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All the words I wish I could have told you

I got rid of my last photo of you, and I immediately regretted it. I realized that I will never be able to use the photos I took, documenting our love, as a bookmark.

I regretted that on any suspecting afternoon, with the sun gleaming just right twenty years from now, one of those photos will never fall out of an old book in front of my children and they won’t ask about the boy in the picture with curly hair and reddened cheeks.

I regretted it because you are – you were – my first love. And a person only gets one of those in a lifetime.

When I finally left I reacted curt toward you, almost passive or indifferent, because I didn’t want you to know that this was killing me too. Because I wanted to be strong – because the alternative was weak. Because we met un-intentionally and you immediately became forever etched into my soul.

I regretted it because we were damned from the start – because I found happiness in you before I found happiness in myself.

But, the reality is that I didn’t even know that I was looking for someone like you to save me from my misdirection. In fact, all I knew was that I liked the feeling in my stomach when your bright smile landed in my direction. I liked the comfort I felt in your eyes, I liked being desired. And, I liked how the beginning of our love story sprouted as if it were straight out of a Nora Ephron film.

The thing about those movies, however, is that they always ended just before the story actually began and reality set in.

For whatever reason, I thought myself righteous enough to pop our bubble. To be the one who decides that there is something better, grander, more extraordinary beyond the story of us.

So, I let it go. I convinced myself that I needed to get away so that I could start feeling again.

But seared inside my mind, hidden behind my self-proclaimed and glaring passions for the best love story known to man – and my belief that you couldn’t possibly give it to me – are the photos of you that I took in sepia. My hand on your chest. The back of your head against a sunset. Our hands holding one another. A kiss stolen in a gas station parking lot. Your eyes meeting mine with affection from the driver’s seat when we stopped at a red light and I told you to smile.

I regret that I didn’t give us the chance to seize just one more moment together. I regret that I didn’t give us a chance.

I know that you broke my heart in little ways for a long time, but I broke your heart in a big way all at once. One does not cancel out the other.

I loved you unconditionally. You knew it, too, but you lost me. I waited until I had enough and I left.

I realized that it is better to be single and search for myself, then to settle for something I feel insecure in.

Don’t get me wrong though. Our ending wasn’t nearly as tumultuous as I am making it out to be, nor as I would have liked it to be. One second we were, the next we were not. And that was it. We just ended. There was no thunder, no lightening. Nothing.

Even now as I am sorting through what exactly happened, I still can’t help but think that if you loved me the way you said you did you would have treated me the way you said you would.

I wouldn’t have had to beg.

Even when we did eventually try to talk about us, instead of ignoring the elephant in the room with banter or seduction, I’d be speechless. I didn’t know where to start.

But, please don’t mistake my silence for indifference. I do still love you. I always will, except it’s not the same. We spent so much time together and I know that I am saying so little right now to make up for it. I know that this is unbearable, but I promise you that every word I wish to utter to you is in my mind. I just can’t bring myself to speak when you look at me like that. When you draw yourself closer, it is a bribe which I can’t commit to. So please take a step back, I’m so tired of this. I am drained. If I stayed, I would spend a lifetime choking on words I wouldn’t ever dare to say.

I invested in you and I lost myself. I became dependent. And to be honest, this was the last thing I wanted. I spent close to a year relying on someone I didn’t want to rely on – nor could I. I knew it was the end long before you did, and I held on anyways, just in case, because I have a drastic fear of letting go and moving on.

But how can I reconcile breaking your heart and leaving everything we had together in just a few short minutes. You say that I took you by surprise, that you didn’t see it coming – but I don’t know how. I gave you all of the signs. You saw my silent tears. I always knew I wanted more. I was destined for something different. I felt it, deep in my bones, I just never faced it until I was forced to. I was able to ignore my confusion because we laughed with one another. We couldn’t take our hands off one another. We ran home in the pouring rain together, stopping only to kiss.

We experienced the best of one another for a short period of time, and I know that our relationship lasted as long as it was meant to. We loved each other until we couldn’t. We chewed us up and spit us out. We got everything we needed to get out of one another. We fell in and out of love from worlds apart. But I still feel terrible. And I feel like I should be feeling more even though I have been overcome with intense conflicting feelings every day since we said goodbye. Every day for close to a year.

I guess I just want you to know that I didn’t make this decision in haste. I needed to get away in order to understand more of myself.

I regret not thanking you enough for watching me blossom and believing in me so that I could believe in myself. I should have told you just how much you helped me realize the endless bounds of myself, for better or for worse.

I should have thanked you for letting me go, even though it hurt like hell.

I regret doing this to you because you waited for me. Because I gave you dozens of silent chances in my head. Because you would take me back in a second and I am here telling you that I am confused. That I need more time. That is – time to think. Time to learn and explore and dream. But all you hear is that I need to do all of these things away from you, that I need time alone. That I would rather work on building my sense of self alone than by your side.

But I deserve someone who makes me feel alive. Someone who is generous and who makes my heart jump when I tell people that they are mine. And you deserve someone who doesn’t give you an expiration date.

I am scared that maybe I made a mistake, that maybe I am foolish, or maybe that this is all that my love amounts to. I am having trouble accepting the normalcy of the end of us. The lack of explosion.

I am scared that I will forget. I am scared that after a few months everything we had will feel just like a dream. A dream that is open-ended, a dream that will constantly be on repeat in our respective minds until the end of time. Fated to carry each other’s baggage.

I regret that I now have to give you to someone else. That someone else will nuzzle into your chest, and devour your smell. I regret that I gave it all up so easily and have only in hindsight realized the weight of my naivety. Or did I? Because I also remember being so incredibly devastated, and being met with oblivion, with dismissive niceties. I remember my anxieties being belittled or made to feel small. I remember that I didn’t have the means, or the patience, to heal you.

I remember crying on the dance floor a year ago. Turning around so that none of my friends would see. I was staring at your messages. They were curt, broken and hard to make sense of. I remember being confused, I remember when someone told me for the first time that I deserved a love that was better. A love that nurtured. A love I didn’t have to settle for. A love that swept me off my feet.

I regret that we were different together than we were around everyone else. That no one got a real glimpse of us, in love. I regret being so quiet. I regret that I couldn’t love you like you loved me. I regret that you couldn’t love me the way I needed you to. I regret that we’ve run out of things to say.

I regret that our relationship was already broken even when your fingers were strumming through my hair or when we sat across from each other on the floor in a fit of laughter.

I regret knowing it was the end before you did, and holding on anyways just in case. I regret not telling you just how nervous I was and just how serious I was when I said that I thought we lost our spark. Our magic.

I regret it all because I wish that I held on to those pictures for a little while longer. I wish I studied them. Even though I knew the ending wouldn’t change.

Neither of us can fully heal our heartbreak unless we are apart. We have to heal for ourselves, rather than for the possibility that one day down the line we will be together again.

Seeing you that day, when you came by to collect your things, actually helped me realize that I am better off without you. That I am happy now. Really happy. And I no longer doubt myself. I no longer rely on you for happiness. I no longer get angry or sad because you couldn’t make me happy.

In hindsight I had absolutely no idea who I was when I met you. I still really don’t. I’m not even sure that I knew what genuine happiness looked or felt like.

Maybe that’s what ruined us after all. My indifference. My sadness. All of which at the end of the day amounted to nothing.

Soon I will be able to think about you without ripping my heart out.

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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.

Politics The World

A closer look at the 5 most iconic photos of all time

This weekend felt like a blast-to-the-past as famous World War II and Vietnam photographs made headlines once again. On Friday, the trending hashtag #napalmgirl almost broke Facebook after the company banned the iconic Vietnam War photograph “The Terror of War” because it included a naked child. Following internet arguments (and likely company policy discussions), Facebook decided to re-allow the photograph to be posted due to its cultural and historical significance. Just a day later, war photos took over the news once again when Greta Friedman of the iconic “The Kissing Sailor” VJ-Day photograph passed away.

As these two photographs reemerge decades after they first made headlines, they remind us of the never-ending power of memory. We decided to take a closer look at some of the most iconic war photos of all time.

1. The Kissing Sailor

Perhaps the most iconic war photograph in Western memory, “The Kissing Sailor” shows what appear to be two lovers locked in a celebratory kiss. What many viewers don’t know though is that the sailor and the woman he is kissing did not know each other at all. Greta Friedman, the woman in the photo, told CBS News in 2012 that, “I did not see him approaching, and before I know it I was in this vice grip.”

George Mendosa, the sailor, had been celebrating VJ-Day, victory in Japan, with his future wife in Times Square. Caught up in the excitement (or perhaps male entitlement to women’s bodies), he began kissing women in the street – including Friedman.

Photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt had been shooting photographs of couples celebrating in the square and noticed Mendosa. Since Mendosa was dressed in a dark-colored uniform, Eisenstaedt photographed any time he kissed a woman in a light-colored dress.

2. The Terror of War

“The Terror of War,” depicts children, including the nude Phan Thị Kim Phúc or “Napalm Girl,” running from a Napalm attack during the Vietnam War. Kim Phúc, who was nine years old at the time of the photograph (taken June 8, 1972), had been living in Trang Bang when South Vietnamese planes bombed her city to attack North Vietnamese forces. The South Vietnamese had bombed her city with Napalm to hit the North Vietnamese, but when one of their Air Force pilots saw Kim Phúc, civilians, and some other South Vietnamese soldiers fleeing to safe ground, he mistook them for enemy soldiers.

Those napalm bombs killed two of Kim Phúc’s cousins, and severely burned her. Photographer Nick Ut helped Kim Phúc to the Barsky Hospital all the way in Saigon for treatment. However, when they arrived doctors said that Kim Phúc’s burns were so bad she’d likely die. Fourteen months and 17 surgeries later though, she returned home.

3. Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima

“Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima” may be the most famous photograph of World War II. Photographed by Joe Rosenthal on February 23, 1945 during the Battle of Iwo Jima, it became the the only photo to win a Pulitzer Prize the same year it was published.

The photograph shows six marines raising an American flag at the end of the battle. Three of those marines were killed in action during the next days, while the three others were recognized for their service just this past June.

4. Tank Man

“Tank Man,” sometimes called “Unknown Protester” or “Unknown Rebel” stood before three tanks the morning after the Chinese military stopped student protests in Tiananmen Square during 1989.

The Tiananmen Square protests were student-led demonstrations for democracy which ended when the Chinese government declared martial law. During the protests, Chinese troops killed several hundred students in what became known as the Tiananmen Square Massacre.

To this day, no one can confirm the fate of the man who stood in front of the tanks. But, he’ll forever be remembered for blocking the tanks that stormed Tiananmen Square.

5. The Falling Soldier

“The Falling Soldier,” or “Loyalist Militiaman at the Moment of Death, Cerro Muriano, September 5, 1936,” shows a young soldier at the moment he has been fatally shot. Robert Capa, the photographer, described the photo as the death of an Iberian Federation of Libertarian Youth soldier, but the man was later identified as an anarchist militiaman.

Though this photograph was once known as perhaps the greatest photo ever taken, many have questioned its authenticity. After photographs that were taken in the same location were discovered to have been staged,  “The Falling Soldier” began to lose its renown.

“The Kissing Sailor” and “The Terror of War” are far from the only war photographs that have shaped world memory. “Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima,” the “Tank Man” Tiananmen Square photo, and “The Falling Soldier” of the Spanish Civil War–among so many more–changed how the world perceived conflict. In a world that is overrun with graphic imagery, these snapshots from the past remind us of a time when a handful of images shaped our memory.

Dear Madame Lestrange Love + Sex Love Advice

I’m scared of what’ll happen when he goes down on me

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 scared of receiving oral sex. I’m currently not in a relationship but I’m nervous for when I am. What will my partner think of me not liking the idea of oral sex? I feel uncomfortable with my body and myself in general.

Do you have any tips for preparing for oral sex?

Terrified of 69

Hey Terrified of 69,

Y’know, I think you got down to the root of the cause: you’re uncomfortable with your body and self. I think tackling this from that angle will help the most. So, here we go:

1. It doesn’t matter how many relationships you’ve been in or who you’ve hooked up with – being comfortable with your body has to come from yourself.

A great way to feel comfortable with your body sexually is to masturbate. In order to successfully masturbate, you have to get all your inhibitions out of your head and feel like you’re worthy of orgasming. Practice this – do it often (like everyyyyday!). Get some vibrators to help you along. The more you explore your own body and what makes you feel good, the more you’ll start appreciating and loving it.

2. Masturbating also helps you better understand your body.

It puts you in control of your sexual self. You’re giving yourself that pleasure, not relying on someone else. And there’s nothing more empowering than that. This way, you’re not using others as a means to get sexual pleasure. You can do that perfectly on your own, and you’re inviting someone else to share that with you. You’ll feel in control when you start venturing into oral sex, and you won’t have to feel displeasure if the person can’t figure out how to satisfy you. Because you can just tell them what to do, where to put what, how to do whatever. You know your own body.

3. Make a conscious effort to love your body.

Do NOT focus on things that you want to change. Focus on the great features you have. Look at yourself naked in the mirror and tell yourself you’re beautiful. While you’re masturbating, watch yourself –your face, your body, your vag. Staying positive as you look at yourself will help you start appreciating yourself. Don’t hang around people who put your body or other people’s bodies down. Do you have a friend who constantly talks about the way people look? Take a break from them for a while. That kind of negativity, even if it’s not aimed at you, will have you questioning how people look at you.

4. When you and your partner start fooling around, try to get out of your own head. 

Enjoy how you’re feeling and don’t think so much. This person is with you because they want to be. Focus on how you feel when you’re kissing when their hands start venturing south when a finger or two penetrates you. Instead of having an internal freak out if they start to go down on you, focus on how good their tongue feels. Focus on your own breathing (just like you would with any stressful/anxiety-producing situation), and allow them to explore your pussy with their tongue. It is one of the best feelings.

5. All of that being said – you don’t have to do it or be comfortable with it.

If your partner is weird about you not wanting to do it now or ever, you need to ditch that person. Nobody deserves to put any part of themselves near you, let alone between your legs if they can’t respect what makes you comfortable/uncomfortable. You don’t have to like oral. You don’t have to let anyone give it to you. If you don’t want to do it, they should respect that and venture into other ways to please you. Do not let someone make you feel bad for feeling uncomfortable with this. Your body is just that –YOURS.

Clear your mind, focus on the positives, and don’t worry about how what your partner expects. Just be you, in all of your beauty. Good luck.

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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Love + Sex Love

I don’t ever remember saying yes.

Editor’s Note: The following contains graphic descriptions of sexual assault. 


Growing up, my parents were open about sex and sexuality.

They never danced around the proverbial bullet of ‘where do babies come from’ by making up stories, but rather showed the video footage of my birth. Even during school, they addressed issues about ‘unwanted touching’, your right to your own body and, in the general sense, defined rape or molestation. Later on, in high school health class, they had ‘experts’ come in and discuss to each gender specifically about rape. What it is, what it isn’t, and most importantly that speaking up about possible incidents of rape was important. Consent: it was all about permission regarding your body.

While it was a well-known fact that most rapes occur by individuals the victim knows, I was still left with movie-style rape scenes in my head, a clear cut depiction of rape.

It was the junior year in high school; I was considered a smart nerd.  Not one that was into ‘weird stuff,’ just either tolerated or respected because I was ‘smart’ (although, honestly, I just read the textbooks and did my homework).

Yet, as ACTs were over and my senior year approaching fast, I felt I was missing out on that television illusion of what high school was supposed to be like. Parties, sleepovers, and having the time of your life – that’s what TV shows portrayed and that what I wanted.

One night, my friends were having a small get together at her house while her parents were away.

No big deal, mostly girls and a few guy friends (most of whom were dating those girls anyways), just a way to relax and have some fun. Of course, like most parties, more people came that were invited, but hey, the more the merrier right? I mean, I’m from a small town, almost everyone at my school knew each other since elementary school, if not beforehand. So, the night wears on and most people are blissfully partying the night away.

At some point in time, the party was winding down, couples were snuggling together, and people were starting to go to sleep or leave.

There was one guy who was interested in me, but beyond some horrible kissing, I wasn’t interested and moved away from him, opting to go to a room with multiple people sleeping in it.

At this point, I am way past any of my limits and while I can remember certain things here and there, I was blackout wasted, falling asleep on the floor with a blanket.

Then, it happens. The pain. There was indescribable pain by my crotch. I remember somewhat using my legs to push back, but he was strong and had me pinned down.

Oh, and did I mention I was now in the backseat of a moving car?

My first thoughts went to the pain.

Before this, I had barely kissed or held hands with someone, let alone done anything remotely sexual.  My second thought was “what the fuck”, how was I in this situation, what the fuck was I doing with my life?  This wasn’t how my first sexual experience was supposed to go, this pain wasn’t supposed to be here. After he was done, I was sobered up. I put my pants back on and asked to be dropped off at the house, and had even asked if he had worn a condom.

Back at the house a few of my friends were waiting for me, concerned and worried.

They told me to pee so I don’t get an infection (what? I had never heard of this before) and said I would be bleeding a little bit.  Well, this was an understatement. I was bleeding profusely, like the heaviest day of a period. They told me it wasn’t that unusual but it should stop within 20 or 30 minutes. It didn’t. It lasted for about three days.  It hurt to walk, it hurt to sit, and it was weird thinking about it.

I mean, I asked if he had worn a condom, I was kissing him earlier, and who knows what I had been doing during the memories I couldn’t remember?

I probably had asked for it, or rather, I hadn’t said ‘no’ had I? It technically wasn’t rape, I hadn’t verbally declined. Even through the pain, there was some pleasure.

Yet I wasn’t happy, I was guilty, ashamed, and embarrassed. Later on, after napping when I was back home, I showered.  The scene was literally out of a movie; I couldn’t scrub enough anywhere to get him off me. His cheap Axe spray was stuck to my body and to the inside of my nose.  To top it off, I couldn’t stop crying. So many thoughts swirled into my brain about the night. Of course, the next day at school was also weighed on my conscious. The only thing worse than going was not going. I knew I had to go and I did.

Walking into school was fine; luckily I always arrive early because my mom would drop me off before heading to her job.

First hour? Fine, nothing amiss.  Okay, I could do this.

But by the end of the day, the stares, quiet talking, and the blatant discussions about what had (or hadn’t) happened was too much. It sucked so hard. I can’t even put into words the emotions that ran through me.  Some of my closest friends shamed me for the even basic rumors, not only blaming me but going as far as severing all ties within the next few weeks.

For a long while, until I took an elective law class, I didn’t consider it rape, just stupidity and shame. I avoided the word and cringed if one of my close friends used it. I couldn’t have been raped, it’s such an ugly, heavy word that I never wanted to be associated with.

Fast forward to University, the usual expectations of how social life is like and the new freedoms that it allows. My freshman year, I got a boyfriend. Eventually, sex came up in conversation, it’s a natural and healthy progression of any intimate relationship.

When I told him I was raped, he was shocked, and asked what exactly had happened; no big deal, it was asked in a casual, respectful manner.  After relaying the story, he responded with “are you sure it was rape?”

I was a little taken aback but explained how (legally speaking) it was very much rape.

He kept asking me why I didn’t press charges or didn’t do this or that.

Only years later, did I begin to understand how horrible that question was, not just for my vulnerable self, but also for any sexual assault victims.

Yes, some people fabricate rape stories, people fabricate stories about literally everything all of the time.  But why must this be the expectation for someone who cries rape? Why are rapists allowed to have the benefit of the doubt, but the victim assumed guilty of negligence by default? Our system and social norms want to ‘other’ victims, they are the exception, it’s their fault for being there or not fighting back hard enough.

Obviously, one has to be aware of their surroundings and take precautions for their safety because this is a reality, but the extent to which girls (and now with awareness men) take to guard against possible attacks are so ingrained in many of us, that we don’t even realize we are doing it.

One does not know what they will do in a hypothetic situation unless it becomes an event.  What makes me angry are the ‘experts’ that are put on television and media that tell people what to do if they are in a hypothetical situation, especially since many of them will never be in one.  Something they don’t have to bear on a daily basis.

Or worse yet, their dialogue on how victims should feel.

I want society and culture to change, not just because of pity towards victims, but because rape and sexual assault harms everyone.  It is not about the honor of the victims, but the humanity everyone deserves.