Hair Anxiety

It all started with a Facebook post.

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One of my closets friends decided to cut her hair short. And made sure that everyone knew what her plans were. She told everyone she came into contact with, and tried to seduce any others to follow her in her decision. The week previous to this, another one of my friends went from toting a shoulder length blonde doo to a tight bright pixie cut. And next week my dear friend is planning on going from a bob to the new fad of short sides and a mop-y top.

Don’t get me wrong, I love short hair. As a very tactile person, playing with someone else’s short hair is one of my favorite sensations. But this sudden inexplicable trend of all of my close friends chopping off their locks is causing me a basket full of anxiety. Allow me to explain…

Middle School Look at that face. That, ladies and gentlemen and those otherwise identified, is the bright face of a thirteen-year-old Bartley. Yes, that’s me, with that horrible horrible haircut. I had all the best intentions in the world: I had spent a year growing my hair out for Locks for Love. My motivation was split between wanting to be a philanthropic jolly middle schooler, and secretly desiring to cut my hair short but not having the courage. Up to that point, I was a tomboy and insisted on being a boy when playing make pretend. My little thirteen-year-old self was craving a more drastic chance to present masculinely.

Upon chopping my golden locks, I was faced with a grim reality: People started mistaking me for a boy. It was that time in the early 2000’s when every boy fancied himself a skater, and started growing his hair shaggy and wearing skater shoes. And there I found myself, with shaggy hair and wearing skater shoes, on of the prepubescent male hoard. Now for all humans, being mistaken for a boy wouldn’t be a bad thing, but thirteen-year-old Bartley was NOT ready for that kind of public acknowledgement of her queerness. I didn’t come out to myself for another year or two, and I was in no shape ready to even broach my feelings about gender. In short, my decision to cut my hair started the ball rolling on my discovery of my layers of queerness, and caused a metric butt-ton of anxiety.

Bartley's face

Bartley, in the present day and age. Still dabbling in how masculinely to present, this time with much better hair.

I’ve done a lot of thinking about why my friends cutting their hair off is causing me so much anxiety, and I think it’s because some where deep in my heart I want to ditch my curly locks and jam with a punk rock pixie. But honesty, I don’t have the courage. I am just beginning to come to terms with my own journey through gender thoughts, and I don’t know if I’m ready for such a dramatic shift in my appearance. On the other hand, I’ve really grown to love my curls. I’ve begun to love myself as I am. Short hair or not.

Safe travels, folks,

Bartey

 

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A short record of my mind falling to Pieces

There is a lot of construction happening outside of my apartment, and the other day I was walking to my class and my imagination took over. As I passed a pile of pipes, in my mind’s eye I saw myself tripping and getting maimed by this small pyramid of tubing. Moving past how spontaneously morbid my imagination can be, the incident made me question.

What if that had happened? There’s the hypothesis that everything in the world is possible at any moment. Many things don’t happen, but that at any moment a large whale could crash through your window or an asteroid could crash in and destroy us all. A way that some people explain this is by saying that there are an infinite amount of dimensions, and that in each dimension is the universe happening with a different set of possibilities playing out. So, in a dimension somewhere, the whale did crash through your window. Weird right?

What if my imagination clicked into one of those dimensions? What if I got a glimpse of one of those dimensions that hugs up against the one we exist in? This is quantum mechanics. This is science (on some level). Anything you imagine could be being actualized as you think it in some other dimension.

My mind will not stop running. Sometimes I think it’s extremely comforting to imagine that there is a separate plain of being in which I am having the most blissful experiences, and conversely a plain where I am undergoing the most unimaginable horrors. I’m somewhere in between, experiencing one possible iteration that this universe has to offer. On the other hand, that’s horrifying. Growing up in a Catholic household, I was told that my life is following some kind of divine path in which I am significant. But if this is just one iteration of how the universe could work, then how am I significant? If I exist in one random track of what could be, it really shakes any of my possible confidence in the idea of fate.

I’ve been reeling. I’ve been panicking. What if I’m not conscious in iteration where my existence is beneficial? I might be able to calm down if I fueled myself with anything other than caffeine and rage, but it’s that time of year.

 

Embrace our beautifully random journeys, folks,

Bartley

In Memoriam

(I wrote this poem last year around this time. On Sunday, it was the 15 year anniversary of the Columbine Shooting. Let us remember.)

In the words of Cassie Bernall:

The Library, 11:17am, April 20, 1999

 

There is something about spring,

something wild and a little crazy;

something that makes me not want

to be sitting in a library during my

lunch shift avoiding the hungry stares

of the cafeteria. No. I’ll just look outside

 

from behind this computer and try to be less of a

“fucking dyke.” There is just something

about spring that makes me wish

we could all be animals, like in the

cartoons where everyone is a creature-

you can’t even recognize some

 

of them- but you know: That’s a fox

getting a taco, or a dog waiting for

the bus, or a snake handing out apples

on main street. No one is ever caged

up in school on TV. And hell, we are all

going to act like monsters anyway so they

 

might as well let us run free. Really

it wouldn’t be so bad. Those girls,

pretty in pink, would cool their feathers

by the pool, and the white capped jocks would

peacock for their attention, and those boys

in all black would slink along the outskirts

 

like always. They should let us be. We wouldn’t

hurt anyone. Rachel’s probably eating

outside. It’s so gorgeous She’s laughing while

a white capped boy puts a hand on her knee

and touches her hair. After we kissed she

slapped me with a question: “Do you believe

 

in God?” Without thought it rolled out my mouth:

“Yes.” And she talked about her dad and Jesus

and Romans and how no one would know about

what had happened, not even God. Funny how

at school that Monday everyone knew, even those

snakes in black at the back of the room snickered.

 

I didn’t lie when I said that. I do. I do believe in god.

And I believe in me. And in Rachel. And even in those

freaks in black. But maybe that’s just spring talking.

 

Safe travels, folks.

Bartley

A Brief Discussion of Language

You fucking cunt.

 

Feel that on your tongue.

Isn’t it funny how that word is

so sharp and percussive when

the signified is so soft and wet?

 

You don’t stroke a cunt.

You stroke a pussy.

A sloppy, gliding, squirting pussy.

 

A Pussy will pop.

A Cunt will cut.

 

You can pierce it but it lives on.

It lives on your tongue and teeth

with that moment slick glide

in the middle, tantalizing and smooth

tempting you to strike once more.

 

It’s a good word: Cunt.

 

It’s the empty space in a bucket

or that’s what you’d have young

women believe. The sharp, staccato,

slaying name of their sex is degrading

and offensive. Used as nothing but a crass

insult and aggressive slur to bring a man

down. There is no in between. My sex must

be offensive or so soft it bends

under a feather.

 

No one says, “Fuck you, you testicle

you penis.

you ball sack.”

It doesn’t have the bite.

No they say, “Fuck you, you pussy.

you cunt.

you woman.”

 

Beautiful words made to hack and slash.

Made to be hid under a mattress in shame.

Made to be feared.

 

Next time you go to use the C-word,

think about the cunt. The lips, the labia,

the hole. Think of the woman you

are so afraid of that her very body is a threat,

and remember

my sex was made to be feared.

 

-Bartley

And I feel like I’m back in High School

I’m about to use the “s” word.

Shame. I’ve been feeling a lot of shame. Which is odd for me, because I am pretty vocal about how rad I think I am. And don’t get me wrong, I still think I’m rad but I’ve been asking myself a lot of questions lately.

So, this all started when I had a “Boy’s Weekend.” An important fact for you, the reader, is that I was assigned female at birth and present as female. But I identify as gender queer and my boys accept me as one of their own. We were sitting and drinking and having an over all splendid time, but then the conversation took a turn for the heteronormative. I love my boys and my boys love me, and they are a group of brilliantly open minded human beings but this conversation highlighted just how ingrained heteronormative vocabulary is and how insidiously it can lay the seeds of self doubt in queer folk like myself.

I’m not going to get into the nitty gritty of what was said, but it revolved around one of my guy friends putting down mutual masturbation and saying nothing compared lived up pleasure wise to “sex.” Good old heterosexual, penis in vagina sex. I have a few problems with this statement, the main two being:

1. it’s limiting “sex” to one explicit action

2. it’s implying that a penis is needed for maximum pleasure

Now, I can objectively understand that I do not agree with either of these facts, and should let them roll off me like water. But the guy that made the statement is one of my best friends. He has always treated me with great respect and equality. We’ve had many a drunken ramble about sex and how the concept of sex being only penetration is limiting. And then he says this comment that was unknowingly disheartening and hurtful. I also get upset with myself for letting it effect me so deeply. His comment made me, Bartley, who is very fond of themselves, feel very ashamed of having the body that I have. I haven’t felt this way since high school. His comments also fed into my already existing anxieties surrounding my current activities partner, who is my first partner who has had male assigned sexual partners.

I talked to my therapist about these very conflicting feelings. We talked a lot about perspective. My activity partner continues to do activities with me, which is a sign that I probably shouldn’t have anything to worry about. There is just a prevalent fear that since I am not biologically male, I am missing out on some sort of experience and since I’ve never had that experience I am afraid I am less than those that can offer that experience.  And obviously there are ways to simulate that experience, but I still get extremely frustrated with myself because I am very aware that these anxieties are not entirely logical. The theory-based side of my brain is defending me against the section of my brain that was brought up using a heteronormative vocabulary.

I am walking through the day repeating the mantra, “I am enough.” And that’s sometimes very hard to believe. But, I find comfort in the fact that life is made of cycles. I will continually be shoved off balance in one way or another. I will always be given opportunities to reaffirm my belief in myself. So, this is me saying I’m enough. And I believe that you are enough.

Be resilient, my friends. Happy travels,

Bartley

The Do’s and Don’ts of Making Love

Don’t treat her like a washrag

Her heart is not for soaking up my tears

I am not to get lost in her pores

And if she honors me by taking on some of my weight

I will pledge to water the earth as she’s nurtured me

 

Don’t make promises I can’t keep

Don’t let words hang and rot in the air

To show love I will plant a garden

growing integrity and honesty

and pray she’ll be present when I am

to watch it grow between us

 

I will languor in the looks and that second

where she bites her lips or steals a glance

I will grab the reigns and ride as far

as the moment will allow because, lord knows

it can all fall apart if the wind blows too hard

 

Don’t hold onto her too tight

because I can only lose the things I cling to

 

-Bartley

No better than mice or men…

I had a plan for spring break. I promise you, reader, I had plans. Big ones.

I was going to clean my room, train my Pokémon, maybe even get a head start on the work for the second half of the semester. So serious big person plans (I’m an adult).

But, you know what they say, “The best laid plans…”

Of course as soon as I floated the idea of being an adult to the Universe, the Universe turns around and says, “NOPE!” and slaps my plans out of the air faster that I can say, “I just want life to be easy.”

My good friend’s father got into a car accident. The good friend who I had just started kissing on a regular basis. The accident happened moments before we were supposed to hang out, and hopefully kiss more. The accident made things inconvenient… to say the least.

It was scary, on principle, because car accident. But also, selfishly because of timing. What does one do when the person you just started kissing goes through trauma? Run and hide? Calmly place yourself back into the friend zone? Or just stand there and let her make the first move on all levels?

In times of crisis, my coping mechanisms are making plans and solving problems as immediately as possible. But I can’t fix a car accident. There’s no one to punch. Or blame. Or yell at. It just exists in space. And not being able to do anything is just horribly frustrating.

What’s right to say? I don’t know. I don’t think anyone knows. There doesn’t seem to be one thing that is ’right.’ And I keep getting in fights with my own brain. Getting tempted to comment on her father’s medical status and then realizing that all of my medical knowledge is founded in watching WAY too much Grey’s Anatomy. So, I say what I can. Let her take the wheel and place me where she needs me.

I guess what I’m saying is that the winds changed on me fast. I wasn’t ready. I’m still not ready a week and a half later. But I’m adjusting, and trying to sail confidently into uncharted waters. Wish us luck.

Safe travels, folks.

Bartley

CHOO! CHOO! Here comes the train!

Procrastination Station here! All aboard who’s coming aboard…. or I mean, eventually…. If you feel like it… You could get on, I guess…

Some say procrastination is a disease. I say it’s a cycle. A cycle of shame and fear. There’s an obligation that triggers fear, which sets off avoidance, which triggers shame, which leads to more avoidance. It’s like a snake eating its self.

I find it extremely helpful to frame procrastination as a habitual thought process. It’s not being lazy. Calling the procrastinator “Lazy” will feed into the shame cycle, and exacerbate the problem further.  It’s much more productive to wonder at what exactly is causing that initial avoidance. For me, procrastination is like playing hot potato with a red-hot iron. It’s knee jerk, and the avoidance will happen without even recognizing it as avoidance.  An obligation comes and I “nope” out of there.

A teacher once looked at me, after a bought of intense procrastination, and said, “What if the reason we don’t try our hardest is because we are afraid to do our best?” Putting something off until the last minute makes it an achievement to just complete a task. The goal becomes completing the task instead of actually creating a quality product. And if reinforcement is given for just completing that task, then –BAM- a habit has been concretized and will more than likely happen again. The shift in education to standardized testing, product based teaching, and “no child left behind” encourages letting procrastinators slide. If they are doing the work then why stop them?

Procrastination is a habit, and breaking habits is hard. Sometimes outside help is needed. I’ve included some links to different apps that can put a hard stop to some easy procrastination method. Other easy coping mechanisms I use are:

Setting timers- Set amount of work will get you a set amount of time off. The timer becomes the authority figure, and all you have to do is listen to it.

Writing a To Do list – A list organizes and quantifies the swarm of obligations and it is SOOO satisfying to cross something off.

Break it down – Got a big project? Break it down into smaller projects. Viewing one unruly task as many more manageable ones can help you find a place to start doing work.

Here are those links I mentioned:

White Noise

Strict Workflow

Self Control

Stayfocusd

Written? Kitten!

Happy travels, folks,

Bartley

Pushing off from the Dock

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I am writing this post from the Tampa Airport, surrounded by my family, and painfully self-conscious of whether or not my 13-year-old brother is reading what I’m writing over my shoulder. The plane just pulled up, and I go through the checklist. I already took my Dramamine, none of my family members have been kidnapped from the airport… yet (I will watch them like an overprotective mother cat until we board), and now I begin the debate of “When will be the most effective time to take my Xanax so I don’t have a panic attack at 40 thousand feet?” On top of the check list, I am painfully aware of needing to organize the original play reading for my student group, the paper I need to write, in Spanish, that is due this evening, and how this introduction post is already half a week late, and how because of that I’m sure my class this blog is for will lose any trust or respect they held in me.

This vicious cycle of anxiety, procrastination, and paranoia is my life. Welcome.

This blog is going to serve as a collection of my explorations into the quest of being a healthy human in our day and age. I’m going to talk about mental health, the challenges and expectations put on college students, and how I’ve navigated ebbs and flows of young adult life. I cannot speak to everyone’s experience, but I will make it my goal to speak as honestly and openly to my own struggles. You and I? We are not alone.