Choose

What choice did I have?

I’m sitting in a torn, bright red, faux leather booth

with photographs of the same old, white man painting a wall splattered on the table.

I do not want to flirt with this long haired, slightly high-pitched voiced Brazilian in front of me.

But what choice do I have?

When it’s an early fall, newly crisp night and your roommate (your sister) invites a “friend” over and you share a bedroom wall with her

I spread my choices out in front of me: ways to meet new people when your sister is banging a guy on the other side of your wall and your friends are all moving to California and leaving you gone with the wind

I download Tinder

What other choice did I have?

I swipe like a good millennial woman, earn my 100 likes in 10 minutes with an assortment of 9 semi-curated self portraits of ease, and no consequence, and pretty-without-trying, and white skin

My brain eats the matches up, aware of the dopamine yet succumbing happily to the little moments of pleasure and validation and rush

What other choice do I have when algorithms have already pierced by face in my last 100 profiles; what good does deleting a profile do?

I walk with the Brazilian man down Bedford Ave and he doesn’t know I live four blocks away (thank goodness he does not know I live four blocks away) and how grateful I am that he took a 30 minute bus to get here instead of me

First impressions, big breaths at the end of his sentences, maybe he is nervous? Maybe I look different than my photos, too? Then he lands, “But enough about me, this is a date. We should get to flirting.”

I thought we had agreed to start with friends and go from there; I thought that was “your philosophy”; I thought I knew you after our 5 min text-app conversation.

My therapist told me dating would be good for me.

And what other choice did I have? As I am walking down this dark street the shadows get darker and I become more aware of my heartbeat and my keys in my left pocket and his substantially larger frame, I tell him, “That’s not my philosophy.”

Sitting on the subway counting the number of people sitting semi-miserably, half conscious staring at a smart phone, most likely an iPhone, playing games and reading texts and scrolling and liking and scrolling and liking, I know the advertisements are still there, both above their heads and in the palm of their hands. I thought I chose another path when I bought this darn Verizon flip phone

I swipe on my old 5C with WiFi and one of my matches chats me up, “anti-capitalist immigrant…let’s talk shit and play with each other’s hair,” recognizes my cis-women luxury to not have to message first even though I used to (before I remembered this was a game and why am I trying so hard?) a cat meme, waving hello

He does not understand my philosophy.

He eases in towards me, brushing my shoulder and my hand – and I back away, tell him I’m a Capricorn, I like the land, I am grounded, and yes I am serious.

I smile as I say it, feel the imprint of the key zig-zag on my finger and finally agree to turn around back to where the bars are, away from north Bedford shadows and whispers of old Tinder date conversations

I gave my sister some privacy (check) this is worth it this is worth it this is worth it

How did I chose this? I don’t even like bars. Or strangers. Or small talk. When we settle in the beer stained, still somehow red booth, I tell him my philosophy is to use the first date to decide if I want to flirt with this profile come to life, an actual, flawed human being.

I tell him that if he gets anything out of meeting me he should check out “Stealing Your Feelings” and that gets me thinking about data and capital and democracy

and choices

that some Silicon Valley giant made for me when they curated my choices for the night, plugged it into our collective conscious, and eased me into paying $11 for a watermelon margarita and a Saturday hangover.

 

In all seriousness! You, too, should check out https://blog.mozilla.org/blog/2019/09/23/introducing-stealing-ur-feelings-an-interactive-documentary-about-big-tech-ai-and-you/ but don’t worry, I won’t force you to

October 12, 2019

My Body, My Choice

Vinny chats me up as one can do in 8th grade

(as boys can do in 8th grade), and says,

“Girls look better with their hair down.”

 

10th grade:

Allie tells me over pizza in a torn up, faux leather booth:

“People think you’re really pretty.”

 

“Take the bait,” they whisper.

“We are you.”

Your face, your words,

your worth:

we hold them in our hands.

 

I grew fragile.

 

“Not to mention you’re beautiful,”

a text from Devin I saved on my phone for 2 years,

a reminder that if I kept this up,

I could be loved.

“You’re special,” they said.

“Your precise,” they reminded.

“Keep it up.”

I never heard them clearly;

it was always muffled in my ears.

 

Confidence was for the battlefield,

and without cleats on my feet

and a soccer ball underneath

I depended, fully,

on this

damn

face.

 

Middle school:

Vinny was saying he “saw my potential”

and in that moment he pointed a finger at a moon

I did not know — that lights up the sky day and night.

With each step forward from that statement came promise,

like one day my body would, miraculously, lift off the ground and fly.

 

High school: I worked, observed, learned to follow the rules.

I made friends. I chased boys (or at least followed the chasers).

I saw a twinkle form in my eyes like the sun hitting my face

and I felt something grow: confidence big enough to sew a sweater.

That confidence was soft and warm and humble,

each stitch a modest color, so I put it on:

oh, the comfort…the ease.

 

What sweater?

This is my skin, clear as day.

I don’t need all of these words–

they’re woven into my Long Island DNA

and somewhere…somewhere…I seized it.

 

College: I was prepared!

My sweater was woven!

My charm was rooted!

Soccer, friends, face.

 

And then, college happened.

And it was full of devils,

people a mere sweater cannot take on

you want — comfort?

We’ll beat you.

You want — friendship?

We’ll desert you.

You think you’ve got talent?

We’ll show you.

Bam               bam              bam.

My skin faded, my body ached,

and what can a person do but blame what is left?

 

Wisdom swims through my veins.

Nana has her Jesus

and I have my Julia de Burgos

and that’s quite alright with me.

I build a new ship to freedom…

something you cannot wear, but ride–

invisible on all sides, impenetrable,

so much so that my world forgets the words

“break” and “fear” and “fall,”

that Kenny’s story can be his own.

that Marlena’s antagonism can be her own,

and that I can feel the wisdom in me,

the quiet confidence that does not need

a coach to tell me my worth.

 

I just play.

 

December 22, 2018

Carry On

Tell me

what type of wind

would have made you stay,

tempted your shallow roots to grow

and adventures to remain

silent in the mind,

considering the heart instead–

talk about vulnerability

when all you see is mastery

even a mindful soul can grow lonely

what bit of sun-dipped skin

did you need to see,

prepared to acknowledge that freedom

is free to think about

but a lifetime of hurt to know

that “fate” is just a word,

“choice” a guarantee

unlike thawed flowers in spring

you’ve uprooted–

away from my heart, from possibility

and “we” becomes “me”

I continue the journey.

 

I learn to carry on.

 

January 2, 2016

Why be a Feminist?

It’s

been on

my mind, lately.

……..

I

watch Zen

Buddhism videos every

……

day

and yet

today is the

…..

first

I have

watched a woman.

….

The

songs on

the radio really

….

are

just “okay,”

when one yells

“pussy”

I shrink

inwards, when “Choice,”

“Respect,”

and dare

I mention “Love”

….

are

excluded from

our social vocabulary

…..

I

want more

90’s anthems and

……

80’s

love songs

I want more

…….

Feminism

I want

all Feminism, all

……

Compassion

no rape-

culture, no need

….

for

school reform

I want Equality

for my mother, my sister, for me.

July 12, 2015

“The songs on the radio are okay,” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nky4me4NP70