I think a lot about my addled brain, with my addled brain.
No surprise, I guess. I’m a writer. We’re good at it, or if not good, relentless.
What I mean is that I think a lot about my mental health, since staving off depression and PTSD is a daily effort that’ll likely last as long as I’m still breathing.
And since 1999, when I first sought help, I’ve had 20 years of false starts, smooth patches, hard stumbles, and one bleak, multi-year crisis — like field study for what worked and what didn’t in my own personal pursuit of serenity. …
Set the tripod in your living room and slip your phone within its grip. Click the power button and open the camera app. Bluetooth the remote. Step back into the frame and gauge the lighting. Flick on a third light.
Strip off your shirt and step into the frame. Try an angle. Try another. Move the tripod. Flip on the overhead light. Move the tripod again. Drop to the floor and do 20 push-ups. Stand, flushed, and flex. Drop your arms to your side. Smile. Cock your head and offer a second smile. Click the remote that’s hidden in your fist. Drop the smile. Tighten your abs. Click the remote. Try a half-smirk. Click. Click. Move a potted plant into the frame. Turn in profile. …
Management at your new job holds an all-staff meeting to discuss office culture, and they ask everyone to write words on Post-its describing the culture anonymously.
So on one Post-it you write “homogeneous,” since the office is 100% white, and the surrounding small, regional city is not.
Everyone turns in their Post-its face-down, and Kimberly reads them one at a time, and your colleagues have written words like “fun” and “hardworking,” and she gets to yours and squints and says, “humongous?” and then Dwayne looks at it but also squints in confusion.
And there’s no way you’re going to draw attention to yourself — after six weeks on the job — by being the only one to describe the office as homogeneous, especially after your last job (your first real job in this valley) where Betsy — who once said that she could never vote for someone with the same genitalia as her own — sent texts about you to other co-workers, saying that she was sick of your bitchy gay shit. …
I’ve always been soft-spoken. Even in bed. “Are you having a good time?” is a question I’ve heard a dozen times by various men, always with discouraging timing, like right after a bout of what I think are obvious grunts of my approval. I go through life speaking, and groaning, at volume level nine, while the world hears me at three.
Enter Jake, a bold, big-mouthed braggart who’d moved to San Francisco from New York City. Talking and volume were never Jake’s problem. …
A few weeks after my separation, I got stuck in the snow at the top of a mountain.
I’d fled the gut-punch of my husband’s rejection and the ritual monthly sacrifice of $4k that San Francisco now demanded for a one-bedroom apartment. I’d lived there for 18 years, the only place that had ever felt like home. Exiled by the gods of marriage and money, with no real plan.
My prospects were dim. I’d recently kicked over a few childhood rocks to confront for the first time the things crawling around there in the dark. …
Your parents are ghosts and you’re the empty house they drift through, knocking softly on the walls. Your parents were monsters. You were raised by wolves. Who did the best they could. With what they had.
Your father was an alien. A cipher. A plainspoken Indiana boy who’d — against his own wishes for his own future — felt longing for other men.
He’d packed the secret in his luggage for school in Bloomington. He’d met a good Catholic girl from Kansas who’d soon lapse and stray. …
A few years ago, life came at me in a batshit series of events.
Worn down by a lifetime of suicidal depression, I finally got the guts to hire a therapist to help me confront the sexual abuse and neglect I’d gone through as a kid.
At the same time, I found a site online for dudes with similar childhoods, and I sought solace in my chats with distant strangers. I picked up a bit of their lingo, too; they called their therapists “my T” and their abusers “my perp,” as an indication of their ubiquity. …
The email popped in my inbox with the subject line: “Saw You Online and OMG!”
This was a few years ago, before those words had become a spammer’s ubiquitous tease. Before I’d learned that those words never lead you someplace good.
I took the bait and found my own face smirking back at me. My face and belly, annotated:
I didn’t recognize the email address. The pic was shot by some roaming photographer at the Folsom Street Fair, California’s third-largest single-day outdoor spectator event, which draws a quarter million “fetish enthusiasts.”
Though the street fair had grown in popularity and widened in its demographics, it’s rooted in the gay community, and anyone with a passing acquaintance of (a certain privileged segment of the) gay male culture knows that we’ll strip off our shirts with little hesitation at events for which straight people normally remain clothed. (Brunch? Check. Bowling? Check. Book club? …
I am a fraud.
The thought shoved through my front door, late one night, hours after I’d come home from a 12-step meeting where a friend had asked me to pass out the chips.
You know chips. The plastic or metal coins ex-drunks and ex-pillheads carry in their pockets that signify how long it’s been since they last got wasted. This meeting focuses on newcomers, and since newcomers struggle to stay clean, and often end up, after six days of continuous sobriety, forging three or four prescriptions for Oxycontin and stealing their nephew’s Xbox — this meeting keeps its overhead low by passing out the reasonable, cheaper, plastic type. So we carry around poker chips. (What do they hand out at Gamblers Anonymous? …
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