I Need A Man

Edit: I forgot to mention that I was inspired to share this personal story after the North Park attacks on women made me start thinking critically about my own safety. It was a depressing reminder that it’s easy to get lulled into a sense of false safety, but that horrible things happen to women even in my own neighborhoods.

You catch those predators, San Diego, and you work hard to make this an environment where such things happen less and less and hopefully, someday, never.

——————

I am brazen, compared to most. I am not afraid to say mean things, when mean things need to be said. I am also a skilled diplomat, disguising my vitriol as obliviousness, couching my barbs in pseudo-flirtation. I ended up using the latter strategy for this party.

A good friend of mine, along with two female friends of his, wanted to find a darker, couch-ier place to pass around a bottle of whip-cream vodka. We did find a couch, in a dark room, with very loud music and an open dance floor, though no dancers. I’m noticing a trend at these burner types of parties that alcohol is scarce; perhaps we’re all skilled consumers, and by the midnight hour the beer is gone. So, when my good friend left (me with the bottle in my lap) to go to the bathroom, a man immediately approached to take his place in the center of the couch. I will call this man “Caveman.”

I don’t know if I was protective of the bottle only at this point, or the women already, but I defended my place. “I’m saving this spot for my friend,” I shrugged with a grin. I clutched the bottle.

“Oh, so you’re going to be 2nd grade about this?” Caveman said.

“Yeah,” I was.

He sat at the end instead, by who I will call “Blotted” — as she was. The way he stroked her arms made me uncomfortable. She periodically flailed them, proclaiming, “Everything is so nice.” I was not sure if she evaded his grasp or celebrated it, but at least my good friend came back and we passed the whip-cream bottle for awhile.

Between dizzy swigs I peered at Blotted. My good friend noticed my glances and began to share my uneasy expression. I leaned over to my good friend, “I think I’m going to diffuse the situation a little.” It was Blotted’s first time partying with the burner community and I wanted to make sure she felt safe and happy. She was also only 21, and not so experienced with being so blotted.

I pulled Caveman away from the couch. He was easily led. “It’s Blotted’s first time at a party like this,” I said over the music.

“She’s beautiful.”

“Yes.” I nodded.

“But you, you are even more beautiful.”

Instead of retorting in my head like I might normally, I said these words aloud, “That’s a terrible compliment.” After all, I looked fierce as fuck in a half-undone Spyro the Dragon Kigurumi and a black sports bra, so why hold back?

“What?”

“I like women. I don’t want you to put them down to raise me up. A better compliment would be…. you are also beautiful.”

As we talked, I bobbed and danced around him so his hands could never quite land on me. He seemed to, at least, understand that much — that I didn’t want him to touch me.

“What’s his secret?” he said.

“Who, him?” I looked over at my good friend where he still sat on the couch with his friends. “We’re not intimate. I’m gay. He’s my really good friend.”

“No. You’re not gay. Like all the way gay?”

Oh fuck you, too, Caveman. Just question me immediately — it’s not like I don’t get that reaction every time. “Ummm…. Welllllllll. Yes.” All the way gay, it is. He did not deserve a nuanced explanation of my complicated sexuality.

I spun and I stomped to the beat, and then said to Caveman, “His secret is he knows how to interact with women non-sexually. So I can feel comfortable with him, and they can feel comfortable with him. Your problem is that you exude sexual intent. I’m immune of course.”

“No, no you’re not. I can tell you have a heart.” Caveman. I don’t have a heart if it doesn’t beat for you/your penis? You’re killing me, Caveman.

“Yes, yes I am.” 100% immune and heartless.

I think introductions finally happened here. I think a half-naked gal started to walk up to us for some group dancin’ but smelled his desperation and pivoted away. Then he said:

“How old do you think I am?”

Looked 42, so I guessed 38. He was 50.

After his dismissal of my sexuality and this tidbit, I came to a swift conclusion: this man is a predator. He goes to parties, he finds young, inebriated things (I’m 24, but look younger, and of course Blotted is 21), and he eases himself into grope-central. Like, age is just a number but he wasn’t staring into her old soul through her young eyes. She didn’t even know his name and he was kissing her whenever her face was pointing in the right direction.

“Can I ask you something?”  This is, of course, an omen that something offensive is about to come out of someone’s mouth. “And if you want you can break my heart, you can stab me right through the solar plexus….”

Warning. Trap: I am going to confess my undying love/lust for you and if you don’t like it, it will cost your guilt and discomfort as I throw myself on the sword. He trailed off before completing his sentence and his emotional trap, unable to finish his thought, so transfixed was he by my fierce sports bra.

“I’m up here.” I actually fucking said it. I actually fucking said those words for the first fucking time in my flat-chested, itty-bitty-titty-committee fucking life. If this dude was going to be old school, this dude was going to get some old school sass to make him understand I am a human being, not a walking sex doll.

He sputtered, probably some excuse but I missed a lot of what he said due to the loud music and my blind-white shock that a guy like him got into a party like that (a very cool party, btw), and was still bothering me.

Actually, actually I remember now, at some point he told me his name was Pan. This is obviously his burner/community name, but still, he could be recognized. I don’t care at all. Hey Pan, this girl talkin’ shit over here on her blog about you. Take that in your solar plexus.

I was beginning to feel like I needed a diffusion, myself. I’m at a party to have fun, not explain to men like Pan that lesbians are actually lesbians and quit staring at my chest. I went back to the couch. He resumed his post next to Blotted.

Through an unfortunate miscommunication, I was left by my good friend and our other friend to be Blotted’s babysitter for the rest of the foreseeable night. Normally I would be happy to let her wander around in such a community on her own, and perhaps that is what my good friend expected, too. This particular crowd is very loving and enlightened and take good care of fucked-up 21-year-olds. Nevertheless, I could not bear to leave her alone on the couch with Pan.

“Want to go on an adventure?” I tried to suggest as she struggled to figure out which way was up, let alone how to end Pan’s creepy kisses. She didn’t know me, I didn’t know her. Perhaps she couldn’t process my invitation for an escape or perhaps she really didn’t mind, because she said, “Uhmmm…… I don’t know. I’m okay.”

Lucky break, he had to pee. Not a moment later I said, “Want to go on an adventure?” She agreed immediately. This, and, the fact that she never once asked, “Hey where’s that guy I was making out with earlier?” makes me certain she wasn’t interested in making out with that guy.

I was very happy to tote her along for a bit. She’s sweet and played fun blotted party games, like let’s gather a circle of people and give them new names because I can’t remember their names anyway. They smiled, like, “isn’t she adorable?” when she named them Jason, and Richard, and Amazon. I got Dory, “like that fish from Finding Nemo.”

After awhile I became uneasy, because I wanted to go in the hot tub with Katelyn and I couldn’t leave poor Blotted alone, not when Pan was still lurking. I looked and looked for my good friend to relieve me from my babysitting shift, but it seemed like he was never coming back to find me, from wherever he went.

Eventually I found one of the party hosts, a genial, tall and wiry man with a great smile. I explained my predicament, that I didn’t want to leave her unattended only because I wasn’t sure just how predatory this other guy was. The host offered a confrontation session, but honestly even if we could have found Pan (and I hadn’t remembered his name yet) I wouldn’t have wanted to talk to him for another second. The host incorporated Blotted into a circle of new friends and I felt like she was safe again.

I had a good night, a very good night, and before I left I saw Pan again. I had since remembered his name, but I wanted to call out to him just to be sure I got it right. I would say, “Pan?” I would see his head turn, and say, “Nevermind.” But in that twisted staircase, even though all the lights were on, my mind was as blank and foreboding as his big, bare chest and I coudn’t say a thing at all. I knew nothing was going to happen to me, not realistically, but I still felt something like fear. I don’t know what kind of confused glare I gave him as I tried to memorize his features — to know if they were really his, all the while the gut of panic behind my eyes knowing, yes, it is him. There’s sirens blaring in your head that it is him.

And after that overwhelming moment in the staircase, I thought, “I can’t do it. I can’t speak up. I can’t rely on myself.” I remember feeling helpless — that even after all the empowerment I’ve experienced as a woman, I can still be held to the flames of fear. That to be safe, I need to call on the help of others, even when I would rather stand strong on my own. That to be safe, I needed a man.

Related:
Women Hurt Women, Too
Patriarchy Hurts Men, Too

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How to be confident

Why am I so confident?

I want to analyze this, make a formula, spread the wealth.  Confidence is amazing and also useful at parties; I want you to have it.

I'm confident enough to wear a bunch of beanie babies I hot glued together as a garment.

I’m confident enough to wear a bunch of beanie babies I hot glued together as a garment.

Maybe it’s because…

  • I was a perfectionist from age 8 to age… 15.  This may have helped me develop the skills to perform under pressure and avoid messy mistakes like it’s second nature.  Somehow, though, I spent very little time criticizing myself as perfectionists are wont to do, and more time trying to get better and better. Crazy shit like making lists of attributes I’d like to have (“eloquence, uniqueness, compassion”) and breaking down the steps to attain them…
  • …But then I gave myself permission at some point to not be a perfectionist.  Some mistakes still send me into an anxious fit.  I hate making driving mistakes (like hitting a curb, cutting off someone).  I think that’s fair – driving is probably the most dangerous activity I participate in day to day.
  • I grew up an arrogant little bastard.  A few years spent thinking I’m better than everyone else may have wired my neurons firmly to the confidence centers in my brain. I’ve changed my ways, though, and really don’t care if anyone is better than me or I better than them. This happened when I went to England and was surrounded by fantastic people. I realized it was much more enjoyable to be in awe of them than to compete…
  • …And I’m not really competitive at all. I am self-competitive, trying to get better at things for my own satisfaction.  But I will surrender quickly if I realize it’s not worth my trouble to battle with someone. I’ve learned how to enjoy other people’s wins.
  • I am bloody good at some things.  It’s easy to feel great when people are complimenting me on skills I’ve acquired over the years.
  • I’m kind of a braggart. This creates a cycle in which I show off, receive praise, and want to show off more. Somehow I have avoided the whole “I neeeeeeed people’s approval” bit and just taken away a shamelessness when it comes to displaying myself. It’s easy to feel confident when I’m waving around my peacock tail and hearing sweet oohs and ahhs…
  • …And I don’t just show off my good side.  Everything is out there.  I’m an over-sharer, ridiculously honest.  It’s easy to feel confident when I’ve got nothing to hide.
  • I dealt with mind-numbing depression for a good many years.  (Still boggled and exhilarated every time I realize I’m better now.)  It’s hard for the small hurdles in life to seem significant when my biggest drain was my own personal hell. Yes, I had phases of hating myself, but for the most part that wasn’t the route my depression took.  In my backbreaking effort to get better, I worked out little checkpoints with myself. Instead of focusing on how horrible I was for not getting better, I focused on how horrible I felt.  It’s as if my self-preserving instincts saved me.  I also made it a point to keep functioning in society, so I learned how to fake it despite the depression.  It’s easy to feel confident when I’ve gone through the wringer and come out a better person.
  • I am (usually) good at empathizing.  This makes it easier to understand other people’s actions and motivations and avoid blaming myself for things that aren’t my fault.
  • I was in an emotionally manipulative relationship for 4 years.  I came out of that with the determination to not let someone make me feel like that ever again.  And I’ve managed to reconcile with my ex, be friendly with him, and have closure.
  • I have anxiety, but I fend it off pretty well.  I redirected it early on (subconsciously) to things that didn’t matter.  Instead of worrying about tangible things – school, friendships, my appearance – I would worry about strange things like the way colors seemed to jump at me or by imagining my depth perception was failing. I use my imagination to help me not take my anxiety seriously, make it somewhat of a game.
  • I decided it would be advantageous/attractive/fun to be fearless during my “self-improvement” phase.  So I made sure to practice not being afraid and taking risks to impress people.  I still do that a bit like the unblushing boaster that I am.
  • I surrounded myself with people who are good for me, and made it a point to always be grateful for them.  I have supportive close buddies, an amazing girlfriend, and friends who inspire me.  I try to figure out how to make people feel good, and in return they give me kind and appreciative friendships.  I also make sure to let people know what I want, and they happily oblige me since I made things easy for them.   (i.e. I tend to tell people what a sucker I am for verbal affirmations, and which kinds.)

So, I’m sure I could think of other things, but now I want to hear what the community has to say.  What makes you feel confident?  How confident are you?  How confident do you perceive others to be?

Getting old enough to party with your parents

As I’ve grown, I’ve discovered the joys of combining alcohol with activities I once hated, such as camping, sports, weddings, and now, socializing with my parents. If it is at all possible for you, I recommend getting to the point where you can get blasted with the people who made you.

I’d like to share a particularly successful example of this — if success means seeing your Dad so shitballed he can’t form sentences. This story takes place at a wedding.

After the ceremony in the blazing hot sun, we slowly meandered to our seating arrangements to await dinner. My brother, Zach, my parents, and I sat at table #19, along with two couples about my parents’ ages. Highlights of our experience with that table include: deciding we were the best table ever, inventing the table 19 salute (two middle fingers), throwing the centerpiece like a frisbee. stealing unopened wine bottles from other tables, sneaking tips to our servers (it wasn’t allowed), acquiring an extra champagne bottle from our server (and dispensing more illegal tips), and shouting. This is just the beginning of the night.

I did have a little champagne, but cut myself off as I was designated driver. Why was I designated driver? Because my mother bribed me to be for $50. By the end of the actual wedding, my drunken family had also managed to dance together like crazy kooks, Zach ran through the clover field, and I made lizard nooses for children. It was discovered that we were intentionally placed with the couples at table #19, who were also rowdy, though we could not ascertain if our location at the edge of the area was also purposeful.

After the ceremony, I drove my inebriated parents and brother to the house of the bride’s parents (my dad’s best friend from childhood is the bride’s dad). Already falling asleep, I crept off to one of the back bedrooms. I passed a bottle of Jose Cuervo Gold on the counter.

Somewhere in the midst of my slumber, my mother came into the room. “Can I please lie down next to you? Please? Sami?” She giggled as she crawled into the bed.  She had no pants on and her hair was wet. I didn’t ask questions and fell back asleep.

The woman of the house woke us up to regretfully inform us she had no room for us to spend the night. It was never our intention to do so, so we understood. My brother popped into the room and escorted Mom out the back door to the car. She still could not locate her pants and was in no condition to try. They would be sent by post in a few weeks when they were discovered on the lawn.

My brother and I had to find my dad. My brother was much inebriated. He congratulated the mother of the bride. I left him and decided to check the pool. With trepidation, I approached the dark, gated swimming hole. I was prepared to jump in and rescue my dad if necessary. I looked all around the edge of the pool – it was large – and found various discarded clothes-things, none of which belonged to my family. Finally, I came up the other side and noticed a lump on the steps. It was my dad, underneath a towel. Completely naked.

I fearfully shook his shoulder. He better not be dead, goddammit. “Muh?” Though he could not speak english, he was thankfully alive.

“Dad. Dad. We’re leaving. Let’s go”.

“Mah? Emurfagaf? Ebbluffin.. Yeah. Mkay..”. He then rolled back over and rested his head back onto his ‘pillow’ (pile of rocks). I heard my brother nearby, and called out to him. He had a bag, and in it were a pair of my dad’s shorts.

He convinced dad to put the shorts on. “Hey. Hey dad. Put these shorts on so I don’t have to look at your balls anymore.”

Somehow he also managed to get my dad upright. “Hey, don’t be a pussy. Get up. Let’s go.”

We did our best to help our dad “walk,” which could be described as “falling forward.” He zombie lurched across the lawn to the car. My brother coaxed him into the backseat. My mother was in the passenger seat, her legs folded underneath her arms. She seemed aware that she was mostly naked, her lips in a firm straight line approaching shame. We went back to the house to say our goodbyes. Zach congratulated the bride’s mother. I had a discussion with the bridal party about designated driving. Zach congratulated the bride’s mother. I said goodbye to the bride’s mother. Zach congratulated the bride’s mother, and asked if she’d be there at his wedding. He finished the Cuervo bottle.

When we got back to the car, my dad was very concerned about the location of his wallet. He needed to see it to be happy. We found the wallet, and he put it between his knees. Then I started us for my grampa’s house, down a dark mountainous 1-lane road. My mother was very helpful. “Brakes. Brights on. Brights off. Gas. Brakes.” I looked in the rearview mirror. My dad’s head rested on my brother’s lap. He was snoring.

When we arrived at my grandpa’s house, my mother helped my dad out of the car. He followed me up the stairs with a mischievous grin, lunging as he tried to remain upright.

How to Party when You’re Sad

I missed last week’s post. If this were a professional production, I’d have backlogs upon backlog of entrees so I could take off for a whole month if I wanted, but, no, this is a passion project and I scratch out a rant often the day it is due.

Last week, I was just too sad. Sadness makes me want to write around things rather than right through, and I hadn’t wound around and around the thing enough to make words of it. How could I write something appropriately playful for the Survival Guide? Not when my cousin is in the hospital. Not when my brother, who will always be my legend, has been calling and the homesickness in his voice makes him sound so small. Why should I write here when my hope is fluttering in the rubber balloon that traps it, when my mind is measuring too-small coffins?

What was missing was hope.

Since last week, I do have reasons to hope. I did learn that my cousin will get to go home. I did spend 3 days in the perfect outdoors of Yosemite. I did drink a lot of wine (there, there it is, I can laugh at myself again). Truthfully, I don’t think I could do anything resembling revelry without the hope.

And that is what partying is, that hope. That promise that everything’s going to be all right, tonight. Just like hope can be overbearing, can make us willfully ignore the smallness in voices that pleads, “I might not be alright. I might not be alright, and I might want you to hear me,” dancing can erase, drinking and talking and putting on our party clothes can overflow our worries with a blank white light. Maybe it’s okay to need that. Maybe it’s human to want to forget, to ignore.

Meet me there, have a drink with me. We can worry tomorrow.