Reviewing Trends in 2020

I’ve never been much of a trendsetter myself, but I do love social commentary and analyzing the culture around me. Especially since I’ve been engaging in several of these trends myself, I wanted to summarize my thoughts on them (and maybe even predict which ones I think will die out by summertime). Let’s get into it!


Snakeskin Nails

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Photo: ImogenFoxyLocks on Instagram

I feel like every season, a new nail art technique or pattern papers my entire Instagram feed. Right now, snakeskin nails are taking center stage, particularly in neutral or brown-toned shades. I do appreciate the creativity of this nail pattern, there are drawbacks. 1) I could never see myself doing this, and 2) I feel like this trend will die out by spring. The warmer months are usually all about pastels and bright-toned colors, these brown-toned nails are much better suited for fall and winter. 


Clean Skincare

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Photo: Business Insider

This is one of my favorite trends of the past six months, and that’s because I’ve jumped on the bandwagon myself. It’s a common trend among Millennials (and younger generations) to choose cruelty-free, vegan products over more traditional, “mature” brands, such as MAC and Clinique. Personally, I’m so proud to be a part of this clean, health-conscious, cruelty-free wave. In 2020, you’ll notice everyone – influencers, friends, and everyone in between – sporting their favorite clean makeup brands. Some of the most popular brands at the moment include Juice Beauty, Glossier, and one of my personal favorites, Burt’s Bees. 


CBD Everything

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Photo: Leafly.com

If you’ve noticed a sudden surge in CBD products amongst young people, you’re not alone. Obviously, CBD and THC have been around forever, but there has been an undeniable shift in popularity since US laws have begun to see these products in a more lax, forgiving light. Some of the most popular CBD products you’ll see on the market are tinctures, oils, lotions, and even tasty snacks, and they’re usually marketed to offer relaxation and tranquility. I’m personally a huge fan of CBD products, and several of my close friends are as well. Of course, always remember to make sure CBD is a safe, healthy alternative for you before diving into it!


E-Girl Blush

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Photo: Dazed.com

Personally, I am absolutely OBSESSED with the new E-Girl trends sweeping the world. I was first inspired by hip hop artist Doja Cat, and then, once my queen Jenna Marbles started wearing tons of pink blush, I decided to try it as well. Packing on tons of blush has quickly become a staple in Japanese fashion and E-Girl culture. I love the youthful flush it gives the face. Honestly, I hope this trend doesn’t fade out any time soon, because I think it’s adorable and it looks stunning on all different skin tones.


Warm Reds

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Photo: Good Housekeeping

Similarly to the rosy blush theme, warm-toned reds overall are very in right now (particularly for hair color). Warm-toned hair ranges from strawberry blonde to her dark, moodier sister, red velvet, and it’s been sweeping the red carpet thus far. I love warm-toned anything, and I think this trend in particular is absolutely gorgeous. Particularly on darker skin tones, reds and maroons are an absolutely gorgeous pairing. Warm hair combined with a warm blush? It’s a match made in heaven, folks. 


Blue Makeup

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Photo: stickybab.y on Instagram

On the opposite end of the spectrum, blue makeup has been popping up quite a bit on my social media as well. Blue can be a tricky color to wear, especially for folks who already have blue eyes. One of my personal favorite makeup icons at the moment is Havana (@stickybab.y), who draws her blue inspiration from the animated film Coraline. I personally think this trend is so fresh, so electric, and so perfect for spring. Needless to say, you may see me sporting some blue eyeliner in 2020. 


Tons of highlight

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Photo: Elle.com

Lastly (but certainly not least), packing on tons of highlight has been a huge makeup trend in 2019 and 2020. In general, I feel like shimmery, glittery makeup is really on-point right now. If you watch Vogue’s YouTube channel, you probably remember Grimes doing her makeup and literally packing loose glitter into her hairline (imagine trying to get that out in the shower!). Anyway, I think that the glowing highlighter trend is definitely here to stay, especially since so many brands are incorporating highlighter palettes into their 2020 collections. It’s a stunning pop of color, and it adds so much dimension to the face.

Source: https://www.whowhatwear.com/beauty-trends-2020/slide25

All About My Piercings

I don’t know what exactly classifies a person as “heavily pierced”, but I can definitely say I have more metal in my body than the average person. I got my first piercing when I was 5 years old- generic first lobe holes with little pink gems on golden studs. I was obsessed with them and wore every kind of earrings under the sun. That was just the start. At 22, I currently wear 16 piercings every day, which I’ve gotten over the span of 18 years of my life. Come on my journey with me of putting what some may think is way too many excess holes in my body.

Disclaimer #1: as of the publishing of this article, I have 16 active piercings (ones I actually wear jewelry in, other have closed up or are not in use). I’m not going to talk about the ones I no longer wear because this article would be wayyyyy too long. 

Disclaimer #2: I have very sensitive skin, so in my body, the only metals I will wear are titanium, stainless steel or pure gold. My preference in piercing style is a hollow sterile needle. My preferences are just that- my own and please do what works best for your body!

Disclaimer #3: I am not a licensed piercer by any means. Everything stated is my unprofessional opinion, in addition to my feelings / the way my own body handled the body modification. Talk to a licensed professional if you want professional advice. Essentially, this is just for fun and take everything here with a grain of salt. Thank you!

In order of when I got them:

  1. Right Upper Lobe

This piercing was originally my “first regular lobe piercing”. Upon looking at the unevenness of my two first holes, I got them re-pierced at 11, but I continued to wear this “upper” lobe piercing since then

  • When: 2002/2003 
  • Where: Frank and Fran’s
  • With what: Piercing gun : – (
  • Pain of piercing: 6
  • Pain of healing: don’t remember
  • Ease of healing: 7 (the back of my earring got lodged in the hole; did not know proper aftercare like I do now)
  • Jewelry I got it pierced with: Gold piercing studs (pink jewels)
  • Jewelry I’m wearing in it now: Small titanium stud with cz jewels
  • Ranking out of my piercings: 4/16 (unique piercing, I’ve never seen it on someone else)
  1. Left Lobe 2

This piercing was originally my “first regular lobe piercing”, just like the one above, but I just used this as a second lobe piercing later in life

  • When: 2002/2003 
  • Where: Frank and Fran’s
  • With what: Piercing gun : – (
  • Pain of piercing: 6
  • Pain of healing: don’t remember
  • Ease of healing: 5
  • Jewelry I got it pierced with: Gold piercing studs (pink jewels)
  • Jewelry I’m wearing in it now: Titanium endless hoop
  • Ranking out of my piercings: 10/16
  1. Right Lobe 1

This piercing was my new “first hole”, pierced when I was 11

  • When: 2008 
  • Where: Frank and Fran’s
  • With what: Piercing gun : – (
  • Pain of piercing: 4
  • Pain of healing: don’t remember
  • Ease of healing: 1
  • Jewelry I got it pierced with: Gold piercing studs (clear jewels)
  • Jewelry I’m wearing in it now: Changes on the daily, these are the only piercings I take out every night/change on a consistent basis/wear heavy or fake jewelry in
  • Ranking out of my piercings: 1/16 (most used/flexible)
  1. Left Lobe 1

The same as above

  • Ranking out of my piercings: 2/16 (most used/flexible, but a bit more sensitive than the right ear)
  1. Right Lobe 3

At the time I was 13 and not wearing the first two of these piercings, and I just wanted one second hole because I thought being asymmetrical would be cool. (At the time this was my “second” hole on my right ear)

  • When: 2011
  • Where: Frank and Fran’s
  • With what: Piercing gun : – (
  • Pain of piercing: 2
  • Pain of healing: don’t remember
  • Ease of healing: 2
  • Jewelry I got it pierced with: Gold piercing studs (clear jewels)
  • Jewelry I’m wearing in it now: Titanium endless hoop
  • Ranking out of my piercings: 11/16
  1. Left Lobe 3

Wanted 4 holes in my left ear. Mom said yes. Got ‘em for my 17th birthday present

  • When: October 2015
  • Where: Frank and Fran’s
  • With what: Piercing gun : – (
  • Pain of piercing: 4
  • Pain of healing: 3
  • Ease of healing: 5 (one of them did not wanna be pierced. Had to go back and repierce it years later)
  • Jewelry I got it pierced with: Silver ball studs (WOULD not recommend silver for piercings)
  • Jewelry I’m wearing in it now: Titanium endless hoop
  • Ranking out of my piercings: 9/16
  1. Left Lobe 4

The same as above

  • Ranking out of my piercings: 8/16
  1. Left nostril piercing

I had wanted this piercing for so long. I wore fake ones so often that people didn’t realize when I actually got it pierced that it wasn’t already real. My parents “allowed me to get it done” for Christmas when I was 18

  • When: January 2016
  • Where: Village Streetwear
  • With what: Hollow needle
  • Pain of piercing: 2?
  • Pain of healing: 3
  • Ease of healing: 7 (got multiple keloids, super annoying to heal)
  • Jewelry I got it pierced with: L shaped stud (purple iridescent!)
  • Jewelry I’m wearing in it now: Titanium endless hoop
  • Ranking out of my piercings: 3/16
  1. Septum

I was supposed to get this done in like September of 2016 with my best friend, but I chickened out and got my closed lobes repierced. My partner at the time wanted to get theirs and I was like “fuck it” and got it with them. However, they forgot their ID when we went to get it done, so the professional place turned us away, and we went to this side place because they wanted to

  • When: February 2017
  • Where: Some corner store on St. Mark’s street in NYC
  • With what: Hollow needle
  • Pain of piercing: 1
  • Pain of healing: 3
  • Ease of healing: 4 (got infected like a year after piercing after a cold, generally not annoying to heal)
  • Jewelry I got it pierced with: Regular shmegular titanium horseshoe
  • Jewelry I’m wearing in it now: same titanium horseshoe (I’ve worn endless titanium hoops which are cute but not able to flip up into my nose when necessary)
  • Ranking out of my piercings: 6/16
  1. Upper Cartilage 1 (lower)

My friend texted me on a Saturday morning and was like “wanna get free piercings?” and of course I was like yes. That was super dumb. I got them done by an apprentice (that’s why they were free), like 2 days before my 21st birthday

  • When: April 2018
  • Where: Not gonna say
  • With what: Hollow needle
  • Pain of piercing: 5
  • Pain of healing: 10
  • Ease of healing: 10 (stayed infected/incredibly painful for a year and a half after I got it pierced. Both of them are pierced diagonally through my ear, so no earring I had was long enough to not squeeze the skin. After a year and a half of huge keloids and pain, I switched the jewelry to something that finally worked and I haven’t had a problem since.) No shade on the apprentice who did them at all, they were new and I’ve learned after this that my ears realllllly hate cartilage piercings and are super temperamental to heal
  • Jewelry I got it pierced with: Flat back studs (reason these were awful was because the ball on the front was way too small and my ear almost swallowed them whole)
  • Jewelry I’m wearing in it now: Seamless pure gold hoop, and I will never wear anything else in it, because it’s the only thing that has never irritated it
  • Ranking out of my piercings: 12/16
  1. Upper Cartilage 2 (upper)

Same as above, but holy fuck this is the worst, most painful and troublesome piercing I have. I’m surprised I actually still have it in

  • Ranking out of my piercings: 16/16
  1. Left Upper Lobe

This is the easiest piercing I’ve ever had. I got it pierced on a whim; went with a friend to go to my favorite piercing place and just thought why not? I got it to even out my ears; I already had the upper lobe on my right

  • When: December 2018
  • Where: Village Streetwear
  • With what: Hollow needle
  • Pain of piercing: 0
  • Pain of healing: 1 (I genuinely forgot I got it pierced it was so easy).
  • Ease of healing: 1
  • Jewelry I got it pierced with: Titanium ball stud
  • Jewelry I’m wearing in it now: Small titanium stud with cz jewels
  • Ranking out of my piercings: 5/16
  1. Right Lobe 2

*sigh* so…. I was bored and depressed in my apartment one summer day and thought “I wanna fully even out my lobes. So I just pierced the extra 2 lobe piercings myself. Dumb, 1000% would recommend not doing that, but… here we are

  • When: July 2019
  • Where: …myself
  • With what: Sanitized sewing needle
  • Pain of piercing: 1
  • Pain of healing: 3
  • Ease of healing: 3 (Got a little red but nothing too bad)
  • Jewelry I got it pierced with: Gold piercing stud with clear jewel
  • Jewelry I’m wearing in it now: Titanium endless hoop
  • Ranking out of my piercings: 13/16
  1. Right Lobe 4

Literally do not do this. I lived right next to St. Marks street, the piercing capital of NYC; I had no excuse

  • Jewelry I got it pierced with: Small titanium ball stud
  • Jewelry I’m wearing in it now: Titanium endless hoop
  • Ranking out of my piercings: 14/16
  1. Conch

It was Friday the 13th and a piercing/tattoo shop had a deal for $13 piercings and I was like “hell yes” and the rest is history

  • When: October 2019
  • Where: Murda Ink 3
  • With what: Hollow piercing needle
  • Pain of piercing: 5
  • Pain of healing: 5
  • Ease of healing: 5 (Still have a little keloid on it, but I’m slowly healing it)
  • Jewelry I got it pierced with: Steel conch ring
  • Jewelry I’m wearing in it now: Steel conch ring (I literally am never touching this thing)
  • Ranking out of my piercings: 7/16
  1. Rook

Same story as above

  • When: October 2019
  • Where: Murda Ink 3
  • With what: Hollow piercing needle
  • Pain of piercing: 6 (I’m gonna be honest this was the most painful of my piercings, I think mostly because my conch was already in pain and it’s a tricky spot to get to)
  • Pain of healing: 5
  • Ease of healing: 5 (Still have a little keloid on it, but I’m slowly healing it)
  • Jewelry I got it pierced with: Steel curved barbell
  • Jewelry I’m wearing in it now: Steel curved barbell (I literally am never touching this thing)
  • Ranking out of my piercings: 15/16

Overall, I love my piercings. I’ve been pretty intentional with my placements and although some of them give me trouble, I wouldn’t take any of them out. I’m fortunate to live somewhere and work in an industry that doesn’t care about piercings. I personally prefer to hide my piercings and tattoos when I’m in a professional setting; I wear headphones all day so you can see none of my ear piercings, and I tuck up my septum. However I think they enhance my looks/aesthetic and I really love being a generally decked out person. 

I might put out a tattoo tour soon, so stay tuned! If you have any questions on piercings or body mods in general, feel free to DM me on Instagram: @mjsullivanart. Thanks for reading!

Tips for Having a Low-Waste Wedding

Even though I am very single and nowhere near close to planning my future wedding, it’s still something I enjoy daydreaming about and reflecting upon. Especially since I became more interested in the low-waste movement and the vegetarian community, I’ve wanted to compile a list of ideas I’ve crafted for my own personal ceremony and reception. I hope you find this article helpful, and possibly even gather a bit of inspiration for your own wedding!

By the way, I like to use the phrase “low waste” instead of “zero waste” because I think it’s impossible to be completely, 100% zero waste in all aspects of your life. “Low waste” is a much more appropriate term to me, because it acknowledges that slow-living and low-waste lifestyles are never going to be completely perfect. Nonetheless, any effort towards sustaining the environment, small or large, is a feat that should be celebrated.  


BUY A SECONDHAND DRESS

wedding preparation
Photo by Terje Sollie on Pexels.com

This is actually something I wanted to do before I even got interested in low-waste because I think vintage wedding dresses are absolutely gorgeous. Considering that fashion is one of the most wasteful (and environmentally harmful) industries in the world, it was a no-brainer for me to decide I want to buy my wedding dress second hand. Not only is that more cost-effective, it also means less waste is being thrown into the environment. One of my favorite places to browse vintage wedding dresses is Etsy, but there are also physical vintage shops where you can find wedding dresses as well. In fact, I live fairly close to a warehouse full of vintage clothes, and I know from personal experience that there are TONS of gorgeous 1950s-1960s wedding dresses there. 

Image result for samantha van wie wedding


USE DIGITAL/RECYCLED PAPER INVITATIONS

women s brown and green floral dress
Photo by Dmitry Zvolskiy on Pexels.com

Sending out invitations is one of the most crucial parts of putting together your wedding, but it doesn’t have to be wasteful. One way to go paper-free is to simply send your invitations digitally, using either a graphic designer or designing them yourself using a program (such as Canva, which is free!). Alternatively, if you’re not a graphic designer and you don’t feel comfortable sending out a digital invitation, consider the possibility of sending your invitations on recycled paper. Not only does doing so benefit the environment and reduce waste, it is also very cost-effective for your wallet to opt for recycled paper instead!


ASK YOUR FLORIST ABOUT ZERO-WASTE OPTIONS

pink rose flower bouquet
Photo by Secret Garden on Pexels.com

You don’t need to spend an exorbitant amount of money to have a beautiful flower arrangement for your wedding. Depending on your personal resources, you may want to consider making your own arrangements instead of going to a florist. Or, if you’d rather go to a professional for your flowers, ask if there is any way you can approach the task in a more low-waste way. For example, since many professional arrangements come with foam in them, perhaps you can ask your florist to skip the foam and plastic to cut back on waste. It would also be ideal to order flowers from a local shop, as this will boost your local economy and result in less gas emissions.


UTILIZE LOW-WASTE FAVORS

adult birthday birthday gift box
Photo by Porapak Apichodilok on Pexels.com

This tip is one of my personal favorites on the list, and it’s also possibly the easiest. When you are planning favors guests, bridesmaids, etc., consider giving gifts that promote a low-waste lifestyle. Reusable straws, cups, and bags are all thoughtful, affordable ways to show your appreciation while still sustaining the environment. Even more, these are gifts that will last years (or even a lifetime), if they are taken care of accordingly. If you’re looking for a place to get started, Etsy has tons of customizable options for cups, water bottles, bags, etc. Additionally, little plants or succulents can be a wonderful and adorable gift to give away as a wedding favor! I’ll leave links to some of my favorite shops below.


INCORPORARE MINIMAL(IST) DECOR

white and pink floral freestanding letter decor
Photo by rovenimages.com on Pexels.com

For the ultimate low-waste, minimalist wedding, make sure you pay close attention to your theme and decorations, and how you can theoretically cut back on unneeded clutter and waste. For example, why not make your own simple, minimalist flower arrangements for the table and use things you already have your house instead of going out of your way to buy more stuff? After all, you’re probably going to discard all of those decorations anyway after your big day. Another idea would be to have your guests take the flowers/vases home with them, as a memory of the wedding (and that leaves you with less cleanup, too). Not only is this going to be better for the planet, but it will also save you money on your wedding in general.


HAVE A VEGETARIAN MENU

bowl of cooked food
Photo by Sebastian Coman Photography on Pexels.com

Because I am already a vegetarian, this tip was already a no-brainer for me. However, even if you’re normally a carnivore, you may still want to explore the benefits of having a vegetarian menu for your guests. The meat industry is shockingly wasteful and contributes to issues such as water degradation, acid rain, coral reef degeneration, and 18% of ALL human greenhouse gas emissions. Yikes! Even if it’s just a small step, like only serving plant-based dishes at your wedding, you are still taking a positive step in the direction of protecting the earth and her animals. I’ll leave some links to my favorite vegetarian dishes below that I believe would be perfect for a wedding.


DONATE YOUR LEFTOVER FOOD

top view photo of spoon on cloth
Photo by Daria Shevtsova on Pexels.com

Depending on how many guests you invite, it’s entirely possible that you will have a ton of leftover food. See how much of it you can divvy up to your guests so you don’t have to toss it out; or, if you’re feeling really fancy, find out if there’s a local business, homeless shelter or organization that you can donate your leftover food to. Not only does it cut back on waste for you, but it also has the potential to brighten up somebody else’s day with some free food!


FINALLY, SUPPORT SUSTAINABLE BRANDS

accessory anniversary band celebration
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

If you’re getting married, it’s probably very likely that you’re going to sign up for a gift registry. My advice would be to put as much research into the gifts/products you want as possible, to ensure that you are supporting brands with the most ethical, earth-friendly missions. For example, if you’re looking for new bedding, plates, or towels, see if your store offers an organic/fair-trade brand for that item. Of course, it’s not possible to find a low-waste option for everything, but it’s at least worth a try.


That’s going to be it for today! I hope you found this list helpful and informative. Regardless of how you choose to execute your wedding, the most important thing is that you’re marrying the love of your life. Everything else will follow in suit.

My favorite Etsy shops for wedding ideas:

Vintage Wedding Dresses

Customizable Water Bottles

Reusable Metal Straws

Monogram Bridesmaid Bags


Vegetarian Recipes for Weddings:

Vegan Stuffed Shells

Vegan Italian Wedding Soup

Grilled Ratatouille Kebabs

Butternut Squash Risotto 

Blackberry Wine Hand Pies

How my dating life changed after being in a same-sex relationship

I grew up as most young humans with vaginas do: being dressed up in pretty dresses for special occasions, being given dolls to play with, every item ever gifted to me being pink or purple (which was ultimately fine because I love purple). Along with the general aforementioned material items I was being taught to like, little by little I was being socialized to love men and present myself in a way that is most “desirable” to them. For years and years, I grew up hearing “Men don’t like it when you-”, or “No man wants a woman who-”.

Now, as a 22 year old human who is neither a woman, nor straight, I laugh at these convictions. I was raised to be a strong, independent human, which my parents instilled in me while also placing a certain importance on “becoming a woman”. I grew up hearing that it was “unladylike” to sit that way, not shave my legs, or wear or be interested in certain things. It was always a mystery to me as to why a family who believed in not letting anything hold you back in being yourself and accomplishing what you want definitely fell prey to some of the generalizations of what people who are different sexes “should be”. 

One answer I reached as an adult: it’s the way that people, especially women, in this society are socialized. I grew up in the early 2000s, and even in the 21st century I was being told by the world that my worth was dependent upon my possible desire to men. This specifically came through in the realm of appearance. I have always been in the mindset that “dumbing yourself down” so men would like you was just that – dumb. I never went along with that portion of the beliefs. My parents had taught me to be smart and to hold my own. However, I went through the vast majority of my life thinking this way: keeping my hair long, keeping my face made-up, dressing more femininely than I necessarily wanted to. Now, reflecting on this, why did I think that being who you were inside was more important than showing who you are on the outside?

When I was 15, I realized I was not straight. I came out as bisexual when I was 17, and I’ve eventually settled into the comfy hammock of the term “pansexual”. Gender genuinely has no bearing on my ability to find someone attractive or to fall in love with them. I had a boyfriend during my junior year of high school, someone who never made me feel uncomfortable with my body, appearance or sexuality. I knew I was attracted to all genders, but my mindset was still stuck with this tape on loop that I needed to be “presentable” and “desirable” to men, so they would want to date or hook up with me.

When I was in my sophomore year of college, I got into my first relationship with (someone who at the time presented as) a woman. I was in a queer, same-sex relationship for the first time in my life. I learned so many things about love, myself, relationships, mental health, etc. However, some of the biggest self-learning I did was post this almost 2 year long relationship. Newly single, 20, in New York City and at the time still not caring to question my gender, I was ready to get back into the dating scene after some recoup from an LTR.

Something about my mindset had definitely changed though. I had grown to love a side of myself that reared its head while in my relationship, in conjunction with my freedom at an art school to express myself however I pleased. I had outwardly embraced an aesthetic that felt the most like me, leaning into a limited color palette of black and darker jewel tones. I embraced my desire to change the hair everyone knew me for for the majority of my life and dyed it purple like I had been dyeing (pun intended) to do for years. A year later I shaved myself a side shave, because I always loved my long hair but wasn’t willing to commit at the time to a full shave just yet. I wore solely Doc Martens and boiled down my makeup routine to a simple cat eye and mascara, expressing myself with bolder eyeshadow or lipsticks when I had the time or the gaul. I inked my body with a couple tattoos and punctured it lovingly with a few more pieces of metal in my ears and nose. It was really the first time I looked at myself and saw MJ. I liked the way I looked before, and don’t hate that person by any means, but being this version of myself was and still is the most me I’ve ever felt.

I found myself feeling very comfortable embracing me instead of a gendered body. I didn’t feel the need to, and still don’t, put a label on my gender; I just feel like me. I loved dressing decently androgynously, changing like a clothing cameleon day to day. Some days I loved a black dress, patterned tights, and heels; others I preferred jeans, a flannel, and big hoops. It stopped mattering to me what was “feminine” and more what was “MJ”. I didn’t do, or wear, things because they were and or weren’t “what a girl should be”. I like to shave my body hair because I like the way it feels when I get in my clean sheets, not because it’s feminine. I wear winged eyeliner everyday because it makes me feel confident, not because I “should”. I learned (after shaving my head) that I love my long hair (with my side shave) because it makes me feel like me, not because “girls should have long hair”. I dressed however I wanted, because I felt like a badass, not because I wanted to please someone.

I reentered the dating scene with this newfound, subconscious (at the time) thought process of “So what if cis-men don’t find me attractive? I have like 7,000 other genders to pick from.” It’s been 2 years since then, and trust me, I’ve learned even more since then. I’ve had my fair millennial share of the dating scene, and I have something to report: Men don’t give a FUCK. I’m pansexual, with a stronger lean to women/gender-nonconforming folks, and I can say that half of my dates since have been cis-men. I have been the blonde, blue eyed, peppy gal. I have been the half-shaved-head brooding art school student. I have been the bald, overconfident “no long-termer.” I am currently the bobbed hair curvy GNC person I am today. I have not had as many male suitors as the stereotypical “pretty” as I have had at any other stage. You know what drew in most of the people I’ve been with? Not shaved legs, not long blonde hair, nothing of the sort.

Confidence. The second I learned to own and work what I had and who I was, things got much easier, for me, and for the dating life. On that same vein though, yeah, I had that self-discovery, but the point I’m trying to make- Men. Do. Not. Care. I have had hairy legs the whole time I was with a guy and he didn’t notice until I brought it up. I literally shaved my entire head while I was seeing a man and I walked into our next date and he said “Wow. Dramatic, looks great,” and proceeded to pursue me for the next year. 

What I learned namely from my same-sex relationship was that someone can and should love you for who you are if they truly love you. I was exactly the strong-headed, artsy, sardonic person I am, who also happened to shave their legs. My partner didn’t. I loved them just the same. I wore makeup everyday, they wore it for special occasions. I could talk about art, being queer, loving music, depression, baby goats and everything inbetween and they never judged. I felt entirely comfortable to be who I was. Did that have to do with it being a woman I was in a relationship with? I will say yes, but let me explain.

I think not having the preconceived internalized societal expectations of what a relationship should be really freed our relationship to grow and blossom in a way I don’t know that it would’ve if we were so caught up in what we were “supposed” to be doing. There was no expectation of who was supposed to ask who on a date, who was supposed to pay, who was supposed to cook and clean, or be the “pants wearer.” With a relationship that felt more like two chopsticks instead of a fork and spoon, we supported each other in completing what sides of the relationship we individually felt like executing, instead of trying to perform our separate different functions. It never felt like a requirement to fill out some role, it felt like doing whatever we naturally would’ve as people if gender norms were not at play, which they weren’t.

Being a very strong-willed and impatient person, I’ve been the pursuer of dates or relationships the vast  majority of the time. This used to be a huge internal struggle, specifically in high school, because I thought no one ever found me interesting or attractive enough to make the first move on me. What further frustrated me was that because no one was drooling over me like the movies said boys would, was that 1. I “couldn’t” make the first move with boys because it was “unladylike” 2. I believed I was undesirable as a person. Obviously if no boys are making the first move, I’m not special enough to love, right?

Wrong. Being able to drop the social norms of having to “let the man ask you out” and embracing my confident first-move making gene when pursing women or GNC cuties translated to my relationships with cis-men. After being in a long-term relationship with a woman, when I reentered the dating pool I entirely forgot that dating men was “supposed” to be approached differently. I realized this a couple months in, only to realize my bold tactics were not met with anger, but appreciation and attraction. On more than multiple occasions, regardless of gender or orientation, people have told me they admire my forwardness. When I’m out on a date with someone, the person who picks up the check is honestly whoever is closer to it or who is more insistent. Sometimes that’s me, other times it’s not, and most of the time we split it. 

Being able to exist in a world where I view all potential dating situations as more or less equal is incredibly freeing. I don’t feel the need to adhere to ideals set thousands of years ago by a society that no longer needs them. I know not everyone will or wants to experience being in a same-sex relationship. However, I implore you to take a walk around your mind and think about what you do in terms of your dating style and appearance based on your preference vs what you believe is expected of you. You may just find that upon taking another look at your preconceived thoughts that they are just that- preconceived.

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Anxiety

I vividly remember my feelings towards Christmas presents when I was a kid. I remember feeling simultaneously excited and uneasy, what I later began to realize is straight up anxiety. 

Someone once told me the difference between anxiety and nervousness is that “anxiety” is being nervous but feeling excited about the possibilities, and “nervousness” is being nervous but feeling frightened or scared of the consequences (I wish I could punch this person in the face for using the word they are defining in the definition).

I thought this was the truth for years, as kids are susceptible to believing anything they are told, much like I believed “gender” and “sex” were interchangable for years until I learned about queer theory, and how my child mother thought rubbing alcohol and nail polish remover did the same thing and told everyone she knew until she was 12 and someone told her otherwise.

I learned general “anxiety” can be excitement mixed with nervousness. However, instead of anxious at this point, I like to think “nervously chomping at the bit”. The way I thought about it was that I was “anxious” when I was behind the curtain at a childhood dance recital; uneasy in the moments leading up to the performance but just because I was pumped to absolutely kill my routine in my poofy red and black/white checkered tutu. The way I thought about “nervous” was the butterflies and worms in my stomach in the minutes before a test that I know I studied for but knew was still going to be hard. I remember for either of these stomach-churning feelings I would feel an immediate sense of relief when the event causing the feelings was over. I didn’t know there were adult definitions that I would have to relearn later, and that these feelings would sit around longer, and sometimes for no reason at all.

I remember feeling nervous about the expectations of Christmas present giving. Specifically because this was the one time of the year there was a double-sided anxiety sword. You weren’t just Giving, like on someone else’s birthday, or Receiving, like on your birthday, but now both. “Double the chances for doom,” as my tiny eyes saw it.

It’s as if we were groomed as children to learn how to dance through this odd ritual. You purchase, or make something for someone you love, and then open things your loved ones purchased for you based on what they assume you need, like, or would use.

However, if you receive something from someone that you are not happy with, you must put on your best show and pretend that you are elated to have received it. Simultaneously, you want the other people to enjoy the things you got for them “out of the kindness of your heart” (the necessity to reciprocate due to social norms and potential guilt), and it’s cool to see them enjoy the items they open.

At 7, I started thinking, “Wait… if I have to pretend that I like something…. Who’s to say that everyone else isn’t just making the same surprised and excited faces I’ve been trained to make? If I’m 7 and can act well enough, surely the ancient people around me must be pros because they’ve had eons of practice.”

I think that’s the first instance of having actual anxiety that I can remember.

Because, here’s the thing. Who cares if they are pretending? I understood (and still understand) the purpose of needing to save face for both you and the bad gift-giver by showing a couple white lie facial expressions and saying vague things like “Thank you so much! This was so thoughtful of you!” You know, things that aren’t specific enough to be falsehoods. Every time I’ve received a present I wasn’t fond of or didn’t use, my brain didn’t criticize or chastise the gift-giver. And to be honest, even if I did, it would have absolutely no bearing on their life, besides a couple bucks lost from their bank account and a little less gas in their car, which is really neither here nor there.

That’s what my logical brain tells me, and then my anxiety brain slowly turns around and pulls logical brain up to its face with its shirt gripped in its sweaty hand, red and flustered. “That’s what YOU think, but we don’t know what they think! They are probably thinking about you right now, and what a horrible gift you gave them. You should have known better than to have gotten them that! Because of this blunder they will think you don’t care and next time they are around you if they so much as don’t look at you right we’re going to not be able to breathe and need to go to the bathroom for several minutes too long for a piss or a shit; just enough to make you seem like a fucking weirdo. Enough to have someone say ‘boy, that was a long time, everything okay in there?’ Now not only are you ‘bad gift-giver’, you’re ‘takes too long in the bathroom person’. All that’s gonna be on that person’s mind for the next hour is going to be how weird you are for taking that long. That’s two people in this room who hate you, you wanna try for three?

 

It is so ridiculously exhausting to have the constant “ask your mom/ask your dad” cycle of your anxiety telling you everyone is always thinking about you, and your depression telling you that no one would ever actually take the time to do that because no one cares about you enough. A carousel of perceived narcissism and low self-worth, a ride I would love to but can’t dismount.

Then there comes the constant internal questioning of whether or not your acting passes the test of “believable”. I am not emmy-nominated by any means; I actually have had a hard time lying about anything since I was a baby, still do. I’m already exhausted just thinking about how exhausting it is to fake happiness for someone else, so much so that I’m either going to come back to it, or just not write this section. I may let you use your imagination or pull from your memory bank of experiences.

This paints the picture that I was an ungrateful or anxiety-ridden child. This is quite the opposite. I am incredibly grateful for everything I’ve ever received, good, bad, or in-between, because someone put in the effort to give it to me in the first place, and that is more than enough. I was truthfully mentally pretty unburdened, until around the age of 15. This was just something that I thought about now, as a concept, as an adult, with a hindsighted perspective. I never understood the intricacies of this specific social situation, truthfully I still don’t fully. But who can say that they fully understand anything? No one, not even the guy who invented it.

Regardless, I always thought of these states of unease as a temporary feeling. It’s crazy as an adult to reflect on those very clear, very definitive thoughts you had, and to realize that you wish you were still wrong. I wish I still thought they were temporary, I wish the excitement stayed past the nervousness of a great event, and I wish the fear would find its way to the exit, as the bugs in my tummy settled down, as my fight-or-flight instinct eased. Maybe that’s why I always have heartburn, because they’re trying to get out, and I just need to open my mouth.

I have felt in a constant state of fight-or-flight for years now. In a constant state of paranoia, fear, and anxiety. I have never been clinically diagnosed for anything but physical ailments. I always relished in the fact that I was obviously depressed but “did NOT have anxiety”.

I laugh at this now, because I am clearly the most anxious person, but just passively so. It’s not a great weighing presence on my mind, it’s like background static on a radio that gets out clear lines of dialogue at the strangest of times.

I’ll go to a concert by myself and suddenly the constant “chhhhhhhhhhhhhh” noise clearly says “They’re all looking at you because you’re alone” and then it goes fuzzy again. It’s when I’m asking for help on a project at work and another edit is asked to be made and the grey noise turns into a black and white “It’s you, they hate you and don’t just need a change made because of another reason” and back to grey. Fortunately, my logic brain works out a lot more and eats a bunch more spinach than my anxious brain, so he kicks the other’s ass most days.

I have certain reasons I’m rightfully anxious about specific things, but most of them are easy enough to brush off and justify by thinking “Everyone just thinks like this. Everyone has these doubts or thoughts.” Other things, I inherently know are dumb. I know my mom loves every piece of art I make her for the holidays, it’s in her face. I know I showed that I loved the Ferris Bueller t-shirt my dad got me, it was in my tears that streamed on sight when I saw the logo emerge from beneath the crinkled paper. I know when one of my family members isn’t exactly delighted by something generic, like a candle or some candy or something. But I also know they will light it, and eat it, respectively, regardless, because they love me and aren’t thinking any of the things I think they are.

(Or are they…?)