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

 

 

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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.

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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.

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

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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You might find it an introspective practice, too.

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

 

 

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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

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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.

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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

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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

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How To “Go High”

Michelle Obama said that when they go low, we go high. But what does going high look like, and how can someone who hasn’t viewed themselves as particularly politically motivated get involved in activism for social justice issues?

  1. Direct your anger at the right people – If you’re a member of a Women’s March group on Facebook right now, you might be experiencing first hand the upswing in heated conversation between white women and black women, or other women of color. A lot of white women were angrily leaving the group I’m a part of because they felt like they weren’t welcome anymore, as the conversation was beginning to shift to highlight inclusion. I read the phrase “this is about all women” so many times. If you find yourself getting flustered by other women, so much so that you feel like you need to articulate why you’re leaving a Facebook Group, stop to think about who or what you’re really angry at. You’re probably not angry at women who are trying to protest for their freedom to feel safe. You may be angry because you don’t understand or cannot fully appreciate the intersections of race, gender, class, and so on. You may be angry because you want it to feel simple. Women. All women. But the conversation is more complex than this and it always has been. If you are finding yourself angry because people are trying to do the hard emotional work of figuring out their place in this March, listen, watch, and direct your anger at the people who have made these conversations unavoidable.
  2. Remember the cost of emotional labor – If you don’t understand something (example: the difference between all lives matter and black lives matter) don’t feel slighted if your nearest black friend won’t explain it to you. It isn’t her job to explain anything to you, especially justification for why her life matters specifically in this context. If you’re unable to understand the difference between all and black, do a quick google search. Take on the effort required to educate yourself. There are a lot of black women (and people of all gender and race) out there who have taken on the work of explaining these issues without being asked. Finally, please don’t express how disgruntled you are if someone doesn’t want to take the time to explain something to you. “How am I supposed to understand this if you won’t explain it to me?” puts the responsibility of your education and your acceptance on someone who is dealing with enough. Sidebar: I’m happy to do my best to help. My blog is a labor of love in itself, meaning that I do it for free. Utilize it by asking me questions. If I don’t feel like I can properly answer the question I will connect you to people who can, or I’ll tell you that I simply can’t answer the question. 
  3. Consume as much news as you can – Now more than ever it’s critical to read more than one news source. Not only to help differentiate between what is or isn’t real news, but to help work out a clear perspective of what is really going on. A simple news headline can be deceiving. The way a reporter phrases a story can be deceiving. Reading the report in more than one instance helps pick apart what the story is really about. Avoid the comments, reading them or participating in them, because they are a waste of your time. Share articles that challenged you and explain why. If someone wants to discuss it with you, do so with an open heart.
  4. Don’t engage with bullies – Simply existing right now can feel exhausting. You might encounter dozens of people, or more, every day who get a kick out of making you feel shitty. Getting into disagreements with these people only opens up the opportunity for you to (go low) when you could (go high). Calling a bully names, telling them to shut up or go away, or engaging in pretty much any way is often going to result in their desired effect: upsetting and derailing you from more important work. Think about the things people are saying around you and use that as fuel to protest, make signs, find new organizations to follow & support. Give money if you are capable of doing so. The pace of change you’ll get from an internet flame war isn’t going to make you feel productive.
  5. Find what you can do and do it the best you can – No one can do everything. There is no perfect feminist. Pick a cause you support, and make that your cause. Maybe it’s healthcare, maybe it’s voting rights, maybe it’s immigration, abortion, birth control, prison abolition, whatever. Give this subject your heart. This doesn’t mean stop paying attention to everything else. It just means that you should acknowledge that you can’t do everything and you can’t be everywhere all at once. What gives you the most joy? What would mean the most of you, if you could make a difference there?

At the most basic, most obvious, go high means to rise above. Don’t lower yourself to bullying, to harassment. Don’t use “they’re a shitty person” as an excuse to be shitty back to them.

Think positively. Give kindness and compassion. And look forward because there’s a long battle ahead.

Do you have questions about sex, love, gender, sexuality, life, feminism, or generally just how to do better? Submit it to www.suggestivetongue.com/ask and I’ll answer it on my blog. 

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Update: Four Months Off Birth Control

I was sixteen. I was coming back from a camping trip when I had my first anxiety attack. I thought I might be dying. My heart was racing, I felt light headedness on repeat, and I was overcome by a complete sense of derealization. I knew I was in the car, I knew my friends were laughing, chatting, saying my name. But everything was playing in slow motion. When I spoke I said the words but what came out of my mouth didn’t belong to me. I was sweating and hot and full of a sense of dread. I tried to convince myself I was fine but my body was struggling to pay attention. I had several anxiety attacks in short succession after this day. My heart would race and I was convinced I was going to die. I left class early every day for a whole week. Finally, I went in for an echocardiogram.

Not much earlier I had begun taking hormonal birth control for the first time.

I didn’t want to correlate my anxiety to birth control because I wanted to be on birth control. Being sixteen, I was able to easily differentiate to myself the symptoms I was having from the pill I was taking. It couldn’t be the birth control, loud noises make my heart race. Bright lights make me uncomfortable. The sense of derealization goes away after a while. My doctor told me it was anxiety but after doing the echocardiogram I felt slighted. My symptoms felt so tangible and being told I had anxiety felt like a slight. It was as if they’d told me I was just a little stressed out. Maybe I should meditate more, take some vitamins, drink some water, go to my happy place. They sent me home.

The anxiety attacks continued so they told me to start taking GABA, a neurotransmitter to help me calm down. I appreciated the start of a connection to something more tangible, but either because the GABA didn’t work, or because I didn’t believe in it enough for it to be a placebo, the anxiety went on. Finally I asked for something more serious and they prescribed me Lorazepam. Lorazepam is also given to treat seizure disorders.. I cut my pills in halves or quarters because they replaced the derealization with a steady absence of feeling. This was, during most attacks, preferable to panic.

The first ten years I was on birth control I took Loestrin 24FE. It still rolls around in my head like a drug commercial. I’d read the pamphlet so many times, folded and stuck in that little pharmacy bag. After a few years, the anxiety attacks began to fade away, and then stopped altogether. When I was 26 I attempted to get my usual refill from our campus health center and they told me, for whatever reason, it was no longer available to me. They prescribed me something similar and sent me on my way. Whether it was my body changing as I moved into my late 20s or something about this new pill that didn’t quite agree with me, I felt the presence of new symptoms for the first time since I had felt that anxiety.

Birth control comes with a whole host of potential symptoms like weight gain, headaches, acne, anxiety, depression or moodiness, and decreased libido. A natural menstrual cycle can have all of these things on it’s own. What had followed me after the anxiety was high blood pressure. Tell someone that you’re a 20-something with high blood pressure and they might be a real dick about it.  I knew something else was wrong, but I butt heads with the idea that it might be my birth control.

As a women who values control over her own body and her own sexuality, birth control is important to me. The ability and accessibility of birth control is important to me. Having regular periods is important to me. Having a regular cycle is important to me. Not getting pregnant is important to me. My doctor suggested that I might go off of birth control to see if the pills were raising my blood pressure. I didn’t want to, so I asked for a birth control with a lower dose of hormones. She gave it to me and I bled for a month straight.

This isn’t exactly unusual when switching pills or going off pills or moving to a lower hormone pill but it felt like my body was trying to kill itself. Like I had cracked open and become a wound that might never heal. Instead of acting, I re-acted. I asked for another pill and I started taking it continuously, a choice that fairly effectively stops your period altogether. And then I started getting anxiety again. It wasn’t so much the dizziness and derealization of my earlier years but instead a sense of emotional instability. I was high and then I was low and I was happy and then I was sad and I was, more or less, going completely nuts. I could feel it. A buzzing sensation that resonated through my whole body and collected in my mind.

So one day I just decided to stop taking it altogether. And now it’s been four months.

  1. I immediately dropped ten pounds.
  2. I feel less bloated, less heavy.
  3. The buzzing, busy, emotional chaos went away within a week.
  4. My face started to break out. My back and chest started to break out.
  5. My cycle was totally erratic. I skipped my first period entirely, my next cycle was over 50 days long, the one after that was just over 30 days.

After the first month, my blood pressure went down.

I’m giving my body the opportunity to figure out what’s going on. I hope, really hope that it finds a sense of regularity on it’s own, without hormones. I can read my body fairly well, but there is some magic in knowing down to the day what’s going to happen, and when. I’ve spoken with other women who have made the choice to go off of birth control. From the few I’ve spoken with so far, freedom seems to be an important keyword. Birth control made me feel detached from my body – but I didn’t understand that sense of detachment until I felt connected to it again. Of course, freedom comes with birth control too. Do we have the choice to choose if we’re on it, or not? How freely do we make those decisions?

I’ve thought about getting back on a low hormonal option again, or even non-hormonal birth control. The IUD is very popular right now because it provides women with many many years (potentially enough to get you past the Trump years) of protection against pregnancy. I can’t explain it, and maybe it’s confounding, but this option doesn’t appeal to me either.

So for now, I enter the birth-control-free abyss. If anything, my body seems to be thanking me for it. Maybe yours would, too.

What kind of birth control are you on? What about your partner/s? If you’re in a non-monogamous relationship do you feel this puts extra or different responsibilities on you throughout the discussion of protection? Have you felt increased anxiety or depression or other negative side effects since starting birth control? Or have you been on birth control – like myself – for so long that you’re not really sure what it would be like without it? Leave your thoughts in the comment box, or submit an anonymous question about birth control, condoms, pregnancy, or women’s health to www.suggestivetongue.com/ask. This month we’re drawing a focus on women’s health. When we share our experiences we normalize what bodies really go through. This is more important than ever. 

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All that’s left is a small, partially charred hat that says “America.”

If Locke and Key and Oh Joy Sex Toy joined forces to write a book, it would be the story of a key, shaped like a clitoris, and a young women on the brink of discovering her sexuality. She unlocks the door – this door is also a metaphor, see – and falls, tumbling like Alice into a fantasy world of bullet vibrators and queer pornography.

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Like any good Joe Hill novel, there’s a bad guy, some kind of villain who keeps you up at night. In this case it’s Donald Trump, except it’s just Donald’s hair on the tip of a penis, and as you see the penis tip start to curl open to speak, it’s just the phrase “not all men” on repeat as the monster flops and twists in haste towards you.

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The Trump Penis Monster follows Alice through this fantasy world, bits of bile and filth dripping from the tip. Finally she realizes the only way to defeat this horrible demon is by getting herself off. She hides herself in a new, towering branch of SheBop and masturbates furiously.

The tip of the penis cracks open, the hair lighting on fire, the record of “not all men” fading off into the distance before the monster finally explodes. All that’s left is a small, partially charred hat that says “America.”

Alice picks it up, puts it on, and walks off into the sunset bare naked.

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