Thought Catalog

Thought Catalog


10 Simple Ways To Guarantee (Or At Least Increase The Chances) That Your Partner Never Cheats

Posted: 11 Nov 2015 07:00 PM PST

Twenty20, alittlebitoflor
Twenty20, alittlebitoflor

1. Fuck them as often as possible.

It sounds simple, but it's easy to forget just how important it is to have a lot of sex. People who are getting laid regularly are far more likely to remain faithful because they’re not walking around feeling sexually starved. Plus, when your genitals touch, some cool scientific hormonal shit happens that bonds you to your partner. That's why it's hard not to feel the least bit attached to another human after sleeping with them, even if it’s a no-strings thing. Our lady and man parts are designed to connect us to each other, both literally and emotionally, which is a good thing if you don’t want your partner to seek out an alternate penis or vagina. Trust your body's biological powers to bind you to your lover by tapping that ass whenever you can.

2. Fuck them when you don't even want to.

If you sit there waiting until you're both turned on at the exact same time to have sex, you'll rarely end up doing it. So sack up and get busy even if you're overtired or overwhelmed or feeling totally unsexy. An orgasm is pretty much always worth the effort. And by rallying and taking one for the team, you'll be doing something for the greater good of your relationship.

3. Always tell them when you're horny.

It doesn't matter where you are or what you're doing. A horny alert won't go unappreciated, whether you whisper it in your lover's ear mid shopping excursion, or at the family dinner table. If you're feeling the slightest bit turned on, there's no reason not to share that information. Everyone needs a reminder that they're dating a sexual being, and that the upside to being in a serious relationship is getting to bed that sexual being frequently.

4. Sext them regularly.

Sexting isn't just for teens and people exploring their chemistry during the early, lustful stages of dating. It's the glue that keeps long-term couples happy, too. Sending your significant other a saucy message reading “wish we could be fucking, bunny,” or “I'm picturing you naked as I type this” is a powerful way to arouse them when you’re apart (especially if you include a suggestive photo). Every shared sexual moment counts, even if it's impossible to act on your desires right that second. Because the more sexual energy you exchange, both in person and from a distance, the less likely either of you is to stray.

5. Create your own couple’s fantasy.

We all have our individual fantasies, but when it comes to creativity, two libidos are better than one. So trade naughty ideas and start outlining a doubly juicy narrative that you can both replay in your dirty imaginations whenever you please. When you collaborate with your partner in crafting a sensual story starring yourselves, you hook each other up with an arsenal of titillating thoughts designed to make you thirst for each other, not others.

6. Take your partner’s sexual temperature.

Not even the most open, articulate people will always notify you when they want sex, so if you want to keep your partner from wandering in the name of sating their unmet sexual needs, you absolutely have to be mindful of their subtle sexual cues. Through spending time together, hopefully you've already catalogued a few of their horny-AF tells. Maybe they bite their lip or fiddle with their hair or tap their foot incessantly when they start to feel turned on. Pay attention to these signals, and act as necessary.

7. Ask them about their masturbation routine.

There's no shame in touching yourself, even if you're in a long-term, sexually fulfilling relationship. Ask your partner about their specific self-pleasuring habits—how and when they masturbate, and what typically leads them to do it. The more you discuss such things, the more likely it is that your significant other will think of you instead of the hot barista the next time they jerk off or tickle the bean. Any time you can integrate yourself into your partner’s solo sex life, it’s a point towards preserving exclusivity.

8. Discuss your own masturbation routine.

Maybe you like to masturbate on the living room couch as they sleep in, or you sneak into the bathroom at work after lunch to pleasure yourself. Masturbating is such a personal behavior, so revealing the intimate details of your solo sexcapades will make your lover feel closer to you. It will also probably make them want to jump you immediately, which is never a bad thing.

9. Sexualize unsexy situations.

Maybe you're both insanely busy and you can't find time for as much sex as you'd like, or you're both sick with the flu in bed and have zero energy leftover from barfing your brains out to bump uglies. A simple reference can turn an otherwise asexual experience into a hilarious, memorably sexualized occasion. So be juvenile and make a dirty joke when it seems totally random, or mouth that popsicle like you're blowing it just for kicks. If you want your partner to refrain from chasing outside action, it's a good idea to let them associate you with sexy stuff in as many different settings and scenarios as possible. If you're in a loving relationship, you won’t even feel objectified as a result.

10. Reassure them that you want their body.

Over the years, people fluctuate in weight and appearance. That's part of the bargain when you sign up for long-term love. But no matter how fit or unhealthy your significant other is at any given time, they should feel like a sexy beast in your eyes. It's your job to remind them that you think they're hot even when they're feeling less than appetizing. Otherwise, they’ll seek reassurance elsewhere. So find a way to compliment them honestly and often. TC mark

Why We Need To Listen To People’s Experiences With Racism Instead Of Brushing It Off

Posted: 11 Nov 2015 06:15 PM PST

Tuesday night at around 8 pm, I got a call from my best friend about a threat being made to students on the University of Missouri campus, via the popular anonymous social media app, Yik Yak.

For the next four hours, we watched our Twitter timelines as the events unfolded at my alma mater. This was a place I had just called home a few months ago. But it was also an institution where I had experienced more racism than anywhere else in my life.

It's so easy for those not affected by the threats last night (or even the killing of black citizens by white cops) to say racism doesn't exist. What these people fail to realize is their privilege allows them to feel that way.

It's white privilege that allows you to ignore the voices of the black students at Mizzou. It's white privilege that allows you to walk around campus and not fear for your safety. It's white privilege that excuses you from educating yourself on systemic racism and how it manifests.

In my four years at Mizzou, I have been called the N-word every semester.

I’ve been told to go back where I came from. In one embarrassing moment, I’ve even been stopped at the university bookstore and had my bag completely dumped out because a cashier swore she saw me take something.

I hadn't taken anything.

These acts are more than just coincidences. They are more than just a few bad apples at our university. They are examples of a deeper problem, not only at Mizzou, but all across this country.

Racism is so deeply engrained in our history that white students on the Mizzou campus today don't even recognize it. The very campus they walk on was more than likely built on the backs of blacks in 1839, before slavery was abolished. Missouri was one of the last states to abolish slavery. Our rivalry with the University of Kansas actually stems from the Missouri Compromise and the Kansas Nebraska Act, where Kansas was declared a free state and Missouri was declared a slave state.

Last night, as I scrolled through Twitter and Yik Yak, I saw so many of my white peers and alumni claim getting called a racial slur was no big deal. They said former UM System President Tim Wolfe’s lack of reaction to racist incidents on campus was not enough reason for him to lose his job.

But they just don't get it.

What Concerned Student 1950 is fighting for is bigger than one man's removal from office. It's bigger than the football team boycotting practice and a game that could have cost Mizzou a million dollars. It's even bigger than Hunter Park, who is the student believed to have posted the threats to Yik Yak last night.

Systemic racism is the issue here. It is why Mizzou put out a tweet saying there was no real threat to campus, even though hundreds of students had seen and heard threats on campus in the time it took the university to craft the misinformed tweet.

It's why it took four hours for the police to release Park's name out of fear for his life, as if black lives aren’t under attack every day on campus.

It's why the University of Missouri can get away with having only 3 percent of its faculty be black, when the black student population is more than double that. Systemic racism isn't understood by the majority because it doesn't affect them. Unless a person of color decides to give information about the systemic racism he or she has experienced, it doesn't exist to whites.

White students would rather focus on everything wrong with the protests that have happened on campus during the last 18 months than admit their beloved university has a problem.

It does, as do many universities across the country.

Marginalized groups on campus need their voices heard.

They must be heard.

Last night was not the first time threats have been made to the Black Culture Center on campus, or to black people on campus. Administrators need to listen to students, create action plans for situations like these and stop brushing them off as isolated incidents. Dylan Roof and other white supremacists have shown us what happens when people ignore online threats.

My fear is if white students, administrators and faculty don't listen now, they’ll regret it one day. TC mark

This Is The Career Path You Should Choose Based On Your Zodiac Sign

Posted: 11 Nov 2015 06:00 PM PST

Twenty20 / vegasworld
Twenty20 / vegasworld

When I was around 5 or 6 years old, I discovered how much I enjoyed writing. My parents gave me a Playskool recorder (the one with that long, curly yellow cord) and I carried that thing around everywhere — to the grocery store to interview strangers, to my friend's houses, or chasing my dog around the backyard asking her for a comment.

I consider myself among the very lucky few who have always known exactly what I wanted to do with my life, and luckily, I've had parents who supported whatever that was.

And if you ask my mom, it wasn’t so much that I was born a natural writer with a thirst for words — but more so, that my sign indicated I might be interested in journalism.

She’s an astrologer, and while she’s always careful to indicate that personal choice outweighs any prediction from the solar system, she often explains how our zodiac sign can shape who we are, what we think, and what makes us happy.

It can also indicate what type of career we would excel in, along with what we might struggle with in the office. Here’s what you should be doing with your life, according to my mom, the astrologer. (No pressure.)

Aries (March 21 – April 19)

Best careers: Entrepreneur; extreme athlete; wilderness guide; CEO
Best qualities: Great initiator, innovative ideas, visionary, friendly, persuasive and charismatic, never boring

Worst qualities: Impatient, selfish, arrogant, lack of follow-through

Taurus (April 20 – May 20)

Best careers: Architect/construction; landscaping; conservation

Best qualities: Determined, hard-working, reliable, resourceful
Worst qualities: Stubborn, resistant, lazy

Gemini (May 21 – June 20)

Best careers: Marketing executive; sales/advertising; newscaster

Best qualities: Flexible, communicative, adaptable
Worst qualities: Fickle, scattered, nervous

Cancer (June 21 – July 22)

Best careers: Doctor/nurse; educational professional; realtor; chef
Best qualities: Nurturing, supportive, empathic
Worst qualities: Moody, overly sensitive, emotional

Leo (July 23 – August 22)

Best careers: Actor/actress; drama teacher/professor; model; entertainer; motivational speaker

Best qualities: Charismatic, creative, generous, playful

Worst qualities: Arrogant, egotistical, overly dramatic, attention-seeking

Virgo (August 23 – September 22)

Best careers: Researcher; writer/reporter; software developer; detective; nutritionist

Best qualities: Efficient, detail-oriented, practical, logical

Worst qualities: Perfectionist, critical, uptight, sensitive

Libra (September 23 – October 22)

Best careers: Lawyer; banker; dancer; therapist
Best qualities: Balanced, fair, sociable, charming
Worst qualities: Indecisive, superficial, approval-seeking

Scorpio (October 23 – November 21)

Best careers: Investment banker; financial advisor; sex therapist; investigator
Best qualities: Dedicated, passionate, intense, powerful

Worst qualities: Demanding, controlling, possessive

Sagittarius (November 22 – December 21)

Best careers: Teacher; philosopher; travel agent; realtor

Best qualities: Honest, optimistic, friendly, enthusiastic

Worst qualities: Blunt, opinionated, extravagant

Capricorn (December 22 – January 19)

Best careers: Business executive/manager; architect; scientist
Best qualities: Organized, disciplined, structured, responsible
Worst qualities: Workaholic, rigid, restrictive

Aquarius (January 20 – February 18)

Best careers: Humanitarian; inventor/entrepreneur; scientist

Best qualities: Futuristic, original, tech-savvy

Worst qualities: Detached, cold, unpredictable

Pisces (February 19 – March 20)

Best careers: Photographer; medium/psychic; film director; writer; artist
Best qualities: Imaginative, artistic, empathic, intuitive
Worst qualities: Escapist, dreamy, confused TC mark

YOURTANGO

What Mizzou And Yale Are Really Teaching Us About Race, Free Speech, And The Future Of Public Spaces

Posted: 11 Nov 2015 05:15 PM PST

Thought Catalog / Daniella Urdinlaiz
Thought Catalog / Daniella Urdinlaiz

On the morning of November 11, today, The University of Missouri's Online Emergency Information Center released a statement saying that the university’s police have captured the suspect who posted threatening messages on Yik Yak and other social media. According to two screenshots on social media of Yik Yak, the suspect separately wrote, “We’re waiting for you at the parking lots. We will kill you,” and, “I’m going to stand my ground tomorrow and shoot every black person I see.

This comes during a time of unrest at the university following several incidents of racism, such as the student body president, Payton Head, who was the victim of racial slurs while walking through campus. That incident took place in mid-September. But the spark that lit the fire of unrest took place on October 24th. On the wall of a brand new college dorm, a swastika was drawn with human faeces, according to The Washington Post.

Graduate student Jonathan L. Butler was on a hunger strike up until the university’s president Tim Woolfe resigned from his position on Monday. This was after protests by students, including the student group Conference 1950. Conference 1950 refers to the year the first black graduate student was admitted to the university. Woolfe is said to have resigned for his lack of competence in dealing with incidents of racism and prejudice, and in failing to address students in a timely fashion as their concerns arose.

Graduate student Jonathan L. Butler was on a hunger strike up until the university’s president Tim Woolfe resigned from his position on Monday.

Approximately 1,170 miles from Mizzou, as the University of Missouri is often called, is Yale University. Yale has been dealing with its own racial and racist dilemmas–a “white girls only” frat party at the Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) Yale chapter that saw black and brown girls turned away. On October 31st, Yale sophomore Neema Githere wrote a public Facebook personal account of how she had received the same treatment last year, presumably as a first-year student.

There is also the matter of what is now a famous or infamous email – depending on who you ask – that was a response to guidelines about “appropriate” Halloween costumes. The email, written by Erika Christakis, an early childhood educator at the university, and who along with her husband, Nicholas Christakis, is responsible for residence life at Yale. Nicholas, is in fact a “master.”

According to the university’s admissions communication material, “The Master of each college is responsible for its academic, intellectual, social, athletic, and artistic life. Masters work with students to shape each residential college community, bringing their own distinct social, cultural, and intellectual influences to the colleges.

The response to the Christakis’ has been protests by many students who have called for a formal apology, and for the couple to resign from their post. The response, according to one account from Yale senior Aaron Z. Lewis, has also seen students gathering to share accounts of personal racism at the university. Yale college dean Jonathan Holloway’s response came late, which Holloway acknowledges in a letter to students – included in Lewis’ account.

In analyzing both Mizzou and Yale, there are clear distinctions in the racist incidents that took place and their immediate aftermath. Indeed it matters too that one university is an Ivy, and the other is not. The details of each specific context that led to racial unrest at each university very much matters. But it would be careless and perhaps even ignorant to not discern the cultural climate both these racial unrests take place in, and the implications for our conversations on race, free speech, and the future of public spaces, which may include safe spaces and intellectual spaces.

A friend asked me on Sunday what I thought of all of the events. I said, “I am still in the midst of thinking, but part of me cannot help but feel the chicken has come home to roost.”

beetlejuice

The experience of being a person of color, a black (foreign) woman at a predominantly white institution or PWI, is a part of my identity. I did both my undergraduate and Master’s work at PWIs – first at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, and then at DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois.

The importance of this fact is that I know and understand and have some of the same experiences as students of color in both these universities – and indeed in universities across the country. The dimension of being foreign and a Nigerian third culture kid is important. But it didn’t negate racialized and often casually and covertly racist experiences in my schooling.

In this way, it is very easy for me to be in solidarity with the students of color at both universities. Though I witnessed and experienced very few incident of overt racism, the casual, silencing racism, often in the form of microaggressions, is part of being a person of color in a predominantly white space. Microaggressions such as the expectations of intelligence, the questioning of whether you “deserved” to be in such a space (read: that you didn’t “take some other white kid’s spot”), and whether you did in fact “merit” your merit scholarship.

There is of course more. “Why do all the black kids sit together?” This was a real question asked by white school mates. Nobody ever seemed to question why white kids sat together as they often did, and they were in the majority. There was the usual “fun-making” of foreigners with particular accents, cultural assumptions and stereotyping depending on who you are and where you’re from, and the unceasing and ridiculous questions that made you wonder if your classmates were really receiving a college education at all.

“Why do all the black kids sit together?” This was a real question asked by white school mates.

Being an African too, I was subjected to the most ridiculous stereotypes Americans have about Africans. I quickly began to resist this experience through humor and subjecting Americans to the most ludicrous tales you’d ever heard. But I had gone through four years of college with people who could not refer to me as a Nigerian (or say I had “come from Botswana”), but who would still refer to me as “from Africa.” Make no mistake about it – I am an African. But the insistence of referring to me as per my continent is socially located in the erasure of Africa as a diverse place of plural identities.

I was often on the receiving end of “positive racism” too – being the “well-spoken” black girl. One comment made about me that I cannot forget even if I wanted to because I have heard it multiple times: “You’re not like other Black people.” I still remember the first time I experienced this in college. I was in a state of shock and anger that left me silent. But I soon began to respond to that statement by asking, “What do you mean by that?” This would send them down a rabbit hole of their casual racism.

I had been around white people my whole life but never like this. And to be fair, as a foreigner who was significantly more cultured than many of my classmates as an undergrad, some of the experiences were unsurprising. Still, I had never been around a more ignorant, clueless group of people in my entire life. I made friends – yes, I made good friends there – many whose friendship I have maintained.

I have also passively kept in touch with many who I would not call friends, but whose lives appear on my radar because of social media. And indeed it is not a surprise to see the performance of mental gymnastics they undergo whenever a Black child is confronted, assaulted, and killed by police. It is not a surprise that many more just wholly remain silent on the race issues of our time. Growing older does not mean people change.

So yes, having been in the shoes of many Yale and Mizzou students of color and had the same same experiences, I understand their plight.

beetlejuice

As a graduate student at DePaul, I had the pleasure and privilege of being in the classroom teaching. It became clear that like my parents – who are academics – I also very much enjoyed being on the other side of the classroom table.

I taught intercultural communication. Correction: I taught intercultural communication to majority white but significantly more diverse students than my undergraduate classrooms, as a Black African woman. The subject of the class focused on capitalism, racism, sexism, nationalism, and subcultures in America. Basically all the things that generally make people uncomfortable.

My classroom was a place where on the one hand, as a young person, and a young Black woman at that, I had to establish authority and respect from the get-go. On the other hand, I had to foster an environment of dialogue and disagreement in an intellectual space, all while maintaining a safe space for all students.

This is a great ask of any teacher and indeed it involves a delicate balance of openness, plurality of opinion, asking one’s self and one’s students to be challenged; asking and answering difficult questions, and allowing students to engage in critical thinking that doesn’t always arrive at the same conclusions. Having completed the graduate program and reflecting on my experiences in it as an organizational and multiculturalism scholar, who studied diversity, whose research looked at race conversations in digital media, and then also as a teacher as well, being a person of color in an academic space is interesting, and filled with many contradictions.

On the one hand, one of the (valid) criticisms of academic institutions is their liberalization – small l. This liberalization often means that those with opposing viewpoints – conservative, perhaps even middle of the road, or completely off the spectrum – may struggle with the classroom and the academy as a place that truly allows for plurality of perspective. As an intellectual space, this is a criticism that has not been addressed seriously enough.

On the other hand, despite this liberal space, which is deemed more friendly towards marginalized groups, academia and the university space is wrought with the same experiences of discrimination as elsewhere in the culture, from student to faculty to administration. The reality of being in the university as a person of color, who seeks an intellectual space, but who also desires a safe space, can mean being caught between a rock and a hard place.

beetlejuice

When we talk about safe spaces, what are we actually referring to? Public spaces are much more easily understood, as are intellectual spaces. Public spaces are almost self-explanatory in that they are to be utilized by everyone, in compliance with legal regulations. It is worth noting of course that public spaces in the country have not always been equal; it is important to remember that legality and fairness and equity are not synonymous.

Intellectual spaces are also self-explanatory in that there are places where learning occurs and is encouraged at a higher level such as universities. Like public spaces, intellectual spaces were built on foundations of exclusion, dependent on race and gender/sex, most notably.

Like public spaces, intellectual spaces were built on foundations of exclusion, dependent on race and gender/sex, most notably.

Safe spaces are however, not self-explanatory, and if you ask cultural experts, their definition may even differ, albeit narrowly from one person to another. But the general idea of a safe space is that it is a place, or it is the embodiment of a person (think: “Allies”), oftentimes in an educational environment, that another person–irrespective of identity–can approach without fear.

As defined by the Safe Space Network, a tumblr dedicated to the cause: A Safe Space is a place where anyone can relax and be able to fully express, without fear of being made to feel uncomfortable, unwelcome, or unsafe on account of biological sex, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, cultural background, religious affiliation, age, or physical or mental ability.

Safe spaces are not only noble undertakings, they are necessary in the midst of historically and continually formally and informally exclusionary public and intellectual spaces. The problem of course is that the goals of a safe space may appear to contradict the goals of both public and intellectual space, and especially the latter. These spaces aim to exist together in universities but the very problem we are having is their co-existence.

Can one be both comfortable and challenged in a space that aims to be both safe and intellectual? Can one freely speak in a space that is both safe and intellectual and public, when a particular political ideology (liberal) is deemed preferable? Do the very existence of these different goals in these different intangible spaces under what might be an unintended prevailing political ideology, allow for any space to be authentically public and intellectual and safe, without choosing the importance of one over another?

beetlejuice

When I reflect on my experiences as a student, a scholar, a young professional, and express them, I am often asked how I survive(d) in them in all my identities. What people are asking me, I think, is how I (and others) function within these contradictions. I often want to tell them that the entire world is filled with contradictions that most of us survive in. “Survival is not an academic skill,” as Audre Lorde so wisely commented.

In my multiple identities: African, Black, woman, scholar, student of culture, writer, and maybe one day even a public intellectual – all of which I exist in white spaces – some whiter than others, I tell people that I put certain values above others, while not rendering lesser values irrelevant. I also tell them that I know that achieving multiple goals needn’t be mutually exclusive. This is vague until I give an example.

My best example is in teaching. I was raised by academics but really I was raised by teachers. And I have always loved the classroom as a student – and in adulthood I would find out I love it as a teacher too. It is imperative to me as a student and as a teacher that difficult, challenging learning take place in the classroom. This, I am willing to argue, is more important than any discomfort I feel as a student or a teacher, with of course some limited exceptions, such as the known threat of bodily harm.

It is imperative to me as a student and as a teacher that difficult, challenging learning take place in the classroom.

Interestingly it is my experiences in my identity as Black and foreign in White and American spaces that fostered my ability to handle the classroom in an intercultural learning environment, teaching intercultural communication. My students of color saw me as someone who understood their experiences. But my white students understood that their experiences too were of great value in the class, especially when the material challenged them personally.

The classroom as bell hooks asserts, ought to be a contested space. The contested space, according to hooks in her scholarship on feminist classrooms, is defined as “a space that is not necessarily defined by conflict, but which includes room for conflict.

Kyoko Kishimoto and Mumbi Mwangi further emphasize hooks’ point by arguing that, “To imagine that learning only takes place in a place of "calm" is to miss the ways in which contradictions, ambiguities, anger, pain, and struggles can be sources of energy to facilitate critical consciousness necessary for individual and social change.” The reality is whether you are in front of the desk or behind it, the classroom ought to be a challenging learning experience.

One of the reasons for my insistence of speech and thought freedom, and intellectual plurality, is because of my father who is a public intellectual, who was a former journalist, and who knows what it is like to live in a country where freedom of speech is restricted. For my father’s insistence on freedom in Abacha’s Nigeria, the safety (ironically enough) of him and our family was not secure and was what eventually led to us leaving the country.

In my upbringing – which one should never negate in their understanding of self and other – freedom of speech and indeed of the public’s right to knowledge (freedom of the press), along with freedom of movement, is not something that I simply learned as a right. It makes up the very essence of who I am and how I perceive the world around me. With very few exceptions will I ever deem, that these freedoms, can be restricted – in the public space, in the intellectual space, in the safe space, and where these spaces intersect.

It is these very freedoms that foster my insistence on the importance of safe spaces. The students at Yale and at Mizzou are asking for safe spaces in public and intellectual spaces. And I reiterate: safe spaces should exist in order for people of color to be in places free from marginalization, or at least where they can discuss their marginalization without fear. But we cannot discount that the inherent purpose of a public space, for all its failings, is for multiple people to exist in it; the inherent ask of an intellectual space is for a plurality to be allowed to exist.

And I reiterate: Safe spaces should exist in order for people of color to be in places free from marginalization or at least where they can discuss their marginalizations without fear.

Thinking about the email that Erika Christakis sent to Yale students in which she cautioned that the well-meaning guidelines for Halloween costumes, should still allow for people to be “obnoxious,” I think multiple interpretations can and ought to be considered.

Do I think that some of what Christakis wrote can be interpreted as essentially giving people free rein to wear blackface? Yes. But I also think that interpretation is not discounting that she was asking for students to have the space to be obnoxious, not necessarily offensive. I do not think she was saying wearing Blackface is okay or wearing offensive costumes is okay. I think she was saying something more general: Have we got to the point where every facet of free speech must be in agreement with a particular ideology in an intellectual and safe space for it to be allowed?

She has a point. I say this as someone who publicly proclaimed that I would not be addressing white people this year about why Blackface is a bad idea. (Because quite frankly if you don’t know by now – and I’ve written quite a few pieces on it – it’s because you don’t wish to know.)

But the questions that Christakis posed in her letter and that her husband Nicholas are both concerned with are worth asking. Especially so, after watching the interactions with Yale students and Nicholas. Do we even know how to entertain thoughts in what is a liberal academic space that are not ipso facto, fitting into popular liberal ideology? I am seeing less and less of that in any space.

Do we even know how to entertain thoughts in what is a liberal academic space that are not ipso facto, fitting into popular liberal ideology?

What I’m essentially saying is that people of color and our voices have to be emphasized because the public space and intellectual space is inherently prejudiced against us. But what I don’t think should occur, is this notion that disagreement in these spaces should be withheld. Consider the journalism professor in Mizzou blocking access to photos and asking for the journalism student to be removed from a public and intellectual space, for it to be “safe.” That is unconscionable as someone whose position ought to make them particularly knowledgeable on the importance of the freedom of the press.

We can argue about the prejudices of the press and the hostility that people of color experience. And we must insist and fight for institutions to be responsible for authentically diversifying their spaces with more than just one or two black and brown faces at different levels. We must insist that these institutions actually do the important work of diversity, which is deliberate and continuous. But we also have to fundamentally understand that the protection of free speech is at stake in all spaces and at all times. And even at our own personal offenses, that speech ought to be protected.

beetlejuice

This worry about freedom in intellectual spaces of course is not new. One of the best examinations that have occurred this year was in The Atlantic: “The Coddling of the American Mind.” The author argues for what has essentially become a cultural institutionalization of protecting students from discomfort, at the cost of actually educating students in the classroom, and training them to deal with discomfort beyond the classroom.

While I still have my reservations of the authors’ commentary on microaggressions –  naturally, as a multiculturalism scholar I approach these differently – I certainly appreciated the overall argument and especially the section on the value and implications of trigger warnings. The latter of which though I understand the theoretical desire for them, I question their implications.

In “The Coddling of the American Mind,” I also notice very much my cultural biases coming into play in an interesting way to agree with the authors. Because the other truth of my experience, taking into consideration all of my identities, is that I do very much view Americans as too focused on feeling good, and a seemingly eternal obsession with avoiding pain and seeking pleasure.

In my Nigerian upbringing, I can wholeheartedly say that pain and discomfort is not only allowed, your parents teach you to expect it throughout your life. They even go as far as saying it is necessary for ultimately positive outcomes. It must be said of course in any intercultural communicative space, such as the many we find ourselves in, that the context of these values are important.

In the context of our public spaces however, we know that people of color already are likely to experience discomfort. I asked Madison Moore who is a writer at Thought Catalog and elsewhere, and a research associate in the Department of English at King’s College, University of London, of his experiences at Yale where he earned his doctorate. Moore discussed the prevalence of microaggressions but emphasized that this is not unique to Yale. It is certainly not unique to Mizzou. It is not unique to the American collegiate experience. We know that the creation of the safe space in the intellectual space is an attempt to lessen these discomforts. So how do we achieve this without compromising free speech?

It is not unique to the American collegiate experience. We know that the creation of the safe space in the intellectual space is an attempt to lessen these discomforts. So how do we achieve this without compromising free speech?

It is easy, for example, to talk about the importance of maintaining plurality of perspective when you’re a white male in the United States. The authors of “The Coddling of the American Mind” are just that – white and male. As is Ryan Holiday, who wrote a great piece on why we need to stop protecting everyone’s feelings. Holiday in particular is someone whose public writings I follow closely, and the authors of The Atlantic article – Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt – are both brilliant intellectuals. But their positions as people with the highest privilege in this culture may also foster their perspective, even if and when I agree with them in whole or in part.

In The New Yorker, the brilliant Jelani Cobb, wrote about race and the free speech division. In it, he included the following: “The freedom to offend the powerful is not equivalent to the freedom to bully the relatively disempowered. The enlightenment principles that undergird free speech also prescribed that the natural limits of one's liberty lie at the precise point at which it begins to impose upon the liberty of another.”

The importance of this paragraph is at the epicenter of our “race problem” in our public, intellectual, and safe space intersections. Indeed, freedoms do not exist on equivalent levels of power – I certainly value some more than others as I have stated earlier. It is also true that people are in different and unequal positions of power in relation to society as a whole, and to each other. It is necessary, as Cobb points out, that we consider the principle foundations of free speech in relation to liberty of self and the other.

Still, if I remember my political theory well, Voltaire, Hume, Kant, Rousseau, along with their early influencers including Locke, Descartes, and Bacon, knew that liberty was ultimately a complex subject. Deciding where my liberty begins and ends, and deciding this in relation to yours is a difficult, if not altogether frustrating endeavor that has (and ought to be) redefined based on new information and indeed what has taken place – context. But I am not an expert on liberty, nor do I even want to enter the unavoidable metaphysics debate going down that path will surely lead us. I only wish to ask questions about how we resolve the public, intellectual, and safe spaces in our current culture.

Deciding where my liberty begins and ends, and deciding this in relation to yours is a difficult, if not altogether frustrating endeavor that has (and ought to be) redefined based on new information and indeed what has taken place – context.

What is the future of the intellectual space if it does not allow for plurality of opinion? The result is the reduction of academic freedom and the new (and growing) model of customer-service relationships being applied to the student-teacher relationship. What is the future of the safe space? The safe space too suffers because everyone stakes a claim to marginalization, even if their claims are ahistorical. And the public space? The public space becomes even worse than it is now – the fights, from petty to institutional and economic – become more polarized.

Some of the solutions to our space problem have already been provided. Implementing cognitive behavior therapy to deal with potentially triggering events and discussions, as Lukianoff and Haidt present, should be considered by educators and parents alike. The economics of academia and the economic burden it presents ought to be considered too. My personal theory is that it simply can’t go on, from a financial well-being perspective for the nation. But also, that the less economic rationales students (and their parents) have for becoming a hindrance to education and learning, the more freedom teachers can exercise.

As for safe spaces, there too needs to be more practical guides of functioning beyond their borders. There needs to be a plurality of opinion presented on how to deal with microaggressions in public and intellectual spaces, to confronting challenging conversations and subjects in various ways. Is the best way really (and always) avoidance? Teaching young people – and I can say this as a young person, albeit from a different culture – to avoid discomfort, poorly prepares them for greater educational pursuits, and for life.

You know what my father said when I graduated college in the summer of 2011 and was unsure about law school and life? What he said about most challenges to me at the time: “Growing up is hard. You will learn. You will survive.” To which my mother added, “Things will be more difficult for you too, because you want to achieve so much.” It’s not good practical advice for resolving some of our space problems, but it is good life advice; one must survive first, before anything else.

So indeed I stand with the students of color at Mizzou and Yale. I stand with them in solidarity. I stand with their calls for diversity. I am with them in experience and in spirit. But I would do them and myself and anybody who I influence through my words on the (digital) paper or in a classroom, if I do not also demand that we re-think the direction of our intellectualism.

We need plurality of ideas and perspective and voice – we need it more for people of color because of historical disadvantages but we need it too, for the benefit of all. We need it in our intellectual spaces and we need it in our safe spaces and we need it in our public spaces, and the spaces where these three intersect. Without it, we are a people still concerned with having power over another. With it, we are a better people: a people who can advocate for racial justice and truth, diversity, and not just free speech, but ultimately better speech, in any and all spaces. TC mark

5 Ways Strong-Minded Women Are Different From “Do-Nothing Bitches”

Posted: 11 Nov 2015 05:00 PM PST

On November 15th, Ronda Rousey (the undefeated women's bantamweight champion will face off against former world boxing champion Holly Holm in Melbourne, Australia. Rousey has made waves out of the boxing ring for her tell-it-like-it-is attitude, making her an exciting role model for in chasing seemingly impossible dreams.

UFC
UFC

In an interview for UFC's Embedded video series earlier this year, Ronda Rousey attributes her personal success to refusing to sit back and be a "Do-Nothing Bitch." Her mother raised her to make something of her life, not to passively sit back and wait for things to happen. This type of girl, the type that isn't going anywhere fast, Ronda labels a "Do-Nothing Bitch." Ronda describes the Do-Nothing Bitch (or a DNB) as a “chick that just tries to be pretty and be taken care of by somebody else.”

UFC
UFC

For Rousey, this has meant developing a body that defies traditional gender expectations in pursuit of developing strong muscles for the purpose of being the best fighter she can be.

UFC
UFC
UFC
UFC

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UFC
UFC

Those who possess this attitude, who avoid being a DNB through hard work and defying societal expectations in pursuit of their dreams, hold a certain number of traits in common.

1. You're Never 100% Happy.

Not in the traditional sense. You have a competitive nature and a drive to be the best. Your deepest needs to continue learning and improving mean that you never settle and you therefore can't ever be fully content because there's always more to do. Some call it sad but that drive to improve is what MAKES you happy in a deeper sense. It's who you are. It's your mission in life.

2. You Don't Tell, You Show.

It drives you crazy when people waste time talking about their big ideas, or jealously complaining when someone else is living their idea of a dream life. Just go out and do it then, you think to yourself. When you see something you want, you figure out how get it and then you start putting in work. If in that pursuit you realize it isn't worth your time, you move on to the next thing, no skin off your back. After all, you miss 100% of the shots you don't take. That may be a cliche, but it's also some straight up real talk. You believe the only thing holding you back is inaction. That’s why you go out there and just do it.

3. You're Selective With Your Time.

Some think it's selfish, but you know the truth—you always have to be looking out for number one. This doesn't mean you don't care about others. You're deeply in touch with the needs of those around you and are simply highly selective about how you use your time. You say no when you need time to yourself to keep from becoming overextended. In the end, it's for everyone's best interests. Those who you do make space and time for appreciate you for your relentless commitment…well, to honoring your commitments.

4. You Surround Yourself With Like-Minded Achievers.

You're passionate about elevating your crew and in return you expect the same. Whether that takes the form of creative collaboration or healthy competition to increase each other's motivation, you and your friends are always looking for ways to push each other one step closer to your goals. No man (or woman) is an island. You won’t get anywhere important by stepping on the people in your way.

5. You Have a Clearly Defined Purpose.

This looks different for everyone. What's the same across the board is that this purpose is specific and the light to your internal fire. For some, it's always learning what you don't know. For others, it's changing the world. It could be simply to be the best mother possible, or to found a business that saves lives. What matters is that you don't let societal expectations influence your drive. You don't let others tell you that your dreams are impractical. You don't give in to your loved ones suggesting that you manage your expectations. Your purpose is yours and yours alone. All that matters is that you know what motivates you, that thing that gets you up in the morning, and you spend your whole day fighting for your purpose. TC mark

9 Annoying Struggles Easy-Going People Can Relate To

Posted: 11 Nov 2015 04:00 PM PST

vegasworld
vegasworld

1. When people think you need to “learn how to stand up for yourself.”

HOL’ UP, who says you don’t??? And if this is something you DO struggle with, it’s kind of a dick move to have it constantly pointed out to you. YOU ALREADY KNOW, YOU’RE WORKING ON IT!!!

2. Being referred to as a push-over.

There is a fine line between being a pushover and knowing when to pick your battles. So maybe you aren’t jumping to make a big deal out of everything? That’s just not how you function. You’re into compromise and figuring out what works best for everyone in the situation. But just because you aren’t throwing yourself into confrontation doesn’t mean you don’t know how to voice your opinion when it matters.

3. Always ending up the mediator in fights between friends.

As the more easy-going one of your group, naturally, people tend to turn to you when emotions start running high. While this is super flattering, it can also be draining. Damn, maybe you just wanna hang out WITHOUT being the go-between.

4. Being the first one ready to go. And then waiting…and waiting.

Because you’re so go-with-the-flow, you know how to get ready for things quickly. But 9 times out of 10, you will be with other people who aren’t exactly as…efficient as you are. Which means you get to sit around and look at the clock, occasionally texting a gentle reminder: “Soooo, will you be good in 5 minutes?”

5. People always thinking you’ll be okay with anything.

Um…easy-going doesn’t mean dead.

6. Not wanting to be part of unnecessary drama, and somehow still getting dragged into it.

Once you graduated high school, you were pretty relieved. Not only because high school sucks, but you also (naively) believed all that adolescent-high-school-bullshit would be over!!!! HAHA, NOPE. You’re not interested in the latest word on the grapevine, but sometimes you still find yourself smack dab in the middle of it with no escape in sight. *a moment of silence for those listening to mind-numbing water cooler gossip and unable to leave*

7. Being labeled “the nice one”.

On the surface, this doesn’t seem like much of a #struggle. And I guess it really isn’t. But there’s something limiting about it, this one-dimensional label of ALWAYS BEING NICE just because you’re easy-going 95% of the time. C’mon. Sometimes you’re gonna be rude. Or irrational. Or demanding. DON’T BOX US IN, BRO.

8. Your opinion not mattering as much.

When it comes to where people want to go for dinner, sure, you’re going to be willing to negotiate. If someone really has their heart set somewhere, you’re happy to oblige. But as a result, your opinion gets a little lost in the crowd. And that kind of sucks.

9. Being flaked on and people assuming it’s fine because you’re so chill.

Can I just say something? Being forgiving/chill/easy-going/literally anything else does NOT mean being flaked on feels okay. Being flaked on never feels okay. It happens because c’est la vie, but still doesn’t feel good. TC mark

10 Surprisingly Good Movies Where The Villain Actually Wins

Posted: 11 Nov 2015 03:01 PM PST

1. No Country For Old Men

Topping the list is this masterpiece by the Coen Brothers where our main protagonist, the guy we’re rooting for, doesn’t make it to the finish line. I don’t want to completely ruin it if you haven’t seen the film but it wonderfully encapsulates the feeling Cormac McCarthy’s novel of the same name all while consistently ramping the tension up and down. Here’s one of the tensest scenes.

2. The Usual Suspects

Bryan Singer, who directed two of the movies that are on this list, is seemingly a fan of the bad guy getting away in the end. “The Usual Suspects” has perhaps the best ending scene reveal of just who the bad guy is as he’s getting away in cinema history.

3. Road to Perdition

Arguably the best role Tom Hanks has ever played in his entire career (or Jude Law), you don’t see the ending coming in “Road to Perdition” because it occurs just when you think it’s all been resolved in the most idyllic way possible, a father and son living happily in a beach cottage. In this case the bad guy comes out on top simply by preventing a happy ending.

4. Nightcrawler

Only the fantastic direction and production work prevented me from picking my tv up and throwing it out the window at the end of Nightcrawler, Jake Gyllenhaal’s creepiest, sleaziest role and well in the running for sleaziest role of all time.  Here’s the scene just before the ending credits where the desire to choke Gyllenhaal’s character is at its strongest point.

5. 1984

Not only do the good guys not win but the bad guy beats everyone by corrupting love itself and revealing that the hero’s tools are actually the tools of the enemy. “Why is hate less vital than love?”

6. The Dark Knight

Batman absolutely loses while the people of Gotham absolutely win by not killing each in the ferry scene. At the end, Harvey Dent, the man Batman had seen as Gotham’s salvation, is dead at Batman’s own hand and his hope for retiring as a longed for legend is dashed. Key quote, “You have nothing to do, with all your strength.”

7. Rosemary’s Baby

Rosemary knows there’s something wrong with her baby but no one will listen. Then it turns out he’s the son of the Devil and the entire world loses. Wow, high stakes.

8. Saw (All of Them)

Really the ultimate winning bad guy, Jigsaw manages to win through six entire movies. Even when people survive, he’s getting exactly what he wants. Here’s where it all started.

9. 12 Monkeys

I was obsessed with this movie for a long time because of the quirkiness dreaminess it mixed in with the somewhat hard to follow apocalyptic setting involving time travel planned out by people who barely know what they’re doing. The movie itself is a circle and introduces the disconcerting notion that everything is preordained no matter what. Director Terry Gilliam was in the finest of forms here.

10. Se7en

And just like that, John Doe’s envy is punished, Brad Pitt is punished for his wrath, and the entire horrible sequence is complete. TC mark

15 Little Sisters Share The Childhood Experiences Only They Can Understand

Posted: 11 Nov 2015 02:00 PM PST

via twenty20/b.p.r.y
via twenty20/b.p.r.y

1. “When I was little I used to be scared to death of our house at night and whenever I woke up and had to pee I would wake up my older sister and tell her even if she was completely asleep. She always complained but she also always went with me to the bathroom and talked to me through the door so I wouldn’t be scared.”

—Irene, 30

beetlejuice

2. “I had two older brothers who loved to punch each other on the shoulder and sometimes punch me in the shoulder too when our parents weren’t around. Eventually I learned from my middle brother how to throw a wicked hook. Of course I learned this just around the time that they were getting to hold to want to pick on me physically any more.

Anyway, I did get to use what I’d learned when I was a Freshman in high school and one of the Junior boys decided he wanted to grab my ass from behind between classes. I didn’t even think and whirled around with my solid hook and hit him right in the eye. It puffed up like crazy and no boy ever tried to do that to me again.”

—Sarah, 27

beetlejuice

3. “My sister and I are a couple of years apart but we shared a room our entire childhoods. I do remember that we argued a lot but some of the best memories of my entire life are just of us just lying in our beds talking and laughing in the dark.”

—Claudia, 23

beetlejuice

4. “When I went on my first real date my older brother, who was in his first year of college, called me no less that fifteen times to make sure I was okay and my date wasn’t ‘trying anything.’ He was way more stressed than even my dad was. Then when he came home for Thanksgiving he acted like he’d never been concerned at all and wouldn’t acknowledge that he’d even called in front of our mom. He’s actually still like this and it’s both endearing and infuriating. It’s like, just admit you’re sweet!”

—Melody, 21

beetlejuice

5. “My sister is ten years older than I am so when she was going off to school and then getting a career started I was still a little girl and then a young teenager. But I remember very clearly that the times she came home from school or to visit where the times that I had my first conversations with an adult that treated me like I was an adult and could actually think about grown up ideas. It set off a real curiosity in me that I don’t know that I would have had otherwise.”

—Alison, 29

beetlejuice

6. “I have an older brother who tormented me until I was nearly twelve with stories about the witch in our attic that was just waiting to come down and steal me away and eat me. I’m convinced he even went into the attic above my room to make noise so that he could act like it was the witch walking around. It became such an ingrained fear that even when I go to visit my parents at age 25, the witch is still one of the first things I think of in my old room.”

—Bea, 25

beetlejuice

7. “When I was six and my brother was eight our Dad essentially abandoned the family and my brother, who had a lot of anger about it, went through this phase where he was sort of trying to be the Dad and would sometimes tell our Mom what to do or get mad at her. He definitely bossed me more and started getting in fights at school. He got better over the years but never really relaxed again about keeping me and my mom safe. We were close when I was little but we became basically best friends by the time we were in high school. I remember I mentioned how he’d acted when our Dad first left years later and he told me he’d been scared to death that somehow one or both of us would go away and that he wanted us near him all the time. He’s grown into a wonderful man.”

—Haley, 26

beetlejuice

8. “I grew up in a family of three older brothers and there are so many stories! One of my all time favorites though is my brother closest in age to me taught me how to ride a bicycle. There’s a special bond that you have with your older siblings, in my case, my older brothers that I think all little sisters can understand. Sure, my parents taught me things but in a way my brothers walked this fine line between being my brothers and also being incredibly responsible for me at the same time. Probably should say thank you for those childhood lessons more often.”

—Kelly, 22

beetlejuice

9. “The most vivid memory of my childhood is my brother, who is three years older than me, managing to zip my hair into my backpack because he thought it would be funny. This was not a simple fix.”

—Madelyn, 24

beetlejuice

10. “If you have an older sister who’s four years older than you there is no way she will ever want you around or want you to speak at all around her friends, ever. To my big sis I was a complete parasite that she tried to ignore as much as possible except when her friends weren’t around. It was good in a lot of ways though. I definitely learned that caring too much about what people think of you can make you miserable to be around.”

—Jenny, 23

beetlejuice

11. “My older brother made me play Madden with him like every weekend until I was twelve. When I started dating I would always beat all the guys in the room at Madden and then act like I’d never really played. It was awesome.”

—Regina, 32

beetlejuice

12. “My most hilarious story which was absolutely not funny at the time was when my older brother took rope, snuck into my room and literally tied me to the bed while I was still asleep. I woke up afterward and had no idea what was going on and he’d made sure he and our parents were outside when I woke up. I probably yelled for twenty minutes. He got in a lot of trouble for that.”

—Jennifer, 24

beetlejuice

13. “This isn’t really a childhood story and happened just a few years ago when our father died. My mother is notoriously flakey and was an emotional wreck which was understandable but when someone dies there’s things you have to do. So, my older sister did all of them. I remember after the funeral she came up to me and asked me how I was holding up which just floored me because she was the one holding in all her sadness and making sure the world could still go on so everyone else could grieve. She’s just that kind of person and I’m always amazed by her.”

—Tanya, 28

beetlejuice

14. “When I was five and my older sister was eight, she and I were playing in the neighborhood and a bulldog came out of nowhere and started chasing us. So we’re running and I, of course, fell down. My sister somehow literally picked me up and managed to run all the way home while carrying me.”

—Mary, 25

beetlejuice

15. “My mother told me this story about when I was first born and had been home about three days. My older sister asked her when I was going back to the hospital and my mom had to explain that I was staying forever. She said my sister was really sad about it because she wanted to keep being the baby.”

—Karen, 31 TC mark

Read This If You Feel Like You’re Unworthy Of Being Loved

Posted: 11 Nov 2015 01:00 PM PST

chrisgilmorephoto
chrisgilmorephoto

Somewhere between the second glass of wine and Netflix obnoxiously asking, “Are you still watching?” a thought crosses your mind that you never wanted to admit. It’s an embarrassing sort of darkness you know would just seem like a cry for help. Like some sad Facebook post that we all secretly cringe at.

So you just keep pushing it back down, ignoring this gnawing feeling in the pit of your stomach. You don’t want to say it out loud. Because if you say it, maybe you’ll give this terrible fear some sort of power. Like you might somehow speak it into truth. And if that happens, what’s next?

What’s life supposed to look like when you decide love is not something you deserve?

Maybe you know exactly when you first made this toxic self-assesment. You can trace its twisty roots back to childhood, how you watched others on the playground so effortlessly happy and care-free. You wanted to be like them, to fit in without having to overthink every action you made. You craved normalcy. Simplicity. That comforting feeling like you finally belonged.

But you never quite got there.

And so, the idea was planted. Perhaps you won’t be like everyone else. Perhaps you don’t deserve to be.

Or, maybe even more painful, you have no clue how you came to believe this damaging thought about yourself. It’s just always been there — a knowing that you can’t shake. You sit and watch everyone around you give and receive. They seem to just understand it. Accept it. Not question why someone could see good in them.

You envy those people. You want to know what happened to fuck you up so eternally. It doesn’t seem fair. But you remember, life rarely is. So, you suck it up. You stop asking for answers.

And now here you are, trying to bury this nagging thought that refuses to stay hidden. It’s popping up when you least expect it. You’re thinking about it when sleep refuses to find you. You’re thinking about it in song lyrics, movies, stupid memories that claw at your heart. You can’t stop from whispering it when no one else is around to hear. What if I’m unworthy of love?

You are. And I understand those two words aren’t enough to change how you feel. It’s not like a lightbulb just went off and you can finally see a way through this dark path. I get it. I’m not saying anything revolutionary.

You are worthy of love because you’ve thought about it. You’ve feared it. You’ve tossed and turned, trying to figure out how to reach a place of understanding and peace. That means more than you realize.

You’re failing to remember how much love you’ve got inside of you. It doesn’t always come from an outside source. In fact, we can’t rely on external validation. Is it lovely? Of course. But we can’t make that our life source.

You might be shaking your head, no way could you ever love yourself. You don’t like what you see, who you are, avoid a mirror at all costs. Go ahead! Give me all the excuses in the book. I’m not arguing with you. You probably won’t like yourself all the time. Who the hell does??

But whether or not you recognize it, you’ve got an inner-well of love, and that’s the kind of thing that never runs dry. Sometimes, it takes an entire lifetime of searching to realize we had what we needed all along. You are capable of quenching your own thirst. TC mark

Read This When You Feel Ugly

Posted: 11 Nov 2015 12:00 PM PST

Shaun Fische
Shaun Fische

It seems like everywhere you look there’s some aspect of culture there to tell you that you are not beautiful. Your skin is blemished, your hair needs to be straighter, your wardrobe better and your teeth whiter. Your body could be a bit tighter and you could stand to lose a few pounds. But you’re beautiful as you are, not because you’re everyone’s type or because you look like the girl in the fashion ads. You’re beautiful because you’re you, because nobody else can be you. You can’t be replaced.

Somehow wanting to look good is even more serious business when you’re a gay male who just wants to be loved. For the longest time I’ve struggled with the way I look. I know I’m funny. I know I’m smart. And I know I can work a look. But I’ve spent so much time in my boy-crazy, sexually active life wondering if guys find me attractive. I see their profiles explaining in precise detail that they only want other masculine guys (I don’t give a shit about masculinity) or that they don’t like campy guys (I love being a total fag), so it’s always been hard for me to see where I fit into the box.

You may not be everyone’s type but you can be sure that the people who are into you are drawn to YOU, not some faxed in notion of “beauty.”

Eventually I just stopped caring. I stopped caring about what other people think about me and my body and my performance of gender. I learned that beauty isn’t about whether you look like the guys in the porn or if you get hit on every second of everyday. Beauty is not about unblemished skin or pearly white teeth or about getting 55 messages on Grindr all at once. Beauty is what you do to make yourself feel good, for you. Beauty is when you are confident and stop caring about what other people think and when you stop trying to fit into narrow, pre-defined boxes of what beauty means.

Even the most beautiful people — folks you look at and think, wow, they must have it easy because they are so good-looking — have their own body image issues. I once went on a date with a guy from Eastern Europe who was so good-looking my heart was racing the whole time we talked. He was tall and smelled so nice and when he spoke I saw his mouth move but really I was just staring at his beautiful face.

He later told me he felt ugly and I was so shocked.

“What?!” I said. “YOU? But you are extremely good-looking.” He wasn’t hearing it.

There are some days when you’re just not going to feel all that great. We all have them. Maybe you’re having a bad hair day, or maybe it’s grey out and you’re just generally feeling sort of ‘meh’ about everything. Beauty won’t come out of a box or off of a clothing rack. Beauty is not a diet, a body type or a workout routine. Beauty is what you do to feel good for you. TC mark