Get Woke

She Speak

The Undermining Conversational Experience of Himterruption
Get Woke

Understanding and Combating Abusive Relationships

How to Spot an Abusive Relationship and How To Get Out
Get Woke

Uninterrupted

On misogyny, street harassment, and politely saying good morning exclusively to pretty women
Get Woke

Period Sex Aversion: Yes. It's Personal.

On Intimate Justice and Period-Sex Averse Partners
Get Woke

Feminism Is For Everyone

On Misogyny Dividing Women, Intersectional Feminism, And A Complete Annihilation of Slut Shaming
Get Woke

No Needs No Explanation (Time's Up)

Male Entitlement: On Demanding An Explanation For Refusing Unwanted Advances

December 31, 2018

What Women Know


There is no such thing as knowing a woman "better than she knows herself"


The Credibility Gap: How Sexism Shapes Human Knowledge - Soraya Chemaly


The Youtube video I've posted above is a link to one of my favorite TED Talks. I watch it every now and then, when I need to remind myself of an important fact. Now to be perfectly transparent, if I watched this video every time I needed the reminder, I'd be watching it several times a day, which is why I nearly have it memorized, and why I have several other inspirational/transformational TED Talks on rotation. To ground me, center me, and help me move forward with my confidence restored and my resolve strengthened in a world that is constantly endeavoring to make me question what I know.

So what is that fact I need to periodically remind myself of?

That I'm not crazy. I'm female.

As I'm typing this we are in the last several hours of 2018. Still, with 2019 hot on our heels, sexism is still a major issue in societies all over the world, and certainly in the United States. One of the biggest obstacles to reconciling the problem of sexism, in my opinion, is the enduring fact that in our society, women's voices are still not taken as seriously as men's voices, regardless of the education and qualifications of the woman in question, and especially if the woman in question is a woman of color, a woman who visually presents with a certain degree of beauty, or both. Now because our voices are not taken as seriously as men's, neither are our issues, because who will primarily be voicing concerns that are uniquely female? - take a guess. Women.

In my article, She Speak: The Undermining Conversational Experience of Himterruption, I talk about the way that women are constantly undermined by men in conversation. My examples range from being constantly interrupted, being "taught" very basic information at varies stages of adult life, to being talked and even shouted over. In my article I even said that before anyone tried to tell me that I was crazy, emotional, or that it was just my defensive perception, there was a recent study conducted that looked at 10 male-male conversations, 10 female-female conversations, and 11 female-male conversations. In the same sex conversations, there were 7 instances of interruptions. In the mixed sex conversations, however, there were 48 instances of interruptions, 46 of them in which the man interrupted the woman. And then I cited my source. Not because it was good journalism, not because I've been citing sources since the 7th grade, but because I knew that despite the truth - a truth that is obvious to every woman who has ever sat painfully through a man's explanation of basic information, not because it needed explaining but because he needed an audience; a truth that is obvious to every woman who has ever had a good idea at work only to have to strategically interject it into an idea session, quickly, distilled down to seven words or less so as to ensure that her sentence gets finished, only to be interrupted almost immediately anyway and even worse, have a man later repeat that idea not five minutes later and get credit for it instead; a truth that is obvious to every woman who has begrudgingly participated in, nay, been held hostage in a conversation with a man about matters exclusively female such as periods, menstrual cramps, hormonal acne, breast tenderness, ovulation pain, pregnancy or childbirth, as he drones on and on with his "facts" that he "knows", because it's "statistical" or "common knowledge", despite the fact that he himself does not know and will never know because he has never nor will he ever experience a period, menstrual cramps, hormonal acne, breast tenderness, ovulation pain, pregnancy, or childbirth, that these "facts" that he "knows", whether from statistics, common knowledge, or wherever have been learned within a patriarchal system that values male knowledge more than female knowledge and therefore are inherently incomplete if not altogether incorrect having come predominantly from centuries of information provided by other men who were equally if not more dismissive of the knowledge of the surrounding women, and that the very fact that he is, in that moment, attempting to teach a woman something about the female experience of her own body is case in point regarding the problem of misinformation that proves dangerous if not deadly for women everywhere whose health concerns are misdiagnosed, mistreated and wrongfully dismissed at a significantly and quantifiably higher rate than men's. (Yeah, I love me a good run-on-sentence-rant, but you know what? It's my blog, I'm my own editor. Learn to love it.) Point is - I knew the truth, which is that anything I said, no matter how true, would need to be backed up almost aggressively with statistical evidence of some sort in order to increase the slight chance that it might be taken seriously because the person saying it (me) was a woman, and because what I was saying challenged patriarchal norms.

That being said, the reason I love the TED Talk - and if you haven't already, I highly recommend clicking - The Credibility Gap: How Sexism Shapes Human Knowledge, by Soraya Chemaly, is that Chemaly discusses the consequences of sexism, not just regarding our emotional experiences, but how it results to deficits in human knowledge that adversely affect our lives as women. From things to inherent listener bias, self-esteem in the workplace, likelihood of asking for and actually getting a raise, to the fact that until recently car crash dummies were only modeled after male bodies, making women more likely to be fatally injured in car accidents, and the fact that artificial hearts fit 80% of male chest cavities and only 20% of female chest cavities.

Sexism is indeed still an issue in our so-called modern world. It is an every day issue that affects our lives, or livelihoods, our physical and mental health, our safety and our wellbeing. It is not a mild annoyance and thusly, feminism is not, as Chemaly beautifully put it, a "pet-project" to be worked on now and then in our spare time - it's a revolution and it's on Instagram. Get on board.

I started blogging in February 2014, which means that in just two short months my career as a published writer will be five years old. (Woohoo! Happy birthday to me!) Since then I have gone from having one blog to two, from being self-published to sought out by and featured in magazines on the topics of feminism, the gender-orgasm gap, and non-monogamous relationships, and publishing some rather risqué novellas. For all the writing I've done in the past five years, it's probably only a third or a forth of what I've actually read and watched to keep educating myself and stay current. From articles, TED talks, medical journals (not exaggerating) to textbooks, I've taken in a lot of information regarding sex and gender. I've also realized that writing isn't enough. As I discuss in Misogyny and the Men Who Love Us, the roots of misogyny are deeply embedded in our every day lives, and most of the issues we see start in the home. It is our job to have the tough conversations on a daily basis, even if it's hard or uncomfortable. That is the only way that we are going to be able to change hearts and minds and continue on the path of creating a world in which women's voices are heard and respected, women and our bodies are regarded as human, not as community property, in which women and girls can proceed outside safely at any time of day without arming ourselves with personal alarms and mace that looks just like a lipstick (I never leave home without either and I recommend it in the meantime), in which men and boys can cry and otherwise express human emotion without the fear of being teased, bullied, called a "pussy", beat up, or worse, in which the term "pussy" is not insulting (it is inherently problematic that the worst thing a man can be called is, essentially, a woman), in which manhood is not defined by characteristics that constitute toxic masculinity which lead to the abuse of women, men, girls and boys, in which the leading cause of death for pregnant women is no longer their spouses, in which women and girls aged 15 through 44 are no longer more likely to be killed or maimed by male violence than by traffic accidents, cancer, war and malaria combined.

In 2008 the number of women and girls killed annually, worldwide, by male violence was about 66,000. In 2018 that number was 87,000. That is, that we know of. The booklet on gender-related killing of women and girls is available here:  https://www.unodc.org/documents/data-and-analysis/GSH2018/GSH18_Gender-related_killing_of_women_and_girls.pdf and is the first part of the Global Study on Homicide which is due to be launched in early 2019. (UNODC) I can't even bring myself to look up the rape statistics for 2018. It hurts my heart too much.

The purpose of this article is not to be dark nor somber, though parts of it invariably will be because of the state of the world we still live in. But in spite of the sad truths and statistics, this sad excuse for a human being which we begrudgingly call president, and the Kavanaugh hearing that left me personally devastated and screaming into a pillow for weeks to follow, there is still hope, and that's what I want to focus on going into 2019.

First, I want to share two hilarious and worthwhile SNL sketches that came out this year in response to the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements. Ugh, I don't know what I would do without SNL. It keeps me laughing in this crazy world, and I hope it does the same for you.


SNL - Welcome to Hell

SNL - Permission


Second, I want to say a quick shoutout to all the women and girls out there. Be confident. Don't be afraid of the sound of your own voice. Don't second guess what you know. Even in the time of revolution, it's still okay to want a boyfriend, or a husband, or kids. You don't have to be ashamed of wanting those things to be "down with the movement". If you've chosen or are thinking about going into masculine coded territory, like, oh I don't know, Information Technology, you don't have to try and make yourself less woman to show that you deserve to be there. To quote Chemaly, "I can look this way, I can dress this way, and I can still have knowledge". To quote myself, "My red lipstick and my stilettos do not interfere with my ability to think, type, or hold a T6 screwdriver." Thank you very much.

Third, I want to speak directly to the men reading this. Congratulations if you've made it this far. Contrary to what some may think, feminists are not man haters. We know as well as anyone that the world we envision and fight tirelessly for is one that requires male allies. We want you with us, not against us. We thank you for buying pink yarn and marching with us. We thank you for finding ways to advertise alcohol without using our bodies as furniture. We thank you for writing songs/screenplays and directing movies/music videos without needlessly objectifying us, demeaning our personhood and/or gratuitously exploiting our full or partial nudity to make sales. We thank you for welcoming the art that we create, art that is liberated from the male gaze, into the mainstream. Yet in order to truly be an allies, we need you to do what is apparently the hardest thing for even the most WOKE among you to do. We need you to wait, that is, WAIT.

We need you to talk less, listen more, and that's really listening, not patiently waiting your turn to say the thing you thought of before we started speaking. And when you do talk to us, to actually talk to us, not at us. Which means not using us as sounding boards to project your inner monologue onto, be it a showcase of your general or specific knowledge about a topic, the story of your life, or even the story of your day just because you happened upon us in a bar. Are we busy? Are we interested? Are we in the mood to talk? Ask - then proceed. Consent is not just about sex, so let's make it a point in 2019 to not hold women hostage in one-sided conversations.

Not talking at us also means not enlisting us as test audiences for that joke you thought up on the train ride home or otherwise recruiting us to role-play in what amounts to a comedy routine without our previously agreed upon participation. We do not want to be used as the conversational equivalent of the magician's assistant as you flex the muscles of your wit, or help you set up dad jokes to later knock down. A conversation is not a one man show, and funny as these moments might be to you there's a reason we aren't laughing. There's a fully functioning brain on the other side of your stand-up routine, and it knows it didn't buy a ticket. So unless you're actually a comedian, you actually need to practice your set, and we actually agreed, please. Talk to us. Not at us.

It means not launching into the two hour story of your stressful day the moment you walk through the door and even seeking us out when we are in the home for this purpose without first making sure that we are, in fact, in a place/time/mindset wherein we have the emotional bandwidth to support you, as we (unlike dogs who humans had to artificially breed the wolf out of to be this way) are not first and foremost your companions (or therapists, or eye candies, or sex partners for that matter) but human beings in our own right. Partners means partners. That means a co-piloted journey, not one person dictating the terms and the other revolving around them like a satellite. We need to challenge the idea that women alone in the home are occupying themselves in between the comings and goings of a man. If the movie of my life had subtitles while I was alone in the living room with a book, they would read:

[Reading in the living room.]

Not:

[Reading in the living room until man enters, where she will immediately bookmark mid-chapter and give him her full attention. She will find out who killed the maid later, in two hours, when he comes up for air.] 

If you see your wife, or girlfriend, or sister, or daughter doing something in a room on her own, consider before you walk into the room and automatically command her attention with the assumption that she is going to immediately stop what she is doing and become your audience. Is she busy? Is she interested? Is this a good time for her? All it takes is a second, but I promise, we appreciate it.

We also need you to challenge the idea that our appearance in public is an opportunity for you to meet us. It isn't always. So stop. Consider. A good rule of thumb might be that if conversing with you would require the woman to stop what she is doing altogether - for example: put down her book, stop what she is typing on the computer, stop with a full cart of groceries in the middle of the frozen food aisle, put down the dumbbell, come out of downward dog pose - that it isn't a good time to chat. We too occasionally hit the bar on the way home from work just to decompress. We too can't get work done in the house and take our computers to Starbucks. We too step outside just to have a cigarette (or a vape...whatever). We too receive bad news about loved ones and head to the beach for yoga just to clear our heads. We need you to check your privilege; adjust your perspective; reconsider what you think you see through your male gaze. We don't just appear in places. We aren't just waiting somewhere for you to approach and start talking to us. We have entire lives, complete with work schedules, deadlines, friends, headaches, apartments with leases running out soon, movers who didn't show up on time, friends we need to buy baby shower gifts for, family members who have recently passed away, groceries we forgot to get yesterday so there was no sugar for our coffee this morning and we're a little ticked off, and yeah let's go ahead and throw some menstrual cramps in there too, all sorts of things that don't just come to a screeching halt just because you decided to come over and say "hi".

We need you to be open to taking the extra moment to make those considerations and, if you fail (and we all fail time and time again when we are learning something new), being open to receiving feedback and even pushback from the women in your lives on a day to day basis, not just once a year at women's marches, late at night nodding along to SNL, or in your college buddies' Facebook comments.

Talking the talk isn't enough. You need to walk the walk, and you need to do it every day, even in the moments you don't think about. That's going to mean unlearning some bad habits.

...

2019 Resolutions

The bad habits I am going to focus on breaking in 2019 that I have to actively make myself think about are: 1 - Speaking in a voice in public that is literally an octave + above my natural, relaxed speaking voice (for those of you who don't know music, that's basically talking in a high-pitched, sing-song voice),  especially with authority figures, people who I'm meeting for the first time, and in work settings including interviews. (This isn't uncommon for women, by the way. In Ellen DeGeneres' new standup Relatable on Netflix, she plays a tape of her interview on the Johnny Carson show from 1987 and sounds like a the forth member of Alvin and the Chipmunks. Women do this all the time to fit into our prescribed feminine roles without even thinking about it.) 2 - Smiling every time someone makes eye contact with me. It's exhausting, and I'm 30 now. I'm trying to still be beating wrinkles when I'm 40. #LifeGoals 3 - Relax in public space. I find that in public space I am constantly worried about being in-the-way. Most Americans are obscenely large compared to me, and yet I have to consciously not pull my shoulders in on the subway to make myself smaller, not shuffle around in the subway the minute I see a human walking in my general direction, not immediately start planning how to maneuver myself, my umbrella, and my suitcase over that awkward tree garden in the middle of the sidewalk when someone is walking toward me. I know that I have an equal right to public space. But I have a bad habit of forfeiting that right without even thinking about it.

I'm doing homework too, not just assigning it.

...

Male allies: We need you to WAIT.

WAIT - Why Am I Talking
WAIT - Who Am I Talking to
WAIT - What Am I Trying to accomplish
WAIT - Why Am I Tempted
WAIT - Why Am I Testosteroning*

*Yes, I just made that up.

Especially regarding topics that are unique to the female experience, we need you to stop, WAIT, and listen. You will never know what it is like to live in this world as a woman, and that is just a fact, not a statement that need be the start of a combative conversation. It's perfectly okay not to know - how would you? What is not okay is when you pretend to know, or presume to know, and when you think that your perception and/or observation of the female experience could or should ever supersede the reality of the woman or women you are speaking with who live the female experience every single waking moment of our lives. If your mother told you a story about something once, or you saw your sister go through something, or you witnessed your daughter having trouble with something, or a friend told you about something else, and you stored that information away in your mental filing cabinet marked "Knowledge About Women" that is great. It's great that you've been paying attention. But these stories you've heard every now and again do not make you an expert on the matter of female life, or for that matter, women. The only experts on women out there are women. So when you are talking to a woman about womanhood rather than trying to convince us that you know us better than we know ourselves, that our thoughts and feelings are invalid, that we are "confused", instead take a moment.

Stop. WAIT. And listen.

You're talking to an expert. Try asking a question instead of making a statement. You might just learn something. Especially if you ask an open-ended question, as opposed to a closed-ended question - I like to playfully refer to it as leading the witness - that reflects your existing beliefs and automatically forces the person you're speaking to onto the defensive if they don't share that belief. An example would be a question like, "You think period sex is gross, right?", as opposed to, "How do you feel about period sex?" It promotes an open, co-piloted conversation, instead of a combative conversation, or something that resembles and interrogation wherein one party is doing all of the talking and compelling the other to answer succinctly with a "yes" or a "no".

When you open the door for those co-piloted conversations, you're encouraging learning and growth on both sides. Making the room to share opinions and experiences that differ from your own, that you may not have ever thought of or realized existed. I'm not saying that you're automatically wrong about everything you think you know about women, or that there is even one female truth. That's the point. We have different life experiences. And since all of our lives...ahem...matter...

For example:

Did you know that the use of tampons pose a potential threat to female health, called Toxic Shock Syndrome, but that most public bathrooms use a multi-stall/shared sink design which makes it difficult to use healthy alternatives like menstrual cups in a manner that is private and sanitary?

We can all agree that in public bathroom situations that are not gender neutral, the wait for the women's room tends to be longer than that for the men's room. Did you know that "holding it" for too long, as well as squatting over public toilets and not fulling relaxing the pelvic floor muscles, can result in a build up of bacteria which leads to urinary tract infections?

What if we took things like this into consideration when designing public bathrooms? If we just did that one thing, it would have a tremendous impact on the lives of women and girls. If we didn't dismiss concerns as silly, or dramatic, or hysterical, we might save young girls from uncomfortable pelvic exams before they've reached sexual maturity, or from the frequent use of harsh antibiotics, or from embarrassing public accidents because they couldn't get to a restroom in time.

And that's just bathrooms! There are a myriad of places in our every day lives where the needs of women and girls are not adequately reflected, and changing that starts in every day conversation.

So the next time you're in a conversation with a woman, and especially when discussing the uniquely female, remember to stop, wait, and listen.

And when the women in your life do speak - trust us. We know.





Read More

November 21, 2018

Finding Closure Post-Breakup on Your Own | A Personal Holiday Special

HOLIDAY SPECIAL

At the risk of sounding like the Dos Equis guy, I don't usually do this, but I've decided to get a little more personal than usual right before the holidays. The months of August and September were extremely tumultuous for me, and having landed in a place so good I almost feel like the universe is paying me reparations - which is a fitting term for this time of year, if you're picking up what I'm putting down - I thought I'd share a couple of self-care holiday tips. 

First, if you're feeling heightened anxiety around this time of year at the anticipation of seeing and spending time with family that you maybe don't get along too well with - you're not the only one. Tis the season! But here are a few things to remember:

1. You have agency 

You don't have to do anything. You have choices. So what that your family always does [insert obligatory ritual here] on Thanksgiving. It doesn't mean that you need to force yourself. If the idea of doing that thing you're supposed to do is stressful for you, either because of money you'll have to spend on travel, the stress of traveling itself, the potential for awkward family interactions, or the fact that you just don't like turkey, you are allowed to make an alternate plan! 

This is not a hostage situation, so don't hold yourself hostage to something you don't truly want. 

YOLO 

2. You can choose to celebrate something else 

I'm about 1/4 Native American (my 23 & me results haven't gotten back yet, so that statement could very well change in the near future, but I digress...). I got really pissed off this year when I saw that Columbus Day was still being acknowledged as a US Holiday alongside Indigenous People's Day. That's not to say that you need to be a part of a certain group to feel viscerally disgusted by that group's mistreatment, but in this case there is the added ancestry factor that makes it personal. To me, Thanksgiving represents the whitewashing of a genocide which has still not been adequately acknowledged nor remedied (if such a thing can even be remedied) by this government. Certainly not something to celebrate. 

However, just because you have the day, or the weekend, or whatever you have off, doesn't mean you need to celebrate what the United States or your iPhone calendar tells you to. 

Personally, I refuse to acknowledge the holiday, so instead, I'll be having Friendsgiving. I'm going to get together with my besties, cook for each other, potentially enjoy the recreational use of a certain something that should be nationally legalized already, and just celebrate the meaningful, enduring relationships in my life that I do cherish. 

Last year and the year before I ordered in Chinese food, did a facial and a hair masque, and it was glorious. 

Point is, whatever your feelings about the holiday may be, you are not beholden to the ideology behind it. Celebrate your friends, your pets, your pores, whatever the hell you want. 

3. Be kind to yourself 

The thing about holidays is that they are a marker of time, and as humans we tend to hold ourselves to rather stringent expectations when it comes to time. Perhaps this time last year you expected to be in a certain place by now, and it turns out that you're not. Maybe you were in a long relationship that recently ended. Maybe nothing is particularly wrong, but many of your friends have made big changes this year (career change, bought a house, wedding, hatched offspring) and you're worried that you're falling behind or stuck in a rut. 

The holidays don't have to be an arbitrary marker of success or failure, or a reason for negative self-talk. I suspect that one of the reasons this happens is that if you do attend big family gatherings, you end up giving people you haven't seen in a while the high level overview of your year, and may feel a "certain type of way" if your report isn't as glittery as someone else's. 

Excuse my language (or don't - I don't give a fuck), but try to let all that shit go. You aren't in a competition. This isn't some sort of sick reality show, and your family, your friends, or whomever are not a panel of judges. There may very well be things you want to do or changes you want to make. All of that is fine. But the holidays need not add extra pressure. 

It's just a day. It's just a bird. And frankly, it's just not that deep. I mean...except for the genocide. 

That's fucking bullshit. 

On another personal note, this summer I was involved in a very disappointing relationship. After exhausting all of my other options and finally going No Contact with them (which included blocking their number), my ex began attempting to contact me from other phone numbers, calling, texting, and leaving messages asking me to meet, if only for closure. Never mind that several months before when I'd wanted the same thing (except without having treated them to months of flagrant disrespect), I was blatantly ignored and not afforded the same respect that said ex was now aggressively demanding from me. One such contact occurred today, just before I took my lunch break, as I was musing over what dessert to pickup for tomorrow. When I realized that the agitation of being randomly caught off guard by this person's attempts was keeping the issue at the front of my mind - the last place I wanted it! - I realized there was an acceptable time and way to break No Contact. Which is a perfect segue into today's article...

I'm happy to report that I am going into this long holiday weekend with my mind at ease. And if you have any unresolved, messy ex issues, I hope this helps you do the same. 

Happy paid vacation. See you after the feasting. 

How to Move on Without Formal Closure

Spoiler Alert: The implication of this photo is a spa visit - not Santeria. 

What is closure after a breakup, and furthermore, why do we need it? 

The answer is different for everyone, I suspect, but if you're anything like me there's a logical component to moving on after a relationship. When a relationship ends, I need to understand why it ended - both when I am the breaker and the breakee - in order to feel confident that, 1 - The relationship cannot work even if "worked on", 2 - I will not end up in the exact same situation with a new person, and, 3 - I will not end up in a boomerang relationship (also known as hot and cold / on and off) with the same person. 

Unfortunately, whilst it only takes one to end a relationship, it often feels like it takes two to achieve closure. Breakups can sometimes be abrupt and inexplicable, which can be confusing after the fact. You may have broken up in a text flurry after a week or so of awkward and unexplained distance. You may have gotten slow faded or, even worse, ghosted. While this can be extremely painful, angering, and sometimes even maddening, for many (and certainly for me) the worst part of a breakup like this is the sheer confusion of the thing. Even in a truly awful scenario - your partner cheating on you with your best friend, say - at least a week into your Telemundo con entire sticks of butter dipped in Nutella marathon you can accurately answer the question when someone asks you why you broke up! But when someone slow fades/ghosts out of your life, or abruptly knee jerks out with a sudden and incoherent excuse (or several), it can be beyond frustrating. Nothing is worse than a sympathetic friend buying you a shot and asking what happened, only to have to sullenly admit that you just don't know. 

There are lots of reasons why a relationship may have ended without closure. Lots of reasons.

Reasons like...

- The relationship was never "official", so the SO didn't see a need to formally end something that, in their eyes, hadn't had a formal beginning. 

- There was a fight or other negative event that the SO assumed was the breakup. 

- The SO is uncomfortable with confrontation and hoped to soft-breakup gradually over time rather than having one definitive conversation (also known as managing down expectations), not realizing the cruel impact of forcing a person to figure out that they are being broken up with by an increasingly ambivalent partner. 

- The SO - for whatever reason, be it BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder), NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder), or APD (Asshole Personality Disorder*) - has instantly emotionally detached from the ex (you), if they were ever attached in the first place, and could give a shit about your feelings or need for closure. Hell, they may even enjoy your confused, "can we please at least meet in person to talk about this" texts, because it makes them feel important and powerful.

- The SO has already moved on to a new partner whom they were already getting involved with while you were dating. Discussing the true "why" behind the breakup would mean revealing relationship overlap and/or cheating (not referring to consensual non-monogamy), and the SO does not want this information known. Hence, they let you believe the breakup is about that one time you mispronounced the name of a fancy wine in front of their fancy friends. They'd rather damage your self-esteem than their reputation.  

Point is, there are countless reasons why someone may end a relationship without offering you closure. It may be very tempting to sit around thinking up all sorts of reasons why, and all sorts of excuses at that. Maybe you said something off color one night after having too much wine and they've held it against you. Maybe they have unresolved childhood trauma and attachment issues. Maybe their pet turtle of eighteen years just died and they're taking it really hard. But the bottom line is that whatever the reasons of the person who ends a relationship with you without due process (read: care, respect, consideration), especially if you are someone they profess to love, that is really all the information that you need. You don't need to know the why. You don't need to know their damage. The point is not to figure out why you're being treated poorly. The point is simply to acknowledge that you are being treated poorly and address that fact, irrespective of any myriad of excuses.

That being said, resist the urge to question every punctuation choice you've made in the last six months of texts you've sent. Resist the urge to diagnose your ex with some disorder out of the DSM-5 just so you can offer to nurse them back to sanity. And goodness gracious, resist the urge to text them just one more time - stop! Put down that phone.

Instead...

Accept

Accept that the relationship is over. The truth is that a perfect breakup is rare. Would it have been nice if you'd had a calm, heartfelt discussion over dinner, or a long conversation on the phone where you both analyzed the whole relationship and mutually agreed it was the best thing to end it? Sure. That would have been nice. It would have been nice if Hillary had won the 2016 election (and also become President). But, alas. The nice thing doesn't always happen. 

Yes, certain breakups are shittier than others. Dinner and/or a phone call is typically better than hearing it through a friend, reading a post-it stuck to your laptop, or figuring it out after weeks of strange behavior. But the bottom line is that a breakup is a breakup. It's over either way.

There's no sense in chasing after your ex over bad etiquette. 

Move On

So remember that joke about Telemundo earlier? That was just a joke. I know you want to plop yourself on the couch with that bottle of scotch and that pound of Gorgonzola, but no! Don't do that! Don't dwell in what was, go out and experience what is. 

I'm not saying you don't get to be sad about it and experience your emotions. By all means. Emote. Just not alone in the living room. See your friends. Go out and make new ones. Hell, I took myself out for one night after getting a shitty text from my now ex, met a girl who was just out with some friends, and five months later I have a new, true friend who has not only helped me through the shitty breakup at times, but who I've been able to enjoy life and have actual fun with! Between piano bars and drag brunches, who has time to worry about a breakup? 

So don't go dwelling. Go dancing! Or something. You get the point. 

Close The Door

This one sucks, but it may be the most important thing you do in a relationship that ended without closure. 

People like to have closure in order to give a relationship a definitive end. In order to be able to confidently say that this chapter is over. In order to point to a date on the calendar and say, here, this is when we broke up and now we're just friends. (Or now that human is dead to me.)

Without closure it can sort of seem like the relationship is still in play. Maybe not in full swing. Maybe not all hot and heavy, intense, and sunshine and rainbows. But no closure makes it feel like something is still happening, or that something still could happen in the future. This is very dangerous territory to be in. How many of us have gone through all the breakup mourning and genuinely felt better only to be thrown off balance months later by a random "I miss you" text?

Granted, some people opt to downshift from in-a-relationship to friends-with-occasional-benefits but the operative word there is opt. This is only safe and fair territory when both parties are on the same page, not in a situation where one person is still holding out hope for the relationship and the other thinks it would be cool to "hookup" every now and then. 

I know it feels like you need the other person to gain closure, but the truth is that you don't. You have all the power you need to close the door and give the relationship a definitive end. You don't have to send an email, text, or Facebook wall post (although if you choose to, more power to you). All you need to do is decide for yourself that it is over, and make choices that support that decision. That might mean taking a break from any places you may likely run into the ex. That might mean asking mutual friends not to mention them to you. It may even mean unfollowing them on social media, or going full on No Contact unless or until you have the closure you need.

In rare cases, you may have to do more than close the door. You may need to slam the door, bolt the door, or have your Rottweiler sit out on your stoop. That might look like temporarily unblocking and calling the ex, letting them know they better not call you again (welcome to my lunch). It might look like letting friends and family know what the offending ex is doing to motivate them to stop the bad behavior (raise your hand if you can take a hint). It may even look like a restraining order.

Whatever you need, it's fine. 

For those of us who need closure to effectively move on after a breakup, it can be achieved alone, with a commitment to boundaries and self-care. Give yourself what your ex didn't give you. The respect and consideration that will allow you to happily move forward and enjoy the rest of your life.

And maybe...I don't know. A facial.

Happy holiday weekend.

;)

* I completely made up this personality disorder, but I suspect may exist! Who knows, maybe I'll craft some diagnostic criteria that they'll include in the future DSM-6. 

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October 21, 2018

6 Tricks Narcissists Use To Lure You Back | Sticking to No Contact

Tricks Narcissists Use To Get You Back

How To Maintain NO CONTACT

If you've dated a narcissist, you know these two things about them. First, they will do just about anything to get what they want. Second, what they want is to be in control of all things and situations, all the time. That's why it's so difficult to break away from a narcissist. What many people don't realize immediately is that the toxic cycle of abuse with a narcissist doesn't end when you break up. Not even if the narcissist is the one to break up with you. Narcissists still want your time and attention, even when a relationship is over, and will use various tactics to lure you back in. This doesn't necessarily mean luring you back into the relationship. When I say lure you back in, I mean back into contact with them. Back to engaging them. Back to giving them attention and validation. Back to participating in the abuse cycle.

No Contact is a great way to cut ties with a toxic relationship partner, by essentially enforcing a stringent time period in which no forms of communication will be allowed with that person. This is especially effective in relationships where there has been any form of abuse and/or intermittent reinforcement, as this 30-90 day time period allows your brain the biochemical detox it needs from the dangerous oxytocin, dopamine and cortisol combinations that keep you hooked on your abuser (or narcissistic ex, or emotionally unavailable asshole).

Narcissists have a very specific relationship cycle that plays out in the close relationships in their lives, be it with close friends, family, and often in the most extreme cases, their romantic relationships. This cycle is typically labeled by it's three distinct stages, idolization, devaluation, discard, and is actually more accurately described as a cycle of abuse. A similar cycle can also occur with people who are not necessarily full blown, DSM 5 narcissists, but who share abusive traits and tendencies.

For people who have been in relationships with narcissists or abusive partners, No Contact is the prescribed technique for recovery. It involves going at least 30 days with absolutely no communication with that individual. 30 days is the bare minimum. Ideally your No Contact Detox will last 90 days, the goal being to break your attachment to the narcissist and eventually go No Contact forever. If they are someone you cannot avoid interaction with, like a family member or co-worker, you can opt to go Low Contact instead. Low Contact is basically the same as No Contact with the exception of obligatory interaction. Those interactions are to remain as short, sweet and impersonal as humanly possible.

The first 30 days are the hardest part of the No Contact Detox. People who are subjected to intermittent reinforcement (which is what is happening when someone you're dating is being "hot and cold") end up forming powerful chemical associations with the hot and cold partner that are akin to addiction. But if detoxing weren't hard enough, there's another factor that makes the first 30 days of the No Contact Detox the hardest.

Narcissists don't want you to move on. Narcissists and people that operate in a similar style tend to gain amusement and a sense of importance from the final phase of the relationship cycle - the discard phase. However, this only works for the narcissist's ego if they are in control on this phase, and narcissists will only feel in control if it is clear that you are being actively affected by having been discarded by them. Sad break-up posts on Facebook? Good. Telling all your friends how hard it is to date again? Great. Feeling so lost after the end of the relationship that you're having trouble getting back into a healthy day-to-day routine? Oh, perfect. All of these things validate the narcissist.

When you practice No Contact, the narcissist no longer has a clear way of getting validation through you. You have cut off the tap that feeds them Narcissistic Supply in the form of your time, attention, care, etc. It is at this point that the narcissist will typically start flailing, trying any and everything to re-engage with you.

This has nothing to do with loving you or missing you. The narcissist will tell you that they love you and miss you, but these are lies. The narcissist is devoid of true depth and human emotions and cannot love you any more than a stapler can love a food processor. Similarly, emotionally unavailable people who aren't narcissists may in fact feel something when you initiate No Contact after a breakup, and may confuse those feelings with loving you or missing you. In fact, what they are experiencing is panic. People who use Hot and Cold techniques to keep you on the hook are emotional vampires who slowly drain your energy. They dine on your attention, affection, and yes, even your misery when you are strung out on heartbreak. When they sense that you might be moving on, they may pretend to be trying to secure their relationship with you, but really all they're interested in is securing their next meal. For narcissists in particular, the discard phase of the relationship is not really about you, but about the false-narrative they tell themselves about who they are and the role that being "better" than you plays in that narrative. If after separating from the narcissist your circumstances actually improve, this conflicts with that narrative and threatens to reveal all the hidden cracks and flaws in the narcissist's façade. Narcissists have a vested interested, therefore, in interfering with your ability to move on.

I've mentioned before that if you don't walk away from a narcissist after the devalue/discard phase, the cycle of abuse will restart, the first step being the honeymoon phase where idolization and love bombing occur. However, after a relationship has officially ended the narcissist's efforts will look different. Remember, they don't actually want a mutually fulfilling, happy relationship. They aren't capable of that. What they're looking for are signs that you still care, and if they suspect you don't, they use the following techniques to try and make you care. To them, attention is attention, good or bad. 

6 Tricks the Narcissist Uses to Lure You Back


Hovering

Normal people respect that you might need time when a relationship ends before attempting to be friends, etc. Narcissists have no such respect. As such, they will typically do what I like to call hovering, to try and make sure that they are still on your mind.

Spot the Signs

If you go to school together, or work together, this might look like the narcissist suddenly sitting closer to you if they have the opportunity, probably in your eye line. You might observe the narcissist being particularly loud in their interactions with others (when you are nearby, of course). Finally, they may make surprise appearances at events that they usually steer clear of. If they've skipped the office holiday party three years in a row, they'll just have to attend this one despite the potential for awkward post-breakup energy. That energy - the kind that fills you with dread and anxiety - is exactly what the narcissist feeds off of. To the narcissist, all the world's a stage, and they'll be damned if you aren't paying attention to their elaborate one man show.

If you have mutual friends, they may start dropping your name casually around them. After a breakup, your mutual friends will typically understand that you need some time before hearing about your ex every five minutes, especially if the breakup was upsetting for you. But by mentioning you in a very casual way and giving the impression that things between you are good or have healed (not to mention putting your relationship on the mutual friend's mind) the narcissist sets themselves up to be mentioned to you by the mutual friend. They may even deliberately start spending more time with the people they know you're likely to interact with, just to increase the likelihood of being mentioned to you in conversation. (e.g.: Oh, I was just with so-and-so the other day...)

If you are on social media, the narcissist may start flooding their own page with more activity than usual. It is unlikely that they will actually post anything to your timeline directly or tag/mention you in anything. They aren't trying to validate you, after all, they're simply trying to get your attention. However, if over time the narcissist suspects you aren't looking at their activity, get ready for the narcissist to start arbitrarily liking and "loving" your posts. It is very unlikely that they will actually leave a comment or interact with you on social media in any substantial way, but by "liking" things, they keep their name popping up on your alerts or in your timeline, both which will trigger an emotional response if you haven't gotten over them yet. Especially if they decide to "love" something.

If the above methods fail, the narcissist's hovering tactics will become more obvious.

They may try to force you to engage with them for any of the following reasons:

- Pick up items they left at your home / Return items you left at their home
- Ask for your Netflix/Hulu/Amazon Prime password / Inform you they are removing you from their accounts
- Ask for money you owe them or (extremely unlikely) to repay money they owe you
- Discuss the handling of plans made pre-breakup (a booked vacation, concert/event tickets)
- STI or pregnancy scare*

* Not to say that people don't actually contract STIs or become pregnant. These are valid reasons to reach out to an ex partner. However, if an ex is telling you they "worry" they "might" have an STI, or they "think" they "might" be pregnant without any concrete evidence, it is most likely an attempt to establish and drag out continued communication.

If all else fails, the narcissist may just show up somewhere they know you are going to be. They might join your gym, join the trivia team at your favorite bar. If you work in a public place, like a retail store or a bar/restaurant, don't be surprised if the narcissist shows up there to shop, eat or drink.

Re-Idolization/Devaluation

The narcissist used idolization and devaluation as a way to facilitate your insecurity and dependence on them during your relationship. By covertly (or even overtly) criticizing your abilities, dreams, goals, accomplishments, etc. they made you question your worth, all the while peppering in random moments of idolization so that they became your only source of validation.

Post-relationship, the narcissist will use a similar technique. If they hear you are looking for a new job in a new field, they may criticize that ambition by suggesting that the job you're thinking about isn't really that great, that the field isn't very prestigious or that there isn't much money to be made there. If they hear you're thinking about moving to a new city, they may subtly suggest that the new place doesn't have any number of random "great" things like the city you live in now.

This is a mind game. The narcissist isn't truly concerned with your choices and they definitely don't have your best interests at heart. They are concerned that you might make a choice for yourself that will distance you from their influence. By devaluing all of your choices - even as they pretend to idolize you in the process by rejecting these choices on the basis that they aren't good enough for you - what the narcissist is trying to do is maintain the illusion that the life you had with them is as good as it gets; that there aren't better options for you. They are trying to prevent you from moving on to the bigger and better things that are out there, so that you'll continue to romanticize the honeymoon phase you experienced when they were love bombing you - the lie they used to hook you.

Triangulation

Narcissists use triangulation during relationships to create insecurity in their victims by evoking a sense of competition. Constantly mentioning ex-lovers, the boss that's always hitting on them, or the hot person on the line for the bathroom that made a pass at them while you were sitting at the bar - this is all textbook triangulation.

After the relationship ends the narcissist will inevitably seek to triangulate you with their new victim. And yes, there is always a new victim. The narcissist may simply flaunt the new relationship, posting photos, bragging to friends, doing whatever they can to make the relationship seem amazing. Simultaneously, if you start dating someone new, the narcissist will find all sorts of things wrong with the person you are dating and the relationship you are in.

This is meant to feed the self-doubt they created during your relationship. To support the illusion that they are a wonderful person who just couldn't love you because you aren't lovable, but now that they've found someone who is, they're in a happy relationship devoid of any of the problems your supposed unlovable-ness caused. The truth is that the narcissist is still the same shitty person you dated. They haven't magically transformed into a better person, and if they are in fact treating the person they are dating now better than they treated you, it is only temporary. What you are seeing is them playing out the idolization phase with a new victim. Eventually the narcissist will get bored and turn on them too, if they haven't already, and begin to slowly devalue them the same way they did you.

At this point, the narcissist may begin to devalue their new victim in your presence, alluding to being unhappy or dissatisfied in the relationship in some way. This is how many people who have dated narcissists end up going from the girlfriend/boyfriend to the other woman or other man. The narcissist may indeed be with someone else, but by subtly belittling that relationship they maintain the illusion that yours is the real love connection. They may even use terms like soul mates and behave as though some elaborate circumstance is keeping you apart, when really it's their own behavior.

This is all one big game of triangulation. The narcissist wants you to focus on competing with any number of people in their life so that you remain distracted from who they really are and stuck on them at the same time.

Dropping Breadcrumbs

If you dated a narcissist, you know what crumbs are. In fact, you were living on a diet of crumbs while you were dating them. Crumbs are the little bits of positive attention that the narcissist feeds you once the relationship has shifted to keep you invested even though you aren't happy anymore. This is intermittent reinforcement. The crumbs they feed you provide glimpses of the beginning of the relationship, offering the illusion that there is still a chance of things returning to the original fairytale it once was.

Post-relationship the narcissist will start dropping these breadcrumbs again in an attempt to lead you back to them. It might look like a random "I miss you" text. It may be occasionally telling you how beautiful you look. It may be "accidentally" calling you a pet name that you used when you were together, or talking about and romanticizing the past (the idolization phase of your relationship).

Again, this is not an indication of the narcissist's feelings for you. The narcissist does not have real, healthy feelings for you. Often, the narcissist will drop a breadcrumb like, "I just want you to know that I still love you," followed by radio silence! Even though this kind of attention may seem positive and validating - especially after a narcissist has discarded you! - it isn't positive or validating at all. These things are only meant to affirm and maintain your continued interest in them, so don't follow the breadcrumbs, and whatever you do, do not walk back into that gingerbread house!

Reset Button

Narcissists love to press the reset button. They love starting over. The narcissist, after a time, may claim that something major has changed. They found Jesus, or Buddha, or yoga. Whatever. And now they're a different person who is capable of giving you the relationship that you want.

Do not be fooled, no matter how self-aware the narcissist may appear to be. The same goes for exes who are not necessarily narcissists, but who have narcissistic tendencies that make them equally interpersonally exploitative and emotionally unavailable.

People like this are aware of their behavior and the impact it has on others. You aren't the first person they've built up only to be abruptly cut down, and you won't be the last. You weren't the first to complain about their backhanded compliments, their covert put-downs, or any other number of insensitive and disrespectful behaviors they may have subjected you to. It isn't a question of whether they know about these things, so much as a question of whether or not they care. Further, no difficult circumstance or life event excuses disrespect or abuse, so it doesn't really matter what factors may have supposedly changed in the narcissist's life. It wasn't the external circumstances in the narcissist's life that hurt you. It was the narcissist that hurt you. And if they're trying to get you to take them back after having treated you badly, that alone is a sign of disrespect and evidence that despite their claims, they haven't changed a bit.

Do not allow an ex to come back into your life and try to start over with you if there was disrespect of any kind in the past. Disrespect cannot just be cancelled, wiped clean and forgotten about. Also, while you may ultimately choose to forgive an abuser for your own closure and peace of mind, forgiveness does not equal accepting that person back into your life in any way, shape or form. Forgiveness is about moving on. Not going back.

Smear Campaign

This is a narcissist's last resort in trying to get you to give them the attention and supply that they need to survive. When all else has failed, when it has become abundantly clear that you do not care about them and will not be manipulated into caring, they will seek to attack your reputation, the one thing they are absolutely sure that you will care about.

To understand this technique, you have to understand what Narcissistic Personality Disorder is. People who suffer from NPD have no real sense of self. They are an amalgam of the opinions of others, which is why they surround themselves with an affirming harem and need a constant stream of attention and affection coming from as many people as possible. It is why they lash out so violently at anything they even perceive to be a criticism. Their inflated self-image is false, thus making it fragile, which is why they obsessively and tirelessly seek to protect it by any means.

While narcissists learn to imitate other people, they can never really understand them. The only perspective they truly understand is their own. That is why the narcissist attacks the victim's reputation as a last resort. The narcissist's reputation is the most important thing they have, because quite frankly, it's the only thing they have. It is integral to the survival of that false self-image. Losing an esteemed reputation, the good opinion of others; having the word see their true face behind the beautiful mask is literally a narcissist's worse nightmare. If that were to happen, they would be destroyed. Therefore, when seeking to destroy you, they set out to destroy your reputation. They assume that, like them, it is the thing you value most.

Unlike the narcissist, however, your reputation is not the only thing you have. More importantly, your reputation is not made up of shallow social interactions and artificial charm. It is vital that you keep this in mind when your narcissist launches his or her smear campaign.

When the narcissist can no longer feed on your love and affection, they will try to feed on your pain and shame. This is the purpose of a smear campaign. Ironically, there probably are painful things that the narcissist knows about you. Maybe even things you are ashamed of. But those things are likely related to the narcissist themselves. It may be painful, for example, to think about the time that the narcissist cheated on you with someone you work with. You may feel ashamed, for example, to have stayed in the relationship with them after you found out. The reason I say this is ironic is that these details are likely not to be a part of the narcissist's smear campaign. The narcissist cannot effectively shame you in public with these details, because the narcissist's own ugly behavior would be revealed through that disclosure. Instead, what you'll find is that the narcissist's smear campaign is more often made up of half-truths, distortions, and outright lies.

Part of this is the result of the narcissist trying to maintain their own image, but another part of it is the hope that you will rush to defend your honor and tell the truth. Maybe you confront your narcissist and ask them why they're spreading lies about you. Maybe you seek out everyone your narcissist has contacted to tell your side of the story. Maybe you post on your Facebook page, telling all seven hundred of your closest friends, family, and professional network that he or she is a crazy ole liar. But stop. Think about it. If you do any of these things, you're giving the narcissist exactly what they want. They are still feeding off of you. More importantly, you are losing things. Your time. Your energy. Your passion. Your livelihood. You are losing all of those things by wasting them on the drama the narcissist has manufactured.

So I'll say it again. Keep this in the very front of your mind. Write it down on a fucking post-it note and repeat it as a mantra when you light your meditation candle if you have to.

Your reputation is not made up of shallow social interactions and artificial charm.

Unlike the narcissist, you do have a sense of self. You are someone independent of your current circumstances, including where you live, where you work, your current job title, or who you are dating. Take all those things away and you still are someone. Change all those things and you're still you.

Your reputation is not as fragile as the narcissist thinks, because unlike a narcissist's reputation, your reputation has been built over time by the deep experiences and relationships you have had as you have moved through your life. Unlike the narcissist, you don't exhaust work place relationships and friendships every six months to two years, so the people in your life who are close to you have a true understanding of who you are. Don't worry. Your reputation can withstand even a narcissist's elaborate lies. It is less important that you rush to tell anyone who will listen that the narcissist is a liar, and more important that you just continue living your best life as though you don't hear them yammering in the first place. Granted, if it comes up, it comes up. If you have no choice because you've been approached by a boss, a close friend, etc. then sure, set the record straight on a personal level. But there is simply no need to launch an Integrity Campaign to combat the narcissist's Smear Campaign. Just continue being and living as a person with integrity. Your very existence is your campaign.

That being said, I understand that when you have been involved with a narcissist, especially long-term, your self-esteem is probably shaky at best. That's the whole point of going No Contact in the first place. To take the time you need to heal and rebuild. So if you're having trouble believing that the narcissist's Smear Campaign won't work because you're just too awesome (and you are), I get it.

In that case, here is something to consider:

The narcissist is not as powerful as you believe they are. It goes without saying that they're not as powerful as they believe they are - that's why they're a narcissist! But as powerful as you think the narcissist is, as much of an impact you believe they can have on your life, your future, the truth is only a minuscule fraction of that.

Consider that you have been conditioned for weeks, months, maybe even years, to overvalue the importance and opinion of this person. Consider that during every instance of verbal, emotional or physical abuse, your brain was forming biochemical trauma bonds with this person.

Right now, if you even think about this person, you will feel your heart race, your palms sweat. You may even get very still or notice that your vision almost tunnels. That isn't love. That's fight or flight! Consistent abuse has made it such that just the thought of this person makes your brain go into survival mode. That's why everything surrounding them feels like life or death to you. That's the feeling of your traumatic memories being triggered. But even though the narcissist might feel like they are at the center of your life, the reality is that they are not. The power that the narcissist seems to have over you right now is not a fact. It is a perception. One your addiction to them over the course of the abusive relationship facilitated (and even if it isn't physical or romantic, every relationship with any narcissist is abusive) .

If you feel absolutely compelled to respond to a smear campaign, or are just feeling incredibly anxious about one, my best advice is to wait until after the detox to address it. Wait the 90 days and then see how you feel. If nothing else, you will be operating with a clear head, not from a reactive place of anxiety or fear.

What you'll find, though, is that once you stop perceiving the narcissist as they would have you see them, with an inflated sense of importance, you'll be able to see them and the threat of their lies more clearly. They are not an all powerful master of fate, able to destroy your precious reputation with a single text. They're just a bored, miserable person talking shit.

How To Maintain No Contact (or Low Contact)


- Do your best to ignore the narcissist at school or at work, even as they try their best to put themselves in your way. Stay focused on your work and limit your social interactions in those spaces to limit their opportunities to put on their show. Alternatively, employ a buddy system. Stick close to friends that know you don't wish to interact with the narcissist and enlist their help to create a buffer between you if necessary. Narcissists thrive on isolating their victims. You are much less vulnerable to their various tactics when you are not alone.

- Ask your mutual friends not to mention the narcissist to you, and vise versa. You don't have to come out and say that you suspect your ex is a narcissist, nor do you need to disclose the abuse or any other dirty details of the relationship. You can disclose these things if you want to, but that should happen when you decide you're ready to talk about it - not as a reaction to a narcissist who is hovering in your  life. Simply say that you don't want to hear about your ex and your friends (if they truly are friends) will understand.

* Be weary of people who are not respectful of this. It is common for narcissists to have harems, people they surround themselves with who validate their false self image. These people may be, at best, ex-lovers, people the narcissist is grooming for future use (someone they're currently flirting with to prime them), or at worst, other narcissists. If a so-called friend repeatedly mentions the narcissist to you, or you to the narcissist, after you have asked them not to, it may be a good idea to cut contact with them as well for the duration of your detox.

- Go on a social media diet for the duration of your No Contact Detox. Yes - the entire 30-90 days. If you're on a social media diet, you won't see any of the various cries for attention the narcissist may employ on various networks. Additionally, since you won't be posting anything new, it will be harder for the narcissist to know what you are up to, and thus more difficult for them to use other hovering techniques to lurk around in your life

- Cut any financial ties you have to the narcissist ASAP and get it in writing. If you shared a home, bills, a business, etc. - separate your finances as soon as you can. If you have a lawyer, allow the lawyer to handle these communications so that you aren't personally interacting with the narcissist. Anything they left at your home can be mailed - there is no need to meet in person. Anything you left at their home can be mailed to you. If they refuse to mail your things, have a proxy pick them up. If they try to withhold your things unless you agree to meet them, assess whether these are things you really need. Toiletries can be replaced. Ask yourself whether your favorite college sweatshirt is worth the trouble of continuing to engage with the narcissist. Usually it is better to just let these things go and start anew. The same is true for any big plans like vacations or concert tickets. If you paid for it, take someone else. If they paid, forget about it - they can figure out how they want to proceed without involving you. If you split the costs, refund the narcissist ASAP and move on. Change all passwords they may have had access to. If you shared a Netflix, Hulu or a similar account that they are in charge of, there is no discussion required here. Just stop using it and get your own - it is up to them to change their passwords or not. Take charge of your sexual health. Get tested on your own. It is recommended to get tested every 3-6 months depending on how active you are anyway. If you know your status there is nothing the narcissist can pop up and surprise you with later. Lastly, make sure any claims of pregnancy are substantiated, as well as your paternity, before you engage. Do not get sucked into weeks of "what if" scenarios, getting into long conversations about abortions or co-parenting before you're sure there is an actual pregnancy. There are 24 hr pharmacies that sell pregnancy tests that deliver results within minutes. There is no excuse for a scare that lasts more than a day.

- Change your routine if you notice that the narcissist has started to frequent your typical haunts. If they make excuses to shop where you work, or dine at your restaurant, consider transferring to another location and do not disclose your new place of work. It may be tempting to take legal action and get a restraining order, but remember that this kind of attention and drama is what the narcissist feeds on and it may only cause them to escalate, so only resort to this if you have no other options or if the situation has become dangerous.

- Ignore the narcissist's attempts to malign your reputation. Do not respond with a public attack of the narcissist's smear campaign. This is just another ploy to get you to engage. Attention is attention, good or bad.

- Block the narcissist's phone number so that they literally cannot contact you. Once you return to social media, block them there too. There is no shame in doing this. It doesn't make you weak, petty, immature or any of the other devaluing words the narcissist may assign to your attempts to keep them out of your life. Most of the tactics the narcissist will use to try to lure you back in can be avoided altogether by blocking them on all forms of communication.

Often people are reluctant to do these things because they think they will appear weak, or they are afraid of letting the narcissist win. Stubbornly clinging to an arbitrary routine of places and people is not worth it if the price is your peace of mind.

Remember these tactics narcissists use to lure you back in, as well as these preventative tips.

Lastly, for your own happiness and sanity, I would advise that you resist the urge to keep tabs on the narcissist in any way. Most people will find that this isn't even an impulse after the No Contact Detox. For some, however, this isn't the case. Some people have suffered very serious offenses and violations at the hands of their narcissists, which can make it particularly difficult to achieve a sense of closure. It is tempting to keep one eye in the rear view mirror to see whether the universe has righted itself yet and what went around has finally come back around. But the truth is (and this is about to sound corny AF), if you have one eye on your past you aren't fully focused on your future. And you deserve to move on.

Prioritize yourself and move on with your life. Don't get preoccupied with self-defeating ruminations. Don't get sucked into revenge plots. Don't worry about letting the narcissist win.

Forget all about the narcissist. That is how you win.

Also? Nothing pisses them off more. ;)

Helpful Sources for Self Care and Recovery After Being Involved With a Narcissist

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September 05, 2018

Softdisc Review - Alternative to Tampons

5 Pros and Cons of Switching to Softdiscs

Say what you will about third wave feminism, and whether the generation of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements will finally be able to effect lasting social change with respect to gender equality, but one of my favorite things about this particular feminist movement is the products! For decades women have had to choose between a limited variety of feminine products when on our periods, some of which are extremely uncomfortable and don't allow us to continue with our lives as usual, and others which are pretty effective except for the small little matter of bodily toxicity and long term health. This new wave of feminism happens to coincide with an exciting time in technology, and women are finally beginning to see scientific advances impact our daily lives. 

The product I'm referring to is the Softdisc. Technically defined as a menstrual disc as opposed to a menstrual cup, this product can be used on your period instead of pads or tampons. I've been using this product for about a year now, and here is the list of pros and cons I've compiled based on my experience. 

What Is It?

The best way that I can describe the Softdisc is that it's kind of like the Nuva Ring, or like a diaphragm, but for periods. It is a thickish ring with a latex film in the middle that expands into a cup-like shape when full. Unlike the Nuva Ring, which is an empty ring, and unlike the diaphragm which is meant to keep things out, the Softdisc fits against the cervix and catches (rather than absorbing) the menstrual blood in the latex film to later be emptied when removed.

*For more details, see the handy dandy Youtube video from the Softdisc website below. 



Pros

Not toxic

Ever heard of TSS? Affectionately known as Toxic Shock Syndrome, this is caused by bacterial infection in a localized place in the body. Highly absorbent tampons, for example, have been associated with TSS. 

The Softdisc is non-toxic and hypo-allergenic. It is not associated with TSS. 

In other words, this is a healthy alternative to tampons if you need a solution during your period that is effective for physical activity and sleep (read: a solution besides a maxi pad). Personally, I enjoy having a flow-control solution to my period that isn't simultaneously a health risk.

Comfortable 

So comfortable, you can't even feel it, has probably been trotted out many a time by feminine product advertisers. Well, I'll vouch for this one. It's true. As long as Softdisc is in position you can't feel a thing. 

The disc can be pinched in order to insert (similar to the Nuva Ring, for those of you ladies who have ever tried that) and once it's in place it's as though nothing ever happened. 

I personally love this about the Softdisc. Not that tampons were ever terribly uncomfortable. They weren't, but as comfortable as they were there was always the added issue of the string hanging. In some cases this just isn't ideal. Say you're going swimming, or to hot yoga in little dry fit shorts, or lounging around in your underwear with a lover. Because there is no external evidence of a menstrual management device (sidebar: did I just coin a super high tech sounding period term?) your period does become sort of...well...negligible. 

Longer wear

The Softdisc is said to offer 12 hrs of period protection. The accuracy of this claim varies depending on flow. On heavier days I've definitely had to change it sooner than 12 hrs. More like every 7 or 8 to be honest. If my period is 5 days long, with days 1 and 2 being the heaviest, by day 3 I'm able to go 12 hours without a change or any leakage issues. 

Easy solution in emergencies (leaks)

Every woman has probably had that moment of horror of starting her period, or needing to change a feminine product, and suddenly realizing she isn't prepared. It happens. Maybe you gave a tampon to a coworker and forgot to replenish your on-the-go stock. Maybe your roommate needed your last tampon in the house. In any case, I've definitely been there, and my solutions before the Softdisc were basically making a temporary, make-shift pad out of toilet paper and then either finding someone to borrow a tampon from or making a run to the nearest pharmacy. 

In emergencies - and only in emergencies - such as being caught in public with a leak and no other options, or being on my last disc and needing to go out the store to get more, I have re-used my menstrual disc. If this has happened in public I have taken it out, emptied it, and washed it with soap and warm water before reinserting. The one time it happened at home I went the extra mile and submerged it in boiling water for eight minutes after washing, as is recommended for reusable cups/discs. 

While this is easier than creating a make-shift maxi pad until you can find a feminine product ally or run to the store, I don't recommend this for habitual use. The manufacturer does not recommend reusing this product, but instead that a new cup be used every 12 hrs. 

That being said, if you're in a pinch, it's better than stuffing toilet paper up your...well...you know. 

Sex friendly 

Softdisc is the first and only menstrual cup/disc I have used thus far. The big grab for me in the feminine product aisle when comparing products was that you can have mess free sex in the Softdisc

I've tried it. It works. 

I wouldn't say that it's completely negligible during sex. I personally do feel the rim of it, just a bit, during the initial penetration, but this is probably because I don't take care to push it all the way back before hand (as a result it ends up sitting much further back after sex, but I'll get to that later). If I'm with a more sizable male partner - and that's about as delicate as I can be about this matter - where I'd typically feel contact with my cervix being made while having sex, I will occasionally feel a different kind of pressure when the latex wrapping is pushed on by the...ahem...male partner's endowment. Finally, while I've yet to have any accidents in the bedroom while using Softdisc ::knocks vigorously on wood:: I'm still not 100% comfortable with the idea of a partner performing penetrative foreplay while using the disc. That being said, I would recommend a little bit of lube for those who feel like I do, or to compensate for the fact that the cup will invariably keep some of the more sex-friendly juices from flowing. 

Cons

One size 

Unlike tampons or other menstrual cups on the market, the Softdisc is one size fits all, as it's made to sit past the vaginal canal and directly against the cervix. The problem with that can be that this doesn't necessarily take heavy flow into account.

Again, while 12 hour wear is certainly possible on lighter days, I have found it absolutely necessary to change the disc no later than 7-8 hours on the heavier days of my period.

Can be tricky to take out, especially after sex 

Okay, so putting the disc in is easy. Living life in it - even having sex in it! - is easy. Taking it out...ummm...

At this point I've got it down to a science, but even then it can be a little tricky at times. The first time I changed one it was right before going out on New Year's Eve, and for a moment (or more like forty minutes, so for forty long moments) I was sure I was going to be one of those terrifying, I-had-to-get-my-menstural-cup-removed-in-the-emergency-room stories.

Here's why it's tricky. To be clear, I have never lost the disc. It's not as though I've reached in and found that it had vanished. What is tricky, however, is that the rim of the Softdisc is rather thick - thicker than that of the Nuva Ring if you've ever used it. Once the disc is all the way in position against the cervix, and especially if removing it after sex, I find that while I can feel the rim, it can be difficult to actually hook my finger around the rim and pull in order to take it out. The cup is usually in position once the rim is back behind the pubic bone, and you do need to be able to use quite a bit of pressure in order to pull it out from behind the bone again. In other words, you need a good grip, and that can be hard to find.

In instances where it's been more difficult to take out, I've literally pushed a bit (ladies, you know what I'm talking about) while sort of putting pressure on the rim (in a direction I hope is forward) to encourage the whole device to come down a bit. If it seems like it's really going to be a struggle, I'll also do this in the shower to avoid a mess (oh yeah, I said it. Mess. More on that later...). Still, while these instances can be a bit annoying when they occur, I've been using the disc for a year and have literally had three instances where removal has been challenging. So it isn't the end of the world. Just something to keep in mind.

Leaks

So on the one hand, if a leak occurs, this can be an easy fix even if you don't have a fresh Softdisc available to use. On the other hand, if a leak occurs it isn't quite as subtle as the type that might occur when wearing a tampon.

Because the menstrual disc collects blood rather than absorbing it, it responds differently when full. Where an absorbent tampon will start to drip when it is full, creating the phenomenon known as leaking, a menstrual disc will start to spill once it is full. That being said, by the time a leak has occurred the menstrual disc isn't quite as forgiving and there isn't as much time to react. I'm personally very against wearing even a panty liner on my period (that defeats he whole purpose, right?) and have been thinking about pairing this product with period-safe underwear so as to completely ease my mind. Otherwise, being proactive is much preferred to being reactive to prevent any leaking incidents with this product. I'll just leave it at that.

Messy removal 

This is a HUGE consideration with this product, and all other menstrual cups, actually. Frankly, I don't think it should be as big a concern as it is, but because of the lack of consideration for female specific hygiene needs when constructing public bathrooms, it needs to be taken into serious consideration. The consideration I'm referring to is a multi-stall bathroom configuration as opposed to single stall.

In a single stall configuration, all I need to say is that removal of the disc is messy. It's not incredibly messy. It's not horrifying. However, it's certainly messier than removal of the now seemingly archaic tampon. These discs cannot be flushed, you see. Further, while removal instructions encourage one to keep the product upright and horizontal while removing it to prevent spillage, to say that this is easier said than anatomically done is the understatement of the year. What does that mean? I'm just going to say it. Blood, ladies. It means blood. Welcome to the truth of your bodies. I'm not going to lie, I actually find this to be sort of liberating. I don't entirely mind that I have to interact with my menstrual cycle more than I previously did. It feels a little more natural. Maybe that's to do with my being two parts feminist, one part woke, but in any case, it's fine by me. The issue is the logistics with respect to public bathrooms. Again, in a single stall configuration, an easy solution (even if the sink and toilet are positioned unusually far apart) is to run the hot water, eject the device, control the mess with some toilet paper and then quickly clean it and the lucky removal hand thoroughly before reapplying.

But in a multi-stall configuration? Tricky! I've been stuck in this position (on my birthday!) without a backup disc and it needed to be navigated carefully to say the least. On the one hand, this product is disposable and the idea is that you will have a backup. That is to say that in a multi-stall setting, one could conceivably remove the product, control the mess as best as one can with toilet paper, insert a fresh disc, dry one's hands as best one can with available toilet paper (or moist towelette wipes if one is crafty enough to have them at the ready), reclothe delicately as though after a fresh manicure, and then wash ones hands diligently as though before open heart surgery.

Without this option though - or if one is using a non-disopsable cup/disc - one has to navigate the social aspects of using a shared bathroom on one's period. When this happened to me I chose the stall that was closest to one of the many sinks available and enlisted a friend to guard my area and explain the situation if and when a new women entered the bathroom. Honestly, it wasn't the worst thing in the world. Was it more work than simply changing a tampon? Yes. To be sure. But my hope is that as the world continues to adapt for feminine needs, awkward situations like that will be few and far between. Maybe we'll start to see moist towelettes inside women's bathroom stalls for such occasions, or select stalls with small, built in sinks similar for what we have for handicap bathrooms with changing tables, etc. Or, maybe as the culture around periods changes it won't be considered embarrassing or awkward to quickly wash out one's menstrual cup in a public place before reapplying.

Anyway, I'll leave the implications of public bathrooms and third wave feminism to the politicians. For now. My point is, consider the mess, especially if you work in an multi-stall bathroom environment.

Disposable 

Finally, while the cons of this aren't immediately obvious, Softdisc is a disposable product. This ends up being a con for a few reasons.

1. Expensive

The Softdisc is expensive. One box of Softdisc, which includes 14 disposable discs, runs about $12 (plus tax). This might not sound like a lot, but the average period (including spotting) lasts 5-7 days, the recommendation is to change the disc every 12 hrs, and the disc might (read: will) need to be changed more frequently on heavier days. Do the math and there's a good change that you'll end up buying a box of Softdiscs once a month, which comes to $144 a year. This is expensive compared to other menstrual cups that are reusable and intended to last for years. They are typically about $50 max, but do not have the benefit of being able to be worn during sex (with one exception).

2. Not Sold Everywhere

Because Softdisc is part of a new wave of alternative feminine products, it isn't sold everywhere that feminine products are sold. Big name stores like Target, CVS, and Walgreens will certainly carry them, but a local bodega, grocery store, or gas station might not. That being said, you really need to be prepared with some discs on hand when you're expecting and/or on your period just in case. Otherwise you run the risk of having to go far out of your way in a pinch, or having to downshift to using a more traditional but less safe/convenient product like a tampon or a pad.

Overall, despite the cons, my experience with Softdisc has been overwhelmingly positive. It has changed the way that I experience my period, especially when I am out and about.

The next thing that I really do want to try is the Ziggy Cup. The Ziggy Cup is apparently exactly like the Softdisc, except that it doesn't contain latex, and it's reusable! My only hesitation is that I've gotten used to removing the Softdisc and I'm worried that the Ziggy Cup may be more challenging to remove being that the entire thing is made of the same material. But the verdict on that remains to be seen.

For now, I'm happy with Softdisc, my favorite alternative period product to date. 

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