That Whole Thing About My Old Apartment

No matter how hard I try to not talk about myself, sometimes other people force my hand. So here we go again.

During the Valentine’s Day weekend of 2016, my apartment at 537 W 147th St Apt 1 was flooded. My  apartment was and is managed by Aizer Realty, specifically by Joseph Aizer. I am making this information public because I have just found out today that Joseph Aizer and 147 Hamilton LLC have taken me to small claims court for unpaid rent, and at this point, there is no reason to be quiet.

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On the surface, my apartment was perfect. It had a washer/dryer unit, hardwood floors, dishwasher and a backyard.

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And it was home. The only problem was that during the cold months, the apartment was nearly uninhabitable.

We had central air, but it was so expensive to run, between $1200-$1500 monthly during the cold months. We had been in long tern talks with Joseph Aizer about the fact that the apartment was so cold, even despite the HVAC system, and we desperately needed an alternative. I insulated the windows, my roommate cooked frequently to keep the apartment warm, but during those cold months, the electric bill was so high that we were going broke. 

That first summer, my roommate and I made the decision to have the central air system shut down from the unit, to lower costs. During the warmer months, the  difference was significant. The electric bill went down to an average of $100-$200 a month. During the winter months we resolved to use space heaters instead, which lowered our bills to about $900-$1200, better, but still leaving us looking for alternatives. 

My room specifically was known as the freezer. With three of the four walls facing the garden, my room was often colder than the outside. I mentioned repeatedly that my room seemed badly insulated, something Mr. Aizer scoffed at. But I could feel the cold coming in through my feet, and I never went without socks between September and May.

Sometimes, I had to leave the space heater on in my bedroom all day to get it warm enough in time for bed, and while it was hard on the wallet, it made it easier to sleep.

That Valentine’s Day weekend, I spent it with friends. when I came back that Monday night, I started to warm up the apartment before bed, per usual. What I didn’t know is that the sprinkler pipes in my room froze, and when I came back and warmed up the apartment, they burst. I was able to catch the very moment it all went from a drip to a complete flood. 

Within minutes, I lost 300 books. I tried to protect what I could, but the water just kept going and going, and even though I tried going to the basement and shut the water off with one of his men on the phone, I could not figure out what to do.

I spent the next hour knee deep in water, on the phone with  my roommate, with Joe and his flunkies, waiting for someone to show up. One of his men, Ezra, tried to make me take the blame for the pipes freezing, telling me I should have never turned off the heat when I left. I kept reminding him, no matter how hard he tried to pin the blame on me, that keeping the pipes clear was not part of my skill set or my job.

When Mike arrived an hour later, I was standing right next to him when he informed Erza and Joe over the phone that there was no way I could have anticipated this, and that it was unreasonable for them to expect me to be the one to shut the water off, something that I do not know how to do and had never done before, and something that was their job. 

They offered to put me up in a hotel but I refused, too afraid to leave everything to rot overnight. Instead, I didn’t sleep. I cleaned until dawn. I washed the clothes that had gotten wet. I mopped the floors with towels and dumped water in the sink. I tried to save some of my books, mostly journals and signed copies, but the majority were lost.

The next morning when Joseph’s help came, I had done most of the work. I tried to sleep while they cleaned up the rest, dumped my mattress (not covering it according to NY code) and ripped up the carpet. I was livid because just like i had suspected, the carpet had been glued directly onto the floor, proving that my room was badly insulated like I’d told them.

In person, Joseph was super apologetic. we agreed to two things in person: that my roommate and I were going to break that lease, and that Joe would help me find another place to live.

Over email or over the phone, Joseph was different. He continued to blame me for the flood because I didn’t leave the heat on while I was away, despite what Mike had said, and denied any fault because I didn’t have any renter’s insurance. He got convenient amnesia. He admitted to nothing, kept saying he was going to reach out to the owners for us but never did, and kept jumping off conversation threads and creating new ones, I’m sure to keep us off balance.

He made some attempts to find me another place, but left it to me to contact the brokers. No one responded after I disclosed that I was out of a home because the sprinkler system in my apartment burst, and Joe stopped bothering. For a split-second, I considered staying in the apartment, but he took this as an opportunity to keep my roommate’s deposit (money that did not belong to me and that I  did not have) instead for allowing for a break to fix up the apartment and give me time to get a deposit, a new roommate, and enter into a new lease with him. 

I  moved out on March 1st and Joe’s people were in the apartment hours later, with our written permission. Two weeks later, I saw my apartment listed on streeteasy.com for $3,000 a month. 

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Two weeks after that, the apartment was taken off the market, meaning that within a month and a half, Joseph had re-rented the apartment, upped the rent, and collected a fee. Meaning that due to his negligence, he poised himself to make even more money.

I have fought the urge to contact the current tenants and warn them about what we went through in that apartment. The idea that space is limited in the city is a myth, but the predatory nature of the real estate system is very real. It was in Joe’s financial interest to be negligible about that apartment. It has been in mine to keep quiet, for fear of being put on a blacklist. But to believe that I  should keep quiet after Joseph Aizer has had the nerve to take me me to small claims court for an apartment he was slow in maintaining is absurd. If he had been as diligent about maintaining the property as he is about trying gain financially, we would not  be in this situation. Specifically, I would not be out of a home.

I did not want to leave my apartment. Financially, I had no choice. Joe gained more by my departure. This behavior is not only predatory, it is unethical, and New Yorkers are constantly being pushed out of their homes because of people looking out for the bottom line. I will not be silent about that any longer.

UPDATES

Here’s video I took as I stood in the dark waiting for someone to show. I shut off the circut breakers to keep from getting electrocuted.

 

A picture of the pipes that could have helped me but were chained:

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And more of the aftermath.

Bodega

She knew him as one of the boys that liked to hang out outside of the bodega. He was always nice and she would always smile. But while she could recognize him, point him out from a crowd, she didn’t know his name.

One night she dropped her keys and it all changed. He held the door open for her when it happened, caught them in midair before she could react. They laughed. They talked, and it was as if they had known each other for years, so that hours later they were still sitting on her front stoop, dreading the moment they would have to say good bye.

They never did, instead making plans for the next night and the next, until they were spending every waking moment together.

He shared his favorite games with her, his favorite songs, his favorite restaurants. She shared with him her favorite movies, her favorite plays. Her favorite musicals.

They made big plans to go to the ballet. Christmas was two weeks away and they both wanted to see the Nutcracker live, classic that it was.

She wore a dress with a full tulle skirt, the kind that made her feel like a ballerina herself, and as she watched him arrive from the ballet hall steps, she saw that he wore slacks and a button down shirt.

It was the first time he had dressed formally in the time she had known him. It was the first time he had dressed formally in his life.

He’d gone to the city, shopped at one of those suit stores he’d seen on TV and even had the pants tailored. As he crossed the street, watching her smile widen on the other side, he thought about how she made him want to be a better man.

He didn’t hear his friends as they approached. He didn’t see them as he crossed the street, so that by the time they crossed his path and stopped him, they had witnessed the worst of his joy and clowned him for it.

They made fun of his new pants for the way they were belted at the waist, the way they snugly fit, the way he carried himself in them of all things. They clowned his corny smile, the fact that he was going to a ballet, and as his expression began to change, they reminded him that it was all in good fun and there was no point in being sensitive.

She watched it all from those steps, unsure of what it all meant from a distance, but aware that it was best that she stay put, that she would only make it worse, whatever it was. But when he finally came to her it didn’t matter, because she could sense that something inside of him had fundamentally changed.

They watched the performance in stiff silence. Any attempt to talk or incite a smile was met with one word answers and grunts. He held her just long enough until it was okay to let go, and even before the play was over he was all set to go.

He forgot to kiss her goodbye. He didn’t call. He didn’t reply. He didn’t even hang outside of the bodega anymore, and no matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t figure what she’d done wrong.

Time passed. Weeks bled into months and suddenly, miraculously, she saw him on the train. Their eyes met. He turned away. He was with his friends. Just like that, it was over before it began. And no, they never said goodbye.

The 7 People You’ll Probably Argue With Online Now That Trump Has Been Elected President (And You’re A Liberal)

It’s been little over a week since the presidential election. I feel like I’ve aged five years. After it was clear on Wednesday morning that Trump had in fact gotten the electoral vote, New York was in mourning. No one could look at each other on the train. I cried twice in public, and still now I keep trying to think of upsides.

(“There is no upside!” My  roommate tells me as I  type this. “It’s just terrible!”)

Even though I can barely wrap my head  around what has happened, I’d rather not reiterate anything Vice, The New Yorker, The New York Times, and New York Mag have already said. Instead, I am going to do what I do best: analyze what I see.

I spend a lot of time online, mostly arguing with people in the comments section. It tightens up my writing, but it also makes me feel like I am reclaiming that space. Unless regularly moderated, the comments section on almost every website can be a petri dish of the worst of humanity; I for one think that the fragile anonymity that the internet provides should not be an excuse to indulge the worst in ourselves, and I like to use my powers of persuasion for the greater good.

But some people can’t help themselves. While they may think they’re being edgy or counterculture, or just expressing their opinion, man, the way that humans argue still follow certain patterns. And if you’re the type to loves to argue for arguments sake, then there’s a really good chance your arguments commit certain logical fallacies.

The truth is, there really is no one way to argue with these people.

1. The Move On’er 

“The election is over, man. Why don’t you just move on?” Admit it, even reading the title of this post you were thinking it. We’ve been in election mode for the past year and a half, and now a lot of people just want to move on with their lives.

Except the result of the election is not normal. Somehow we managed to elect a man who ran several businesses into the ground and is so unprepared for a presidency that he doesn’t even have a transition team in place.

It’s difficult to move on when your rights might be in danger. I live in a nice little blue bubble of democracy, and I am still worried about my reproductive rights being decided by the alt-right. I can’t even imagine what it’s like for those who woke up still black, Muslim, LGBTQ, or Mexican in a red state. People are afraid because there is real reason to be.

The best way to talk to the Move On’er is to point out the real reasons why you’re afraid, and the very real things Trump has said to make you afraid of his presidency. If they come back with something along the lines of, “Trump didn’t really mean that,” remind them that there really is no way to be 100% sure of that until it happens, and you have every right to be wary.

2. The Couple Tag Team 

You argue with one and you inherit an argument with the other. It doesn’t matter what the topic is, or if you’re being naive, confrontational, cynical, or snide. If you’re arguing with Thing 1, Thing 2 is bound to come in to defend their honor.

The problem with The Couple Tag Team is that they come at you as an united front but you’re still arguing with two people. When one taps out, the other taps in. When you’re responding to one, the other asks another question. It’s exhausting, and completely unfair. How can you possibly make your point when it’s two-on-one, at least?

The Couple Tag Team is tough because real relationships are on the line. If you are having a disagreement with a friend and their other half joins in guns blazing, it might be easier to back off to preserve your friendship. But if its someone you barely interacted with and then their spouse is being obnoxious? Fuck ’em. Make your point and then hit that block button when you’re done.

3. The Attention Starved Troll (Or The Troll You Know Would Never Say Anything of The Things They Post Online Out loud)

They don’t make any sense. Any time you try to respond to one of their points, they throw three more at you at the same time. They change the subject, they move the goal post, they criticize your sources as”lamestream media” and then they turn around and quote The Washington Post. And then, just when you think you’ve got them cornered, they go to another thread and start the whole fucking thing again.

But look into The Attention Starved Troll (Or The Troll You Know Would Never Say Anything of The Things They Post Online Out loud), and you’ll find someone with a family and children. They may even have high powered positions and college degrees, and you might actually consider being friends with them if they weren’t so horrible on social media.

You might start to think, why would otherwise will read and learned person say such horrible things online? Well, some people, hear me out, think that the things they say online has no real-world consequences. Other people feel so insignificant in their daily lives that trolling online is the only way they feel important. And then there’s the type of person that has really damaging opinions and sees the internet as a safe place to be hateful.

One thing we often overlook when dealing with conflict is that humans feel things. One of those feelings can be anger, and socially, we discourage people from expressing their anger. Often, this is well-intentioned: anger is volatile, unpredictable, and destructive. There really is no safe, public place where to express and expel undiluted anger, and for many, the internet has been an outlet.

The thing about The Attention Starved Troll (Or The Troll You Know Would Never Say Anything of The Things They Post Online Out loud) is that they see the internet as a no-consequence space to  vent their anger. While anger is a perfectly valid emotion, there is a difference between venting and indulging. What they don’t see is that opinions influence media and ideas. Remind them. My favorite thing to tell people: everything is sociology. Everything. Nothing exists in a vacuum. Everything has a footprint. The quality of the footprint is up to us.

4. The “It’s in God’s Hands Now” Philosopher

God knows all. God will protect us. God has a plan. God knows your ass didn’t vote.

The “It’s in God’s Hands Now” Philosopher sees their own inaction as part as some mysterious greater plan. Didn’t wear a condom? God will know what to do. Got pregnant? God wanted it to happen. Criticize their decisions? God will protect them from your negativity.

The hard part about arguing with The “It’s in God’s Hands Now” Philosopher is that they really believe God is pulling the strings. Call it a form of comfortable ennui. On one hand, it keeps them from feeling insignificant and giving up hope. But on the other hand, it can be a very passive existence, comfortable in the idea that there’s a higher power living their life for them.

I have a huge problem with “It’s in God’s Hands Now” Philosophers. I grew up in the same type of skirt-only-wearing, girls-should-be-pure-preaching, used-to-be-a-bodega kind of Pentecostal church that used to preach that the Apocalypse was going to happen and it was only a matter of when. As an adult, I now have anxiety.

But part of the reason I am okay with leaving the church is that often, The “It’s in God’s Hands Now” Philosophy is often used to excuse bad behavior or inaction, because God knows what’s in their heart. It doesn’t matter what they do or don’t do, because God knows what’s in their heart. 

When I argue with The “It’s in God’s Hands Now” Philosopher, I’m usually brutal. I’m not saying take my lead on this one, I am saying, I hate this type of person specifically and I am probably not the best person to take advice from on this one. When I do argue with  The”It’s in God’s Hands Now” Philosopher, it looks something like this:

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5. The Conspiracy Theorist

They think Clinton should be in jail. They share statistics about black on black crime. They think 9/11 was an inside job. Something something Illuminati. And if you disagree with them, you’ve clearly have been brainwashed by the establishment.

The Conspiracy Theorist thinks they know a higher truth than you. How did they learn this higher truth? Probably on the internet.

The Conspiracy Theorist is usually trying to fill a void in their life, and it can be really difficult to convince them otherwise. The answer, however, seems to be empathy. From the linked article:

“So what’s the key to stopping conspiracy theorists? It’s like a wise dog once said: “Empathy, empathy, put yourself in place of me.” It was his conversation with Mark Bingham’s grieving mother (and his disgust at how his fellow conspiracy theorists were treating her with utter contempt) which pushed Charlie back into sanity.

There’s a belief that fighting conspiracy theories is a simple matter of bludgeoning people over the head with facts and waiting for everything to sink in. But that’s like arguing that Christianity will eventually defeat atheism by finding the right combination of Bible verses. Every one of us has near-constant access to the greatest information archive in history, and conspiracy theories are flourishing like never before.”

The Conspiracy Theorist, like literally everyone else, is trying to find meaning in this world, just through a really harmful outlet. If you have to argue with The Conspiracy Theorist, try to get them up on the conspiracy that private corporations have been trying to buy our democracy through the Republican party for over a century. It’s scary stuff.

6. The Over The Top Guns Rights Activist

Didn’t you hear? Obama has been coming for our guns since 2008! Did he get yours yet? Huh? He hasn’t? No, he hasn’t gotten mine either. But he’s coming for our guns!!! Any day now!!

The Over The Top Guns Rights Activist always makes me thinks of this quote in Good Omens. Crowley, a demon, is describing how he feels about the people who worship the Prince of Darkness:

“Crowley always found them embarrassing. You couldn’t actually be rude to them, but you couldn’t help feeling about them the same way that, say, a Vietnam veteran would feel about someone who wears combat gear to Neighborhood Watch meetings.”

The Over The Top Guns Rights Activist has probably never seen active combat. They’re probably not even fit to be on a police force. They’re probably white, very likely male, and  they’re very afraid that “those people” will come take their rights (i.e. privileges) away.

They also don’t represent they average gun owner:

Don’t argue with The Over The Top Guns Rights Activist, but keep a wary eye on them. If they post something that even hints at a threat, call the police, pronto.

7. The Diet Racist

They just want to make America Great Again, ya’ll. They want to protect the border and bring back our jobs! What’s wrong with that?

Well, The Diet Racist is the reason the United States has immigration laws after 90% of the native population died off. The Diet Racist is the reason redlining is still a thing, and why the quality of education you get depends on where you live.

The Diet Racist uses coded language to obscure what they really mean. They’re not racist, you see, they’re just trying to keep the ones they love safe from ‘those other people’:

Othering, of course, is the root of the problem. From the link:

“By “othering”, we mean any action by which an individual or group becomes mentally classified in somebody’s mind as “not one of us”. Rather than always remembering that every person is a complex bundle of emotions, ideas, motivations, reflexes, priorities, and many other subtle aspects, it’s sometimes easier to dismiss them as being in some way less human, and less worthy of respect and dignity, than we are.

This psychological tactic may have had its uses in our tribal past. Group cohesion was crucially important in the early days of human civilisation, and required strong demarcation between our allies and our enemies. To thrive, we needed to be part of a close-knit tribe who’d look out for us, in exchange for knowing that we’d help to look out for them in kind. People in your tribe, who live in the same community as you, are more likely to be closely related to you and consequently share your genes.

As a result, there’s a powerful evolutionary drive to identify in some way with a tribe of people who are “like you”, and to feel a stronger connection and allegiance to them than to anyone else. Today, this tribe might not be a local and insular community you grew up with, but can be, for instance, fellow supporters of a sports team or political party.”

Understanding this, your best tool when arguing online is to remind your opposition that you are a person. Not a name on a screen, not a profile on social media, but a person who lives and breathes and has people in their corner. How you decide to get that message across, however, is entirely up to you.

 

Exes & Ø’s

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My father died last week, and after I got the news, I coped how I know best. I wrote about it, and the ensuing outpour of support was much more than I expected.

I thought that I would be socially punished for posting private things about my family and my time growing up. In part, this is why I hesitate when it comes to writing about my own experience, even though I have wells of information to draw from. So when friends near and far came out to give their condolences, I was truly touched.

Some friends reached out to tell me that my story reminded me of their own relationships with their fathers. Others just wanted me to know that they understood the complicated feelings I have for my father through my story, and others just wanted to check in and let me know that I always have an ear with them.

Even my former next door neighbor, a high school friend who doesn’t have Facebook, called to check in with me. However, as the days passed, it became more and more obvious that I had not heard from a very specific group: any one of my exes.

You see, I’ve had about, say, five great loves in my life, all guys who were friends first. Three of those men are people that, if they came back to me offering love and support and companionship for real, I would drop everything for.

At varying points in my life, these men, without fail, have popped back into my life. Some have come back after we dated, admitting that they took me for granted and wishing for a second chances. And the others, the ones that I never really ‘dated’ but were significant to me all the same, ‘bump’ into me socially, often pretending that they don’t remember the reason I severed ties with them in the first place, sometimes even giving me a really good reason why things went down the way they did. A  variation of, “You see? I’m not really as horrible as you thought, you just had the wrong impression this whole time!”

I’m sad to admit that it took until my late twenties for me to notice this pattern, that I was in these endless cycles with guys that are perpetually Not Ready For A Relationship but kept me on the back burner all the same, whether as a safe bet or a backup plan or just for the attention. And too often, when they came back into my life, I’d be so happy to hear from them that I’d be too willing to forgive and forget.

But I realized that nothing ever changed. In fact, I noticed something that made me stop in my tracks. These guys, these guys I loved with all their flaws, really thought they could say horrible things to me, treat me like an option and not a person, and all they had to do was wait until I’d be willing to forget.

On guy didn’t disclose that he’d been sexually active with other women when we had been involved, and when I called him out on it, he told me he was a shark, you see, and it was my own fault for not knowing. Another treated me like I should be grateful for the attention our entire relationship, only to hit me up a few months after his wife left him, asking me to come back to Hartford, as if I had been sitting by the phone for his call.

And the last one, the one that hurt the most, didn’t tell me he had been in a long term relationship the entire time we’d been messaging each other. His response? I only talk to you when I need a break from my kids (as if we hadn’t been sending each other explicit messages since we were both teens) and, anything I said to you was true at the time. 

(Plan another funeral, because I died from that.)

It seems to me that as a woman, giving love and being there for others are not just parts of who we are, but they are parts of us that are often expected and taken for granted. I have never been mistreated more than the times when I had uncontrollable crushes on guys that were just my type: Hispanic, tall, smart, and often, trouble.

Once I got to New York, I dated and hooked up with guys all over the spectrum, until the only common denominator was Hispanic, and I found that many of these guys fell within two different camps: the guys that are used to having girls tripping all over themselves to get to them, so they never have to make an effort, and the guys who wished they were the type of guys that had girls tripping all over themselves for them.

And it all came down to this: being taken for granted. Random disappearances or silences when bringing up something they didn’t want to discuss. Getting gas-lighted into taking the blame for something I couldn’t have known or something they did. Or being used as a temporary girlfriend while their real girlfriend was out of town. (That last one, by the way, is some scum of the earth behavior.)

We still live in a world that assumes that women exist to make men happy, and it’s a world that teaches women this expectation from puberty. I was not allowed to talk about boys or date, but my primary training at home was cleaning and learning how to be pretty and docile. The docility never took.

And the thing was, I was as boy crazy as the next girl. All I wanted was a boyfriend, and as I hit puberty, I thought I was so hideous that no boy would ever like me. The boys I liked were so mean that it only reinforced this idea, and when I finally met a guy who liked me, I was so relieved it was ridiculous.

But as I dated as a teen, I never understood why they boys I loved treated me like crap. I didn’t understand why the guys I loved did underhanded things, acting like it was my job to accept it once I found out. The big one was other women, and most often, I was the other woman without even knowing it. I realized then that relationships with these men were not really about love, but what I could do for them. The girl that makes me most comfortable wins.

I couldn’t be a part of that. As an adult, I made the decision to not be a part of that, understanding that it would lead to a very lonely life. But it would be a  life that belonged to me and no one else.

So why am I pissed right now? Because giving condolences after someone’s father dies is a sign of sincerity. If any of those guys who lied to me, treated me like I should be grateful for the scraps of attention they paid me, side-chicked me, or kept me in the dark like a fool, if any of those guys had made the slightest effort to be there for me, then I would have known the gesture to be true, because it had been for me, not for them.

Not one of them did. And I won’t forget. Just ask my dad.

On Grief

Some of you may already know that my father passed away last night after a year-long battle with ALS.

Some of you may also know that I received the news from Facebook, or rather, from a Facebook post publicized by his pastor within hours of his demise, who I’m sure was given permission to share the news by my father’s wife, Miriam. Because being a good person only matters if everyone knows.

And so here we are.

My father, Jose, the only father I know, was a complicated man. I don’t know the impression that he left with church friends in his last years, but the man I remember loved his weekend parties, his salsa, his Budweisers and his Malboros.

He was also a man who resented his domestication. The man meant well for the most part, but he showed that he cared in the most ass-backwards ways, thinking that because he had a job and he came home every night, he was A Good Man. The threats of violence and emotional intimidation? It was still better than the way his own parents raised him.

His favorite phrase was, “Yo, el hombre de la casa!” (“Me, the man of the house!”) Followed by some complaint about an unfair indignity he had to suffer through, like sweeping after he got home from work or something. He said this so much that when Good Charlotte’s, “Lifestyles Of The Rich & Famous” was popular and my sister and I would sing the chorus randomly, (“always complaining, always complaining.”), he thought we were talking about him.

He had no patience for idle activities, often hovering over me while I would be reading a book, asking me if I had nothing better to do. If I was done with my homework early, he’d yell at me to do more work, not understanding that that’s not how homework works. How could I explain to the man that as the youngest in my class I was already a freak? I didn’t. Instead in high school I stopped doing homework all together. Out of sight, out of mind.

He was unsatisfied and unhappy with his life, often putting the burden on us to provide him with the happiness he could not find himself. Often expecting us to answer the questions he could not formulate.

He would often control little pieces of our lives to feel powerful. When my sister and I shared a room, he put a phone in our room and took it back within hours because we were using it. He would listen in on our phone calls. He would hide the mouse to our computer so we’d have to ask permission to use it, not knowing I knew what F keys are for. And when he got into his moods, it was only a matter of time until he found something, anything, no matter how small, to be angry about for the rest of the day.

When I was a teenager, I’d had enough. I was not okay with being humiliated, sometimes publicly, because of his moods. I started talking back, sometimes physically blocking him from my sister, and after he moved out for the last time, I was the one who made it clear to him that he was not welcome back.

My entire adult life has been an exercise in untangling myself from him. He mourned that I never contacted him, but his attitude had not changed and I had nothing to say. And after he started dating his wife Miriam, the nastiness only continued through her.

He divorced my mother on the same day my sister graduated from college. He got married on Father’s Day and did not invite my sister or myself, and only informed my mother after the fact, and it was that one single event that gave me the excuse to cut him off forever.

I was ready to let my father die without forgiving him. I knew that my silence hurt him more than anything, and when I learned of his diagnosis, I thought: Good. Now he’s going to know what it’s like to need compassion, and patience, and understanding. Now he’s going to know what it’s like to be depressed, and small, and sick, and depend on others. Now he is going to know what it feels like to be powerless.

I was ready to let my father die without forgiving him, but in the end, it was Miriam’s nastiness that allowed me to forgive him. Miriam was nasty to my mother until the very end, and in part, my father allowed it because it made him the center of attention. But then, she blocked my sister from seeing him, and that’s where I drew the line.

It was one thing for a disease to break down his body. It was another for one person to take it upon herself to decide who had access to my father after he could no longer speak for himself. I did not want a bully for the bully. I just wanted the bully to learn compassion, to understand others unlike him, and to find his happiness himself.

In the end, I reached out, sending him a series of messages to let him know I did not take any joy in his humiliation. That I did not wish this for him. In the end, my sister was able to see him again, and she made sure to tell him I was no longer angry at him. He died the next day.

I am my father’s daughter. He taught me my temper and my impatience. But he also taught me how to dance. He taught me to love music. He inadvertently taught me to speak up for myself, to hold my ground, to not be afraid of men twice my size. He taught me not to be intimidated, to stand up for what I believe in, to depend on logic above all else.

He also taught me to avoid men like him: men who are wholly unsatisfied in their lives, the kind of men who would expect something from me that I do not have or cannot give.

But in the end, he may have taught me how to forgive.

In the end, yes, I am sad, not because my daddy died, but sad for the relationship we never had. I’m sad that it took a rare disease, and muscle death, and intubation, and a oxygen mask for him to really realize all that he had.

I need to believe that in the end, he realized all that he had.

May you finally find peace, dad. May you finally find some peace.

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How Male Wish Fulfillment Went From James Bond To Donald Trump

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Daniel Craig in Casino Royale

During November of 2012, right after the release of the James Bond sequel Skyfall, Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen penned a hilarious opt-ed titled: James Bond and the new sex appeal. In it, Cohen, a middle-aged man himself, bemoaned the fact that Daniel Craig’s James Bond was a chiseled, muscled sex-god, and sadly, a Bond that no longer reminded him of himself. In his own words:

Craig is 44, but neither gravity nor age has done its evil work on him. Nothing about him looks natural, relaxed — a man in the prime of his life and enjoying it. Instead, I see a man chasing youth on a treadmill, performing sets and reps, a clean and press, a weighted knee raise, an incline pushup and, finally, something called an incline pec fly (don’t ask). I take these terms from the Daniel Craig Workout, which you can do, too, if your agent and publicist so insist. Otherwise, I recommend a book….

You see, Daniel Craig’s James Bond made Cohen sad. Every toned muscle Craig sported on the big screen was a reminder of every set and rep, clean and press, weighted knee raise, incline pushup and, incline pec fly that Cohen himself had not done. Cohen, you see, prefers to read, which is fine, except it’s not getting him all the girls. And, ugh, why can’t things be the way they used to be?

This is all very sad news. Every rippling muscle is a book not read, a movie not seen or a conversation not held. That’s why Sean Connery was my kind of Bond. He was 53 when he made his last Bond film, “Never Say Never Again.” Women loved him because he was sophisticated and he could handle a maitre d’ as well as a commie assassin. Western civilization was saved not on account of his pecs but on account of his cleverness and experience.

Of course, Cohen was ridiculed across the internet, not more so than on the very feminist websites that give me breath. Cohen and men like him, for the very first time, have been told by the media they love that they’re just not good enough. That they actually have to look sexy to have mainstream sex appeal, and well, that’s just not sitting well.

If you’re a woman, you know of this pressure all too well. For decades, popular media has portrayed versions of idealized femininity that are often unreachable for most women. But unlike men, these ideals don’t just get in the way of us getting laid. They can keep us from opportunities, jobs and relationships.

You see it through the recent cult of celebutants, women who are beautiful first and famous later. The message is that if you reach a certain level of attractiveness and privilege, doors will automatically open to you.

You see it in dating trends. When was the last time you got a guy you actually liked to say, “Yes I want to be in a relationship with you. Let’s talk about it some more.”? You see it in sexists restaurant dress codes. Remember when you had to be a perfect size six to be a stewardess? Or how about when Playboy used to conduct gynecological exams on their female employees? Or have you even tried to walk outside without being bothered?

And if you’re the type to say, “Well, if you don’t like it, then stay home.” Well, asshole, that’s the fucking point. Socially, women have always been told that their worth is closely tied to their looks, and that link was not to be broken. Women won the right to have a presence in public spaces, but not without stipulations. The message was clear: You can have a job, as long as it’s a job we approve of. You can exist in the public eye, as long as you make it worth my while. 

The difference between the pressure women face daily and the pressure that Cohen has most recently made aware of is, of course, male privilege. Cohen is moaning about this new standard, but not looking like Daniel Craig will not cost him his job. Cohen may not like this new standard, but he can at least rely on the fact that as men on screen age, their love interests stay the same age.

And what if you don’t like this new standard? Enter Donald Trump.

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My apologies to your eyeballs

Donald Trump’s popularity among his mostly white, male base can be attributed to many things. Fox news can take the blame. You can also blame trolling culture in social media. You can even say that Trump’s rise in popularity is due to a real social backlash against growing democracy.

You can argue all of these things, but I’d like to add another theory to the fray: Donald Trump is the lazy man’s James Bond.

What do you do when you have all this anger, all this expectation of privilege, and all of this change, and you just don’t fucking like it? Do you adapt, or do you dig your heels in deeper, because losing your privilege and being equal to those other peoplis a fucking insult?

You see, I think the majority of Donald Trump supporters are very aware of the fact that they’re supporting an overgrown man-child for President of the United States, because they believe that above all else, they have, and should continue to have, the privilege to behave like overgrown children. Because they’re men. Grr.

Donald Trump is the embodiment of male privilege. He lies, he cheat, he steals, he abuses, he insults everything under the sun that doesn’t look like him, and he continues on mostly unscathed because of his name, privilege and connections. And penis. Don’t forget penis. A woman could not get away with even half the shit Trump has said.

His supporters know this, and still continue to defend him because they believe that this is the way things should be. That white men should have the right to look like melted crayons and date women light-years out of their league. It’s gotten to the point that even the religious right have changed their minds about morality in order to support Trump. You can’t make this up! From the link:

Instead, they have changed their judgment about the link between groping and governing. Previously, they had espoused “moral clarity” – a single principle applied unbendingly to all situations. Good is good, evil is evil. If a man is immoral in his private life, he will be immoral or worse as a public official.

Now they favor “situational morality,” the situation in this case being the prospect of a Clinton victory. So rather than condemn Trump absolutely, they say that, although he is out of line, they will vote for him and encourage others to do likewise in order to keep Hillary out of the White House.

When you look at the world from this angle, Clinton looks like a damn near race traitor.

And if you want to go the false equivalency route with Clinton, please watch this video:

Unlike men like Cohen, who moaned about the new social standards for men but is not a Trump supporter, Trump is the natural conclusion for men who see the new social standard but refuse to adapt. Trump is also the macro example of what’s going on on the ground.

Trump is the embodiment of the difficulties of dating while female and/or feminist. If you’re a single woman trying to date, and you’re having a hard time finding someone who treats you with basic decency, understands emotional maturity, and discusses the parameters of your relationship upfront instead of after, well, sadly, it’s not just you. Our boys are having a little trouble catching up.

So what do you do in the meantime?

Well, for one, vote for Hillary this November and get it over with, and accept that Trump is a con-man and not a politician. And let’s hope that Trump’s popularity in the limelight is nothing more than extinction burst behavior, and that our boys will eventually get over it and grow into the men we need.

Let’s hope that is the case, because if the alternative is even remotely possible, then yes, we are all doomed.

Are You Happy?

In my last post, I posed some questions that are key for self-actualization. They are:

  • Are you doing the right thing?
  • Are you a good person?
  • Are you making the right decisions?
  • AND: Are you making a positive impact for the world around you?

But I forgot the most important question of them all, and I want to talk about it more about it today.

Are you happy?

You can answer all of above questions and still not be happy, and that can lead to some interesting behaviors in people. Imagine having everything you could ever need, and still not be happy. Imagine never having to go without, and still feeling like something is missing.

You might think, what the hell is wrong with me? Or if you’re not thinking it, other people in your life are probably telling you. What are you, ungrateful? Don’t you know that kids in Africa don’t get to worry about being happy? Do you want to go to Africa, huh? Do you?

It’s a ridiculous question, and answering it honestly requires in-depth, personal analysis, and the right words to answer comprehensively, and even then, the answer can vary from day to day.

And in today’s socioeconomic climate, happiness doesn’t seem to be an attainable goal anymore. How could it be, when you can barely find stability, love, or a decent job that covers your basic living expenses?

Well, being unhappy even though there is nothing particularly wrong is still a legitimate feeling. It can even be a symptom of a mental health issue, and should not be ignored. Depression, anxiety, ADD, ADHD, and bi-polar disorder are all in your head, and are still very real diseases that require treatment. But what if your unhappiness is not chemical, but social? Enter Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs:

maslow-pyramid

 

The Hierarchy of Needs is a theory not only explaining, but also validating, universal human needs that everyone has. Once we’ve adequately met a level of need on a more or less stable basis, we as human beings subconsciously or consciously start to focus on meeting the next need, and yet, it’s still missing some key details that are essential to today’s society.

If you were out in the wilderness and there are no people around, then sure, your basic needs would be food and water. But if you were homeless in a city like New York, your very first, basic desire would be to clothe your body and protect it from the elements. You wouldn’t get very far naked, and because global warming is real, you’d surely die from exposure without clothing first.

Once you’ve covered your naughty bits, then it’s food and water and rest, and on and on, right up to self-actualization, where our needs become more about finding our place in the world. Meeting that need requires a level of self-awareness that, well, everyone could use help with.

But the thing is, our society itself is going through a phase of self-actualization.

The internet and other methods of communication has connected us with the rest of the world in a way that is unprecedented. People today have access to more information than we’ve ever have. People across the world are the most educated that they’ve ever been, in record numbers no less, and because societies are essentially mirrors reflecting the people in them, our societies are reflecting the tension between the old and the new.

Across the world, entire countries are fighting back against dictatorships because they know they deserve better. Women in Ireland are protesting ridiculous abortion restrictions that do nothing to protect children and very much punish women. And here in the United States, what we are seeing is a clash between the American Way that politicians used to exploit their voters, and actual progress (soooo much on that later).

That is both fantastic and scary. Fantastic for those who have dreamt of hoverboards, and universal incomes and a world without HIV, but scary for those who hate change. A new world, a peaceful, interconnected and collaborative world is akin to fascism to those who had or have privileges that others who aren’t like them don’t.

A new world, a peaceful, interconnected and collaborative world is akin to fascism to those who profit from things staying the same. 

Waxing poetic about the way things used to be doesn’t cut it anymore. Wishing we were in the 50’s when men were men and women knew their place doesn’t cut it anymore. Staying ignorant, and making decisions based on what you believe versus what you know doesn’t cut it anymore. It is now the responsibility of every citizen with access to a phone or a computer to educate themselves about the world in order to make the right decisions, which is why I think the Hierarchy of Needs should actually look something like this:

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Although, no matter what anyone tells you, you wont die from lack of sex.

This meme, I’m sure, was probably created as a joke (again, you won’t die if you don’t have sex. Tell your friends) but I think it’s a very valid representation of what world we are headed towards. No one is in a bubble anymore, and  what happens in Syria, Britain, and Iraq affects the entire world.

Developed countries and world leaders have to decide what kind of society we want to be, and what kind of society we want to leave for future generations. And we, as the people in functioning societies, have the responsibility to demand that our leaders make the right decisions for all. You can’t do that  if you do not stay informed. But what’s most important, you can’t do that if you do not know if you’re happy with your life. Why?

Because how you feel about yourself directly affects how you feel about the rest of the world. If you are not happy, why would you want anyone else to be? If you do not value happiness in yourself, how can you value it in others?

So ask yourself, are you happy? And be honest with the answer. A few examples:

  • Maybe your job is shitty, or it wasn’t what you thought it would be.
  • Maybe you’re married to someone who you’re not in love with anymore.
  • Maybe you live in a town that is severely depressed after the main employer moved overseas.
  • Maybe you’re a woman in a man’s body.
  • Maybe you don’t want to be a Harvard Man like your father or your grandfather, and you just want to paint for the rest of your life.
  • Maybe you realized you don’t want to be a mother.
  • Maybe you want love, and your only option is to settle.
  • Maybe you’re polygamous at heart, and your partner isn’t.
  • Maybe being a “blue collar man’s man” 24/7 is exhausting for you.
  • Maybe you’ve had everything handed to you, so you can’t relate to others that haven’t.
  • Or maybe you’ve had to fight for everything you have, so you have no patience for those without internal lives.

These are all legitimate grievances, because, again, we are all different. And though you might not relate or understand, other people’s grievances about their lives are legitimate too, because:

  1. They’re real to them.
  2. You don’t know their lives, and
  3. You shouldn’t have to experience something to understand that it’s valid.

And therefore, what I am trying to say is that your feelings are valid too.

So what am I trying to say? That sociology is a scientific method that can help you analyze your reality, both internal and external, and how it relates to the rest of the world.

And as I continue these posts, I want you to apply that self-understanding and see how it affects your view of the world, because I want to live in a world with hoverboards, and universal incomes and a world without HIV.

Don’t you?