The Enchanted Hike

I am very good at being alone in the world. This is something that I built up to gradually over time, starting with trips to the movies, progressing having meals alone at restaurants that were not fast food chains, and then finally I finding the guts to go on vacation by myself. This past September was my second solo trip. I think at this point I can say that I am more or less entirely comfortable being many hours from home on my own and really enjoy it very much, although this is perhaps because the destination of these vacations so far has been Cape May, a place that I went to often as a child.

There are multiple positives to traveling alone, but the main one for me is that I get to make all of the decisions. This isn’t my favorite because I’m some asshole control freak, but because when I’m out with my friends I worry a lot about their happiness, especially if I’m the one who planned the outing. “Will all of my friends be able to find something to eat at this restaurant despite their various niche food preferences?” “Do my friends actually want to do this activity or are they just going along with it for the sake of not disrupting the group even though they’re going to be miserable the whole time we’re doing it?” You know, just normal concerns. But when I’m alone, if I want to take an extended hike on a trail of unknown length I’m beholden to no one. And on my Cape May trip in 2019 a hike was one of my major priorities.

Cape May Point State Park is home to the lighthouse that is the root of my fascination with lighthouses. I’d climbed it many times as a child and also on the Cape May trips I’d made as an adult in 2015 and 2017. But the state park is also home to a set of trails and on this trip I chose to ignore the lighthouse entirely in favor of making those trails a major focus. In fact, paying them a visit was one of the very first things I did when I got into town, before I was even able to check into my hotel.

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The trails are split up into red, yellow, and blue. They all start at the same entrance and then diverge. I would say that none of the hiking is very difficult since it’s all on mostly flat land and a large portion of it is on walkways made of plastic boardwalks that are elevated maybe a foot or two off of the ground, likely in an effort to damage the environment as little as possible. These walkways wind through the woody marshlands that border the state park’s beach, and the paths actually lead out to the sand in some places.

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You’re probably thinking that the red trail is the most difficult one because that’s often the way of things, but I’d say it’s the easiest. It’s entirely on the plastic planks and while it branches off into a series of little paths and loops, it basically brings you back to the parking lot without having to double back. It’s also very tree-y, providing long stretches of shade, which is important when it’s hot and humid, like pretty much my whole vacation was. Additionally, because it is entirely on the plastic boards, I would argue that the red trail is handicap accessible! I’m no accessibility expert, but I imagine there are many nature areas and trails that cannot say the same.

On the other hand, the yellow/blue trails (which run concurrently for nearly their entire length) is much longer than the red trail and it doesn’t loop – if you walk out there, you will be retracing your footsteps to get back to the car. I recall there was less shade overall than the red trail. There were also portions way down the trail where the path became dirt which was occasionally disturbed by tree roots. This was not a difficult section for me to walk through, but it may be for others.

I did the red trail first. I had done it in 2017 and it’s a pleasant little walk. There are multiple areas with benches to stop and rest, some of which overlook ponds that provide good opportunities for bird watching. I kept running into the same nice woman who noticed my camera and kept giving me a heads up to good photography opportunities that I’d be passing, like the group of ducks at the pond in the lighthouse photo above. When I finished the loop I still had a lot of time to kill before I could check into my hotel room, so I decided to make a go of the yellow/blue trail. I expected it would be largely like the red trail, but I was very wrong.

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Maybe this will sound overly dramatic or cheesy to you, but I think that sometimes in life a moment comes along that feels literally enchanted, just steeped in magic to the core, and my time on the yellow/blue trail is something I would describe that way. It felt like it was there just for me on that sunny September day, a feeling that likely came over me due to the nearly complete lack of other people compared to the several pairs and small groups of other tourists that I saw on the red trail.

I first traveled over plastic plank paths surrounded by tall grasses and some trees. It wasn’t so unlike the red trail, but then suddenly I came upon something new. The plastic path suddenly ended and after a bit of following a slightly sandy dirt path through trees, the trail opened up wide and I passed into a strange little grove. It felt sort of like a clearing despite all of the trees. The trail curved around a set of trees that were widely spaced enough that I could have just cut through if I hadn’t cared about disturbing the underbrush.

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The canopy was a little thicker here, so it was cooler than the previous sections of the trail and the light coming through had a kind of green-gold tinge. The wind was gently shaking the trees and I felt quiet peace come over me. I’m not terribly religious, but I felt a sort of reverence that I can only remember feeling when I visited old churches on a family trip to Germany. Somehow this area felt like one of the the most special, most enchanted, places I’d ever been even though it was just an area of trees and a curved path. I thought I had taken better pictures, but I didn’t, or maybe it’s the kind of magic that’s impossible to capture on camera, so you’ll just have to trust me.

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After leaving the grove the next thing of note that I came across was a long straight stretch of plastic boardwalk. It cut across a huge open field of grasses. As I mentioned earlier, a beach is not far from these trails and wind from the water rustled the grasses into a symphony as bugs chirped musically all around me. I walked across, my sneakered footsteps clunking on the boards, and when I reached the other side I found dirt under me again.

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The next section of path ahead of me was really only wide enough for one person to walk and it was fenced in by foliage that was taller than I am.

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Soon after that I came to another area of trees. There was a wooden bench and roots were poking up through the ground in places. Late afternoon light streamed through the branches, dappling the area in golden spots. I stopped to rest, drink water, and wrangle with the remote for my camera to take a picture of myself while hoping no one would come along and see me doing so because that would be awkward. (The greatest downside to traveling alone is, obviously, there is no one to help you take pictures.)

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After my rest I walked further down the trail and after a little longer the path split into separate yellow and blue trails. One of them, I don’t remember which color it was, soon came to a dead end. The other led me out of the trees to a bridge over a little river. From my vantage point on the bridge, I could see that the path would soon split in two again and curve away around separate corners, but the grasses where high again and I couldn’t see what was ahead. The ground looked like it was turning more to sand and I thought maybe the trail was curving around to the beach. I was intensely curious about what lay around the bend, but after a moment of debate I regretfully turned back, mainly motivated by not wanting to ruin my good walking shoes with sand on the first day of my trip and the fear that I probably needed to reapply my sunscreen (which I’d left in the car) or risk burning. So I made my way back out, past the bench, down the narrow path, through the grove.

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I enjoyed the rest of my vacation, but the part I still think back on the most is my hike alone on the yellow/blue trail.

When I returned to work after my trip, I showed my coworkers photos that I’d taken and when I mentioned that I had been alone one of them, a middle aged woman with sons around my age, said, “You’re crazy!” And maybe, probably, I am a little.

I’m not completely without sense. It did cross my mind that if I hurt myself while hiking I at least could use my cellphone to call for help. At one point on the yellow/blue trail I passed an older man and felt momentarily nervous, but he was too engrossed in a phone call to pay me any mind. I am not unaware of the risks that face any solo traveler, particularly a woman alone. But somehow Cape May feels so comfortable and familiar to me that I found myself doing things that I would never do at home, like taking extended walks through the quiet post-Labor Day town after dark. Hell, I even went to the beach one night at 10 pm to watch the nearly full moon paint the waves and that was another enchanted moment in itself.

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And somehow, despite the little voice in my head saying “you were being foolishly risky” I can’t help but long to do it all again.

I want to go back to that enchanted green-gold grove.

I want to find out what lies around that bend.

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I’ll be honest, I can’t remember where on the yellow/blue path this was so I left it out of the tale above, but it’s an actual! wooden! boardwalk! in an area of plastic ones and is therefore a very enchanted place all on its own and deserves to be part of this post.

Mother’s Day is Complicated

When I was in elementary school, Mother’s Day was a bit complicated for me, because I didn’t live with my biological parents. My two brothers and I had lived with one of our aunts since right around the time I started school. Up until she adopted us when I was in 4th Grade, I had to periodically field questions from the other kids about why I lived with my aunt. My stock response was, “I don’t want to talk about it.” This was partly because being asked made me uncomfortable, but mostly I just didn’t know what to say. No one in my family talked about it, at least not where I could hear, so I had no idea what had happened.

In middle school I managed to shape my vague early childhood memories into a hunch, and then a few years later, when my younger brother started asking our mom questions (he’d been an infant when we left our biological parents), she sat us down and told us that our biological parents had been neglecting us due to drug addiction. Child Protective Services were alerted, and we were removed from their custody.

Sometime in the past few years my aunt (not the one that adopted me, a different one) has told me a story from around the time that we were taken away. She was at court, at a hearing concerning the custody matter, and when they were leaving my biological father said to her, “I’m gonna get my kids back.” And she replied, “I hope you do.” But that was the last time she saw him.

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My biological father’s van.

I understand that addiction is a powerful master, but also, how do you prioritize a substance over your three small children to the point that they get taken away from you? How do you not pivot instantly to sobriety and make every possible effort to get them back? It’s not that I’m saying my biological parents never made the effort at all (I have no way of knowing this, obviously), but also the aunt that wound up adopting us waited several years before beginning the adoption process. She even told me once that the judge asked her why she waited so long, and reason was the adults in our family had the assumption and hope that my biological parents would get their shit together and come back, but it eventually became clear that just…was not going to happen, so she began the adoption proceedings.

I definitely feel constantly fortunate that my life turned out the way that it did, considering how terribly things could have gone when my brothers and I were removed from our parents’ home. So many children in similar situations get split up from any siblings they have, and in some situations never see any member of their family again, or at the very least not for a long time. However, my brothers and I were raised and looked after by members of our father’s family (mainly by a couple of aunts, an uncle, and our Oma). Our mother’s mother (called Grandma) also lived just a few streets away and we saw her, and other members of both sides of our family, throughout the year. I don’t think I ever felt unloved during my childhood and, again, I know I’m lucky for that.

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Carving pumpkins at Oma’s house!

I did periodically wonder what had happened to my biological parents, especially after my mom told us exactly why we had come to live with her, but it was a pretty vague feeling. I didn’t really pursue it. No one, on either side of the family, really ever brought up our parents. It felt like such a taboo subject, something I wasn’t allowed to talk about. It still feels that way now — we never talk about them. I’m sure I could ask for stories, but it just feels weird.

In 2010, around the time that my Oma died, an uncle of mine somehow came across the information that my biological father had died some years back of an overdose. This news didn’t upset me — it was just a source of closure, a feeling of, “oh, ok, so that’s what happened, alright.” I hardly remember the man, how could I possibly mourn him?

But then, at the start of 2012, I unexpectedly found out the fate of my biological mother. I was home between college semesters, and Grandma was over for a visit. My Grandpa had been ill from cancer for some time, and by 2012, he had been given only a few more months to live. Grandma told me and whichever brother of mine was there (I forget which one, whoops) that in a month or so she and Grandpa would be having a last hurrah sort of anniversary party.

Then Grandma said, “And, by the way, you should know, D might there.”

D is my biological mother.

Our collective reaction was a flat, yet surprised, sort of, “oh, ok.” Grandma went on, “We wouldn’t seat you guys at the same table or anything. We usually wouldn’t have all of you at the same event, but it’s not possible this time. She’s doing pretty good these days, but sometimes I just wanna shake her.”

So in a very short span of time, a massive heap of mind blowing information had been dumped in my lap. Not only was the my biological mother alive, but Grandma knew how to contact her. Not only that, but it sounded like she’d been in contact with D and spending time with D for quite a long period of time. And never. said. anything.

On the one hand, this makes sense to me — D is Grandma’s daughter, it’s natural that they would be in contact. On the other, why had Grandma been so silent about this?

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Grandma and Grandpa took me to Disney World when I was in kindergarten. Grandpa often spoke of the trip fondly right up until he died.

When my brothers and I later talked through the situation later with our mom, she was dumbfounded as well, but also mentioned that at the time of the adoption, when our parents signed the paperwork giving up their rights to us, some restrictions were put in place for the duration of our minority. The way my mom put it is that nobody was going to stop anyone from seeing each anyone, but the adults taking care of us were firm that our parents had to be clean for any meeting to take place.

This goes a small way to explain why Grandma would keep mum, as my younger brother was only 15 at this point. But also it doesn’t explain it — being forbidden to see someone is not the same as being forbidden to talk about them. My mom didn’t say that Grandma had been asked to never discuss D, and my mom is the sort of woman who would’ve told us if that was the case. So my best assumption is that Grandma may have been trying to protect my brothers and I, trying to keep our lives as peaceful as possible.

I was so conflicted and hung up about this newfound information that when I went back to school for the spring semester and started taking the playwriting class I’d enrolled in, I based my big semester long project on the situation. But Grandpa got too sick, so the party never happened, and I had to invent what happened when the biological children and mother met for the first time in 15 years.

But then, in the spring of 2017, my great-grandma died. I only met her a few times when I was young, so my only motivation for attending the service was to support Grandma. However, I dreaded the event because I had a pretty strong hunch that D would be there. The service was scheduled for a couple of weeks after Great-grandma’s death, and I spent the entire time in a state of steadily mounting anxiety. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever been so anxious in my life as when I left work to pick up my younger brother and go to the funeral home.

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Breakfast time in the first house we lived in with our aunt (the one who was later our mom).

When we entered we went to sign in at the guestbook. My eyes were drawn to D’s name like a magnet. I noticed she was still using my and my brothers’ last name, and I felt a sort of dull rage at what I perceived to be the audacity of the act. My mind raced, “How fucking dare she keep our name? She abandoned us. She had a new kid. She doesn’t deserve to keep the name. She should go back to her maiden name.” (Naturally, I said none of this at the time, but did rant about it to my younger brother after we left.)

We entered the main room and were immediately approached by a group of our cousins, who we hadn’t seen since we were small. But as I chatted with them, my eyes kept darting over to D, recognizing her from the few photos I’d seen of her. She was standing in the back of the room with teenage boy and a man. My younger brother is social with one of D’s brothers, and through him he had found out that D had had another son a little over a decade ago. I figured the boy and the man were her son and his father. I had been stunned when my brother told us about our half-sibling, and it was weird to look at the boy and know we shared the same blood.

Conversely, D had to have known who we were, had to have heard people say our names, seen us embrace Grandma, and yet she kept to the back of the room. Realizing she was going to give us space did nothing to lessen my anxiety, and I settled into a seat near the front of the room, allowed myself to be drawn into meaningless small talk by a couple of Grandma’s friends that I knew.

I did my best to pretend that my heart was not about to burst out of my chest from how hard it was beating. Being in the same room as my biological mother for the first time in 20 years was an incredible emotional strain, even though we never exchanged words, or even made eye contact. Just knowing she was there, seeing her in the flesh, was a suffocating sensation. That was my mother there, and yet, at the same time, the woman was not my fucking mother at all.

One of the most important things I’ve come to recognize in my 27 years is that that some of the best families in the world are found ones, not blood ones. Yes, my mom is technically a blood relation of mine, but she didn’t start out as my mom — she became my mom through circumstance. She’s the one who has been there for me through all of the best and worst parts of my life. She’s the one who encouraged me to read books and play music, the one who taught me patience, who gave me my love of nature and the slower side of life. So much of what and who I am has developed the way it has because of her. She may not be the one who gave birth to me, but I consider her to be the only mom I have.

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Judging from my size, I’d say this is probably from the first Krystmas.

My younger brother and I left as soon after the service as was polite. I had parked us a little ways down the street from the funeral home, so we wouldn’t get caught up in the parking lot when we wanted to leave. As soon as we were a safe distance away from everyone, I burst into frantic tears. The service was on Friday and I was an emotional wreck for basically the whole weekend, but found comfort with my other found families (ie: my friends, and my then-boyfriend).

I still don’t really feel okay about the whole D situation. All I know is that I don’t want to see her again if I can avoid it.

So this whole long story is to say that Mother’s Day can still be a bit of a complicated day for me. And I know it can be tough day for other people too. There are all kinds of reasons for people to struggle with Mother’s Day, whether they’re estranged from their mother, their mother has died, or for some other reason. If Mother’s Day is a rough day for you, I’m here for you. Just try to focus on other, more positive forces in your life until the day passes by. You’ll be fine, and so will I.

Much love,
Krys

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Why, yes, I did use my early childhood photos as a way to add some levity to all this heavy shit because I’m uncomfortable with these emotions. Thank you for noticing!

 

My Cosplay History!

Ever since I got back from Anime Boston, I’ve been wanting to do a post about the cosplays I’ve done so far. (Well, actually, fun fact, this is the post I wanted to write the week of the con, but I didn’t have time due to travel prep, etc.) I’m not nearly so prolific or skilled as any of my friends who cosplay, but I’ve done some good work over the years (and, in all honesty, some really, really bad) and I want to share it with all of you!

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A babby, with the Staryu that still hangs on her wall.

2009 — Misty (Pokemon): I didn’t call this Misty costume a cosplay at the time (not sure I even knew the word then?), but thinking back, it really was my first one. For years my high school held an event for seniors at the local bowling alley called “Midnight Bowling” (actually held from 10pm to midnight). The tradition was for each lane to dress up in costumes around whatever theme they wanted, with costume prizes awarded at the end of the night. My friends and I dressed up as the gym trainers from the first Generation of Pokemon. No one seemed to understand who we were; a fellow student asked me if I was Ash, and I wasn’t sure if they were being sarcastic. (If you’ve watched my YouTube at all, you may recognize Staryu from my art wall! We cut our characters’ distinctive Pokemon out of cardboard for props.)

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All of the pictures from this night are blurry and dark, because bowling alleys are blurry and dark.

Most of this costume was borrowed — my shirt was a friend’s graphic tee turned inside out and I borrowed the suspenders from my older brother’s girlfriend even though they were the wrong color because I didn’t have the means to get red ones. My hair was the wrong color and way too short to do a proper ponytail. At least my bag was red! And we had a fun night bowling together, as I recall. (If you’re curious, no, we did not place in the costume contest and the group that took first place was a group of boys where one dressed as a pimp and the rest dressed in drag. Tells you a lot about my high school, doesn’t it?)

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Oh no.

AnimeNext 2009 — Lucas (Mother 3 / Smash Bros.): This Lucas cosplay was a travesty. My friends and I decided to cosplay characters from Super Smash Bros. Brawl, but their alternate color versions. I don’t know why I went along with this instead of doing my own thing, since my friends were cosplaying characters recognizable regardless of color palette (Fox and Pit), whereas without his red and yellow shirt, Lucas is just a random small blond child. I had never worn a wig before, and we styled it the morning of the con. Instead of, I dunno, buying a striped shirt, I painted stripes on a white shirt, using masking tape to mark them off. Except, surprise, the blue fabric paint bled under the tape, so I tried to fix it with white paint, and it was just a huge mess. The only thing I like about this is my Rope Snake! I sewed him by hand out of an old t-shirt, and I think I still have him in the attic.

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Me with two Dark Magician cosplayers, because I have always been, and will always be, YuGiOh trash.

AnimeNext 2010 (Female Trainer from FireRed/LeafGreen): This is probably my favorite work! I did a lot of sewing work on this one, hemming a skirt I bought on eBay, making the blue shirt, altering a t-shirt into the black undershirt, attaching the red parts to a borrowed hat, and making the bag entirely from scratch. I bought some fabric, decided what dimensions I wanted, and went from there.

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I don’t do “angry face” very well, lol.

I wasn’t satisfied with the shirt though, so when I eventually brought this costume to Anime Boston in 2011 and 2012, I just wore a blue tanktop. By the time I brought it to AB I’d also resewn the felt onto a properly white hat, and I might’ve just worn red Converse with my leg warmers too, because I remember at one point the fabric top of the shoes mysteriously shrank and became very uncomfortable to wear (I don’t think it’s that my feet got swollen, because even though I’m fat, none of that fat is in my feet).

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Hauled this bad boy out of storage for its closeup, since it’s not properly shown in any of my pics!

The bag held up remarkably well through the three different cons I brought it to, although it’d need patching/remaking to put it to heavy, all-day convention use again. The skirt also no longer fits, and I want another try at doing the top properly. And I guess if I was gonna do this costume thoroughly, I’d have to get a really long brown wig, but I don’t like wearing them, so probably I won’t. Maybe I should get my act together and try and revive this for AB next year?

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Spooooky.

AnimeNext 2011 — Bosses from Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker: This is the most impressive cosplay I’ve done by far, and getting to do it with a group of friends made it super fun! It definitely wouldn’t have been possible if I didn’t have friends that were waaaay more artistic than I am. One or two of them (or three? my memories have faded) did up the designs, we acquired our individual materials, and then worked together to get the costumes done. It was a very collaborative effort; most of the costumes were worked on by more than one person, at least a little. For instance, I vividly remember painting that lantern brown. Someone was usually playing Wind Waker in the background while others worked on costumes — this summer is definitely when I fell in love with this game.

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Another friend of ours dressed as Link.

I portrayed the boss of the Forbidden Woods, Kalle Demos. We used an old dress of mine as the base, and the sleeves are from a high school graduation gown that someone still had. The flower around the neck, is actually just a collar, so the whole outfit is relatively easy to put on, although I remember having trouble with the hat slipping around. I still have this one in the back of my closet, and last I checked it still fits! I’d wear it again, but doesn’t really make sense out of context. (If you want a look at the official art of the rest of the bosses, I’ve got a link for you here.)

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“And then I said, ‘OATMEAL? Are you CRAZY?'”

AnimeNext 2012 — Pinkie Pie (MLP): I had a very brief My Little Pony phase between 2011 and 2012. I originally tried to have this costume together for Anime Boston 2012, I even brought it to the con, but when I started putting it on, it just didn’t feel right, so I decided to revise it before wearing it. Part of that was restyling the twintailed wig I’d bought into a single ponytail, which was a mistake because it was incredibly uncomfortable to have all that weight in the back and the wig kept slipping back on my head.

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Ta-da!

I honestly wasn’t too crazy about this costume overall, except for the bag, which I sewed by hand again. This one worked out a little better than the Pokemon bag, because I made the strap wider and the bag smaller. I really felt that my costume was kind of mediocre, especially because my friends did AMAZING cosplays for this con. It made me not want to cosplay anymore, because I just felt that my crafting skills just weren’t up to snuff, and I didn’t feel invested enough in cosplaying/going to cons to put the money/effort/time into improving. After Pinkie Pie, I didn’t cosplay for six years. Which brings me to….

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2018 — Ariel (The Little Mermaid): This was a dream costume of mine. I’d even researched how I could do it back when I was more seriously into cosplaying. But this year for Halloween I was hosting a costume party at my house, and I saw Torrid carrying this dress, and the rest was history. I brought this to Anime Boston 2018 as well, and it was a big hit! If you want to read more about this costume, check out my post about the Halloween party, since I’ve already blathered on long enough in this post.

So there’s my cosplay history! I have some cosplays I’d maybe like to do in the future, but, again, it’s a matter of having the energy/skill/creativity to pull them off. Plus, I’ve kind of gotten too accustomed to just wearing comfortable clothes at cons (aka, the one con I go to annually) to feel much desire to go fussing about with cosplay again. So we’ll see what happens in the future!

–Krys

Ghost Story (A Response to “Cat Person”)

I know it’s a bit of a hot topic right now, and therefore probably being talked about to death, I have some thoughts about Kristen Roupenian’s short story called “Cat Person” that was published by The New Yorker recently. It’s about a young woman named Margot who meets and eventually goes on a date with a man named Robert, before cutting off contact with him. The two characters are actually quite unlikeable in a number of ways (she’s fatphobic and unable to be straightforward and he is in some ways the worst stereotype of a fedora bro, just for starters). Roupenian has taken these two characters and made quite a compelling story about them; they feel human in their flaws. I’m simplifying the premise quite a bit because I really do think you should read it (especially before you read this blog post as there naturally may be spoilers).

I’ve already read through it twice, and could see myself reading it again. It’s a piece of writing that’s got its hooks into my mind in a way unlike anything else I’ve read recently. I think it’s because there’s a certain universal quality to “Cat Person,” particularly for women, particularly for young women, particularly for young women who want to date men. I happen to fall into all three of those categories so the story resonated with me quite a bit.

I haven’t been in Margot’s exact shoes, but I’ve been in similar ones many times. After reading “Cat Person” I couldn’t help but think how if maybe I was more outgoing, or more conventionally pretty, then I could be another Margot. It definitely also made me consider all of the potential Roberts that I have dodged. For instance, every man on every dating site who has responded to me in abhorrent ways when politely turned down.

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A screenshot of an actual OKCupid interaction of mine. I know that maybe I shouldn’t have continued responding, but I was in A Mood this day.

I have a few different stories I could tell (and originally did tell before I made substantial edits to this post), but probably the place in my dating life where my experience most intersects with Margot’s is with a person that my friends and I call The Ghost. He earned this nickname by ghosting me in the summer of 2016. We’d been on a few dates and hung out a few times before he disappeared. The last time I saw him that summer was when I went over his house after being sent a dick pick that I’d indicated I didn’t want via a gentle joke (“Let’s just wait until we see each other in real life to show all that~~ ; )”) and then telling him that he shouldn’t get too excited because I was on my period (a lie texted to him in a state of mild panic about being out of my depth in this situation, as his actions to that point had left me unsure if he was actually romantically interested until he offered me the dick pic).

Up in his bedroom he gave me a backrub that evolved into him touching my breasts and kissing my neck while I reacted awkwardly and stiffly because it was the first time I’d gotten any kind of action in three years. It wasn’t that I didn’t want it, I was just out of practice and nervous. We texted a little after that, but when he finally fully dropped off the map it wasn’t a surprise; I figured he’d lost interest because of the way the whole backrub thing went down. It was disappointing because he was smart and funny and cute, but life went on and I thought I’d never speak to him again.

But in the spring of 2017, we wound up reconnecting. I’d been dating someone between December and April, before my then-boyfriend ended the relationship seemingly out of nowhere. I’d deactivated OKCupid when I was in the relationship (duh), but after a few weeks back in Single Land I reactivated it, figuring that by the time I’d glued my shattered heart back together and was actually ready to properly date again, I’d be comfortable with the idea of talking to new people again. The first night of my reactivation I spotted The Ghost’s profile and thought that maybe I’d send him a message, just to say hey and see how he was doing, because in our last few texts he didn’t seem like he was doing too mentally well. But I was on the fence considering the way things had turned out the year before, so I decided to sleep on it. Lo and behold, in the morning I woke up to a message from him.

We got caught up with each other and decided to meet up again, starting from scratch with a coffee date (or in my case, a smoothie). The solid banter between us was still there. He made me laugh, a lot, which was something I desperately needed in my life at that point, as I was experiencing deep depression because losing my boyfriend had made me realized how generally dissatisfying much of the rest of my life was. I figured that if I was going to do the rebound thing, that it might as well be with someone I already knew. I needed a distraction from my troubles, and I saw how The Ghost could provide one for me, even if it didn’t work out long term. Which, who knew, maybe this time it would?

So eventually I went to his house again. He offered me another backrub, but I said something like, “Well, shouldn’t you actually kiss me sometime?” Because despite everything that had happened the year before, the damn guy still hadn’t tried to kiss me at all. So I got to finally actually make out with him. It happened standing up, which was kind of weird to me, and also he cut it short when he started to get hard. Maybe he figured I wouldn’t be willing to do anything about it that day? Or maybe it was because his parents were just downstairs. I don’t know, I didn’t ask. Regardless, I was disappointed because I love making out, and have quite happily done it for extended periods of time with happy willing partners even in situations where sex hasn’t been on the table for whatever reason.

But there was one more disappointment: kissing him had brought the discovery that he was actually a pretty terrible kisser. Now, I wouldn’t say I’m an expert on kissing, but I’ve never had complaints from any of the six guys that I’ve properly made out with. The Ghost kissed very hard, without ever varying the amount of pressure he used, without varying the angle too much, and he didn’t try anything even slightly saucy like biting my lip or slipping me tongue. And he also completely neglected my neck, which is a Very Important Location for me. But I thought that he could perhaps be teachable, that next time if I just showed him how I wanted to be kissed by kissing him that way, then he would adjust his methods accordingly. So I invited him over my house the next time my mom was out of town. I knew that I didn’t want to have sex with him yet, but figured that the absence of a parental figure might open up some other spicy opportunities.

So we’re making out on my bed. Tops come off, a bit of groping is happening, but pants (trousers for you Brits) are still on. My eyes are closed, my mouth is focused on varying my kissing in the hopes that he’ll mirror me. (Fun fact: he doesn’t.) I feel him adjusting something around his waistline; I figure he’s getting hard and trying to make himself more comfortable. I happen to open my eyes and glance down and that’s when I realize that, no, he’s actually taken out his penis.

I experience a moment of hesitation and mild annoyance. (Note to all men: ask if it’s okay before you whip it out, for god’s sake. Never assume that willingness to see your penis is implied.) There’s a quote from “Cat Person” that when I read it, it felt so strongly connected to this story I’m telling you now: “…the thought of what it would take to stop what she had set in motion was overwhelming; it would require an amount of tact and gentleness that she felt was impossible to summon.” At this point I could’ve told The Ghost to put himself away, but I figured it was easier, less complicated to just roll with it.

So I summon my inner flirt from the depths of my soul (she’d gone to sleep because the kissing was so bad) and I say, “Do you want me to do something about that?”

He says, “With what?”

I reply, “With my hands?”

He consents, and I’ve just barely begun to execute the handjob when he says, “It’s dry.”

I hesitate, brain scrambling for an idea, and hitting on, “I’ll spit on it?” But before I can say the words, he starts kissing me again and jerking himself off.

I am baffled, because his penis is STILL DRY no matter who is jerking it and why would he not prefer the woman who gave him the erection in the first place to do the tugging?????? And yet, I say nothing and just let it all happen, hoping he will come quickly so this can all be over with. I try to facilitate his orgasm via little caresses and a whole variety of kissing styles that he responds to with the same kiss over and over. He doesn’t use his free hand to caress any part of me at all. I feel a deep, painful longing for my ex.

When The Ghost finally comes, some of his semen gets on my blanket despite my best efforts to keep it clean by keeping him on his back. I give him some tissues so he can clean himself up. He gets dressed without offering me an orgasm too. I’m so turned off at that point that I wouldn’t have accepted, but the fact that he doesn’t even offer frustrates me and seems unfair. However, I say nothing to show my displeasure, because I don’t want to make a big deal of the situation. I firmly believe that if somebody manages to give you an orgasm, making a proper enthusiastic attempt at reciprocation is the polite thing to do (even if an orgasm doesn’t actually happen, because although lady parts can be finicky sometimes, it’ll still probably at least be pleasurable for your partner). He may have done the work for himself, but I would have totally done it for him if he hadn’t gone off on his own strange little path. As I discovered for the first time in the relationship I’d just gotten out of, I enjoy the odd sort of power that I feel when I give a handjob, the weird joy of being the boss of my partner’s orgasm, and The Ghost had robbed even that small bit of pleasure from me.

After he went home and I thought about the encounter, I realized I was frustrated (in more ways than one), confused as fuck, and like I was owed something. The physical aspect of a relationship isn’t the most important part to me, but I do need to be compatible with my partners in that way, so knew it would never work with The Ghost because his kissing was just so terrible it was basically anti-arousing. But I didn’t have the heart to tell him that, so when I texted him goodbye I used the good old standby, “I don’t want to lead you on, so I need to tell you that it’s just not clicking for me the way I need it to.”

He responded, “Ok, well thank you. I hope I wasn’t an ass.” And I reassured him that he wasn’t an ass, because he wasn’t. The Ghost did treat me well as a human being. He had some quirks that I could have lived with if we had continued to date (like his repeated applications of hand sanitizer in situations where he hadn’t even gotten his hands dirty?). However, his bedside manner was just too fucking terrible to tolerate. But I’m non-confrontational by nature, and also don’t like to hurt people who don’t deserve it, so I took an easy, vague way out of the situation. And thankfully, he easily accepted it and hasn’t contacted me since.

When I tell the story of The Ghost’s visit to my house in real life, using my vocal chords instead of dozens of typed out words, it’s a comedic tale. But “Cat Person” made me consider this situation more seriously. I identify with Margot, but because she is unlikeable, I worry that I am unlikeable, even though many of her actions are ones that woman do all the time to survive encounters with men, and also to avoid further unwanted ones. I do, in a way, feel bad for not being more honest with The Ghost, but if I’m just following the patterns of all the female ancestors in my DNA, who did what they had to in order to survive with as much of themselves as intact as they could, am I really so bad? Because at the end of the day, I want to survive as intact as I can.

New England Nostalgia

I went to college (university, for you non-Americans) in a tiny town in northwestern Massachusetts called North Adams. It’s just about as far from Boston as you can get and still be in the state — many of the students came from upstate New York and the town is so close to the Vermont border that some of the faculty lived there.

My first semester of college my mom wanted to make the four hour trip to visit me on Columbus Weekend, since it was a long weekend for both of us, and when she couldn’t get a hotel room in the immediate area we found out about the phenomenon known as “leaf peeping.” Leaf peeping is a form of tourism where people travel to go look at the changed leaves in the autumn. On the East Coast, New England is a popular area for this, probably because the comparatively lower temperatures cause the trees to change earlier.

In most instances, I think travelling a long distance just to look at some trees is pretty silly. However, I never miss North Adams more than I do in the fall, and when you see the photos below maybe you’ll see why!

These are all photos that I took when I was in college (mostly even before I had my nice DSLR) — I haven’t been back in the fall since I graduated at the end of 2012.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA(I remember that I liked this tree because it looks sort of like a paintbrush partially dipped in paint.)

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA(A nearly leafless tree  with some kind of berries on it, taken from inside the library. It looks like a spring picture, but I swear it’s not, lol.)

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA(This yellow tree was my favorite one on campus every year, and that’s why I’ve included two photos of it! When I picture fall in North Adams, this tree is usually the first thing I think of.)

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA(A view of the quad.)

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA(Path in front of one of the main classroom buildings.)

 

IMG_3998(This picture is kind of crummy quality, because I took it through the window of an elevator lobby, but I fucking love the cloud clinging to those mountains.)

 

IMG_4164(The view from my dorm window my last, happiest semester of college. Those trees on the left were gorgeous study companions!)

 

IMG_4263(A friend wanted to take some cosplay photos down by the train tracks that we definitely weren’t supposed to be near, but that people hung out by / used as a shortcut for walking to Walmart anyway.)

 

I hope you’ve all enjoyed this little nostalgia trip into my photograph archives! I’ve taken so many photos and they’re mostly just rotting away inside my hard drive, so I think I’ll pull together little posts of old photos like this in the future.

How do you guys feel about fall?

Much love,
Krys

Why do I censor myself?

In my previous post, I briefly mentioned that there are things that I can’t talk about on my YouTube channel. I wanted to talk about why that is, because you might be wondering why I, a grown woman, would feel the need to censor myself.

It all goes back to the 2012 trip to Germany I went on with my younger brother and my aunt. I vlogged a bit, and wound up showing this video to my aunt because I thought she would like it. It’s still one of my favorite videos I’ve made, and she enjoyed it so much that she asked me for the link so she could watch it again later. Rather stupidly, I somehow never thought that she would watch my other videos, because while my family was aware that I did YouTube, no one had really shown an interest in it, and I was pretty close-mouthed and private about it, because I didn’t want them watching.

When my aunt watches YouTube she’ll do it when there’s downtime at work because she’s not that technologically inclined and doesn’t quite understand how to use her home computer even though she can use her work computer just fine for the most part. Another essential piece of background info for this story is that my mom and aunt work at the same business.

One day my mom came home and said she’d had a small fight with my aunt at work that day because of a little video I’d uploaded called “Virgin Territory.” This video was inspired by an MTV reality show of the same name that came out around that time and followed the lives of several different virgins who were in their early to mid-twenties. In it, I discuss my own virgin status, and some of the circumstances surrounding that. My aunt was rewatching the Germany video, and then picked this one out of the recommended videos on the sidebar.

My mom and aunt’s desks are close to each other, but still far enough apart that you have to raise your voice slightly to speak between them. My mom’s recollection of the argument opened with my aunt reacting to the video intro in which I tell my mother not to watch the video by calling to my mom and saying, “She doesn’t want you to watch this one!” My mom responded that she wouldn’t have wanted to watch it anyway. And then when my aunt got to the part of the video where I say that I’m a virgin, she yelled, “Oh! She’s a virgin!” across to my mom.

My mom then got into it with with my aunt about how you shouldn’t just shout things like that across the office because even though no one was really around the office at the time, the office is small and what if someone else had heard?

At this point in her recollections, my mom stopped to say to me, “I don’t even understand why you feel the need to talk about stuff like that online anyway.”

Because I want to. Because I can. Because telling all my uncomfortable and/or unusual stories could maybe help someone else, whether it’s by actually relating to what I’m saying and gleaning some advice from it, or even as a distraction from their own troubles by using me for entertainment.

In that moment, sitting there in a room loaded with my mother’s disapproval, I felt something inside of me close off.

I’m non-confrontational by nature, and in order to avoid possible future confrontation with my family, I decided that there are certain topics I could never address in video (not all of them sexual in nature, by the way). It’s a loss and a limitation that still annoys me, which I part of why I wanted and needed to start this blog.

And the next time my aunt decides she might want to rewatch one of my videos, I will burn her a DVD.

This is Krys.

The last guy I was in a relationship with is named Chris. (Normally I’d change the name to protect the innocent, but this story won’t make any sense if I do. Almost everyone he knows calls him by an extremely unrelated nickname anyway, so it should be fine.)

One night we went to eat at a diner (I’m from New Jersey, occasional diner visits are mandatory or I get kicked out), and there was a bit of a wait, so I put my name down on the hostess’ list. Instead of giving her my full first name, which I’ve often had misheard as other names, I told her to put down Krys. (Which she probably wrote down as Chris, but whatever.) So when she called for us, she asked for Krys, and Chris said, “Why didn’t you put down your name?”

My response? “I did.”

He had no idea, and neither would most people.

Hello, I’m Krystal, but very rarely, mostly to my family, I am known as Krys. I’m called Krys so rarely that it sort of feels like a secret identity. And yet, Krys name is the one I’d like to use on this blog. The use of such an extremely personal name is a reminder for me to be my most personal self here. I already have a well-worn-in online handle I could have used — I’ve been krystaaaalkay since 2012, if not before. But for this blog, I want to abandon that name, for a couple of reasons.

  1.  There is a little problem with the name krystaaaalkay called “nobody can remember how to fucking spell it.”
  2. krystaaaalkay is more or less my “brand,” and in some ways it has become an alter ego. Yes, krystaaaalkay is candid with her thoughts, but she’s also highly veneered. She rarely appears in front of a camera without a full face of makeup, and won’t talk about certain uncomfortable things from her life that maybe she’d like to talk about if she didn’t want to make people uncomfortable. (Except mental health. She’ll always talk about her depression and anxiety.)

Krys is easy to spell. Krys doesn’t give a fuck about a lot of things that krystaaaalkay does. krystaaaalkay needs a full face of makeup to do a video. Krys is currently writing this blog post with her hair wet from a shower, wearing her pajamas — a floppy tank top, Walmart leggings, socks to hold in the lotion on her feet, and Crocs (her house shoes).

So here we go. Let’s lose the veneer. Let’s get sloppy. Let’s get personal.

Much love,
Krys

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