If it looks like a slut…

*Note: profanity and ‘I AM WOMAN HEAR ME ROOOAAAAAR’ ahead. 

I’m going to admit some things in this post that I haven’t said directly in the past, things I’ve hinted at but never officially ‘confirmed.’ But the things need to be admitted so that the rest of this story makes sense – and this story has been weighing on me for a little while now, so I’d rather admit things that maybe I would have wanted to keep quiet, in lieu of saying nothing at all.

Here goes: Last week I was slut-shamed by my therapist.

Quick background: I’ve been seeing this person for about three-and-a-half years, and he’s absolutely wonderful. He was the perfect person to get me through the end of one relationship into the beginning and end of another; he’s given me a new outlook on life that I never would have found on my own. I don’t see him that often anymore, save for a check-in every four-to-six months, but I usually cherish his advice and love the hour I get to chat with him about everything and nothing.

I realized just before the Savannah trip in November that I hadn’t seen him for nearly five months, and figured the end of the year would be a good chance to check-in again; my word, the last time I saw him no one was married and yoga teacher training was a distant dream. Originally, I assumed it would be a normal check-in, hi, how are you, how is your eating; but as life likes to do sometimes, there was a bit of a curveball instigated by the wedding last weekend, and it was extremely reassuring to know I’d be talking out some of my confusion with an old friend. I’m not going to go into too many details and I’m not going to give a play-by-play of the session, but here’s what happened: after discussing recent events in comparison to what’s happened to me in the past two years, my therapist turned to me and said this: “I think you’ve got the right attitude! Keep reminding yourself there is no reason to bring the past into the present. But LB, remember you shouldn’t jump into bed with guys so quickly. Make this one work for it a little bit, at least!”

On the surface, it doesn’t sound like much. Standard advice that’s beaten into all of us, right? Girls, don’t sleep with a guy right away, and don’t sleep with a lot of guys or you’ll be a slut and no one will want you. Self-respecting men don’t date sluts. Pretty simple, right?  Except it’s not simple at all. It’s actually a really fucking complicated scenario, and those scolding words are minimizing that.

I mean, let’s break it down now. I am a grown woman. I make the decisions about MY body, and it is MY choice who I do or do not sleep with, and when. It’s not anyone’s place, in particular my therapist’s place, to tell me what I choose to do and who I choose to do it with is wrong, or shameful. I’m so SICK of the notion that women need to use sex as a tool to keep men interested, like it’s currency, something we DEIGN to do, unless there’s something in it for us, like a piece of jewelry or the want of a man. Sex is a healthy and normal part of life and relationships, and I will not be told that the best way to make sure a guy stays interested is to hold out and leave us both with blue balls. Because GUESS WHAT: women enjoy having sex too. Mind-blowing. I know.

Slut-shaming runs so much deeper than merely calling someone a slut. I don’t care if someone wants to call me a slut. Don’t believe me? THEN GO FOR IT. You think your words hurt me? You think it’s anything I haven’t heard before? I’ve called myself worse things than you could ever call me. What’s weighing on me is not that my therapist actually called me a slut (because he didn’t), but the idea that he was encouraging me to use sex as a tool to get something (attention or desire), while simultaneously chastising me for having a healthy sex life as a single woman. News flash: I make no apologies for the decisions that I’ve made with regards to my body and I don’t regret a damn thing in my life, sexually or otherwise. And frankly, at the end of the day, if there is a guy that decides he’s no longer interested in me because we’ve had sex once, I don’t feel bad for me. I feel bad for him – how boring that you think sex is at its peak when you’re having it with someone new for the first time.

I’m going to step off my soapbox now and take a deep breath. I so rarely see my therapist anymore that it’s not worth it to make a huge stink with him – and honestly, I think he meant well; I know he wants the best for me, having watched me go through a lot of heartbreak in a short period of time. I know people see and hear and experience slut shaming to levels that are so far and away beyond mine. But I’m just sick of hearing these comments. I’m sick of it, especially as a 27-year-old single woman in New York City. I will not be shamed for the choices I’ve made because I stand by every single one of them. And always remember: neither should you.

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An Open Letter to Someone Who Probably Doesn’t Read This Blog

Dear T.C.,

Normally I’d start a letter with pleasantries: hope you’ve been well! It’s been a while! What’s new? But this isn’t one of those letters. I do hope you’ve been well, and it has been a while, but I don’t care what’s new in your life. I don’t care about your life at all. I stopped caring about your life after that last text message and I stopped caring about you shortly after you told me “I promise” and then we never saw each other again.

I felt the need to write you a letter to say two very significant things: fuck you. But also, thank you.

This weekend, with the new moon, I said goodbye to a lot of things. I said goodbye to the person you met on the platform so many months ago, the one with these convoluted fantasies about a meet-cute on the subway that clouded her judgment, the one who let you say things that never should have been said. I said goodbye to the idealistic dreams of someone who was hiding a broken heart behind alcohol and men and poor life decisions, and I really said goodbye to the girl who was so terrified of being alone that she let someone manipulate her for months, in some desperate plea to be loved. I blame me for a lot of her qualities, but I blame you a lot too. Maybe even a little more. Because even though I’m saying goodbye to that girl, there are pieces that I’m learning I can’t get rid of, not yet, and those pieces are your fault.

You took a dreamer and turned her into a hard shell, piling on armor surrounded by nails, so desperately afraid to let anyone get close again that she purposely closed herself off for an entire year. You took someone who trusted easily and gifted her with such deep-seeded anxiety at the idea of someone knowing anything serious about her because she’s afraid they’ll throw it back in her face. You took someone who saw the best in people first and made sure that she looked at anyone’s motives as malicious; everyone is just another person trying to stomp all over her heart.

But for all of that, for all of those qualities that I hate, I also want to thank you. Thank you for toughening me up before a long year of difficult decisions, and thank you for walking away completely with no explanation, because it made it so much easier to forget you. Closing myself off means that this year has been the most introspective I’ve ever had, and it finally gave me the strength to grow up. Refusing to put myself out there gave me the courage to start saying “no” to things in favor of a night with just myself, something I never thought I’d be comfortable with. Thank you for turning me into a shell of my former self, because it was time to shed that shell anyway, and find a new place where I can continue to grow.

And most importantly, thank you for giving me all of those barriers. After holding onto them like a child with a lollipop for so many months, it was a wonderful surprise to find out all it took to start breaking them down, just a bit, was an unexpected favor from my last wedding this year, and a Sunday afternoon watching football in Queens.

So goodbye – forever and for real this time. And fuck you.

But also? Thanks.

LB.

Nineteen

“It’s the last chance I have to act like 19 year-old LB again!”

The scene: joking around with my lovely friend M in her apartment after work on a Monday. Since she and her N live on top of our subway stop, I’ll usually stop by a few times a week for a quick visit on my way home from work, a chance to catch up on our days as though we’re not in constant contact via text and Instagram anyway. M and I were joking about our fast-approaching college reunion, and how we both ambitiously signed up for the 9am yoga class on Saturday; I made the point that the class is free to attend, so while it will be nice to make it, I’m certainly not going to hold back on Friday night, being around old friends for the first time together in half a decade, just so I can wake up early and stretch. I don’t know why I keep saying I’m going to regress to 19-year old LB, instead of 18, 20 or 21. I was 19 during my sophomore year at school, and that was EASILY the worst year of my college life – the year I was most entrenched in my eating disorder, the year my grades fell like they hadn’t my entire life, and the year I had my first panic attack, I don’t look back with fondness on sophomore year for a minute, and yet I keep saying I’m going to regress to that person come May 29.

I wonder sometimes why certain memories stay with us longer than others. Years of my life are condensed to two or three vivid memories; sometimes it’s a snippet of a family vacation in Disney World, watching a show with my father on one side and my sister on the other, fireworks and the humid Florida air, dank and sweet with sounds of childhood, and other times it’s sledding one night down the ice path my parents carved into our driveway. College memories are at extremes, either vivid and still cringe-worthy, or faded but sweet, or missing altogether save for a few minutes at a pregame that start up again the next morning. My sophomore year of college has an interesting hue to the memories that remain, a shiny bronze of new friends from sorority rush, the elated high of being part of a We and the promise of a semester abroad; all tinged with a murky green from a year of firsts, first panic attack, first almost-failed class, first re-emergence of the eating disorder I pretended to grow past a year before. I was looking at old photos recently to get in the college spirit, and I can’t help but think that I look like such a child, and I feel like such a child in memories, yet I thought I was making adult choices at the time.

Looking at my life as a 26 year old compared to life at 19 is really interesting, both in the similarities and the differences. The last time I cut my hair significantly was at 19; at the time I let myself be pushed into it by Mama B, who has always thought my hair looked better shorter (her words). I wasn’t ready for the change, the perfectionist in me resisting change like an awkward brush by a subway stranger, and I hated the haircut almost instantly after my hairdresser dangled the severed ponytail in front of me like a prize bull tail from a fight. I got my first tattoo at 19; I brought a half-formed idea into the shop in Buenos Aires recommended to me by my favorite bartender from the only bar that streamed NFL games. The artist listened to my idea and drew something completely different and I took a look at it and really disliked it but was too nervous to say anything other than “okay.” And at 19 I didn’t care that I had someone who loved me, because even though he really did, I didn’t love myself, and I let that guide me through a confusing mess of a year where I relied on someone to make me feel better, and when he didn’t, or couldn’t, I would find someone else who did. At 19 I thought by 26 I would be engaged or married, maybe even to the boy who loved me, and I thought I would have long learned to live with my disordered eating, something I was convinced would never let me go.

Now at 26, I just cut the same 10 inches off of my hair after a similarly impulsive decision that was egged on by Mama B, only this time I wanted it, and I laughed as the scissors cut deep into the pink curls. I can’t stop staring at myself in the mirror, so in love with the almost-bob, debating going shorter next time, already used to the look yet still pleasantly surprised every time I pass a mirror. Now at 26, I have five tattoos, and I’m working with my artist on the sixth; he and I worked for four months on my last one to nail the design, and we have another five months for this one, though I trust him so much I would gladly give him a portion of blank skin and say “Go.” Now at 26, I don’t really care that there isn’t someone in my life to love me like the boy from 19, because I love myself, really love who I’ve become and who I’m becoming all at once. Now at 26, I don’t really care that my life went in a different direction than I thought it would by now, because at 19 I didn’t realize how fluid life is, how quickly things change, the ebbs and flows of adulthood, moving you forward and backward like a game.

Maybe it won’t be the worst thing, to revert to 19 year old LB for a few nights. Though memories from that time feel more unpleasant than pleasant, I know so many of my decisions were driven by a reckless abandon that I still have and that I still enjoy. Maybe at the time it was driven to find something that I thought I needed, constantly tapping into an emerging free spirit by searching for happiness, for validation, for everything in all the wrong places. It’s a different story now though, less manic pixie dream girl, more actions and expected or anticipated consequences, holding back at the last minute sometimes or thinking about things a split second too long for the jump into the unknown to be fun. I can’t revert back to 19 again for a number of reasons, and for even more reasons I wouldn’t want to. But maybe for a few days it’ll be fun to revert back to the good parts of 19, that Say Yes spirit and the voice that screams GO, a chance to show 19 year old LB there’s a way to do things like short hair, tattoos and a slow-burning love for change and the unknown, without losing yourself somewhere along the way.

Clumsy Me

I am a klutz. I trip constantly, I’m always walking into tables or falling off the couch, I spill food on or around myself at least once per meal (including snacks), I have more burn scars on my hands from forgetting a potholder or an oven mitt and my coworkers have long since stopped asking “what happened?!” when they see another gargantuan bruise on me, having figured out that the only thing beating me up is gravity. I don’t know where I get it from because neither my parents nor brother are even close to my level of clumsy hot mess (my twinster T gets close, but I’ve got the edge), but either way, I have the clumsy gene and there’s nothing I can do about it.

This weekend I managed to injure my lone remaining good foot while racing to the pool area from my parent’s deck in the beautiful Saturday sun, in desperate need of the Bose stereo so mama B, my brother’s wonderful girlfriend D, my lovely friend M and my work buddy S and I could continue a dance party to the best of the 60s. Still grooving with the stereo as I ran from the fire pit past a row of lawn chairs, I sped up to turn a corner and smacked my foot directly into the metal leg of a rogue lounge chair and exhaled the loudest “MOTHER F&!)#*@!&R” I’ve ever uttered in my entire life. Exactly a week after twisting my left ankle so badly it still hurts to walk down stairs, I was now hobbling around with a likely-broken toe on my right foot. The crowd from inside came out to see what I’d gotten myself into, probably expecting a snapping turtle attack, and instead we all just shook our heads and laughed: of course LB ran into the lounge chair. Of course.

In most aspects of my life, I’m fairly well organized and put-together. My desk at work would beg to differ, but my inbox is semi-organized, I would never wear black shoes with a brown belt, and I’ve gotten into a great routine at home to stop magazines from piling in the corner and keep empty wine bottles from an extended stay in my recycling bin. I even organized my closet a few months back, summer dresses next to jumpsuits next to blazers next to skirts (aside: yes I have a jumpsuit section and it’s the best part of my closet. End aside), and it’s stayed organized for much longer than I’d ever anticipated. All in all, I’m a fairly organized and put-together person. In fact, I’m really only clumsy with myself.

“Clumsy with myself” is another way to describe the reckless abandon I’ve been integrating into my life these days, throwing my heart around like a rubber ball and waiting to see if it breaks or bounces back. It’s been such a weird year so far, 2014, and as we’re officially in the second half of the year, I’ve been thinking a lot about what might happen, or what I want to happen, before it’s 2015. Some of it’s silly, like getting a new couch and finally getting rid of my horrid Ikea dresser in lieu of a bookshelf; other goals are bigger, work goals, financial goals. And despite knowing and setting and wanting these goals, I’m letting my reckless, clumsy heart direct how I feel about progress to-date, measuring self-worth in days, weeks, months dealing with everything on my own, all the time. It’s clumsy and careless and full abandon and there are some days where I just want to SCREAM at myself to get over the short-lived happy love and get back to reality, paying attention to the pragmatic and ignoring all the little wisps of spontaneity trying to pull me back to the klutzy, clumsy self I am.

In desperate need of heels this morning, I tried gingerly slipping my feet into my favorite “short” (read: 4 inches) stilettos, hoping that I could break my longest-ever streak of 6 days without heels in the office. Not only was there a good amount of pain when I stood up in my “comfortable” shoes, but in trying to sit down as quickly as possible, I kicked out the wheels on my chair and fell ass-first on the floor. I sat laughing like an idiot, as my coworkers shook their heads and laughed with me, Clumsy LB, at it again. It’s not the most glamorous description, and sometimes it’s painful, but being clumsy with gravity and with myself may just be another ridiculous aspect of my life I need to get used to. Perhaps it’s time to re-embrace the reckless abandon: on from the small infinity of a fast love lost and into the new unknown, counting the bruises, spilled food and broken toes as milestones along the way.