Meet The Team: Sara Radin

Every week our writers share a bit of themselves with you. Inspired by their vulnerability, we sat some of our core team members down for an intimate interview.

We talked with Sara Radin, who spearheads all of Killer And A Sweet Thang’s events. Sara is a Brooklyn-based creative, who in addition to orchestrating community gatherings, has written for outlets such as DAZED, i-D, Man Repeller, and Broadly.


Where are you from?

I’m from Millburn, New Jersey which is 35 minutes outside of Manhattan.


Did anything about your upbringing in Jersey influence your work today?

I was always super creative when I was younger and I tried my hand at all different kinds of creative mediums. When I was 3 [year-old], I said I wanted to be an artist and then when I was 11, I said I wanted to be a writer. Today, I think I exist somewhere in between the two, but I also think a writer is a form of being an artist. My parents just really encouraged my creativity and being creative, and doing artful things was always a big form of catharsis for me as I was wrestling with puberty and my parents getting divorced and just different circumstances around my childhood.


How would you describe your sexual education growing up in school?

I know that we had sex-ed but I have no recollection of what went down *laughs* or what was talked about. I never spoke with my parents about sex… I think I was in fourth grade and I was at sleepaway camp and I didn’t know what the bases were. I still think that I’m lacking a lot of knowledge when it comes to sexual health and education as a 29 year-old.


Dating apps or IRL?



How old were you when you had your first kiss?



How old were you when you lost your virginity?



Do you prefer to text or call?

I’m a caller, for sure. But nobody else is, except Eileen.


Do you like dirty talk?



Do you believe in sex on the first date?

Depends on the circumstance.


What do you mean?

If I’m going into it with no expectations, then sure. But I think if it’s someone I’m interested in getting to know I would probably not have sex with them on the first date.


What turns you on in a partner?

I’m famously known for liking men that wear plaid. I actually had a plaid party for my twenty second birthday. That’s how much I love men that wear plaid. What was the question? What’s a turn on? I would say someone who’s respectful of women and treats them equally, someone who checks their privilege and has a desire to learn and grow so they can be an ally [for] other marginalized voices.


Is there anything that turns you off in someone?

My biggest turn off is misogyny.


Have you ever ghosted someone?

I haven’t dated in a year, so I don’t recall me ghosting anyone that I was legitimately seeing, but perhaps there were people that I went out with once and then maybe didn’t talk to again.


Have you ever been ghosted?

Yes, horrifically.


What do you mean by horrifically?

When I first moved to the city I started dating my boss’s best friend and that was a disaster because our lives became very intertwined in a way that your life shouldn’t be intertwined with your boss. We were dating for maybe 3 months, and he [said] he wanted me to be his girlfriend when we were having sex on his birthday and then a few weeks after that he just disappeared out of thin air. I did try to ask him for an explanation, and he just brushed it off like nothing was wrong. I felt incredibly vulnerable because I didn’t understand what had happened and I felt like my boss probably did, and that kinda made me feel very upset and insecure.


Can you talk a little bit about your decision not to date for a year?

I had a lot of personal stuff happen last summer and I just realized that I [would] self-sabotage and I decided that it was time to put a pause on putting emotional and physical energy into dating, and just really like turn that inwards and focus on understanding myself and my needs and spending time getting to know myself.


Are you open to the idea of dating right now?

I’m slowing starting to open myself up to the idea of dating again. It’s not really a priority for me right now. I feel really fulfilled on my own and I don’t really feel like I need a partner. I don’t feel like I’m missing anything in my life from not having one. So, according to my therapist, that means that this is the time to date.


If that’s the criteria for dating I feel like half of us shouldn’t be dating.

That’s exactly it. A lot of us use dating as a way to kind of give us value and purpose and it’s kind of good exercise to maybe take time and establish autonomy and fulfillment on your own.


Do you think it’s harder to date now in the current digital age?

Digital connectivity has impacted our lives in a lot of amazing ways and a lot of challenging ways. Sometimes I wish we didn’t have [social media] so things would go back to the old daysbut that’s not to say that things were better then. I find that it’s really easy to get in the habit of projecting onto people, making assumptions about them, getting wrapped up in the idea of someone, as opposed to really taking the quality time to get to know someone for who they really are.


Have you ever dated anyone or gone out with anyone who’s DMed you?



Have you ever DMed anyone asking them out?



Do you send nudes?

No, not recently, but in the past. If I did, but my face was never in it.


Gotcha, so no one can blackmail you.



Have you ever felt heartbroken?



How did you get over it?

I wrote ten pages of poems about all the men I dated.


Oh, wow! Can you talk about that? That’s cool.

I think it was January 2016. I went out with this guy. We dated for two weeks and it got really hot and heavy quite quickly. We initially met at a coffee shop, and then he ended up breaking up with me at the same coffee shop two weeks later. It was so surreal to be broken up with in person after such a short time of dating and I felt really uncomfortable and really awkward. It was very awkward. When I got home I was kind of overcome with emotion, I was crying and I knew I’d be fine. It wasn’t about him, really, it was just more the experience of someone literally telling me to my face that I was being rejected.

That was just hard to stomach, and after that conversation I got in the showerwhen I’m upset I like to take showersand I just was letting the hot water beat down on my back and taking in the steam. You know, meditating in some way. I started to think about our relationship and the trajectory of it and I came to this place of gratitude, and I had this inclination to write a poem about it. The poem ended up being called Thank You, and it was a thank you note for our very short-lived romance.

After that I sent it to a friend and she started writing a poem about a guy she had dated, so then we just ended up writing all these poems about all these men we had dated and by the end of the night I had literally ten pages of poems about all these different guys. It was so cathartic and so much fucking fun. Those poems ended up becoming a project called It’s Not Personal, which is an art and writing anthology I ran with my friend Vanessa.


That’s awesome.



So an international collective of like, healing.

Healing from heartbreak, yeah.


Wow, that’s beautiful. So in that way you’re probably glad he dumped you then.

Oh, totally.


Have you ever lacked sexual chemistry with someone, but then fixed it?



What did that conversation or process look like?

There was someone I dated last year who I initially was not attracted to. But they seemed interesting and we had a lot in common so I decided to just keep seeing them but not be intimate yet. Over time, I started to feel more attracted to them.


How important do you think sex is in a relationship?

It’s important to me, but I think I’m the type of person who feels more sexually aroused by someone that I know quite well, and it’s taken me a lot of time to realize that. I think I feel this need for a level of safety, security, vulnerability before sex really becomes something worth having. I like it when sex is with someone that’s special to me, basically.


Do you have any advice for anybody who is struggling with insecurity in relationships?

Seek out professional help. There’s nothing shameful about seeing any kind of therapist whether it’s a relationship or a sex therapist or a psychotherapist or a psychiatrist. A therapist can help you know yourself better which will help you bring healthier, more comfortable relationships into your life [through] the process of working on yourself.


Prude Or Slut?

“Quinn, you’re being such a slut!” my best friend Emma exclaimed.

There I was, twelve-year-old Quinn, exchanging saliva with a boy named Michael, when Emma ferociously pulled me out of the basement bathroom. I was confused, unaware of what I had done to be called a slut. “You hooked up with someone else like a week ago, and not to mention you kissed Jeremy tonight too. People are going to talk about you and say that you are easy.” I still didn’t understand what was so wrong with wanting to kiss more than one boy. It was fun and made me feel like a beautiful 17 year-old I had seen in some movie. Still, I apologized. Maybe she was just being a jealous prude since she hadn’t had her first kiss yet, I thought. That night Emma told everyone in the house what she thought of me. A tear dropped down my face. In that moment, I made a promise to myself. If I was going to be called a slut, I’d be the best goddamn slut there ever was.

Five years later, I had become that seventeen-year-old girl I’d dreamt about. I was lying down in my friend Alexis’s teal bedroom. “She is such a slut!” Alexis said, as she flipped through her Instagram. The word “slut” had graduated from meaning a girl who frequently made out with boys to a girl who frequently had sex with them. Whenever we called a girl we didn’t like a slut, a whore, or a hoe, it was implied that they let just about any boy slip their hands into their panties. We called every other girl we didn’t like a prude, an abstinent freak, or a virgin.

If they were a prude, we thought they were too plain to get any boy to touch them at all. These were the types of girls I did not want to be. Yet, I found myself calling girls these names to distance myself from my own sexual reality. Although I’d been called a slut, I hadn’t exactly reached 12 year-old Quinn’s sexual expectations. In truth, I’d never done anything I thought was particularly slutty. On the other hand, I knew what the boys at school thought of me when they saw me carrying my textbooks in hand, glasses on, and hair tied hastily up. They saw a prudish virgin who wouldn’t dare spread her legs unless I was to be given an A+ on the assignment.

Deep down, I just wanted to be desirable. Young girls are brought up in a culture where the most important thing for a woman to be is pretty and seductive. This is where it gets murky. There is a fine line in our society’s eyes between being sexually attractive and being slutty. It becomes our job to find a balanced medium. This journey becomes less about us and more about trying to please the rest of the world. We grow up learning that boys want sex. So how do we appeal to them? We try to be sexy. We also grow up learning that purity is important. So we try to be pure. But how the fuck are we supposed to find a common ground?
On a Saturday in 2017, I lost my virginity to a 21 year-old named Adam. I liked that he was older than me, that he was reserved, and that he had some mystery about him. I was the one who initiated the “relationship,” not him. He started paying more attention to me after we drunkenly kissed and I vomited in front of him—specifically, into a blender. Apparently, guys like you better after they see you puke your guts out.

After a couple weeks of flirting via iMessage, we made plans for another Saturday. I knew that I wanted to have sex with him on that partly cloudy afternoon. He was a nice guy and, more importantly, experienced. I did not want to have sex with someone who didn’t know what they were doing. The thought of a boy asking me “if that was the right hole” made me want to gag. I wanted him to know where my pussy was and how to put his dick into it.

A lot of my eagerness had to do with being horny. My sexual awakening began in 2008, when I watched Robert Pattinson portray an angelic vampire. I had my first lip-to-lip contact at eight and my first French kiss at twelve. It wasn’t until the summer before eighth grade that I began masturbating. I thought it was weird that I was so frequently self-gratifying, especially because I thought it was something only boys did. In a way, that made me like it more; I was able to get myself off just like any other guy. After my masturbation Olympics, I started to think about sex all the time. I wanted sex to be a regular thing in my life, just like brushing my teeth or eating Cheetos. I wasn’t looking for love. I was looking for sexual satisfaction.

The other reason why I was so committed to having sex had to do with my battle against my sexual definitions. I wanted control over my sexuality, just like I wanted control over everything else in my life. The night before meeting up with Adam, I tried to break my own hymen with my fingers, in case I decided against telling him I was a virgin. That night was also accompanied by Google searches. If you don’t tell him: he’ll figure it out once he sees the blood, he’ll never trust you again, he’ll think you’re immature for lying. Despite these warnings, I still didn’t want Adam to own any part of me. I didn’t even want to give him the title of “Quinn’s Hymen Breaker.” I had been taught by my health teachers that the state of my hymen would provide a clear answer to men about my sexual history, but this biological theory really means jack shit. The absence or presence of a hymen, really, is no bigger an indication of a woman’s sexual activity than the words prude and slut are.

This was my secret mission: to not be a virgin anymore. Personally, having sex and being called a slut seemed like a way better deal than having no sex and being seen as a prude. Sex had to be a part of my equation, and that didn’t seem unfathomable to me because girls want sex just as much as guys do. I was not born to be sexual prey. I was born like everybody else—with sexual organs and the innate biological desire to fornicate. I was not “the doorway to the devil, a creature whose burning sexual desires needed to be carefully husbanded for everyone’s safety,” (Tertullian, Christian author, 150-240 CE). I was just a harmless teenager who wanted to bang.

I got to his house around two in the afternoon. I wanted to know if it’d be weird for us to have sex while his younger brother and dad were still home. I wanted to know if he thought we were going to fuck or if a blowjob would suffice. Our arms laid loosely on top of each other, and I felt his warm skin burning against me. I knew I had to say it: “I’ve never had sex before but I want to have sex with you.” I don’t think he expected to hear that. He had somewhere to be soon, so he suggested that we could just fool around. I told him time didn’t bother me, that I was ready to have sex anyway. With my blessing, he swore off his inhibitions and said the whole ordeal (being the sex) just had to be quick.

The skin tore as he slipped into me. It killed for a solid ten seconds until it started feeling like the best thing ever—better than food, or vodka, or happiness, or weed, or Benadryl. This was the bliss I had been craving! Screw the horror stories I had read online, sex for the first time was awesome. He never asked me if it hurt or if I was okay, but I didnt care. I didn’t think it was his job to make me happy—I could make myself happy. When we had finished or, more accurately, when he had finished, I put my underwear on as I complimented him with the widest smile on my face, “That was amazing.” And it really was. I wouldn’t have lied. I examined the bed—no blood, no visible pain. The blood was something I’d been worrying about, like he’d make me buy him new sheets if I stained his. I was so satisfied.

I left that night no longer bearing the virgin title and no longer holding the stigma of prude. So what did that make me? A slut? Adam and I weren’t dating, he wasn’t my boyfriend or some guy I was in love with. I just had sex with him. He just was. The simplicity of it all was what drew me in. I didn’t try and pretend to be one thing or another. I told him the truth, and there was nothing wrong with it. It bothers me now how nervous I was, like the truth would have been an aversion.

I don’t regret any of it like I have so often heard I would. TV shows geared towards teens with pretty girls crying because they wish they had waited. Middle school sex-ed telling me that you should be in love with your first. The Biblical teaching that premarital sex is sin and sin ushers in guilt. But I didn’t want to confess to anything except that I had succeeded. I had finally gotten what I wanted. I had finally gotten sex.

As women, we’re forced to spend most of our lives trying to find a balance between being sexually pure yet sexually appealing. We must be innocent yet mischievous, alluring but tame, willing yet pure. I thought sex was going to be the ultimate answer for me, as if having another body pressed up against mine would make me feel like I was really there. Looking back at it now, having sex really changed nothing. I’m not any more of a woman than I was before. I’m not any more of a slut despite no longer being a virgin; and despite contrary opinion, I really didn’t lose anything but a simple title.

People may think I’m a slut for sleeping with a guy I wasn’t committed to. People may look at me and think I have no intention of ever letting a dick in. I look back and think about how a girl like Emma made me cry with a single word. I think about all the times I’ve heard the word slut or prude being thrown around like they’re nothing. I think about all the times I’ve called someone else those words, too. Words like that are a tarnish to our skin. No matter how hard we try, we’ll never really be clean. But maybe the healing comes through accepting the things we cannot control, accepting that people will see us the way they want to see us. It’s about knowing that a word like prude or slut really doesn’t make you anything else than what you already are—you.

Two People

I met him second semester of freshman year. It was a bright day. We happened to be wearing the same neon green Northface jacket. He stuck his hand out to shake mine; it was firm. A wonderful, tall boy with a big frame whose soul felt oddly familiar. Sometimes you meet people, you look them in the eye, and you just know they’re going to change your life forever. This was one of those times.

Three years later, like I knew we would be, we were in love.

It wasn’t until my mom sat me down one day that I realized there were certain challenges we would face as a couplechallenges stemming from the ignorance and prejudices of some people. No matter how many times I tried to explain to such people, there was one thing they continuously struggled to understand: I didn’t choose him because he was white; I chose him because he felt like home. We would get stares, but my mom would calm me down and tell me it’s because we were so beautiful. I never believed her.

Our school was an incredibly diverse place, but there weren’t many interracial couples with a black woman and a white man. As much praise as we got on social media and in real life, I would still get remarks that I liked “pink” (referring to his penis) and that he had a taste for “chocolate.” I never told my boyfriend about these remarks, even if they were from his friends, because I knew he would be upset. Throughout my entire life, I had built up my own defenses to racist and derogatory comments, so I chose to deal with much of this ignorance alone. I never wanted him to suffer in the ways I had before. I was constantly insecure that people looked at us and either wondered why he would ever date someone like me, or on the fetishizing side of the spectrum, thought, of course, he wants to be with someone “exotic.

I spent countless times in the kitchen with the elders of my family explaining that he had a name and it wasn’t “white boy.” I had infinite conversations with my cousin clarifying that I don’t exclusively date white men, but that I just fell in love with someone who was. I assured her that he treated me like the most amazing girl in the world, and it wasn’t because I was black.

Comments were made about how beautiful our kids would be if we were to conceive—we were 17. I would show him to new college friends who wanted to know what my high school boyfriend looked like. Him being white was always the most shocking thing to them, as if the concept of us as a couple was going to somehow reverse the effects of racism entirely. Yet even under that delusional belief, my identity as a black individual was constantly being invalidated or challenged because I was in love with a white person. As if being in love with a white man made me less black. As if our entire relationship was focused on race. In actuality, the only time we talked about it was when we planned what we would do if we were in public and someone tried to harass us. I wish we didn’t have to have that conversation. But the reality was, we were living in a country where interracial love was still very much a taboo concept; Alabama didn’t lift all interracial marriage laws until the year 2000, and even then, 40% of its citizens voted against this decision.

As I grow and I see interracial relationships becoming more popular, I want everyone to think more about the two people dating versus the difference in their skin tones. They are human beings who have a beautiful relationship often because they’re in lovenot because it’s “trendy” or “cool.” I applaud the increasing number of interracial couples I see because they have the courage to defy expectations and live beyond the confines of “taboo.”

I loved my boyfriend because he was amazing. He understood all of my dumb jokes, he looked at me like I was the only girl in the room, he kept me moving, he kept me grounded, and he fought for my love every single day when we were together. And that’s just how hard I loved him back. Not because he was white. Not because he wasn’t black. But because he was love, and at the end of the day, what more can any of us really ask for?

Greener Grass

*The content below may be triggering to those affected by suicide or self harm. 


In eighth grade, I swallowed an entire bottle of painkillers in an attempt to kill myself. In ninth grade, things weren’t much better, and eventually two of my friends reported me to the school guidance counselors because I was cutting my wrists. My second suicide attempt came shortly after. Looking back, I knew I didn’t really want to die, and I still don’t—despite my low points, I haven’t (truly) considered suicide since.

Summer, 2016: I moved back home after my freshman year of college in New York City. I was depressed. I hated my personality and appearance, and I didn’t want to do anything or talk to anyone. I’ve thought a lot about the best way to describe how depression feels, and I think the answer is that it doesn’t. I recognized this absence of feeling and told my psychiatrist, who took one look at my medical chart and prescribed me some antidepressants.

First she put me on Zoloft, but when I told her it made me feel like a zombie, she put me on Prozac instead. After a few weeks, I noticed some improvement. Actually, a crazy amount of improvement. I was on top of the world! It was a miracle drug!

I took my medication religiously, even after I started feeling better, in fear that the feeling would stop. I started loving the way I looked which led me to being more social, and that led to an awful lot of drinking. I engaged in other forms of risky behavior, too, like sex with multiple partners without protection, spending huge sums of money, and driving under the influence. My thoughts became rapid and I could complete tasks like reading a book in half the time it would normally take; some days I’d talk so fast I had to repeat myself a few times before anyone could understand me. I didn’t need to sleep and I had endless amounts of energy and inspiration. It was like the world couldn’t keep up with me—I was untouchable.

One day, I was in Sephora picking out some eyeliner. Makeup is expensive, and I had already blown all my paychecks that summer. I looked around the store and decided that I could just take the makeup—they wouldn’t catch me. I was literally a god. I could walk right out of that store, without even hiding it in my purse, and no one would stop me.

As any sane person would recognize, I was wrong. Immediately as I left the store, a security guard shouted after me. I paused, and she confronted me about the eyeliner in my hand. I told her I took it, but assured I was going to give it back to her and leave—thinking that would be that. I was in control here. I handed her the eyeliner and started to run, but she convinced me to stay by saying that she wouldn’t call the police if I came with her. In my frenzy, I believed her.

So I got arrested.

It was one of the scariest hours of my life. I came down from Cloud 9 shortly after the police were called, breaking into full-on hysterics. I’m pretty sure I was still crying in my mug-shot. I had just turned 18 so the case would be brought to court, and I’d have a record. Mind you, I was the kind of kid who never even got detention in elementary school, the smarty-pants honors kid who would do anything the teacher told me to do. Getting arrested for shoplifting was so out of character for me, in fact, that my lawyer advised I get a mental health evaluation. I was desperate, so I did. Instead of going back to the psychiatrist in my hometown, I went to a new doctor, and I’m forever thankful that I did.

The doctor listened to me talk for an hour, asking questions here and there, and then the room fell silent. “I think you have bipolar disorder,” she said. “Type one. Do you know what that is?”

“Well, yeah sorta. It’s just when your mood changes really fast, right?”

Not quite. She told me it was much more complicated than that. Bipolar disorder, I would learn, is characterized by periods of high moods, called manic episodes, and low swings of depression. Sometimes these periods last for a few weeks or months, but they could even stretch into years. They don’t have to alternate, either, and there can be periods of balance in between. All of this makes it really easy to misdiagnose bipolar disorder as depression; no one looks for help when they’re doing well.

I told her how one time I felt the need to change so intensely that I bleached my hair six times in two days, spending $600 so I could walk away as a new—platinum blonde—person. How, since then, I’d had another five hair colors. How I’d had unprotected sex with ten people in ten days. How I’d spent lots of money and tried lots of drugs, and most notably, how I had reached a borderline delusional state of mania in which I committed a reckless act that led to legal consequences.

But I’d also grappled with on-and-off-again depression for years. It never made sense to me, but the more I sat there and thought about it, the more evident it became that there was a chemical imbalance in my brain.

“What do I do now, then?”

“We can put you on a mood stabilizer. There’s a really good one that has little-to-no side effects called Lamictal. You have to start the dosage low and work your way up, but I think the process is worth it.”She told me that there was no known cure for bipolar disorder, that no one really knew what causes it. The purpose of the medication, she said, was to either lessen the severity of my episodes or put as much time between them as possible.

“Ideally, it’ll do both, but I need your cooperation.”


*  *  * 

At first, I wanted to talk about the diagnosis. I actually posted about it on Instagram, excited to finally figure out what was wrong with me, and glad to put a name to my insanity. I suddenly had a chemical reason for the things I felt and did. But my dad told me to take the post down and not to tell anyone. Technically, it’s considered a disability; socially, it’s considered crazy.

I stopped talking about it with anyone except for my closest friend, and even then, she didn’t really understand. No one truly can, unless they too have bipolar disorder. It’s isolating. Many of my friends can relate to feelings of depression or anxiety, but full-on mania is an entirely different animal.

After that initial psychiatrist visit, it seemed like I was there every other week. My psychiatrist was right in that there were no physical side effects, but Lamictal made my thoughts groggy and jumbled; sometimes I even had trouble talking. It made me completely lose my libido, and quite honestly made me numb to most feelings. I remember thinking: this is stabilizing me, but at what cost?

As I grappled with the medication and the new label that felt stuck to my forehead, I sunk into a deep depression. That semester I felt even lower than I had in the eighth grade. I didn’t get out of bed for days at a time and my roommate (bless her soul) would have to force me to eat fruit or soup. I didn’t want to shower. I didn’t want to see anyone or do anything, and I actually had to make a deal with one of my TAs to ensure I could pass all my classes after missing so many. I cried all the time and could barely look in a mirror. I slept constantly because I didn’t want to be awake, and I distanced myself from everyone I knew because I felt like a burden. It was more than just emptiness; it was like the normal version of myself had been dumped out, and the shell had been filled with lead. This depression was heavy.

My next few doctor visits were spent trying to figure out which medicine I could take to make myself feel better without triggering another manic episode. Basically, taking SSRIs that previous summer had induced mania, and had done so quickly. Even though I was depressed, the extra serotonin could overload my brain and leave me feeling crazy. I felt so shitty that I begged the doctor to let me try them, and she prescribed me Paxil.

I have type one bipolar disorder, which is characterized by at least one very bad manic episode. I thought my first one was bad, but it couldn’t have prepared me for the second one, which came on within a few weeks of taking the Paxil.

Suddenly, I hadn’t slept in days. I locked myself in my bathroom, screaming to my roommate that there were people in our room. There weren’t. It was my first episode of psychosis, my first true break from reality.

After my roommate (who is also my best friend, I should mention) calmed me down enough to get me into bed, I started hallucinating again; the ceiling was burning and there were bugs in my bed, crawling up my arms. It was terrifying. The next day I immediately went to the doctors, where they prescribed me some sort of sedative to knock me out. Over the next few weeks, we went back and forth in finding the perfect cocktail of medications. Many of them had horrible side effects, many were too risky to even try, but eventually I found my balance.

* * *

I don’t like myself when I’m manic. I get irritated easily, I snap, I don’t think straight, I become selfish, I hurt people—and as a result, most people don’t like me, either. My depression reminds me of that: leaving me stuck in bed, skipping class, not showering, not eating. I used to characterize myself as “manic Sam” and “depressed Sam.” Now, I’m here to tell you that I’m neither. I’m just Sam.

A big part of my healing has actually had nothing to do with medication. Instead, it has been about identity, learning to understand and work with myself. Instead of saying “I am bipolar,” I like to say that, “I have bipolar disorder.” This distinction might not be important to most people, but to me, it’s everything. My illness does not define me. It is a burden I carry, but it is not synonymous with me. Not all of my choices are because I am in the middle of an episode, but because I have valid thoughts, feelings, and reactions to the world around me. I’ve gained agency again by telling myself that I am responsible for everything I do, delusional or not. In a sense, it’s given me control.

Some of my self-determined responsibilities include recognizing when things are starting to swing one way or another, and going to see a psychiatrist accordingly. There were times when I refused to take medication because I didn’t want to be dependent on them, but I soon learned that making the choice to take them is a lot more impressive, as well as necessary. I also complement the chemically-based medication with vitamin supplements, exercise, healthy foods, reading, and writing. I try to take care of my mind and body with a type of self care that’s a lot more effective than face masks.

It’s also really important to talk about an illness like this with loved ones, especially your partner. My current boyfriend is willing to listen to me when I need to explain myself or voice my frustrations, and he is an absolute angel for doing so. In turn, it has helped him understand what the signs of an oncoming manic episode look like, and he helps me become more aware of it myself. It’s especially important to communicate things like a decreased libido. For a while, my ex-boyfriend thought my low sex drive was due to not finding him attractive anymore, when in actuality, it was a side effect of my medication. I ended up changing some pills because I valued my sex life when there were other pharmaceutical options available that wouldn’t decrease my libido. I no longer have that problem with my current boyfriend. I’m proof a healthy sex life is possible on medication—it’s just a matter of finding which medications work best for you. I’ve tried thirteen different combinations over the last two years, and I’ve only just found one that works for me.

A few months ago, another depressive episode hit, and I am now happily taking 300mg of an atypical antidepressant called Wellbutrin with 450mg of Lamictal. Those are almost scary-high doses for many people, but it works perfectly for me. I just got back from a semester in Sydney, Australia and am now living with my boyfriend in NYC, working a retail job, and interning at a magazine. Next semester is my senior year and I’ll be taking 18 credits, working as a writing tutor and research assistant, writing my honors thesis, completing my creative writing capstone project, and hopefully preparing for a job teaching English abroad. I am legally registered with a disability, yet I’m doing more than most kids my age. It is possible to live with bipolar disorder. And if you see bits of yourself in this piece, I want you, especially, to know that it’s possible to thrive with it too.

* * * 

One night, during a breakdown, I called my sister on the phone. “Why can’t I just be normal?” I asked through tears.

“Well, then you just wouldn’t be you,” she said. “You love more deeply than anyone I know, Sam.”

I’ve thought about that night a lot. If given the chance, I don’t think I would get rid of this illness completely. It’s isolating and confusing and debilitating, yes, but I feel things a lot deeper because of it. I swear my grass is always a little greener than everyone else’s, no matter which side of the fence I’m on.


DoubleTap: Hilde Atalanta

DoubleTap is an interview series highlighting artists whose work explores sex, body, and identity.


For artist Hilde Atalanta, both gender and sexuality are a limitless well of creative inspiration. Based in Amsterdam, the 29-year-old illustrator and painter uses graphite pencils, watercolor, acrylic paint, and black ink in their quest to reveal the inner workings of diverse identities and relationships. In addition to making custom portraits, Atalanta runs two projects, The Vulva Gallery, which explores sexual health through illustrations of all kinds of vulvas, and You’re Welcome Club, which focuses on body positivity and inclusion. Atalanta hopes their artwork challenges the way we see and experience our bodies by showing us a spectrum of human beings in all shapes, sizes and colors.

In this interview, we speak with the artist about their creative process and the inspiration behind You’re Welcome Club.


Hi Hilde! Will you tell us more about you?

H: My name is Hilde Atalanta, I’m 29 years old. I’m an illustrator and painter, living and working in Amsterdam. I love making portraits, and I like working in different styles. I mainly work with graphite pencils, watercolour, acrylic paint and black ink. I recently started making bigger works on canvas. My work revolves around the search for identity and different forms of relationships, sexualities and gender identities. In my work I like to play with gender; many of the – often androgynous – characters I paint are based on female models. Besides making portraits, I’m working on two other projects. With The Vulva Gallery I focus on body positivity and sexual health education. With my most recent project You’re Welcome Club, I focus on diversity, body positivity and inclusivity.


What inspired you to launch You’re Welcome Club?

In the past two years I’ve been running The Vulva Gallery, where I’m portraying a wide variety in vulva shapes, opening up conversation about sexual health and related topics. After a year I felt the need to broaden my view; I wanted to speak about human diversity in a broader sense and I decided to start up a second account: You’re Welcome Club. The general reason for focusing on diversity is that I’ve been noticing over the years that the popular media are portraying a certain image, “ideal” or “perfect” women and men. They are mostly thin/athletic models, often white—and mainly very feminine women and very masculine men. Many individuals (including myself) don’t recognize themselves in these models, presented as “ideal” women and men. Seeing these “perfect” models can make an individual feel insecure about themselves, even feeling left out—as it’s often an impossible standard they have to live up to. However, seeing oneself represented (in popular media) can give an individual the reassurance that they are normal, that they belong, that they are part of our society. With You’re Welcome Club I wanted to make a series of illustrations where I’m showing a wide diversity of human beings, with different kinds of backgrounds, sexualities, gender identities and body shapes. An honest representation of our society, but with the emphasis on individuals that aren’t often portrayed.


How long have you been developing this body of work? How do you hope to grow this series in the future?

I started You’re Welcome Club in August 2017. I’m hoping it will keep continue growing into an even bigger and more inclusive series, and an interactive and supportive community.


What is your process for creating these illustrations? Do you draw from real life? Do you make these digitally or by hand?

I draw all illustrations by hand. First I’m making rough pencil sketches, and I’m tracing those with a black fineliner. Then I’m scanning these line illustrations, and I’m coloring them in using Photoshop. I’m also planning on making a series of paintings using acrylic or gouache paint.


What has surprised you most about doing illustrations around body image and identity?

There’s so much more diversity in the world than I’ve could have imagined before portraying this diversity.


How do you use your artwork to champion inclusion, diversity, body and sex positivity?

I’m simply representing diversity. I feel that images can tell stories and convey emotions in different ways than words can do.


What do you hope viewers will take away from seeing your illustrations?

I’m aiming to make a series of illustrations in which people recognize themselves. I want people to feel welcome, to feel included, and to know that they belong in our society just as much as everybody else. Also I want to represent and thereby normalize bodies that aren’t often portrayed. By portraying a wide range in body diversity I’m saying: all bodies are good bodies; we are all valid human beings and diversity is a wonderful thing.

I would love to live in a more inclusive society, where people are open towards each other’s differences and where they respect each other. I noticed that simply respecting other human beings seems to be a difficult thing. It’s easy to get confused by someone who looks different. It’s easy to be scared of people who feel different from us. Still, I feel we need to invest in having an empathic, or at least respectful attitude towards each other. The world is full of diversity, why would we ignore this? It would be so boring if we would all look and act the same. We can learn so much from our differences. It’s simply so much more interesting to look at the world from all kinds of different perspectives. “Different” isn’t something to be afraid of, as there’s so much beauty in our differences.


A Little Pee Shy

Dating in high school brought up the usual neuroticisms for me: my armpits sweat profusely the moment I saw a crush in the hallway, my vagina had a small seizure when his name lit up my phone screen, even just hearing his name caused an overwhelming mix of panic and awareness of my own sexuality. When we finally, finally began to date (everything my diary and I diligently wished for), I became terrified of peeing when he was around.

It only happened when we were together. I would drink a Diet Coke or two (or three—I used to be addicted and didn’t care about chemicals) and my bladder would freeze with fear. I couldn’t even acknowledge aloud that I had to go, let alone actually do anything about it. I would sit there, beyond uncomfortable, until I went home so he would never ever find out my terrible secret: that I was a human being.

It’s not like I cared when he went to the bathroom. That would be, as a former-therapist-who-later-ghosted-me would say, “irrational.” Yet I was immobile, unable to act on a basic need. Something so inconsequential to most felt insurmountably big. Going to the bathroom meant accepting my body has needs, which means accepting my body as is, which means untangling every piece of denial and self-loathing I had ever had. It was easier to hold it.

Looking back, I think it was a bizarre manifestation of deeply internalized misogyny. My boyfriend actively knowing I was peeing felt intrusive and personal. According to ideals represented in pop culture, along with most mainstream “women’s” magazines, I’m already not supposed to have body hair or digest food, so why should I feel comfortable doing anything else? What if he heard my stream? He’ll know too much! I would rather priority ship myself to the bottom of the ocean, thanks.

It would take me literal hours to summon the courage to stand up and begin the process of walking to the bathroom. I gave myself two UTIs. Two! I didn’t even have the courage to directly ask where the bathroom was, lest he think I might need to use it. One time, I asked what room was behind every door in his basement “for fun.” When he pointed out the bathroom, all I could say was, “Oh, that’s nice,” and continue to hold it in misery. Another time, I was finally in his bathroom and had to call a friend for encouragement and emotional support to let myself pee because I was so nervous.

A lot of my anxiety was based around Murphy’s Law of Urination: anything that can go wrong, will. The toilet will break the second I sit on it. It won’t flush, so I have to fish out the toilet paper, throw it away and pretend that I had never peed at all. Is that what the protocol is? I don’t know! No one has told me what to do. It’s safer to hold it. One time I was at a boyfriend’s house and I had to pee so badly that I lied and said I needed to get something, rode my bike to the nearest pharmacy, used their restroom, bought a pair of socks (because when is buying socks not immediately necessary) and rode back to his house.

My pee-phobia was not confronted until two years later. I was on a double date when I texted the other girl asking if she could ask me to go to the bathroom with her to keep her company while she peed. Shockingly, this was a confusing favor for her. She looked up from her phone and said that she didn’t have to use the bathroom but I should go ahead. I was finally found out. Feeling the heat from my boyfriend’s fifth-degree interrogation of, “Wait, what’s happening right now?” I explained my pee-trepidation for the first time. I tried my best to sound lowkey and chill because that’s all I ever wanted to be. It was during this confession that I knew my fear-based behavior had officially existed for too long. I had to change.

I’m not being dramatic when I say I viewed going to the bathroom as an act of full-force bravery. It required more joie de vivre than I felt I had to offer. It came from a place of self-care and comfort that I couldn’t connect to at all. I felt deep shame about myself. To me, acknowledging I had to pee was the same as acknowledging to my boyfriend that I was a flawed human being, and that felt horrible.

And so my road to recovery began.

In the beginning, it would take an hour to say out loud that I had to go to the bathroom. My inner-courage was summoned by strenuous mental pep talks. Then, it took 45 minutes. Then 30. Eventually, I became comfortable enough to go as long as we were on different floors of the building. Then it became the same floor. Soon the fear was completely gone. I could go when I needed to and not break out into a nervous panic. A minuscule step for mankind but a giant step for me. In whole, this entire process took a year. It’s embarrassing to admit that, but so is everything about this.

I hate that the concept of a guy knowing I occasionally use the bathroom became twisted with unnecessary embarrassment and shame. I’m sure there’s a trauma catalyst somewhere in my adolescence. Maybe it was the time when I didn’t lock the airplane bathroom and a middle-aged man opened the door while I was mid-squat. Maybe it was during dinner at a new family friend’s house when the toilet overflowed so I had to open the door and call for my mom to “please come here right now.” It’s hard to know for sure. I do, however, know this: not all acts of courage look heroically big. There are millions of brave things that seem small on the outside but feel enormous on the inside, like peeing when your crush is next in the bathroom line at a party.

I think that’s worth a small trophy, at least.






Growing up alongside a strong presence of social media, I’ve been aware of the contrast between people’s behavior online and in person for a long time, from watching Catfish to reading comments from keyboard warriors. The internet provides an escape from everyday life, desensitizing people to what it’s like to communicate face to face, and creating an incentive to say things that people may not have the courage to say to someone’s face. In addition to that, it’s so easy for words on a screen to get misinterpreted or lost in translation.

I’ve been especially conscious of this incongruity as I’ve started to explore the world of romantic relationships. Like many other young women and teenage girls, this behavior is pushed to its extreme in my Instagram DMs and on Tinder. I’ve never had a guy greet me in person with, “If I rearrange some of the letters in your name I can spell anal,” or “Wanna fuck?” But in online communication, it seems to be a regular thing. Most of these messages are from men who I’ve never met, so it’s easy for me to press the unmatch or block button and remove them from my life. What these men say can still bother me, but it’s easier for me to shake than in-person interactions because I know that I will never have to confront this person.

But not all unwanted messages online are from strangers. Throughout middle school, high school, and college, I’ve received unwanted messages from my male classmates that made me feel uncomfortable, violated, and unsafe. Blocking them online may stop the unwanted online communication, but that does nothing to prevent them from behaving inappropriately in person or alleviate the stress of having to see them every day. I wish I could gain back the class time I spent in fearafraid of how they would treat me in person, how they might react if I blocked them, and of being misinterpreted if I rejected them.

In middle school, these comments were encouraged in a way by the popularity of a website called, where people could anonymously ask questions by posting a link to your Facebook page. I quickly realized that this platform welcomed inappropriate commentsgiving 13 to 14 year old boys the ability to send you anonymous messages gets really perverse really fast. These messages affected the way I felt at school. I’d scan the hallways and classrooms, trying to pair anonymous messages to faces, always wondering who had said what. I was suddenly aware that my school environment was not as safe as I’d thought.

In high school, boys left anonymity behind and started to comment whatever they wanted on my Instagram and Facebook posts. For years, I deleted the comments and never talked about them in attempt to be the bigger personbut also out of fear, because I didn’t want to confront these guys, not knowing how they’d respond. I’d been told that boys will be boys, and I wasn’t even sure if I could convince people they were wrong. So instead I went about my days trying to avoid all contact with anyone who said negative things about me online.

It wasn’t until my senior year in high school that I changed the way I dealt with inappropriate messages. There was a person who continually left comments on my Instagram and sent me text messages, demeaning me physically and intellectually. He also attacked my friends, and got his friends to gang up against me. I was over it. I wouldn’t tolerate silently sitting across from someone in class who was extremely hostile to me online. Before I went to the administration, a teacher heard him threatening me in the lunchroom, starting the process of getting help in handling the situation. He got suspended for his online interactions with me. Getting one of the most “popular” boys suspended from school held unfortunate consequences for me, creating tension between me and people who were loyal to him. But it also had its benefitsI had to adjust who I spent time with, and by the end of high school, I felt like the people who I was friends with were not only loyal but shared the same values as me.

Before this point it seemed completely foreign to me to reach out for help regarding unwanted messages. I feared that I’d get in some sort of trouble, or I’d be told “boys will be boys” for the billionth time, so I kept it private. This helped me realize that it’s not only okay, but extremely important to hold people accountable for their actions online. There might always be a gap between the way people behave online and in person, but online actions have no less weight than their actions offline.

My most recent experience with unwanted messages was different from the rest. For most of my second semester at college, this guy in one of my lectures wasn’t even on my radar. He usually sat far behind me in the fifty-person lecture class and had never said a word to me. One day he friended me on Facebook and I accepted, just as I would anyone else who went to my college. Almost immediately, he messaged me asking about how the class was going and if I wanted to hang out sometime. It seemed like a perfectly friendly message on the surface, but something about it really freaked me out. I didn’t know him; what motivated him to suddenly reach out to me? I responded politely, telling him a bit about the paper I was writing and deflecting his invitation to hang out, saying maybe another time. I hoped he’d notice that I wasn’t interested and stop messaging me. Over the next few weeks, he continued to send me random messages and asking me to hang out. I was at a loss for how to deal with it.

I had a lot of anxiety about rejecting him over Facebook Messenger. It’s easy to misinterpret the tone and intention of words on a screen. I’ve had my fair share of rejection, and I didn’t want him to assume there was a personal reason that I rejected him, or that I rejected him because of his appearance. The lack of personal connection with him made me fear that he’d read my rejection as harsher than it actually was.

So instead, I stopped responding completely. I felt paralyzed, and even though this person seemed nonthreatening, I still feared going to class. I didn’t know how he interpreted my silence, and then the silence lasted so long that I was worried how he’d interpret a response from me and what it’d warrant. Sitting in a room with someone who had extensively reached out to me online but had never spoken to me in person felt mysterious and terrifying. The messages continued even after I returned home for summer, which finally motivated me to end the interaction. I wish I could say that I stood up for myself and explained what was wrong to him, but I ended it by letting him know that I was transferring schools and moving to another state.

I feel that it’s somewhat unfair that I ignored him and didn’t tell him clearly that I wasn’t interested right away, but I stand firm in my belief that the frequency of his communication crossed a line. His relentlessness was so shocking to me, mostly because it seemed to be the exact opposite of what I would do if I were in his position. I’ve taken the risk of being the first person to initiate a relationship, and I’ve faced rejection a few times and even no response. Either of those outcomes are enough cause me to hide under my bed for a week and never try to interact with them again. This classmate and I might be examples of two extremes, but I feel that the disparity between the way that men and women behave online and in person is extremely vast.
In these three very different experiences with my male classmates and social media, I notice a common theme of entitlement. Those 13 and 14 year-old boys thought it was their business to ask me what my breast size was, with no regard to how violated that made me feel. My high school classmate thought there was no problem with commenting horrible things about me on my own posts. My college classmate made it seem like he was entitled to my time, even after I showed no interest. The relevant platforms for communicating online have changed so much during my lifetime, and are evolving faster than I can comprehend. The freedom that social media gives you makes me really excited for the future, but also afraid, because I really have no idea what kinds of interactions I will have ahead of me as I continue to navigate my relationships.

Meet The Team: Jacob Seferian

Every week our writers share a bit of themselves with you. Inspired by their vulnerability, we sat some of our core team members down for an intimate interview.

We talked to our head of editorial, who, with a small army of seven copy editors, curates and oversees all of Killer And A Sweet Thang’s written content. Jacob Seferian is a 22 year-old journalist, whose work has appeared in over ten publications, including V Magazine, Polyester Zine, and Alt Citizen. He’s been working with KAAST since 2016.


Where are you from?

Jacob: I’m originally from Houston, Texas.


What kind of influence would you say that’s had on you, especially with the work you do?

I grew up in a more conservative state, and a big reason I got involved with KAAST was [because] growing up I had no access to any sort of queer sexual Ed. There were questions about assplay that weren’t answered for me, so I chose to go to Yahoo Answers and porn. When I lost my virginity, I got a hemorrhoid. I saw this bump on the outside of my asshole and I was like, I have anal herpes. But it turns out, I didn’t. That was a big turning point for me because I [realized] I don’t know anything, and if I don’t know anything, I’m sure there’s other little queer babies out there who don’t know anything either.


How did you get involved in KAAST?

About two years ago, my friend tagged me in a post that said Killer And A Sweet Thang is looking for writers. I wrote, still to date, one of the most personal pieces I’ve ever written about my body image in relation to having sex and sent it over. Eileen and her team really liked it and contacted me. From there, I started working with you guys on a submission basis, and then moved up to editor, and now we’re at the configuring we’re at now.


You were recently in school. What advice would you give for people trying to get to a similar place in their career?  

Work hard! Cultivate a talent and a skill and become really good at it. I feel I did the opposite of what my university told me to do. They said you have to become really good at all these different moving parts of the digital age: you have to be a designer, a graphics person, you have to code… you won’t ever get work as just a writer. And I said, “That’s cute. I’m gonna try.” Throughout school I was working constantly and I’d just send things out. More important than getting published, it gave me the chance to practice. So I guess my advice to anyone is hone a skill, find what you love and work really hard at it.


Do you have any big inspirations?

Grace Jones. I think she’s just absolutely incredible, and I think the progressiveness she brought to the dialogue surrounding sexual identity was so before its time. Even cooler than the fact that it was so before it’s time is [that] when you watch interviews with her, she has no idea she’s being radical! And my friends. Is that corny? I’m inspired by the people around me, constantly.


Let’s go to some rapid fire questions. Dating apps or IRL?

In real life, but I think, unfortunately, a lot of the men I meet are via dating apps.


Handjob or oral?



Sub or dom?



Do you have a favorite position?

I like missionary. I like to look at people’s faces, that way you know they’re not thinking about anyone else.


Do you have a least favorite position?

Any position I’m uncomfortable in.


Sex on the first date?



What turns you on?

Kindness, sense of humor… oh, I want to scratch those! Those are important but the biggest turn on to me, hands down, is when you’re talking to somebody and they’re really listening to you, and it doesn’t seem like they’re thinking about what they’re going to say next, they’re just fully in the moment. That makes me so wet.


What turns you off? 

Not being able to admit that you’re wrong, stubbornness. Refusing to apologize really bugs me, and taking yourself too seriously. *groans*


Have you ever been ghosted or ghosted someone?

Yes and yes.


How do you let someone know that you’re into them?

I usually tell them. I have Scorpio sex eyes, so you kind of know when I’m into you.


How do you practice safer sex in your more casual hook-ups, do you have a way of bringing up you want to use protection?

There have been times where I haven’t used condoms, and I’m not proud of it, but those moments are rare. I tell people flat out, “You can’t enter me if you don’t have protection.” I think there’s a lasting stigma with HIV and AIDS within the queer community that really makes people respect [using condoms]. It’s kind of built into our cultural dialogue, more so maybe than hetero couples.


How would you describe Grindr to your Grandma?

A place for young men to meet. *laughs* That’s all grandma gets!


Any other thoughts on Grindr?

I think it is a meat market, in every sense of the term. My friend always says, “If you spend two hours on Grindr… it delivers.” It’s really interesting that Grindr operates in sexual absolutism that way. Like you’re probably going to get laid on Grindr if you spend enough time on there. Which can’t be said for any other area of your life.


How do you think that relates to casual sex and the queer community as a whole?

There’s this huge thing about queer promiscuity in relation to perceived heterosexual promiscuity. People just think queer people are fucking each other way more than straight people are. But I think there’s a cultural context for that. When the act of sex is demonized and outlawed, the act becomes so radical. People love to throw the false phrase around, “Men are hornier than women, so when there’s two men involved…” I think that negates the cultural significance of being able to have sex with whoever you want. That’s a very powerful, political tool, and a right that is not allotted to everyone.


Do you think social media and these apps makes intimacy harder to come by? 

Yes and no. I do think there are more obstacles in our way to connection than there were, but I don’t think humans want it any less.


How does Jacob Seferian deal with rejection?

I’d say OK. I’d say physical rejection I deal with fairly well. [But] recently, I dealt with a more emotional rejection. I was seeing this guy and we technically broke things off mutually, but over time I realized he had pulled away beforehand. I felt like I had autonomy in that situation, but then in the months that followed I had to come terms with [the fact that] I was ready to take this relationship to the next level and he wasn’t. And I felt really emotionally rejected because of that, and that was much deeper for me. And I didn’t take that well… a lot of drinking and partying, sorry mom!


Can you describe the best sex of your life?

Yes. He lived in a peach-colored room.


Have you ever felt empty after sex?

Oh yeah, all time the time! *laughs* But I usually think it’s more personal than anything else. I’ve had sexual experiences where I’ve hooked up with a guy, and it was all fun and dandy, but I realized afterwards that I didn’t really want to be with someone else, I just wanted someone to want me in that moment. And that makes me feel a little empty… but I think I’m pretty kind to myself. Like I’m 22. I’m allowed to make mistakes, as long as I do so safely and I don’t violate myself or anyone else.


*Photo of Jacob by Kayla Roolaart. 

Intentionally Alone

Twelve months ago I made a pretty big decision. I decided I would not date for a full year. I know what you are wondering: why close yourself off to meeting someone completely? And if you know me well, then you must be thinking: but don’t you facilitate a story-telling collective all about dating?

It wasn’t until last summer that I realized I had long been using dating as a way to fill the voids of myself. Though I had mostly relished in my single status the last few years, I often felt myself being pulled by men who offered me glimmers of happiness instead of finding that within myself first. After a breakup, a death in my family, a major surgery, a toxic roommate, and an attack by a dog on the street (yes, that actually happened!), I realized it was time to refocus my energy inward and work on accepting myself on my own for an extended period of time.

Following all that trauma, I started seeing a therapist and learned I’ve been living with mental illness, which made it difficult for me to find peace within myself. And these struggles had long extended into my dating life. Realizing this was difficult as I looked into my past and discovered patterns and explanations for so many of the hiccups in my dating trajectory: there were countless times I used sex as a way to communicate with my partners because I never fully felt comfortable saying what was really on my mind. And while my anxiety kept me from speaking up about my needs time and time again, my codependency had caused me to do things I didn’t always want to do all because I felt a desperate need to be liked. Frequently, I got swept up in the idea of someone, and prioritized partners over me instead of figuring out what I truly needed because I was so used to putting everyone’s needs before my own. There’s a reason the partners I previously picked never stuck around—I can now see many of their shortcomings as a mirror of my own.

Though I’ve taken dating breaks in the past, I decided this one would be different. I’d fully commit myself to aloneness for an entire year. In other words no dating apps, no dates, no sex, no flirting, no nothing. I’d focus solely on healing myself and making strides towards my personal goals. This also means I would live a life in which I would no longer be vying for the attention of men. Now that I think about it, I’ve been trying to get their attention since I hit puberty. That’s at least 16 years of dressing or acting a certain way in order to attain the attention or validation of a man so that I would feel “complete.” Whoa.

Initially, my decision elicited mixed reactions from those around me—many of my female-identifying friends responded with the question: but what if you meet someone worthwhile, then what? While my guy friends reacted as though it were no big deal. It’s interesting how men and women perceive aloneness differently. As time went on, people asked less and less about my relationship status and dating life, just as I began to care less and less myself. Over time, I came to see myself as a full and thriving human being, regardless of my singledom.

As my year of aloneness ends, the past twelve months have acted as my own little revolution against the patriarchal ways in which society has told women that singleness is unattractive and aloneness is undesirable. In spending quality time focusing on self-care and establishing more independence, I have learned that I don’t need anyone but myself to feel worthy or valid.

These days, I think less about how I look or how attractive I am in the eyes of men, and instead, have given myself more quality time to hang out with my thoughts and feelings. It’s been a refreshing exercise in letting myself be quiet and more in touch with my needs.

While I would still love to find the right partner someday, I don’t worry as much about being alone forever. Recently, I told my therapist how little I crave a relationship and how fulfilled I feel on my own. She says this is the perfect time to get back into dating and practice everything I’ve been working on: establishing autonomy, exercising boundaries, and managing my anxiety.

Wish me luck!

No Shirt

“I’m in love with you but I can’t date you,” he said unprompted.

Unblinkingly, I stared up at him from my seat on the bench by the bonfire, waiting anxiously to hear where this was headed. He had ambushed me at our high school graduation after-party. Maybe he felt the same crushing finality of this chapter of our lives as I did, fearing that this was his last chance to set the record straight. He continued, “someone like me with someone… like you. It just wouldn’t be good for my reputation.” He danced around the subject for a few more minutes, talking in circles until we both felt dizzy; but the underlying message was there, I was too fat to date publicly.

This drunk confession from my high school crush was not easy on my impressionable, 18 year-old ears. That being said, it wasn’t anything I hadn’t heard before. I had spent my whole life telling myself that I was too fat to do anything: too fat to become a competitive figure skater, too fat to go to my best friend’s pool party, too fat to squeeze into the largest size of Lululemon yoga pants that all my friends were wearing in tenth grade. I had certainly been turned down or ignored by crushes before, so why did this time feel so different?

I’ve always had a complicated relationship with my fatness. Comparable to an overbearing parent, it has always had a strong hold over the way I conduct myself, and acted as a factor in every decision I have ever made. Before saying yes to an activity, I would picture how I would look participating in said activity. Amusement parks were out of the question. What if I can’t fit the seat-belt around me? Sports were similarly removed from discussion. What if I get tired before everyone else and have to sit out? Even eating in public would be cause for concern, depending on the social environment and circumstances. What if I eat more than everyone else? What if the hot guy from fourth period sees me shoving poutine into my mouth as though I haven’t eaten in months?

All possibilities for humiliation considered, I often still manage to have an intense superiority complex. On a good day, the Alex in my head is a waif-like size zero. She has a gorgeous face, perfect body, and never settles. The presence of two opposing Alexandras in my psyche has always created problems in my dating and sex life. Imaginary Alex is extremely superficial and wants a fit, conventionally attractive man to show off on Instagram, while Real Alex knows this isn’t exactly an easy task to accomplish in her current physical state. As a result, at times my standards for potential partners can be too high. This simply adds to the already high probability of rejection and humiliation.

Nevertheless, Imaginary Alex allows for a certain degree of confidence that I wouldn’t otherwise experience on a daily basis. Unfortunately, Imaginary Alex doesn’t always make an appearance in my daily stream of consciousness.

In a world where fat is viewed as inferior, my alter ego often gives me the confidence to pursue those society considers to be “outside of my league.” However, too often this false confidence has lead to a destructive cycle of vulnerability and humiliation in which I grow close with the guy I am interested in, convince myself that he may be interested in me too, muster up the courage to ask how he feels, and ultimately get turned down.

Fortunately, most of these crushes were kind enough to let me down easily, and I am still friends with them to this day. Such demonstrations of decency is often more than one can expect from a teenage boy. These vague rejections also left the reasoning behind their lack-of-interest up to self interpretation. Therefore, while my self-deprecating mind often relegated partial blame to my fatness, it was easy enough to pretend that the majority of my rejection could be attributed to a lack of romantic connection. However, this means of self-protection was not fool proof. Each new rejection stung more than the last, despite adamant attempts to push my pain onto the back-burner.

Then came Will. Will was your typical jock/womanizer combination who was obsessed with protecting his ego. Looking back, he wasn’t even that cute. Notwithstanding—Will’s lack of physical prowess and asshole demeanor—he still managed to get all the girls to pull down their Catholic school kilts for him; myself included. Will and I ran in the same social circle since grade nine, but only became close at the beginning of grade twelve.

I started helping him with his English homework and partnering with him for projects. Eventually we started going to parties together, and then would ultimately end up sitting in his driveway until five o’clock in the morning talking about anything and everything. The more I got to know Will, the less I hated the version of himself he presented to the world. It became clear he had many of his own insecurities. It was almost like he had an Imaginary Will of his own that helped get him through the day. I quickly became infatuated with Will and was not shy about spreading this news to all of my friends. We had such a strange and intense connection that some part of me believed he liked me back.

It was only a matter of time before Will found out that I had feelings for him.

At that point, I didn’t care that he had found out, and he didn’t seem to care that I liked him. Nothing about our relationship changed. Although he didn’t show any immediate signs of wanting to pursue a relationship with me, something kept me from entirely giving up any hope of us being together. As the school year went on, I became more and more infatuated with him. In my eyes, he could do no wrong. Will constantly used me for rides to parties; I didn’t get mad. He fucked my best friend; I didn’t get mad. He told me he couldn’t date me because I was too fat and it was bad for his reputation; I still didn’t get mad.

His actions aside, it wouldn’t be fair to blame my insecurities surrounding sex and relationships entirely on Will. My insecurities have been deeply ingrained in my psyche since childhood. However, the accumulation of these recurring experiences continued to reinforce my negative thoughts. Although I am well aware of society’s perception of fat people, such reminders serve as a recurring slap in the face.

Fat prejudice is often thinly disguised as concern for the health of the population. Of course, excessive weight gain can be unhealthy, but so are smoking, drinking, or taking drugs—all of which are glamorized by the media. Fatness becomes the outlier in this myriad of “unhealthy practices” because it is considered to be an eyesore. Fatness makes people uncomfortable. The social standards surrounding health and beauty unconsciously shape individual biases to the extent that even I, an actual fat person, can admit to preferring my partners to being conventionally attractive.

I’m not going to rattle on and on about the large amount of unlearning that we have to do as a society because, because you’ve heard it all before. If you’re not attracted to fat people, reading an essay about the damaging effects of the “skinny > fat” mindset isn’t going to change your mind, and that’s okay. It wouldn’t be realistic to expect everyone to suddenly find all fat people attractive. However, it is important to understand that my experience isn’t unique. Fat people are frequently made to feel as though they don’t deserve love, and must suppress their sexuality until they attain a body deemed acceptable by society. During the rare instances in which a fat person’s sexuality is celebrated, it is often viewed as a fetish, reducing fat people to an object used merely for sexual satisfaction.

While it is certainly easy to play the victim and wallow in self pity, I know that I am not purely a victim of circumstance. My particular weight gain was preventable and is absolutely my fault. I also hold the power to lose weight whenever I want. However, knowing these facts doesn’t make my journey to self-acceptance easier.

Finally, the years of continually being turned down caught up to me. The feelings of embarrassment I experienced after being told that I’m not good enough were unparalleled. The phrase “I see you as a friend” is now enough to send Imaginary Alex into an immediate and long hibernation. With each new rejection, the voice inside my head was quick to humble me, “how could you think that HE would fuck YOU?” It began to feel as though I would never find someone who was able to look past my weight and appreciate the rest of what makes me beautiful. I even began to question why I so desperately longed for a relationship. Was it simply for validation?

When I finally did begin to have sex in my twenties, it was not without conflict. Much to the chagrin of my current boyfriend, I spent the first year of our sexual relationship having sex with my shirt on.

“Will you take your shirt off?” he finally requested meekly. I stopped fucking him as soon as I processed what he had asked. He seemed as nervous to make the request as I did about exposing myself. For a full thirty seconds I pondered the request before taking a deep breath and obliging. While my compliance was met with enthusiasm, with each passing second I tried desperately to shrink further and further into myself. Suddenly the fact that I was on top, completely exposed, was horrifying. He had seen every part of my body before, but never all at once. I had always kept our encounters tightly controlled by keeping on a single item of clothing or using a strategically placed blanket to hide an undesired body part. I was always constantly thinking about how my entire body looked in any given position.

What if he can see my stomach hanging out when he fucks me from behind?

What if my tits look saggy when I’m on top?

What if I suffocate him with my thighs when he goes down on me?

What if the sight of my entire disgusting body all at once is too overwhelming and he leaves me?

It’s hard to feel sexy when you don’t believe it yourself. My boyfriend has always been amazing at showering me with compliments. Notwithstanding these attempts to comfort me, I can never seem to shake the thought that he doesn’t find me attractive. I’m constantly questioning his motives for being with me. Does he have a fat fetish? Does he lack the confidence to go out and find someone of equal physical stature? While I am aware that it’s not fair to project my own insecurities onto my boyfriend, at times I’m not able to stop myself. An even bigger fear is that my thoughts will ultimately create a self-fulfilling prophecy, causing my partner to grow tired of my drama and leave me as a result. People will only take so much of your bullshit until you have to own your trauma and take responsibility for your healing.  

If I had been told at 16 that I would fuck three people by the age of 22 without losing any weight first, I would have never believed it. The healing process is slow and never fully guaranteed, but it is necessary. It took me twenty-two years to feel comfortable enough in my body in order to share it with someone else. Everyone’s healing process is unique, just as everyone’s reasons for acceptance are different, but if you want to get there, you can make it happen.

I’m nowhere near at ease with my body yet, but hey, I can fuck without a shirt on.