Once upon a time…

Once upon a time there was a female who felt herself to be (in the words of the immortal Ms. Spears) not a girl, not yet a woman. After all, on the cusp of 28 years old she was well past her girlhood and probably didn’t even qualify as a young woman anymore. But for a number of reasons she could not escape her family home and live a life with full adult responsibilities and therefore often felt like a child. (Although, for the record, she was very thankful that her family home was a pleasant place to live. Just wanna put that out there.)

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Additionally, there were aspects of her personality that occasionally made her feel childish. For instance, she would much rather stay in and play a video game than go out into the world and make connections that could perhaps advance her adult life. She had no long term goals besides “be happy and be able to support myself” which really was getting in the way of finding a job that would help her achieve those goals, as she had no firm direction to point herself in. When she reached her point of ultimate frustration, her body’s reaction was to cry (and then to cry more out of embarrassment for having cried).

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However, her greatest problem was that she had very little discipline. This can be traced back to her years in college. After spending high school driving herself crazy to get good grades in her full course load of high level classes, she very quickly noticed that she had enrolled in a college that was perhaps slightly too easy for her. She realized that she could do the bare minimum and still get good grades, and so that is what she did (while somehow still managing to graduate a semester early). By the time she left the mountains to return home to the land of Jersey, her discipline had fluttered away on a breeze.

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She turned her attention to various endeavors as she started her adult life, but she had lost her ability to follow through when it was not required by an employer. She took up the ukulele and wrote a handful of songs that were well received by people she knew, but when her inspiration fled, so to did her relationship with her ukulele. She bought a beautiful blue guitar and attended lessons, but when her teacher left the community center she let the guitar sit in the corner because there was no outside force compelling her to practice. There was a watercolor kit that she’d purchased after watching a few videos that had been barely touched. She couldn’t get herself to stick to an exercise regimen even though her overweight body begged her to by developing hypertension. There was a box of video games in her room that had been started, but never finished.

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Then there was the whole slew of internet videos, over 100 of them, made over the course of many years. YouTube was her most successful attempt at keeping up with a hobby long term. She occasionally took breaks for months at a time, but always returned. Until one day it hit her that she did not want to go back. There wasn’t any particular reason, she just somehow lost interest in creating online videos (although she did still spend an inordinate amount of time watching online videos instead of doing any of the things mentioned in the last two paragraphs).

If she was being really honest with herself, in most of the things she tried she grew to feel she was hopelessly mediocre and would never be good or worth notice no matter how much effort she put in, so why should she even bother?

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But just because she had given up on talking to a camera did not mean that she never wanted to talk to anyone about her more long-winded thoughts on the internet ever again. The internet can give the impression that we are meant to share everything about our lives, and while she knew that many aspects of her life were probably too dull to share, she still wanted to share some things. So she started a blog. She could have kept a physical journal, but the notion that someone might read her words and interact with her because of them excited her. She had made some quality internet friends on YouTube and thought that once she got going she might make some blogging friends as well.

She plugged away at her blog, dedicating time to make sure there would be a new post each week. While she didn’t make any new friends, she did feel herself to be free to talk about topics that she never felt alright talking about on YouTube. She finally unburdened herself regarding a few heavy stories from her life and was more open and raw about her mental health than she’d ever been before. She had friends and family to talk about these things with, but she could be clearer and take her time composing her thoughts. Somehow it was easier to write everything down instead of having to use her actual voice. It was freeing.

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But then, the inevitable happened. After taking a week off to go on a trip, her posting became more irregular and ultimately ceased entirely. Her main excuse at the time that she stopped was “it’s too hot to sit at my laptop for hours during the summer to put these posts together” and she swore she’d return in the fall. But autumn came and went and winter began and still she had not really posted anything, besides a post saying that she would be posting again soon that had actually been posted quite some time ago.

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The blog tugged at the back of her mind, but she was nervous about returning. She realized that was scared that she had nothing new left to say after all of the YouTube videos and blog posts she had already made. Nothing interesting anyway. But she wanted to write. So just after the new year started she put Google Docs on her phone so she could work on the same documents both at her desk and away from it and she started typing away. She wasn’t sure if it was any good, or if she would even be consistent about it, but she very badly wanted to be. She wanted to prove to herself that she could follow through, even if she felt like a worthless mediocrity while doing it.

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It was a new year, a new start, a new chance to do and be better. Hopefully this time something would stick.

[All images are from my collection of photos/YouTube thumbnails that I’ve taken over the years.]

Blog-a-versary!

Hello, all! It’s been a loooong while, hasn’t it?

If you thought I had given up on this blog, you thought wrong. It’s just that this summer has been A Time. By the end of it, I was referring to it as a cursed summer, because it seemed like less than ideal things were happening not only to me, but to everyone around me.

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Pictures in this post are all from a walk in a wooded place in my area last fall that I never used for anything!

For instance, just as I was beginning to feel confident in my new position, I had to cover our calendar for a week because of a near death in someone’s family, which always puts me in a bad headspace. (Why are people so fucking rude??)

My doctor put me on a low dose of a diuretic at the end of July because my blood pressure finally went from borderline bad to actually bad. Needless to say this made me feel like shit mentally, but I didn’t have time to worry about that because the day after that appointment, one of my close friends experienced a major medical emergency.

Thankfully they survived it, and while they could’ve suffered major losses of mental or bodily function, they did not. They were home by the end of August, but that month was full of a lot of hospital visits and anxiety and trying to take my mind off of that anxiety by driving through the desert in GTA Online. (My friend is doing relatively well most days now, although they still have a lot of healing to do at home.)

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A relatively minor gripe, all things considered, is that we had kind of crummy weather on a lot of the weekends, so I couldn’t get down the shore at all.

However, the biggest thing that always keeps me away from computers after work in the summer is the heat. Even in my YouTube days, I was always less active in the summer. I’ve spent the past two summers getting by with just a big fan in my room, without putting an air conditioner into the window. The only thing I want to do when I get home on a hot summer day is sit myself right in front of the fan doing something that requires minimal energy (like reading or, again, video games) until it is time to flop my whole body down in front of the fan so I can go to sleep. The cord for the fan isn’t long enough to reach that close to my desk, and if I plug another thing into the ancient powerstrip at my feet, I’m sure it will catch on fire, lol. As a result of all of that, sitting at my desk is too sweaty to tolerate during the summer.

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But! Now that the weather is cooling down and life is becoming calm, I am ready to make my return. I’m not ready for a full return just yet — I want to prep at least two blog posts first, to give me a head start on a regular schedule. You can look forward to posts about Flame Con! The New York Renaissance Faire! Portland, Maine! And much more!

However, I noticed that my first blog-a-versary just passed, so I wanted to throw up a quick post to say hey, let y’all know why I dropped off the map, and to thank you if you’re still willing to read my stuff after I disappeared without warning.

Throughout my life I’ve tried to keep many different diaries, and then blogs once the internet came along. I always lost interest in them very shortly, but I’m somehow still interested in writing here after a whole year has passed, and I intend to keep on doing so for quite awhile.

See you soon (for real!),
Krys

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Summer Has Arrived

At the end of the day when I enter the lobby of the building where I work, I can feel some of the heat while I’m still a couple of yards from the revolving door. I push through, freeing myself from my air conditioned office prison, and for the first minute or so the heat is a refreshing contrast. But by the time I’ve crossed the courtyard and properly entered the parking lot, I’m wilting. Halfway across the asphalt that separates me and my car, I feel sweat pooling on my forehead, on my upper lip, under my arms.

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All of the photos in this post are from more pleasant summer times than the sticky week I’m currently enduring. Here’s the first Dippin Dots I ever had, taken at Six Flags in 2009.

I make it to the car and haul myself inside, desperately turning the key in the ignition as quickly as possible so I can roll down the windows. I feel blood rushing to my face and the sensation of all my pores opening up like I’ve just steamed them for a skincare treatment. The breeze from driving with the windows open calms my heat borne agitation (the AC is reserved for only the hottest of days, or when it rains).

I get home, and do I get to go inside where it’s cooler? Not yet — I have the task of pulling the rest of the family cars into our long narrow driveway once mine (the last to leave in the morning) is properly situated at in the back of the property. My brother’s car is black, with a black vinyl interior. Even if he remembers to crack the windows and park in the shade, I feel like I am sitting in hell.

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Here’s a weird baby head that was on one of the carousel horses in Dorney Park. This was the second carousel, way in the back of the park, that played hilariously out of tune music. Taken 2010.

Once that’s done, I go inside and eat dinner before going up to my room and cranking on my big boxfan. Last summer I successfully shunned the window air conditioner on the floor of the spare room that has my name on it, as it dries me up inside and out, usually giving me a cold. Hopefully this year I shall remain strong again. I’m usually wearing long pants or a cardigan in the interest of being office appropriate, and I curse them as I peel the sweaty cloth from my body. I flop down on my bed in my undergarments and let the cool air of the fan blow over my sticky skin.

Yes, I hate being cold. But I hate the heat even more. When it’s cold you can put on a sweater or grab another blanket. But when it’s hot, you can remove all of your garments and still be miserable, and I am absolutely not about that life.

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A beautiful view from the fortress of Wulzberg in Germany. Taken in 2012.

A New Job, Sort Of

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I’ve been able to personalize my new work area a little bit more than my old one!

If you’ve been keeping up with this blog for awhile, then you’ll know that for over a year now, since March 2017, I have been desperately wanting a new job. When I asked the universe to help me out with that, I was incredibly specific that I wanted one at another business, but apparently all it had to give me at this point in time was a new position at my current place of employment.

I work at a law firm. I’d been the receptionist for the past four years (my anniversary is the start of May), but two weeks ago I moved up in the ranks and became a proper legal secretary!

How this came to pass is a story full of panic and cautious optimism. About a month ago now, I came into work one morning and was getting settled at my desk when my coworkers A and T rushed over to my desk. This was odd, and I immediately felt a slight sense of alarm.

“We have news!” they said.

“What happened?” I asked warily.

“L gave her notice this morning, she got a new job!”

I was incredibly jealous (Why wasn’t I getting to escape?) but I also felt happy for her — I knew she’d been very unhappy at work for a long time, largely because of one of the attorneys she was assigned to, a woman I’ll call C.

I could go into a looooot of detail about how awful C is, but for the sake of looking at least slightly professional to any future employers who might come across this blog, I’ll keep it to this: she is nice to your face, but is an incredibly demanding extreme perfectionist, to the point of toxicity. When I went to congratulate L on her new job, she confided in me that she’d been having frequent panic attacks because of C, and that C was pretty much the entire reason she was leaving. (Fun Fact: in the past four years the only people that have left our firm have worked with C.)

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A closer look at my figures! Everything except the mermaid and Morgan from P5 had been previously tucked in a corner of my old reception desk that no one could really see.

A legal recruiter I’d met with earlier in the spring had told me that my resume was a little awkward for her to market because I’ve been in a firm for years, have a good admin background, but had no experience with dedicated legal secretary paperwork. L’s vacancy would be a good opportunity for me to get more skills so I could get out. But….C. C was the entire reason that I didn’t immediately run to F and ask for the job.

I’ve been working with C often myself — she’s been frequently giving me different types of work ever since I started with the firm, because she decided early on that I was smart and capable enough to work with her. So I’m extremely familiar with how she is, and I knew that if I worked for her, I’d be shortly having frequent panic attacks myself.

I consulted with my office manager and the other secretaries and they all agreed that there was no way I could take C and F, especially considering I hadn’t been a full-on legal secretary before. But my office manager floated an idea with F and our other boss E: “Krys can’t possibly take on two partners, so why doesn’t she take F and…I don’t know, maybe G?”

G is super nice, and easy to work with. F is also pretty easy to work with, and while he does put out a lot of work, he’s not overly picky about how it gets done the way C is. It’s a long complicated story, but we were able to swap some of the attorneys around between the secretaries so I could have F and G. They’re also in the process of hiring a new attorney, and my assumption is whoever they hire will get assigned to me as well, just to keep all the numbers even between the secretaries.

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The trinkets I keep under my monitor — a tiny lucky cat from a Neko Atsume blind box and a squishy Aggretsuko that a friend recently brought me from Japan.

Being a legal secretary is somehow not that different than some of the work C was having me do, but there’s just a lot more of it. Also, large portions of my day are spent typing F’s long dictations, to the point where sometimes the thoughts in my head are in his voice, lol. I find myself feeling more tired at the end of the day than I did when I was receptionist, probably because there were more lulls at the front desk than I get now. But I feel more satisfied about work, and the day goes by faster because I’m more occupied.

Plus, C has largely gotten off my back, which my office manager predicted! She was still giving me a lot of work for the first few days (which caused me a fair bit of anxiety because I just wanted to be rid of her so badly and it hit me that it will never happen as long as I work here!). But I’ve made it clear with my actions that she’s less of a priority to me now (aka, I’m taking longer to do her stuff because I’m doing work that F and G asked for first). Supposedly I’ll be getting a raise as well, but I still need to talk money with F. I’m honestly not expecting to get the figure I have in mind because they don’t really pay any of us what we’re really worth, but any money is good money.

So I guess I’ll be staying at this office for another eight to twelve months before I start looking for a new job again, just to be sure I have the skills firmly under my belt. I didn’t mean to wind up in the legal field now, but since I’ve wound up here, I’m going to start making the most of it. My career future feels brighter than it has in a long time!

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(My final piece of cubicle decor are these two prints! The Journey one up top is by Etherelle — I bought it at Anime Boston and had it up on my whiteboard at home before bringing it to my new desk. You can buy a larger version of it here — they don’t seem to sell the postcard size on their site. The lower one is the Pokemon Swablu and Altaria,  done by Cryptovolans. You can buy it here.)

 

Getting AdSense Money?

Once upon a time, oh so long ago, I used to be very into making YouTube videos. I started in 2009 and uploaded at least once a month or so up until this past September. (I’m not saying I’ll never make a video again, but this blog has kind of replaced my channel.) I’ve had my YouTube account since the year the site opened, and by the time I actually began creating my own videos advertisements were becoming more prevalent on the site, but you had to be specially invited into the Partner program in order to collect any of that revenue yourself. I had quickly realized that probably I wasn’t going to have massive YouTube fame ever, so I wasn’t too fussed by being cut off from this program.

But then around 2012 I spotted a notice that had popped up in the video manager area of the site — my good conduct had earned me the right to hook my account up to the big monetization machine. I waffled a little bit before deciding to take the plunge and sign on. Why not? Who knew what would happen? It took me a year and a half to reach the payment threshold of $100. It was a nice accomplishment, but, again, I didn’t tie the worth of my work to the numbers it brought it. What mattered to me what that I was enjoying myself and maybe getting to connect to a few people, which I did get to do in greater numbers than ever before the following year! (#TeamCake!)

And then, in the spring of 2014, as I slowly drew close to the payment threshold for only the second time, I received an alarming message. My AdSense had been disabled for “invalid click activity.” I could file an appeal to try to save myself, but I only got the one appeal and if it was denied then that was that — banned from using AdSense for life. I had one video that was about hairstyling My Little Pony toys that had gotten many times more views than any other of my videos, and I assumed that this was the problem. I included any information in my appeal that I thought would help me, but ultimately I was rejected. And so I did what any good YouTuber would do and made an angry rant video.

I’m actually quite fond of this video. It really makes me laugh, even four years later! And I think I bring up some valid points about the whole process. For instance, they never even fully specified, in any detail, what I was supposed to have done to make the “invalid click activity” happen. (My research at the time told me there’s a whole variety of things that fall under this umbrella, from clicking your own ads, to using robots to do it for you en masse.) Google claimed the opaqueness is because they don’t want people to know how they figure out when misbehavior is happening. I thought (and think) that it’s so people have a harder time defending themselves so they can share money with fewer people.

(And, to go on a tangent, honestly that whole “we’re demonetizing all the small creators” thing they pulled this winter only serves to back up this opinion of mine, although I also feel that situation is related to their consistent lack of punishment when it comes to the massive fuckups that some of the massive personalities have made in the past couple of years. If they’d just properly discipline the PDPs and LgPls of the site, maybe advertisers wouldn’t be running away and Google wouldn’t have to steal from the poor to feed the rich. Taking away a person’s YouTube Red program, but still letting them have ads is NOT A REAL PENALTY. Anyway, tangent done.)

But if they were more specific perhaps I could have put together a stronger appeal because I was totally innocent. (Additional fun fact: as soon as you receive the, “You’re getting demonetized, try to appeal,” email, you’re locked out of the AdSense website, which might also hold helpful information for your appeal.) I am a huge square who is constantly worried about whether I’m behaving in all aspects of my life. I did nothing at all to deserve a permanent ban from what is probably the biggest advertising service on the internet. My numbers were the same consistently low numbers that they had always been. I don’t know how I got caught in the “invalid click activity” net, but I did, and I’m still slightly bitter about it.

If you actually take the time to watch the video I’ve included here, you might notice that I throw out the idea, “Hmm, isn’t it a little bit suspicious that they’ve disabled my AdSense shortly before they’re going to have to pay me?” And apparently I’m not the only person that’s ever thought that. I was recently cleaning up my various email inboxes, including checking the spam folders to make sure nothing important had wound up there by mistake. And in the spam box of the email for my YouTube account was an email telling me about a class action settlement, that I might be able to collect a little bit of money from!

The lawsuit is captioned Free Range Content, Inc. v. Google LLC. and to pull a quote from the settlement agreement, the most basic description of the complaint is: “Plaintiffs alleged that Google terminated AdSense publishers from the AdSense program and improperly withheld unpaid amounts in those publishers’ AdSense account.” They also alleged that Google would do these terminations shortly before money was due to be paid. At some point during the proceedings, the lawsuit became a class action situation, which is how I received a message about potentially receiving a piece of the $11,000,000 of settlement money. (The terms of the settlement still have to be approved by the court, as per this FAQ.)

I naturally did some research, because it sounded kind of fake. But after coming across several different articles corroborating the information, I submitted a Confirmation of Claim form to try and get my piece of the pie. I’m not certain that I’ll get all $90ish that was in my AdSense at the time Google disabled me, as there are going to be different payment groups that will receive different percentages of their balance depending on several factors. Since I work at a law firm, I’d like to point out settlement obviously does not mean Google is admitting fault. In fact, the settlement agreement I linked above specifically states that Google has denied wrongdoing.

But it’s still a good feeling for me that a lawsuit and settlement has happened at all! Even if I don’t get any money, I feel vindicated knowing that, yes, perhaps Google misbehaved in regards to me and others, and they are now going to pay up because of it.

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!

 

Romeo, oh, Romeo!

This is Romeo.

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He is my aunt’s cat. She adopted him over five years ago from a local shelter. (I’m not sure exactly how many, since I was still in college while she did it.) He chose her before she chose him. She’d been to the shelter a few times to check out the cats, and finally came the day when she was going to make her final decision. When she set down her cat carrier on the floor, Romeo ran right inside, and that’s how she knew it was meant to be.

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He is a big boy, weighing in at around 20 pounds. He’s a little tubby, but even if he wasn’t he would still be a large cat. Not sure if this picture shows his proper scale, but I just want you to know this lad is an absolute unit. That vest was actually made for a small dog.

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Romeo is not really a lap cat, the above picture is the closest he’s ever gotten to sitting in my lap. This is not to say that he’s not affectionate. He is a very sweet, loving boy, and a very sociable cat. Sometimes all you have to do to set him off purring loudly is walk into the same room as him and say something in a friendly voice. He loves to be scratched, and to be brushed (which is good, because he’s a very shed-y cat). But what he loves more than anything is food! He gets food twice a day, and treats once, and as my aunt puts it, “he knows how to tell time.” He gets his snack at 8PM, and when the time comes, he’ll walk into whichever room you’re in and just look at you until you get up and give it to him.

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He and I have gotten properly acquainted in the past couple of years because my aunt has started to travel more. The first time I housesat/babysat Romeo was when my aunt and younger brother went to Germany for the 900th anniversary of the village where she grew up. Why was I not invited? I will never know (I do have some guesses), but living alone in my aunt’s apartment for the week and a half they were gone was a nice consolation prize, and a tantalizing taste of what my proper dream adult could be like. I’ve also stayed with Romeo on a few other occasions since then, when my aunt has gone on trips with a seniors group in the area.

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I’m always very glad to babysit him and spend time with him. It makes me feel like I have my own cat again, and I’m sure he loves the company since my aunt is half-retired and he’s probably used to having her around a lot. He makes me laugh a lot, like when he hangs out in the doorway of whatever room I’m in at 9 or 10PM because he thinks it’s bedtime, or like the most recent time I babysat him, when I walked out of the kitchen while I was making dinner to find him sitting on the sofa somewhat like a person. It was so funny, I just had to snap the picture above.

So you’ve caught me, this whole blog post was just an excuse to post some highly excellent cat pictures. I hope that you’ve enjoyed it even if you’re a dog person instead!

–Krys

 

 

27

Somehow it never really feels like the year has actually started until my birthday comes around at the end of January. And I mean the very end – I was born 1/31/1991, which sort of rolls off the tongue in a fun way. Just for kicks, here’s my birth announcement — I randomly found it in my house years ago and took it for myself, lol.

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I’m still feeling residual anxiety and hopelessness from 2017, but I’ve already talked at length about that so I won’t rehash it. You can, however, read about it here, if you’re feeling so inclined.

So after putting aside the notion of writing more about how shitty 26 was, I was trying to think of a direction for talking about starting 27. And then somehow my brain looked back 10 years to Krys-at-17. What was she up to? How does her life compare to mine now?

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Age 17. Driving a Duck on my first ever visit to Boston (an overnight trip with the school band).

The answer is, as much as I didn’t hate high school, I definitely wouldn’t want to relive my junior year. For instance, Junior Krys had a boyfriend who didn’t respect her boundaries and neither the voice to convince him to stop nor the confidence to just leave him. She spent a lot of time worrying about getting top grades in her full slate of high level classes, while her mother told her, “as long as you pass it doesn’t matter.” Driving gave her extreme anxiety so she didn’t get her license when she turned 17 and as a result didn’t have much of a social life outside of school.

When I think back to that school year I don’t remember being a constantly unhappy little cloud moping about (for instance, I did get to go on the cool overnight school trip pictured above), but I do vaguely remember writing on my Xanga blog about taking a mental health day. How many 17 year olds in 2008 even knew what a mental health day was?

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Actual picture taken with my webcam on my 22nd birthday. Was trying to show my whole outfit without cutting off my head, and somehow thought this pose was okay, lol.

And then I thought back just five years, to Krys-at-22. It was the start of 2013. She’d graduated from college just before Christmas, was beginning her search for her first adult job, and was nervous, but cautiously optimistic about what life would be like going forward.

2013 turned out to be one of the worst years of my entire fucking life. I was plagued by multiple forms of rejection, plunged into a very deep depression, and spent most of the year unemployed. It was only in September when I got part time work helping kids not so different from Krys-at-17 prepare for the SATs that I started to feel alright again. So, no, I would not want to go back five years’ time either.

So while, yes, I’m not starting out 27 with things in my life exactly the way I’d like them to be, I’m glad for the life experience I’ve gained. I’ve managed to survive all of the garbage of my life so far (including things I haven’t covered in blog form yet, obviously), and while I’m probably not the absolute strongest person I know, I’m not a weakling anymore either.

If someone isn’t treating me well and I’m in a position to get them out of my life (ie: not at my job), I do it (although usually silently, because I’m still usually not strong enough to tell people off). I’ve been shown multiple times that a lot of times I can get by in life with minimum effort, and that I don’t have to worry about being perfect so much. When rejection of any kind happens (by jobs, men, etc.) it’s because it wasn’t meant to be in the first place (although that doesn’t mean it doesn’t always sting a little). Driving is one of my absolute favorite things.

And if life is disappointing me now, that just means I’ve got better things ahead, right? (Hopefully?) (Soon?) (Please?)

Anyway, wherever you are, Reader, I hope you’re having the best week you can! Hang in there. ❤

–Krys

New Year, Same Old Shit

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Bringing in 2018 with a K-pop mug of champagne (not 100% filled, of course).

It was August when I decided that 2017 was a total wash, garbage, take it back to the store and try to persuade them to let me exchange it for a better year even though I’ve already used more than half of it because this one is clearly broken. The nail in the coffin was a boy, let’s call him K. We’d gone out maybe five or six times over the course of a month, and now, on the day he was supposed to come over to my house for the first time, he’d asked me to call him on the phone when I got home from work. I dialed him as soon as I parked in the driveway and when K picked up, he delivered the news that I really shouldn’t have been surprised to hear simply based on the patterns of my entire life. You know, the type that starts, “You’re a great girl, but…,” and ends with me saying, “uh-huh, okay, yeah, sure, thank you,” in an effort to get him to stop spouting polite bullshit so I can calmly hang up before I burst into tears.

I sobbed in my car for a few minutes, giving myself some time to feel feelings, because I knew that momentarily I’d have to go into the house and explain the situation to my mother, and I wanted to be composed when I did so. (We weren’t planning on a full “meet the parents” moment, but since I live in my mother’s house, I feel it’s only polite to tell her when I’m having guests over.)

I wasn’t crying because I felt so attached to K in particular. In fact, I’d actually started out sort of on the fence, but he was growing on me, and I’d started to feel that maybe the run of bad luck I’d been having since the spring was coming to an end. But no, yet another thing had fallen apart on me. Hooray.

I was crying because of the feeling that filled me to the brim: “Haven’t I already suffered enough this year?”

I know that the issues I’m about to describe will come across as kind of stupid and whiny and very “white privilege, first world problems” when compared to people that are actually suffering real hardship. I know I’m very fortunate to have a roof over my head, a job, enough food to eat, and family and friends that I can rely on for love and support. I am so, so grateful. But, fuck, 2017 was a real humdinger for me. I didn’t really accomplish anything beyond mere survival. The only good, new thing that I brought from 2016 to 2017 and actually got to leave the year with was my car.

Spring 2017 especially sucked. Let me list the ways:

  • We had to put our dog down.
  • I was in the same room as my biological mother for the first time in 20 years, at the funeral of the great-grandmother I barely knew, that I only attended because I love my grandma. I didn’t have to talk to bio-mother, but the whole situation was still pretty upsetting and anxiety inducing. (Surprise! I’m adopted! Haven’t really talked about it on the internet before. I’ll tell the story another time. I finally told this story in this post.)
  • At the beginning of April, after being wonderful in numerous ways including being an excellent support/distraction during the above listed bullshit, my boyfriend suddenly broke up with me after four months. I had never been so emotionally or physically honest and open with anyone I’d dated, and he’d also treated me better than anyone I’d gone out with. I was very blindsided, and did not take it well. At all.

There’s an embarrassing pattern in my life of me falling almost completely to pieces in most aspects of my life after my romantic relationships dissolve. My theory is that the boys make me feel so nice that I forget how shitty I feel about other parts of my life. When they’re gone I wind up standing with the shattered glass of my heart scattered all around my feet, waiting to cut me open while I look over what’s left going, “Fuck, right, this is what my life really is. I’d completely forgotten.” And then while I’m distracted by that revelation Depression digs her barbed hooks into me.

Anyway, dramatics aside, boyfriend ditched me at the beginning of April. My job became immensely less tolerable without anything to look forward to in the off hours (besides seeing my friends, who are great, but not the same as a boyfriend). I was already job searching then, because in March I’d been asked (read: told) not to make any plans to go away in August as our calendar coordinator was taking a three week vacation out of the country and they needed me to cover for her. Doing the scheduling is easily my least favorite thing I’ve ever been asked to do at my job; coordinating 12 lawyers is stressful and anxiety inducing because if you fuck up the calendar it can have repercussions for an entire case. So even though I had very little going for me, I did at least have a goal: “Get a new job by August.”

I sent out resumes and applications for all kinds of secretarial work in my area (minus NYC, because they might have a lot of jobs, but I’m not crazy about the city or that fucking commute). By this point, you can probably guess what happened between March and August. Nada. Not even one. single. interview. Or phone call. Great.

So, now we’ve come back to August, where I started this whole rigmarole. When K told me over the phone that he didn’t want to date anymore I was already a week into covering the calendar. I was a wreck; I’d been sneaking off to the bathroom at least once a day to cry out my stress. I can’t think of a time I’ve been more unhappy at work. I felt like an extreme failure for having five months to secure a new job to save me from this mess, but not being able to do it. And then I had received this other sort of rejection, the declaration that I was a great girl, but K didn’t feel that I would be long term relationship material for him. As I mentioned way back at the beginning of this post, I wasn’t too attached to K yet, but he was fun to be around, and that was what I needed at that point.

I collected myself, and went inside, but broke down again when I told my mom what had happened, making sure to explain that K was really only a minor thing in a string of disappointments. Through my tears I declared, “2017 is a cursed year.” Mom ordered us Chinese food, splurging on fried cheese wontons because I was very sad. By the time the food arrived, I already mostly didn’t feel sad about K anymore, but I was still very fucking done with 2017.

2017 did have a few more disappointments and frustrations in store for me (for instance, I hurt my back doing filing in October and haven’t been right since). But mostly, the rest of the year has just been very stagnant. Which is its own blessing in a way, but is also a fucking exhausting drag.

I’m trying to be hopeful about 2018, but it’s so hard, guys. I’m struggling to be optimistic when my day to day existence is still the same as it was before the clock struck midnight and I flipped my calendar over to January. And I know it’s on me to make changes, but my most desired changes require outside forces to cooperate with me as well, and since they haven’t yet, I’m stuck.

I turn 27 at the end of the month, and I just feel like my future is a grey void, that I’ll never have the things I want (which are, all things considered, very simple, and yet no matter how I try, the universe refuses to let me have them). I want 27 to be better than 26 so badly. But I’m terrified it’ll just be more of the same and I don’t know if I can stand that.

–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.