Posted in Man Repeller

Your Horoscopes Are Here—With a Side of #PersonalNews

The moment you were born, your tiny, sticky, baby body was bathed in the distant light of a particular array of planets. The subtle angles, conjunctions, and trines of these planets shined on your freshly minted face and beamed in through your gooey unformed skull to shape your basic inclinations, your personality, and according to some, your destiny. The monthly movement of these planets energetically vibrates in our world and in our bodies, and when astrologers interpret these movements, they are telling us stories about who we are and what might become of us.

But here’s the thing: I can’t read any more stories about who I am. I can’t read any more stories about fate or destiny. I am stuffed to the gills with predictions and plans that depend on a knowable world when so much right now is unknowable. So I’m getting out of the prediction game for now, and taking a different tack.

The theme on Man Repeller this week is “Whatever You Want.” So the captains of the MR ship asked me what it is I want to do and this is what I told them:

I want to be honest. I want to say publicly that I believe that if Man Repeller doesn’t listen and respond to the readers and contributors who felt excluded, discriminated against, unseen, stifled, and fed up, then this platform really has no place in the moment we’re living through.

I don’t want to write horoscopes anymore. I want to make a new space where the focus is less on the energetic pull of distant bodies and more on the possibilities at hand when we respond, create, and connect with the bodies that are right here, on earth.

I want to start a Book Club! But not the kind of stuffy shame circle book club wherein 60 percent of people didn’t read the book because the book was 500 pages and basically just a Jane Austen novel set in Cincinnati. No, for our book club, I will select shorter, experimental novellas, graphic novels, short story collections, etc. that will push us to do the same kind of self-reflection and discovery that we’ve been doing in our time together in the horoscopes. We’re going to play games! We’re going to learn new things together! I want to experiment, and celebrate, and mourn, and play with the readers because you are, and have always been, the funniest, coolest, best part of this Man Repelling internet enclave.

And the Man Repeller team said: Giddy up, cowboy, let’s blow shit up.

So, instead of your regular-degular monthly forecast, I’m waving goodbye to horoscopes with an astrological superlatives page, before we all load up our friend’s pick-up trucks with all our Ikea furniture and get the hell out of Dodge. But you better believe I’m not leaving my horoscopes column without celebrating your sign’s unique gifts, and maybe peppering in some well-intentioned guidance-counselor advice (you already know I’m going to tell you to meditate, so don’t act surprised) that you can freely disregard because, hey, I’m not your real mom!

Think of me instead like an amalgam of Dumbledore/your high school guidance counselor/your drunk but wise auntie/Mr. Feeny/that one teacher you had a crush on but respected too much to masturbate about and I’ll see you on the other side, ponyboys.

P. S. If you stick around to the end of ceremonies, after everyone with a Z in their name has gotten their diploma, I’ll tell you more about my post-grad plans for my future at Man Repeller.

Aries: Most Likely to Already Be the Next Evolution of the Homo Sapien

Aries you are the beginning. Of all the little mushy-faced babies born on earth, heralding a new generation, your mushy face was illuminated by the most fiery baby energy astrologically possible, as Aries is the first sign in the zodiac and the avant garde of all signs. And, let me ask you a question: What do babies do? Correct. The answer is: Whatever the hell they want. That is what babies do. You were born under the sign that signals the charge, the will, the drive to exist. If you have this energy in your Sun or Ascendant sign, you have a lot of raw emotional horsepower under the hood. Aries is a sign that can think on its feet and rally others to their cause. This means that where others might get bogged down in the details, Aries has the energy to leap ahead. Though, when Aries is out of balance this can look like a mad dash and can leave you feeling depleted and unfocused. I know you are on to bigger and better things than this backwater imaginary planet can offer you. So, for what its worth (even though I know you don’t feel the need for advice) I think this might be the ideal moment to change course, to change the way you go about leading. Instead of jumping into action, choose to prioritize taking others with you. While moving slowly may seem antithetical to changing the world, it is the act of reaching out and pooling your gifts with others that will magnify your abilities. This is your access point. This is the place where you can make a different choice and arrive at a new place.

Taurus: Most Likely to Be the Proprietor of a Hidden Oasis of Luxury and Beauty in an Otherwise Post-Apocalyptic Wasteland

Taurus, you are as magnetic as that one miraculous magnet that holds like four takeout menus at once to the fridge. It is an incontrovertible law of the universe that this magnet bears the slogan of a pizza place we’ve never been to or an autoshop we vaguely remember getting our oil changed at. I’m not saying that your inner brilliance is like a random pizza place, I’m saying that, although this magnet may look like any other magnet, it has some inexplicable gravity that holds more of the things of this world firmly in place than seems possible. In human terms, when you are in balance, you are a person that other people want to be around. People are drawn to Taurean energy because Taurus has an innate sense of how to cultivate the beauty, pleasure, comfort, and delight that is possible in the material world. The key to manifesting this gift is in the practice of developing healthy self-worth. In times of stress and imbalance, Taurus can become rigid, putting up walls and blocking out any influences or emotions that might disturb their homeostasis. If we dig down to the roots this resistance to change, we often find a scarcity mindset. And regardless of what that hack who we had teaching economics told you, scarcity is a big fat lie. This belief in lack hides out in the dark corners of our hearts and skitters away from the light. In order to break through into a future you want to live in, that is different and better than our present moment, you must coax that belief into the light and ask: What would my life be like if I believed that no matter what happened, I am capable of adapting, growing, and rising to the occasion? The different choice you can make, Taurus, you perfect miracle, you unlikely oasis in a desert, you first sip of a mojito at sunset, is to allow some of what you’ve been avoiding to enter your heart with the bravery that comes from knowing you already have everything you need to heal yourself.

Gemini: Most Likely to Meditate, Like, Two Times and Achieve Whole-Ass Nirvana

Hi, hello, Gemini, one quick question: What is it like being a megawatt supernova trapped in a rapidly decaying finite skin ship? It is an experience that few who do not share your intellectual and spiritual velocity can understand. Mercury, your ruling planet, influences communication and is tied mythologically to the Greek god Hermes. Hermes is the messenger of the gods. Traditionally, Hermes has no monolithic temples. A gentleman scholar in saddle shoes told me once that instead of temples, people built small shrines called herms to honor this god because he couldn’t be held in place, his power resided in his speed, his adaptability. His brilliance was velocity. Like your mythological buddy Hermes, you are always two steps ahead, flitting from shiny new idea to shiny new idea. When Gemini is stressed out, scared, or just generally out of whack, this energy can manifest as restlessness and anxious dissatisfaction. Because Gemini’s energy swirls in the head and illuminates the mind, it can be a challenge for Gemini to slow down enough to feel their heart and access clarity amidst the lightshow of their mind. The world needs our brilliant Geminati, but we need Geminati that are guided by their hearts. As a meditation teacher, I often find that my Gemini students have the hardest time with silent seated meditation. However, all the Geminis that I’ve worked with that give it the ol’ college try, end up being the most rapidly transformed by this practice. If you’ve let your meditation practice slip to the bottom of your to-do list, or you haven’t yet applied yourself to the practice, try a simple five minutes of Vipassana meditation. If you hate it, please slide into my DMs and vent about it and I will say, its okay Gemini, just keep at it! And then you can do it again tomorrow. How ’bout it? If you let all that internal buzz settle down in you, you will have the clarity you need to make the next right choice toward a future you want to inhabit.

Cancer: Most Likely to Walk Into a Party and Immediately Know Who Needs to Be Told That Their Mother Always Loved Them and She Did the Best She Could, Then, Coach That Person From Breakdown to Breakthrough

Cancer, you sentient hothouse flower, I hope you are taking extra attentive care of yourself right now. The most sensitive and emotional sign in the celestial menagerie, when you are particularly open you feel the emotions of everyone in the room, in the grocery store, in the Uber, everywhere. You, metaphoric crab, have sensory similarities to literal earth crabs. The fiddler crab, for example, has 8000 eyes distributed along their bodies. With these eyes, the see in every direction, taking in sensory information in this hyper-dilated way. This awareness is at once your greatest strength and your greatest challenge. Many Cancers, especially those with Cancer as their rising sign, have learned to tuck their emotions away behind an impenetrable carapace. Ironically, the most tender sign in the zodiac is often characterized by acquaintances as tough or invulnerable. The world teaches many Cancers that their natural gifts are a maladaptation to our society where true vulnerability, compassion, and care are treated as dangerous liabilities. The key to your healing during this time, wherein that toxic worldly message that tenderness is a liability, has rallied evidence behind it, is to challenge the lie that love is finite and must be hoarded. To help you access your courageous heart, try a Metta, or loving kindness meditation. This meditation technique centers you in your wise heart, and then gradually helps to expand the bounds of your love to encompass your larger community. Let me be clear, no astrologer worth their weight in salt would accuse Cancers of lacking love and compassion. This meditation is a technique to practice feeling safe in your ability to love and feel broadly, without losing integrity, without losing yourself. A world full of Cancers who extend their nurturing and generosity without fear of being over-exposed or taken advantage of, is a better world, it is the world we need. Go forth, Cancer, and love yourself and others intrepidly.

Leo: Most Likely to Be the Subject of a Biopic That Becomes a Miniseries Because People Literally Can’t Fit All Their Commentary on Your Life Into 90 Minutes

Leo, you human firefly, you luminous artisanal candle, I want to talk to you about your charisma. Now, I’m sure I’m not the first of your admirers to opine about this foundational Leo trait and I hope you’re not bored of talking about how charming and attractive you are. Oh, you’re not? That’s great, because the thing about charisma that is often lost in the praise that charismatic people receive is the actual secret nature of this quality. From the Greek root of the word kharisma meaning, “special spiritual gift or power divinely conferred, talent from God” we know that the quality of charisma is not something private, stable, and self-centered. We feel that a person is charismatic when that person makes those around them feel illuminated, interesting, vibrant. It is your ability to shine your light on others and awaken them to their own gifts that is your highest power. However, when the ego is unstable or threatened, this gift can become Leo’s downfall. A fearful or insecure Leo can hurt themselves by chasing approval and appreciation, and repeatedly find that no single person or group’s approval and validation will satisfy the need to be seen. Leos, especially those with Leo as their rising sign, can fall into the trap of arrogance, which is simply a misperception of the nature of their inherent gifts. Your light is not a shiny possession to be admired by others. It is instead a mirror intended to distribute and reflect the divine light that emanates from everywhere and every one. In order for you to experience the ease and power of your gifts, you can not attack the ego directly or punish yourself for wanting to be loved. Instead, try to start or reinvigorate a gratitude practice that, over time, will stabilize your awareness of how loved , cherished, and adored you are. It is this security and balance that will allow you to go out into the world and share your light with others in a free and healthy way, because trust me Leo, you have enough to go around.

Virgo: Most Likely to Make a Friend on the First Day of College That Ends Up Being Your Best Friend for Life

Virgirino! My dude! I’m so glad we have this chance to chat before we leave town. I don’t know what we would do without the Virgos in our lives. The most loyal, hard-working, and devotional sign, Virgos have the capacity to be the bedrock of a community. You are the friend that never shies away from difficult emotions You are the friend that bears the weight of your beloveds’ burden with them. You see it through, you stick it out, and you can be depended on. You have a talent for discernment in all things, especially in relationships. You are characteristically hard to get, as trust is never uncomplicated for Virgo. However, once you’re got, the lucky getter has access to a deep well of attentive and devoted love. As we look toward creating the future we want to live in, we will need your foresight, your grace, and your helping hands. These qualities grow with light, nourishment, and a consistent but gentle attention. You know how they say that a watched pot never boils? Well for you, Virgirino, the challenge will be in trusting that the pot will boil if you let it do its thing. You see, the flipside of your gifts is a kind of constrained hyper-vigilance that leaves you feeling depleted and leaves your loved ones feeling criticized. Choose to trust my friend. It is time you turn your powerful attention away from that which you can’t control and toward the things in your life that call to you by name.

Libra: Most Likely to Be the First Person That a White Tiger Chooses, of Its Own Volition, to Cohabitate With

Libra, you tree full of songbirds, you decadent silk sheets, it has been such a pleasure to tarry with you in this space of celestial expansion. When the sun shined on your lil baby face upon your emergence from the flesh cave, you were bathed in star juice from the most romantic region of the sky. This enchanted your life with a natural taste for luxury and a gift for turning everything you touch into a more beautiful, balanced version of itself. Yes, I am confirming that your suspicions were right and all of your exes got hotter and cooler by being with you. However, your gift for putting all things in harmony presents its own set of accompanying difficulties. One of the most significant challenges for your refined soul as it traverses the messy and chaotic world we inhabit is that in the attempt to make things pretty and neat, you may tend to avoid journeying more deeply into the murk. I, as a fellow Libra (sun and rising) share in the common Libra reaction to the prospect of murk and conflict which is basically: ugh, no. But this tendency can leave us Libras superficial, guarded and lacking in the kind of deep connection that comes with fully seeing and being seen by others. As you continue on your journey to becoming the human embodiment of a crystal vase (pronounced, in this case, Vuh-AWS) full of peonies, do not be afraid to dig your toes into the dirt. You are the sign of paradox, duality, and in your highest incarnation, you are the bridge that connects and balances the polar opposites of this world.

Scorpio: Most Likely to Both Join and Start a Cult, but, Like a Fun Sex-Magic Kind Where Everyone Has Free Will and They All Just Choose to Dress the Same and Tantric-Breathe Into Each Others Mouths

Oh boy, Scorpling, am I gonna miss seeing you in class. You brightened all my days with the poetry scrawled on the bathroom wall and the moody mixtapes you gave me. And sure, there was a LOT of D’Angelo, but really is there ever enough D’Angelo on a mixtape (hot take: no.) Scorpio you have the inherent capacity to act as a spiritual guide to those around you. Deeply feeling, passionate, and mysterious there are many in this world full of trifles that just don’t get you. But I hope you wouldn’t have it any other way, because for those who do get you, it is unlikely that they will ever get enough. The world we want to graduate into is a world that doesn’t throw out the mystic and mysterious in the quest for revolution. You encourage all of us to make space for the shadowy sides of ourselves. You teach us how to love the depth. You show us that there is nothing to fear in the dark. Oops, I am getting so hype about you that I think you just recruited me to your as-yet-undefined cult. … Okay, sorry I had to splash cold water on my face, I’m back now. The key for you moving forward is to realize the power that you have! More than any other sign, you have the ability to face the tumultuous undercurrents without drowning. Make a home of yourself, and you will be a refuge for many.

Sagittarius: Most Likely to Drop Off the Face of the Earth and Then Reappear Five Years Later on an Eastern European Cross-Country Skiing Olympic Team

Sag, you ol’ so-and so, you bag of tricks, you tan-legged adventurer! I know that you, more than anyone, are itching to get out of this place and set off on a grand adventure in a far-flung locale. But, if I can have your attention for just a moment longer, I want to tell you how much you contribute everywhere you go. Your optimistic, curious spirit encourages all those around you to seek truth, no matter how far they have to go to get it You’ve earned quite the reputation as a young buck that is wise beyond your years. Sure, you are a bonafide truant that can not be contained by the bounds of an institution, but you made it this far powered on wanderlust and protein shakes, so who am I to tell you to slow down. In fact, my advice is exactly the opposite. The world needs optimism, idealism, and truth seeking adventurers. Just be sure to temper your wandering with time for reflection so that you can let all that explosive knowledge you gain in your explorations settle into the kind of wisdom that heals and soothes. If you do this, I have no doubt that the beautiful world you imagine and believe is possible is within all of our reach. Now get out there scamp, and give ’em hell!

Capricorn: Most Likely to Retire With Five Years Worth of Accumulated Vacation and Sick Days Left Unused

Capricorn, I love seeing your smiling face in the front row of every room, hand ready to be raised at a moments notice. You are the epitome of dedication, discipline, and ambition. The world can put any task in front of you, any challenge, any obstacle, and you will rise to meet it. Your strategy is a combination of interminable self-discipline and perseverance. With a natural gift and affinity for navigating even the most complex systems of rules, expectations, and traditions, there is no end to the list of ways that you can contribute to the world beyond these hallowed halls. The key, you wonderful collection of polished river stones, is in constantly working to expand your field of perception. The thing about the remarkable ambition that is a trademark of your sign, is that it can at times be all-encompassing. The focus that drives you to work harder than anyone around you to achieve your goals, is the same focus which can blind you to the meaning of the journey. Only you can appreciate the struggle, the self-mastery, the joy of pushing yourself to new heights, but if you are not present with the moment to moment experiences in your life, the goal will be only superficially satisfying. It is my duty, as a corny guidance-counselor/auntie/Mr. Feeny to advise you not to miss the forest for the trees. It is your duty as anyone receiving that advice to stick your gum to the underside of my desk. I’m not worried about you Cap, I just hope you remember all us little people when you rule the world.

Aquarius: Most Likely to Make Hella Money From an OnlyFans Account Consisting Entirely of Extended Eye Contact and Personalized Transcendental ASMR Videos

Aquarius, I would bet my left pinky (that’s my good pinky) that wherever you land after you leave this place will be transformed by your presence. I know that we certainly have been. As the astrological water carrier, you have the ability to make new life grow out of soil that the rest of us swore was fallow. You are the most fascinating and fascinated person to be around. When life gives you a Rubik’s Cube, you disassemble it and build a scale replica of the Guggenheim’s atrium. At your heart, you seek freedom for yourself, and for the rest of humanity. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, you might just be an alien. But, alien or not, this world will deal you your share of blows. The world is fucked up, and no one is more painfully aware of this than you. Which is why when you’re hurt or scared, you have a tendency to crave destruction for destruction’s sake. When you lose faith, you might put too much of your energy into tearing everything down, when really, you are exactly who we need to help us see new ways to build a society. As you leave this place, remember who you are. You are a dreamer and a guide. You are the kid who asked why so many times your parents went grey early. Never stop asking why the world is the way it is, never stop pushing the boundaries. We need your gifts now and always.

Pisces: Most Likely to Discover That Reality Is, Actually, Just a Simulation/Robot Dream

You know, when I got into this field, my supervisor (probably Zeuss or God or whatever) told me that I would end up learning more from you guys then you would learn from me, and over my years here, I can say that this statement is the gosh dang truth. As I think about you, Pisces, you disconcertingly psychic sunfish who may or may not be able to tell people how they will one day die, you have taught us all so much. You teach us all by your example, how to adapt to the ever-changing flow of life. As the last sign of the zodiac, you are the celestial gateway between this world, and what lies beyond. You have an innate mastery over adaptation, pouring yourself like water into a vessel, taking the shape of your surroundings. When you fix your gaze on someone, that someone feels truly seen, understood, and appreciated. You help us to release our inhibitions and open ourselves up to experience. You are a model of empathy and forgiveness, and in a world where there is such a profound need for restorative justice, the kind of justice that recognizes everyone’s potential to harm and to heal, we need you to show us the way. However, in order for you to show up during this time when your presence is vital, you must make sure to attend to your boundaries. Because of your grand capacity for empathy and forgiveness, you are more likely than many of the other signs to downplay your strength, to shrink, to allow the world to happen to you. Practice being on your own side, being the advocate you are for everyone else, but on behalf of yourself. Yes, yes, I know you’re probably all like, but what does it mean to advocate on behalf of myself when we are all actually one spiritual unity and anyway none of this is real? But humor me, you vast and boundless shade of cerulean, and treat yourself like a precious gift.

What a wild ride it’s been, you guys. Before I have Green Day play me out, here are some more Book Club teasers for my ride-or-dies:

  1. We’re announcing the inaugural book next week.
  2. We’re going to have our first virtual book club meeting in a few weeks and yes, duh, of course, it is going to be themed, and yes, we’re gonna be turning looks.
  3. I can’t wait to meet you all virtually face-to-face as we learn and play and grow together.
  4. If you’re in for the book club, and want to be the first to know about book number one, sign up riiiiiight here.

The post Your Horoscopes Are Here—With a Side of #PersonalNews appeared first on Man Repeller.

Posted in Man Repeller

The Quiet Chaos of Working From the Bath

When we chose the theme “Chaos” back in March we had an inkling that the word was in the air, but we did not know how truly on the nose it would turn out to be. Lots of things were thrown into disarray that month, including many of our editorial plans, which is why we’re just now publishing this piece by the March writer’s club winner, Emily Field, whose endorsement of her cramped workspace is at turns, funny, sweet, and surprising. Better late than never, we hope you agree?

I’ve been working from the bath for more than ten years. My home office is 44 inches of chipped, enamel tub—a quiet place to entertain loud, unruly thoughts for hours.

The upside of working from the bath is that it’s hard to get cold feet about an idea when said feet are submerged in hot water. The downside is the potential destruction of ideas if your phone or notebook slips into the watery abyss.

It was, at least, a chaos of my own making.

Really, the occupational hazards of a bath office are numerous. Breaking a glass means you can’t move a muscle. Accidentally accepting a video chat from a coworker is a fireable offense. If you add candles for ambiance, you run the risk of setting your hair or notes on fire (not as implausible as you might think). Working on a phone that’s plugged into a wall charger is not dissimilar to using a hair dryer in the bath, only the dangers are less frequently advertised. Every now and then I catch myself, cords dangling just above sea level, on the brink of electrocuting my way to a eulogy that would make my practical farming family cringe.

I first discovered the pleasures of working from the bath aged 17, when the inescapable loudness of my living quarters drove me into the tiled confines of the bathroom. In our little house, cramped with too many siblings, cousins, and neighborly drop-ins, there was no space to study, and so I claimed the tub. In a bath quarter-filled with muddy river water, and my knees drawn up as a desk, I wrote essays, memorized legal case studies, and rehearsed drama monologues. It wasn’t a perfect workspace—I had to vacate when people needed to use the toilet, my tailbone ached, and my skin dried out then itched—but it was, at least, a chaos of my own making. My longest stint in the tub? The sun came up, then set.

My longest stint in the tub? The sun came up, then set.

The bath has become such a fixture in my life that I sometimes feel incapable of working on dry land. I’ll show up to my actual office, where I work as an advertising creative, get briefed to write a script, then spend the remainder of the workday second-guessing every word I type while yearning for the relative safety of the tub. Later, after dinner, when I can access the wild side of my brain. Or later still, at 4 am, when the only sounds I can hear are my thoughts and a tap slowly dripping. As an anxious person, I sometimes can’t breathe, let alone think, without the tub’s cozy embrace. What began as a practical bid for a space to call my own, has become my creative crutch, my cure-all, the one place where I’m truly comfortable letting my thoughts roam.

P.S.: The writer’s club is relaunching and the next deadline to submit is this Monday, July 6! Read more here.

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Posted in Man Repeller

Katie and John Sturino Have a Really Good “First Date” Story

Katie Sturino is the founder of Megababe and the brains behind The 12ish Style. John Sturino is a law student at Hofstra. I sat down with them to talk about how they met, their relationship advice for others, and Cher Horowitz-style epiphanies. 

Harling: All right, easy question first: How did you guys meet?

Katie: [Looking at John] What story are we giving?

Harling: Are there multiple?

John: It’s not an easy question for us [laughs].

Katie: We met on Bumble. But there are multiple stories about what our official first date was, because we have a “PR statement” first date, and we have the real first date. It’s always just a question of, “Is my mom reading this?”

Harling: Let’s hear the real story!

Katie: Okay, so we both swiped right, and I was like, this guy is so hot, but is he a murderer? What’s his deal? I made him videotape his apartment.

In my mind it was just a hookup.

John: I showed her the inside of my freezer.

Harling: Over FaceTime?

Katie: No, we were texting, and he sent a video.

Harling: Katie, what was your pickup line when you first reached out on Bumble?

Katie: I don’t remember.

John: You said, “Same.”

Katie: About what?

John: In response to my bio, “Just a basic guy from Queens.”

Harling: How long ago was this?

Katie: Three years ago. 2017. It was the beginning of February.

Harling: Near Valentine’s Day?

Katie: Yes, we actually met on Valentine’s Day.

John: That was our first date.

Harling: Wow. Where’d you go?

Katie: Well, in my mind it was just a hookup. I wasn’t in the best head space to be in a real relationship yet. Also, he was like an untamed gorilla. I didn’t understand his personality at all. Now his personality makes sense to me, but in the beginning, his texts made no sense. Then it was Valentine’s Day, and I was like, you know what, I’m going to treat myself to an in-home visit from a new guy on the internet, so I asked him to come over, and he said yes. I lit candles and turned all the lights low. I told him that my door was open, and to just come in… is this awkward for you to hear?

I was like, “Sir, we don’t know each other. Definitely keep your dating apps, because I will be dating other people.”

Harling: No, this is incredible. What was going through your head, John?

John: I thought there was a good chance I might get jumped and robbed. I was thinking, am I about to be on a cam girl’s website? But I picked up a dozen roses on the way there, and I just walked right in.

Katie: I was in the bedroom, wearing lingerie. A beam of light hit his face when he walked in, and he looked so cute! At the end of the night, he said, “Listen, I’m going to delete my dating apps, I don’t need to see anyone else.” And I was like, “Sir, we don’t know each other. Definitely keep your dating apps, because I will be dating other people.”

Harling: Then what happened?

Katie: He kept texting me, and I kept inviting him over.

John: She was playing really hard to get. She told me, “Hey, how about you come over every three to four days?” So that’s what I would do, but she would always kick me out afterward and make me go home.

Katie: Then one night, when I told him to go home, he turned to me very seriously and said, “I’m not a piece of meat,” and I was like, “Oh no, you’re right, I’m so sorry.” But my mindset still didn’t really start to shift until a month or so later, when there was a snowstorm and I asked him to come over. I didn’t want to be alone, but I also didn’t want company from just anyone. I only wanted him to come over.

Harling: Was that a sign?

Katie: Yeah, that was a sign, but I didn’t fully understand what the sign was. I knew that I liked him, but it wasn’t until I went on a trip to Chicago and went on a date with this awful guy that I had a true epiphany, like Cher in Clueless when she’s standing in front of the Electric Fountain. I came back, and I was like, “Oh my god, I’m in love with John.”

Even if she kicked me out and wouldn’t let me sleep over, it was no big deal. I’d just hit the subway.

Harling: When was this?

Katie: Two months after we met.

John: For me that epiphany happened the moment I saw her. She was so beautiful.

Harling: So for you, John, it was very definitive from the beginning. You wanted more out of the relationship?

John: Yeah, I was kind of like Pepé Le Pew from that cartoon, putting a little box with some cheese and a string on a stick and trying to seduce her, and she would be like, “Go away!” I was never deterred, though, because she kept inviting me back. Even if she kicked me out and wouldn’t let me sleep over, it was no big deal. I’d just hit the subway.

Harling: So Katie, what happened after you realized you loved him?

Katie: It was like an exhale. Suddenly it was okay to just be together.

Harling: So there was no conversation where you officially “defined the relationship”? It just happened kind of organically?

John: Well, we went on vacation together.

Katie: Where’d we go?

John: We went to Puerto Rico.

Katie: We were in love then, right?

John: Yeah, we were in love. I had basically moved into her apartment at that point.

Harling: Who said “I love you” first?

Katie: I don’t know.

John: I don’t remember.

Katie: Sorry, what a weird interview–no details whatsoever!

Did you know you were about to get engaged?

Harling: No, I love it. It’s the relationship equivalent of a fever dream. How long after dating did you get engaged?

Katie: A year and a half.

Harling: How did it happen?

John: We were at Hotel Il Pellicano in Italy. I had preselected a menu, and I reserved this beautiful, sectioned-off little small gazebo type thing, right inside a cliff. They had flowers, candles, everything.

Katie: We picked out the ring together when we got back home.

Harling: So when you saw the setup, did you know you were about to get engaged?

Katie: Yeah. I still cried though.

Harling: John, were you nervous?

John: No, I wasn’t nervous.

Harling: Did you give a speech?

John: I got down on my knee–

Katie: And you said my full name, “Katherine Sturino.” I started crying, then we had a beautiful meal.

John took my name. I think that felt like one of the biggest changes.

Harling: How long was the engagement?

Katie: A year. We got married the following summer. I wanted it to feel like a very “New York City” wedding, so we got married outside of the Cooper Hewitt, then we had dinner afterward at Polo Bar.

Harling: Did things feel different, when you got married?

Katie: John took my name. I think that felt like one of the biggest changes.

Harling: How did you decide to take Katie’s name?

John: Well, I’m in law school, so I was changing industries anyway. It just made sense for me to be the one to change my name. Katie already has her business, she’s established, and her name is part of that. It wasn’t a big deal for me. I could just as easily be John Sturino as I could be John Forkin, and I thought that if we were going to be a family, and have children, we should all have the same last name.

Katie: It’s very unusual still, though. At City Hall, they said they’ve only ever seen, like, two men do it. Friends and strangers think it’s cool, but I don’t think people who are close to us thought it was that cool [laughs].

John: It was an interesting process. You had to wait in so many lines, and go to multiple agencies. You could tell it wasn’t something men have to do that often. If they did, I think it would be much more streamlined. You’d be able to just bring your information to the wedding and do it all at once.

When I met Katie, I immediately stopped caring about all the stuff I always thought I should care about–house, kids, white picket fence. I just wanted to be with her.

Harling: Changing tacks slightly, if you could give advice to anyone who is looking for love, or a relationship, what would you tell them?

Katie: You go first.

John: You want me to go for it?

Katie: Yeah.

John: I would say look for what you want, and don’t stop until you find it. Be patient and don’t settle. This was easier for me when I met Katie, because I was 35, and I already had been divorced. I knew exactly what I wanted.

Harling: Did you have certain criteria in mind when you were going out and looking for someone, before you met Katie?

John: I have a specific type definitely, but I would say that meeting the right person clarifies what the most important criteria are. When I met Katie, I immediately stopped caring about all the stuff I always thought I should care about–house, kids, white picket fence. I just wanted to be with her.

Katie: When I first met John, he was in a Banana Republic sale rack T-shirt and jeggings, so my advice is to focus on what’s on the inside instead of getting caught up in the package [laughs]. Also, avoid dating in New York City, it’s a horrible place to date. Where did you meet your fiancé?

Harling: In Rhode Island, when we were 11.

Katie: See! Exactly. But anyways, back to my earlier point, you can always change the shoes or the overall aesthetic. It’s what’s inside that matters–like, for example, I had a good feeling about John as soon as I saw how he acted around the dogs.

Harling: I was going to ask about that. [Ed note: Katie has three rescue dogs.]

Katie: From the moment we started hanging out regularly, he was like, “All right, look, let’s go walk the dogs.” Which was a really big indicator to me. I enjoy walking them, but I wanted to be able to walk them with my partner. Having a partner who wanted to do that with me was a big deal.

Harling: It’s interesting—both of you kind of have the same theme running through your relationship advice.

Katie: What is it?

Harling: Knowing what matters. Focusing on the indelible aspects of someone’s character instead of obsessing over more superficial things that can easily change.

John: Awww.

Katie: That’s sweet. Don’t cry, John! [Ed note: John’s eyes look a little misty.]

I love his big heart. I love that he’s down for all sorts of adventure.

Harling: I have a couple more questions: What’s your biggest pet peeve about the other person?

Katie: He has road rage in the city. He’s really good at highway driving, but driving with him in the city is just awful.

John: If you cut me off behind the wheel, I’m mad at you.

Katie: You can’t even talk to him when that happens. He gets into a zone.

John: I feel like a lot of men become animals behind the wheel.

Harling: Especially in New York.

Katie: But I love driving in the city!

John: Yeah, she’ll pull me over and make me switch seats.

Harling: What about you, John? Any pet peeves?

John: She’s not great at being tidy. She will put things on the counter when there’s a garbage bin two feet away, I don’t understand it. Luckily I’m pretty good at tidying, so–

Katie: I’ll ruin a room in three minutes.

Harling: What do you love most about each other?

Katie: I love his big heart. I love that he’s down for all sorts of adventure. I could ask him right now, “Do you want to go see Diana the Broadway musical with me?” and I know he would be down to party.

John: Katie has an uncanny ability to make the world hers. I’ve never seen anybody else do it like she does. It’s incredible to watch.

Harling: And to think, it all started with an in-home visit from a new guy on the internet.

The post Katie and John Sturino Have a Really Good “First Date” Story appeared first on Man Repeller.

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4 Questions about Sustaining Ongoing Allyship, Answered

After marching, setting up recurring donations, and engaging in important conversations on and offline in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, if you are a non-BIPOC reader, you may now be setting longterm plans for your role as an ally. We’re living through a time when the concept of longterm planning has pretty much gone out the window, but there are still ways to plot out your individual path in the fight against racial injustice. To learn more, we spoke to Hilary Moore, Leadership Team Member of the organization Showing Up for Racial Justice, about strategies for keeping the momentum going.

1. What are lifelong ways to commit to anti-racist work?

Find an organization. Become a member of an organization near you. Join an organization with campaigns that pressure the institutions upholding white supremacy. Join an organization that is moving toward the visions of a more just society, conceived by Black, Indigenous, and People of Color liberation movements. If that organization doesn’t exist where you are, start a chapter of an organization that you’re inspired by. Through organizations, we can do the important work of thinking and acting collectively. When we do that, we win.

2.We’ve seen equal, and valid, criticism leveled against optical allyship and non-optical allyship. What advice do you have for those struggling to find direction between these two?

Allyship as a concept is tricky because there is no exact formula. At its core, though, allyship cares about taking effective, meaningful action. If we begin from the understanding that we all have an invested interest in actualizing the demands set out by Black, Indigenous, and People of Color leaders, then allyship transforms from a tricky concept into questions about strategy — strategies that can shift power: What actions can my organization take to make the “Defund the Police” demand even more possible?

Everyone will benefit from the structural changes that the Movement for Black Lives is calling for. By defunding the police, we decrease police violence and we invest in housing, education, and healthcare that takes care of everyone. This is how we create real safety. Let’s let that sink in for a moment.

3.What are the distinctions between performative allyship and authentic, meaningful allyship?

One way to gauge meaningful allyship is to assess for effectiveness. How much money did we raise for the Movement for Black Lives or local groups responding to police riots across the U.S.? How many new white people joined our “end white silence” action at the doors of the police department, and how many of those new white people came to our next planning meeting? How many free, nutritious lunches did we make for people taking action in the streets? How many signatures did we acquire to pressure our city council members to defund the police?

4. Is there a good rule of thumb for knowing when to speak up?

When you witness a racist attack—by police or vigilantes—get in the way. When you hear something racist that could put people’s lives in danger, speak out. Being part of an anti-racist organization can help us to develop an intuition about when to listen deeply and when to speak up. Anyone can learn these anti-racist skills.

Graphic by Lorenza Centi.

The post 4 Questions about Sustaining Ongoing Allyship, Answered appeared first on Man Repeller.

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Can You Ever Feel “Ready” for Kids? 400 Readers Weighed In

Two of my best friends are pregnant. It’s thrilling, and joyous, and makes me want to get on the next plane to Australia to gently squeeze their bellies (after a two-week quarantine in a budget hotel room). Their announcements, which both came within a few weeks of each other, also got me thinking: How did my friends, so similar to me in so many ways, decide that they were ready for kids? What is this feeling that they both experienced, that I have not?

The concept of “feeling ready” to have a baby—and the idea that this feeling might, in some ways, be a myth—is complex. Even between my friends who are parents, there are so many conflicting opinions. Mystified and intrigued by so many different answers to the same question, I decided to create a survey, asking the parents of the Man Repeller community: How did you know you were ready to have kids?

Within those 400+ replies, there were a lot of complex feelings—opinions that shifted after birth, concerns that were validated, regrets, and overwhelming joy. Below, a selection of enlightening, thoughtful, and honest responses from the Man Repeller community.

Thoughts on What “Ready for a Baby” Feels Like

“If you think you’d be fine on your own as a single parent—whether you’re currently coupled up or not—you’re ready.”

“Confidence that your self-worth is about who you are—not your social life, the cool events you go to, or what you look like.”

“Mostly the readiness to sacrifice, to take responsibility, and to step into the unknown.”

“I lived my childless life to the fullest. I moved abroad fresh out of college, I slept tons, I traveled whenever I could, I partied (which was important to me at the time), and I entertained friends and family constantly. Once I met my husband, we spent seven years doing much of the same. Once we had our son, we’d both reached a point where we wanted to live life at a slower pace, spend our time at home, and focus our attention on someone besides ourselves. (Though in hindsight, there was definitely too much attention on that new little baby and not enough on us!)”

“Knowing what severe sleep deprivation feels like, and being willing to give up all your wants for the foreseeable future.”

“I had mostly conquered the Saturday night FOMO that haunted me through my 20s and early 30s. I also married someone with whom I’d done a lot of work and therapy to get to a stable place.”

“My values shifted. Solitude, fun, and spontaneity became a little less urgent than wanting to know what parenting was like.”

“I was never that excited about having kids because I understood that it would be super challenging, and I try to avoid a lot of responsibility. I was more ready to have kids than I was keen on wanting them. I was ready to take it on, and I remain fully committed, but that didn’t come from any expectations of experiencing joy in parenting. You can’t use the hope for joy as your main motivator for parenting, because you still have to do the best job you can even if it makes you miserable and you hate it. Understanding that is how I understand being ready for kids.”

“Knowing that you want children in the long run. If you see your life with kids in it, then at some point… you just have to have them.”

“Wanting it more than not wanting it.”

On Whether “Feeling Ready” Is a Myth

“My best friend from childhood had a baby when she was 25, living in NYC. Twenty-five in New York felt like 16-and-pregnant everywhere else. Her mother-in-law told her that no matter when you have one, you are never ready for a baby. And I really think that’s true. I always wanted kids and was so eager to get pregnant, but when my daughter was here I wasn’t really ‘ready’ for any of it. So much of pregnancy and birth was a mystery to me, and even at 30 I had very few local friends who had kids. I felt alone in a way I had never felt before. So even though I felt ‘ready’ I don’t think I was any more ready than my friend had been five years earlier.”

“I thought I was, but boy, was I wrong. I had lots of experience working with kids. I have multiple related bachelor’s degrees, as well as a masters in a related social work field. Additionally, I was one of five kids and raised by a school teacher. Still, I had no clue just how hard it would be. There is no level of realistic ‘readiness’ in my opinion.”

“It’s not truly possible to be fully ready for motherhood. I think it’s often confused with excitement. I think it’s possible to be prepared, sure, in the sense of buying all the things. But ‘ready’ is just not possible, because once you’re actually a mom you realize there is so much more to it. It’s an ever-changing situation.”

“I personally knew I would never be fully ready for kids, so I just had to dive in. It was fucking scary. I was not excited to be pregnant because I was not confident I could be a good parent, even though I knew I wanted children.”

“I don’t think you can ever truly be ready for the emotional hurricane about to turn your life, body, and world upside down. But I would say that waiting is key. I had a fruitful and fun decade in my 20s, so now that I’m house-bound I don’t have any feelings of regret.”

“I never felt ‘ready’—I just felt that I wanted to extend the family I created with my husband. I was more a ‘want’ rather than a ‘being ready.’”

“I felt ready, but in actuality I was not. But, you manage! Blind confidence helped me get through a terrible pregnancy. You cannot understand how little you are ready until the babe is in your arms and you get to take them home from the hospital without so much as a test or questionnaire about being an actual parent.”

On How Feelings Shifted After Birth

“There’s a lot of mourning that comes with accepting motherhood. Letting go of what I had and what could’ve been was the only way I could be happy as a mother. I had a surprise kid while on birth control and had only two months to prepare for my daughter. I have a college degree, a career, and a village of support, so I decided I had the means to raise my daughter well, rather than putting her up for adoption. (Abortion wasn’t an option since she was so far along.) And then, I became a single mother a year ago and had to re-commit to being a mother again since my reality was substantially different from when I first made my decision. I didn’t know my ex was going to choose a typical millennial life over his daughter, but it happened and I had to adjust. It was way too late to be a factor of being ready, and more about willfully changing my mindset and constructing a reality I could live with.”

“One thing I naively did not realize was the constantness of it all. The baby is always there. And the baby always needs you. The closest thing to ‘free time’ is scrolling through Instagram one-handed at 4 a.m. while your baby is attached to your leaky boob.”

“I was surprised at how naturally caring for a child came to me once she arrived. I no longer really yearn to have nights out with friends, and when I do have the opportunity to go out, it feels more special. Financially, I have found alternatives to shopping and ways of treating myself—I use Rent the Runway instead of dropping $300 on a nice dress that I’ll wear once or twice, we stay in and cook a nice meal instead of going out, and I’ve learned to appreciate a lot of the ‘free’ amenities that the city offers, like libraries and parks.”

“Honestly? I felt guilty because it was hard, and I couldn’t believe that this was the new reality. I wanted out. I wanted a break. I dreamed of leaving the house to nip to the shops and instead checking into a hotel, taking a bath, and sleeping forever. I now know that those feelings are normal.”

“After giving birth I realized that ‘readiness’ was mostly referring to a mother’s ability to survive within a capitalist patriarchal society. For the most part, mothers still lack support in society, so readiness is really about having all the things that would allow a mother to continue to participate in society despite having kids. That is: steady employment or financial stability, a co-parent or a support network, ability to secure child care. Without these things, a mother’s ability to participate in society becomes negligible.”

“I realized after having our daughter that I wasn’t really ready at all! The expression ‘all the gear but no idea’ springs to mind. We were ready in the sense that we had all of the practical elements in place, but it’s difficult to put into words what a baby needs from you. And I mean on a constant cycle, all day, every day. I found it difficult to adjust to the fact I felt there was never any time for anything else apart from keeping the baby happy. I also felt (and still feel) deeply guilty about not really enjoying it.”

“I did a complete 360. I thought I had made a huge mistake and wasn’t supposed to be a mother. Having a newborn was the hardest experience ever.”

“The most shocking thing to me coming back from the hospital after having my son was not having the independence to say, ‘I’m going somewhere, I don’t know when I’ll be back.’ If you’re someone who is very independent and enjoys doing things out of the blue then it will take time to adjust. I feel horrible saying it, but it is the truth. However, I love my baby with all my heart, and even though it took a few months to adapt, I would not change it for anything in the world.”

On What They Wish They Knew Before Becoming Parents

“It took a while—we’re talking years—to settle into it. I didn’t even like being called a mom for a while because I had preconceived ideas of what a mom actually was. I’d tell myself that not everyone instantly loves parenthood, and you can come to love it incrementally. Also, I’d tell myself to enjoy the sweetness of the moment and stop worrying so much. I also read somewhere that comparison steals joy. It’s so true. Don’t get drawn into comparisons with other parents, pregnancies, and kids—resist it at all costs!”

“Take your time and don’t rush. Be ready, feel ready, as it is a tough job, but also a rewarding one, beyond what words can explain. If your biological clock is ticking, then I’ll say go for it—you won’t regret it, and you will become ready once the little one is there. That toothless smile is everything!”

“I wish I had kids sooner, but I’m glad I finished my degree first. I watched a friend do her degree with kids, and she didn’t get everything out of it that I was able to. I think you’ll never feel completely ‘ready,’ but I do think you have to feel confident you want kids. The one feeling you shouldn’t ignore is the feeling you might not want kids at all.”

“Don’t focus so much on the material readiness. Instead you should travel, go out to eat, and spend time with your partner because your quality time spent together is going to help postpartum and solidify the bond as life partners through thick and thin.”

“I didn’t really come to grips with how my career would be put on complete pause. Unless you can afford a good daycare or babysitter, it really slows things down. My twin boys weren’t planned but I did have seven months, then one month in the hospital to get mentally ready before giving birth. That said, even if you’re ready financially, maybe you might not be emotionally. It’s a ride regardless. Awesome ups and downs.”

“My pre-baby self was very optimistic and naive about the ability of a mother being able to pursue a career, other interests, and hobbies after having kids. I would tell my pre-baby self that it’s going to be a lot harder than you think and that you’re going to have to work a lot more than you think in order to be able to ‘do it all.’”

“Save more. Losing my job while pregnant and then husband getting laid-off has been a little stressful, but it did lead to me setting up my own business. You’re never ready—it’s all so unknown: emotionally, physically, financially, and romantically (it can be a bust on your sex life.)”

“It’s not about being prepared, it’s about being available. New things happen everyday that you can’t prepare for—you just need to be available to attend to them.”

Graphic by Lorenza Centi.

The post Can You Ever Feel “Ready” for Kids? 400 Readers Weighed In appeared first on Man Repeller.

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New York City’s Reinvigorated Pride Weekend Started With a Bike Ride & Drag Show

On Friday night, for the first time in my life, Pride was really Pride. In recent years, I haven’t felt much “pride” toward the month of June—I’d go to the parade in Manhattan and spend the entire day partying, not truly thinking about what it is we should have been fighting for. But this year was different: Black Lives Matter and Bushwig joined together to kick off the weekend on Friday by bringing back the truest feeling of what created this movement—the Pride of Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, and Stonewall.

Bike riders started at Maria Hernandez Park in Bushwick, Brooklyn, led by amazing Black drag queens. I watched bikers and non-bikers go ahead of the crowd to block upcoming streets, clearing a path for the rest of us. I watched people pass out water and masks and hand sanitizer. I watched my community and our allies take care of each other.

The bike ride ended at McCarren Park in Williamsburg, where hundreds of people joined to sit on the dirt and grass and learn. We listened to stories from Black sex workers, Indigenous people, and amazing performers. Then, we danced our asses off—all while looking simply fabulous. Like many other people said on Friday night, this year was more than just a party for me. During a time when more people are seeing the injustices toward Black and Brown people and the LGBTQIA+ movement, this year was significant. It was Black Pride for me. It was my first Pride as it should’ve been, and continued to be, from the beginning. Here are some of the people I met there.

What I’m wearing:
I biked over in Keds and a pastel pink and cyan starburst skirt I scooped from a Proenza Schouler sample sale, paired with a bootleg Vogue shirt with a iridescent ruffle poof. Wigs were suggested, so I brought out my pink bob which I sewed pink and white flowers into for a floral-themed night at House of Yes. I dress in a joyful way for special occasions because I think we all should celebrate the beautiful parts of our lives as often as possible. The community here is something to celebrate, even if we’re out because we’re outraged by injustice.

What Pride means to me this year:
Pride is finding creative ways to be tender with myself and take care of my mental health so I can show up for my friends and my community. 2020, honestly, has been a tough year for growth and I hope to survive it.

—Rashida Prattis, she/her, Bed-Stuy

What I’m wearing:
Just a lovely black marble neoprene number with a mask to match. As a community, we’re beautiful and strong like stone when we look out for one another. So let’s get our voices heard but keep our masks up.

What Pride means to me this year:
Pride has gone back to its roots. Pride was and is a riot. We have the rights we have because of Trans women of color, Marsha and Sylvia. 50 years later, we’re still fighting that same fight. Pride became a party with corporations, and this year they cancelled that aspect, but they didn’t cancel Pride. The riot continues.

—Arya Klos, she/her/hers, Bed-Stuy

What I’m wearing:
My outfit is a second-hand find from a local thrift store in Brooklyn. It’s light and flouncy and really snugs my cleavage. Perfect for pounding the pavement!

What Pride means to me this year:
This year, Pride, for me, is about self-reflection and how I can use my privilege and voice to elevate Queer and Trans people of color. Pride is a protest! This year, we’ve shed the consumeristic and sanitized Frosted Flakes Capital One version of Pride. We’re taking it to the streets and fighting against systemic racism, police brutality, and institutionalized white supremacy! Enough is enough!

—Jason Hill, he/him/his, Bed-Stuy

What I’m wearing:
I got my outfit from Rainbow on Fulton St. and my “Chromatica” boots from Demonia. Then I threw on some cut-off shorts, fishnets, and called it a day.

What Pride means to me this year:
Pride is a way of life! We should all be proud regardless of our sexual orientation. This Pride is somewhat different this year with COVID-19 and the continual #blacklivesmatter—so I call this year’s pride “BLACK PRIDE.”

—Dezi 5, he/him, Bed-Stuy

What I’m wearing:
It’s an easy, breezy summer tube dress with a mes- front neon-green ‘do.

What Pride means to me this year:
This year pride means “fuck rainbow capitalism”

—Alan, he/him, Crown Heights

What I’m wearing:
My outfit is a combination of thrifted pieces and independent designers including I Do Declare and Bagtazo! Pastels are my very favorite and pretty much my exclusive palette. I love playing with different shades to create dynamic looks.

What Pride means to me this year:
Pride means acknowledging your legacy and wearing your identity with honor. I take so much pride in my place in Queer community and this year I feel so at home in these changing times. Pride means loving yourself and celebrating that love as a form of solidarity and activism for your fellow people! Pride. is. Strength.

—C’était Bontemps, he/they, Crown Heights

Friday night’s event raised nearly $10,000 for GLITS (Gays and Lesbians Living in a Transgender Society)—go here to learn more and donate.

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How I’m Teaching a New Way of Looking at U.S. History

Niles Mattier teaches fifth and sixth grade at his alma mater, the Boston Collegiate Charter School, and in December 2018, he debuted an Instagram feed meant to be a gathering space for other queer, Black educators. We asked him to lead us through his current lesson plan: American History, from Early American Cultures to the present day. If you were in fifth grade more than 10 years ago, Mattier’s perspective might represent a worthy, and foundational, paradigm shift.

Every summer, I sit down and create what’s called a “scope and sequence.” I’ll look back at the curriculum to figure out what went well, what improvements I can make, and then I’ll plan out the units for the year — everything I want to teach the kids.

With this age group, they’re still very open. When I worked with high schoolers, some of them were, like, “I’m just not a math person.” Or, “I just don’t like science.” At this age, they haven’t formed those opinions yet. They’re still open to trying everything. That’s a really unique place.

I have six units currently:

I. Early American Cultures

This is a really important unit — Native American cultures are often glossed over, and I think this is a huge disservice to the kids. They’ll think that Native American people never existed — and that this land was always the United States. A lot of my fifth-graders originally thought that Native American people no longer existed — because we kind of present the history in a way where it’s, like, “Okay, yes, Native American people were here — and then real history starts when people come over from European countries. And snap, no more Native Americans.” I want to humanize that experience. There’s so much rich history on this land before colonialism, and that’s something we can’t ignore. That’s a history I don’t want to be erased.

II. American Colonization

One of the themes I try to weave through my classes is perspective: Who wrote this source? Whose voice is being heard? Whose perspective are we not hearing? Are there any biases here? If we’re reading a diary entry from Christopher Columbus, the way he sees people is going to be so different from the way he’s seen by Native American people. Unfortunately, a lot of those primary documents are from the European perspective, because much of the art and language of those Native American peoples was destroyed.

I want them to consider these loopholes — and then consider what they mean.

III. Government and The New Republic

We look at the binding documents of our country — The Declaration of Independence, The Constitution — and we look at where it’s written that all men are created equal. When we celebrate the Fourth of July, the American colonists are celebrating freedom from British rule. But whose Independence Day is this not? Of course, these documents change and evolve, but we look at the loopholes that persist anyway — like the 13th Amendment, which forbids slavery, “except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted.” I want them to consider these loopholes — and then consider what they mean: What’s the relationship between that loophole and current-day mass incarceration of African-American people?

IV. The Civil War and Reconstruction

Reconstruction is a pretty brief period of time — from about 1865 to 1877 — and some curriculums gloss over it. But it’s an important point in our history, when African-American people really are free, and they set up organizations and institutions that allow them to support themselves financially and educate their children. This is when we see the first African-American people elected to government positions. Five years earlier, someone could have been enslaved — and now they’re holding office.

I definitely think the news coverage has activated some fire in these students. They’ll ask me: “I’m 10 — is there anything I can do? My mom won’t let me go to the protests.”

V. The World Wars and The Civil Rights Movement

We talk about the Japanese internment camps — how after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and the U.S. goes to war with Japan, the government created this hysteria that Japanese Americans might be on the side of Japan and forced them into internment camps. They’re not killed there, or abused as people were in concentration camps, but people [in the U.S.] were taken from their homes, children weren’t educated, people were forced to give up their businesses. It’s a hurtful, harmful part of American history. Ignoring it is an injustice.

We’ll also talk about the Civil Rights movement. I try to bring in voices that aren’t often heard — like Bayard Rustin, who worked alongside Martin Luther King but didn’t come to the forefront of the movement because he was gay, and [civil rights leaders] thought he might distract from their message. Claudette Colvin was 15 and pregnant during the Montgomery bus boycotts. She decided she wasn’t going to give up her seat — nine months before Rosa Parks. But she didn’t become the face of the movement because she was a pregnant teenager.

VI. The Modern Day

The “resurgence” — and I put “resurgence” in quotes — of police brutality against African Americans is happening simultaneously with teaching it. One aspect of the classroom I really love is what’s called a fishbowl discussion. We’ll have a question — “Is the U.S. a fair and just country?” — and the students will have time to prepare for their positions. We’ll sit in a circle, they’ll bring quotes from texts they’ve read, charts and graphs and data. — and I think a lot of kids might have had different answers to that question, had this not been happening at the same time. Sometimes we’ll learn about the Civil Rights movement and they’ll think, “This stuff happened so long ago” — but no, it’s like, “This is happening now, and there’s a protest in downtown Boston, 15 minutes away from school.” They’re seeing all these things happen right in front of their eyes — and they’re able to use all these tools we’ve talked about, so they can analyze the media, they can talk about who wrote this story, and what kind of bias they might have. They can talk about those things when they watch the news with their parents.

I definitely think the news coverage has activated some fire in these students. They’ll ask me: “I’m 10 — is there anything I can do? My mom won’t let me go to the protests.” And I’ll say, “It’s okay if you can’t go to the protests — this is our district attorney, and if you want, I can help you send an email to them, saying how they can support schools better.” Even if you’re 10, there are things you can be doing. You can talk to your friends and your family. You can show them the evidence you’ve collected. And I hope they’ll bring those skills along with them, for the rest of their lives; I hope they’ll ask questions, and stay inquisitive. I’m a history teacher. That’s the job.

Graphic by Lorenza Centi.

The post How I’m Teaching a New Way of Looking at U.S. History appeared first on Man Repeller.

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3 People on Navigating Their Relationship Doubts During the Pandemic

Seven billion people have collectively navigated the ripple effects of COVID-19 for at least three months now—ripple effects that have changed the way we live our lives, and conduct our relationships. As parts of society begin to tentatively open back up, many of us are taking our first steps back into a world we closed the door to more than 100 days ago—either in the company of, or separate from, our romantic partners (or romantic possibilities). We talked to three women who are grappling with relationship doubts triggered by this global limbo, trying to navigate the best path forward.

“I don’t know if I’m just bored and want the attention, or if I actually really like her.”

As told by Lucy.

I started to talk to this girl in January. It was really casual at first, but we were going on dates–it wasn’t like we were just hooking up. We admitted that we had feelings for each other, but we wanted to take it really slow. Those plans were interrupted when quarantine hit in March. I went to Atlanta to stay with my parents, thinking I would only be gone for a week or so, but it’s been three months and I’m still here.

Our relationship became entirely virtual, which is really weird considering we aren’t even officially in a relationship. It really impacted our momentum. I can’t tell if she’s lost interest in continuing things, or if the mixed signals I’m getting are stemming from the experience of being in quarantine, where everyone is somewhat depressed. I’m also confused about my own feelings. I don’t know if I’m just bored and want the attention, or if I actually really like her.

I was able to go back to North Carolina, where we both live, at the end of May, and got to see her outside while staying six feet apart. We picked up right where we left off and things felt really good, but then I had to go back to Atlanta and the momentum fizzled again. It’s hard being long-distance when the relationship is so new. We don’t have that built-in foundation yet.

I had an inkling that she was talking to other people, so I downloaded Tinder again (because that’s where we originally matched) and saw she’d added more recent photos, so I was like, “Ah, dang it.” I decided I needed to talk to her about it. I asked if she was seeing or talking to anyone else, and she told me she was only talking to me romantically.

She also said she could see us dating and being in a relationship, when we’re able to actually be together in person. That gave me a bit more clarity, but still it gets confusing. I read into everything now, you know? It’s so hard to understand how someone else feels when you’re only communicating over text message.

“The scariest part of a wedding is that it’s only the beginning.”

As told by Bianca.

I live in London with my partner of four years and our two dogs. We were supposed to get married at the end of May, but we had to cancel the wedding due to the pandemic. As soon as we did, this huge feeling of relief flooded me. I work from home as a private chef, so ultimately not a lot changed for me with the enforced quarantine, but my fiancé, who works in the (currently shut-down) film industry, was suddenly at home indefinitely. The dynamic in the flat is so different from what I’m used to. He’s almost treating it like an extended holiday, which bugs me quite a lot. I’m just like, “When are you going to leave the house?” And then, “Why am I not happy to be with you here?”

I’ve been experiencing significant feelings of doubt, and have considered ending our relationship. This is super hard for me, as we have been living together for three years and our lives are very entangled, not to mention that it will be challenging to find somewhere I can live and work. I can’t afford the rent in our flat by myself long-term, and I’m not in a position to share with a roommate when I need to have 90% sole ownership of the kitchen most days.

It’s difficult to try to make this decision while still in lockdown. I can’t tell if quarantine is revealing the reality of our relationship, or if the circumstances are so unique that I need to take my feelings with a grain of salt.

Pre-lockdown, my fiancé and I spent between two and three waking hours together on an average weekday. Now, we spend 18 working hours together daily, and I wonder if it has expedited the progress of our relationship. In other words, is a month of lockdown equivalent to six months of being together under normal circumstances, and would these doubts have manifested eventually, just further down the road?

I keep thinking about how the scariest part of a wedding is that it’s only the beginning. You think you’re about to pass the finish line, and then it’s all over. But it’s not over, it’s the first day of your marriage.

“He seems unsure of what he wants… and I don’t know if I should wait around while he figures it out.”

As told by Ashwini.

I started seeing a guy I met on Hinge a month and a half before a complete lockdown was imposed in India, and things moved pretty quickly between us (when you click, you click!). Two weeks into seeing each other, he asked me to leave my toothbrush at his place. I ended up quasi-living there at least three days a week, and it was great. We would order takeout and watch movies together almost every night.

Cut to the pandemic–our ability to meet up was totally disrupted. I couldn’t go to his place. There were no Ubers, there were no regular taxis, no buses, no trains, no metro. There was nothing. At first we were still talking to each other every day, but he ended up moving back to his hometown to live out the remainder of quarantine with his parents, and we started communicating less–out of sight, out of mind, I guess. That’s really when I started to feel a strain on the relationship.

I asked him if he had started seeing someone else, but he assured me he hadn’t. He said he was still into me, he just didn’t know how to navigate this situation since we can’t see each other and don’t know when we’ll be able to. I’m trying to be understanding about that. The world is falling apart, and every person has their own way of dealing with it. Mine would be leaning onto him for a bit of moral support or whatever, but clearly he operates differently. So I said, “Whatever it is that you want I’ll make peace with it, I’m sure I can meet you halfway.”

He seems unsure of what he wants, though, and I don’t know if I should wait around while he figures it out. I don’t want him to feel pressured or rushed. I just want to be able to pick up my phone and talk to him whenever I want. That would be enough for me right now.

We’ve decided to take things down a notch and hopefully go back to how we were before the pandemic caused this rift. I hate it, but at least he is not seeing someone else. I want to believe there’s hope for us.

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How to Show Up for Your People, and Yourself, Right Now

My copy of The Art of Showing Up by Rachel Wilkerson Miller has no less than 30 Post-it notes inside it, each marking a page that somehow felt even more important than the last. The book, which came out in May, is about friendship in the age of flakiness, and has quickly become the reference point I return to anytime I’m searching for the best way to look after the people around me. But the book covers more than making and keeping friends. It guides you through supporting people through miscarriage, addiction, incarceration, coming out, and so much more. It also presents the idea that to properly look after your people, you first have to look after yourself… then explains exactly how to do just that.

The Art of Showing Up is filled with what I’ve personally come to know as “Rachel advice”—guidance that’s practical, thoughtful, and—above all else—inclusive. Rachel is my former editor and current good friend, and when I was trying to pick my favorite part of the book to run as an excerpt on Man Repeller (an impossible task) she suggested that we jump on the phone and talk instead. Below, we talk through some of her ideas about what showing up and self-care look like in 2020.

On Showing Up for the People You Love

Gyan: We’ve spent a lot of time talking—and writing—about friendship and self-care with each other in the last few years, but it feels like none of these things have been quite as important as they are right now.

Rachel: Yes, totally.

Gyan: How have you adjusted the way you show up for people in 2020 compared to how you did in the past?

Rachel: Well, one of the biggest things right now is that you can no longer show up for people in person. You can’t meet your coworkers for a drink when they get laid off or even just send a care package as easily as you might have last year. But I’m also feeling like I’ve had so many friends who are long-distance that I actually feel pretty equipped for this. I know you are as well [as an Australian living in the US]. We’ve already had to be fairly creative and do things from afar, and I think that’s actually why we’re adapting so well.

Gyan: All of our friends might as well be long-distance friends right now.

“Even saying, ‘Let’s get on a call later this week and gossip,’ can make it more fun and exciting.”

Rachel: I think showing up is also about being more mindful of the current moment, which means considering that people might have lost their jobs or be otherwise worried about money. Or people might be really overwhelmed and emotionally taxed because of the emotional load of living through a pandemic. I’ve spent the last few years so focused on friendship that this hasn’t actually felt like a huge adjustment.

Gyan: That’s actually what I was thinking when I was reading the section of your book about good group hangouts. All of the tips in that chapter—from being thoughtful about your invite lists to taking notes during conversations—are also things that are so easily adapted from IRL hangouts to online hangouts. Aside from those things, have you been doing anything else to make online hangouts feel more special?

Rachel: Having themes or activities planned make Zoom or FaceTime calls feel more special and more fun, in the same way that having a theme party can be fun in person. Even if you’re just having dinner with your friends, and it’s not the time for a theme, just saying, “This is the subject of this hangout” can keep things focused. Even saying, “Let’s get on a call later this week and gossip,” can make it more fun and exciting.

Gyan: My most memorable video calls during quarantine—which have actually all been with our group of friends—have had a set agenda. Or at the very least, have had someone say through the week, “Okay, let’s put a pin in this conversation and we’ll all talk about it properly on Saturday.” It’s so nice.

Rachel: Yes, totally. It helps!

Gyan: Another thing I wanted to talk about from the book is the idea of “friend levels.” Can we talk about that a little?

Rachel: So, this concept comes from the book Frientimacy by Shasta Nelson. She talks about the levels of vulnerability that exist within friendships, and the way that the amount of time you’ve known someone can influence how vulnerable you can be with them. So, if you’ve known somebody a really long time, there’s going to be more vulnerability in that friendship—we all know that instinctively, but it’s helpful to remember. And if you haven’t known somebody for as long it’s probably not as appropriate to be super vulnerable with them. It doesn’t mean you can’t be honest, but just that that level of vulnerability will look different.

So, if you’re at a Level Three and then you go straight to a Level Ten with your vulnerability, it’s probably going to feel like a mismatch to that person and maybe even to you later on.

Gyan: I’ve found the concept of those friendship levels really comforting this year. In the last three months, I’ve realized how many people I used to see really casually, almost for the sake of going to dinner and exploring NYC together. At the start of the pandemic I thought, Maybe those people aren’t actually my friends at all because we aren’t talking a ton. But I’m slowly realizing that they’re just on a different level.

Rachel: I don’t think it’s a bad thing to have acquaintances or friendships that are reliant on proximity. It doesn’t mean those friendships aren’t meaningful. I think, right now, people are taking a look at their friendships and thinking, “What is this person’s role in my life? What is my role in theirs?”

Instead of spreading yourself super thin and trying to set up a Google Hangout with everyone you know, it might make sense to focus on the two or three people you feel a really strong connection with and try to build those relationships up and make them deeper and stronger through this.

Gyan: Can we also talk about Ring Theory, which you also wrote about in your book. It feels particularly important right now.

Rachel: Definitely. So, Ring Theory first showed up in the Los Angeles Times and the idea is to imagine concentric circles. So, there’s a small circle and then a bigger one around it and a bigger one around that. The person who’s going through a rough time is at the center of the ring and then there’s people who are at each of those circles extending out.

So, if I’m going through a rough time, my partner is going to be the next person in the next ring because she’s closest to me. My mom would also be in that closest ring. And then, from there outwards are more distant friends or coworkers—just people who are not as close to the center of the thing that is happening.

One example for right now could be, if someone’s really stressed about everything that’s happening with police brutality they shouldn’t have to turn that inward to the people at the center of the ring. They should be able to dump it out to people who are more removed from it. In this case it would be to other white people or other allies. That’s what dump out, comfort in means.

Gyan: What would you say the best friends in your circle are doing right now in terms of showing up for you?

Rachel: My friend Sally, who you know, is a great ally. She’s talking to white people, she’s donating, she’s uplifting Black voices, and making sure she’s really focused on that at the political level. She’s also doing a lot for me personally. A couple of weeks ago, she took it upon herself to just look at a wishlist I’d made of everything I wanted on Animal Crossing and started tracking down everything for me. I think she’s on these side websites or Reddit. She hasn’t told me how she’s doing any of it exactly, which is part of the magic.

She didn’t say, “I’m doing this because of all the things that are happening right now.” She just saw a thing she could do for me that she knew would cheer me up in this really small way. Playing Animal Crossing is an escape for me, and her doing this essentially gave me an extra thing to do as a coping and self-care mechanism. It’s fun and it’s sweet and thoughtful, and just very unique. That’s not advice that everybody would want at this moment but she’s the kind of person who knows me well, trusts our friendship, and trusts her instincts to notice.

On Showing Up for Yourself

Gyan: In the chapter “Showing Up for Yourself When Shit Gets Hard” you talk about accepting that normal doesn’t really exist anymore as a way to deal with bad times. I know that you wrote this book before the pandemic, but that sentiment feels so relevant to right now.

Rachel: Acknowledging that things aren’t normal gives you the freedom to reimagine and reset your expectations. It gives you a chance to take a really realistic look at what’s happening, but also to envision a different future. It allows you to re-calibrate your sense of etiquette, your sense of duty to others, your sense of duty to yourself. I think it relieves a lot of pressure.

Gyan: I was talking to another friend (who recently lost someone close to her) yesterday who was saying that she didn’t have the energy to work out, or meditate, or do morning pages—all her usual methods of self-care. And I quoted something that you’ve written about before, and also in your book, that’s along the lines of: “Well, did you have a shower today? Did you eat breakfast? Is your house clean enough that it’s hygienic?” And she said, “Yeah, I’m doing all those things.” And I was like, “Well, maybe that’s just enough for now.”

Rachel: That’s it, yeah. It’s really hard to admit that you can’t do the things you used to do. And it’s weird because we’ll hold these ideas in our heads—and I’ve totally done this before—where you’re like, “I know things are bad right now, but I should still be able to do the exact same things as always. And only feel bad about this a tiny bit of the time.” But that’s not how it works.

It’s weird to have that realization of, like, “Oh, I see it’s not just painful in theory it’s painful in practice.” Of course you’re not going to be your normal self right now because things are not normal, or you’re not normal, or the world’s not normal. Recognizing that has always helped me feel better.

Gyan: I think that one of the issues with the way self-care and wellness have been marketed to us is that they often start with this assumption that you’re starting your journey at 100%—that anything you do in the name of self-care is improving upon that baseline, as a bonus. But who’s at 100% right now? Whether you’re Black, or you’re a person of color or queer or trans, or you’ve lost your job, or someone you love has passed away, or you or someone you know has been arrested—there are all of these things happening right now now that have taken everyone down so many additional pegs that the recent concepts of self-care don’t really apply.

Rachel: I felt that since the beginning of the pandemic when everybody was like, “What’s your hobby going to be and what are you going to learn?” I love self improvement—I love it, I love it all the time. But there’s no room for self-improvement right now, we’re in survival mode!

Gyan: Totally! How are you feeling about the fact that it’s kind of a timely moment for your book to come out?

Rachel: I feel sad that the book is so useful right now because I don’t want anyone to need this book, particularly the sections about showing up when shit gets hard. But, I feel glad that I can be useful right now. I tried to write it in a way that it would be broadly applicable in tons of different situations. It’s nice to know that when people are going through a hard time you have something to offer them.

Rachel Wilkerson Miller is VICE’s Deputy Editor, Life and author of The Art of Showing Up: How to Be There for Yourself and Your People. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram.

Photo of Rachel by Elena Mudd.

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A Love Letter to My Mailman, and the Incomparable Camaraderie Between Black Strangers

Every day, between 2 and 4 p.m., the mailman strolls around my neighborhood and the very knowledge of his closeness makes me feel like I am 13 again. My whole body becomes a tiny whirlwind, my insides spin with mild embarrassment and gladness. Somehow, he always seems to approach my apartment when I am most visible—as I accidentally throw the recycling into the garbage bin or dance wildly to Thundercat’s “Dragonball Durag” or fight off mosquitos during a midday porch break. Maybe it’s that I subconsciously want to be seen and make myself noticeable when I sense his arrival. Either way, our interactions, though expected, always feel coincidental and surprising, as if I’m meeting him for the first time every day.

It’s also possible that I’m just inventing this intimacy to make meaning, to cope. Because of quarantine, he is the only Black person I see non-digitally on a regular basis. It’s been weeks since I’ve embraced someone who looks like me. My roommates are white, my neighbors are white, a majority of the people in Austin, where I have lived for a year, are white. The prevalent whiteness of my surroundings only intensifies the acute adoration I have for him and other Black strangers I have witnessed during this period of social distancing. But even before the pandemic, I felt fond of him. Each day, he greets me with a familiar kindness, like that of a close friend. His walk, always skip-like. His demeanor, always refreshing.

What started as an ordinary interaction became a fascinating point of connection.

At first, my relationship with him was an inside joke with friends. I’d tell them that the mailman delivering my body oil was the closest thing I had to physical intimacy. On walks with my neighbor, I’d dramatically pronounce him the love of my life and pretend to swoon. But after a few weeks, the joke evolved into something more serious: I couldn’t stop thinking about seeing him. What started as an ordinary interaction became a fascinating point of connection.

The very nature of the mailman’s job embodies what I consider to be the most romantic aspect of strangerhood—although we do not know anything about each other, we are reminded of our interconnection in the small, seemingly arbitrary ways that our lives intersect. For a few moments every day, the mailman holds my most intimate items: the overpriced panties I impulsively purchase, the student loan bills I never open, the letters from friends that I open quickly with delight, the cadmium yellow bed sheets I cry on when I feel small, the Ruby Woo lipstick I swipe on when I want to feel like the hottest girl in the world.

When he delivers my mail, all he sees are slightly bent envelopes and cardboard boxes, but inside the packaging are the personal artifacts that make up my rituals and routines, the things that contribute to who I am. This is not to say that bills and material items are my identity, but they are undeniably a fragment of it. And it feels significant and wondrous that a Black man who I barely know is a part of this fragment. He probably doesn’t have this romanticized perception of his role in my life. At the end of the day, I’m just one of the many people to whom he delivers mail. Still, I feel a tenderness that I need right now.

It feels cathartic to join together digitally, giving each other the space for rage and heartache.

The murder and assault of Black people in America is not a new occurrence, of course. Our country was structured upon the blood of Black and Brown lives. Suffering, especially that of the Black community, is a part of the foundation of American history. We feel and see this history systemically and individually on a regular basis. All Black people can tell stories about racist encounters we’ve experienced throughout our lives. Some of these experiences are subtle, like racial gaslighting or invalidation, while other experiences are overtly abusive and life-threatening, like being killed by police.

Whether it’s micro- or macro-aggressive, racism is always traumatic and haunting. It shouldn’t have taken the deaths of Breonna and Tony and Ahmaud and George (and countless others) for non-Black people to realize this. Black bodies shouldn’t have to be slaughtered for society to make necessary changes. Sometimes, it feels as if white people need sacrifices for our livelihood to be considered and respected. Why must our blood be spilled? Why aren’t our words enough? Online, my Black friends and I exchange our frustrations via typo-ed tweets and DMs. It feels cathartic to join together digitally, giving each other the space for rage and heartache. However, eventually, I’m forced to put down my iPhone and reckon with the fact that I am alone, physically separated from the people who understand my pain the most.

Recently, while on a bike ride, I thought about a Black college acquaintance who was tackled, frisked, and arrested for cycling without a bike light. Though this incident wasn’t fatal, I considered that something similar could happen to me and I may not be as lucky to survive. I had taken the bike ride to soothe my anxieties, but these thoughts only heightened them. As I rode around downtown, past vacant bus stops and bushes of Texas sage, my brown skin illuminated by golden hour, I worried whether I would be America’s next unnecessary sacrifice in this fight for racial justice. I imagined the digital memorials my friends and family would craft in honor and defense of my life. I imagined the swarm of ignorant individuals who might plaster them with invalidating comments like #alllivesmatter. I visualized the life that I so badly desire to live being taken from me. As I thought through these horrific things, a police officer drove past and waved. The moment felt so ironic. I could only sigh in response.

His kin-like warmth suggests that he knows I’m not really asking about the rising June heat.

Sometimes, I wonder if the mailman feels scared as he works—his Black body so visible as he approaches homes throughout my very white neighborhood. I’ve thought to ask him, but instead, I bring up superficial things like the weather. His kin-like warmth suggests that he knows I’m not really asking about the rising June heat. Amidst this national chaos, how could I be? The threat to Black life is the main thing on my mind and I assume that this is true for him too. We’ve never openly discussed this, but somehow our small talk feels as comforting as the difficult conversations about racial politics that I have with my companions during long FaceTime calls.

I adore him, I do. And I have reason to believe this adoration is at least somewhat mutual. There is always an instant camaraderie when Black strangers encounter each other, even if the exchange is brief and minimal. It’s felt in the head nods, in the grins, in the reciprocated hair compliments. As this country continues to neglect, violate, and assault us, it’s necessary to offer this kind of softness to each other, to share comfort through body language, to validate our collective weariness with just a few words. Compassion is the only thing we have.

Before quarantine, tragic events were more often processed communally. We could be together without masks and screens and moody wi-fi. We could weep in each other’s arms and share meals in each other’s homes. We could momentarily trade our grief for Saturday night sweat and flashy disco light. Now our togetherness, though undeniably strong, is compromised by COVID-19. Even the marches and protests are marked with a sense of pandemic anxiety.

It is incredibly overwhelming to grapple with this pain at distance from each other, to try to get by without the tangible presence of a brown-skinned body. In the midst of tragedy, all I want is to be engulfed by the soulfulness of Black folks, to be in a chorus of Black groanings and laughter. But, for now, every afternoon, I look out my open window and wave at the mailman, grinning wide as he tells me to stay safe.

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