Online Dating While Bi & Black

“Hello my little Mocha Chocalata ya ya. Are you into guys or girls more?” 

If you’re like me, or millions of other people in the 21st century, you’ve tried your hand at online dating. While I’m sure that it’s worked for plenty of people (and I know, by observation, that it has), I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with it. Initially, I downloaded tinder due to two-parts curiosity and one-part persuasion. I didn’t know much about it, aside from the fact that people “swiped left” and “swiped right” on others based on how they looked.

Amazing!

So I created my account, wrote my bio, added my cutest Facebook pictures, and waited around for a bit. Eventually, I got bored and began swiping people left and right. Side note: one issue I have with online dating is that the male to female ratio is extremely skewed. Even if I set my settings to include both men and women, I’ll be subjected to about 20 men before I see one woman.

I quickly began seeing the pop-up declaring in pretty letters that I’ve made a match. So, I go to the next page only to find that person’s name has mysteriously disappeared. I later found out that it usually means someone un-matched with you. I shrugged it off and continued piling up my matches. Sometimes there were conversations, 90% of the time there weren’t. Sometimes I’d choose to say hi first, and they often wouldn’t respond. I failed to see what was so great about Tinder. Majority of the guys never wanted to talk to girls first, it was difficult for me to find other female matches, and I was subjected to updates about the condition of various penises without consent.

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Day & Night: Seeing Depression With 20/20 Vision

A deeply personal look at what it means to live with depression. (Originally written in 2015)

One important thing to acknowledge is the difference between feeling depressed and being depressed. The feeling of depression is typically fleeting. It’s moping around your house in your pajamas, or curling up in your sheets to sleep all day. It’s not wanting to talk to people, and the feeling of hopelessness. It’s not supposed to last very long, and is usually brought on by a particularly difficult (yet not quite traumatic) life experience. Being depressed differs, because it becomes a part of who you are. Instead of the feeling of hopelessness or anger being triggered by a specific circumstance, it happens for no reason at all without any explanation. It’s spending a day out with your closest friends, but then feeling like no one really cares about you because you’ve tricked yourself into believing that people spend time with you out of pity. It’s laying in your bed for days, feeling absolutely numb about everything in your life.

It’s crying too much over little things. It’s feeling nothing at all over huge things.

2011 may have been the hardest and most confusing time of my life. I remember completely giving up on everything I’d ever really cared about, and feeling no remorse over my own apathy. I remember 16 year old me falling asleep in class, because I stayed up the night before thinking nothing but negative things about myself. I remember crying in my high school hallway on Valentine’s Day, because I felt like everyone was worthy of platonic and romantic affection but me;  I wiped my tears, felt the numbness again, and proceeded to call the entire holiday “a stupid waste of money.” I remember feeling nothing but bitterness on my 17th birthday, because I ignored everyone and told no one that it was my birthday, but still got mad that no one remembered it anyway. I remember sitting in the lunchroom with my friends, and breaking into a fit of tears because I felt ugly that day. But no matter how much I tried to keep a straight face, I picked at myself and compared myself to others so much, that I just snapped.

When my typical school day started, I would wake up, lay and bed, and try to come up with 3 reasons why the day was worth taking advantage of. 9 times out of 10, I could only come up with one: breakfast.

When I stopped eating, that quickly disappeared. In my mind, going to school meant being tempted to eat. And being tempted to eat meant not complying with my 700 calorie a day goal. To avoid feeling hungry, I would sleep through my meals, then obsess over the calorie consumption from my dinner.

And so my days consisted of sleeping, not eating, and being proud that I had control over at least one aspect of my life. There was no outside. I barely spoke to friends. But I would lie in bed, in a near trance-like state, picking out all the reasons why people didn’t like me. I was too fat, too annoying, too boring, too ugly.

I would talk down to myself, because I believed that everyone else was too damn polite to tell me why they didn’t like me.

Though I’ve improved since then, depression never goes away. I’m always questioning if people truly like me, and it doesn’t matter how often people tell me they do. The depression will try its best to make me believe that no one likes me, and that people are kind out of pity. It’s hard to tune out a voice that spent so much time making you believe the worst about yourself.

My world is distorted.

Dear Doubter of My Desired Degree

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Dear Doubter of My Desired Degree,

You aren’t the first to tell me that there is no place in the world for English majors.

During my Freshman year of college, I spoke to my then-history professor about my ideal career and college goals. Upon learning that I wanted to declare a major in English, the short, fat, balding, graying, red faced man chuckled.

“My son was an English major…now he’s a waiter on a cruise ship.”

Well just because your son was a failure doesn’t mean I’ll be.

In retrospect, that was rude. I’m sure his son is a great guy and an excellent waiter.

But little did I know that this would be the first of many people to tell me that my degree is either useless or only useful for instructing others. Don’t get me wrong, I have a gigantic respect for teachers. My mother is a teacher, some of my greatest mentors as a child were teachers…I was raised among them. Seeing my mother stressed out over grading, or frustrated with a reckless child–it means that I’ve never seen a teacher as anything less than a human being.

It’s also something I just don’t want to do.

“So…you don’t want to be a teacher,” you confirm with a frown, “You want to be a writer? They don’t make a lot of money, you know.”

First of all, Person Without a Face, don’t let the idea of the American Dream fool you. Not every choice involves making money. I’d much rather have a major I love, and make an average living, than have a major I hate that’s financially promising. Some of the worst professionals in the world exist because they care less about the job and more about the money and perks.

Second of all, think outside the box a bit. English majors are so much more than just writers and teachers. Take the website you’re reading this on, for instance. If this website and its features contained multiple spelling and grammar errors, you would find it far less credible. Who do you think proofreads every word? Let’s think a bit bigger.Everyone wants to be a lawyer, a scientist, a politician, a doctor. Think of how many people would be discredited if you found out that they couldn’t spell words like “definitely” or couldn’t differentiate between “there,” “their,” and “they’re?” Or “here” and “hear.” “Where” and “Were?”

Even if you claim you wouldn’t care about misspellings, deep down you would…just a little bit.

Naturally, I don’t feel that it’s my duty to prove anything to anyone who doubts the worth of my future degree. But as I approach my graduation, more and more people are telling me to pursue my Masters degree: specifically people who aren’t paying for my education. When I ask why they think I should go for my Masters, all they can say is that “it looks good.”

Okay.

Maybe I want to see what I can accomplish in the here and now. Maybe I want to get to a point where I’m well established in my preferred profession, and therefore am able to move up while simultaneously paying for it myself. I don’t doubt that a Masters isn’t important. But c’mon.

Nonetheless, the English degree (like an art degree, film degree, music degree, fashion degree) is so much more than just creating things to look/sound pretty. The value in my education shouldn’t be dictated by how conventionally and ostentatiously productive I look to you.

We can’t all be scientists and politicians.

Sincerely,
Get Off My Back

P.S. Here’s a non-exhaustive list of all the professions an English major can have

Copywriting
Corporate Blogging
Editing
Entertainment
Film & Screenwriting
Freelancing
Grant Writing
Inside Sales
International Relations
Investor Relations
Journalism
Law
Library Science
Lobbying
Marketing
News Reporting
Policy Analyst
Political Analyst
Public Relations
Publishing
Social Media Management
Stock Broker
Teaching
Technical Writing & Editing
Writing

22 Things I’ve Learned by 22

As of now, it is currently 12:52 in Paris, France. Thus, it’s officially my birthday and I’ve been feeling incredibly reflective these last few months. Being in Paris has made me come to terms with a lot of things, and thus I’ve been able to break down how much I’ve learned about myself and what I’ve experienced.

  1. It’s important to be okay with learning. Instead of dropping difficulties and staying in my comfort zone, I should try to learn so that I eventually can know.
  2. You have to be independent. Being in Paris has made me realize that I’m far more resilient than I initially believed. The first two weeks that I was here, I was navigating a foreign country completely on my own, with very little knowledge of the language. With time I managed to assimilate and learn how to navigate the city by myself.
  3. A good education is a privilege. It’s unfortunate that receiving an education is a right, but it’s not necessarily equal in quality across the board. I found that I’m really lucky to have been able to attend the schools I have, and that I have two parents willing to push me to better myself, academically.
  4. Letting go is important. Letting go doesn’t mean absolving someone of the wrong they’ve done. Rather, it allows your own spirit to heal.
  5. Change is hard.  Struggling to accept the change doesn’t necessarily mean that someone is weak. It just means they need more time to adjust.
  6. Growing up isn’t always fun. Okay, yeah, I’m old enough to go to rated-R movies alone, and I can go to bars whenever I want without a fake ID. But I would give all of that up for afternoon naps, coloring for homework, and trips to the zoo. Gross men don’t beg you to let them buy you drinks in the butterfly house.
  7. She isn’t my competition. I’ve learned recently that the girls I envied for appearing to be perfect really didn’t feel perfect at all. Her success and beauty doesn’t mean that I’m any less successful or beautiful. Rather, we are two different women with two different types of success and beauty.
  8. Friends that stop you from being yourself aren’t your friends. I once had a friend in middle school who used to tell me that I spoke like a white girl. She also wrote a fake love letter and put it in my locker. We don’t talk anymore.
  9. Coming to terms with your sexuality is a constant thing. There are moments when I doubt myself and my sexuality, because I’m not always necessarily adhering to the textbook definition of bisexuality. Then I remember that it’s fluid.
  10. Divorce sucks. After your parents have been separated for over half of your lifetime, you see so many other people with happily married parents, and a part of you feels a bit bitter. You also wonder what life would’ve been like had your parents still been together into your adulthood.
  11. Seeing your parents date other people also sucks. According to my father, I was always highly suspicious of every woman he dated. I’ve learned over time that it’s a common thing for children of divorced parents to see every potential new girlfriend or boyfriend as undeserving. Eventually I learned to let that go. But I’m not sorry.
  12. Putting on a front is draining and not worth it. In seventh grade, I went through a phase where I would wear nothing but “urban fashion” (i.e. Baby Phat, Rocawear, Southpole, etc.).  I’d pretend to like rap music, and I’d pretend to know certain slang. It was my attempt to try and bond with my black peers more, because I felt like my real personality wasn’t black enough. That phase was quickly dropped, because I really, REALLY didn’t like Lil Wayne. Pretending to was unhealthy for me.
  13. Middle School Sucks. Pre-teens are assholes. It was possibly the most teasing I’d faced my entire life…though I was relatively lucky in the grand scheme of things.
  14. Just because someone seems nice doesn’t mean that they are. “I wouldn’t hurt a fly” is code for “I want you to believe that I’m a good person and not a shit head.”
  15. Depression is real, and it’s scary. Running on autopilot and not being able to remember blocks of time is a scary experience, and something that I never want to experience again. Managing my depression is imperative for my health and well-being.
  16. It’s important to ask for help. People aren’t always going to sense that something is wrong, so it’s important to speak up when you really need to. Independence is important, but not everything can be handled alone.
  17. “Being on track” is a myth. On College Signing Day, I was one of the only people among my group of friends that hadn’t been formally accepted to any colleges. I felt awful, like I’d fallen behind. I learned that my pace won’t always match everyone else’s and that’s okay.
  18. I need to accept when I’ve screwed up, and also NOT do it again. During my Freshman year of college, I screwed up really badly and ended up falling behind a full year behind all of my friends. It was due to my own laziness and inability to take things seriously.  I was lucky enough to receive a second chance to make things right, though most people probably wouldn’t have.
  19. The energy you put out is the energy you receive. If you act like you hate everyone and don’t want to be talked to, people won’t talk to you. It seems like common sense, but I often forget that my desire for solitude often comes off as aloof and cold. I also believe that I can be aloof and cold as a person.
  20. Black womanhood is a beautiful thing. The love and support that I received from other black women and being surrounded by women who faced the same struggles were main contributions to me learning to love myself. I’m proud to say that the black women in my life are the strongest people I know. Even though we have so many barriers in our path, I’m so proud to be a black woman.
  21. Love isn’t cinematic. When I finally realized that I loved someone, it didn’t really hit me the way I thought it would. I was thinking that it’d be a moment of realization with fireworks (mentally, of course) and fanfare. I thought it’d be a whirlwind thing that Rom-Com meet-cutes were made of. Instead it was very quiet. It sneaked up on me, and kind of just sat in my lap as if to say, “Hey…here I am.” And I knew it was love, because he was more than just someone I wanted romance with, he was also my best friend. If all was said and done, and we were just best friends, I think I would’ve been content. I knew it was love because we had absolutely nothing in common, but I was excited to actually try experiencing something I never would’ve (in this case obscure horror, for instance), simply because he seemed so enthusiastic about it. I know it was love, because if I ever experience something similar to what I did before, I think I’ll be very lucky.
  22. I am a complex person. I am multi-faceted and multi-layered. I’m more than my mental illness, my body, my sexuality, my brain, my talent. I’m more than what I can give to others and how I make others feel. I’m worthy of love, I’m worthy of joy. Every year I’m given will never stop being a blessing to me, and there are so many things that I’m so excited to experience.

To The Matriarchs I’ll Never Meet

To the ones who came before me, I honor your resilience.

I think of the thousands of women who came before me, beating the odds and choosing to continue on when the moments were too much to bear. My heart breaks when I think about all of the abuse and turmoil you were forced to live with, and I wish more than anything that the world didn’t treat you so poorly. I don’t know your names, I don’t know what countries you were born in or the amazing things you did  in your lifetimes. But I thank you for making me who I am today, though you will never know your impact. I thank you for my too-small nose, and big eyes, and full lips, and wide hips. I thank you for my brown skin, my wild hair, my flat feet, my small hands. I thank you for the rich blood that runs through my veins, the result of thousands of years of stories that I’ll never know. I thank you for my artistic spirit and my empathetic soul.

You sacrificed so much…physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually. You sacrificed more than you were given. I’m not sure if you ever dreamed or thought about the future. I’m not sure if you ever thought that you’d have a young woman in your family  free to make her own choices and learn to her hearts content. Perhaps you never believed that, one day, one of your future daughters would see the world and experience the things that weren’t guaranteed to girls like her for such a long time. My only true hope is that I can make you proud. Should I decide to become a mother in the future, I’ll be equally proud to pass all of these inherited qualities onto my own child.

You’re all in my thoughts, wherever I am…whatever I’m doing.

She

In the moments when
She
Looked to the brilliant violet sky
Searching to find replacements
For the stars snatched from her eyes
And
Crushed in the center of a powerful
Palm
She;
Consistently hardening
In a world that denies her softness
Accusations of submissiveness
Torn between
Aggression and Servitude

She;
Earning space
Both invisible
and
Not invisble enough.
Sending love letters to
Soft hips
Soft stomachs
Softness

She;
Curling up in the comfort of
Quiet

She;
Shifting through thoughts too
Loud

She;
Trying to remember what it felt like to just
Be
She.

The Diversity Myth: It’s complex and necessary.

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As  person with a strong desire to go into publishing (specifically YA) in the future, I’m aware of how often the topic of diversity rears its head. There are always questions of “if I include this character who isn’t white, is it diverse enough?” or “if all of my characters are Latino, that qualifies as diverse, right?” Even in television I’ve watched countless shows that include either one character of color in a predominantly white cast, or various characters of color in the cast. Diversity is a complex subject, though people may not realize it.

Many people usually believe that a “diverse group” involves a large number of people that aren’t white. Someone may go into a predominantly black neighborhood and describe it as “racially diverse.” Meanwhile a predominantly white neighborhood may be classified as…well white. If a film features a black cast with one non-black actor, they may classify that as diverse because the cast is primarily black. Ultimately diversity means “showing a great deal of variety.” In other words, the cast of Hamilton is a diverse cast because it includes actors of various races and ethnicities such as Latino, black, white, and Asian.

Furthermore, there are various forms of diversity outside of just racial or cultural. A group can have diversity of sexuality, gender presentation, mental and physical ability, and socioeconomic standing. So while a YA novel may include a racially diverse group of people, it’s just as realistic for 1 of maybe 5 characters to be a member of the LGBT community, or mentally ill, or lower/upper/middle class. But, again, this is based primarily on environment. I’ve met people who (think they) have gone their entire lives without meeting someone who wasn’t cisgender, able-bodied, neurotypical, and straight.

As a teenager, many of the YA novels I read were about white, thin, straight teenagers from the ‘burbs. I couldn’t identify with them at all, but I tried to as best as I could just so I could lose myself in the story. As a sort of test when I was a bit older, I decided to stop reading YA novels if the protagonist was white. Unfortunately, it was really hard to find novels with brown or black girls as the protagonist if it wasn’t based on hyper-realism and misery. In other words, many of the books about girls who looked like me were about racism, abuse, addiction, etc. If the majority of YA books (in various genres) only feature cisgender, straight, able-bodied, middle-class, white teenagers, and these books are offered to teenagers/pre-teens who don’t fit this norm, what does that tell them? That these stories either aren’t for them, or that they need to fit this norm in order to be accepted by society. Even if the protagonist of the story is white, sometimes I even appreciate when another character isn’t and has their own story line. Sometimes if the book seems interesting enough, I’ll just read it anyway regardless of the diversity aspect.

Anyway…

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This is why shows like Gossip Girl, Girls, Sex and the City, Friends, How I Met Your Mother, etc. are often criticized for their lack of diversity. New York City is a ginormous place. And while it’s normal for people to latch onto people most like them, it’s highly unlikely that every person they meet while going through the motions of life will look/behave just like them. I can’t imagine people living in Williamsburg or Harlem not meeting people outside of their own race. And many people who criticize these shows (or most YA novels with the same problems) are shut down for trying to “force” diversity. You can’t really force what naturally exists, though many may try to deny it. In a post that I may publish in the future, I’ll further elaborate on why diversity is so important. But, simply put, diversity in the literature and media we consume is important because it doesn’t exist in a bubble. How people of various groups are portrayed in the things we consume can ultimately cause us to form opinions of them. This especially goes for the groups that we may not know in real life. It’s also important to note that it isn’t enough to JUST have a diverse group. They need to be positively represented as well. This can help build the self-esteem of readers and maybe allow others to think outside of the box.

I suppose diversity can be easy to forget– okay not easy to forget, but a non-issue if it isn’t really something that effects you as an audience member. That’s understandable. But in the changing world that we live in, it’s an important aspect of media consumption that we need to really pay attention to.