That Old Familiar Feeling (of Failure)

My anxiety is a funny thing. Not ha ha funny, obviously, but curious funny. The way it flares up and dissipates. What sets it off.

And the frustrations of how it can affect me.

Sometimes I’ll go days, maybe a whole week, with my anxiety pinging. I can feel it, hanging on my shoulders and clinging to my neck. It’s just there, making me uncomfortable, waiting to give me a squeeze. And squeeze it will. It’ll set my brain to overdrive at the slightest trigger.

My overwhelming thought when this happens is “I’m failing”. It is the mantra of my anxiety.

I’m failing. I’m failing. I’m failing.

As someone who’s fear of failure has severely negatively impacted her life, I think this is a pretty insidious thing for my brain chemicals to do. How’s your day going? Your week? Feeling a bit anxious? Well, that’s because you’re not doing enough and what you are doing isn’t good enough. Enjoy!

When this happened recently, it was during a very busy period. I had several projects going and I was struggling to keep all of my plates spinning. In fact, I dropped a few. And even though I managed to be incredibly productive, more productive than I anticipated, I would still have moments during that week when my anxiety would give me a squeeze and whisper in my ear, “I’m failing. I’m failing. I’m failing.” Of course, that voice got louder when I dropped my plates. Sure, I got all of this done, but you forgot to do something that you’ve done every other week for months. And you nearly forgot to do this thing that you’ve done every day for the last two months. You’re not doing as well as you thought, huh?

I’m failing. I’m failing. I’m failing.

It’s a scratchy voice and an itchy feeling. My shoulders are tightening and my skin is contracting just typing about it.

It’s a helpless feeling, too. Not just because my brain does this sort of clever shit to me against my will. It’s a helpless feeling because it validates the rotten thoughts I have about myself. It gives them more weight. I’m floundering because I’m failing and I’m failing because I’m not good enough to do any better.

If my depression is acting the ass, the result can be debilitating, a spiral straight to mental health hell.

If not, then my anxiety gets a rude awakening from my stubbornness, which is so embedded in my family’s DNA that it’s actually on the family crest. Because my stubbornness doesn’t care about my anxiety or failing. I have shit to do and I’m going to do it. The end.

This is part of the reason why I can fake being okay when my anxiety is actually doing a number on me. I might be a little extra awkward and maybe a little more forgetful, but otherwise, there’s nothing different about me. I’m taking care of business like I always do.

I’m failing. I’m failing. I’m failing.

And I’m too stubborn to let that stop me.

Parental Supervision–Playtime Edition

In the summertime when I was a kid, we spent most of our days outside. You left after breakfast, came back for lunch, went out again until dinner, and then didn’t come home until the streetlights came on. Sounds a bit, “When I was your age, I walked to school in the snow uphill both ways,” but it’s true. That’s how we lived life. No cellphones, no social media, no playdates. Just you, your friends, and your parents having a vague understanding of where you were and what you were doing.

Growing up in the ’80s and ’90s, parental supervision was still struggling to catch on in places, particularly in my cornfield. The children were like chickens–free range. We were roving bands of dirty hands and skinned knees and our parents liked it that way. Rarely was there ever an issue. On occasion, your parents might not know where you are because you forgot to tell them where you were going before you ran out of the house or you changed locations in a major way without checking in, but it was all part of kidhood. We all got grounded for that at least once (my sister and I twice that I can remember).

My summers back then came with two added bonuses to the usual summertime antics: I grew up in a small town and my mom ran a daycare in the house so even with a neighborhood full of kids, we had even more delivered to us five days of week to get up to shenanigans with.

We were kept on a leash in the mornings. The older kids were kept around to play with the younger kids in the backyard. We had a Slip n Slide and a sprinkler. Later on we acquired a swingset that the big kids couldn’t play on. Once or twice a week, we’d walk to the library for story time.

After lunch, the older kids were turned loose while the younger kids napped (unless it was too hot; then we were kept in the air conditioned living room to watch movies and play board games rather than court heatstroke). Outside, we were encouraged to run amok elsewhere so we wouldn’t wake the napping toddlers with our wild heathen antics. This meant riding bikes up and down the street or going over to one of the neighbor kids’ houses or flinging ourselves even further. So long as we were back by snack time (between 3:30 and 4:30) and checked in if we wanted to change locales, we were given free reign.

Many an afternoon we we ended up in one of three places: the school, Jaycee Park, or Dead Man’s Hill.

The elementary school was just a couple of blocks from my house. It was fenced in, had two sets of swings, a slide, monkey bars, and parallel bars all cushioned by first plain ol’ ground and then later wood chips. It also had a big blacktop where we could play basketball or kickball or ride bikes. They lock up the playground now so no kids can access it outside of school times, but back then, it was basically treated like another park.

One of the actual parks we would go to was Jaycee Park. I don’t know if that’s it’s name, but that’s what we called it. It was over by the waterworks and we’d have to cross a two-lane state highway to get to it. It had a tennis court and swings, but most importantly it had teeter-totters. Quality entertainment right there.

But more entertaining for a bunch of kids raised on The Goonies were the woods on the other side of the park. There was a creek that ran back there and on the other side of the creek was this small, old cemetery. The only hitch was the creek was about eight feet down, so to cross it, we’d walk across a sewer pipe that was about 2 feet in diameter. Nobody thought about falling into that trickle of a creek below. If you did…you just crossed the pipe on your hands and knees. No explorer left behind. And nobody ever fell. We were in and out without a care in the world.

I think every small town claims a Dead Man’s Hill and ours was at the end of my street where it dead-ended into a steepish hill that led to a set of railroad tracks lined with woods on both sides. Yes, we used to play on railroad tracks. We’d either walk a few yards north and duck into the woods on the other side of the tracks where there was a path and a clearing where obvious partying happened (they recently found a mobile meth lab in there and believe me, that’s the not the worst thing that’s been found in those woods) and another path that led to the Kiwanis Park, which at the time was basically a concrete slab and a couple of picnic tables. Now it’s got a whole water park thing going on. Needless to say, back then we hung out in the woods more than in the park.

Our other option was to walk south, across the trestle over the two-lane highway and down the tracks about a quarter of a mile, if not more. There was another creek, just a trickle of a thing, back in those woods that we had easier access to and we’d play in it. It was the only spot we’d go off the tracks down there because we were certain that Devil worshipers were doing Satanic rituals in those woods. Ah yes, life in the ’80s.

I can only remember one time that my mother ever came looking for us down on Dead Man’s Hill and it was extenuating circumstances. The rest of the time, we were left to play on the railroad tracks as we pleased.

Am I saying that parents should let their children roam free in the summer months with minimal supervision? Of course not. They’re your livestock. Fence them as you please.

I’m just saying that I lucked out with a pretty fun, adventurous kidhood, and that we consistently made it home alive, not escorted by cops, and mostly unharmed is pretty neat.

You God Does Not Apply to Me

One time a coworker of mine was going on about how the Devil was overtaking America and all I could think of was “Wow. That sounds like a Christian problem. Good luck with that.”

Rude? Maybe. But points to me for not saying it out loud. And even if I did say it out loud, at least I’d be speaking the truth.

It is a Christian problem.

Your God does not apply to me.

Your God believes abortion is murder? Wow. Sucks for you trying to access reproductive healthcare. But your God does not apply to me.

Your God believes being gay is a sin and marriage should only be between a man and a woman? Wow. That sounds pretty harsh. But your God does not apply to me.

Your God believes women should dress modestly? Okay then. But your God does not apply to me. Or my crop tops.

If you couldn’t tell, I’m not a religious person. Oh, I dabbled back in the day, mostly with Christianity, but it never stuck. I couldn’t jive with that God. Today, I believe in the Universe. It has everything. Some of the rules are kind of complicated, but only if you’re being graded on explaining them. It doesn’t judge you. It just is. I dig that.

In short, I do not believe in your God. And please do not counter with, “He believes in you!” He can do whatever He damn well pleases. It doesn’t change my position. Jesus might love me, but I opted out of his fan club.

As such, I do not have to abide by the fan club rules.

Your God does not apply to me.

I came across something the other day that summed up my feelings on this. Religion is a personal relationship with God. Personal relationship. What you do with your God is none of my business. It’s quite literally between you and your God. The trouble comes when you try to include me in your personal relationship. When you try to extend the rules of your personal relationship to include me. When you try to enforce the rules of your personal relationship at me.

Your God does not apply to me.

I’ll be blunt. I don’t give a shit what your God thinks. It’s none of my business and none of my concern. Because as it turns out, I do not need the threat of a displeased God sending me to a place of eternal suffering to make me act right. Judging by the behavior of some religious folks I’ve seen, they don’t take that threat too seriously anyway.

Insisting that your God applies to people your God does not apply to is not a demonstration of the strength of your faith. It is oppression. Using your God as a justification to harm and control others is not exercising your right to religion. It is denying that right to others.

If your God is a God who demands total obedience, who insists upon dominance, who propagates hate and bigotry and selfishness, who speaks loudly about helping but does no such thing, who doesn’t believe that prayer is a verb, then by all means, live in accordance to His law. Keep that shit in your houses and your churches and your prayer groups and your schools. Don’t try to make it law. Don’t subject the non-believers to that shit. That’s all your problem. Don’t you dare try to make it mine.

Your God does not apply to me.

Celebrating 20 Years of My Boobs…with a Mammogram

On August 13th, my boobs will be 20 years old.

If you’re new to the blog and my breasts, the short story is that I had breast reduction surgery in 2002. I wrote about the long story here. I’ve also written about some of my hang-ups with the resulting scars and told a story that has been retold multiple times by my friends so people I’ve never met in other states know about my boobs.

And in honor of my jubblies making 20, I’ve added another titty story to my biography.

Okay, so it wasn’t exactly in honor the anniversary of my surgery but it just happened to work out that way. Call it serendipity.

At the end of last month I had my first mammogram adventure.

In all fairness, I should have had my first mammogram after my breast reduction surgery. But in the months that followed while I was healing I lost my insurance and never really gave it much thought afterwards since I was young and I’ve always been horrible at taking care of myself. Probably should have gotten it done anyway. But we’ll get to that.

I saw my doctor early in the last week of July for a routine pap smear that I was overdue to have by about twenty years (what did I just say?) and that included having my doctor do a breast exam. I self-exam (not as often as I should, of course, are you getting the theme?), but a second opinion is always a good thing.

Especially in this case because my doctor wanted a second opinion on the fatty tissue on the side of my upper right breast, just under my armpit. We both agreed that it was probably nothing, but a mammogram was a good idea, especially since I’m the age to start regular mammograms anyway and I’d already put it off.

So, I scheduled my first mammogram for that Friday.

Now, my first wasn’t like a regular first because it was a diagnostic. Meaning that I’d have my mammogram and then wait while a doctor elsewhere (there’s none on site in my little town) looked at the pictures and decided whether or not I needed to get an ultrasound.

Groovy.

I will admit that the thing I was most nervous about was remembering NOT to put on deodorant the morning of my appointment. As someone with anxiety who stresses over just making appointments, I find this to be amusing. And the mammogram itself wasn’t too bad. It was awkward and uncomfortable and some of the squishing was a little painful, but nothing terrible. The tech I worked with was quite skilled and we were done pretty quickly even though she was also showing a newbie the ropes and offering up teaching points as she went.

Then I got to sit in the hallway in my front closing smock and watch Shark Week while I waited for the word on whether or not I had to have an ultrasound.

It turns out that I did. It was only after I got into the ultrasound room that the new tech (my first dude in the whole process starting from my doctor’s appointment) told me the remote doctor wanted an ultrasound on my left side -not the side my doctor had been concerned about.

Okay then. A plot twist.

I lay down, whip off that gown so the tech can gel up my tit, and we proceed to stare at the screen looking for anything that looks like it shouldn’t be there. The tech took some pictures to send to the remote doc, but told me that he didn’t see anything. Neither did I, but I struggle to pick out shit in those baby sonograms, so I’m probably not the most qualified.

He let me clean up the gel and then he left to send off the pics and see what the remote doc wanted. It was only after the lights were on and I sat up that I realized that gel had gotten all over my smock. Like, what the fuck? How did it get from my left boob all the way over on my right side? Absolute chaos.

The tech came back and informed me that now we had to do the right side in the area that my doctor wanted checked. So, we had a repeat process of gel and staring and picture taking and once again seeing nothing. This time after I cleaned up, I got to go back to home base and change. The tech was pretty confident that the remote doc wouldn’t need to see anything else, especially since there wasn’t anything to see.

After some more Shark Week time in the hallway, my original mammogram tech came in and informed me that the right side was just fat (as I, a veteran fatty, suspected). She then explained that the remote doc had seen a spot on my left breast on the mammogram, but since nothing showed up on my ultrasound, they’re not too concerned. It’s probably just a natural occurrence, possibly as a result of my breast reduction surgery, but since they don’t have any previous mammogram to compare it to (see how I screwed myself there?), I have to go back and have a second mammogram done in about six months just to be sure. So, after going two decades without getting a mammogram when I should have, I get to have two in six months time. Sounds about right for me.

Fun fact about me: After spending years with tits so big that they felt like their own person and after having breast reduction surgery and all of the exams that go with that before and after, I’m actually pretty comfortable whipping out my boobs in a clinical setting. No less than five people saw my boobs during Mammogram Week and three of them manhandled them. That’s the most action I’ve gotten in a long time.

So, here’s to my next boobsquish and to twenty years of smaller tatas.

Sláinte!

What Do You (Stress) Dream About?

One charming thing about my brain is that I have nightmares on the regular. Despite my fascination with horror movies, when I was a kid I was terrified to the point of not sleeping by them solely because I was afraid I’d have nightmares. It wasn’t until I was older that I realized my nightmares are seldom influenced by anything I watched during the day. They are an independent entity and they come so often than I got used to them. In fact, I seldom have a nightmare that makes it difficult for me to go back to sleep.

I read somewhere that it’s believed there’s actually a nightmare trait -a gene that makes a person predisposed to having nightmares- and I believe it. My youngest niece suffers from the same nightmare issue. Her sleep got a lot better once I gave her some of my coping mechanisms. She used to call recurring dreams “reruns” and get annoyed with them. “Ugh! I had another bad dream last night, but it was a rerun! I already did this!”

As annoying and sometimes disturbing as those nightmares can be, I’d take them over stress dreams any day.

Or night, as it were.

I’ve had stress dreams since probably junior high or high school. I get stressed, my dreams get stressed. They’re different from nightmares because stress dreams are more likely to trigger my somnambulism.

They’re also different from nightmares because stress dreams are relentless. If I have one, then that’s going to be my night. No amount of changing position is going to save me. I’ll wake up, roll over, and go right back into it.

My stress dreams are usually about the situation that has me stressed. That’s usually work. A busy library with no help and an inability to do my job is pretty common. Or I’ll dream about past jobs as a substitute for my current one. Usually I’m back at Wal-Mart trying to remember how to do my job.

But sometimes my stress dreams take on a fun twist.

They evoke the same feelings as my usual stress dreams, but they’re more like the nightmares I have. Like the time I dreamed about the 10 plagues, but not in a fun, Dr. Phibes way. Or the time I dreamed about stabbing zombies in the eye with the handle of a rat tail comb. Normally, these nightmare-adjacent dreams would have been nothing for me. Instead, I was left feeling wound for sound as much as drained.

Sometimes the stress dreams will co-opt dreams that I don’t consider bad and warp them. I frequently dream about tornadoes and sharks (but not together), which might be nightmares for some people, but for me they’re not because I’m never scared in any of them. Unless they’re stress-related. Then these dreams take on an anxiety-inducing quality that spills over into my waking hours and wrecks my day.

My stress dreams have become more and more frequent over the past few years to the point that recently I couldn’t remember the last time I didn’t have one. My body adjusted to them apparently because they stopped wearing me out as much as they used to, but my mind still struggles.

It’s bad when I crave the bizarre dreams, the absolute nightmares, but I really would prefer them.

Those I can sleep through.

The Greatest Mystery of My Life–Solved!

I have just recently solved probably the greatest mystery of my life and since this is my life, it was of course a ridiculous one.

How did I get Styx Extended Versions Live on my iTunes?

Here’s the thing, I like music. When I say I like music, I mean I like all kinds and as such I have a sizeable, bizarre collection of it. And since I had internet access during the Napster/Limewire/Kazaa days, I have a lot of songs that I randomly acquired (and not all of them labeled correctly). These were also the days of ripping/burning CDs. I have a ton of music that I not only ripped from CDs I own, but also CDs burned for me by my friends (those were the days). I also have songs randomly acquired from my friends posting the tunes on LiveJournal.

What I’m saying is that even though I have a whole lot of music, I know where most of it has come from.

And I’ve managed to keep most of it through the years despite numerous hard drive failures and computer crashes. I have literally transferred songs from my dying desktops to USBs to new laptops. I will go above and beyond to keep my music. I don’t trust iTunes to save it for me.

Prior to my trip to Seattle back in 2017, I decided to make a massive playlist for the trip. That way I could load that one playlist and my pacifier shows onto my iPod (yes, I’m old and still don’t put music or media on my phone) and be set for the 4+ hour flight from O’Hare to the Seattle and back. My flight anxiety stems from being locked in a metal tube with too many other humans rather than any fear that the plane might crash. If I plug myself in to my music or my shows and try not to think about peeing in the tiny bathroom, I can manage. At the time, those 4+ hour legs were the longest flights I’d ever taken and I was understandably concerned. I wanted to be prepared.

So, I created the Why Not? playlist. It’s just the broadest sampling of my weirdo collection of music. I’ve got everything from 1920s swing jazz to 50s country to 60s pop to 70s Southern rock to 80s synth to 90s alt to 00’s hard rock to 10s dance and everything in between. It’s a good time.

However, when I first put this playlist together, going through my catalogue of songs, I ran into something I couldn’t explain.

Styx Extended Versions Live.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I wasn’t mad about it. I like Styx. I just could not for the life of me remember how I ended up with it in my collection. I know I didn’t buy it because for all my love of music, my CD collection is rather paltry compared to other folks my age (or at least what their collections might have looked like during the heyday since I can’t say that anyone my age still has their CDs) and even though I like Styx, I couldn’t see myself spending money on one of their CDs. And I was pretty sure nobody gave me the CD because I know I didn’t have it in my pitiful collection and no one I was running with at the time would have gifted it to me.

I was sure I didn’t download it off of iTunes because again, not the thing I would have spent money on and I almost never download complete albums anyway.

So, that left my Dad’s CD collection, which is surprisingly bigger than mine. Probably because his car actually had a CD player and I don’t think a single car I’ve owned ever did. I ripped a big chunk of his collection (mostly his country and Southern rock stuff), but for the life of me I could not remember him ever listening to Styx, let alone owning one of their CDs. There was also the matter of not finding a Styx CD in his collection in his Jeep which is where all of his CDs live.

For years, I had no idea where the hell this Styx album came from or how I came to possess it in my digital music collection.

And then recently, I had to go look for my CDs. Yes. I still have them.

My Dad had cleaned out the pie safe where they’d been kept and ended up putting them down in the basement with a bunch of other unused items. As I was rooting through the box he’d stored them in, I came across Styx.

I don’t know why it’s not with the rest of my dad’s CDs (my guess is that it’s related to an ex-ladyfriend because I highly doubt it was one of the CDs my grandpa had, which are also down there) and I don’t remember ripping it, but I suppose I must have. After all, I do have the whole album and no other explanation about how I acquired it.

So, I’ll go with this logical conclusion.

Mystery solved.

I’m Not Patriotic By Nature

I know this seems a radical thing to say by someone raised in a country that prides itself on its patriotism, that injects the performance of it into so many aspects of life. I said the Pledge of Allegiance every morning in grade school like everyone else. I’ve sung the “Star Spangled Banner” before sports events. But they’re just motions to go through. They don’t stir that “America, Fuck Yeah!” feeling that I’m supposed to have, that unbridled, unconditional loyalty akin to what an avid sports fan feels for their team (now that I do have for my beloved shitshow Chicago Cubs). I do not well up with pride or any other emotion when I see the flag.

The patriotism didn’t take. Sorry. It’s just not my bag.

Now don’t get me wrong. I enjoy the 4th of July. I love a good theme. The color scheme and coordination, the insistence on consuming only barbecued meats and mayo-based salads, and there’s explosives. What more could a Midwestern girl want?

But I am not patriotic.

I do not feel an unconditional love to a bordered area just because of the happenstance that I was born there. Do I acknowledge that I was fortunate to be born into my circumstances in this country as opposed to perhaps another country? Yes. Do I also acknowledge that I could still have been less fortunate being born in this country, but into different circumstances? Yes.

None of the freedoms that I’m supposed to celebrate were given to me freely by this county I’m supposed to pledge allegiance to. All of them had to be fought for, bled for, and are now being casually ripped away. The only “freedom” I have going for me in this country is that I’m white. Everything else -being a woman, being queer, being poor, being non-Christian- disqualifies me. Why should I be patriotic to that?

Shouldn’t loyalty to country be no different than loyalty to anything else (except my loyalty to the Cubs)? Shouldn’t my country be as loyal to me as I am to it?

No. Because patriotism is an unrequited act. You’re expected to show your devotion, up to and including giving your life for you country, and in return you hope it spares you its worst. You point to the freedoms that are just illusions and claim that asking for anything more is an insult because this is the best country in the world.

I don’t feel that way. I don’t feel like there is a Best Country in the World contest and if there was, I don’t think America would be seeded as high as everyone else does. I personally don’t see a country that prioritizes the destruction of the people in other countries over the well being of the people within it’s own pretend outline as even making the Sweet Sixteen, let alone the championship game.

People conflate patriotism with gratitude. I can be grateful for my existence (or not) and how where I live influences my existence. I can be grateful that I live in the middle of a cornfield in a perceived blue state in a carved up United States. But that gratitude is not patriotism.

I am not a patriotic person.

I just live here.

Parental Supervision–TV Edition

The other day I was watching Puppet Master on TV. An ’80s classic to be sure. I remember watching it with my sister when it came out on cable. I was probably 10 or 11, which would have made my sister 9 or 10 at the time. You could say that we might have been a little too young to be watching a movie in which a bunch of creepy puppets murder people, but hey, it was the late ’80s/early ’90s. We were allowed to do that back then.

The question came up on Twitter once about what were you not allowed to watch as a kid. While other people are listing R-rated movies and TV shows like South Park and in some cases The Simpsons, I really had to think about it because we didn’t really have restrictions on the TV we consumed. The best I could come up with was we weren’t allowed to watch anything with excessive sex. That’s it. Excessive violence was fine. We were allowed to watch horror movies with the understanding that we were not to wake up our mother if we had nightmares. We made this choice. We got to deal with the consequences.

This is why I went through a period of sleep deprivation one summer after watching Creepshow 2 and A Nightmare on Elm Street 4. I was afraid to sleep because I was afraid to have nightmares. It turns out I don’t remember having any nightmares about the movies when I did sleep and as I’ve gotten older I realize the my nightmares act independently of anything I watch. They just are.

As a result of this lack of parental supervision, I watched A LOT of horror movies when I was more than likely too young to be watching them. I can remember sitting on the couch when I was really little watching Poltergeist and V: The Mini Series with my dad. Of the two, it turns out V was the one that scarred me for life. Fucking lizard people.

The best part was that this lack of parental supervision extended to grandparents on both sides. In the case of my paternal grandpa, you could say it was even encouraged. He might make us rent stuff like The Journey of Natty Gan and The Princess Bride from the video store, but then we’d go back to the house and he’d say, “Oh, look! There’s a Maximum Overdrive/Duel double feature!” and then we’d watch that (my sister still hates driving alongside semis).

At his place I can remember watching Halloween II and Halloween III: Season of the Witch; The Hitcher; Aliens; Poltergeist III; and Trilogy of Terror (I was convinced the Zuni doll lived in the bookcase after that viewing).

At my maternal grandmother’s house, I’d sometimes go off to watch TV in the den. There I remember watching Jaws 2, Cujo, and Motel Hell.

Most of these movies were consumed by my eyeballs before I got through junior high (some of them before I got to junior high).

And it wasn’t just horror that we were allowed to watch, either. There were some more adult action and comedy flicks we were consuming at tender ages, too. I don’t know how many kids in fourth grade watched Fatal Beauty, but for a period of time, I could quote it. Ditto for Police Academy 3, but that was one of those things where the adult jokes kind of fly over your head and you just laugh at Proctor walking into a room full of people while stark naked.

TV shows were the same way. Do you want to watch Unsolved Mysteries and America’s Most Wanted? Go for it. Pro wrestling and Beverly Hills 90210? Enjoy. 21 Jump Street and Cagney and Lacey? By all means. Cartoons? Okay then. Cartoons are for kids anyway. Just no Wile E. Coyote impersonations.

Did I watch age-appropriate stuff? Sure. All the time. Did all of this unbridled media consumption warp me? I dunno. I think if it did, it’s probably way down on the list.

Did it help form my tastes in regards to the media I consume as an apparent adult? Yeah, I’m sure it did. I wouldn’t have watched all of those horror movies as a kid if I weren’t fascinated with them and wasn’t willing to face the potential nightmares to experience them.

Am I saying that parents should let their kids watch whatever? Of course not. They’re your kids. Warp them in your own unique way.

I’m just saying that for me, I’m glad I wasn’t so supervised.

I Am Not Flirting With You

I saw a tweet the other day (that I failed to screencap) that said something to the effect of, “I’m not flirting with you. I’m just hot and talking.” And on a level I could relate to that tweet. Not the hot part, of course. The not flirting with you part.

Because I can assure you that I’m never flirting with anyone, ever. Even if I’m attracted to you, I’m not intentionally flirting with you.

I study many languages, but flirting is one I do not speak. I don’t know a single word. There are people who can weave that flattery and charm and innuendo and whatever else it is into conversations effortlessly. I can’t even attempt this. I’ve tried. I’ve also conveniently erased those times from my memory because they were so awkward and cringe-worthy. If you put me on a plank over a tank full of alligators and told me the only way I was getting out alive was if I successfully flirted my way out of that situation, I’d go ahead and jump. I have no game. None. Non-existent.

However, I am frequently assumed to be flirting with people even when I’m not. This is most notable with men who panic that a fat girl might be hitting on them. Meanwhile, I’m oblivious because I think we’re just having a conversation, maybe joking around. Under no circumstance am I actively flirting. As we’ve discussed, I have no skill there.

What I’m doing -and what I’m good at- is bantering. I’m quick with a joke or an insult, I know a lot of random stuff, and my mind is just dirty enough that I can come up with an appropriate innuendo or two. Every conversation with me has the potential to be a comedy routine if I’m feeling it. I’m a natural.

People mistake this for flirting. It’s wild. I know that there are some similarities. But I can assure that I’m not trying to seduce you.

I’m trying to entertain you. It’s my defense mechanism.

If I’m entertaining you, then you might not notice that my anxiety is raging and that I feel incredibly awkward, that I AM incredibly awkward, that I know I don’t quite fit in, that my introvert ass is plotting a socially acceptable exit. If you think I’m funny, you won’t notice I’m weird.

You gotta get to know me better before I ease you into my weird .

And by then my banter stops being a defense mechanism and becomes just my natural conversational skills. You’ll never notice the difference.

I’m told that what I really am is a natural flirt. That’s why I don’t notice what I’m doing. But I think it’s the other way around. I think everyone else doesn’t notice what I’m doing.

So, don’t panic. I’m not flirting with you.

*Obvious customer service related aside: I am definitely not flirting with you when I am at work. My job is to be professional and courteous. I am paid to indulge your presence to a certain extent. I do not want your body or your phone number.

Aunt Kiki the Answer Bi

I knew at a young age that I was not straight, but I didn’t really put that out into the world until I was 17 and came out as bisexual. As it happens, living in a conservative, rural area, I don’t have a whole lot of queer friends or acquaintances in my immediate physical space. I’m surrounded by straights. For many of these folks, I’m the only queer they know. Or the only queer they know well enough to ask questions about queerdom. I don’t know if they thought I just automatically downloaded all of this info upon claiming my bi identity, but I have become the go-to person on all things LGBTQIA+.

Truthfully, I don’t mind.

Honestly, they’re not wrong about me having the answers.

It’s a given that I’d know something about my own sexuality and believe me, I still get a lot of questions about how it works. The stereotypes and myths persist, biphobia is real, and bi-erasure is a fucking annoying aspect of reality. I have facts, I have opinions, and I will word vomit them all at you when only mildly provoked.

But I get asked a lot of questions outside my area of my own personal expertise as the token queer in many of my friend groups. Naturally, I should know these things because they all came with my gay agenda and rainbow mafia handbook. Right?

As it turns out, no. I know these things (or I find the answer to the questions I don’t know) because I am a huge nerd and I like to learn stuff.

Back in the long, long ago of my youth I watched a lot of shows on The Discovery Channel (before it became whatever it is now) and they actually had a lot of stuff on sexuality, which I was found fascinating, possibly because of my own non-straight status. I learned quite about about gender and gender expression and sexuality from these shows and it created the base from which I continue to learn because I like to be an educated member of my community. I’ve read books and science papers and watched documentaries and Googled all sorts of information in the years since being a 16 year old watching how bottom surgeries are performed while my friends were out cruising the square.

It also did not occur to me that this knowledge might not be common knowledge until I found myself explaining how bottom surgery worked to a couple of hets over dinner one night. I thought if I knew it, then everybody knew it.

Apparently that’s not how it works.

But like I said, I don’t mind explaining these things. If I’m the one doing the answering, then I know they’re getting quality information. They’re also getting that information in a fun, no-bullshit way.

So, if say you ask me to explain asexuality, I’ll tell you that it’s a general term for a spectrum of people who experience little to no sexual attraction. And when you tell me that you don’t understand that, I’ll tell you that you don’t have to. It exists as is whether you understand it or not. Your job is to respect it, which takes literally no effort.

See? Simple. Concise. No room for anyone’s bullshit.

I have no trouble informing you in a do-no-harm-but-take-no-shit way why we don’t deadname and the value of using people’s correct pronouns and the complexity of biological sex. I can explain transitioning and coming out and the genders and why saying “pregnant people” and “people who menstruate” is not an insult to women because SPOILER ALERT women are people.

It is entirely possible that my answers will make you uncomfortable, but that’s okay. Sit with it. Once you realize that none of this affects you in anything other than treating other people as fellow humans instead subcategories that don’t deserve “special” rights (ie the same rights allo cis het white males have), you’ll be okay.

So ask Aunt Kiki the Answer Bi.

I’ve got the answer you need.