Self Defense, Slow Dancing, and Junior High

A Civilized Discussion of Irony

Isn’t it ironic how Junior High physical education courses taught us such inconsistent lessons about autonomy over the physical self? Their lessons taught us how to defend our bodies against unwanted contact. Self defense class. They taught us how to protect ourselves, and how to use physical power to emit strength and courage. And yet, in the same course, they also taught us that one must slow dance with every member of the opposite gender in their class. One must dance, and one must not say ‘no’ to any individual, even if they provoke feelings of discomfort or fear. Regardless of your feelings as a small pre-pubescent child who knows very little about their own body, this body will now be grabbed, shifted, and tousled around by every young boy or girl that you’ve encountered in school. They taught us not to say ‘no’ to another individual, for the sake of equality. And I wonder if these two lessons, the one in autonomy and protection and the one in equality and fairness, can actually coexist in the same course? 

An Uncivilized Discussion of Irony. 

I literally can’t fucking believe that in junior high P.E my teachers would spend an entire month teaching me self defense; how to prevent unwanted contact, how to fight off people who I don’t want near me, and how to protect my body from being abused or grabbed. And then the very next fucking day they’d say to me “Okay new lesson! Now you have to slow dance with every single boy in your class, and no matter how badly you might want to, you can’t say no! Now dance little puppets, Dance!” Okay, that last bit about the puppets might be exaggerated slightly, but the sentiment still stands. What the fuck guys?! I was eleven years old, and you had the audacity to teach me how to jab somebody’s throat and then force me to slow dance with the boy who throws gum in my hair all in the same week?

And the best part is that they’d tell us girls that we can’t say ‘no’ to the boys, because that would be mean. Oh I’m sorry, suddenly “Timmy sneezed in my eye and tried to put his hand on my butt at yesterday’s assembly, so I’d prefer to sit this one out” isn’t a valid excuse? We don’t want to be mean little girls, do we? Oh yes we fucking do. I would go back and be the biggest meanie in my class if it meant that I could avoid being conditioned to believe that saying “yes” to boys was the nice thing to do. And this stupid dance rule doesn’t just suck for the girls, it was probably hell for the boys too! Because damn, I can only imagine all of the unexpected boners that must’ve popped up during Junior High partner dancing class. What a traumatizing place to have a (maybe even first ever) public boner. Little Billy probably didn’t even want to dance with Kelly, because she’s been bullying him since the fourth grade, but he was forced to walk his crusty little Proactiv face up to her and ask her to dance, endure her very visible eye-roll, and on top of everything pop a boner that he has absolutely no control over. Fuck that. 

The Crown Jewel of MySpace

Things That I am Convinced of: Part 2

The fastest thing on Earth is my dog immediately after I ask what is in his mouth. 

Cold brew coffee should probably be renamed “cool beans”. 

It is a miracle that I actually turned out okay after enduring the era in which the dominant social media platform made us publicly rank our “top 8” friends. 

The KFC Double Down is a chaotic masterpiece. 

Unsubscribing from email lists is its own form of self care. 

Talent is profoundly more abundant than opportunity. 

I have reached the age where not being hungover feels so much better than being drunk. 

Red flags are like your least favorite coworker, they always show up way later than you needed them to. 

A Brief Poem To Encapsulate The Chaos of Quarantine

Feet are cold 

Brain is numb 

Convinced I’m worse 

Than everyone 

I think I need to go for a walk.

Overwhelmed 

By everything 

Mental health 

Held by a string 

Mom said if I want we can talk.

I need fresh air 

This room is stale 

The chips are stale 

This rhyme is stale 

Dog has a tail 

I’m going mad 

Turn on the news 

The world is bad 

I’ve simply had 

Enough. 

Enough of all this nonsense talk 

I think I’ll just go for a walk. 

Air is hot 

Wear my mask 

Wash with soap 

Complete the task 

Hands always dry 

They feel like chalk 

This poem is done 

Bird goes squawk.  

It’s Okay To Be Shy

I don’t think that shyness is as simple as just not saying a lot of things, but rather, I think that it’s a correlation of the fluctuation of one’s ability to say the things that they actually want to say. I know it’s confusing, but give it some time. Maybe shyness is more accurately associated with the process of somebody’s thoughts becoming disturbed by aspects of their environment. We all have thoughts, let’s just put that on the table right now that everybody, to some degree, has ideas running around in their head most of the time. I don’t think that anyone’s degree of shyness is distinctly related to the amount of thoughts that are cultivated in our heads, and because of this, I don’t think that anyone’s degree of shyness is stagnant and definitive either. I think that it is constantly fluctuating based on all of the outward forces that can affect whether or not the thoughts in my head can actually make it, undisturbed and unaltered, all the way from my mind and out of my mouth. Sure, there are people out there, usually categorized under the umbrella of “extroverts” (even though I don’t think humanity is simple enough to be categorized as such). But there are some people who, regardless of their surroundings, environment, company, mental state, temperature, stress levels, hunger, or discomfort, the bridge between thought and speech remains completely intact. This bridge is sturdy, reliable, and never fails to support all the little thoughts as they make their journey across the mind and out the mouth. Those little thoughts can easily put on their adventure caps, and use this bridge to trek over the waters of the mind, and make it safely to the other side, producing real human words. 

Now, my mind works a little bit differently. Sure, there is still a river of sorts that runs between the place where my thoughts reside, and where they exit my face through my mouth hole. But I don’t particularly think that there is a bridge to get from one side to the other, but rather, something closer to an old rope swing from one of those coming-of-age romance movies set in the rural 1940’s countryside. Oddly specific, I know. But I have a feeling most people can picture this sort of rickety abandoned rope swing that everyone in town knows about despite nobody knowing how it got there. So I think that given the nature of this rope swing, my baseline ability to speak my thoughts is at a disadvantage. Rope swings aren’t always reliable, they require some skill and practice, and unfortunately there are a lot of factors that can prevent somebody from using one to get across a body of water successfully. In this scenario, however, when I say “somebody” I mean “my thoughts”. 

Sometimes if I’m in a crowd, and I have a little thought forming that I really want to say, It’ll gear it’s little self up. My thought will get ready to soar to the other side, grab the rope and push off. My thought can see where it wants to go, and it’s going. And it’s going, and going, and then somebody I don’t know looks at me, and it’s like a huge gust of wind comes along and knocks my thought right off the rope swing into the river. Damn. Not dam though, because it’s a river. Maybe sometime later I have another thought forming, and I’m ready to try again. Off on the rope swing my thought goes, but this time, out of nowhere I get a tummy ache and the thought falls into the river again. Or my ex walked in, another thought thrown off the rope swing and flows down river. Or I have a missed call from my mom, another thought. Or a missed call from my dad! Or I suddenly feel like I’m about to pass out. Or I need a glass of water. Or somebody changed the subject and I don’t want to try and drag a group of people back to the previous subject so that I can say my thing that was probably stupid and irrelevant to begin with. All of these things can affect my ability to get my thoughts over that river and out into words. It’s kind of exhausting, It’s kind of embarrassing, and I swear if somebody asks me “Gabby, why are you being so shy?” the rope swing will fucking break. Believe me, I would love to answer that question with this intricate and expansive rope swing analogy, but if I’m asked that question, then it’s already too late, because the swing just broke. Now I can’t even get my answer across, let alone get out enough words after that for me to actually convince people that I’m not as shy as they think. At that point, I’m done, I give up, and I want to put sweat pants on and go home. All of the thoughts are lost, flowing downstream, and they’ll fall out of my butt in three to five business days. And that’s just the way it is. Sometimes it sucks, I can feel small and voiceless, but other times it can be amazing, because when I feel comfortable and supported, I can feel my mind flourishing in fantastic ways. 

It has taken many years for me to accept this about myself,  and even more to embrace it. I understand that this isn’t the case for everybody, but it is for me. And regardless of how many of the thoughts that I really want to speak actually make it out of my mouth, I still feel like a whole and complete person with thoughts and ideas and feelings. Sure, we all occasionally say things that we don’t mean, and don’t say things that we do mean. Everybody has their own different relationship between thought and voice, and however they are able to manifest their voice in different crowds and environments, that is okay. It is okay to be shy. Because regardless of your ability to produce certain words in certain social environments, you are still a whole and complete person. 

I knew one person at that party that night. I had one beer, met three people who’s names I forgot instantly, posed for one photo, and left. And that is okay.

Let’s Talk About Sex With Math

I am a heterosexual cisgendered female, which probably explains why I am constantly disappointed, but regardless, I am a woman who is attracted to men. That being said, I think that most of us can all agree that one of the most beautiful things on this earth is curve of a woman’s back when she arches backward. It’s sexy, it’s perfection, it is a stunning example of the human body being excellent.

And the only thing better than the incredible beauty of the arch of a woman’s back, is how creepy that back can look when it is arched forward in the opposite direction. Picture a full Martha Graham Modern dance contraction, a forward bend where the stomach, no matter how skinny it is, inevitably starts to roll over itself, and the spine starts to stick out like some prehistoric creature. This beautiful shape suddenly becomes this creepy, distorted thing not far off from the creature you’d picture crawling out of your television in the middle of the night.

This position, which is truly the thing of nightmares, is exactly what a woman looks like in order to insert a tampon. And we still wonder why men ask if we accidentally orgasm while putting a tampon in? Spoiler alert: we don’t. I’ll tell you why, and there are a few reasons – usually the lighting is a bit off, an elderly cat is scratching at the bathroom door which throws off your groove, too distracted by the fact that we have to pay taxes on feminine products, and OH YEAH also I typically look like a decrepit bridge troll while doing it. It’s not particularly beautiful, definitely not sexual. Sometimes it is a bit humorous, like when you pull your hand up and there’s blood on it, and suddenly the CSI theme song starts playing in your head like it’s time to investigate a crime scene. But other than that, there’s not much pleasure in this act. I personally don’t know why men assume that using a tampon is some sort of inexplicably sensual moment, as if we just arch backwards and Aphrodite herself reaches down from the heavens in a beam of light and hands us an overpriced piece of cotton shaped like a hot dog, but perhaps I can explain it with math.

Obviously I can’t speak for all women, but let’s say for the sake of this argument that this concept applies to most women. Picture a venn diagram, if you may, one side representing things that involve genitals, and the other representing things that turn women on. The part of the diagram in which these two circles overlap contains only one thing: sex. See, it is starting to make sense. The circle of things involving genitalia are all things that, surprisingly, do not also turn women on, like the aforementioned tampons, gynecology appointments, going to the beach and getting sand in your bathing suit, shopping for underwear etc. All of these things involve genitalia; none of which, turn women on. The other side, you might inquire, (the side of things that turn women on which don’t involve genitals) contains things like credit reports, grown men having a bed frame, matching socks, using the correct form of the word “your”, knowing that “Black & Blue” is the superior Backstreet Boys album, properly fitting clothes etc. I know it’s sad how low these standards are, but we live in a pretty sad world sometimes.

Now I don’t know a lot about men, but based on my experience with the male gender, I am under the impression that their venn diagram is probably closer to just one big fucking circle. 

Also, friends, this is all just poking some fun at gender stereotypes, so please take it lightly. Women are great. Men are great. Sex is weird.

“I know it’s sad how low these standards are, but we live in a pretty sad world sometimes.”

“Cup Runneth Over”

From the series titled Angsty Breakup Poems, part 1

I want you with me all the time 

But darling, please don’t whine

 

I adore your sweet little face 

But keep it in its place

 

I need you close to me 

While I run fast and free

 

Of course it is your job to keep up 

And try not to spill from your overflowing up

 

Both your fears and mine 

In that cup that you grip

Keep hold of its tightly 

It will break if you trip

 

That cup that’s filled with the weight of my presence 

I know it’s a lot

 

But once I forced it unto you 

I felt so weightless, untaught

 

Now just look how fast 

How freely I run

 

Don’t slow me down

We’ll stop when I’m done

 

As always, my love, it’s your job to keep up 

And please, try not to spill from that cup 

Things That I am Convinced of

People who eat pizza crusts only do it so that there is no evidence of how much pizza they have actually consumed. 

Students talk about homework the same way I talk about dieting, they will literally do anything except put in the minimum amount of time and effort. 

This world doesn’t need a small amount of people doing everything, it needs a lot of people doing something. 

You can tell a lot about a person by the way that they scribble a pen on a sheet of paper when it’s almost out of ink. 

Cinema peaked with the release of Shrek 2.  

Nothing in my life has been okay since Ian chucked his baked Alaska in the bin on The Great British Baking Show.  

Male authors write about women as if they are exotic cats being sold on the black market. 

Most terms which apply to a relatively gender neutral group of people are derived from male nominals I.E “dudes” “buddies” “guys”, even the occasional “hey man…”. (I can confirm that I’ve walked up to an individual who identifies as female and said “hey man what’s crackin’?” and everything was fine, except of course for the fact that nobody says “crackin’” anymore). And maybe these phrases have been normalized in our vernacular because women are comfortable with being referred to by traditionally masculine terms, while the fragility of the male gender has grown fearful of the emasculation of feminine terms like “lady” “girlie” “gals” or my personal favorite “hunny”. 

Peacocks

I like to watch a lot of animal documentaries. I starting watching them because I wanted people to think that I am the type of person who likes watching animal documentaries. Along the way, though, I realized something. No, I didn’t realize that I actually like animal documentaries. With my questionable attention span, sometimes I don’t think that I’m psychically capable of genuinely enjoying something. I either become absolutely and unreservedly obsessed with something, or I truly never give it a second thought. In between those extremes is the lovely gray space of just simply “enjoying” something, a space which I am not particularly inclined to exist within.

Nevertheless, I still watch animal documentaries, and I realized something about peacocks. I discovered that male peacocks are diabolically more attractive than female peacocks, and that I am unnecessarily aggravated by this. Let the record show that I am not mad solely because the male peacocks get to be beautiful creatures while the females look like little turd birds. I am mad because I am not a peacock. I am nearly convinced that the human race got it reversed, because, damn, life looks much better as a female peacock than a female skin sack of a human. Consider this, even the movement for our literal rights was labeled “suffrage”, which was just a cruel irony. Now, all of those photos of peacocks with the colorful tail feathers, waving them around in an aggressive spectacle… those are the men of the clan. The ladies, on the other hand, don’t have to do shit. They stand there, doin’ nothin’, and bein’ medium ugly. And that lifestyle, the just-standing-there one, looks absolutely fantastic. Female peacocks, sorry ladies I’m sure you’re beautiful on the inside, kind of look like pigeons. They’re brown and small and just stand there and hang out. Let us rejoice, for this female species has been freed of unrealistic beauty standards! And what do they get in return for just doing nothing? They get absolutely everything and anything. 

In one particular animal documentary, right before I fall asleep of course, I witnessed a male peacock try harder to genuinely impress a female more than I had seen a man do in my entire human life. The male peacocks will legitimately go to fucking flavor town and back trying to get the attention of the first girl they see. They whip out the tail feathers in all of their glory, laying their cards out on the table as if Aphrodite peacock over there had just broken up with her high school boyfriend and she’s single and finally on the market. 

These females, the ones just standing there minding their own business, are probably the bird-equivalent of me hanging out at a Denny’s at four O’clock in the afternoon. I’m most likely wearing my thirteen-year old “unisex” P.E shorts because its “laundry day”, shoveling pancakes into my mouth. Now imagine that (I know, it’s gross), but imagine if that was me, just living my gross life in peace, and out of nowhere the door flies open and a stampede of handsome, sturdy, reliable men come rushing in, with the sole purpose of vying for my attention. Imagine! I’m in my booth, knee-deep in a build-your-own grand slam, and the men just show up! They come in waving their wallets and vaccination cards in my face, shoving photos of their ailing grandmother and their childhood dog in my face. They throw their full credit reports and letters of recommendation down on the syrup-stained table in lustful desperation. They can’t help themselves. They are instinctively wired to seduce me. That might be the dream right there. 

A human man once called me disrespectful because I didn’t buy him onion rings after he bitched about coming all of the way over to my apartment after work, even though I had just told him to stay home instead because he was clearly tired…so yeah, I’d like to be a peacock instead. 

Snapshots From My Memoir: The Story of A Former Dancer

“Even at my lowest point I don’t think I ever stopped loving dance, but I think it stopped loving me back. It felt like I was in a relationship with somebody who didn’t like me enough to put any effort into keeping me around, but also was too lazy to just break up with me and let me move on with my life. I was in an unhealthy, completely co-dependent relationship with chasing perfection. There was never any couples counseling for that.”

“I kept forcing myself to believe that I couldn’t, or shouldn’t, be happy until I was making money as a ballet dancer. My priorities became completely skewed, and I was growing more distant from the artistry that made me love dancing in the first place.”

“That was one of the first moments when I realized that my dream wasn’t to be a famous ballerina, or to be a tragically tormented artist, my dream was to be at peace with who I am.”

“Ironically, it was the people who knew me the least that kept feeling sorry for me.”

“After being in Atlanta for less than twenty-four hours, I got on the first flight back to California; I stared out the window of the plane, and there I made the resolution to quit dancing in order to take care of my mental health, my sanity, and my happiness. “

“That big prize, the one that I thought I wanted to win, was a contract with a ballet company. I never got that contract. I never met that goal, but I found something better.”

 “I turned my hobby of journaling into a passion for writing, I began painting again which I hadn’t done since childhood, I started practicing meditation, I reconnected with old friends, and I found joy in living a well-rounded life.”

“After I quit dancing professionally, I adopted a mindfulness practice, I began pursuing writing, and I finally found the time to make peace with myself.”

A Woman In The World

I am a woman in this world
Who does not quiet herself when she is told.

Life will always be dangerous
For me

He suggests standing on the edge of a cliff

In order to feel a rush of danger.
Does he know that this danger, this fear
Is what I feel

When I stand on the edge of a sidewalk?

When I enter the threshold of a public bus

Or a dimly lit street at dusk
Or when I’m told to smile

When I’m told to eat less

When I’m told to eat more

When I am looked upon Like a cheap prize

When I am told that I am wrong
I am not wrong: Wrong is not my name

You want danger?
You seek adrenaline and fear? You strive for the fight?

You should try being a woman in this world

Who does not quiet herself when she is told.

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