Being His Manic Pixie Dream Girl

Dating in your early twenties is anything but simple. Complications of fuck buddies, falling in love with your friends, trying to figure out who the fuck you even are… it’s no walk in the park. As a 22­-year-old woman, I’ve had an especially difficult go at it. 

I keep finding myself in a box, playing out versions of the same scenarios time and time again with every person I date. It feels as though I am continuously auditioning for the tired role of Manic Pixie Dream Girl in these men’s lives.

What is a Manic Pixie Dream Girl, you ask?

It’s a title you may not be familiar with, but I’m sure you’ve seen it in most of your favorite indie films. Most commonly known as the one-dimensional female protagonist, the MPDG’s main plot device is to help the “lonely boy” lead character rediscover his love for life and love itself. 

The term was first coined by film critic Nathan Rabin, in which he stated that a Manic Pixie Dream Girl is the female character who “exists solely in the fevered imaginations of sensitive writer ­directors to teach broodingly soulful young men to embrace life and its infinite mysteries and adventures.” 

For example, consider Sam from Garden State, Summer from 500 Days of Summer, Ramona from Scott Pilgrim vs World, and Claire from Elizabethtown. All of these women have, in some way, helped their respective male leads through their respective hardships by finding their purpose in life and the true meaning of love. These women are the catalysts to the character development of their male counterparts. 

The men in my past relationships have made me feel the same — as though I exist only to advance their personal ambitions, with little to no regard of the fact that I might even have my own.

In my past relationships, whether we ended up dating or not, I found myself constantly taking on the role of teacher. My outspoken personality, openness in my sexual explorations, ambitious goals, and inappropriate kind of humor has peaked interest and garnered attention. 

So, what usually happens is that I spend a few weeks on dates with these men and I can genuinely say I teach and share with them experiences about love, life, travel, relationships and sex. I’m not saying I teach them how to do these things, but I do provide a different perspective on these topics. Not only that, but as someone who studies and works within the art world, I spend a lot of my time exposing these men to the deeper connections we have with art, music, politics and people. Despite these interactions, I’m always left feeling empty-handed and overworked. I feel like a toolbox used exclusively to teach and to educate, to better these men so that they can move on to serious relationships. After all, a Manic Pixie Dream Girl doesn’t stay around for long.

MPDGs have an expiration date based on their tolerability and by the level of how much “help” the man needs. They function as the mechanism which allows the men to reach their goals of heroism. This, of course, is based off of all that they now “know” and have experienced. Despite taking on this laborious role, seldom is credit given when it’s due for the development in the man’s character. Because of this one-­dimensional skew in the MPDG complex, the viewer is invited to forget about these women’s (extremely understated) relevance. 

The worst part is that at the end of the relationship or dates, it was THEIR love story, not yours. The MPDG doesn’t get to talk about her experience in the relationship because she isn’t considered a part of the relationship. It’s as if our perceived fundamental purpose is to care solely about others. I am putting myself in this box not because I believe that I belong there, but because I have been placed there. I’m not guessing that I am this character; I’ve been told. 

One person in particular comes to mind who treated me this way: T******.

We had talked for a few months and I quickly started to really enjoy all the time we spent together. However, I could tell that he had projected the MPDG complex onto me and looked at me the way Tom looked at Summer.

He admired all that I was and all that I did. He loved my art and the way I spoke. However, things ended very soon after they started because I was “too much” for him. A week after we stopped talking, he got back into a relationship with his ex that he had complained about during the entirety of our relationship. I ran into him a few months later at a bar, only for him to pull me aside and thank me for all I had shown him. Although the gesture was sweet, all I could think about was how despite everything I was and wanted to be for him, he decided to be with someone who was nothing like me. He got a taste of me before fleeing back to his comfort zone of predictability. 

There was also J***.

J*** and I saw each other on and off for the first few weeks. Things didn’t really work out, but we ended up staying friends. One time while we were out, I bluntly asked him why he thought it didn’t work between us. He told me that “although I am very unique, no one wants to date a girl who seems wavering in her actions.” In other words, because I was constantly working, trying to meet new people, going out — adventuring, one might say — it didn’t make for a dependable or serious partner. 

People think that if you use copious amounts of glitter on your eyelids, dye your hair pink, and unironically listen to The Smiths  — you shouldn’t be taken seriously. Audiences see these types of women as “a good time” but not “a long time.” Because just as easily as hair dye fades, so does the Manic Pixie Dream Girl complex. After a few weeks, these men will realize that it isn’t a show; this is who you are. Yeah, you’re weird — but you’re also so much more, but they aren’t willing to dig deeper. They have already experienced as much as they could handle, not knowing how much more you had to give.

We must stop the perpetuation and idolization of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl in films. I am not going to change who I am, but I will be more aware of the roles I audition for. I will redefine my strong female character, not as the stepping stone of men, but instead, as an intricate and evolving lead character.

I am not an accessory. I am not a muse. I am my own artist. 

 

 

Gif via Giphy/Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. 

Photos (in order of appearance) by Francesca Lacono and Dariana Portes

 

Emotional Roleplay

I did not seek him out specifically to fill the gap left by the man I have feelings for, and I’m confident he would say the same about his wife and me.

We were friends for years before we ever became intimate. I knew him before he was married, which was ironically around the time I had the craziest crush on his co-worker. Although sexual tension always seemed to linger between the two of us, the lack of communication and moral guilt kept us at an uncomfortable distance.

Still, four months ago we mutually decided to introduce sex into our friendship.

He was in town for work and had asked me out to dinner. I vividly remember being excited to meet up with him as it had been so long since I had last seen him. But, I was also nervous. He had just gotten married, and his co-worker and I were not on speaking terms. I trusted my self control, but I did not want to face any temptations whatsoever. As the night went on, I caught myself flirting a bit, and I noticed that he reciprocated. Sure, I was flattered, but I’d also grow angry every time I caught a glimpse of his wedding ring.

Eventually, I gave in.

Opening up about sleeping with a married man has gifted me an array of feedback. While many perceive it as an intriguing and somewhat erotic scenario, I still have not discovered, let alone understood, the “thrill” behind it. However, my situation is a bit unique.

The married man I occasionally sleep with — who we will call “X” — is in an open marriage. Consensual non-monogamy is encouraged within their relationship under an agreement they constructed. X and his wife are not from the United States, but his work requires him to stay within the country for extensive periods of time. This means that they are not together for the majority of the year.

This coupling system has proven to be successful for them, and from what he has told me, it has kept them sane and happy.

According to their agreement, their marriage is open but not polyamorous. Even though they are allowed to take in new partners, the connections they have with them should not be romantic under any circumstances. At the end of the day, they are each other’s “home base” — and their secondary relationships are only there for temporary companionship and sexual relations.

I truly enjoy spending time with X. Some might say that the nature of whatever we have is not authentic, but I have learned to label it as “untraditional.” Like I mentioned earlier, we were friends before we ever decided to move past that. So, hanging out with him is never awkward. In fact, I feel like it has allowed us to be more comfortable as we open up about our concerns and our relationships outside of the one we share. Currently, I am not in any type of committed relationship.

However, I do have feelings for someone who, unfortunately, lives in a different state. This guy and I have discussed the idea of embarking on a long-distance relationship, but we have both agreed that it would not work due to our tender and emotional natures. This is why we see other people. In my case, I see X here and there.

One of the bittersweet things that I have experienced throughout my relationship with X is the phenomenon that occurs after we are finished having sex. We tend to get overly affectionate — sometimes to the point where it is almost peevish. I won’t lie and say I am irritated by this because, to be completely honest, I look forward to it.

However, sometimes our post-coital dynamic would leave me feeling off. I could tell what he really wants is to be giving and receiving affection from the person he loves, but she is not here. I am only a medium… although, I suppose he is as well.

Though I have an incredible amount of platonic love and respect for X, he provides both physical and emotional support when I cannot get it from the person I truly want it from. X and I have not really ever talked about this, but sometimes body language is enough.

We don’t live in the same city, and when he is in the United States, he is always a plane ride away. As sappy as it may sound, not seeing each other regularly is what keeps our relationship free of any romantic feelings. Either way, I always tend to see him more than I see the guy I truly like. What I’m trying to say is that, ultimately, this arrangement works out for us. Even though X has been a friend of mine for a couple of years now, he has served as a bit of a therapist for the past couple of months. Despite having access to all kinds of therapy, formal and alternative, I have found his sessions to be the most comforting.

Believe it or not, when I am with X, I don’t pretend that he is the man I like. I also don’t picture someone else when I am being intimate with him because I genuinely enjoy his presence. What I have received from this relationship is something I call “emotional roleplay.” We give each other what we wish we were getting from someone else because that person is not with us.

No matter how intimate or cuddly X and I get in bed, I know I will never replace his wife, and I know he will never have any sort of romantic feelings for me. Reversely, I am aware that he will never take the spot of the guy who has my heart, and I am content with that.

When my friends have asked me if I’m happy with X, I always say “yes.” Am I happy with my romantic life? Not really. I wish I could come home to the man I have feelings for every day. I wish I had the ability to drive to my partner whenever I felt like it. I wish I did not have to rely on my phone for intimacy and half-assed romance. Lastly, I genuinely wish he was the only person I was currently involved with. But, it’s simply not realistic… and I’m sure X feels the same way about his marriage.

In the meantime, we help each other.

 

 

Photos (in order of appearance) by Lucia Rosenast, Kate Phillips, and Adyana Covelli

 

I Hate You — Don’t Leave Me

Navigating relationships and intimacy with borderline personality disorder.

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I often feel “empty.” 

My emotions shift very quickly, and I often experience extreme sadness, anger, and anxiety. I’m constantly afraid that the people I care about the most will abandon or leave me.

I would describe most of my romantic relationships as intense yet unstable — the way I feel about the people in my life can dramatically change from one moment to the next, and I don’t always understand why. When I’m feeling insecure in a relationship, I tend to lash out or make impulsive gestures in hopes of keeping the other person close to me.

These are just a few ways borderline personality disorder has manifested within my relationships throughout my life.

Although I’m only nineteen, I consider myself an intimacy aficionado. I have been in quite a few romantic relationships — some long, some short, some unrequited, some not — and I would say the only common denominator in my love life has been my personality disorder. I read a Vice article once that referred to women as wonderful torturers of ourselves. Although loving comes easy for me — trust, stability, assurance, and security certainly do not. 

 

What is borderline personality disorder?

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a mental illness that revolves around an intense fear of abandonment and instability and impacts the way you feel about yourself, others, your relationships with others, and everything in between.

The cause(s) of BPD can be linked to genetics and hereditary predisposition, brain abnormalities, and trauma, although this is not an exhaustive list. Typically, you must display five or more of a long list of criterium to be diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. These symptoms may include identity disturbance, frantic efforts to avoid abandonment (both real or imagined), instability, and intense interpersonal relationships, suicidal behavior, and chronic feelings of emptiness, among others.

 

Loving while Borderline…

My fear of abandonment has forced me to require more reassurance than the average person. Even with adequate reassurance from a partner, trust can be frail.

I’m constantly anticipating that my partner will leave me or that they feel differently, which has often pushed loved ones away. My feelings of inadequacy took a toll on them and our relationship. I cannot always explain why I so vividly imagine loved ones leaving me and acting in my worst interest.

My impulsive behavior and unstable sense of self has put me in situations where I have felt obligated to be promiscuous and hypersexual in order to obtain love and care. Hypersexuality as a result of my personality disorder has also led people to take advantage of me — and blame myself for it in the same breath.

I still sometimes have a hard time distinguishing between love, lust, and impulse. On the opposite side of the spectrum, sometimes I have total aversion towards sex. I can feel sexually repressed due to trauma, trust issues, unstable self image, and acute feelings of shame. This physical repulsion has also been a site of complication in more than one of my relationships.

Ultimately, each day and each partner is the luck of the draw in terms of how I will be feeling and what irrationality my brain will orchestrate.  

 

Living while Borderline…

Dialectical behavior therapy [DBT] has been one avenue of treatments that has helped in equipping myself with skills to manage my emotions, self soothe, and navigate relationships.

DBT is a form of cognitive behavioral therapy that works to promote a balance in thinking — a way to see seemingly opposite perspectives at the same time. I think of it as understanding that the glass is both half empty and half full. Although mindfulness has always seemed pin-headed to me, allowing myself to feel, use strengthening statements, and understand that things don’t have to be black or white, but can rather just be, has been benevolent in my self discovery and relationships.

Note that I say I live with borderline personality disorder rather than suffer from it.

I have decided to no longer pathologize who I am and the way I am, even if I am sometimes not too sure of either of those things. Being borderline has often made me susceptible to self stigmatization; I’ve believed that I’m manipulative, dangerous, and unable to be in healthy, loving relationships. But this is not necessarily true. If anything, being borderline has offered me ways to be intuitive, compassionate, and empathetic.

My inner turmoil has granted me the privilege of being able to relate to others through lived experience. My heightened sensitivity allows me to be hyper-aware of the emotions of those around me. My intuition allows me to understand and navigate situations that may be unfamiliar.

In terms of intimacy, being borderline has come with a self awareness toolkit that has taught me what I need in relationships in order to have them be both healthy and mutually fulfilling for me and a partner: Reassurance. Patience. Compassion. Understanding. Mutuality. Flexibility. Boundaries.

 

For more information on borderline personality disorder, click here

 

Art by Ezra Covalt, photos (in order of appearance) by Cheyenne Morschl-Vill and Sweet Suezy.

 

 

So… What Are We?

Dating isn’t what it used to be.

College — or more generally, the 18-22 range of our lives is a transitional period. As undergraduates, we are approaching adulthood and taking on new responsibilities every single day, all while technically still being within the adolescent stage of mental development. We must learn to not only navigate the trials and tribulations of living on our own (read: laundry, scheduling doctors appointments), but also who we are and who we want to become. This struggle manifests itself as we maneuver through coursework, job applications, friendships, and most notably, romantic relationships.

In my high school days, things were so simple in regards to dating culture; there were two very straight-forward labels for relationships: a couple who was either “officially dating,” or “just hooking up.” Sure, there was a fair share of fighting over significant others — people cheated on their partners, and virtually everyone bragged about their sexual conquests — but nevertheless, we were all aware of each other’s rather definitive relationship statuses.

However, as a college student, I often think about how complex relationships at this age can be. The lines are more blurred than ever. The range of potential labels is extensive: “exclusive”, “casual”, “it’s complicated”, “hanging out”, and my personal favorite, “why even label it at all?”

It’s easy to get confused.

Should you shoot your shot with that guy you met in class, even though you heard he’s been seen around with someone else? Can you ask someone you’re dancing with at a party for their number despite your brief fling last week with another girl? What if the person you’ve been crushing on has a significant other back home or at another school?

It only gets more confusing when you factor in social media. 

However, the worst part of the college dating scene is probably the pressure to choose between engaging in hookup culture and seeking out someone to take home to your parents.

This can cause confusion and uneasiness about the concept of commitment. Are there certain feelings that should be reserved only for future life partners? Speaking of life partners, should we be looking for them now? Are our biological clocks ticking? Is it too soon to fall in love? Why do I feel like I have to decide what I want before I even meet anyone?

In past generations, people often met and married at a young age — social media didn’t exist — and it was easy to meet at a party or through a mutual friend. Many of us glamorize the stories of how our parents met, and thereby convince ourselves that a similar meeting of our own may be unattainable, given our generation’s different circumstances.

Something that can link past generations to younger ones, however, is the concept of college — particularly the rhetoric that has survived throughout the years about how it is meant to be “the best four years” of someone’s life. Whether or not this holds true for most, college is usually a time of increased independence, where you have more opportunity to experiment and find out who you are and what you want. 

Sure, it’s a lot of fun, but take that “experimentation,” mix it with some alcohol and other questionable substances, and you’re left with the average hot-mess of college life. (Not that all we do is drink and have sex!)

According to Kathleen A. Bogle, author of Hooking Up: Sex, Dating, and Relationships on Campus, college students estimate that their peers “do it” on average 50 times a year, which is 25 times greater than studies actually show. The truth is, we’re more busy with school work and handling responsibilities than with sex. Many of us have less game than we’d like to think.

There are obvious pros and cons to college hookup culture: on the one hand, it promotes casual relationships and requires little commitment; on the other hand, it can be intimidating, difficult, and sometimes dangerous.

The social implications that seem to surround the idea of casual sex and hooking up are certainly not to be overlooked. For example, if you are femme-presenting and you do it — you’re a slut, and if you don’t — you’re a prude. And whatever you do, don’t catch feelings because hookups only lead to heartbreak. Despite whatever stigmas and stereotypes that exist, it is important to remember that nobody has it quite figured out yet. We’re all in the same boat — even those kids who try to fool us into thinking they’ve got it all together.

I suppose the beauty of the broad spectrum of dating labels that exist in college is how they’re indicative of the uncertainty and confusion that lies ahead. Intimacy may be difficult to navigate, but this doesn’t mean that you have to know exactly what you want every step of the way. You and your partner have the power to label your relationship however you want.

So do what you want and who you want, as long as all activities are safe and consensual. Before you know it, the four years will fly right by, and you’ll be left with a greater understanding of yourself and your future, no matter what choices you made along the way.

 

Photos by Sweet Suezy

 

 

Speaking in Loves

The importance on knowing your love language. 

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Being young and queer, no one really teaches you how you’re supposed to love or to be loved. I think it’s become a societal expectation to follow what film and music says to do… but if you’re queer, you don’t get many mainstream examples to go off of. 

So where are you supposed to get all the answers and clues?

My friend has been going through a break-up. She was explaining to me that even though she and her boyfriend have been long-term partners, their biggest issue has been divergent expectations: he was a clingier type, so she ultimately blamed herself for not being “as affectionate”, faulting herself for the downfall of their relationship.

Giving her my perspective, I explained that it seemed like the greater fallout was not understanding each other’s love language. She cared a lot for this person, but because he had a different idea on how to “love” someone, he seemed to have misinterpreted a lot of her signals.

This can be tricky, regardless of your sexual orientation. How exactly are you supposed to decode someone’s love language, learn to appreciate it, and uphold a mutual understanding — without letting anxieties instill fear that there’s detachment? 

Someone’s “love language” is how they express, through actions or words, their amorous feelings towards another person. In 1992, Dr. Gary Chapman published a book called The Five Love Languages, which has since sold over 11 million copies worldwide, and has become the go-to text on the subject. The anthropologist lays out five primary types of love expression:

 

          l. Words of affirmation 

          2. Gift-giving

          3. Acts of service

          4. Etching out quality time 

          5. Physical touch 

 

I’ve been dating my current partner for almost two years — which in sapphic time, feels like decades. I’m talking “summer vacation home with fireplace, don’t forget the pool” king of longevity. We’ve grown tremendously as individuals, but we’ve done so by understanding how to maneuver within what is, for both of us, our first healthy and serious relationship.

But even with the fictitious beach house image, our love languages aren’t identical, and I realized that it would be impossible and even annoying if they were on par.

The way I express romance to my partner is by showering them with gifts, to the point where they’ve had to grab my face numerous times begging me to stop spending money on them. The gifts can range from getting flowers routinely to more expensive gestures like booking a hotel room for our anniversary just to ensure a night alone. The past version of myself believed that I had to buy my way through love to prove I was “worthy” of devotion, but truthfully, I just want to adorn my partner with whatever they desired.

Another expression of my love language comes from my tendency towards idealism and dreaming, specifically indulging adventurous whims. Growing up, coping with my depression led to building fantasies as a way of escaping, and something about escaping from the mundane with someone became the most romantic thing that I could imagine.

My current partner was the first person that put a face to these types of thoughts, and I was sharing my travel plans with them before we even reached a full year together. Although, I don’t think they took me very seriously… and I don’t blame them! We didn’t even know what the next week was going to look like, and there I was, going on and on about how I wanted to see the world with them.

But I think a lot about how my partner’s type of love language roots me back to the present. They remind me to enjoy what’s happening now and not inflate it with fantasy. Their love language speaks through quality time and experiences: enjoying a night out, creating moments together locally, etc.

They became my person of firsts — cooking meals, being in queer spaces, expressing myself with confidence and vulnerability, and much more. In a way, firsts are a sort of emotional travel, and through learning and trying new things with them, I can express a different side of my love language. Meanwhile, their love language comes from being present — whether it’s encouraging me to be in the moment or being attentive to my feelings, anxieties, and my state of mind whenever I’m with them. It is in this sense that our love languages complement one another.

Although, sometimes my partner and my love languages aren’t always in sync (and I don’t want them to be), our true compatibility comes from open and honest discussion of what we expect from this relationship. It’s not that either of our expressions or expectations are more “right” or “wrong” than the other, but vocalizing what each person needs, emotionally and mentally, is necessary for any fulfilling relationship.

Most importantly, it helps you understand how both of your mental tendencies shape your emotional capacities and views on romance.

In a relationship, I never needed my partner to replicate whatever language I was speaking. Nor would I ever advise them or a friend to change their love language if it doesn’t “match” what the other person expects. There’s beauty in unpredictability. As long as communication factors in at some point of the process.

If anything, in my relationship I can say we both learned from each other’s navigation of romance, which indirectly helped us grow as individuals, too. And that’s honestly all I can ever ask for.

I love them for exactly who they are, how we are, and all the gestures in between.

 

To find out what your love language is, click here

GIF by Taylor Anne Mordoh. Photos (in order of appearance) by George McFadyen and Cordelia Ostler

 

My Ex Cyberbullied Me

When my ex and I broke up after a tumultuous relationship, I was seventeen and navigating my first weeks of college. Despite being continents apart and distracted from my new life, he was inescapable: photos plagued my phone, memories were strewn all over social media.

Images can be removed and messages can be deleted, yet his online presence haunted me as I was doing my utmost to move on.

It started with rather typical posts featuring depressing captions that someone would publish when they feel the hardship that comes with a break-up. However, things quickly escalated and I had no control over the impulsive sentimental narratives he was crafting to gain sympathy from others.

Scrolling, I felt helpless as a stained image of me was designed. I was painted as the evil ex in the eyes of anyone from his university who had never met me and was willing to believe his version of events.

The hardest part of it all was that these words were typed by someone I trusted, someone I thought would never intentionally try to hurt me. I suddenly didn’t know who the person I’d dated for the last year was. The way everything ensued after the break-up was beginning to taint the good memories I had of us.

While I don’t tend to spend a lot of time worrying about strangers’ opinions of me, this phenomenon forced me to experience firsthand the scary extent to which anyone can spread unverified facts through social media.

As he was blaming me for his panic attacks on his Instagram, he was also regularly sending me countless derogatory texts, saying he hoped that I’d “rot in hell”, and other harsh or death-related messages. While blocking was an option, that still didn’t stop his frenzied posts — posts that often got deleted as quickly as they were published.

I unfollowed him, but my friends still often notified me whenever something alluding to me was posted.

This lack of closure made me write dozens of letters I ultimately never sent him, many back-and-forths on whether the things he’d said about me were worth confronting. There was a petty part of my brain that fantasized about posting all the ‘receipts’ of the toxicity I went through with him — instead, I poured my emotions into my personal growth.

Then, suddenly, his online chronicles stopped.

He reached out to me, apologized, and we talked things through. After everything he put me through online, I wish I could say that I hated speaking to him, but I didn’t. I still felt affection for him even after it all. He made me understand that he was going through really hard times, and I understood that his posts served as (unhealthy) coping mechanisms. I even invested a couple of days helping him with his breakdowns. After the conversation, I thought we were on good terms. I thought the agitation would stop — that is, until I saw on my birthday, a few weeks later a post reading: “Happy birthday bitch hope it’s your last.”

This is when my brain finally understood how manipulative he was. Just like the way he put rose-colored glasses on me throughout our relationship, he was never going to stop caring about his pride and fabricating whatever story he wanted others to believe for his own sake.

However, there is an upside to all of this.

Seeing this side of him magnified reassured me of the path I was on in my own life. While I could not honestly say that I have completely forgiven him for his toxic behavior, I know that I am halfway there, and I still wish the best for him. The experience reminded me that the judgment of people who do not know me, doesn’t matter.

A tip to anyone who is currently in the middle of a break-up: as tempting as it may be, avoid publicizing your relationship or break-up online. Focus on your own mental wellbeing instead.

 

 

Gif by Barbara Pozzi. Photos (in order of appearance) by Kama Snow and Isabelle Abbott. 

 

Chasing That High

*The following may be is triggering to those affected by substance abuse/addiction. 

 

Five. That’s the number of pills I had left.

I stared at the baggy, shocked by how many that meant I had taken that day. I must have miscounted, and somehow, the second time I opened the bag, five more pills would surely appear right before my eyes. But this was not the case.

I shoved the bag into my pocket as my girlfriend walked in and asked if I was ready to go. We had planned on going to a friend’s party later that night — something we both always looked forward to. She knew about the drugs, or at least what I decided to tell her. To her, I was simply a guy who liked to get high once in a while. She had no idea as to the extent of my addiction — the toll that it took on me emotionally, physically, and even on our own relationship.

After spending the night drinking at our friend’s house, we decided to Uber to hers. Feeling the positive momentum of the night, we started hooking up as we sprawled out across her oversized fluffy bed. I could tell she wanted to have sex, and I did too. But instead of relishing in that reality, I felt a wave of fear wash over my mind.

How many pills had I taken that day? Would I even be able to get hard? Would I enjoy myself at all?

This was the part of my drug use that I had to constantly hide. How it left me feeling so aroused, but barely able to get hard. Sometimes I couldn’t even cum. I would go at it for two hours hoping and hoping that I’d finally be able to finish, only to end up having to fake an orgasm. The drugs were stealing from me the thing I valued most: connecting with her in one of the most intimate ways I knew how.

I briefly considered giving them up and returning fully to the girl I loved, before a flurry of fear and self-doubt quickly pushed all hope of quitting far away. I knew I could never truly give myself to her while I was high, and I constantly lived with that guilt.

Half of me tried to blame her accepting nature for my addiction — as if I would quit the second she told me to, absolving me of all responsibility for my actions. Deep down I knew this couldn’t go on forever. One day we went up to San Francisco during Christmas break to spend the day shopping and eating. I couldn’t have been happier. Everything was decorated beautifully. I was getting to experience it all with the girl I loved the most. It looked like something out of a movie. Yet I still found myself sneaking away for a moment to slip my hand into my pocket, fish out a pill, and quickly swallow — no water needed. I was an expert by now.

The guilt I always felt was quickly replaced by shame. I had everything I ever wanted in the world right in front of me, but I still felt the need to get high. Even worse, I knew that no matter how much we both enjoyed each other’s company that day or any other day, the experience would never culminate in the deeply passionate sex I used to know.

I wish I could say the problems I experienced ended with the physical, but that was just the beginning.

After a while I found myself needing more and more pills to feel as good as I used to from one (you all know how the story goes). Whenever I didn’t have enough to keep me high, I would look at her with pure contempt whenever she spoke. When I was craving, everything about the girl I supposedly loved left me with a feeling of rage, my mind preoccupied with how I was going to get that next pill. I’d lie almost constantly, making excuses to leave her so I could pick up. I would go to the bathroom sometimes twice during one meal. Eventually, everything came to a boiling point.

I experienced a rare moment of clarity and decided that it wasn’t fair to either of us for this to continue. I promised myself that that was the last time I would allow a substance to get in the way of what was probably the best thing that had ever happened to me.

The following two weeks were hard, but as I felt myself being purged of all the drugs, I knew my decision was the right one. When I looked at my girlfriend, that rush of endorphins that was once so familiar returned and I was filled with a euphoria that no drug could ever come close to producing.

Our sex life became full of the passionate vigor that I always wished for, and my body finally felt clean and free. I realized that the high I had been chasing was right in front of me the whole time, and it blew everything else out of the water.

As cliché as it may sound, love can be a drug, and without it, I fear I would have never been able to break free from my addiction.

 

 

Photos by Haley Hasen

 

 

When It’s Your Fault

Cheating, lying, verbal abuse, repeat.

It’s easy to see the flaws in the way another person treats you when you are constantly feeling heartbroken. But is it as simple to see the same flaws within yourself?

Many of us can pinpoint a specific relationship where our partner treated us with disrespect and an overall lack of compassion. That’s the story of my life — at least, for the first few teenage relationships. I started dating my best friend in August of 2017. Let’s call him Ronny.

We were already incredibly close (we were best friends for years prior). Skipping the awkward “firsts” was unique for me because I was used to dating people who weren’t close friends. Ronny and I had this connection that was almost uncanny and irrefutable. We did everything with each other from driving to school to taking joint vacations — our time together was sacred to me, but I didn’t always treat it as such.

It’s hard to take responsibility, and it’s even harder to take criticism.

When he brought it to my attention that I was crossing a line with other guys, I denied it for months. I wasn’t cheating or lying per se, but I was acting towards other guys in a way that I should have only acted towards Ronny. I eventually accepted the responsibility (somewhat reluctantly at the time, if I’m being quite honest). However, months later, similar issues arose and all of them had to with my faults.

Why am I being ridiculed? Don’t attack me, the only person with whom you’ll ever have this extraordinary sort of bond! I would think these words to myself regularly, even though I slowly came to understand that the issues we were having were due to my failures as a girlfriend. Contentment in our relationship ebbed and flowed for months until college came around.

Ah, college.

Do we stay together or break up? The “mature” decision seemed to be to break up — so we did. Neither of us actually wanted that, but we thought it had to happen. The agony of leaving my best friend and boyfriend destroyed me. Not being in the same state made our communication ambiguous and challenging, we decided to “break up” (and by “break up” I mean we continued to talk as if we were together). 

Even in college, there would be certain things that I was too nervous to share with him. So what did I do? I didn’t share them. We were technically separated, but as corny as it sounds, in our hearts we couldn’t truly be. This relationship had always been a possessive one. We both wanted each other so much that we’d often step on each other’s toes about what the other was doing, who we were talking to, and so on. But why blame him? How can I blame him?

I was the reason we clashed so frequently. He would be angry or hurt from something I had done, and I wouldn’t take responsibility or even apologize for my actions. Was this an effect of my upbringing? Or my past relationships? Or my lack of awareness about how to treat someone who truly was the best of the best? It’s hard to tell what made us lash out so regularly for sometimes minor problems. I know now that most of these fights were because of my failure to recognize what I had done wrong.

I would lie to Ronny.

I lied about small things, big things — you name it. I lied to him not because I didn’t love him or because I didn’t want to be honest with him. I lied to him because I thought that the person I wanted the most might think differently of me if I told the truth. Or, maybe even worse, it would create a downward spiral of fighting off and on for days.

I was dishonest about things that other people might see as minuscule. Maybe some of those things were insignificant. Maybe other people would see that my lies weren’t intended to be menacing — I was only trying to protect my image. But, the bottom line was that no matter my reasoning, I was treating him disrespectfully, crookedly, and unlovingly.

I needed Ronny’s image of me to be pristine, but the way I went about that was immoral and unfair. He treated me like something irreplaceable, a prize that he was so lucky to have won, and I did not always reciprocate that. He wanted me and only me, and I wanted the same, but I didn’t prove that to him. I didn’t do my personal best to treat Ronny in a way that he deserved. And I wish that I had.

I wish I could go back and manipulate my actions (or lack thereof) so that he could trust me and believe me and not lose touch with me. I want so many things from and with him, but it’s too late for wishful thinking. 

So, what happens when it’s you? What happens when the only things you know of love are cheating and abuse and then you find yourself doing those exact things? It’s hard to acknowledge and accept that you treated someone in a way that, in previous relationships, ripped you to shreds from the inside out. Profuse apologies and broken promises never truly resolve these types of conflicts — dropping everything for that person usually doesn’t, either. And then, it’s over. “Ronny” gets too fed up with your bullshit and it’s done.

I wish that I had known then the solution for what to do when it is your fault. It’s tough to navigate the next steps to prove that, despite your bad behavior, you still love your partner.

Whether it’s been your fault before, you’ve never had a romantic partner, or it’s never been your fault — take a deep breath. Take a look at the situation at hand from both perspectives before resulting to denial or anger. Appreciate the good in the other person — ask yourself why you’ve done what you’ve done to them. Do you love them still? Are you losing interest? Is this a truly worthwhile relationship? If not, be honest about your emotions.

If none of those things are true, then change.

Don’t change your makeup or your outfit or every little aspect of your personality. Take criticism when they’re due and change. Change the things about yourself that make it so hard for you to maintain a healthy relationship. Change for the better — I wish I would have done that.

 

 

Photos (in order of appearance) by Jess FarranNoelle Lucchesi, and Sam Avelar

 

 

A Valentine’s Day Game

Save an Uber, Ride a Cowboy is a column exploring queer millennial sex culture. The stories presented here are based on true events. Identities have been changed to protect the privacy and reputation of those involved.

 

Sean leaned back on the couch, still in the new fur coat he had just finished showing off. Given that it only cost him $20 from L Train Vintage, Reed wasn’t too impressed. “So where’s your man tonight, mama?” Sean asked.

It was Valentine’s day, and Reed was sharing his chocolate with Sean, someone he most definitely would not share anything else with because they were both just friends and just bottoms.

“He wanted to sleep early tonight, claims he’s busy with work and all,” Reed popped a chocolate in his mouth but kept talking, he couldn’t shut up when it came to Scott.

“I’m not mad. We had planned to hang today, but I’m trying to play it cool. You gotta be patient when you’re fishing in a big one. And I’m reeling him all the way in…” Reed was still motioning a fishing reel when Sean showed him his phone.

“Well, it looks like he’s gone fishing too, sis.”

Sean was on Grindr, as usual, and the profile he was showing Reed made no sense considering Scott had shown Reed only a week ago that he had deleted the app which Reed interpreted as a declaration of love. But there was Scott’s picture, the one with his arm wrapped across his body to make his bicep look bigger.

Fuming, Reed pulled up his own account to find Scott. “This makes no sense. He literally showed me he deleted both Grindr AND Tinder.” Reed launched into a recounting of the coffee shop date they were on when it happened. It was raining in Cobble Hill and Laura Linney was at a table by the window as it all went down.

“I mean…  it did seem a bit performative, because even then he insisted on not being in a monogamous relationship.” At the time Reed had decided not to delete his various dating apps until Scott wanted to be monogamous. Scott seemed fine with it, but now Reed was realizing he couldn’t find him on the app.

“Holy shit, he blocked me,” exclaimed Reed, ellicting only a snort from Sean. Both boys decided to message Scott, Reed via text and Sean via Grindr.

Right away Sean got a response. “Ohhh girrrlll, he already messaged me.” Reed leaped onto the couch beside him.

“He said he just wants a quick fuck before bed.” But then Reed’s phone chimed with a different story. According to his text, Scott wasn’t feeling good and going to sleep soon.

Reed panicked. He was flailing at this dream job and struggling in his classes as well. Through all of it, a cute boy felt like the only thing Reed really had going for him. If he didn’t have Scott what would he do?

Sean wasn’t exactly the kind of friend Reed could lean on with these troubles — none of his friends were for that matter. It’s this isolation that made the thought of losing someone Reed had pinned all of his hope on unbearable.

Reed didn’t know what to do, but his mind was honed in on Scott now. There was no way he could just sit and gossip with Sean the rest of the night. In a few minutes the boys had donned jackets, Sean trading his fur for more practical denim, and headed out the door. The city wasn’t too cold for February, and the nearly full moon made them feel restless — restless enough to pop on over to Scott’s and see what he was really up to.

“He has a giant open window to his room you can see into from the street,” Reed said laying out his plan, “we can sit at the 7/11 across from his apartment and see who he decides to spend Valentine’s with.” To Sean’s disgust Reed started smoking a cigarette (Juuls had yet to be created, and he liked to do something while he walked). Sean considered going home but 9-something felt too early, plus he secretly enjoyed watching this train wreck unfold.

The boys continued to pour over Scott’s Grindr messages while they moved. Sean was typing whatever Reed told him to when he suggested, “maybe you should see if he’ll fuck you.”

Sean was floored. “What the fuck. Isn’t he into BDSM and shit? I’m not trying to mess with all that.” (Reed suddenly regretted telling Sean about that time Scott playfully requested to fist him.)

“No, he won’t do anything to crazy with you if he doesn’t know you,” Reed pleaded, “I haven’t shown him a picture of you so he wouldn’t even know that we know each other.”

“Girl, why the fuck do you want me to fuck your man?” Sean was incredulous, but Scott was hot and it had been a while since he had any good action.

“Better you than some random, right?” Reed shrugged. “And this way, I’ll have definite proof he fucked someone else, so I can call him on his lies when he denies it.” The boys went back and forth like this for a few blocks, Sean vacillating between indignation and consideration.

Soon they were at the Scott’s building, but Sean still wasn’t convinced that he wanted to include himself in this drama. The window to Scott’s room on the fourth floor was still unblocked, providing them a view of Scott on his bed.Reed was getting frantic thinking a boy might have already gone in without them seeing.

“Girl, just do it! You know he’s hot. He has a great dick. And you were on Grindr anyways…” Reed continued to push Sean, feeling the terror of losing control of yet another aspect of his life.

After a few more minutes of pushing, and a few more Grindr messages, Sean relented: he would give Scott a blowjob.

Reed watched his friend cross the street, on his way to suck off his sort-of-boyfriend. Excitement replaced his initial panic. He hated Scott now — if he wanted to play games, Reed would play dirty. He saw no other way. If he was going to lose Scott, he would make sure it was his choice. He would have the control.

From the other side of the block, Reed watched Scott pin up the quilt that served as a window curtain while trying to push down what was beginning to feel like regret. More than anything, he just wished it was him up there. Reed had tried so hard to be what Scott wanted, memorizing his favorite Vine references, biting his tongue when Scott criticized a movie he liked, and letting Scott bite him even though he wasn’t into it.

Instead of watching the giant windows of Scott’s “modern” apartment building, one of those hideous brick blocks rented out exclusively by Nooklyn to the gentrifying crowd, Reed went in the gas station to grab a snack. He couldn’t even enjoy his 7/11 hotdog thinking about how out of control this situation felt. Already he knew he shouldn’t have pushed Sean onto Scott like that.

What was the point? Reed was so scared of being alone, but all he seemed capable of was scaring people away. Reed wasn’t sure how to climb out of this spiral, but soon Scott would wise up and jump ship. (Because, of course getting your friend to blow your man isn’t the way to keep him.)

Sean would soon move home — just for a few months to save money, he promises. And Reed would look for a new guy to unload his emotional baggage on and hinge his happiness to.

 

 

All art by Jared Freschman. 

 

Destigmatizing Polyamory with Stevie Boebi

Stevie Boebi is a queer Youtube personality who gained popularity through her candidness regarding sex, identity, and sexuality. Recently, Stevie has come out as polyamorous, which is a term that typically raises eyebrows. It’s often conflated with polygamy — the practice of having more than one husband or wife — and is usually accompanied by assumptions of religious oppression, etc. This jaded take couldn’t be further from the truth.

In order to debunk some myths and stereotypes surrounding polyamory, Stevie agreed to sit for an interview to shed some light on her lifestyle and identity. The following is an edited transcript of our conversation.

 

I’m just gonna jump right into it. How did you even know you were poly?

Stevie: Even though most of my relationships since I was like nineteen have not been monogamous, I didn’t personally identify as poly until about a year ago. It’s not necessarily that you are in multiple relationships at one time. It just means you have the capacity to love more than one person at a time. And [after reading more about polyamory] I knew for sure that I had/have that capacity.

Now the fact that I’m poly doesn’t necessarily mean that I don’t want an exclusive relationship or that [my partnerships] need to look one certain way. I think relationship dynamics are so diverse, just like anything else.

I started identifying as polyamorous about a year ago because —  the reason I do anything — I was mad. *laughs* I broke up with an ex because I had a crush on someone else and thought that meant that I wasn’t in love with her anymore. [And I hadn’t actually fallen out of love with her] so it can ruin people’s lives to have that damaging view that to have a crush on someone else inherently means that you don’t love your [current] partner — because it’s just not true.

 

A year is really recent, there’s a lot to discover in that time frame. Have you figured out a way to navigate having multiple partners?

I [previously] identified as “monogamish.” I’m attracted to the skills and the values and the outlook that polyamorous people have. So I tend to date polyamorous people that have or desire multiple relationships. For me, it was more like my polyamory inspired me to learn how to talk about [these desires] and how to teach people. That’s kind of the awakening that I’ve had this year.

 

People who identify as poly can have as many partners as they want, have you thought about how many people would be too much for you? 

So [for] having too many partners the term is poly-saturated. Sometimes polyamorous people have to be like, ‘I’m at my full level of partners. I don’t have emotional energy for this shit.’ But I don’t really notice most polyamorous people having a shit ton of partners. It’s usually like one to three partners, as far as [poly] people I know. Whatever works for you and whatever makes you happy.

There are also people called solo poly, who don’t want a companion partner. Some people also call this primary partners — people you would have a house with, or someone you would get married to or have dogs or babies or whatever with — solo poly people want to live on their own have their own house. They want partners but they don’t want a companionship type of relationship. Most solo poly people that I’ve talked to or heard from tend to have a little more partners number-wise than poly people that want companion partners.

 

How do you feel about current poly representation?

I feel bad about it. *laughs* But at the same time all of my identities are underrepresented. So it’s like, yeah would I love to see a queer poly love story, but it’s more important to have queer people of color represented, and it’s more important to have people that are obviously disabled being represented in love stories, too.

I [shouldn’t] say one is more important than the other, but I just think there is a lot of bad representation and inaccurate and unhealthy portrayals of polyamory, so I would love to see that combated. But you know… there is a lot of unhealthy shit in every love story because it creates drama.

 

Yeah, the only poly anything I’ve ever seen is that show on HBO — or was it Showtime…? 

Was it the one that was like “Look at these weirdos who have children with multiple partners” — is that what it was?

 

I don’t remember the name of it [editor’s note: it was Polyamory on Showtime]. But I just remember watching it and thinking to myself, this is all about sex… you aren’t telling us anything revolutionary or truthful about polyamory.

So I think teaching the difference between swingers and polyamorous people is really important, because most polyamorous people do not go to swinger parties. I mean, maybe they do. But those two communities are different from each other. Polyamory is about love. It’s not about sex. 

 

The question of jealousy comes up when you’re talking about polyamory. How do you navigate jealousy whether it’s coming from a partner or vice versa?

If jealousy affects you, it affects you — it doesn’t matter if you’re dating a poly person or a monogamous person. Jealously is something that, if you struggle with it, you’re going to struggle with it. It’s an emotion that belongs to you and not necessarily your partner. Polyamory isn’t about settling for being neglected [or] getting everything you want out of a partner. If you have three partners and [each of them is] not getting what they want from you — that’s not successful polyamory, you know what I mean?

But your partner can’t help you with your jealousy, that’s something that has to come from within you.

 

That’s a journey you have to take regardless of if you’re in a monogamous or poly relationship. Do you think monogamy is innate or do you think it’s socialized?

That is a huge question and I’m not an expert. I have no idea. But the way that we view monogamy now is a relatively new idea outside of religious circles so it’s like, is it [innate]?

But I know people who have told me how they feel about love, and when they are in love they are completely blind to anyone else. They can’t have crushes on anyone. I know couples where one of them is poly and the other is monogamous and so [while] it would be completely fine for them to have other partners, they are just like, “I’m literally not interested. I’m physically and mentally emotionally incapable of this thing and I’m completely fine with it.”

So yeah, I think that if you’re monogamous, you’re monogamous. And if you’re not, you’re not. Neither of those parties should ever feel guilty for having the capacity to love more than one person or having only the capacity to love one person.

 

[Earlier in the interview, Stevie referred to herself as being disabled] I just want to give you the floor to inform and share with us what you’ve been going through.

So I have a genetic condition called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and it is genetic. I was born with it, and it just means that my DNA doesn’t know how to make collagen right. It has the wrong recipe to make collagen and collagen affects everything in my whole body. There are unofficially twenty types of EDS, I have type 3 which is also called hyper-mobility type. So people with EDS have such varying symptoms and conditions, nobody really looks exactly the same as far as what they’re symptoms are.

This just means that I’m hyper-flexible and it hurts *laughs* and parts of my body just don’t wanna work a lot of the time.

 

So a lot of joint issues right?

Yeah, all of your tendons and ligaments have collagen in them, so I can be like a contortionist if I want to.

 

Is this like when you would see kids in school and they would be double-jointed? 

There’s something called HSD [hyper-mobile spectrum disorder] and then there’s EDS, which is genetic. To be diagnosed with either one of those, you have to meet a bunch of different diagnostic criteria, and being hyper-mobile isn’t the only criteria. You basically do all of these weird contortionist things with your body, and for each one that you can do, you get a point. So kids that can twist their elbow around, you know, they might only have a certain amount of points out of nine — I have all nine.

 

That’s intense.

My type of EDS is the only one that doesn’t have a genetic marker yet. They just updated the diagnostic criteria, and they are hoping to study everybody’s DNA that actually fits the new criteria. It’s considered a rare disorder, so I have to teach my doctors that even though I may look fine — I’m not.

 

How did you come to the conclusion you has Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome? 

For most people that have EDS, it takes something bad happening to even know that they have it. People with EDS have a wild range of different things that can happen. Some people have heart problems, some people have digestive problems, some people just start fainting all of the time — that was me.

I just got diagnosed in October, but I think what happened was my adrenal glands got really fatigued and just like gave up because my body was just going on adrenaline. I was sleeping twenty hours a day, I lost 40 pounds and I would pass out anytime I would stand up. I was really ill and doctors kept telling me I was depressed and to go home because I didn’t have insurance. I couldn’t work, I was like living in poverty. [Doctors] would be like “Oh, it’s her again, send her home” type of thing.

It would get worse and then it would get better, and then it would get worse and I was like, what the hell is this? It’s been about 8 years since first getting really sick. Now, thankfully, I know what it is and the more I learn about it, the more it explains everything.

Obviously it’s not like, “Yay, I have a disability!” but now it has a name. It feels so good to be like that’s my blood vessels not constricting, you know? Just having a reason for why things happen — that calms me. I think a lot of people are sick and misdiagnosed with things like fibromyalgia, even people that have ME [myalgic encephalomyelitis] or chronic fatigue syndrome — they’re misdiagnosed with all kinds of shit . Particularly women of color or people that have any kind of mental illness. They just aren’t taken seriously by doctors and it’s fucked up. I’m real angry about it.

 

How would you say your disability has affected your sex life?

Obviously, in a lot of ways because it affects literally every single thing that I do. My disability is degenerative, so it will get worse over time and my pain will get worse over time. I have developed coping mechanisms to help me deal with that, and I’m still trying to diagnose and figure out what’s going on.

I thought I had anxiety for a real long time, but I don’t really. I have something called Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome [PoTS, a blood volume condition that causes lightheadedness, fainting, and rapid heartbeat when one stands after sitting or laying down]. I was getting too anxious during sexual encounters and I was like, “It’s because I have anxiety” when really it’s because I’ve been standing up for too long. Like sit the fuck down, be a bottom — you are fine.

 

Back to polyamory. What would you say to young poly people who are questioning [themselves] or are curious?

The biggest thing that blew my mind, and blows everyone else mind when I tell them, is that being polyamorous is not that you are demanding to have multiple partners — it’s that you have the capacity to love more than one person. No one deserves to be made to feel bad about how they feel.

 

 

To learn more about polyamory, you can visit hereTo learn more about Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, click here or talk to a medical professional.

You can follow Stevie Boebi on Youtube and Instagram.

 

Photos (in order of appearance) by Sarah SnowJairo Granados, and Kate Phillips