A Way Back From That Hurt


It has rained all day. It is dark outside. I don’t mind. It seems appropriate. 

I wrote an essay for The New York Times about the beach. It’s humor. I mention this because I have already received an e-mail, from a stranger, explaining to me why I am wrong about the beach. Thank you. 

Here is the trailer for Fifty Shades of Grey. It makes the movie look like it is going to be awesome and ridiculous, in the way of the books. I wrote an essay about Fifty Shades of Grey. You can read it in this book I wrote called Bad Feminist that comes out on August 5. 

I was at the grocery store and there were new corrections. Of course. Le plus ca change. 


Last night, I baked a brownie pie because earlier in the week, Ina baked a brownie pie along with some other man foods because she was having construction workers over for a manly lunch—tiny, individual meatloaves, buttermilk mashed potatoes, brussel sprouts with pancetta, and this brownie pie.

This was a particularly amazing episode because Ina made a centerpiece for her guests out of “construction materials.” If you are not picking up what Ina Garten is serving, I do not know what to tell you. 

I don’t really love chocolate so it was safe to bake a brownie pie. First, I buttered and floured my pan. I was in a bad mood so I was extra meticulous about preparing this recipe. There is a certain submission I enjoy in following recipes. You are given exact quantities and exact instructions and your only task is to follow those instructions. Your only task is to do as your told. There are times when I want my only task to be doing as I am told. A pan was never so well-floured in my kitchen as this pan. 


Next I added 3/4 a stick of butter to a bowl over simmering water. I’ve often seen real cooks do this sort of thing and I have found it intimidating so in general, I have avoided working with chocolate. Last night, I was not deterred. How hard could it be?

Yesterday, sports personality Stephen A. Smith ran his mouth about the women in his family and how he has always cautioned them to not provoke their men into violence. Smith was running his mouth because he is paid to run his mouth and also because he is a misogynist with no imagination and even less heart. He was referring, of course, to the “punishment” handed down to Ray Rice by the NFL, a two-game suspension for an incident where he knocked his wife unconscious and dragged her limp body out of an elevator. 

Le plus ca change. 


When the butter melted, I added two cups of chocolate chips and combined them until I had a creamy chocolate situation.

Smith’s bullshit was galling on so many levels but for women, this is not a new message. Our job, throughout our lives is to not provoke men into beating us, raping us, cat calling us, whatever. Men, so many people would have us believe, simply cannot control themselves so it is our job, as women, to not only live our own lives but make sure men don’t hurt us. 

What I know about relationships is that they are hard. I know that when we are arguing with our significant others, we can do terrible things. We can say terrible things. We hurt each other and hope that there’s a way back from that hurt. 

When physical violence enters a disagreement, though, something changes. I don’t think it’s ever right for one person of any gender to nonconsensually strike another person of any gender. Violence is not a reasonable option.

Some pundits have said that Rice’s wife, then fiancée, struck him and he was simply defending himself. He has the right to defend himself but I am unclear as to when self-defense becomes knocking a woman unconscious. I am particularly unclear about how a professionally trained NFL football player who outsizes his partner significantly, cannot make a different choice. 


Over at the mixer, I added three eggs, a tablespoon of instant coffee, a cup of sugar and a lot of vanilla. I do not pay attention to instruction when it comes to vanilla or basil. My submission is, in all circumstances, complicated. I will submit, but I also love to push. I love to see how far I can push before there is push back. Push me back. I dare you. I want you too. 

Sometimes, when my youngest niece is acting up, her mom very calmly says, “Is there a better choice you can be making here?” It’s adorable and so loving. It is hilarious to witness because a two-year old, melting down, is not going to make a rational choice. And yet. For whatever reason, this approach works in its own way. My niece will quiet and look at her mother and consider her options. She finds a way to make a better choice. 

Perhaps, we should pay more attention to the ways of two-year-olds. 

In the throes of an argument, it’s hard to make the right choices. It’s hard to do the right thing when you’re all hurt and anger and instinct. But. We are humans. We are not animals. 

As women, we should not have to live our lives with this Sword of Damocles hanging over our heads as to whether or not our partner is going to be human or an animal. We shouldn’t have to try to not provoke. In some relationships, anything becomes a provocation—saying something, saying nothing, how you dress, how you act, how quickly you do or don’t answer the phone, your tone of voice, how you clean the house, how you drive the car, how you look someone in the eyes, how you avoid looking someone in the eyes. There’s always a finger on the trigger. 


The chocolate was set aside to cool because if I added it to the egg mixture while it was hot, it would have cooked the eggs. This is another little thing I picked up from Ina. She teaches me things.

I’m not trying to make any grand pronouncements about domestic violence. This is not an issue we can neatly intellectualize. Relationships are complicated. Shit happens. People fuck up. People endure. People hurt people. But, don’t think violence is acceptable. Don’t think there is any circumstance that justifies what Ray Rice did. Don’t think that if we’re all good girls, if we’re properly meek, if we don’t provoke our men, we’ll be safe. Good girls get hurt all the time.

We are not the problem. 

I refuse to quietly accept that there is one set of rules for how men live and another set of rules for how women live. And still, at night in a dark parking lot, I will walk to my car with my keys splayed between my fingers like blades. Ain’t that some shit?


Once the chocolate cooled, I added it to the egg mixture and let the mixer do its work. 

In tomorrow’s New York Times Magazine, there is an interview with me by Jessica Gross for this week’s talk column. It feels like a big deal in the way of such vanities. A recent interviewee was Chrissie Hynde. Another was Laverne Cox. I have no idea why I’m in the mix but I am going along for the ride.

It is a lovely interview, I think. I am proud of it. And also, there is a full-sized picture of me. This is my body. This is what I look like. I am changing my body but this is my body. 

There are all kinds of pictures of me out and about and it has been harder than I can explain, to feel so exposed. It’s one thing to write as if you have no skin. It’s another thing when photography is involved.

As I’ve said before, I don’t think I am ugly. I don’t hate myself in the way society would have me hate myself way but I do live in the world. I live in this body in this world and I hate how the world all too often responds to this body. I hear the rude comments whispered. I see the stares and laughs and snickering. I tolerate relationships where I am dating someone too ashamed of me to acknowledge our relationship. The list of bullshit is long and boring and I am, frankly, bored with it. Whatever. It is what it is. This is the world we live in. Looks matter and we can say but but but. But no. Looks matter. Bodies matter. 


In a separate bowl I combined a cup of walnuts, a cup of chocolate chips (but I again, bad at submission, freestyled and used half a cup of white chocolate chops), and a cup of flour, some baking powder, and salt. I mixed it all together. Do you want to know why? Ina says that the flour will keep the walnuts and chocolate chips from sinking to the bottom of the brownie pie. I am guessing Ina knows everything. Then I added these dry goods to the chocolate batter and folded them together. The idea of folding, in baking, seems kind of sexy. 

With pictures of myself out and about there, are inevitably, all manner of cruelties directed at me. Mostly, I don’t talk about it. What the fuck is there to say? Wah, a bunch of assholes were mean to me on the Internet? I mean, honestly. That’s every day. And yesterday was just another day. One troll took the care to include me in his thoughts about my appearance, saying something like, “She’s fat and gay, is anyone surprised?” I don’t remember the exact wording and clearly, this is someone who is not terribly bright. We all see that. 

Ignore the trolls, we say, and mostly this is true. Trolls need to be ignored. They are there to poke at your tender places because they have nothing better to do. 

But this is more than trolling. I don’t care about that guy, but when I hear things like that, all my worst fears about myself are confirmed. When I hear such things, I am reminded that no matter how hard I work, no matter what I achieve, in most ways, these accomplishments mean nothing. I can be cut down. I can be put in my place. I was, I guess, put in my place. 

Don’t think I’m going to stay there. You have no idea what I can take.


I put the finished batter in my perfectly floured pan and then put that in the lie oven for 37 minutes at 350 degrees.

It’s always going to be something, right? Fine. I don’t have to smile my way through it.

Or, maybe this tears at a raw and open wound. There is someone in my life who reminds me that everything I’m doing is well and good but won’t matter as much until I lose “the weight.” This person means well which is why I am referring to them as this person. I don’t want you to think less of them. But for nearly twenty years, I’ve been told this with every new job and every new accomplishment. It’s draining to the point where I mostly don’t talk about anything I accomplish with anyone. What’s the point, until I lose “the weight.” Nothing I do matters until I discipline my body, until I submit to society’s will.


The brownie pie came out of the oven and it smelled delicious. It looked good. This was probably the best thing I’ve ever baked. I took a picture. I inhaled deeply. I threw my beautiful creation away. I know how to submit. I will submit. You have no idea what I can take. 


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