“I accept chaos, I’m not sure whether it accepts me.”
Here is what you learned this year: A lot of men are trash. Like…a lot.
I didn’t learn it. I already knew it. But this is something you’re learning. Just now. At this very moment.
A lot of you are waking up to this realization for the first time, and it’s fucking up your chi’s, chakras and the Holy Ghost.
But not mine – the #metoo movement is re-aligning it – because it’s giving me the validation that I never received from the men who sang my graces to my face, while simultaneously trading in my trust for lower pay, gaslighting, invisibility, and cheap quips about my ass to their mates – a lot of men are absolute trash.
Note, I didn’t say all men – stay your twitchy hands. But I don’t feel the need to say “not all men,” because it’s a false narrative that reverses the power dynamics that the #metoo movement has begun to correct after many (far too many) years of victim blaming, slut shaming and mass femme voice silencing.
Everyone knows that not every single man is a sexual predator. But many, many are. They are people you know, people you love, people you respect and people you work with. And many others are apologists for them, enablers for them, defenders of them – and participate in the same language that encourages them, time and time again, to be horrible. Maybe you’ve never laid your hands on a woman against her will, but have you ever made filthy comments about one whose name you barely knew? Have you ever reduced her to a piece of flesh unworthy of respect or humanity and called it a compliment? Have you ever made excuses for a friend who did?
Then you too are part of the problem. And when it comes to #notallmen, you do not have the right to include yourself in that category because you helped create the movement that opposes it.
Thank you for forcing me, and every woman you know, to relive the most traumatic moments of her life for a mass social movement that demonstrates how endemic the problem of toxic masculinity (i.e. YOU) really is.
You’re probably thinking “What does this have to do with what I’m about to read?”
It’s the undercurrent to my…ha…”hysteria”…in a year punctuated by constantly having to pull through when I didn’t want to. Because I didn’t have enough to deal with (as you’ll read below) – I also had to acknowledge your sudden awareness of a problem that dictates so much of my life – the need to feel safe.
Let’s table that for now, because I haven’t blogged in a really fucking long time, and one or two things happened since. I’ve decided to go in chronological order to make sure that I don’t skip on the important events, of which there were many. Each month will be represented by a GIF – just to keep things light and fun. You’ll thank me later.
Where was I? Right, I went to Stockholm in April. After returning from Stockholm to Berlin, in May, I was accosted by my neighbours in the middle of the night in a racist tirade that led to me calling (and subsequently getting dismissed by) the police, moving out of my flat, and living somewhere else.
Earlier that day, I went and saw James Baldwin’s I am not your negro in the theater, and I can’t help but mentally note the irony.
My Berlin crew really rallied behind me in a way I did not expect, and I received ample messages of support from near and far – which I really, really appreciate. Eventually, I wrote an article about it on Handelsblatt Global (read here). It was hailed by many, and shared widely on social media with the thanks of my friends and colleagues, including Germany’s Federal Anti-Discrimination Bureau; it was also derided on Reddit by white men who find the acronym “Person of color” unnecessary and race-baity.
Can’t please ’em all, I guess.
That was the most difficult article I’ve ever written, because I find myself sliding into a pool of disenchantment with critical race theory. It’s important, of course – vital, as my friend Musa would say – but it felt different when I actually thought I could change some hearts and minds, or help others to better understand the every day plights that PEOPLE OF MOTHERFUCKING COLOR endure at the expense of pervasive whiteness, entitlement and privilege. But now – after multiple heated arguments both online and off, with people I called “friend” or colleagues or partners or ex partners or their families or my neighbors or the fucking gardener, I’m really sick of constantly justifying my humanity.
“Here are the racist experiences I’ve had. Here is how they have affected me. Here is how they are breaking my heart and soul a part steadily, gradually, predictably.”
“Those weren’t racist. Stop talking about racism. Racism only exists because you won’t stop talking about it/move past it/work harder/assimilate the way I want you to assimilate/BE WHITE.”
And somewhere along writing that article, I realized that it’s not my job to educate these people any more, especially since they’re so hell bent on dismissing me whenever I say something that challenges their concept of the world as egalitarian and balanced. So nothing, literally nothing, I write will change their minds. Because nothing I’ve written in the past has. No matter how eloquent, thought-provoking, considered or compassionate my argument, no matter the scientific references, expert interviews or first-hand accounts of cruelty, they will never expand their thinking to include the thoughts of people subjugated by their gross entitlement.
Racists are many things – they are cruel, they are ignorant, they are myopic, and they are deeply hurtful. But above all, they are selfish. Like a lover who refuses to do his own emotional labor, they are only interested in protecting their warped sense of reality. Facing the truth would mean a catastrophic collapse of the ego, and we all know how delicate an ego can be…
They need to be incentivised to not be racist, because treating human beings equally means relinquishing some of the power they’ve enjoyed unjustly for centuries. And I have nothing to offer except for my humanity, and I am so sick of putting that on a silver platter in words they have no heart to understand.
I wrote that article. And it brought me down, because it meant pouring salt into wounds that were still fresh and oozing. Where I can normally turn something around in a day or two, this took three months. And I’m grateful for the support it garnered from my loved ones near and far, I truly am…
…but what did it change?
This is Lavender Wolfe. Lavender traversed Berlin in the middle of the night to come to my aid at witching-Nazi-hour, when my neighbuors were banging on the walls for me to leave the country. Lavender, I seriously appreciate you – even though I don’t see you a lot. You are a unique, shining light in a dark, dark world…and your onesies are ADORABLE.
I also interviewed Lavender and many other friends for my first piece for The Establishment (read here).
Speaking of difficult pieces to write, reading back through this feels like I was on a fevered quest to exercise my demons – which was successful. My year began with emotional disarray, but somewhere along the lines of writing this piece, I found – well, peace – again. A fraction of it anyway.
I don’t think I’ve written something more important. And random messages I received from strangers in Brazil, Japan, New Zealand and beyond confirmed that.
** June — LMAO**
After moving out of the flat in Neukölln, I went to Hungary.
…yeah, anyways…moving on…
Hungary was great. Budapest is a ridiculously photogenic city, and Miskolc is picturesque and delightful – though I did tire quickly of being stared at everywhere I went and being compared to Angela Davis (who was apparently a sex symbol in Hungary in the ’70s) – does she know that? Can someone tell her, please. I feel like this knowledge should be passed on). My visit inspired an article for The Root.
Let’s be honest – dating has always been terrible, but dating in 2017 is the absolute worst.
I know people say that Tinder was designed as a “hookup” app, but let’s keep it real – it was designed purely to give stand-up comedians like myself delicious fodder for their gigs, and nothing else. If you’re a mom with young children and gnarly post-partum depression, it could potentially serve as a cautionary tale to prevent them from ever leaving the house. Like, ever. For school, for church, food, for volunteering at the old folk’s home. Ever. Once you see your high-school chemistry teacher on a dating app with a photo of him in blackface, and a description that reads “I love anal,” you’ll never want to leave the house again.
…or in my case, an ex-colleague from IBM…
The prospect of being in a long-term, healthy relationship began to look pretty bleak (and unappealing) after five years of white dudes with a black girl fetish, and black dudes who hate their moms. Or! Boys who call themselves feminists then turn around and pull some shit like messaging me the day before their wedding (more than 2 years after the fact) to say how being a jerk to me gave them the ability to be a better man to someone else…
Like…you’re welcome…??? And cheers to making this soul-baring confession in a group chat with a friend you can use as a buffer to validate your supposed “good intentions,” because you know that trying to contact me again would get you a swift, needlepoint rebuke that you deserve for trying this shit in the first place. Why can’t some people just fade into the background, enter into an unhappy marriage and get a nasty divorce punctuated by alcoholism and adultery like respectable adults?
Wait, where was I? Right.
I moved into a run-down building in Prenzlauer Berg for two months. Prenzlauer Berg is probably the swankiest kiez (neighborhood) in Berlin, but I moved into the hoodiest part of it – just off the main street, Schönhauser Allee, with all the mainstreet villains. I was promised that the person subletting their flat would tell the Hausverwaltung (landlord) that I was living there – which is required by German law. After I transferred a deposit and first month’s rent and picked up the keys on move-in day, I was told that the Hausverwaltung would have no clue of my residency and that, if anyone asked, I was the subletter’s girlfriend.
This made my tenancy illegal – and it also meant I couldn’t ask for repairs to the flat, which it sorely needed because it didn’t have a.fucking.floor.
I also lived beneath a DJ (“super quiet!” they said) above a drug dealer with rainbow-colored dredlocs who sold product out of his window (“super safe!” they said) and any repairs (like the mold in the bathroom, the paintless walls or the absence of FUCKING FLOORS would be entirely out of pocket – which I began, and subsequently gave up, doing, because everything is awful.
This was around the time when I started losing my mind.
My workout routine got dropkicked straight to hell. When I wasn’t working (which was always) I was trying to support the work of friends, their events, jettisoning back and forth to the chef’s place (because mine was so terribly bad) and emailing back and forth with the people who had gotten me into that nightmare situation, and painting/renovating my useless, decrepid corpse of a flat.
With assistance from the Mieterverein (housing authority) I initiated a series of firmly worded emails to end the faux-lease, I sold all the new furniture I had *just bought* (because my new-new flat was fully furnished) collected my deposit in what felt like a cash drop, and I moved…again. By the time I got to this point, however, I was completely wrecked. I hadn’t slept in weeks. I was a walking, talking bundle of nerves.
Despite all the horror, somewhere in the middle of all this – came some light. Let’s back up a minute to a moment that transpired before I moved out. After a day of picking up furniture from various locations around Berlin, a mover cancelled on me at the 9th hour, so I had to call a last minute moving service that (of course) charged twice as much. Then, I got locked out of my Prenzlauer Berg flat, so I had to leave all the furniture in the stairwell and traverse West Berlin to pick up the spare key from the people I hate, and come back in a downpour of torrential summer rain. And my new bed? Missing an allen key.
It was clearly a day when Satan said “Yes bitch – TAHDAY.”
Until…I got a message from someone I met at a smoky bar in Berlin last year – asking me if I’d be interested in doing a web series with a film crew, and Anthony Bourdain – travelling to Asia, eating noodles and cracking jokes on camera.
I remember reading that email with a towel over my shoulders, sitting on my wobbly bed trying not to scream at the DJ thumping away above me and feeling like my heart was about to burst out of my chest and jive down the street.
I’ve heard stories about this happening – the skies opening up and pouring down blessings on blessings on blessings when you least expect it, when you feel like you’ve been beaten down by life and need a hug, a taco, a bottle of vodka and a machete to wage war on the patriarchy. But I never actually believed that something like that would happen…to me. Who am I? Someone who yells at people on the internet from time to time, and eats too much, and who’s lost every single umbrella she’s ever owned.
A month later I was on a plane to Jakarta, then Singapore, filming with a bad-ass crew of LA babes.
(Isn’t August when all the hurricanes starting popping off this year?)
As the late, great Freddy Mercury once said:
If I’m feeling more esoteric, I can’t help but interpret this as divine intervention – fate throwing me a big, juicy bone as recompense for spending most of the year caught between a rock and a bucket of tears. On other days, I feel like it was just inevitable from constant hard work and self-exposure.
Either way you skin it, it’s pretty freaking cool, and I can’t deny the power of a lady luck.
This probably goes without saying, but I had so.much.FUN! Researching food, speaking to local food experts, watching them in action, hearing their stories and – of course – enjoying the end product, on camera, between jokes. To call it a “dream gig” would be to underestimate the capacity for dreams.
Most people go through life with no clarity as to their true life’s purpose, but now I know mine – eating on camera. It’s my, my…
In case you missed it, you can watch those videos here:
Maybe you can tell, or maybe you can’t, but I caught a monstrous lergy on the plane ride to Asia and was pretty much bedridden off camera, swallowing razor blades and feeling sorry for myself. Between takes, I was gurgling complimentary packs of honey from the hotel and sipping large quantities of what Jakartans call “garbage tea,” which was packed with cinnamon bark, honey, cloves, lemon, ginger and all the good stuff. One night, while filming a bakmi stall setup on the side of the street, I fell asleep in the van parked across the street with my face pressed against the window, drooling my regurgitated herbal tea all over the interior. I was a hot, phlegmy mess.
While trawling through the infamously packed Jakarta traffic, I happened across a crew of Nigerian men chilling on the side of the road, so I rolled down the window and shouted out in what felt like the most painfully absent voice – “HEY! Where are you from?! Can I interview you?!” They were either shocked or intrigued, but they agreed (with what I think was trepidation). So I jumped out of the moving van, with my producer right behind me, and interviewed them in my broken voice, took pictures, and wrote another article for The Root for my Blaxit series. It’s not my best, because censorship makes for limited human connection (you’ll see what I mean) but I think the stories in the piece are important to share.
As we flew to Singapore, the director, Kate, issued strict instructions for me not to speak. Not to say a word – not even a whisper, because my voice sounded like it had been pushed through a food processor. I inhaled medicine that I couldn’t pronounce with labels I couldn’t read and prayed it wasn’t oxy-based.
Soon after I recovered and pulled it out to consume copious amounts of shrimp heads, coconut fried chicken, black sesame chocolates and sticky hoisin-drenched noodles (maybe it was oxy-based).
Jakarta (above) and Singapore (below).
I cornered another black person (Nigerians – man – they outchea!). It was a free afternoon and I was wandering through the city trying to leach free WiFi from the buildings around me when a man stopped me outside of the university and asked me if I needed help. The conversation went something like “Um – yeah kinda, but hey – you mind if we have a chat inside a cafe please?” to which he didn’t seem opposed. We went indoors and had a couple of apple juices and I told him about my Blaxit series, interviewed him and took his picture. I really love moments like that – when I can talk to strangers
without looking deranged.
Later he asked me not to use his image or his name, so Singapore Blaxit is kind’ve a bust as far as I’m concerned…for now. Also, let me say this – the city has incredible food, but it’s not very photogenic. The cityscape is modern and clean, but it’s missing character and substance. It’s basically the Dubai of SE Asia.
After wandering around for three days in search of the perfect photo-op, I just gave up and went to the Yayoi Kusama exhibit instead.
When I came back to Berlin, I was able to spend my first real weekend in my new flat in Friedrichshain, which I pay way too much for (because Berliners really like taking advantage and doubling the price of rent in a sublease to line their pockets) – but it’s legal, the landlord knows. It’s clean, quiet, on the top floor of the building, has wood floors, a clean bathroom not covered in mold and a large bath tub. And I’ll be here until the end of May, when I’ll be on the hunt for something more long term, which I’ll finally be eligible for, given I’ll finally have a rental history on the record.
I went to Naples to explore the history of Pompeii, marvel at old churches and lounge on the beaches of the Amalfi coast.
Naaaah – just fucking with ya! I went for PIZZA. I literally only went for pizza. History was the side dish, and an optional one at that. I planned my entire day around which pizzas I wanted to try and when, everything else was coincidental. I even created an Excel spreadsheet to determine which pizza was the best based on crust crunch, leopard print wood-fired texture beneath the crust, cheese melt, sauce consistency, acidity, flavor and balance – and several other criteria. But from the moment I landed, I became so consumed with gluttony that I tossed the thing out the proverbial window and just pranced around eating pizza, gelato and nibbling on tasty mussels instead.
…with the occasional bottle of wine (or 2) in between.
Want to see what I ate? No, you don’t. You’re on a diet, your 12th of the year. You’re fasting for the upcoming Christmas feast. You’re on self-flagellating duty post-Thanksgiving/Halloween/Summer/breakup. You’re making excuses to fit into that bikini you haven’t worn for 5 years. You’re thinking that 2018 will finally be the year of the ABS. No, it won’t. You think you need to be disciplined. Wrong again. You’re thinking that you’re jealous and spiteful – YEAH WELL YOU SHOULD BE. Look! Look at what I ATE!
Roll in that shit like the filthy animal you are then light a cigarette afterwards and call it a day, because this grade-A food porn is rated MA-17 for ADULTS, motherfucker.
When we got back from Naples, my sister came to visit. She, her husband and that lippy threenager she calls my nephew, and took LOTS of selfies. LOTS.
As lovely as it was to see the three of them together again. The last time I saw my nephew he couldn’t even talk, he was just a cuddly ball of fat and giggles. But I can’t deny it, seeing Nikki again for the first time in three years warmed my heart.
October rolled around and I…wait, what did I do? Oh yeah. I shaved part of my head. Don’t ask me why – that’s a silly question. Was I losing my mind a little? Maybe. But my edges were jacked up and I wanted to be rid of them because I looked like I had gotten into a bar fight with a Bic razor blade, so I just shaved them all off.
Actually, this was in September now that I think about it – but September was a busy month, so I’m breaking it up a bit.
There was a period of time when I didn’t have a solid night’s sleep for two months, and just stayed awake all night going over all the things that were going wrong. It was around the time when I was shortlisted for the New York Times travel writer gig (which I’m fairly certain I didn’t get since I assume that starts on 1 January – though it feels good to be one of the few narrowed down from a list of 10,000). Phoebe and I (pictured below) ran around Berlin filming short, digestible snippets for the second-round of application (which required two videos, a portfolio of writing, a portfolio of photography and a small questionnaire) about my fair city where we ate, drank and giggled our way into the hearts and minds of men (and annoyed Berliners who have never seen us exotic zebras before in their entire lives).
Eh. October was pretty uneventful. I carved a jack-o-lantern. I got my period on Halloween and spent the rest of the day in complete misery. I skipped Thanksgiving.
Wait, no – I was shortlisted for the NY Times gig in November. Yeesh…is 2017 over yet?
I published an article for The Establishment, again, on The Maternal Instinct – dedicated to my mom-friends for being such an inspiration (even though I don’t think I’ll be walking in your shoes). I started researching the piece with the idea that I might one day want to have children, but when I finished writing it, I concluded that that day would probably never come.
Funny how those things happen, innit?
After a short period of rest, getting back into the routine of exercise, minding my sleep a little bit better, and doing some incredible stand-up gigs around the city, I had to take off again – this time to New York City to celebrate the launch of the web series.
New York was great – but a very, very short run of 3 working days. A blip, really. I hardly remember it at all – I spent more time physically eating pizza in Naples than time spent with boots on the ground in New York.
In the lead up to the trip, I was fretting a little bit because I knew that there were people in the big smoke I haven’t seen since high school, and would have loved to cuddle, but there was simply no time. I had to work, and so I just tried to be focused, collect as many bags of potato chips as I could (Buffalo Bleu – I LOVE YOU) and make a promise to myself to return for a longer period of time in the near future – hopefully with chef. There simply isn’t enough time in the world to do the things you want to do when you’re just a lowly freelancer. I had to get in, get out, and get back to work.
So if you’re reading this, and you’re mad at me for not saying “hi” – I’m sorry.
I was fortunate enough to stay with Billy and Nico whom I haven’t seen since their wedding in 2008 – thankfully, their love is still legal (for now). And I’m happy to report that they’re still the beautiful, handsome, kind-hearted, hilarious gentlemen I remember – and I love them. Nico escorted me to the launch party, and Billy and I had a lovely Greenwood Cemetery date on the morning before I flew back to Berlin, to catch up and pay homage to the late, great Jean-Michel Basquiat.
I also met Anthony Bourdain – but you knew that already, didn’t you? And yep – he’s pretty damn cool, as is the rest of the team I worked with. I sincerely, sincerely hope we get to do this again soon.
Returning to America sporadically really messes with my sense of perspective. Every time I return to the US, things seem to have gotten bigger. The roads, the food portion sizes, and the bottles of soda. I felt overwhelmed every time I went into a grocery store – wandering up and down the aisles for ages marveling at the labels, how perfectly aligned the canned goods were, how beautifully organized the shelving units were, the incredible variety of potato chips, cereal boxes and yogurt cartons. Living in Berlin, specifically East Berlin, our selection of home goods still exist behind an invisible wall. We don’t have bottles of vanilla extract (just mere teaspoon sized packets) or large bags of chocolate chips or twenty different brands of canned tomatoes in whole, chopped, peeled, diced or pureed variety. You want chopped tomatoes? Chop ’em yourself. You want roasted nuts? Here’s the plant: water it, pick the nuts, peel the flesh back, roast them yourself. You want vanilla extract? Here’s the bean, buy a bottle, mix it with vodka – wait three months. YOU’RE WELCOME.
I remember thinking how delightful the service was – in a burger shack. Like “Wait, you brought the bill…to my table???” Yes, yes I’d like to tip you!
I enjoyed talking to strangers on the street, and how people would help you without asking for anything back, and how smiling back at another human being could shift your mood from “funk” to “funkaaaaay.”
Don’t get me wrong – I’m still glad to be in Berlin, and I’m not leaving. I just appreciated the good things about Americans for a bit, of which there are actually many. It made me even more sad to watch the country’s continued deterioration into a orange, toupee’d cancer. There is so much to love – but last year voters chose hate instead.
Before we move on to the final month of the year:
My thoughts on Meghan Markle:
- Fuck the monarchy
- If she’s happy then good for her
- If she identifies as “biracial” then she’s “biracial” end.of.story
- The point of feminism is to reclaim agency that’s taken away from us and forces us to play roles that don’t necessarily fit who we are as individuals. By calling her “black,” when she identifies as “biracial” we are stripping her of that very agency to begin with. The “one drop” rule was invented as a tool of oppression. If she rebuffs that to claim what she sees as her true self, then she is exercising her right as an autonomous human being to self-determination. Nobody has the right to take that away from her – not the monarchy, not me, not you.
- Fuck the monarchy
- I’m bothered that she’s giving up her job, but those are my issues about women’s independence and have nothing to do with her. I wouldn’t give up my job. But I wouldn’t marry into an institution that once claimed Manifest Destiny over 3/4ths of the world’s black and brown people and commit to a life of being stalked by paparazzi 24/7 either.
- Her thoughts on feminism seem a bit too “Emma Watson” for me to get excited anyway.
- Fuck the monarchy
- I can’t help but acknowledge that this is a historic occasion, but her turning royal won’t impact me in any way unless she gets to Buckingham Palace, raises the black power fist and starts spitting sick, woke lyrics about destroying the system from the inside out.
- I’ll probably watch the wedding anyway, so I can report on it – and to stay in the pop-culture loop because #FOMO – even though I have so many better things to do (and so do you).
- My chef is way hotter. Way. hotter.
And now I’m back – in Berlin. In my clean flat. Collecting sleep, workouts and peaceful moments of solitude. Enjoying Christmas markets with beautiful friends, and counting down the days (THREE!) before I’m on the road again – back to Hungary for Christmas, then on to Portugal for New Years.
I’ve written 56 articles this year – for business magazines in Australia, art magazines in Berlin, black/feminist websites in the US and serious news sites right here in Germany. With one more to go for The Root (due tomorrow – eep!)
My New Year’s Resolution this year was to get published in The Root, The Atlantic and the New York Times. One out of three ain’t bad. One out of three continuously ain’t bad either. Who knows where that will lead in the future?
I don’t want to write anymore, and I don’t want to add any more galleries even though there are several I left out. I couldn’t get through everything – and I purposefully skipped over some of the bad. Let’s just say I’m broken inside – and look forward to dropping offline for the next two weeks to lick my wounds and cry a lot of stress relief tears.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.
And stop assaulting women.