It is simple, what happened. I was an eager-eyed and relatively coy 18-year-old who was convinced that I was going to attend any four year university for acting, because I was a Capital A Actress. I applied to many schools for acting, I performed earnest monologues in front of expressionless adults behind a folding table. They thanked me for my time, my tights and sensible flats making me feel pulled together and adult. I wrote an essay about moving to California. The first paragraph contained the word “plucky,” which my eleventh grade English teacher Mr. Green circled with a red pen and scribbled “Good!” in the margin. I applied to Emerson College on a whim, as a backup plan, on the off chance that one of the prestigious and extremely competitive acting programs I applied to wouldn’t accept me. I navigated the hell that is the FAFSA, calling my father on the phone every night to make sure he got the papers and filled them out, pressing the papers into my mother’s hands, making sure that she did her part. I gathered all these things, I sent them in, I waited.
Emerson accepted me as a freshman — for writing, not acting — for the fall of 2000, a welcome relief after two weeks full of skinny rejection letters from various acting programs. I awaited the bounty of financial aid money that I would surely receive. Thanks to complications and a couple of sticky conversations about finances I mediated between my father and stepfather, it turned out that despite how it actually was, on paper, it looked like my combined parents made too much money to qualify for much financial aid, despite the fact that my mother and stepfather had already informed me they were not contributing to my higher education. What came was a paltry offering, an insult really, and not nearly enough money to pay for even one class, let alone an entire semester. After a week of tears and debate and gnashing of teeth, I had two options — apply to the state school in Buffalo, start in the spring semester and go to college in a town where it snowed from October to April, or defer admission at Emerson and reapply for financial aid. Deferring admission seemed the lesser of two evils, so I packed my bags and flew back to New York after high school graduation where I’d wait out my self-inflicted gap year. Keep reading »
When you grow up in a relatively small town in suburban New Jersey, being the only person of color in your class, you’d understand why I had no idea that other members of my race consider me “light-skinned.” Where I grew up, there was no such thing. You were either black, white, Spanish or Indian. No one paid much attention to the shade of your skin or where your blackness/whiteness originated –at least not in my circle. You only cared about what you saw. Sure, some racism and stereotyping existed, but there was no in-depth analysis or scrutiny about the shade of your skin.
In some ways that method was great. It erased the turmoil experienced by many other African-Americans and allowed everyone to just be accepted for who they were. On the other hand, my peers and I were ill-prepared for the real world. We grew up a bunch of colorblind individuals who believed in treating everyone equally regardless of historical implications and racial indifferences. We were ignorant. Keep reading »
“Oooh this one looks discreet.”
My mom held up a hot pink vibrator. I was 16 years old and instead of going home to do homework or grab a snack like any normal teen, our mother-daughter outing consisted of going to the Love Boutique. I knew in my gut that none of this fell under the guise of “normal parenting.” She wanted me be the self-possessed, precocious young lady that she has spent years cultivating. Still very much a virgin, my eyes widened at the extensive array of sex toys that lined the dimmed store. Picking up a tiny silver bullet, my mom nodded her head in agreement. She was my constant companion and I never wanted to disappoint her, so I remained silent as she took the device that I was so nervously clutching onto.
While my friends were envious that I had been blessed with such a young and attractive mother, I loathed being in her presence. Yet, I was addicted to her in a way I couldn’t shake. The rest of the world thought I was the luckiest kid this side of Santa Monica Blvd. to have my mom as my best friend, while I viewed it as a nasty curse.
“You’re going to need some lube for that one,” her soft South African accent instructed. Keep reading »
This week, I found out my brother is going to be deployed to Afghanistan. Ever since he joined the Marines, as difficult and stressful as the journey has been, I have always comforted myself with the fact that he wasn’t in a war zone, and that, thanks to the type of work he does, he probably would never have to be.
Over the course of the past couple years, I watched him swear his oath of loyalty to the military. I read his heartbreaking letters from bootcamp. I fell into a pretty deep depression. I fought with him and for a long time, we were estranged. I saw my family fall apart as we realized that our ways of dealing with such a massive change were completely incompatible.
But none of that mattered, because at least my brother was safe. At least my brother wasn’t at war. Whenever I read stories about military families with a loved one in the Middle East, I shuddered. When a friend of mine’s brother was deployed and she resumed her day-to-day life, I thought, She is so much stronger than me. I would just be a constant wreck. Imagining my brother in such a dangerous situation left me feeling frozen with fear. The idea of him killing people, the idea of him being killed — I had been able to stomach every other difficult milestone of this journey, but those two possibilities? I couldn’t even bear the abstract, hazy idea that someday they might be part of my reality.
And now my brother is going to war. Keep reading »
Here are my first memories of my sisters.
My newborn sister Jenny is brought home from the hospital, three days after my birthday. I am excited, suspicious, eager, and in my curiosity, poke her in the eye, provoking a banshee shriek that does not stop. This sets the tone for all of our interactions for the rest of our lives, including adulthood, where we routinely bicker over the remote control and create pillow barriers on the couch at home, creating our separate but equal spaces.
Keep reading »
I don’t masturbate. Don’t judge me.
That isn’t to say I never have. I’ve tried. I really have. But it’s always felt more of a chore -– a kind of requisite feminist activity -– than the pleasurable, relaxing, even necessary pastime I assume it is for everyone else.
While for most women, I’m told, masturbation is a shameful activity, my shame always came from the fact that my orgasms were never self-induced.
Feminists are supposed to masturbate. We’re supposed to be empowered, sexually liberated, independent women of the (sexy, sexy) future! In essence, we’re supposed to be able to give ourselves dick-free orgasms. Keep reading »
I’ve recently come to terms with something: I don’t like sports. This should have been obvious to me a long time ago — like, we’re talking in kindergarten when I quit my soccer team because I was never the goalie (or as I saw it, the person who just got to stand there and do nothing). The cool girls in elementary school were the girls who had friends that were boys. How did they get those super-masculine friends? By playing sports – or at least, by watching them from the sidelines. Me? I was too busy staging my own production of “Little Shop of Horrors” to notice, until everyone quit my show to play sports, that is. Because apparently, sports are fun! But they weren’t for me. I could name so many things that were more fun than having a ball thrown at your face. Like eating, for instance.
At a very young age, I learned that if I wanted to meet boys, or more specifically, if I wanted boys to like me, I had to like sports.Volleyball girls were totally rad, with their bumping and serving or whatever other sporty moves they did, cheerleaders knew all about football and got to wear those stylish skirts, and die-hard baseball fans always had home runs when it came to starting conversations with guys. I could run, but didn’t join the track team because it interfered with drama club. Keep reading »
Today, I’m going to go where, if you’re a woman, you’re never supposed to go. And that forbidden zone is to talk about the perils of women at work—and specifically, about that most fearsome of office creatures, the bad female boss. “Gird your loins!” Stanley Tucci warns as his tyrannical female boss, played by Meryl Streep, approaches in “The Devil Wears Prada.” Having survived a veritable parade of bad female bosses, my loins are fully girded.
Aware that I’ll now probably have to enroll in the Witness Protection Program anyway, I’ll just come right out and say it: I’d rather work for a man.
Correction: I’d rather work for a man than a wine-guzzling, insecure, jealous woman who’s more focused on rivalry and one-upmanship, or should I say, one-upwomanship, than in getting any actual work done.Which is to say, almost every woman I’ve ever worked for.
Working my way up to director of PR for a major financial company, I had only one good female boss—an erudite woman who embodied grace and truth and principles. She actually wanted me to succeed and did everything within her power to help me. She left two years after hiring me to go get a master’s degree at Harvard.
Aside from that one lovely exception, I was far more experienced in working for glorious train wrecks. I had the incompetent-because-she-was-young female boss, the boss-who-avoided-direct-communication-like-it–was-Ebola female boss, and the really-just-a-lady–who-lunched-but-wanted-to-be-able-to-say-she-had-a-job female boss. Keep reading »
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 »