So far I feel like my posts here reek of seeking pity, or seem to come from a place of perpetual victimhood. Believe me, that’s not how I see myself nor is it how I want you to see me. Underlying tales of sleeping with shitty men, taking shitty jobs, and having shitty relationships is the common thread of repeatedly choosing those shitty men or jobs or people in favor of my own short-term gratification. Of choosing the easy way out to avoid confrontation or making myself vulnerable in any way.

Believe me, I know that the common denominator between all my woe is me stories is literally just me.

I turn into a bitch:

I turn into a bitch for a multitude of reasons daily.

I turn into a bitch when people are late. Not like a one-time, having-an-off-day, fifteen minutes late kind of late, but the people I love most who are continually, perpetually late. I know that they don’t think twice about it. I know that it has no upfront, intentional meaning. But I can’t help but read into it, and what I end up reading is: “her time is not very valuable. It doesn’t matter if I am there on time, she will wait for me. She is dependable, but also – more importantly for serving my needs – she’s a doormat.” That’s what you’re telling people when you’re constantly late. What makes me even more a bitch is when those same people, who are always late and who know it makes you crazy, try to find ways around appearing late. They text five minutes after they were supposed to arrive saying that they’re five minutes away, but when twenty more pass you realize they must have been just leaving their home when they did so. That’s when I go from bitch to mega-bitch.

Speaking of which, I turn into a bitch when people lie to me. Even if it’s small, or inconsequential, or even if it was six months ago. People have lied to me enough. I have trust issues.

I turn into a bitch when I don’t get an apology I think I’m owed. It’s taken twenty-some years, but I’ve become really good at apologizing. When I’m in the wrong, when I overreact, or when I make a mistake or show up somewhere late – I just say I’m sorry, and I mean it. It’s the easiest thing. How did I end up surrounding myself with people who can’t seem to mush the words together and just admit they were wrong? That’s all it takes. I turn into a bitch, sure, but I become human again real quick, and the secret code word is simply “sorry.”

I turn into a bitch when people disappoint me. This might be my bitchiest. I guilt-trip and sigh and make my disappointment clear. It’s not fair, sometimes. Sometimes I have to apologize. I’m always trying to learn to expect less of people, in order to be fair to us all, but it’s hard, and sometimes I don’t live up to my own expectations, ironically enough.

I turn into a bitch when I think I’m being taken advantage of, but I can never find the courage to stand up for myself. So I let it simmer, and I let it ruin my day or week or month, and eventually, finally, it dissipates until I remember the unfairness of it a year later, failing to notice that perhaps it’s me being most unfair to myself by denying me any chance to speak my piece.

I am a bitch often, and I am good at it, though it is not good for me. Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting it to hurt the other person, or so the old adage goes, and though I repeat it to myself often, it does nothing to keep the bitch at bay.

After all this, it turns out that maybe I’m just a bitch.

I don’t like my job,

I don’t like my job, and everyone reacts differently when I tell them.

I don’t like my job because they don’t give me enough work to do. Ten years ago, when I was working retail or call center jobs, I would have killed for the chance to be able to complain about not having enough to do. I would have relished not feeling harried and harassed and constantly pressured to be on all the time with customers and callers. But now, I’m 27 and I’m a Virgo, and I like to feel valuable.

At my job, if I miss a day I can catch up on all the work I need to do in about 90 minutes. They pay me for eight hours, but I do 90 minutes’ work. The rest of the time I blatantly text, or surf Wikipedia to learn new things. I often just sit at my desk and openly read a book while on the clock. I know the people walking by or the people reading this will think, “Paid to read? Jealous.” Normally I’d be one of you. But it’s demoralizing. It’s awful, to spend every day waiting for scraps of work to do, for not feeling important or worthwhile. And when I do get work, it’s incredibly menial. It’s scheduling someone’s meeting, booking a conference room, printing sheets upon sheets of paper that I know won’t be looked at again, will just be wasted. So much waste there, waste of time, waste of potential, waste of trees. Waste of life.

When I talk to my mom about job-hunting, she doesn’t understand. I’ve only been there for six months – why should I get to leave? Why, when she worked a job that she hated for nearly thirty years? Thirty years. Imagine waking up every single day for three decades, going through the motions, packing school lunches and dealing with sleepy, ungrateful children and an absent-minded husband and then getting in your car and driving to a job that you hated where you had to spend 8 hours, and then coming home to once again only do things for other people for the rest of your free time. You’d fall back into bed, grateful to do this one selfish thing, nourish your body with sleep. I don’t want children – I don’t even know if I want a husband – because I just want my time to be my own.

When I talk to my dad about how much I hate my job, he says, “Well, you’ve just got to do more to show them that you’re hungry.” He recommends that I request random meetings with bigwigs, go around the office asking questions about projects, scour every inch of the organization’s website so that I know all. I don’t know how to tell him that people wouldn’t take kindly to being interrupted, that the website is boring as shit, and that I don’t care about random projects. And even if I do all this work and gain all of this information – I am not present enough on anyone’s radar for them to take notice.

One woman who asks the most of me, who demands copies after copies after copies and meetings worked around her labyrinthine schedule – she called me Heather the other day.

My name is not Heather. This is how unimpactful and unimportant I am.

I had a meeting with some members of our team and our supervisor, who went around the table to express what she appreciated about every single person individually. She got to me and said, “Well, I don’t know much about you, but you’ve mentioned traveling, and people who travel are the best.” Thank you. I’m glad I’ve made such an impression. Six months may not be that long, but you could at least say I’m funny? Kind? Professional? Professional might be just as big a slap in the face. What does that even mean? It’s like calling something “dynamic.” It’s been used so much that its meaning has become meaningless.

Feeling useless at work means that I feel useless in the rest of my life. I’m no longer sure of my footing, sure of myself. Like that therapist said, before she made it clear that my problems are not priority number one in this world (believe me, I know): I don’t trust myself anymore.

It’s the same with men. I go on dates because I can’t believe that they want to date me. I sleep with them before I’m ready to see if they’re even worth it, because, I rationalize, at least I can see whether they care if I come early on, so I don’t get too invested. The problem is, with each encounter with someone who barely knows me, I only end up feeling bad about myself. My self-worth should not solely derive from who wants to fuck me and how they do it. But it also should not be based on how productive or challenging my work is, because it’s neither.

When I tell other people that I’m unhappy with my job, they ask, “Well, what do you want to do?”

I have no answer for them.

I don’t know what I want to do. I’m not particularly good at any one thing. I’m decent at a lot of little things, which don’t amount to a career of any kind. I like to write, but I don’t have any original ideas or formal training. I care about feminism, but I could never hold a candle to the feminist scholars wielding their minds across social media today. I learn from them.

So really, I feel stuck in each and every regard, and I can’t seem to find the drive to drag my way out. I’m dreading the day when I wake up and find that I’m 40, single, and still waiting for someone to ask me to do something meaningful or call me the right name.

 

“Are you dating anyone?”
“How’s your love life?”
“Seeing anyone special?”

“Don’t worry. You’ll find someone.”

As I face the downward slope of my twenties, my love life is considered an open agenda item for all acquaintances to question. And after I detail a bad date, or my latest breakup, or my recent purposeful attempts to stay single, they devolve into the placating, uncomfortable, halfhearted refrain: “Don’t worry. You’ll find someone.”

I think about telling them I’ve given up, and I think about how it would go, and I know it would make them more uncomfortable than they like. It would make them pity me when that’s not my goal. So I keep it quiet. But secretly, usually, I have given up on the idea of someone loving me, for a long time, as I am. That doesn’t mean I won’t date, I won’t have fun, I won’t enjoy casual sex or drunken flirtations. It just means that I’m not holding my breath for another great love.

I was a fifteen year-old virgin when I was raped by my boyfriend’s best friend, who repeated “I love you,” throughout the assault, even while his hand covered my mouth and he told me to hold still, as though manic declarations of love would make me stop crying, stop begging, stop fighting. He did it because he loved me so much, he said later. He had to show me.

I was sixteen, and somehow still naive, when he did it again.

I was twenty-two when I finally broke up with his best friend, my boyfriend of seven years, the one who was my boyfriend even through the suffering and the trauma and the recovery. He doesn’t know that I often doubt whether he loved me as much as I loved him. Sometimes I tell myself it’s crazy to think he only stayed with me so long out of guilt over what happened, when we were so young, but other times it doesn’t feel so crazy to think that’s the only way someone like him, so genuine and beautiful and wholesome, could love me.

I have had sex with eight men in my life. Some were kind, some were brutal, some were rough, some were gentle. Some seemed to look right through me, even while they fucked me.

I was twenty-three when I started dating a man that I liked, one who I thought I could maybe grow to love given time. Having only been with one man who knew my everything, I had and still have a very hard time deciding how to broach the subject of my past with new men. On one hand, telling them early feels like a guaranteed effort to make the relationship heavy and cumbersome, meaningful before it’s ready to be. On the other – it’s going to come out eventually. While it grows easier daily to dispel reminders of my rapist, it’s harder to keep nightmares of suffocating underneath him at bay. Sometimes I call out in my sleep. Sometimes I disassociate during sex. Coping exposes me.

I decided to tell this man after we had been dating and sleeping together for only a few months. He made me laugh. He made me come. He was insatiable and I was enjoying an era of something new and fun after so much of the same for so many years. I was enjoying feeling wanted. I told him about my history and he got quiet. He said: “I’m sorry that happened to you.” He only hugged me good night, and he did it like he might break me, his fingertips on my shoulder blades. On our next few dates, I had to kiss him first, and press my body onto his, and still he kept his hands firmly to himself. He was no longer insatiable. Our few following attempts at sex were soft, quiet, serious. He did not look at me. And suddenly, he was busy at work. His texts grew vague, and then faint, and then nonexistent. He no longer wanted to touch me when he learned how else I’d been touched.

I was twenty-six when I decided to sleep with a man after only three dates, throwing caution to the wind in favor of breaking a four-month dry spell. I had not tried to tell anyone else about my trauma, instead praying that they did not trigger me and hoping they wouldn’t notice even if they did. Though we were still getting to know each other, and though it was our first time, he didn’t seem concerned with reconciling our needs. He fucked me rough and fast, held me down, hands on my throat and hips and twisted in my hair. I sat on the toilet and cried in his bathroom after he fell asleep, and told him the next day it couldn’t be like that again. When I told him why, this guy who was cute and laid-back and sensible, he balked. He put up his hands. He tried to soften the blow, but ultimately he said: “that’s too serious for me.”

He didn’t say the words but I knew what he meant: “that baggage is a deal-breaker.” “The bounty of being with you is not worth the cost of not being able to fuck you however I want.” “I don’t want to have to worry about your feelings while I get off.”

What he did say out loud, not unkindly, not with any trace of cruelty, was “When you get over it, you should call me. I’ve had a fun time with you.”

When I get over it.

When you get over it, you’ll be worth my attention again. When you can lay down and take it exactly how I want to give it, then you’re the total package. I am never going to be worth it. And that’s okay with me.

I am not saying that survivors cannot be loved, or are too much trouble, or that their trauma defines them even if they don’t want it to. I know that we are common, and we can be found in loving, healthy relationships of a dozen kinds, ones where our partners have borne our pain, talked through our grief, worked with our needs.

What I am saying, what has been made abundantly clear to me, is that I, personally, am not worth the very high premium of my detriments. I am not beautiful, or charming. I’m, frankly, unambitious; I’m mediocre. I’m not funnier than anyone else. I don’t take risks or make spontaneous moves. I am predictable, and middle of the road. And that means that no one will bother loving me, because what they get in exchange for the emotional labor of navigating my baggage is a thoroughly unremarkable and disengaging person.

This, all this, is what I would have to explain to people when I tell them that I know I’m not going to be loved again. I remember the men whose eyes flickered while they calculated my pros and cons, weighing RAPED, NEEDY, DAMAGED against the lackluster pros.

So instead of inflicting this on these well-meaning people, the ones who spring eternally hopeful and assure me not to worry, I self-deprecatingly chuckle and say, “Man. I sure hope you’re right.”

to doubt is human

I spend a lot of my time doubting myself.

I leave an interaction and a moment later think, “Jesus, was I so rude? I feel like that was incredibly rude.” I ruminate for the rest of the afternoon on it.

I sit at my desk, nauseous and dizzy and warm, telling myself all the while, “you’re just being a baby. You’re not sick. This isn’t what sick feels like. Other people work through much worse.”

I leave a date, a bad date, a date where he pushed me up against a wall under an awning in the rain, put his hands all over me, and I think, “Ugh, I have such bad instincts. I need to stop doing this. I need to stop being so stupid.” The bruises I spot the next day quietly effuse “you’re a goddamn fucking idiot,” and I press them hard in the shower to remind myself but also to try to make them go away.

I go to see a therapist, hoping she can help me, hoping I can establish a place of trust and commitment within a life that doesn’t currently see much of either. After two sessions she says, “it doesn’t seem like you’re trusting yourself much.” No, it doesn’t. She ends the session with, “you can come back if you ever feel like you need to.”

‘Oh,’ I doubt to myself, ‘oh, she means she doesn’t want me to come back all the time. Not next week, or the week after.’

I don’t remind her that I’ve already scheduled my next appointment and quietly cancel it on my way out. She does not want to see me again. Other people need her more. This feels like the time a boy kissed me goodbye after our second date and affably said, “take care.” I can tell immediately that he didn’t mean to say it out loud, he was only thinking it, he was only already thinking: ‘I’m done with this one.’ He returns texts for a few days and then he doesn’t anymore.

I doubt my identity. What am I? What am I most? Woman. Survivor. Feminist. White. Straight. Cis. Fat. Fat.

I am a woman when I ride the train. I try to take up as little space as possible so I fold my arms across my chest, but that presses my breasts together and I can tell without looking that a nearby man is leering. When I think about zipping my coat further up, I decide against it, because I don’t want to call attention to the fact that I think people are sexualizing me, even though I’m sure he is. The ones who aren’t, I tell myself, will think I’m undeservingly full of myself. I’m too ugly to objectify by most standards. So I let him look at bits of my body he has no claim to, and I shift on and stare at my feet. All this before seven a.m. I am definitely, absolutely a woman when I feel most powerless.

I am unobjectively fat. Sometimes unapologetically fat. Some days, I forget what I look like, and I walk around with a confidence that surprises people. I swing my hips, I look strangers in the eye. I imagine flirting with a cashier and then I accidentally sort of do it. I wear a short dress or a crop top or cutoffs. On some rare days, I am not fat. Most days, though, I apologize for my fat. I aim to be unobtrusive and I fail. My ass knocks a stack of papers from a nearby desk when I stop to talk to a co-worker, and the conversation stops while I pick them up, flustered. I need to ask someone at a restaurant to pull in their chair in order to let me pass. I am disruption personified.

So many people don’t know who they are. They reach for professions or romance or adventures to define them and they doubt their abilities or their ambition or their lovability. I know that I am not unique when I doubt. Sometimes, doubt itself can be a driver. “I must resolve this. I must define this.” All that doubt does for me is bring me here. To write.

Ineffably,

H