I was a huge fan of the show Fame back in the ’80s, and my favorite scenes of the show were the ones that we now might call Flashmobs. I was convinced that the world could achieve a modicum of peace if random strangers were to share moments filled with music, dance and laughter.
I finished watching The L Word over the holiday weekend. A fact that I shared with a friend earlier today. I almost didn’t tell anyone because an admission such as that one can potentially be accompanied by judgments and misconceptions. But really, who the hell cares who thinks what of it?
Just last year or maybe the year before, my sister asked me if I was gay. I’m not quite sure what made her ask, and I didn’t question her, just simply answered no. I guess I figured that people were thinking it, and I appreciated that someone was brave enough to actually ask the question rather than just let it hang there in their mind. I might, in their shoes, question it too. After all, an unmarried woman of my age with very few lasting relationships under her belt might make me wonder a little too, I guess.
So I enjoyed the show, but after a while it became predictable. It seemed that the show was trying to make a point about no woman being 100% straight. Every ‘straight’ girl who appeared on the show would eventually give in to sapphic desires. I could be wrong, maybe this wasn’t their intention, maybe it was just meant to show women unsure of their sexuality that there’s a place somewhere for them. Whatever.
I shared this with my friend, who then asked if I’d ever been hit on by a lesbian.
“Yes, yes I have. Funny story, in fact.”
You wouldn’t think that Salt Lake City, Utah would have a large gay population, but it does, or at least did in the late ’90s. I was living in a house with two friends, T and Maria, or at least I think her name was Maria.I have to admit that I don’t know if that’s right, though I remember her clearly. Our six-pack-a-night drinking, angry, roommate who one night, during a Halloween party, came out to the backyard holding a toilet seat, lifted it in front of her face, and screamed at the top of her lungs “WHO BROKE THE MOTHER FUCKING TOILET SEAT?” as we all burst into uncontrollable laughter because her angry, red face was in line with the hole of the seat she was holding up in front of her face. She moved out soon after that episode and never spoke to us again, or at least not to me.
Months before that, in the spring, she’d come home and asked us if we’d be interested in being part of a bowling team for a few weeks. They needed three people and wouldn’t it be fun to just hang out, bowl, and drink beer for a few weeks. All in our 20s, we were never ones to turn down a party. We were in. We showed up at the bowling alley the next week ready to drink and laugh, and there they were… a bunch of lesbians. The butch kind. Huh???
What the fuck were we gonna do?? Who were our drunk asses going to flirt with?
We did what we went there to do and bowled, and to our surprise, as the weeks passed we got to know the ladies in the other teams and had a blast. Soon enough we were invited to hang out with them outside of bowling night.
“Come meet us up at the Paper Moon” they said.
We got ready that night as if it were any other night of clubbing. Heels, revealing club wear, makeup, the works. We were going to party with the lesbians! Our false bravado slowly leaving us as we walked in the door. This was a different world all together. We were overdressed and stuck out like sore thumbs. The three girls who talked themselves into front of the lines at clubs every weekend were all of a sudden feeling like the uncool. Our backs against the wall, unsure of what to do after we walked in.
Our friend came and got us, she showed us to a table, got us drinks, and then made us dance. T and I headed back to the table and sat; a bit more relaxed, but still unsure about the night. She turned to me and said “Oh my god. I have to hide.”
“That girl walking our direction. She was checking me out while we were dancing.”
“Oh shit” I thought as the girl approached our table. I looked at T feeling bad for her. We didn’t want to insult anyone in this new place and neither of us knew what to do. The girl stood in front of me, leaned across the table looked directly at me asked, “Do you want to dance?”
Having no idea how to say no, I blurted a barely audible, “Okay.” I looked at Tanya, her face now relaxed, her eyes wishing me luck.
I followed the girl to the dance floor and we danced. I spotted our hostess across the floor and danced in her direction. The girl leaned in and asked if I had a girlfriend. “I’m not gay” I tried to yell over the music. “Then what are you doing here?” I stepped closer towards my friend, grabbed her arm and pulled her towards us. “I’m here with her and some other friends.” She looked unconvinced and I contemplated how to make an exit. Thankfully, the music changed. It was a slow song. “Thanks for the dance” I said as I started to walk away.
“What? Where are you going?”
“I’m going to the bathroom.”
I turned and walked away and headed to the restroom. Once in the stall, I breathed a sigh of relief. I’d made my escape. I’d return to my friends and tell them the story. I opened the door and walked out of the stall and standing there waiting was the girl.
I was in a sitcom. This was some Jack Tripper/Three’s Company kind of scripted hilarity. She could not possibly have been standing right outside of my stall door, could she?
She could. She was. She asked me to go dance again. I said thank you but no in the nicest way I could think of. She wasn’t happy, I wasn’t either. Being manhandled at clubs I was used to, being followed into the bathroom I wasn’t. I left the restroom and quickly walked back to the table and told my friends about what just happened.
“She’s harmless. Just a little aggressive when she wants someone.”
That was not our last night at “The Moon” and “The girl” only bothered me one more time. A night about two weeks later, when I had invited the guy I was dating to meet us, She gave up after we made out in front of her.
We spent almost every weekend there during that summer. It was a break from the usual pressures we felt getting ready for the weekend. Our heels, club wear, and uncomfortable shoes took a hiatus as we enjoyed nights of just dancing and laughing with friends with no need to dress to impress.
We had some crazy nights, and on one of those nights I even kissed (a peck) a girl and realized that no, I didn’t really like it. Anti-climactic, no?
The thing I hold dear to my heart and mind from that summer is the fact that we didn’t let our fear of the unknown stop us from experiencing something that was different from what we knew. Because of that we made some lifelong friends whose lives take the very same twists and turns all of our lives take. They love, they lose, and they hope, and in that aspect their lives very much mirror some parts of The L Word.
So as I sat and watched the series and the Scandal-like drama unfold for the ladies of the L this weekend, I was reminded of days gone by and just how rich and full of experiences my crazy life has been.
Recently I asked a couple of close friends if they thought my blog posts were getting depressing. They didn’t say no, but they didn’t say yes. They said I probably needed to do a bit of therapeutic introspection.
I thought they had a good point, but…
So I thought, I need to change things up, and to do that I would have to…
The conversation I was having with myself, that is.
Part of taking responsibility for my own issues was realizing that I was allowing people in my life who did not deserve to be there.
I would have to create boundaries and remember that when it comes to people….
and be mindful that…
So, with all of that in mind, I decided to stop being so fucking polite…
because everyone should know that…
which resulted in…
and switched things up on them…
but more importantly, started to change how I’m feeling about me…
So now I have a…
and I’m happily…
being a new and improved…
It was late summer/early fall of 2002. My younger sister had been in the hospital for weeks and the doctors were unable to tell us why. She’d given birth prematurely to my nephew, and had slipped further into whatever it was that was making her sick, making her eventual recovery require the relearning of things we take for granted, such as feeding herself. I was spending my days at work, my evenings with her at the rehabilitation center, and my weekends caring for my nephews, her sons: A 1 year old and a newborn. Her prognosis was unsure and we prepared for the worst, while hoping for the best.
To say it was a difficult time would be an understatement, but somehow we all managed. I walked around in a daze; a combination of a mind full of worries and lack of any meaningful rest. I constantly felt like I was in one of those scenes in a movie in which the character is standing frozen in time, while everyone else is rushing around her. I was there, but not.
Then one day I stood at the train platform, in the same daze, when out of the corner of my eye I saw a person move suddenly. I turned quickly in time to see a man fall into the tracks. I let out a scream. He laid on the tracks, not moving, while several men worked on rescuing him. They managed to get him back on the platform and the rest happened in a blur of CTA employees, paramedics and a crowd of people. Eventually, I got on my train and left, my eyes filled with tears and I felt as if I’d just been woken from a long and deep, but unrestful sleep.
I never saw the man move and with everything happening in my own life, didn’t really have time to check the news for any updates, but it stayed with me. For some reason, in spite of what I’d been experiencing for months with my sister,that incident made me face the reality that life is fragile. That one moment in time had the power to change everything. Weirdly enough, it was cathartic. It was all at once a feeling of responsibility and freedom. Knowing that life was short, I was responsible for making the most of it via my actions and words, and because I was obligated to do so, I felt the freedom that comes when you can do and say what you feel.
I went on a ‘say what I feel’ binge. While on a work trip to Italy, I sent an email to my friend, revealing my feelings for him. For the next few months, whatever emotion I was feeling, I shared. I didn’t want to leave anything important unsaid. I was the annoying “I love you” drunk girl, without the drunk.
10+ years later–my sister living a healthy and productive life– I have found something of a middle ground, but still remember that period in my life and still hold on to the importance of being honest and forthright with the people I care about, not only for them, but selfishly, so I don’t have to live with regrets.
Of course, not all of it is about the deep I love yous or I’m sorrys, often it’s the simple things that we keep to ourselves that we should say. Things such as…
Doesn’t it seem as though humans find it easier to criticize each other than to share positive feedback? We walk by another person and admire their hair/outfit/shoes/eyes/smile/etc… and leave that sentiment nestled uselessly in our thoughts, rather than pass it on to the person who would appreciate it most.
Potentially embarrassing situation
Just about a week ago I met up with a friend for an art show, and as we were walking around she stopped and whispered that I had a booger hanging out of my nose. She had hesitated telling me, but didn’t want to leave me walking around like that. It was actually the post of my new nose ring that had peeked out of my nostril, but I appreciated the fact that this new friend would be that honest with me. We should never let anyone walk around with anything that might potentially embarrass them.
I like you/I don’t like you
I won’t go into my usual diatribe about how much dating sucks, but we single people all know it does. Partly, I believe, is because no one can be honest about their interest or lack thereof. Women can’t say “I like you” for fear of seeming too needy or forward, and men don’t seem to be able to say “I don’t like you” for fear of making you cry (you won’t, we don’t break, get over yourself!). We give way too much meaning to those phrases, when in reality all they mean is you either intrigue me or don’t intrigue me enough to continue getting to know you.
I no longer believe in saying yes unless I mean it. I don’t do things I don’t want to do, because an insincere yes will often lead to resentment. Try it, just say no. You’re allowed.
My friends know that I am the friend who rarely tells them what they want to hear. Just as easily as I can tell someone I love them, I can also tell them they’ve upset me. I expect the same in return, but more than it being what I expect, it’s because I have to live with me, and in order to do that I have to feel that I am free to be genuinely me. I want to be trusted. If I won’t let you lie to yourself about the guy you’re dating, then you can trust that I will tell you if your butt looks big in those jeans.
But–disclaimer here–I also recognize that what I say is my version of the truth and understand that sometimes (often?), truth can be relative.
Some people believe that there are things better left unsaid, and I don’t disagree. There are thoughts that should belong to us alone as they are too valuable to share, but those are few. In sharing we can find freedom from “what ifs.”
What are some things you’re leaving unsaid? What is stopping you? What do you get from not sharing it/them?
In December of 2011 I wrote a post titled, Life, Interrupted. It was the first time I ever addressed my struggle with depression publicly. I never really hid it, but I’ve never really talked about it. Soon after, friends contacted me privately to share their own stories. and to thank me for sharing mine. But I felt sort of like a phony. I had shared a moment in such an abstract fashion, that it was just as easy to assume that I was just having a really bad day. I promised myself that I would write my story, the real story, soon. Soon turned into days, weeks, months, etc… I hesitated realizing that 15+ years had not changed that much about how depression is perceived, and I certainly didn’t want to be categorized. But this past week I chanced upon someone else’s story at Hyperbole and a Half, and thought that maybe perception hadn’t changed because we the sufferers were still in hiding. Maybe if I joined Allie and told my story others would begin to see depression as another chronic disease to manage. We, the ‘diseased’ are often functioning, successful people of high intellect. YEAH! So here you go, my story. MY defining moment.
I was lying on the sofa on my stomach with my arms at my side and my face looking towards the television. It wasn’t a comfortable position by any stretch of the imagination, but I guess it’s how I had landed, and I lacked the energy to adjust my body. In fact, my limbs felt heavy and the thought of lifting them seemed like more work than it was worth.
This wasn’t the first evening I’d spent that way, but as it seemed to be many, my mind couldn’t and can’t recall when it began. My body was exhausted but I couldn’t sleep. When and if I finally managed to fall asleep, I didn’t want to wake for fear that the next day would bring much of the same. But I had bills to pay and in order to do that, I had to make it to work. Somehow I managed the almost 8-hour workday, only to arrive home, throw myself on the sofa and repeat the cycle of watching,–staring at may have been a more precise description–TV, stationary for hours.
It bothered me in the beginning. I was frustrated at myself for being so tired but unable to sleep, for lacking any desire to answer my friends’ phone calls, for—what I thought at the time—being lazy. But as the days (weeks?) went by, it stopped mattering. I knew that I should want more than the life I was living at that moment, but I couldn’t feel anything about it. I was numb and resigned to this version of myself.
Thinking back now, that should’ve been my red flag: the emotional numbness. “Lacked emotion” was not a term anyone would have ever used to describe me. My entire decision-making process revolved around whatever emotion(s) I was feeling at the moment. In fact, it seemed that my poor logical brain existed solely to try, often failing, to keep my free-spirited heart from running off to chase after the next person, place, or thing that caught its attention. I should’ve ran for help at the first thought of “who cares,” at the lack of tears, but apathy, by definition, doesn’t allow for worry, concern, or fear. What is, really just is what it is.
I was lucky. I had a good friend for a roommate and unlike most of my other friends who gave up on me after the hundredth unreturned phone call, she pushed and prodded and put up with a lot before she finally talked me into seeking help. I probably did it for her. Had my body somehow melded into the sofa, I would’ve probably resigned myself to it, but I was a burden to her, and that wasn’t fair. So off to the doctor I went.
“Why are you here today, Ms. Juliá?”
“I don’t know.”
“Are you in pain?”
“But you don’t feel well, I assume?”
“I don’t feel at all.”
I remember that initial exchange like it was yesterday. Trying to explain to the white-haired doctor who appeared to be in 60s that I, in my mid-20s, should be given clearance to return to my life of staring at the TV and could he just reassure my roommate that there was nothing weird about that.
It didn’t fly.
Hours later, my brain on the verge of exploding at the new words that he was using to describe it—depression, neurotransmitters, serotonin– I left, with a prescription for something called Paxil in hand.
I’d like to say that those little blue pills changed my life, but it wouldn’t be true. Well, they killed my appetite and I lost 20 lbs in two months, but the other side effects made me miserable. I wasn’t numb anymore, but I was miserable and in my mind, numb was so much better. I stopped taking them after six months and trudged along, trying to make my way back into my life before them, before the sofa, and into the good graces of the friends I had pushed away. It had been almost a year I believe, and I soon learned that 365 days don’t stop to wait for you. They move with the ticking of the clock, and you’re either living them or not. There’s no catching up, a hard fact to accept but one I eventually did.
I understood that some of the people I thought were my friends were either not ready to be forgiving or not ready to deal with the unknowns of my disease. In fact, they may not have understood that depression is a disease; that I could no more help what I had been through, than a diabetic and his or her insulin shock. I accepted life, for what it was at that moment and decided to jump on with the additional baggage I had acquired, and move with it.
It was a moment in time that defined who I was becoming. My mind, seemingly always the slave to my heart, was not as weak as I had assumed. It had exerted its power and forced me to deal with many realities I had avoided. My lack of conviction in the religious life I had been living and my lack of direction and commitment to anything in my life. So I made some difficult decisions and left the church and began to explore the world outside of it.
The commitment and direction, well, those don’t come so easily for me and I’m fully aware that my mind and I will often be at odds and at anytime it will exert its will again. I refuse to medicate myself with chemicals, but I’ve learned some coping mechanisms—regular exercise, healthy diet, balance of social and alone time—that help keep it at bay, and I’ve managed to be successful with only a handful of episodes in the years since, the last one in December of 2011, which you can read at Life, Interrupted.
People often comment that I seem to always be in my head, and I always want to say, “If you felt the strength of my brain’s grip, you’d understand.”
I was born in upstate New York, in the city of Rochester to be exact. My parents moved back to Puerto Rico soon after my first birthday, and I spent my early, formative years there. The culture and language of my country was just as much a part of who I was and was becoming, as was my family. I was a little Puerto Rican girl who only spoke a handful of words in English, loved Plaza Sesamo and Villa Alegre, and knew all of the lyrics to La Pandilla’s songs, especially El Alacran. In regards to having the Puerto Rican culture as a natural part of my life, I had an advantage over Puerto Ricans born and raised in the states, or so you would think.
We moved to Chicago when I was eight, then to Utah a few years later that and somewhere along the way I lost much of what I started with: My knowledge of the language, the music, the culture and traditions. I am not sure why it happened, perhaps because we didn’t have extended family around to share traditions with; perhaps because Mom wanted to learn English so she encouraged us to speak to her in English, or maybe it was the years in Utah and my need to fit in a world of American kids. It was most likely a mixture of all of those things.
Years later and well into adulthood I realized that I had let go of an important part of myself and it left a void. I had Latino friends—primarily Mexican—and spoke a little Spanish, but was still missing my Boricua roots. My mission became to find mis raices.
A few years ago, frustrated with a lot of things in my life and in need of a change, I took the opportunity to move to Puerto Rico for almost a year—not nearly enough time—where I was forced to speak the language and face up the fact that no matter how many years I’d spent there as a child, my 30+ years away had deemed me la Americana in the locals’ eyes. The first few months were extremely difficult. Nodding my head 10 minutes into a conversation I didn’t understand, simply because I couldn’t ask the person to repeat what they were saying yet again. Attempting to get a complete sentence out w/out using any words in English. These were difficult and frustrating tasks, but I persevered and left much more confident in my abilities.
Knowing the importance of actually speaking the language regularly in retaining it, I now make it a point to speak it as often as I can. I try to educate myself by reading, and through conversations. Whether they be about music, traditions and culture via conversations.
In hopes of filling the void I once felt, I have returned to mis raices. Not only remembering what I learned as a child, but learning so much more each day.