How To Not Be Broke

I’m a normal-ass person.

Well, scratch that, I’m relatively badass. But normal in what I consider the financial sense. Even though apparently over half of America lives paycheck-to-paycheck and has a credit score around 600 or lower. So statistically, I guess I’m above-average financially.

I might act urban-bougie now, probably because despite not having much, I learned frugal quality and value EARLY. If you’ve read other blog posts of mine, you’ll know I didn’t grow up with money. I wasn’t poor by any standard, but I was for sure lower-class, statistically. And what saved me from growing up on welfare in the projects was my mom’s inherent hustle-nature. Seriously; she has shamelessly haggled with small children selling hand-made crafts in Hawaii for her souvenirs on vacation. But through a life of fake addresses for better educational options, well-intentioned church connections for better living conditions, and finely-honed discount instincts for better clothing and sustenance choices, I was able to at least go to the best schools in the districts, look presentable through thrift-store clothing, and eat good off sale-priced foods and discounted goods sold from dented cans and imperfect crushed boxes (that little warehouse in Queens was like a wonderland growing up). I knew not to ask for much unless it was my birthday, Christmas, or back-to-school time (RIP to the OG WholeSale Liquidators in SoHo).

It took until I was 13-years-old when my mom was finally able to secure a co-op and we didn’t have to move around anymore; I now had my own bedroom and an address I didn’t have to lie about so my mom could utilize my student-issued bus passes and Metrocards to save money on transportation costs. Stability was nice. We were finally on the come-up.

I settled into that comfort all the way up until college, where it really hit home what adulting would entail.

I was broke.

Broke broke. While my mom was working her ass off to make sure she could put me through state-college, I was left to figure out how to survive off everything else. I couldn’t ask her for “spending money” since she was already helping me pay to go. I tried work-study jobs for meager earnings but those earnings went to necessities, like securing used textbooks off Half.com. I couldn’t even contribute $5 for Dominos $5/$5/$5 deal when my friends ordered pizza. I couldn’t afford Chinese food. I didn’t go off-campus with them to party and dine at Applebees or bar-hop. The dining hall options were gourmet and abundant to me. Sale racks at no-name mall stores were my best friend when I had a bit of cash to myself.

When I graduated, with about $13,000 in student loan debt (and I am supremely grateful for my mom’s help and that I chose to go to an economical SUNY at the time, otherwise, it would have been much higher), I left home directly after college and moved to Boston.

Right around the start of the recession. :/

Now I was broke without the lifeline of living at home, AND learning that since the job market SUCKED, all those promises of how easy it’d be to make it with a college degree held little weight. I tried holding down multiple jobs for awhile, but I was overworked, underpaid, and depressed (Urban Outfitters made me vow to never work retail again, and you know it’s bad when the actual customers tell you they feel sorry for you). I couldn’t even afford internet. I got two library card memberships, one for the Boston Public Library system, and one for the local town of Everett where I lived. This granted me 2 free hours of Internet a day between the two, which I used to furiously apply to as many jobs as I could to improve my living situation. I couldn’t afford to partake in any common leisure activities like movies, events, restaurants. And when my ex-husband-then-boyfriend-at-the-time couldn’t seem to keep a steady workflow of hours to pull us out of this situation either, I finally grew TIRED of being broke.

That was my catalyst.

I was tired of my family coming to visit me and not being able to do much with them because I had no money. Tired of fearing when my student loan deferral period would end and I’d have an additional bill on my hands. Tired of living a life that essentially seemed like a prison, needing to be frugal 100% of the time, with nothing to show for it. There’s no freedom in being broke. I had done it for too long, and I was sick of it.

After 2 years in Boston, I moved back to NYC where I immediately got a job on Wall Street; the best paying job I’d ever had at the time. But that was not the “cure,” simply choosing to move where the money was and make more of it. Ask all those broke lottery-winners and once-famous rappers who file for bankruptcy. I needed a plan and habits to retain the now more-money I’d be making. I needed to NOT spend more just because I had more. And luckily, my thrifty upbringing had already trained me for this.

Despite my sudden jump in salary, I made the very conscious and difficult decision to NOT be dazzled by the more-money and continue living exactly how I’d already been living, with the goal of eliminating all of my student loan debt, because I’d finally reached the point where I could no longer defer them. Even though I was sick of it, I had already been doing it for so long; I could wait another 6 months to a year and stay uncomfortable for a greater end goal to benefit my life. At least now I was consciously choosing to live broke for a real purpose, with better days on the far horizon if I could remain disciplined enough. So all that additional salary went to hacking away at my student loan debt in chunks, to pave the way to my financial freedom.

My second priority after eliminating my debt was building a cushion in my bank account and a savings account on the side, so that I’d no longer have to live paycheck to paycheck, and no emergency expense would rattle me. Fun fact: If you’re not budgeting for emergency situations, you’re doing it wrong. It takes a lot of unexpected circumstances to realize, they will always happen. I used to budget $200 a month for random shit. Someone’s going to come into town. Your friend is going to invite you to some spontaneous thing. You’ll discover an unadvertised pop-up event only active for one weekend, or you’ll suddenly discover that thing you’ve been keeping your eye on for awhile is now having a whopper sale and you need to buy it like now.

There will always be an unexpected circumstance that costs money. Plan for it.

Since I had reached the core of my “I’m sick of being broke”-ness, I was committed to achieving this goal as SOON as possible, so even though I was technically no longer broke, I still lived like I was, until I had eliminated my debt and amassed enough of a financial cushion to finally be able to breathe easy.

Even now, I still choose to be economical. Just because you have money, does not mean you have to spend it. Most folks are bad at simply holding onto the money that they already have. If you’re shit with less money, you’re still gonna be shit with greater gobs of money. And yes, we can cry foul at the government and capitalism and unfair labor practices, but at the end of the day we’re still broke and we still need tactics to get around a system that exists and ain’t really going nowhere.

Learn to chase value.

I know everybody’s momma (Black ones anyway) said a variation of the phrase “There’s food at home. You got [eating out] money?” I never thought that phrase would make so much sense now.

Cooking is one of the biggest things that got me through broke times. Maybe I couldn’t get a pizza or splurge on Applebees, but I could at least make sure I ate good. I do not cook for presentation, nor to impress anyone or post my culinary masterpieces on a Facebook food group or Instagram (unless I did a damn good job). Some of those internet recipes got too many damn ingredients and I leave out 1/4-1/3 of the shit and make modified versions, just because I don’t want to spend money on the extra herbs and spices and juices that will go bad in a week cause I didn’t have anything else to use them on. I mostly cook for UTILITY. Because I need to eat. Does it take work? Sure does. Is it economical as hell? YES AF. So I put in the work to do it. My boyfriend ordered ONE gourmet pizza one night a couple of months ago, and the shit came out to $40 with taxes and delivery fees and such (Delivery fees have SKYROCKETED since Covid). For ONE PIE. I strongly urged him to reconsider. But he really wanted to try this pizza. Shit was smaller than the average large pie when it arrived. Now, was it delicious and hearty? Yeah. But 2 weeks prior, I’d gotten a pie from Papa John’s WITH cheesy bread and honey chipotle chicken tenders on the side for $30. Value.

Leftovers. Leftovers. Leftovers. If I have leftovers at home, 95% I am eating at home. And in the unlikely 5% of the time that I eat out with leftovers at home, I’m coming back to the leftovers somehow the next day. I will eat the same leftovers for 4 days straight, and if I get bored, cook something more so that I can rotate between the new thing and old leftovers until ALL THE THINGS ARE GONE. I do not like to waste food. Food gone bad is money in the trash. Likewise, if I buy a 16 oz soda, you will find my container at various levels of completion throughout the day, possibly even several days. Ask my cousins. Or my boyfriend who witnesses me place opened cans of Mountain Dew back in the fridge regularly, or drink leftover cups of juice still out from the day before. I don’t like to waste drink either.

I ate grits, eggs, and a banana for breakfast every day for a whole week straight last month. A grain, a protein, a fruit. Nothing fancy. Takes about 10 minutes total to prepare from start to finish. An autopilot breakfast that’s wholesome. $2.50 for a dozen eggs at the supermarket. About the same for a 5-pack of bananas from Whole Foods. $2.99 for a container of grits that’ll last you quite some time. $10 got me a week and beyond’s worth of breakfast. You cannot knock the value.

Awhile back I discovered that the Duane Reade chain in NYC carries 6-pack paper towels and 12-pack toilet paper for $5 each. Five…dollars…each. And not some cheap $1 store brand or like Angel Soft masquerading itself to be better than it is. It’s SCOTT. The nearest Duane Reade is 1 block and 2 avenues down from my apartment. My nearest grocery store is around the corner. If you’re wondering whether I make the longer trek each month for the better price, I hope the answer is crystal clear. I could pay $6 for 4 rolls at my local grocer, or I could get some damn exercise. Bruh, last time I went there they had BOGO if you had the store card (which I sure as hell do). I paid $7.50 for 24 rolls of toilet paper. This shit might last me half a year.

Value.

A couple of months ago, I went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. My friend cautioned me not to buy tickets online in advance, because then you couldn’t use your New Yorker discount. Cool. We got there and realized the line to buy tickets using our discount was practically as long as the line to get into the museum. Took at least another 25 minutes. So pretty much almost an hour in total wait to get into the museum on cheap tickets. But that wait meant I got to “donate” $10 for my ticket instead of the full price of $25. And my friend admitted, she simply donated $1. I wish we’d been in line together, because seeing her do it would have rubbed some thrifty courage on me to halve my donation further.

I’m not a “shopper” and it’s not something I do in my spare time for fun either. I only buy new clothes or footwear if I need a replacement, a specific item for a purpose, or if the targeted ads on my social media and website browsing show me a sparkling rare item that aligns with my soul (those algorithms have gotten REALLY good). Because of this, I rarely make impulsive purchases. If I’m going to buy something, I make sure I really want the thing. I’ve never been someone who will just go “Oh, I’ll just return it if it doesn’t look good.” It is not always economical to repackage an item, ship it back, and wait for a refund with shipping costs possibly deducted. Because of this, I rarely return anything and can’t remember the last time I’ve regretted making a purchase. Additionally, commit to always at least looking for a way to NOT pay full-price, whether it’s shopping at TJ Maxx/Marshalls, waiting for emails advertising 50% off the site, or doing a quick Retailmenot.com search for coupon codes. The Sale section of anywhere is your friend; I can’t believe I ever thought SALE was a dirty word. I legit used to cringe and check if anyone was watching when my mom would go straight for it.

I pay $20/month for a Blink membership; one of the cheapest gym memberships you can get in the city (it even lets you bring a guest!). Blink, because the bottom of the barrel gym is Planet Fitness and I at least have standards. I get my free weights and machines in a safe and clean environment and I craft my own workout regimen, without having to pay extra for plush towels to wipe the sweat off my face, Kiehl’s lotion in the bathrooms, or fancy classes.

There’s a lot of freedom in living below your means. I decline purchases that I feel aren’t worth it with ease. Self-restraint comes easily to me, with an ironclad will against monetary peer pressure. One day I looked up and was no longer waiting for my next paycheck. “Oh, we got paid today?” became a regular reaction for me. I barely glance at grocery receipts because I have my practices on autopilot to keep my spending in moderation. I splurge on cool shit I could only dream of as a child, like freaking Zelda backpacks, Mickey Mouse sweaters, and all those cool immersive art exhibits without checking if I can afford it (I can, because I made it so). Or real vacations, random excursions, experiences that are only around for a limited time. Buying popcorn and snacks at the movie theater is non-negotiable to me (buying snacks pretty much anywhere has become my bougie non-negotiable), to the point where I don’t even sneak the 16oz bottles of soda into the theaters anymore. I BUY MOVIE THEATER SODA NOW. Sometimes I add NACHOS and Buncha Crunch too, when I’m feeling particularly baller.

I’ve taken trips back to Boston just to enjoy all the shit I couldn’t when I lived there, and eat at all the places I could only wistfully gaze at back then. I reached my goal of being able to live on my own in Manhattan, contributing to retirement accounts, with an online savings account I never touch, and a Robinhood account I opened a year ago to play around with, though I’ve lost $900 in the stock market (thanks a lot, WallStreetBets).

I never borrow money from anyone because I feel like if I don’t have the money for something, I probably should not be buying it. Instead, I have credit cards to “borrow from myself” and I never let my credit card debt go higher than what I have in my checking account, meaning, I could pay it all off and wipe the slate clean if needed. And if I find the scales tipping and my spending so much that my credit card bill is growing at a faster rate that I can pay off (without dipping into any savings or losing my checking account cushion, then I start cutting back on my spending until I can “pay myself back” accordingly. Because finding the balance between living a satisfying life and retaining as much of my money as possible, to me, is worth the prevention methods of ever returning to those dark days. I’ve done too much work to go backwards. I had an ex who used to brag about how well he could survive off $40 until the next paycheck, after his expenses had ate up his entire check in a matter of days. I ain’t about that life.

Last week, I discovered an untransferred $75 sitting in my Venmo account that I forgot was in there.

That’s the life I’m ’bout.

So, how badly enough do you not want to be broke? Enough to REALLY suffer through it with a goal to overcome it? To sacrifice a lot of the things you enjoy for a lengthy period of time if it means financial freedom comes of it? To keep a little bit of your broke past with you by holding onto habits you used to roll your eyes at your mom for with your mission in mind? You’d be surprised at the things you become capable of when you’re really sick of something.

What’s your catalyst? Or what will it be?

~Tael

(Eyes on the prize)

I Deserve a Bed

I’ve mentioned before that I used to hate vacations.

There was no Disneyworld or cruise trips for me growing up. A “vacation” for my family generally meant squishing 5-6 peeps into one car for a journey that lasted anywhere from 3 to 12 hours, the destination being a family member’s house where you were either sleeping with your mom, piling into bed with 2-3 other cousins, or preparing a pallet on the floor. I can only recall one weekend beach trip that was considered luxurious, simply because it was the one time we actually got to stay in a hotel.

I have no regrets, nor resentment about this. But now, I have the independence and luxury of being able to pay for a flight (and sweet Jesus, I will pick that route of transportation over a road trip any day) and hotel accommodations for a leisurely excursion.

I come from a large family. The type where you will NEVER remember that random aunt you see once every 7 years, and you cannot keep track of who’s a first cousin, second cousin, or just a “cousin” that’s apparently related by blood somehow OR just grew up with all your other cousins so they’re kind of like a Ditto. And now many of THEM had their own kids so our family tree probably looks like a periodic table of chaos. Do you also come from a big family where you piled into bed with your cousins during family getaways, or shared a room with siblings growing up? And then you got a certain age and left all that behind right? Only in my family, they don’t leave it behind.

Last Labor Day weekend, me and my “immediate” fam took a little weekend trip. Five of us in one hotel room, all adults, aged 20, 32, 35, 55, and 56, respectively.

Two to each Queen bed, was the general agreed upon consensus, with my mom saying she’d bring along her air mattress. Not exactly ideal, but since it was only for 2 nights, I agreed. Until we arrived at the hotel and my mom revealed, OOPS, she forgot the air mattress, and the hotel could not provide us with an extra rollaway.

My mom volunteered to sleep on the tiny uncomfortable mini-couch against the wall like it was nothing. But in a low voice my cousin warned me, “You know she’s going to sneak into bed with you and your sister in the middle of the night, right?”

And he was right. That half-chaise lounger was not fit for sleeping and that’s why she’d offered so flippantly. She’d just wake up stiff and order me and my sister, half-asleep, to make room for her. The thought filled me with dread.

“Three can fit in a bed, just do head to toe. I don’t care,” my aunt said.

The thing is, I care. I care deeply. I don’t WANT to do head to toe.

Sleep is very high on my priority list. I still have an old-school pillowtop mattress, with an additional egg crate topper at home. I read reviews on the sheets I buy. I have a white noise machine for ambient sound. Blackout curtains in my room. I’m very good at getting my 8 hours every night. An unexpected three to a bed, head to toe, in a hotel room I contributed to paying for, is not on my agenda. Even in a hostel, you get your own bed.

“Would you feel comfortable sleeping with your cousin so that me and your mom and sister can all sleep in the other bed?”

While he’s 100% my closest cousin and like a brother to me to me, he is also well over 200 pounds and we’d surely end up touching. The last time we slept in a bed together, I was probably around 11-years-old. So I asserted myself honestly and said “No, I would not feel comfortable with that.”

They seemed surprised at this.

I calmly stated that we should find the nearest Target and simply purchase an air mattress. My mother seemed exasperated at this plan, and the fact that I would want to seek out a way to sleep more comfortably. In a snippy tone, she stated she didn’t want to pay $40 for an air mattress. But I insisted I would pay for it. We found one for $21, self inflatable and everything. And lo and behold, once we had it back at the hotel room, it was my mother who requested to sleep on it, leaving me to one of the beds with my sister.

Fine. That’s fine. I slept with my sister for the two nights. Both her, and my cousin on the other side of the room, snore. Luckily I’d had the foresight to bring my white noise machine to help a little. And I was woken much earlier than I would have liked by their conversing the next day, because hey, one room. I wouldn’t call it “relaxing”.

Now, my mom has 7 siblings. And for them growing up, at least 3-4 girls shared a room, and a bed as well. They grew up with virtually no privacy and no boundaries. Then they got married and had kids pretty quickly…and they still don’t blink twice if 3 of the sisters have to climb into bed with each other, even at their age now.

But up until I was 15, I was an only child. And while we did move around a lot when I was a kid, for the time we were settled, I had my own room and all the luxuries of space of an only child. I was often called spoiled and selfish by my family because of it. While I loved my cousins dearly and cherished my time with them, I also loved my snacks dearly and felt it unfair to share the spoils I’d carefully obtained and allocated after they’d decimated their own with little self-control or discipline. It was like I’d already learned how to be resourceful and thrive in a capitalist environment, but my elders tried to spread the allocation to those who didn’t work for it.

As I grew into adulthood, I never lost the concept of valuing what I work for and what I’ve obtained. My own quiet space. My nighttime wind-down time. I don’t live with roommates for a reason. And when planning trips in advance, I’d like to know that wherever I’m going, I’m going to have some sort of safe space that I can retreat to. A “home base”. And that includes a bed. If I know in advance that I can’t have this, I would rather not go. Gone are the days where I’d clamor with my cousins to somebody’s house and make a blanket nest on the floor, or pass out on somebody’s couch in college. It was fun then, yes, but I’m a grown woman now who values her comfort.

I often witnessed my mom enthusiastically giving up her bedroom for visitors, and hell, even I gave my bed to my older cousins who came over. I thought it was my duty and I was happy to fulfill it. Generally the unspoken rules of sleeping hierarchy I saw; if it was a married couple, you gave up your bed. If it was an elder, you gave up your bed. If it was a man, you gave up your bed. Unless he was a broke man. Those slept on the couch. But men making more money than you, you definitely gave up your bed. Eventually air mattresses and pull-out couches were brought into the mix. But even now, when someone visits my mom’s apartment from out of town, it’s my 20-year-old sister who’s displaced from her room. The common law of order.

And that’s fine. I did my time. I did my duty. But now that I’m a fully contributing member of society, I’m allowed to choose. And I shouldn’t be accused of acting like the Queen of Sheba for having a reasonable expectation of my own bed to sleep in when I pay to visit somewhere rather than engage in my family’s boundary-less climate. I shouldn’t need to be a well-paid man to be seen as important enough to get the honor of my own space offered to me.

On our most recent weekend family trip last month, when my mom got into persuasion-mode to convince me to come, I expressly stated my biggest condition beforehand. That me and my lover would absolutely have a room with our own bed to sleep in for a trip that we were paying for. It was promised and delivered. A step of achievement towards basic rights assertion.

Ask and you may receive.

~Tael

The Cult of Yelp

A softer, less aggressive term swap could be “tribe.” The Tribe of Yelp. But I used to run with a pack of girls called the “Cult Busters” in high school, with our secret codes, nicknames, and stalker-journal activities. Trust me, we were absolutely harmless.

Yelp is an urban household verb now. To “Yelp” a place. We look it up on Yelp beforehand to see what’s up. We write our review afterwards to put folks on or warn them. Other review sites have gained some niche footholds too. Google Reviews. G2Crowd. Healthgrades. TripAdvisor. But Yelp’s the OG.

According to my profile, I’ve been Yelping since January 2011. And I loved the site even before I was letting the world know my own viewpoints on the businesses I encounter. The concept of customers being able to leave authentic reviews of their experience, tips on best days to go, which waiters are awesome, tidbits only a genuine encounter would generate, a know-before-you-go insight, was highly appealing to a truth-seeker like me. But being able to leave my OWN legit mark? Praise for a spot that impressed the highly-difficult-to-impress being that I am, or VENGEANCE on an establishment that treated me hostilely? Mini-writing assessments of food, travel, and adventure?

Initiation called to me, easy.

I’m one of those writers without any professionally published works. The sort of identity that follows you from childhood, where you amassed a collection of journals, created so many stories in your head (some even made it to some form of paper), longing to be a famous author until you grew up and realized how commercialized the publishing world had become and what it actually took to make your dream pieces commodifiable.

I let the world know my thoughts through Xanga. Console RPGs were my favorite genre because of the storyboarding; they were really just lengthy, playable fantasies in immersive format – reading through the controller. I devoured books as much as I wanted to write them, overwhelmed because how in the world would I write the same 300-ish page novels I loved so much? (And it HAD to be that long to be good.)

I apparently also used to blurt out to my mom’s acquaintances that I was starving and there was no food at home when I was a child.

Pair a love of writing with compulsive truth-vomit and you’ve got the kind of person who needs to be on Yelp flexing her composition muscles with sass and sincerity.

Surprisingly, it took me all the way until 2021 to get Elite. And when they first reached out to me for consideration, my initial thought was “Please God, I hope I don’t have to start tailoring my reviews now to be more…professional.” I mean, in one of my most memorable reviews I mention that I should have fornicated in a real estate office that screwed me over, out of pettiness. Pun and disrespect intended. But I mean, it’s definitely well-earned. Not just that I really should have left my sex-stank all over Consarah’s workstation, but the Elite status for sure. An urban adventurer “writer’s” dream. Some might think, “But it’s JUST YELP.” But to loyal clan-members, it’s a guidebook to avoiding the bar where too many folks’ credit cards got compromised, or deciding if that $30 “immersive pop-up” is really worth the money, or finding the tricky entrance to the tattoo shop you’re looking for. It’s also a chance to share your unfiltered truth with the world and help someone’s decision with your inherent communicative language. You get to be heard.

It feels good. Writing out of enjoyment, and not to impress or repackage myself for others. No one edits my shit there. 🙂

~Tael

P.S. If you wanna read that review, go here, scroll down, click to page 16 and look for the “Rapid Realty” review. Man, I’m glad they’re no longer in business.

Unlearning: Discomfort = Love

Not too long ago, I asked my crush about a past relationship and he informed me that he didn’t want to go into detail about it. My first reaction was hurt; I wanted to connect and grow closer by learning about this part of his past and I almost felt shut out by it. But the logical part of my brain reasoned with me: why was I making this about myself? It had nothing to do with me. He just felt uncomfortable sharing it.

Boundaries.

Some time ago, my therapist (AND my boss haha) brought some very valuable information to light concerning my tenuous relationship with my mother; that our relationship lacked boundaries, which then translated into boundary-trampling in my other relationships. I put aside what made me uncomfortable in romantic relationships, and suffocated my partners’ limits, because my upbringing had taught me that discomfort equals love.

I want to say “in my family,” but maybe this wasn’t the case. Maybe it was just my mom in particular, who never took my personal mental comfort seriously. Sure, the normal PHYSICAL comforts were taken care of. But never my psyche.

She’d buy clog-shoes that felt uncomfortable on my feet, but insist I wear them because they were “fashionable.” She’d force me to wear a graduation dress that exposed far too much side-boob than my 13-year-old self was comfortable with. She’d demand that I hug so-and-so, despite my visible uneasiness, and call out that uneasiness as problematic because she didn’t understand it (or care to ask), putting me at war with my internal feelings.

We weren’t allowed to have boundaries as children, it seemed…because adults knew better what we should properly feel.

She’d drag me to the forefront of an audience to recite a pleasantry (knowing full well I hated being the center of attention) and stand idly by as her shadow as they asked me questions and she answered for me, until I had permission to flee. Or she’d shove me into a group of children at a gathering against my pleas and demand I make friends, where anxiety got the better of me and I’d break down and sob.

Once I reached adulthood, moved out and got my own job, apartment, and self-sufficiency, those habits never ended. She continued to pull me into the spotlight to show me off, cut me off to answer questions directed at me, and automatically make plans for me assuming it was a given I’d go along with them. Any time I expressed discomfort as an adult, manipulation tactics, guilt trips and gaslighting were used to coerce my submission.

Eventually, I resorted to ignoring her phone calls and texts most of the time, or preparing ironclad defenses like a lawyer as to why I couldn’t attend an event, simply because I was afraid to say “no” and the drama that would ensue as a result. But as an adult, why did I still need to live with this fear? Why couldn’t I ever say “Actually, I don’t feel like it,” or “I think that request is unfair, so no,” or “I feel uncomfortable,” without getting the 3rd degree for it and made to feel that my emotions were insubstantial somehow?

Always made to feel like a selfish person to choose yourself first, guilt became interweaved with the concept of “no,” and responsibility for everyone else’s feelings paramount to your own. And discomfort became a way of life; normal even. And boundaries ceased to exist between those who love each other and the more uncomfortable you feel, the stronger your bond and the higher your love must reach. Until distress spills over everywhere because you don’t even know what boundaries are anymore, or the source of your unhappiness.

But…you do know a state of constant discomfort doesn’t feel good, so you wonder…why would someone who loves me continue to put me in situations I don’t feel comfortable in, for their own satisfaction?

I don’t want to continue that cycle.

Unlearn that love.

~Tael

Demisexuality: It All Makes Sense Now

Nope, this is not a joke post; this is me taking my enlightenment very seriously. Because many see the definition of demisexuality and say it’s an unnecessary orientation that doesn’t NEED labeling, or duh, EVERYONE is this way, so you ain’t special, yah? But I have never so clearly understood my odd and largely sporadic sense of attraction that I’ve never been able to quite pin down until I explored this new label.

I’ve come across the term occasionally in the past few years. The first time I thought, yeah sounds like me. The second time I thought, hokay, I think I really am this thing. The third time, a few days ago, I thought, HOLY SHIT, THIS IS REAL.

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Because suddenly, patterns in my past dealings with attraction and heartbreak began to fall into place. Sure, most folks would LOVE an emotional connection with those they sleep with. But most can also still have sex without it easily. That’s why casual hookup culture is so prevalent and one-stands are common. But for what i’ll affectionately call the “demi” tribe, those are very difficult. I can only think of ONE time I may have been down for a hookup. Drunk at a party at college, grinding up on a guy who followed me to the bathroom when I got dizzy with the pretense of helping me get water, *may* have made out with me, and said “You know you want this,” as he placed my hand on his crotch. And I think I really DID want it, but I also had an off-campus boyfriend at the time so amidst my idiot party girl decisions, I knew I didn’t want to be a FULL cheater…? Anyway, it didn’t happen.

In grade school, you basically like who everybody else likes to fit in. The pop stars, basketball players, school jock heartbreaker, ohh squeal, hearts on your binder, he said hi to me in the hall blahblahblah. Once I left the realm of adolescence, I realized I didn’t have the same attraction to peeps as my peers did. When the girls around me would say “Oh, check out that hot guy over there,” I’d be the one squinting in the general direction like “Where? Where is he? Is that it?” And being severely underwhelmed.

Because it is EXTREMELY rare for me to experience on-sight physical attraction to someone, and I never knew why.

Whenever men hit on me, my initial reaction is suspicion. I don’t care how “conventionally attractive” they are (and I THINK I can usually spot a “conventionally attractive person” pretty good?). I have never thought “Damn he’s sexy, I’d love to hop on that.” More like “Why tf are you making me take my headphones out right now?” Attraction at first sight doesn’t exist for me.

When I do like someone, it’s because I’ve spent time with them. I’ve noticed their little quirks and chuckles. The cracks in their silly facade when they answer a question seriously. The mischievous glint when they parry back a witty comment without missing a beat. Or the eye contact they make as they watch you love their face burrowing between your thighs……………oops tangent! And it might take awhile to see these things unless they’re being completely natural with you off top. Which means demis often don’t know how we actually feel about the person until some time has passed.

It can be a chore if you’re really TRYING to find someone to connect with.

And it makes online dating an EXTREME hassle. Because you swipe incessantly, wondering if the person you COULD be *MAYBE* physically attracted to actually has the personality necessary to attract you for real since you still need BOTH. I’ve never been too sure of my “type” of men because I’ve been with a variety. I’ve even been with those I’ve only had the emotional connection with, but not the physical attraction. Because the connection was there, I was still able to sleep with them, but eventually I realized it wasn’t sustainable if every time I looked at them I thought WOOF.

So you’re cautious with your likes/matches because you’re trying to be sure there’s the best chance for a connection, but you’ll only REALLY know for sure if you meet them, probably like 3-5 times first, and if there’s still nothing there, go through the awkward “Oops, I’m just not feeling it,” “Wait, really, I thought we had a great time!” “Oh sure, it was nice but I don’t want to proceed sexually yet because your personality has not charmed the shit out of me, but should we try a few more times or just call it now before we waste any more energy??”

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Like dat.

But once you FINALLY overcome the GRIND of connecting emotionally and finding them adorable, the attraction mounts, and then the ATTACHMENT begins. Rapidly. And it can be hard to let go, because of how uncommon it is to feel the attraction in the first place. Which can cause a mess of feelings and tears and frustration if it doesn’t work out and trouble disconnecting because you WENT THROUGH ALL THIS WORK, and when’s the next time the STARS ARE GOING TO ALIGN to find this buildup AGAIN?? It’s exhausting. I can see why it’s classified smack in the middle of the sexual/asexual spectrum. Because demis may as well be nuns while that connection is missing. We’re just not INTERESTED.

But then comes the problem of when you ARE sexually wanting because the last connection didn’t work out, but finding emotional connection is sparse.

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Why are my friends like this?

It speaks to the current hookup culture that waiting an ENTIRE WEEK to sleep with someone is seen as this crazy obstacle now. It should NOT be HARD WORK. Why, BACK IN MY DAY…you know what, FORGET IT. And who KNOWS if I’d even find your friend HOT ANYWAY., PROBABLY NOT, because I’M DEMI. *Bitterbitterbitterbitter.*

I remember when the term “sapiosexual” became popularized years ago. I also identify with that one, however, while I may be highly attracted to intelligent individuals (teach me, senpai!), I am also attracted to glasses, genuine smiles, nice eyes, sarcastic wit, skateboarders….there’s no term for each one (thankfully). You can be attracted to intelligence AND other things. But even if a guy had all that ish, and the connection was missing, it would still be a dead-end for me. I wouldn’t even WANT to still sleep with the unicorn man of my dreams just for kicks because he had all the things I ever wanted. If I couldn’t confide a deep dark secret with him, his penis was useless. The point is, demisexuals don’t WANT to be demisexuals lol. At least I sure don’t. Hooray, I’ve finally gained clarity on my orientation, but I don’t WANT to be this kind of different, horny and angry over it (horngry?).

I would love to “order up” a quick hookup on Tinder to soothe the raging fire in my loins (because I’m experiencing quite a drought) but I can’t just DO IT. I can’t just open myself up to (metaphorically and quite literally) to a person I haven’t spent time and laughed with, assessed their character, and grown to LIKE in some way. Without that connection, it’s just sex. And I don’t want JUST sex with some random “conventionally hot” person. I want something passionate and powerful, with a delicious natural build-up, where our speech was never-ending foreplay and our words were extensions of our tongues teasing our minds and flesh and each confident touch sent electric currents up our joints. And if that ain’t there, then what’s the point?

(I may be a bit of an overachiever). I don’t need “just sex.”

I have always been on a never-ending quest for human connection, sexual or no. I crave authenticity and realness, deep bonds with folks who resonate on the same vibe, honest emotion. I think we all know how hard it is to find on just a friendly level. Move it to the realm where it’s required for intimacy and it makes life that much harder for those who won’t settle for anyone less, in a world where casual is where it’s at and, let’s face it, PEOPLE STRAIGHT UP SUCK. One time I tried settling for less a few years ago and the dope couldn’t even be a proper FWB; I ended up being less satisfied than before. I’m accumulating a lot of “Don’t Settle” lessons at this stage in my life.

I guess the silver lining is that demisexuals are willing to wait for something more meaningful (not like our hearts really give us a choice), which means more meaningful sexual encounters WHEN WE DO FIND THEM, but what do you do in the meantime if you’re a demi who’s not finding anyone to connect with on that level, AND not settling?

Tough it out miserably with your vibrator in the meantime is the main suggestion I keep getting.

Damn my standards. But at least I know I’m not alone.

~Tael