Week 4: Bad Ideas in White Hollywood

There is no such thing as perfect writing. (Except maybe books written by Kali Fajardo-Anstine, but I’m biased because I think I’m a little in love with her. But, honestly, who isn’t?) But there is some terrible writing and even worse plots that even I, a bad writer with no formal writing training and even lesser talent, would never dream of writing down.

I’m going to talk some much-needed shit about shows and movies starring primarily white people, written by mostly white people. This is not an exhaustive list, just some off the top of my brain. Trust me, I could write a whole series about where white Hollywood fucks up and can do better. But I’ll keep it short and start with these more recent titles.

PIVOTING

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Set in Long Island, N.Y., three women — and close-knit childhood friends — cope with the death of the fourth member of their group. When faced with the reality that life is short, these women pivot and alter their current paths through a series of impulsive, ill-advised, and self-indulgent decisions. These pivots strengthen their bond and prove it’s never too late to screw up one’s life in the pursuit of happiness. “Pivoting” takes a real look at three intelligent, empowered, and seemingly enlightened women who decide to hit the reset button. For all three of these women, the untimely and heartbreaking death of their friend was the wake-up call they didn’t know they needed, but it might just be the thing that helps them live their best lives.” – Google

I really wanted to like this show. It seemed like a fun feminist show, but unfortunately, that’s precisely what it was – a show for white and white adjacent women. Maybe younger me wouldn’t have minded watching yet another show about the lives of white women, but current me is struggling to breathe among all this content directed towards and for white women. Frankly, the white women’s privilege in this show is suffocating.

I think Ginnifer Goodwin (Jodie) is so cute,, and I love to watch her on-screen. But I hate the character she plays and how desperate she is to get railed by her trainer because her husband neglects her. It’s a tragic play on the “desperate housewife” stereotype, and it’s sad watching her degrade herself for another man’s attention. The unfortunate part is that the trainer isn’t attracted to her; it’s a one-way street. But I get it; I’ve also been that desperate for someone’s touch before. I wish someone would just shake her and say, “BITCH, YOU DON’T NEED NO MAN!” And if her husband ain’t putting it down, maybe she should slip him a copy of She Comes First by Ian Kerner.

Jodie is used to denying herself joy, not standing up for herself, and lying to coast through this patriarchal society. White women can do that to protect themselves from sexism because they’re not oppressed by their skin color or culture in the U.S. The part where Jodie is white is not upsetting. It’s that she’s so unaware of her privilege in society that she lives in the shell of the person people expect her to be as a wife/mother: subservient, dainty, not sexual, tight-lipped. Jodie, who is “closer” to ‘liberation” than BIPOC women in the U.S. is actually crippled by her oppression of being a woman in a white-male-dominated world. I think I just expected more dimension from that character.

I expected more from the “full-time working mom” trope as well. Amy’s sudden guilt for choosing work over her family had awkward moments. First, her nanny is Black. The first Black character I notice…and she’s a nanny. I expect more by now. I also didn’t see any Latinx characters, but this isn’t about me. This is about this show’s poor execution. Second, Amy kind of treats her kids like an accessory. Having kids was just “something you did,” like going to college and getting a job. I’m 100% for the woman who puts her career first and can have a family, but I cannot believe she relied on her nanny to do everything. Amy’s character reminds me of the rich absentee-Dad trope used in white Hollywood. Just because it’s a woman now doesn’t make it any better.

JUST GO WITH IT

(MORE LIKE, JUST STOP)

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His heart recently broken, plastic surgeon Danny Maccabee (Adam Sandler) pretends to be married so he can enjoy future dates with no strings attached. His web of lies works, but when he meets Palmer (Brooklyn Decker) — the gal of his dreams — she resists involvement. Instead of coming clean, Danny enlists Katherine (Jennifer Aniston), his assistant, to pose as his soon-to-be-ex-wife. Instead of solving Danny’s problems, the lies create more trouble.” – Google

I’m not going hard for this movie, but it was on last night, so it’s still fresh in my mind. The first time I watched it, I laughed so hard – I loved it. It was hilarious. Nick Swardson’s German sheep farmer character will probably always be my favorite Nick Swardson besides Terry Bernadino from Reno 911! However, the last 30 minutes I semi-watched were super cringy. What’s worse is I was remarkably sober. I got to see this poor excuse of a rom-com for what it indeed was: trash. I’ll skip over the details, but here’s a high-level interpretation:

  • normalization of colonization in Hawai’i – First of all, Brown and Black people travel to Hawai’i, too, and stay in fancy resorts. Second, in 2022, white people at a fancy resort in Hawai’i is not only disgusting, it’s heavily discouraged. No one should be traveling to Hawai’i at the moment and looking at how normal it was for white folks to do that in 2011 is embarassing.
  • the stereotype of an older man and a younger “dream girl”– Adam Sandler, get a new trope! This stereotype is so overused and leads to an unrealistic ideal for not so hot older men. Let’s be real, Palmer was a straight up 10 dating a solid 5. Yes, he has plastic surgeon money, meaning he’s probably a smart guy. They wrote Palmer as a naive young woman who can be manipulating into believing anything a man says. It’s a misogynist fantasy and it’s gross.
  • the normalization of men being manipulative to protect their emotions – Why is this Danny guy such a liar? Let’s talk about the deceit. This man has been playing women because he’s too scared to be hurt, so that somehow makes it okay for him to manipulative handfuls of women into dating him. The protrayl of this behavior with no consequences makes folks believe this kind of dating tactic is normal and okay, when in fact it’s not.
  • the Palmer character – She’s smart, she’s cute, she’s young, she’s hot. She’s everything Danny wants, yet somehow she falls for his lies and is okay with him taking his ex-wife on vacation with them. Palmer should have been pissed. And then, why would she agree to marry him and ask his ‘ex-wife’ later if they’re still into each other because you’ve noticed the sexual tension. What? Who wrote this? In what fantasy world is a monogamous couple okay with that. I would have believed it more if Palmer or Danny were openly polyamorous. But that was never implied, so Palmer just willingly agreed to marry an older man who was undeniably in love with another woman. And Palmer was okay with that.

MOXIE

FEMINISM (AND PUNK ROCK) SAVED MY LIFE

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Inspired by a confident new friend and her mother’s rebellious past, a shy teenager publishes an anonymous zine calling out sexism at her school.” – IMDb.com

I’ll start with the most obvious missed point: the story focuses on a white girl’s perspective who builds off the feminist work of an outspoken brown Latinx queer girl. The white girl lives safely under the guise of white supremacy, allowing her to escape racial and queer oppression and see gender oppression as a thing of the past. But when she sees a brown girl standing up against the oppression she is facing, the white girl feels inspired to speak up in her own way – by publishing an anonymous zine. Unfortunately, this story feels all too familiar. While Moxie’s goal was to bring awareness to the power one feels when they discover feminism, they shed light on how white women profit off Black & Brown women’s creative expression or acts of revolution without their consent.

Now let’s dig into the most apparent symbolism for white feminism: the fact that the mom can tuck her little box of feminism away in a closet and live a reasonably normal life. How is she able to put feminism away so quickly like that? Because she’s white and she is protected by white men. Black, Indigenous, and Women of color don’t get that same privilege. Black, Indigenous, and Women of color can’t separate the discrimination of being a non-white person in the U.S. from being a woman in the U.S. So, the mom can easily pack her feminism away and easily survive without it. I, however, cannot do that. I need feminism to survive.

And I’m not talking about this white-washed version of feminism. No, I’m talking about the Cherríe Moraga, bell hooks, Angela Davis, and Audre Lorde kind of feminism. The Latina Rebels kind of feminism. The kind of feminism that brings you out of gender oppression for the first time and wakes you the fuck up. The kind of feminism that includes all women and not just the cisgender white ones. This is where this movie failed: it failed to sincerely acknowledge how feminism is intersectional. Yes, there were diverse characters, but they served as props to move the plot along to support the white girl’s prerogative. I’m simply very tired of this narrative.

There were so many missed opportunities in this movie, but I’ll leave it here with these two main points: white women are still painfully unaware of how they rip off BIWOC, and I wish this movie had more Black & Brown girls perspectives than a white girls’ perspective. But that’s precisely what white feminism does, doesn’t it? It only serves white cisgender women. It’s not always convenient for differently-abled or queer or trans white women, and it hella ain’t convenient for any BIWOC. To sum it up, Moxie was a movie that catered to a white feminist’s perspective. I was largely disappointed by this movie, minus the soundtrack and styling choices. Big win there. Big fail everywhere else. (Maybe not casting; it’s not the actors’ fault.)

Disclaimer: I watched this movie while having alcoholic drinks when it came out in early 2021. I took notes while watching because I had high hopes, but I was immediately let down, as you can see. And no, I will not be re-watching this movie…ever.)


It’s not enough that this content for white people exists and is actually popular; it’s that some of the only good shows with Latinx characters were canceled recently, and that hurts. Unfortunately, that hurt a lot of us consumers of the entertainment arts. Someone on Twitter pointed out how while good Latinx shows are being canceled, shows about narcos are thriving. It reminds me of the low expectations imposed on us by this country. They expect so little from us and continue to take away the things that normalize our humanity, like citizenship documents, the rights to live on this land, or TV shows and movies that represent a real Latinx experience. It’s almost like they want us to feel like we don’t belong here.

Yet, we exist here in many colors, shapes, sizes, y culturas. And we have beautiful movies like Encanto, In the Heights, and Coco streaming on Disney+, which lets me know that at least the younger kids know that we are here and not going anywhere. We are part of this country—hell, we helped build this country! And even though there isn’t much mainstream visibility for Latinx folks, at least we have our indie art scenes.

But that makes me wonder about other people who don’t see themselves represented on TV. Do they feel othered like I did? I’m sure the answer is yes. This is what makes streaming so vital for representation. We get to choose what to watch and when to watch it. We don’t have to wait for a primetime television network to tell us when and what to watch. We get to choose for ourselves. And I like to choose TV and movies to watch with characters that look, feel, and think like me.

Here’s a list of good TV shows starring BIWOC I actually recommend:

Real-life woes with a lot of laughs:

  • Girlfriends
  • Black-ish
  • Grown-ish
  • Insecure
  • On My Block
  • Girlfriends
  • The Sex Lives of College Girls
  • Abbott Elementary
  • Awkwafina Is Nora from Queens

Lots of crying, but also lots of joy:

  • Pose
  • On My Block
  • Gentefied
  • One Day At A Time

A little drama, but excellent writing:

  • Charmed (the new one)
  • She’s Gotta Have It
  • Good Trouble
  • The Fosters
  • Never Have I Ever
  • Station 19
  • How To Get Away With Murder

The pen holds a lot of power, like the keyboard, typewriter, script, camera, and direction. People have a huge responsibility to tell ethical stories – stories that are truthful, uplifting, worthy, and reflective of the human experience. It’s a shame we continue to get these poor excuses of storytelling in Hollywood and in the literary world (think American Dirt). We believe every story matters, but I hate to say that they really don’t, especially not the ones told from a white lens – we have enough of those. These stories have a responsibility to appeal to more than the white gaze.

I had the pleasure of being part of a book club (Fine Ass Book Club) that prioritized reading books written by BIWOC. This was the first time in my life where I felt really seen. And this book club, composed of beautiful BIWOC intellectuals and writers, gave me the space I never knew I needed to fully blossom. This is where Libreria Book Bar was born. I had always wanted to open a cafe or a bar; I lacked the vision and niche. When I started reading these books, I found myself drawn to bars and cafes that had comfortable seating, low lights, and a quiet atmosphere so I could sit quietly and read. It was one of my favorite weekend ventures. And when the book club would look for cute local cafes and spaces to meet, I yearned to build a space that catered to us, Black, Indigenous, and women of color. I dreamt of shelves full of the books we read in our Fine Ass Book Club.

This is how we stand up against white-male supremacy. Call out this bullshit. Build new spaces. Invest in BIWOC stories. Invest in other Black, Indigenous, and people of color. This is how I will make a difference: by building a world where BIPOC perspectives are standard and the most valued.

Thank you for coming to my TEDTalk. See you next week, bitches, and thanks for hanging on this long. You’re appreciated!

xo,
lola

Hand drawn skull and cross bones with heart eyes.

Disclaimer: TV shows and movies I left out that are just as problematic: And Just Like That, The Kissing Booth (1-3), Shameless, Wandavision, and many, many more.

Week 3: You Gotta Embrace All of You

When COVID hit, I was furloughed from my job as a Website Content Manager. During my 2-month furlough, I would learn that I was not really a good Content Manager nor a really ‘good’ writer, and I was not really happy with either of those things. Having the privilege to stay home during a global pandemic brought me face-to-face with a cold reality: I was not living up to my potential.

The first week of my furlough, I was profoundly depressed. Showers and cleaning were my last priority. I blamed myself for not being good enough at my job to keep it, and I was embarrassed like it was my fault the company felt I was not worth keeping around during hard times. It damaged a part of me I worked so hard to build up. I was a fucking hustler, and when COVID-19 hit, I was forced to reckon with the person I became to fit the toxic American work culture. I had given this company so much of myself, so much of my creative and influential work, and they just dumped me when things got hard.

So, what did I do after I got dumped? I did what any person would do; I went on the rebound. I started looking for another job, but with each job description I read, I realized more and more how unqualified I appeared to be. I didn’t have a portfolio ready or samples of my work saved. My resume was outdated, and I had less than 1 year of professional copywriting experience. No one wanted to hire me, especially not during a global pandemic. I felt betrayed by the company I worked for, for promoting me into a role and not teaching me a god-damned thing. Was it my responsibility to do that for myself? Was I expected to teach myself how to do the job, or was this just a standard practice that companies do? How did they expect me to do better if they offered no learning opportunities? That’s when I finally realized that these big companies don’t really give a shit about us at the end of the day. And that hurt.

I knew I needed to reset—I needed to find my passion again. Who do I want to be? What kind of words do I want to be attached to my name? What topics do I love writing about? That’s when it hit me: relationships. I fucking love writing about exes.

During my time off from the company, I didn’t go back to school to brush up on knowledge that was going to help a corporate retailer get richer off my underpaid labor; I decided to write for myself instead. I decided to tell my story about how I learned how to be a better partner, how to be healthy in a relationship, how to love, so to speak. I rummaged through the journal I kept since 2013 and found some excellent writing, so I started there, and then Learning How to Love was born. It’s the story of how Lola fell in love many times over and how she overcame an abusive relationship. And by Lola, I mean me. The stories were heavily inspired by real-life events, and the characters, whose names were obviously changed, were all people I loved once.

It got a lot of traction with my community on Instagram and some of my friends loved the way the stories made them laugh and blush. I wish I could say how confident these stories made me feel, but each story exposed me more than the last. The vulnerability hangovers were an unexpected side effect to publishing these “fiction” stories. I was only supposed to publish about 10 chapters, but I lost my footing halfway through writing Chapter 7. I fell hard into drinking and smoking again, trying to forget the abusive relationship that took so much from me in such little time. I couldn’t finish writing the story about how Lola overcame the abusive relationship because I hadn’t overcome it in real life.

The company reinstated my job around the time I was due to publish Chapter 7, so I told my community that work was keeping me really busy, and the stories would have to wait. But the truth was that I needed a break. I needed to heal. And I wanted to learn how to write about gut-wrenching experiences without traumatizing my readers and retraumatizing myself. It was time for me to invest in my storytelling and divest from sharing publicly.

Like most of you, I spent a lot of time on social media since March 2020, and I used this time to connect with Latinx writers from all over the U.S. I came across Vanessa Martir, who was hosting free/donation-based writing workshops, and I fell in love with the way she taught us the craft. In 2021, I signed up for the Writing the Mother Wound Workshop she teaches once a year, and fuck—that shit dragged me. I said I wanted to write about trauma without retraumatizing myself, but what ended up happening? I started writing about my trauma, and I drove myself into another depression. Except this one was an, I am my mother’s daughter kind of depression. (Vanessa warned me this would happen if I didn’t self-care whilst writing about things that hurt, but I never seem to listen.)

I couldn’t complete Vanessa’s workshop, but I took the tools she gave me and ran with them. I wrote until I couldn’t write anymore. This was work that needed to be written. The tears that sprinkled my journals were evidence that I was doing the heart-work. I was finally tapping into the shadow parts of myself that I wished to keep hidden. I was finally revealing parts of myself that needed tending to. I was finally setting myself free.

And where is this work, you ask? Why, they’re in my journals, where they will stay until I’m ready to green-light those stories. But this isn’t about these unpublished babies; this is about how I finally realized that I am responsible for taking learning into my own hands to push myself further. This brings me to today: I am more than just a writer; I’m a relationship writer, copywriter, and content manager.

Why do I keep denying these parts of me?

I have spent a decade of my life writing about my relationships in a 2-pound journal I’ve kept since 2013. This is where I analyze what went wrong, what went right, where I could improve, where I could draw the line. I am a relationships writer because I’ve been practicing this for years. And I’ve read many books, articles, and papers on healthy relationships because this is what I wanted for myself. Learning something for your own life purposes can also be used in a professional setting.

Why hadn’t I made that connection sooner? Where did this divide between knowledge learned outside-of-work and at-work become a barrier between myself and my full potential?

When I started my job as a Content Manager, I expected someone else to hold my hand and show me the ropes. I blame public school education for teaching me how to depend on systems. Still, in reality, I should have set my own expectations, created my own learning schedule, and built myself up. In the end, I am responsible for bettering my skills, no one else. Most big companies aren’t going to spend money to elevate their employees because they don’t want to promote them or pay them more.

So, here we are today, and I’m learning the foundations of being a better Content Manager so that I don’t ever feel inadequate again. When I was promoted into this role, I already had a working knowledge of managing a website, because I had been managing lolalapoeta.com for years. I didn’t know what else there was to learn so I didn’t go looking for answers, even though I had many questions. So, when I was furloughed, I felt like it was because I wasn’t very good at my job. (My boss says otherwise. He is very patient with me and has let me learn at my own pace.)

However, being furloughed was a wake-up call, one I really needed to remind me why I was writing and working in the digital space in the first place. I started asking new questions and looking for my own answers. What kind of company do I want to be associated with my work? What kind of business would I run? How can I change the way we talk to our customers?

I am learning that I can’t keep denying parts of myself to make others feel more comfortable. I exist as a whole. When I show up to work, I show up as a multi-dimensional creative being who empowers people through content. I need to embrace my full set of skills instead of fitting a mold of what I think others expect of me. Because I am far from what people expect in the roles where I take up space. And I want to work with people who naturally accept that.

I never got a degree in writing and rarely published anything, but that doesn’t make me any less of a writer. I am learning the foundations and consistently practicing my skills so I can publish my own stories. So that I can write how I really feel without feeling too exposed. So that I can share what I’ve learned with others so that I can make the world a safer place. I did not take the traditional route to be a writer, but I am still here.

I can’t separate my work self from my personal self. The two co-exist simultaneously and make each other stronger. I am less when I separate those two worlds in me. I achieve less by breaking myself into tiny digestible parts for people. I figure I was failing at being a good Writer and a good Content Manager because I was showing up as a half-assed version of myself.

I am learning I am capable of so much more than I used to allow for myself. I’m learning I can actually fly and not just dream about it. I’m learning I can climb higher and see things I never thought possible. I’m learning I naturally take up a lot of space and I need to start acting like it. You can’t compartmentalize me. Shit, I can’t compartmentalize myself. The only way I can create good work is by showing up as my full self.

So, thank you for being here with me to bear witness.

I’ll talk to you next week.

xo,
Lola

Hand drawn skull and cross bones with heart eyes.

Week 2: Tackling Impostor Syndrome One Paragraph at a Time

I struggle with finishing writing projects. I’ll get a new idea, get lost in my head about not being good enough to execute my own vision, and then convince myself out of working on that project. Most of my projects involve helping people, so I convince myself I need to be an expert in a subject to write about it. Impostor syndrome is so instilled in me that I gate-keep myself out of the spaces where I belong.

According to Oxford Languages, Impostor Syndrome is “the persistent inability to believe that one’s success is deserved or has been legitimately achieved as a result of one’s own efforts or skills.” One of my favorite writers, Prisca Dorcas Mojica Rodriguez, adapts Impostor Syndrome for BIWOC in her book, For Brown Girls with Sharp Edges and Tender Hearts. She explains that we feel impostor syndrome because we’ve been socialized to believe our accomplishments come from an outside force (luck, teamwork, etc.) In addition, we’ve been influenced to think we are “an exception to a cultural rule” because white people’s expectations for us are so low. For example, growing up, older white adults consistently reminded me of how ‘exceptional’ I was for a Mexican. However, they didn’t outright say that; they would just say things like “Happy Mother’s Day” to me when I was a teenager or congratulate me for staying in school.

I grew up having meager expectations for myself even though my family had high expectations. Learn to cook, clean the whole house, take care of the kids, cook for the kids, get good grades in school, be a role model, graduate high school, go to college. I was the second person in my big ass family to graduate high school. We grew up poor in the ‘hood. No one outside of our family had high expectations for us. They expected the girls to be knocked up by 18, the boys in gangs, and the rest of us addicted to drugs. I was the exception to the rule only because I had an abortion (which 90% of my family knew nothing about).

Society having low expectations for me and not having the resources to help me critically think about my future led me down the Psychology path. If I had time to think about who I wanted to be instead of worrying about surviving and getting out of the hood, I would have chosen to be a writer instead of learning about the people who made me feel like shit.

Psychology is still very white and very male-centered. Most of the studies we learn about are based on college students from the 60s-70s. None of my people were in college in the 60s and 70s. I never saw myself in Psychology. Looking back, I now understand what Audre Lorde meant when she wrote, “For the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. They may allow us temporarily to beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change.” I was learning about people to help disenfranchised people like me. But I knew I couldn’t do it with the Eurocentric-American-White-People Bullshit tools they gave me.


TECHNICALLY, I’M A TECHNICAL WRITER

I feel like an impostor writing a “Healthy Relationships 101” handbook for young people. Where is my credibility besides my excellent partner? Who else can testify that I practice healthy relationship patterns? I know all this stuff from having survived an unhealthy relationship and doing the work myself. I am a living example of what professional help and education can do for a survivor. But I still don’t feel qualified to write on these subjects because I have nothing tangible to show for it.

What’s even wilder than me thinking that is the fact that I actually do have a technical writer background. I wrote handfuls of educational workshops for 13-18-year-old teens, developed and copyedited complete Operations Training manuals for management teams. For the last 3 years, I’ve been writing about sneakers, athletic wear, and accessories almost every day. I am more than qualified to dissect complex information and make it palatable for folks to read effortlessly. I have receipts, baby, so why am I so pressed about writing this book?

I hold my own damn self back by not valuing my work because I only have a Bachelor’s degree. I keep thinking, I didn’t specialize in anything. How am I supposed to teach others? How can I make an impact without a Master’s or a certification? I keep thinking about those white people with PhDs and degrees in no se que who might devalue my work before it gets its footing. I keep thinking my work is for them, but really it’s not.

I reached out to my community on Instagram and filled them in on my dilemma. I asked, how do I reconcile feeling like an impostor writing about what I’ve learned in my field? This is fundamentally what they said:

My community showed up and reminded me that just sharing what I know is enough. Community knowledge. Un consejo. I don’t need to be an expert in the human experience in its entirety to warn young people about abusive people and how to intervene in red flag situations. I just have to be passionate about helping people avoid bad relationships.

My work isn’t for post graduates. It isn’t for experts. My work is for the general community who doesn’t have access to or want to pursue academia. My work is for those that need it.


Do you see what I just did there? I showed you my technical writing and design skills. I summed up about 8 messages from different friends on Instagram and packaged them neatly into this graphic gallery. Not only is it a cute aesthetic, but it’s also intentional, easy to read, and to the point. I didn’t have to do all that, but I wanted to because this is what I love doing.


GATE-KEEPING

When you really sit back and think about it, we wouldn’t know a lot if it wasn’t for one brave person who decided to share what they learned by experience. We know what foods to avoid, what to eat to nourish our bodies, what plants to use to get high because some individuals dared to explore. They weren’t worried about whether people believed them. They just needed to share the knowledge.

In today’s society, most people have to pay to learn new things because 1) teaching is labor, but also because 2) knowledge sets people free. Keeping people disenfranchised is the number one way to exploit them. This is why the United States doesn’t offer free higher education, only free K-12 education. They teach the kind of education that conveniently forgets to teach kids to think for themselves and forces obedience. As much as I hate to admit, Academia teaches you how to critically think, but if people have to choose to pay for that or basic necessities, they’ll always choose survival.

At 22 years old, I couldn’t afford to buy a Master’s degree without knowing my career goals. I couldn’t afford to put myself in more debt without knowing if this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Twenty-two years old was far too young for me to settle into what I was going to do for the rest of my life. I wasn’t ready to go into debt for learning how to be a therapist; I decided to get real-world experience instead.

The natural progression for someone who has a Psychology degree is graduate school or certification. However, just having a Bachelor’s in Psychology is practically worthless. I basically paid $20 g’s for a degree just for some for-profit “non-profit” to exploit me and pay me $30 g’s a year to do the job of 2 executives. Doing Psychology work is brutal. But working in the Psychology field is even crueler. I decided working one-on-one with people just wasn’t for me. It was rewarding but emotionally exhausting.

So, what do I do with everything I’ve learned as an undergraduate, a mentor, a youth educator? Corporate America would say, “Get a job in that field.” But Spirit tells me, “Tell the world what you know.” The happy medium is making a little money from the labor I put into compiling, citing, and disseminating resources.

But then there’s a little voice in my head that’s separate from Spirit, and she tells me to stay in my lane. Actually, it’s a male voice. And he tells me I’m not smart enough to create this content. He stands in the front of the golden iron gates of publishing and tells me, “No one will want to read this crap.” He reminds me of lacking credentials and all the paths I didn’t take in education, making me unqualified for writing about human behavior.

No one in real life kept the gates closed because I wasn’t even coming around to knock for opportunities. Remember those low expectations society had for me? Well, turns out that tactic worked. I’m not sure what planets shifted last year, but it really woke me up. I came face to face with the reality that no one was holding me back except me. I was not an impostor; I was a gatekeeper.

All this is to say that knowledge is power. And I’ve always been about empowering people through whatever work I do: mentoring, teaching, writing. I live to uplift and support my community. I am not an exception to the rule; I am the rule. The women in my community have taught me, mentored me, uplifted me, and so much more. We are exceptional people, not because society tells us we aren’t, but because we’ve survived and fought against colonization, racism, and sexism. And we continue to do this every day.

I am not an impostor. I am a survivor and that gives me more than enough ground to write about survivorship and help others with my work…

Thank you for coming to my TED talk. I’ll see you next week. 🖤

(c) All images included in this post are property of lola hernandez. Images created using www.canva.com.

Week 1: I Suck At Writing

I still remember the day I decided I wanted to be a writer. My 5th-grade class was on a field trip to the Museum of Contemporary Art, and I loved everything about these paintings. For our Language exercise, our teacher, Ms. H, asked us to pick any art piece in that gallery and write down the first things that came to mind: a poem, a paragraph, a sentence, anything. So naturally, as a sad 10-year-old, I gravitated to this dark blue, melancholy painting with a single boat braving a storm. It reminded me that life can feel that way; sometimes, we can barely hang on. When Ms. H came over to read the poem I wrote, she teared up. “Wow, you’re a natural writer,” she praised. That’s when I knew I wanted to be a writer.

Well, here we are two decades later, and I feel like I never showed up to my own coming-out party as a writer. I wrote secret poetry for a whole decade because I thought it was lame, and then I wrote crappy public poetry for the last decade. I never took any classes to get better or read books to learn the craft. I wrote decent essays covering deep spiritual and emotional topics in school, but I always just scratched the surface. I never really pushed myself to experiment with a different language and sentence structures. I was a basic ass biscuit because I never owned the craft; I never saw myself as a worthy writer.

What would a coming-out party for a writer look like anyway? I’d probably invite some friends over for chilled red wine, set out some hard and soft cheeses with deli meat and multi-grain crackers. I’d set the mood with a playlist featuring my favorite writers: Lauryn Hill, Erykah Badu, Jhené Aiko, and Kali Uchis. Light some candles, burn some incense, smudge a little sage, and blaze it up. Yep, I’d go all out. Sometime during our soiree, I’d turn the music down, thank everyone for coming, and talk about my new self-published zine, titled Brain Chemistry. Then I’d recite a poem titled Brain Chemistry that coincidentally did not make the cut for the zine. My friends would applaud, and I would see not one family member in my tiny apartment living room because they wouldn’t be invited. I keep my writing hidden from the family unless they get really cool about revealing our family’s history of mental illness, physical, emotional, and sexual abuse. So, I guess the real question is, should I just stay in the closet?

Even as I write this, doubt pours down into each fingertip. Am I choosing the right words? Do I sound like I know where I’m going with this? Does this read well? Do people even care to read this? All I should be thinking about is writing these thoughts into words. Writing is giving craft, and it will take all of you if you really want to be in it. People will ask what you’ve written, published or not, and god-willing, you must share it. That’s how other people get to know you as a writer. I struggle with being a writer because I fear people will read my work and hate it.

This is where that old-age saying about taking risks comes into play. I can’t be a known writer, or an established writer, without having something to show for it, like published essays in popular writing outlets or listicles on popular websites. Whenever I told myself to make that deadline, pitch that idea, post something on http://www.lolalapoeta.com, I’d conveniently forget or hate my first draft and quit. I don’t ever jump, so how will I ever know if I can fly?


After writing my first poem, I put the idea away of writing for quite some time. It was a passing thought, for I had bigger dreams than that. I wanted to be a teacher, marine biologist, or something more remarkable than a broke-ass writer. But I still wrote poems; in fact, I kept a journal to process my feelings and document my little life.

When the internet started booming in 2003, I came across a social media site whose name always slips my mind. I think because I would instead not remember what I posted there. Something with an X or Z. Users could create an account, upload, and share whatever they wanted-images, music, videos, writing. I posted my preteen poems on that website, under the username darlingnikki.

I never told anyone I had an account. I never told anyone I wrote poems. I never wanted anyone I knew to read the poems I wrote.

But I grew as a writer, thanks to Honors and AP English Lit. I wrote essays that inspired people, opened their minds, and even changed perspectives. When asked to write about a prominent historical figure, I chose Bob Marley. When asked to write a persuasive essay about changing a law, I essayed on the legalization of marijuana. Not only was I clearly a stoner in high school, but I was also passionate about my sharing my viewpoints. I was in my element when writing about things I loved.

I decided to turn inward and start writing essays about myself. When I was 15 years old, I was already having sex, drinking alcohol, smoking weed, and trying amphetamines. I wanted to write my stories. I wanted to write about my tragic first relationship, the story about how my parents wouldn’t let me be with the love of my life. I wanted to write about my controlling mother, how all she did was make me miserable by not allowing me to make my own decisions. I wanted to write about how everything would be great one day. I wished everything I was writing about to be a distant memory and not anything close to reality.

I decided I would write a romance story without reading anything more than a heartbreak piece in my high-school Literature textbook. I chose to rewrite my story and started writing the story of Mark and Lisa, star-crossed lovers who couldn’t be together because he was a Taurus, a bad sign for Lisa’s mother. Sappy, right? It was half-true. My mom mentioned once that all Taurus men were terrible, so when she found out my boyfriend was a Taurus, she got upset. I wrote that into my little fiction love story, teetering between fact and fiction. That was fine, right?

No, it was, in fact, not OK with my mom. So, naturally, I was an idiot. I was 15 years old, and I let my mother read an essay on how she did my relationship wrong. No, my friends. She was not happy with what the story suggested, even less impressed with my writing style. She called it “mediocre.” If that wasn’t a blow to my self-esteem, she tried to make up for it by saying it doesn’t read like Fitzgerald, Hemingway, or Dickinson. It felt like she wanted my work to be more American, more white-American. I refused to let her read anything else after that.

That is until 2019.

I wrote an excellent piece for raisingmothers.com, where I shared my experience of having an abortion at 16 years old. It was even reviewed and edited by Elisabet Velasquez, one of my favorite writers. She really elevated my work on this platform. I was incredibly proud to have gotten this far in my writing without proper writing training and education in Literature. I wove in my mother’s coming-of-age story with my own and turned it into a beautiful and touching essay, so I thought.

I shared the essay with my mother, and she replied, “It’s good, but most of that is fiction, right?”


And so, the question still begs, do I continue to share my work publicly when the people I’m writing it about don’t care for it?

I guess I can answer my own question now. And the answer is yes. Yes, you should share your work publicly even if your mom, your sisters, or your significant other isn’t reading it. But, remember, you’re writing it for yourself and no one else.

My generation of folks is a beautiful one. We’ve realized that we don’t need to share our work to be validated or successful. Publishing our art is a privilege for others to read, see, hear. And we don’t need to profit from it to be worthy of that craft. So we can keep our work to ourselves and still call ourselves artists/writers, or we can self-publish and still call ourselves artists/writers.

However, that doesn’t change the messages we grew up hearing: find something you like to do, go to college for it, and then find a job in that field. So when it was time to choose a major for college, I chose Journalism because I wanted to write my own love advice column. But I quickly realized you had to change your writing style to meet the expectations of the publication, and well, that didn’t bode well with 16-year-old Lola. So instead I found something I naturally excelled at, reading people, also known as Psychology.

My mom is 10 credits shy of a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature. My very Mexican mother is well-versed in white-people stories and loves them. However, I have rarely been a fan of said stories. I can barely get through a white-male-centered story without gagging on the white male privilege littered in every description. She and I have different opinions on what it means to be a writer or be published. But because I’m not educated in Literature, didn’t receive a degree in English, and haven’t published many essays, I don’t feel like a writer. If anything, that’s my mother.

I never wanted to write canon. I never wanted to sound like an old white man. I never wanted to express anything close to what I was reading in school. I yearned for a new sound. To write the way I talk to myself in my head: sassy, funny, charming, clever. I want to write the heart-work, telling gut-wrenching stories about my past, present, and plans for the future. I want to dig out the rotten stories in my family history. I want to shame everyone out of hiding through my work. It sounds harsh, but that’s what good writing does. It reflects the truth, the parts of you that ask to be seen and paid attention to. White canon never reflected my reality.

I think back to the day I felt like a writer for the first time, the validation from a white teacher telling her Mexican student that she is worthy and talented. And I think back to the times my Mexican mom kept it real with me. And I look at all these unpublished essays and stories living on my hard drive, in several different notebooks, and scattered across the digital world. And I know I’m a persistent writer because I’ve been journaling, writing poems, and editing my own essays for the last 20 years. But am I a bad writer?

Sometimes, yes. I write awful first drafts. They remind me of newborn babies, funky-looking and misshapen. But it has potential, right? With a bit of tending to, the work eventually becomes a piece of art. And this is where I am at. I’m a newborn baby writer whose work is a little fugly at the moment but still has great bones.

I guess you can call My Weekly Confessional my official coming-out party. My Weekly Confessional is the space where I’ll come to be an awful writer. Where I’ll confess how much I actually hate this craft while also blowing your mind with the way I sling words together. A word-slinger. I like that. Here is where I’ll be everything but white canon and revel in the beauty of not writing for a specific purpose, to write just because I can.

So, yes, I’m a natural writer, baby. And sometimes I’m a lousy writer, and sometimes I write some pretty fucking cool things. It all comes with the territory, and I’m totally here for it.

xo, lola

When It’s All Said & Done

MY STORY ABOUT SURVIVORSHIP

Being a survivor isn’t a one-and-done thing. You don’t survive the experience and get to call it quits later. Unfortunately, it follows you everywhere. The experience is etched into your cells, your memories, your everyday actions. You may never be a victim again, but you will always remember why you’re a survivor in the first place.

I remember when I first started dating my abusive ex-boyfriend, he said he used to date a girl who used to “flinch every time [he] moved [his] hand too fast.” He laughed because he said her old dude “used to beat her”. I can’t remember how I responded then, but I will always think back to that first red flag. In that moment, he was letting me know that intimate partner violence was acceptable, perhaps even humorous.

But what did I know about red flags, then? When I was 16-years-old, I was blaming victims for not leaving their abusive partners. I didn’t know what to look out for when dating ruthless boys and rebellious girls. What I did know was that I was too smart to get caught up in some abusive relationship–Nope! It would never happen to me, because I would just leave, duh! Because it would be that easy…right?

The truth was a hard pill to swallow. I choked on it. I didn’t want to believe I was a victim, but I wasn’t in denial of what was happening to me. I just didn’t know how to make it stop. I still loved him with my entire being – I was convinced he would change. I believed he would changed even after he ghosted me for months, held a shotgun to my chest, physically dragged me by my hair multiple times in public, called me out of my name, left me with bruises, and forced sex with me.

I covered for him everytime, calling his fits “anger issues” because that’s what the courts and the hood called it. I knew it wasn’t my fault he was always in a rage. Truthfully, I love the banter. And I loved to play rough with my boyfriend. I could control my rage in a healthy way, why couldn’t he? Several tough years later, I’d learn it was never about anger, or rage, or being mad. It was always about having the power and control in the relationship (and over me). He didn’t have an anger issue, he had a supremacist issue.

Though he didn’t explicably say it, being white and being a man had its advantages. He was the center of every conversation. Guys like him are the center of what we learn in public school. It didn’t matter that he was a stoner, considered himself liberal – dare I say, a feminist. But what feminist believes women should be “put in their place?” (A very wrong one, for sure). He used his power in society to keep me scared, powerless, and under his control. Every time I tried to break up with him, he’d threaten my family. I believed him because he had a very powerful support system backing up his every move.

Our friends and family knew him as a “nice guy” with temper issues. But “abusive”? No. He would never. He would never raise a fist to me or an open hand. He never hit me. So, why would I say that about him? Obviously, it was me causing his outrage and provoking these fights about what I should be doing with my life. Because the fights were usually about me and what I was doing wrong. I could never point a finger at him because he was “one of the good ones.” He was gaslighting me and I was on fire from the inside out.

When the relationship was finally over, I started to take inventory of what was left. What did I have left to give? He had taken my power, my friends, my integrity, my hope, and my innocence. I’d never see the world with the same bright eyes as before.

IN THE BEGINNING

I met him when I was 16 years old and just out of a complicated, toxic relationship that ended with me having an abortion. He was supportive of my decision and helped me get my mind off of what happened. Full disclosure, he was a good friend before we started dating. He was a family friend, the nicest and funniest guy I had ever gotten close to –  a real gentleman, so I thought. I fell in love so fast, I completely forgot I was *this close* to becoming a mother months before. But I also knew something was off. After we had sex for the first time, I lied about how many people I had sex with. I told him it was just my ex-boyfriend because I didn’t want him to think I was a slut, or dirty. I wanted him to think I was pure and worth keeping around for a long time. Looking back, I always regret that moment.

This was another red flag I should have noticed. In all sincerity, I just wanted to be loved and love in return. I wanted stability, normalcy, and a romantic, healthy love. I thought I would get that with him. I was so blinded by my wants that I forgot about what I needed: safety. I grew up in an unstable, unsafe, unhealthy home and something about him felt familiar. He felt like my Mom and Dad all at once. I should have ran until my feet blistered, but instead I stayed until the very last ounce of dignity was squeezed from me.

But no one warned me about these red flags. And when things were bad, no one talked to my partner about stopping the abuse. They all turned to me and just expected me to leave. As if it was that easy. As if I hadn’t already tried before. As if I had any energy at all to entertain the thought of another fight. As if.

It’s been almost 10 years since the relationship ended, but I still wake up scared some days. There are only so many ways people can take power away from you, but there are so many other ways to gain that power back. On days I feel most helpless, I start to write another piece of this story. And on days I want to take my power back, I share resources to prevent this from happening to someone else. (I also go back to scenes where the abuse took place, but that’s another essay.)

CALL TO ACTION

I am a survivor of IPV and sexual assault. And I am not alone. There are hoards of us and even more young and innocent victims who don’t know how to read flags like 16-year-old me. As survivors, it is sacred our duty to protect them and help them get out of these abusive relationships. As survivors, it is imperative we teach others not to make the same mistakes.

In the same breath, the young man who abused me was also a victim of physical and emotional abuse. The world let him suffer in silence and allowed him to channel his trauma into violence against a romantic partner (me). The world sat back and watched as I was pushed, shoved, and pulled at hands of a troubled young man. His friends did and said nothing. His family did and said nothing. My family tried to help, but ended up blaming me (the victim). All of this happens all too often. We let abusers go unnoticed because they’re our friends, our family members, our loved ones. But that’s not okay. And we shouldn’t keep doing that.

There’s a call to end toxic masculinity as it’s been linked to all kinds of fucked up shit (if I may say): rape culture, intimate partner violence, dehumanization of women and girls, homophobia, transphobia, among other things. But it’s not enough to end these cycles of oppression within ourselves. We have to call people out when they are being less than neighborly to our loved ones. We can’t be scared of being disliked for calling out toxic behavior. Actually, people may even stop talking to us the more we speak up for victims’ rights and the end of toxic behavior.

Right now, we live in a world that allows men to use power + control + violence to make a point and unfortunately, most of the world is run by those people. Fortunately for us, we live amongst the people that that behavior directly affects, meaning we have direct influence to make changes within our homes and within our communities. We can’t let abuse happen period. When the abuser is committing these acts, call them in. When the victim is experiencing these acts, get them out. You can’t sit on the sidelines for this one (or at all), you have to choose a side. You either support abusive and toxic behavior, or you act to end it. Period. There is no inbetween.

While I would love to label all abusers monsters, I cannot. I am a humanitarian and to me that means showing compassion for all, even the worst of the worst. The actions that abusers commit should be punished to the fullest extent, but I stand by actions not defining us. I am not what happened to me and he is not what he did to me. In the end, we are all humans trying to make the world work for us. People like my ex-boyfriend need to realize that they can’t make the world change for them. They need to change for themselves and do better. They need to be better and we have to give them a chance to do so. (We don’t have to be around when it happens, tho.)

FINAL NOTES

So no, this isn’t a story about why I stayed or how bad things were. No. This is a story about survivorship and all the moments it took for me to get here. This is a story about how to get through and still have something left over when it’s all said and done.

Learning How to Love: Chapter 6

INSPIRED BY TRUE EVENTS. CHARACTERS AND EVENTS MAY HAVE BEEN ALTERED FOR STORY LINE PURPOSES.

CHAPTER SIX

LOST…IN LOVE?


May 26, 2012


I can’t believe he expects me to spend the weekend with him at my boss’s house. He’s so nonchalant about it, too, like it’s not a big deal for me to sleep over at my boss’s house who I literally just met 2 months ago. If he thinks he’s getting laid this weekend – he’s going to be in for a rude awakening. I just think it’s too much, too soon.

I’m no stranger to spending the night at a guy’s house. I once spent 2 weeks in New Mexico with Mr. Right. We cooked breakfast, we lounged, we explored, we smoked weed, drank beer – you know – the usual. I wasn’t scared of spending the night with another guy. I was scared of what would happen after Mr. Money and I spent the night together.

Does this mean we would be exclusive? Does this mean we have to start dating?
Does this mean I have to make you my boyfriend? 

Mr. Money is a natural salesman. If he were selling me a car, it would have been a best-in-class 4-door sedan with additional warranties and policies that I really didn’t understand or need. I’m sure he would have thrown in some free all-weather mats and a roadside assistance kit, too, just for flair. He doesn’t know how to take no for an answer and will convince you why you should say yes. Eventually, you will say yes.

He might think I’m playing hard to get, but I’m really not playing. I really am hard to get – even just to understand. I don’t have time for games; I invited Mr. Right for a summer in Humboldt and I’m pussyfooting around with another guy. This romance doesn’t feel authentic – it feels like it’s been built on a broken foundation waiting to crack open at any time. I haven’t been honest about Mr. Right, mostly because I feel a deep shame for having made those plans in the first place.

You can’t let your guard down around these heteroguys. Once you do, they’ll think they “won you over” as if you’re some sort of consolation prize promised to the bird who squawks the loudest. I’m no consolation prize; nobody worth keeping around wants to truly love me. But I only think Mr. Money wants me so bad because he can’t have me. Truth be told, I’m not really looking for anything serious, anyway.

I really do like how easy it is to talk to Mr. Money, though. He doesn’t make things complex; He accepts statements with ease and engages in great surface-level conversations. Being around him is so easy, too; I don’t have to change much about myself to make this work. I just keep things simple with him.

I heard this piece of advice once: “If their kiss doesn’t leave you mesmerized, they won’t leave you mesmerized, either.” Truth be told, I’ve kissed a lot of folks, and not many were lips worth bragging about, not even Mr. Moneys. His lips were timid but strong. The way he parted his mouth to let me inside was half-assed; I had to lead this kiss. I don’t think he’s ever learned to kiss anyone with a passion.

The lackluster kiss is hardly what struck me as odd; it was the apparent lack of understanding that what he delivered was indeed a bad kiss. In fact, he described the kiss as “amazing.” Yes, in fact, was amazing. I’m a great kisser with loads of experience. Mr. Money, however, kissed me like it was his first time; It was brief, dry, and a little awkward. Nothing short of a business email – I’m sure.

But he cradled my neck when he kissed me. Just the gentle touch of a young man sent chills up and down my spine. No one had ever caressed any part of my body like that. If he hadn’t done that, I would have never kept kissing him. I would have never stopped the first kiss he attempted and took control of the second kiss. I placed a hand on his cheek and guided his chin toward mine. I puckered my lips and gave him a soft and wet kiss with no tongue – the lingering kind that leaves you wanting more.

For the last week, he’s treated me like an absolute princess – not a Queen. A Queen is not scared, is sure of herself, and knows how to use her power. A princess – me – is spoiled, still learning how to wield power and is dependent on others. Mr. Money has taken me out for breakfast, lunch, dinner, coffee, and ice cream dates all in the last 7 days.

I will admit, walking around town with a new dude holding my hand seems really weird. I told Mr. Money I’m not into public displays of affection, but I lied. I am actually terrified of Mr. Right showing up out of nowhere and starting trouble with me and my new friend. He’s not supposed to be in town for another week, but I still wiggle out of every arm-over-the-shoulder and awkward-hand-holding opportunity Mr. Money gets.

We did have one sleepover in this last week – let me rephrase that. After two hours of begging me to spend the night with him, I finally agreed to spend the night. Just one night (this was before I knew there would be a whole ass weekend). One weekday night of cuddling – that’s it. As long as we didn’t have sex, there wouldn’t be a risk for greater attachment, right?… Right?

But that was it – that’s what did it. When he held me, his body molded into mine and we stayed that way all night. In the morning, his roommates asked if I was able to sleep with his loud-ass snoring in my ear, and I said what snoring? You mean I slept through what sounded like someone choking all night? Fuckinaye. If this isn’t a sign, I don’t know what is.

I keep telling Mr. Right that him coming to Humboldt is a bad idea – that I wasn’t thinking straight when I agreed to these terms. I hinted that I changed my mind and things weren’t going to work out. But his response was assuring me things would be fine and everything would work out as planned. He made it sound like we were going to start a life together – in Humboldt. Is that what I agreed to? In his “defense,” he couldn’t get a refund on his Greyhound ticket, so he had no choice but to come.


Erykah Badu – “Didn’t Cha Know” – Official Music Video

June 7, 2012

Before I knew it, the web of lies I spun had caught up with me. Not really, I had to come clean to both of them. I came clean to Mr. Money first – after all, he’d done for me he deserved to know the truth about what I did. Shortly after the weekend I spent with him – after we slept together, after we played house, after we fell in love – I broke it off.


“Listen, I don’t know how to tell you this,” I tell Mr. Money in a sad and soft voice. While watching the passersby on a park bench, I decide now’s the time to come clean. “Remember that guy from last month? The one who threw the fit in my dorm?”

“Yeah, your ex-boyfriend? The one who was an asshole to you?”

“Yeah, yeah. Him.”

“What about him? Did he contact you again?”

“Actually…he’s supposed to be my roommate this summer.” I look down at my feet and away from him. I can’t look him in the face right now. I don’t want to see his reaction. 

“What do you mean?” he asks nervously. “What do you mean roommate?”

“I mean, before I started dating you, he and I made plans to live here in Humboldt – together.” 

“Are you fucking serious right now?” he snaps at me.

“Yes, I’m serious.” I pause and let out a sigh. “Look…i’m sorry I didn’t tell you sooner. This wasn’t supposed to happen this way. I told him not to come. But he’s coming anyway.” My legs shake as I wait to hear his response. Part of me wants to get out of here as soon as possible and the other part of me wants to call Mr. Money right then and there and tell him to fuck off with his stupid non-refundable Greyhound bus ticket.

“So, what does that mean for us?”

“I don’t think we should see each other anymore.”

He bites his lip, stares off into the sky, and doesn’t say another word. Suddenly, my heart aches, like I’ve lost a loved one; more like I just pushed my lover into a volcano. He didn’t deserve this. He deserves so much more; a better me.



I have to keep the promise I made to Mr. Right. I feel like an early 19th Century European middle-class white woman caught between a budding romance and her cruel and vicious husband. She can’t leave her husband because (1) she can’t prove he is unfaithful to her and (2) he’d probably hurt her if she tried. Here I am – 200 years later – anxious to leave an abusive relationship, even after experiencing healthy love. The details may have changed, but women are still expected to obey men, regardless of what they really want.


New Chapters are available to read every Wednesday @ 8 PM.

Learning How to Love: Chapter 5

INSPIRED BY TRUE EVENTS. CHARACTERS AND EVENTS MAY HAVE BEEN ALTERED FOR STORY LINE PURPOSES.

CHAPTER FIVE

DESERVED LOVE


May 10, 2012

“Can’t believe you’re graduating this weekend! You must be so excited,” I cheered. I’m genuinely moved when I see brown folks succeed; I feel like if they can do it, then I can do it.

“Yes! Yes, I am!” Mr. Money’s smile was so big, it could have walked off his face. “I’ve worked so hard for this. Brown people have to work twice as hard in this country to get ahead, so I’m glad I get to pave the path for my younger sisters.”

“That’s incredible. What are you doing after graduation? You gonna stay, or what’re the plans?”

I’ve only known Mr. Money for a few weeks. He’s been training me to take over his job once he leaves. He’s charismatic in the way he makes you feel important when you’re talking to him. The whole office – mostly the women – adores him. He’s got a perfectionist attitude, but I feel like there’s more to him than just work, school, and family.

“I’m working here in Housing for the Summer and then I’m moving back home to study to be a licensed financial advisor.”

Of course, he’s got it figured out. Nevertheless, I rejoiced, “Wow, that’s awesome! You know, ‘cause you actually have a plan,” I joked. 

“Since we’re both working here over the summer, I’ll see you around, yea? We should hang out,” he insisted.

Mr. Right is not supposed to be back in Humboldt for another couple weeks, so I have a little time to kill. “Yeah, totally. Hit me up whenever!” I remarked.


Mr. Money isn’t the kind of guy I would have paid attention to back home. He wears button-up shirts with Jordans and he’s snarky but in a funny, respectful way. He’s really flirty, especially with all the women in the office. I wouldn’t be surprised if he were dating one, or already had dated one. Besides his obvious love for shoes (which I respect), the only thing we have in common is that we’re from LA.

I can tell Mr. Money is really into me. His eyes glisten and gleam when they look at me and he can’t stop smiling when I’m around. Plus, my boss Glenda hasn’t stopped talking about what a great young man he is and how he still hasn’t found a “nice girl.” I think he got into her ear about liking me. It’s kind of weird since we all work together; but coworkers date, right?

Glenda’s the kindest boss I’ve ever had. She’s got kids our age, and they’re both in college, too. On the surface, she’s a middle-aged white woman living in a predominately white community. The only systemic struggle she’s had to fight is being a single mother and survivor of intimate partner abuse. That’s where we bonded; I needed a mom and she needed to talk to another survivor. I think that’s why she asked Mr. Money to train me, so we could bond, too. We call her White Mom.

When Glenda asked Mr. Money to walk me to my dorm last month, I felt grateful but embarrassed. The more questions he asked about Mr. Right, the more shame I felt. I didn’t want to tell my coworker why I was still fucking with this immature older dude who wasn’t good for me. I didn’t want to look in the mirror and face the truth; Mr. Money might actually one of those “nice guys” everyone keeps talking about – the good kind, not the weird kind.

Plus what if Mr. Right was still in my dorm? What was he going to do to Mr. Money? Beat him up for walking me home? I was scared shitless of that possible outcome. Mr. Money was packing decent muscles, but something tells me he wasn’t quite the hoodlum he thought he was in L.A. Mr. Right is a tall beefy sum’bitch; I was frightened of what he could have done to my new friend.

When Mr. Money dropped me off at my dorm, he lingered for a minute or two. Just before we stepped a few feet from my suite, I covertly surveyed the parking lot for Mr. Right’s car. There was no sign, so I let Mr. Money give me a hug and wish me well. When he hugged me, I felt safe. I felt like I could take deep breaths again. Why hadn’t I met you sooner? He grabs my shoulders and stares into my eyes with furrowed brows.

“You deserve better,” he tells me.

I look down, let out a long sigh and mumble, “I know.”



May 19, 2012

The summer here hardly feels like summer. I know it’s still Spring, but it’s still overcast 99.9% of the time and rains every other day. We’re lucky if we get a few hours of sunshine a week. Part of me wishes I was back home in the L.A. desert, but the majority of me craves independence. Working over the summer is the only way I’ll be able to afford the rent on my new apartment. And with my roommates gone for the summer, I’ll have to rely on my coworkers for support and having fun.

I took up Mr. Money’s offer to hang out, but since I’m not 21 yet, we’ll have to drink at his place. To his content, the Lakers are playing tonight so we’ll hang out and watch the playoff game. I’m not certain this is a date, or just some coworkers hanging out. I know he’s into me, but he doesn’t know I’m into him and I want to keep it that way. I’m not really eager to get involved with anyone right now, especially because I’m expecting a visit later this month.

I decide to look irresistibly cute anyway. You only live once, right? It’s a bit chilly, but I’d like to wear a floral stretch mini skirt because they’re comfortable to wear. I add black tights for the weather, a black and white Incubus band tee ‘cuz it’s my fave and my cheetah print Vans – because, duh, why the fuck not.

I split my hair down the middle and French braid each side. Shoulder-length hair doesn’t give me a lot of up-do options and this one is by far my favorite and the cutest. I grab one braid and pin it under the opposite side and do it again to the other side. This is as close as I get to traditional anything. I loosen up the braids a little to give it a textured look and spray down the back. Having my hair out of my face makes me feel bold and in control.

I’m ready to head out to Mr. Money’s place; But first – snacks. I can’t show up to the homie’s house empty-handed. I stop by the grocery store and pick up some chips and salsa. As I’m waiting in line to pay, I catch the eyes of a very handsome young man. He looks like a Vegan Veterinarian who promotes world peace and creates his own compost. He probably does that farm-to-table crap all these yuppies do. If I had the means, I’d probably farm-to-table, too.

Handsome Young Man decides to get in line with me and ask me what I’m up to.

“All dressed up for chips and salsa?” he inquires.

“Yea, I’ve got a hot date with some beers, so the chips and salsa help make a good impression,” I jokingly said. We both smile and examine each other’s bodies and faces.

I’m not sure how I’ve got the attention of two guys at this moment. I’ve been trying to get laid for at least 6 months and now that I’m not desperate for someone to notice me, suddenly I’m popular?

“I’m having a small party tonight. You should come,” he asserted. He writes his number down on my receipt and hands it to me. “Call me and I’ll give you the address; starts at 7.”

At this point, I’m thinking, “Is anyone else seeing this? Am I being set up? Ashton – is that you in the corner? Am I being Punk’d?” Handsome Young Man just gave me his number as I’m on my way to meet another dude whose – excuse my accent – been on my nuts since day one. The Universe took pity on my thirsty ass and sent fine ass blessings my way! I’m receiving, Universe, and thank you for being so gracious.

“I’ll see where the night takes me,” I coyly stated. I flashed the approval smile, gave his whole essence a once over, and bounced out of that grocery store like the heartbreaker I intend to be. I’m not going over a stranger’s house in the dead of night for a possible hook up. I’m a brown girl from L.A. in the heart of a racist county – I’ll pass, thanks.


Mr. Money’s place is a bit of a hike away from the grocery store, so I arrive a bit sweaty. To my surprise, I’m greeted by a very casual Mr. Money. He looks like he’s been cleaning his place all day. It’s Saturday, so he could have been cleaning from the break of dawn until now like most Mexican children have been trained to do. He’s wearing basketball shorts, flip flops and a t-shirt. I don’t think I gave him enough time to get ready. I look at my watch, and I’m 15 minutes late; I guess this isn’t a date after all.

Shockingly, I feel more at ease seeing Mr. Money in his Saturday cleaning clothes. He introduces me to his roommates, and we all drink and watch the game in his living room. This doesn’t feel so formal, so I don’t have to be on my best behavior; I can relax and be myself.

I hate the Lakers, so I’m talking shit. More specifically, I’m not a huge fan of Kobe and what he did to that young girl. I know the media lies, and he said he was sorry, but something about the whole situation doesn’t seem right to me. Mr. Money doesn’t get into the politics of who deserves praise, or forgiveness; he just appreciates the hard work it took for the man to get on top.

When the Lakers lose, he expects my sympathy. But instead, he gets my arrogance. He’s a team player, so he takes the L on the chin and pops open beers for the both of us. I wonder what kind of person he thinks I am to console someone when their team loses. Did he not get my whole -liberal-independent-feminist vibe?

I gotta hand it to him though – he’s surprisingly fun for a Business major. I thought those folks were all uptight and all about the money. At least I know I was wrong about one thing. He brings out a bong and packs it with some fire. Score! Homie has a 24 oz mason jar full of dank ass bud that’s supposed to last him through the summer. I guess we can stay friends.

We take some kitchen chairs and prop them on the lawn to soak in whatever sunrays are still left. Bong in one hand; Beer in the other.

“What made you want to come to Humboldt State…so far from your family?” I ask.

“I wasn’t going to get far staying in L.A. I was hanging around bad people, doing a lot of drugs and I needed a way out of all that. So I came here. Plus this was one of the only schools that accepted me,” he stated matter of factly.

He has a very mature nature. Like he’s seen the world crash, saved humanity and is now living life in a carefree, but responsible way. You all know the type, right?

“That’s crazy. That’s kinda why I came so far, too. I had to get out of the fucked up world I was living in,” I added. He didn’t really ask about me, but I felt inclined to share anyway.

As the sun sets, so does my hand-eye coordination. I’ve never drunk these beers before – IPAs or some shit? They’re a little bold, but I manage. They’re strong so drinking the 3rd beer while taking bong hits is taking its toll on my movement management. In order words, I’m cross-faded so I have to call it a night before I get sloppy.

Mr. Money insists on walking me home – oh, what the hell – I accept. He pulls on a red Southpole sweater that does absolutely nothing for his Saturday cleaning outfit. He probably should have put shoes on, but who am I to judge? About five minutes into the walk, he tries to grab my hand, but I tactfully hide my hands in my jacket and act like I didn’t just bust his move. He’s crazy if he thinks he’s going to make moves on me. We’re coworkers.

By the time we get to my place, we’re deep in conversation about who we are as people: what we believe in, what we want, what we hope for and what we dream of. I really needed someone to see me authentically and mirror that back. I really needed the company of someone genuinely interested in my personhood and not just what I had to offer.

When I was ready to head inside, he leaned in for a goodnight kiss, and I turned my cheek. My instinct was to turn away. I didn’t want to share a kiss with a coworker I may or may not be into. He’s a great listener, but I’ve got a dude coming over in 2 weeks. I can’t start something new while not having ended the thing I share with Mr. Right – whatever that is.

He took a step back and asked if he read the signals wrong.

“I’m just not ready to start anything new right now. You’re great, but I need time,” I explained. I didn’t want to give him any details; like the fact that I’m kind of single, but not really.

I omit the truth to keep my shame hidden, but I am being honest about not being sure about this guy. He’s got a good heart, a good head on his shoulders, he’s funny, he’s charming, he’s a college graduate, he’s stable, he’s responsible…why didn’t I accept his kiss?

The next morning he texts me bright and early, “Good morning, beautiful. Can I please take you out for coffee today? Maybe even a bite to eat?”

I take my time to text back. I don’t want to sound too eager, because I’m not. After 2 hours, I finally reply with, “I’m down. Just let me know when and where.”



New Chapters are available to read every Wednesday @ 8 PM.

Learning How to Love: Chapter 4

INSPIRED BY TRUE EVENTS. CHARACTERS AND EVENTS MAY HAVE BEEN ALTERED FOR STORY LINE PURPOSES.

**Trigger Warning: Descriptions and detailed scenes tied to Intimate Partner Violence.

CHAPTER FOUR

THE WRONG MR. RIGHT

Ugh. People with their long-term monogamous relationships make me sick. Taking pictures in front of a Christmas tree, kissing under the mistletoe. It all makes me sick. Does anyone even know the meaning of Christmas? Does anyone even know the meaning of love? Love ultimately leads to separation of some sort. So, what’s the point in being in a relationship, anyway?
 
When you love someone, you should be willing to put that person’s life ahead of yours. 
 
Even if it was only for that moment, I loved so hard. For what? So I can get my heart torn out and stomped on? Then you expect me to love you again? You took everything from me. You took so much, I had nothing left to give myself. 
 
You threw me on the bed because “you didn’t want to hurt me.” You called me names so I could understand the anger I “caused” you. Why? I did nothing to hurt you, at all. 
 
It was all a tantrum. A show. Pretend. And that’s all you are. A pretend lover. You never actually opened up to me. It was only anger. You were never truly yourself. Just an act. 
 
You’re always going to be fake to me. Christmas is mostly about consumerism now and I hate that. That is also fake. Like you. So have fun this Christmas, living a fake ass life with fake ass traditions. 
 
Fuck you, Mr. Right. Seriously, go fuck yourself.
Posted on Tumblr.com on December 15, 2011

April 3, 2012

After several months of trying to get back into dating and looking like an idiot, I’m done. I can’t believe I posted my phone number on my neighbor’s door and told him he was cute. I can’t believe I slept with this freshman White-Boy who came after like 3 seconds (poor thing couldn’t handle all this). I also can’t believe I slept with my childhood BFF (it was great, too). And I really can’t believe I just texted my piece-of-shit ex-boyfriend.

He wasn’t always a piece of shit to me. We were really good friends in the beginning. He was my favorite person to be around when I was a freshman in community college. But after a year or so, he started getting controlling and possessive, so I got the fuck out of that relationship.

But when my Dad died, Mr. Right was there for me with a strong shoulder to lean on. He’d take care of me after I was done taking care of everyone else. But just as I would quiet my sadness, Mr. Right would ask questions like, “So, did you fuck anyone else?” and then add things like, “A break don’t mean shit. You were unfaithful if you fucked around like that.” And I would come back with things like, “Well then, technically, I was unfaithful.” That same strong shoulder I loved to lean on would then jerk me around.

Sometimes it was a shove. Sometimes it was broken objects. Like cellphones, windows, doors. He would lose control, blame it on me, take it out on me, weep like a child, and then beg for forgiveness. It was a vicious cycle. Round and round. Get mad at stupid shit, blame it on me, take it out on me, feel like a piece of shit and cry, and then beg for another chance. Pathetic, honestly. At the time, however, I was crying, too. I was scared he’d take things too far.

After my Mom divorced my Dad, she married this tall, light-skinned hijo de su puta madre from Michoacan, Mexico. Universe, forgive me for speaking of the deceased in that way, but I’ll never forgive him for what he did to my Mom.

He was emotionally abusive and controlling. When she asked for a divorce, he showed up to the apartment with a plan for a murder-suicide. He only got away with one thing on that list. And now my Mom lives with the haunting memory of brains splattered across white walls and beige carpet. She still shutters when she hears a loud BANG!

I didn’t want my Mom to live with losing her daughter to intimate partner violence, too. But some part of me thought this was “it” for me. This is the most love I’ll get out of a relationship. This is the kind of love I deserve. I’d never seen someone with so much hate and anger in their eyes. But it didn’t matter how many times I tried to leave, he just wouldn’t leave me alone.

But now I’m here in Humboldt, 700 miles away from my family and friends – basically, all I’ve ever known. And even though I blocked his ass on Facebook and changed my phone number, I still yearn to reach out. I’m lonely and he’s loyal.

I don’t know if he’s changed. All I know is that he’s a person I trust and am comfortable around. Freud has thing weird theory about people falling in love with partners that remind them of their parents. I don’t buy it. Mr. Right is nothing like my Dad, but at least I know he’s a ride-or-die kinda motherfucker. That’s all I need right now.

Weirdly, I’m not afraid of him anymore. If I feel uncomfortable, I’m not afraid to speak up anymore. If he gets loud, I’m not afraid to laugh and point out the silliness in all this anger. If he dares put another hand on me, I’m not afraid to stab this foo in his gut. And if it all goes to shit, I’m not afraid to die trying to defend myself.

He doesn’t own my power anymore – I do.  


April 10, 2012

I cannot believe this. I just spent the most magical weekend of my whole ass life with Mr. Right.

Yeah, yeah, yeah – I know. We decided it was a good idea for him to drive to Humboldt to see me. Don’t ask me how it got to this point. All I know is booty-calls are sometimes hella complex.

He drove up from L.A. bearing gifts; my bike from back home, an ounce of bomb-ass LA bud, a Ziploc bag half full of gold caps, a bit of hash and this new thing called DMT. I already had access to all this product in Humboldt (I mean, come on – it’s Humboldt) but getting it for free as an apology gift is more my steez; I think it’s the Aquarius Ascending in me.

As if Mexican Drug-Dealers didn’t already have a bad rep, Mr. Right had to go and fulfill the violent stereotype. He was hypermasculine in the ways that pressured him to bully other boys into joining his entourage. He didn’t have real “friends.” He had scared boys who never said a damn thing when Mr. Right would raise a hand to me in front of them. 

He also owned a gun and taught me how to use a shot-gun and an SR22. About two years ago, he pointed a shotgun at me. There was no fight, no horseplay, no obvious trigger for him to do that, so I panicked. I belted out and started crying for help. Then he started laughing hysterically. Said he was playing a prank on me. No, I didn’t think it was a red flag. Yes, I started laughing, too. 

In Dr. Howe’s Family Relations in Contemporary Society lecture, I’m learning that when your young brain sees violence in your home growing up, you’re more likely to be the victim of intimate partner violence, or be the perpetrator of violence in the relationship. Sometimes, you’ll be both. Hearing the way Mr. Right’s mom berates him sometimes makes me cringe. She’s usually drunk out of her mind when she goes off, but she digs her nails deep into ill-healed wounds. 

Mr. Right is aware of his trauma and has is actively trying to heal his trauma. At least that’s what he said on Facebook. Those things are usually pretty accurate, right?


We drove out to the beach on Saturday to explore this new Northern territory together. I rolled the window down and let the crisp off-shore breeze forcefully sweep hair into my face. I popped in a Summer 2010 mixed CD with songs by Sublime (not with Rome), Rebelution and Bob Marley. Hearing about world peace and smoking trees, while enjoying the sunshine sends jolts of serotonin throughout my body. I live for moments like this.  

At the beach, we tucked ourselves in between the giant forest rocks and trees and pitched a small tent. Beaches here get super windy and cold, so we chose a spot where we could watch the sunset without being pounded by the wind. It didn’t take too long for us to realize how much we missed each other’s company.

I never thought I’d have sex on the beach, but he and I were pretty adventurous with each other. There was that one time in the woods…and on the highway…and on a roof. I guess I’m not surprised we did this, too. 

Between the time I left LA and now, I’ve had a lot of time to explore my body and sexuality. I finally know how a real orgasm feels and I know how to make myself get there – alone. Plus,  vibrators have become a necessity and a luxury. I’m not relying on anyone else for pleasure anymore, honey; This gal has got it down! 

People often neglect this fact, but having an orgasm on THC is an extremely pleasurable experience. Your body is relaxed. Your mind is at ease. Your body is flowing with nature and if you’re not feeling paranoid, sleepy, or munching out, then you can immerse yourself in a sensational encounter.  We smoked a fat ass joint. Because that’s what we did when we were together. We smoked; We laughed. We lived in the moment. This guy always came through for me. If I had a problem of any sort, he was there to support me through it and help me feel better. We rode hard for each other. And there he was, 700 miles from home, stripped of all toxic masculine cultural expectations and pressures, inhaling dank ass LA bud and exhaling shame and fear. 



I asked him to visit me again. Yup. Even after everything he’s done to me. Maybe I need closure? He was supposed to leave this morning, but he ended up leaving sometime in the afternoon. When it was time for him to go, he started sobbing. And boom – just like that, there it was: instant regret.  

“I just don’t want to go back down to LA. There’s nothing for me out there! I’m not safe out there!”

Mr. Right is sitting with his head in his hands with tears and mucus running down his face. I crouch down to meet his eyes. But, I can’t sit here and coddle him. I’m going to be late for work.

“You have a life down there and I have a life up here. Your Dad needs you in LA. You’ll be okay,” I say firmly, but calmly.

He wipes his tears but lets his mucus fall onto his lips. He’s an ugly crier. “But you don’t understand what it’s like for a guy like me in the ‘hood. Constantly having to look over your shoulder…ready for the next foo to come at you. Ready for shit to pop off.” He takes his sobbing to the next level and yell-spits, “YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT IT’S LIKE FOR ME!”

I don’t have time for this. I don’t know what it’s like but I don’t feel sorry for him. He’s a white Mexican cis-het-man with anger issues and trauma. He needs a therapist, not a girlfriend.

“You need to get your shit together and go home.” I let out a sigh and looked him sternly in the eyes. “I’m going to work and by the time I come back, I hope you’re gone.” I soften my look cause I don’t want him to react violently but not before reminding him that this weekend was lovely, but it’s come to an end. Before I left, I sat with him for a second and put my hand on his leg. I finally whispered, “Let me know when you get home,” and walked out of my dorm.  

My job was only a 2-minute walk from my dorm, but I took an alternate route so Mr. Right couldn’t follow me. I wouldn’t put it passed him to show up and make a scene. I’m usually not one to air out my dirty laundry at work, but I had to tell my boss why I was late. She’s a gem. She knows what it’s like to have been kicked around by a loser. She kept me at work as long as she could and asked my coworker to walk me back to my dorm as a safety precaution.

Mr. Right left before I got back from work. Thank the Universe. What a relief. But what Pandora’s box did I just open? Before his meltdown, I told him we should do it again this summer. I thought things would be different.

Fuck.


New Chapters are available to read every Wednesday @ 8 PM.

I Am A Poet

I am a follower of wandering lust
More so a poet than a dove
I am a poet of love

I am a poet drunk on love
Writing on pages to fill them up
I am a heathen of love

I am a poet who rides the bus
A little more chill, than a fuss
For I am a poet high above

I am a poet high on drugs
Consumed in sexual smug
I am a poet drunk on lust

I am a poet just as such
Not an artist on the cusp
I am a poet with little luck

I am a poet whose pants fit snug
Devouring sweets to fill me up
For I am a poet who loves to munch

I am a poet that loves to run
Far away from good-for-nothing chumps
I am a poet close to none

I am a poet overdosing on fucks
My dopamine stream is abundant
I am an intellectual conundrum

I am a poet more so than a cunt
I am a poet when being blunt
A poet whose heart is always touched

I am a poet who recycles junk
Words reused to refuel my funk  
I am a poet drunk on love

Writing on pages to fill them up
For I am poet made of drugs
I am poet high, high above