I am not your unicorn

Yesterday, I received this message from someone I’d been chatting to briefly online:

“So you game, spend all day in pyjamas, and love being submissive. Would it sound extremely creepy to say you’re literally my perfect idea of a girlfriend?”

I think that, a lot of the time, that would come off as creepy.

But my response, eventually, was: “haha no don’t worry, I’ve gotten it before. Rest assured, I possess a myriad of flaws.”

If you ever get to know me, I didn’t add, you’ll find that out.

~

The problem is that I have heard it before. A lot. And, to a certain extent, I can almost understand why. I’m not unattractive, I’m generally polite and articulate enough, I have a variety of interests and think I can hold a passable conversation most of the time, I’m musical, I do game, and I love being submissive.

On paper, I’m not bad. On paper, I’m more than one guy’s idea of the “perfect girlfriend.”

But the thing is – as any of my exes and good friends could testify to – that’s not me.

Because I’m also an academic, so I’ll talk about paradigms and Baudrillard and jump from thought to thought with links so tenuous and far-fetched that I’d have to write a paper to explain it to myself, let alone to you. I’m a music nerd, and an elitist one at that.^ Mild autism means that I’ll say the wrong things at the wrong times far too often. I’m argumentative as anything, and a little too open about the way I feel regarding engrained social narratives.^^

I have mental health issues which I manage, but sometimes I can’t help but message friends till I know they’re exhausted and overwhelmed. The level of self-absorption that I am capable would be almost impressive, were it not so unappealing. I will cling to you like a limpet, force affection and love onto you till it is cloying and painful, and you have to run to escape the sickening scent. There are skeletons in my proverbial closet that I’m still trying to excavate, and in some cases I’m not even sure what I’m looking for.^^^

~
There are many more, but I think I’ve made my point.

And it’s why, whenever I see or hear a message like that, something twists in my gut. Because I’ve heard it from ex-friends and ex-lovers, and somehow that makes the plunge so much more painful; because no matter how much I do, I’m still as easy to abandon as I was when I was eleven years old and alone on the playground, working through music theory and fantasy novels the size of my head.

And what can I say to something like that? What can I say when I’m a shiny unicorn in someone’s eyes, and I know that if I let them come closer they’re going to see that my horn is a trick of my light, that my coat is speckled with dark hairs and dust.^^^^

What can I say, but I am flawed. I am not perfect, and you will brush this off as modesty and not remember that I warned you.

I am not your unicorn.

And I’m tired of telling you that.

~

~

^Tchaikovsky is my bae and I will fight you.
^^My thesis is about this in India. Feel free to read it, because it makes sense for one.
^^^None of them are literal skeletons. I think.
^^^^My horse looks like this, and she’s the most perfect thing ever. Maybe there’s something to that.

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Ten exercise woes of a girl with large…bras

Note: So, I’ve New-Years-Resolutioned myself into regular exercise. On the upside, I can now run for more than a minute without collapsing in a sweat-soaked heap of tears and misery.

On the downside, I’m writing this article instead of playing Assassin’s Creed. But them’s the breaks:

  1. Sport bras actually do not work. They’re a lie. THE PATRIARCHY MADE THEM UP.
  2. Pain. All the pain. Back pain. Breast pain. This is in addition to gym pain, which deserves its own category in every medical dictionary and can only be cured by copious amounts of sugar. (Totally a scientifically-proven cure.)
  3. It’s kind of astonishing the amount of sweat that can accumulate between breasts, or around them, or between them and the itchy underwire of a sport bra. And there is no subtle or classy way to wipe down one’s cleavage. (Trust me, I’ve tried to come up with one.)
  4. It should be completely socially acceptable to support one’s breasts with one’s arms.
  5. You know that stretch where you sit with your legs spread out and lean forward to grab a foot? Where you start off aiming for nose-to-knee and then progress to chest-to-knee if you’re really keen? Well, chest-to-knee has a tendency to turn into cleavage-to-knee-and-maybe-if-I-swat-really-quickly-I-can-knock-my-boob-out-of-the-way? I think my cleavage may be turning knee-shaped.
  6. Finding swimwear that fits, is supportive without being painful, and doesn’t cost more than a deposit on a small mansion, is basically impossible.
  7. Sometimes, I look myself in the mirror while I’m on a treadmill and realise, with resigned horror, that the bouncing-breasts stereotype is both really accurate and a massive lie. Accurate because holy shit that is some movement — and a massive lie because there is no way any living being could find it at all attractive.
    (Caveat: most living beings. There’s probably some amoeba out there that really dig that stuff.)
  8. It’d be nice to find a good gym tank top that doesn’t do that thing where the elastic around the bust stretches into uselessness after three uses.
  9. Gymnastics, ballet, horse riding, athletics — seriously, can someone please sit down and devise a women-dominated sport that allows for viable competitive participation past a D cup?
  10. Despite all of my complaining, I am yet to try the two bras solution. I’m planning on suffering in (very verbal) silence until someone comes up with something slightly less horrific.
    (One layer of underwire is bad enough, thank you.)

250 podcasts, a killer soundtrack, and a handful of pills: two months of survival in France

CW: personal, illness

This isn’t a happy post, but it’s looking to be a hopeful one.

There are two things I didn’t realise, before I got on a plane and found myself half a world away from home barely 24 hours later.

The first was that there is a world of difference between having a support network to touch and hear, and being forced to rely on words. That, no matter how hard you try, it’s almost impossible to not take that support occasionally for granted. It’s almost impossible not to think that the moments of cracking were just the effects of university stress – that needing to be woken up and fed and forgiven were normal.

The second was that – well, here’s the thing about medication. It helps you manage. It helps you cope. It’s not a cure.

And when it comes up against stress and strain?

It shatters.

Over the past half-year, I’d stopped having those panic attacks sans reason. I’d stopped shivering and shuddering at every phantom ghost. I’d stopped (largely) dreaming dreams that are reality, living realities that are dreams.

That changed two months ago, about five days after I got off the plane (a reversion or repeat or recyclage that no one asked for.)

I’m trapped in a chamber I love by a house that I hate, in a room that holds memories, half-imagined and half-real.

Because I am not alone. A blonde woman talks about doctor appointments, over a man with long limbs and fine cheekbones who insists on the benefits of a cohesive capitalist state. They exchange mundanities with me as I argue the need for elements of socialism and government control in a sustainable society.

I don’t know if I speak aloud, or if I am awake at all. But they follow me out the door, every morning.

~

I haunt the same cafés and the same pubs till my face is a fixture, my form a mockery.

(And a fixture is human, so I am human – fragile and stiff.)

(And I am a mockery, so I leap at shadows and snap at innocent questions.)

(I am not strong.)

Someone threatened me at 1am in a pub.  They were drunk, and I cried (and you reminded me that I get what I deserve.)

A man told me, a day or lifetime ago, that I am isolated in my head. That I care for myself and none other; that my empathy is in a chasm, unreachable. That I am nice to look at, but dull cobalt within.

I said: I care too much. I know everything about you. You speak of your home with unconscious disdain, and you cling to humanity as a lifeline against yourself. I have read a million different stories in your clothing, and in the way your hand clutched against her shoulder.

Do you want to know yourself?

I do.

Between brain and mouth came a filter, of course. Alcohol or civility, or the bone-deep sorrow.

I said: I do care. I do. I really, really do.

Those words ring hollow. They’re a plea, where there shouldn’t be one.

Fuck you, really, might have been the better option.

~

Through all of this, I’ve clutched to lifelines. To the texture of old jewelry. To the wanton self-indulgence of selfies. To the acidic scent of nail polish. To songs from Chess and Ke$ha. To a handful of pills that slide down my throat every morning, tracing sickly-sweet lines that linger for hours.

But these are silver-mercury fissures through a soul. These are deposits, rooted deep that must be excavated, that will be emptied. These are lifelines, and these are not support.

Supports and lifelines shine different colours, after all. Support is a smiling aunt embedded in an amethyst pendant. Support is the knowledge that, no matter what people say, there’s no longer any real shame in celebrating myself. Support is the ability to paint nails in any colour, to be a chameleon of vanity (childish or not.) Support is the dance that resonates through flesh and bones, the rhythm that stirs in a pub or shower.  Commonalities that resonate through place and time.

Support is the fact that it’s possible to be, if only for some hours, normal. Support is the fact that life is no longer a constant void or an endless struggle; that sometimes the darkness dissipates. Sometimes, because sometimes isn’t never. Support is a whole new discipline of academia and research emerging from nothing. New medications, new therapies. A generation of scientists reaching out to a generation of the ill, saying we know it hurts, and we’re trying now.

Support is taking a handful of pills every day. Feeling the sickly-sweet lines trace down my throat.

And knowing that today might – just might – be okay.

nightmares

Yesterday, the apocalypse came.  Scalded my skin, flaked dusty ashes through my hair.

Yesterday, the apocalypse left.  Drowned me as I woke in a pool of sweat and the stench of terror clinging to my skin.  The sheets were freezing cold, damp as my clothes.

I don’t know who I am when I stumble from my bed – whether I’m still meant to be running from demons, or if this is perhaps a blessed respite.

There are two essays due this week; I wonder if the world ending every night would halt university administration and faculty late penalties.  Perhaps they’re an inevitability, alongside death and taxes.

~

There’s a monster in my bed when I wake up, and she grips my throat tight before I can scream.

~

I fall in love once, with a guy who’s a lifeguard above the sapphire falls.  He’s so cute that I fake a stumble and a scream; plummet into the ocean below and struggle to keep my head above water.  He jumps in after, drags me out by my dress collar.  His kiss tastes of musty saliva.

My sheets reek every time he goes away.  I’ve learned to hate the smell.  It’s a petty fear in a petty reality of tangled linen and a dolphin fleece throw.

I dump him after he drives a train into my house and teams up with my dog, to start a world war.

~

On the other side, I don’t make my bed.

My mum yells.

I don’t tell her it’s because the sheets need to air.  Nightmares get trapped, swirl into dreams.  They clog me down till I’m shivering in the shower, water scalding my skin.

The apocalypse comes every night.

I’d say it goes away in the morning, but that would be a lie.

Choosing poisons: ten random tips for controlled self-destruction

1. Don’t hold that wrist under running water, no matter how much you want to watch your lifeblood dilute and spread, swirl down the drain.  Apply pressure and wait, wait because with every act of relief comes a draining cleanup.  (You’ll know you’ve exhausted this method when it stops being worth the effort.)

2. If you throw things down stairs or across rooms, make sure they only matter to you.  (Indirect cruelty is a waste of pain.)

3. Listerine clears the taste and stench of vomit from your mouth.  But every time you clear your throat, you’ll feel it rise briefly; a pungent puff of shame and self-loathing against the ghost of your fingers.  (Keep your nails short.  The stomach acid is already enough for your throat to handle.)

4. Do the groupwork first.  A fail on a solo assignment is a fail for you.  Don’t drag them down with you. (It’s not control when you’re a wayward wrecking ball, and it’s not self-destruction when someone else is crying from your self-absorption.)

5. Condoms are cheap; use them, or find someone else to burn out against. (You’re probably not the first girl whose name he doesn’t know, and you won’t be the last.  Don’t make it that much harder for someone else to say no.)

6. Go for a run in the morning, before the sun comes up and the hangover hits you.  Somewhere in that sweat-soaked trek between home and collapse, you might just reach that release you were looking for. (Take lots of water, and cry as much as you want to when it doesn’t stop your stomach emptying itself.)

7. Learn early on that if your parents care, they always will.  They’re a steel wall and you can’t break them into indifference. (Their forgiveness will burn.  If you’ve earned it you deserve it.)

8. Understand that the longer people know, about both it and you, the more and less they care.  (The less they care about the fact that you carved those lines in your leg, or that half-digested food ran over your fingers last night on the way into the drain.  The more they care about you.)

8. Don’t be surprised when you need it again after a day, or a week, or a year. (Be proud that you’ve held out so long.)

9.  No one is going to save you.  (But they’ll smile and cheer as you save yourself.)

10.  It doesn’t ever stop, not really.

But the cure for poison is liquid gold.  It’ll pool in your gut and spill from your veins.  It won’t leave you unchanged.  But it’ll flood into your cracks and crevices, and fill you with hope.

productivity in the void: learning to live with no self-esteem

This is something I’ve been struggling to write for a while; the latest in a series of blog posts I’m trying to use to explain myself to my friends and acquaintances, to people who have known me for years and people I meet on the street.  But it’s difficult to lay oneself bare in the name of self-protection.  A blog post, I tell myself, is far more coherent and comprehensible than garbled words and pleading eyes.  So here goes.

A memory has resurfaced over the past couple of days.  It’s not an old memory at all – from the beginning of the month, in fact.  It’s the night of Fire to Earth, the play I wrote and directed.  The play has just finished, and the lead actor has taken his bows.  He holds a hand to me where I sit with the orchestra, and I almost fling my cello to the side to stand and run up the stairs.

People cheer as I walk onstage; not just the audience, but the actors too.  I take my place at the centre of the stage and bow.

As I straighten, I wonder to myself: does this make up for everything I am?

And the answer comes back, predictable.  Never.

~

One of my intrinsic truths is that I am worthless.  I am a black hole that taints and tarnishes.

But here’s the thing about truths:

Eventually, you have to ask yourself, so now what?

~

I’m often accused of having a huge ego.

It’s not a particularly unjustified accusation.  I know I’m intelligent.  I know I’m not unattractive.  I know I achieve things.  I know my words can move people.

I also know that ultimately, that all means nothing.

Because I’m worse than nothing; I’m negative energy that drains and destroys.  I do not even have will to take that one step towards redemption and remove myself from the people who are foolish enough to think I’m worth their worry.

So all I can do is work and strive to make up for myself, for the fact of my existence and the blight that it brings.  I’ll go out to parties and scratch self-loathing into my legs when I get into the shower at 3am.  I’ll write stories that I won’t bother showing anyone because my mind is a putrid, rotting mess that no one should have to suffer.  I’ll carve every doubtful look and hurt word into my bones because I can’t forget

(not even for a second)

That I am worse than nothing.

And all I can do is attempt, in some way, to make up for that inescapable fact.

tonight, I will dream of fire (or: on recurring dreams and depression)

“I couldn’t care less.”

“Alright.”

~

Every night for the past couple of weeks, I’ve seen the world burn.

It’s every cliché of the apocalypse, all bundled into one.  Fire in the streets, ash raining down from the heavens like snow.

And the fear; odious oozing fear, settling into the sweat-soaked air, a veritable greenhouse effect of its own.  It’s turning the tar to quicksand, bubbling and inescapable.  Everything is dying, disintegrating, burning.

And me?

I run.  I cry and I run.  I sob, I scream, I die.

But I never stop running.

~

“Aren’t you going to apologise?”

“I was justified.”

“Right.”

~

The first night of recurring nightmares is the best; because when your eyes open and you find yourself tangled in sheets, the fact that your clothes are clinging to you and you’re shivering from the moisture of your own terror doesn’t matter.  It’s nothing to the relief, after all.

After a week, you’d think it becomes monotonous.

But it doesn’t.

Flames bleed through your dreams and into your bedroom.  There’s ash in the cereal bowl.

And the fear lingers as you try to get back to sleep, along with the never-drying sweat.

~

“You have trust issues.”

“Well, considering my history-“

“That’s right.  Always playing the victim card.”

~

The thing about the world ending every night is, there aren’t a lot of tears left for other things.  For little problems and big anxieties.

The thing about the fire licking at the edges of everything is, it makes it hard to justify doing an essay I hate, when I could be writing about something I love.

The thing about dying is, gouges on my thighs and scratches on my arms seem perfectly restrained.

The thing about the fear is, it’s hard to feel much else.

~

“Sometimes, you need to cry.”

“Now that you’ve done this one, it can only go up.”

“But you have such beautiful skin.”

“You deserve to be happy.”

~

Tonight, I’ll dream of fire.  I’ll watch the world burn.

I’ll run, I’ll cry, I’ll scream.

I’ll run.

And tomorrow, I’ll try again.

(Because otherwise, what’s the point?)