Julie Mannell is guest editing The Town Crier this month
As we near the end of Julie’s month at The Town Crier, she brings us the second instalment of Small Town Asshole (read the first one here)—a no-holds-barred account of her hometown, an on and off romance, and her tumultuous relationship with her inner self. More of Julie’s work can be found on her website or on Twitter.
Since moving to Toronto my life has been tumultuous—as if it wasn’t before. I keep having repeated dreams about this human girl in which I pull her hair and spit in her mouth. The dreams have made me wake up over and over again for months. They have infiltrated my performance in grad school, and my writing progress has halted. I am always angry. I am so angry because I cannot sleep and I cannot sleep because I am so angry that I am having repeated dreams about pulling a lady’s hair and spitting in her mouth. This is not the first lady I’ve had these reoccurring dreams about. This is entirely not the first woman I’ve had these dreams about. This is not the first time I’ve felt hateful towards another woman.
There is a normal human girl sitting on the couch in my living room in Toronto. I say “human” because I have been thinking about her as an idea for so long. I fell in love with a boy who had made a terrible habit—consciously or unconsciously—of overlafpping love affairs with women. The fact that he was with another woman at the time he said he wanted to marry me, make me his girlfriend, that he hadn’t told his mother for years that he loved her but that he was for sure in love with me, that he just needed a hot minute to end things with the previous girl—these things should have been bright red lights. They should have been signs not to swallow his statements as earnest confessions. I got caught up in love, as one does. Then one day, this human girl walked home with him instead of me and I stood on the street with the distinct feeling that comes from tripping over a hidden bump in the ground. My reaction was vitriolic and fiercely verbal: “What are you doing? You’re being mean.”
He turned around, a little confused. “What?”
“I know you are going home together. I get that now. But I’m a human person and you’re clearly suddenly going home with her. Do you have to run ahead of me? Do you have to do that? Don’t you see that all of this is cruel?”
He responded with the daftness of a clueless child: “If you want we could take another street so that you don’t have to watch us.”
I realized he didn’t get that the issue wasn’t that he is going home with another woman in front of me, but the larger issue was that he was going home with another woman, and I thought we were together. I thought he was my fiancé. I told all of my friends that I had a boyfriend and I thought we were engaged. She knew we were together. She was at Christie Pits swimming naked with us during the time when we said “I love you” to each other. She’d been to our shows and seen us holding hands. Her roommate was dating his roommate. Her roommate had been my first female friend in the city and I’d confessed to her roommate the concerns I had about the relationship. How could she do this to me?
It was at that moment that she became less of a person and more of an idea. I saw my relationship with this man as a boat and he had gone into the water. The whole time, in my imagining of what had happened, she was a shark under the water waiting for him. She bit his foot and dragged him down and away from me. Perhaps she is a shark and this is her predatory methodology for seducing men. Maybe she has a taste for people of weak moral character and fucked up childhoods; men who maybe get too drunk and make bad decisions; men who—it could be argued—use sex as a form of self-harm and so they intentionally create impossible messes of each relationship to ensure that others will hurt him and hate him and valourize his own deep hatred of himself.
Maybe it is also a possibility that she wasn’t a shark—she was just a girl who liked him and he was just a boy who unexpectedly fell in love with her and the reasons for their love were just as complicated as my reasons for loving him at the possible expense of another far away woman whom I’d never met. Was I being self-righteous in thinking of her as a shark? Maybe it was easier to think of her as an idea of evilness—animal and a-moral—than it was for me to come to terms with the very unnerving fact that he had simply chosen her over me. I had been so careless and vulnerable and needy that I’d fallen in love very quickly—recklessly, even—and then I’d inadvertently put him in the position, her and I in contrast, where he was able to choose between women. He chose another woman.
Now, on the street as he stands there with her, I am confronting all of my own deep insecurities about my loveableness, my beauty, my sexuality, my intelligence—I feel insecure and valueless. I think of myself as a disposable napkin men cum on and then toss away before moving on to the next porno. I feel like a garbage bag that men circle-jerk inside of. I think of myself as an object, a boat he rode and then swam away from. Maybe all of these possibilities are true and also others. Perhaps she had thought of me. I’d recommended people and places to help with her writing career. She’d confessed the fangirl-crush she’d had on me after reading me online. I’d felt flattered and wanted to help her. I recommended editors and magazines and where I thought she should go. Was sleeping with him her way of possessing me? Was that very arrogant to assume?
On the street, her body language reveals she is internally very uncomfortable with her lover being called out. Her mouth is agape. I know this look because I have a secret temper that boils out in cruel words. My insecurity makes me an asshole. She isn’t a human being, she doesn’t have a family, her friends aren’t real, her body is illusory. She is just an idea, she is only an action that hurt me, an action that through time and space and movement calls to attention all of the women men have left me for. Being honest, holding my asshole-insides accountable, I think on a very selfish level I don’t want anyone I’ve ever dated to date anyone else because I’m so fiercely insecure about myself that I can’t handle that other women exist and are loveable to men I love because I feel, in this very capitalistic way, that love can’t be shared. Their being loved takes away from my being loved. I objectify myself. I put myself in the category of forgotten toys in the back of a cupboard. Men make me feel this way but I also let myself feel this way and it becomes a brutal pattern of me solving men through other men who, in the instance of inebriated new infatuation, have the transformative affect of rediscovering me as a toy worth playing with.
I look at her and face a paradox similar to the paradox that I faced in grade school: either I accept that I am worse than her or I reclaim my good parts. I can only reclaim my goodness by humiliating her through a meditated verbal thrashing that would make a coma-patient self-question.
“Do you think you’re pretty right now?” I ask her, and she stands quiet, anxiously fumbling her hands. I am such an insecure asshole that I take pleasure in her shaky gestures. I stare her straight in the eye and speak with a snaky tone of put-on shameless self-assuredness, “I sure hope you think that you feel sooooooo fucking pretty, soooooo undeniably cool, because right now you are doing something very ugly to me, and I’m a real person, and I hope you know that this makes you ugly even if right now it makes you feel beautiful.”
They quietly skulk down the street together, not holding hands. In the nightmare of my imagination they are not just going to go fuck each other in the room where he said he loved me and he said he loved me and he said he loved me again. They are going to sit around naked in their sexy bodies, sexily digging each others’ sexiness, and they will be laughing at what a loser I am. They will be laughing and feeling so into each other because my pain somehow puts their love on a pedestal situated atop a heap of my own worthlessness. I am also an asshole because I am very good at imagining the worst in people. I am also an asshole because I am remarkably adept at making everything about me.
I stand quiet on the street and look at my shoes. I feel proud of myself for being an asshole. I hurt someone who hurt me and it makes me feel good. I look at my shoes and appreciate how cool I feel.
My little city-girl shoes transmogrify into little rural skater-girl DC kicks. Maybe my body is a time machine because now I’ve metamorphosed into a 12 year-old version of myself standing at recess. I have a friend and her name, for the sake of this essay, is “Kimmy Gibbler.” So Kimmy is like Anne of Green Gables’ Diana, and oh had I yearned for a Diana: kindred spirit, bosom buddy, etc. So that’s Kimmy and she’s new to town. I’d tried in my hometown to befriend every girl new to town until they’d caught on that I was a loser and not the sort they wanted to be friends with. Kimmy was different, though. Kimmy was Wiccan and unafraid of hell. I’d never met anyone so fiercely inviting of hell as Kimmy. It almost made me want to say “Fuck it” to the whole of Catholicism and just go to hell with her. Oh man, I loved Kimmy so much. She was so much fun, she played so many fun jokes, I would’ve gone to hell just to chill with her. However, remarkably, it turns out elementary school in Fonthill is hell and we were already there and so she wanted to chill in hell with me for real.
So I’m out for recess and Kimmy pushes me in the snow and runs away. I think she’s playing a game. She also thinks that she is playing a game, still being kind of new and not understanding how the dynamic works between me and other people at our school. She runs towards a group of boys. They throw snowballs at me. They tell me that I am ugly. They tell me that I am stupid. They tell me to go kill myself. It is nearly every boy in my grade. I look in her face and her little face says, “I am so sorry. I really didn’t mean for this! Not this!” And then I realize that it isn’t simply an overcome and prosper situation. This is an event and I am the spectacle.
Julie’s first birthday, with her cousin
If you need to know, I faked sick so that I could go home. What I did was I looked at the Tylenol bottle. The bottle said, “Don’t take more than twelve per day!” So I took 16 Tylenol and a single big gulp of wine after writing a suicide note stating that I was going to find my father. I wasn’t going to find my father. The embarrassment of the event was enough. Feeling embarrassed is a very powerful feeling; so powerful I wanted to hide in a six-foot hole and live with the worms. I put on a white dress and lay down on what had been my father’s side of the bed and a neighbour renovating our house found my suicide note. I hadn’t even taken enough drugs to fall asleep before my mom drove me to the hospital in tears. The hospital admitted me to the childrens’ ward and I shared a room with a redheaded boy who kept claiming to be waiting to hear himself on the radio. My mom gave me a stuffed dog that looked like my actual dog. She said that Kimmy had been calling after me.
I wasn’t necessarily mad at Kimmy. I was probably mad at everyone but Kimmy. She didn’t know and she didn’t understand the capacity for cruelty that others possessed. She vowed to be my friend no matter what. She apologized without explanation. It was a changing experience for both of us.
It is Valentine’s Day 2015 and I’m attending a party in Montreal at, for the sake of this essay, Blossom’s apartment. Blossom’s girlfriend asks me if I ever tried to kill myself. I guess I give off a vibe of intense mental instability. “Yes,” I answer honestly. She kisses me and I make out with Blossom’s girlfriend, in Blossom’s house, on a fur rug while I’m wearing heart shaped glasses. I dig it until I realize I’ve fucked up royally. I’m being hurtful because it makes me feel good to be hurtful. I’m getting my kicks and feeling sexy because this girl thinks I’m sexy and I don’t really give a shit about Blossom in the moment. I really only care about myself and how I can feel good. I’m also being weirdly homophobic while embracing my own queerness by not taking romantic relationships between other women seriously. It was some kind of screwed up internalized homophobia I didn’t even realize was there.
My relationship with Blossom is the queerest of all relationships I can ever explain. She is very different from me. She is tan and slim and dark haired and American. I’m an awkward pale Canadian. The queerness of it is that we seem to both attract the same men and women to us. This means that when we are wronged by the same people we love each other. When only one of us is wronged we have to look at the other with a strange comparative eye: WTF is so great about you and not so great about me? The answer for both of us is many things.
After I fool around with Blossom’s girlfriend I walk down the hall and kiss Blossom also. I kiss Blossom because I feel that in kissing her I’ve somehow transferred the wrongful kiss with her girlfriend back to her and this somehow redeems me in a stunningly gorgeous failure of drunken logic. She is never outwardly mad at me. She never yells at me. I have hurt her, though.
I remember worrying that my roommate would be mad at me for making out with her best friend’s girlfriend on Valentine’s Day.
My roommate is high on ecstasy when she gets home and hugs me and says that she won’t kick me out because “that’s not how roommates work.” I feel really bad about what I’ve done to Blossom. I don’t feel good or better than Blossom. I don’t feel like I have beaten her. I feel like I have failed in so many ways. I decide to just stay in the house for a while—self-imposed grounding.
Blossom messages me to say that, “Everything is alright and you have to trust me when I say that it is alright.”
I always seem to be getting myself into complicated situations when I kiss people on Valentine’s Day.
Dawson is sitting on my bed and it is Christmas vacation, 2015. I reach under the bed and beside the stolen baby Jesus that I took from the Virgin Mary in the nativity scene in front of Pelham Town Hall, I notice some crumpled papers—old notes from Kimmy. I remember that when we didn’t have classes together we would write each other long notes. One letter details how she’s scared a boy will dump her because she’s going to get grounded for flunking math and not be able to hang out, go to parties, go to the hardcore shows. Whenever Kimmy got grounded it was like I got grounded, because I was only invited to those sorts of events in high school because I was friends with Kimmy.
I wasn’t then and I am not now in denial of how I came to be weirdly popular at choice moments in high school. Following my suicide attempt, Kimmy was extraordinarily, dutifully my friend. I think that maybe I scared her with the severity of the act and held her friendship with me hostage, I wonder sometimes if then she was my friend because she was afraid that if she wasn’t I would kill myself. I also think of the duality to it; she knew that I was loyal and trusted me with all of her secrets; she knew that I had to be loyal because without her I would be alone; she was able to hold me hostage as well. The note I found reads, on the subject of being grounded: “He really means a lot to me, it would suck to lose something so great over something like this. I haven’t had a real relationship in so long either. At least not with someone that doesn’t only like me out of desperation.”
It is weird to think of Kimmy as anyone who ever had to be desperate. To me she was always magnetic and beautiful. I remember this bizarre event when we were in a backyard at a pool. These boys started making fun of me for being so pale. They told me that I was invisible and they couldn’t see me. I remember the way the hair on their chests had only just begun to bud.
“What are you talking about? She’s right there,” said Kimmy, pointing at me.
Then Kimmy got into a demented and frenzied debate with the boys about whether or not they could see me, as if she were some kind of delusional person arguing about whether or not I only existed in her own head as a figment of her imagination. Witnessing the reality of my corporeal body as a subject for deliberation was pretty existential. I began to put on my clothes. “They only make fun of you because you are pretty and smart and guys find smart girls very very scary,” said Kimmy. “Stay,” She said. So I went swimming with her, and the boys left me alone because they wanted Kimmy to stay. If I had to leave, Kimmy would leave too. She was the first girl I ever loved.
Dawson is sitting on my bed when I find the notes. A decade too late, he finds a really funny picture Kimmy drew of him. “Druggy!” it says, “Guitar? Maybe you should stick to the recorder!” She gives me the brilliant and astute advice: “[Dawson] is being a dick to you. I think you should forget about him unless he is nice again, then don’t.” I know the version of me she is writing to. In my 14 year-old Catholic brain our love would play out like Christian cinema where he would reward me for being a good girl and saving myself for marriage. I was okay with mine and Kimmy’s very different identities for the fact that they both had their own different redemptive qualities. She was the very pretty and popular social girl whom all the guys instantly fell in love with. I was the more reserved, smart, Christian girl who only loved one guy.
The most memorable moment of my first kiss with Dawson, other than kissing him, other than the fact that he’d gone out of his way to buy me a Valentine’s gift, other than the kiss itself, is that while I was kissing him, I remember thinking to myself while kissing him, “I can’t wait to tell [Kimmy] about this. She’s going to be so excited!”
Now Dawson is looking at the picture of himself and it is 2015 and he says out loud, “Kimmy was a jerk!” I wonder if older Julie has betrayed younger Kimmy.
As I mentioned previously, Kimmy and I had a strange friendship. I think we were both always scared of each other. Scared of hurting each other. So we dove into our own sort of cinematic 2D identities with full force. I would help her with school and she would help me with people. I even think of her stepmother and my mother as two poles that we looped back and forth between. We hung out at her house sometimes because of her stepmom, and we hung out at my house sometimes because of my mom. Her stepmom wore skater clothes, seemed more youthful, had stories about being scouted as a supermodel. My mother was a teacher and deeply Catholic and tried to instill school and Catholicism as institutions that I had to answer to constantly. We both hated these mother figures. We talked about them constantly and quietly together. We wanted to be different from them and the same as them. We used to gossip about our mothers to each other in the same way we gossiped about the other girls at school.
Kimmy’s mother was constantly trying to make up for her young coolness by instituting strict regulations about school and dating. Kimmy was always grounded because both her and I were bad at math plus she was forever falling in love with much older musicians. My mother was always trying to make sure I had friends because I was bullied so brutally and the consequences to my mental health were so destitute. So I had no rules, and I honestly didn’t need any rules. I went out late and hung out with druggies but I didn’t really do any of the hard partying stuff. I used to always steal my parents booze and give it to other people and watch them drink it and get joy out of them drinking while never even drinking myself. As I went to high school in Welland and began to hang out in the hardcore scene, still for a long while I’d never even smoked pot, but would curiously go to the kinds of places where I could watch my classmates do the drugs that would end up destroying many of their lives. I like watching other people do things together and then think about it alone while never doing it myself. Kimmy was so active and I was passive. I was able to live and experience the world through her.
We never fought. There was plenty we wanted to fight about but didn’t. Kimmy knew that I was being pitilessly bullied. All of her arguments could have compounded the already taxing emotional stress I was under and could have possibly caused me to suffer another nervous break. If I fought with Kimmy, however, then I would lose all of the “friends” I had acquired by virtue of being her friend. Then my harassers could come back and pick at me like vultures. I was in a a sort of destitute position, so we never learned how to express anger at each other. Instead, we silently accepted our identities; she was loveable and I was smart. The truly sick part of our dynamic, which we both wouldn’t learn until later in life, is that I have the capacity to be incredibly loveable and Kimmy is, in fact, astonishingly intelligent. Yet, when you are one thing in a small town, you remain that one thing until you leave and find your own identity somewhere else. Fighting with Kimmy meant that I would be terribly alone in a very merciless high school world. Fighting with me meant that Kimmy would subject me to the terrible realities of being the kind of girl that asked questions in class. We both became louder and more confident together. Meanwhile our relationship with each other became increasingly unhealthy. There was a lot at stake in our friendship.
The one relationship in my life in which I have been the cruelest and least forgiving is the relationship in which the stakes were the highest. I have never been harder on any woman the way I’ve been hard on my own mother. I have also never loved anyone in this world as much as I love my own mother.
My mother and I have fought to the point of physical violence. We have not spoken to each other for months at a time. We have made my little brother—a sweet and levelheaded accountant—a mediator of our moods at each other. Nobody has hurt me more than my own mother has hurt me. I have never hurt anyone more than I have hurt my own mother.
Not unlike most of my relationships with other women, we simply can’t express anger towars each other. Instead it becomes a festering wound that explodes violently and makes us both overwhelmed with self-hatred. I would love to tell you that my mom is a demonic villain and I am an angel. I would love to tell you that the opposite is true. The truth lies in the fact that we are both incredibly different people and that the frustration lies in both the intense love we feel for each other and the intense gap between who we are as people.
My mother is a beautiful person. This infuriates me because it makes her so much harder to hate when I feel so hateful towards her sometimes. My mom is the kind of woman who dedicates her life to helping others and does so with very little thanks or appreciation. My mother has changed lives. For decades she taught high school. She taught parenting to teen mothers. She was a guidance counselor and helped young people realize their dreams. I wonder about her own dreams and they were so small. The tragedy is so unnecessary: she had one singular little dream and it crumbled in front of her.
My mother is one of those women who simply wanted to be a mother. She looked objectively at the failures of the home she grew up in and decided to do better. My mother was wooed into a marriage with a bad boy from Fenwick and they bought a little house in Fonthill and tried to realize their tiny dream together.
NOTHING prepares a woman like my mother for cancer. Nobody tells her that her husband could end up a drunk. She doesn’t know how to salvage the dream when her husband becomes increasingly delusional and abusive toward her daughter. There are no easy answers to the complicated and absurdly irrational problems life affords a good woman—a woman who has made all of the right choices, who has been faithful to her church and her husband and herself but still all of the pieces fell away.
It is difficult to write about my father because he is dead and cannot answer back. It is easy to remember the dead as only heroes. My father was my hero but he was also sometimes capable of being an asshole. I am an asshole for saying an asshole is an asshole. Nobody has ever loved the way my mother has loved. Nobody makes promises the way my mother makes promises. The selflessness with which my mother loves absolutely shatters me, it is the same selflessness that made my grandmother sit through years of a blackmail marriage until she got divorced. My grandmother still does not pursue love because as long as her ex-husband is still living then her marriage is valid in the eyes of a Catholic God.
For the sake of brevity and respect for the dead I will not list my father’s misgivings except to say that they were plentiful. He was a beautiful person who did disgusting things and I love him and I hate him. However, when he was diagnosed with cancer, she cared for him for years until he died. Then when he died she was faced with the disgusting and unintelligible truth that justice is a thing of fairytales. She had done everything right as a mother and a wife and her husband still died. She was 40 years old and single, and her daughter was a weird and pretty fucked-up little girl, and her son—well thank god for him.
I think about the moment I was born, and coming into the name “Julie Rachel,” it sounds fiercely un-me. Maybe I could be Solar Apocalypse or Crimson Velveteen but “Julie Rachel” projects all these dreams onto me. I can see the dreams on Facebook. Other girls have realized them. They have practical jobs and are engaged and are buying bungalows with their fiancés like my mother did. I am six months short of the age my mother was when she married my father.
Lying in my room with the stolen baby Jesus I think about the Virgin Mary as I click away at Facebook. Someone sends me a picture. The man who tricked me into pregnancy at 19; the man who hurt me and stalked me and abused me; he’s just had a baby with his new wife. I feel very pleased that I have Mary’s baby. Fuck Mary. Fuck her and Joseph and the whole lot of ‘em. I am thinner than her. I have a better degree. I bet I have a better future and a more interesting life and a much more complicated personality. She can keep her baby. I’ll have my own.
There is a paradox inside of me that exists and is true. I am an asshole but I don’t really necessarily want to be an asshole. There is a distinct gap between who I am as a person and who I would like to be and I’m not sure how to organize the distinction so that it all comes together in an appropriate way. There are three sides to the triangle of my selfhood as a woman that I am intensely grappling with in terms of my relationship with all other women.
- I am a complex and multidimensional individual. Women are complex and multidimensional individuals. Being individuals we won’t like each other always. We won’t always love each other for both deeply complicated and superficial reasons—as human beings. Jealousy, rage, anger, annoyance are human feeling worthy of expression. Keeping them bottled up puts a great weight on an individual and makes us live kind of artificial lives where we perform as “good women”—a good woman, one who is artificially nice (quiet, humble). This damns individual women to a life in which they are in constant servitude to other women. This makes all of us sick individually and therefore collectively. The lie of the performance of being kind to women we feel wronged by makes us sick. It makes us keep secrets and deny a facet of our own identity. We don’t like each other. We don’t always like each other. Sometimes we don’t like each other in loud and horrifying ways because we are firstly complex and multidimensional individuals before we are women.
- I am a feminist. Other women are feminists. Patriarchy and its violent legacy dictate that the stakes are already strikingly against women. When we tear each other apart we are doing more to tear down all of us in a system that already hates us, really hates us—it wants us to be raped, to be poor, to fail—it wants us to fail. Therefore, when we hurt one woman, especially a woman in our field (the arts, writing, etc.), we hurt all women. No act of hate or vengeance between women happens on a singular level. It always happens in the context of history, politics, injustice, and the terrible reality that a woman is never JUST a woman—she is required to act not just as her complicated and fiercely individual self but to also perform against the disgusting maw of time that has repeatedly spit on her and others like her—other women— the incapable, unworthy, irrelevant.
- I am an artist and curator of the arts. Art is an artifact separate from its creator. Women are more than capable as artists and authors but are undervalued and under-appreciated. The work we make has value individually, as a piece within the context of feminist history and outside of that context as its own thing—it has value outside of its context, beyond the individual lived life of its creator, beyond the feminist lens. Good art has value in all experiencing and viewing of it by virtue of the fact of it being great art.
Yet, other stuff seems to always get in the way of women’s art existing on its own merits. Many paradoxes come into play when you are an artist woman existing with other artist women.
Being a “good feminist” means sometimes disagreeing with other feminists. Sometimes people approach the topic as if feminists disagreeing makes feminism itself a farce. Feminism is a kind of philosophy. A metaphysics professor disagreeing with another metaphysics professor doesn’t put the whole sum of metaphysics on trial. If being a good feminist theorist means disagreeing with other feminists in order to build upon the forever conversation that is feminism, then why is it that I feel so personally guilty, so put on trial, when I disagree with the ideas of other feminists? I cannot disagree without it being personal. If I wrote about any female author (in Canada at least) writing about feminism, then it would (for whatever reason) convey that I have a personal disagreement with them as a human being and not simply as a theorist.
Also, on the individual level, why does it feel so loaded for me to disagree and express dismay, rage, dislike towards other women because they have either personally wronged me or behaved in ways that I don’t care for? Can I not dislike a woman without it being a betrayal of feminism as a whole? To keep it in is to deny all of the very normal feelings that make me simply a human.
As a writer all I desire is to write but it feels nearly impossible to critique, curate, and create—even exist, as my most authentic self—without betraying myself at the exact same time. Being a feminist makes me betray myself in two different ways that stand in stark contrast to each other:
- By denying my identity when I disagree in all kinds of ways—personally, politically with other women, it denies me my individual voice, which, like all voices, feels contempt sometimes.
- By allowing myself to feel hateful and express hate to other women then I create catty environments that only add hateful discourse onto the piles of hateful discourse that already permeate women before they have even begun to create. I become part of the problem. I am fostering further gardens of misogyny that don’t just hurt other women—they ultimately hurt me.
But I am me.
Me doesn’t like all other women. All other women don’t like me.
The seed of even the most conservative feminism is that we are all human beings. Yet, in this struggle towards equity, collectivity frequently denies our humanity. Humanity is just as resilient as justice. So I, and I believe other women, are constantly smashing against the reality of who we are, how we feel, and the idealized version of who we would like to be in an idealized world of a perfect feminist utopia (the feminist utopia differs from woman to woman, and it is important to note that I am a fucked up Western white cis woman speaking and that has its own heavy-handedness when I attempt to define “utopia” on my fucked-up, privileged feminist terms). This idealized world essentially positions me in denial of my own real rage, hatred, and anger, towards other women.
The angry human me hurts other women, wants to hurt other women, because other women are people, and other women are sometimes terrible people, and they are sometimes even terrible to me. This hurts. This pisses me off.
To deny these feelings is to be viciously untrue to myself. Yet to express them paradoxically means that I am openly hurting another woman in a context wherein all women hurt for simply being a woman. When I tear them down, I am paradoxically performing as my true self while reinforcing bad ideas about womanhood.
To hurt her is to hurt me.
To not hurt her is to hurt me.
Both screw up the objective process of creating and curating art. This is a paradox I cannot solve. It makes me feel crazy. Look at how the subjectivity bleeds through this essay.
Photo of Julie skipping high school
The girl who is a shark, the girl who is in love with what I thought, a couple of months ago, was my fiancé is sitting on my couch. Her face is so human and earnest.
The whole thing was my doing. The boy I used to think was my fiancé is part of an arts group with me. We made a Facebook page for our group. It all stopped when she liked his picture on our page. Did she really have to do that? She has him. She has all of the places with him. Congratulations—he is yours and not mine. Now did she have to go into my space and like his photo knowing that I was an admin and I would see it? Why was she trying to hurt me? FUCK HER FUCK HER FUCK HER!
I sent her a message to the “FUCK YOU, FUCK YOU” effect, and asked her to stay out of the spaces where I write. That is my space to create art. I wanted to keep creating art with him. She didn’t have to create drama where there was already drama. I already had kept my anger to myself to the point that I was having repeated dreams where I pull her hair and spit in her mouth. Pulling a girl’s hair and spitting in her mouth is the perfect revenge. When I pull her hair by her ponytail it makes her mouth widen in awe and then I can perfectly lean forward and spit into her mouth, like an evil asshole who wants my insides to swim in her insides like his insides swam in my insides and now swim in her insides. It makes a shape.
Her response to my letter to her was pretty understandably defensive: similarly “FUCK YOU,” but she revealed a little bit that made my heart soften. She revealed some of the ways she’d been victimized by others. It really made me pause. It really made me feel very badly. It really gave sympathy to the character she was playing in my terrible life wherein I, narcissistically, am always the protagonist. I am the protagonist of my reality. I stopped. She said, “Don’t talk to me.” So I messaged her roommate who was my friend and her roommate said that she would never hurt me but she thought that this human girl needed space.
Human girl messages me back a still defensive and hostile message but a bit more open. I respond, to the effect of, or with the feeling of, we are both human beings and female writers. Others have hurt us both in our lives. You love someone who I love and that makes me angry. It makes me hurt. I am in a lot of pain. I am new to Toronto and he is a part of my writing collective. I don’t want to feel this way but I do. Do you want to come over for a beer? To her credit, she did.
When I look at her human face I cannot pull her hair and spit in her mouth. I tell her I’ve dreamed of it and we both laugh. I tell her that I’ve been cutting myself to let go of the anger so that I can finally sleep and stop having the nightmares. She listens. She talks. She listens. We talk startlingly little about him, but a little about him: he’s bad at communicating, she had no idea we thought we were engaged, she understands it is weird that we were all skinny dipping in the same pool together when I was with him.
She reveals the night they first hooked up:
Everyone was in his backyard to watch the Blood Moon in Toronto but there was no Blood Moon to be seen because of the heavy overcast. I was annoyed that he was whispering to her like a schoolgirl with his hand in front of his mouth. Forever-dramatic me had yelled, “ARE WE IN GRADE SCHOOL? ARE YOU KIDDING?” I walked away from the backyard angrily.
Except, I stopped. At the corner of his street and another street someone had left out three sets of costume wings, two pairs of butterfly wings, and a single pair of bumblebee wings. I was so consumed with hate and anger at him but I remembered that there were three girls in that backyard and I thought of how beautiful the image, the idea, the story would be if it was Blood Moon Night and I gave three beautiful girls three beautiful sets of wings to fly away to the moon with. I am sometimes capable of obscene sentimentality. I am a ridiculous person. I grabbed the wings, I stole the wings, and I ran back with them.
“I found the most ridiculous things! I had to bring them to you! It is too perfect!” I’d exclaimed as if I was speaking with exclamation points. The girls put on the wings. I gave her the biggest and most beautiful of the wings, the large butterfly wings, and knew acutely it was because I’d been maybe a little bit nasty to her for no reason.
I stayed for one more cigarette. I felt annoyed by the way my fiancé was treating me but entranced with the enchantment of the moment. Three pretty girls in a backyard wearing wings like little fairies on a Blood Moon Night doesn’t really happen very often.
“Wait,” she’d asked. “Julie, don’t you want a pair of wings?” She went to take her own off.
“No, no,” I’d responded in earnest. “I don’t think I’m really a girl who has wings.”
“What kind of a girl are you?”
“I’m a different kind of girl is all I can say.”
Then I left.
In my living room she tells me that was the first night they “hooked up” and I keep my mouth shut about the serious injustice I feel at having given her wings so she could fly away with my fiancé.
“He’s my BF now.”—she says BF—“so we’ll see how that goes but I don’t know. He strangely won’t tell anyone he’s my boyfriend and so that’s a talk I have to have.”
Hey readership, guess what? Kept my mouth shut, even. Bit my lip and sat on my hands and was a better version of myself than I had been as a kid. As a kid I couldn’t deal and raised my hand and everyone hated me as I dropped truth-bombs all over the place. But anyhow, in this instance I kept my mouth shut. It was hard but I did so. Oh, the things I wanted to say, like I was watching a rocket ship about to crash into a field of a million unicorns, but kept my mouth shut. Good. Good. Good.
I was actually crying a lot. She wasn’t and I was, to be honest. I really didn’t want to pull her hair and spit in her mouth. She’s just a normal human girl. Then we got on the topic of rape. I got raped on my birthday. The unfortunate thing about being raped on your birthday is that it doesn’t make for very good literature. It sounds like a pointed YA novel: I Got Raped on my Birthday, with a tacky cover with balloons.
On my 23rd birthday I was walking home from a friend’s house. I’d had my actual party the night before. A friend couldn’t make it so a few of us had a small gathering with wine on a balcony in Montreal. I walked home just fine; kind of tipsy but not fully hammered. More inebriated with the joy of my birthday being about me and all about me. I am an asshole. Let us all not forget.
I stopped by the strip club and did a dance, jokingly, at the corner of Fairmount and Parc. Some guys said I had the ass for dancing but not the tits. I got into a rap battle with one guy who was a better poet than I. Oh well.
As I continued up Avenue du Parc, a young boy asked me for a cigarette. He was very skinny and small and unthreatening. I gave him a cigarette as he explained that he was on vacation with his family. I remember that the night was warm but windy. I remember that I felt so free just smoking and chatting on a public street with many people everywhere. We stopped by a local club that I’d never entered but had seen people lined up around the entrance. There was a busker with a little acoustic guitar. I explained, while smoking with the boy, that it was my birthday. The busker played “Happy Birthday to You” and drunken clubbers came out and joined in. The song was played to clapping hands three times until the boy and I kept walking.
We stopped in front of my apartment. In front of that building there are thick stone steps and some trees to make it private.
“Well, this is my place. Have an awesome vacation!” I said, and I meant it. I started to climb the stone steps.
The small boy charged me like a linebacker. I wasn’t uneducated in matters of sexual assault. I guess I’d always thought I’d be drugged and raped by somebody I knew. I was prepared for what happens in pamphlets.
I fell on the ground when his head went into my side. I remember my head hitting the pavement but then there is a blank spot.
What I remember next is that at first I screamed. He isn’t even there. I don’t even know he is there. I am screaming but nobody can hear me. Pebbles are very sharp, I realize, as they dig into my skull. I can see people but they cannot hear me screaming. There is a very loud wedding next door at a restaurant. I can see the bride in her gaudy dress and people are cheering for her as a weight that shouldn’t be as heavy as it is crushes me.
Time, for some reason, stopped.
I don’t really know why but I know that it did.
Still, today, the only logical explanation is that suddenly my thoughts became very fast but also so fierce and pronounced that I was able to physically stop time and think in a way I never had before or since. I thought as the happy bride moved in slow motion through the hole in the trees.
I thought about me. The sum total of the value of me.
The sum total amounted to that I was once a promising figure skater and I’d stood on podiums as a child and won awards for my ice-skating abilities. I won awards for being a speaker. I won awards for being a child activist. I won awards for writing and being good at school. Every sport and every subject I’d ever won an award for flashed before me. I thought about my personality and every compliment I’d received, all of the lovely things anyone had ever said. I realized none of it fucking mattered. It didn’t fucking matter if I won 50 dollars for delivering a speech on the nature of God at the Canadian Legion in grade five. It didn’t fucking matter if sometimes I cracked good jokes or even if I was a whole human being with many loveable facets. None of it mattered in that moment. Nothing I ever did ever really mattered in that moment because that moment was forever. That moment was every moment forever.
In the time when I stopped time I was able to gaze into the ideas of the theorists I liked: Butler, Lacan, Saussure, Derrida, Cisoux, and know how systemically this moment was willed into existence. My life aligned like a complex net that spun my own accomplishments as irrelevant in the face of politics, the church, the media … the whole big picture came into view. Yet, the whole time I was watching the bride, frozen. It’s so odd. Her dress was so white that I can remember snowflakes but it was June.
The human girl is listening and nodding. “When you walked down the street with him, I felt oddly similar, like nothing really mattered.” I said to her. “It didn’t matter if I was smart or pretty or loveable, it didn’t matter if I was born or who loved me. When I saw you walking down the street with the man I love all I could think was that I’d put all this effort into being a good and strong and talented person but none of it fucking matters. It really doesn’t even matter to me that you are pretty or smart or anything. None of it fucking matters, dude. We’re just chosen.”
“I think you are a very talented writer,” she reassures, kind of missing my point. I smile at her. I hate her but I smile at her because really she’s just another me in a line of chosen mes and that’s so fucked up but true. I feel tired. I am tired. We hug before she leaves. We talk about how life is so so long and so so hard on us and women shouldn’t be hating other women because we both are in our 20s and have long and promising careers before us. The last thing we need is to drag each other down.
I am not jealous that she has him. She can have him. I don’t want him. The thing that tingles inside of me is more the fact that he lied so that he could be in the position to choose. It bugs me. It tickles me in an uncomfortable way as she leaves. It still bothers me that she said “BF” in such colloquial terms, that she passed it through, as if she wanted me to know, despite all of his flaws, he had CHOSEN her over me.
I felt happy for our beautiful feminism, though, and happy for our beautiful humanity. I texted her: Thank you. You are so kind and considerate. We just did such a good thing and I know it isn’t easy but I think that maybe you saved my life tonight. Mental illness is so difficult and stigmatized. Thanks for hearing me and believing me and not treating me like a delusional psycho. It would have been so easy for you to be cruel and self-righteous. I really admire the strength and humility you gave our conversation tonight. You really maybe saved my life. Thank you.
She texted me back to say that I deserved kindness and the benefit of the doubt. She said that mental illness was hard and she said that she would even like to keep hanging out.
That night I fell asleep feeling better about the situation. Still upset but better.
I didn’t wake up from a dream where I pull her hair and spit in her mouth.
What I didn’t tell the normal human girl was that the way she walked down the street with him while I looked down at my shoes didn’t simply remind me of that moment on the pavement on my twenty-third birthday when that guy was on top of me—it reminded me of the moment at recess when I looked at Kimmy as snowballs were pelted at my face. It reminded me of the way I felt when people would beat me up. It reminded me of raising my hand and the reaction. It reminded me of how Dawson denied that we were ever together when he was my true love, it reminded me of the moment I found out I was pregnant at nineteen and my boyfriend had lied about the vasectomy, and other moments, and other moments. They sympathized into a handsome case that whatever I do, whatever I accomplish, whatever I am and however good it is, it doesn’t really matter. Just like being a victim doesn’t make you a good person, being a good person or even being good at things doesn’t exclude you from the disgusting inevitability of victimhood. Especially the very specific ways that women are made victims—this is all women, this gets more specific, it gets narrower and goes beyond me, I am a white cis woman and even then …
In much the same way, I clung to narratives in stories about outcasts leaving their hometowns to become hero writers—these narratives giving me hope when faced with the sort of merciless treatment I was dealt by my classmates—in much that same way I have looked to feminism. There is something remarkably resilient about the human spirit that keeps it reaching into the tunnel of its own imagination so that it can create an outcome that fundamentally denies the singular identity of victimhood, of oppressed, of a spit existence that only amounts to being repeatedly fucked in increasingly shocking and horrifying ways. Feminism, in its many parts and various complexities is like a religion for me, it is the exceptional promise that doesn’t deny how things are but believes that things could be different. It is for this reason that I feel especially sinful when I am wicked to other women. I have been hateful to other women. I have been hateful while chain smoking in a fur coat like villains in the movies. There is a divide—a vast gap—between how I am and I would like to be. I don’t think I am the only woman who feels this way. We are these complicated people with all of these various flaws and gifts. How can we ever ask of ourselves the super-human acts beyond our very human realities without, at the same time, ultimately injuring ourselves through perjury, denial, phoney performances, quiet hate that is always ultimately self-inflicted hate? Anger lives in me and bites at the portion of my insides where the empathy breeds.
The knot at the centre of my stomach that I can’t unravel is an unanswerable paradox that goes something like: how can I ask men to not be hateful towards women when I am hateful towards women myself?
This year I was volunteered to host the MFA department Christmas party at my home. Montreal is much better at parties than Toronto. In general, Montreal is better than Toronto. People talk about Montreal in much the same way they talk about acid—with ecstatic and knowing eyes.
So I spent the day cleaning and buying goodies. I put up decorations. I got my friend to DJ. Authors of Toronto, old and young, filed into my new apartment and I put rhinestones on their faces and I turned off the lights at the right time.
Truth: I don’t know if I’m social or antisocial. I like parties. I throw decent and silly parties. I am good at it. I don’t like feeling crowded in. It was truly me of me to sit on the stairs and watch people converse and dance and just sort of lurk downwards smiling. When a person flirts with another person at a party I’ve thrown, I feel a little bit like God. Feeling like God is awesome. This is why we throw parties and play The Sims and become the lead singers of terrible bands.
A girl from my class eyed me and walked towards me. Just a nice girl, nice face, nice attitude … a nice female person who all year had been looking at me like she wanted to ask if me and that writer boy were together. I hadn’t wanted to talk to anyone about it because I didn’t realize he was disappearing from my life when he was—part of me, for a long while, was in denial of the fact that he had asked me to marry him with no real intentions of marrying me. I do this all the time. Someone is fucking me over and I keep thinking that they don’t know they are fucking me over, keep justifying the terrible things being done to me through awkward pseudo-Freudian diatribes about the crimes of their childhoods.
As evinced by this piece I am speaking to you through right here—I am very good at creating my own pseudo-Freudian diatribes about the crimes of my childhood to justify my own terrible behavior.
“Where is [boy]?” she asks. “Why isn’t he here?”
“I don’t know. I don’t really care. To be honest we aren’t on the best terms.”
“Were you both together? Like were you a couple?”
“You were? Because he said you weren’t.”
“When were you together?”
“The beginning of the year and he sort of told me he was going to marry me.”
“That’s fucked up. That’s so fucked up.”
“Because I was with him for the larger part of this year too.”
I began to deliver a monologue of what I’d been through that came out so jumbled and incoherent, I was talking in the language of scrambled eggs.
“Well fuck him,” said the other girl who had sex with my fiancé when I thought he was my fiancé. “He is a LIAR! LIAR! He told me you weren’t together and fuck fuck fuck, I shouldn’t have said anything. I have a boyfriend now and so I don’t care obviously but I’m so sorry you went through this. Maybe I’m trying to create this…I’m trying to do this…I want to compose this magazine or I am composing…fuck…it’s a magazine of only women in the arts and I really actually just was wondering if maybe you had some poems, you’re a really good writer and … ”
As she talks I feel like my head is deflating with the weight of realizing just exactly how little I had mattered to him and how much I had let him mean to me. All of my professors are in the room. All of my student peers. It is my own home and I can’t run away. I don’t want them to see me cry. I wonder if women only ask women to be in journals of all women because it is a sort of redemption for the ways we keep fucking each other over, frequently through other people whom we love, loving the same people, hate through love and love through hate.
She takes my hand in her hand and walks me to the dance floor. She encourages me to start dancing. It is like if I dance then I am okay and then she is okay and then neither of us really did anything hurtful and then maybe somehow, in the grand scheme of it all, he’s okay too because in the end we are all just people dancing around each other so confused about how to be good and how to be bad when we have such an overwhelming capacity for both love and hate.
I dance. I look at her. She’s a very pretty girl. I wonder what it would be like to pull her hair and spit in her mouth. Then I dream about it the whole night long.
I’ve been leaving Him out of this.
It is boring. He is clearly in the wrong. He hurts other women and keeps hurting them and making messes of their feminism and their internal organs. Him.
He has come to my apartment to deliver an apology. I end up making him cry. I will only distinguish the important facts.
The first important fact is that I made him cry. LOLOLOLOLOLOL
The second important fact is why it hurt me so bad. It hurt me because in a way I have been trained by past relationships to never ask anything of my relationships with men. I am so good at it. I know how to “unbelieve” before they earn belief. I never tell anyone I want them to be my boyfriend even if I do. I will sit on my love, I will hang it in my closet, before I ever admit openly to a man that I want anything from them other than for them to fuck me with mercy and pay me the occasional earnest compliment. Needy girls are fucked up, says every magazine on the subject. Women are unattractive when they try to hard. Wanting, just wanting, makes you the least appealing woman in the world. I have been trained well. I never ever ask first. I am much more conniving than that.
I am so conditioned to not be needy that when somebody offers me commitment, when they look in my eyes and tell me that they not only want to be with me, that they have to be with me, I take it as a gift. It is a gift that only comes with learning self-hate. Someone made the extraordinary mistake of thinking I am worth loving—then I need to dedicate myself to unmistaking their mistake, to being a good girl and a good woman, to jumping on the chance that I am finally worthy of the love I have craved. Someone telling me that they love me, that they would sacrifice the gargantuan whole of all other women and their various beautiful and inspiring ways has the bewitching effect of a heavy charm that voodoos me into trying really hard to be the perfect woman so that I can love them the way I have always wanted to love someone if given the opportunity.
I knew that he was bad at being with a single woman at a single time—I accepted that the first night we made love. Looking at him, in January 2016, I can still see a lie that his skin reveals to himself alone in the mirror each morning. I have hurt. It isn’t the worst thing for him to hurt too. Sometimes shame serves a valuable function. Anyways, I knew that he was in the habit of overlapping women and I would have never asked him to commit to me, or marry me, or anything else. I have had, in my lifetime, seven marriage proposals that I have shot down, for good reasons. This is not because I am super attractive, but because I attract men who know how to manipulate women. I attract these men because I wear my vulnerability on my sleeve. I wear my vulnerability on my sleeve because I am real and I would like you to know me as such.
It hurt me because firstly he tricked me but he tricked me following a very real honesty I had shared with him. The very real honesty came as we were tucked into a small spot beside a storage locker on our way to Christie Pits. I said, simply, “All I want is to love you and write poems about it.” That was when he laid out his conditions: “I love you. I love you so much that I’m going to marry you. I want you to be my girlfriend. I haven’t told my mother I loved her in years and look me in the fucking eyes I love you. I love you, Julie Mannell, and I’m going to marry you and we’re going to have babies but only if you are in it. You have to be in it. You have to dive into this or else I can’t give that love to you.” Whether or not there was love doesn’t actually matter—it is the power of the promise, of the vow, of the words: You have to be in it or I can’t give that love to you. THAT love, THAT BIG WHOLE LIFE LOVE, that was a powerful thing to make apparent to a person, like any person, had wandered so aimlessly through broken and mangled deranged loves. I was new to Toronto. He was my only friend. His friends were my only friends. I wanted nothing but I gave him power and he used that power to awaken distrust in the one little hope I’d carried with me since I was so so small: that secretly I was very lovable and even if I wasn’t lovable in Fonthill, or even Montreal, somebody out there would find me lovable one day. To break that light that lives inside of the smaller, younger version of me that lives inside of me now, was to shake the entire core of the dream that kept me moving from heart-hurt to heart-hurt. When they walked home together I had poems and those poems are garbage now.
“You have to understand, I really did want to love you. I wanted to be that guy. I keep wanting to be that guy. That guy who loves a woman and marries her. I got caught up in it, I loved making poetry with you, I love poetry. All I want still is to make poems with you. I fucked up and now I can’t do the poems. Neither of us can do the poems unless you can forgive me. I know I’m fucked up. I don’t know that I can change. I just want to make weird art with you and you are my friend and I’m so sorry. I thought I could be that guy. I couldn’t. You left for Montreal for a weekend and I guess I just decided it was over. I guess I just decided. I guess.”
I looked at his stupid face. It is so hard to yell at somebody when you love them and when they are sitting in front of you like that. I handed him one of my journals. We leafed through it together. The story of my first love, my Dawson, dances, failed friendships, my tiny Julie dreams. “Wow, girls seem so complicated. I wasn’t thinking about any of this shit.”
We ended up grabbing a couple of beers. When you click with a person, when you like a person, really really like a person, it can be really hard to hold a grudge no matter how angry you are. I don’t want to hate him but he does such hateable things.
Before I end my note on Him I will tell you what I told him that the normal human person I despise doesn’t know. I said to him, “Don’t you hurt that little girl like how you hurt me and how you hurt others. Don’t you hurt that little girl.”
He responded, “I don’t know what I can or can’t do. All that I can tell you is that I want to change and I am trying my best.”
“Nobody is holding a gun to your head and telling you that you have to be their boyfriend.”
“I know but I want to be a boyfriend. I really really want to be that guy to her.”
“I am worried that you can’t be and you will hurt her in the same way you hurt me. The way that you hurt woman after woman after woman.”
“I don’t want to hurt anyone. I keep trying and failing. I really do. I don’t know why I do this fucked up shit and believe me I’m on an apology tour of my whole fucking terrible life right now. I want to be better. I want to be good. I want to be that guy. I did love you and I’m sorry. I do love her. I don’t want to hurt anyone. I don’t know why I do it. I don’t know why. I hate myself. I’m sorry.”
The reason why we connect so well is so easy to see. We are both self-hating people who try our best and fail. Maybe that’s everyone. Maybe we’ve both just chosen to be more honest with each other about that one fact for whatever reason.
The really tragic thing is that I do believe him when he says he is trying his best he is actually trying his best. His best isn’t good enough, though. I mean “good” in an objective way. Just because a person is trying their best does not mean that they are being ethically good. He is being so bad. So bad to so very many people.
“I don’t know why you feel you need to solve women with other women. You keep fucking up over and over again in the exact same way. I don’t know if you are dumb, or sadistic, or need serious mental help, or are some kind of perverted romantic.”
“Can I choose all of the above?” he asks, like a cartoonish puppy version of an actual person.
Julie in grade 11, dancing in her Catholic school uniform
Oh, for God’s sake, it’s Christmas 2016 and I’m in Fonthill and arguing with my mother again. Everything she does grates on me so hard and I know, at a distance, it isn’t even that bad. She’s sick with a cold and I’m trying to cook a turkey and she just keeps pissing me off with her nagging running commentary. We’re both annoying the shit out of each other. Oh, for fuck’s sake, it’s a butter ball and it’s already buttery but I’m watching a Youtube video with that nasty Chef’s Kitchen guy and Mom says that I am making it too British because the Brits love citrus more than Canadians and its already all buttery. I worked as a nanny and cooking for families for a long time and I can cook a delicious kosher Rosh Hashanah dinner and I’m not even Jewish.
The cooking comes to a halt when my mom suggests I “take a pill.” It really bothers me because I’ve been on so many drugs my whole life to cope with my “mental illness” and that is only perpetuated by the stress she puts on me. We are two good people—smart people—but we hurt each other all of the time. I’m in my room crying next to a bottle of Xanax like a meme of myself. “I’m sorry,” she says. “I can cook the turkey,” she says, and I know that I am more than capable of cooking my first Christmas turkey and she is sick. She’s been a mother to me long enough. I wanted to take care of her but every time I try to take care of her I only cause her more anxiety and cause myself more anxiety. She makes me want to punch orphan’s faces.
I used to obsessively watch Roseanne as a child. At first it was because Roseanne had the same wallpaper in her kitchen as we did as ours. Now I know it was beyond the kitchen wallpaper. It was the first TV show that really, I feel, earnestly portrayed the concerns of working class women who kept trying to overcome their circumstance only to find themselves back where they started—even if they were smart, creative, uncompromisingly honest, and beautiful (both conventionally and unconventionally).
Roseanne was my television show. “She’s so annoying,” my mother would say and I would secretly see her in Roseanne even if she was (is) a mild-mannered blonde lady. Darlene was the first television character I ever fully identified with. She was moody, smart-mouthed, stubborn, and she wanted to leave her hometown to be a writer. My mother is only like Roseanne in that they share the same struggles.
In the closing monologue to the series, Roseanne says: “When you’re a blue-collar woman and your husband dies it takes away your whole sense of security.”
After the visitation, after the funeral, when the neighbours stopped bringing food, my mother had to return to work with her grief and with the unsettling realization that despite doing everything right, making every single right choice a woman could make, despite being faithful and kind and considerate, she still was 40 years-old and a single mother of two.
I was 12. My father was dead and suddenly there were no rules and no structure. There wasn’t a dinner on the table because my mother was so tired. Who could even blame her? I could. I was mean to my mother. I am mean to my mother. Then she is mean back at me. She looked at me then, “Can’t you understand? I’m in so much pain. Everything I worked for my whole life just fell apart for no reason. Can’t you please just give me a break? I am a mother but I am so so human.”
I looked at her, “Can’t you imagine? I’m just a little kid and my father just died in my living room. Now everything I ever knew as normal is distorted and messed up. Can’t you please just give me a break? I am a daughter but I am so so human.”
Instead of loving each other, we grew frustrated with each other’s incapability to perform as good mother and good daughter. We became worse and worse to each other. The terribleness of our behaviour would be followed by makeups; we love each other, but then inevitably fights. It goes on and on to this day because we both try so hard but can never be the women we want each other to be. I have never behaved more hatefully towards any single person more than I have my own mother. I also don’t know that I could ever love a single person as much.
I think of our house as a sort of underground bomb shelter and we are rationing supplies. There is this dead body in the centre of it. It is all fun and games when you are frustrated with your family over a stupid turkey dinner. However, when your house is a bomb shelter with a body and so much is at stake and its just the two of you looking each other in the eye, gazing into each other for some sort of strenuous pact for mutual survival—the stakes are higher, you grow nervously tired, you scream, you say terrible things. This is how two nice people in a good family end up eating each other alive.
My friendship with Kimmy was doomed to fail from the start. You can’t hold people hostage and call it a friendship. It was really difficult for me when we stopped being friends because my entire identity was defined against her identity. We picked out clothes for each other and shared each other’s outfits, and we dressed alike the way twins do. I remember when we were both so obsessed with straightening our hair and both our hair straighteners broke, we took a clothing iron and ironed each other’s hair. Our necks had so many burns. We performed ourselves as versions of each other, as versions of girls we liked in magazines or in movies. Girls and women sometimes define themselves by wearing other women.
Kimmy and I listened to the same music, developed an obsession with Conor Oberst from Bright Eyes. I remember the day a fake Conor Oberst Myspace account wrote Kimmy and catfished the both of us. I was happy that Conor Oberst was telling Kimmy he was in love with her. She asked him, nervously, if he would come to Fonthill and play a charity show I was organizing. She didn’t want to but she did. We were in a pact together.
I think about the friendship between Anne of Green Gables and Diana. Their identities both remain so static throughout the books. Diana really only wants a traditional life as a wife and a mother. Anne would like to be a writer. Their entire friendship is built on propping each other up because their dreams are never a direct threat to the other.
In the ninth grade we were given a creative writing assignment to write a short story. When we got our stories back I was shocked to see that Kimmy had gotten a higher grade than me, not just a higher grade, she’d gotten an A and I had barely passed. I felt very angry at her for doing well. It was like her doing well in school was directly taking something away from me. It kind of was since I had defined myself against her. I mean what would’ve happened to Anne, had Diana turned out to be the better writer and she hadn’t even wanted it?
Was my jealousy the poison or did Kimmy just get tired of holding my hand through life moment after life moment? The answer is both. I was less grateful and easier to anger after I realized that she was smart. She was less inclined to be generous with social invitations when I was so openly ungrateful to her. I became angry when I found out she was excluding me. She became angry when I pointed out how terribly shallow and self absorbed she can be. It went on like that throughout high school until we broke up at the beginning of the eleventh grade and faced high school with a lost friend group that had predictably abandoned me in favour of Kimmy, and absolutely no part of my identity that I could fully call my own. This includes my identity as a writer. We had been friends for so long that she became my sense of humour, she was the music I listened to, the clothes I wore, the movies I watched—it was like we’d been so codependent for so long that I’d totally become her. I couldn’t even write without writing in her voice. So peculiar.
I have a way of convincing myself I’m fine when I’m not. I think I do it so that my feelings don’t inconvenience others.
A week ago I went to a reading. A member of my writing collective had come from out of town and we were all going to support him. The moment I got there I felt strange because there he was in the front row sitting with the normal human girl. I felt sick but I was kind. She had been so kind to me, after all, to meet with me and discuss my weird mental hang ups. To talk about our shared experience as women in the world and once more, women writers, even if she is a journalist and I exist in a more creative sphere. We’d ended on a good note, a positive one, I’d felt better about us. I couldn’t have known that I would feel so ill when I saw them together.
What happened was I overcompensated, I talked to her a lot, I sat right with them and performed like an actual very very nice person would. I went to the ladies’ room with her and sang a funny song so we both wouldn’t feel too nervous about peeing. I overcompensated for the feelings of real anger. When the member of our collective went up to read I saw her reach for his hand and they held hands in front of me. During the conversation in my living room, I had deliberately brought up another time when she had kissed him right before I went on stage to read—it bugged me, I told her, stop, I asked her. Watching them hold hands was so jarring that I could barely hear the poetry over the seriously hateful rhetoric breaking in waves against the part of my brain that produces self-control. I had the distinct imagining that their holding hands in front of me in public while a member of our collective read was their way of not only asking me to eat their shit but also to smile while doing so.
When they left early he hugged me. She hugged me. I said to her, “Thank you for being so good to me tonight.” In an ideal world it would’ve ended there. It would have ended. I would have walked myself home. I would have continued to be a good person to her and get to know her and support her and be her friend. I would have been kind to her.
However, this is not an ideal world and I am not an ideal of the human imagination. I am simply human and sometimes angry and sometimes jealous and frequently resentful, childish, mean, and an asshole. I don’t want to be but I sometimes am. This is not about her being wrong. This is not about him being wrong. This is not even about me being wrong. This is about what happened (happens) to me when I am asked to not express my anger, my hate, because it is unbecoming, it is impolite, it is mean. I take it out on myself instead.
As normal human girl and my ex walk away I immediately turn to my fellow collective members and friends and say one of the meanest things a woman can ever say about another woman, “BITCH! CUNT! BITCH! CUNT!” Then I begin pouring back drinks, hoping I can forget and turn the night into fun and drop my anger.
When the anger has no place to go, it sits inside you and drives you mad. A boy walks me home and he says he has a girlfriend but I make out with him anyway. Is this how I discover empathy? Turns out not because even after I get drunk, am openly hateful, and make out with someone else’s love, I still feel angry.
As I get to my room, Blink-182’s cover of “Dancing with Myself” is blasting on repeat. I’ve been listening to it while I write and edit stories for The Town Crier about people’s experiences growing up. It reminds me of being at parties with Kimmy and all of the boys like her and none of the boys like me and all I want is a boyfriend. I think of normal human girl as a deranged cartoon monster. I think about her pretty locks of hair and how I would like very much to run my fingers through it and YANK! I start to throw an elaborate and psychotic tantrum. I explode with all of the fury I’ve ever felt towards her and maybe all other women.
Dancing with myself
Fuck Susan Sontag. Fuck Judith Butler. Fuck Mary Wollstonecraft. Fuck you fuck you fuck you! I’m not that fucking strong. Fuck you! I refuse to be nice to that bitch. That fucking shark! I hit my wall with my fist. I tear my blankets off the bed. I am screaming and screaming like a banshee, I am so infuriated, I am so overwhelmingly angry at being degraded beneath her—her—you aren’t fucking human, you are a fucking shark! SHARK SHARK SHARK SHARK SHARK SHARK SHARK SHARK
Dancing with myself
Fuck Sojourner Truth. Fuck Hillary Clinton. Fuck Harriet Tubman. Fuck Hélèn Cixous. Fuck Simone de Beauvoir. How could you ask this of me? Do you not know me? I am so little and you want me to be so big. You want me to be so big it physically hurts. It is the hurt of humiliation and embarrassment and shame and pride and dignity, how could you ask me to be nice to her? Why do I know in my head that I am wrong but I can’t help this. This. Look at me. I am this. Look at me. Look at me. I tip a clothing rack full of dresses onto the floor. One by one I grab them by the hanger and throw them around. I am so unpretty and I want to make myself unpretty forever. I want to be so fucked up and pathetic that nobody can deny my hurt is real. I want to starve so thin. I want to wear my hurt like I wear a pair of heels. I don’t want to raise my hand in class, I want everyone to look at my mangled self and know that I am in pain. I want my pain to matter. Right now my pain matters more than everyone else’s, my pain matters more than all of the pain of all of the women, my pain is wrecking my room and my clothes and my skin and my heart.
If I had the chance
I’d ask the world to dance
and I’d be dancing with myself
Fuck Lucy Maud Montgomery! Fuck Lucy Maud Montgomery! Fuck Lucy Maud Montgomery! I won’t smile while I eat shit. I won’t smile while I eat shit! I won’t smile while I eat shit I won’t smile while I eat shit! I won’t smile, I won’t smile, I won’t smile, I won’t, I won’t, I won’t….dahfw[aihfwq[haieg0h340fhaiofsdpfia
I lied when I said I have never been meaner to another woman the way that I am mean to my mother. I am the most mean to myself. I hate myself. My self-hatred touches others, when I am mad at others it is usually because they have done something directly or indirectly that inspires new and more terrifying ways that I can loath myself. When I behave hatefully I feel like I am reclaiming myself. It is almost as though by hurting them I am solving the bad feelings they stimulated me to feel about me. Except it doesn’t solve anything. It makes others feel bad. It makes myself feel bad about myself because I never hate myself more than when I am being hateful to another person, especially another woman, especially another woman who has been hurt by people the same ways I have.
When I wake up the next morning I am on the floor on top of my ripped dresses. There are scratches all over my body from my nails. I have punched myself repeatedly in the face and so I can hardly open my eyes. Was I this angry at her?
Still partly drunk and fully furious, I text him hateful texts about her. I won’t say what they said exactly because this essay is about me, not demonizing another person objectively when she belongs to the very subjective narrative of my life. I am always the protagonist of my own reality. I will say my texts are mean … a million creative ways to say that a person is ugly or stupid or cruel or unloveable. I recreate the ways that I have been hurt by using a vernacular of hate I learned when others were hateful towards me. Being a victim does not mean that I am a good person. I can still be an asshole.
Was I this angry at her or was I angry that I felt anger towards her? I mean, she had invaded the space that I needed to make art. Making art, writing stories, poetry, reading them out loud—these are the ways I have always made sense of the world when I felt the most confused. This was the arena in which I exercised compassion for myself. She had hurt me. I had a right to feel hurt. I didn’t have a right to recreate sexist motifs because of that hurt. Yet there was a paradox. I recognized that the whole event, the whole circumstances and conditions of him being with me and then him being with her meant that I couldn’t be around her without seriously denying how I felt, without being an inauthentic person—but the authentic part of myself was so ugly and cruel that I didn’t want it to come out. If it came out, if I was real about it, then I would just damage other people. I have been damaged and I wear it on my tongue and then it infects others with the same pain. Self-loathing is contagious in this way.
Realizing my wrongdoing, I reach for my phone with my mutilated arm. I text her:
Confession: I sent [boy] hateful texts about you.
Reason: there is a space between who I want to be and how I actually feel. I don’t know what to put in that space so right now it’s being filled with self-hatred in isolation. It has a self-mutilating event. I’m so sensitive that when anyone touches me if feels like they are burning holes in my skin.
Paradox: I want to be a better person but one must understand that I find it difficult to be nice because I am in so much pain. As long as I am in pain it will be hard to be nice because I am in pain constantly. So I’m essentially trapped in self harm and self hate and everything makes me want to scream until everyone goes away. I think on some level I just really need everyone around me to be calm and patient and forgiving because I really don’t feel good—tiny stings feel like bullet holes. There is a space between how I’d like to be and how I actually feel and I don’t really know what to do. I’m acting so crazy since last night.
She texted me back that she felt that she no choice but to deal with me, that she didn’t know what to say to me. Then she asked me to stop texting her boyfriend mean things about her, that it wasn’t doing anything but hurting myself. She confessed that she had her own anxiety issues and told me I was only making them worse.
I don’t understand why she believes this is a fight over him when it is a fight between us. All I want is space to make art. I text back that she is a trigger. When she shows up it makes me sick. I ask her to stop coming to our events. I tell her that I shouldn’t have to feel sick because I want to keep engaging with my collective and their poetry. I point out that she isn’t a member of our collective. I point out that just because she has the right to do something or be somewhere, does not mean it is the right thing to do. I confess that I don’t even really know why she wants to be there. She can have him. He’s hers. She can have him in all of the places, all the time, except where we do poetry together. I tell her that when she shows up she is invading my space and making it impossible for me to both create and be a functional person. I ask her to stop. I say that her behaviour is in poor taste.
When she texted me back, she told me that if I had a problem, I should stay at home.
She is trying the last of my patience. She thinks I am choosing to be triggered by her when it isn’t a choice. In an ideal world with me as an ideal version of who I’d like to be, I would get along with her. The issue is that I am out of control and I need my space to do my work. She is telling me to stay home and not read my poems. She is creating conditions wherein I have to choose between being a good person and being a writer. She is presenting me with an impossibly difficult ultimatum: continue to make art with the people I want to make art with knowing it will make me behave terribly towards others and myself or sit at home and not behave terribly, feel safe and comfortable, but deny myself the possibility of creating something good and meaningful.
I text him to apologize but also to explain the situation and ask him to ask her to back off—it’s a difficult question to ask of someone and he predictably says “I can’t just tell her to fuck off.” There is weirdness to the structure of “I can’t just tell her to fuck off.” It’s like he wants to tell her to fuck off but there is a rule that says he maybe shouldn’t. It had only been days earlier when we’d made up. All we wanted was to love each other and write poems about it but we couldn’t even do just that.
I message the collective explaining the situation. I am not nice about her. I don’t feel I owe it to her to be nice anymore. I tell them that if she is going to be at our events then I can’t continue.
When the problems between us first started arising everyone agreed that if I had to leave because somebody else was hurting my mental health then the entire group would dissolve. Nobody wanted to be a part of something that caused hurt. All we all wanted to do was love each other and write poems about it and share the poems with the world. Had I destroyed that? Was I so small?
They empathized with my mental health issues and they weren’t mean to me because I had become so violently triggered by the encounter. The event wasn’t even our event, it was a separate event with a member reading on his own. Even if it were our event, they all agree that they feel very uncomfortable with blacklisting anyone from an event. I even feel uncomfortable with it, I feel uncomfortable asking for it, but I know that’s the only way I can continue to make art in a space with them. We all feel badly. I quit. I love them very much but I quit. I am not choosing between her and art—art is the unfortunate bystander, as are the members of my collective. I am simply choosing to take care of myself. It sounds easy but it is one of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever had to make. I see a million unrealized poems falling into a fire. I choose myself right now so that there can be more art later.
“Bitch,” I think. “Cunt,” I think, un-feministly. “Shark.”
I call up my girlfriends in Montreal. “Bitch,” they also say. One of my friends has bought a book of hexes and explains they’ve all been experimenting with witchcraft. I love my friends but they do the most ridiculously dumb things. They’ve actually been making witch potions in a crock-pot. I tell them that I would like for them to hex her. Then I cackle. I’m an asshole. I imagine them all sitting in a circle chanting, like female villains in the fantasy books I used to read.
In grade eight we were asked the question, “Are grade eights superficial?” Everyone in the class said no. I thought that was stupid but I tried not to raise my hand. Then I just became very angry that they were all agreeing that a lie was a truth. I raised my hand. I pointed out the various ways we are superficial in the eighth grade, I confronted them with the words they use to put each other down, oh man did they react. They wanted to gut me. How dare I say it? How dare I say that they were wrong?
My teacher called my mom at work to explain the situation. I wasn’t there but evidently he said that he’d never be able to say what I said.
When I got home my mom was unimpressed. She asked me, “Julie, why do you always work so hard to make sure people hate you?”
I can imagine a scenario where Tina Fey stands in front of a crowd of woman writers and artists and asks: “Raise your hand if you have ever felt personally victimized by Julie Mannell?”
Honestly, maybe not a lot, but a few would raise their hands. If you are reading this and judging me then you’re an asshole and a liar. We all have been both bullies and victims and straddled the line. We all get confused. I don’t even know if my feminist super-heroes always enacted the beliefs they espoused in all of their interpersonal relationships. When we are the protagonists of our own lives it is often difficult to accept that sometimes we are the antagonists in others. I mean, after all, aren’t we all just human people?
I know why Blossom didn’t want me at her going away party. She was there on my 26th birthday, by accident mind you, but she was still there. We were sitting in the apartment, her and some other people, and she could tell that I’d been deeply hurting all year. I was deeply hurting. I was thinking about my 23rd birthday. I was thinking about all that had gone wrong in the last year and how I’d lost my apartment, my boyfriend, my job, and was now leaving my friends in Montreal to move to Toronto.
Blossom suggested, “I think we should all say twenty-six nice things about Julie.”
Other people chimed in but Blossom was the most enthusiastic. Her capacity for empathy far outweighed her capacity for rage. It wasn’t her forgiving me for making out with her girlfriend on Valentine’s Day in her apartment. It wasn’t her absolving me of what I’d done or sacrificing what she felt. I think maybe what she felt is something I’ve felt and maybe why I seem to resort, in fights with other women, to texting or gossip is that it is very difficult for a hurting woman to look another hurting woman in the face and truly truly hate her—however hateable she is.
There was a guy there. The guy had kind of gone after Blossom and then kind of gone after me. Like I said, Blossom and I for whatever reason seem to always attract the same people to us—men, women, lovers, friends, even enemies. Blossom suggested that he say the 26th nice thing about me. “Julie Mannell is beautiful,” he said. I kissed his face and then I hugged Blossom. Yet another man who’d lusted after both of us had months earlier blatantly refused to tell either of us that he thought we were beautiful.
What Blossom did that day is something I can’t understand. She has her own complexities. However, I can look at her and know people can be better than I’ve been, there is a possibility for me to be better.
Today Kimmy is a successful artist in Toronto. We rekindled our friendship after she moved to Montreal and relied on me to make new friends. Now I’m in a similar situation as I was in grade school; Kimmy is introducing me to all kinds of new people and all kinds of new people are asking me if I know her because miraculously we are both from Fonthill—buttfuck nowhere piece of shit, Ontario. We make art from our lives. I’m writing a novel about the strange friendship between two girls in a small Catholic town. She’s dedicated her life to creating platforms for people, especially children, to tell their stories through film. I don’t feel held hostage. We both have our own careers. We both have our own identities. We both know that individually we are both smart and beautiful and very different but not so different.
When I had my abortion I thought about how much I used to believe in the Catholic church. Even if you leave a religion it always kind of sits with you. I find myself telling prayers to myself all the time accidentally. I also routinely drunk dial my dead grandfather so maybe its just me. Anyways, when I was lying on the table at the Royal Victoria Hospital knowing that my boyfriend had lied about having a vasectomy and I was choosing something that went against my mother’s beliefs, that went against the beliefs that had been ingrained in me as a young Catholic girl in Fonthill, when I chose being a writer, going to University, living in the city, over returning to my hometown and marrying that bad man and being a mother—I took off the gas mask. I took off the gas mask and was fully awake and wanted to feel it all. I felt it all. People could disagree all they wanted but I didn’t want anyone to say I took the easy way out.
Christmas 2015, I’m back in Fonthill. I pull the stolen baby Jesus out from under my bed. I lie down on my bed and look at it. It isn’t my baby, it’s Mary’s and I felt so angry at her for having things, people, approval that I wanted for myself. Did taking something from Mary justify what had been done to me? Where did she fit into the framework of other people being hateful and hurtful and bad? Why did I need to make her a victim the same way I was, stealing from her manger in her stable in that weird miniature version of my hometown in the ‘50s? What did I gain with this weird clipart stuck on a plank of wood inside of a plastic bag saviour?
In Catholic school we were taught that Mary was between twelve and fourteen when she was pregnant with Jesus. I reimagined the story. It was Mary’s birthday and she was walking home from basket weaving or whatever she was into—a real New Testament party. God never really asked Mary if she wanted to be pregnant, he got his buddy Gabriel to do it while she was on her way home. I wonder about the moment between when Gabriel spoke to her and when she spoke back to him, accepting the conditions of her life on God’s terms. I wonder if she looked at the dirt path in her little village and realized: it doesn’t really matter if I’m a champion basket weaver or a good camel rider or funny or smart or beautiful or interesting. It doesn’t really matter because this is what God is going to do to me and so He is God and who I am or what I want doesn’t really matter. This is happening to me whether I like it or not. It doesn’t really matter.
After Mary was forcibly impregnated by God her first instinct was to walk over to her best gal pal Elizabeth’s house. Shit was fucked up and she wanted to go talk to her lady-friend about it. Before she said anything, Elizabeth called Mary “the Mother of my Lord” and in so doing defined Mary for her. I wonder about the moment between when Elizabeth told Mary what she was and Mary spoke the Magnificat. I can’t help wondering and wondering and wondering. I wonder if in that moment she was confused about where Elizabeth ended and she began. Elizabeth told her what she was and I can’t help contemplating that maybe it is possible that Mary resented her for it and resented God for what He’d done and if she just sort of gave in. The bigness of the circumstance with all of these other people was beyond anything she could control. Maybe Mary was a victim and her victimhood didn’t really matter. All that mattered was what she did after.
I am not like Mary. I cannot be like Mary. I don’t think Mary would’ve ever sent hateful texts. As I sit on my bed in my childhood room though, staring at ginger Jesus of Fonthill, I can’t help but empathize. If I were like Mary, if I were in her situation, I would think of Jesus as I think of art, as I think of stories. Jesus exists outside of the ethics of what God and Gabriel and Elizabeth did to Mary. Jesus is what she created and put out into the world to live as a story that is beyond her own wants, desires, needs, personality, flaws. She gave birth to Jesus because it would matter to people and it was beyond whatever mattered to her. If Jesus can be a slab of wood then Jesus can be an artifact then Jesus could just as easily be words in a dictionary arranged in the bible in such a way that it matters in a way that causes wars while begging for peace.
Sitting on my bed I know that I’ve seriously let my self-hate justify doing wrong another person. I know that I have wronged Mary—and at Christmas, wow. I know I need to give Jesus back to Fonthill and Mary but I am so exhausted and angry still that I don’t know how. For the time being I slip him under the bed in my mother’s home beside Kimmy’s letters and I let him rest there with the other secrets of the women I’ve hurt.
As for the normal human girl and the boy who wronged me, I’ve been most afraid that this piece will be read as a manifesto of hate—as a call to hate others. I don’t want that. I’m angry but I don’t want to call onto anyone for some collective hatred.
Post-September 2015 heartbreak
I don’t want to be a person who kills creativity or creates problematic boycotts or ruins careers. I am angry. I don’t want to be her friend. I think he is being a dick. It’s okay—they have plenty of friends who aren’t me. It’s not okay because I can only make the kind of art we make together if she allows us or he creates a boundary that he refuses to create. I understand the refusal but it makes me angry. I will say something while grinding my furious teeth together.
I think he is a good poet and that exists outside being a good person. I hope he keeps writing his poems and I hope they impact people. I hope the poems go on. That’s all.
I hope she becomes a great journalist and writes stories that matter, that change the world, that call out corruption, that bring truths to light. There are not nearly enough fearless journalists who tell the stories that matter. It matters to me that she is a good journalist. I hope she does good work. That’s all.
That was hard to say but true.
While writing this piece I got very ill. It is hard to tell the truth especially when you’ve spent such a long time being told to be quiet, to bite your lips, to not raise your hand. A few classmates asked why I was so loopy in workshop on Monday. A classmate talked to me on Facebook chat. He asked me why I was writing the piece if I was so nervous about the response and it was causing me to suffer so much emotional turmoil?
Behind his question, Zora Neale Hurston spoke to me through someone else’s twitter. Zora Neale Hurston said, “If you are silent about pain they’ll kill you and say you enjoyed it.”
My anger is real and worthy. She created an environment where it was impossible for me to write the poetry that I wanted to write. She took my boyfriend/fiancé/love. He was terrible to me. He did this even more, but he is the more boring story. Men wronging women is a tale older than the Virgin Mary. I am more curious as to why I feel so bad for feeling real and worthy of anger and also expressing it to another woman. Why do I feel it makes me somehow a bad person and a bad feminist and a bad curator of the arts? Perfect trifecta of bad. I don’t really have any answers except for these stories. I won’t smile while other people make me eat their shit. I still have dreams where I pull her hair and spit in her mouth.