Human Parts
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This Is Us

The cultural norms around miscarriage are not serving any of us well

Black-and-white photo of a person sitting on a toilet, covering their face with their hand, elbow resting on their thigh.
Black-and-white photo of a person sitting on a toilet, covering their face with their hand, elbow resting on their thigh.
Photo: Tony Mucci/Unsplash

Not so long ago, talking about pregnancy was considered indelicate. Acknowledging a woman was pregnant meant acknowledging women have sex and, well… heaven forbid. We talk a little more openly about sex and pregnancy now, but we still rarely talk about something that can often happen next—pregnancy loss. We’ve never been comfortable with women and death, women and blood, women and something outside of living childbirth.

I think the thing that surprised me the most about my own miscarriage is perhaps the thing that should have been the most obvious about it. It was a work of loneliness. …


Sending a cold email — especially to someone you admire — is a modern leap of faith. You want to strike the right tone: complimentary, brief, earnest. You delete an exclamation point and re-add it two seconds later. No one wants to sound unhinged, but you don’t want to come across as Serious, either.

The beauty of fan mail, or any letter we expect to go unanswered, is that it gives form and intention to our thoughts. It’s an exercise in being direct, even if the person you’re directing your energy toward never sees it. …


Humans 101

It’s not about wallowing or self-care — it’s about paying attention

A person looking at a cloudy sky, sitting in a circular window that’s almost 10 times taller than them.
A person looking at a cloudy sky, sitting in a circular window that’s almost 10 times taller than them.
Image: gremlin/E+/Getty Images

“Sit with your feelings” is the lukewarm, nebulous buzz phrase we’ve all been hearing a lot lately. We hear it from our therapists, we hear it from mental health columnists, we hear it from yoga influencers showing off their smoothie bowls. Last week, I’m pretty sure I heard the Amazon delivery guy say it. The expression is decidedly mainstream, yet it remains a pretty vague instruction. Given the deluge of feelings we’re all currently drowning in, it seemed like the right time to offer some clarification on what this seemingly simple bit of advice actually means.

Let’s start with what it’s…


This Is Us

Social distance means we can no longer create shared memories by smelling the world — and each other

Image for post
Image for post
Photo: WIN-Initiative/Neleman/Getty Images

What’s the worst smell you can think of? Skunk? Brussels sprouts? Sour milk?

For me, it was a mixture of Coca-Cola, coffee, Gatorade, and rotting bones. The smell was so pungent it clung to my hair and clothes for hours after the air had cleared. I was a student teacher in a regional high school in Vermont, and I had asked my students to do an experiment on bone density. They each chose a liquid to soak a chicken bone in for a week.

I knew the acidic liquids would leach the calcium out of the bones and make them rubbery. What I did not anticipate were the angry, horrific smells that would fester in the sealed containers in the back of the room as I cheerfully drew diagrams of calcium molecules on the board up front. …


Humans 101

Don’t wrestle with pigs and don’t die on every hill

Illustration of a hand held out in a fist and an open hand extended toward it.
Illustration of a hand held out in a fist and an open hand extended toward it.
Image: Malte Mueller/Getty Images

Given the political, social, and economic climate right now, tension and conflict are apt to surface more than ever.

People under stress are more likely to display a “bad day” version of themselves. Emotions close to the surface are easily triggered. When someone is stressed, angry, or irritated, they are less rational and empathetic — making the ability to resolve differences even more important.

What really matters in a difficult situation is how conscious and skilled you are. …


Planet Soul

Essential oils, herbs, healing — this is who we are

Two hands holding a sprigs of fresh lavender.
Two hands holding a sprigs of fresh lavender.
Photo by Vero Photoart on Unsplash

Everybody wants to be a witch. Well, every woman.

Oh come on, you with the 75 bottles of essential oil in your kitchen drawers. Don’t even try to argue with me.

This is how I know, if you were curious. The essential oil phenomenon is a dead giveaway. Those MLM companies packaged it brilliantly — just a few drops of “natural healing,” a teaspoon of “aromatherapy,” and a dash of “energetic properties,” and voila, you’ve awakened a deep, primal instinct in women.

This is what we do. This is who we are.

It doesn’t matter what ethnicity you are — once upon a time ago, we all lived in tribal cultures, living off the land. We relied on the plant world for food and medicine. …


This Is Us

The pursuit of a PhD from my urban vantage point

A dark-skinned person with dreads dipping backward while dancing.
A dark-skinned person with dreads dipping backward while dancing.
Illustration: Niege Borges

what they don’t tell you
about getting your PhD
is that your childhood memories
of growing up
on the Westside of Detroit

and sitting inside of
overcrowded
public school
classrooms
with more students than desks
will be etched across
the pages
of your mandated
course readings

they don’t tell you
that your carefree moments
of sharing textbooks
with your classmates
and bike riding
up
and
down
pothole-ridden side streets
past boarded up homes
with caved-in roofs
hidden behind
tall dense grass
will be placed inside of a frame

they will
hang it on a wall
and gaze at it
and their faces will frown
while pity
overwhelms…


This Is Us

There comes a time when we can’t look the other way

A white person, looking off to the right, standing next to a Black person who’s looking at the camera.
A white person, looking off to the right, standing next to a Black person who’s looking at the camera.
Photo: Force Majeure via Unsplash

I was falling in love the morning my grandma died. It was December 2017, and I was snuggled in bed with a woman I’d met just a few months before. We giggled and kissed under the comforter as we greeted the chilly Southern California morning together. When we finally broke apart to check our phones, I saw a Facebook message from a cousin simply announcing, “Grandma is gone.”

A week later, I sat in my aunt’s living room in Louisiana, surrounded by parents, cousins, uncles, aunts, and other kin. Fully hoping to escape the moment, I checked Facebook and saw post after post extolling the virtues of Black women. …


This Is Us

Quarantine has me longing for an intimacy I didn’t know I missed

Low section of female friends applying nail polish while sitting on carpet at home.
Low section of female friends applying nail polish while sitting on carpet at home.
Photo: Klaus Vedfelt/Getty Images

Deep into state-mandated quarantine, two of my dearest friends come to my house to drink wine and eat take-out on my roof. Maybe it’s the shared experience of pent-up-ness, six months into being told friends are off limits; maybe it’s cosmic alignment. But we’re having similar existential crises around our bisexual identities, and community care feels like — well — communing.

Late into the night, we get to know each other deeply — our histories, our fears, our dreamscapes, where they overlap and intertwine, where they fork only to come back together — while decontextualized fireworks pop overhead. …

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