Me, Too.

They say girls give sex to get love,

and boys give love to get sex.

I always thought that was weird, though,

because most of the boys I know

just skip the love part.

They go right to the fuck part.

And then I wonder, what does that say about me,

that that is my experience with boys?

Wait, no.

I just fell into what society teaches,

what a conservative preaches,

like blood-sucking leeches

taking the souls out of people like me.

Making me think I had anything to do with their actions,

that it was me who caused it,

that’s bullshit, so toss it.

But… wasn’t it?

I was the girl who said yes to a near stranger,

I’m the one who likes a little danger,

the one who said, “Hey, I’ll do you a favor

if you just do me one back and promise to call me later.”

That was me, right?

So maybe it’s my fault that he didn’t hear “no,”

maybe it’s my fault that he didn’t let me go,

maybe it’s my fault…

Shit. I don’t know.

I’m not the one who held me down,

I’m not the one who took me out,

who spiked my drink,

who promised to help when I lost control of myself.

If what he did was help, I’m better off on my own.

Alone.

You are the one who made me feel worthless.

You are the one who did it on purpose.

You are the one…

I ran to when I needed help.

When I was going through hell,

when I just wanted to be held.

And I am the one…

Who said, “Yes, we can fuck.”

Who thought that would be enough.

Except for that one time when I didn’t.

That one time when I said, “Don’t.”

That one time when I trusted you

And you hurt me.

You broke me.

You made me fell like I’d never be worthy

of someone who loved me.

Because everything I was,

everything I thought I was,

was ruined

by you.

Or was that me?

See, because I’m so confused.

It’s not like what you see on the news.

He’s just an ordinary guy.

And I was just an ordinary girl,

before I became another kind of ordinary.

Because “1 in 4” means my story isn’t extraordinary,

It’s normal.

I can’t be the only one who thinks that’s horrible.

It’s normal.

It wasn’t my fault, but I’m not sure it was his. Entirely.

Because when I say “he,” I mean “they,”

more than one, plural.

Different situations,

with certain complications,

rolled into a compilation in my mind.

I wasn’t asking for it.

I said “no,”

And there was fear on my face.

It wasn’t a misunderstanding.

It was a loss of consciousness on his side.

Because he started as Jekyll

And ended up Mr. Hyde.

But “no” still means no. Right?

And that starts with parents meaning it

when you say “no” to your sons.

You can’t let them talk you out of it, because

if your “no” doesn’t really mean no,

how is he supposed to know that mine does?

“No” still means no.

“Don’t” is not an invitation,

“Stop” does not mean I like it.

Sex should not be something that is feared.

His hands on my body should not bring me to tears.

So I’m asking you, right here:

Is it my fault?

Is it his?

Sex should be an agreement, at least for one night,

not a competition to see who is stronger.

It shouldn’t be a fight for dominance.

I didn’t mean for this to be a rant,

but that’s what happens

when you hold it inside,

thinking you can’t tell anyone.

When you realize it shouldn’t be a secret.

The discussion of sex should not be taboo.

It’s been my secret,

but I don’t want to keep it,

and that’s why I’m telling you.

We should not have to stay silent.

And this is what happens when we finally get a chance to speak.

 

It’s not a simple issue.

But it shouldn’t be that complicated.

My “no” sure as hell wasn’t.

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Blood is Thicker

I have a big family. As the last of four siblings, I’m the “baby,” though it’s been a long time since I actually felt like the youngest. We have lots of aunts, u cles, and cousins, a big circle that seems to grow bigger every year. We always get together for Christmas, Labor Day weekend, and – my favorite – Thanksgiving. There’s always too much food and at least one or two card games going. If there’s football on, we’ll watch it, but it’s usually overcome by chatter, jokes, and friendly arguments. I love that atmosphere. And I love my family.

Which is why it took me completely by surprise when I realized I don’t miss them. I knew that things would be different when I left my home country. But I didn’t think I’d go six months without hearing my mom’s voice. I didn’t think I’d find out from Facebook that my brother got engaged. I didn’t think that when my oldest sister came to visit she’d treat me like the owner of a B&B. I didn’t think my friends would feel more like my family than my family does. But they do.

Trapped

​My body is confined within itself. I can hear the music, feel the beat, but my hands stay clasped together, my hips only sway in easy, tiny movements. I’m standing on the dance floor but all I can do is tap my foot, and smile when someone moves to grab my hand and spin me around. I can feel it for a moment in that spin, the freedom waiting on just the other side of the mountain that is my newfound reserve. I want to move. But I can’t.

Women Do Not Cry in Mascara

We know better. There will be no black streaks down our cheeks like the scars on our hearts that are sliced and carefully healed, just to be reopened.

And that is why I do not cry today. Because I’ve already put my makeup on. I spread foundation on my skin like armor, a layer of protection that temporarily makes me more than myself. I dab on eyeshadow, a glittery pink beacon announcing that no one, not even you, can dull my radiance. My lips I ring in deep red, drawing attention to my mouth and the words that it emits, words that should be considered, cared about, held in your mind as carefully as your hands hold your Stratocaster, but they never were. You were too focused on my legs to meet my eyes, too enthralled by my waist to learn my story, too stuck on my lips to hear my soul as it reached out to you.

That is why I do not cry today.

Because anyone who makes a woman cry in mascara is not worth the time it takes to reapply it.

Shigeo

Do you have an iPad?” His voice is a ghost of gravel, softly echoing the strength it used to have. Ebony eyes look at me over the golden-wired rim of thick reading glasses.

“I do,” I nod. “But it’s pretty old, so I don’t use it very often.”

His shaky hands, weary after so many decades, set down his pencil and I’m struck by the meaning of my words. I hope he doesn’t catch the parallel and suddenly my chest tightens.


I don’t mean you
, my heart whispers, urging the words toward 80 years of love and despair seated on the other side of the table.

But he is already turning the next page, the topic forgotten, the meaning lost in translation and left tumbling in the washing drum of my mind.

I. Am. Enough.

It’s something I have to remind myself of every day. It doesn’t matter how many likes I get on Instagram, or if that guy replies to my Snapchat. It doesn’t even matter that my ex called us soulmates, then proposed to another woman.

I’m awesome. I have an uncontrollable impulse to make faces at myself in the mirror. I get angry quickly but can never stay mad for more than two minutes. I can do a back flip and walk on my hands and say hello in seven languages. I’m often too honest for my own good. I feel equally comfortable in a miniskirt or running shorts, but my favorite outfit is jeans and a hoodie. I eat all the time. I’m always worried about the horses in battle scenes and I want to cuddle every dog I see. I can read in Japanese, and I’ve climbed to the top of Mt. Fuji in the middle of the night. I have this ridiculous need to stay friends with my exes, but I have no problem cutting off friends who stop being friendly. I will stand up for the people I love – to a fault – but also won’t hesitate to call them on their shit. I have two college degrees because just switching from one to the other felt like giving up. Sometimes I feel like I’m plain but other times I know that I’m beautiful, in my way and to myself, with no care to the thoughts of others because their opinions don’t matter and I am enough.

And it has taken me way too long to understand that.

Don’t Rock the Boat

I almost died.

That may or may not be true. What qualifies as “almost”?

I could have died. 

Possibly more accurate, but I could have died crossing the hundred-pedestrian crosswalk outside the train station this morning. “Could have” doesn’t quite cover the mind-numbing fear of, “This is it. I’m gonna die.

​My friend from a local university messaged me one day out of the blue: “Wanna go white water rafting with me this weekend?” 

Um. YES.

Being a total newbie, I didn’t realize you needed a trained professional for this kind of thing, so I imagined a couple of our friends in bikinis and swim trunks splashing around on a wild lazy river. Imagine my surprise when we showed up to a shed full of life jackets, helmets, and release forms.

We met early on a Sunday morning at Kisogawa station, where we were met by our guide, who would drive us the rest of the way to Gifu and Nagara River. It hadn’t rained in a while, and the river was a bit shallower than usual, but it was a beautiful day and the water was the absolute perfect temperature. We were one of the last rafting boats to leave the take-off point, and fishermen were already setting up for a day of fishing. This gave us the perfect audience for our first rapid- which also turned out to be the first time we completely flipped the raft. Fortunately, nothing was hurt but pride. There were a few more accidental individual tumbles into the water throughout the day, but we managed to stay upright for most of the rest of the day.

 Our guide taught us to “surf”, where we paddled upstream towards the white water and balanced the raft right on top of the big waves. We also did a bit of cliff-diving, the highest point I’d ever jumped off of. I even learned to kayak (holy arm workout) in one of the long, calm sections of water.

The last rapid, we were told, was the wildest and most dangerous. It was a long, rocky section of where, the place where most accidents happen. And since it was shallower than usual… “Just don’t fall in.” You’d think I’d recognize foreshadowing when I heard it. Our guide told us about a man he’d had to pull out of where he was hanging onto a giant rock, ankle touching knee in an ugly fracture. But that just doesn’t seem real in a story.

Our guide asked me if I wanted to paddle the kayak through the rapid, and because I’m both reckless and dangerously trusting, I said yes. He then suggested that his guide-in-training — not the strongest paddle in the boat — should go with me. I wasn’t as excited about that, as we had yet to kayak together, but the guide told me to hurry and jump in the kayak while it was still close to the raft, and I moved before I’d thought it through.

The raft went first, with the two of us paddling behind. (Really, the guide was paddling and I was sitting behind him with one of those half-paddles those hat actually really sucks for tandem kayaking.) In case you’ve never rafted before, standard procedure is that, when the raft tips up to an uneven tilt, you stay upright by leaning towards the higher side. Turns out, this is not the same in a kayak.

In the very first bump, we were still working on straightening out and hit it at an angle. The kayak tilted, and my guide leaned hard to one side. Trying to be as helpful as possible, I leaned with him. Which was when I realized he wasn’t leaning. He was falling. And the whole kayak was going with him.

We tipped, and I splashed into the rushing water with three separate thoughts screaming for attention in my head. The first was an articulate, HOLY SHIT. The second: Get into safe position, feet up, pointing downstream, please dear god do not skin yourself on the rocks. The third: Get. The fuck. Back in the boat. 

We were near the side of the river, several boulders bordering the water. I considered trying to push off them with my legs, but instead foolishly scrambled for purchase along their slippery sides, water slamming me against them. The kayak came hurtling towards me, shoving me under, the dark bottom shutting all light out of my sight. I was slammed against the rocks underwater, hands reaching for anything to hold onto, my mind both fighting for survival and already accepting that I would never resurface.

When I managed to come up for air, I grabbed onto the kayak, trying to flip it right side up while staying in the feet up position, terrified of everything I couldn’t see in the water beneath me. I was either not strong enough or didn’t have the technique to flip the kayak over myself, and the guide was several meters downstream. I could see more rocks ahead, bordering the river as it turned a sharp left. The guide was pushed into the boat, and I lunged for the biggest rock with all that I had in me, clinging to it like the lifesaver that it was. (Or seemed to be. At that point, I was out of the rapids, but my survival-mode brain didn’t allow me to let go of that rock for at least a full minute.)

The main guide had managed to grab the kayak and flip it over, and in the mostly-calm post-rapid water, he paddled over to me, face a mixture of terror and the mask of calm he was trying to show me.

He reached out to me with a hand, but I was hesitant to let go of my new best friend. “Are you okay?” He asked.

Good question.