This piece originally appeared on Role/Reboot. Republished here with permission.
An email arrives from an old friend with the name of your ex-boyfriend in the subject line. In the body of the email, just this: “I’m totally shocked. When was the last time you talked to him?” You sigh, what now? Is he getting married? Having a baby? You head to Facebook, the one-stop shop for dirt on old flames. No wedding announcement, no ultrasound. Instead, there’s a video. Same crooked grin, same floppy hair, and this:
“This is a clip of me taking my first dose of Atripla, which is a combination antiretroviral drug. My name is Jake Earl, and on May 13, 2013 I was diagnosed with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).”
There’s chaos in your brain for 30 seconds before you’re able to make some sense of what you’re seeing. Order descends and you start a convoluted march through a series of reactions: Self-preservation. Nostalgia. Anger. Fear. Curiosity. Admiration? Keep reading »
Here is a collection of memories from my childhood.
I am in kindergarten, it is story time, I am wearing a turtleneck that itches at my neck and I am not feeling well. I throw up on the rug, in front of everyone, sobbing hysterically, and my father leaves the campus where he’s teaching to come pick me up, taking me straight to class with him because it was easier than taking me to the babysitter. I fall asleep in the corner of his classroom to the sound of his voice lecturing disenchanted freshmen about the Yangtze river.
My sister and I spend a hazy, humid summer in Taiwan with our mother, running amok in the streets, eating food at the night market and listening to my mother’s sisters babble over our heads in Chinese. My uncle takes me for a ride on his scooter and I wear no helmet as we careen around the corners and dart in and out of traffic near my ah-ma’s apartment. My mother brings me to the salon to get a perm, and I return to the United States nut-brown and curly haired. When I run to my father at the airport, he holds me at arm’s length. “Who is this?!” he jokes. “You’re not my daughter!”
Countless nights, my father falls asleep in the living room with the television on, our dog Maggie curled up on the floor near the couch. I remove his glasses and wake him up, telling him to go to bed.
My parents divorced when I was very young. The courts granted my father primary custody of my sister and myself because they ruled that my mother’s new relationship with my stepfather was her priority. I have no memory of a family other than the tiny unit that existed — myself, my sister and my father.
Keep reading »
Not long ago, I was promoted to Associate Editor at the local Toronto magazine where I had been working as an Assistant Online Editor. Shortly after receiving the news, I cried at my desk. They were not tears of joy. No. These were snot-is-coming-out-of-my-nose-running-into-my-mouth tears. These were I-am-an-uglier-crier-than-James-Van-der-Beek tears.
My co-worker sent me an email, asking: “Is everything okay?”
It clearly wasn’t.
Amidst curious stares and GChat gossip, I dashed outside to the parking lot and called the one person who, much to my stubborn Capricorn chagrin, always had the best advice: Mom. Keep reading »
My father gave great, yet strange advice to me when I was younger. “My advice to you is this,” he said. “Let’s go be bad, let’s go poot in public.” Clearly, my dad is not a man who’s embarrassed of his actions. The only reason he said he wanted kids was so that he could embarrass us. To give you an idea of who you should imagine saying these brilliant words, picture a southern, taller version of Steve Martin. Picture him doing a special dance when he goes to get his ice cream every night.
When I was younger my mom left because of mental issues and my dad raised me, my brother and my sister on his own. Because there were so many dark periods when we were little, my dad tried his damnedest to make sure it was all sunshine and happiness for us after my mom was gone. He did his best to play both mother and father at the same time. He even dared to take us girls shopping for Jelly shoes and skorts at Gap Kids. Needless to say, we left the mall with Umbros and baggy t-shirts instead, but it was the thought that counted.
We called him “Camp Director Conroy” because he was always ready with his zip off pants (just so you know they zip off at the knee and the ankle) and a backpack. He always loved to get anyone (including you if you met him) excited for some type of adventure. He would clap and do a little jig and say his famous refrain, “Let’s go be bad, let’s go poot in public.” Keep reading »
After our wedding, when my husband and I finally got around to opening our gifts and noting who gave what for our thank you cards, we became concerned that a bunch of our wedding gifts might have been stolen. About a third of the 150 guests who attended our wedding did not appear to have given a gift — that seemed a little odd. However, I was aware that wedding etiquette says that you have up to a year after a wedding to give a gift, so I didn’t put too much worry into it. After our wedding, a number of friends and family members contacted us with questions like, “Where are you registered?” and “What is your mailing address?” I answered all their inquiries, but strangely never received gifts of any sort from any of the people who asked. Keep reading »
Sitting in the sports medicine clinic’s waiting room, I poked at my knee and winced, hoping that the doctor would be able to fix my troubled joints so I could run my first road race the following month. Half an hour later, I had my answer: my biomechanics were off, I suffered from the common patella-femoral syndrome, but with physiotherapy and diligence, I’d still be able to run. An acceptable prognosis, so I smiled. I liked the doctor; how she paid attention to my grimaces as she prodded my leg, and explained all the anatomical terms to me as she discussed my diagnosis with the observing resident. And then it happened.
“Could you turn onto your side, Sara?” the doctor asked as I lay on the examination table.
I obediently flipped over.
“No, a little closer to me.”
I shuffled backwards, mumbling apologies.
“It’s not a big deal,” she smiled. “You’re so tiny.” Keep reading »
I was 12 when I found out. My stepsister hurled it at me during a fight: “At least I’m not adopted,” she retorted after I called her a four-eyed idiot. My real mother died when I was six, and the fact that I now had a stepmother didn’t mean I was adopted.
“You really are a blockhead,” I laughed “if you think I’m going to fall for that one.”
However, I soon learned the four-eyed idiot was right. I was indeed adopted. I had been given up as an infant. And worse, no one had ever told me.
“I thought your mother told you,” my father responded when I asked him if it was true.
The news left me feeling vulnerable and reminded me of a time when I was four, shopping with my mother at JC Penney’s. She was looking for a dress.I ducked under a waterfall of polka dots and paisleys and hid in the center of the circular rack – only to become frightened and reemerged, grabbing on to the familiarity of my mother’s legs — except they weren’t her legs; they were the legs of a stranger, but for a few seconds I was betrayed by a false sense of reality. Here I was again, hugging onto the legs of a stranger—completely unaware — and deceived for nearly 12 years by the same false sense of reality. Keep reading »
My parents got divorced when I was almost too young to remember. I carry only brief images of the time surrounding their divorce. My mother, in a red dress with polka dots, kneeling down to meet me at my level as I squirm in a chair, legs swinging above the floor. “I’m going away for a little bit,” she says. “I’ll see you soon.” Our new house in New York is full of books and my grandma is there and my father stretches the phone cord taut so he can sit on the steps to the basement and argue with my mother in California, 3000 miles away.
The details of the event were unusual for the late 1980s. The court granted primary custody to my father — we’d spend summers in California and live in New York for the school year. My primary memory of family growing up is as a unit of three — father, sister, me. Our trio was strong, it was unshakeable, and my sister and I adapted to an early independence. We did our own laundry, heated up our Kid Cuisine dinners in the microwave while our father worked late and made annual trips to the West Coast every summer to visit our mom. Our household was just as functional as that of any two-parent household. We trotted off to school each morning with combed hair, brushed teeth and all of our belongings.
I grew up into a independent, self-sufficient and confident adult, a woman who would much rather do it myself than wait on someone else to understand what needs to be done, a woman who is okay with the idea of potentially spending a life not married — not because no one would have me, but because I like it that way. Alone. Keep reading »
While many people start online dating to meet people, I joined OKCupid because I knew far too many already. This may sound cold, but I wanted to meet guys outside of my social circle who were more … expendable. If a date or few went badly, I didn’t want to bump awkwardly into these guys at a party. At that time, I didn’t take dating especially seriously. I was bored and I thought of it as an amusing diversion. Maybe I would have been more cautious if I had been more invested, but I wasn’t.
Online, most daters try to present the best possible versions of themselves in their profile. Supposedly, this is the only way to get dates. Instead, I tried to present a more accurate picture. I had a few photos of me all dressed up, but being a makeup artist, that felt a bit unfair, so I included some regular candid shots with my usual BB cream and lip balm. I didn’t want my dates to be disappointed when I didn’t put that much effort in to meet them for coffee. On the older version of OKC, you got to describe yourself in three words and I always made sure one of them was “neurotic.” Keep reading »
Sometimes, I have a hard time talking about being bisexual.
Part of the difficulty is label itself: bisexual. As soon as it’s said out loud, or implied with the abbreviation bi, lady sex pops into peoples’ minds and all of a sudden things get X-rated. The mere mention of bi conjures images of co-eds kissing and dancing on bars for male attention. Or, it incites the delightful fallacy that bi-folk are lying to themselves about their sexuality.
So, if labeling myself bi creates a feeling of ick, then why not call myself something else?
I’ve thought about latching onto other labels: flexible, fluid, queer, open? Why not just call myself straight when I’m with a man and gay when I’m getting my lez on? Why a label at all? Keep reading »