|December 01, 2015 | Letter No. 10
I discovered Wendy Davis the way most of the country did: when she was filibustering her heart out
in the Texas Legislature back in 2013 while wearing bright, pink sneakers
. The bill Wendy stood strong against was an anti-abortion bill—one in a string of several bills Texas has passed over the past few years (which we wrote about last week
). Wendy won that day: she kept the bill from passing. But she was ultimately thwarted after Governor Rick Perry
called a special session of the state legislature just to pass the abortion restrictions.
Wendy, as ever, got back up from that loss and ran for governor of Texas in 2014. And even though that was another big loss
, Wendy just keeps getting back up and fighting for what she believes in. In this week’s Lenny, Wendy has a stirring, inspiring essay about why it’s important to get up and fight another day, even when you know you’re going to lose. One of my least favorite things about myself is that I can be cynical, but Wendy’s essay is so powerful that it can make even the most hardened cynic melt. It makes you believe in so-called lost causes.
The theme of resilience runs through Collier Meyerson’s gorgeous essay about using a romantic relationship to distract her from a friend’s death. Collier learns that you can’t avoid facing your grief, but that you can survive it. Then we have Meena Harris’s lovely interview with Karen Byrd, the small-business entrepreneur behind Natural Girls United
, a company that makes natural hairstyles for black Barbie dolls. We can’t underestimate how important it is for girls to have their own images reflected in the toys they play with and the culture they absorb. As Byrd puts it: “All children should be able to find dolls that look like them.”
Next, we have our second installment of the health-advice column Rumors I Heard About My Body
, in which Planned Parenthood’s excellent doctors answer our questions. This week’s reader-submitted query is about Plan B (aka the morning-after pill) and fertility. We also have our December Lennyscopes, where Melissa Broder counsels us to look fear in the face and tell it to piss off.
Finally, we are introducing our Lenny Store
! Lena and Jenni will tell you more about it below, but we’re so thrilled to be showcasing independent feminist artists and their wares. We want you to have rad nails, great clothes, and amazing home décor that you can be proud to show off.
I Fucking Hate to Lose
By Wendy Davis
On the morning of November 5, 2014 — the morning after the biggest and most public “fail” I have ever had — I pulled myself out of my hotel-suite bed and prepared to go to my Texas-gubernatorial-campaign headquarters for the last time. Fifty or so of the most vital members of my team, people who had worked tirelessly for the past year, would be gathered there. What will I say to them? I wondered. We had come together believing with our whole hearts in what we were working to achieve: restoring the voices of real people to the Texas capitol. And each of us was suffering from the deep disappointment of the previous day’s loss.
I had been in this hotel suite before. It was in 2008, the night I won my long-shot race to be elected as a Texas state senator in what had been considered a safe Republican seat. The suite, at the former Hotel Texas, was the one in which President John F. Kennedy Jr. spent his final night before heading to Dallas on that fateful morning in 1963. Spending the night there was meaningful to me, because it was both a piece of American history and the site of my greatest political triumph.
How different the morning following my victorious senate election had been! In 2008, I woke up filled with happy adrenaline. In 2014, I suffered the dull thud of a headache and the beginnings of a heartache that was just starting to sink in. Picking through the mostly uneaten food still spread out on the dining table, I found an empty wine glass, filled it with warm Champagne, and took a shot for courage. I pulled on a pair of jeans and headed to the lobby for the drive over to my campaign headquarters on Fort Worth’s south side.
The mood was somber when I walked into the large, dark, windowless, wood-paneled conference room. Not yet really knowing what I was going to say, I opened my mouth, and something from the most honest part of me tumbled out: “I fucking hate to lose.”
I had been raised that way. Not to swear, but to be driven to compete. My father had a love for games of every sort. And unlike most parents, who let their kids off easy, my dad played to win. In doing so, he pushed us to do our best. I’ll never forget his glee when he’d thwack my croquet ball off course along with his own on his way to a win, nor the proud look on his face the first time that I beat him in a chess match. In each competition, my dad sought to teach us the value of being gracious in both victory and defeat. But, man oh man, was winning better.
I credit the competitive spirit that I learned from my dad as my driving force. It’s what helped me scramble out of poverty as a young single mom and put myself on a better course. From the trailer where I once lived with my young daughter, Amber, to community college, and, ultimately, to Harvard Law School, the fight he instilled in me got me through some tough times. That desire to always do more, to be my best self at whatever challenge came my way — I wouldn’t be who I am without it.
That journey has taught me that, while it’s easy to see the value of success in winning something that you’ve tried for, tremendous benefits also come from the work involved in losing. Because there is value in fighting for something important to you, even when the outcome is not what you hoped it would be.
Have you ever seen that quote from the American pastor Robert Schuller, “What is the one thing you would attempt if you knew you could not fail?” His words, of course, were intended to inspire us to tap into our dreams for ourselves.
But I would ask a slightly different question: What are you willing to fight for, even if the odds are stacked against you, even if you’ll most likely lose? In answering that, you’ll find what’s really important to you. You’ll define not just your dreams, but the essence of who you are.
In my 52 years, I’ve found that the things worth fighting for are always the hardest. And there is so much to be gained in fighting the fight, even when we fail. I suppose that is why I stubbornly resist the temptation to leave my home state of Texas, where movement toward progressive values can often feel like an unattainable goal. Even when, though I successfully filibustered for 13 hours to stop a sweeping anti-abortion bill from passing, the governor called another session and passed it anyway. Even when the equal-pay law that I had successfully fought to pass was vetoed. Even when I failed in my fight to better fund our public schools. There is meaning in each of those fights, in speaking truth to power and giving voice to unpopular causes.
And so, even as I found myself reeling from my gubernatorial-campaign loss, I was still able to reflect on the treasured gifts that I had taken away from the race. Young people from around the country came to work on the campaign; so many of them told me that I’d helped them to connect with their passion for justice and their desire to lift up the powerless, the unheard. People of all ages from very humble backgrounds volunteered at nights and on weekends, even though they were working full time, because they believed so strongly in reshaping our state into one that provided a voice and opportunity for all.
More than 34,000 people volunteered their energy to making a difference. And a record number of people — more than 180,000 — contributed financially to the campaign, most of them in very low dollar amounts. It’s the kind of donation that represents true sacrifice in a family budget already stretched too thin. We were a team, collectively fighting to create the better world that we wanted to see.
A year later, I can clearly see the mark we made. We helped to create a whole new generation of activists in our state, so many of whom have kept right on swinging and fighting the progressive fight. They fucking hate to lose, too. There is so much power in that. And I look at their efforts with tremendous pride.
So, on days like November 3, when Houston’s anti-discrimination “Hero” ordinance failed at the ballot box, when the seduction of giving up begins to creep in, I think of all the people across the country who are out there giving it all they’ve got in the face of long odds. I marvel at the young people like Patrisse Cullors, Opal Tometi, and Alicia Garza behind the #blacklivesmatter movement, at young women like Emma Sulkowicz, hefting her dorm-room mattress with her everywhere she went for over a year, sending a powerful message against campus sexual assault.
Closer to home, I marvel at young Sadie Hernandez, from the Rio Grande Valley, who staged a three-week protest in front of the governor’s mansion because of cuts in cancer-screening funds to Planned Parenthood. I look with awe at the students at Mizzou who stood together against racial injustice and drove concrete change.
Such was my mind-set as I spoke to my campaign team that day after we lost. After lamenting how much I hate losing, I reminded them of all the lives they had touched, all the people they inspired. I reminded them of Teddy Roosevelt’s rousing words: “It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried to succeed.” I asked my team to take pride in the fact that we dared to do something great, something hard. I asked them to own their courage and told them that the only way we will have failed is if we give up and stop trying. And I asked them to keep up the fight, for themselves, for people they had met along the way, and for people they will never know.
Don’t get me wrong. I still think that losing sucks. And it’s OK to hate losing. That hatred provides us with the drive to face great challenges. But the losses I’ve endured have taught me that I am more powerful than the limitations of failed efforts. So, my advice to you: if you fail, fail big! Fail with flair! Fail trying to do something real, something hard.
And when you do, own the journey with pride. Look at each battle scar you’ve earned as a tiny crack that will heal and make you stronger than you were before. And, as we’d say in Texas, get back up on that horse and ride to see another day.
Wendy Davis is a former Democratic state senator from Texas known for her 13-hour filibuster to stop a sweeping anti-abortion bill’s passage. In 2014, she lost her bid to become Texas’s first Democratic governor since Ann Richards left office in 1995. But she’s still swinging …
By Collier Meyerson
Nona called me from Chicago and said, “Emma’s dead,” and I started laughing because I didn't understand what she was saying. I repeated it to my boyfriend, whom I’ll call Reis here. He was sitting right next to me, and I watched his nose crinkle and his head cock, and I was rewired so fast. I began repeating “Emma’s dead” over and over again, at top speed, out loud.
Eleven days later, Reis sat in front of me in my childhood bedroom on the Upper West Side of Manhattan while I practiced Emma’s and my favorite camp song, “Changes” by Phil Ochs, all morning before I went to sing it at her funeral. It was at a stodgy funeral home meant for the very old, not the very young like Emma. And the funeral was a lot like the funeral home. It was very cold; lots and lots of poems were read, but I couldn’t feel or see Emma anywhere. An impossibility, I suppose, since she wasn’t there.
But Emma would come alive in my dreams. So I slept. I slept, and slept, and slept. Once, I dreamed we were back in our Quaker high school, Friends Seminary, sitting with the seniors, looking out onto the rest of the school during silent meeting, laughing hysterically. It was so close to real life: in high school, we’d often muffle our laughter with scarves when it was cold, or each other’s bare shoulders in warmer months. But my eyes were forced open (by her ghost, I was sure) when I had dreams that were always too close to real life. I’d cry, shaking and confused at what the real truth was. The line between life and death, between this world and neverness, had never been so approximate, so shriveled. Reis held me every time I woke up until I was sure Emma was gone from the room. Until I was able to recall her death.
I stopped wanting to see alive Emma, so I stopped sleeping. Dead Emma, I didn’t want her either, and my relationship with Reis, unfortunately, was a casualty in all that. We didn’t break up, but I couldn’t look at him without seeing Emma. We became distant. Housemates who sometimes had sex and occasionally made granola together.
I was skinny and sleepless from dead Emma when I saw a friend who I’ll call Wade. He was with some other boys I grew up with on a balmy night in March at Botanica, our old underage haunt. My hair was frizzy, and I was insecure about that. Wade’s already-olive skin was extra browned by a birthright trip to Israel and his rogue travels through Jordan. His blithe enthusiasm for the dog tags that hung from his neck, given to him by a young Israeli soldier, was trite. But I didn’t mind. His energy hooked me. He whispered in my ear all night, looked at me goofy on purpose, and asked me to the movies.
The next evening, Wade and I went to a movie because Rosario Dawson was in it and we both thought she was a total babe. Afterward, he walked me to Sadye and Jesse’s, where I had to sit shivah because Jesse’s grandpa had died. We walked two miles from the theater to their house, never missing a beat. Our banter was so entertaining, I wanted to remember every word and turn it into a scene in a romantic comedy. Right before I went upstairs, he tried to kiss me. I told him that I couldn’t, that I had a boyfriend. But dead Emma, I couldn’t yet tell him about.
I saw Wade at least three times a week after that. We spent a lot of lazy afternoons on the Upper West Side, sitting in Riverside Park, laughing really hard about how often the two of us, more than anyone else in the world, had to pee. We made plans to travel, but not to obvious tourist destinations. We would go to Russia, the most foreign place we could think of. When I said I’d heard it was racist, he told me he’d do his best to protect me, at least until a mobster came and took me away. In May, for my birthday, he got me a guidebook to the country. On the first page he wrote "For us, Russia 2010."
We went to concerts and made each other mixes sent over Dropbox. He called one mix “Russia 2010,” and the first song was “Stop the World,” by the early-2000s crooner Maxwell. I remember listening to the lyrics “’Cause when I’m here with you, the world stops for me” like it was Wade’s ode to me. We reminisced about growing up in the same neighborhood and how we’d always been friendly, but never close. I made fun of him for working out obsessively in high school, for dressing and acting not like a Jewish kid from the Upper West Side but an Italian-American kid from Long Island. Whenever we’d walk, I’d latch onto his arm; it felt like kissing. Once, while his friends were watching the Super Bowl, he pulled me into a room and we nearly did. The moment felt more erotic than tons of sex I’d actually had.
I fell deeper into Wade, a teen romance without the nubile fucking but with all the intimacy of it. We talked frantically about the future, about growing old together. Our chaste Neverland felt unreal, so I often sent my friends our email and text exchanges to make sure I wasn’t deluded, to pinch myself.
One day in late spring, we walked by Emma's house. I'd been very cautious to avoid her building and all the stuff of her, but I’d forgotten to be vigilant with Wade. Because Emma wasn’t dead with Wade, she just wasn’t alive.
I waved at Emma’s doorman, mechanically at first. He was tall as he’d ever been, and I was reminded of his infectious smile, but didn’t look. I hurried by, but when I looked back I saw his watering eyes, and I became very dizzy.
“Emma died. My friend Emma. Do you remember her? No? She was into Kathleen Hanna and dyed her hair lots of colors. She was my best friend. You didn’t know her well I guess. But surely you must remember her. You went to the same elementary school, P.S. 87.”
I watched Wade feign recognition. For my sake, for his. For the sake of keeping together our unmistakable dream world where we understood each other’s every note, look, and touch.
Quickly, we became lost in the loop of a corrupted fantasy; our buoyant relationship turned heavy and fraught. Quickly, I realized part of why I loved Wade was because he let me forget Emma. And because with him, and only him, I felt drunk on a sanity I never thought I’d regain. With him, I was Collier before “Emma’s dead.”
On many occasions after that day, I told him about Emma. We spent hours on street corners late at night screaming about what we were, about what we weren’t, and why. The insanity I felt about losing Emma, it was clear, I was transferring to the possibility of losing Wade. I screamed about how bad I felt about the girls he fucked, scenester white girls who wore neon sports bras to the club, girls who matched the new DJ persona he was trying to hone. Fighting felt good. I came to realize how hollow I’d felt before.
And we’d find our way out, somehow. Once, during a particularly bad clash, a rat ran across our path, and in a split second we grabbed hands and raced down the Lower East Side street, dawn’s light creeping up, laughing so hard my insides felt pummeled. Another time on Chrystie Street, after his bartending shift, he told me I wasn’t his type. Seconds later, we heard two roosters, their crows entirely fractured. For the rest of the night, I forgot what he said.
Time is the only thing that really assuages grief, and real time began to pass. I missed alive Emma less and accepted her death more. But the memories and fantasies about the time I spent with Wade in those first few months crystallized into fairy tale, a time when nothing was wrong, a time before pain.
I let two years go by like this. Back and forth with Wade in a friendship that needed a different title. I spent that time clinging to every word he’d said to me about how important I was to him, how he revered me, saw me in a way he saw no other woman. He got a girlfriend right around the first time I broke up with Reis (we’d break up three more times after that).
Wade’s mounting indifference drove me mad. I convinced myself that if I’d never told him on the street corner that day about Emma, everything would have turned out differently. Her death ruined my life, I thought. Me and Wade went through long spells without speaking to or seeing each other. And when we did, it was always stilted; he was so foreign. My heart always beat too fast, and my mind raced for the right thing to say to get him back to wanting me again.
I made one last attempt.
After Reis and I finally broke up for the last time, I tried in earnest to be with Wade, to break our pattern, to make it so that he’d hurt me so bad the spell would finally be broken. A week after he’d ditched me at Sadye’s wedding for a party in Manhattan, I asked him to meet me. Sweating through my denim dress on the steps of the New York Public Library, I told him that I wanted to really give it a try, that I wanted him to learn me deeply and wholly. He looked at me, knew this was the crescendo in our film, and said softly, so I could barely hear, “I’m sorry, I can’t.”
We don’t talk, me and Wade — not often anyway. At our friend’s wedding last year, he played out a scenario of our future wedding, in a Vermont blueberry field. A throwback to old times, I think.
I loved Wade to unlove Emma. But I’ll never unlove Emma. I thought I’d never get to be as happy as I was when Emma was living. Wade was a divine providence who showed me happiness after tragedy can exist, even if I have to shape it, will it.
I miss Wade all the time, every day. How impossible life would be without the option to retreat into fantasy.
Collier Meyerson is a reporter at Fusion and lives in Brooklyn.
Meet The Woman Reimagining Black Barbie
I loved my Barbie dolls when I was a kid, but the only one I can remember, my favorite one, was Hawaiian Barbie. That’s because she resembled me— racially ambiguous, though slightly Asian, with dark, thick, wavy hair that became less unruly as it got dirtier. Her name was like mine, too, ethnic-sounding but easy enough for white people to pronounce and remember: Kira. The rest of my Barbies were black and brown. I identified with them even though my skin was much lighter (I’m black, Indian, and white, and I consider myself a woman of color, despite my friends’ insistence throughout my childhood that I have “white-girl hair”). I never much thought about Barbie’s straight hair, maybe because it was more or less like mine.
But a lot of little black girls who play with Barbies can’t identify with naturally straight hair. Sure, we come in different shades and textures, but a black child likely doesn’t look at “Barbie Style Grace Doll” with her fine, flowing hair and think to herself, She looks like me, and she’s beautiful. Adding a single Coachella braid to the front or back doesn’t count. When she sees “Barbie Glam Shower!” — a doll-sized bathroom set — does she wonder where Barbie misplaced her plastic shower cap or satin bonnet?
Nearly 75 years since the Doll Test, which showed that children associate negative qualities with black dolls, the world’s top toy maker still hasn’t gotten black Barbies right. That’s why Karen Byrd, a natural-hair enthusiast living in Oakland, California, decided to fix them herself. In 2011, Karen created Natural Girls United, a one-woman business that gives makeovers to black Barbies by replacing their straight hair with natural styles. Auburn dreads, charcoal twists, a honey-blonde ’fro — Karen makes them all. What follows is a conversation with Karen about her path from the corporate sector to starting a small business dedicated to creating authentic images of black beauty for young black girls.
MH: I’m curious about your transition to running Natural Girls United full time. Where were you working before, and what was the most challenging aspect of taking the leap to doing your own thing?
KB: Before I started working on dolls, I worked in a corporate job doing human-resource and executive-assistant work for a large corporation. I started working on dolls as a hobby because it was something I always wanted to do. Once my corporate job ended due to a layoff, I had enough customer interest to keep doing it as I looked for a new job. But the amount of customers that requested dolls kept growing to the point where I was able to do it full time. The biggest challenge depends on the time of the year. January through September, sales are not as busy because it’s not the holiday season. So it takes a lot of careful budgeting to get through the first two-thirds of the year. But once the holiday season starts, it is a challenge to be able to keep up with the orders, because I am still currently my only employee.
MH: I love your Naturally Beautiful Hair Blog. Did you start it before Natural Girls United, and how has it helped or inspired your business?
KB: I had my blog for a good six years before I started working on dolls. It has been a great inspiration. I started my blog with the goal of sharing my passion for natural hair. It has definitely grown to writing about artists, singers, community, fashion, and more. I am hoping to appeal to a larger audience by expanding to a lifestyle blog that still focuses on natural hair.
MH: It seems like your mission is much greater than just dolls.
KB: I want to help children and women of ethnic communities build their self-esteem and sense of self-worth. The Natural Girls United doll project is something that I hope will help to bring a positive view of what ethnic beauty is. There is a serious need for our young girls to be able to have dolls that look like them. It is something that affects their self-esteem, confidence, and how they view themselves. It is important that they have images around them that reinforce that positive message that their beauty is wonderful. Each day that we show them that they matter is a day that we are moving in the right direction.
MH: One of my favorite Facebook posts from recent memory is a Siblings Day tribute to my friend Katie. It shows a four-year-old Katie, who is Japanese and white, clutching a black baby doll as her mother holds her baby sister behind her. On your website, you refer to the Doll Test as a principal reason for starting your business, so your black daughters could play with dolls that actually looked like them. Isn’t the point, in part, that little white girls should play with ethnically realistic dolls too?
KB: I think kids of all races should play with different cultural dolls. It’s very important that they have dolls that look like them. But it’s also important for them to understand that people come in different shades, have different features and hair. And that everyone is beautiful and their differences should be celebrated.
MH: What advice do you have for women wanting to start their own businesses?
KB: My advice for someone who wants to start their own venture is to do a lot of research. Start off slow — you may want to keep your job while you start, or maybe work part time. Just to make sure that you still have funding coming in while you are starting something new. Surround yourself with other go-getters and people that will support and encourage you. Be patient. It takes a while to get a strong following and customer base. And if you love what you’re doing, it will help you to get through the first year or so, where it may be a bit of a struggle to get your business off the ground. Some great advice that I have received is to just be open to new ideas. And to always try to make connections with people that can teach you more about business and manufacturing.
MH: Have you ever contemplated giving up? Why? How did you overcome it?
KB: I have, numerous times. Most retail companies experience highs and lows in sales. It’s a financial struggle during the slow time of the year before September. I have gotten through it by just trying to remember how much I love what I do. And that my work is important, and that I need to keep going. My family does come first, and in the future if I am not able to support my family doing what I love, I will of course need to make some adjustments in how I provide for them. But I hope and pray that I don’t have to go back to my corporate job … ha ha.
MH: What is your ultimate goal?
KB: My ultimate goal is to make ethnic dolls more mainstream. I want moms and children to be able to find dolls in stores near them, no matter what part of the world they are in. All children should be able to find dolls that look like them.
This interview has been condensed and edited.
Meena Harris is an attorney in Washington, D.C. She is also the creator of the I’m an Entrepreneur, Bitch brand, which supports and promotes women’s economic empowerment.
Rumors I Heard About My Body: Plan B
By Jessica Grose
Welcome to Rumors I Heard About My Body, a recurring feature in which we answer questions about women’s health in partnership with Planned Parenthood.
Q: I’ve heard that if you take Plan B more than three times, you can mess up your ability to get pregnant. Is this true?
A: Like lots of rumors about fertility — you can’t get pregnant in a hot tub; Mountain Dew makes men sterile — this one about Plan B, which is a form of over-the-counter emergency contraception, is false. “No forms of emergency contraception affect women’s fertility in the long run,” says Dr. Raegan McDonald-Mosley, the chief medical officer of Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
Let’s back up a second and explain how Plan B works. Plan B is just a super-powered version of a progestin-only birth-control pill (aka the mini pill). If you take it within five days of unprotected sex, it causes a delay in ovulation so the sperm can’t fertilize the egg. If you want Plan B to be at its most effective, you should take it as soon as possible after unprotected sex. There is another morning-after pill, called Ella, that can be taken up to five days after unprotected sex, but like Plan B, it’s most effective when taken as soon as possible.
There is some research showing that Plan B may not work as well for women who are overweight and may not work at all for women who are obese. Good thing there’s a third option for emergencies for all women: a copper IUD. The copper IUD can be inserted (by a medical professional, of course) up to five days after unprotected sex and will work to prevent fertilization, and unlike either Plan B or Ella, once the IUD is inside you, it provides birth control for years, though you can have it removed if you decide you want to get pregnant.
Though the morning-after pill does not affect fertility levels, there are some side effects. Immediately after taking it, you may experience some nausea or vomiting. If you barf within two hours of taking it, you should get another dose, just to be sure you have digested the pill. Your next period might also be late, and you might spot (bleed a tiny bit) before that period. It’s worth taking a pregnancy test a few weeks after you’ve taken Plan B just to be sure that it worked.
While the morning-after pill may prevent an unwanted baby, it won’t prevent an unwanted case of the clap. If you’ve had unprotected sex with a new partner, you might want to get an STI screen. Also, don’t have sex again without birth control. Morning-after pills don’t provide prolonged protection the way taking a pill regularly does. Finally, if you’re breast-feeding, you may need to pump and dump for 48 hours after taking the pill, because the burst of hormones will show up in your breast milk.
Have other questions about your body you want answered? Email email@example.com.
Jessica Grose is the editor in chief of Lenny.
By Melissa Broder
(November 22 to December 21)
Sometimes we confuse superficiality and depth, because fleeting things can feel good, passionate, and sparkly, so we mistake the strong sensations for profundity. Just remember that whatever we derive power from also has power over us. How will you feel when that fleeting thing changes or disappears and you can’t get off on it anymore? If you say “OK” and mean it, you might be evolved as fuck. If you say “A mess,” then you’re just like the rest of us. Welcome to humanity.
(December 22 to January 19)
When our minds spiral down the rabbit hole of fear, we completely forget that we have a choice in the matter. We can’t always control that first negative thought, but we can start to get better at saying “Shut up” to the thought that follows it. Remember that the mind doesn’t know everything. The more it tries to convince you it does, the further away it is from the truth.
(January 20 to February 18)
Your desire to be free can hurt sometimes, because it isn’t easy in this world, in a human body, in this society, to be truly free. Perhaps you can start to see the things that bind you as creative constraints — a springboard for alternative ideas of how to live that you may not have thought of otherwise. If you had full freedom, no limits, you might not even know what to do with it anyway.
(February 19 to March 20)
How do you live on the planet? Remember that it’s confusing for everyone, and the answer you seek — the solution for life — is not going to be found in permanent absolutes. It’s learned instead through rolling changes, gradations of time, and in retrospect. This doesn’t feel as comfy as knowing exactly what the future will hold (as if we possibly could, anyway), but past experience tells us we will survive both the present and the future.
(March 21 to April 19)
Well, you haven’t exactly been leaving room for the mystery, but it’s cool. Just remember, if at any point during your white-knuckling, jockeying, mapping, scheming, directing, and/or orchestrating you start to get a little sick of what you are trying to control, you can always say “Fuck it,” and the mystery will come flooding in — not necessarily to save the day, as you wish the day to go, but to help you care a little less about the outcome you think you want.
(April 20 to May 20)
People are going to try to compartmentalize you and sum you up as one thing or another, and that’s alright. It’s what the human mind does: tries to make sense of the world around us by breaking it down into smaller chunks of information and preexisting schemas with which it’s already familiar. You don’t even have to correct reductive people. Even if they never figure you out, just keep containing your multitudes.
(May 21 to June 20)
You are most at home being in control. You are second most at home being like “Fuck it all.” But the gray area, the suspended experience of not knowing or loosening your grip just a touch, is the scariest for you. It’s scary, because to let go just a little means you have to relinquish an outcome in which you are still invested. This month, don’t hold on to all your shit too tightly. Likewise, don’t just throw it all in the trash. Instead, just walk with your shit, knowing that some of it is yours and some of it doesn’t belong to you, but you’ve been entrusted to carry it — gently.
(June 21 to July 22)
This month, I want you to set out to be rejected. Make being rejected your aim. Every time you get rejected on a large, small, or only-noticeable-to-you level, I want you to say “This is the best shit that has ever happened to me.” In this way, consider that rejection is the universe’s protection and that what we think we want never looks or feels the way we think it will.
(July 23 to August 22)
Girl, do you even have a mantra? Not to get totally woo-woo, but everybody needs a mantra. Some people pay a lot of money for their mantras. They seek expensive mantras or a sacred mantra or a mantra belonging to another culture, wherein they don’t know the language but it feels potent. I say it doesn’t even matter what your mantra is. I say use nonsense or lyrics to your favorite song. Sing the nonsense or lyrics to the tune of another favorite song. Sing it inside yourself and see how much clearer your existence becomes.
(August 23 to September 22)
I know why you are hard on yourself. You are hard on yourself because it creates a sense of purpose and meaning to always be striving, altering, fixing. The world is in many ways without boundaries. You beat yourself up so as to create an arbitrary boundary: a box in which to live. It’s a form of control. It serves you (or you think it serves you), so I’m not going to tell you to stop. But if you ever get tired or bored of the behavior, at least you’ll know why it’s been hard to give up.
(September 23 to October 22)
Fantasy can save our lives, and you know this better than anyone. But you also feel fear around your fantasy and dreaming, because you don’t trust yourself not to make a mess. This month, allow yourself all of your fantasies: sexual, romantic, career, creative. You don’t need to shame yourself or worry that you’re going to act on all of them. Repeat after me: this month, just this month, the filthier, the crazier, the farther-fetched the better.
(October 23 to November 21)
Acceptance doesn’t mean you have to like something. You feel totally shitty in a situation and still accept it. To accept it is to simply acknowledge that it’s going on and then to say to yourself, “OK, this is going on and is going to continue going on. But is there anything I can do to feel better in this shitty sitch? Is there anything I need that I can give myself?” Remember, you can start a day over at any time — if not physically, then in your mind and spirit.
Melissa Broder is the author of four collections of poems, including the forthcoming Last Sext (Tin House 2016), as well as So Sad Today, a book of essays out in March from Grand Central.
By Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner
|Click on the image to check out the entire store!
Welcome to our humble store! Here at Lenny, we love politics, feminism, radical art, and also things. Cute things, pretty things, things with style … So when we first envisioned Lenny, we immediately knew that we needed to have a store — one that would rep grassroots feminist businesses and also wouldn’t force you to spend your entire rent on an ankle boot with a weird zipper.
We strongly believe that cute and cool come at every price point, and we also adore the culture of self-made businesses popping up in the Instagram age. In fact, Instagram is where we learned about FunCult, the amazing one-woman brand that designed the STAUNCH banners we now have on sale. Meanwhile, Lena met the gal behind Rosehound Apparel at her book signing in Toronto and nearly plotzed from the excitement, and it was Lenny contributor/dream woman Aidy Bryant who introduced her to Chrissy of Rad Nails. Associate editor and shopkeeper Laia Garcia found Kaye Blegvad's curvy-cute ceramics and instantly knew they were the ideal addition. Basically, you can be confident that every one of these items isn’t just cute: it has meaning and was made with ferocity. We hope you love them, wear them into the ground, and, for heaven’s sake, tag us in your grams.
Get your freak on,