Reproductive Rights Love + Sex Love

I’m 35 & don’t want kids —but I had to fight my doctor to get a hysterectomy

I was thirty-two years old when Caitlin Moran set me free.

I was sitting on the toilet in my tiny apartment in rural Platteville, Wisconsin, a town I’d moved to get some thinking and reading and writing done, a town where that’s about all you can do. At that particular moment, I was reading Moran’s astonishing book of essays, How To Be A Woman. The line which blew the locks off the mental cage I didn’t know I was inhabiting were as follows:

“We need more women who are allowed to prove their worth as people, rather than being assessed merely for their potential to create new people.”  

I sat bolt upright when I read that. Then I read it again. I couldn’t believe the sensation of openness and freedom that passage gave me—I wanted to grab a penknife and carve it into every doorframe in my house. More than freedom, those words gave me something I hadn’t realized I’d wanted: permission.

Let me explain.

If you are a woman in 2018, even if you are lucky enough to have a relatively feminist family, you’ll be endlessly prompted by friends, co-workers, even well-meaning strangers to fulfill a checklist: Home. Marriage. Children.

For women who hesitate before bubbling in that final, permanent choice on the “Are You a Good Woman?” test, there are a few helpful prods that others will administer:

You shouldn’t wait to have children! You never know how long it will take. (Note how deftly this timing-focused prod evades the issue of whether children are even wanted.)

He would make such a good father. (Note that the questioner will never ask the man in question if he is interested in being a father. That’s not what this is about.)

You should have children. It’s selfish not to. I already have [number]. What’s the big deal? (Misery loves company.)

And finally, the checkmate in the chess match women play against each other and themselves: What if you don’t, and then regret it?

This is the goad that got under my skin. I would poke myself with it—are you sure? Are you really sure?—at intervals, trying to awaken maternal instincts that remained stubbornly dormant. Wondering if, like a punitive O. Henry story, I would suddenly discover a ravenous yearning for babies at the exact moment my body lost the ability to conceive them. In the meanwhile, I continued gamely testing myself for parental abilities: working as a camp counselor. Teaching. Gingerly holding babies on my knee. Crucially, however, I never felt an urge to parent—either by conception or adoption, regardless of my parent friends’ breezy assurances that “when it comes to your own kids, you’ll feel differently.” The light switch stayed resolutely off.

Cut back to me, still sitting on the toilet in Platteville, Wisconsin, my legs steadily going numb, every neuron in my head alight. I felt like I’d found a doorway to Narnia in my closet; like an exam, I was dreading had been canceled. When Moran wrote that motherhood offered “nothing you couldn’t get from, say, reading the 100 greatest books in human history; learning a foreign language well enough to argue in it; climbing hills; loving recklessly; sitting quietly, alone, in the dawn; drinking whiskey with revolutionaries; learning to do close-hand magic; swimming in a river in winter […]” I got excited. I started thinking about all the books I could read, the books I could write. I imagined a room full of the embroidery supplies I love, stacked in a colorful array. I thought about visiting all the countries on my bucket list: Vietnam, Iceland, New Zealand, Scotland.

I wanted to do all of those things, and I wanted to do them now.

First, though, I’d have to get up off the can.

Cut to two years later.

I’ve packed up my life and my apartment and moved to Boston, a city containing jobs and opportunities and, crucially, the man I’ve been low-key in love with for my entire adult life. In a happy, if statistically improbable, coincidence, he’s fallen in love with me, too. We snag a tiny apartment in the city and are deliriously happy together. I write every day. I’ve started saving for travel. I even have a respectable embroidery collection. Thrilled that my gambit has paid off, I make one final attempt… at being a Good Woman. I sit my man down for a talk.

“Listen. I’m pretty sure that, if it were just me alone, I’d never have a kid. But for you, with you, I would happily have a child if you wanted one. Do you want kids?”

He looks at me like I am out of my mind. “Babe. No.”

“Are you sure? Are you really sure?” I ask. (I am getting good at asking this.) “You can think about it!”

He doesn’t have to think about it. In fact, he’s thinking about getting a vasectomy. “So we can stop spending all our money on birth control.”

Well then. I marvel at how easily he’s made this decision, how untroubled he is by the possibility of regret—when pressed, he shrugs. “If we regret it, we’ll adopt. I always thought I’d make a better uncle than a dad, anyway.” His unfazed attitude, I realize, is what making the baby decision looks like when you’re unencumbered by a lifetime of other people’s expectations. This is how not big a deal the decision can be—when you’re a man.

Back in the world of women, things aren’t so easy.

While the vasectomy has taken care of my immediate birth control needs, I’m still stuck dealing with howling menstrual cramps every month, plus a family inheritance: poorly located uterine fibroids, which make cervical dilation impossible. My uterus is like a lobster pot—easy for sperm to get in, impossible for anything larger than a sperm to get in or out.

If (God forbid) I am raped, or my man’s vasectomy turns out to be imperfect, I will be looking at a reduced array of options for abortion (maybe none, depending on the political winds), and a guaranteed C-section at the end of the hypothetical pregnancy I don’t want. I grouse about all this to my OB/GYN, who makes supportive noises until I say the magic words: “Fertility isn’t something I care about maintaining.”

Suddenly, she looks up from her computer screen.

“Wait. If you really don’t want kids, and you’re sure, there are more options.”

And that’s when I decided I was done being asked that question.

Cut to me, being cut open. Laparoscopic hysterectomy means a few things: a cluster of postage-stamp-sized incisions across your abdominal muscles. The removal of your uterus through some tiny tubes. (Assuming your ovaries aren’t giving you trouble, you get to keep those—the days of automatic ovarian removal, with attendant lifelong hormone replacement, are long gone.) The sudden realization of how much you use your abdominal muscles for everything. And no periods, cramps, or need for birth control, ever again.

I’m writing this with a hot pad across my lap. Ten days out from my hysterectomy, I’m still a little sore. Snow shoveling is right out. But my mind is at peace. I’ve finally realized that the sharp stick I used to poke myself with—“Are you sure? Are you really sure?” was just a way to distract myself from the fact that I already knew what I wanted. I just had to gain the courage to name my desire.

So: maybe you’re stuck in a cage. Maybe you already secretly know what you want, too. Know this:

You are enough.

You don’t have to make another person to earn your spot on this big beautiful earth.

You are enough.

You can do the thing yourself—write the novel, make the movie, start the peace process, build the supercomputer. You don’t have to raise someone else and hope they accomplish it instead. The terrifying, wonderful news is that they won’t. That’s your desire, to fulfill or not. And guess what?

You are enough.

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Dear Madame Lestrange Love

Am I desperate for using dating apps?

Dear Madame Lestrange is The Tempest’s love, sex, and relationships advice column. Have a question? Send it to Madame Lestrange here.  It’s anonymous!

Dear Madame Lestrange,

I’m 26 and I’ve never dated anyone. In my teens, my parents told me that I was to not interact with any guy because that was religiously forbidden. In my early 20s, I had many crushes but was always too shy to admit it and the infatuation faded quickly. I’m 26 now I have a career and my parents want me to get ready for marriage.

I don’t know about marriage but I am ready to meet my soulmate. I joined a dating site and all the men I talked to wanted a casual hookup (I was on bumble). My social media tells me that I don’t have to look for someone because I’ll meet someone when least expected. So now I feel desperate when I’m actively looking. Please advise. 


—Lonely Lady 

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Dear Lonely Lady, 

There is nothing wrong with dating apps and if you feel comfortable using them, then go for it! It’s true that a lot of people use dating apps like Bumble and Tinder for casual hookups but that isn’t everyone! Quite a few people have met their long term partners on dating apps, it’s just a case of sticking it out to find that person that you will be with.

It’s important to recognise that the first person you meet and are compatible with may not be your soulmate. Any relationship requires work and there should always be a sense of realism and logic to your relationship. Romanticising a relationship can have disastrous consequences so it’s important to put your own values and morals above your feelings for another person.

I agree with what your social media says in principle. The idea that your entire life should not be about finding love and you should put yourself first. Moreover, there are lots of different reasons why people are on dating apps, and everyone works on their own timeline. You shouldn’t feel bad for actively looking for a relationship, especially when you’ve achieved a career and you feel emotionally ready to be in a relationship. 

You’re welcome, 

Madame Lestrange

More Dear Madame Lestrange

I’m planning on having sex with my boyfriend soon. It’ll be my first time but not his and while I’m very excited, I’m also very nervous. I want to make this a pleasurable experience for us both and I have no idea what I’m doing. I gave him my first handjob too and while he did cum, I feel like I could’ve done better. Do you have any tips?

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Culture Life Stories Life

Getting married means that my Pakistani parents have to bribe my new in-laws

Stepping into your twenties holds different meanings for different people. For some, it might mean entering a professional life and for others entering a newlywed arrangement.

If you’re a mature Pakistani girl who has crossed the pubertal barrier, you automatically qualify for Holy Matrimony.

And with that “milestone,” your parents begin to lay the groundwork for finding and providing for their daughter’s new family.

From furniture to utensils to the most meager of tangible items, the parents present an ‘ethical bribe’ to ensure that their daughter measures up to the required standard of acceptance.

If you’re “of age,” you automatically qualify for Holy Matrimony.

As a 23-year-old female in modern Pakistani society, I question all such detestable vices. Having given birth, raised and nurtured day after day to become a civilized individual, how much more do my parents have to sacrifice just because they are responsible for a female offspring?

And who provides the assurance of a blissful married life after having fulfilled these norms?

No one.

And if ‘God forbid’ this act of compensation falls short, the poor girl is subjected to a lifetime of scoffing and contempt.

Her whole existence is measured up by how much she can provide to her in-laws at the time of marriage.

Personally, I believe this ritual has become a sort of plague. The never-ending chain of expectation.

I was taught two things: self-reliance and tenacity.

I often hear elderly women eagerly gossiping about their daughter-in-law on the account of  ‘who brought what’ in terms of dowry. And having once been a newlywed themselves, they wear a mask of oblivion when it comes to someone else’s daughter.

I was raised as an only child and lived a solitary life.

I was taught two things: self-reliance and tenacity. My father fostered me to become self-sufficient in everything I did and that no one can truly undermine a woman’s worth without her consent.

Setting foot into 2019, this age of renaissance, where art, poetry, literature, and science are at their pinnacle, our greatest concern should be self-improvement and progression.

Let alone hoarding up on meaningless and mundane material gains.

The day we decide to mold our thinking is the day when the world around us will change, massively. It is not a subject of taking action, rather, it’s a matter of perspective.

A minute frame-shift of attitude can alter the life of today’s woman by leaps and bounds.

I put forward this question: who bears the responsibility of judging someone’s daughter by the weight of her baggage?

Love + Sex Love Music Pop Culture

13 signs your love life is basically a SZA song

It’s been three years since SZA blessed our ear concha with her certified platinum album Ctrl… and fans and R&B critics alike are thirsting for more. Earlier this year a promising tweet sparked rumors of a 2020 release, and to fuel the suspense further I’ve had her entire discography on repeat.

Screenshot of SZA's response "I’d say the date me and punch jus discussed .. but that would stress me n build uneccesary pressure 🥺.. short answer is yes" to "are we getting anything this year ma’am i’m STARVING."
[Image Description: Screenshot of SZA’s response “I’d say the date me and punch jus discussed .. but that would stress me n build unnecessary pressure 🥺.. short answer is yes” to “are we getting anything this year ma’am i’m STARVING.”] Via Twitter
In the meantime, here are 13 signs that your love life resembles a SZA song (stay tuned for Ctrl 2 to determine whether they’re auspicious):

1. The perfect work-love life balance still seems like a picturesque myth.

From “petty dues” to “shitty news,” you find yourself constantly engulfed in the ropes of hustle culture – even if it means running on Broken Clocks in the ceaseless pursuit of perfection. 

2. You question your own emotional maturity and fear pushing your partner’s patience.

If you feel like your relationship parallels the cop-out Prom ending to a cliche teen rom-com, don’t fret; even SZA bodies these insecurities. 

3. You find yourself measuring your self-worth with your crush’s potential love interests.

Maybe you find yourself resonating more with the identity-fogged Drew Barrymore of the ’90s, and maybe it’s ok to feel “not more ladylike” in your soul-searching. Regardless of how intimidating “her mom jeans and her new Vans” are, it’s time to recognize your self-worth as independent of external factors. Yes, you are “warm enough.” 

4. You seek someone who can ground you with endless emotional reassurance.

Like SZA in Garden (Say It Like Dat), your emotions (and insecurities) run deeper than being “sensitive about havin’ no booty.” You crave emotional vulnerability in a relationship yet fear the consequences of baring all to a significant other. 

5. The “falling” part of “falling in love” scares you more than anything.

Being “down for the ride” is placing uninhibited trust in someone who could make or break your fall – which is easier sung than done.

6. Still, you’re capable of being your own cheerleader.

If a cheer chant was an SZA song, this would be it. Even in the face of massive disappointment, nobody says “Go, Gina, go Gina” better than you do.

7. You have no qualms getting even with a cheater.

Step 1: “Let me tell you a secret/I’ve been secretly banging your homeboy.”
Step 2: “Oh no, she didn’t, ooh yes, I did/Oh no, she didn’t, I’ll do it again.”

8. You’re ambivalent to, or even emboldened by, being “the other woman.”

You’re not afraid to challenge patriarchal dating norms like SZA, who repackages the side hoe position as a part-time job that she’s got “covered for the weekend.”

9. You romanticize the past based on old relationships.

Perhaps in fear of closing out a decade with personal purpose, you mentally keep yourself “stuck in them 20 somethings.” 

10. When necessary, you’re not afraid to “Skrrt skrrt” farewell on someone who’s playing games.

You’ve got places to see, things to go to, and plenty more people to do… you see your time as too precious to “cry over spilled milk.”

11. “You could never trivialize” your sex life.

You believe in uplifting the vagina like Doves in the Wind, as emblems of peace and power instead of a means to commodify women’s bodies. 

12. Passive-aggressive communication styles really grind your gears.

You’re not a Normal Girl (but really, who is?), but you bounce back and forth deciding whether you’d want to be one. Moreover, you’d rather “pop your top” and face conflict head-on than let resentment for your partner fester within. 

13. Scratch “nice guys.” You have a thing for “gentle giants.”

Your schedule has no room for toxic masculinity – you need a “phoenix among feathers” willing to fly a relationship forwards with soft gusto.

Finding Love Galore in the current era can feel as hard as attempting to locate the Hanging Gardens of Babylon in modern-day Iraq, but thankfully, each SZA song just gets it.

Health Care Science Advice Wellness Now + Beyond

Here’s why your gyno wishes you’d leave your pubic hair alone

A recent study in JAMA Dermatology surveyed 3372 women in the U.S. on their pubic hair grooming practices. 83% reported some measure of “grooming” (defined as anywhere from trimming the hair to taking all of it off). 63% said they opted for complete removal at least once. “Grooming” was highest in both the 18-34 group and in white women.

The most common reason women reported for pubic hair removal? 59% cited “hygiene” as the leading factor in this decision.

But the perception that having pubic hair is somehow “dirty” is wrong.

Pubic hair is thought to have an evolutionary purpose.

According to Dr. Jennifer Gunter, a gynecologist, it functions as a protective cushion for a sensitive-skinned area and, like eyebrows, traps microbes and foreign invaders from getting into that sensitive area.

The vagina also has a self-cleaning mechanism, which is why vaginal douching is no longer recommended: it can destroy the natural balance of healthy bacteria and normal acidity of the vagina, leading to irritation and yeast infections.

Some cite that shaving and waxing can increase the risk of infection because these practices essentially make little cuts on the skin.

This allows a direct passageway to blood for vulvar bacteria, outside of the defense system of vaginal mucus. Group A streptococcus, Staphylococcus aureus, and Staph’s resistant form MRSA all are common causes of skin infections.

Dr. Tami Rowen, an assistant professor at UCSF School of Medicine, has reported seeing grooming-related cases of folliculitis (inflammation of the hair follicle), abscesses, lacerations, and allergic reactions to waxing burns.

And a study in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology found that 60% of women who removed their hair experienced some of these complications.

Complications were twice as likely for overweight and obese women, and three times more if they removed all their pubic hair.

[Image description: Private grooming habits between men and women.] via
[Image description: Private grooming habits between men and women.] via
Now, is this to say women shouldn’t remove their hair if they choose? No.

Human eyebrows also had an evolutionary purpose, but we can totally shave them off if we damn well please. And just because something may carry minor health risks does not mean we lack the right to do it.

We do all kinds of things to our bodies by choice that may involve some minor health risks, like waxing/shaving elsewhere, piercings, or tattoos.

But a YouGov poll showed that while only 56% of women ages 18-29 feel that they should remove their pubic hair, 72% do it anyway. We must get rid of false narratives perpetuated by society that dictate the choices we make.

“Hygiene” is only one of the reasons women give for removing pubic hair, but it is a harmful reason. It perpetuates a false stereotype that women who do not remove pubic hair are unclean. The argument that pubic hair is unhygienic is the patriarchy acting under the guise of science.

Your vagina is not dirty for existing in its natural form.

Do what you please with your body because you like it, and for no other reason.

Editor's Picks Sexuality Love + Sex Love

I feel like a feminist failure because I fake my orgasms

I am an unapologetic feminist. I always have been, my dad nurtured me into becoming a no-nonsense feminist in a relatively misogynistic household. Therefore, I have been vocal about everything starting from intersectionality to the sexual health of women. Thus, when I had to fake my orgasms I started feeling like a fraud.

I have solely been vocal about my wants and desires. Undeterred by almost everything my family could throw at me, I learned to express myself in a space where my opinions weren’t welcome. Therefore, I started speaking up against brown body shaming and brown racism. Unfortunately, things changed when I got into a relationship.

I was super young and we thought we were in love. We did share an incredible emotional intimacy and were friends before we started dating. I could tell him everything that came into my mind and he appreciated both my quirks and my kinks. Thus, we moved slowly and steadily into a more physical platform.

Full disclosure, I love sex! I adore everything about touch and sexual intimacy. The thought of pleasure drives me insane and I have always been very vocal about the wants and needs of women. Women need orgasms, deserve every soul-sucking luscious bit of it. Unfortunately, when it came to the conversation of my orgasm I chickened out.

I moaned and he got excited and I had to continue fake-moaning

I did love the touching and the kissing. Honestly, they did turn me on, but only to a certain extent. I had given myself more pleasure than I had received in the uneventful relationship I was in. It wasn’t extremely serious, but emotional intimacy? That was incredible. I thought the sexual aspect would have matched up to the bonding we originally had but no, it didn’t.

So, when it came to the actual deed, I moaned and he got excited and I had to continue fake-moaning. And thus, I ultimately ended up faking the orgasm. Yes, I was turned on but no way had I reached the climax. I was ashamed to admit after it all happened and so I kept quiet. I knew he would understand but I also felt he would feel sad. And I didn’t want him to feel sad, if that makes sense! So, this continued more than once, and I couldn’t climax at any instant. Believe me, when I pleasured myself I felt like a Goddess but just couldn’t even feel the iota of satisfaction I felt when I was with him.

This series of dishonest moments made me feel like a hypocrite, which I technically was. I have always asked women to speak up about their wants and desires and ridiculously could not even speak frankly with the guy who had supposedly loved me. I thought I had failed as a feminist, and felt ashamed of myself.

This affected me a lot. Being a feminist is what I am, it is essentially one of the most important parts of my being. I felt I had not only let my feminist self down, but also had disappointed myself. I was the woman speaking about female sexuality and vocalizing about orgasms for women all around me. Unfortunately I couldn’t even apply my advice to myself.

Later, after I had broken up with my then boyfriend, I told him how he hadn’t really pleasured me. I realized he had become upset, but he was mature enough to keep that aside and talk to me as a friend. We had ended on good terms and he still remains one of my closest friends. He told me how I had always been a type-A personality wanting everyone to like me. Probably that had affected my psyche and instigated me to lie. He knew I knew he loved me, but he knew I always wondered if he liked the kind of person I was.

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I realized I owed not just myself but my partner the truth as well. It was indeed a learning curve for me where I doubted myself constantly. I doubted my identity as a feminist and I doubted my ability to be hardcore honest. But, you learn your lessons from your greatest mistakes and regrets. So currently I know how to talk to a partner about my sexual needsand about how and when I don’t orgasm. They deserve the truth as much as us.

You are never a perfect feminist, but you can keep trying! And I try my hardest to not fail even if it is tough for me. I have learned it isn’t just about being vocal about issues but trying to accept hard truths in real life as well.

So, don’t fake an orgasm. Just tell it to your partner and clear it up so you don’t have to remain orgasm-less or make yourself cum because I honestly know and love my vagina the most!

The Pandemic Love Life Stories

The way we love has changed and it may never be the same again

In these current times, dating (and interaction in general) is shifting rapidly. Love (in all of its forms) may even look slightly different during quarantine, even though some places are beginning to open up. I have noticed these changes in my own personal life since this pandemic has begun. Communication with loved ones is different. Checking up on people looks different. Dates have become unfamiliar. Love itself is changing. Physical touch has been taken out of the equation for most relationships which makes a substantial impact.

I have never missed hugging people more than I do now. However, there are still a lot of wonderful and unique ways people are expressing their love for people in their life during quarantine. Love during quarantine in my life looks like Netflix parties, hand written notes, care packages sent in the mail, walks with friends six feet apart, crying and laughing together over the phone, long FaceTimes even when no one has anything to report, zoom happy hours, air hugs, sharing memes, virtual graduations and proms, and much more. We may not be able to express love right now physically. But, we can still convey the sentiment. Checking in, giving little gifts, performing kind acts, and being open and intimate emotionally with the people in your life are all good ways to do so. 

My dating life in particular has changed significantly. I am used to being able to visit my boyfriend frequently each week. But now due to coronavirus, since he lives about a 45 minute metro ride away (a 20 minute Uber) I am unable to visit him at all without putting myself at risk. As a result, our relationship went from in person to long distance basically overnight. This change has not been without some growing pains. I am very affectionate and definitely miss getting to hug and kiss him. Coronavirus has made physical contact near impossible, however we still have plenty of FaceTimes, Netflix Parties and happy hour dates. I have also been hyper mindful of checking in with him often and telling him how much I appreciate him often.

Despite all the shifts during this pandemic, I am trying to put a positive spin on the situation. I am taking this as an opportunity to reconnect with friends and show my love for people in creative ways. I see it as a positive for my romantic relationship as well. No, I can use this time to emotionally connect with my boyfriend on a deeper level. Since our own form of communication now is over the phone and FaceTime, our conversations and the way we communicate with one another is of utmost importance. 

More than ever, being there for one another for emotional support is imperative. The pandemic can take a real toll on mental health and people’s general quality of life. In order to combat that, we must exercise compassion and empathy and help one another however we can during this time.

Love may look a little different nowadays and the role of love may be changing, but the love in our lives still remains. It even has the potential to be stronger and more poignant than ever before. 

Love + Sex Love Life Stories

Being the single friend isn’t a stain on my chest

I often oscillate between being completely apathetic towards the idea of dating and wondering when I may meet someone. At this point in my life, not being in a relationship is normal. So normal that when I do end up dating someone I think it’ll come as a surprise to even me. When I discuss relationships with my friends and they discuss their own dating life, eventually the conversation turns to me and someone will ask, ‘have you met anyone?’ The question is probably asked to be polite but I always reply with the same thing, ‘if I was dating someone you would know.” Everyone is obsessed with constantly questioning the single friend.

I understand that one day my time will come and I can wait patiently for that day, but constantly being asked ‘have you met someone?’ can grate anyone’s nerves.

Being the single friend in a society that thrives off of promoting relationships and marriage can be difficult to navigate. There are whole industries and days marked on everyone’s calendars built on the success of romance.

The National Retail Federation revealed that spending on Valentine’s Day was up 32 percent in 2020, going from $20.7 billion to $27.4 billion. August 18th has even been declared National Couple’s Day. There’s not much to debate when it comes to deciding if romance is alive and well in this world, just look around. While this does excite the hopeless romantic that’s buried inside me, watching from the sidelines can become disheartening.

The hard part about being in this middle ground of wanting a relationship but also understanding that a relationship doesn’t and won’t define me. Is that I know that in the 21st century there’s a certain amount of effort that needs to be put in, in order to end up in a relationship.

But I am someone who has become increasingly averse to putting myself out there.

While everyone I know is on Bumble or Tinder swiping away in hopes of meeting someone I have already decided online dating is not something I’m comfortable enough to do.

When my friends go for a night out and invite me, instead of thinking that it could be fun, my brain raises red flags. Although I only went to a handful of college parties there was anxiety around meeting someone. What might they expect from me? Will I end up in an uncomfortable situation? All of these things have made it difficult for me to put myself out there.

My mind has already decided that I want a romance out of a movie. I want to bump into someone at the grocery store and feel the spark. Or meet someone by chance on a vacation and then somehow run into them again.

I realize that these things are unrealistic and that when I do end up meeting someone it will probably be in a mundane way. Although I’m sure my brain will spin it into something a little better.

I’ve watched too many movies for things to go any other way. Yet, even with all of these ideas in my head and pressures from society.

After 21 years I have found comfort in being “the single friend” and for anyone else who finds themselves in that category, you should too.


I ended my engagement after ten months. Here’s why it was the best and worst thing

There’s something about an engagement ring.

The weight of it on your finger. The way it rubs against your skin. The glimpse of sparkle when you stand in the sun. The tiny rainbows you find on its diamond.

These daily reminders surprised me at first.

I thought I’d wear the ring, and it’d become a part of me. The same way you forget where you’ve put your glasses, then remember they’re on your nose.

For the 10 months I was engaged, it wasn’t like that at all.

The ring’s existence stuck out to me. Mostly, I wanted it to. I’d fiddle with it when I was nervous. I’d look at it when I felt low. It was a promise; things would be alright.

Because I had been chosen.

I had found someone to support me through thick and thin. A person willing to invest their whole life, and self, to be with me.

I had made it, at 27, to the camp of the ‘chosen ones’. Those women, pretty enough, good enough, worthy enough, to be proposed to. You know the ones on your social media feed. Smiling and showing off their rings on empty beaches and luscious trails.

Getting there meant I could breathe easier.


Because, like them, I had fulfilled a wish. One I didn’t know I had. To be freed from worry about getting to that part of my story. That narrative I share with all of womanhood. To be chosen, promised marriage, and the happily ever after.

I was never one to buy into the fairy tale. Yet the sense of calm I felt post-engagement was unmistakable. It was a resolution to the subconscious, but surely there, discomfort of waiting to be chosen.

As a feminist and young woman, I never thought of marriage. In fact, I was repulsed by the routine questions about my relationship status. Conversations started and ended there. Anything else about me didn’t matter to my extended family.

Yet, here I was. Engaged and relieved.

Until I wasn’t.

Getting closer to happily ever after than I had ever been, I failed to see it. The irony of it was tragic.

Faced with impeding marriage, reality had struck me. The fantasy was over. If I couldn’t imagine being happy with my would-be husband 30 years down the line, what was I doing?

Being chosen had guided my life, unbeknownst to me, and it wasn’t a good story after all.

I was brave and ended my engagement.

Weeks and months of panic and despair followed. I clung to the idea that all I had to do was open the search again. Start over. Find someone more compatible. And wait to be chosen again. I hadn’t lost my chance at happiness. It was a delay. One that sent me into crying fits on the bus. And one that made me ask myself “what have I done?” too many dark nights, clutching a ring I couldn’t give back yet.

I knew then, as I do now, that you need to be happy on your own. But trying, really trying, meant letting go once and for all of the easy story. The romance script I had failed at.

Did I want to follow it again? And delay my happiness? Wait for prince charming number two?

No, I wanted to be happy now. And only, I, could see to that.

Getting there may seem harder but in the end, it’s the only happiness worth anything. Forcing myself to see my previous engagement for what it was took me a while. A whirlwind of romance I had gotten lost into, believing fantasy would turn to reality.

Getting a ring, and wearing it was a powerful artifact of the cultural narrative I never thought I’d be one to buy into. It made me confront the internalized stories I didn’t know I had.

I’m afraid we all have them to some level. I didn’t dare admit to myself that I wanted to find my forever partner before I was 30. I didn’t dare admit I wanted to be chosen. And that I wanted these things like a child wants candy. Because it tastes good in the moment.

It’s embarrassing, looking back.

Yet, I wouldn’t change things. I would end my engagement again. It led me through the worst and best moments of my life. Confronting and losing my shoddy illusion about happiness in favor of something real.

Next time I get engaged, if that ever happens, I’ll be the one to ask. Because I’ve chosen myself already and it’s time to write my own story.

Mental Health The Pandemic Love + Sex Love

What is the new intimacy in a world without touch?

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the very fabric of our lives in more ways than we can count. The entire world is uncertain; not knowing where to turn or who to turn to. It seems that the only thing that is constant is this sense of dangling amongst nothing. 

Before this crisis, many people would escape their routine to find some sort of getaway within the world of dating, but now COVID-19 has taken charge and made this nearly impossible. Being forcefully torn away from such a break keeps people trapped in the banalities of everyday life. Not to mention that all of those feelings of tediousness have become exacerbated in quarantine. I can say for myself that it feels like I am spiraling in this scenario which has no end in sight. 

Something that used to keep me grounded, the relationships that I have with the people that I don’t live with, is indefinitely and physically unattainable. I’m having a hard time grappling with the long-lasting implications that this has for our generation of young people and lovers. I’m afraid that Coronavirus is changing how we date. 

Relationships have become completely reliant on technologyand I’m turned off. Sure people have been online dating for awhile now, but there was always a possibility of something in-person. I hope that when the COVID-19 outbreak blows over virtual romance doesn’t become permanent. 

In-person chemistry is almost impossible to replicate; certain social cues, expressions, and emotions can only barely be acknowledged virtually.

Therefore, a very distinct barrier exists in terms of dating and love during times like these, and it’s not our fault. We can, and we will, do what we can to fill those gaps up until we start to brush against the walls of such technological limitations

For those same reasons, I am anxious about the lack of physical touch while in isolation for COVID-19. Being able to simply touch, or be near, another person is known to generate trust and sense of community. My boyfriend and I are not quarantining together, for simple and obvious reasons.

We didn’t live with each other before all of this either. But now, our relationship has been unprecedentedly restricted. I can see the strain. We depend on things like physical touch, even just being in the literal presence of each other to feel love and comfort. The lack of touch seems to be a completely different experience than this; maybe the opposite.

I feel unsure and as if there is a dull, whole body, ache that never gets settled. In the time since our ability to touch has been put on hold, I’ve recognized just how essential it is. I am hungry to be held, even if for just a minute. I can only try to mimic his open-armed grasp with a weighted blanket for so long before I have forgotten the sensation of it entirelyuntil it becomes a distant memory. 

Sometimes, during all of this, I feel strange in my own body. It is as if my skin is thinner than ever before. I am thinking that this sensitivity is because our distance has manifested in my mind as rejection. My relationship has been steady, but shaky, while in quarantine. There are just some things that can’t be duplicated. I have found that when him and I do talk on the phone, I don’t have much to say.

Not that there is nothing left to say, there is plenty, but that I don’t want to have to say anything to be with him. I am okay with just being near. Much of the foundation of our relationship is based on small physicalities that lay on those exact walls of technological limitations.

I just don’t want to forget about them or what they feel like. I need them in times like these; my body has been trained to rely on them to feel salvation from suffering. 

I am afraid that we, as completely social creatures, will become so deprived and lonely that we won’t know how to fix it when society opens up again. The result of our current isolation is way beyond ourselves and our actions, but the implications still remain. I can’t help but wonder if we are becoming too far gone from the depths of compassion to save whatever is left of it.

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Here’s the graduation advice nobody will ever tell you

I never thought I’d be writing a letter to college graduates, but considering the world that we live in today, and the many terrifying fears I remember going through in the day of and weeks/months/year after graduation, I think it’s definitely more than time for me to plunge into this.

I’ll lead with a disclaimer: take these nuggets of advice and see whether they apply to your life. Not everything will.

I’m not a fan of writing blanket statements, and hell, it’s okay if you’re not in the place many are today. If so, kudos!

1. I know everyone and their mother is already asking what your next steps are, and it’s probably reached a fever pitch, now that you’ve got your diploma in hand.

Here’s the truth: if you don’t know yet, that’s okay. One of life’s biggest secrets is that even the people asking you don’t know what their next steps are. Hell, sometimes they’re just asking in a desperate attempt to get some sort of advice or validation about their lives.

Another secret: once you graduate college, life is fluid. You don’t have to do what others are telling you. Which leads me to my next point…

2. Everyone has a plan for your life post-graduation – but the only one that has the real power is you.

I get it – I’m the oldest child of parents who have big, big dreams for my siblings and myself. I faced a lot of heated discussions the weeks leading up to and following graduation, all of which had the same tone: why aren’t you doing anything with your life?

 Know what that means? It means that your value is inherently determined only if you’re doing what your parents/relatives/friends/strangers deem to be appropriate. And that’s a load of crap.

Know that there will be a different future out there.

It’s a known fact that I worked at Princeton University for two years after graduation, but the thing I didn’t tell those who knew me was that I worked in Staples, struggling to apply to jobs and keep my head up, for the summer following graduation. I had even put in an application for a second job at Chipotle when I received the job offer from Princeton.

I do want to make this clear: in no way did my time at any of the three locations matter more or less than the other. Ultimately, it came down to keeping my head up, surviving incoming bills, and trying to still go after my dreams.

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I was okay with every moment, grateful for the opportunity – even if those who knew, weren’t – because I knew that there’d be a different future out there.

3. Your life in the year after graduation does not determine your worth or future or opportunities. 

Yeah, we all know about that wunderkind that’s got four incredible job offers, acceptance at five Ivy Leagues and a Truman Fellow. Want to know something? They’re just as unsure and insecure about what’s going to happen next, just as you are. And that’s okay. 

The reason “roadmaps” after college don’t really work is because – to be frank – you don’t know how your self and life will shift and morph and grow post-graduation.

You are incredible, no matter how you might feel right now.

What intrigued you during college won’t make you blink in the year after, or five years after. I graduated with a minor in education studies.

Newsflash: I haven’t really used it since then, but that’s okay.

I take it for what it was.

4. It’s okay to be afraid of what happens next.

I’m going to repeat it, just in case you haven’t really understood it: it is more than alright to be afraid of what life looks like ahead.

The biggest crime you could commit in this scenario is to let that fear hold you immobile, hold you back from trying. Don’t let that happen.

Throw yourself into things that just might pique your interest. Try out that internship, pick up a job, do what you can to remind yourself of your value – but don’t give up.

It is okay to be afraid of what life looks like ahead.

Don’t let the fear swallow you up – and if it does, confide in a friend you trust, a mentor – or a therapist.

5. The best part about being done with college is you now have the ability to make your life truly your own.

Regardless of whether you’re back living with your parents, crashing with friends, or living on your own, this is it.

This is life. You’re in full control.

No matter what people might tell you/advise you/berate you/try to drag you down – you’re the one in the driver’s seat. Never let someone strip you of that power. You are incredible, no matter how you might feel right now.

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You have your whole future ahead of you, to make of it what you will.

And that, that is truly empowering. I promise you.

But sometimes it’ll be lonely – which is okay. Hit me up on Instagram if you want to talk things through – even though I graduated years ago, I believe in helping those who need it.

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Love + Sex Love Life Stories

I won’t kiss you if you feel lukewarm about me

It’s the end of an awkward date, and we’re standing in a car park, fumbling through the small talk we feel obligated to make. He points across the parking lot at a sign I can’t read, so I squint into the distance before putting on my glasses. “Why don’t you wear your glasses all the time?” he asks. I reply that I feel prettier without them on. But that’s not true.

I actually didn’t wear my glasses on that date because kissing while wearing glasses can be cumbersome, and I’d gone into the date hoping it would end in a kiss. But by the end of the date, standing in the parking lot, I knew I didn’t want to kiss him. 

I didn’t want to kiss him because I realized he felt lukewarm about me. And I don’t kiss people who feel lukewarm about me.

I’d been seeing this particular man for a month and a bit, but we lived in different cities, so I’d only see him while I was home visiting my family. He’d really made me feel valued at first. He’s the first and only man who has brought me flowers on a date. On our second date, he said the words, “I really like you.” And I like being liked. I also really liked him in return.

I didn’t want to kiss him because I realized he felt lukewarm about me. And I don’t kiss people who feel lukewarm about me.

Perhaps the old adage “distance makes the heart grow fonder” is a myth. Or he could simply have lost interest in me, which is a normal thing to do. But between dates four and five, I began to feel undervalued by him. I still liked him, though. So, when I was home again, I made a plan with him to have dinner. 

I’ve often thought that how you feel about somebody can be communicated through effort. The effort he’d put into planning dates, and showing up early or on time, and bringing me roses communicated to me that I was valued. This time he was late, and he was rude. It almost felt like he was a different person, and I didn’t feel valued at all.

We sat in the corner of a burger joint, making more small talk than usual. His sullen answers to my questions dragged me down as I tried to keep the conversation afloat. And then, just as our burgers arrived, he said, “I’m sorry I haven’t been very communicative recently.” To which I replied – in the ‘cool girl’ way society has ingrained in me – giving him an easy way out, “Don’t worry, I know things have been stressful and busy for you.” 

In that moment, I decided that he wasn’t for me, because I’m worth much more than a man feeling lukewarm about me.

“Oh, no. I think it’s just that I feel so uncertain about you,” he replied. At least I can applaud his honesty. I took a deep breath and ate my burger, thankful that the food in front of me gave me a way out of this conversation. His words knocked me, but they did something else that surprised me. In that moment, I decided that he wasn’t for me, because I’m worth much more than a man feeling lukewarm about me. I ought to have put on my glasses right then because I knew that I no longer wanted to kiss him. 

As we were paying the bill, he pressed his knee against mine affectionately, as if the date had gone well. It hadn’t. 

But in many ways, it had gone well for me. Because I realized that I had learned to value myself. I also learned to let go of things that aren’t meant for me. He deserves to be with somebody he feels certain about, and so do I. I feel this deeply.

My first love’s uncertainty about me made me feel that he believed that he was doing me a favor by loving me. I never want to feel that way again. I don’t think anybody should feel that being loved is a favor.

With our date behind us and my glasses on my face, we hugged goodbye.

“Let me know when you’re home safe”, he said, as I climbed into my car. I cried as I drove home, because the end of anything can be sad.

I let him know I was home safe. “Yay!” said his reply text. 

“Yay!” indeed – a lesson learned.