International Women’s Day, or: Oh God We’re All Going to Die

My first grey hair was discounted as blonde. My partner plucked it out of my head with triumph and I smirked. A week later, looming over me in his height, he gasped and took my head in both hands. A second hair was plucked. I studied it curiously trying to determine what was different about this hair than all the rest of my hairs.

I taped it into my journal and wrote “FIG 1. GREY HAIR” next to it in an accusatory kind of way.

The week after that I found two more when I was brushing my hair. I plucked those myself. Not to get rid of them, but to get a closer look. I was perplexed. This tangible sign. But of what? Was it a sign of my stress? Was I stressing myself grey? Was I getting old? Can you turn your hair grey by not getting enough protein? Can flat ironing turn your hair grey? I wasn’t angry at my hairs. It just felt like a part of somebody else’s body was growing out of my own.

I keep telling everyone that I turn 30 next year, which is true, but I actually turn 29 this year. It’s all semantics. I’m not afraid of my 30s and I’m not afraid of getting older. But it’s a curious process. You become accustomed to the version of you that you’ve lived with for so long. As if overnight, you change. I have smile lines now and I have one particular pore that I can actually see. People get mad at me when I say that but it was alarming. My skin feels different now, it demands more care. My vision went. I wear glasses when I realize everything is really blurry which is less often than you’d think.

I’m not afraid of getting older but I am afraid of dying. The dying is the thing you can’t predict. It could happen tomorrow or next week or a couple of years from now and the fear of dying is paralyzing. I always imagine dark. But then I remember that dark is a construct of life. The perception of darkness. I would not even have the darkness. But things would go on without me, wouldn’t they? And I’m not quite fine with that. It doesn’t sit right with me at all, frankly.

So there is this paralyzing fear and it is peanut butter and jelly with this sense of now. There is only the now. And it’s not until you’ve sat down and had a proper dinner with death do you really know that the now is a living and breathing thing. There is no past and there is no future. There is only now. And it’s been written on so many inspirational pinstagrams that all meaning has been removed. The now has reached semantic satiation. Now. Now. Now. Now. Now. What does now mean? Now does not mean we must fit a lifetime into a moment. It only means that a lifetime is a moment. A series of moments. Look at what you want your life to be when you are twenty years older and think of what you must do now to achieve that life.

I don’t want a skin disease and, despite my indifference with wrinkles, I’d certainly like to prevent the more aggressive sags. So I wear sunscreen. I wear it in the winter months. And I make this choice because my now is also my then. It’s all connected, don’t you see?

No, me either.

As soon as something happens we begin to forget it.

Each time we try to remember it, we rewrite a new version of what happened over the reality of what we actually perceived.

In my journal I will write I am not afraid of turning 30. I am not afraid of anything. And when I turn 30 I will look back and I will read this and I will think, I wasn’t afraid. And when I turn 40 and when I turn 50 and when I turn 60 I will forget how this moment felt. And I will open my journal and I will read I am not afraid of turning 30. I am not afraid of anything. And because I will have forgotten, all I’ll have is this. A line scribbled in a book. And I’ll think, she wasn’t afraid of anything. And that will be the truth.

Like
Like Love Haha Wow Sad Angry

Going to Couples Counseling Even if You Don’t Have To

If my phone is recording and analyzing everything I say all day long and is capable of running reports on content, you would see a recent uptick in sentences that begin with “my therapist said.”

I spent a good portion of my youth complaining about math. Maybe I just wasn’t stemmed hard enough or stem didn’t exist yet or I had too many people encouraging me to do exactly what I wanted in my life. And, I mean, who really really really wants to do math? (I know some of these people, we’re constantly at odds.) My deep hatred for math began when I almost got held back for not being able to learn subtraction. I remember very clearly having to stay in at recess and after school as the teacher tried to explain the concept to me.

Teacher: How many pens are there?

Me: Five.

Teacher: (takes away two)

Teacher: How many pens are there now?

Me: FIVE. THERE ARE FIVE PENS.

Teacher: No. Right here. How many are right here. In front of you.

Me: There are three pens here but there are five pens YOU JUST HID THEM BEHIND YOUR BACK. Why are we ignoring the fact that there are still five pens. They didn’t disappear. They’re still here. I can actually see them. Red. Blue. Green. Yellow. Purple. Five colors, five pens.

You can imagine my disgust when I was forced to learn imaginary numbers.

The neuroscientist who taught me subtraction

It wasn’t until I signed up for an advanced neuroscience course I had no business being in that I learned a very rudimentary concept. We have to learn math because it develops a part of our brain that would not develop if we were not forced to think in that way that math makes us think. I failed neuroscience but I did learn why subtraction is important so it was probably worth the thousands of dollars I spent that year.

There are a lot of things that we have to learn growing up. Some lessons come sooner than others and some never come at all. Like how to do our taxes, how to navigate boundaries in relationships, how to find the g-spot, and the very super secret reason people actually have sex. It’s not to make babies like my health teachers said all those years. If only we’d known.

We also need to learn about how to communicate our feelings internally (to ourselves) and externally (to others). We talk about our feelings a little bit in school, but it’s kind of in a super secret closed door way. Like when your 7th grade teacher sees you writing a suicide note and sends you very publicly to the counselors office to talk. (This is a true story. It didn’t happen to me, but it did happen to a girl in my class.) Therapy is more or less shamed from the moment you first hear someone you know is going to therapy. They’re in therapy. They’re attending therapy. They’re being analyzed. We shouldn’t think about therapy in this “OoooOOooOOOOoh you got called the the principals offfiiiiiiiceeeee” kind of way. We should think about therapy more like, uh, downloading an app to our life that makes us better people. Therapy is like yoga for the brain.

Going to therapy doesn’t mean you’re broken on the inside, or: we’re all broken, actually.

Due to the assumptions about therapy and the fact that it’s a little terrifying talking about yourself to a stranger, a lot of people don’t go to therapy until it’s too late. Too late is sort of a wishy-washy way of saying that people usually go to therapy after they’ve hit a max of what they can handle, or something has happened and they are in crisis.

So you’re in therapy and you’re talking about this horrible thing that is going on in your life and then you realize that after a few weeks you’re starting to make progress on this one thing. At this point you can segment this one horrible thing off from the rest of who you are as a person, or you can admit to yourself that this one horrible thing is a part of a much larger picture of who you are. And you keep going. And you keep going, and you keep going. This is what I call maintenance therapy.

Crisis therapy: I’m going to attend therapy until I feel like I can tackle my crisis.

Maintenance therapy: My whole life is basically a crisis tbh.

So I started going to therapy so long ago that I think I can quantify it in months now. And though I feel like I did go for crisis, or a particular reason, I honestly can’t remember what that reason was. As soon as I was there, the importance of having some uninvolved third party to talk to became super apparent. So I just kept going.

Attending Couples Therapy even if you don’t have to: YTMND

Then, one day, and I don’t know why I always put the point of my post at the bottom, but I brought my partner to therapy with me. I had been to couples counseling before, but I had only ever been to couples counseling in crisis. We sat in the waiting room together and my therapist welcomed us in. Here’s the thing, here’s the spoiler about long-term relationships: never fool yourself into thinking you know everything about your partner. Never fool yourself into thinking there are no surprises left.

First: You can know someone very very well but there is always something you don’t know. Second: Never tell your partner that you know everything about them because this is basically transmitted as “there are no surprises left, you could not surprise me.” Which is, kind of, y’know, a bummer. Thirdly, if you’re in a relationship that is dynamic and thriving and changing, your partner will be meeting new people, learning new things, and will be growing and changing as an individual. I believe a sustainable long term relationship requires falling in love with slightly different versions of your partner over and over and over again.

Like any other couple there are things we disagree about or we aren’t super clear about and it was helpful to be able to just have another person in the room helping guide us through a conversation. I learned some new things about him and he probably learned some new things about me too. This is the new kick I’m on. Maintenance therapy for couples. Just be wary, because if you go into therapy thinking you know everything about your partner and sunshine literally comes out of your asshole, you’re probably in for a rude awakening.

Finally, and this is important, but you can skip it if you’re in a hurry: I want to be better than the person I was yesterday. That means that I have to come to terms with the face I make when I hear the word math or chemistry. I made a promise that if I had children I would not recoil in fear when I saw a spider because I wouldn’t want to pass down my fear of arachnids. If I had children, I would also want to find somewhat honest enjoyment in math. So far this has been the most effective form of birth control. Don’t try to be better than anyone else. Just try to be better than you used to be. Attend therapy. Attend couples counseling. Write in a journal. Conquer a fear. Do your taxes before the day they’re due. Avoid that moment where your life becomes a crisis.

Have a question, need advice? Submit now! at Ask Suggestive and I’ll answer it on my blog.

 

Like
Like Love Haha Wow Sad Angry

Going Back on Birth Control After Going Off

If my body were a temple I would be sort of a F5 level Tornado. It’s not entirely my fault. On hormones, off hormones, switching hormones, going continuously on hormones. The straw the broke the camels back, as it turns out, was narcissism. Six months in to my purge from hormonal birth control my body went through what seemed like puberty round two. My skin broke out for the first time in over a decade. My hair was unbearably greasy. My complexion looked dull, and no matter how hard I tried to smile with my eyes, I looked dead inside.

It’s possible that’s because for the last decade my body had been fed with a more or less steady stream of estrogen. This is the me that I knew. The me pumped with hormones. I thought I was strong enough to beat it. I know if I’d waited just a little longer I might have stabilized. But I’m weak. It all came crashing down with that final, unbeatable pimple. And then all of the things that birth control had provided me clicked at the same time.

I was sick of depending on condoms in an unstable and terrifying political climate. Is the condom good? Did it break? It is safe? Am I pregnant? What if I get pregnant and I can’t get an abortion? What if abortion is illegal? What if I decide I want to get back on birth control but I no longer have insurance? My cycle was irregular and physically demanding. My initial uptick in mood had leveled off and I no longer felt self-righteous euphoria. I almost crawled back to my doctor asking her for more. I take no pride in this moment.

The Rebirth(controlling)

I asked for a lower hormonal dose, I started the next day. I’ve kept the pills in my desk drawer as a sign of my defeat.

I am still critical of how we dependent we are on hormones. Women, in particular, as the bearer of protection and the bearer of children. But there simply isn’t a similar option for men, yet. And even if there was, how can we really know for sure that extended use of hormones is safe? I might have a stroke, I might get a blood clot, or I might just not get pregnant. These are the moderately well-informed risks we take.

I now feel more in control of my own sexual health, again. Which is in direct competition with what I said before. Not being on birth control also made me feel more in control of my own sexual health. It’s just the way it is. I’m a complex person and I hold a multitude of feelings. I’m unlikely to get pregnant. My cycle quickly regulated. My skin cleared up in a week. And my hair has decided it’s okay to brush it again.

The Great Both/And

The moral here is that I may not have found my end all be all. Maybe you haven’t, either. Perhaps there is no final solution. Sometimes we’re on hormones, sometimes we’re not. Sometimes we feel good about it, sometimes we don’t. It is intersectional, my feelings on these pills. My privilege of having them. The frustration that I have to use them. My fear of losing them. The concern that one day they may not work the way they are intended. The little pleasures they bring. The potential medical grief they could bring down upon me.  I’m going to take it one day at a time. I hope that my admission that it’s not always so clear makes it a little easier for you to ask these questions too.

Do you need advice? Submit at Ask Suggestive and I’ll answer it on my blog. Today, start a calendar to track your sexual and mental health. You can use a notebook and journal, jot notes in your schedule, bullet journal, or write on a scrap piece of paper. How do your emotions change throughout the month? How often are you having sex? What kinds of symptoms do you experience throughout the month (headaches? stomach pain? arousal?) If you menstruate, what is your cycle like? Do you have PMS? Make the calendar your own and see where trends pop up.

Like
Like Love Haha Wow Sad Angry

Perhaps This Is A Confessional

I wrote this article (“just because its not your fault doesn’t mean its theirs“) about a month ago and I can’t stop thinking about it. I have been thinking very critically lately about how I impact other people, positively, and negatively. I’ve been thinking about how we all experiences the same situation differently. Based on our position. Based on our bias. Based on our emotional attachments.

I’ve come to the determination that we are all problematic. Soap box, me, standing, megaphone, I am problematic. 

It is a confessional because maybe it is long overdue.

I have had the tendency to be reactive. When someone tells me that I hurt them, it is too easy to say I did not mean to. 

When I say this, I silence the people that I have hurt.

I don’t suppose I’m talking about anything extraordinary or even anything specific. In middle school I broke up with my boyfriend over MSN because I was too much of a coward to do it in person. In high school someone asked me why I wasn’t returning their calls and I didn’t know how to respond so I just didn’t respond at all. I’m not known for being particularly quick-witted in person. Perhaps that’s why it’s taken this long to even notice my piece on the playing board.

I can see crystal clear the ways other people have hurt me. I could describe it to you in such emotional detail you would think that my mind had filled in details to make it more vibrant that it really was. Let’s not understate this, either. I have been hurt in equal and proportionate measure to the amount I have hurt.

But, perhaps, they are unable to see how they were problematic, too.

I don’t think I’m at all unique. We cannot literally crawl out of our skin and into the skin of someone else and feel the hurt that they feel in the exact same way they feel it. We can’t go back and act better. But can attempt to replace the vitriol or confusion we feel with some kind of understanding, or kindness.

Questions: www.suggestivetongue.com/ask : ask@suggestivetongue.com

 

 

Like
Like Love Haha Wow Sad Angry

45: Coped and Coping

This morning I set my alarm for 9:15a to miss the bulk of the morning blubber. It feels violating. This person, in this position. I gave myself this one moment because I know for the next four years, we’re going to be wrapped in this madness. And as someone who dedicates this emotional energy to writing, I feel like these politics will  be part of what I take on. Knowing and understanding what is happening and being able to contextualize it within the rights of all people.

It’s now my goal to take every interaction I have and just have it better. Be more kind. Be more gracious. Be more compassionate. Be more understanding. Be more patient. Today I will be conscious and hold my head up high when I walk and make eye contact with people on the street. I will smile at them. I will engage with the people around me.

First I will write this, and second I will sit down with my journal and write in depth about what I feel around me. The not so subtle shift. How the sky is dark and wet and there is a buzzing in the air. This is the majority of Americans who said no. The protests looming. The advice to keep safe. The sound of sirens out the window. How so many people right now are afraid, and feel so sure, that basic rights like healthcare, gay rights, ability to control their own body, may be threatened or entirely removed in the coming hours, or days, or weeks, or months.

It would be a mistake to sit back and see what happens, hope for the best. I’m not placated by this idea that if he succeeds, America succeeds. We do not want whatever his Brand of success is.  America has already lost by putting him in power and any good that he does is not a symbol of who he is as a person or a human being. Bad people can do good things. This does not make them good people. It does not mean we should give them our best wishes. We can (both) hope America succeeds (and) be resistant of his place within the system that this happens.

If you’re marching today or tomorrow, be safe, and remember why you’re doing it. Then keep marching the day after, and the day after that.

xx st

 

update 11:50a

Everything pertaining to ACA and LGBTQ rights has been removed from the website.

The requested page “/the-record/health-care” could not be found.

The requested page “/lgbt” could not be found.

Want advice? Need resources? www.suggestivetongue.com/ask or ask@suggestivetongue.com.

Like
Like Love Haha Wow Sad Angry

Drawing Your Relationships

The other day in therapy, my therapist pulled out a white board, and drew a little circular image. Then she told me to write names on it. It instantly transported me back to being in a waiting room as a child and seeing the pile of toys on the floor in the corner. This space is for me. I could have sat there with that white board all day. I suppose I am an interactive learner.

The image she drew started like this. Just a little dot to represent me, myself, I. Then each circle outwards represented how close I am to different people. I’ve create an example to share.

img_0207

Hello, this is me, a little dot! Wave to the little dot! Great.

img_0208

Here I am with my partner, the person closest to me.

img_0209

Level three, my close friends. On my actual chart I wrote out names. There likely aren’t more than 5 or so people in this circle.

img_0210

Now it gets a little harder. You can come up with your own categories. I started to notice people I was kind of close with, people I wanted to be closer to, and people I was not very close to (but maybe still saw pretty often.) Where I put the names surprised me. Some people I thought I was closer to ended up further out in the circle, and vice versa.

img_0212

Okay, zoom out. People who I enjoy seeing but I’m not close to at all. People I’ve met a few times. People I dated in high school, or old high school friends. One night stands. People I ghosted or people who ghosted on me. Ex-boyfriends (technically on the map, but completely disconnected from it.)

The issue I face is a fear of  escalation.

I fear that giving clear “I want to bring you in to a closer circle” signal would be misread as “I would like to be the very best friends with you.” This is in part due to previous issues with boundaries and communication skills, but also in part due to experiences with people who have high social energy. When I indicate “let’s spend more time together” it’s often read as “we have reached a new level of closeness.” Mix that with my interest in being liked and pleasing others, and it can be a dangerous combination. Navigating these social boundaries isn’t something that I had ever learned before, and as an introvert, it’s something I’ve always struggled with.

It was helpful to learn that you can bring people in to a closer circle without opening the door of escalation.

For a lot of people this is common sense.

You simply indicate what does or doesn’t make you feel comfortable. But if you’ve been around a lot of people who don’t like to have conversations about boundaries, you may have been burned once or twice before.

My goal is to learn to be kinder to myself and others by being honest.

I would like to see you, I would like to bring you closer, but this is all I have the space for.

img_0213

You might find it an introspective practice, too.

Have a question? Submit anonymously at www.suggestivetongue.com/ask or email ask@suggestivetongue.com.

 

 

Like
Like Love Haha Wow Sad Angry

QOTD: All Men

“Until we can collectively acknowledge the damage patriarchy causes and the suffering it creates, we cannot address male pain. We cannot demand for men the right to be whole, to be givers and sustainers of life. Obviously some patriarchal men are reliable and even benevolent caretakers and providers, but still they are imprisoned by a system that undermines their mental health.”

bell hooks

Like
Like Love Haha Wow Sad Angry

Make Valentine’s Day Yours with Excuses or Love

Here’s the issue with Valentine’s Day, from my perspective.

Christmas is a behemoth of a holiday. It starts the day after Thanksgiving and is emotionally and physically draining until the last piece of ham has been eaten or the last present has been opened. When it’s all done, and you’re sitting amongst the wreckage of your home, cluttered with shiny paper and dirty dishes, you’re overcome with this secondary toll. It’s over. Every Christmas you have to break up with the holidays.

Then you get a quick burst of energy in the New Year. You pretend that life can be okay again as the alcohol slowly leaves your system, as you ween off the cookies, as you attempt to be a better person, this time for real. Then a week passes and you’re left with the rest of January, sitting amongst your renewed sense of regret and despair for who you could have been. Why, Jesus, why didn’t you ask Santa Claus for responsibility or productivity or better organizational skills or for Marie Kondo to adopt you and whisk you away into the land where socks have feelings?

So you’re left looking at your life like what is this piece of shit and how many days are left until Christmas.

Then poppa Valentine comes in.

Want chocolate? He’s got some. Just as the mid-January funk starts to take toll, the grocery stores roll out aisles and aisles of pink and red candy. It’s okay to eat chocolate, he says. You tried really hard not to. And you can rationalize this because you can never get assorted truffles any other time of the year. Not to mention those little heart candies that say bullshit like be mine or ill never leave you that sound mildly like they came from a Justin Bieber song entitled Stockholm Syndrome. You’re back in the Skinner Box, baby, and you’re pressing that lever to get all the good feelings.

Back in the 1950’s, the imaginary time where everyone believes things were good, people just loved Valentine’s Day. I can say this and you’ll believe it because everything in the 50’s was great if we forget about women’s rights for a sec. So in the 50s people loved Valentine’s Day and it was actually a day to celebrate love. But then politics was invented in the 60s and a whistle blower told everyone that Hallmark was benefitting from the lonely and the depressed. Now you can’t even mention Valentine’s Day without someone being like ohhhhhh it’s a total shaaaaaaam man, they just want your money.

I prefer the happy mid-ground. I’m not going to kill myself with chocolate truffles because, let’s be real, you can buy truffles any time you want. You’re just looking to feel validated because you failed at your resolution and you miss that jolly holly feeling. But I’m also not going to complain, because life is what you make of it, and Valentine’s Day really can be about love. It can be about love, it can be about sex, it can be about friendship. It can be about sending everyone you know snail mail S.W.A.K. because you just want them to know that you care. It can be about engaging with the people you see out and about on the street. I can be about smiling, just sitting all alone in your room, like a wacko, because you’re happy. Just because.

Valentine’s Day is less than a month away, which means at this reading you’re probably in one of three camps. Your Christmas tree is still up, you never had a Christmas tree, or your Christmas tree has since been deposited into the place Christmas trees go to die. You probably need a little pick me up. Make Valentine’s Day that pick me up. Create a Valentine’s Day Plan. Create it now, because you’ll get busy, as people do. Are you going to send out cards? Are you going to buy yourself candy? Are you going to mail yourself flowers and open them at work like gosh, blush, feigned innocence. Will you buy your partner a token of affection? Escape for the weekend to a hotel? Go on a nice long walk? Make a steak? Don’t let Valentine’s Day take you by surprise. Instead, make Valentine’s Day yours. Think about what Valentine’s Day means to you, and make it yours.

Have a question about sex or love? Submit at www.suggestivetongue.com/ask or email ask@suggestivetongue.com. For Valentine’s Day this year I’ll be sending out a small number of cards, reminding people I like them alright, and top it off with a hot bubble bath. Looking for gift suggestions? Keep an eye out for my yearly gift guide.

Like
Like Love Haha Wow Sad Angry

Old Posts & Advice Columning

Hi Lo! Is there a way to search an old blog post in which you gave advice from years back? The post had given advice on facing/tackling school loan debt in response to an anonymous question. If so thanks so much in advance!

Thanks for asking! I removed the search feature a while back because I wanted to discourage reading old posts as much as possible. That’s because I’ve had my blog for over ten years, and in that span of time, my knowledge base and my opinions have both changed exponentially. So has the way that I write. Some of my older posts include language or advice that I would no longer recommend using. I’m happy to answer the same question over and over again because it allows me to include new tidbits that I’ve learned since I last answered the question.

I think this is the post you’re looking for.

This is a good opportunity to mention that I’ve re-opened email responses on my blog.

I would highly encourage people to continue submitting their questions and prompts to my web form. This allows me to share the response to your question publicly, so more people can benefit from the information. But, I know, sometimes a question might be especially personal. It might require a little back and forth. In these circumstances, please email me at ask@suggestivetongue.com. I’m also very happy to just have discussion with readers about subjects that they find difficult to understand.

xx st

Like
Like Love Haha Wow Sad Angry

Raise Quality, Reduce Quantity

I’m nesting.Not for kids or for a family or for the winter. For myself.

Ugh – yes, my late 20s, this is the reckoning. My boyfriend told me the other day that I have a hard time getting rid of things because too many things bring me joy. In addition, I’ve had trouble prioritizing in the past. Until we started dating, I still wore the same coat I wore in middle school. Even though I have started sporting a newer coat, the other still hangs in my closet. Because I anthropomorphize everything, every time I think of throwing it away, I get a brief but vibrant memory of the first time I put it on.

My cold fingers wrapping around the warm fabric cuffs, burrowing my nose down the collar,  mmm, it’s so warm, I’m just so warm. I’m walking through the esplanade to class. It’s raining.

Marie Kondo would tell me that I should thank this coat for providing me so many good years and throw it away. It won’t be of any use to anyone else, I don’t think. But progress has moved slowly around this home. I started with jeans that no longer fit me, too big or too small. These were, somehow, the easiest things to let go of.

As I tiptoe closer to a new decade I look at the things around me and realize how little I really need. It’s becoming more important to save for nice things that will last a long time and provide me with greater comfort.

There is no right way of adulting, but there are some standbys that I strive to achieve. Being on time as a sign of respect. Sending snail mail for important occasions. Figuring out how to navigate and conquer things no one ever taught me in school (how to have a career, how to do my taxes, what a retirement fund is, etcetera).

And, quality over quantity. Slowly but surely.

Some adult, and one adult, things of quality I especially appreciate:

  1. The Reliable Toy  – It’s a Hitachisurprise!
  2. The Perfect Sheets – Calvin Klein. Albeit, covered in kitty scratches.
  3. The Moisturizer Collection – First Aid, Caudalie, Argan Oil.
  4. The Water Bottle  – Swell. Keeps it cold, cold, cold.
  5. The Journal and Pen – Leuchtturm, Cross/Pilot.

What are some things you have kicking around the house that you have prioritized quality over quantity? How did you come to that choice (trial and error? lucky guess? read reviews?) Need a recommendation? Submit your questions to www.suggestivetongue.com/ask

Like
Like Love Haha Wow Sad Angry