Book Review: I Know What I Did This Summer Queer Reads for Teens!

It is already the fall and far too long since I have posted a book review so to ameliorate such a tragedy I am going to do four. Here it is, the big extravaganza you never asked for but sure are getting, Aquatic Misadventures’ I Know What I Did This Summer Queer Reads for Teens! Aka the shit I read over the summer before things got busy and the leaves started switching up the color palette. Continue reading

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A Tree Grows in Harlem–An Addendum to ‘The Love We Weren’t Trained For’

This is a post to address the last post, namely to clear the air a bit of my mopey-ness and meatballs.

I did not wish to give the impression that I do not think I deserve to be happy. I did not mean to depress anyone with my rambles on the internal schmutz of my mind. I merely wished to express the struggle sometimes between knowing and feeling, especially when it comes to owning your achievements in a capitalistic society that values certain sorts of achievements and is toxic to the well-being of so many.

I do, in fact, know that I can be happy or proud or whatever the bubbly feeling is. I often am quite bubbly, so much so I have a tendency to be labeled a manic pixie dream girl. I think it has something to do with the all-out dancing in random public spaces and robust knowledge of queer storylines on foreign soap operas? I have and will be happy again. This is the stuff I know.

The point was (well it was supposed to be) that sometimes what one knows factually, and what one believes even, doesn’t necessarily translate to that ball bearing of lead that somehow found itself stuck just beyond your pyloric sphincter.

A part of me still believes this is universal. Perhaps I am not adept enough to tell it? Perhaps, though I try, I do not infuse my honesty with enough humor or inspiration to properly convey the message without making the audience uncomfortable? Watching other people struggle can be incredibly uncomfortable. We have a tendency to jump to conclusions or look away when that happens.

I’m getting a little worried I don’t know how to tell my own story. But I’m alright really, I guess is what I’m trying to say. Not always (but who the fuck is? Scott Walker serving us bite-sized portions of bullshit on the daily? That lady behind me at the coffee shop who complained about having a private yoga session in her house to get to? The pet cat?)

The point is that radical, revolutionary self-love and pride are processes not endpoints.

Don’t worry I’m alright and I’ll keep going and be alright more in the future, but right now I really gotta go pee so here’s a picture of the tree that is growing out of the apartment across from us. It functions as both a unique conversation starter and an inspiring metaphor:

It's like an inch and a half in diameter at the trunk-WTF?!

It’s like an inch and a half in diameter at the trunk-WTF?!

The Love We Weren’t Trained For

I have never been skilled in happiness. They do not teach you at public school how to allow yourself genuine moments of joy, by your own standards and not simply the administration-sanctioned markers of success. Good job, you get a gold star! But a bulletin board filled with stickers next to my name never instilled in me the values of self-love, of knowing your worth and owning it. I don’t give a shit what they claim, no amount of extracurriculars ever honed any pride in my talents, in my heart and mind. At least none that wasn’t conditional, easily crumpled and tossed towards a wire mesh trash can.

Of course I missed the shot, the paper-thin pride littering the floor beneath the now vestigial pencil-sharpener. I am not one for sports.

What I’m getting at is, here I am—a newly minted 26, and I cannot for the life of the Edmund Fitzgerald (too soon?) be actually, honestly, celebratory-style excited about getting into graduate school. Yep, most of you heard it here for the first time real offish like, I am have been accepted into an MFA program in Creative Writing that I will be attending this upcoming fall.

I knew about this months ago but I was terrified to say anything. Embarrassed and suffering terribly from imposter-syndrome. This is a mistake I keep telling myself. I am not actually good enough, no one will believe I deserve to be here so it is best to stay “humble” and not dig yourself into a hole you have naught the skill to write yourself out of. Holes are often muddy and sometimes there are dead bodies and stuff in them. No one needs a dead body, that burden of expectation and its maggoty best friend, doubt.

You see, I fear I have not done well enough. There are friends, close people whose opinions and love I cherish deeply, whom I know do not understand my decision to apply in the first place. I have my reasons for doing so, but I can sense in the pitch of their voices when they respond that this is not such a big deal. And I know that they are right. MFA programs in Creative Writing are highly contested degrees regarding their practical value to cost ratio. Being accepted into one does not, in truth, influence your creative outcome. I know this and so I have taken to thinking of my future schooling as not good enough. I have not changed or altered the world, much less my community. I have done nothing but not be utter shit. Which merely means that I am in fact, mediocre shit.

This is not entirely connected contextually, but often times when there is someone who is transient (and in New York City this is daily and always) I am nearly black-out overwhelmed at my inability to do diddly. I have a pocket on my backpack where I keep change for such occasions, but a dollar here and there is barely a coffee. It is so not enough. Never even close to enough. Resources and mental health services and a systemic overhaul in the way America runs its economy, the way it disenfranchises the bodies and minds and worth of People of Color, queer kids, disabled folk, veterans with PTSD, women with HIV etc… not even this would be enough. 75 cents is just laughably stupid.

This is how it feels all the time.

I wish I could say this blog was a big FUCK YOU to modesty and humbleness in the face of achievement (whatever that achievement may be.) That I’d start screaming how fabulous I am with glitter in my hair and sugar on my tongue. But I’m only at the first stage in de-schooling myself.

It is okay to be okay. It is okay to proud or excited or good. No it is not enough, nothing ever is. But acknowledging that and continuing the work always left to do is not synonymous with shame or guilt or self-hatred and embarrassment. You have to be able to multi-task or you will not survive. If you do not give yourself the permission to take up space, to dance with pleasure in that space, you will not survive.

I do not have the answers on how to believe this. I do not propose that one day I will be as good of a person as I desperately wish to be. I will continue to fuck up. I will continue to be not enough, so badly not enough. But I don’t care, I have to try and we have to teach each other kindness. We have to teach each other what Ms. Frank’s 6th grade Language Arts Class failed us, to create ourselves in joy, if only for a moment. This is how I think, we can collectively prevail.

Give yourself permission minnows. It’s okay and so are you.

A Treatise on Atopic Dermatitis as it Relates to Minor Depression:

I miss the way my skin was when it didn’t itch. When I didn’t have the incessant need to scratch at it until little red bumps inflame and I bleed. There are scabs and reminders there now. Lotion doesn’t help. The sight of my feet, my calves, thighs and stomach, it makes me anxious. Which makes me scratch and itch all over again. Histamines.

I have eczema. It gets worse in the winter typically because the air is so often so dry and it triggers something. As the spring opened up, the snow finally melting into the grey city rain dripping off scaffolding and window sills, I hoped my skin would re-hydrate. That the moisture would cling and the itch would get better, as it typically does come this time of year. But I think I was worse on myself this winter. I’m still itchy.

The problem is that there is always this itch somewhere, and unlike other sorts of stimuli (public restroom smells and the blinding morning light,) this I do not get used to. The itch at the moment is in my right knee, on the right side and a little towards the top end of the patella. There is itch on my left wrist right above my tattoo and just below the hem of my sweater’s sleeve. There is itch on my abdomen. Close to the hip where my body when standing would just start to curve back out, but when sitting hits the peak of a roll of flesh curved over.

I want to scratch my skin off. Literally. When I start to scratch the itch, and the itch inevitably gets worse, I scratch harder, and faster. You can hear the scraping of my fingernails worse when I’m over the bone. It’s so stupid. But I keep thinking at those moments, if I just had some steel wool, a pumice stone or a fork. Perhaps if I angled the sharp edge of a knife just right I could finally cut away the itch without slicing down to the muscle. Of course, this is terribly not true. My logic luckily gets the best of me. I do not grab sharp objects (except occasionally pencils or the crisp edge of a folder). I slather on more prescription strength triamcinolone and pretend it’ll work, that the violence will no longer tempt.

I do not mean to cause the damage to my skin. I do not want to. It’s terrible and embarrassing the way I will suddenly start clawing both hands at my ankle, the top of my foot, or just above my underwear line. Roommates who start off with a, “Yah get it!” quickly morph into grimaces. They are uncomfortable with my intense display of discomfort. I get it. “Stop it.” They’ll say and swat at my hands meaning all the best, “You’re ruining your skin.” They just don’t want me to hurt myself. I know and I’m sorry, it just itches so goddamn bad. When I scratch it feels so wonderful, painful and relieving all tethered together and lovely. I stop and the itch is worse, layered on top by the sting of broken skin. So I keep going until I can will myself to stop.

It is way harder than it looks. It’s just so easy to put your hands down and stop. Really it should be, and technically it is. But the itch doesn’t listen to technically, the itch just itches. At work and other professional places, even sometimes at home alone, I can manage. I wear clothes that cover my skin and make the itch difficult to access, I’m busy with other things like smiling at customers and repeating our mantra, “Oh no, the registers are over there. Don’t worry it looks similar, happens all the time.” But sometimes, I’ll admit, I walk calmly to the backroom, look around and scratch—my skirt hiked up and my tights running thin beneath the friction. I’ll repeat this, it’s stupid.

I promise you, I do try. I have three different tubes of topical treatments, and a massive push cap bottle of “healing lotion” I apply generously after every shower and when I can feel myself on the verge of scratching too deep. I scold myself and smack my own hands away from the trouble spots. I rub gently with my palms instead of dig in with my nails. I tell other people to hold me accountable. But just a few moments ago, when I took a quick bathroom break, I used it as an excuse to hack at my upper right thigh. Kept thinking that if I just let myself itch right now, then I’d be satisfied and it’d go away. I scratched off another scab, stopped the bleeding with some Kleenex. I was ashamed and proud. This was just five minutes ago, so if that tells you how it is…

Sometimes, no that’s a lie, most days I feel I am making this up. This is not eczema. This is a girl who scratched herself itchy and now can’t manage to stop. Partially, that’s true. When you damage the skin the skin reacts and that can make a cycle. It’s all mixed together now so it doesn’t really matter. Sometimes I’m afraid the itch is a lie, but still it is all my skin can comprehend.

A Blog Post? Mon Dieu!

I have been struggling a bit to write something not depressing as shit. Not that shit is always depressing mind you. Sometimes when one really has to go finally getting the opportunity is pretty damn relieving. A party really.

Although someone at work has been having too many parties as of late, but that’s a story for another time…

My point is I have not blogged in quite some time as the moment I go to write a post it winds up another sad, obnoxiously mopey tale of the life. I did manage to write a silly story for work about our mascot rabbit, but only after much self- ruler slapping. But that’s really all. I’ve been quite hard on myself about it. WRITE SOMETHING FUNNY GODDAMNIT AQUACHILD! Trip down those treacherous stairs between the park and your home and land with your ass in someone’s birthday cake! Make-out with a streetlamp just to see what dirty rain and chipping paint tastes of! Shoot water out your ears! Join in with the people dancing on the subway! Vomit in public again! Whatever! Just. Make. The. Funny.

But I have to respect that I am not there. If what’s going to come out is sad then so be it, let that sad out. I tend to have trouble with that as once I let the dam out it’s destructive. Floods whole rivers and probably does some terrible shit like forcibly remove people from their homes and communities. For some folk getting it out is cathartic. Nope for me. So I avoid it, or curb it, if I can. Write now (pun intended…I am aware it is tragic) that is not something that is working. This is a warning mini-blog. I’m going to allow my stupid ass fucking orange juice and toothpaste level sadness the dignity it apparently demands, and post a sad one.

Avoid the next one as you may need slash desire.

I hope the world is still going swimmingly for you lovely shimmering minnows, and oh, P.S. if you work with me you should not tell Jake that I wrote that rabbit story. I’ve managed to confuse the heck out of him on who mysteriously wrote it. Bwhahaha bunnies

At the End of the Thunderstorm There Will Still Be a Rainbow of Nerves.

The last email informing me of an application’s successful completion sits in my inbox, and while that last check has not yet cleared, there is relief. Can I tell you how much a pain in the ass it is for schools not to have online payment? This modern world makes me so antsy it seems, but seriously, is four weeks a reasonable amount of time to wait for a mailed check to be accounted for? I mean, only my future education and a little bit of my self-worth hangs in the balance here.

In short, I’ve finally finished all my graduate school applications. They were technically completed over a month ago, but I’ve been waiting and emailing back and forth on the minutia for weeks. And while we’re (okay, I’m) in the mood for ranting, WHY ON POSEIDAN’S BLUE EARTH DOES THIS SHIT HAVE TO BE SO EXPENSIVE?! I am living paycheck to paycheck paying for rent and groceries, and here I have to fork out 20 dollars every transcript I send, $37 every GRE score, and anywhere from $50 to $125 in application fees. Well, shove that fork back up my ass, that adds up. There are already countless barriers to higher education, much more so for those without my privileged background. I am aware there are ways to get those fees waived for those who need to, but that can feel like a lot of hoop jumping, plus I’m just trying to make a point here geesh.

Now I just wait, with my overgrown hair curling at the back of my neck because I spent the money for a much needed haircut on hopes and dreams, and an even more likely metaphorical pile of rejection letters. There is debate over whether MFA programs for writing are a valuable thing or not. I do not want to be a part of that debate. I resolutely do not care if you think I am wasting my time (and clearly, money).

I think the people hosting these debates underestimate the decision making skills of those who decide to trek for the MFA. This is not to say that some people who pursue them don’t come to regret that decision. This is always the case. It was the case for me with a much less contentious higher education degree. The same is true vice versa. This is because, to tag roughly on the metaphysical philosophies of Heraclitus, people are in flux. We are constantly changing. Our environments are constantly changing. Just a giant clusterfuck push and pull of navigation. It doesn’t matter how many pro-con lists you make, how much data-driven evidence you gather, all the anecdotes compiled and deconstructed, all the moderated forums, or all the drunken ones—a decision is always a chance that necessitates a little faith.

My faith, and that of many, is that we will learn something of value from graduate school.

This being said, holy shark bait Batman, can someone please settle my nerves? I’ve developed a finicky stomach this past month. Not sure if it’s actually related to the anxiety-ridden wait to hear back from schools, or if it is just a generalized thing—but either way I’ve been struggling with some post-eating nausea. Very annoying really.

I’ve always been quite mindful of the extreme amount of pressure I’m placing on myself regarding these applications. I know in the logical sense that such pressure is fruitless and harmful, but really blah blah all that be zen about what you can’t change bluther I WANT TO BE GOOD ENOUGH! Part of this pressure is in part related to my previous access to other things. My last venture into higher education I did not truly feel was because of my actual worth, that I actually earned that. I had gotten in as a part of a conditional program out of high school. I managed to pull of quality credentials in a completely unchallenging school and with the luck of a wonderful teacher for a mother. As long as I maintained certain grades throughout my undergrad, and scored within a certain range on particular tests, I was admitted. I didn’t have to rub the skin raw on my knuckles to get it. So this MFA is really the first thing I feel like I’m trying to honestly earn. And I’m pretty sure I’m going to fail. I mean, clearly, the fear of failure didn’t stop me but it is freaking me the hell out so much I can’t eat rice without the pressure snaking its way up through my intestines and into my diaphragm.

Maybe I’m dehydrated.

My fear is that if I don’t succeed, at least a little bit, I’ll just be verifying my mediocrity, my uselessness. My unfathomable ability to pass well enough to get by with nearly everything I do, but not actually the power or fortitude to affect change. I want so badly to be a good person and I’m terrified I’m not. Not really. That I’m just a megaphone of sound bites. I realize blogging about it is simply perpetuating the problem, but I’m trying to work through the anxieties somehow and I don’t know…

I’m not asking for advice here. I don’t think there is any that would work. I just don’t know. I don’t know a lot of things but I want to start knowing, or trying to know. I want really very badly to…ugh I don’t know.

Anyway, ramble at you later minnows. Terribly sorry this particular return blog is so unfocused. I am a very unfocused Atlantean mutant babe right now, but I’ll return and perhaps extrapolate on my feels in a more cohesive fashion on a later date. In the meantime enjoy this beautiful promotional work for the soon to be movie about my father, the one and only (okay not only) Aquaman. Looks nothing like him. Jason Momoa is significantly better. Can I trade? Is it weird to be mildly attracted to the man supposedly portraying your dad? Don’t answer that please.

Image originally tweeted by 'Aquaman' Director, Zack Snyder.

Image originally tweeted by ‘Aquaman’ Director, Zack Snyder.

Barbra Streisand Sings to Me While I Shit-or-How I Got Really Sick At Work

Okay, so I am going to talk about something pretty well qualified as “TMI,” but I have a roommate with the lovely philosophy of reinventing his most vulnerable and embarrassing moments into humor, so holy shark bait Batman, I am going to too. Leave now if you are not comfortable with foul.

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