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Not to gloss over last night’s post (and yes, I firmly agree that he needs to be punched – the problem is, I can’t find anyone to do it), but I’m trying to do this thing where I actually blog regularly, as opposed to sporadically, and… twice a month at maximum.

This weekend Sparkle Pants and I set out to photograph Duke University. We’d driven through the campus on Friday and were all set with batteries charged Saturday morning (okay, afternoon) when we woke up.

And then we got there… and discovered that the entire Raleigh/Durham area (or “the Triangle” for all y’all keepin’ it real) was at one of the seventeen events we hadn’t noticed were planned for that very day. Overnight an entire circus had sprung up, a run in support of animals, a run for children, a grandmother’s knitting convention, the annual tearing down and rebuilding of the school just because Duke students are spoiled rotten and they could do that if they wanted to… We decided we’d try the Gardens, which I’ve never been to but have heard from everyone are amazing… but there was a wedding on and no parking whatever to be found.

Vowing to come back next weekend, we drove around aimlessly for awhile, until we were forced to choose between “Downtown Durham” and I-85. I chose Downtown, because D comes before E which is the letter 8 starts with. It was an alphabetical adventure.

We ended up in the Tobacco District, where they were setting up for a battle of the bands on the lawn that night. We wandered up and down, past the offices of WUNC, our local NPR affiliate… and then I saw it. Extended until June or July something… a display of paintings, photographs and handwritten letters documenting Nelson Mandela’s time in prison in South Africa. Now, this is exactly up Sparkle’s alley, and very much up mine as well, so we crossed the fake river and went inside.

Y’all, it was heart breaking. Reading Mandela’s own words about his attempts to grow a garden, about the death of a beloved tomato plant which he uprooted and tenderly buried like anyone would a pet or loved one, about his realization of the importance of family and friendship, of touch and love and hands holding hands, shoulders supporting shoulders. He spoke of thinking he’d be imprisoned behind guard towers and barbed wire until he died, that he never dreamed that outside the walls of the prison, the tide was turning in their favor, apartheid was being overthrown… Nelson Mandela has always been one of my very few real heroes, but to hear his voice speaking on the small monitor inside the exhibit, to read his words in his own handwriting, to see the pictures he had drawn and filled in with such bright, bright colors – I couldn’t help but internalize that moment when he stepped into freedom. When he saw the faces of people he loved, people he never thought he’d see again. When he walked out of the prison not to another day’s work at the quarry, but into a new South Africa, one that has made strides toward equality and overthrowing racism that we in the United States only dream about even today…

There was no photography allowed in the building, so you’ll have to see the exhibit itself if it comes anywhere near you. I just photographed the Lucky Strike tower and the waterfalls gushing over No Smoking signs. But the eye is the best camera, and memory the best film, and I have those images in an album in my heart. And I know if it can happen there, if hatred can be overthrown and lives rebuilt, it can happen anywhere.

Even here in the United States.

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From now on I should only listen to those people who offer me both honesty and acceptance, or so says my horoscope for today, Tuesday the 22nd of May 2007. Sometimes it feels like I am overwhelmed with people like this, surrounded by true friends… other times it feels like I can count those honest and accepting people on one hand… or one finger, or even none at all.

As anyone who knows me or reads this blog with any regularity (and all of you who read this blog period know me, so really there’s no difference in those two groups) knows, I tend to be exuberantly, excessively passionate about the people that I choose to care about. I let people in very easily… for some reason, I still have the ability to trust, and to be sometimes painfully honest and open about my life and my feelings. In the past few months, I feel like that quality (and after much thought I have decided it’s a quality, damnit a VICTORY that I’m able to be that way), has been used, abused and torn to shreds, stomped on, shat on, pissed on and set on fire.

And yet, I continue to hope for the good in people, and the good in God, and the idea that it’ll all work out in the end if I just keep on going.

A few weeks ago, I lost someone I considered to be a friend… She sent me emails full of vitriol and anger, but I knew I’d lost her the second I started dating a boy, and right in front of her (how dare I) about a month before. She stopped talking to me, stopped confiding in me, started talking about me behind my back…and ultimately disappeared from my life completely, leaving something of a shambles behind her. I don’t care if “something of a shambles” doesn’t make grammatical sense – I rather like the sound of it.

The funny thing is, I also lost the boy I was dating who “caused” all of it. That is the one thing, however, that I don’t blame him for. Her heterophobia is not his fault (although it was his fault when he used her as an excuse to pick a fight with me because my friends didn’t like him (1 of them) when his friends hated and insulted me). The reason I ultimately lost the boy? … After dating for less than a month, I still refused to have sex with him. He needed, he said, a physical relationship (I don’t know what else you would call much of our relationship, though… basically what he wanted was the ability to stick his penis into my vagina, and I said no, I wasn’t ready.)

So, he pretended that things were okay, and told me he had no problem waiting. And then slowly stopped talking to me. He’d call me late at night only after everything else in his life had been attended to. He stopped text messaging me or returning my messages, and then got angry when I asked him why I hadn’t heard from him in days. Ultimately, after my asking him multiple times to just tell me what was going on, with no response from him, he blatantly ignored me for a week and then said he was “cutting his losses”… he was getting out because I wasn’t putting out.

That was the last I heard from him.

We were all taken in. My friends and I… people who don’t normally trust that boys are capable of being real human beings. We believed what he said, *I* believed him when he said he was crazy about me and he’d wait until I was ready. And it turned out to be an act – it turned out to be an ultimatum… either have heteronormative sex with me right now or I’m walking away.

Well of course I chose the walking away.

Call me crazy, but I think that sexual contact should mean something, and so I am wrecked over the fact that I kissed him, that I wasted kisses on him, that I believed he was who he claimed to be… and that no one warned me, not a single person. I ultimately blame myself for being taken in, and being screwed over. And knowing that no one is going to stop him from moving on to the next girl and pressuring her into sleeping with him – and in this town, it’s not hard to find a lot of girls who will. His behavior was absolutely disgusting, and I’m still in shock over it. I’m angry about it. I’m not angry at him for what he did to *me*, I’m angry that he thought he had the right to treat any human being the way he treated me. I’m angry that I met him when he assistant directed my performance of The Vagina Monologues, and so I assumed certain things, things he claimed to be true… that ultimately weren’t. He wasn’t feminist friendly. He was not an ally.

He was a wolf in sheep’s clothing, and he’s going to do it again. It is all I can do not to resort to egging his car, or slashing his tires, or starting a website devoted to making sure no girl ever falls victim to his bullshit again.

Because you can’t just say you’re crazy about someone, that however and whatever they want this relationship to be, they’re in… and then utterly and completely vanish from their lives because they won’t open their legs. And you can’t do that and call yourself anything but a misogynist. You can’t do that and work in the feminist community. You can’t do that, you can’t sit in my living room and mock The Monologues or bitch about how much you hate your friends and then turn around and put them ahead of your girlfriend every single time and wonder why it is that they want to know what the hell happened to change you so drastically in such a small amount of time.

The truth was, he hadn’t changed. I’d just bought the lie, and then the mask came off. And I hadn’t been wearing one. And he’d been wearing several.

I’m able to write about this now because I’m over the “us” of it all. I’m over *him*… in fact, I wasn’t even sure I liked him enough to keep the relationship going much longer. I was still testing the waters. I was still figuring out if I could trust him. But to a certain extent, as I do with all of my friends, all of the people I spend time with, I had let him in to some small extent.

Pissed and shat all over, that was me. Twice in as many weeks. Actually twice in less than two weeks. First him, then her.

So when my horoscope says to listen only to those people who are honest and accepting, I have to wonder if my radar isn’t off. If maybe I have no clue who the people are that I know that are honest and accepting, and safe. If maybe I’ve got this whole friendship thing wrong somehow. If maybe I should just shut down. Although that means they win.

If you’re one of those honest and accepting people, feel free to say so now. If you’re not, feel free to say so as well. I’d just like to know into which baskets I should put my eggs.

Life has been stopped up with massive amounts of adult-type things lately. Communicating, and then snarking, and now full-out screaming at my bank. Submitting applications for a new apartment. Trying to find free furniture. Making sure I never spend any money at all. Throwing away Credit Card applications. Not being able to afford to go to the doctor due to said Bank mistakes, calling the pharmacy, having things faxed… How adult is it to have something faxed? Faxing was something that was very big right between my being a child and an adult. By the time I grew up it was something people did in the past…it was passé, and yet, here I am faxing things. I never even learned to use a fax machine for Exclamatory Tone of Voice: [RELIGION RELATED NOUN]’s sake…Drinking excessively…Yes, drinking. Vodka, wine, beer, I don’t care, hand it over. Make this end of the semester thing a little easier to bear.

And school things: bombing a final in a class I cared a lot about, but doing well in a course that was amazingly difficult and mind-blowing. Signing up for summer courses, trying to get research approval so that I can get my fellowship money, communicating with the Financial Aid office. No, you can’t sign up for classes until you pay for them; no, we can’t give you the money to pay for your courses until you’re signed up for them…You can’t take this class, even though it’s listed as open. No, you can’t have that one either. Here, have a donut. Ah! Kidding! No donuts for you! Buy your own donuts!

I hear Andrew Bird’s new album is simply fabulous, and am tracking it down to try it out myself… stomping and slurping my way through the IRB approval process for my thesis research, although the amount of money they’re giving me and the manner in which they’re dispensing it is going to make it impossible for me to do the project the way I had previously planned… re-thinking. GTD GTD GTD.

Meanwhile, I’m just drinking lots of water. I know that’s good for me! It’s something, right?!

P.S. In 5 days, I will have been alive for 10,000 days. I think this calls for a celebration, no? How about drinking and donuts?

Dios le bendiga, César Chávez. Things were better when you were around… now they’re just falling apart.

They’re selling bath towels with your face on them. Sandals, too. No one showed up when they were stripping farmworker rights from the minimum wage bill.

Viva la huelga, César. Viva la causa.

Las cosas paracen malas ahora, yo sé…Pero yo prometo que vamos a hacerlas mejor. Prometo que vamos a fijarlo

It seems like there should be something of grand importance which I can write here – after all, here I am, still alive. I’ve clearly been given this gift, and I have yet to discover what to do with it.

A long time ago…maybe seven years or so, my best friend got very very upset about something, came over to my house at about 11 p.m., and we decided to take off and drive to Lake Tahoe. Now, my hometown is only about an hour and a half away, counting the winding up into the Sierra Nevada, but it was dark and we were half crazed on adrenaline and had no idea what we were doing – we just knew we had to get out of town, and drive. I remember there was a song playing on the radio at one point, that pop song “My Own Worst Enemy,” you know, the one that goes “can we forget about the things I said when I was drunk/I didn’t mean to call you that…” I remember we sang along and applied it to our own relationship because everyone said we shared a brain; were two halves of a same person.

We stopped at some all night diner on the Nevada side and shared a slice of apple pie with ice cream, and then, not knowing what else to do we decided to drive back. It must have been somewhere around three or four in the morning when our tire exploded. We were driving 75 or 80 miles an hour, coming down out of the mountains right where 50 actually begins to look like a freeway. We came around a corner and there was a cliff overlooking…hell, it must have been Shingle Springs, California… We should have been terrified. We should have gone right over the cliff…but somehow we were able to pull the car over to the side of the road like it was nothing. Then we decided, as only teenaged girls can do, that we wanted to park on the other side of the highway, so we started the car up again and drove back to the other side. It was four by then. We walked half a mile in the dark to the nearest Shell Station and made friends with some guys who changed our tire so that we could drive back home.

I don’t think it was until we were back in the car that we came to this realization…we were both very involved in our church at that point, we both had ideas about what was expected of us…but I think most importantly, we had a real sense of some sort of greater purpose. As we drove back down the mountain, and looked out over that cliff…we both realized that there was absolutely no reason for us to be alive. That it was only some sort of divine providence that had kept us alive. We were imbued with a sense of something bigger than ourselves. There was something we were supposed to do with our lives. There was a reason we were left alive. We weren’t finished.

I spend a lot of time thinking about that night, now that she’s been dead for over four years. I think about the things that she did after that night, about what she brought to the people around her. I think of what I’ve done…I wonder if the thing God kept me alive for has already passed me by. I wonder if I did whatever I was supposed to do; or talked to whomever I was supposed to talk to. I wonder if she was the reason we stayed alive, and the next blown tire…the next school shooting, the next whatever…

I suppose each of us has a purpose every day, don’t we, though. Every one of us has a new chance to do or say something that makes a difference, that changes things for the better. That helps people. It doesn’t mind if we see providence in the big things…it’s the fact that we wake up every morning that means today is the day. Today is the day to do something about life. Today is the day to live.

I love you all so much, you’ll never know.

Currently Reading

Eve Ensler, Insecure At Last

Brettell and Sargent, eds. Gender in Cross-Cultural Perspective

Quoth the Raven:

"Girls aren't beautiful, they're pretty. Beautiful is too heavy a word to assign to a girl. Women are beautiful because their faces show that they know, that they have lost something and picked up something else."

-Henry Rollins
October 2017
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