Is That it?

Overnight, the stretch marks appeared with the presence of breasts, hips, and a deeply rooted sense of fear. I, like many women do, became the object of sexual fantasy and gratification from one day to the next. Overnight, my body was no longer my own. Everyone had a comment. Days of running and playing carefree were gone.

The first time I felt afraid and powerless was when I was fifteen. When boys- boy my age- felt it was okay to grab me or pin me down. In the dressing room. By my mother’s car. On a school field trip. Young boys. The ones who were taught that a woman’s body was theirs to explore and command. He touched me and said “juicy.” A state of shock and stillness overcame me, then I laughed. He pinned me down in a room full of friends, put my arms over my head and got on top. Both fully clothed. Both kids. I tried to move and couldn’t budge. My muscles weak. He leapt across the room when he heard the door handle turn. My mom was a chaperone. They all laughed. I laughed. Two of them grabbed my arms. Unable to move. My wrist hurt. My mom walked back from pumping gas. They stopped. They laughed. 

Is that it?

Since being ushered into womanhood, the fear hasn’t stopped. But it wasn’t a big deal. None of it was. School trip hotel rooms turned into parties. Parties turned into dance clubs and bars. Bars into sidewalks. Bruises come and go as a result of being handled like a toddler’s favorite toy. Dancing is not an invitation to be grabbed and groped. When Whitney Houston came on, it wasn’t an invitation to have you leave a black and blue imprint on my body for days to come. When the music ends, the dance is done. It’s over when I stop the music.

But did he actually hurt you though?

A deep sense of shame and self-loathing comes with being looked at for one thing. I desperately wanted a smaller chest and to change the way I move my hips as I walk because a Latina’s hips are like a welcome mat, calling to so many of you. Instead I gained weight and kept it on. My attire, though always quirky, became overcome with graphic tees. They’re looking at what’s on my shirt, not what’s under it. While it kept some boys away, it brought on a new set of problems- you’d be prettier if you lost some weight. Why don’t you have a boyfriend? My worth, still determined by my proximity to man.

Didn’t you like him?

Blame. It’s a funny thing, isn’t it? It’s funny because not once did I blame these boys (or the countless others) because they’re good guys. Some of them really are. Some of them I don’t know but maybe they are and they just made a mistake.

If only I hadn’t dressed like that.

If only I hadn’t joked like that.

If only I hadn’t challenged him like that.

If only I didn’t have that last drink.

If only I could remember.

If only I left 10 minutes earlier.
Not all guys are like that.

Social media is a beast because it makes it harder to separate them. A casual chat turned to unwanted advances turned to being called “aggressive” and “condescending” when all I wanted was to turn down sexual advances. His entitlement and misunderstanding of how to speak to a woman respectfully left him feeling cheated. I owed him something. Freshman year of college, a guy bought me coffee and a bagel. I owed him something. Fast forward five years, a guy bought me a drink. I owed him something.

Since then, this old friend has gone on to apologize profusely. I thanked him. He’s one of the good ones. To the guys that meet such acts as this (or the Weinstein scandal or Woody Allen or a seeing a friend being grabbed without consent or or or) with silence, I’m sorry we are not enough. Maybe you’ll get it when you have a daughter. I hear you get a handbook at the first clubhouse meeting.

And while I’ve always had a good group of guy friends- some of which I never knew if they wanted to fuck me or friend me- I looked to them a lot to “save” me. In order to keep from being harassed at a club, I tend to grab my nearest dude and pretend we’re together. Because a guy won’t fuck with another guy’s girl. That’s called respect.

If growing up in this highly misogynistic and patriarchal society has taught me anything, it’s that women are everything. And then some. I used to think more women equals more targets. I used to be teased by other women for being friends with some of the actual good guys. We are not in competition. We are not here for them. We are resilient and triumphant. We are intelligent and funny. We are beautiful and sexy (on our own terms). We are supportive and kind. We don’t need to share our stories to be warriors. We don’t need to keep quiet to be strong. We are in this together. We save ourselves. We will smack the shit out of guys in a club together and walk out hand in hand. We will fight day in and day out. We are better together. We are not asking for it. We are worthy of love. We are enough. 

Her. Him. Them. We. Me too.

 

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Follow the [exposed] Brick Road

It’s been one week since I completely uprooted my life and became a New York City transplant. On this day one week ago, hundreds of others did the same. And for what? To follow the exposed brick road of dreams, of course!

While it’s only been a week, it feels like time has elapsed with the simultaneous speed of a camera flash and clock-stopping anxiety attack. It’s a strange constant state of limbo. I have all this time on my hands, being momentarily unemployed. It gives me the time to become acclimated with my new home, meeting up with old and new friends, applying everywhere and anywhere. I’m even writing this in Bryant Park while a pigeon stares at me mercilessly. He could be eyeing my banana bread but I like to pretend I’m more ~important~.  Point is, I have the gift of time. And it blows.

I thrive off of being busy. My mind works at such a rapid pace that when I do find myself with this luxury, I am often more anxious. It’s something I’m working on, okay? But right now, it’s a bitch.

I know I chose the right city. In fact, I’ve never been more sure of a decision.

I write this not to add to the romantic New York narrative because I am waiting, patiently, for this city to screw me over. And it will. No, I write this to show that there is little more fulfilling or beautiful than following your passion.

At the risk of sounding too corny, let me sum it up: do the shit that makes you happy.

If I had a nickel for each time I did something or went somewhere because I felt it was expected of me, I’d have a heavy bag to take to CoinStar and exchange for a crisp bill or two or five. But you know what? I don’t deserve a nickel or two or five. Hell, not even a penny. No one made me do those things.  No one made me move or take a job or stop writing or compare myself to every millennial on social media or or or. The noise is loud and constant, but not in control. 

To make a decision for yourself is difficult. Honestly, it’s so fucking hard to be truly and completely independent-minded- not influenced by family, friends, media markers, celebrity, someone who’s career path you wish to emulate. In fact, it’s pretty impossible because you will always have some bias in the back of your mind. But it’s possible to get pretty darn close- to follow that gut instinct. It’s always possible to try and fail and try again.

I made the decision to move to the city of my dreams with little money, no family up here and no job waiting for me. Obviously not the “smartest” choice but hey, it’s done. Sure, I’m worried about rent when my funds run out and I have no clue where I’ll be living in a month’s time. Sure, I don’t know how I’m gonna celebrate my first birthday without my family or when I’ll hear back from one of the dozens of hiring managers that have my feather light resumé. But I’m happy.

The choice is mine. I don’t have to take a 9-5 job if it makes me miserable. I don’t have to be in a committed relationship if I don’t want to. I don’t have to measure my life and milestones to anyone else’s. I don’t have to. This post-grad journey is a bit of a shit-show but I think we’re finally starting to understand one another- I wear the pants.

And so, if I have to work two day jobs to make ends meet, don’t pity me. If I serve you coffee or help you find a book or shirt you like, don’t pity me. If I’m older than you and in a lower income bracket, working a heinous amount of hours, don’t pity me. While I’m folding that shirt and steaming that milk, I’m creating stories and growing as an artist on every level. My passion and skills evolve with every order and every question. When I go home at the end of the day, I have words to write and so much to be thankful for.

I’m living the dream, baby.

Unthinkable

Not for a single moment did my gaze shift from the Falcon blue linoleum floor.  I took care in counting the tiles, creating stories for the scuffs and imagining the black and white specks came from giant salt and pepper shakers.

You look like a gorilla.

This is how a fellow classmate so aptly pointed out the hair that lives on my arms and legs. Clever, I know. Fourth graders have some good zingers.

I laughed. Because what else is a kid with an ungodly amount of body hair supposed to do? Start singing songs from Disney’s Tarzan, that’s what. They chuckled and off we went to play. And yet, my gaze never met theirs.

While the memory is short, I will never forget that being the moment I started a war with my body. I carried a long sleeved garment with me wherever I went. Partially because my Floridian body would get cold in any temperature below 70, but mainly to cover my overachieving hair follicles. Shortly thereafter, I took to shears. Sometimes I would even take the scissors and inconspicuously cut arm hair off in class. Only I noticed. So I graduated to razors and quickly earned my waxing badge.

Letting strangers pull the hair off my body began one summer in Mexico when I was visiting my grandparents. What a high- I was in the seventh grade. Every year that I went to visit my family became an opportunity for me to wax, get tan and be beautiful, if even for a short time.  I grew to resent my ancestors and to love beauty rituals. The saying “beauty is pain” was met with excitement and fervor.

Just as I got comfortable with knowing I had the power to change what I didn’t like in the mirror, the stretch marks came. They crept up my skin overnight. Hugging my hips and kissing my thighs. I grew inches horizontally. Suddenly there was nothing I could do- nothing but stop wearing bikinis and tops that might reveal too much. Even then, I had no control.

Honey, put those away. Boys won’t take you seriously.

My vice principal gave me that valuable lesson when I was in the 9th grade. I wore a white and red polka dot dress. I thought myself akin to Minnie Mouse but a friend called me “the Mexican Dorothy.” We thought it was hilarious and appropriate. When I dressed up that formal Wednesday, I put on a sports bra and tight tank top underneath in hopes of suppressing my new figure because I loved the dress so. Aside from an adjustable bow at the waist, the dress was simple and fell just like Judy Garland’s. I put my hair in pigtails and actually felt confident- no cleavage, no body hair, no figure. Still, I was pulled aside and separated from my class to be told that boys will not take me seriously.

I threw that dress in a bag to take to the Goodwill a few weeks later. My aversion to dresses and all things quintessentially “girly” took its place in my closet.

Most girls wouldn’t be brave enough to cut their hair so short.

A sentiment shared by a cute guy I met while getting my undergraduate degree. A party where the theme was ABC- Anything But Clothes. Boys respect me now, right?

The unwanted kisses were only meant to commend my blunt cut bravery.

Te tienes que cuidar.

Translation: you’re getting fat. Though it actually translates to “you need to take care of yourself.” A damaging and thoughtful phrase. When I ran and ate well, the comments did not cease. When I became a vegetarian and ate less often, I still needed to take care. When I snuck snacks and candy bars into my room late at night, guilt ridden, and turned to food for comfort, the saying held firm.

The phrase taught me that being fat is unhealthy, shameful even, but more than that, it ingrained in me the idea that being fat is not beautiful. That I lacked pride and somehow should apologize for the way I looked. That until I stopped hearing those words strung together, I would never be beautiful.

You don’t need all that makeup.

A backhanded compliment insinuating the *only* reason to wear makeup is to mask an insecurity or to please someone else. Growing up with three over-achieving older siblings I never had my own thing. I received hand-me-downs in the form of clothes, music, movies, and taste. I strived so much to be like them in every way that I had trouble finding my own identity along the way. Enter: clothes and makeup.

Everything from graphic tees to purple lipstick became my own special thing. I loved getting weird and funky with my accessories and eyeliner. Neither my sister nor mother cared for makeup or fashion, so I was on my own. And it was amazing. Through these seemingly vain hobbies I found an outward form of expression and solace. I can let the world know who I am and what I’m about without actually starting a verbal conversation!

Though my own source of content came from taking an extra 15 minutes to plan my attire, those around me made sure I knew I didn’t love myself enough. Something so simple and pure like a pink pout became vilified. I would never be as *cool* and *confident* as the girls who wore no makeup and went out the door with the closest item of clothing. Or so I was often led to believe.

But today, I did the unthinkable. I stood in front of a mirror and looked at myself. Really looked at myself for the first time in years. And as I examined my reflection these bold phrases popped into my head- the catalysts of battles in a much bigger war. Instead of looking away, I held my own gaze as I did walking to the playground that day in the fourth grade. While I’m not going to lie to you and say that I love what I see or that I believe I’ll ever be conventionally beautiful, I will say I am grateful. I am so unbelievably grateful.

Grateful for the opportunity to show a little girl- a fifth grader I taught- that the hair on my arm was just like hers. Grateful that she smiled and handed me the blue coated scissors.

Grateful that I am in overall good health and that this body is able to move, work, play and exist in a space I so often take for granted.

Grateful that the scars on my belly are there as a reminder of the pain I no longer need to endure thanks to some wonderful doctors.

Grateful that I have all these pretty clothes and lipsticks to compliment my mood and make a statement all at the same time.

Grateful that my mind is being taken care of just as much, if not more so than my body.

Grateful for the love that encompasses me daily.

I did the unthinkable and thanked my body. Have you?

Car Troubles

Hi. Hello. I know it’s been awhile- a couple months to be moderately exact. And to the two readers out there (bless your heart), I am deeply sorry. I want to be good and consistent but I suck at this. I can say I’ve been busy and that I just haven’t had time but we both know that’s bullshit. I mean, it’s true in the sense that my free time comes in the form of throwing myself on my bed with my work clothes on but it’s still a stupid excuse. Fear is the real culprit here and there’s no dancing around it. But we’ll get to that in a bit.

Here’s a quick life update: got three jobs, lost my mind for a little bit, quit one of them just this week, got into a car accident, had a lot of mirror pep talks and been listening to podcasts as of late.

Before work, I’ll fire up Spotify as I get ready and when I get home, instead of sitting and writing something to share, I’ll turn on my computer, write something abhorrent, watch I Love Lucy and eat the quickest consumable crap I can conjure up. Then I usually go through my social media feeds and eat my feelings in refined sugars while internally wailing “why is my life so shitty in comparison? Wah wah wah!” You know, the usual. When I first moved to Austin, I was bright eyed and bushy tailed. Eating better, working, and steadily dropping some packed on college lbs. I went to see free comedy and though, I never joined a troupe, I looked into it seriously and couldn’t afford it. During these absent months however, I’ve gained weight, quick and plentiful, and cried. A lot. Then I get up the next morning and do it all over again. The going out is less frequent and even the remote possibility of joining a social group, diminished.

On one morning commute this week, while listening to the Unqualified podcast, which is delightful by the way, I slowly turned down the volume and started to cry. Not one of the “everything sucks, woe is me” kind of cries. There was laughter.

I just thought, why am I doing this? Why am I so tired all the goddamn time? On the surface it’s for a chance to move out of my sister’s place and not have to go back to my hometown but more than that, it’s for the opportunity to find home. Something I can call my own. I don’t mean an apartment or a car but a passion- a life outside of what I’ve grown too comfortable with. I’m working in hopes that one day my passion can pay the bills- something that won’t happen at the expense of that passion. It’s cyclical. And so, I quit one of the three gigs in hopes that the fodder for my soul doesn’t sit on the back burner anymore. The extra cash isn’t worth the stress and creative depravity. Step one to living a better, more balanced lifestyle semi-complete. 

When I’m not working, I’m really good at finding flaws in my personal life and coming up with dramatic, negative opinions of me pseudo presented by anyone with a pulse. While some people may actually think I’m garbage (s/o to the haters that choose to read this *besos*), there are people who either have absolutely no opinion of me or think I’m pretty alright. Which is really weird because [when I’m not in a depressive state] I know I’m fucking bomb.

And yet, I still care more about how I’m perceived. Below you will find some daily thoughts:

  • Did that person realize I was being sarcastic when I opened my mouth?
  • I wonder if my co-workers just laugh out of pity. Maybe they don’t know how else to react.
  • Oh man, I’ve got a really funny joke.
  • Just say it, you idiot.
  • Moment’s passed.
  • That tweet was fucking stupid.
  • If I delete it, I’ll look lame.
  • Leave it.
  • No.
  • Fuuuuck.
  • I say fuck too much.
  • USE YOUR BLINKER
  • Fuck.

Groundbreaking, I know. If getting words and ideas onto the paper is the most important part, then why have I written seven different blog posts and refrained from posting a single one? That feeling of not “being enough” has taken on a bit of a snowball effect these past few weeks. Even into something as simple as a blog post that no one will read. Because of some recent life events- quitting two jobs in less than 6 months being one of those things- I’ve decidedly halted putting myself out there in every sense of the phrase.

Back to that epiphany though. So I’m sitting there at a red light, in my dented Corolla, crying and grinning with the soft whisper of Anna Faris’ voice in the background when I tell myself- wow, Aimee, you beautiful idiot, grow the fuck up. Also, be selfish for once. To the drivers on either side of me, watching said event occur, you had a good story to tell your friends at the bar that night and for that, you are very welcome.

Sure I’ve experienced a lot of life changes in less than a year. It’s called post-grad. And being a woman. And living with anxiety. And aspiring to be an artist. And being broke. And having a moral compass. And and and. Every single person has/is/will be going through the same exact thing as you in some fashion or another. You are not the only person that needs to experience and emote with this big dramatic affair. While I recognize my feelings are valid, I also acknowledge just how normal this is. The human experience, while individual and unique for us all, is shared. We all come to a crossroads in our life at one point where you have to seriously- and in some cases tearfully- ask yourself, what do you want?

Then you fight like hell for it.

I can tell you that I want to be happy. I want to be fearless and not let the opinions of others keep me from chasing after doing what I love. I want to love the body I’m in because it’s the only one I have. I want to make at least one person smile and make their day a little better. I want people to feel good about themselves because they are sunshine personified. I want to commit to battling the trolls in my head and on the internet. I want to be a little selfish as a 22 year old and not worry about other people, even if for a little bit. I want to not feel bad for choosing to stay in. I want to be good at something. I want to leave the world a little better than I found it.

I’ve gotten candid with my struggles because I know I’m not the only one going through this, nor will I be the last. If you’re feeling a little lost or scared or sad like I’ve been, know you are not alone. I’m here for the long haul. While I can’t guarantee this is the last sentimental post- I’m a young artsy type with emotions, OKAY?- it’s definitely a marker of change and *hopefully* prosperity.

And if not, it is now documented that I lost my shit at a stoplight while listening to Anna Faris. So at least there’s that.