It was a workday of minor annoyances. Everything at my temp job had gone normally, except for a snippy email from IT and a laminator malfunction that forced me to dig out a half-laminated page with a fork.
So why was I crouched in a bathroom stall, hyperventilating, sobbing, and trying not to scream?
A coworker insisted I see a doctor, who said my meltdown was probably due to anxiety and depression. I was shaken – but not entirely surprised.
I was born and raised in a majority-Asian community in Hawaii, where mental health issues are not discussed. Granted, since most of the people in that community are second- to fourth-generation Asians, there are some exceptions, although these exceptions are determined by an unspoken code. (It has to be an unspoken code. If you can’t discuss mental health, you can’t discuss discussing mental health, either.) As far as I can figure, you get a pass if you’ve tried to kill yourself or at least been hospitalized. Anything else is something that you just get over eventually. Don’t dwell on your emotions all the time. We must endure. That was the message. Keep reading »
Me: I’m sorry! It’s just not going in!
Him: Don’t worry – we can always try later…
Me: I’m really sorry! I’m just so scared! (Sobbing. Tearful search for bra.) What if this never works?
That was me and my now-fiancé during one of many abortive attempts to have sex for the first time.
For years, I viewed sex as something like the Ark of the Covenant in “Indiana Jones”: immensely powerful and great beyond belief, but if you tried to use it in an unrighteous way the wrath of God would melt your face off.
I grew up in a church which, like many churches, taught us that sex before marriage was Wrong with a capital W. To their credit, they also taught us that sex within marriage was brilliant, but still. This was a church where one of the pastors hadn’t even kissed his wife until their wedding day. We also learned that in courting situations (we were discouraged from the secular institution of dating; “courting” was the spiritually safe alternative) girls should also dress modestly because men’s thoughts so easily fall into temptation. Although a heated moment could seduce us into wanting sex ourselves, the message was that boys wanted sex and girls shouldn’t give it to them until the wedding night. A quick scan through my own experience, however – especially late at night – would have revealed that girls could feel the pull of temptation just as much as boys.The nature of that temptation was never really discussed. The few teenagers in the church were too embarrassed to ask about it; I know I was. It also didn’t help that this was a church full of middle-aged and elderly Asian people who did not talk about sex. Keep reading »
Once upon a time — before URLs, handles, likes and shares — I put some good old-fashioned postage stamps inside an envelope and sent away for a zine (made of actual paper!) that was filled with some very big ideas. I was 16 and the zine was called i’m so fucking beautiful, a title that hooked me instantly because at the time I was quite literally starving myself of that sentiment. I was all punk rock by day, but I had a couple of dirty secrets that did not exactly jibe with the Manic Panic and combat boots:
- I thought calories were evil. Unfortunately this didn’t stop me from willingly and regularly consuming wretched diet foods that were almost certainly concocted in the bowels of hell. Listen, when a chocolate product in a plastic tub includes instructions on how it can be enjoyed frozen as “ice cream” or microwaved into a “shake,” it no longer qualifies as food, okay? But I ate (and drank!) that sugar-free, chemical-laden kryptonite sludge like it was my duty, each scoop and sip meticulously tallied in my Calories and Fat Grams Journal, which was really more of a disturbing collection of numbers and equations scribbled on Post-Its and scrap paper than an actual journal. Think “A Beautiful Mind” for the eating disordered set.
- I kept a stash of “thinspiration” featuring pictures of models I tore from magazines (‘90s-style! Old school!). I wanted to be that kind of beautiful. And the more I stared at those images, the more fervently I started to believe in that waifish brand of perfection. So I made myself sick chasing sizes that were smaller than the small sizes I already wore. I developed a mortal fear of weight gain. And while my weight fluctuated up and down and back up again as I abused it with brutal cycles of starvation, bingeing, and purging, I was never anywhere remotely close to being plus-sized, full-figured, curvy or any other palatable euphemism for that oh-so-terrifying F-word.
Keep reading »
My husband was always a little strange — but that’s par for the course in a marriage sometimes. Sure, he covered his face whenever he encountered the smell of bleach, and he took to maniacal cleaning rather than use poisons to eradicate a cockroach problem. He demanded we turned off the heat at night to protect his lungs. I thought all of it was cute. It took me a while to realize that his unusual quirks were actually symptoms of a terrible disorder.
I met John* on Craigslist. We were looking for a third roommate and he was one of the many people we interviewed that hot August day. He had a dark, curly mop of hair and a full face with dimples, and he seemed nice. He was from South America, and had traveled all around the world; I found him extremely compelling. We interviewed a few other people that day but felt that we connected the most strongly with John, so we asked him to be part of our household. Keep reading »
I’m no sexual stunt woman. I didn’t even know female ejaculation existed until about five years ago. At the time, it seemed like nothing I needed to worry about. You’d probably have to really put in an effort to make something like that happen, I figured. I had more important things to do. But then it happened to a friend of mine quite unexpectedly, as she was doing it with a boy toy, and my interest was piqued. Keep reading »
The first MMA fight that I saw was by accident. I was visiting a friend at her apartment and her boyfriend and his friends were watching the last battle in a trio of fights between Quinton Jackson and Wanderlei Silva, two notable MMA fighters. I’d always had a healthy respect for the craft of boxing but this was unlike anything I’d ever seen. The extreme violence of it paired with the variety of fighting styles in the ring was especially jarring.
It was awhile before I saw my next fight. But this time it was between two women: Cristiane Santos and Gina Carano. I watched with a couple girlfriends of mine. All three of us were interested in fitness. We wanted to not only tone our bodies but also incorporate some kind of self-defense into our weekly workouts. The fight between Carano and Santos piqued our interest in not only learning how to fight in self-defense, but also in taking our fitness regime to the next level. Keep reading »
I didn’t think I was ashamed of the number of sexual partners I’ve had in the 20 years I’ve been getting it on until I found myself filling in a number half the true total at a recent gynecologist appointment. Although I know doctors are trained not to judge, and this doctor in particular had been particularly kind, helpful and professional when I’d seen her previously, in my head, all of a sudden the number (at best an approximation as I haven’t kept an exact count in year) seemed like cause for alarm. Even if I never had to say it out loud and its size was simply one more piece of data for her to use in evaluating me, something about it made me erase what I’d typed in the online form and halve it. As it turned out, she didn’t even ask me a single thing about my number, so that fretting was for naught—except that it taught me a lesson: slut shaming isn’t just something other people do to us, but something we can do to ourselves. Keep reading »
“I’m an empty essay, fill me out!” the words beckoned under the Self Summary section of my brand new, totally blank OkCupid profile.
Armed with a Diet Coke and a new resolve, I was actually signing up for online dating, something I hadn’t done in three years. And not because I was in a relationship during that time, but because for the most part I wasn’t dating, first by default and later having decided to take a deliberate break.
After a long dating hiatus, when January rolled around this year I finally felt like I was ready to dive back into the dating pool. My first thought when contemplating dating was, God, please don’t make me online date again! because in the past I’d tried JDate, eHarmony, Chemistry, Match, and Nerve, all to great disappointment and sometimes even despair. My experience with online dating thus far had been that the guys I liked didn’t like me back, and the guys who did like me made me want to flee the state and join the Dating Protection Program. Keep reading »
The flash went off with a “pop” and the photographer patiently told me to loosen up. My hands were sweaty and my heart was beating a mile a minute. Trying my best to concentrate, I twisted into an elegant pose and took a deep breath to soften my expression. The resulting photograph was beautiful but the experience was terrifying.
I was 20-years-old when I first took my clothes off for money. While it might seem sordid, it wasn’t as bad as you might expect. A sophomore in college in New York, I was completely broke and my babysitting job wasn’t going to pay my rent for the summer while I interned. An old acquaintance — I’ll call her Tania — had been posting censored nude photos of herself on Facebook, and out of sheer curiosity I wrote her a message about it. She quickly replied and said that she had been making extra money “art modeling” for photographers. I was intrigued.
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I’m not sure when or in what context I first realized that I have long labia. Maybe it was that teasing comment from an ex boyfriend, oh, seven years ago. Maybe it occurred to me at some point when I was watching porn and noticed that mine looked different. Maybe it was in the shower, as I haphazardly shaved my pubes into just a tuft. It was absolutely before I got my first completely bare wax, though having a hand mirror suddenly placed between my legs — so I could inspect the results — certainly made the point hit home. It was definitely in the last 10 years, though I’ve only made it a part of my self-deprecating comedy routine in the last five. Hey, if you’ve got long labia, you might as well joke about it.
But to be honest, and maybe this isn’t a surprise, I’m actually kind of insecure about it. I want to feel good about the way I look and, for the most part, I do, in part because there is plenty of outside messaging that tells me my straight teeth, slender physique, clear skin, etc. is considered conventionally attractive. (I’m not saying you need to be/have these things to be “attractive,” just that these are the qualities we’re told since birth are attractive and can inform how we view ourselves. And being told you’re attractive is also not necessary to being/feeling attractive. I digress.) But the messages being sent about what makes for a pretty vulva are less obvious; with the exception of hair removal trends, there aren’t three-page articles in lady magazines touting how to make your vagina/vulva* look its best or hide its flaws. And yet I’ve always felt distinctly aware that my long labia were not an asset. Keep reading »