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What Is It to Be a Man?

February 3, 2016
Man! / Photo by JD Hancock on Flickr /

*Photo credit

The first time I cross dressed, it was Halloween. I wasn’t an especially attractive man. The clothes I had were not what I would have chosen: a pair of jeans that were too big and a baggy t-shirt.  I spent a lot of time applying my beard. It looked scraggly, but real.

Dried spirit gum pulled and cracked under the pube-like crepe hair it secured to my face as I smiled at myself in the mirror.  I looked like a dork, my long hair back in a ponytail with a ball cap over it. I was short and I had no style.

There was something thrilling about it anyway. I didn’t look how I wanted to look, and yet, there was a part of myself I could see that had never been seen before. My heart beat a little faster under the elastic bandages that dug into my flesh, binding my breasts. I could see the excitement in my own eyes as I turned my face, checking it out from a different angle.

I was meeting my boyfriend at the mall. He was open about being bisexual and in the context of this relationship, one that was ultimately unhealthy in so many ways, I found the freedom to express something it might have taken me even longer to do with someone else. There was a chain restaurant there he liked, and I was meeting him there for lunch.

I rarely go to the mall. It reminds me of a hospital with its beige, gleaming floors. Each store is a generic, mildly interesting museum of things I wouldn’t buy, even if I could, and they all have their own way of blaring their existence outward so you have to fight to look away, even if you’re deliberately hating it. But my boyfriend was a big fan and we would spend hours there so he could shop. I would stand by, embarrassed by his weird “friendships” with the employees, people who were payed on commission to put up with his detestable blandness and need for attention.  I was even like that with him because when we first got together, he got our finances entwined quickly.  It was uncomfortable for me the whole time, the cultivated dependence, but that might be a story for another time.

As much as I hated the mall, I misjudged the distance from the entrance I chose to the restaurant. I was way further away than I’d thought and once I got a load of the map, I dreaded the trek.

I felt exposed, an imposter who would be found out.  I forced slow, long breaths into my bound chest, walking as fast as I could, feeling a little slippage as the binding shifted, hoping I’d secured it well enough. And then I noticed that no one was looking at me.

This was a completely foreign reality.  No one spared me a glance.  It wasn’t that they were embarrassed for my pathetic facsimile of manhood, it was that I was passing.  Gone were the ogling stares of older men. Gone were the curious looks from other women. I had lived eight years of legal adulthood and several years before as a curiosity. Was it my style? Was it my face? My breasts? I never knew and still don’t but suspect it’s simply womanhood on display — a safe place for the general public to rest their eyes, a curve, the undulating hem of a skirt, an invitation to stare.

All this was gone. I felt free. Within 100 yards, I even felt strong, an elation building inside me so that I had to suppress a smile. Men don’t walk around smiling, do they? No, I reasoned. They usually do not.

When I got to the restaurant, I used the deep voice I had practiced on the hostess. “I’m meeting someone,” then, “Oh, I see him,” and hustled over to the booth by the windows.

I sat across from him and he grinned at me. We didn’t say anything because the waitress was fast approaching. “What would you like, sir?” she asked me, without a hint of irony.

“Uh, an iced tea, unsweetened,” I said. I could not believe it. She called me “sir.”  I made big eyes at David and when she walked away, I couldn’t keep it to myself.

“Did you hear that?” I said. It was Halloween. I had a plausible excuse to be in disguise. If she hadn’t perceived me as a man, as so many people seemed to have — albeit in passing — in the mall, she would have shown it somehow. Right?

“You look good, uh, let’s think about what we’ll call you.  You need a name.”

“It’s Frank,” I said.

“Naw, naw, now hang on a second,” he said.  “I think it’s Basil.” He pronounced the “a” like “anvil.”

“No! Come on. Not that. That name sucks,” I said.

I don’t remember a lot more about that day, but the way it felt to pass as a man is something I don’t see how I could forget.

*Photo,  Man!, by JD Hancock, click to go.

How Do You Impress Him in Bed the First Time Around?

December 1, 2014

Guest post by Jennifer Esposa

Sex is a show of force. It’s a woman’s time to get down to the business of pleasing her man, of showing him what she’s made of, and to titillate him with her hot bod. She knows it’s not about her, and men’s bodies are such mysteries that it can be hard to for a modern woman to know, during a first-time bedding with a new conquest, how to exercise her sexual power for his pleasure and keep him forever and ever.

So many women try to trick a man into marriage with pregnancy. But that’s no first-time-around kind of move. Instead, you want to show him that you are a wild beast hellbent on only his pleasure. That will keep him coming back for more and you can “forget” that antibiotics make your pill ineffective a few months in after you’ve seen his bottom line, and figured out if he leaves skid marks in his undies. Depending on point A, you can then decide whether point B will be a deal-breaker, or if you’re going to go out and charge a box of premium black designer underwear from a boutique that you can “forget” to take the price tag off of as a power play. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves ladies.

I present to you, a surefire system to impress him in bed the first time.

1. Wait. By now you’ve probably waited a couple weeks because this one seems like a keeper. Right, ladies? You want to obsess over him constantly, to the exclusion of your work and existing friendships (SATC forever, betches!), but you don’t want the pesky memory of his grunted, inane attempt at dirty talk to besmirch the fantasy of what the wedding will be like. Just wait a little while because you don’t want the sad memory of a premature ejaculation followed by a long, interrupted night of sleep (for him) and the poignancy of way you clutched at your clitoris, resignedly, as he snored next to you and your heart beat like a hummingbird, wondering if you’d disturb him too much if you got up to pee to stave off the pleasure of thinking about what color your son or daughter’s hair will be. We know our own pleasures! They have nothing to do with sex! So, fingers crossed, you remembered not to be too slutty and got nice and locked in on the future before you’ve let him unzip his pants in front of you.

2. This is Not About You. Remember this. This is your mantra. TINAY! TINAY! It’s about what you will reap if you play your cards right. You want a secure future. That doesn’t come in the voting booth or with the IRA you set up for yourself at your office job. Get real! The only way to be secure is to nail down a good man who will provide you with a happy life. So if you start to feel unsatisfied at any point during the encounter, remember, TINAY. TINAY. TINAY. TINAY.

3. This Is all About Him. You don’t have to remember this secondary mantra, but you can, if you want to celebrate your future in advance. TIAAM. TIAAM. TIAAM. I pronounce it tee-om. Remember, a man’s ego is fragile. If you express your desires, you risk making him feel like This Is Not All About Him. That is not something you want to do.

4. The three P’s: Prepare, prepare, prepare. The penis is by and large predictable. Watch some pornography to see what guys like. Practice with a cucumber to get that horrible gagging sounds just right without throwing up — that’s a private activity and he should never even see you laugh too hard, much less commit the faux pas of projectile vomiting at his pubes (though it does show a certain amount of commitment and is something he can impress his friends with because he’ll think it means he has a grand endowment. You can make the most of it if this happens, just make sure to make sure he’s okay first and to say, “Oh, it’s so big!” It’s the opposite of being on an airplane — his needs first. Easy peasy). Try getting used to moaning and groaning. If you have a private, sound-proof room or when you’re stuck in traffic, that’s your moment to practice your sexy moaning and screaming. Try some of the positions you see in pornography on your own and prepare those muscles to sustain long, unpleasurable squatting positions that reveal your entire body in an enticing way, because that’s really going to impress him. You have to pretend you love his penis without getting any pleasure from it at all. But you have to make sure he thinks you’re having the time of your life! Don’t worry about stretching your anus yet. That definitely won’t be his job, but that’s post-engagement only. I don’t have to tell you that, right?

5. Commit. You want a commitment? Then show commitment! There’s no way to back out once you start down this road. Use every technique you see in porn and do not vary if you find something he likes. Once you start screaming and moaning, you can’t just stop. If he’s mercifully brief, you won’t have to wreck your voice. If you start to feel silly, remember TINAY, TIAAH, PPP, and Commit! Keep the charade going for the entirety of the encounter or he’ll think you’re a drag. Who knows? Maybe the rhythm will hit you the right way and you’ll start to feel some pleasure for a few moments. If you do, make sure not to climax. If you orgasm in front of him, he’ll realize you’ve been faking it all along, so you’ve got to keep that real orgasm inside forever and don’t let it out. That’s too much pressure for a man, to think he’s got to make that happen for you. Let him know he’s making it happen for you every time, no matter what he does. You’re there to be his partner and lead a secure life and showing consistency is the key to that, no matter what his technique or own inconsistencies may be. If you don’t show him that side of yourself from the start, you’ll never get to step six.

6. Win! This is all you need to know. The rest is easy. Make sure to ask him what he wants and what he likes, don’t be pushy, and do what he says. If you wanted great sex, you wouldn’t be going through all this. Sex isn’t for you! If you do it, and you like it, you’re a slut. If you wait, you’re a prude. If you get upset when he doesn’t call you, or even acknowledge your presence when he sees you at the office the next day, you’re a crazy bitch. If you only kiss him, you’re a cock-tease. This is the only way to win. Believe me, I’ve been married for 20 years and my husband is very happy.

It’s been fun, ladies. To recap, that’s: Wait, This Is Not About You (TINAY), This Is All About Him (TIAAH), Prepare Prepare Prepare (PPP), Commit, and Win!

If you have any questions, I hope you’ll share them in the comments!

What Is Attempted Rape?

June 4, 2014

Screen Shot 2014-06-03 at 11.50.43 PMMaybe you’ve seen this article that claims that in the final scene of Louie this week, the Louie character “attempts rape.” Here’s another one from a writer who says she will no longer watch the show because rape.

What happens in the final scene of Louie (s. 4 e. 10, Pamela 1) is not rape. It’s just not. It’s aggressive and potentially traumatizing (especially to someone who has a history of trauma), but it’s not rape. I’ve been raped. I didn’t walk out the door after a closed-mouthed kiss. I got raped. There’s a big difference.

I watched that last scene in Louie, laughing. I laughed because it wasn’t happening to me and because it had happened to me, and maybe even because worse things have happened to me. Have I done worse? In my own way. I’ve been abusive to people, I said things I knew would hurt them just to get their goat back when I was drinking. I thought my own feelings and emotions were more important than another person’s: my actions and words said so. I kicked a stranger in the shin. I puked on someone on purpose. But this isn’t about what kind of asshole I am.

The motivations of the character in the scene on Louie are, in essence, motivated by what motivates a lot of rapes. The characters get physical, there’s shoving and Pamela makes herself as clear as she can when trying to get away from him. I heard her say, “This would be rape if you weren’t so stupid,” and my laugh drowned out the second part of the line.

The Louie character is not thinking, “How does she feel?” He’s after what he’s after.

Here’s a tip for all you horny guys out there: look at the face of the person you’re trying to fuck. Ask yourself how that person seems to feel. Is she trying to get away as you grab her? If you think, “I wonder how that would make a person feel,” you’ll probably stop, thereby avoiding the slightest hint of rape. So many problems could be averted if men stopped conquering for just a second to ask how the way they’re acting might affect another person.

The scene hit hard for me because in a similar situation, I capitulated once. I didn’t end the evening and I didn’t leave. I made boundaries so I didn’t feel too bad about myself later. I didn’t feel great about myself afterwards, but I was not raped that night. I had agency, just like Pamela’s character does in the scene.

Sure, if I were a more traumatized person than I am, I might have frozen, been unable to stand up for myself. Maybe I put up with being treated that way because of the things that have happened in my life. Who can say? The point is that what happened in the episode was not attempted rape because no one attempted rape — not just because no one committed rape. To see Pamela freezing and going stiff would probably not have resulted in rape either, but that’s not what happened in the show.

For the concept of rape to have any meaning, you can’t call what happened in that scene in Louie “attempted rape.” Imagining the Louie character going for more after the pathetic kiss he forced on the Pamela character seems, even knowing that this show is fiction, impossible.

Not everyone who has been raped is ruled by that fact. Not everyone who ends up kissing an aggressive guy thinks he tried to rape her. Not every situation that’s uncomfortable and reminds people of rape is rape.

I hate that I am starting to want to throw the term “rape-culture” away. There are so many examples of the way women are minimized in our culture, and not all of them have to do with rape. I believe it’s true that the way women are devalued and objectified without much cultural counterpoint is corrosive to our views of women and to women’s views even of themselves. That’s what a lot of people who discount feminist viewpoints fail to realize. Women know misogyny because we practice it on ourselves. We know these things to be true because the culture has us doing it too: hating the way we look, thinking some extra pounds or saggy titties or wrinkles make us unworthy of love. We get used to being talked down to and don’t protest because we don’t want to make problems with people who won’t listen to us anyway. We give up on being heard because it seems no one wants to hear what we have to say. These facts are about more than rape. To tell us that we don’t know what we know about sexism is absurd. We are experts, and it’s not only about rape. Rape is not the be-all-and-end-all of the evil done to women.

Ultimately, I think it’s great when people are reactionary. Yes! React! Say something, even something I disagree with. But being so reactionary comes at a price. It seems important to me to take rape seriously. It’s valuable to critique the culture and how it shapes our views, our values, our consumption. Media is very convincing, and it seems like we all have the power to influence it now. It’s valuable to see what people have to say about this show. Even the aggressive rape victim has points that should be heard. Yes, guys, there are women out there who have been so traumatized by their rapes that they can’t rational about rape anymore. It’s not a cute plot point a guy should high-five himself over. It’s a freak-out kind of hurt that puts on someone who’s experienced it. It can make any kind of sexual aggression toward your person toxically echo in your system for days. It’s definitely not cool to grab and push and “win” against someone who didn’t sign up for that game. If it’s about winning, it might be about the wrong thing. Because who’s the loser then?

No one seems too bent out of shape about an episode the week before when Louie gets rough with Amia (Elevator 5). There’s a back and forth of aggression and capitulation and they end up having sex: sex she clearly regrets. He shames her in front of her aunt by blurting that yes, sex had happened between them, when she clearly would have liked to keep that information private. He blames Catholicism, rather than his own aggressive and forceful ass-hattery for her need to escape from him. He wallows in his sadness, and it’s okay because he did it all for love. Whatever. It’s a show. And it’s one that’s more provocative than most of what’s out there.

Who would I rather be? I’d rather be Pamela, because even though Amia got laid, was vulnerable and even loved, Pamela is the one making decisions about how she runs her life and also because English is way more practical than Hungarian.

How Do You Quit Sculpture?

January 29, 2014

The disciplinary review board was in the SAC. The student activity center would have been a big sack indeed, given the size of the phallic clock tower outside it. I entered via the rear of the building, avoiding the long ramp out front.

My sculpture professor, Scott, had called the meeting. He didn’t want me in his class, and this was a way he could have it on record: the problem was me. This much I knew.

He took over a department that had come unmoored with the abrupt departure of the previous professor. He had big plans. We would have a foundry and we would have it soon.

He seemed to be a gentle-tempered man. You could imagine him doing yoga clumsily. He was thick-framed and thick-lipped and overly concerned. He easily slipped into a fatherly role, nodded a little too hard, pursing his lips when you talked about your ideas: a kind of forced affability many men have. There was something under the show of empathy, and I was about to see what it was.

I was on my way up the stairs, fattened and sluggish from the medication I hated but took every day during that time and the excess food I’d taken in during this last hospitalization. I felt my cheeks heavy as they bounced with each step up until I entered the luminous main floor to turn down a yellow-looking hallway lined with colorful team-spirited decor in red and black. I looked and looked again at the numbers by the doors as I walked, sick from nerves. I held a paper in my fingers with the room number on it. I was a little early. The door was closed.

I occupied myself walking down the hall a ways, looking at the posters with smiling, hardbodied students posed in lights so the planes of their limbs and faces glowed in tawny triangles and bars. I heard the door open and saw a white-haired, slight man with wire rimmed glasses. “Katherine? Come on in.”

Scott was already seated there facing the guy’s desk in his everyday wear: a black t-shirt that hugged his barrel chest and round belly, and faded jeans with work boots. He remained seated, ankle on knee, casual, and smiled at me and asked me if I was feeling better. I hated his face. I felt his false pity as an assault.

I said I was okay.

I resented the meeting and didn’t know what it could be about. I’d had my moments, but the psychosis from the latest breakdown had happened off campus property. He hadn’t seen me really crazy and I hadn’t done anything that bad.

I knew going in to the meeting that he was not going to let me repeat my half-completed semester of Sculpture V. He told me in the studio when I went to get my enrollment approved: if I wanted to stay in the sculpture program, I would have to start over at Sculpture I. The previous work I had documented was mostly done in plaster, which was limited, he said. I argued that there were welded frames, that the work was mixed media, but he said that wasn’t adequate. The casting I’d done in a rubber mold, a process I was so eager to try in metal with the new foundry, apparently didn’t count because the forms had been made from plaster.

I’d used the materials the department had been limited to and my budget had made it so I used a lot of plaster. I guess the A’s I’d earned from the previous professor weren’t worth anything either. I was incensed, felt like I’d been punched in the solar plexus and was humiliated by the few tears that escaped in his presence, my voice husky with emotion, feeling the craft I loved pulled away from me. I wrestled with the choice of starting over.

More than the principle of the thing — going back to the professor who invalidated my record and a former faculty member’s assessment of my work — I could not imagine pretending to be learning from this guy anymore. He’d sabotaged my project, insisting I work under his compromised vision of it during the one interrupted semester I’d had with him. It was probably mostly for the sake of saving class materials, though there was no real need as there was enough fiberglass and I’d negotiated my use of the majority with the student I was sharing the bucket with.

His insistence that I do the work his way resulted in a series of problems with materials I paid for out-of-pocket when I could scarcely afford gas or groceries.

The project was an oversized fiberglass woman’s ass and legs, the 3-d element at the front of a soda-sized vending machine. There was a turn-knob that said “Beaver” on it where the vulva would show through beneath the ass. He’d insisted that rather than cast the piece as a unit custom-fit to the front of the box I was building (in other words, instead of making a huge mold to create a large, rectangular front piece), that I attach the 3-d legs to plexiglass.

The surface of the legs was unfinished-looking, wavy and imperfect. Their shine angered me more than anything because in order to get the smooth look I wanted, I would have to spend hours grinding at the piece with a power sander and would never achieve the clean shine I’d have gotten with the mold I’d wanted to build.

The plexi needed a hole cut out for the legs’ knob mechanism. The gears that formed it surpassed the legs’ flat rear plane. When, following his advice, I attempted to cut a hole in a second piece of thicker plexiglass that cost more than $60, and it also broke, I had an outburst in the studio. I threw the small piece that had broken off in my hand on the floor and pronounced his plan for my project idiotic.

“This motherfucking piece of plexi cost me $60. I hope I have enough gas to get home, ‘cause I don’t have enough money left to buy more. Fucking piece of shit!” I kicked the bowed and broken piece that hung off the sawhorse. “What the fuck was he thinking, telling me to build it this way? It looks like shit. I’m going to have to grind all this shit off. I’ll never have a smooth surface on this god damn piece of shit.”

If I’d done the project my way, it wouldn’t have had any plexiglass at all.

The professor wasn’t there for my outburst. He heard about it secondhand from students who were.

Now in the dim, windowless room, it was explained by the man behind the desk that he was going to read the complaint. The first charge was a concealed weapons charge.

“What? I never brought any weapons in.”

“Please allow me to finish reading,” he said and continued that the weapon in question was a hunting knife and that I continued to have it in the studio even after Scott had told me not to.

“That’s crazy,” I said. I’d brought a dull hunting knife in to cut the inordinate amount of plasticine I was building the initial form with. Scott had warned me that it was dull and that I might cut myself with it. I said I was fine and that was the end of it. I continued to use it and he said nothing else to me. This, in a studio with bandsaws with which you could decapitate a person. I looked at Scott frequently as I explained this, and he looked a little sad, his head cocked in an attitude of sympathy for my warped perception of events as he listened to me counter his lies.

The man behind the desk listened, but when I was done he said there wasn’t any point in my rebutting things from the report. There was a complaint, but there was to be no counter complaint. Since no legal action was being filed, my perspective was irrelevant. The complaint was just that: a complaint.

He continued reading how the other students were frightened and intimidated by my behavior, that I had caused the atmosphere in the studio to feel unsafe. The threat the other students felt, the man continued, could be addressed by my promise that should I ever feel unstable, I would take advantage of the student counseling center and seek help.

In my medicated state, I didn’t feel the fury that would have come naturally. The anger was more like an itch in my skull, fuzzy and unfixed in location, a cloud threatening something that buzzed and tickled out of reach. I absorbed the wrong being done to me. I felt my powerlessness like a sponge might feel chemicals in the water, gradually deepening in absorbtion until the lowness I felt was a resonance inside me. I was nothing. What I said meant nothing. I trudged out of the building, unable to feel this feeling completely. There was no sting. Just a dense regret and sense of injustice my mind couldn’t form into words.

What is Love?

November 14, 2013

Who knows?

What Is Fall?

August 16, 2013
tags: , ,

Fall: a brick being thrown into a TV behind a bar, bursting the picture tube and making a white flash. We all laugh.

Porch smoking at the house on Camp, the roommate’s bedroom walls plastered with pornography: life sized vaginas everywhere.

School’s start, walking into the smell of the sour stale of it after the summer.

Fall: in the back of the class during chemistry, joking about sex I hadn’t had yet.

Underage and they won’t let me in the bar this time. I sulk and go home, mad at the friend who ditched me when she got in. I stew, alone, angry that no one wants to hang out with me.

Fall: I want rough hands that aren’t yours all over me. I don’t know anything about them, but that they’re not yours.

Waiting for the bus. The bright colors of the fallen leaves make the grass look greener. The slickness the fog’s left makes the tree trunks glimmer in a dull slimy way.

Lugging my saxophone around again for band. It knocks against my leg when I walk to and from the bus and down the hall.

Long lazy afternoons and nights, drinking, riding around in a cab.

A man inside and on me, cold corners of my body where the blankets have shifted, muted noon light through high windows.

Fall: walking through the city streets while my brains are percolating, spitting hot thoughts and making up reasons I’m alive, messages revealing themselves in figures hidden in the wood grain of a telephone pole, obvious to anyone who knows how to look for them.

Painting my face like a skull on Halloween and scaring passing children walking down the street.

Hard cider in the alley and gripping a hard ass muscle.

The crunch of leaves and the fungal smell of the inside of a pumpkin.

Protesting the war with a sandwich board sign. On one side is a painted utility knife that says “Weapon of Mass Destruction.” On the other hang two dolls painted to look burnt-black and bloody. “Liberated Iraqui Babies,” it reads.

Muscle against me with the world at arm’s length.

The smell of the inside of a lunch box, the rotten smell even fresh fruit makes and the yeasty burst of the sandwich bread upon opening the bag.

Fall: my breast is cupped for the first time behind a movie theater, the cold wind delicious on my collarbone.

By the cube at Union Square, I yearn for something I can never have while the world moves fast around my bewildered mind, breaking with reality for the first time.

The tang of new cardboard boxes and fresh paint.

Fall: the soft sound of rain on wet leaves.

A pint of cider in a bar with strangers before getting on the road to meet who I thought was fate.

Raking the big yard, the inside of my nostrils caked with pulverized leaf, with a sore throat and puberty’s rude shadow invading everything.

The bite of winter creeping in under my collar and the jingle of the buckle on my jacket.

Making music with friends, liberated and drunk, letting intuition make me scream.

Fall: as seen through the windows of the state hospital’s cafeteria, the lawn, only slightly less green, and the flags whipping in the high wind under a grey sky.

What’s an Ugly Scene Between Roommates Look Like?

July 12, 2013

Deadbeat groggily opens door of bedroom wearing sunglasses, scratches head, puzzled, speaks in froggy, bewildered voice.

DEADBEAT: Hey. The electricity’s out.


DEADBEAT: You can’t do that.

RWHTEEESFABLTAMFMTAM (Clips the wires dangling from the wall with tin-snips): I just did. I’m not paying for it anymore. You lied about paying the rent.


I have come to understand that the reason I have been used in my life is because I accepted being used.

Someone I used to care for published something today, essentially blaming me for his lack of self regard. You can’t put that shit on me. That’s what I would say to him if I had the chance to tell him anything.

That relationship, like so many in my life, was based on me expressing more regard for someone else, at certain points, than I did even for myself. It was a bond formed on emotional pressure. I felt important because I could help and I could advocate and I thought that the balance would change sometime. The person in question (PIQ) was so ill at a certain point that I wondered if he might die if I weren’t there. I spent time worrying, long hours at his side or nearby at the expense of my own life and the deteriorating relationship I had with my boyfriend at the time. I was under pressure, holding down two jobs (one of which kept me in close proximity to PIQ) and lived an hour and a half by bus away in a working class neighborhood in Buenos Aires.

Much later, I grew tired of PIQ because I saw how ungrateful and self-serving he was. It wasn’t even on my own account that I first realized it. Someone had held a benefit for him, raising cash and handing it to him on the spot. This Woman (TW) had rallied, gotten the OK of a bar and even a substantial alcohol donation, solicited auction items from the community for books and photographs and things for his benefit. He was about to move and needed a suitcase, and she had told him she’d bring one.

The event was over and PIQ was quite drunk, to the point of slurring, and a guy we know was walking with us to the bus stop. It was quite a trek. PIQ was in a foul mood, his cadence like sea waves cresting and crashing, and each statement a negative one. He was much better than he’d been when I’d feared for his life, but was sick and fed up with his situation. Despite everyone’s kindness to him that night, or maybe because of it, he spewed what was stupid and why about this and that. Finally he lit on TW, brandishing the large duffle she’d given him and saying, “Does this look like a fucking suitcase to you? What the fuck is wrong with her? Now what the fuck am I going to do?”

“I don’t know. Get some fucking boxes?” I said in a bitchy tone. He hadn’t thanked me for my effort (albeit a small one) in helping with the event and he had hundreds of pesos in his pocket, maybe around a thousand. “TW helped you a lot tonight. I’m fucking sick to death of your negativity.”

The conversation changed quickly then and the guy we were with hung out so we could make sure PIQ got on the bus. He was so drunk, we were afraid to leave him there on his own. We waited for nearly an hour, then PIQ decided to get a cab, but it was almost impossible to find an empty one of those. I was very tired. The guy we were with and I saw busses that would take us home at dwindling intervals as we attempted for nearly half an hour to hail a cab for PIQ. He didn’t appreciate it if he even remembered it and it took me another hour of waiting to decide to give up and take a cab home, wasting time and money.

I saw then that there was no slack for any perceived transgression. TW’s effort was unacceptable. You might forgive this as a drunken outburst, but it showed me something fundamental about him as he had yelled at me several times, accused me of things, even once screaming at me for making fun of a teen television drama he insisted I watch with him. In every case he was sick or drunk. He never apologized for it, and I had seen the pattern by then. Everything that was wrong in his life was someone else’s fault.

That’s why today, I was not at all surprised to read that it’s apparently my fault now that he won’t go to the doctor. His disregard for himself is brought on by the enormous blow to his spirit it was when, for the last time, I asked for an apology. He’d screamed at me after I’d spent four hours every day for a week visiting him in the hospital. I found him a place to stay, even after he’d insulted me in front of a room full of mutual acquaintances and friends. I felt responsible. But I was angry that he’d treated me the way he did.

About a month later, he asked me for a favor. I said I would do it if he would apologize for yelling at me. He became irate and told me that the aggression he’d felt free to unload on me was justified because he was upset and in a lot of pain. That was the moment I decided I’d had enough, that I’d been used enough. “After all I did for you, you can’t even bother to apologize when you’ve treated me badly. Don’t ever ask me for anything again.”

Training yourself not to be treated like shit can take a long time. I’m no master, and I’m closer to 40 than 30. But now that that’s one of my primary goals in life, I have no doubt I will succeed. Now, if you want to listen to a cheesy hair metal song from the ’80s, this would be the time.


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