Category Archives: Uncategorized

My Abortion Story

Hello my lovely readers! First let me once again issue my (all too) standard apology for yet another protracted absence. However, as I will soon explain, my reasons this time were better than in past times since, as you can probably guess from my non-cryptic title, a lot has happened in the past few months.

Before I begin, I want to say I hope everyone enjoyed/survived another holiday season. I myself came back from the U.S. six pounds heavier aka I absolutely smashed my vacation time like an American cheese addicted boss! I also had the pleasure/terror of introducing my partner to my family, but he pulled through it like an absolute champ.

meet-family
Image Courtesy of https://memegenerator.net/instance/51863287

Going home for the holidays always carries with it for everyone its own set of joys and complications. For me, it was mainly finding the right time to tell my family that I had had an abortion and was going to write publicly about my experience. Hence why I haven’t written in a while: I wanted to tell them in person which could only happen during vacation time.

But now I’m back in the craziness of Oxford, ready to share one of the hardest experiences of my life. My goal in writing about my abortion is two-fold: to bring realism to a common yet all too silenced event in many women’s lives and to stand with many other women who, at this particularly dangerous time, have shared their stories in an effort to show others that they are not alone. I hope I succeed.

My partner and I moved in together (officially) a few months ago on the 9th of September. I found out I was pregnant the day after. Talk about a housewarming!

I had been feeling a bit “off”, the best way to describe it, and in the midst of picking up groceries, I found myself in our local pharmacy to get one or two things. As I was browsing, I noticed they were having a sale on store brand pregnancy tests. So I figured “what the hell? I have nothing else to do this weekend.”

weekend
Image Courtesy of https://uk.pinterest.com/mhkort/weekend/

After I got back and unpacked everything, I went upstairs and proceeded to take the test. My partner was out at the time, and of course I honestly didn’t think anything significant was going to come of my Saturday science experiment.

So, I unpacked the test, read the directions, and commenced the most well-aimed stream of urine I could muster. I then waited as the little lines slowly began to appear in the window. I knew something was wrong as soon as the word line became plural in my head. Two lines indicated pregnant, one meant not pregnant. So of course there couldn’t be two.

I was so thankful that the test I had bought was a two-pack. So I then proceeded to unleash yet another pinpoint urine stream on the second stick. Surely the first test was just defective. The second line looked a bit faded to be fair.

Wrong again. The second test’s lines were twice as bold just to underscore the situation.

I was pregnant. SHIT!!!!!

pregnancy-test
My actual pregnancy test

The first thing I thought of was my partner. We had literally just moved in together, our relationship at that point was barely four months old, and now I’m, as the Brits charmingly say, up the duff with our bastard. What the hell?!?

Not to mention the fact that I was just about to start my second year of masters at Oxford and couldn’t manage the massive amounts of work I already had with just myself and all of the YouTubers I support with my comments! How the fuck was I going to manage this too?

Birth control has always been a tricky thing for me. I’ve tried so many different versions of the pill over the years but all so far have drastically exacerbated my mental health issues. The one thing I don’t need more of is crazy.

Also, when I was younger I had massively irregular and painful periods that led doctors to believe that I would have a difficult time conceiving, just like my mom did. Hence, we hadn’t been using condoms for a while since we were in a committed relationship together. All of this added up to the less than desirable situation I found myself in.

And you know what, the fact that I just felt the need to explain all of that is yet another reason why I’m writing this blog. The inclination to automatically have to explain and justify just how I let myself end up in this highly preventable situation, lest I am seen as less deserving, shameful, and ruinous is far too prevalent.

Women are constantly pressured to justify every aspect of their lives as sexual creatures, intent on making sure that they are behaving as honorably and morally as possible. The level of societal scrutiny women are placed under when it comes to their bodies and what they do with them is so intense, we often don’t even realize when it has permeated our own self-image.

perfect
Image Courtesy of https://heartjunky.wordpress.com/2011/12/28/i-must-be-perfect-to-be-accepted-by-alshepmcr/

Let me be clear: as with everything I write, I am not ashamed, I have no regrets, and I am not apologizing.

Anyway, I knew my partner wouldn’t be back until the evening, and I knew I needed to tell someone before I could get my head together enough to tell him. So I messaged two of my good friends, you know who you are and thank you so much, and one, Yulia, was able to come over at the time.

Like in all other crises we have experienced, she brought the essential chocolate, and we talked over what had happened, and what I was going to do.

The moment I found out, I knew exactly what my choice would be: I was going to have an abortion.

I have been vehemently pro-choice my entire life and have always passionately defended a woman’s right to choose. However, that didn’t make my situation or decision any less scary. I knew that abortion was the right choice for me, and I had no moral qualms around it. But that still doesn’t mean it was fun or some sort of right of passage (regardless of what Lena Dunham may think ugh).

pro-choice
Image Courtesy of https://academicobgyn.com/2010/04/06/why-pro-choice-is-losing/

My partner came home a couple hours after Yulia left, and like all things when it comes to me, he could immediately tell something was off.

I didn’t just want to blurt it out the moment he walked in, so I assured him everything was okay until we had settled into bed with Challenge TV and some take-away chips.

I then, as gracefully as I could, told him I was pregnant.

Understandably, he was shocked and laid there for a minute just kind of silent and stunned. I couldn’t help but start crying because I was just so sorry that we were in this shitty situation together.

He immediately assured me that everything was going to be fine and asked me what I wanted to do. I told him I didn’t want to keep it and he completely supported me. We did talk about what his opinion was, but we ultimately agreed that as this was my body, his opinion could only go so far, and he respected that.

Thus, we made the decision to abort and went about the process of how to carry that out.

Thankfully, as I’ve mentioned in previous entries, there is a sexual health centre right in our neighborhood and from our apartment we can walk there in less than ten minutes. We decided to just go in that Monday and see what we needed to do to get started.

The centre informed us that we needed to contact BPAS (British Pregnancy Advisory Service) by phone and make an appointment. Their office was located in the same building, but they didn’t do walk-ins so we had to call.

bpas
Image Courtesy of https://www.bpas.org/

I contacted them with the information I was given in the brochure (I will paste ALL contact info for BPAS at the bottom of this entry) and went through the process of making a booking.

They took the standard details, asked me about my GP, the date of my last period, and any medical conditions I might have. I was informed the consultation I was being scheduled for would take about two hours and would consist of a counseling session to discuss my options and a medical assessment including a scan of my pregnancy if I chose to pursue termination. They were then able to fit me in for an appointment a week later the following Monday.

That week in between was one of the longest I’d ever experienced. All I knew was that I was pregnant, and I just absolutely did not want to be. But there was nothing I could do about it. I was stuck. Trapped. And god I hate that feeling.

I had also started to experience some of the physical symptoms of pregnancy as well, morning sickness chief among them which was a real damn hoot! I was also just bouncing off the walls every five minutes, happy one minute, crying and yelling the next. How my partner dealt with me I have no idea. But he was absolutely essential for me in surviving that week.

morning-sickness
Image Courtesy of https://uk.pinterest.com/pin/550213279447840268/

Luckily, the days passed and before I knew it, the next Monday was there. We went to the consultation together, but understandably there were some portions of it where he could not accompany me. The first part involved the counseling session where I discussed my options and what decision (becoming a parent, adoption, or abortion) was best for me.

I told my counselor, a woman, that I was sure that abortion was right for me and wanted to go ahead with that process. She noted it and then calmly and carefully explained what would happen next.

I was then taken back to the waiting room and told that a nurse would be with me shortly to perform my examination and scan. Thankfully when she collected me, my partner was able to join. I think it’s safe to say we were both scared out of our minds and had no idea what we were doing, not that anyone does. But we knew we were doing the right thing for us and that carried us through.

The nurse then performed a transvaginal ultrasound and determined that I was only six weeks pregnant at the time. This part was admittedly a bit uncomfortable since the instrument does look similar to how I imagine an alien probe would, but for any woman who’s had a pelvic exam, it’s nothing out of the ordinary.

alien-probe
Image Courtesy of https://uk.pinterest.com/aliencollector/alien-entertainment/

She then discussed the two methods of abortion they provide: medical and surgical (all following facts and statistics are credited to bpas.org).

The “medical” abortion involves taking a series of pills. This can be done up to 24 weeks of pregnancy. When you are nine weeks or less pregnant, the medication causes an early miscarriage and requires two visits to a clinic which can take place either on the same day or up to three days apart. There is no surgery or anesthetic.

If you are more than nine weeks pregnant and choose the medical option the same medication is used although BPAS literature describes the effect as causing “the womb to contract and push out the pregnancy”. Two visits like before are required, although an overnight stay may be necessary with the second visit.

The “surgical” abortion can be performed up to 24 weeks as well and is considered a quicker option than the medical alternative. Up to fifteen weeks of pregnancy, a “vacuum aspiration” can be performed whereby the pregnancy is removed by “gentle suction”. If you are twelve weeks or less this can be done under local anesthetic while you are awake. If you are up to fifteen weeks it can be done while you are asleep.

If a surgical abortion is performed between 15-24 weeks, it is performed while you are asleep. Known as “dilation and evacuation”, the pregnancy is “removed using narrow forceps through the neck of the womb”. They advise that if you are 22 weeks or more, more than one visit may be needed with an overnight stay being possible.

I already had a vague understanding of these two procedures, and given how early I was in my pregnancy, I decided I’d rather go through with the medical option so I could be at home when it happened. The nurse agreed and thought that would be the best route and then passed us back to the counselor who scheduled the appointment for the procedure.

We were also given a much more in-depth piece of literature which described step-by-step what would happen on the day. We were able to get in for Tuesday the following week, and while I wasn’t thrilled to have to wait yet another week, it went a little easier now that I knew what I was going to do.

So another week passed, I kept vomiting through most of it, and before I knew it, Tuesday was there. We walked to the clinic around midday, mostly silent, not really knowing what to say.

Until, finally, my partner took out his phone and in the most inappropriate and hilarious way put on “Bye Bye Baby” by the Bay City Rollers. I thought I was going to piss myself I was laughing so hard. It was exactly what the moment needed. Right there is exactly why I love him and all his weirdness.

bay-city-rollers
Image Courtesy of http://www.45cat.com/record/1c00696393

My appointment was scheduled for 1pm that afternoon, and we were taken through to the nurse shortly after we arrived. She then took me through the process.

First I took the actual “abortion pill”, mifepristone, which blocks the hormone progesterone, preventing the pregnancy from continuing.

Since I was so early along, I was able to take the second medication at the same time instead of having to wait for a second appointment. This medication, misoprostol, is actually four pills that you insert into your vagina as far as you can. Misoprostol is what causes your womb to contract and miscarry.

I was also given a series of antibiotics to prevent infection as well as a course pain meds to deal with the process. BPAS describes it as cramping and heavy bleeding, much like a substantial period.

I was advised that usually the cramping starts around two hours after taking the misoprostol, with many women passing their pregnancy within four to five hours. But of course every woman is different and if my abortion didn’t follow these guidelines exactly, there was no need to panic.

So by about 1:30, I had taken all the necessary pills and was cleared to leave. I was of course provided with aftercare instructions as well as a number to call if I was worried anything was wrong.

Before I continue, I have to say how incredible every member of staff I met with at BPAS was. They were all caring, compassionate, and discussed my options with me clearly and calmly. Coming from the American South I was expecting somewhere in the back of my head to be judged, and I was on guard for any misinformation or guilt tripping that may occur. But it didn’t. And I am so thankful to everyone at the clinic.

So after we left, we ventured up to Tesco quickly to buy all of the junk food and necessary supplies for what we were now calling “The Big Show”. You bleed for 2-4 weeks after the abortion, and you can’t use tampons, so I had super overnight maxi pads ready to go in bulk.

Once we got home, we went upstairs to bed and turned on Challenge TV (of course) and just waited for it to start. I had started feeling a little lightheaded and was experiencing some cramping but nothing major yet. At this point I wasn’t too worried since I was used to having pretty heavy periods anyways.

I’d say by around 4:30 is when the cramps started to get more and more intense. It was around this time that I started to get scared at the level of pain I was experiencing. I had taken two of the pain pills, as prescribed, but they didn’t seem to be helping.

The cramps, or rather contractions, kept coming in waves which got worse and more frequent with each cycle. By 6pm I was really hurting. I was trying to breathe deep and rest and lie down but I just couldn’t. I just had this urge that I needed to be on the toilet but sitting there hurt so much and even then I was barely bleeding yet.

My partner did all he could to comfort and soothe me, but by that point I just couldn’t respond to him. I remember just closing my eyes and gritting my teeth, hoping and pleading that it would be over soon. I kept getting up and going to the toilet every five minutes, not really knowing if that was the thing to do, but I didn’t care. I just couldn’t sit still or get comfortable.

I was crying and trying so hard not to scream. It was like every muscle in my body was involuntarily contracting every thirty seconds, and I had absolutely no control over it.

By 8pm I seriously thought I was going to pass out or have to go to the hospital. Not that they could do anything that wasn’t already being done, but I just couldn’t take it anymore. All I could do was just sit on the toilet, gnash my fucking teeth, and try to take it.

And then, all of a sudden, it happened. As quickly as I had been in agony before with no end in sight, the pregnancy passed, and the contractions immediately subsided as I heard something squish out of me and drop into the water. I just sat there stunned, knowing exactly what had just occurred but still full of disbelief. It really was that simple.

I then started crying the hottest tears of relief I’d ever cried in my life. I was beyond grateful to not be in pain any longer. But mostly, I just felt this huge sense of relief. It was over.

I stood up to look at what had just come out of me. It was a slightly yellowish, transparent sac about the size of tennis ball. I knew immediately this was the amniotic sac that contained the actual pregnancy.

It didn’t really look like anything, just a ball of mush. I then flushed the toilet and got into bed with my partner, crying while telling him that I had done it. He hugged me and told me he was so proud of me.

The rest of the process carried on without incident. I passed a massive blood clot about two hours later which I’m assuming was going to develop into the placenta. I then bled for about a month afterwards, somewhat heavily at first then more like a normal period. It’s hard to believe almost four months have passed since it happened.

So here we have the what and we’ve briefly alluded to the why. Now let’s really dig in.

Why am I choosing to write publicly about something so private? Well first of all, as those of you who read regularly know, I believe in living my life as openly and as honestly as possible. But I felt a particular obligation to be public about this because of  the atmosphere of shame that permeates even pro-choice circles when it comes to abortion.

no-shame
Image Courtesy of http://bjkahuna.podbean.com/e/121-no-shame-episode-v-pods-sods-strike-back/

According to BPAS, 1 in 3 women will have an abortion in their lifetime. Meaning roughly 33.3% of 3.5 billion people will go through this. And yet it is still so tainted with stigma and shame. If you have had an abortion, you do not talk about it. Period. Unless you are going to talk about how much you regret it and hate yourself. That is the only kind of acceptable emotion you are allowed to express.

If you’re like me, and feel no regret, no remorse, have no second thoughts, and only feel relieved then you do not express it whatsoever. To do so is thought to be tantamount to glamorizing or even fetishizing the experience. Pretty soon, all the kids will want one.

Again, let me be clear: I am not saying that any woman who does not start every dinner conversation with her abortion story is ashamed and filled with self-hate. If she decides to keep it private, that’s fine and absolutely none of my business. But that decision should be the result of her own personal choice, not fear of societal judgment or repercussions.

I also think that now more than ever these conversations and open discussions are needed given the current political atmosphere in the U.S. and the renewed vigor of policing women’s bodies. With the election of Donald Trump (yes I’m going there!) as president of my homeland, I feel that with all due respect, we don’t have the luxury of being anything less than militant and explicit about our choices anymore.

In the short time that has passed, state legislatures from Ohio to Texas to Kentucky have been emboldened to pass new, harmful restrictions on abortion access, including 20 week bans, so-called “heartbeat bills”, and even laws that would require women to hold funeral services for their aborted fetuses.

I was fortunate enough to have easy access to medical resources at no financial cost to me whatsoever provided by an informed staff as well as supported by a loving partner who was with me at every step.

And it was still one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life. I cannot imagine how much harder it is for women who are subjected to financial and/or political barriers on top of this. Not to mention when this process is further compounded by a woman being a victim of rape or incest.

The level of disgust and anger I feel towards these fucked-up laws would have been palpable before my own experience; it is now ten times more intense.

pissed
Image Courtesy of http://www.evilenglish.net/pissed-off/

For too long, women’s bodies and their reproductive autonomy have been co-opted by mostly white male politicians used to score points with bases who are both fundamentally religious and scientifically ignorant i.e. those who are most keen on infantilizing women to the point that we are incapable of making our own choices.

But it’s also bigger than that. Recently last spring I had the privilege of hearing Gloria Steinem speak at the Oxford Union, and she made a point that will stick with me forever. Much like Karl Marx argued that those who control the means of production hold power within society, the same goes for those who control reproduction. Whoever holds dominion over procreation within a society effectively has the strongest power base that exists.

And I sincerely believe that is what has been happening and what is continuing to happen in the U.S. as well as around the world. We are poised for the most backward, misogynistic four years of American politics to come about in recent memory, and I for one am terrified.

But despite being terrified, I’m even more angry. And that anger is what will keep me along with millions of other women shouting from the rooftops and marching in the streets until this bullshit finally stops.

We cannot and will not let them win.

To close this piece, I would like to personally thank my family for their understanding. They absolutely do not agree with what I did, nor with my decision to write about it publicly. But they are still there for me, they still love me, and that definitely counts.

Once again, this is not about approval.

This is not about apology.

This is not about regret.

This is not about sympathy.

This is about abortion, a vital resource we need access to now more than ever.

And I can only hope that with sharing my abortion story, I will have contributed in some small way to securing that right for all future women, including any daughters I may choose to have.

I love you all 😊 ❤️

For more information, I have provided contact information for some excellent organizations and resources below:

UK

BPAS:

www.bpas.org

03457 304030 or +44 1789 508 211

Oxfordshire:

http://www.sexualhealthoxfordshire.nhs.uk/

US

Planned Parenthood:

www.plannedparenthood.org

1-800-230-PLAN

NARAL (National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League):

www.prochoiceamerica.org

202-973-3000

For information on international abortion rights and legislation:

http://www.worldabortionlaws.com/


 

Red and Blue: Being in Love While Having Depression

Hello, my wonderfully weird readers. Let me first issue my standard apology for being blog-silent much longer than expected. I truly get such joy from writing each and every entry, and yet it seems like I’m taking more and more time to do so.

Summer so far in Ox has dragged on like it usually does. In a city that lives and dies by university term time, you can guess that summer here is for the tourists while those of us who live here tend to make ourselves scarce.

tourists
Image Courtesy of http://misanthropica.com/2011/05/i-hate-tourists/

As for me, life is rolling along. I actually managed to PASS my first-year submissions which left me both stunned and elated. And as such, I have been giving new meaning to the term VACATION these past couple of months!

The biggest development, however, is that I’m currently dating someone who thus far does not appear to have any sociopathic/serial killing tendencies. Go figure!

We’ve been seeing each other a few months now, and, as you may have guessed from the title of this entry, I am completely in love with him (ewwwwww!!!!!)

love gross
Image Courtesy of https://heathersjoy.wordpress.com/2011/02/14/muchoamore/

While this may seem fast given our relatively short dating time (btw I don’t care), we have already shared so much and gone through a good amount of shit in this brief period that to say we know each other pretty well is an understatement.

And I can honestly say, I’ve never been happier.

But that is also the dilemma I’m experiencing and of which this blog is the result. Despite that I am now me and in love, I am still me.

And that me is still someone who struggles daily with depression and anxiety.

depression anxiety
Image Courtesy of https://www.theodysseyonline.com/what-its-like-living-with-depression-and-anxiety

Now at first glance it may seem like being in love with someone who also loves you back is the cure-all for these problems. And trust me, everyday I get to be with him I am better for it.

But, in fact, some days it almost seems the opposite. The more I love, the harder I fall when the symptoms of my disease creep back in. They’re almost more intense, more strong because I know how happy I am with my life right now.

So as a reaction, I come down on myself even harder, wondering why, why can’t I just shut my fucking head up and be happy.

This in turn sends my anxiety and my already overactive, over-analytic mind into overdrive trying to pick apart every detail of every day we’ve ever spent together in an effort to either instill permanent “normality” or to convince myself that what we have isn’t real at all but just wishful thinking on my part.

overanalyze
Image Courtesy of http://weheartit.com/entry/26822640

And the worst part is that he’s here to watch every moment of it. I’m already painfully aware of just how crazy I can be most days, as we all can be to an extent, but the last thing I want is for the person I love to have to be subjected to, well, me.

Which of course makes no sense either because to truly love me, he has to know me and vice versa. And as lucky and ridiculously ecstatic as I feel to have him love me, at the same time it is my love for him that makes me want to demolish the relationship that we’ve built so far.

But once my head calms down a bit, I realize that all of this is just part and parcel of the disease. Convincing myself I need to leave before I get left is one of my oldest tricks. Preemptively causing myself pain before the other person can beat me to the punch is my favorite brand of self-sabotage.

self-sabotage
http://www.artesanias-minerales.com/self-sabotage-control/

I do mean it when I say I want to spare him the pain and frustration of dealing with me on a daily basis, but I also want to spare myself as well.

Being in love while experiencing mental health issues feels like walking a tightrope between a tornado and a hurricane: a constant effort to find the balance.

It’s exhausting some days, and it shines a very harsh light on just how much internal damage has been done over the years. It’s still hard enough getting out of bed some days but then to love someone as well?

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I have this dichotomy set up where he is perfect and normal, and I am the psychotic burden of a girlfriend. He has his issues too which only deepens his empathy and care towards me. But once again, he already has enough to deal with, does he really need me too?

love mental
Image Courtesy of https://www.pinterest.com/pin/11470174027495421/

So what’s to be done? This is the question I’ve asked myself so many times. And as I sit here right now, wearing one of his t-shirts and pondering the answer again, I can only come to one conclusion: there is no right answer.

Once again, post-modernism and its rejection of any objective truth rears its ugly head again, fucking hell! But it’s true. In a society that is obsessed with quick fixes and instant gratification, it only makes sense that a “magic bullet” approach to all of this would be my first instinct.

But it’s not so much what needs to be done that’s the problem but instead what I need to do differently so that I don’t spend every day and night consumed asking why, why, why?!?

Tempering my issues to try and soften the blow of just how “off” I can be some days does not and cannot work, regardless of whether or not you suffer from mental health problems. It is scary as all hell to let someone see the completely stripped-down version of you, both physically and emotionally.

vulnerability
Image Courtesy of http://www.routercheck.com/why-are-routers-so-vulnerable/

But it’s because it scares the hell out of me that I know it’s the right thing to do. So instead of trying to hide and cover up and dodge and deny, I run at it. I tell him when all of a sudden I get sad for no reason, when shit just hits me out of the blue, and I feel like my heart has just deflated.

Actually he knows me so well at this point he can tell before I say anything which tbh really pisses me off sometimes 😛

And while I hate feeling like I’m “deep-conversationing” him to death on a daily basis, it’s what I need to do so that we both know what we are getting into and with whom.

And so far, he’s still here, still standing, sassy and sarcastic as fuck. Just the way I like him. Honestly, most days he amazes the shit out of me. Not just because of how well he deals with my shit but just the way he looks at life in general.

sarcastic minion
Image Courtesy of http://favim.com/image/3005039/

He’s not without his demons for sure, but he shows me everyday what kindness is and how human beings are supposed to be with each other. And the best part is that he doesn’t even realize it.

To him, it’s just who he is, nothing extraordinary about it. But for me, it is the little things like asking if I’m okay or telling me I’m lovely or cuddling me even tighter when he can tell I’m sad that bring new meaning to the word epic.

Everything I do, think, feel, that I’m sure is going to scare the shit out of him because god knows it scares me, he just takes on without even breaking a sweat.

Everyday I prepare myself for him to finally wise-up and break-up with me (honestly I wouldn’t blame him), but everyday he shows me more and more just how ridiculous it is to think that way.

worst
Image Courtesy of http://health.wikinut.com/Hope-for-the-Best-But-Prepare-For-the-Worst-Thoughts-For-2012/6eyt0i45/

Because regardless of what happens between us in the near or distant future, I can’t keep trying to trick myself into believing what he have isn’t real or genuine.

Because once I do accept that, it also means accepting that I am one of two people who can actively fuck it up. Not by being who I am but by doing things to push him away as a sort of prophylactic measure to pain.

Because eventually, it’ll work. And I’ll have only myself to blame.

Let me be clear: I am certainly not blaming myself for having depression and anxiety. Those are just facts of biology, and I do my best to deal with them everyday. Not surprisingly, every day is different and some are better than others. These wounds run very deep.

Which got me thinking. Love, or rather loving and being loved, is not the cure for these wounds but instead the alcohol. On first contact, it shocks, it stings, it makes you realize just how big, how raw the hurt is. But it is also absolutely essential to healing that same hurt.

love heal
Image Courtesy of http://favim.com/image/855882/

And whether this amorous antiseptic comes in the form of a partner, a friend, a parent, a teacher, or just yourself on any given day, it really doesn’t matter. What matters is that you have it.

Because while these wounds run deep, unlike all others they are not visible to the naked eye. They are buried deep beneath the surface in amorphous aches and existential pains that can seem impossible to describe let alone heal.

But every time he makes me laugh, every time I hear his laugh, every time he pisses me off for putting the toilet paper on backwards, every time he wraps his arms around me as I cry and tells me everything is going to be okay, those wounds heal a little bit more.

pon and zi sleep
Image Courtesy of http://ponziandshinee.livejournal.com/

So to wrap up yet another fabulous exercise in ranting and raving, I once again give a ginormous thank you to everyone who takes the time to read. You all make my day!

And in particular, I thank the person who inspired this entry and continues to amaze me every day. I hope this helps make sense of everything you already knew.

Oh and FYI you SUUUUUCCCCCCKKKKKKKK!!!!! <3 <3 <3


 

Oxford: Oh How Your Dumpster Fire of Dating Burns So Bright

Hello my beautiful, lovely readers!! I hope you’ve missed me as much as I’ve missed you. Apologies again for another protracted absence, but as my second term in Oxford has finally ended (yay I lived through another one!!!), I’ve been enjoying my break.

vacation
Image Courtesy of http://www.klphelps.com/v-is-for-vacations/

However, life goes on, here as well as everywhere else, and as such, new topics worthy of writing about have nonetheless been marinating for sometime.

I actually intend on writing 2 (yes count ‘em TWO) new entries for you. They will be different from each other, not really a part 1/part 2 thing, but I hope you will enjoy them both.

Anywho, with this first entry, there are several things I want to address, starting with kind of a status check on the blog itself. Understandably, given the way I write, which varies on good days from stream of consciousness to completely unintelligible on less than good ones, my focus on any one theme or topic can seem elusive.

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Image Courtesy of http://nowdontgetmewrong.com/2015/12/06/scatterbrained-or-a-genius/

I have gotten several questions, and rightfully so, on why I write about what I write about or why isn’t it more about Oxford or more about academics etc. These questions haven’t been meant as criticisms necessarily on what I have written, but I can understand the confusion. Believe me, I’m just amazed and flattered that there are people who keep up with the blog enough to want to ask these questions!

Hell, just the title, “An American an Oxford”, lends much weight to the assumption that this would be a simple travel blog. But I made a promise to myself when I started this that I would never consciously try to make the blog one thing or another; I would let it be what it is and what it would become.

And what it has become I am extraordinarily proud of. Because to me what it has become is one more Polaroid, one more testimonial to the loves, losses, problems, trials, joys, and tribulations of all of us 20-somethings/30-somethings/whatever-age-you-are-somethings as we weave our way through this increasingly fucked-up world.

fucked up world
Image Courtesy of http://www.sproutdistro.com/catalog/zines/organizing/towards-less-fucked-world/

I think that is what’s hard for some people to understand about Oxford: it’s not just for studying in the library. The University of Oxford is not the only thing in this city. We all, for the most part, have lives that have nothing to do with academia. And surviving that personal life at times has proved far more challenging than anything I’ve encountered in the classroom.

And committing that remarkable act of survival everyday certainly isn’t Oxford specific. So yes, while I am currently now 27 and making my way through this stage of my life in Oxford, Oxford in many ways is incidental. Certainly I do write about problems that are or seem to be Oxford specific (can I get a Hallelujah from my History peeps about the citation style AHHH?!?). But the relatability of what I write is not restricted by geography.

However, having said that, I will now immediately contradict myself (Chaucer would be proud) and take to discussing the main theme of this blog, which is, as you’ve probably inferred from the eloquent title, the tightrope-over-shark-infested-waters that is trying to date in this city.

Image Courtesy of bradhobbs.com

First, the caveats. While acknowledging that dating at this age in this time in any location presents its own series of complications, trust me there is something quite “special” about doing it in Oxford.

Additionally, what I will be discussing will be limited to my experiences, which thus far in Oxford have been only with the opposite sex, namely cis-men. And of course, this entry will not be used to indict the entire male population of Oxford nor the entire male sex and/or gender for the crimes of a few.

That being said, I have simply had too many conversations with too many female friends, all of varying nationalities, disciplines, ages, races etc., where we have all expressed the same frustrations with trying to date in Oxford; or if dating is even possible in Oxford.

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Image Courtesy of http://rachelsrambles.com/2015/12/07/the-one-in-which-i-rant-about-the-dating-scene/

Now for those of you who read my blog regularly (INFINITE LOVE) this may seem reminiscent of my previous entry about the “Rules of Engagement”. While I will not belabor this entry with a complete retreading of the last one, they are definitely related. What goes hand in hand with figuring out what are the (arbitrary) rules of the game is discerning the motives of the players involved.

Before coming to Oxford, I of course imagined what dating here would be like. My first thought turned towards the diversity I would encounter. So many countries, so little time haha. But seriously, it was exciting to think about going to a completely new city, 4,000 miles away, totally unknown and able to start over in every sense of the term. How many people get that?

And while I still feel so lucky and blessed to be here, I can’t deny that on a fairly regular basis this city kicks the ever-loving shit out of me! Most often the cause of these beatings comes as a result of my, and many of my friends’, attempts to date. Because despite all of our academic achievements and all-around general nerdiness, we are still human beings who want, need, and deserve sex and love.

love beating
Image Courtesy of http://stuffpoint.com/love/image/49682/red-beating-love-wallpaper/

What we get, however, with some very notable exceptions, are human-shaped sacks of disappointment distinguished by Y-chromosomes. And lurking within these sacks (no pun intended) seem to be very similar patterns of behavior which once again defy any national, racial, and/or geographic boundaries.

Number one issue with these patterns: SHOWING UP!!!! Seriously dudes, do I really have to spell this out for you? First I have to take a moment of silence and allow myself and other female friends to mourn the death of our standards when it comes to dating. Because at this point, these standards have become so subterranean that we are impressed, amazed, and give a guy points when he actually does something he says he’s going to do.

And honestly, how fucking sad is that?!? Real talk right now: I don’t care if we’ve only fucked each other once or numerous times, we’re dating and have changed our relationship status on Facebook, or we’re just platonic friends who never intend to see each other’s naughty bits; if you say you are going to do something, FUCKING DO IT!

If we make plans, I’m sorry if this is asking a lot in your mind (ps it’s really not), but I don’t know, maybe actually consider FUCKING SHOWING UP FOR THEM! Novel idea I know, let that sink in, I know this is hard, but guys we’re gonna get through this. #SARCASM

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Image Courtesy of http://hollywood.thecomedystore.com/event.cfm?id=320617&cart

Of course, life does happen. People get sick, get stuck at work, get hit by cars, abducted by aliens etc. It’s a crazy world. However, one of the marvels of modern technology is that communication is easier than ever before (and yet ironically feels more impossible at the same time).

But how hard is it to just take 10 secs, send a text saying you can’t show up and that’s it. No harm, no foul, just let me know, I’m not gonna interrogate you. Especially for those of you who know me well, I am a total mama bear when people get sick or stressed out. All I wanna do is take care of you, probably to the point of being more annoying than your own mother.

But seriously, that’s all we’re asking for. Once again real talk: guys and girls alike, do you know how awful, embarrassing, and rage-inducing it feels to just be stood up? It sucks harder than outer space to be honest. And while you can be the most secure, confident, carefree person in the world, when it happens to you, it is just so disarming.

Honestly, there are other things I could be doing with my time. Amazingly enough I do have a life. But my time, like everyone else’s, is important. And when you waste it, it’s just an overall shitty thing to do.

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Image Courtesy of http://www.u-tees.me/shop/tee-shirts-for-men/dont-waste-my-time/

Admittedly, along with the mama bear thing, I can be way too forgiving of certain behaviors when I like someone. Hey we’re all human, and I know I do a good job at fooling the world, but surprise I’m actually not perfect. But honestly, if you’re an actual human, sentient adult, this is not something you should have to be explicitly told. You should know.

I for the most part have kept those I’ve slept with and/or dated outside of the university. Seriously Oxford really is a small town masquerading as a big city; you’re always running into people you don’t want to!

But from my sampling, as well as those of my friends, I can honestly say that it does not matter one bit if you’re an academic or a bartender, a student or a townie, these behaviors persist regardless.

I have noticed a bit of a phenomenon among some guys in university: the man-child turned academic in a way. Once again, coming here I had many ideas about dating, but I did not delude myself into thinking that just because guys were smart enough to get into Oxford that it translated into being smarter emotionally.

Actually it only seems to hinder the process further. Because for the most part, once again with notable exceptions, these are guys who have been in university all their adult lives, never worked outside the classroom, and quite frankly are used to having their egos nurtured and stroked on a regular basis. I’m not saying female academics are sage angels and male academics are children in big people clothes, but these are the patterns that have emerged.

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Image Courtesy of https://bigheadbob.com/theme-collections/the-egomaniac-collection/

Thus when anything challenges this notion of perfection or this insulated conception of accountability, the behavior seems to be even more incomprehensible.

Which leads me to my next point: acting like we didn’t just have sex the next time we see each other. Now guys again, I want you to brace yourselves for yet another radical concept, but despite your amazing sexual prowess, I don’t want to marry you. You don’t have to break that to me gently for fear I might flip out, I can actually handle that.

Thus, when we next encounter each other, you don’t have to go out of your way to be an asshole to me and pretend that we didn’t just see each other naked just to make sure I get the message.

Newsflash: I’m kinda sorta like an adult and despite my having a vagina, I do not immediately rush out to buy a wedding dress as soon as the condom comes off.

Oh and also, I faked it :)

All right, all venting, ranting, and joking aside, while we’ve all had our share of sexual horror stories that make great night-out conversation, when feelings get involved, this behavior really does start to hurt. It can do massive personal damage, especially when the “L-word” has been used, and this crap still persists.

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Image Courtesy of https://www.pinterest.com/pin/19844054581595268/

It can seriously blur your perspective, make you behave in ways you never thought you would, make you feel like you are worthless. But you’re not. You never are. At the end of the day, it is not anything about you that is causing this behavior in the other person. He/she is an adult completely responsible for his/her own actions

I know how easy it is to second-guess yourself when stuff like this happens. You go over every action, every word, every message, every text with a fine-tooth comb, trying desperately to figure out where you went wrong. Maybe you kissed too soon, had sex too soon, got too emotional, showed you were too interested etc.

Bullshit. It does suck once you’ve invested a certain amount of emotional energy in someone to find out that they don’t feel the same, but it’s not your fault. It’s just not who you are supposed to be with. Much easier said than done. More often than not these relationships taper off-gradually and more painfully rather than with a clean, simple break.

Because human beings are not simple. Relationships, however long or brief, are not simple. And while all will involve a certain amount of disagreement, of hurt, when does the bad start to outweigh the good? When does accepting someone for their flaws and shortcomings stop and enabling their destructive behavior begin?

Simply put, when do you get to that point of enough is enough? In Oxford as well as anywhere else?

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Image Courtesy of http://goodlifeorganizing.net/when-is-enough-enough/

Well, once again I leave you with more questions than answers (sorry it’s what the academics do to us here haha). But to help you along the way I leave you with a clip from what I consider to a very underrated movie, “The Mexican”.

Quick plot summary: Brad Pitt stars as a bumbling mafia lackey charged with getting a prized pistol, named “The Mexican”, back to his bosses. Along for the ride are Julia Roberts as his kinda sorta ex-girlfriend and the incomparable, gone-too-soon James Gandolfini as the lovable hitman who kidnaps her as leverage.

The clip shows the two pondering the question above. And so far, I have yet to find a better authority on the matter than Mr. Gandolfini.

Bottom line: there are great men and great women out there who are going to love you for EXACTLY who you are and treat you the way you deserve. And you’ll do the same for them. Because, IMHO, that’s just what we’re supposed to do as humans.

Don’t lose hope. And above all don’t lose yourself.

LOVE YOU WEIRDOS TO PIECES!!!


 

The Rules of Engagement: Who, What, Where, When, Why, and WTF?!?

Well it’s officially Week 4 in Oxford (yes I’ve started measuring time this way and it’s weird!). And like always I’m scrambling to get work done but of course leaving plenty of time to procrastinate.

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Image Courtesy of http://fromftoh.com/crazy-time/

But my constant state of “Imposter Syndrome” is not what I’m focusing on in this entry. Nope, this time it’s all about “The Rules”, or, more specifically, “The Rules of Engagement.” Recently I’ve been discussing a recurring topic in therapy as well as with friends about this abstract concept of “The Rules” that we all seem to operate under when in any type of sexual relationship, be it casual, serious, and everything in-between.

First let me preface this with a bit of general back-story. For those of you who actually read my blog loyally (I love you to pieces but wonder about your sanity haha) will know that I make no secret of my sexual history, proclivities, preferences, beliefs etc. Living openly, despite criticism and negative commentary from some people, is the only way I know how to truly live. And for those who take the time to hate, there are 100 more of you who love me just the way I am, and it makes all the difference <3 <3 <3

infinite love
Image Courtesy of http://loveinfinitely.org/

Recently I’ve been involved in what some would term an “open relationship”. This person does not know I’m writing this blog so for the sake of privacy I will not mention his/her name. I’ve known this person for several months, and our relationship started as a one-night stand that gradually turned into casual sex and eventually became whatever the hell it is now.

And that statement is exactly the point of what I’m writing: what determines or what are the criteria for designating something as an open relationship, friends with benefits, casual sex, a serious relationship? Who decides these criteria? What are the rules governing each of these relationships? Are they distinct archetypes or are they just fantastical categories we create in order to define something that is inexplicable to ourselves? And, most importantly, how do you move from one category to another?

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Image Courtesy of https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ip44D_XYHZQ

Now sometimes I find nuggets of wisdom in my stream of consciousness rants, but I certainly cannot promise that I will provide glowing answers to each of these questions. I’m not sure they really have answers, and if they do, these answers will surely be subjective to whomever is doing the answering. Gotta love post-modernism in real time 😛

The catalyst for me finally writing about these questions, or rather dilemmas that have been burgeoning for awhile, is the grey area in which I currently find myself in my current relationship. There are some who argue that the idea of friends with benefits, which I actually think is a more accurate term for what I’m currently in versus open relationship, cannot exist. That you cannot ever keep sex and feelings totally separate.

And in my current situation I’m starting to agree a bit. But once again this all depends on each individual person, their unique emotional capacity, and what they are/are not comfortable with.

I do believe that having sustained casual sex with someone is possible. You have a respect for them as a person. You enjoy sex with them from time to time. But that is it. What makes friends with benefits unrealistic or unsustainable, I’m realizing, is the “friends”. The minute you start to get to know the person with whom you’re having casual sex removed from a sexual context, it’s game over.

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Image Courtesy of https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ImUXtuGmKqI

A key factor upon which the idea of friends with benefits hinges is an implied emotional detachment. But when you’re or I am friends with someone, that automatically constitutes a certain level of emotional involvement. I care about my friends. I love my friends. I’d do anything for my friends if they needed me, and I know they’d do the same.

Aristotle believed that friendship is one of the highest forms of love, “a single soul dwelling in two bodies”. And while Aristotle articulated several different types of friendship, one of which could be termed a classical precursor to friends with benefits, for the most part if they involve sex, emotion is implied.

So if we are to believe Aristotle here, friends with benefits is an oxymoron. A logistical impossibility for the simple fact of trying to impose logic on human relationships. It just doesn’t work.

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Image Courtesy of http://www.webmuggle.co.uk/emotional-and-logical-thinking-when-deciding-to-buy/

Which brings me back to this idea of “The Rules”. Lately I feel like I’m operating under a set of guidelines that are simultaneously very specific and extremely vague. I have no idea what the rules are, who made them up, and just when I feel like I do, someone changes them, and I’m back where I started. And let’s not lie: I’ve always fancied myself as living without rules or by my own, but I’ve kind of caught myself doing the opposite lately.

And it feels like everyone is doing the same thing. We all pretend like we have it down. We act nonchalant, never acting like we catch feelings (“catch” like it’s some kind of disease), because as young 20-something millenials our defining characteristic is supposed to be not giving a shit. We have evolved past convention, past monogamy, past the antiquated idea of committed relationships, and to indulge in any of the above is to be seen as backward and constitutes a loss of freedom.

But are the two mutually exclusive: freedom and relationships?

And whatever the rules are I know I’m breaking them right now because I’m talking about them. The moment you acknowledge the existence of these rules and how arbitrary they are, that’s it, you’ve lost. No more playing, you’re out of the inner circle, please pick your emotions up at the door, you’re banned for life.

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Image Courtesy of http://www.bankrollmob.com/poker-news/201062/2010-wsop-player-banned-life

And I’m not knocking living this way; if that’s truly what fulfills you and makes you happy, go for it and do you. But for a lot of us, I think we’re just fooling ourselves in thinking that casting off these old restrictions doesn’t mean we haven’t imposed new ones on ourselves. We’ve just exchanged one set of complications for another. The complications of thinking we have to care about someone in a very narrow, circumscribed way to the complications of not caring at all.

Let me be clear about something: everyone I’ve ever had sex with I’ve cared about on some level. Even if it’s just for one night, I do care. Even if they treat me like they don’t care, I still can’t help but care. I don’t fall in love with everyone certainly, but as a human being connecting to another, if only for a second, there is a respect there.

And this makes me a freak according to this set of rules. I used to think I needed to keep these feelings under wraps, I was ashamed of them, and I lived a very closed off life. And I suffered. I suffered so much. This is why I live the way I do now. Fuck what the world thinks! Sure being open definitely makes you incredibly vulnerable to being hurt by others, but in comparing the two lifestyles, this one is much more worth the risk.

However, I’d be a hypocrite if I said it was easy to practice this mindset on a daily basis. It’s easy to say fuck what the world thinks because you’re not in a relationship with the world on a day to day basis. Saying fuck what the other person thinks is much much harder. If you care about them, you automatically care what they think; or more specifically what they think about you.

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Image Courtesy of http://www.yourtango.com/201168184/facebook-relationship-status-what-does-its-complicated-mean

Hence my current situation. It started out casually enough, just sex (great sex), but then it began to evolve into something more. We started having actual conversations. We started realizing we had a lot in common. We started realizing we liked being around each other outside of a purely sexual context. We started laughing at the same stupid shit. We started watching the same shows, the same movies together. We started having fun just doing nothing together.

Even the way we have sex has changed. While we are both sexually open and exploring what we like is very much a part of what we do, it has become more intimate. It’s not just mindless fucking anymore.

But as much as the above is true, how guarded we both are is doubly true. As quickly as a hand is held, it is retracted. As soon as they kiss my neck, my back, they retreat. As soon I kiss theirs, I draw back. And when we sleep together, just sleep, if there is any contact, it is soon withdrawn. It’s amazing how you can feel so far away from someone when you are literally an inch apart.

And why do we do this? How is it possible that we can feel so comfortable naked together but holding hands fully clothed just seems like too high a price to pay?

Personal damage? Definitely. We all have a past, we all have baggage, we all have that one person whom we trusted and then betrayed us so spectacularly that to trust again seems impossible. This is just a fact of modern day life. But baggage is an essential part of what makes someone interesting, what makes them beautiful. And trust me at this point, it looks like I’m packed for a six month trip around Europe!

baggage
Image Courtesy of http://www.releaseyourbaggage.com/release-work/the-emotion-code/

But that’s not it. I believe, and I could certainly be wrong, that these so-called “Rules” are holding us back without us even knowing it. It’s almost like we’re waiting it out, seeing who will blink first, and finally let on that they feel something more than just the cool, mature sprezzatura, this intelligent, sarcastic, ironic detachment we have all pretended to master so well.

And I hate it. I absolutely 100% cannot stand it. And yet I engage in it. I play this sick game. Why? Because I’m terrified. I’m terrified of rocking the boat with what I have now with this person in the hopes of becoming something more. Would I rather have them in some slightly satisfying way than risk not having them at all? I don’t know.

So far I’m playing it safe, but I don’t know how much longer this can be sustained. I’m so tired of agonizing over each text, each message, making sure it’s not too long but long enough to show a certain amount of interest without being excessive. Making sure the words are coy enough to warrant a response but not too sentimental. Waiting a certain amount of time before responding so it doesn’t look like I’m too available or more into the conversation than they are.

And while I’m painfully aware of just how stupid all this is, I can’t help myself. “The Rules” got me!

So I find myself secretly clinging to stolen moments, the little things, silly stuff: the awkwardness when they can’t undo my bra and we burst out laughing, the way it feels when they come up behind me and put their arms around my waist, the feeling when I run my fingers through their hair. I could live on that stuff forever.

Honestly I wish I could shut my head up and enjoy. But as an academic, over-thinking shit is kind of what we do and unfortunately that often bleeds over into our relationships. Introspection isn’t a bad thing, but you can definitely go overboard!

So what is to be done? Seriously, I’m asking, if anyone knows ffs please email me! I know what I want to do. I want to say to this person all the things I’m thinking, ask them all the questions I have, and hope beyond hope they give me the answers I’m looking for. I want them to tell me they’ve been doing the same thing I have for fear of rejection or rocking the boat. I want to find out that our insanities are a match.

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Image Courtesy of http://luzuraiga123.deviantart.com/art/ID-we-match-in-a-rainy-day-250908999

But that takes balls that I’m currently lacking. In a sense, I’ve been castrated by “The Rules”. It’s not that I’m afraid to have my heart broken; that mends. I’m afraid of finding out that everything I’ve been experiencing, I’ve been experiencing alone and hasn’t been reciprocated by this other person. I’m afraid I’ve had feelings for something that may not really exist.

I don’t know. And that’s the problem. My very nature demands knowing. But I do know that soon, I will blink, and I can only hope that when I open my eyes, this person is still there.

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Image Courtesy of http://tardis.wikia.com/wiki/Blink_%28TV_story%29

So to close out yet another rant (seriously why do you people read this?!?) I leave you with a quote from one of the greatest poets of our time Andrea Gibson and the song  “Love Somebody” by the amazing Robyn Sherwell. Both have perfectly encapsulated the dilemma which I and so many of you are trying to reconcile.

INFINITE LOVE!!! <3 <3 <3

“When we all know everyone’s life has been hard enough already, it’s hard to watch the game we make of love. Like everyone’s playing checkers with their scars, saying checkmate whenever they get out without a broken heart. Just to be clear, I don’t want to get out without a broken heart. I intend to leave this life so shattered there’s gonna have to be a thousand separate heavens for all of my flying parts.” –Andrea Gibson

Pendleton’s Politics of Promiscuity: Men vs. Women (Yes That Old Argument)

Hello my lovely readers!! I know it has been forever and a day since my last blog post. For those of you who actually look forward to these posts, other than suggesting you get checked out at your local mental health facility, I offer my most profound apologies. It turns out Oxford actually keeps you pretty busy, and I honestly didn’t think constant reiterations of how stressed I was over my course would make for the most scintillating of entries.

To offer a brief recap before getting to the heart of what I want to talk about today, I survived my first term at Oxford!!!!

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Courtesy of http://memegenerator.net/instance/60660879

I know I can’t believe it either. Between adjusting to the workload and style of grad school and my constant health problems (basically I’ve had some version of the flu for months now adjusting to the UK climate), I actually made it through. Big thanks to my friends, here and abroad, and my family for going through this with me and listening to my constant complaining :)

Anyways, I went back to the U.S. for a few weeks over the holidays to see my family and decompress from the somewhat claustrophobic and insanity-inducing bubble Oxford can become. But after some time back, I really started to miss the place as it really is like home to me now. So I’m back now, and luckily, I have a couple of weeks before the next term starts to finish up work and rant as I’m doing to you now in real time.

As you can see from the title of this entry, my topic of discussion today will focus on sex, or more specifically the gendered stereotypes that emerge after having a fair amount of it. Let me be clear, as I was in my last post that focused on one-night stands, that what is to follow is not intended to titillate or act as an extended brag of my sexual history and/or proclivities. It’s just my rambling thoughts based on my experiences.

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Courtesy of http://www.buzzfeed.com/carolynkylstra/graphics-sex

The drastically different standards and labels attached to women who engage in casual sex or what some may deem a “promiscuous” lifestyle is a subject that has been touched on time and again across various mediums, from an infinite amount of perspectives, by bloggers and academics alike. And you know what, it needs to keep being talked about, because unfortunately these negative stereotypes toward sexually active women persist, and as one of them, I feel it’s necessary to offer my opinion. Once again, it’s not because I hold my opinion to be superior to anyone else’s or because I feel my life should act as an instruction manual to others on how to lead theirs; it’s simply my truth and my figuring it out everyday as I go along.

So in the words of the eternally badass Salt-N-Pepa, I will now be “putting [my] cheap 2 cents in” and talking about what it means to be a single, sexually active, 20-something woman in today’s world.

2 cents
Courtesy of http://genius.com/2279079/Rick-ross-the-great-americans/Keep-your-two-cents-to-yourself-you-might-need-it-later-word

First of all, let’s just state the obvious: I enjoy sex. I enjoy everything about it, from the visceral sensations to the intense connection one feels to the other person, however brief or momentary. I enjoy going out with the intention of finding someone to have sex with. It’s not the goal every single time I go out, but sometimes it is.

All of what I just said is, with the exception of some of those who identify as asexual, universal to the human experience. And yet, I was so nervous to make what seems like such a radical declaration regarding the pleasure I take in sex.

It’s not that I’m anti-relationship or anti-love. Quite the contrary: I believe when the time is right for me, I’ll meet someone that will make me want to pass beyond the stages of casual sex and enjoy something more. But for now, I am focused on getting my degree and hanging with my amazing friends which doesn’t leave time for much else. Also, I’m 26, and I still feel way too young to think about that big, looming end-game some people refer to as marriage. If I’m going to be committed to someone, I don’t want to half-ass it, because that’s not fair to them, and it’s not fair to me.

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Courtesy of http://9gag.com/gag/aVOq1Ew/i-m-not-ready-for-a-relationship

And before I get too far into my ranting mode, let me be clear about something: I’ve made good choices when it comes to finding someone for the night, and I’ve definitely made bad ones. I’ve slept with people who were on the same wavelength as I am in terms of casual sex and respect for the other person not being mutually exclusive concepts; and I’ve been with people who have treated me like absolute shit.

This is the first aspect of the double standard women face when engaging in non-committal sex. It is an unwritten rule in our society that if a woman is going to engage in casual sexual behavior, she is automatically no longer entitled to being treated like a human being. Any expectations of respect or dignity can be kissed goodbye as we are no longer viewed as people but basically pieces of flesh with various holes for primarily male pleasure.

This of course directly contributes to the issue of consent to sexual activity and another sadly unrelenting attitude that if a woman makes it clear that she is comfortable with just having sex, she then forfeits her right to say no to any sexual activity. Her body becomes public property, carte blanche for anything and everything. The yes to sex is seen as a point of no return; if she says no, she really means yes, because she said yes before, therefore it can’t possibly be assault or rape. Wrong, wrong, every single time, WRONG!

Now to be fair, I do not want to indict the entire male species for this viewpoint. As I said, I’ve had some experiences that have been wonderful and respectful, so it certainly does not persist in 100% of those possessing a Y chromosome. And of course men can be victims of slut-shaming too. However, this tends to be the opinion that prevails. And it is certainly not only men who hold this opinion; women tend to be the experts on tearing down other women, as sadly we are still taught that our primary role in this heteronormative society is to be competition for men.

Call me crazy (it’s not exactly untrue), but I don’t think it should be such a lofty aspiration for a woman to still expect to be treated like an actual person once her intentions to have sex are made clear.

respect
Courtesy of http://affirmyourlife.blogspot.com/2011/08/respect-affirmations.html

This brings me to my next point: the defensible mindset a woman must have if she intends to engage in so-called promiscuous behavior. Before I address this, I would like to talk about the term “promiscuous” itself. Other than being a sub-standard Nelly Furtado song (sorry I’m still in love with the “I’m Like a Bird” years), the word “promiscuous”, according to Dictionary.com, is defined as “characterized by or involving indiscriminate mingling or association, especially having sexual relations with a number of partners on a casual basis.”

Thus the criteria for determining whether or not someone is “promiscuous” is purely subjective and based on no standardized quantitative data. What might be considered an excessive number of sexual partners for one person may seem average or even paltry to another. Hence, the conclusion that one is indeed promiscuous is purely indicative not of the morals or values of the one being judged but rather the one doing the judging.

But back to the defensible mindset that women, or at least that I feel I have to have, when going out and looking for sex. It feels like you have to constantly be on guard, ready to defend your position at any moment. There is so much pressure on women to constantly reassess and reexamine why exactly they feel the need to just have sex. While self-awareness is not necessarily a bad thing, in this arena it is often done to excess.

defense
Courtesy of https://rostmotor.com/defense-defense-defense/

“Am I doing this because I’m lonely? Am I just trying to get back at my parents? Am I rebelling? Am I just sad or depressed? Am I a bad person for just wanting sex? Did something happen to me as a child that’s causing this?” etc.

These are just some of the thoughts that run through our heads when gearing up to do something as revolutionary as having sex just for pleasure. I know they’ve run through mine. These questions are also indicative of the assumptions a lot of people make when they see a woman having sex for fun. They wonder, was she molested or raped in the past, does she have daddy issues, she must be a sad, lonely, pathetic person who can’t keep a man, or simply, she’s just a stupid slut.

Now of course, people have sex for many reasons, both good and bad, and I certainly do not want to try to invalidate any here or say that some reasons are better than others. Regardless of the reasons, the point is that they are your own, and whether they are good or bad is no one’s business.

But women find themselves being constantly put in the position of explaining their behavior. They have to continually reassure the world as well as themselves that what they are doing is not reflective of any flaw in their morality. Because once people find an excuse that you’re less than perfect, that you’re parents are divorced or you never knew your dad, basically anything that does not fit into the heteronormative, 2-parent, white, upper-middle class narrative, you’ve lost all credibility, and it’s game over.

perfect family
Courtesy of http://www.catholicsistas.com/2013/12/ultimate-guide-perfect-family/

But this is not a game. These are our lives, and we are just trying to live them, and, if at all possible, enjoy them while doing so. Yet, when it comes to enjoying sex, women are still only deemed acceptable while doing so within a very narrow construct. And if we stray from this construct, well, then anything that happens to us afterwards is just tough luck and our fault. While we get the “walk of shame”, men get high-fives. While we get labeled sluts, men get labeled studs. And while we were “just asking for it”, men were just giving us what we really wanted.

Look, the world isn’t fair. So we’re told from the time we were kids until yesterday. And I’m certainly not refuting that; if anything, I’m confirming it with what I’ve just written. But what is often confused with this statement is that it’s pointless to try and make the world fair so just keep your head down, accept, and try to make the best of it.

And to that I call BULLSHIT. ABSOLUTE 100% FUCKING BULLSHIT. If ever there was a time for swearing excessively it’s now, because there is no better, more articulate way to describe such a mindset than FUCKING BULLSHIT.

bullshit
Courtesy of https://thomastierneyblog.wordpress.com/2015/02/27/key-reading-bullshit-and-the-art-of-crap-detection-by-neil-postman/

I do not accept that as I woman who enjoys sex that I am entitled to anything less than the respect, dignity, and love that every human being on this earth deserves. I get it: everyone is so afraid of getting hurt that they hurt others before they can be hurt themselves. I am certainly guilty of this behavior. In an increasingly impersonal, cynical world, the urge to self-protect and run from pain is heightened more than ever.

But that is not what this is. No, this is a society, a world, which despite being supposedly modern, still teaches women that they are inferior to men. We have made great strides in the past century, 50 years, 10 years, and it is on the backs of those women, far braver than I, that I stand and am able to say what I want and think freely. But that does not mean the world is any less hostile to women who live their lives without apology and in fulfillment of this expectation of equality.

However, before I get too high and mighty on my soapbox, not that that’s a bad thing, I just want to end this article by sharing something personal. A couple of months ago, I experienced what I describe as “sex without consent.” I went out with a few friends, we got drunk, I especially in a way that I usually don’t, I met a guy who was at least sober enough to drive to my place, and after that I passed out and don’t remember much. All I remember is waking up the next morning, next to someone I did not recognize, and realizing that we’d had sex that I did not remember at all.

It was scary. It was awful. It was embarrassing. But, and it took me awhile to realize this, it was not my fault. It was obvious that I was in no shape to consent to any sexual activity, but in this day and age, a drunk girl is often seen as an opportunity and nothing more.

Luckily, I have good friends around me who’ve helped me through this as well as a spectacular therapist who has been invaluable in helping me understand and come to terms with what happened. And while what happened will stay with me forever, it will not hold me back.

survivor
Courtesy of http://www.keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk/p/keep-calm-i-m-a-survivor-2/

I do not regret the decisions I’ve made, both the good and the bad, because they were mine. I will not stop living my life exactly the way I want to live it for fear of judgment or public perception. And above all, I will not apologize for living exactly as who I am, because in this short life, there is no other way to live.

So I say to you, as I say to myself when I start getting depressed or overanalyzing which I’m VERY good at, just love yourself. Much easier said than done, but just try: try to live, try to love, try not to hurt anyone or yourself along the way, be safe and don’t worry about fucking up. We’re humans. It’s what we’re good at.

I promise you I’ll try to do the same. <3

And so I leave you with a gift from those immortal goddesses I quoted earlier, Salt-N-Pepa. It is my favorite song of theirs, and whenever I doubt my right as a woman to be sexually free, it reminds me that above all what I do is “None of Your Business.”

snp
Courtesy of https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_fZOVJF6tOE

One-Night Stands and What Mine Stood For

This morning when I woke up, I found myself in my bed lying next to a guy I did not know. I tried to think of a million gentle ways to say this, but for those of you who read what I write often you know that I’m neither gentle nor subtle in the way I describe things.

Let me caution you: the description that follows is not an erotic reconstruction of the previous night’s events. No 50 Shades in the making here. What will follow is the same thing that always follows my introductions: an honest account of my experiences, why I think they are important, and why I choose to make them public.

Understandably I debated whether or not to write about this on my blog. Is there such a thing as being too personal or too open? For some people yes, and even I have my limits, but in this case I decided sharing was the right thing to do.

one night stand
Image Courtesy of https://www.pinterest.com/pin/481885228850536668/

Of course, one-night stands are hardly a unique part of the human experience. They happen everyday and every night to millions of people for millions of different reasons. And believe me I do not flatter myself in thinking that my sexual history will be of paramount interest compared to anyone else’s. It’s just mine.

To provide some background, this encounter happened in much the same way that most one-night stands happen. With a bit of alcohol and the general sexual desire we all feel at times. I went to a club last night with one of my friends here in Oxford (out of courtesy to others I will not be naming names or places).

We were having a good time, not getting crazy or drunk. I’d had a few ciders but wasn’t out of control or past the point of consent. I knew exactly what I was doing. Anyways, for those of you who frequent clubs from time to time, you know that 9 times out of 10 these encounters start with a look. You lock eyes with someone from across the room and automatically know what you both are thinking. This then leads to awkward small talk, perhaps another drink, and some bad dancing.

Then when it becomes clear what both your intentions are, you act upon them. In this case, get a cab back to my flat and…well you can guess the rest.

Once again, I’m not telling you this because my story is particularly unique or special: quite the contrary. This happens to so many people, but of course embarrassment, mortification, sometimes shame often follow these nights when you’re forced to look upon them in a sober light the next morning. In my case, realizing that I was sleeping next to someone that I didn’t know.

The morning proceeded much as one would expect: making more awkward small talk, figuring out where you are, and then parting with as much dignity as you can muster. Luckily, we were both on the same page in terms of understanding that this was just a crazy, one-night thing and that’s it. It’s always terrible when one person thinks it meant something and the other didn’t etc. So in that respect, it couldn’t have gone better.

Awkward
Image Courtesy of https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Awkward_%28TV_series%29

Not that there is ever an optimal time to have a one-night stand, but I picked a truly horrible one since I hadn’t slept all night, had a slight hangover, and was meeting my supervisor for the first time in a few hours (I’d like to dub this the dark side of overachieving). Thankfully though the meeting went splendidly, and I think I held it together well.

However, we now come to the second reason I am choosing to recount this story. Unfortunately, despite all my radical feminism and women’s rights activism (whatever the hell that means), we did not use a condom. I personally have never had unprotected sex before, and while I was fine with the encounter itself and how it ended, I was of course both a bit freaked out and disappointed in myself. I definitely knew better, but hey we’re all human and shit happens.

Fortunately, I live in a country where sexual health resources are not only readily available, they are for the most part completely free.

So after I met with my supervisor and took care of a few college things, I went to my locally pharmacy, Boots, to get the morning-after pill. I had to do a consultation with the pharmacist, a very nice middle-aged Indian man who was definitely more uncomfortable than I was, and then he sold me the pill for £26 and instructed me how to use it. The pill has a 72 hour window in which to be effective, but your best chance is taking it within 12 hours of having unprotected sex. In addition I bought a pack of condoms and then asked him where the nearest clinic was for an STD screening. He directed me a few blocks down to the Oxfordshire Sexual Health Centre in Cowley.

emergency emergency 2 condoms

At this point it was bit after 3pm, and the centre closes at 4pm, so I got there just in time. The staff was very nice and very helpful. They explained that it was obviously way too early to know if I had any STIs or if I was pregnant, but that they could test me now as a baseline and then I go back in two weeks for another test. This first test will make it much easier to determine whether or not I have an STI when I go for the second.

sex health card sex health card 2

Unfortunately, since I’m from the U.S. and am used to paying ridiculous amounts of money for basic healthcare, I was unaware that I could’ve gotten the morning-after pill at the clinic for free. However, I was provided with free condoms, a free pregnancy test, and a free 3-month supply of birth control pills. I can’t even begin to describe how grateful I am to the people at the centre and for the resources they provide. Of course the NHS and healthcare system in the UK has its issues, it’s not perfect, but knowing that if I need them these resources are there at no cost to me made the process so much less stressful, I can’t even tell you!

preg test birth control progesterone 1 progesterone 2

Afterwards, I walked home, contraception in tow, stopped at Tesco’s for some chocolate because after a day like today I sure as hell had earned it, and finally got home at about 4:30.

So, once again, why am I choosing to share this with you? In addition to the reasons mentioned above, there are several more.

First is awareness of your options: if you find yourself having that oops moment of unprotected sex, know that while it is always best to be proactive, it is not the end of the world, and you have options. The morning-after pill does come with some side effects, nausea chief among them, but it is an invaluable tool that is becoming more readily available in many countries.

I also wanted to highlight the fantastic experience I had courtesy of the NHS and sexual health centre. Regardless of how mature you are or evolved you are in your sexual history, moments like these are scary and when you encounter people who are non-judgmental and helpful it truly does make all the difference.

But chief among all of these reasons is simply honesty and to show that I am not ashamed of or embarrassed about what happened. Is it a bit nerve-wracking to share this information publicly? Honestly yes. But beyond that I do feel a responsibility to do so not just for myself but also for others out there, especially women, who may be struggling with feeling ashamed or that they are suddenly tainted or slutty or irresponsible following a one-night stand.

This experience is so universal, yet it is rarely talked about and often looked down upon despite the hypocrisy in doing so. And despite the very limited readership of my blog (I love everyone to pieces who bothers to keep up with the craziness in my life), if I can make one person feel better or less alone by sharing my experience, well then that’s everything.

We’re all human, we all have desires and needs, he enjoy sex, and whether that sex is casual or with a long-term partner is entirely your choice and no one else’s place to judge. The best way I’ve found to try to keep things in perspective for myself is constantly asking if I could go back and change something, would I do it. And in this case, while I would have been more careful and used a condom, I would not go back and undo the encounter. It was my choice, as well as his, and despite the morning’s awkwardness, it was honestly a lot of fun.

Only time will tell how I situate this experience along with the thousands of others in my life and how it affects me. But I can honestly say I don’t regret it, I know it doesn’t make me a bad person, and it’s just yet another part of the insanity of the human experience that we partake in.

I’m sure there will be some people who do not share my opinions and will not appreciate my honesty. And that is absolutely 100% fine. My one-night stand was for all intents and purposes not so bad, but this is certainly not always the case for others.

As I’ve said before, this blog is not meant to be a road map or instruction manual for how others should lead their lives. We’re just stumbling along and trying not to fuck up too bad, and we all do that in very different ways.

You just have to do what you are comfortable with and what makes you happy, and if the rest of the world doesn’t agree then they can fuck right off!

No shame. No embarrassment. No judgment. For me it’s the only way to truly live :)

fuck off
Image Courtesy of https://www.pinterest.com/pin/401594491743846830/


 

Best Friends, Worst Bus Patrons, and a Whistling Crawfish

Greetings all! Still in the UK, still at Oxford, and still mad as ever haha. The past few days have just been a whirlwind of catching up with old friends, making new awesome ones, and of course FISH AND CHIPS!!!!

fc1 fc2

This past Sunday (9/20/15) I took it relatively easy; did a more proper grocery shop (meaning more than just diet coke and Kettle Chips). And I swear as much as I try to curb my Minions obsession, Tesco’s keeps thwarting me. Case in point: MINIONS CUPCAKES!!!

minioncupcakes

As I walked back from the store through my usual shortcut (the cemetery), I got the most wonderful surprise as I ran into Maria, a D.Phil student I knew last year. She is so lovely she actually ended her phone call just to stop and chat with me. She will still be living in the same accommodation as I will this year, so that’s fantastic! See: hanging out in cemeteries clearly has its benefits 😛

Later that night I met up with one of my best friends from last year Lid. She is the literal personification of a fire cracker and it’s impossible not to feel energized just being near her!

We walked around the city for a bit (god it’s so beautiful here at night) and then she showed me where she is living now. After being totally jealous that she now has an actual bathtub, which she agreed to let me use for £100 (SO GENEROUS!), I was reunited with the things I had to leave behind when I left last year. Lid along with Jenny, my flat mate from last year, saved everything for me. I can’t even begin to describe how awesome that was of them and how much it meant. I am so so lucky to have friends like this <3

last years stuff

The next day (9/21/15) was the first day of my pre-term Latin course which meant I had to get up to catch the bus at 8:30 AM (FYI not a morning person!). The class seems like it’s going to be pretty intense but we’ll see how it goes. YIKES!

There are two sessions a day for the next three weeks (9-10am and 1-2pm) so after the first hour I went to college, which is luckily right up the street from the Classics building, to study in the common room. Official registration of new Freshers doesn’t start til next week so it’s still relatively quiet around here.

latin 1 latin 2

A little before noon I walked up the street to one of my favorite places in Oxford, Greens Café, for some lunch and tea. I love this place not just because of the free WiFi but it has this really cozy upstairs area where you can just sit and eat and read for hours if you want. Absolutely peaceful.

greens1 greens2

After enjoying my time, I journeyed back to make it through the second hour of Latin (once again YIKES!). Afterwards I had plans to meet up with another old friend from last year, Genevieve, and of course we wound up at Greens. We had coffee and sat upstairs chatting for easily 2 ½ hours. Needless to say we are both just awesome at conversation haha 😛

It was so nice to catch up with her: along with being American and sharing my love of tattoos, she is just a brilliant human being. At this point it was a little after 5PM, and we both had to get back. I had plans to meet a couple of people at the local pub in Cowley at 6PM.

I caught the bus a little before 5:30PM and this is where that brilliant literary tool called foreshadowing took a stroll into reality. The bus was packed and I ended up sitting next to a guy who was 50 shades of green (hence the foreshadowing). I was in a rush and didn’t have much of choice on where to sit so…yeah.

I met up with my new flat mate (we’re currently the only two living on our hall) for the first time, even thought we’d corresponded over FB a few times. Ah technology. She, a friend of hers who is also living in Stonemason (once again they don’t know I’m writing this blog so I won’t reveal their names until I’ve asked them), and I all walked to the City Arms, a great pub right on the corner where we live, to have a pint and some awesome, greasy pub food.

One pint turned into two and then two-and-a-half (god I love the UK) and we sat there, talked, discussed various relevant political topics, and basically just got stupid in the best possible way 😛 I’m definitely looking forward to living with them over the next year.

By about 9:30PM we parted ways: they walked back home and I walked a couple blocks to Yulia’s for chocolate and banana cake as well as the beer I had forgotten a couple nights ago (I swear this has never happened before!).

As with all conversations with Yul, the one we had this night was incredible. We talk about everything: politics, religion, our courses, our lives, everything. She is quite simply the best person to talk to.

I also learned the most brilliant phrase of my life: “when the crawfish whistles on the mountain.” It’s a Russian expression equivalent to “when pigs fly” but I like this one a million times better!

crawfish
http://www.zazzle.co.uk/when_crawfish_whistle_on_the_mountain_card-137085832111042713

And before we knew it about 4 hours had gone by and it was 1AM. We parted ways, me with cake in my stomach and beer in my hand, and Yulia making me promise to message her once I got home safely.

I walked home, vigilant and with my key in hand, secured between my fingers in case I need to improvise a weapon (the sad reality of walking home alone at night as a woman). But I got back safely, Skyped my family in the US, and then crashed.

And here is where the foreshadowing reaches its conclusion: I woke up early the next morning with terrible stomach pains and that special kind of sick sweating ie that green bastard on the bus spread his love UGH!! It’s not really his fault although I will have to find and kill him.

Thus today was spent dividing my time between my bed and the bathroom. So not fun, and I hate getting behind in Latin especially since we’re covering SO MUCH that each class is like a week’s worth of info. But I’m pretty sure my classmates wouldn’t be too keen on me turning our room into a petri dish!

I’m starting to feel a bit better, and we’ll see how I feel in the morning. Fingers crossed for me :)

But hey if you’re going to be sick, is there really any better place to be sick than Oxford?

ironing board

I’M BACK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (Part Two)

The arduous journey to Oxford began, at least in the immediate sense, on Thursday (9/17/15). I decided to fly out of Dulles in DC this time, as a direct flight is much cheaper and much less of a hassle.

luggage

I was also able to see a lot of my family that I hadn’t seen in any context outside of FB in a long time! And I got to have my last dinner in the U.S. with my big brother Myles which was pure awesomesauce, first and foremost because of the rib-breaking hugs he gives!

But after delaying the inevitable for as long as we could, I finally bid my dad, my step-mom, and America farewell. Let me be clear: it was definitely easier on some levels to make this trip again: I had done it before, I knew basically what to expect and kind of where to go, not as many unknowns as the first time. But I was still scared. Excited and so thrilled that I get this unbelievable opportunity TWICE, but still scared.

For me the hardest part is the anticipation of something, the waiting. Thus, I was not thrilled about the long hour and a half I’d have to wait prior to boarding my flight. Luckily, I met a really nice doctor on her way back to London and we chatted for a bit (luckily she was a nerd of the Harry Potter/ LOTR/ Doctor Who/Big Bang Theory vein as well) so the time went by fast.

The flight itself was completely full; actually it was overbooked. And I found myself sitting in the middle seat of the middle aisle i.e. if I had to pee, I was pretty much screwed!

flight

I relaxed a bit more once on the plane, thanks in part to the Linux penguin who popped up on the screen in front of (credit to Harry for letting me know he was the official Linux penguin). Penguins are by and far my favorite (spirit) animal, so I took this as a good omen.

linux penguin

Also when we were driving to the airport, a car passed us with a license plate that read “BLEU CHE”. This had particular significance for me as bleu cheese was my mom’s favorite food of all time, and how random is that plate! So I had another good omen to keep in my back pocket :)

Miraculously I slept a bit on the flight, and despite the screaming child in front of me, went by relatively quickly. Before I knew it, we had landed at Heathrow. This instantly took my excitement from about a 4 to a 109.

Getting though customs took a bit longer than last time, but the line moved relatively fast and within no time I had officially crossed the border into the UK!!!! Retrieving my luggage was without a doubt the trickiest part as collectively my suitcases weighed 115 lbs. But still that’s less than last year!

uk border

It took me a while to find the bus from Heathrow to Oxford as I got three different directions from three different people. But luckily, after dragging my human-sized bags all over Heathrow I finally found it.

The bus gave me a bit of a respite and I slept a little on there as well. Fortunately, my stop is the end of line at Gloucester Green so no danger of missing it. The bus ride into the city was a literal trip down memory line, as I had thought of the city centre so often over the past year and now all of a sudden I was kinda sorta there again!

oxford

Once I arrived at the bus depot, I then began the next task of hailing a taxi. Once again this proved a bit more difficult than last year. There is a taxi pool not far from the bus, but as opposed to before it was totally empty. Usually they are lined up for fares. But the term still doesn’t start for a few weeks (I came early to do a preterm Latin course) so maybe that’s why. I eventually found one and proceeded to St. Cross College to check-in and get my room key.

This took all of 5 minutes (yay!) and then the porter Paul (who rocks) called a cab to come and take me to my accommodation which is about a 30-45 walk from the college. I arrived at Stonemason, my new (old) home at about 2:30 PM UK time, approximately 12 hours after my journey officially began.

I can’t even begin to describe how surreal it was walking into this room. It’s not the exact same one I had as last year, but they are all pretty much the same. And I’m a person who remembers the way things smell a lot, and man when I got hit with the room, I knew EXACTLY where I was.

room

At this point, I was running on adrenaline and knew that if I took a moment to rest I would crash from jet lag. Not so great for adjusting to a new time zone! So I got to work and unpacked, set up my bed, put my clothes away, and decorated in a very loose sense of the word.

The next task was to walk to Tesco’s for some groceries, as well as to this discount store on Cowley I love for a hairdryer, towels, and hangers. While I tried to focus on buying essentials, at Tesco’s my primary mission was to procure the magical Polish Cheetos I had experienced the previous year (once you’ve had them there is no going back!). Luckily Tesco’s not only still has them, but the current bags are MINIONS THEMED!!! FYI: learning that the Polish for Minions is Minionki was one of the most significant experiences of my life!!!!!

minion cheetos

After striking gold, I then walked home and started laying claim to the fridge and cabinets in the kitchen. Like I said term hasn’t started yet, so I practically have the building to myself for a bit. At this point it was early evening, around 5:30 or 6PM, and I was trying so hard not to fall asleep.

Fortunately, my friend Yulia, who among with several others from Oxford kept in touch with me over the past year (thank you!), messaged me and asked me if I’d like to have dinner and then go out with her flat mates. I could’ve been near a coma, but I was so excited at the prospect of seeing her in person and not as a FB alert that nothing would’ve stopped me.

yul cupcake
A pic Yulia sent me on my birthday, her enjoying a cupcake in front of the Rad Cam in my honor :)

She met me at Stonemason at a little after 7PM, and after agreeing that it was the best kind of strange to see each other in person, we set off in Cowley to look for a place to eat. We came up with the idea to partially recreate the night we first met, which was at a college social event “A Night Out in Cowley”. I talked about this in a previous entry, but basically too many people came to the restaurant, and we ended up going with a smaller group.

So after a year of waiting, we finally were able to gain entry to the elusive Indian restaurant, Majliss. Dinner was ridiculously fun, thanks in part to our inability to understand the waiter’s accent and the unintentionally complicated question of “what do you suggest for appetizers?”

Mostly though it was just wonderful to catch up with her. It was like I’d never left :)

Afterwards, we stopped at Sainsbury’s, bought some beer and wine, and went back to her flat. I then met two of her three flat mates, as well as a friend of one of them. They are all awesome and incredibly fun, however, they don’t know I’m writing this blog so I will not name them.

After some great conversation and a couple of drinks, we set out to find a place to dance. We tried several locations but were disappointed, and once we realized we were going to have to walk a little farther than originally planned, two of the girls had to go back to the flat for something. So while waiting for them, Yul and I indulged our nostalgia again and went to the bar, Café Tarife, we went to after the restaurant incident a year ago. We ordered Mojitos like before and continued our exercise in cheesiness, enhanced by Yul’s checking-in with me several times to make sure I wasn’t getting sleepy (so sweet!!).

After some miscommunications the four of us eventually wound up at Maxwell’s where we were finally victorious in our quest for dancing! We stayed there until about 2:30 AM, but after having our space invaded one too many times by a drunk creeper, we decided to call it a night.

We then walked back to their flat, where I had left my enormous bag (I don’t plan well when going out!) and then I walked back to Stonemason which was only a few blocks away. Yul of course made sure I messaged her once I got home because she’s just awesome. And then, after being up for nearly 24 hours straight, I rewarded myself with the most magnificent crash in sleep history!

And so we end up back where we started. Me disoriented, waking up underneath a Union Jack, wondering where I was. And then I remembered. I remembered everything that had happened the previous night. I remembered the previous year. I remembered everything. And despite my grogginess, I felt nothing but pure thankfulness.

I’m so lucky to be back here. I’m so lucky for the friends that I have. I’m so lucky to get a second chance because I know how many people don’t. And while I know this year will bring both victories and hardships, both pleasure and pain, for the first time in so long I feel like I’m actually doing the right thing.

me
LOVE YOU WEIRDOS!!! (And yes that is a Time Turner I’m rocking. Thanks V!!!)

I’M BACK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (Part One)

You know when I woke up this morning (9/19/15) for about 10 seconds I wasn’t quite sure of where I was. And then I looked down and saw the Union Jack on top of my duvet. And it hit me: I’M BAAAACCCKKKKKK!!!! I’m home, I’m actually home once again in the UK and it is glorious in every sense of the word: exciting, terrifying, bewildering, everything! But as with all stories, the best part to start is usually the beginning. So with that in mind, let me fill in some of the gaps and provide context to how I found myself once again slumbering beneath the British Flag :)

bed

For those of you who don’t know, I originally began my (M. Phil) course in British and European History last September (2014). My original blog entries are available if you’re interested or if you literally have nothing better to do.

I arrived, took to the country immediately, and made wonderful friends. However, despite all of it falling into place almost too perfectly, I couldn’t escape the fact that the timing of it was just completely wrong. My mother had passed away suddenly a month prior and while I honestly thought at the time that immediately beginning this next stage in my life was the right step, I found myself in the rare position of being absolutely wrong. So as hard and as painful as it was to leave this new country and this new life which I took such great joy in in such a short span of time, I had to go.

I departed Oxford in mid-October and returned to Virginia to rebuild the foundation of my life before starting this next chapter. For those of you who have read my blog before, you know that for the most part I don’t hold back on certain subjects, however painful. And I won’t hold back here.

I don’t do this because it’s easy (it’s quite hard for me actually), but I do it because it’s the truth. And I know when others are honest about themselves, especially with their scars, I find it to be the most inspirational and relatable. And hey anything that makes us feel a little bit less alone in this world is for me the very point of our existence.

But I digress (which happens a lot!). Once I was back, I moved in with my dad and step-mom for about 6 weeks. I can’t thank them enough for how understanding they were about my decision to come back, knowing that it wasn’t just homesickness I was experiencing but something much more serious.

You see, I was, and still to a certain point am, a person who does not admit when they need help, or that they even need it. I just forge on through things, not stopping for a second to think how they affect me. I just go, go, go. And to put it simply, I finally just hit a point when I couldn’t “go” anymore. I was out. My tank was empty. I had nothing, no strength, no energy, no more quick-witted comments or sarcasm to carry me through. I was done. And I knew that if I didn’t admit that, admit that I actually needed help and couldn’t do everything myself, I was going to end up hurting myself.

So as soon as I got back, I started seeing a therapist. For those of you who have been in therapy before, you know 90% of its effectiveness is the compatibility you have with your therapist. And luckily for me, I worked with a woman, Maryann, who had no problem understanding me, even when I didn’t understand myself. She never judged me, she pushed me when I needed to be pushed, and most importantly she gave me the ability to at least start understanding and processing everything I had been through, not just with my mom’s death, but her illness prior, my childhood, everything.

It’s ironic but for a historian, whose very discipline is predicated on examining the past and its impact on the present, I had never given any real thought or consideration as to how my past had or has affected my present.

Honestly, I was afraid of what I would see. Which is what I think stops most of us from looking back. We’re terrified that if we go back and reexamine our choices, our mistakes, ourselves, we’ll come to the conclusion that the life we have in the present is a product of circumstances out of our control and not something that we chose or that personally fulfills us. Also it’s just fucking painful.

But luckily Maryann was the catalyst for me doing the work I had avoided for so long. And I am beyond grateful. She saved my life. I’m certainly still at the beginning, as it will take years to fully understand everything that has happened. But I will continue therapy here at Oxford once I get settled.

So before I continue I just want to stress for anyone struggling with any mental health issues, to please seek out help. Believe me, I understand why you might be reluctant, as I basically went kicking and screaming. I was always the strong one, and while I never judged anyone else for getting help, actually I admired them, I always thought it would be unacceptable or a sign of weakness on my part.

But it’s not. The strongest people are those who can be vulnerable and admit when they need help. I wish I had done it sooner. I wish I’d done it before I started cutting myself at 14. I wish I’d done it before I experimented with eating disorders. I wish I’d done it before I decided getting blackout drunk or using drugs was the answer. I wish I’d done it before I decided that relentlessly punishing myself mentally for not being strong enough and considering suicide was the right thing to do.

But it’s never too late. You are worth it, and you can get better. Please never think otherwise. No one is perfect. We’re all just trying, plain and simple. I still have my good days and my not so good days. Your scars are what make you beautiful. It’s okay not to be okay. <3 <3

beautiful version

Okay, tangent over (until the next haha). So I moved into an apartment in December 2014, my first ever apartment all to myself!!!! It was 800 sq. ft. of pure heaven :) And yes I miss it like crazy!!

kitchen couch bathroombed2

I had also been working at a museum called Agecroft Hall, a Tudor revival museum/mansion in Richmond, since November as a tour guide. Of course this was the ultimate nerd job for me. I was getting paid to nerd out over my favorite period of history.

agecroft nametag

I also met so many wonderful people, including a ginger spitfire named Tracy. It turns out we went to (ie suffered through) the same high school, but we had never met until Agecroft. Although she’ll never admit it, Tracy is a complete badass artist/jewelry maker, and also just a hilarious human being with a command of sarcasm to rival my own. This is one of her paintings that I own and I’m sure in 10 years it’s going to be worth the sum of my student loans (fingers crossed!)

tracy painting

Unfortunately, while the museum was fantastic, it was only part-time and paid little above minimum wage. So it took me until April but I finally found full-time employment at Good Feet, a retail store specializing is custom arch-supports. I worked as a salesperson, a job which I apparently gained by my less than elegant analogy of a tour guide essentially “selling” history. Honestly when I think of it that way I feel like some kind of weird history prostitute (which would explain why I was tipped so much at Agecroft). But that’s neither here nor there!

Despite our vast political and religious differences, my coworkers immediately made me feel welcome and like family at Good Feet. Case in point: my co-worker Jackie is the one who gifted me the Union Jack under which I awoke this fine Saturday morning! And while I’m very much into digression, it would take a whole other website to list all of the wonderful things about my former co-workers/current friends at Good Feet. So I’ll be out of character, keep it short, and just say thank you!! Thank you all infinitely for everything you did for me <3

union jack 1 union jack 2

So after coming back, starting therapy, having my own apt., working two jobs, and getting 2 new tattoos, I crammed a fair amount of adulting into a year if I do say so myself 😛 It was painful, incredible, but above all necessary, I’m so grateful for it. But luckily, Oxford made the smart choice and decided to readmit me for the next year.

3 tats
Bottom Left: My mom’s favorite flower, a star gazer lily I got in November 2014 to commemorate her first birthday after she died. Bottom Right: My mom’s initials and her favorite poem by Robert Frost which I got in August 2015 to mark the one-year anniversary of her death.

Hence, we come to the end of Part One. Part Two will recount the events of the past couple of days, as I once again prepared to make the crazy journey to my home. To Oxford.

“Clubs and Clubbing”

Hey guys!! Sorry it’s been a bit longer than usual since I last posted. I’m sorry to say that this time gap will probably only get a bit bigger in the near future as my classes start next week. I’ll try to update as regularly as possible, as I’m sure you’re all on the edge of your seats with baited breath waiting for the next sizzling installment 😛

Anywho, yesterday was quite a busy day, and by the end I was just toooooo tired to write about it.

First came the FRESHERS’ FAIR!!! Oh sweet Jesus was that an experience. I knew that with over 400 clubs and societies at Oxford, it was going to be a packed affair but I still wasn’t prepared!

It was literally like being packed in a sauna while people shove fliers and coupons in your face screaming “PICK ME, PICK ME!” Of course there were plenty of things that I had been wanting to sign up for, but damn it!

I’m actually not sure about everything I signed up for but if I had to guess it was probably about 20 clubs. The ones that I remember (and therefore am truly excited about) are as follows:

Oxford LGBTQ Society, WomCam (Women’s Campaign), It Happens Here (Sexual Violence Awareness), Democrats Abroad (yay Americans who aren’t insane!), Unite Against Fascism, rs21 (Revolutionary Socialism in the 21st Century), Socialist Workers Student Society, the Bibliophiles (book lovers i.e. nerds!), Oxford Quiz Society (even bigger nerds), and the OU Dramatic Society :)

fliers1fliers2fliers3fliers4fliers5

I know, I won’t possibly have time to participate in all of these equally with all my grad work, but I really am excited about them. There’s SOOOO much here to do and to get involved with.

We had some pretty strong groups at R-MC (OSMA was my weekly retreat!!), but since it was/is a very small school you just don’t have the same number of orgs like here.

And of course quantity does not automatically equal quality, but these groups in particular had so much energy to them. And if you were already interested in what they were about, you couldn’t help but get hooked!

After that, I was both extremely sweaty and a bit tired. This is of course when the weather decided to get uber-English, and out of nowhere start a fucking deluge! Lid and I had been walking for a quick lunch, but things got so rainy so fast we finally just chucked it in and took a cab.

Lunch was lovely, but there was no time for rest, as in about an hour, I was FINALLY going to meet some other people doing their Masters in Modern British and European History! It was understandable that I hadn’t met any of them before (we’re generally skittish people, very pale, and nervous around the living).

The meeting itself went pretty well. I met some amazing new people who are the same breed of nerd as I am (haha), and we were all finally informed of what the hell it is we’re going to be doing this term.

It’s funny how differently the departments do things here. These whole two weeks both Yulia and Lid have been stressed with all the stuff their departments have been asking them to do. I think Lid actually had to go to a class today too. And here I’ve been, worried that I’d missed some kind of super-important email telling me to do all of the same things.

Turns out nope! The history department just thought they’d save it all for yesterday afternoon! Now to be fair, all the info for the courses was up on their internal system, but unless you are crazy (like me) you really had to go looking for it, and if you don’t know how their WebLearn System works, it’s a pain in the ass.

But now we are all very aware, not only of the Theory and Methods class we knew was coming, but also of the Sources and Resources class we really didn’t :/ Basically, I can just sum it up like this: SHIT-TON OF READING!!!!!

We then got divided up into the actual class sections for Theory and Methods to see who we’d be working with. There’s a great diversity between what we are all studying from 16th century-20th century. We also got to meet one of our two instructors for the course, Dr. William Whyte. He is, on first impression, extremely nice and laid back. It’s very early but he just seems like one of those cool professors whose in this with you :)

All in all, a very exciting time getting my first taste of history nirvana. I’m sure in a couple of weeks I’m going to want to poke my eyes out with cactus needles rather than read one more word on historiography, but for now, I’m enjoying it lol.

As I was walking to the bus stop to go home, I ran into a girl I had met a few nights prior. I was surprised that she remembered my name, as our initial encounter had been brief, but hey I guess I’m just memorable (ego, go away, you weren’t invited!).

I remembered her name as well, but as I have not gotten her permission to use it, I will once again keep things anonymous until I do.

She invited me out to this place called Castle Tavern that she and a few of her friends were going out to. I had heard of the event, No HeterOx at this place inside Castle Tavern called BabyLove, on the OU LGBTQ website but didn’t know anyone else who was going. But yay, I got extremely lucky running into her and was more than happy to accept her invite.

We all met up around 11pm that night and after a bit of time in the STX Bar made our way, sometimes down the wrong streets, to BabyLove. They were staying open from 11-3 for the special No HeterOx night, so the night was most definitely young.

The bar itself was very cool. Standard setup on the main floor, and some killer disco remixes and dancing in the basement! Of course this also means you’re going to sweat yourself into a puddle, but hey that is all part of the fun (did I also mention there was a stripper pole?!?).

I’m probably waxing immature at this point, but honestly, this place was by far the most open one I’ve ever been to. In Richmond, there are basically 2 main gay bars. And they are both great; Richmond has a pretty decent LGBTQ scene.

But this place was just so different. It really was the first time that you could see just how free we all felt. People of all ages, colors, identities, were just there, living it up.

It was just pure, queer fun!