I Don’t Love My Body And That’s Just Fine

CW: Mention of rape, suicide

Yesterday I went to the gym. I do this sometimes, with varying degrees of purpose. Mostly I do it these days to ward off a desire to murder myself. I’m also hoping to gain upper body strength for the day I need to punch a Nazi. I recently had a nightmare that I missed an opportunity to land a fist in Trump’s face as a result of a non-functioning arm. I’d like to avoid making that a reality.

Honestly, though, I probably wouldn’t step foot in a health club if shrinking wasn’t an occasional side effect of exercise.

So it was particularly cutting be on the elliptical, open OkCupid, and see this:

fucker

The first thing I did was try not to cry. Because fuck doing that in front of other humans.

The second thing I did was ship that screenshot off to my equally feminist besties. Initially I did this in pursuit of validation and comfort. Then I remembered that one of my comrades possesses a CIA-worthy penchant for gathering intelligence on people against their will and using very little information.

“Girl,” I wrote, “you’re good at detective work. Help me find his email address so I can ruin his life.”

“Where is he from?”

“His profile says South Korea.”

“Well,” she said, “That’s not helpful. I’m pretty sure I can only do people in America. I can catfish him for you.”

While catfishing might have been mildly amusing, it didn’t seem enough. I did something else, and I posted the following on Facebook, accompanied by the above image:

“I received this gem of a message while at the gym today. I don’t know this person, he is nothing to me, but still, when you have spent most of your life feeling unworthy and unlovable because of your body, this shit stings.

Ordinarily I would delete, block, and move on with my life. But this wasn’t simply someone lashing out for my refusal to acknowledge them. This perfect stranger in another country went OUT OF HIS WAY today to send me a reminder that I’m taking up too much space. That twinge of sadness and self-loathing gave way to white hot feminist rage.

So, I did the only logical thing. I played along. And I got his number.

+821027326084

He has Whatsapp. Do with that information what you will, Facebook.”

Ohhhhhhhh man, did my friends (and some strangers) come through. This dude threatened to have all of my electronic devices shut down if I refused to call a ceasefire. Which I guess is a thing he can do because he’s banging the ghost of Steve Jobs or some shit. (Just in case you’re worried, I didn’t tell anyone to stop and all of my vibrators remain in working order.)

I received a number of comments on that thread in the vein of “you’re perfect and amazing,” which is always lovely to hear, even if that wasn’t the point, and even as difficult as it may be for me to internalize and believe such whacky ideas. (Also, neither of those things and fat are mutually exclusive.) There was, however, another common theme in these responses that, while understandable, is misguided. And fucking exhausting to hear.

It’s the, “Don’t think about him, he’s not worth your time or mental energy.”

Look, I get it. This sentiment is not false. But it puts the onus on me not to be affected by hurtful messages. I already feel bad enough for feeling insulted by something that shouldn’t be an insult in the first place. (Though it’s not my fault that the word “fat” is weaponized.)

It probably surprised quite a few people to see me use words like “unworthy” and “unlovable” to describe myself. I’ve worked very hard to cultivate an air of badassery and not-taking-shitness, so I can see why someone like me showing even a sliver of vulnerability might be confusing or unsettling to some (not the least of whom is me… just ask my therapist).

But here is a fact: not hating myself is an uphill battle.

And that’s not my fucking fault, either. When we talk about women and our hatred for the meat bags we inhabit, we call this “body image issues.” As if these problems are born and reside only within us. As if they are something for us, individually, to work through. To get over.

Let’s set aside for a moment the cultural messages hoisted in my direction every day. It’s easy to say that because an advertisement isn’t directly addressed to me, it’s up to me not to internalize the message that I am not thin/beautiful/whatever enough. Happiness, after all, comes from within. (A bullshit argument, but I’ll concede the point for now.)

But that’s not all that’s happening in my world.

My freshman year of high school, I got my first cell phone as a birthday gift. One day shortly after that, I sat in the car with my mother and noticed I had a voicemail from a blocked number. I wondered if it might be whichever boy I happened to be crushing on at the time.

Instead, it was a voice masked in gravel that said, “Hello, fat ass, go die.”

As I’m sure was the intention, I grew quiet. When mom asked what was wrong, I said, “Nothing. I’m just tired.”

I never told her, or anyone, about that voicemail.

I’m supposed to love my body even when someone tells me it doesn’t deserve to be alive.

Here’s another story I’ve never told anyone:

After I was raped my freshman year of college, (and well before I had the ability to call it anything other than a one night stand gone awry) I spent a fair amount of time on my assailant’s Facebook page, trying to make sense of it all, and to find evidence that he was a good person. A few days after that night, an obituary-style post appeared on his wall, poking fun at him for sleeping with “bulbous women.” It was clearly about me.

I didn’t have sex for three years after that. My first foray into sober sex happened even later.

I’m supposed to love my body even when someone tells me it’s not even good enough to be violated.

A few years later, I stood in the basement of a pirate bar in Madrid, G&T in hand, trying to avoid the advances of a dude I simply wasn’t feeling. When he finally gave up, his smiley friend approached me, and got his mouth close enough to my ear to say, “You know, you are really pretty. But if you lost a little weight, you’d be perfect.” I looked down at my drink and imagined what it would look like in this fucker’s face. And in one of my most regretted life choices, I decided he wasn’t worth wasting the Hendrick’s on. Instead I simply I wished I’d never learned Spanish.

I’m supposed to love my body even when someone tells me, in no uncertain terms, that it’s inadequate.

This is why someone like me, someone who carries herself like a fierce warrior goddess, someone you would call a “strong woman”, can use words like “unworthy” and “unlovable” to describe herself.

This is how it’s possible for the words “you’re beautiful” to feel false even coming from a man who’s been inspired to put his hands over every inch of me. This is why, in the absence of hearing the words, “you’re beautiful” from the last man I shared a bed with, I have spent the last two weeks wondering whether his recent aloofness is a result of the puckered flesh on my ass that my jeans had been camouflaging. This is why, no matter how many times I do it, undressing in front of a new person presents a unique and terrifying challenge. This is why I have never come during my first encounter with anyone. This is why it injures me each time a person I date who “doesn’t want a relationship” magically finds himself in one a month later with someone much thinner than me.

The “love yourself” rhetoric just adds another layer of shit for me to feel bad about. Because I fail at it, daily. Hourly. And just when I get to a point where I think, “hey, maybe this is the shape my body wants to be, and that’s OK,” some cum stain reminds me that it never will be.

So, if I tell you that I’m feeling insecure and like a hideous sea witch, the right answer isn’t “ugh, stop, you’re beautiful.” If I show you an abusive message from a rando on a dating site, the right response isn’t, “it’s not worth your time, forget about it.”

It’s not my responsibility not to think about this shit when it happens. It’s your responsibility make this world one where that shit can’t happen.

 

My Mental Health In The Wake of 11/08

CW: suicidal ideation, self-harm

Much to my dismay, I keep waking up. I’m not being dramatic, I’m ill. I don’t remember when I had my first suicidal ideation. It may have been shortly after my parents separated. I certainly had many in middle and high school. They occasionally popped up in college, got much worse when I tried birth control, and all but disappeared when I moved to Spain.

I never felt the need to tell anyone about these thoughts until recently. They had never been true impulses, but more of a passive desire to not be alive. Occasionally while driving I’d think, “I could drive off of this bridge,” but I never believed this was something I would actually do. I kept these to myself in part because I was ashamed, and in part because I never truly believed I would act on them. It seemed unnecessary to cause my family and friends such worry. Then I moved back to the States and started suffering frequent crying spells for no discernible reason. I endured my first (and to date, only) panic attack, and those passing thoughts became a real desire to cut myself. While I’ve never taken a blade to my flesh, on a daily basis I’m bombarded with images of opening the skin on my wrist, or cutting my own throat. These thoughts are frightening, yes, at times even immobilizing, but I let them remain unspoken because they felt separate from me. They felt like a mere distraction rather than a real threat.

About a month ago, in a period of calm, I was able to get myself into therapy. Life started feeling less overwhelming and uncertain. I started writing again. I was working a wonderful job with wonderful people and was beginning to find my place in my new city. The thoughts of self-harm disappeared.

Then Trump won.

Every morning since I’ve woken up with a tight chest and a headache from dehydration. I can’t seem to replace the water I’ve lost from crying. Yesterday I called a suicide hotline for the first time in my life. I don’t owe my current state entirely to the outcome of the election, but it certainly delivered a tremendous blow to my mental well-being.

I am terrified and I know I’m not alone. I feel guilty for taking Clinton’s loss this hard. As a white cishetero I don’t have as much at stake as many of my friends. But I am terrified for my loved ones who are PoC/queer/trans/Jewish/disabled/otherwise marginalized.

And here I would like to pause and openly apologize to my friends who are members of marginalized groups. As a person who is more degrees removed from the epicenter of this collective pain and trauma, it’s not right for me to lean on you right now. But over the last few days I have unloaded my grief on you when your grief is even less bearable than mine. I’ll save my tears for the shoulders of cishetero white men and women.

I am terrified and overwhelmed at the work that is in front of me. I’m terrified and wracked with guilt for not having done enough to combat white supremacy. And yes, white supremacy is the reason this country elected an autocrat.

Like me, much of the country is in mourning. This grief is real but the grief is not easy to process when about a half of the country is in celebration, and a good chunk of the other half (the ones around me, anyway) has shrugged their shoulders and said, “oh well, life goes on, sometimes you don’t win.”

This election was not a three-legged-race at an elementary school field day. We’re not talking about a sporting event. People’s rights and lives are in danger on a MICRO level. Folks mourning and resisting this outcome are not sore losers, we aren’t being dramatic—we’re in danger.

This was not a normal election cycle, and Donald Trump was not a normal candidate nor is he a normal President-elect. He is a demagogue who ran a racist/misogynistic/xenophobic/homophobic campaign. We have no choice right now but to assume he and his running mate will make good on their promises to repeal the ACA (leaving 20 million Americans without health insurance), deport millions of immigrants, and ban an entire religion from entering a country.

This man is a symptom of white supremacy in this nation and what we have now is a diagnosis. Is everyone who voted for him a KKK-level racist? I don’t believe that. I can’t believe that for my own sanity. But everyone who voted for him decided racism, hatred, and bragging about sexual assault were not deal breakers. That means we failed. When I say we, I mean white people. We fucked up big time. White people voted him into office and now it’s on us to mitigate the potential damage he will do.

If you are not terrified, if you are not grieving, if you are not prepared to work, if you are not part of the resistance, history will not be kind to you or your memory. If you have ever said to yourself that you would have resisted the Nazis, or that you would have fought slavery, or that you would have marched on Washington, now is the time to prove it.

I want to promise that we’ll be ok, but I can’t. I don’t know that. But I can promise I will do my best to keep myself healthy and to keep fighting.

Did You Miss Me?

Did you notice I left?

Excuse the unannounced hiatus. Some shit went down in the year or so since I’ve been gone.

There have been trains. There has been sluttiness. There have been days of being unable to lift my head off of the couch. There was a panic attack at work. There was a wedding I officiated. There was NaNoWriMo! Now there’s a (really really rough) draft of Train Slut: A Memoir! There was a trip to visit Arthur in our nation’s capital. There were several piano lessons. A new baby in the family. A new boy. A breakup which turned new boy into an old boy. A newer boy. A prescription for anti-anxiety meds. A trip to Europe. A reunion with newer boy. A subsequent and excruciating realization that newer boy was ghosting me. (And an even excruciating-er realization that I didn’t know how to spell excruciating until just now.) A few late-night messages (that should not have been) sent with gin’s everlasting encouragement. A job search.

An understanding that continuing to write this thing is less painful than ignoring it.

And here we are.

So I’m back. It’s the start of a fresh dry spell, so you can expect to hear from me more than once in the next 12 months. That’s the only upside to me not boning: I get productive and other people get entertained by my misfortune.

I don’t know what else to promise you. I shouldn’t promise anything. There’s another trip to visit Arthur on the horizon. He’s one of my biggest fans and champions. If anyone can forcibly remove my head from my rectum and get me to work, it’s him. So prepare yourselves for pictures of crab cakes and tales of shenanigans. There shall be many.

It’s nice to be back here. Thanks for making it this far.

Travel Tips With Train Slut

When I reveal that I’m traveling alone, whomever I’m speaking with usually expresses a degree of surprise and then praises my independence and bravery. “Wow,” they’ll say, “good for you.” This comes from locals and fellow travelers alike.

On this trip in particular I’ve met several women traveling alone. My first night in Brussels, my hostel room consisted of myself and two other twenty-something ladies exploring on our own. I spent an entire day with two girls (I use that word reluctantly, and only for the sake of diversity), one a recent college grad, and the other about to begin her final year. We drank a lot of beer and ate a lot of fries. Over a few bottles of cherry beer we talked about the loneliness of solo travel. Sure, sometimes it would be nice to have another human along for the ride to share the beauty with. But it’s liberating not to have to adhere to anyone else’s agenda. To not be in a rush.

Plus, moving to another country and traveling on my own has been the best education I’ve ever received. Leaving behind everything and everyone I know and love, being foreign, learning languages, and walking five-hundred miles across a nation all helped me find my way back to myself. I won’t say that I “found myself”, but I have stopped running from myself.

For me, traveling has been about letting me be my own home.

And while this lifestyle has been good for me, that’s not to say it’s been easy. Travel is fun, but anything worth doing requires a bit of work, and I’ve picked up some insider knowledge along the way.

I’m going to share some of those tips with you right now.

Welcome to Train Slut’s first-ever listicle: Travel Tips.

1) Never ever forget condoms.

Just don’t do it. You never know when a hot ginger will want to fuck you in a graveyard.

2) Get drunk every day.

In many places booze is cheaper than water. Save your money and make yourself a more pleasant person to be around.

3) Keep WiFi on your phone switched on.

For real, this is actually practical. Google Maps can still show you your location even if you’re not connected to the internet as long as you have WiFi switched on. Science, yo. Maybe you don’t want the NSA knowing where you are. Ok. Then stop being a baby and ask somebody.

4) If you turn your underwear inside out, you have two pairs of underwear.

Think about it.

5) Make sure your hostel room is empty before jerking off.

Because if you don’t, you might be a weird French dude celebrating life’s greatest gift and end up making eye contact with a nice American girl you thought was sleeping when she rolls over. Look, I’m all for self-love, but God made private shower stalls for a reason.

awkward

You’re welcome.

Don’t Cry For Me, I’ve Already Done It Enough For The Both Of Us

I wanted to give you better than this. I have a detailed list of backlogged updates, and my intention was to have them all to you before I started working. But my first day is tomorrow and you haven’t even seen the second city I visited.

The next post in the queue was meant to be a funny list of travel tips. You’re not getting that today and here’s why:

This weekend I suffered a mild emotional breakdown. It hit between Saturday and Sunday around 4 AM when the entire world was asleep. I woke up around 3, which has become something of a pattern for me since I’ve returned to this continent. Most nights I can roll over and reunite with sleep within a few minutes. This time, however, a family of jitters rented out a penthouse suite in my chest cavity. The night before I’d gotten into bed at 9:37 PM. I was recovering from a cold, high on weed-infused tea, and procrastinating the dozen or so writing projects I have started but can’t seem to make progress on. Surely this state of impermeable alertness was punishment.

I’d been in this house over a week and my suitcases still sat in a corner, spilling their plushy innards onto the floor. Thus, unpacking seemed a worthy use of my time.

Living alone has benefits, not the least of which is being able to blast Florence + The Machine without the slightest consideration for other human beings. I made the bed to give myself a flat surface upon which I could thrust every article of clothing I own.

Somewhere between putting dresses on hangers and folding Superman underwear, I was struck with the reality and the permanence of my decision. Also, I realized if I want to get laid this year, I’ll have to drive somewhere. No more ten-minute metro rides to DickTown. No more bottomless wine on dates. No more late-night burritos in lieu of hookups.

This sent me down a teary vortex for around two hours. During this time I: missed Madrid, missed my friends, questioned my decision to come home, chastised myself for my inability to finish a goddamn thing in my life, sent a Tinder message, told myself I’ll never be a writer, ate hummus, wondered if anyone will ever love me, brushed my teeth.

Around 6 AM I managed to fall asleep again, and was greeted with dreams about decapitating home intruders with a serrated knife. The whole episode rendered me incapable of leaving the house for the entirety of yesterday. I spent most of the day chasing sleep and online shopping for a therapist in my area. It seems there aren’t any that accept my insurance, which I only have for another two months anyhow. Happy birthday to me. My quest to improve my mental health seems to be leaving me less mentally healthy.

I’m better today, but I’m still in the midst of the shame spiral and fighting with myself to get out of my own way and get some fucking work done.

When I arrived in Massachusetts a little over a week ago, my mood seemed to lift immediately. I thought the worst of it was over.

image1

I took this from my window the other day. HOW DARE I BE SAD?!

But being back here is fucking hard. Really fucking hard. I expected this. I am smart enough to know it will be ok. But I could still use a hug.

And hey, if you want to see happier updates, I could use a bit of accountability. If you like reading this, email me at bb@trainslut.com and remind me to keep writing. I know you’re out there, fans. (We need to think of a cute name for you like GaGa’s Little Monsters, or Justin’s Beliebers, but, like, sluttier.) I know you’re out there craving new shit but not wanting to bother me about it. You’re not bothering me. I respond well to a little ass-kicking.

Oh, PS, HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my first (and only) WordPress subscriber. You know who you are. xoxo

I Missed You, I Promise

I’ve been a very bad slut, my friends. By this I mean two things: 1) I’ve been bad at being a slut (i.e., not sluttin’ it up enough) and 2) I’ve been bad at telling you about my slutitude.

I’m back home in the U.S. now, so I’ve got a lot of catching up to do on this bad boy. Most of my days being back in America have consisted of trying not to cry in supermarkets at the overwhelming selection of yogurt, and remembering to smile and ask the bank teller how he’s doing because if I don’t I’ll be a horrible gremlin. It’s been a rough transition, but my mood has stabilized a bit and I’m starting to feel like an American human again.

First off, I’m sorry. Sorry for not writing to you since Scotland. Since we last spoke, I covered around 3,000 miles (~4,800 km) of Europe, kissed one more boy, and wanted to kiss dozens of others.

When I began this blog I had the hope, but not the expectation, that I’d gain a following. Yet I’ve done exactly that. Which is damn cool, so thanks. However it’s also terrifying. You’re a small yet loyal group, and many of you are my friends. Good friends. And I feel I owe you an explanation.

I wish I could tell you the lack of updates between then and now is owed exclusively to all the fun I was having. It’s not. The truth is, after I published the last update about my graveyard tryst, I experienced a mild meltdown.

This was nothing debilitating, to be sure, but I did panic about what this whole thing meant about me. What did it say about me as a person that I was sharing all of this information? What did it say about me that I wanted to share this information? It felt exhilarating to be so open about the details of my sex life, but it also made me deeply vulnerable.

And really, that’s the curse of being a slut: in the best of times it’s liberating and just plain fucking fun. At the worst of times it’s thankless and even isolating.

But still, it’s one thing to do it, it’s another to talk about it, and it’s something else entirely to publish it on the goddamn Internet. My internal regret monkey had a shit fit the day after I told you all about that blow-job.

If you don't get this gif, go watch Inside Out, then come back so we can be friends bc right now we can't.

If you don’t get this gif, go watch Inside Out, then come back so we can be friends. Because right now We. Just. Can’t.

Except this time it wasn’t over impulse-purchasing another vibrator that I really didn’t need. This time it was because I’d revealed to everyone with an IP address that I’m some sort of deviant. (Regret monkey’s words, not mine.) Not for gettin’ down, but for talking about it.

In the search for the origin of this fear, I traversed a long cold road through a land of judgment and things I’ve learned about being a woman. I wanted to know if this fear was grounded in any sort of empirical truth. Is it inherently, objectively wrong to share the details of my slutitude with friends and perfect strangers alike? As I Magellaned my way down to the depths of that nasty, drippy cave of a place where I store all the ways I’ve been socialized, I discovered that, no, prolly not. In fact, it might even be good for me and for other people. I probably learned this bullshit from a lot of somewheres.

When I got home I had lunch with my mother. She said, “I read your blog. Even after you told me not to.”

“Oh god,” I said.

“Yeah,” she said, “I should’ve listened to you.”

Indeed she should’ve. This morning I mentioned I was going to update it today, and she released a noise of abject horror and told me to please not bring it up again. I suppose that conversation didn’t help matters and probably has something to do with the struggle I’m facing at this very moment to birth this heaping pile of confession.

This fear was born from a giant womb of shame. It was born from myths I should’ve unpacked and gotten over in Women’s Studies 101 but that still sneak up and haunt me when I’m trying to get off or, like, write about them. Stupid shit like, “women’s pleasure is secondary to men’s.” Y’know, that stuff.

But then there was stuff that’s still eerily true.

Things came up like about how women are meant to be the gatekeepers of sex. I started thinking a lot about this and how much this has damaged me. (Please bear with me while I work through this shitty heteronormative view of sex/relationships and totally ignore a spectrum of sexuality for a second, sry, brb.) The idea that women are the ones who get the last word on whether or not sex happens at all.

“You’re a girl,” even some of my most well-meaning dude friends will say, “You can fuck whenever you want.” As if boobs are some sort of all-access pass to bang town. (They’re fuckin’ not, btw.)

Then there’s that awful joke/analogy that tries to explain away the double standard by saying, “A key that opens every lock is a great key, but a lock that can be opened by any key is a damn shitty lock.”

ew

What was/is bothering me the most, I think, is that I buy into this, try as I might to fuck as freely as I damn well please. Because here’s the thing: women may still the gatekeepers to sex, but men are the gatekeepers to relationships.

What I loved most about traveling was that it took the pressure off dating and the hookup scene entirely. This was good for me in a lot of ways that I’m sure I’ll cover at some other point when I get into the nooks and crannies of the dates and non-dates I partook in on my travels. (This shall be reserved for future, happier updates.)

I allowed myself to truly not give a fuck about the outcome of any social interaction. Because I’d be on my way to another country in any given 48-hour period. There was no time for attachment. The future was off the table. When I’m settled in a place, part of me is always hunting for someone to enter a pattern of “binge-watch Parks & Rec, fuck, repeat” with. And in those times, I worry about being too “easy.” I’ve hushed my libido on first dates to preserve my chances at securing a second. The worst part? That shit works.

So, maybe I get to decide when and where the pants come off, but I’m not the one who gets to decide if I’m worthy of meeting the parents. (For the record, I haven’t made it that far with anyone. And it’s damn hard not to wonder whether that has to do with my “carefree” attitude.)

I’ve decided from now on to always bang on the first date (provided I want to, that is) until I meet someone feminist enough not to give a fuck. Because anyone who would care is not someone I’d want to date anyway.

And even though I have to contend with this double standard from the people I fuck, the reason Slut Town is such a lonely place is because most of the judgment and slut-shaming I face comes from other straight, cis women.

To be fair, no one has said anything negative to me, or to my knowledge even about me. In fact, the general response to this blog and the way I conduct my affairs has been incredibly positive. Many people say, “You’re awesome.” A few have called me their hero. Nearly everyone laughs. This probably has something to do with my impeccable delivery. But I think most people laugh because the way I conduct my affairs is a bit absurd. Laughter is* born from a betrayal of expectations. That’s why we laugh out of discomfort just as we laugh out of joy. My friends will probably argue that they do expect this sort of thing out of me. However, being a slut and open about it is disruptive in a way. Therefore, it’s funny.

But I digress; the judgment I’m talking about tends to come in the form of sharp glances. It’s the sort of understated malice girls get really good at when we learn that we’re supposed to be nice to each other and we’re supposed to compete with each other. This judgment comes in statements about other women. Things like, “She has no self-respect.” Every time one woman calls another a slut with venom on her tongue, it poisons me. It poisons everyone. Because even though they’re “not talking about me,” that’s exactly what the fuck they’re doing, whether or not it’s their intention.

And you know what? This steaming pile of shit is still wrapped up in a white bow of privilege. Because even through all of this, as a cis white woman, I’m allowed to be more than my sexuality (if I’m seen as having a sexuality at all). While I’ve had a handful experiences when I felt exoticized, I’ve never once felt like I was reinforcing any stereotypes about my race by being sexual or being open about my sexuality.

You know what else? I don’t know what the hell to do about it. Except to keep telling my story with as much brutal honesty as I can. And fuck, if nothing else, it’s entertaining. And entertainment is useful. I have to believe that.

P.S. Update on the Crypt Keeper: He texted me a couple days later at 4AM with the following: “I’m sorry. I’ve been a dick because I thought I’d never get the flat to myself to fuck you but now I’m sitting here alone realising** I could be fucking you right now…”

Isn’t that romantic? I wonder how many goats his family has.

 

*I have no idea if this is true, but I’m trying to remove “I just think” from my lexicon.

**British spelling for historical accuracy

The Azores Part II: Terceira

Welcome to the second part of a whatever-number-part series about my family  trip to the Azores. I sincerely apologize for the delay in these updates. My time so far in Lisbon can be described by the following gifs:

image

image

The day I arrived in Lisbon I met up with a friend whom I met when I was here three years ago. I  was under the impression that we were going to have coffee and hang out for a couple hours. Then we started drinking wine and then two in the morning showed up and I realized that I hadn’t eaten dinner. Result: ouch. We ended up hanging out for the better part of three days. There was some beach and a lot of wine. But he finally went to the south for a few days so now I can be my own bad influence.

ANYWAY.

Day two in the Azores went like this:

Continue reading

The Azores: Part I

I am bad at coming up with titles now, I guess. Whatever, I’m hungry.  I suppose we can say I’ve offically started traveling, as I am now homeless. About a week ago I left my apartment and shoved my things in a friends’ place and made my way to Portugal. I’m gone now until mid-late August so please be forgiving of typos for the next few weeks. I’m typing up these entries on an iPad Mini which is no easy feat for a klutzer such as myself.

Now I’m sitting in a common room in a hostel in Lisbon waiting to be checked in. And it is FULL OF BOYS. Cute ones. One is playing guitar.

image

Current mood

I would like to apologize to my six followers (especially you, random person from Brazil who looks at this site EVERY DAY) for the lack of updates this last week. It hasn’t been for lack of material, but rather lack of alone time. No, not like that. Trust me, I wouldn’t wait until 165 words into this post to tell you that my dry spell had been broken.

I’ve been with my family. For seven days. In a row. Do I have your pity?

I’m slightly kidding. I had an incredible time on this vacation and my family is amazing and I loved being with them. But at the same time I am very grateful to be in Lisbon by myself surrounded people my own age.

Aaaand I just realized I didn’t tell you where I went. If you’re smart, you probably deduced it from the title. But, you read this blog, so you probably aren’t.

I was in the Azores. Here’s a map in case you’ve never heard of it:

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My father was born there, on the island of Santa Maria and lived there until he was seven. At the time Angola was fighting for its independence against Portugal and my uncle was close to turning sixteen and being  sent over to fight. So they left.

My dad hadn’t been back since he left. Forty-five years ago.

A lot happened during this week so I’m going to break it up by island. But generally I will say that everything I had there was the best meal I had and pretty much everywhere you turn looks like a postcard and you should go there.

Let’s start with Terceira. Let me back up. I don’t know if I explained that my family flew over from Boston and I met them there. This included my father, stepmom, and baby brother and sister (Nine and eleven, respectively), and my favorite aunt. For a  week or so leading up to this trip I was mildly depressed about leaving Madrid and the impending move and looming goodbyes. Once I got to the airport and passed security I was able to relax and get excited about finally seeing the Azores. It was a massive checkmark missing on my bucket list and I was especially looking forward to it for my dad, who had never seen any islands other than his own.

I landed in Terceira on Sunday. It  was strange. I grew up surrounded by aerial images of the Azores. My grandparents and aunts and uncles all have at least one picture like this in their homes:

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I think you can see why I wanted to visit.

So landing felt a bit like jumping into one of those pictures. Arriving felt strangely familiar. When I got off the plane they herded us into a shuttle. I want to interrupt our regular programming to talk about how getting shuttled to and from airplanes is the worst thing in the entire world. WHY CAN’T THEY JUST PARK AT THE AIRPORT? Whenever I get off a plane I always have to pee. After spending hours in the sky the last thing I want to do is get on another form of transportation with a full bladder. Now back to our normal show…

Hearing Portuguese always gives me twinges of nostalgia. As I was on that shuttle ready to piss myself, I was taken back to my grandparents’ summer house on the Cape. To the perpetual smell of olive oil and the clocks made of frying pans. To the doilies and roosters.

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I started thinking about how my grandmother and aunts and uncles remember the Azores as how they were when they left. In many ways, I think that’s the Portugal I inherited. That’s the one I feel when I hear anyone speak it. Even after living in Lisbon for a month. But I didn’t expect the islands to be as I imagined them. The most surprising thing, however, was that they were exactly what I expected. I was prepared to be disappointed and I wasn’t.

My father and his cousin picked me up from the airport in Terceira. I hadn’t met her before, but we are friends on Facebook. Because family. She took us across the island through green fields full of cows and the thickest fog I’d ever seen.

“All last week the weather was beautiful,” she said, almost apologizing. “And now it’s like this.”

“Sorry!” my dad and I said.

She brought us to my great aunt M  and uncle L’s (henceforth known as Titia M and Titio L) house. This was waiting for us:

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And this:

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And THIS:

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The last one is called Alcatra. It’s a traditional beef stew specifically from that island. With meat that literally melts in your mouth. They also gave us cavaca, which is a lobster-like creature. It’s easily twice the size of a Maine lobster. It is not, however, twice as delicious. (Sorry, heritage, it just ain’t.)

Before we started, Titia M told me she had called my grandmother and asked what I like. So she made an entire batch of soup so she could give me a cup of it. Someone made a lasagne for my brother and sister as a more “American” option. Auntie M sat next to me at dinner and didn’t let my wine run out the entire night.

This isn’t just my family. The Azoreans are the most accommodating, hospitable, down-to-earth people I have ever met. This certainly isn’t true of the mainland. I’ll probably talk about that more in the coming days. Islands are different.

I put forth my best effort to speak Portuguese. I am supremely rusty. I can understand about 90% of what is said to me, but speaking is another story. I can think in Portuguese perfectly. But when it comes out it is NOT the same as it was in my head. This might sound unlikely. Surely if I can think in another language, I can speak it. Well, I can also do several pull-ups in my brain. If I tried to do it in real life the result would not be as favorable.

And that 90% understanding rate comes in handy. I’m great at eavesdropping.  The 10% usually happens when I’m spoken to directly. A lot of times I be like:

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After dinner we went to the hotel and I died. The end.

So, it turns out there will be more than three posts. This might have to be a day-by-day kind of deal. Come back tomorrow for at least day 2 of Terceira!

A Brief History of Tree-sus Christ (Or: Cadiz and Sevilla)

 

It’s about time this travel blogger did some traveling. I returned from this trip no less than a week and a half ago. My excuse for procrastinating: my wifey came to visit immediately after and then I moved. I’m writing this now from a couple of friends’ place where I’m leaving my crap as I bang my way through Europe (we hope). I’m getting on a plane in six hours, but since I am so dedicated to the six of you that read this, I’ve carved out the morning to offer you all this inspiring nugget of useless information.

Also, please excuse the state of this. I probably won’t have time to edit and I’ve been a bad little writer this week so the quality of this is probably gonna be a bit rusty. Also I’m mildly delirious. (I should note there I initially wrote “delicious”. What a great Freudian finger slip. What a great name for a band! Or porno. SHOTGUN!)

ANYWAY:

I went way down south on a Monday with my friend Arthur and his friend Cindy* who was visiting from Amurrca. (Cindy is now my friend, too. I made her pancakes and we follow each other on Instagram. It’s real.) We initially intended to use BlaBlaCar, a car-sharing service that I’ve employed a number of times with great success. It tends to be cheaper, faster, and more comfortable than busses. However this time we had several hiccups and after making three separate reservations we gave up and took the train.

In the event you’re just joining us, this is how I feel about trains:

excellent

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