When I Say “I’m Tired”

“Tired, tired with nothing, tired with everything, tired with the world’s weight he had never chosen to bear.” ― F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Beautiful and Damned.png

It wasn’t long after my birthday that Amber finally pressed me  further when I said that I was tired casually at brunch. It’s a response that I give often to the tedious question of “How are you?” and its variants. It’s a bit of a default response from me nowadays but the people that actually care about me that have noticed it. So I wanted to go over a few of the reasons why you’ve been hearing me say “I’m tired.” quite a bit.


It’s a Default Response

Typically, if I say “I’m tired.” I’m probably just avoiding answering the question of “How are you?” and its many disguises. I’m seldom intentionally trying to be rude with this answer (sometimes I am, see “catcalling” as an example) but I find it hard to be open with that question. Many people don’t want to hear that I may be a little sad because I miss my parents. Or that my day at work was long. Or that I’m really thinking about how a snake would hold a knife. It’s a means of protecting for the both of us, really. You don’t really want to know how I am if you don’t know the full leathery demon that I am. If you are, however, formally acquainted with my true casual swamp witch self then there may be other reasons why I’m saying “I’m tired.”


I Am Actually Tired

I have insomnia (likely caused by anxiety but we’ll get to that). I’m also anemic (thanks, endometriosis) and I’m not too proud to admit that I don’t always take great care of myself. My job is sedentary and occasionally I have a fickle appetite that means that dinner is Hawaiian sweet rolls and a dream. None of this likely helps the fact that I am truly an insomniac. That means there are plenty of nights that I just do not sleep. I take a fair amount of medication to make sure that I do sleep but every once in awhile, that fails me and I am up, awake and alert with my thoughts as the rest of the world sleeps. It is normally pretty easy to tell the difference, though, between being physically tired or emotionally tired. You can tell if I am actually tired by the size of the bags under my eyes: if I just look slightly puffy, probably did sleep some the night before. If you could, in fact, check my bags as luggage while flying, then I probably didn’t sleep and I would suggest not speaking or moving too quickly without dropping off tacos or coffee to appease me.


I Am Emotionally Tired (Because of Mental Health)

I am anxious. My thoughts can be oppressive and unkind. That means that emotionally, I am seldom allowed to rest. It means that oftentimes in my mind I hear mostly negative things about myself and mostly untrue things that my friends must certainly feel about me. My brain is always buzzing and that noise makes it very hard to really rest. I joke oftentimes that my panels are written at 3 A.M. and while that’s said in jest, sometimes it’s true. I do try to use the time I am awake with the owls to create and be creative but often times that just leaves me more tired. Being anxious on its own is a burden to carry but the way it affects my sleep schedule and clouds my mind is insidious. So even though I may have physically slept for several hours, most of it isn’t restorative or restful.


I Am Emotionally Tired (Because the World is a Hot Dumpster Fire)

While at Jo-Ann Fabrics not long ago, when asked “Why are you tired?” as a somewhat valid follow-up question from a questionably concerned cashier my response was thus:

“Ennui, malaise, the patriarchy, microaggressions, racismhomophobia, sexism…I can go on.”

She was satisfied with my answer or at least annoyed that I was flippant. But obnoxious response aside, I’m not entirely joking when I provide those as answers to the question of “Why are you tired?”

It’s exhausting having to go through day to day life being worried if someone is going hurt and/or kill me for being myself. And this is a feeling I have never had before in my life. I am from a remarkable amount of privilege and even though my life may not always be conventional, I’ve been never worried about someone hating me or hurting me because of who I am. This irrational (let’s be real, it’s pretty rational) fear is incredibly taxing and takes up more of my brain than I like admitting. And I’m a social media manager, I don’t have the luxury or ability to “just log off”; it is my job to stay connected. But all of it really is quite draining. It’s exhausting having to day in and day out hear catcalls and statements that either seek to qualify or quantify my level of blackness or whiteness. It’s exhausting looking at social media to see another mass shooting, another racially or gender/sex-based crime. It’s tiresome watching the president flail around and thus play chess with human lives. The world is a dumpster fire; the good news is we can recover from a dumpster fire but that doesn’t mean that the fumes and fallout are pleasant to enjoy while it burns.


I’m finally realizing just how often I say “I’m tired.” in day to day life. It’s not something I’m proud of. It’s a lazy verbal shorthand for a myriad of feelings. I can be more vulnerable. I’m pretty used to putting myself second while also always being afraid of putting too much on people so this is a clever little trick to give an answer without giving an answer: it defuses people who are asking either out of obligation or a shallow level of caring and it also builds a wall around me from having to answer to the people who actually do care about me.

I’ll try to be more careful with my words in the future: I’m a writer after all, I can do better.

 

Harassment vs. Compliments

“I'd rather take coffee than compliments just now.” ― Louisa May Alcott, Little Women.png

There’s a bus driver on my route almost every week day. He greets me when I’m at my least human and can only manage to grumble at him like Grendel does through his novel and makes sure I arrive safely downtown. And as I skitter off the bus, he says to me:

“Have a good day, mija.”

Now many of you who stuck around for my series last year on sexual harassment, you may think I bristle at such attention. Not at all. I accept his comments every day and do my best to be gracious despite my at times hellish commute.

So that makes for an interesting question that I feel shouldn’t need to be asked: but hey if we all answered questions like that, we’d never find out that salted caramel is a delicious option and that red wine and cola is a sin. With today’s current…climate, let’s call it, let’s have a candid discussion about what constitutes harassment and what is just a person being nice.

Now, here’s where this topic gets messy. It is highly subjective and highly personal.

Let’s try two scenarios. Picture yourself in them. Or you can picture me in them. Either is fine.


Scenario 1: You are waiting for your stop while on the bus. A man stares at you. He smiles. It’s somewhat unnerving, but it is a smile. You do not return his advances and once you reach your stop, he follows you. It is not his stop. He gets off abruptly. He rushes to reach you. He finally catches up to you and says: “Hey, beautiful.” you do return his greeting but flatly. His next statement is more intense: “You wanna be my girl?” this time, you flat out reject him. He continues following you for a few more paces down the sidewalk and you duck into a local coffee shop to avoid being cornered by him.

Scenario 2: You are sitting at a local cafe. You are at a table alone. A man offers to join you. You turn him down at first but upon further inspection, you notice that he is reading one of your favorite authors. You invite him to join you. You talk. He is forward but not in a way that bothers you. He says more than one forward thing, in fact, but none of them are irksome. He asks for your number and you accept his offer.


These two scenarios are probably a little more clear but now let’s let the lines blur some.

And we’ll go back to our mostly friendly bus driver.

Scenario 1: A bus driver you routinely see greets you in a friendly way and calls you a non-offensive diminutive name as you leave the bus.

Scenario 2: A man on a local park bench regularly calls you a diminutive name as you pass by.


This one is tricky because realistically, what makes the bus driver situation passable is the fact that the bus driver is in an authority position. He means well wish I hop off the bus or nearly run into a stop sign. In that instance, I’m a young (not too young) woman in a big city that he sees regularly.  The man on the bench? That’s another story. Even though he may not mean any harm, I don’t exactly enjoy hearing “Hey, baby.” from a random park vagrant.


Let’s take the conversation down one more level. Here’s a phrase and I want you to imagine it in as possibilities as you can.

That’s a nice dress. You look good in it.

I know  the default voice in my head that read that was not as a kind compliment but as a catcall. But I’m also aware that it can mean many different things on different days. If I’m feeling that dress, even if it’s a forward statement: I may be more receptive. If you happen to catch me on the more likely occasion of me wishing to blend into the background of my bus seat: then I may not be as kind to such a statement, though I’ll almost never be outwardly cold to anyone who “means well” (My resting bitch face and deeper voice for a lady do that just fine for me.).


And that’s what makes this whole discussion so strained. It’s highly subjective. The difference between a harmless instance of flirting, someone trying to genuinely connect and a catcall are sometimes as simple as how I am feeling on that particular day. And I know that’s frustrating for men to hear. Rest assured, the same can be said about female to female interactions. I’m if anything more put off by a woman calling me by a diminutive at times while I’ve also been clocked more than once for casually calling a woman “doll” and “hun” almost out of reflex because despite my views I am Southern as hell.

And in this somewhat muddy environment, it’s difficult to know when someone is being too sensitive or when someone has gone too far.

But here’s where I take an issue and here’s the whole point of this.

It shouldn’t have to be like this at all.

If I’m at a bar and have no issue with a person laying it on thick, that’s acceptable. If I am put off by someone trying way too hard at Travis Park, that is also perfectly acceptable.

Now what can possibly help the conservation is a base level of acceptance that a human’s feelings are most of the time valid. I do not owe any person an explanation as to why I am okay with one instance versus another. And as long as I am mostly kind, not breaking any laws and mostly tactful: my annoyance at one act versus another is valid, fair and my own.

I get rightfully annoyed when any human tells me I should smile more. You should hear the story of me telling my Uncle exactly how I felt on the matter. (If you ask nicely, I may tell it in the comments.)

And there’s plenty to be said about it being a bit generational as well. Older folks do tend to think they are just being nice. Many of the times I’ve been called something diminutive or told something that I find questionable: it’s by someone older. Back in their day, when the dinosaurs roamed, it was perfectly fine to tell a woman that she should wear makeup; she’d be prettier if she did. Back in their day, it was fine to call any woman you see by a pet name. Back in their day, it was fine for an older woman to demand a younger lady wear heels or to cover up their shoulders.

That was back in their day.

I’m from a cusp generation here in the South. As I was younger, many of those behaviors were still perfectly acceptable in North Texas. My great-grandma regularly commented on how nice it was that I wasn’t too dark. That was a compliment to her. My mom’s old Air Force office lady friends would often make comments on my weight as a small one. That was perfectly sound advice. Another great-grandma was very concerned over the fact that by 17, I was not marriage. By her standards, I was at risk of dying alone.
As I grew older, I found myself annoyed with such comments from men and women but accepted it as part and parcel of existence on this planet. I started cosplaying which meant that I grew to accept sexual harassment as a natural part of being a biological female in costume. It wasn’t until much later and in empowering younger cosplayers and fans that I had to stand up for myself because it made no sense for me to preach a higher standard of self-confidence to my kouhai than I believed in for myself.

The generation after me likely will have very different views on what is a compliment, what harassment is and what it means for someone to be aggressive or a potential assailant.  And in this current political climate where it seems as every single person you have ever looked up to is likely a garbage human (I firmly believe most of the allegations that have come out against most reported garbage humans.).

Next time, we’ll discuss this new higher standard more in depth.

 

Double Standard, Double Shamed

-Out of the ashI rise with my red hair And I eat men like air.-Sylvia Plath, Lady Lazarus.png

The last post in this series was about consent, sexual harassment and online dating. Today we’re going to talk about double standards, shaming and how it’s almost impossible for a woman to “win” if love is truly a battlefield.

There’s a funny thing that happens to women. There’s really only 2 ways women are perceived when it comes to sex and sexuality: the virgin and the harlot. And both as far as the average Tinder man is concerned have their pros and cons. The virgin is inexperienced and naive. The harlot is experienced, too experienced. And while some men claim they want the virgin, they shun their lack experience. Others say they want a woman who knows what she wants, while then shaming that she knows herself, her body and her sexuality.

Here’s where I wanted to come back to that argument of “Oh, well you’re on Tinder. What do you expect?”

I expect to not be harassed?

That was the same logic many used against cosplayers back in the day before the “brave” voices like Yaya Han had to mention that cosplay is not consent. For many cosplayers, it was just an understood that well, if you’re in costume, you’re inviting harassment. It took years for many to rewrite these tapes and come to understand that no, a woman or man for that matter can and should demand basic human decency.

I’m even more struck by the whore/virgin double-standard that several men (not all men, I hate that I have to say that but I don’t want a comment section full of “nice guys”) have when it comes to the women they court.

Have you ever slept with someone?

How many men have you slept with?

Are you a virgin?

I want a girl with experience.

Last time I checked, I was not an item whose worth fluctuates by usage. And most importantly: how am I supposed to have experience while maintaining virtue? It’s frustrating that so many men are willing to discard a girl based on a “wrong” answer to any of those questions. And not to say some women aren’t just as critical as men are (again, hate that I have to pull this devil’s advocate nonsense: we’re gonna talk about this soon).

And how confusing is it to be a woman who knows herself and what she wants and is still shamed? I’m not on Tinder looking for the one but if I agree to something that’s casual I’m “easy” but if I demand at least pasta from my date before God know’s what then I am “demanding”. There’s just no way to win. I’m either an easy loose woman running around the internet like a mythical Net Lilith or I’m a chaste virginal Geneviere up in a tower of unreasonable expectations. This dichotomy has existed since man has been writing women. Think of most female characters in media (mostly in classical examples but modern media is just now catching up with some more complex storytelling). The myth of Lilith is all about the first wife of Adam who refused to submit to a life of missionary with the lights off and she literally became a demon because that. Men are told that as far as girls go, there are only two options. What that leaves out is literally everyone else. Think of all the sexually-actualized women who are called out of their name for knowing what they want. Think of all the girls who are choosing to save themselves who are ignored because no one wants to “risk” them catching feelings for them. You know how emotional those ladies get. But this exists in nearly everything a woman does. Too big? Oh well, you know how hard it is a big girl to get a date. Too thin? Nope, can’t have that, gotta have a girl with meat on her bones. Does she work? Oh, she’s gonna choose her career like those Tumblr Feminists. Is she not working? She’s a gold-digger and nothing more! Did she finish school? Well, you know what they say about girls who read too much. 

And none of these are decided by the woman herself. They are burdens placed upon her and it’s just unfair.

I’ve had an on and off relationship with dating apps since my most recent relationship ended and it’s frustrating that any time I have a negative experience and I reach out to friends and followers about it, I am met with the argument above and that’s simply not the case. Why can’t I demand more from others and from myself? Why can’t I be a woman online? Why can’t I hope to find love, a casual hook up or at least a free meal from a dating app?

I also can’t stand the invasive questions that men feel the need to ask. I’m not a prized milking cow or even a middle of the ground show pig. And these aren’t the cute normal questions like:

What’s your favorite color?

What are you reading right now?

Hogwarts House?

It’s more like things I don’t feel comfortable telling you, dear readership. And the amount of unsolicited photos of male parts I’ve received. Heavens. For me, it’s all an issue of being part of a bigger problem. It isn’t a huge issue to get one dick pic, it’s annoying but not enough to ruin my day. The issue is that for that man, this was the best way to get my attention. It isn’t so much about getting asked how many men I’ve been with in a medical way, it’s that my worth to this individual is tied to my virtue or lack thereof. The fact that some men feel the need to talk to a woman like this is vile and the fact that I get blamed for it because I could just “stop using Tinder” is fundamentally the biggest case for feminism in the modern era.

This post was short and I apologize for that. But next time, we discuss victim blaming.

A Casual Date With Consent

Feminism's agenda is basic- It asks that women not be forced to choose between public justice and private happiness. Susan Faludi.png

After a few years of being in long-term relationships and relatively uneventful ones at that, I have found myself a single gal in the big city. So like most Southern girls who are suddenly without a male caller in their lives, I went to Tinder. Now, full disclosure before the string of “Well, there’s your problem.” comments arise. I know full well Tinder is a hookup app. I know what it’s there for. I know what caliber of person Tinder usually attracts. And if you look down on me for going on Tinder, then I accept your righteous indignation. But what I will not and do not understand about Tinder is how men feel they can talk to women and that it is essentially a performance space to watch the slow death of consent.

Now, as a lady, the inherent dangers of being biologically female are not lost on me. I’ve been catcalled, harassed in real life and online and have faced several situations where just  because of my gender, I was put in a compromising situation. Online dating brings all of these to the forefront. It was highlighted for me when I actually considered meeting one of these men for a day in Market Square (the “date” was cancelled). I was thinking about Uber, taxis and driving myself or even public transportation as ways to get there. I wasn’t thinking about what to wear or how to style my hair (I was going for the side part with a heavy front bang, as always.). 

Never did it cross my mind that every other date I had ever been on I had no issue letting my suitor pick me up. But I didn’t want this unknown man knowing where I live. I also didn’t want to be put in a position that could literally be life or death for me if this date went south. How horrifying is that? No other time in my life was I ever this worried about my safety meeting someone new. I met Carlos online years ago and we met for the first time in public around 5 years ago. He’s one of my best friends now so clearly I’m not Static Shock 1990s PSA worried about “meeting strangers from the Internet”.  And in all honesty, it was Taylor, my dear friend who commented on how damn horrifying it was that I said I was more concerned about getting a ride than the consideration of meeting a man from Tinder.

But I want to talk about consent and here’s where I get personal. I’m a cosplayer so I’ve had men sneak hands up my skirt. I’d had people ask me for all manner of lewd act online. I’ve gotten pictures that were not wanted or warranted. I’ve had men try and bully me into acts I won’t perform and I’ve been shamed for not be willing to perform. I am one of many females that have faced a similar struggle quietly and with dignity.  Consent is a tricky issue in the West when it shouldn’t be. If I say “no” that means “no”. There’s not a hidden meaning. There’s not a situation that me saying “no” 4 times really equals one “yes”. There’s not anything more than “no” to a “no”. But time and time again on Tinder, I am bullied or pressured by men to do or say something I don’t want to.

Baby, c’mon.

Baby, you’ll like it.

I’m different.

C’mon, just send me one picture.

I’ll make it worth your while.

Let me see you.

In between each of those messages is usually a terse “no” or silence. And all the while, if I express my concerns, pain or grievances to friends some of them just say “Well, you’re on Tinder. What do you expect?” as if that somehow makes it alright. As if that somehow invalidates the ordeal. As if somehow that makes it okay. And what’s even more terrifying is that because it’s done online, I get all the pain and misery of having my wishes ignored with none of the actual threat of being in danger. What if this was real? What if this was a real situation?

C’mon. Let’s go.

I want more.

Let me see more.

You don’t really mean “no”, do you?

I thought you liked me, baby.

That level of bullying and pressure often times quickly escalates and for so many ends in tragedy when it happens in real life and in real life situations. And the pain of it being a “safe” place to watch the slow and miserable death of consent and the continued rise of the objectified female sex creature is that there isn’t enough to actually say or claim this is an issue. Like with cat-calling or other forms of sexual harassment women face all over the world, it’s difficult if not impossible to “police” male gaze. Online harassment is still an issue of legitimacy for many and I won’t go into the terrible things that have been said to me in forums, comment sections and other online places and spaces. 

The whore or virgin dichotomy is a painful one for women and when coupled with an already toxic male gaze culture, there is almost no safe place to go when trying to find a suitor but avoid sexual harassment. And true, while there are “better” dating apps and better places to find a mate: a woman’s safety or feelings shouldn’t be compromised because of where she chooses to find a partner. My safety in a situation should not be considered within a standard deviation of “safe” because I chose Tinder over Hinge. It also speaks to the issue of the “conditional yes”. That because I’ll go on Tinder and flirt that I should accept all that comes with it. Even if that all means harassment and degradation.

I apologize if this topic was difficult for some of you and I respect that this is an issue close to many hearts. I invite respectful conversation in the comments below.

Next time, we talk about shaming, double standards and how to be a better human being/online date.

Careless, Conflicted Flattery

“We sometimes imagine we hate flattery, but we only hate the way we are flattered.” Francois de La Rochefoucauld

I’m not a social justice warrior. I’m not out to save the world. I’m not an overly sensitive young lady, either; I understand the difference between a compliment and a catcall. I’m just a young woman with opinions and thoughts. That’s why in many ways this is difficult to talk about but something worth discussing. Recently I’ve faced a few comments coming my way during my time in the city and it’s worth mentioning them. Not to glorify the act of harassment or catcalling but to mention the more poisonous social aspects of it.

The day had started like any other with me going to work but the deviation in my normal schedule arose from meeting a friend for a drink. This sent me to my bus stop a little later than usual but nothing terribly late: it was still light out. Two men sat down at the bus stop next to me, first asking what time it was and other comments along those lines.

“You’re really cute, even though you must be only 18 or 19.” I shirked away from the compliment mostly because it wasn’t true. I’m 25 and “really cute” is very subjective. And compliments aren’t negative, even if they can be intrusive. The older of the men was mostly a flatterer, and I was able to brush off his comments despite his insistence that I was only 18 years old. The other gentleman, however was a bit more forward. I had picked up a book, a classic tactic to show you are not interested and he kept pestering me over and over again about why his name wasn’t in my book.

Sir, that’s not how books work. This is a study of Paganism and Christianity in the 4th to 8th Centuries.

That was my reply to his incessant request to be in my book, again not understanding how books work. Names aren’t just conjured up without some form of effort. After more prodding and asking somewhat invasive questions about my age it was one about my bust that got me to walk away from the men. I went to talk to a police officer and I told him about the men that were giving me a bit of trouble and the police officer told me that I could wait by him until my bus arrived. It wasn’t until I remembered that those two men were waiting on the same bus that I was that I asked what steps I should take. I wasn’t worried about waiting in a public park and I wasn’t worried about my safety during my walk home; however on a bus with two men that have made comments to me that I rather not repeat was not something I was looking forward. The officer replied that the only thing I could do would be to take a taxi home. So I did.

I’m not going into further detail mostly because it wasn’t the comments that bothered me. What bothered me and still does is that I for my action of just taking a cab home and being entirely “too polite” to the men harassing me was shamed shortly after telling those close to me about it. I can’t tell how you many people have told me that I should have stood up more and that I shouldn’t ride public transportation because of such things. It was my responsibility. It was my onus to assure that I got home safely on my dime. It was my responsibility to stand up to these men on my own. The blame settled solely on me.

Now, I understand that in this case there was very little the police could have done. It is very difficult to police words; trust me I’ve been moderating forums and chat rooms for as long as I can remember and as condescending and terrible as it is there is some truth to being told just ignore it. I also take great offense to those that told me I should have been stronger in that moment for a simple reason: you cannot react harshly in those situations. Most of the time what a woman considers to be harassment even at her most sensitive is to some merely flattery. You can’t react in a bellicose manner to someone when they think they’re being nice. Also, riding public transportation is incredibly safe and it isn’t like women aren’t subjected to harassment in a variety of places from gas stations, to work or even in their own homes or via the Internet. Having a car wouldn’t have saved me in general, though would have in that particular moment. I don’t distrust public transit, it’s quite safe and many bus drivers are incredibly no-nonsense and helpful.

Normally, I don’t speak out about things like this, mostly because I understand they can be a bit of a powder-keg. I also realize that to many I’m being overly sensitive. They were just random comments, it shouldn’t get under my skin so much and I agree. But as I’ve pointed out I’m less upset at the comments and more upset over the response I received in the retelling of these events. We’ve socially accepted that when bad things happen to women, they somehow did something to deserve it and therefore should be responsible for getting themselves out of it. The real tragedy of this is that those comments I received though invasive and unwanted are nothing in comparison to some of the comments that have been directed at me in chat rooms I was moderating over and comments on many others face online. On a whole, I left that situation mostly grateful I could afford the cab fare home and thought about a woman that may be in a similar situation and may be less fortunate than I was who couldn’t afford a safer ride home. I thought about what it means to receive a compliment or to be a victim. What makes us victims? Is it reporting to the police? Quiet endurance or just acceptance? It even made me question some of the terminology used. For instance, I struggled calling it what it was even in this blog post but it was in itself a form of harassment and that doesn’t over-inflate or undermine the seriousness or lack thereof of that situation.

I didn’t want to make a big deal out of a random man not understanding how books work but after having person and person tell me I was somehow insufficiently strong in that scenario got to me. I met that situation the best I could, with patience, politeness and sternness and eventually entire avoidance and I think for that particular instance, that was the best way to handle it. Be kind to those around you. If they come to you and mention something distressing, even if you think they’re being overly sensitive; hear them out. Friends reach out to you for a reason, you can ground them in reality after they’ve calmed down. It’s scary out there for a short girl in the city.