Category Archives: Reminiscing

Casual Predation

This essay was originally published on LadyBits on Medium. While I unfortunately can’t say that the conclusion of this essay is true for me anymore, I thought it timely to revisit this piece in light of the recent mass-exposure of the predators among us in the media industry, brought forth by so may brave women. May those pathetic creatures who are inclined to abuse find peace with themselves and the world such that they never have to mistreat anyone again.

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To know a predator, you must know what it is to be prey

The other day while riding a Paris train, a man boarded my car and, out of all the empty places to sit, chose the seat directly facing me. He casually sprawled his legs open so that his lower thighs were sandwiching my rigidly-shut knees. My field of vision was filled with the bulge in his pants and gray chest hair draped in gold chains overflowing out of his way-too-unbuttoned shirt. And he just stared at me. When my eyes locked with his, I saw an expression so familiar that the hair on my arms stood up. It was a look that most men wouldn’t recognize, as they haven’t ever seen it and probably never will—the expression of someone looking at you as prey.

When a man picks you as prey, his eyes, which were dully scanning their surroundings, abruptly land on you and light up with intent. They linger abnormally long and intensify, beyond what would be normal if there was something unusual about your outfit or if he found you attractive. Sometimes the face relaxes, the eyebrows twitch or the corner of the mouth pulls upward into a smirk while the eyes remain hard, betraying the internal thought processes.

These thoughts are of pure consumption. They are based on the desire to possess — not your belongings, but one’s physical being. It is a drive to gain control over a person and render her powerless, thereby establishing the predator’s dominance and control in a world where he probably has very little. Women are persistently reminded of their physical vulnerability by male displays of sexual power—from gestures so discreet they make you question your own perception, to the ultimate act of consumption: physical violence. To avoid the latter, you must learn to recognize the former, and understand the intent of someone who is looking at you like that.

I am forced to acknowledge my vulnerability by strangers almost every single day while walking down the street in big cities. Most of the men who look at me like they want to eat me alive can’t do so because of practical considerations: witnesses, physical factors (I’m 5’10 and pack a significant bit of muscle), and the fear of repercussions. So instead, they just stare, gazing at me the way a wolf would eye a squirming bunny in a cage — so utterly tempting, but off-limits for now.

When you catch that gaze, you have some choices about what to do to ensure that you do not, in fact, become prey. They’re choices you shouldn’t have to be burdened with making, but that, in this world, they are impossible to avoid. You can alter your path, like I did when I got up and moved to the next train car. I had to go out of my way, but it took thirty seconds and then it was over. You can avert your eyes and look at the ground, both acknowledging your discomfort while at the same time refusing to participate in it further. But sometimes, this is where the game begins.

He might hold his gaze so intently that when you peek back up to see if he’s still watching you (and shit! he is, look away look away), a thrill shoots up his spine because he caught you checking. Now he knows that your inability to look up and examine your surroundings—your cowering stance—is because of him. He is controlling you, and you just got a bit leveled by a complete stranger. It interrupted your thought process, probably ruined your mood, and wasted your time. You didn’t authorize this; it was a violation, and the feelings these little violations instill in us—fear, frustration, anger, helplessness—accumulate over time to shape the way we live our lives.

If you’ve never experienced what it feels like to be someone’s prey, believe you me, it is fucking exhausting.

If you attempt to ignore the mind games of a predator, this is usually when the comments set in—an attempt to win the game by manipulating the air waves going into your ears. It follows this predictable format:

  1. A greeting: “Hey/hello/yo/hola/bonsoir baby/beautiful/gorgeous/sexy/mami/chica/mademoiselle/sugar tits/sweet lips.”
  2. A “compliment”: Some comment about your overall physical appearance that usually has nothing to do with the effort you put into your presentation. “You’d make great babies” is my recent fave.
  3. A call to action. Some request of what your predator would like you to do. One that scored major points for originality: “Get out of my head and into my van,” yelled out the window with a toot of the horn.
  4. An expression of desire. “I’d like to ___ you all over.”

The catcall that baffles me most is “God bless you” — uttered not the way a nun would say it or how one does after a sneeze, but while giving me the elevator and licking his lips. Once, after a guy told me I was looking sexy and I ignored him, he yelled after me that I was supposed to say “thank you.” I turned around and glared at him in disbelief, and he told me I was a bitch. That compliment I could accept from him. “Thank you,” I finally replied.

Sometimes I don’t have the will to engage in this mental combat while walking to the corner store on a Sunday afternoon, so I muster a fake, tight-lipped smile and nod my head with wide eyes, throwing them acknowledgement like I’d throw a dog a chicken bone if I didn’t want it to follow me. But sometimes a smile is just as risky as a middle finger, as it can be an unintentional invitation to the next level of interaction. It’s a lose-lose scenario.

When you complain about casual predation to guys, they usually laugh. They tell you not to let it get to you, and suggest ignoring the comments if you can’t handle a compliment. But the thing is, you can’t ignore it any more than you could ignore a bear approaching your campsite. You are evolutionarily programmed to pay attention to potential predators because sometimes they don’t stop at mind games and catcalls, as far too many of us know.

In my twenty-seven years on this planet, I’ve been stalked, followed home, threatened, attacked, hit, kicked, and groped by complete strangers. Two people have tried to abduct me, once by attempting to drag me into a dark alley and once by picking me up in a fake car-service car. A high school classmate tried to rape me, a UN peacekeeper tried to buy me, and at my own LadyBits launch party an old man put his hand on my knee, looked at me with that look, and said he might want to invest in me.

In all of those situations, I paid attention to the threats I perceived and I did what I had to do to get away, from screaming to pretending to be limp-noodle drunk, to jumping out of a moving vehicle, to engaging in physical combat. And you know what? I am fine. In fact, I’m better than fine—I am fucking lucky! I have my life, I’ve learned to love this thick skin I wear now, and I’ve learned how to protect it. And yeah, I have sought vengeance here and there.

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So many women aren’t as lucky as me. What tends to happen to a person when she is shown she is vulnerable day after day is she begins to accept it, and this mentality follows her everywhere. When you’re prey, sometimes you stop being able to tell the difference between the life you choose because you want it, and the life that you settle for because the alternatives are too scary.

Personally, I refuse to compromise the way I live my life out of fear. Despite everything that’s happened to me (and almost happened, which I shudder to think about), I regularly walk alone at night. I have been traveling the world alone for the past six months, and I will continue to do so for six more. I’m single, and not really looking unless it really fits with my life. I walk down the street with my head held high and I look people in the eye when I pass them. And whenever I catch that predator eye, I send it back. I know it’s the lack of control in their lives that makes them act out in such desperation, and I refuse to give away an ounce of mine without good reason. Maybe this will get me in trouble some day, but until that day, I will be living my life.

And I’m not afraid.

Thanks to Quinn Norton.

I would like to add as a footnote, my gratitude to Dawn Alden, who was inspired by this piece enough to host a film competition about the predator/prey relationship as perceived by trans women. May beautiful creations continue to emerge from scorched earth.

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There’s no place like home

My mother always shunned the idea of having a home. “Home is where your stuff is,” she would often say when mocking my childish want to be rooted somewhere. I’ve internalized this idea throughout life, trying to not get too attached to one place. For this reason, I’ve always despised the question “Where are you from?” because it implies a sense of home or having had a home at one point. But after a few years of consciously peeling off all the warped layers of perception from my upbringing, I’m getting a little more comfortable answering this question. If there was a place I’d call “home” irrelevant of the presence of any personal belongings, it would be Ann Arbor, Michigan. I’m from Ann Arbor.

I’m here now, and I am content. Happy, even.

A2Upon arriving in Detroit today, I was picked up from the airport by an old college friend and promptly whisked to Ann Arbor. Matt lived across the hall from me in the dorm freshman year and burned me a Postal Service CD the first week of school. I took him to lunch to thank him before he dropped me at my residence for the next few weeks. I suggested Zingerman’s, the deli that townies are tempted to describe as “overrated” but never do because it really is that good.

While in the grocery part of the deli, I was overrun with the impulse to acquire local honey. It’s something my health-conscious friends in Brooklyn would always suggest, as I am prone to allergies and local honey is rumored to soothe them. But I never went out of my way to get it. It’s not just that I was skeptical about the medicinal claim, but the thought of consuming a biological biproduct of New York City bees made me frown. New York, I love you, but you’re pretty gross sometimes.

Being back amidst the rolling green hills of Ann Arbor felt like a bear hug, but I wanted more. I wanted it in my veins, internalized. So I bought a $15 jar of local honey, provided by the bees of Petoskey wild flower fields. Matt delivered me to my residence for the next two weeks, a townhouse of literary solitude belonging to a dear family friend who so generously offered this haven to me out of the blue. After 10 minutes of sitting and just staring out the window into the yard, watching the little sparrow that landed on the railing of the back stairs, I went into the kitchen and scooped a huge spoonful of local honey.

It hit my mouth like a silver-screen flashback:

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I was 4 years old, outside during recess at Perry Nursery School, reaching my little arms through a chain-link fence, reaching as far as I could toward the periphery of the sprawling wildflower field on the other side, trying to grasp all the purple flowers I could. There were Queen Ann’s Lace stalks and Black-Eyed Susans too, but they were prevalent on my side of the fence as well. I needed those purple ones to complete my collection, if I could only reach a little further… It was so vivid a memory for an event that occurred 22 years ago. The taste became the intoxicating smell of being there in that moment of childlike determination, totally free.

Being here in this place is exactly what I need right now. Stability, solitude, comfort before I slingshot myself around the globe. Everything is quaint. There is a vegetable garden and a footbridge over a creek in the back yard. Everything inside the house is set up for all the things I might want to do. There’s an exercise ball, and a glass desk with a touch-sensitive lamp; half a bottle of wine, and a robe hanging in the closet with a bird embroidered into the back. Every cleaning product smells of “soothing lavender” and on the bathroom counter is a towel folded and laid out just for me.

I haven’t quite wrapped my mind around the fact that this loveliness is my present life, but I am so, so grateful to be here. It feels like home.

Spring hot dog contemplation

Tonight I went out to celebrate the 3rd year anniversary of the first email sent on Rachel Sklar’s XX in Tech listserve. There was an open bar, but I drank only water. I think this may have been a first for me. It wasn’t hard or anything. I’ve had a few debates in my day with people who were looking out for my well-being and those who were simply self-righteous hypocrites about whether or not I was an alcoholic. I’m not, I just like to drink. But I like not drinking just as well.
When I was at this open bar I didn’t get cravings, I didn’t sit in the corner isolating myself from all thoughts of alcohol. I happily drank water and said no thank you whenever anyone offered me a drink.

On my way home I stopped at a hot dog restaurant because all the windows were open and it was nice outside, and also because I wanted a hot dog. I sat down in the far corner with the latest edition of n+1 and began reading about our post-sociological society, when a woman sat down next to me, also by herself. I told her I liked her skirt. “Thanks, it’s actually a dress,” she said. We chatted intermittently while I waited for my hot dog and she waited for her beer. I learned she was from Russia and worked at an Irish pub on the West side. It was pleasant conversation, but I kept burying myself into my reading material. I like n+1 because it’s the kind of text that makes you get lost in thought. I read a sentence, and then zone out for a minute thinking about what I just read until I realize I’m making some start realization about my life, so far away from the content that I snap my attention back into it to digest. It’s kind of like how dolphins sleep, I’d bet.

Then I realized that this was the first time I’d read printed material for my own intellectual enjoyment in a while. Something besides the news, or research for an article. I’ve had that edition of n+1 for two weeks now, and I’m still only on page 10. The Russian chick kept chatting at me. She was trying to make friends, and five years ago maybe we would have become best friends. Five years ago, I met my best friend in a similar way when she spilled coffee on me at Atlas. But now, I’ve long past that theoretical capacity where you can’t mentally add anyone to your social circle. I love making friends and having friends, and it’s not like that number actually exists in a rigid way. I just have no time for myself lately which lowers the quality of friendship I can offer, so I try to resist unless it’s so compelling I can’t resist (which still happens at least once a week).

Two of the Russian’s friends walked up just as I was finishing my hot dog. She asked me if I wanted to go to a show down the street with them. Five years ago I would have. But I told her I had to go home and work, and referenced my n+1 like that had anything to do with it. In a way it did. I needed to go restore my sanity by sitting alone in my apartment on Friday night, practicing the flute and going through my starred email list and doing the things I needed to do so I don’t have anxiety dreams. Those are the worst.

But I’m glad she offered to be my friend. It makes me all the more certain that I can go anywhere in the world and experience the best of the place, because something about me makes people want to invite me to experience things with them. I haven’t quite figured out what that is yet, but I’m glad it’s this way and not the other way around.

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An open letter to the individual who first prompted me to contemplate law school

Dear Kelly,

How time flies! It’s hard to believe that it’s been five years since you were doing everything your scheming little mind could conceive of to prevent me from exposing the administration’s corruption at my good old alma mater, the University of Michigan. We had some fun conversations back then, didn’t we? Me attempting to uncover the truth about unlawful transactions, you blatantly lying to cover it up, me filing FOIA requests to catch you in your lies. You were such a prankster back then, too! Remember the time you walked over to the Michigan Daily and held a secret meeting with my editors threatening to stonewall the entire publication’s access to members of the administration if I was appointed news editor? You sure got me that time, Kelly.

Out of all the memorable encounters we had though, I’d have to say the one that stands out in my mind the most is when you gave me a bit of unsolicited advice. My memory is a bit hazy on this one (getting old!), but I believe we were in the midst of a conversation about the proposed construction project to renovate the football stadium. You were telling me all about how the project would be economically sustained by the athletic department. I listened to you lie through your teeth for a few minutes, and then I surprised you with proof the athletic department was actually skimming money out of the University’s general fund — a fund strictly reserved for academics.

I’ll never forget the look on your face! It was priceless, Kelly. Even you have to admit, I got you there. But what you said to me in response really struck me. You didn’t address my point, you just looked at me with an expression somewhere between disgust and defeat and said: You should be a lawyer.

Well, Kelly, after all these years, you’re still wrong. Some things never change! Navigating the world of freelance journalism has provided ample opportunities for me to experience institutional corruption, abuses of power, breaches of contract, and even discrimination — just like old times. No, Kelly, journalism is the career for me, but I still think about your suggestion from time to time, especially when I triumph in tough negotiations. In fact, just this past week I encountered three instances of people trying to screw me out of money, and in each situation, I considered that maybe I should quit journalism and go to law school. I can’t imagine what kind of a soulless bitch I’d turn into if I had to deal with that every day, though. You were a practicing lawyer for a while, weren’t you? Maybe you can tell me what that’s like sometime.

Anyway, Kelly, it sure was fun reminiscing. I hope those college journalists aren’t giving you as hard of a time as I did. I wouldn’t want to lose my edge in the industry ;)

Best,

Arikia Millikan, c/o 2008

Leaving NYC

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The Subway stop I’ve waited at the most. Photo by Arikia Millikan

I moved to New York when I was 21 with two suitcases and a credit card. I had zero savings, zero checking, and didn’t know very many people in the city. I had a job lined up writing copy for exhibitions at the New York Hall of Science, but they called me the day before my flight to tell me that they’d just been notified they’d had a half million dollars of funding cut by the NY state government and couldn’t hire me after all. I had two choices: to get on the plane and figure it out, or stay in Ann Arbor, Michigan and figure it out.

In retrospect, there was only ever one option. I came here, clueless, nervous, broke, scared, but with a lust for life so great it propelled me past all the inhibitory emotions. I told myself from the very beginning that I would stay for five years. It was a seemingly arbitrary goal, but one that has never stopped making sense to me. Only after living here for five years, I told myself, could I say that I “made it” in New York City. But upon reaching five years, I would go, so as to not become jaded by the city. I didn’t have any ideas about how this would happen, but I had an image in my mind of the stereotypical New York spinster woman, hardened by success and embittered by all she’s seen. I decided this wouldn’t be me.

My first apartment was a second story walk-up on S. 4th street in Williamsburg with my very own fire escape outside of my bedroom window. Late at night, I would sit out there and smoke cigarettes while watching musicians move their instruments in and out of the practice space across the street. I wondered if I would ever be cool enough to hang out with them.

"I can't pay my rent but I'm fucking gorgeous." -Justin Tranter, Semi Precious Weapons. Photo by Arikia Millikan.

“I can’t pay my rent but I’m fucking gorgeous.” -Justin Tranter, Semi Precious Weapons. Photo by Arikia Millikan.

I had no idea what I was going to do for money or work, so I just began exploring. The guy I sublet the room from recommended a temp agency, so I decided to apply, but first I needed to make a copy of my passport. I was told I could do at a place called The Internet Garage.

For the first month I lived in NYC, I had no idea where I was going. I didn’t have a smartphone then (it was 2008 but I was poor), so I would look up my destination on Google Maps on my computer (a 4-year old Adveratec which needed to be kept on life support with an external keyboard, hard drive, and cooling pad) and write it down on paper or just try to remember the directions. When I would walk out of my apartment, sometimes I would walk the wrong way wind up making three more turns in that same direction so as to not get completely lost and go home, defeated. The first time I tried to find The Internet Garage, I went to South 5th instead of North 5th and wound up in a slightly sketchy area thinking maybe I wasn’t cut out for New York.

Me in the public gardens on S. 2nd Street, my first month in NYC. Photo by Jamie Killen

Me in the public gardens on S. 2nd Street, my first month in NYC. Photo by Jamie Killen

The next day I tried again, with my hand-written map, and I found the Internet Garage, right off of Bedford Avenue. I suddenly understood what Williamsburg was all about. It was a bunch of creative misfits fitting in amongst their peers for the first time in their lives. I asked the tattooed guy wearing a Yankees hat who helped me scan my passport behind the desk if I could work there. I told him I’d gone to school for engineering and was a fast learner. He arched an eyebrow at me and said most people who have worked there probably couldn’t do high school math, but if I really wanted to work there he’d think about it.

I applied with the temp agency and got hired at the world’s largest stock holding company, as a secretary. They told me I was to be an envelope-stuffing office monkey from 9-5 every day and must abide by their dress code by wearing corporate attire. I shuddered to think. The night before I was to go in for fingerprinting and processing in the financial district at 9am, I went out with my pseudonymous blog stalker and wound up getting wasted and staying up until 7am making out on a rooftop overlooking Manhattan.

My Hope Street roof in Williamsburg, before the luxury condos obscured the view.

My Hope Street roof in Williamsburg, before the luxury condos obscured the view.

I just looked up the actual email I sent to the agency when I woke up and realized I’d slept through the meeting, and it is pretty hilariously Arikia-ish:

Dear Camille,

I just woke up and realized that I missed my meeting. I don’t really know how it happened – I remember setting my alarm last night before I went to bed – but I have some idea as to why it happened. I don’t think I want to work at DTCC, and my subconscious mind made that happen. Actually, I don’t want to work at any corporation. I’m a writer and I want to write. I ‘m done doing meaningless work just because someone said so. That’s what a lot of college was, and I graduated.

So, please relay my apologies onto Michael and Jamie over at DTCC that I’m sorry for wasting their time. I suppose I’m sorry for wasting your time as well.

Best of luck to you,

Arikia

I didn’t know it at the time, but that was my real-life “Devil’s Advocate” scenario, and my decision set me on the trajectory that would fulfill all of my New York dreams.

The next day after my hangover subsided, I went to retrieve my passport, which I had forgotten in the scanner at the Internet Garage, and lo and behold, they hired me. For $8/hr, I got to blog my little heart out while I helped people use the Internet Garage’s ridiculously ’90s machines to get online. And I was happy. Some of my fondest New York memories were made in that place, and it provided all the fodder I needed to find my footing in the online media world.

Me in front of the Internet Garage.

Me in front of the Internet Garage.

With the Internet Garage as my base of operations, I became a fixture among the creative misfits, quickly becoming part of the barter system that propped up the struggling artist class in Williamsburg. If someone identified themselves as a Bedford Avenue vendor, I would give them prints and internet usage with a wink and a smile. To repay me, people invited me into their slivers of Williamsburg, and I got to experience it all. One night, some musicians I met at a bar invited me back to drink beers at the practice space across from my old apartment. I stayed up all night learning how to play piano.

In those days, I would sit on the rooftop of my Hope Street sublet and stare out at the Manhattan skyline for hours, wondering what paths I would take to make my way to the top of one of those skyscrapers. Last year, I would stare for hours out of the window of my office on the 19th floor of 4 Times Square, thinking about how I had managed to achieve my lifelong dream of working at Wired so soon, scared shitless about what that meant for the rest of my life. Had I peaked at 25?

My old office at Wired.

My old office at Wired.

Thinking about my five year quota now, with the deadline approaching July 8, it makes more sense to me than ever to leave. I won New York City. I did, I beat it. I came here with nothing, and I survived. I’m not any richer than I was when I came here, which to some, might not constitute winning. Before I started writing this blog post, I was being kind of mopey about just that — about the fact that five years later I am still struggling to pay my bills every month just like I did when I first moved here. But after reflecting on everything, I realized that what I gained in the past five years is impossible to buy: I made a name for myself.

Now, it’s time to leave. I am tired. The old rooftop where I used to perch is sealed off with fences and motion detectors, and the view is obscured by luxury condos anyways. The Internet Garage moved, and it will never be what it used to be. The way this city chews people up and spits them out is almost vulgar, and I am tired of watching it. I am tired of struggling to stay on top. I can feel my shell beginning to harden, and it’s not a good look for me. Plus the fact that I’ve sustained for so long makes me think I could be tossed into any environment and somehow figure stuff out and be OK. So, I’m going to try that, and hopefully find the same inspiration in new places that I once got from New York. I’m going to take my show on the road and keep looking for the things I didn’t find in New York: love, inner peace, financial success. I know that life may not ever be easy for me, I think I would die of boredom if it was, but right now I need to find environments that will nurture the skills I’ve been developing. I need room to breathe, as anyone who’s ever lived in New York knows, there’s not a whole lot of space here.

So, New Yorkers, you have three months and some change to squeeze the last of the New York hustle out of me, and I do intend to hustle. And then off into the world I will go, testing Frank Sinatra’s theory that if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere. It’s been real.

On helping yourself so you can help other people

The night I heard the news of the earthquake in Haiti in 2010, I did what I used to do to cope with stress — dissociate using any kind of chemical I could find. I went to the store and bought a pack of cigarettes after not smoking for two months, and went to my local bar where I proceeded to get wasted. I always liked going to this bar alone because on any given day it was inevitable that some interesting person would come along and strike up a conversation.

That particular night I found myself seated next to a man from Sierra Leone. After a few martinis, I wound up confiding in him that I felt like the scum of the universe that night because an earthquake had just struck Haiti, the bodies were piling up, it was possible that my family there was hurt or worse, and all I could do was sit in the comfort of my life in New York, in this bar, and worry about it. I told him I wanted to be on a plane there doing something to help, but instead I was sitting there not helping anyone, especially not myself.

He sort of chuckled and in a very wise old man way (even though he was only 25) took me to look here: he was from fucking Sierra Leone. Most of the people there live in poverty, there are civil wars and violence all the time and people generally live in fear. It wasn’t until the Blood Diamond came out that most people in the US even heard of the place, which is an indication of how little foreign intervention they get there. He told me wants to do so much to help his family and friends there all time, but he was sitting right with me and not feeling guilty about it at all. Why? “Because that’s all anyone wants, is the ability to because to just sit somewhere and not have to worry about anything in that moment. It’s all my family wanted for me,” he said. And then he told me something for the first time that I would hear many times over the next few years, which is that you have to help yourself first if you want to have any hope of helping other people.

I struggled with this concept at first because on the one hand it sounds like rationalization for laziness and selfishness. But when it comes down to it, it’s just accurate at a very basic level. That’s not to say that you can’t always be helping people. I help people when I can and love doing so. But in the past few years I have found myself overextending. I tend to attract people who try to take advantage of my compassion, who perhaps haven’t quite figured out how to sever the parental ties and look for mothers and fathers in other people. They look for it in me because they see me as independent, someone who “has her shit together,” and they cling for dear life hoping I can help them be the same way. And I want to, and part of the reason I work so hard is so that someday I will be able to, but sometimes I just can’t. But I’m terrible at saying no to people when they ask for help, so sometimes I try and try and it drains all my energy from my very core, and I turn into this listless shell who can’t even walk to the corner store let alone address an international crisis. I am independent and I probably do have my shit together more than the average 26-year-old living in New York City, but I am that way because I have to be. I don’t have a safety net like so many of my peers, so when I fall, it really hurts. I can’t afford to fall anymore.

So don’t worry if you hear me going on about raw food and meditation. I’m not joining a hippie cult or something, although the yoga studio across the street could pass for one. I really just want to try everything that crosses my path to be healthy, so I help other people in the biggest way possible while I’m still able, and I’m really grateful for the people who are able to help me do that right now.

Grapefruit spoon of death

On Tuesday, one of my friends came over to cowork and brought some fruit for us to snack on including two grapefruits. We didn’t end up eating them, and before she left she said she wanted me to keep the grapefruits.

This morning I sliced one in half and was taken back to a time when I used to eat halved grapefruits regularly. My mom used to give them to me when I was a little girl, with sugar sprinkled on top. She would cut the fruit along the radial lines of its membranes and give it to me to eat with a spoon. When I would try to scoop a chunk out, it would cling to the rind and squish the majority of the piece. In the end I would have a grapefruit shell full of juice. This morning when I was preparing the grapefruit for myself, I cut it this way, got a spoon out of the silverware drawer, and looked at it, recalling my longstanding grapefruit feud. I remembered when I finally learned that most people also cut along the inside of the rind so the pieces come out easily in chunks. I’m now wondering if her decision to withhold the circumference cut was one of her many inventive methods of keeping me occupied before I came up with my own ways.

Throughout the day, every time I opened the fridge, I looked at the remaining grapefruit half and thought about my responsibility to not let it go to waste. I can’t remember ever eating a grapefruit in the five years I’ve lived in New York. I stopped buying all high-maintenance fruits a long time ago.

Just now I decided that it would not go to waste. As I prepared it, pondering the circumference cut, I remembered my first job as a server at The Atrium elderly living facility in Gainesville Florida. It was a prime job for blue collar high schoolers, community college burn outs, and a few middle aged odd balls. One evening while my friends and I were getting ready to wheel the desert carts down the rows of elderly people, I was sorting through the silverware bins to find spoons and came across something quite evil looking.

grapefruitspoon“What kind of torture device is this?” I exclaimed, holding it up for my friend Trevor to examine. Also astonished, he dubbed it The Spoon of Death and we showed it to the other employees speculating about who on the management staff was secretly trying to kill the residents. Finally, our manager came to see why we were behind schedule and informed us that The Spoon of Death was actually just an old grapefruit spoon that had gotten mixed up in the dinnerware. From then on, the grapefruit spoon was our proposed solution for senile temper flares and last-minute order changes, though it never left the kitchen. Good times.