Chicago Missive No. 1

Dear Sir,

 

You and I were thrust into a terrifying free fall of awkwardness from which there was no escape. Really, it was neither of our faults, and though we must forever live with the consequences of the mortifying moments we shared, we have to find a way to forgive each other, forgive ourselves and move on.

 

I must admit, for me it is rather difficult to inhabit a bedroom whose window affords me a very minimal amount of natural light. As a result, I keep my window blinds up all the time in the hope of drawing in what little sunshine I can. As you know, both of our windows are facing the cramped crack of space between our two buildings. Even more confounding is the fact that this space is completely closed off. Really, we are looking out upon little more than a struggling patch of grass, sprinkled with trash and brick shards, encircled by towers of brick. For me it is rather depressing, but I’m sure that it is of less consequence to you since the room you are peering out of is not a bedroom, but a bathroom.

 

When I arrived home a few Friday evenings ago, I was in rather high spirits and was looking forward to a quiet evening of reading. As I eagerly retired to my chamber, I began removing my shirt and bra before my feet had even fully crossed over the threshold. Feeling completely assured in my solitary state, I gave not even a sideways glance towards my window as I changed into my nightclothes and turned my mind towards what snacks would be appropriate for the evening.

 

As I turned towards the spot where terrible, terrible chance would bring our gazes together, I could only think of my relief and comfort. At the moment that our eyes met, everything else in the world fell away, and we were imprisoned together in a horrifying staring contest.

 

I had, of course, previously noted, that my bedroom window was pointed towards your bathroom window. I had heard strains of notes from the radio floating out of your window. I had even seen the silhouettes of people moving about behind the frosted glass. Never before had any kind of contact been breached, though. How unfortunate that the first contact should be so abrupt and catch us both in states of indisposition.

 

I fear that I had grown too complacent. So often I observed your window fully closed with the frosted glass preventing each of us from viewing the intimate moments of the other, I made the frightfully false assumption that this would always be the case. Oh, how very wrong I was. Understandably, apartments become stuffy in the summertime. Understandably, people crack windows, even the frosted windows in their bathrooms. Oh, if only we had known the chaos that would be wrought by this seemingly insignificant crack.

 

It seems, sir, that fate conspired against us. We were drawn into the moment when our lines of sight collided as unassuming insects are drawn into the webs of spiders. As we remained frozen, concurrently disbelieving that another had intruded upon a space that is supposed to be both confidential and secure, and desperately groping for a means of escape, it occurred to me that I was in a bit better of a position than you. My poor fellow, both the angle from which I looked upon you and the posture that I noticed you in leave me convinced that I interrupted you in the process of evacuating your bowels. What has taken place cannot be undone, so I can only offer up my deepest and sincerest apologies for the violation of your privacy at a moment which, for a grown individual, should never be interrupted by the company of another. I assure you, I never would have knowingly perpetrated such a violation.

 

We can only be thankful that, after the passing of several seconds, I recovered enough to remove myself from your vision and pull down my blinds. You looked like you were in no position to rise from your seat. Also, if your stony and afflicted countenance can be any indication, you were in quite a state of shock yourself.

 

Please, please, please believe me when I say that I hope this never, ever, ever, ever, ever happens again. I can only pray that the old adage is true; such cruel and humiliating lightning surely cannot strike us twice. On my end, I have taken steps to prevent further incident by affixing a layer of plastic sheeting to the upper pane of my window glass, rendering it impossible to see through.

 

It goes without saying that you will need time to heal from this most grievous calamity. If you have any fear in your heart for my wellbeing, I am glad to inform you that I once again feel secure disrobing in my room. The measures I have taken make me feel easy in my mind that I will not be providing any more accidental strip teases.

 

Sir, it is my heartfelt wish that you go forth in grace and peace. The tides of life sometimes bring hardships to our shores, but we must find a way to move forward. Though we remain strangers, I cannot help but feel a kinship with you. Truly, we have overcome together. Do not let yourself be too dismayed by this sad and awkward occurrence. Live on, as I do. Live on, and please do try to move your bowels without fear.

With the Utmost Sincerity,

Wednesday Quansah    

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Belonging.

Sorry friends, there’s not really a blog post this weekend.

My mom, my brother and I traveled together to our family reunion in the suburbs of St. Louis.

I’m there – here – right now, not belonging.

Belonging. What the fuck does that even mean?

Are you supposed to feel a sense of belonging with your family? Being with my family seems to starkly point out how much I don’t belong.

Do I sound like a whiny, emo teenager yet?

I’ve felt belonging before in my life. It’s a powerful high. It’s a powerful motivator. It can keep cynicism at bay and make you believe in higher meaning. It can give you peace and fulfillment amid the tedium and drain of life.

How do people build belonging? How do we erode it?

I looked into the face of my mother this week, and I understood that even though she loves me deeply she really does not know me. One must be known to belong.

Now that I’m an adult, very few people get to know me. I won’t let them, even the ones I love. The people in this hotel with me, many of whom love me, certainly don’t know me. I don’t know them, even the ones I love.

Belonging is elusive and hard to manufacture. It just seems to strike like an affirming bolt of lightning.

I miss belonging. My life feels empty without it.

How to Comport Oneself in the Event of Rejection

I always feel bad when I reject guys. I worry that I’m hurting their feelings or committing some sort of Cardinal sin that only applies to women. Men give attention to women, women respond with affection and sex and sandwiches and stuff; that’s the way of the world.

 

I was taught this growing up. No one explicitly said, “Hey, every time a man asks for your number you must offer him your hand in marriage and bear his children,” but it was implied. The conservative evangelical tradition that I was raised in taught women to look at themselves like pieces of fruit on a tree, hanging and ripening while men strolled by, trying to choose the purest and sweetest specimens. The most eligible, most holy dudes were, like, climbing to the top of the tree trying to get the best apples and pears. I was definitely low-hanging fruit.

 

As a lady/piece-of-fruit, you really don’t do much. You just sit there and wait to see who picks you. Unlike an actual apple, you don’t have to let whoever picks you up just chomp right in. You can tell them, “Hey, I’m not really into you,” or, “Hey, you’re not holy enough.” But, the people around you question why the match didn’t work out. You’re a man and a woman, and you’re both members of the same church and/or youth group? Why aren’t you binding yourselves together in matrimony and procreating!? In conservative Christian circles (or I guess the conservative circles of any religion) this problem is particularly pronounced, because your dating pool is restricted to the Christians in your immediate vicinity, and you don’t count as a Christian if you just go to church with your grandma on Christmas and Easter.

 

So, my role in the world was to wait until I received attention and then decide whether I would reciprocate or not. That was hard, because I had no control over who would give me attention. While I hung on my tree, I spied men who were handsome, men who were funny, men who were talented, and men who were desirable, but none of them spied me. They were gravitating towards women who were: pretty, fashionable, well-adjusted, and confident. I was, and still am; unattractive, plain, morose, desperate.

 

The best suitors passed by me like I wasn’t even there. Misfits attract misfits, and I attracted men who were interested in a quick fuck, dudes whose level of physical attractiveness matched my own, and guys who were just as mentally unstable as me. The problem is that I’m holding out for a dude who is more attractive and more sane than I am. I know, I’m a dreamer who will probably be alone forever.

 

Aggravating my craziness and unattractiveness is the fact that I also don’t try very hard at meeting potential romantic/sexual partners. I try hard at: getting good grades in school, nurturing and educating children, reading books, writing essays, getting to therapy on time, not overdrawing my bank account, showering regularly. I don’t try hard at: cooking, responding to voicemails in a timely manner, answering emails in a timely manner, applying to grad school, practicing piano, learning guitar, actually attending exercise classes that I have enrolled in and paid for. I want to slam dunk all of these things, but because I suck, I run out of energy halfway through the list.

 

So, I have to put the most urgent things at the front of the list and pray that I accomplish enough stuff before my brain and body shut down for the day, and I collapse into bed and numbly plumb YouTube for some easy to process comfort and entertainment as I nibble on sea salt pita chips. I’m constantly berating myself to be more awesome and achieve all the things all the time, but, for now, I remain a suboptimal loser.

 

I try not to complain about my lack of a love life, because I’d be a jerk if I just expected satisfying relationships to fall into my lap with little to no effort. Even sane, beautiful, white people with full-time jobs and great salaries find it difficult to navigate the dating pool, or so I hear. So I just keep my mouth shut, my desires buried, and my head down. I find some soft-core porn and erotic reading, toss it into the yawning hole inside me, and keep right on rollin’.

 

Problems arise when this pitiful routine is interrupted by some dude trying to bark up my tree. The mantra of the ugly awkward girl has been drilled into my head: beggars can’t be choosers. So my first instinct is always to reciprocate in kind. I don’t want to turn away my potential future soulmate.

 

Maybe that guy calling me “shawty” in Aldi is really kind and loyal underneath his douchey exterior. Maybe I would have a ton of fun if I would stop resisting and just go on a date with that guy who only pauses talking about himself to complain about something. Maybe if I do it enough times, kissing that guy with the cracked and stained teeth won’t make my stomach squirm.

 

Beggars can’t be choosers, and any man who expresses interest in me is bound to be more rough than diamond.

 

In the past, my self-esteem was so abysmally low that I actually would respond favorably to anyone who displayed even the tiniest amount of interest no matter how unsuitable they seemed.

 

While I was waiting tables in high school, a dude just asked for my number. I eagerly gave it to him, and began wondering if he could be my Prince Charming. Yeah, this complete stranger approached you at your diner job, after 10pm and asked for your number with absolutely no precursor, but yeah, you’re totally on the path to a happily ever after, you dumb bitch.

 

Then when this eligible young bachelor called me, I spent an awkward five minutes on the phone with this dude, hoping that he actually wanted to know about my personality, believing that the inner light of my kindness and purity and shone out to him at 11pm in a Steak ‘n Shake right off the highway. You poor dumb bitch.

 

I once gave my number to some rando who approached me in a Barnes & Noble. He rewarded my hopefulness with some shirtless selfies taken in the mirror of a restroom that I think was public. Thirst traps they were not.

I even went on a date where the guy showed up in sweatpants-the 90s gym class kind. I actually voluntarily accompanied this man to his apartment, was genuinely surprised when I realized that all he wanted was to make out on his futon, and was a little shocked and hurt when he never called me again. You pathetic brain dead bitch. This guy was arguably the most attractive and the biggest asshole I’ve ever graced with the pleasure of my company. I should have seen it coming. The only hot guys who will ask out ugly girls are remorseless bastards who have been rejected by attractive females due to their utter soullessness.

 

Finally, after this parade of utter failures, I realized that I had to have some level of standards. I stopped giving out my phone number to every random guy who asked. I started rebuffing attention that I didn’t want. I felt like I was breaking some sort of rule. I felt like I was doing the wrong thing. Who was I to reject people, especially when I had absolutely nothing going on in the romance department? Didn’t that make me mean? Wasn’t I hurting people’s feelings?

 

The building I live in now has a basement apartment. I live on the first floor and have observed a few tenants come and go. We’re close to a university, so it’s usually med students who need a short lease during a particular rotation. The last guy who lived there was, unlike me, attractive, but, like me, brown. A handsome, brown doctor, who’s right down the stairs? Yes, please!

 

We exchanged initial greetings in the hallway, and it seemed to go well. He had smiled. I had smiled. We had both laughed. I figured I had nothing to lose, so after a couple of days I left a note on his door with my number, inviting him to call or text if he ever wanted to hang out. I got absolutely nothing, radio silence. He rejected me. I only saw him one more time before he moved out, and it was awkward and short. In my mind, he was avoiding me, because he was worried I was obsessed with him.

 

A few months ago, I called a Lyft to take me to a babysitting job. My driver was funny and attractive. We had a pleasant conversation during the ride, and in the ride feedback (which I usually don’t even fill out) I left him my number. Again, radio silence. He didn’t even text to tell me that he’s spoken for already. I just threw my desires and hopes out into space, and they were sucked into a black hole. I got rejected.

 

I’ve been rejected in other situations, too: on dance floors at college frat parties, twice at a grocery store where I used to work. Each time it sucked. Each time it hurt. Each time it told me that I’m undesirable. And, each time I survived. It’s going to happen again, and I will survive again. I will move on, and read some more erotica until I rebuild my self-confidence enough to try again.

 

I expect myself to know that just because I feel and express attraction towards another person, they are not at all obligated to reciprocate my feelings. It is their absolute right to reject me for any reason, and move on with their lives without providing any explanation. So, if I expect myself to obey these rules, why don’t I expect the men who invade my space to obey them? That makes no kind of sense at all.

 

This past Spring I wasn’t working, and I signed myself up for a midday aqua aerobics class. It goes without saying that the instructor and I were the only people in that pool under the age of fifty. I imagine that my appearance in the class was an odd and puzzling breath of fresh air for a man who spends a significant amount of time interacting with obese and elderly bodies in swimwear. I, in comparison, am merely overweight, and my pube-like goatee hairs become much less noticeable when my massive tits are peeking out at you from a bikini top.

 

One day after class, the instructor approached me, and started chatting me up in a way that suggested he wouldn’t mind seeing me without the bikini top. For some reason, though, I just wasn’t feeling it. He wasn’t unattractive, but he wasn’t attractive. He was maybe a bit boring, but it’s hard to judge someone’s personality when the most you hear them say is, “Do another rep!”

 

That old, familiar voice said, “Give him a chance. What have you got to lose? Maybe he’s secretly hilarious!” I just didn’t want to, though, and I’m done convincing myself to do shit that I hate, unless I’m being paid, and sometimes even if I’m being paid. I abruptly ended the conversation and walked off, and that was the end of it. I rejected him. He didn’t try to talk to me after class again, and I was glad. I don’t owe him anything, and he’ll get over it.

 

I was taught that I’m not worth very much, and that I need to accept whatever is tossed my way, because good things aren’t meant for me. Maybe really good things aren’t for me. I don’t have much to show for myself right now. But, even though I’m a loser, I don’t have to be a loser in a shitty relationship with someone I’m not attracted to. I’m doing bad all by myself, and I have the right to keep it that way.

 

You are allowed to say no to things, to reject. Don’t let anyone tell you different. Even if you’re low on the totem pole, you don’t have to take a raw deal. No matter who you are, you’re allowed to set standards, and you’re allowed to want. You’re allowed to say, “This is not what I want, and I would rather go without than accept it.” Even though I’m still ugly, still poor, and still bad at emotions, I’ve discovered this power that I’ve had all along, and, among all of the meh that is life, it feels pretty good.