Does It Actually Matter Who Killed Carole Baskin’s Husband?

I’m assuming that by this point, you’ve seen the Netflix docuseries Tiger King: Mayhem, Murder and Madness. If you haven’t, stop reading this and go watch it. Right now. All seven episodes. Yes, I’m serious. Yes, it’s worth it. Go on- I’ll wait for you.

Alright, you’re back? Let’s jump right in.

There is a lot, and I do mean a lot, going on in the world of big cat breeding/conservation/captivity/whatever the hell Jeff Lowe went to jail for doing in Las Vegas. Here are just a few of the questions that I had while watching Tiger King, and each one of them is worthy of a dissertation:

  • Is it okay to run a yoga sex cult if you’re upfront about running a yoga sex cult?
  • Where on the Kinsey Scale of Sexuality does one place “not gay but easily seduced into marriage by the promise of tigers and meth?”
  • Is wearing a shirt a regional thing?
  • If you hire an unreliable contract killer and he never commits the murder, shouldn’t he be expected to return your deposit?
  • Does even one person exist in this world who owns an exotic pet and isn’t batshit insane?

I considered all of these topics for this week’s column, but ultimately I realized that there is only one question arising from Tiger King that people really want to talk about right now:

Did Carole Baskin kill her husband?

Now, you’re probably expecting me to say that I think Carole Baskin murdered her husband and fed his body to the tigers. But you’d be wrong, because I don’t think that Carole Baskin murdered her husband and fed his body to the tigers.

I know that Carole Baskin murdered her husband and fed his body to the tigers. We all know it. You can find a hundred articles recapping all the blisteringly obvious evidence that demonstrates that Carole Baskin got away with murdering her husband and feeding his body to the tigers.

But consider this: it doesn’t actually matter.

Watching Tiger King and caring about who killed Don Lewis is like watching Twin Peaks and caring who killed Laura Palmer. It just isn’t the point.

The point of Tiger King is, in my estimation, a psychological deep-dive into the mind of Joe Exotic. Joe Exotic is the Tiger King. Everyone else is just a lens through which we see him, Carole Baskin included.

Through the lens of Carole Baskin, we see Joe Exotic as an enemy, a tormentor, and a would-be murderer. He decided that this woman was a problem for him, and then he went off the fucking rails trying to find a solution for that problem. And Joe Exotic’s justification for this, at least in part, was that since Carole Baskin is a murderer, it’s fine to villainize her and even mete out karmic justice by murdering her right back.

We’re supposed to see this situation as another opportunity to understand what’s going on in Joe Exotic’s mulleted head. We’re not supposed to get all caught up in whether or not Carole Baskin is a murderer. In Joe Exotic’s mind, she is. That’s her role in this story.

It really, really doesn’t matter whether or not Carole Baskin murdered Don Lewis, or whether he wandered off somewhere while suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, or whether he decided to move down to Costa Rica with another 19-year-old girlfriend.

It matters that Joe Exotic tried to murder someone, and then got us all talking about how actually she’s the murderer. That is masterful. That crazy son-of-a-bitch is a magician. And we need to realize that if you’re trying to figure out how a magician does a trick, you don’t do it by looking where he tells you to look.

Carole Baskin didn’t like the way that Joe Exotic ran his zoo, and she tried to get him shut down. In response, he tried to have her killed by a guy that did part of his interview from a goddamn bathtub for some reason. This is a fascinating aspect of Joe Exotic’s psyche and we’re not even paying attention.

So I implore you: don’t let the only thing that you take away from Tiger King be that Carole Baskin murdered her husband and fed his body to the tigers. We know she did, but it’s not something we need to care about. It detracts from the big picture, and we’d all do well to remember that it was 23 years ago and we never even knew the guy existed until he became a C-plot in a docuseries about how much meth it takes to host a three-way gay wedding in an Oklahoma zoo. He’s not Natalie Wood or JonBenét Ramsey, okay? You don’t give a shit about justice for Don Lewis and neither do I.

And neither does Joe Exotic. Don’t let him convince you otherwise.

Apparently It’s Sunday Again Already

I’m going to be honest here: I don’t have anything to write about apart from COVID-19, and I’m just as tired of writing about it as you all are of reading about it.

I literally have nothing to say about the past week. Nothing happened. I didn’t go anywhere. I didn’t see anyone. I didn’t have any insights about the world or the human condition that feel worth mentioning.

No, all I did this week was all I ever do anymore: worry about various things directly or tangentially connected to the pandemic and the quarantine order we’re living under.

Are we even allowed to do anything else?

I said recently that it was hard to find something to write about when I was so consumed by wedding planning, and someone helpfully suggested that I embrace that and start blogging freely about the wedding planning experience.

Unfortunately, what once sounded like an elegant solution to distraction and/or writer’s block is now an avenue closed to me entirely. I don’t think I could manage to write a post about wedding planning right now even if someone had a gun to my head.

And yes, it’s again because of COVID-19.

I currently exist in a stressful and infuriating limbo where I have no idea if the wedding is going to be able to go ahead as scheduled, or if every bit of effort I’m still putting in on that front is just a new and interesting way to arrange the deck chairs on the Titanic. So obviously, I have zero interest in talking about the wedding these days. And actually, it’s less than zero. I get depressed or pissed off any time I have to think about it. At this point, I have negative interest in the wedding. Active disinterest, really.

Honestly, I think I’ve hit a stage where I have an active disinterest in everything. Nothing that’s supposed to “distract me” or help me “stay positive” seems worth doing. Everything is awful and there’s no end in sight, and that’s just the new normal.

Are you guys staying sane out there? I feel like I’m the only person dealing with quarantine this poorly. Everyone else seems to be content to just chill in their apartments and shoot memes back and forth, while I pretty much constantly feel like I’m going to die. How is everyone else doing it? Are you all just hiding it better?

Whatever you’re all doing to make it through this, I hope it’s working. I hope everyone is coping well and staying safe. I’m definitely not coping whatsoever and I do not feel safe AT ALL, and I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.

So I guess I’ll close by suggesting that if you have a friend with anxiety, or depression, or seasonal affective disorder, or who was trying to plan something for later in the spring/summer, or already had to cancel something they were looking forward to, or who has been spamming your Facebook timeline with a few too coronavirus many news articles, you should check in on them. I would assume that they’re not okay, based on my personal experience of sure as shit not being okay right now.

If You Do Enough Cardio, You Can Definitely Run Away From Your Problems

First they came for our office buildings, and I didn’t speak out because working from home sounded kind of fun.

Then they came for our bars and restaurants, and I didn’t speak out because we could still get takeout and delivery.

But then they came for our gyms, and I was NOT emotionally prepared for it.

You see, I’m one of those people who goes to the gym every day. I could say that it’s because I’m focus-driven and motivated to achieve personal goals. I could say that it’s because years and years of societal conditioning still has me convinced that I’m fat, despite all logic and evidence to the contrary. I could even say that it’s just something to do to kill time because I still haven’t made a lot of friends in New York. And all of that would be more or less true, but it would also be leaving out one of the most important reasons:

Tiring myself out through strenuous cardio is pretty much the only thing that succeeds in getting my Anxiety Brain to shut the fuck up for a minute.

I spend the vast majority of my waking hours trying to find ways to burn off nervous energy before it has the chance to seep into the cracks of my mind and ruin my whole day. And historically, the only thing that really works is burning it all off in one golden hour at the gym.

Take away the gym, and you’re taking away my outlet for anxiety management. And that is something that I just CANNOT handle being without during a global health crisis/pandemic/quarantine/preamble to the apocalypse.

And yes, I know that this is such a silly problem to have. I know that there are people out there during this pandemic who are beyond inconvenienced, and are instead wondering how they’re going to be able to feed their families or keep themselves safe or put their lives back together from how rapidly and thoroughly they’ve been cast asunder. I’m fully aware that people have lost their livelihoods and some have even lost their loved ones. It’s real, it’s happening, and it’s certainly in terrible taste for me to act like a closed gym deserves mention in the same sentence as those trials and tribulations.

But goddammit, I just want to go to my spin class! It’s so little to ask from the universe!

The thing about the universe, of course, is that it doesn’t owe you anything no matter how reasonable a request it may be. My gym isn’t re-opening any sooner just because I really, really want it to. And as much as it sucks, I just have to realize that there’s nothing I can do about that.

The silver lining is that, while you can’t ever control what life throws at you, you can always control how you react to it. So I decided that instead of wringing my hands and tearing at my active wear mourning the loss of my beloved safe space, I was just going to have to embrace reality and get on with it.

And so far, the spin bike we now have in our living room is doing the very important job of keeping me sane during this quarantine. It’s still a reminder that the gym is closed and nothing in my life is quite normal, but it’s also a reminder that the world, just like me at 8:30 on a Saturday morning, will keep on spinning.

New York City Locks Down, Everybody Freak Out, It’s Pandemic Panic Time, LEO-NARD BERN-STEIN

I’ve lived in NYC for a little over 2 years now. I moved here for a couple of different reasons. Firstly, because I wanted to settle down with a nice Jewish boy from Queens. And I’ve got that all buttoned-up, so that’s a silver lining to this whole mess.

The second reason was because I was enchanted by the concept of a city that never sleeps. Imagine! A bustling metropolis where there’s no shortage of places to go and people to see. Broadway shows, a parade every other weekend, bars, restaurants, night clubs, museums. Crowds and crowds of locals and tourists alike, all sharing the common experiences of living it up in the Big Apple. It was everything I ever wanted.

And it was nice while it lasted, but this past week has marked (forgive the pun) the end of the world as we know it.

Suddenly, I’m living in a ghost town. Everything is closed, cancelled, or deserted. No one is leaving the house to go to work, and no one is leaving the house to go do anything for fun, either. We’re all pretty much just sitting on our couches, nervously refreshing our chosen news apps, and streaming R.E.M. on repeat while coming absolutely no closer to learning the lyrics.

In short, the vibes out there are WEIRD. It’s a strange time to be alive, and it’s marred by this unspoken underlying fear that pretty soon we’re not even going to have “being alive” as a guarantee.

I personally shouldn’t be in any danger from COVID-19. I’m 28 years old, I have no pre-existing medical conditions, and quite frankly I’m in great shape. Even if I get the virus, it shouldn’t mean more for me than a few days of bed rest. It’s not like my death is assured in an imminent apocalypse, right?

Except that military police were deployed to NYC over the last couple of days, ostensibly to make sure that no one flips shit and causes a riot, but possibly because the apocalypse is imminent.

Granted, no one has actually SAID that this is the apocalypse. But still, every time I hear a siren outside the window, I feel like I’m in the first 20 minutes of a zombie movie. “Is that the one?” I wonder. “Is it all over for us?”

And honestly, if the pandemic itself doesn’t do it, then the collective panicked disbanding of society is going to be what does us in.

Two or three days ago, a man was coughing on the 2 train in the Bronx and an entire car full of strangers forced him to exit the train. And I, an otherwise intelligent, compassionate, level-headed and reasonable person, was on their side in that decision. If you so much as clear your throat in my presence, I’m going to double-tap you like Woody Harrelson is watching. And I’m pretty sure that no jury in this town would convict me for it.

I really don’t know how much state-sanctioned paranoia NYC can sustain before we go completely Mad Max with it. But I guess we’re all about to find out together, right guys?

Civilization, it’s time to ask yourself one question:


Trick Question: I Don’t Want The Bad News OR The Good News First

This week has been an emotional rollercoaster.

Without going into too much detail, someone close to me is dealing with a pretty serious medical diagnosis. As a result, I’ve essentially been on a revolving carousel of receiving good news, then bad news, then worse news, then news that was only “good” in comparison to the bad news, and then finally some good-ish news. And as is the way of medical diagnoses, all of this was interspersed throughout with maddening periods of no news whatsoever.

After going through all this back and forth, I’m left with a new opinion about the concepts of good news and bad news. That opinion? That living in whiplash is infinitely worse than just being dealt a single devastating blow.

Getting bad news is one thing- you hear it, and then you’re bummed out. Cut and dry.

But getting bad news, then getting good news, then getting bad news again in rapid succession like that is a completely different thing. It’s all the turmoil of getting bad news, but with an added twist of the knife that just serves to make sure you’re completely unable to manage your expectations.

It reminds me of a joke from the television show Monk. The main character is asked, in the classic fashion, “Do you want me to give you the good news or the bad news first?”

“I don’t know,” he agonizes in response, “Because if you give me the good news first, I’m not going to be able to enjoy it because I’ll be wondering what the bad news is. But if you give me the bad news first, I’m still going to be thinking about that when you tell me the good news and I still won’t get to enjoy it.”

Bad news and good news just don’t play nice together. The bad news always finds a way to steal the show, to ruin any silver lining of the situation that was brought out by hearing the good news.

So in the end, I just had to stop quantifying things as “good news” and “bad news”. It’s the only way to stay sane in these situations. News is just news. No positives, no negatives- just information, to be taken as it comes.

That might sound like a delusional rejection of reality, but I think you can look at it as just embracing a healthier outlook on life. I’ll leave you with an old fable on the subject that I encountered this week. The version I’m sharing here was penned by lecturer Alan Watts.

The Story of the Chinese Farmer

Once upon a time there was a Chinese farmer whose horse ran away. That evening, all of his neighbors came around to commiserate. They said, “We are so sorry to hear your horse has run away. This is most unfortunate.”

The farmer said, “Maybe.”

The next day the horse came back bringing seven wild horses with it, and in the evening everybody came back and said, “Oh, isn’t that lucky. What a great turn of events. You now have eight horses!”

The farmer again said, “Maybe.”

The following day his son tried to break one of the horses, and while riding it, he was thrown and broke his leg. The neighbors then said, “Oh dear, that’s too bad,” and the farmer responded, “Maybe.”

The next day the conscription officers came around to conscript people into the army, and they rejected his son because he had a broken leg. Again all the neighbors came around and said, “Isn’t that great!”

Again, he said, “Maybe.”

The whole process of nature is an integrated process of immense complexity, and it’s really impossible to tell whether anything that happens in it is good or bad — because you never know what will be the consequence of the misfortune; or, you never know what will be the consequences of good fortune.

In Defense of Bridezillas

I used to think that fancy weddings were overpriced and unnecessary, and I swore that I would never have one.

Present day, I still think that fancy weddings are overpriced and unnecessary, but I find myself smack in the middle of planning one.

It’s one of those things that just kind of sneaks up on you. You know, like how you swear that you’re not going to grow up to be your mother but then one day you find yourself blocking the aisle in the grocery store to talk to someone you went to high school with. Sure, you say that you’re not going to give in to societal pressure and start caring about all the Wedding Bullshit, but somehow you always do. I said I wouldn’t, but here I am drinking the Flavor Aid like everyone else.

And now that I’m on the other side of all the Wedding Bullshit, not just peering into the window to point and laugh, but actually one of the inmates of the asylum myself, I want to take a minute to talk about the concept of the “bridezilla.”

More specifically, I want to talk about how I’ve just realized that it’s sexist nonsense.

If you happen to be unfamiliar with the term, allow me to enlighten you by sharing the series description from the show Bridezillas: “Godzilla has nothing on a bride-to-be planning her dream wedding, as evidenced by the aptly named Bridezillas’. The docu-series follows women who were perfectly normal before wedding planning took over her life. Grimly determined to realize their dream wedding’ at all costs, these out-of-control brides make the time leading up to their day of days an utter nightmare for everyone around them. In the end, they hope all the stress and meltdowns are worth it and they have the perfect wedding they’ve been dreaming of since they were little.”

Now, I’m not saying that planning a wedding gives any woman a free pass to act like a total bitch. It’s bratty and entitled to think that you’re allowed to make everyone’s life hell just because they’re tangentially involved in planning your special event.

But at the same time, I don’t think society does enough to examine the circumstances that lead to the monster being created.

Why does a bride become a bridezilla? Because she’s suddenly, out of nowhere, become a spoiled princess with no ability to reign in her entitlement and bossiness (sexism alert, btw)?

Or do you think it’s because we told her that this is the single most significant day of her life, that she’s in charge of every minute detail and that they’re all of vital importance, loaded her up with the accompanying stress of all these factors, and then just expected her to take it in stride when something went wrong?

I don’t think it’s fair to tell a bride that she needs to make everything perfect, and then call her a monster when she gets upset because something isn’t perfect.

And I’d be saying this even if people were judicious in their use of the term bridezilla. But the problem is worse still than that. I’ve noticed that it gets used pretty much any time a bride voices a strong opinion about some aspect of planning the wedding.

Say that you prefer lilies to roses? “Whoa there, bridezilla, they’re just flowers.”

Suggest that your cousin leaves her toddlers at home for the big day? “Classic bridezilla, has to have everything her way.”

Well, yeah- she probably does want to have everything her way. So what? What exactly are we shaming these women for? Wanting to plan a super important and expensive event to their preferred specifications? And after you told them this event was the culmination of all their aspirations in life?

Get the hell out of here. If she’s a bridezilla, then you’re the atomic bomb of expectations and responsibilities that created her.

The Pressure Of The Page (And Of Everything Else)

Today is the first day that I’ve regretted committing to a weekly writing schedule. For the last few weeks, things have more or less been smooth sailing- I’ve either been able to come up with an idea on the fly, writing about something of impact that happened over the week, or else I’ve been able to pull out an older unfinished article and polish it up into something new. I guess I thought, perhaps naively, that I’d be able to keep that up indefinitely.

But today, I’m hitting a bout of the dreaded writer’s block. I’ve spent the morning staring at a blank white page, starting over again and again, and not being able to come up with a single thought worth expressing.

It would probably be easier to manage if I just didn’t have any thoughts at all. When you don’t have an idea, you can really pick just any random thing to write about. If I was suffering from a case of “no ideas”, I’d probably be halfway through writing a stupid little adventure story about a magic lamp that grants wishes but only if they’re puns that translate in more than one language. See what I mean? Coming up with something out of absolutely nothing, that’s easy.

The problem for me, at least currently, is that my head is full of too many anxious thoughts that I can’t clear out enough to devote the mental energy to writing. My mind is completely occupied right now with a series of complaints, and every last one of them is something incredibly banal and useless. I’m so tired that I’m actually still writing this from bed, but no matter how tired I am I still have to get up and go to the gym immediately afterwards, because I’m on a seemingly impossible deadline to drop a few pounds before the wedding, doubly so now that we’ve decided on a beach honeymoon, and hopefully I’m not forgetting something important I should’ve booked or bought alongside planning said beach honeymoon, and then to add to that the omnipresent cloud of wedding planning stress that hovers unceasingly over my head at every waking moment is, big surprise, hovering unceasingly over my head like an omnipresent cloud.

Big oof, in other words. But I committed to putting out an article every Sunday, for what I’m sure seemed like a good reason to me at the time, even if it turns out that I wake up on whichever Sunday with no motivation to be alive or even to get out of bed, let alone with the motivation to throw together a piece that someone else might actually enjoy reading. C’est la vie, right?

I guess I’m alright with using this week as a write-off (pun? clever pun? I don’t even know anymore), as long as I can wrangle a new goal out of it. I’m thinking that the goal needs to be planning ahead themes of the week or something like that, so I’ll always have a reference point when I’m starting a new article. Or maybe I should start writing more short stories again, and as long as I’m writing consistently I don’t need to worry so much about which day I’m publishing them? Again, I don’t really know. If I had the capacity to come up with or recognize a good idea, I would’ve had something to write about today.

Maybe I’ll circle back around and work on that lamp thing.

How To NOT Get Over Your Ex, In Four Easy Steps

Dating is hard, and not dating is even harder. If you’re trying to not get over your ex, allow me to help.

Step One: Do the “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named” thing.
Never refer to your ex by their proper name. Instead, try to come up with a nickname that reduces them to a single aspect of their personality and the least unique noun you can think to add, like “Librarian Guy” or “Bartender Chick”. For super effectiveness, give them a nickname that’s something incredibly derisive like “Small Dick Dude” or “Failed Actress”. If you MUST use their name, attach a single insulting adjective so you get “Fat Shawna” or “Shithead Rick”. This way, you’ll never be forced to reconcile the fact that your ex was once a multifaceted character in a chapter of your life with the reductive way that you always demonize them now. No reflection on their personality means no introspection about how you currently see them.

Step Two: Check up on them on social media.
Whatever you do, don’t stay friends with your ex on social media. Treating them like they’re just anyone else in your newsfeed might communicate a healthy desire to stay in touch at an appropriately impersonal but still somewhat friendly distance. Instead of that, make a big show about deleting and blocking them on every available platform. Now you’re free to obsessively and secretly stalk their profiles for any snippet of new information that you can still glean from your disadvantaged position as a non-friend or follower. That weird little spike of dopamine you get whenever you’re able to conquer the challenge you created for yourself will keep your ex in your life as a source of feel-good emotions.

Step Three: Throw out all of your mementos of the relationship.
What have you got hanging around the house that reminds you of your ex? You’re going to need to completely purge your living space of anything and everything on that list. You have to throw out, rip up, or burn anything that has a connection to your ex. Photographs, letters, anniversary cards, your favorite sweatshirt, the fridge magnet you got on your ski trip, even the dog if you adopted her together- everything has to go. You can’t just let these memories linger until the pain fades and they become neutral experiences. You have to refuse to acknowledge entire chunks of time in your life and leave weird, suspicious gaps in your personal history. Try to create a literal mental block whenever you get asked a question with an answer even tangentially related to your ex. This will work about as well as culling your thoughts about polar bears by telling yourself not to think about polar bears.

Step Four: Date someone exactly like them.
Make sure that your next partner looks just like your ex. General resemblance isn’t enough, you need to be searching for a doppelganger like you’re casting an adaptation of The Prince and The Pauper. Your new squeeze needs to look so much like your ex that when you introduce them to your friends for the first time, said friends state with great confusion that they thought you two broke up. And just as important as identical looks, try to find someone who also has exactly the same hobbies, interests, and personality. If you can’t find that organically, you can always force your new partner to take on these characteristics. This is very important because it ensures that you don’t completely erase any attraction you might still have had to your ex, merely replacing it with attraction to a newer, better version of them.

With these four easy steps, I can personally guarantee that you’ll be hung up on your ex until the end of time!

Love Might Mean Never Having To Say You’re Sorry, But Apparently Friendship Means Apologizing For No Reason

I had a best friend that I met in college in 2010, and had a massive falling out with in 2015. Although “massive falling out” tends to imply that we got into some sort of a fight. In reality, she just sent me a message one day telling me that we were “going in different directions in life” or something generically similar, and then she blocked me on everything. I was left to figure out on my own what I had done wrong. And as far as I could tell, what I had done wrong was treat this girl like she was my best friend.

You see, during this same period of my life, I was in a Complicated Situation with a guy that I now realize was probably literally Satan. He’s definitely the worst person I’ve ever met. A dishonest, manipulative, cheating slimeball who walked all over me and basically used my heart to wipe his ass. You know the type- literally Satan, but damn was he cute. As you can imagine, that relationship didn’t exactly leave me with a lot of warm, fuzzy feelings. I was miserable almost all the time, constantly worried, and needed more emotional support than a puppy during a thunderstorm. I thought I could lean on my best friend for that emotional support, but apparently I overdid it.

That’s the inherent problem with a best friend, right? When you share everything with one person, it can be a lot to handle. Friendships can’t sustain that level of prolonged intensity. And so, she bailed on me because she got sick of listening to me blather on about the same asshole for too many months. On one level I was hurt that she couldn’t care enough to be there for me when I really needed someone, but mostly I didn’t blame her. I was the annoying, shitty, whiny one. I pushed her away with my refusal to get over a guy that was fucking two other women the whole time. What a dumbass, right? I’m still mad at myself for it. I deserved to lose a friend.

But I never stopped feeling bad about it. Even if I could accept that the friendship had probably run its course by that point, I still blamed myself for causing it to end so abruptly by being so needy and irritating.

So I apologized. Just this week, in fact. I sent my old best friend a heartfelt message telling her that I was sorry if I was a shitty friend to her or just a toxic person to be around, and that I was sorry for whatever I did that contributed to us no longer being friends. I even sent her a poem I wrote about her (it’s in my book), and how I realized that I took advantage of the fact that she “had to” listen to my problems.

And she wrote back to tell me that what I’ve thought to be my mistake for the last five years, what I’ve spent this whole time in guilty contemplation over, was not the reason that she cut me out.

No, she cut me out because she didn’t like the way that I used to tease her. Which is….not something I would’ve spent five years beating myself up over I’d known.

Because sure, she’d get really touchy about it whenever I’d razz her over something like using up all the clean drinking glasses to make chocolate milk or liking the band Green Day, but she didn’t ever tell me that it was a big deal. If she had, I would’ve done what I do whenever anyone gets offended by me making fun of them- apologize for it and remember in the future that they don’t enjoy that kind of joking. But I didn’t have that chance because she, in her own words, found it easier to cut me out of her life than to tell me how she felt.

All these years I thought I’d abused the goodwill of someone that would otherwise have had my back forever and always. Only to find out that she didn’t even care enough about our friendship to tell me that something I said pissed her off.

Sometimes you lose a best friend, but sometimes you learn that you didn’t have a best friend in the first place.

Raise Your Hand If You’ve Ever Felt Personally Victimized By Eurocentric Beauty Standards

Some years ago, I decided that I was never again going to chemically relax my hair. Between the ages of eight and twenty it had been a regular occurrence for me, especially so during the teen years. And then one day, I just decided that I’d had enough of that nonsense. I vowed that I would never again destroy my beautiful Nubian curls just to look like my white friends. From that day forth, I’ve been rocking it natural.

I’ve put years into learning how to take care of my afro without taking the coward’s way out and relaxing it. I thought all that was behind me. I thought it was going to be smooth sailing from here out.

But let me tell you, they don’t call chemical relaxers “the creamy crack” for nothing. After all these years of sobriety, I found myself contending with a Hairstyle Crisis that had me struggling not to run for the relaxer like a recovering alcoholic trying not to reach for the bottle after a stressful day at the office.

You see, I recently got engaged. Which means figuring out, among other things, how exactly I’m going to wear my hair at my wedding. And as is true of most aspects of wedding planning, this has been like falling down a rabbit hole of insecurity and self-doubt.

After years of not even considering chemically relaxing my hair, it only took four months of researching bridal hairstyles for me to abandon my principles and buy a box of Dark & Lovely. I justified this purchase by getting the gentle, child-safe application kit and promising myself that it was just a little bit of relaxing, just to have some options for the wedding, not an actual relapse. You know, like the recovering alcoholic from my prior simile keeping a fifth of whiskey hidden in the nightstand just in case.

At the time of writing, my curls remain intact despite the box continuing to hang around my apartment and whisper in my ear like Emperor Palpatine luring me to the dark side. A couple of times I’ve thought it might be the day, but luckily it only takes opening up the box and reading three pages of “WARNING: PRODUCT CONTAINS DANGEROUS CHEMICALS THAT MAY UNDO THE HARLEM RENAISSANCE” to snap myself out of it.

When that happens, I like to take a second to think about the situation like a non-crazy person. If I didn’t feel all this societal pressure to Go Over The Top with my bridal look, and if I wasn’t distracted by battling my old foe, Western beauty standards, how would I be picturing myself on my big day? In a world where I’m not trying to make anyone happy but myself, what’s my look?

As it turns out, that look is a big, beautiful afro.

And why shouldn’t it be? It’s 2020 and I’m not falling back into that old, tired dogma about how natural hair isn’t appropriate for formal occasions. And I certainly didn’t spend years teaching myself to take pride in my curls only to decide that they aren’t good enough for my wedding.

Not this time, Society. Yes, I’ll still be cramming myself into the tightest dress and highest heels I’ve ever worn, and yes, I’ll be annoyed if I only lose ten pounds instead of twelve before the fact, and yes, I’ll probably give in to pressure and wear a veil even though I think they’re ridiculous- but goddammit, you’re not getting my afro.