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Don't Bother Him with Your Words

It is trite to begin a begin a piece with the definition of a word. But in order to discuss my relationship with shame, it is important to understand how this word is defined. According to Webster’s dictionary, shame (noun) is a painful emotion caused by consciousness of guilt, shortcoming, or impropriety. To be ashamed (adjective) is to be reluctant or unwilling to do something because of shame or embarrassment.
The definition of shame includes the words consciousness of guilt, and the definition of ashamed includes the words reluctant or unwilling. I highlighted the words consciousness of guilt and reluctant or unwilling because they are the lens through which I see my relationship with shame. There is the guilt of not having the ability to move on, the guilt of not having enough sexual partners, of not being enough. I am reluctant and unwilling in a lot of ways, reluctant to look a man in the eyes or to even say his name. I am unwilling to let myself get hurt again, to turn my vulne…

The Cool Girl

In the fall of 2011, I went out to dinner with my boyfriend at the time for one of his friend’s birthday. This is how I was introduced: she’s like a dude, but hot, as we sat down at a table full of his male friends. I don’t remember how I responded to that, I probably didn’t respond at all. He wasn’t wrong, but it seems my reaction to this statement nearly seven years later has become altered. When I think back on relationships past I wonder, how had I become so indoctrinated with The Cool Girl ideology I wouldn’t allow myself to be heard above a whisper?
I’ve always been one of the guys, perhaps a symptom of growing up with mostly boys in my neighborhood friend group. When I was young, I wore Superman pajamas and would tie a blanket around my neck running around the house pretending I could fly. One of my favorite shows was Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. There’s a story that’s often been told in my family that when I was maybe three or four years old I took off all my clothes in the gr…

A Year in Rupert, West Virginia

In October of 2012, I found myself driving back to Rupert, West Virginia where I had lived for a year as a VISTA volunteer in the AmeriCorps program. I was passing through, on my way to a friend’s wedding in Lexington, Virginia. I arrived in Rupert in the late afternoon, just before the community center was closing for the day. The smell of powdered apple cider lingered in the air as I greeted the elderly couple who ran the center, and whom I worked with during my placement. Charlotte and Frank were both from West Virginia and opened Wellspring of Greenbrier in 2007 to assist the poor, homeless, transient or otherwise disadvantaged people of Greenbrier County.

A few minutes after my arrival, a man dressed head-to-toe in brown camouflage walked through the door and had an unusual request. He wanted to know if they had vinyl records for sale. A strange tension mixed in the air with the cider as Charlotte seemed put off by such a radical request. During my tenure at the community center, …

How to Get to West Virginia

In the fall of 2005, you will apply to a local coffee shop. You will get the job and work there for close to five years. Almost four years after you’ve been working at the coffee shop, you will decide you want more. You will decide you no longer want to make low-fat-sugar-free-no-foam beverages for wealthy white women. You start looking into the AmeriCorps program and decide volunteering for a year could possibly redeem your customer service inflicted soul.
In the spring of 2009, you will be sitting outside on the back patio of a bar with a group of your co-workers. You will be drinking a gin and tonic when you see your ex-lover walk outside onto the patio. Your face will become frozen and pale because the last time you had spoken to him was three years ago when he got married while he was on spring break in a different country. You remember this because you found out the night of your twenty-first birthday.
You will continue to keep drinking gin and tonics. Eventually, you will say he…

Mutual Friend

It is about to rain when you walk into the bar where you are meeting an ex-lover for drinks. You will both drink cheap beer, get tipsy and later, he will apologize to you for how he treated you in the past. You remember this because he is the only man you’ve been with who has ever apologized to you. He has recently broken up with the girl he began dating right after he told you he needed to be single. The rain will be pouring down when the two of you leave the bar and get into your car. You will drive to his apartment, park and go inside with him.
The apartment is mostly empty. There are hardwood floors and boxes ready to be moved. There is a back room filled with boxes and someone else’s memories. You will be reminded of this when you pick up a pair of handmade leather shoes that are not your size.
He will ask if you want to watch a movie. You will both sit on the couch that is soft and green. You will sit at opposite ends of the couch and try not to think about having sex. After midn…

There's Nothing Wrong With Being Alone

Confession: I’ve never been able to trust anyone who can’t be alone. It’s never made much sense to me. The first movie I saw by myself was Jim Jarmusch’s Coffee and Cigarettes, which came out in 2003. The same year I graduated from high school. Being able to take myself to the movies made me feel full of possibilities. What can’t I do for myself? In college, I began taking myself out to lunch or dinner, typically accompanied by a book I was reading at the time. Chuck Klosterman and I became very close.
Truth: There is a popular question in Louisville, Kentucky: Where did you go to high school? We live in a city that refuses to give up the ghosts of hallways past.
Confession: I’ve always loved popular culture, especially the television shows or movies that center around a group or ‘gang’ of friends. Dawson’s Creek. The OC. Gossip Girl. Friends.The Big Chill. I have spent some quality time in these worlds because I’ve always wanted to know what attracts me to this dynamic.
Truth: We all…

How to Lose Your Virginity

It is your senior year of high school. Become friends with the guy your best friend is dating. Your friend graduated early and is currently in her first semester in college an hour and a half away. Drive to Indiana to pick up this guy, who is three years older and doesn’t have a car. You’re driving him to see your friend because you think you want to see her. You’ll get to her dorm room and watch them embrace each other. You will sit awkwardly while they’re snuggling on her bed. Eventually, you step outside and sit by yourself on the concrete steps.
When they break up you will continue to talk to him on AOL Instant Messenger. You’ll discover that you’ve started to like each other. You’ll ask your friend for permission to date him, and she is surprisingly okay with it. She will ask you not to sleep with him. You tell her that hadn’t crossed your mind, that you want to wait. In three months, you no longer want to wait.
Your best friend will call you one day after school and she will tel…