If I could fix it, I would ;

Mental illness is real.  It’s not something you can just wish away.  It’s not something you can just decide to have a good attitude about.  It’s not something you can ignore.  Oh how I wish it was.

There are times when you’ve fallen asleep with no worries, and then you wake up from a nightmare, positive that someone is in your house. You leap out of bed in a panic and frantically check every lock, pacing and checking.

Some people have a significant other to calm them down.  I don’t have that person.

So I wake up screaming and then run around and check the locks, terrified that someone is already in the house.  Keep in mind that there’s nowhere in here to hide if you’re a human.  Doesn’t stop me from checking behind the shower curtain again before I go back to bed.

I don’t even know if I have someone I trust enough to call when it’s really bad.  If I’ve called you and sounded manic and crazy, it’s a precursor to something really not good, and I thank you for taking my call. There’s a good chance you actually saved my life.  I’ve tested out a few of you to see if you can be trusted to actually show up and save me.  I’m not criticizing because you all have your own lives, but so far, I’m not sure that I’m not alone in this.  Some of this is the depression telling me that you don’t care.  Some of this is evidence based.

“Hey elm, are you ever going to write about Cosmo again on your blog?  That was fun and this is depressing sometimes.”

I don’t even remember the last time I got an issue of Cosmo.  I do remember taking the last couple that showed up straight to the recycling after taking a couple of notes.  You know what’s depressing?  Having someone tell you that your depression is boring and they’d rather read about that guy you fucked in 2011.  Yes, the sex was amazing, yes I miss having him in my life. But he is my past.  I’m trying to move forward.  Anyway.

I have 9 tattoos.  One is a semicolon on my left wrist/forearm. As is true of most of my tattoos, this was done on a whim, and it means more to me than any of my other tattoos.  It means that my story isn’t over.  There’s more to come after the break.  Project Semicolon was created by a woman named Amy Bleuel.  She created it after her father committed suicide.  She suffered from her own mental illnesses.

Amy died on March 24th. She was a victim of suicide.  Yes, a victim.  Because while some people may say that she killed herself, I know that’s not true.  Her depression did it.  Her depression murdered her.  The voices lied to her too many times. I get this. I hope her death was peaceful, and my thoughts are with her family.

I wish I’d had one second with her before she left. So I could tell her how amazing she is. How she is loved. How she has done such a thing and brought so many of us together. How we will continue to fight in her memory.  I hope she knows, and I hope she is finally at peace and the voices never call to her again. Because if you take that step and you’re still tortured, then death is truly the worst thing.

But back to me (Because it is ALL ABOUT MEEEEEEEEEEE ON MY BLOG – okay that’s annoying even to me, but fuck it I’m leaving it in).

I have more friends than I ever would have imagined.  I love you all.  Really, I do.  It’s why I say “Love you” when I end every phone call.  It’s hard sometimes at work to condition myself to not say it. You never know when the last time will be, so you have to tell people you love them.

There are days when the razor is sharp and I’m ready to be done.  But you pull me back in.  There are days when I hope that I die in my sleep and don’t have to do the next day.

Today isn’t that day. Maybe tomorrow. But not today. Today I’m celebrating with my friends.  I’m celebrating the life that Amy lived. I’m planning the next tattoo, the next time I’m going to hang out with you.

I’ll tell you that I love you, and I do.

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So. This one is going to be really hard to read.

It will also be really hard to write.  In light of recent developments at Baylor University (which I mostly learned about by following Jessica Luther @scATX on Twitter – here’s her latest article, co-authored by Dan Solomon – http://www.texasmonthly.com/the-daily-post/end-art-briles-era/ ), I’ve been thinking a lot about rape on college campuses.  Whether it’s reported, who is to blame, what happens when it is reported.

So I went to Cosmo’s website to see what they have on the topic, since this is, after all, a (usually) funny blog about my random subscription to Cosmo.  They have a lot.  But I picked this one to talk about.

http://www.cosmopolitan.com/college/a55654/what-no-one-understands-about-campus-rape/

Read both of those, and come back.  Or don’t if you suspect what’s coming and would rather not know.  It’s your choice, and I understand completely if you don’t want to keep reading.  I wasn’t sure I was even going to talk about this, but I’m tired of remaining silent.  I wish I’d spoken up a bit over 21 years ago when I was 18 years old, but I didn’t.  For many of the reasons you see in the Cosmo article.  And because as you see in the article about Baylor, nothing lasting may come of it so why expose yourself, no pun intended.  So I remained silent.  A few friends know.  Most have no idea.  My parents didn’t even know until I called to tell them I was writing about this before I published it.  I owed that to them, and I’m sorry I didn’t tell them sooner. I might be a different person today if I’d told someone who would have fought for me.  But nobody should tell me they’re sorry.  Remember that, fam.  You didn’t do it.  You have no reason to be sorry.  Just like I have no reason to feel ashamed.

In 1994, I went to Michigan State University for college.  I was a 17 year old freshman, and I didn’t know many people there.  I had been accepted into the Color Guard for the Michigan State University Marching Band (they only march percussion and brass – flute wasn’t an option, though I would have rocked it if they marched woodwinds as well), so I kind of had an automatic group of “friends” who I felt comfortable with.  Band nerds like me.  There was actually another girl from my high school in the Color Guard, but we weren’t close friends.  I regret that now.  I got to school a week early to start practices (which were brutal and long – people talk about the freshman 15 meaning they gain weight, but I’m pretty sure I lost at least that much), and I quickly forgot that I didn’t really know anyone.  I turned 18 at some point during those early days, and I kept making more friends.

There were occasional parties after practices, often with members of the drum line, and because the internet wasn’t really a thing back then, I didn’t know why there were always groups of guys at these parties that I never saw at practices.  You’ve heard of groupies, but groupies for marching band?  That were dudes?

If you google Michigan State University Marching Band hazing, you’ll understand why I’d never seen them before.  They’d been kicked out of the band.  I’ll wait if you want to google.

At one of these parties shortly after our first game (we probably lost, that team was terrible), I was offered a beer, and I declined because I didn’t like beer (oh young me, beer is good!  But it was probably shitty cheap keg beer, so who knows).  So one of the guys I didn’t recognize offered me a drink that what I now realize was probably a vodka with fruit punch.  Pretty gross, but I was 18, what did I know?  My friend Megan* (name changed) ran over and told me to stay away from him and dragged me away.   “Stay away from Matt*.  He’s bad news.”

I listened, and we went on our merry way, drinking wine coolers and dancing around the party.  A couple of hours and a few wine coolers later, I was talking to this guy Brad*, and he asked me if I wanted to go talk somewhere a little more quiet.  I knew him from the drum line and figured, sure why not, he’s cute, I know him, it’ll be totally fine.  Megan actually gave me a thumbs up as we went back to his room.

Here’s your last chance to quit reading.  I figure you’re all in at this point, but I’m giving you an out just in case.

We were making out, as the kids call it, and he asked if I was a virgin. I said it wasn’t his business, and he laughed and we kept kissing.  I laughed a little, and I should have left then, but I knew him.  He wasn’t a bad guy.  He asked again if I was a virgin, and I thought about telling him I was, but I just said “I don’t want to do that.”  I will never forget that moment.  I will also never forget what happened next.  I tried to run out of the room, but he grabbed me, pulled my short skirt up around my waist, and pinned me to the bed.  I yelled at him to stop it more than a few times, but the music from the party was loud, and I was yelling through tears by this point.

The door opened, and I thought I was going to be okay.  That someone was coming to save me.  They weren’t.  It was the guy I didn’t recognize, but I remembered his name.  “Matt, help me please,” I screamed.  I won’t go into details, other than to say that he did not save me as I lay there sobbing and trying to get away.

I had been drinking.  I was flirting.  I went into Brad’s room willingly.  I kissed him.  I was wearing a short skirt and a halter top.  I still own the halter top.  Every time I clean out my dresser, I think about throwing it away, but I keep it.  As a reminder that what I was wearing wasn’t the problem.  I said no, many times, but by the time Matt came into the room, it was a moot point.  My life was forever changed.

I went into the bathroom and washed my face, doing my best to fix my makeup and my hair, trying to stop crying, adjusting my skirt, trying to pull my shirt to cover more of me.  I was ashamed.  I was embarrassed.  But I couldn’t admit what happened to anyone.  I didn’t want to be that girl.

I went back into the party, and Matt gave Brad a high five as I walked into the room.  I went and found Megan and told her I needed to go home.  She asked me what happened – had I been crying?  I just want to go home, okay?

Life went on, classes and practices, and a few days later, Sarah* asked me what happened at the party because Megan told her that something had happened but she wasn’t sure what.  So I told her and said I didn’t know who to tell.

“Nobody.  You’re not telling anyone.  You were drinking.  You were dressed like that?  What did you expect?”

I was shocked.  Someone I trusted and considered to be a friend didn’t believe me.  She believed that I’d gotten drunk and laid back and let two men have sex with me when I didn’t want to have sex.  I was 18 years old and suddenly I didn’t know who to trust.  If I choose to willingly have sex with two men in one night, I’ll own up to it.  I might not tell you about it, but if you find out and ask?  I’ll own up to it, but I’m now 39 years old and pretty much have no shame.  When I was 18?  Having sex with anyone I’d just met at a party wasn’t going to happen and rape was something that happened to other people.  I didn’t even call what happened to me “rape.”  I’m not sure I called it anything, but I knew it didn’t feel right.

I told her I was scared of Brad and seeing him again at practice, and she said she’d take care of it.  “I mean, really, dressed like that and you were drunk?  What did you expect?”  I sure as shit didn’t expect what happened, or I would have stayed home.  I came from a high school relationship of respect and taking care of each other as best a couple of high school kids can.  I came from having sex with someone who was respectful of me and who was so gentle and kind, although our relationship fizzled out because long distance phone calls were expensive and he didn’t live in East Lansing.  But my sexual history didn’t matter in that situation.  I didn’t tell her any of this and asked what I should do.  She said she’d take care of it.

I didn’t believe her and went to an assistant band director.

“You know what’s happened here the last couple of years, right?  We don’t need this publicity.  Were you drunk?”

Does that matter?

 

Were. You. Drinking.  Answer me.  I told him that I had been, and he asked if I’d told anyone.  I was horrified and embarrassed and ashamed.  I was a whore.  A slut.  Someone who deserved  exactly what I’d gotten and who was terrified of being kicked out of the band because I reported something.  Because I admitted I was drinking.  “If you were drinking, you’re subject to expulsion from the band and even the school.”

So I let it go.  I couldn’t get kicked out of school for underage drinking.  I stayed in the band and finished the season.  I didn’t go to any more band parties.  I wasn’t popular anymore.  Maybe because I was used.  Maybe because they were warned by a guy on the drum line who I told what happened and who told them to leave me alone.

Shortly thereafter, I met a guy who became my boyfriend.  He turned out to be a terrible person in the long run, and one night at a party at his house, who walks in but Matt.  Yeah, that guy.  I left and went home to my dorm and cried.  I didn’t join the band again and instead joined a sorority my sophomore year of college.  I met some great people.  I’m not friends with any of them because for a long time I just wanted to forget that time in my life, and well, because I push people away.  I don’t trust people.  I’m sure you’re all lovely.  But I don’t trust you as far as I could throw you, and I don’t even have a bad knee.

And now I’m 39 going on 40 in a few months.  I still don’t trust people, but I’m trying.  I’m coming out with this because I have friends who have daughters and sons who are getting close to college age.  If she says no?  She means it.  If he says no?  He means it.  I’m not sure how you talk to your kid about this because it’s awkward.  But most importantly for everyone?  If it isn’t yours and someone says no?  Just fucking stop.

 

I’m not their target audience.

On February 26, 2016, I received a magazine in the mail.  The only magazines I subscribe to are The Atlantic (free because I give money to NPR) and Sports Illustrated (free when I bought some baseball tickets last summer), so when I opened my mailbox to find a copy of Cosmopolitan, I figured it must have been delivered to the wrong mailbox.

But it wasn’t.  My name was on the address label, along with “JAN20,” which means that I’ll be getting this magazine until January of 2020.  Four years of a magazine that I last subscribed to and read religiously when I was about 20 years old.  I didn’t sign up for it, but here it was.

The February 2016 issue has a sassy picture of Julianne Hough on it (I had to google who she was – Dancing With the Stars, dated Ryan Seacrest) in a one piece bathing suit of sorts.  Boobs up, smiling all sexy-like (or what I assume is sexy-like – it’s a face I’ve never made in my life).  The stories inside promised to tell me how to “Look Hotter NAKED!” and would give me “SEX TIPS SO HOT YOU’LL GET TURNED ON JUST READING THEM.”  Well alrighty then.  Let’s see what we have here.

I started flipping through the pages, and this magazine stinks.  Four different perfume samples.  Yuck.  I ripped those out and flipped past ads for makeup and shampoo.  I read a couple of articles first, but this one had my attention.  Look Hotter Naked.  Who doesn’t want to look hotter without clothes on?

But I know what I look like naked.  A little background.  I’m roughly 39.5 years old as I write this.  I’m overweight (but successfully working on losing weight).  I’m single, and it’s been a long time since anyone who isn’t a doctor saw me naked with the lights on, let alone in broad daylight.  If you’re my age, you may know how it is.  You’re too fucking old to be ashamed of what you look like naked, but you’re not exactly prancing around in a spotlight displaying the goodies when you’re hoping to be on the road to O town.

Anyway, the tips are ridiculous, and I summed them up like this on Facebook:

How to look hotter naked (according to Cosmo):

take a salt bath, brush your skin towards your heart to increase circulation, and buy some rando caffeine gel to tighten your abs.Then sit on this textured mat that makes your ass all bumpy to increase circulation (then avoid your guy or gal for half an hour while your ass is all bumpy). Don’t drink anything with bubbles. And zap yourself with electricity to tense your muscles. So basically taze yourself?

I can’t even with this bullshit.

Moisturizer! With GLITTER! And be sure to shave because OMG BODY HAIR IS GROSS.There’s something in here about not sweating. If you’re doing the fucking right, you’re probably sweating at least a little. Freeze your fat? WTF. Put bronzer EVERYWHERE! Because changing your skin tone won’t stain the fuck out of your sheets.

And these last little things!
wear a body chain! (a what?)
wear heels! (peep toes with platform heels make your ass look banging – when it’s banging into the floor because you’re naked and trying to walk and trip over yourself)
bling it on (so basically vagazziling or whatever I guess?)
dimmable lights – so you don’t look like a jackass in your body chain and heels with crystals on your labia?
Candles – but jesus h. christ have a fire extinguisher ready that the other person knows how to use when you trip and fall into the candles
Get sheets that match your blush – what in the actual fuck. My sheets kinda sorta look good with the paint in my room. They’re soft. I like them. They only match my blush if I’m going for dead chick blue.

This magazine is bullshit.

 

This quickly devolved into some hilarious comments from friends about how you can’t drink beer because you’ll be bloated, dying your labia to be a more appealing color, and whether they sell blush in patterns that match your warm flannel sheets.

When I was in my 20s, I was so fucking insecure about what I looked like with clothes on, let alone without any on, I probably would have happily taken some of this advice and tried them with whatever  guy I was dating at the time.  But thinking back to the guys I dated (and/or slept with) when I was in my 20s?  Those guys didn’t give a shit about candles or whether my ass had cellulite, though I’m pretty sure one of them had a pretty wicked shoe fetish.  And notice that one thing about dimmable lights?  Yeah.  Even in your 20s, you’re probably not prancing around with a 100 watt bulb blaring.  Strip clubs have dim lighting for a reason.  We all know we have flaws, and we want to hide them or at least make them a bit less obvious.

If you’re already at the point where the guy or gal is making out with you?  They probably want to see you naked and don’t give a fuck if you look like Kate Upton.  And if you’re a guy reading this?  That girl (or guy) doesn’t care if you look like Channing Tatum.  They’re just happy to be making out with you and hoping it might go “all the way” as the kids say.  Or at least as the kids said when I was a kid.

I realize I’m not the target audience for Cosmo.  That’s the point of this blog.  But I guess I want to poke fun at the ridiculousness of this magazine and make you laugh while also sending a message that there might be something to learn from this ridiculous crap.

XOXO~ elm