Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Let's Stop Policing Each Other, Okay?

Lately, I've gotten back into doing makeup, so I turn to the Internet for inspiration. I already live on the Internet, so I can see what a horrible place it is. People, especially when it comes to makeup, are so hell bent on cutting others down instead of building them up. It runs the gauntlet from "you would look better with less," "I don't need all that crap on my face" "girls who wear makeup are insecure" "this is why I have trust issues" (followed by "take her swimming on the first date!"). There's more, so much more. Beauty blogger and makeup artist Samantha Ravndahl  quite succinctly talks about makeup shaming in an older video on her secondary channel.

What does it matter if a girl wants to draw on her eyebrows? I, personally, am not a fan of the heavy, fade-in-front Instagram brow, but you know what? What other people do with their makeup doesn't affect my life. And news flash, neither does how someone does their hair or the clothes they wear. Makeup is a means for personal expression, and if someone wants to contour the hell out of their face, or overline their lips, or draw on eyebrows, or wear minimal makeup, it's their choice. No one else's. Want to get lip injections? Awesome. I personally love Kylie Jenner's lips. Boob job? Rock on, because I'm not brave enough to get one myself. There are these outmoded "rules" to makeup that are more about controlling a woman's appearance than actual "beauty." Rules designed, in part, to design women that are appealing to men. Those rules need to be thrown out.

However, before we can throw out those rules, women need to stop cutting each other down. Don't like someone's makeup? That's okay. What's not  okay is to tell her she's ugly, insecure, a slut, a clown, etc., etc.. Instead, we should be building each other up. It takes so much more effort to comment negatively on a picture on Instagram, a video on Youtube than it is to just scroll by. Why are you so concerned with how another person looks? It's like the women who try to tell other women that leggings aren't pants. If you want to wear leggings, go right ahead. I'm not going to argue with camel toe. And bigger girls can wear them too. Let's stop policing each other's bodies and appearances, okay?

I see it all the time on Facebook. The fat-shaming memes are the worst, especially when paired with the exploitative and violating "people of Walmart" posts. Why the fuck are you making fun of the appearance of some stranger and posting it on the Internet? What if that was you? So what if you think their outfit is ridiculous, does it affect your life at all? No, it doesn't. That's a person you're publicly shaming, a person with feelings. It's disgusting and it needs to stop.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Open Letter to a Scumbag

Dear Scumbag,

You recently posted on your Facebook (yes, I can still see everything you do, motherfucker, and no I won't tell you how) that your grandmother would have a lot to say to you right now if she was alive. Let's talk about that, because I'm sure as hell she didn't raise  you to be unfaithful or to be such a liar. If I accuse you of cheating to your face, you will lie, you will backpedal, just like you did years ago when all I wanted was a casual fuckbuddy and you swore it was over with your girlfriend. But it wasn't, and I realize this is a pattern with you. You weren't done with her when you were asking me to send you nudes, and you weren't done with her when we started fucking. And you swore, during our 5 year relationship that you weren't the type to cheat on a woman. You swore you'd work on our problems and not cheat on me. The fact that so many of our fights were about my lack of interest in sex and that you would repeatedly say "I haven't cheated on you yet because I love you" should have been a red flag. But I was blinded by love. I took the blame for my lack of libido and clung to hope. But you know what? Fuck you and the fucking boring sex we had for five years. Fuck you and your excuses when I'd tell you the sex was boring. "I'm too tall for that position to work" "we just don't fit that way" (maybe because you were too fucking fat and unwilling to change, maybe your dick is too small). And when I got suspicious of that coworker you started talking a lot about? Fuck you. I had a right to be suspicious, and I was right. A month after you dumped me, I found out about her. And I did the math. And I tell you what, an emotional affair is still an affair, even if you're not getting your dick wet. But most off, how dare you lie to my face on the day I sit crying on your couch as you dump me and I straight up ask "is there someone else?" How dare you lie to me and say "no, I just need to be alone for a while." I can take the cheating. But how dare you insult my intelligence by lying to me. Did you think I wouldn't find out? I'm more Internet-savvy than you. You knew this. Did you want to get caught? There was a short time I thought we could remain friends, but not any more. You fucking disgust me. I realize after 5 years I wasn't anything to you. You didn't dedicate Facebook albums to me. You made excuses every time I talked about moving in together or marriage. You didn't care. You're the most disingenuous, disgusting scumbag for wasting my time for so long. You knew my stance on children 5 years ago when we met, went with me when I got my tubes tied, so suddenly you're a family man? Fuck you. Fuck you and your cheating, lying, fake self. You've freed me by breaking up with me. You've freed me to go back to the person I was, who I always was in my heart, and I've gone back to living my life for me. Oh, and I've had more amazing sex since you dumped me than we probably had in the last year. So thank you for that. Thank you for showing me I should never have trusted, should never have committed to a relationship, just like my instinct told me. You took a bird and caged her. Now I'm free. I'm on the prowl for men better than you, even if for a casual fuck. Because there's an honesty in being a slut that you don't get. You didn't play the game right and I hope she cheats on you like you did to me and the one before me. I hope you feel pain and betrayal. I hope you're lied to and your trust shattered, like mine was. I hope you hurt. Have fun with your downgrade, asshole.


Your Again-Slutty Ex

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Dead Inside

I have, for several years, described myself as "dead inside" but it's hard to explain to other people exactly what that means. For such a finite term as dead is, a feeling of being dead inside is terribly complex. My two favorite bands, Tool and Ludovico Technique, both have songs with the over-arching theme of being dead inside, and I've been able to relate to them although they're vastly different songs with different themes of inner deadness. Let's start with the Tool song, Bottom.

Back in 2012, I wrote about the type of mania you don't usually hear about when people talk about Bipolar disorder. I had this month-long episode of rage mania that was frightening, to say the least. It was a constant, overstimulated, adrenaline-fueled, heart racing episode of palpable rage. And in that time, I did my best to channel it, even if it involved driving around with Bottom on blast, screaming along to the lyrics that at the time spoke to my soul: "Dead inside/Hatred keeps me alive/Loneliness keeps me alive/Weakness keeps me alive/Guilt keeps me alive/At the bottom." I was fueled entirely by my hate and anger all while wrestling this angry demon in my head, which the lyrics "If I let you, you would make me destroy myself/In order to survive you/I must first survive myself" seemed to so accurately describe. I don't pretend to know Maynard James Keenan's personal connection to the song but this song is one of my personal descriptors of my mental illness.

Living with a mental illness sucks, but the medication can be worse. At my highest dosage, I was on 900mg of lithium, which isn't the highest adult dosage, but my doctor deemed it was the right amount based on seemingly endless blood work. Lithium is supposed to even you out, make the cycling between mania and depression less frequent. For some people, it works. I felt like a zombie. I tended to cycle more toward depression, and never had any highs. I didn't feel passionate about things any more. A lot of the time, I didn't feel.

When I hear Ben V.'s lyrics for Dead Inside "Draining/Regenerate this spiraling mind/how will I be alright/when I'm Dead Inside... Balance/was a trace/of something misplaced/before all was uneven" it reminds me of my struggle with Bipolar, that deadness I felt while on lithium, that desperate search for myself because I felt lost inside myself, behind the medication haze. Eventually, I made the decision to come off lithium, with the support of my doctor. I am not a medical professional and my experiences may not be the same as yours. Always consult your doctor about medications! Being off lithium has been the best thing for me, honestly. Yes, I have manic episodes, and downswings into depressive episodes; that's just life for someone with Bipolar disorder, and that's why I keep this blog, so I can learn about my disease and share my experiences.

I still describe myself as dead inside. I'm in general a pretty happy person. But there's that part of me that lives in moral ambiguity, that part when mania takes over and I become a little reckless, that part that just doesn't care. Am I being succinct in describing this part of me? Probably not. As I said, it's a terribly complex feeling. The connection to music during rough patches, though, has been monumental.

Just being able to identify with the lyrics and know I'm not the only one that feels dead inside, but can function as a human, is immensely comforting. I could take the entire day and dissect each song line by line and explain how I relate to it, but I won't. Just know, Maynard and Ben, that your music has touched me and means the world to me, more than you can know.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Getting A Part of Me Back

Lately, all I've wanted to do is live, eat, sleep, breathe art. I almost feel like Ricky Fitts from American Beauty when he says "I need to remember... Sometimes there's so much beauty in the world, I feel like I can't take it, and my heart is just going to cave in." I  feel more alive and more mentally awake than I have in a very, very long time. Maybe it's a combination of factors that has brought my creativity back to life-- being back in academia, listening to music that opens up my mind to different thoughts and challenging the status quo, stimulating conversations with people I truly respect. I've gone out into the world and found beauty and sometimes it's so much it makes me weep, whether it's music, or a piece of art, a statue. If you've been following along with this blog, you'll have seen I've been much more active in writing, and if you follow me on social media, you'll see I've started photography again after not really doing it for a very, very long time. 

My mind has been so active, nonstop, for months, and sometimes it's hard to organize and channel those thoughts constructively. Long drives help. Listening to music helps (but often adds to the overstimulation-- blessing or a curse?). I've done a lot of introspection and reflection on the past also. There was a long period of time in my life now I realize I was simply too dead inside (I'm still dead inside) to even feel any passion for anything. Was my passion killed by the medications meant to even out my bipolar disorder? Probably. Was it killed by trying to live for others and not myself? Definitely. Was it dampened by being in unhappy job after unhappy job? Absolutely. 

What I know and what I am certain of is that life is a constant journey of exploration. I want to dive into my academic studies, I want to make art and have stimulating conversations. I want to lose myself in music. I want to challenge my way of thinking and perceiving the world around me every day. I feel free, I feel alive. I feel like me again.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Sometimes I Get Defensive of my Brain

10 Internet points if you know what this is from!
This post is brought to you today by Melissa being a huge defensive bitch to someone who is, essentially, a stranger. The conversation started innocently enough, but then when the person said "you're missing the point" I went immediately on the defensive and replied "no, I get it. I'm not daft." And then I stewed on it and apologized for getting defensive. And I stewed some more and and felt awful for being such a bitch to someone who didn't deserve it, then I tweeted about it, and stewed in the car some more, thought about it in class, remunerated on it all the way home and now we're here. Why the hell did I get so defensive, especially at someone who doesn't know me and I don't know them?

I guess I've always felt the need to defend my intelligence. I've always felt written off for being female, for being pretty, for being sexual, for being from a more rural area (but it's not quite that rural) and so, my intelligence has always been a sense of pride for me. So much so that when my high school anatomy teacher jokingly insinuated the our class was the lower-level, lower-intelligence class, I got so angry I threatened him. It feels arrogant to say to someone, "look, I'm smart" but Jesus, sometimes I feel like I have to. I am smart. Nothing rankles more than when someone talks down to me, and then usually I get nasty and put them in their place.

Women can be pretty and smart. Women can be sexual and foul-mouthed and be smart. I have a degree. I'm working on a Master's. These are things you can't accomplish with looks, but with brains. Don't discredit someone based on their looks. Don't write off the quiet, shy person either. Don't assume someone is less intelligent because of how they dress. Just, don't be an asshole and treat people like they're stupid? Just a thought.

And for the person I got defensive with this morning: if you're reading this, I truly do apologize. You didn't deserve my bitchiness.

Monday, September 28, 2015

You Don't Have to be Sexual to get the Attention of People That Matter to You

The Internet is a huge place full of people and information. I love the Internet. I love social media and the global community it creates, but I'm going to get real fucking serious here, and pretty damn honest. Yes, I flirt with guys online, and sometimes it leads to an exchange of pictures. I'm a consenting adult, in full control of my own sexuality. It's harmless fun, "spank material" if you will, with other consenting adults. Imagine my surprise tonight when I got a private message from someone I have a hell of a lot of respect for (we'll call him "L" for privacy reasons, since he is a public figure) telling me that one of my spank material guys often inappropriately messages minors. I was horrified (even if my initial response seemed flippant) and grossed out. I stewed on it for hours. I messaged L back asking "how the hell do we help young girls protect themselves?"

I completely understand what it's like to be an insecure teen, having a mad crush on a gorgeous, unattainable guy (or girl, whatever). Suddenly, after weeks or months of yearning, that person looks at you, or, in the world of the Internet, likes your Instagram photo, likes your Tweet. Inside, your heart flutters, and you think "they finally noticed me!" It's elating. Even as an adult I get that way sometimes, everyone gets a little star-struck. But when you're a teenager, it can be problematic when your obsession is a legal adult and you are not.

So where does it go from there? Adults on the Internet have a certain responsibility to interact with people appropriately. When someone is clearly under age (especially if their profile says their age) it is incredibly inappropriate to leave comments of a sexual nature. Bottom line. I don't care how much older a person looks than their age, they're still a kid and unable to provide consent. I liked L's response to how he handles responding to his fans online:
"You'll notice I only ever respond to people on IG [ed: that's Instagram] with a none (sic) romantic reply. I never leave hearts or sex stuff.. ever. I want the fans that interact with me to know that you don't have to be sexual to get the attention of people that matter to you."
 Emphasis on that last line is mine. It may seem hypocritical, coming from someone outwardly sexual like myself, but that statement is so, so important. I get the lack of confidence, I get the elation at being noticed, I get it, but by putting yourself out there sexually, as a minor, you're not only attracting negative attention, but the wrong people. Because there are, sadly, people out there that will exploit the vulnerabilities of insecure teens and that leads to a downward spiral of potential sexual abuse. No. It is sexual abuse. Teens can't consent, and if you exploit them when they're vulnerable, knowing that you're attractive enough to get what you want from an emotionally fragile, naive teenager, you're a sexual predator of the worst kind, and I don't have any more time for you.

So what the hell do we do? Well, let's get rid of this bullshit patriarchal idea that girls are only worth how their bodies appear, and that they must always present themselves as desirable to get attention. I was that ugly, fat girl, and as an adult, well, I look pretty on Instagram but I'm pounding away at my keyboard right now with a horrible pimply mess on my face and hair that's gone too many days without washing. Men still find me desirable, even when they see me gross as fuck. It's because I'm intelligent, confident, and assertive. Confidence and assertiveness I had to learn, they didn't come over night. I figured this out on my own, but that was really pre-Internet and social media, so it  was a different time.

The question is, how do we help girls now find their confidence, to attract the right people into their lives? A lot of it is education and parental involvement. We hear sensationalist news reports about online predators, but are we having actual two-way dialogues with kids about how they present themselves online? Actual, true conversations that don't involve shaming? A true predator can easily identify and exploit a vulnerability. There are a lot of resources online, and a few links I found interesting to start with:

How To Have "The Talk" With Your Kids (About Internet Safety, That Is)
Raising Confident Daughters in a Changing World
Talking to Kids and Teens about Social Media and Sexting
A Girl's Nude Photo, and Altered Lives

I don't pretend to have answers on this. It's a tricky, complicated subject that needs to be approached with sensitivity, and honestly, the best way is to start a dialogue with each other and also step back and look at our own interactions online. I welcome any conversation or additional resources.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Goth Subculture and My Personal Journey of Discovery

Recently, I was asked by someone not to change too much, because they liked me the way I was. And all I could think of was "I'm not changing." However, after some reflection, I realized that to some people, it may well seem that I'm changing. I can assure you that I really am not, but it's incredibly freeing to be able to express myself visually what I have felt since I was a teenager. As an adult, Goth is so much more attainable.

Last night I couldn't sleep, so I pulled up YouTube on my tablet to watch some videos, and I looked up a video by the Offspring that always stuck with me: Gotta Get Away. This video came out in 1993 I believe, so I would have been 13. Grunge was starting to become popular, and so many taboo things were becoming mainstream. The reason this particular video has stuck with me for so long is that it was really the first time I had been exposed in mainstream culture to people with body modifications. In this video there is a bald young man with two septum rings and pierced nipples, and young men covered in tattoos. Something in me clicked. Something felt right. The music of the 1990's fueled my creativity, Bands like Type O Negative brought a dark aesthetic that I identified with. The lyrics had meaning, and I would often listen for hours while writing poetry or drawing. As a teenager who had (as of yet undiagnosed) depression, I felt that deep connection, and I didn't feel alone.

Anyone who has known me for a long time knows I have always dressed in black (to the point that when I started wearing pink my Mom asked if I was okay) and have been into heavier makeup. I had a spiked collar, and lots of jewelry. I dabbled in Goth, got my toes a little wet. I used white face paint instead of foundation (WHY) and always wanted to be serious and sombre in pictures. At 15, I discovered Wicca. As I got older my spiritual beliefs evolved away from Wicca to general Paganism and my makeup improved (no more white face paint, thank god). I still wore primarily black, and I listened to a lot of metal, darker music, and a lot of other genres.

Goth culture has become more and more accessible to me via the Internet. I held back a lot when I was younger because I was the literal black sheep of my friend group. Even now, I don't know any other Goths, really. I was also afraid of the elitism in the subculture, and ostracism by "normal" society. One thing I have learned as an adult, as I advance into my 30's, is to stop caring what other people think. I got my first tattoo at 30. I started my second one at 32. Now, at 35, I have my snakebites pierced. I have wanted that piercing since I can remember. At least 17 years. And now I have it. I know a lot of people would think I'm trying to act young, or that I'm going through a phase, but I assure you, I'm not. This is who I always have been, just held back by fear. So I have the black claws, I have the tattoos, I have the piercing. Granted, I always say Goth is how you feel inside, not necessarily how you look, but I feel so much more comfortable in my skin being able to visually express myself. I may not have the awesome clothes (they're expensive and I'm useless at DIY anything) but I feel liberated and happy. I'm not trying to please anyone else any more, which is the cycle I keep getting into. I'm pleasing myself. I'm happy. And I'm still me.