Il Misogino Italiano

Autostraddle asked me to answer a few questions for their A+ subscribers, one of which was about the worst date I’ve ever been on. I’ve since ceased dating and all romantic activities because quite frankly, I think most people suck. However, back in the day I was a dating machine and I’ve been left with a lot of stories. I have so many dating horror stories that I started a book about them several years ago.

In the interest of keeping my answers for Autostraddle brief, I’m sharing two of my chapters here on my blog with the first below. I hope you enjoy reading about my tales of dating woe.

Trigger Warning: Intimate partner violence, emotional and physical abuse by a cisman.

Il Misogino Italiano

He was a pretty, Italian boy that I found online. He told me he was a former model, citizen of Italy, a law student, and the son of a former model and of a wealthy, Boston based business man. He came across as emotionally detached, spoiled, and arrogant with a sense of entitlement so big that it couldn’t fit on the small tin can of a subway we Boston residents call the T. I thought perhaps it was me and my so called bitterness that left me with a bad impression so I gave him a chance. After a few email exchanges we agreed to meet and stroll around the Boston Commons. We walked, we talked, we shared, and I still felt uncomfortable and ill at ease with him. But, I agreed to a second date with him.

Date two occurred after I was released from the shackles of my classes. We met at my favorite dinner/drink/jazz spot in a neighborhood not too far from my place. I was emotionally, physically, and mentally exhausted from juggling work, my political commitments, chronic health problems, and graduate school, but I wanted an exciting distraction. Perhaps that’s why my judgment was so cloudy about this obviously spoiled brat. After a few drinks we ended up back at my place where he behaved like an even bigger spoiled asshole than I thought possible. His royal highness voiced many complaints during the course of his short visit: The wine I offered tasted awful. It was too hot inside. On and on he did nothing but insult my home. Eventually I was fed up and my slight vodka high had worn off. I told him it was time to leave. He became violently angry and behaved as if I owed him something. How dare I, a mere peasant woman, throw his fabulous Italian ass out on the street? I told him again to leave when he suddenly got in my face and started screaming. I had a complete melt down and not in the way that I’m accustomed to. Normally in these situations I’m the first to raise my fist in self-defense, but for the first time in my life I became the trembling victim who wouldn’t fight back.

I ran into my bathroom hoping to lock the door and hide until he left, but he ran after me, screaming and yelling. I was terrified and unsure of what to do. Suddenly there he was standing behind me yelling at me. I could feel his venom laced breath on my face and neck. Finally some sense of survival began to click inside me and I pushed him away. I ran into the hallway of my apartment planning to open my door and push his sorry ass out when suddenly he had his hands on my shoulders and threw me into a wall. I was so fucking terrified and shocked that I was speechless. What the hell happened between him being a rude creep that irritated the hell out of me to him being a violent man that I was terrified of?

He had me pinned against the wall and continued to yell, referring to me as a bitch and a slut. I had my faced turned away from him with my eyes closed, terrified of what would happen next. Eventually I looked at him and told him to get his fucking hands off of me. He didn’t do it so I then began to quietly beg him to let go of me. I was trying to keep the situation from escalating. Unfortunately this tactic didn’t work and I became angrier than he was. Who the fuck did he think he was? No one talked to me in such a disrespectful manner! No man yelled at me! And no man in his right mind grabbed me and threw me into a wall! I yelled at him to get his fucking hands off of me and pushed him away, hard. I opened my apartment door and told him that everyone in the building could hear what he was doing and that if he didn’t get out the police would be called. This seemed to do the trick. He finally left. After I closed and locked the door I collapsed on my apartment floor in a sobbing heap.

A few days later he had the audacity to email me with a half-ass apology about how he was just too drunk and that it was the alcohol that made him behave that way. He then went on to say that if I had simply continued our date as planned then he wouldn’t have become so angry. Because clearly it was entirely my fault and the fault of the makers of the alcohol he consumed that night that he was a misogynistic, violent, piece of shit who believed women had to give him want he wanted. No blame on his model boy shoulders at all.

Here’s where things get really scary. I was so deep in my own victimization and PTSD that this creep triggered that I agreed to go out with him again. I still to this day am unsure as to why I went out with him one more time. I’ve experienced abuse at the hands of men a several times in my life, but I never went back. This was the first time I could understand in a very personal manner part of the psychology of the battered woman. I think that I was so desperate to be loved by anyone that I thought maybe he was sorry and would give me what I so desperately needed.

While in the middle of a conversation on our second date, he caught a reflection of himself and spent several minutes modeling in front of the mirror. I became frustrated with him and told him to “spend time with me and you can stare at yourself when you get home.” I was responded to with a disdainful snort and “when I’m ready.” It was at that moment that I really saw him as more than just an egomaniacal, abusive bastard. He was a part of a violent rape culture that had hurt me and countless other women. He believed, and had been told throughout his life, that because he was a man, a good looking man, a straight man, an able bodied man, a wealthy man that he could demand and have anything that he wanted, including women. His privileges led him to see women as lesser species that he could treat how he saw fit. If he wanted to yell at us, insult us, threaten us, hit us, well, that was within his right as a man. Thankfully my Indigenous Feminist values and sense of self-worth finally kicked in because I shudder to think what would have happened if I had continued to see him.

A few months later I saw him having a drink at the Newbury St restaurant that all of Boston’s Euro trash frequent. I wish that I could say that in the end he got what he deserved. That he was arrested, charges were pressed, a permanent legal record formed, that he contracted a scorching case of herpes that never went into remission, but sadly, I can’t say any of that. Guys like him get away with this abusive behavior everyday because we live in a world that sends a loud and clear message that women, particularly women who are like me (Bi, Disabled, and Native) deserve abuse. We deserve less pay at the same job than a man and our white, straight, and able-bodied women counterparts. We don’t deserve to feel safe on dates, with our families and friends, on the street, in the military and relationships, or at our jobs, schools, or homes. We don’t deserve to be believed when abused or legal protections. We don’t deserve the right to control our own bodies and our own lives. We don’t deserve to decide when or if we have children. We don’t deserve the right to be autonomous sexual beings. We are mere toys for the boys to play with when and how they see fit.

This story isn’t simply one bad dating story that happened to one unfortunate woman; it’s a symbol of how deeply embedded patriarchy and gender based violence are into our American way of life. It’s as American as apple pie. I hate apple pie.

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1990s Jen to Now

Osiyo readers!

“Osiyo” is “hello” in Tsalagi or as many of you know us as: Cherokee.

So I am still around. I’ve just been all consumed with my move to DC and my new career as a journalist. I’m now all settled into my new place with more articles being published every day so I thought since insomnia is plaguing me I’ll write a little something here.

In an effort to unwind and get to bed at a decent hour for myself I decided to make myself a martini and listen to some music from the 90s. This of course led me to think about my high school self which led me to think about my college self and then down the rabbit hole I went.

The music from my late teen years brought to mind the movies and fashion which naturally led me to think about the body image issues I had. Grunge was easy for a chubby girl like me because I could hide behind big tshirts, flannels, and jeans. It was the late 90s crop tops that became an issue though. My eating disorder switched gears from hoarding food, over-eating, and trying to make myself vomit, and ultimately failing and hating myself for failing to severely restricting my diet. The later would continue on throughout my adult life. It still plagues me to this day.

I spent part of my high school years being the smart, cute, funny, chubby girl that boys were friends with and would talk to about other girls and secretly date to eventually being the thin, hot girl that they had zero interest in talking to. Both situations fucking sucked. Frankly, dating men isn’t much different. Yes, there are men out there that are into women for who they are and blah blah blah, but they’re few and far between. Yes, there are men that are into larger women, but many of those men are fetishists and still wouldn’t date a fat woman openly.

Anyway, I digress. I eventually began to think about myself at my thinnest point in college. I was a size 10 and 156lbs. I know that doesn’t sound small, but I was really freaking skinny. It was bones holding my skirts and jeans up. I looked like I had a giraffe neck. I would double up from pain because I was so hungry. The only thing that probably kept me from looking sickly is that I worked out often and had well rounded workouts so I had muscle on me. By senior year of college though, I was throwing up. During the summer between junior and senior year, I had a horrible drunken night because I was upset about some asshole, undeserving man. When I came to the next morning on my friend’s couch I instantly ran to the bathroom and prayed to the porcelain gods to make it stop. As absurd as this may sound to some, throwing up felt cleansing to me. It felt like all of the pain that I was carrying around inside of me was everyday was leaving me. I couldn’t make the nightmares, flashbacks, hypervigilance, and panic attacks from being raped and a survivor of domestic abuse and childhood abuse go away, but I could make myself feel better by puking.

Jump ahead a decade or so and I’ve finally mostly made peace with my appearance and was finally getting help for all of the abuse from my past and that had occurred since college. I won’t say all was well in candy land, but I was trying. Then my existing health issues became a problem. I’ve had health problems since I was very young, migraines since I was 13, and chronic pain due to knee and spinal problems since I was 14. This wasn’t new, but the intensity and frequency was.

These health issues have presented so many problems for me, which I’ve talked about here, but what it also did was present a new reason to hate my body. I had finally begun to accept my body for its size and shape, but now I hated it for all of its limitations and how it was ruining my life. It has triggered my eating disorder. I’ve been struggling with severely restricting my diet since 2012 which is unhealthy for even the healthiest of people. For someone with my health conditions it’s downright dangerous. My last PCP, Therapist, and myself were constantly working to find ways for me to manage my health, in particular checking my sugars (I’m diabetic) without triggering my eating disorder, as well as how I could safely take all of my medications even if I didn’t eat.

Believe me when I say it’s a difficult balance. What I intellectually know my sugars should be versus what my disorder tells me my sugars should be are two very different things. Fear is a powerful motivator. The thought of losing more of myself, more of my freedom, my autonomy, my life, my hopes, my dreams, my wishes, my ability to fight off potential abusers, is too much to bear. Sometimes I don’t eat when I know I should.

So there you have it. One martini and a little music from the 1990s and I have all of this, and a whole lot more, speeding through my mind. I intended for this to only be 3 paragraphs. My brain works an awful lot.

If you’re interested, and you should be, you can read my work on Autostraddle, The Establishment, Wear Your Voice, Medium, and the Matador Network.

Suffering, Self-Destruction, Speaking Out, & Political Warfare

The last year and a half have been some of the more difficult years I’ve had to face in some time. Due to this I haven’t had the emotional, mental, or physical energy to write for this blog, my book, or most other pieces. I’ve occasionally had a poem come upon me that I felt was appropriate to post, but bringing for the where with all to write deeper and with further explanation has simply never happened. Obviously there is a great deal that has occurred over this period of time, but I’m going to keep it as short as possible.

I was in a relationship that turned out to be very dishonest, manipulative, demanding, and emotionally abusive. Under normal circumstances I would’ve left a relationship of this sort, but I simply couldn’t afford to move out of the apartment we shared. My health problems have become so severe that they have placed great limits on the type of housing I can live in which of course significantly raises the cost. Rents in the Boston area have sky rocketed over the last few years, my health care costs are insane now, and my income stream is abysmal compared to these current costs. I was forced to stay under the roof, due to my disability and finances, with someone who mentally and emotionally tortured me day in and day out.

As one can imagine this led me down a very dark path. I fell apart and without a proper support system I was at a loss as to what to do. My mother, whom I no longer speak to nor do I ever see myself speaking to again despite my deep love for her, knew of the situation and offered no help. The irony in this is profound given that she was once in an abusive marriage and that several of the women in my family have also been in abusive marriages.

Things reached the point that my pride broke and I began looking at shelters. I told my ex that I was going to contact the police if he continued his behavior. He soon moved out after this with the promise that he would pay the rent on the apartment until I either moved out or the lease ended. Like all words that escaped his lips, this was a lie.

Two months later I came home to find under my door a notice to appear in court for an eviction hearing. The apartment management company never called me once nor did they ever follow MA law and send me all of the paperwork that comes before the eviction hearing notice. This was now the end of May 2014 and I had been looking for a place one month after we moved in together which was July 2013. The cost of apartments, my physical needs, the extreme biphobia in the Boston area (the minute potential roommates would hear that I’m bi they were no longer interested in me), and the housing shortage that left many of us scrambling to pay $800 to live in a closet in an unsafe house with 5 roommates no where near the train or life necessities left me unable to find anything. Thankfully I found the horrific place I’m in now at the last minute. I still had to go to court and deal with the mess though and of course my ex, nor his family, could be bothered to attend even though we were all legally obligated to be there. The one bright side of all of this is that I never have to see him nor his loathsome family ever again.

I had a few professional difficulties arise during this time. I have never been a fan of the area I live in. Over the years I’ve found it to be very gender conformist, racist, especially towards us Natives, pro-colonialism, horrifically biphobic, elitist, ableistic, puritanical, self-congratulatory, arrogant, stand offish, cold, and rude. This is not to say that I haven’t found some pleasures of living here, but it’s never been home. Despite this I’ve tried to be socially and politically active, but this came to a breaking point for me, like many things, in the spring of 2014.

I found myself disillusioned with the politics, parties, and the way social and political issues were addressed, if at all. An issue came about that caused great difficulty in my life. I found myself dealing with a set of -isms that were too blatant for me to ignore. After years of suffering out right abuse in “liberal” politics-being called an “injun,” hit on at work, told that I’m bi so bring in sexy bi girls to get the male donors, not being paid for my time and reimbursed for my expenses, told I don’t deserve time for a meal break during a 14 hour day, being told “If you don’t shut up I’m going to throw you through a wall” etc-I simply couldn’t take it anymore. While this situation was not that volatile it was still bad and indirectly told me that I was worthless. I left the environment and was soon threatened with a lawsuit. There were no grounds for the suit, but because of my financial state I couldn’t lawyer up. The same day the eviction notice came was the same day I was threatened with the law suit.

One week prior to this I finally snapped and tried to kill myself. The day I left behind unhealthy professional environments was the day my mother finally went too far with me. I have dealt with years of her emotional neglect, dismissal, and denial of the many abuses I’ve suffered over the years. I choose not to rehash them now, but they are great and they are painful beyond belief.

When I told her that I left this particular situation and why (over a text message because she never called me on any day) instead of giving me support and love or even saying a simply “I’m sorry” her immediate response was to say that her and my step-dad couldn’t give me money. I never said one word about money as a concern of mine let alone asked for money. This is a woman who once told me that I was only angry at her and my step-dad for not giving me enough money. Meanwhile I had just told her I was beyond hurt and angry for things such as her ignoring me telling her when I was only 14 that my boyfriend had raped me. Two months after that I tried to kill myself because I couldn’t take the nightmares and the other symptoms of PTSD any longer. She still denies this to this day. I think she doesn’t even believe that I was raped. Yet she has the audacity and the heartlessness to think that I’m shallow enough to be angry because they won’t give me money. This is one of many examples of heartache my mom has caused me.

I read that text and something in me just broke. I went to my liquor cart and grabbed my bottle of Jack, mind you it was the largest bottle of Jack you can buy, and I started drinking. I drank 3/4s of that bottle. That alone was enough to put me in a hospital. I didn’t stop there. I went to my pills next. Given my health problems I have my own pharmacy. I started mixing them all taking handfuls. I made sure to mix in a nice batch of the narcotics so that they would combined with each other and the alcohol and stop my breathing. I was also careful not to take so many pills that I would be sick and loose them all.

Apparently thanks to my worthless, broken body having health problems that goes back to my childhood I am now like an elephant. It takes large animal size tranquilizers to take me down. I didn’t even get one day of relief from my life. I woke up 6 hours later! I was a groggy, disoriented mess, but I was still awake. I never went to the doctor nor the hospital. I simply drank a lot of water and slept it off.

When I finally decided to tell my therapist and psychiatrist about it they naturally were worried, but sadly not too surprised. My shrink pushed for hospitalization, and then out patient day treatment, both of which I refused. I went through those horrors as a teenager and I’d sooner die then go through them again. [If asking for help means being forced into hospitalization I simply won’t ask for help. That’s how bad my experiences were as a teenager and how much I know about the US mental health care system (not that it deserves to be called “care”) as an adult. I’ll go it my own before I suffer that abuse again!]

After hearing everything I drank and took that night my psychiatrist said in so many words that I was lucky to be alive. I was furious I was alive! I stayed angry for months after. Some days I’m still angry about it. I’m not sure how I didn’t do it all over again, and for good measure slice wrists up like a child making paper dolls, when I received the court notice and the lawsuit threat. Believe me when I say I’ve had the thought many times since. Writing this now has me thinking about it.

I hate that I feel this full of pain and I wish I had the solution to make it all go away, but I’ve spent the bulk of my life trying to hide it all because when I asked for help no one cared. I can’t say that too many people (there are some and they are amazing, loving human beings!) seem to care still, but I refuse to be silent. I don’t give a damn anymore if that means lawsuits or if it hurts my career kissing ass to a bunch of self-righteous, self-congratulatory suits that don’t really care about those of us who are suffering in whatever manner that may be. I could care even less if it makes people “uncomfortable.” Too damn bad! If just hearing about my realities makes you uncomfortable then imagine living them? I am doing everything within my power to care for myself, to better myself, and to have the future that I so desperately want and so rightfully deserve.

In the mean time, I try to remind myself of something that two amazing women have said. One is my fabulous, Indigenous friend, Elyse. She has told me a few times when I’ve felt low that not only am I loved, but that our continual survival as Indigenous women is an act of resistance against colonialism and the powers that want to do away with us. I’ll admit that the few times I read that when I felt so low I wanted to cut myself, starve myself, drink myself into an oblivion, or even kill myself, I wanted to tell her to go “fuck herself.” Elyse is amazing person and I love her dearly, but those words don’t mean a lot in when you’re at one of your greatest moments of suffering. I always told myself though that she loved me enough to say that to me and helped relieve some of the pain.

The second woman whose words ring in my ears are Audre Lorde. I’ve always loved her saying “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” Recently though an amazing revolutionary lovin’ man in Boston, Eroc, posted on his Facebook page another Lorde quote that I try to remember: “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation and that is an act of political warfare.”

My actions that make people so uncomfortable and angry with me that they go so far as to threaten me with unfounded law suits or personally attack my character are my form of self-preservation and that is my resistance against the colonizing powers that want to destroy me and this is one of my acts of political warfare.