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.

I denied that anything criminal had taken place. He “loves” me, I said. Things went “a little out of control.” He “cared” about my career, so it was fine. Sure, some parts of what happened had been “confusing” – but we all have those confusing nights, don’t we? We remained friends, or sort of friends. One time, I tried asking him why he did what he did. He coolly told me that he could’ve done worse.

If you knew this man, you would know him as intelligent, talented, popular. You would know his politics to be “correct.” You would know him to be brave. You would likely defend him. Not me. God, to this day, I still can’t imagine anyone defending me.

The experience changed me. It killed me, in a way. I still freeze up sometimes when I’m alone with a male friend. “Could he also…?”

After all, I was a feminist. I was already a vocal survivor of sexual abuse. I *knew my shit*. It hadn’t saved me.

Eventually, I began to admit the disastrous impact this incident had on my life. The evil of it, transmuting itself. I can’t say I’m healed. But at least I get it now. I know.

What I go back to is the girl I saw in the mirror on the morning after. I saw her bruises and saw the blood. Although my mind had already switched into denial mode – and would remain in denial mode for years – my reflection fought that narrative hard. I knew in that moment that if I went to the police they’d have a hard time turning me away.

I didn’t go. It would only destroy my reputation and turn everyone against me.

Neither did I want to destroy him. I didn’t want to hurt the people who were close to him. Looking back on it, I know I may have given him the chance to hurt others. I live with that too.

This isn’t a comment on the Pavlensky case. And it is a comment on the Pavlensky case.

You think you know someone. There are moments when I no longer know if I know anyone.

This is what violence does.

I originally posted a slightly different version of this text on Facebook as a response to all of the people who said that a great artist like Pyotr Pavlensky, who stands accused of sexually assaulting (and stabbing) a friend and colleague of mine from Moscow’s Teatr.doc, could not have possibly done what he did. Although I am naturally biased in this matter, this is not a comment on Pavlensky’s guilt or innocence. It’s a comment on the fact that we never really know what a person is capable of behind closed doors.

Writing round-up, 2016: Six non-horrible things that happened this year

Writing round-up, 2016: Six non-horrible things that happened this year

I’m not really sure what to say about the year 2016. “At least we didn’t all die in a nuclear blast” is one good thing I could mention, I guess.

On a personal level, it was a year of disappointments and setbacks, fears and frustrations, but also the year in which I sat in a taxi coming back to Chelsea from Broadway after a dinner with great talents whom I also simply admire as people, and the very dear friend and great talent sitting next to me turned and said, “You’re doing it right, you know.” I surprised myself by believing her. There are people in my life who burn very brightly, you see, and I’ve learned to let their light in, and for that I am grateful.

In light of that, in light of them, here are the six things I definitely did right this year: Continue reading “Writing round-up, 2016: Six non-horrible things that happened this year”

From your humble (and very cold) blog author: news, announcements, CIS-related links, and a request for tips

From your humble (and very cold) blog author: news, announcements, CIS-related links, and a request for tips

Dear friends, subscribers, and people who stop by to yell at me about my unladylike use of curse words,

Hi! Happy 1st of November! Please note, my use of glitter in the above picture is ironic.

November, of course, is not a month for irony. It’s a month for doomed love affairs that need to be conducted in flannel pajama pants, because weather.

Since I currently can’t afford flannel pajama pants (more on that in a minute), I’ve started this month off by reorganizing and updating my story archive. The latest addition to the archive is The Girl Who Went for a Ride, inspired by all of those years I spent working for The Moscow News, which has been obliterated from existence both online and in the print archives, apparently.

(When I started working at TMN in 2010, first as deputy editor, it was an editorially independent newspaper that was also state funded. I guess some people would prefer to pretend it never existed. Or maybe it’s gone due to a stupid bureaucratic error. Maybe those of who worked there in the bitter days between the announcement of our parent news agency’s liquidation and the closure of the paper will never know.)

I am also working on a new archive for my poetry, essays, and some experimental pieces I have in the pipeline. Stay tuned.

A lot of my writer and editor friends have pointed out that publishing poetry and fiction on a personal site is self-marginalizing. They are mostly correct.

I spent the last decade working as a journalist, writing poems and stories spontaneously, not having much energy or time to send them to magazines. In some ways, the blog has been a cop-out. In another way, it made my style evolve in a weird, unfashionable, but personally rewarding way. And it gained me your company in the process.

So I will continue publishing here even as I also work on creative projects elsewhere. I will be excited to share them with you when the time comes.

For those of you who recently tuned in: Since losing my old job in what became known as my Third Consecutive Professional Disaster a year ago, I was forced to reassess my priorities. I had to make more room in my life for things that I loved – whether they be riffs on Yeats or flash fiction about big  bugs and rotten teeth. I had no choice.

I hope you will read, enjoy, and donate (or tip, as some of you prefer to call it) when you can. Especially if you enjoyed the latest story. And especially this month. Here is the magic button:

*poof* *magic*

Because, did I say Novembers are for pajamas and love? For me they seem to be more about things going awry/bump in the night, and cold winds biting me in uncomfortable places. Even in Greece, where we’re living a kind of la vie de bohème right now. Don’t get me wrong, Greece is the country for that kind of life, it’s not a sleek sort of place, it has a rugged and ragged heart, people here care for each other in ways I’ve never observed elsewhere, but I do wish we resembled the bohème a little less at the moment.  Continue reading “From your humble (and very cold) blog author: news, announcements, CIS-related links, and a request for tips”

From Pavel Sheremet to Trumputin: my summer 2016 links for your reading pleasure

From Pavel Sheremet to Trumputin: my summer 2016 links for your reading pleasure

I don’t usually archive the links to the work I do elsewhere, but it’s been a long summer with few updates, and I thought you guys might like to take a look at a few of these anyway:

An important online flashmob on sexual violence recently began in Ukraine and quickly spread to Russia and Belarus. These are NOT the countries you associate with any kind of frankness on the topic. So it was a pretty big deal. And being a big deal, it attracted plenty of trolls and critics. I wrote about how the flashmob and the reaction to it are great examples of this region’s collective PTSD.

Also in Ukraine, a very prominent and gifted Belarusian-Russian-Ukrainian journalist was tragically killed by a gangland-style car bomb. I wrote about what happened – and the implications.

But of course in the States, all we can really talk about the election. And Trump. And, nowadays, Trumputin. I wrote about the bad bromance between the Republican presidential nominee and the Russian leader – and how it may not work out that well for the Kremlin (in spite of every other American writer currently pointing out how Putin is the one who’s playing Trump. Which is true, by the way. He is playing him. But it will be hard to play him in the long term – and the Kremlin is remarkably bad at long term planning).

Last but not least, a link to my essay on Eurovision, Jamala, the Dakh Daughters, and Ukraine’s new femininity. I finally got to use the phrase “kill your boner” in a serious piece. I don’t know if it gets any better than that.

In Russia, August is traditionally associated with disasters. May we all avoid them to the best of our ability. Stay beautiful. Stay fabulous.

walk walk fashion baby

Why don’t you treat men this way? The false dichotomy of “mother vs. artist”

Why don’t you treat men this way? The false dichotomy of “mother vs. artist”

This post of on combining art and motherhood made the rounds this past winter. There were a lot of responses, public and private. Two of the more recent responses made me feel like revisiting the issue:

1. The Divided Heart is a more honest exploration of what it’s like to be a mother and an artist. I’m sorry, but I think you are over-compensating and it shows. For decades, women have been quite open about how combining great art and motherhood is almost always an impossibility. One blog post on the matter from someone who sold one play is not going to convince society.

2. All due respect, Natalie [sic], but people like you lure promising artists towards breeding, and the results are almost always disastrous. I wonder if you’ll change your mind when your kid is on the therapist’s couch, discussing the ways in which mum neglected him so she could make her Art, and he almost certainly will be.

So to address all that:

Who the hell are you to argue that women can be both mothers and great artists? You’re nobody! But it’s not about me.

The idea that you can’t reconcile being a mother with being great artist is, today, a peculiarly Western concept. In many other parts of the world, women just get on with it.

One of Russia’s greatest poets, Anna Akhmatova, was a mother. Nobody goes around wringing their hands on her behalf. One of Russia’s greatest painters, Zinaida Serebriakova, was a mother – and, once again, people really didn’t make a big deal out of it. Continue reading “Why don’t you treat men this way? The false dichotomy of “mother vs. artist””