Like Love Was A Thing I Could Do

Like Love Was A Thing I Could Do

I. Black Hearts

It’s February, I’m 25 years old and I’m in a blizzard with Kat and Emily after the Black Hearts Party near the Chelsea Piers and Kat and I are in our boots and fishnets and our makeup is smeared and compromised but it doesn’t really matter because the snow is more scary-beautiful than either of us will ever be, although together we must have seemed beautiful sometimes, and she was. Beautiful, and graceful, too, and even when angry she had a precise velocity I admired a great deal. But it was hard back then to know the difference between admiration and fear, between a thing and your first memory of that thing, between fucking and fucking up.

Earlier that night we’d been courting a rapt audience in the “Chamber of Destiny,” kissing and grabbing each other as demanded by The Wheel, one of many sexual games held in one of many sexually-themed rooms set up in The Frying Pan, the floating dive bar hosting the 17th Annual Anti-Valentine’s Day Black Hearts Party. It was big, this lightship docked on a railroad car barge, dank and dimly lit throughout with a catwalk offering views of a tripped-out dance floor crowded with men in leather chaps and lush fur coats, tattooed girls wrapped in strips of black latex, shirtless gay boys in transparent black thongs, women with faces like knives trailed by submissive boys in studded collars and bandit eyemasks. Bright red signs declared EXPOSITION: DESTROY THE STATE BY DISPLAYING YOUR SHAMEFUL BITS TO THE DANCING AREA. 

It was invite-only — Emily’s gay photographer friend got us in — and the invitations demanded: Access Denied To Non-Black-Wearing Narcs, Dress to Celebrate Pervosity and Shame Your Ancestors. Feats Rewarded. And If You Don’t Like It, Throw Your Own Fucking Party.

We stained our mouths with cup after cup of black vodka, and when we smiled for pictures our lips and teeth belonged to girls who’d spent hours tongue-kissing death on a squalid sofa. Outside the snow was piling up but we didn’t know that yet. We just knew these cherry-red pools of light, the ground sticky with beer, ledges covered in black-paper hearts, Kat’s hair in my fist and her smile against my ear.  The paper hearts have words on them, and Emily wore Old Enough To Know Better and I wore New In Town: $200 Incall, $300 Outcall and Kat wore Living a Lie and all of these things are true or almost true.

People kept telling us we were a beautiful couple, which is a thing that happens a lot when two thin straight-looking girls touch each other in public. It’s always tinged with relief, in a way, thanking us for being lesbians they wanted to look at rather than the manly genderfucking kind of lesbians. We weren’t a couple and she wasn’t a lesbian, but correcting them seemed besides the point. Everybody was strange, and also a stranger.

But that’s all in the past now because whatever boozy brownout had enabled us to forget ourselves in the boat was lost out here in these windy clouds of snow. It’s one AM or two AM or later and we’ve reached the point of coldness where you’ve almost transcended coldness and become impenetrable unmoving ice monsters. Emily’s lost her phone, and like I said, our legs are protected only insofar as boyshorts, fishnets, legwarmers and motorcycle boots could be considered adequate “protection” of one’s legs. Where are the other blackhearts now, anyway? We are the only people we can see. Maybe that whole thing took place in another dimension. The only cars out are cabs heading to their own homes before it’s too late. Emily’s now in the street, waving her hands wildly. I have money, she keeps saying. Cab after cab lumbers past, one slow enough for Emily to dip in, smash her cash against the window, and convince him to take us to Union Square for $100, where we can catch a train to Brooklyn.

And my most vivid memory of that night has never been the blizzard or the Chamber of Destiny, it’s the moment we finally arrived home, and how good it was to climb the dingy stairs to our apartment, which I did nearly on all fours, kissing a stair or four in appreciation, forgetting about our fucked-up hair and lives. I’d never loved my bed so much, and never been so grateful that it was only mine.

It’s only the next morning that I realize we crossed that line again, Kat and I, and I’d wonder what that meant if I wasn’t so confused, in general, about what everything means. It was fun. I knew that much. We’d had a time. What were lines, anyway? Between this kind of friendship and a different kind, or even the lines that left acrid powder on my gums? I mean how fucked up were we? Why didn’t anyone stop us? Because we’d keep crossing the line, again and again and again, never sure if it mattered or not.

The Black Hearts Party wasn’t on Valentine’s Day, officially, it was a few days beforehand. On Valentine’s Day proper we had dinner reservations in Soho, for which Kat had suggested I dress like Bette Porter. So I’d done my best interpretation of a powersuit, and I tried to do the other things too, like opening the door for her, pulling out her chair. Stuff like that.

She thinks we’re a real lesbian couple! Kat laughs after the waitress finishes her intro and leaves. Silly waitress, thinking two girls on a Valentine’s Day dinner date are a lesbian couple! Silly not just because we weren’t a couple, but also silly because earlier she’d had to shove the strap-on I’d gotten us in her closet so her boyfriend wouldn’t see it when he slept over later. But also Valentine’s Day in general is silly and I’ve never really known what to do about it. I mean, it’s so fake, right? A way to package love and sell it to everybody all at once. Charades are the only way I know how to play it. Historically, February 14th has been a doomed day for me, like my casual dismissal of its relevancy engenders just enough affection to ensure I will, in some way, celebrate it, and just enough attitude to ensure I will, in some way, majestically fuck it up or make it as weird as possible. And if you don’t like it, throw your own fucking party.

I loved Kat, I know that much. It wasn’t romantic love, but I loved her in a heightened, confusing and often self-destructive way, and I loved her because, just like me, she wanted to eat the city alive. We’d rushed into things — our friendship, living together, all of that, overestimating our compatability during a frenzied, chaotic winter. I didn’t want to be her girlfriend but I didn’t mind what we were doing, either, at least not usually; I was trying on the idea of being one-half of a lesbian couple and as for what she was doing, maybe I’ll never know. We were having fun, I guess. Throwing our own fucking party.

We tried to spot the other gay couples in the room and wondered if they noticed us, too. This felt easy enough, like a thing I could do. I could be a girl with another girl on Valentine’s Day. Maybe even on other days, too. It felt good, even, like an extended version of my favorite part of going out with a girl (I’d never had a girlfriend, but I’d fucked around) — leading her through a room with my hand on her waist. Or being led. That was even better.

Anyway, isn’t this what Valentine’s Day had always been to me? A pageant? An opportunity to try on the idea of being in love, being traditional, being a couple you could fit into a envelope.


II. 1998

It’s too much love, I tell Ezra, and I hear him laugh as I press my foot against the phone booth’s clanky door, hoping nobody can see me; none of the piano students in their light blue polos and pressed navy pants en route to the basement’s many practice rooms, none of my friends in looser interpretations of our boarding school’s uniform checking their email on one of our antiquated rows of monochrome PCs, not anybody at all. I’ve eschewed the booth’s inadequate bench for the floor, where if I sit just right I can look as small as I feel and be as invisible as I wish I was. I’m 16 years old.

At this point, my only sexual experience, ever, was a night a few months prior when I’d drank an entire bottle of JOLT and made out with my ex-roommate’s younger brother, which was right before Hayden and I became inseparable and he’d taken on my entire physical presentation as his own personal project. He gave me a makeover, in other words. Maybe a boy will like me now, I thought afterwards, with my haircut and brand-name jeans. I didn’t think that boy would be Hayden. Maybe it never really was. It was hard, back then, to know the difference between what you wanted and what you wanted to want.

Too much love! Ezra jokes. Waa waa waa. Too much love on Valentine’s Day! You know, Marie —

I know! I know. I feel so — overwhelmed! Or bombarded. I can’t explain it. I don’t know why I feel this way. Nobody can love me this much, I feel so weird!

Is it weird because he’s uh, you know, gay?

No it’s weird because I’m weird.

It started early that morning when Astrid bopped over from her side of our suite, her bleached-blonde hair in its intricate assortment of braids and bobby pins, her easy beauty punked-out with layers of black eyeliner, still lacing up her Doc Martens — Risssss baby, you need to go in the hallway!

I didn’t know what to expect. Hayden had been hyping this big Valentine’s Day plan, and I suspected his parents might be coming up for the weekend, or that we’d be going out to dinner, something like that. I hadn’t met his parents yet, but Hayden’s Mom had been sending me cute things she found at the Wal-Mart in Fort Smith for months already. I know they must be relieved that their son has a girl in his life now. A few months later, his Stepdad will joke about how they used to worry Hayden might be gay, and Hayden will guffaw like a lunatic, and I will avoid eye contact.

So, my dorm room was at the far end of the hallway and on the other end, slapped onto the exit doors, were three giant sheets of posterboard, haphazardly collaged with magazine pictures, advertisements probably, for cologne and underpants, and, in Hayden’s silly handwriting, I love you Marie! Happy Valentine’s Day! I tried to do the math, quickly — two girls per room, 15 rooms per side, two sides, 60 people. 60 girls have seen these signs from a gay guy to his best friend. Hayden wanted them to see it. I knew that but I dismissed it.

It was a weird place, my boarding school, I should mention that. It was like a sexy insane asylum for kids who considered themselves artistically exceptional. Hayden was popular and good-looking, a theater major with a big personality who’d been leaving a trail of broken boyhearts in his wake since arriving there in 1996. But I was brand new and had eaten lunch alone in my room for my first month there, until late October when Hayden absorbed me into his orbit and never let me go. Everybody knew him, so now everybody knew me as part of him, like back home where everybody knew me as the best friend of this or that pretty girl.

Hayden was giddy when I got to breakfast, bouncing up and down on his chair like an apple juice addict at snack time. Hayden had this almost manic boyish energy and an earnest, unambigous face: blue kilowatt eyes, a high forehead, carefully spiked sandy-blonde hair. His Oklahoma accent came out in full force when he was excited, which was often, or when he was depressed, which was also often. He’d decorated my chair in balloons and red streamers, and I popped two just sitting down.

It continued throughout the day, because Hayden had solicited a student in each of my classes to present me with a gift — candy, a card, a beanie baby — and at lunch our Dorm Mom led me into her office where 100 carnations were waiting for me. One hundred carnations! I’d been giving Hayden shit about not ordering me one from the school’s annual carnation sale, so the motherfucker had gone out and found one hundred goddamn carnations. There was barely space in our room for it. I put it on the floor and stared at it for a good minute or two or three. One hundred white carnations. For me? The only person who gets me things on Valentine’s Day is my Mom. Why me? Why did he love me so much? Why would anybody love me this much? He’d find out soon enough how ugly and needy I was, wouldn’t he?

My last gift of the day, 7th hour, was this card:


I love you dearly! Be in your lobby dressed to the nines at exactly 10 min. before 6. Josh and I will have Jimmy pick you up. You will need a backpack with overnite clothes and your church clothes. Bring two of your fav c.d.s.

All my Love,

That’s when I went downstairs to hide and call Ezra, and then back upstairs to put on the panty hose that disguised my eczema-ravaged legs, the lavender sweater he liked, the black dress that hadn’t seemed quite so aggressively sexy six months and two inches ago. But I was growing up, like I said. We listened to the Violent Femmes while Astrid and Emma did my makeup.

I didn’t want to be Hayden’s girlfriend, a resolution which had seemed less confusing first semester before he’d lost interest in all the available boys and had redirected all his nervous, hypersexual energy onto me. He began romanticizing middle school ex-girlfriends like girls were a thing he could do again. I could date a girl if she looked like Tyra Banks, he said once. So could I, I said. But we were in love, and we connected in a way I’d never connected with anybody, and never would again for twelve years.

“Jimmy,” in a cowboy hat and trenchcoat, escorts me to a White Jeep, where I share the backseat with two giant teddy bears, one for me and one for Henna, Hayden’s best friend Josh’s girlfriend. I never know how to act around Henna, because she’s so pretty and tiny and I’m not. I feel like an enormous gooey beast, not pretty and tiny enough to have a real boyfriend like hers, just good enough for a fake gay boyfriend.

Jimmy isn’t Jimmy, of course, he’s Hayden’s Stepdad, and the woman in a french maid’s outfit who greets us at the front door of their luxury motorhome with a bottle of champagne isn’t Amélie The French Maid, it’s Hayden’s Mom. They’ve driven up from their huge Oklahoma ranch, built with oil money. I feel heady and free after only a few sips, and moreso later that night at Windows, Traverse City’s fanciest restaurant, when Hayden puts a diamond necklace on my knee and then around my neck.

Hayden is beaming throughout dinner, and he’s been beaming all day. He’s proud of himself, you know? Look at him. Look at him at this restaurant, giving a diamond necklace to a blonde girl in a lavender sweater that reminds him of Veronica, from the comic books he read because he had a crush on Archie. He’s given me so much, I think. He saved my life, I tell people who don’t believe me because they don’t know the person I left behind, haven’t seen me through tragedies small and large, weren’t in my bed for the two years I cried myself to sleep every night. It’s almost like he’s inhaled me, completely, and it turns out that’s what I’d needed all along, I needed to be smoke in somebody else’s lungs, needed to take up exactly that much space. And he needed to swallow somebody because he had all this love to give but it was mixed-up, too, from years of being both gay and passionately Christian, being raised by (now-recovered) alcoholics, surviving sexual abuse. He dragged me, a Jew, to church with him on Sundays, and he’d hold my hand the whole time and sometimes cry about Jesus.

I don’t have to say, they think we’re a real couple! when our waitress treats us like one, because of course. Of course everybody thinks we’re a real couple.

Sometimes I feel stupid for playing along, for being the girlfriend he wishes he had instead of the best friend I actually am. But this feels so nice, too: being somebody’s girlfriend. Being worth that to somebody. I’m 16 years old, after all.

I stay for the weekend, which’s exciting in and of itself because off-campus clearance is complicated and tricky. We go out to eat a lot, and Hayden’s parents buy me a stereo and talk about my upcoming trip to Oklahoma. Cuddled up in piles of blankets in the motor-home we watch his favorite film Pretty Woman, and I recognize bits and pieces of it as things Hayden has said or done to me. Hayden talks about our future in New York City when he’s a famous actor and I’m a famous film-maker and he stars in all of my films and we’re married, which must mean I’ll also be okay about spending my life with a guy who never actually wants to fuck me. On our last morning off-campus I grip his hand, digging my thumbs into his palm, squeezing each finger at a time, and he bites my shoulder, like he does often, and we wrestle for a while and later he’ll tell me that this was when he wanted to kiss me, that moment right before his Stepdad came back with our mochas, and the television was on and so were our pajama pants. Sexual tension had been stirring between our anxious, adolescent bodies, and soon enough we’d invent a world where sex became a thing we could do together, and we’d fly into that world and we wouldn’t realize how imaginary that world was until we were already tumbling out of it. And he would find out how ugly and needy I was, at last.

But Valentine’s Day, then, was a thing he could do, a thing he knew how to do. Teddy bears, flowers, candy, dinner, diamonds. Everybody knew about these things. It’s a common language, a familiar narrative, a place to start when the way you love people isn’t the same way everybody else loves people.


III. Red Hearts


Hayden liked boys, Kat liked boys, I was not a boy, I am not a boy. When you cleared away the paper hearts and carnations, that’s all that was left on the table. I’d agreed, eagerly almost, to manage my emotions neatly while theirs ran wildly all over my inadequate body and myriad inadequacies, predicated by our mutual understanding of their elemental disinterest in me. I’d be available when wanted, and polite when unwanted. This wasn’t hard at first, because I’d never seen either of them in that way: I’m attracted to masculinity, in women and (when I still liked boys) in men, too, and they were not that, although they were both, objectively, far more attractive and socially competent than I’d ever be, which always kept me just a rung below. They’d feel mixed-up too, soon enough, and take that out on me, and eventually I’d develop shapeless, orderless feelings, too. A fake thing has a way of creating a need for a real thing, a thing you can tell the truth about to parents and strangers and waitresses. It also has a way of preparing you for a real thing.

Hayden and I return to campus, say goodbye to his parents, I check my mail and then walk Hayden back to his dorm. It’s snowing, and we’re laughing, holding hands, in awe of each other. I’ve just had my first real Valentine’s Day! Then Marie — you complete me, he tells me, gripping my hand, and I smile like an incomplete thing. I tell him me too, my heart beating still, swallowing the sharp air, our light-lipped promises, our heady youth and our inchoate hope for a real love bigger than the whole snowy sky.

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Riese is the 41-year-old Co-Founder of as well as an award-winning writer, video-maker, LGBTQ+ Marketing consultant and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and now lives in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in nine books, magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. She's Jewish and has a cute dog named Carol. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 3228 articles for us.


  1. Riese, this took my breath away. I’m so, so glad you created a space for this kind of writing from you and Laneia, because these kinds of pieces from each of you are the one thing I truly miss as Autostraddle continues its deserved ascent toward super-stardom. This was intimate and lovely and a perfect thing for a Valentine’s afternoon.

  2. THIS > “But it was hard back then to know the difference between admiration and fear, between a thing and your first memory of that thing, between fucking and fucking up.” That some truthiness right there.

  3. oh riese. this was what i hoped it would be but also more because your writing is always more. i have always mourned the fact that i was a baby when you were really writing autowin because now i think of myself as living a version of your life (in my twenties, in williamsburg, existing or trying to) but i know it would be better if i could read your words as they were then, but i think it’s also just as good to work for your website that you built and created on the shoulders of all those experiences, if that makes sense? i just mean that you know how to speak your heart better than any other writer i’ve ever read and i am never disappointed after reading your words, only truly truly grateful that they exist.

    i’m sorry if i’m being sappy. it is valentine’s day after all so maybe that makes it okay.

    i just know that i will bookmark this and read it over and over again because even when i haven’t shared your experiences you somehow know how to verbalize the human condition in a way that makes me feel scared but safe at the same time.

    i am a little bit drunk but these words are honest words from my whole heart, i promise. maybe more honest because i am drunk. i am just so excited to read more and more and more…i will never not want to read your words, is what i mean.

    also, side fucking note, can we talk about how perfect the header graphic is?! it’s beyond. rosa is a goddess. you and laneia are beautiful. i’m so lucky to know you.


  4. “Hayden liked boys, Kat liked boys, I was not a boy, I am not a boy. When you cleared away the paper hearts and carnations, that’s all that was left on the table.”

    Last night I had a confusing thing with a girl that I really like and I am beginning to figure out that I am not what she wants. These words, this post, both broke my heart and helped put the pieces back together a little less crookedly.

  5. I’m gonna use Vanessa’s V-day excuse and provide a sappy thank you to riese part II!

    As someone who only recently started identifying as lesbian, I spent a lot of my college years agonizing over the “where’s the line in my friendships/more?” debate. This piece beautifully, eloquently, and effortlessly stated of the thoughts I haven’t had the courage or time to process…

    Thank you, thank you, thank you, for this post and this community and for giving myself and so many others a place to piece everything together.

  6. I’ve fallen in love with your words over and over again, and this is as beautiful as always. Thanks for writing <3

  7. Riese! THIS is why I love you (Happy Valentine’s Day). I am a different generation, so don’t visit autostraddle every day, but check every week for signs of your prose…
    You are just a beautiful writer. Your writing is such a gift! So thank you, once again, for sharing your honest, exposed, fragile soul with us. I love you, dear.
    I also enjoy many other writers on this site, and look forward to Laneia’s contributions. You are all wonerful!

    • I know, it’s been awhile, right? This young lady and Laneia writing whatever they want has been missed and will be appreciated. It feels a little selfish to say this as we know how busy they are, and Riese already helps me by posting articles she loves thus saving me time I don’t have to find great articles, and Carmen is providing me with all the stuff I need to know not to mention always adding an animal pic/video with said posts, Rachel is so damn smart and just a pleasure to read…. this is like a giant Meijers that has everything in one stop shopping. Except the everything is really good, and not anxiety arousing like trying to pick out one f’g can of corn from a whole aisle of corn and way less exhausting and I don’t have to find a parking spot.

  8. “in which Riese and Laneia take turns writing about whatever the fuck they want to” made me laugh out loud for a solid minute, but also made me so excited. i loved this. i love when you write like this — both of you, our fearless leaders — so i can’t wait to read more.

  9. I’ve been waiting for the return of autowin for what feels like forever and, as usual, this is beautiful and exactly what I need. Thank you for the words!

  10. As soon as I saw “in which Riese and Laneia write about whatever the fuck they want to”, I may have developed a shit-eating grin on my face. Which was terribly inappropriate given that I was attempting to eat bananas at that moment, but oh well. I am looking forward to this column.

    This piece is so beautiful, and I have no more words. I love how you always manage to so eloquently capture, well, everything.

  11. I appreciate this piece for how it gives context for straight-gay same-sex-platonic etc etc etc relationships in coming into what one actually wants. i think that’s something that isn’t written about very much — how both straight and queer people go through a transformative phase of morphing each other into one’s imaginary ideal playmates and then how those selves need to be ferociously abandoned. I wish there were a term for this, like ‘test-self’ or something. When I was 21 and on my second test-self! I don’t think it’s a fake self (or maybe I just don’t want to beat up on a 16 yr old) I think it’s a survival tool.

    Looking forward to these pieces. Love the deft characterization of Hayden, his desperate carnation production. I immediately thought “oh god mental health diagnosis on the way,” but it didn’t go there! So yay!

      • do you mean we should talk about it not being a fake self

        or do you mean fake self is a true concept?

        maybe self is a fake concept

        i need a nap now.

        • i think i mean both? we should talk more about the idea of the “fake self” that we burden ourselves with, because i don’t think any self is fake, or maybe i just mean i don’t think we should be so harsh about trying on different identities when we’re working toward figuring ourselves out. so i want to talk about how saying “i don’t think it’s a fake self” is such a true concept and then i want to talk about our alleged fake selves of the past and how they weren’t fake at all, just building blocks.

          my favorite writing professor told us that we spend our whole lives trying to see ourselves, because regardless of what we do — look in mirrors, take photos, etc etc — we can never truly see our whole selves in the way other people see us and so every single action in life is an effort to really see ourselves, but they’re all totally doomed because we never can.

          • less building blocks and more coordinates in an emerging constellation (i think)

            “fake self” is so ungenerous to one’s self….that self wasn’t fake, that self was in pain or searching for something unavailable in that time or place, or just simplifying in misguided ways

            yah, i like what your prof said. things are perspectival and always in process, we cope and grow and watch

            i also want a whole column devoted to saturn’s return because that shit fascinates me.

          • “an emerging constellation” is perfect

            thank you for adding that to my brain

            thank you riese for giving this small conversation a space to exist

            god i love all of you

          • there’s this passage from “Prep”, by Curtis Sittenfeld (one of my favorite novels, partially ’cause it’s about boarding school) that I keep thinking about, even though it’s not a perfect parallel to this situation or what I talked about in my essay, some of the words she uses reminds me of words I would use to talk about this, if that makes sense. i guess it’s not really a parallel at all, but i don’t know i keep thinking about it just the same, so here it is:

            “I was wrong, I screwed up — how else can I say it? But there was plenty I learned from Dave. Later, after all that happened between Cross Sugarman and me, I even saw Dave as practice for Cross, as preparation. He made me ready, as Conchita had once made me ready for a friendship with Martha; there are people we treat wrong, and later, we’re prepared to treat other people right. Perhaps that sounds mercenary, but I feel grateful for these trial relationships, and I would like to think it all evens out — surely, unknowingly, I have served as practice for other people.”

  12. I’ve missed this SO MUCH in the years since Autowin has been subsumed by Autostraddle and I love your articles but this has been missing and please please please continue because it’s good for the soul.

  13. Absolutely beautiful stuff, riese. I posted it to my Facebook with this comment:

    Someday I’ll live enough to be able to write my story like this one. Someday I’ll love enough, be loved enough. There will be the drunken, silly, lustful moments, and they will be followed by tearful, sad ones, and maybe, if I’m lucky, they will lead to a narrative that makes sense of it all. But right now I am only twenty years old and I’ve lived in only three places and loved only twice. It’s enough for now, but I’ll wait for something bigger. I’m nearly certain it’s out there.

  14. I know this is not what drives traffic, but I’ll take this over a recap any day of the week. (And I like recaps too.)

    Thank you, Riese, for your bravery, honesty and willingness to bear your soul all while stringing together a beautiful set of words.

  15. this is fantastic, the header image is literally perfect, and I am so excited to see more of this feature/column/you + laneia action

  16. This is infused with a grace so real that it hurts. I spent 20 minutes after reading this thinking of my own Hayden, my own fake and real moment with a girl, also on Valentine’s Day, where it occurred to me that maybe this could be right, forever.

    It’s the power of retrospect. And it’s much appreciated.

  17. I feel nourished. Among many other feels, but most prominently nourished in an emotional and intellectual way. And I know that I want more.

    Off to search for autowin archives.

  18. Thank you, this is incredible. Words cannot explain how excited I am by the pieces that are yet to come. I love AS but I also love your personal writing so the combination of the two is a dream.

  19. as soon as I read the header for this column, I got incredibly excited. I miss this sort of your writing, and this was amazing. And I agree with the people above, that there’s something really universal about these practice/test experiences. Lastly, I hope your valentine’s day this year was a genuinely good one.

  20. “It’s common language, a familiar narrative, a place to start when the way you love people isn’t the same way everybody else loves people.”


    Today for some reason I am feeling everything all mushy and Valentine’sy that I should have felt yesterday, but was too exhausted to. I love it

  21. “Welcome to Blog Anything, in which Riese and Laneia take turns writing about whatever the fuck they want to.”

    this makes me SO happy!!

  22. Blog Anything is the answer to all of my Autostraddle prayers. Riese, are YOU lesbian jesus? Thank you for this V-Day present.

  23. “Marie — you complete me, he tells me, gripping my hand, and I smile like an incomplete thing.”
    This was once so confusing. Taking years of “crying myself to sleep”, with the unexplainable depression and general non-satisfaction with just about every aspect of life, it’s that lightbulb sensation, not necessarily and over-night thing, but in a greater schema of things it is sort of a moment, a spark, where you push through that curtain you’ve been hiding behind, with all of the pre-conceived societally suggested and self-sabotaged fake shell of an identity – you realize that you don’t have to. And it’s hard to not be in love with the idea of being loved; it is even more complicated when both parties adopt/initiate the relationship based on this idea alone. Being the shell only deprives you of the ability to live with what the shell contains, it’s like absence of oxygen suffocates the contents it’s contents and it’s important to catch it before it completely withers away.
    Riese, thank you for sharing this. It is beautiful, maddening, exciting, saddening… it’s the splash of cold water after a long night.

  24. So excited for this column! I love this so much and agree with others that I’d been missing stuff like from the autowin days.

    Thanks for writing and can’t wait for whatever else you both feel like putting out. Never be self conscious cuz we all love you. Trust.

  25. “It was hard, back then, to know the difference between what you wanted and what you wanted to want.”

    I’m thinking, it is still hard for me. As I gaze at the cup of coffee in her hands, I still wonder.
    But then, just take a drink of coffee, and that moment receded back into the back of my mind.

    I enjoyed reading this over a another cup of coffee no less. :)

  26. Reading this reminds me of painting my nails black in the summer of tenth grade, when the polish seeped into my chewed-up cuticles and burned something like redemption, or maybe just a less cleansing kind of fire.
    Your writing is raw and lovely and reads like picking at old scars– honest and painful and satisfying. Thank you.

  27. “It was hard, back then, to know the difference between what you wanted and what you wanted to want.”

    This describes so much of my relationships in high school. Argh, the feelings.

    Beautiful piece. I can’t properly articulate how great I think this is. Looking forward to more.

  28. I loved this. I want to say I can’t wait for more, but I can totally wait forever, because that’s what you do when you love something.

  29. Riese. This was perfect and raw and amazing. Thank you for sharing. I needed this. Right. NOW.

    I am the frog in the pot, and when I jumped in the water was just right. Then, this weekend. Her birthday dinner, complete with extended family, her ex-boyfriend that only the three of us know is her ex. And me. She leans under the table to get something that fell on the floor and makes a comment only I can hear about going down on me. We drunkenly hooked up about a month ago; things have been different since but we’re trying to pretend they’re not. Suddenly the water feels like it’s boiling, and I have to decide whether or not to jump out or if the heat is all in my head.

    Isn’t it funny how you don’t know you need to hear a certain thing until it’s there in front of you in black and white?

    “A fake thing has a way of creating a need for a real thing… It also has a way of preparing you for a real thing.”

    Thank you, Riese, for helping me know that all of this is okay in its own way. As long as I don’t let it get in the way of my real thing. Because she’s on her way.

  30. I had my very own Hayden and my very own Kat too, once upon a time.

    Kat and I used to make out at sleepovers but she’s straight and I’m a lesbian and we’re still not sure what it meant but we’re best friends now so I guess it doesn’t really matter.
    And I dated a Hayden who became my best friend in a toxic, awful, messed up, dependent, needy relationship that scarred me, and now we’re friends but sometimes we can’t make eye contact and I know that he’s thinking about how we’re both the same, in a way.

  31. So I was born on Valentines day and it has always been this mix of hilarious, consumerist rubbish that I barely acknowledge, and a downright ache: where is this person I love;
    why does being in love, and loved, feel like the most fulfilling pain in the whole world.

    My eighteenth was spent at a funeral, and my twenty-first across from my sister at the point where I actually thought: this is it, nope, going to lose her.

    Now I’m about to turn twenty five and a lot of ideas I’ve had about the person I was supposed to be at this age have been squashed, (I am nowhere near being in love with a soul-mate; I keep jumping from jobs, trying to fix everything; trying to be worth something else; I barely have money for my flat, let alone a baby or a house; I don’t know what my body means any more, and all that arrogance I had about knowing the world completely at 12 is gone.) I just want to work in a way that is meaningful and doesn’t do any harm to others; I just want to pay my rent and support my whanau because timing sucks; I just want to fall in love, and be in love, over and over, have my heart expand and know that someone is looking out for me, wants me, no matter what. And why does that last one even exist? Why is it so important for our self worth, with all the other types of love in the world, to have someone/s love you like that? Because it is, and it doesn’t make sense, but I want it, more than anything.

    Thanks Rieze, this was beautiful and crushed me. The people in your life, your feelings, and the way you write about them, so god damn right, vivid and intense. Damn, I loved this. Thank you, and just gosh, when you described yourself as: ‘ugly and needy,’ like the way one would describe a monster or a bad thing, it just broke me. Because whatever, like I think you probably aren’t either of those things (because everyone is special and a secret world creator and that is just totally fine and awesome,) but even if you were those things, compared to whatever weird aesthetic comparison society handed down to us, you would still be a worthy person – worthy of love, friendship, appreciation of your talents, criticism, all those things, even if not from the person you wanted it to be from. Everybody, especially when they are young, confused, unemployed or single, feels like they are worthless sometimes, and they aren’t, they really really aren’t. <3

  32. Riese, this is so, so lovely. Also, from a fellow alum, anything you write about high school gives me doubly intense nostalgic babyqueer feelings.

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