet with myself that the next time Night Shift Guy and I have a conversation he’s going to ask me out. Meanwhile, he was still talking about his ex and the gym to which he belonged. I consider myself lucky that another car pulled up, and another woman squeezed between us in the doorway, giving me leave to say goodnight and disappear.

With a smile, he said, “Hey, you have a safe night, ok?”
I smiled back, trying not to make it seem forced. “Yeah, you do the same.”
And that was it. I gave him a small wave, and we went our separate ways.

I’m going to hope that I’m wrong about this, and that I have entirely misread Night Shift Guy. I can’t imagine I’m his type, anyway. He could be married. I’m still not quite used to having to check for rings, although it does occasionally dawn on me to do so. But surely all this comes from having just reread a favorite old book where one of the main characters has a chance lurid encounter with a beautiful night shift clerk in the back room of a convenience store. Yeah, that must be it.

rationally irrational love.

I’m trying like hell to maintain some semblance of normalcy in my life. I’m trying to get regular exercise, work on home improvements, ignore the incessant barrage of messages from TLTL, and not overthink time spent making out with FastCar on my couch.

Fitness is hard because my entire body aches constantly. I’m reminded of when the GymRat told me I needed to suck it up and push through it; I hate to say it -he was, after all, a massively pompous asshole, but he might have been right. I spent a long time, more than three years, letting the emotional and physical pain suck me down further and further. I think I was waiting for someone to save me, and in a way, my split with FastCar is what has ultimately made the difference. Unfortunately, I can’t save him. I have to carry on without him, though there are glimmers of hope.

Yesterday revealed one of those glimmers: we watched a movie at my place curled up together. The movie was dumb, but we watched it anyway. FastCar put on some music after, and kissed me. And then kissed me more. But we’re still not back together. And he’s still not okay. I’m… sort of okay. As long as I sleep and eat, I think I’ll be alright. Slowly, FastCar and I push through the bullshit surrounding us: him searching for a new job and whatever else is bothering him that he won’t talk about. For my part, I try to be less of a shitty person. It isn’t easy. I drink my friends’ wine, smoke their pot… and offer very little in return by way of friendship.

I am focused on being less insecure. I haven’t quite achieved badass level status yet, but I’ll get there. For now, I work to laugh more and complain less. I work to hold my head high more, slump my shoulders less. I mean, life isn’t bad, you know? I have another commissioned art piece in the works, my house isn’t a complete disaster, and I don’t think about MTIA every waking moment of the day. Mostly I think about FastCar, and how I’m trying to become my own person for his benefit, which is really rather contradictory. Eventually I’ll succeed, and I expect that at that point, I’ll no longer miss being in a relationship with FastCar. That will be, conveniently, when he decides he wants me back, because that’s how it goes. I want to believe we aren’t that doomed.

For now, however, online dating continues to be a fiasco because I am, in all honesty, still absolutely in love with FastCar.

The thing is, I still can’t figure out why. Is being smart and funny and kind and cute as hell enough of a reason to love someone? Really good in bed helps, too, I admit. Good god, I miss the sex… But.. are all those reasons enough? We don’t talk about politics or books (he doesn’t read). I’m not sure what we really even do talk about. Hobbies, I guess. It’s not like there are awkward silences. There has been so much negativity on both our parts in the past year, however, that I’m not always sure I want to say anything at all. My goal is to remind him that when we’re together, we can be happy… just because. And really, can’t love be that simple? Does it have to have a clear rationale?

My unease over this question comes and goes. I’ve decided, though, that yes, it is enough. Love can be simple. I don’t have to love the same things FastCar does in order to love that he does them and love to hear about them. I assure you, I won’t be writing computer code of any kind any time soon, but I’d listen to him talk about it for hours. It isn’t rational. It’s love.

 

 

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