I was raped a few years ago

I was raped a few years ago

I was raped a few years ago. I had liked and trusted the guy. It had started out as a completely consensual encounter. But at some point, after he had me alone, he began to hurt me. When I asked him to stop, he continued. He got off on my pain and terror. He was bigger, he was stronger. The humiliation and horror stay with me to this day.

I could not admit what happened. Forget admitting it to others, I could not admit it to myself.  Continue reading “I was raped a few years ago”

November, depression, and the illusion of another world

November, depression, and the illusion of another world

“This is so depressing.”

It’s a common expression. I don’t begrudge it to people and frequently use it myself. I don’t like the self-righteous condemnation some people will heap on you if you use “depressing” or “depression” as throw-away words in casual conversation. If you get horribly offended by that, you may need to get over yourself.

Language evolves constantly, and our language has evolved in such a way that we regularly use “depression” without meaning “serious illness that can really fuck up your shit.” There is nothing wrong with that, and I think it has actually gone a long way toward normalizing the illness and people who suffer from it.

Having said that, depression is still very much a serious illness that can really fuck up your shit.

I am most prone to it in the month of November, and, as I have discovered from living in sunny places like Dubai and Greece, lack of sunlight may not be the main culprit. Maybe it’s due to the tilt of the earth. To the days getting shorter. To red leaves framed by a blue sky. To something.

I would love to write a buddy-cop-like parody novella about November and depression. Here they are, on yet another adventure together, barrelling through the mind, fucking it up like regular buddy cops fuck up city blocks. Here they are, making the lights go out behind the eyes while tossing comic insults at each other.

A lot has been written on the dangers of depression, but there is one particular danger I think is seriously overlooked:  Continue reading “November, depression, and the illusion of another world”

Uppity lady writer wanted bodily autonomy and respect. What happened next will not surprise you!

Uppity lady writer wanted bodily autonomy and respect. What happened next will not surprise you!

Today on Facebook I reposted a powerful essay by my friend Anna Lind-Guzik – the essay deals with sexual harassment and the awful feelings that presidential candidate Donald J. Trump evokes in many of us who know what it’s like to be preyed upon by men. I then posted a picture from a happy day on a nude beach.

The reaction from one of my followers was swift. I am pasting it here in full, without editing a word (for personal and professional reasons, I am omitting this man’s name). I have also written a response, and it is posted below.

Just saw you re-posting a long piece about sexual harasment is bad, and how Donald Trump is a scary man. Then you post a picture of yourself naked on a beach. I thought long and hard about writing a response. Simply put Natalia, I like & respected you for a long time. But when you write “don’t sexually harass me” and pos naked, I have to wonder, just what kind of a double standard you are trying to promote.. ‘Here I am, naked, but don’t grab and harass me’. Because I also follow your (very beautiful) Instagram, I know you also recently posted a picture of yourself with ample cleavage. I like that picture more, the nude beach one is not very flattering though you get bonus point for your nice tummy. I guess the question I have for both pictures is, What is your message? Trying to have it both ways? I like and respect your writing, would it be HARASMENT for me to say that your pictures make me hot and bothered making it difficult to appreciate you? Just thinking out loud and trying to add to the conversation. It seems You want people to vote for Hillary, and you want females to be respected, and then you act like one of those non-credible women that Trump is (I think, baselessly) accused of doing whatever to. It doesn’t make for a very strong message in my opinion. Because of my respect for your dignity I wanted to write this to you in private. But would appreciate your response.

Dear Man on the Internet (I’m leaving your name out of this, mostly out of respect for your family),

I made a rookie mistake. I assumed that my body is my own, and that I can do things that I like with it, and not be punished for it.

Posting about my disdain for harassment AND my love of frolicking on the nude beaches of southern Crete was hypocritical. I want “females to be respected,” after all, but how can I (or any other “female”) demand respect while simultaneously inhabiting a female body and doing what I want with it? These things are mutually exclusive, after all.

You are also absolutely right that it is “baseless” to accuse Donald J. Trump of inappropriate conduct. I mean, what’s the big deal about grabbing someone “by the pussy” and bragging about it? Those women really should have thought about it before leaving the house, pussies in tow.

Coincidentally, Trump’s wife Melania has also posed nude – but that’s OK, because she’s beautiful and, more importantly, married to a rich conman successful businessman. A rigid class hierarchy is an important function of our social order, and if you oppose that, you’re probably a dirty communist.  Continue reading “Uppity lady writer wanted bodily autonomy and respect. What happened next will not surprise you!”

Life advice for when the mind is full of scorpions

Life advice for when the mind is full of scorpions

When life has gotten strange, and it’s more than you can handle, the absolute worst thing you can do to yourself is go, “Well, of course. Of course this would happen. Because this always happens to ME.”

This locks you deeper into the general awfulness. This *cements* the awful. And makes you more likely to subconsciously choose the paths that will lead you to more awful in the future.

What happens is only part of the general plot. The other part is how you react. Such an obvious point, but so easy to miss when you’re under heaps of stress.

Many years ago, I was in a stressful situation. I was worried about events not under my control. I couldn’t sleep. I had also recently read Macbeth, and set about re-reading the play, convinced that the not sleeping thing was not accidental. Macbeth shall sleep no more, etc.

I hadn’t stabbed a sleeping guest to death in cold blood, nor executed a potential political rival’s family and servants, but those were details. Continue reading “Life advice for when the mind is full of scorpions”

Good question alert: Can you be a “serious writer” while also just being yourself?

Good question alert: Can you be a “serious writer” while also just being yourself?

The daughter of a friend is taking a summer journalism course, and one of her assignments was to interview “a journalist with international experience” about their “career choices and future goals.”

One of the questions she just sent me was so excellent that I am reprinting it, alongside my answer, below (with permission):

Q: Your byline has been seen in many internationally significant publications and you regularly comment on current events. Today I read your comments to Yahoo Sports about Russia’s doping scandal. Also today I opened your blog and read a song about “shrieking demon heads” that you wrote. Is there a contradiction between your professional persona and your artist persona? Has it affected your work? What would you say to someone who wanted to follow your example?

A: What a great question. I will be honest, I think I would have had more professional success as a journalist if I played it straight – as in not had a blog that featured songs about demon heads, nor posed for artists in my spare time, nor written plays about sunken ships and haunted bureaucrats, and so on.

My generation grew up on the mantra that you should “be yourself.” This rarely works out well. For a woman it can be especially hard to “be herself” and not experience career setbacks. And forget about being taken seriously if you’re also seen as a kind of “sex object.” Serious journalism, of the kind I’ve always been interested in, is a macho field, and if you don’t play by its rules, people are going to be weirded out by you. And when people can’t put you in a box they’d rather not deal with you at all.

On the other hand, songs about demon heads, poems about sex, and plays with ghosts in them are also part of my professional life. They’re also just an intrinsic part of who I am.

Over a decade ago, I received the shock of a lifetime when my cousin was killed in a car accident. She was a talented pianist and singer and just weeks before she passed away, she and I had an argument about me becoming “who I really am” eventually. I was leading a pretty strait-laced existence at the time and she saw right through it. She told me that I was a “crazy artist type” no matter what I did. I was not prepared to listen. We parted on an awkward note. I never saw her again, unless dreams count.

Her words stayed with me. No matter how much I tried to fight her vision of me, deep down inside, I knew it to be correct. I think I would have escaped a lot of disappointment and drama had I accepted that she was right much sooner.

Any meaningful life choice involves a degree of sacrifice. So you do what you must. And you give thanks for being disliked, because, honestly, most people in the world won’t care enough to dislike you in the first place.

I consider myself a serious writer, a serious journalist (though I barely work as a journalist anymore, tbh), and I think it shows in everything I do, because I try to do it well. I’ve made a lot of sacrifices to be able to do what I love. Were they justified? I don’t know. I probably won’t ever know, since you can’t draw conclusions until your life is done. And who knows what my loved ones will eventually come to say about the choices I’ve made.

So, should you be like me? No. Be like yourself. Be clear-eyed about the consequences of being like yourself. Be clear-eyed about the consequences of not being like yourself. Whatever you do, try to do it well (and I include crap you do to pay the bills in that category too). Don’t let anyone, no matter how well-meaning, decide anything for you – because owning your screw-ups is sometimes even more important than not screwing up in the first place. Let your heart hold fast and good luck.

Q: P.S. Did you come up with phrase “tornado of shrieking demon heads” yourself?

A: Of course not. I got it off of Twitter and annoyingly enough can’t remember whose account that was.

P.S. I owe a word of thanks to WordPress Discover for featuring this post. I’m glad so many of you found it useful. This blog continues to exist due to Discover support, due to your support, due to me very much needing an outlet, and due to the occasional tip, which you can send here, if you wish:

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Owing to her young age, the author of the question that prompted this post would like to stay anonymous, but I’ve let her know that you guys have been reading, and she wants to say she’s glad that she inspired this post and this discussion ❤