Adulting as an Adult in the Adult World

Woooah, it’s been a whopping three months or so since I posted in this dusty ol’ blog of mine. Let me tell you, though, that between November and now, my life has been figuratively going off the wheels on a crazy train.

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Random: I also like Bullet For My Valentine’s cover of the song…

So, listen up — if you’re a post-college twentysomething on the adulting struggle bus (or the adulting crazy train) and are about to spin out of control, trust me, you are not alone in this. Just when you think you’re getting your shit together, some evil villain with a ridiculous mustache sneaks in and blows up your train tracks with a few sticks of dynamite.

(Or, if you’re a George Saunders fan and have read “Winky,” someone is shitting in your oatmeal.)

It was in November that I began the long journey of preparing to teach English in Japan via the JET Program. I made it through the first screening quite easily and was scheduled for an interview in the first week of February. As qualified as I am for the position, I felt like I bombed the interview… Maybe that was my anxiety kicking in. Everyone assured me that I likely did just fine. But either way, the wait would be agonizing. I won’t know if I made it or not until April. (It’s the end of February, and this year’s a leap year. So I have to wait a whole extra day for March to come!)

But I still planned accordingly. My boyfriend (now my ex), and I have this cute house in a nice, quiet neighborhood with my two cats, and he was going to hold down the fort while I went away to Japan for a year. And then I would come back with lots of money and work as an ESL instructor. Not exactly my dream job, but it’s not too far away from my college studies, and it’s a stable career. It’s pretty much the natural progression after teaching for JET.

But just a couple days after my interview, shit really hit the fan. Two years’ worth of the non-communicative boyfriend’s simmering resentment had built up, and, long story short, we broke up. And though he had me believe that things were still fine and that he’d still support me me until I could stand on my own two feet, things apparently weren’t fine.

So then, here I am, working a part-time job in food service that pays peanuts, trying to schedule driving lessons and get my license as soon as possible, worrying over the fact that neither of my prescription meds are available in Japan, and then one morning I wake up to find that my emotionally abusive ex had taken to Facebook to slander my name and spread lies about me. And also tagged my family and friends.

Now that was a shit show.

I’m dealing with enough crap of my own without my personal business (and a smearing campaign against me) being put out on the web for the world to see. There is a reason why I don’t announce breakups over Facebook…

So then he decided he wanted to kick me out of the house, which meant I needed to find somewhere to live, and I also needed to find a better-paying job, AND I needed to find a reliable way to get to said job. And a roommate who doesn’t mind two cats.

But I decided I wanted to keep the house, which means speeding up my learning how to drive and applying to full-time jobs like crazy. In the past three days, I have applied to nine. And though I’ve never had to take the bus before (before moving to this house, living on and near campus meant I could pretty much walk anywhere I wanted), I started looking up bus routes and schedules.

I need time to save up money so that he can finally move out. And my cousin could move in with me after she’s saved up enough.

But see, there’s another problem. If I get to go to Japan, she wouldn’t be able to pay for the house by herself, and I wouldn’t have anyone who could watch my cats for me for a whole year.

And say I end up landing a job as a success coach on the university campus (which I SO hope to get) which would pay $3,000 a month. It wouldn’t look good for me to be there for only five to nine months until I have to up and leave for Japan.

This went from the perfect time to time to do JET! to the worst time ever to do JET.

I’ve done a lot of growing up these past few days, and I guess learning that sometimes your huge plans just don’t work out is a part of adulting.

Although I was careful not to go into much detail, this is probably the most personal post I’ve ever published on this blog. I want young adults struggling out there to know that where you are right now isn’t necessarily where you’re always going to be. Some days are more difficult than others, and some days I have to power through the anxiety and depression, but keeping a positive outlook in the back of your mind is way more important than you might think (believe me, as someone who takes meds for depression). We’re all still learning, and we’ve still got a ways to go.

I’d spent two years with someone who would tell me the opposite of what he felt and would place all the blame on me when things went wrong, taking none of the blame for the things he’d done wrong. (And my apologies were never good enough.) Someone who saw me as a mentally fragile child and treated me as such, even though I’m strong enough to handle many of the issues he’d withheld from me. (So imagine my shock when I saw he’d resorted to high school-level spitefulness on social media.) After I finished grad school, I’d worked on writing and marketing my novel while he worked to support us both, and that was where we both fucked up. My development into adulthood was stunted by this major mistake — one that we had both naively agreed to do — but I was 22 and he was 23, and we didn’t know any better. Now we do.

I’m 23 now. Just when I start to think I’m getting old, shit like this happens and I realize:

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So what have I learned? No matter how well you prepare for a huge plan in your life, something can always mess it up. And people don’t deserve to be in serious relationships — let alone live together — unless they have their shit together and are at least a little established. And joining the full-time adult world of 8am to 5pm means that I’ll need to survive on coffee (yuck) or energy drinks (also yuck). And romantic love is the messiest abstract thing in the world.

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What Are You Thankful For?

There has been a lot going on in the news (and even more going on outside of news coverage). I have to say, on top of being mentally exhausted and emotionally drained from this seemingly endless string of unfortunate and tragic events (and stupid people screaming stupid, uninformed opinions about them), I’m feeling extra thankful this year. I am a relatively privileged individual, and I try my hardest never to forget that.

I mean, yeah, I’m a female, and I’m black, and I was born to a lower-middle-class family, so I’m far from the most privileged, but I honestly can’t complain. I never had to go hungry, ever. I always had a loving, supportive family and a roof over my head. My parents couldn’t pay for my college education, but I finished undergrad and grad — the former as magna cum laude, the latter with a 3.7 GPA. And I was always nourished. I’ve got my health.

Reading about Syria, Iraq, ISIS, terrorists, racism, Islamophia, or police brutality just hurts my heart. Being a U.S. citizen living on the mainland in a city too small to be targeted for attacks is something that crosses my mind often. I mean, yes, the U.S. makes me sick sometimes, but I’m safe (for the most part. Let us not forget the police impunity and trigger-happy bigots around here). I was in the 4th grade when 9/11 happened. I was terrified. And that attack happened miles and miles away, and no one I knew was hurt or killed.

But imagine attacks like that happening every week. What if car bombs and landmines were a daily worry? ISIS isn’t sending us photos of drowned refugee toddlers, saying “See this? This is what happens when you leave us.”

Guys, this is looking a lot like a remake of WWII and Cold War American culture. Many people don’t even seem to realize we’re being spoon fed fear-mongering propaganda. I’m still waiting for the 2015 edition of Duck and Cover. The only difference is that we welcomed Jews running from Hitler, but we won’t welcome Syrian refugees.

But Jasmine, what about sleeper cells? Terrorists disguise themselves as refugees! Muslims hate America!

Um. It’s waaaaaay easier for a terrorist to sneak into a country than for a terrorist to disguise himself as a refugee. Our screening process is pretty damn rigorous. And even if one happens to sneak by, there are tens of thousands of terrified, hungry, starving refugees running away from the same thing we’re trying to destroy: ISIS. 

And anyway, America is pretty good at breeding it’s own terrorists:

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The mass murderer behind the 2012 Dark Knight theater shooting.

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The 2012 Sandy Hook shooter.

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The KKK. ‘Nuff said.

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“All terrorists are Muslim!” Ok.

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This guy, the Virginia Tech shooter, was from South Korea. Does this mean we should ban South Koreans from coming to the States? (No. In case you were wondering, the answer is no.)

I could go on.

But Jasmine, you act like such a bleeding heart, but you probably wouldn’t take a refugee into your own home.

Yes. Yes I would, actually. And if I had the money (I’m talking $30k to spare), I’d support a family via this sponsoring program.

So, while you’re having your lovely feast this Thursday, be sure to really think about what all you have (and what some of you are trying to keep from others).

The holidays are about love and happiness and support. It’s time with your friends and family. It’s a time of giving. And that’s the only way we’re going to fight this vicious cycle of terror and hate. ISIS wants us to hate the refugees and turn them away. When that happens, some of the rejected refugees develop hatred for Westerners and turn to ISIS, where even more hatred is bred.

So give! To refugees, to the homeless, to the veterans, to rescued animals. As cliched as it may sound, love really is the only way we can win.

Happy Thanksgiving! 😀

“Pray for Paris and…”

Yes. But I’m sure by now you’ve all heard “but not only for Paris.”

I’m pretty sure the attacks in Beirut wouldn’t have even made global news had it not been for the Paris attacks, which then prompted people to say, Hey, this other thing that’s just as important also happened in Lebanon. Why is that?

Is it because the world in general thinks European lives matter more than Middle Eastern lives?

But stuff like that happens all the time over there, so it’s not news.

Actually, “stuff like that” doesn’t happen in Lebanon all the time:

“The implication, numerous Lebanese commentators complained, was that Arab lives mattered less. Either that, or that their country — relatively calm despite the war next door — was perceived as a place where carnage is the norm, an undifferentiated corner of a basket-case region. …. A reminder of the muddled perceptions came last week, when Jeb Bush, the Republican presidential candidate, declared that ‘if you’re a Christian, increasingly in Lebanon, or Iraq or Syria, you’re gonna be beheaded.’ That was news to Lebanon’s Christians, who hold significant political power.” (Source: Beirut Feels Forgotten)

Why did Facebook not activate their safety check for people whose loved ones were in Beirut at the time of the suicide bombings? Facebook later saved face by saying the high social activity surrounding the Paris attacks prompted them to activate safety check:

“As for Facebook, it declared that the high level of social media activity around the Paris attacks had inspired the company to activate Safety Check for the first time for an emergency other than a natural disaster, and that a policy of when to do so was still developing.
“‘There has to be a first time for trying something new, even in complex and sensitive times, and for us that was Paris,’ wrote Alex Schultz, the company’s vice president for growth, adding that Safety Check is less useful in continuing wars and epidemics because, without a clear end point, ‘it’s impossible to know when someone is truly “safe.”‘” (Beirut Feels Forgotten)

(Some people also complained that Facebook only offered a profile pic filter of the French flag, but that’s not as a big a deal, in my opinion. Just make your own filter, or do what I did and make your profile pic the image of the Lebanese flag.)

So, if we follow this logic, then the Beirut bombings was barely a news blip in the media. Indeed, many people had no idea it had even occurred until after the Paris bombings.

Why do Arab lives seem to matter less? Even if you do make the assumption that “stuff like that happens over there all the time,” why does that make it any less horrific? In actuality, it should be more horrific. Innocent lives were lost in both Paris and Beirut. Both were tragic events. But the world is only saying Pray for Paris. (To sugarcoat it, it’s like saying Rue’s death in the Hunger Games movie was less tragic because she was played by a black actress… which ties into the whole notion that Black lives matter less, but that’s a whole other topic for another time…)

Everywhere I go, I see the French flag now. Driving around downtown, I saw it waving on a billboard with its accompanied hashtag.

Look, send your love and thoughts to France. But also Lebanon. And Syria. And Kenya (which suffered a similar terrorist attack from al-Shabaab, but no one seemed to notice). And everyone.

Just.

Everyone.

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Be safe. Be kind.

Peace.

Dear Fat, Skinny, Fit, Healthy, and Chubby People…

I know I’m writing this a little late, but the Internet recently went a little mad over Youtube personality Nicole Arbour’s video Dear Fat People.

I’ve been wanting to write about this topic for a while, and now I have the perfect excuse. Hopefully I can pull this off with more finesse.

I have some pretty strong feelings about this fat vs. skinny nonsense. I’m not talking about fitness yet — I’ll get to that later. Right now, I’m talking about the fat people who body shame skinny people, and the skinny people who body shame fat people, and the ridiculous obsession with being skinny.

Okay, look.

In the first place, body shaming is not a helpful thing. It doesn’t get anyone anywhere, and it doesn’t motivate anyone to be healthy. Stop telling skinny girls to eat a sandwich, and stop calling fat girls whales. All right? I used to be unhealthy and fat. Then, I starved myself, and I became unhealthy and skinny. At one point in junior high, I was eating 800 calories a day. I went from double-digit pants sizes to a size 8, and I was ecstatic. But all my friends and family were worried about my health. When I was a freshman in high school at a 4th of July picnic with my friends, they kept an eye on me and pretty much hassled me about not eating any food. At one point, my mom wouldn’t let me leave her sight after eating because she thought I might be bulimic.

If I didn’t have people like that who cared about me, I might be dead right now. Eating 800 calories a day is not okay.

I wasn’t even eating healthy things, either. I didn’t look at vitamins, minerals, fiber, protein, or anything like that. When I looked at the nutrition facts, my eyes went straight to calories. As long as it was delicious and I didn’t go over 800, I was happy. That is a shitty way to live.

Starving yourself is not glorious. It will not make you happy. Eat. EAT! Your body needs nutrients!!

Back then, I was obsessed with being skinny, not healthy. If I were motivated to be healthy instead, things would have gone a lot more smoothly for me. It wasn’t until I was 18, a freshman in college, that I began working out and eating right. When you treat your body well, you feel good. I love the way my body feels after a good work out. I’ve cut a lot of junk from my diet, and I’m very keen on fruits and veggies. When I was younger, I was all meat and potatoes, but now? I’m disappointed if I’m eating a meal that does not involve vegetables or fruits in some way (unless it’s pizza. I fucking love pizza. I would eat cheese pizza for breakfast, lunch, and dinner if it wouldn’t kill me). I’m also a vegetarian now. I’ve been so for over a year and don’t plan on ever going back to meat. While I highly recommend it, you don’t necessarily have to cut out all meat to be healthy.

And contrary to popular belief, it is possible to eat well without having to purchase $6 salads. If you do a bit of research, eating well doesn’t have to empty your pockets.

I dance ballroom. I got to Planet Fitness. I buy most of my food from the organic aisle. I FEEL GOOD. And you know what? I look good, too. When I say that, I don’t mean “I look skinny” — I mean I look HEALTHY. I gained a little muscle. My skin, hair, and teeth are all healthy.

Healthy comes in many shapes and sizes. And don’t trust the Body Mass Index (BMI). It doesn’t account for “muscle mass, bone density, overall body composition, and racial and sex differences.”

Right now, I’m about a size 4 or a 6, depending on the clothes and the store because women’s sizes are stupid, but my ass is kind of big. It’s gotten a lot smaller since I started dancing, but it’s not as small as I would like. Sometimes it makes me sad. Sometimes my stomach isn’t as flat as I would want it to be, and I feel fat. But you know what? I get over it pretty quickly, because I’m a god damn dancer. I’m a lean mean dancing machine. My legs are amazing. I even obtained some upper body strength — something I never thought I’d achieve because I used to be such a weakling. (Seriously. I could only lift 40 pounds at one point.) And I’m healthy. I find clothes that look good on me and call it a day.

Whether you’re chubby, skinny, fat, toned, or what-have-you, your body is a well-tuned machine. And you only get one. Be good to it, and it will be good to you.

Do something active that you enjoy. This is for everyone. Moving around is good for the soul. (Real talk: I have depression. And while I have meds for it, I also know that getting up and being active also helps. Sometimes I need a kick in the pants to get up and go, but when I do, I feel worlds better.) Build some muscle, get your blood flowing, do some stretches, lose some fat, build your endurance, or some combination of the above. Try something new! Sports, dance, martial arts, yoga, hitting the gym, Zumba, working out to Youtube videos in the comfort of your own home…. Join a fencing club! If you’re having fun, you’re more likely to stick with it.

Sedentary lifestyles aren’t good for anyone, whether you’re skinny, fat, or anywhere in between. The human body wasn’t made to sit around. Even if you’re watching T.V., do some squats or something during commercials.

And don’t exclude mental wellness! 🙂 What you think about yourself and the way you look at things makes all the difference. First of all, no matter what you look like, don’t ever let anyone make you feel “less than” based purely on your body shape. If you start exercising to lose weight so boys will think you’re pretty, chances are, that motivation is not going to last. Things like that also often lead to unhelpful methods like yo-yo dieting.

BUT.

If you exercise because you fucking want to. Because you want to feel good. Because you want to be healthy. Then it’s more likely to work out. For some people, it makes them feel more confident. I can attest to that. I feel worlds more confident than when I was younger.

Now, at some point, I need to talk about the “thigh gap” phenomenon — might as well insert it here.

Ahem.

WHO. THE FUCK. CARES. whether you have one or not? Girls who are naturally skinny with wide hip bones will have a thigh gap. It’s normal for them. Some skinny girls don’t have one. Not all fit girls have one, either. It is not a deciding factor of beauty. Shaming girls because they do or don’t have one is pretty stupid. And if you don’t have one naturally, you won’t ever have one — not while you’re healthy — and it can only be achieved by starving yourself. And then you’ll be malnourished, and your muscle will waste away.

Also, guys don’t care about thigh gaps — they really don’t. You have one? Cool. You don’t? Cool. Seriously, that is the last thing on any guy’s mind.

No. No. No. NO. NO. NO. NO! See this picture? It’s shaming. This is called shaming.

(Side Note: While searching for images for this, I stumbled upon Thinspo. Oh my god…. That is seriously the scariest shit. If I had seen those images when I was between the ages of 12 and 17? Damn. I would have spiraled down a really, really dark path. Type “thigh gap thinspo” into Google images to see what I mean. Those people are seriously disturbed.)

And, here’s where my unpopular opinion comes in.

I don’t think the fat acceptance movement is wholly a good thing. Loving ourselves is a start, yes. But we already have the media saying, “Skinny is Pretty,” which is not a good thing. From that sprouted the attitude of, “Well why do I have to be skinny to be pretty? Fat’s pretty, too!” And so now we’re back at the beginning of this post.

“Fat girls are pretty. Fuck skinny bitches” versus “Skinny is the beauty standard. Therefore fat = ugly.”

Both sides seriously need to stop that. Like, right now. “Fat acceptance” should be “self-acceptance.” I know that’s what some people mean when they say it, but the phrase “fat-acceptance” insinuates that we should just overlook the health issues that come with it. I feel that for some people, it means to be complicit to the possible harm you’re doing to your body. But look at the plus-sized girl on the cover of Women’s Running magazine. That’s what I would call “self-acceptance.”

Little known fact, some of the same health issues an anorexic body suffers also apply to obese bodies, such as heart problems. We shouldn’t be encouraging people to be skinny or fat. We should be encouraging them to be healthy.

Yes, healthy is pretty, but healthy also keeps your body functioning the way it should.

P.S.

I’m not saying anything new or revolutionary. I just felt like contributing my opinion to the conversation. Anyway, you can’t judge someone’s health by simply looking at them (again, look at the running girl), but you know your own habits. That’s why you should be healthy for you. At the same time, saying, “HEY YOU. BE HEALTHY” alone isn’t going to help. It mostly depends on you. It’s a struggle. But you can do it. You’re worth it. You’re worthy of living an awesome life. But I know it’s hard sometimes.
Especially if you have an eating disorder. You are not alone. I had an eating disorder… If you do, please get help. Whether it’s binging, purging, starving — please. get. help. If you need, call these hotlines.

It took me eleven years to get where I am now, to love and accept myself, and to treat my body the way it deserves to be treated.

You are strong. You can do the thing. ❤

Relationships: Flirting and Celeb Crushes

Hello all once again~!

I don’t really talk about things like love, relationships, and romance, and stuff. I don’t know why – I just don’t. I barely write it into my stories. That said, after binge-watching a few Buzzfeed videos (I have a life, I swear. I’ve just been so busy and on-the-go that I thought a little couch-potatoing wouldn’t kill me) I’ve developed a phase known as THE CELEBRITY CRUSH. And look, I love my boyfriend to bits – he’s the love of my life – but god damn, Buzzfeed’s Eugene is everything. I mean. Damn.

JUST LOOK AT HIM

JUST LOOK AT HIM

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HE’S FUNNY, HE CAN DANCE, AND HE’S STYLISH AS HELL

Can I switch places with her?

Can I switch places with her?

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Sigh

Yeah, as you can see, I have a problem. (I’m not the only one, though. Look at the comments of literally ANY Youtube video he’s been in. This guy has an army of admirers.) But… it’s quite embarrassing for me to admit because I generally pride myself on abstaining from celebrity crushes. I mean, what’s the point? It’s so silly. It never gets anywhere. I mean, you don’t even know the person! They could be a serious asshole or an idiot or a secret serial killer. On the screen, Eugene may seem like this intelligent stylish, super funny, super hot…….. (I’m sorry, what was I saying?)

But okay, I’ll get serious now. When I’m single, I go a little boy crazy because I can. But when I’m with someone, that someone is the single object of my affection. Ideally, anyway. When I start dating someone, I generally loose interest in looking at other guys. And it’s pretty great. It feels secure. But then, there’s always that one celeb that slips through! In my last serious relationship, I discovered BBC’s Merlin and therefore discovered the perfection that is Bradley James:

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THIS VERSION OF ARTHUR AND GWEN IS MY OTP.

THIS VERSION OF ARTHUR AND GWEN IS MY OTP.

I had to stop and wonder why I felt like I needed to make his face my wallpaper and fawn over pics of him. Most importantly, I came to the realization that I wasn’t secure enough to handle that idea that maybe someone I’m dating might have these silly crushes as well. My immediate thoughts generally go:

Oh my god he thinks she’s prettier he’d rather have someone who looks like her she’s skinnier than I am I could never look like that if he ever meets her my relationship is over help

I spent so much time Googling this dilemma to see if it was common. Normally, people say, “Yeah, but you’ll never meet them. So it doesn’t matter.”

Yes! Yes, it does matter – in a way. It’s not impossible. Celebrities have dated non-celebs before. It’s not entirely impossible to meet one. What if they do meet and hit it off? So, saying “they’ll never meet” doesn’t make me feel any better whatsoever.

Before I had my anxiety issues under better control, my current boyfriend made the mistake of mentioning his attraction to Asli Omar to me:

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Isn’t she positively gorgeous??!! And she’s a lovely singer; she’s the vocalist for one of our favorite bands, The Tontons. But at the time, when I still let my anxiety and depression get the best of me, I automatically assumed that I’d lost, and that she’d won. Rationally, I knew that that wasn’t the truth and that my boyfriend loved me, but… it just made me feel less than. Since then, I’d resolved to continue to pretend celebrities weren’t all that hot and that the Asli Omar incident never happened.

But it’s human, isn’t it, to have a bit of a wandering eye? That’s the only explanation I can think of. It’s very complex to think about. If I saw someone like Eugene out and about, and if situation permitted, I would flirt like hell. (Probably. I’m really shy and would probably talk myself out of it…. But I’d still daydream about flirting with him.) And I would do this knowing quite well that at the end of the day, I’m going to bed with the best bf I could ever ask for. What is this cognitive dissonance?

Do you believe that flirting is disrespectful in a relationship? Some people do. I don’t make a habit out of it. Normally, I just admire from afar. But when I ask myself questions like these, I generally flip it around to see what I would be okay with dealing with.

For example:

What if I saw the bf fawning over pics of Asli Omar or Janelle Monae?

What if I jokingly commented on a Buzzfeed vid: “Eugene = bae.” Would I be okay if the bf did something like that?

What if we were watching a movie, and he just randomly said, “Wow. She is hot.”

Okay, present-me would be a little irked, but I’ve also learned that there’s more than one kind of attractive in the world, and that liking the looks of one person doesn’t cancel out the looks of another. I also know that he loves me and that that’s all that matters. It also helps tremendously that my bf is extremely understanding and compassionate – I mean, he’s a nurse, and he learned a thing or two from mental health courses – so he weathered this rough journey with me… from me being jealous and anxious to me just being a little irked but okay overall.

In fact, I was recently proud of myself for acquiring the guts to ask him if he ever had fantasies. Was I in them? Were other women in them? Stuff like that. Much to my surprise, I wasn’t irked or hurt at all. I guess that shows my progress.

That said, I still have a long way to go. I’m not going to go posting Eugene pics on Man Crush Monday any time soon because if the bf did anything like that on Woman Crush Wednesday, there would probably be some problems.

Or not.

Who knows? Maybe I’d surprise myself and only be a little irked.

SO! Ladies and gents – how do you feel about flirting and celeb crushes? Where do you draw the line? Do you care? Does it bother you like the dickens? Do you go a little overboard?

Let me know! 😉

Feeling Pretty White Bread

Since I started college, I’d always pride myself on my diverse group of friends. One night, a bunch of us went out to Ihop. We took a look around and realized that we pretty much look like the United Nations.

Another time, years later, a small group of us was hanging out, engaging in shenanigans. One of our newer friends, a white guy, looked around and said, “Man. You guys make me feel pretty white bread.”

I looked around, and I realized I was the only black friend – black as in, not mixed.

All of my biracial and multiracial friends are beautiful and come from interesting families. Thinking of it that way, it’s kind of hard not to feel like a ho-hum plain Jane.

I mean, take ice cream, for example. I always opt for the most delicious mixes of flavor.

But I have to remember that vanilla and chocolate are still classic flavors.

Where Do I Go From Here?

I noticed that some Americans really like to ostracize other Americans. I often hear the phrase, “Well, if you hate it here so much, you should just leave.”

Yes, leaving is definitely an option. Another option is stopping to wonder why these people are so unhappy in this country.

Look, I’m American, born and raised. I love America with all its free speech and ubiquitous free wi-fi. But… I also know that America is pretty fucked up.

We were the 18th country to legalize same-sex marriage (took along enough), and people are still fighting it tooth and nail. Many people are using the same excuses that were used when interracial marriage was illegal.

On a related note, a surprising amount of people are unable to separate church and state. To some, a completely secular government would be the end of times. Fire and Brimstone!!

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Apparently this is what they think a secular government would look like.

Little do they know, Sweden, France, the Netherlands, and many other nations have secular governments and are doing just fine.

And when I was in Japan for a month, I felt more like an equal and a human being than I feel here sometimes. The Japanese never made me feel self-conscious about being black (except for the three times I was asked to get my picture taken. One of them was when I was standing next to my tall, handsome, blond-haired, blue-eyed friend). Here, I’m sometimes followed around stores even though shoplifting is the last thing on my mind. People sometimes lock their cars when my dad strolls by, even though he’s a hard-working, productive member of society. And even though my boyfriend takes his profession seriously, in nursing school, he still encountered patients who refused to be treated by a black nurse.

America isn’t even among the top ten nations with the best education systems! And there’s no sign of that changing any time soon.

We’re not in the top ten for health care, either. Surprise, surprise. (Even though ours is ridiculously expensive.)

And, we also have a bit of a prison problem: “Not only does the U.S. lead the world in incarcerations per 100 thousand of population, but it is home to largest total number of prisoners. Roughly 2.2 million people are incarcerated in the United States. China’s estimated prison population totals to only 1.6 million people.” (Statista). We’re second only to Seychelles. This is kind of embarrassing.

Obesity is out of control. (Seriously, people threw a fit when McDonald’s first tried to sell apples, but all hell broke loose when Twinkies went out of business.)

Our cops are out of control. (Not all cops – yes, I know. But you can’t deny that we have way more bad apples than we need.)

And let me tell you, we’re on no one’s list for happiest country.

So, taking all this into account (and this isn’t even all of it), it’s natural to wonder where else I could live.

Denmark, Sweden, and the Netherlands have some of the happiest people.

Japan, Canada, the Netherlands, and the U.K. are among the top ten education systems.South Korea is number one, but I wouldn’t touch South Korea with a 50-foot pole. Case and point:

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(Pretty ignorant for the so-called best educated nation in the world, hm?)

The U.K., France, Canada, Switzerland, Sweden, and the Netherlands are all among those in top ten healthcare.

And I also did a search for the “most tolerant” countries. And after various perusals, the Netherlands was consistently the top choice.

The Netherlands is also extremely energy efficient. (Germany is number one.)

Look, I am seriously considering learning Dutch and moving to the Netherlands. (I’m also told New Zealand is a great choice as well.)

And before you say it: I do know that racism is everywhere and no nation is perfect. I also realize how lucky I am to have been born an American. I don’t hate this country – you won’t catch me burning flags or shitting on them – but at the same time…

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(Side note: And yes, I know “Black Pete” is a thing. But, to be fair, if a character who is Santa’s helper is the biggest racial issue in the country, I’m pretty sure I can overlook it.)

(Side-side note: Does anyone know what ballroom is like in the Netherlands?)

The Giant Ballerina

I dance ballroom.

I started about two years ago (I was 21) and I got serious about it pretty early on.

When I was 22, I had enough money to take ballet classes (where my older brother goes, and also where he teaches advanced contemporary) to help me become an overall better dancer.

I couldn’t sign up for the adult classes because they were scheduled at the same time as evening ballroom, so I registered for an “age 7 and up” class. I thought, “Seven AND UP! So surely there will be mixed ages!”

I was wrong. I was oh so wrong.

I showed up in my baby blue leotard and pink tights, towering over all the 7-year-olds, feeling awkward as hell.

Towards the end of class, my brother peaked his head into the studio.

I heard him say to someone, “Yeah, that’s my little sis. Isn’t she so cute?”

Oh. Yes. I bet those little girls’ parents thought I was adorable.

Anyway, to make things worse, I’m kind of scared of little kids. They make me uncomfortable. The fact that I was able to suck that up and show up to every class proves how serious and determined I was. They never really addressed me, although they looked at me sometimes, probably wondering why the hell some “old lady” is in class with them.

Their tiny bodies were far more flexible than mine. Their little feet made perfect points that my feet will never achieve. But I couldn’t let that discourage me. I had to endure awkward stares from the teenagers, too. Awkward, awkward, awkward.

Unfortunately for me, I could only afford ballet for one semester. I miss it so much. And it really did help me. Let me explain how.

In the collegiate ballroom world, competition ranks are like so: Newcomer, Bronze, Silver, Gold, Novice, Pre-Champ, and finally, Champ. Everyone is allowed to compete in Newcomer for exactly one year. After that, you have to move up to what many of us call “Bronze Purgatory.” Many dancers make it to Bronze and never get out. It’s the most saturated of all the ranks. You could be the best dancer on the floor, but it won’t mean anything if the judges can’t see you in that massive sea of competitors. You have to really stand out.

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The more ballet I learned and applied, and the more ballroom lessons I attended (group as well as private lessons), the more I was able to connect all the things I learned. With hard work, I made it from Newcomer to Silver in two years, which is uncommon.

Sadly, due to financial reasons, among other things, this dancing queen is on hiatus – a very agonizing hiatus – and I’m itching to dance again. But, when I made it to Silver finals, I thought I would have a heart attack. I wanted to pour all my money into lessons (and, I basically did) so that I could move up to Gold. It was within my grasp.

And it wouldn’t have been possible without those awkward ballet lessons. If anything ever taught me to get the hell out of my comfort zone, it was prancing around a dance studio with 7-year-old girls.

Right now, my writing game is on hyper drive. I’m writing, editing, and submitting as much as I can, since all I have is time. But soon… soon…

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I will wear my dancing shoes again…

Big Swedish Heart

‘Kay don’t judge me for this one. But get ready for a feel trip.

Shortly before I was with the wonderful boyfriend I have now, I had a thing for Japanese and Swedish men. Oddly specific, I know. Let me explain why. I’d studied Japanese language and culture for years, for fun, and had been to Japan and made Japanese friends. I watched Japanese tv; listened to Japanese music. So naturally, I developed a fondness for Japanese men.

When I started teaching myself Swedish (for fun), I mused about the idea of finding a Swedish guy. Then the inevitable thought popped up. “But… do they… do they even like black girls??” There was only one thing left to do.

TO THE INTERNET.

Some sort of weird dating profile thing came up for Swedes wanting to date blacks, so I clicked to look at it, for shits and giggles. It was mostly Swedish women wanting black men.

But there was one older Swedish guy. He was bald and looked like he was in his forties. His profile said something like: “Would like to meet a beautiful black woman to love. I have two children, and I have a big, warm heart.”

I closed my laptop, and I walked away.

I did not ask for those feels.

It kind of struck a chord with me because of a poem I read in one of my poetry workshops in undergrad like three years ago. I can’t find it now, but it was a poem of about four verses. Each verse was written like a singles ad in the paper. The first three were just screwing around. Business man not looking for anything serious. Biker looking for a good time. You know, that kind of thing.

But the last stanza was pretty serious. It was a Jewish mother looking for someone to love; she had three kids who she said needed a father figure.

Can you imagine? All these business men and bikers and Swedish women on ads like these get one night stands for fun, but people (with children!) who really want to find someone to connect with, and who couldn’t meet someone face-to-face, and had probably had accounts on sites like E-harmony, had been reduced to advertising the love they’re willing to give away in the newspaper (or in weird ass, oddly specific personal ad sites).

Meshed in with these “no strings attached,” “looking for a  good time” advertisements, the real love that these single parents are offering has been cheapened. They’re not looking for a night of clubbing and drunk sex. They are, first of all, looking for someone with enough love to give a partner, along with said partner’s children.

Look. I’m only 23. (I just turned 23 yesterday, actually). I’m childless, and I don’t plan on ever having children. So, I can’t possibly understand what these singles are going through, but I can somehow feel a sense of melancholy emanating from them. Pain, hurt, desperation, hope.

The woman in the poem may not be real, but the inspiration to create someone like her must have come from somewhere.

And I hope that Swedish man and his children, wherever they are, are happy.

Rainbows! Rainbows everywhere!

Man, it’s been a “horrible, no good, very bad week” for conservatives, huh? Just take a look at this article.

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But today truly is a day to celebrate. I was starting to think it would never come. The U.S. is now the 21st country to legalize same-sex marriage – took us long enough. But, what took so long? Why were people so afraid of and offended by homosexuality that they would deny them the right to marry?

Sure, people cite the Bible as evidence in their arguments against gay marriage – and I agree that churches should not be forced to do anything against their respective belief systems – but if you’re going to follow the Old Testament, I hope you’re also abstaining from pork and killing people who work on Sundays. In any case, people tend to leave out one important bit of information: Christianity didn’t create marriage. It existed long before the advent of Christianity. So, if you’re a champion of “traditional marriage,” I hope you conduct your weddings pagan style.

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Others oppose gay marriage because it would lead to people marrying animals, and it would turn children gay, and good heavens! We wouldn’t want that, would we?

‘Kay, look. First of all, I don’t know what you’re smoking that makes you believe you can talk with animals, but animals can’t give consent. Adult humans can. Therefore, adult homosexual individuals who love each other have the right to marry. Animals? Not so much. And I’m pretty sure they don’t care…

Secondly, you can’t “turn” people gay. And you can’t “choose” to be gay. Believe me, I’ve tried to change my sexuality. I’m heterosexual, but I tried so hard to be asexual because I was sick of being hurt by guys. And there were times when girls hit on me, even as guys rejected me, and if I could, I would have just made myself gay. But, you know, vagina’s not my cup of tea. It never was, never will be. Many people I’m close with are LGBT. You’d think they would have influenced, or “recruited,” me ages ago. Doesn’t work that way.

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Likewise, a gay person can’t just turn straight. Let me put it this way: Some people are left-handed; most are right-handed. We don’t know why. It just is what it is.

So accept it. If you’re not LGBT, then this decision does not affect you. If I eat a cupcake, you won’t get fat. Etc, etc.

Take time to celebrate. Love wins! LOVE wins today. What poor soul is too blind to see how beautiful that is? You know what this reminds me of? The last time love overcame hate and ignorance:

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Look familiar?

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Why, yes. Yes it does.

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I have friends, cousins, and siblings who can marry whomever they want, anywhere in the country. Their happiness is my happiness. When I heard the news, I was off-my-rocker ecstatic, and I’m straight.

You know something, though. I have been quite invested in this struggle not only because many people I love are LGBT, but because had I lived 50 years ago, this same kind of hate and ignorance would have affected me, too.

My very first serious relationship was with a white guy. We planned on getting married – it was pretty much a given. His family made me feel at home. And during this war on the gay agenda, I couldn’t help thinking it was history repeating itself. What if I couldn’t marry the person I loved just because someone else didn’t like it? Someone I didn’t know, someone who had zero effect on my life. Someone who didn’t want me to marry just because they thought interracial marriage was wrong because it was Communism and the Bible said so.

We weren’t hurting anyone. We just loved each other, just like same-race couples do. Likewise, LGBT couples love each other, they fight, they make up, they go grocery shopping, some want kids, and they all just want to live their lives. We’re people. We’re human. We’re consenting adults. And it took a long time – too long – but we’re here. Love has made history yet again.

Way to go, ‘Murika. Every once in a blue moon, you do something right.

But we’ve still got a long way to go. Here’s a list of things the LGBT community and their straight allies still need to fight for.

But for now, let’s celebrate this victory! 😀 Have some rainbow cake.

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