Year in Review: 2017

 

Hell is empty and all the devils are here._William Shakespeare (1).png

 

Boy, 2017 has been something. What’s been interesting that as far as my personal life goes: it hasn’t been terrible. The rest of the world…all I can do is apologize for the creature the rest of my countrymen decided was fit for the office of presidency.

Let’s go over 2017. Have a cocktail ready. I’ll wait.

January: Over here on the blog, January was Fanuary and we covered plenty of topics like criticism, my top favorite animes of all time and the death of discourse. January also featured a trip to Fredericksburg with Amber where I mused about how much I love Germany, alcoholic chocolates and the merits of fluffy chickens. I also started working with Fangirl Nation and so far it’s been a fruitful partnership!

February: February featured the 15th anniversary of my father’s passing. I think I handled it well. Additionally, February featured a trip Amber and I took the missions that did not end well and absolutely ended with me almost yelling at a bunch of children.

March: March featured a trip to Houston, the reappearance of my ex and a lot of discussion on RuPaul’s Drag Race. I got to fangirl over fossils, see the National Funeral Museum (which was a BLAST) and see some great things in a city that I will likely never visit again.

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Look at me in the Curio Room!

 

April: A musical month where we talked about the music I listened to as a kid (most of it was bad), how music and mental health intersect sometimes for the worst and we discussed my love-hate relationship with Rent

May: In May, I battled a mouse that has now left my apartment, coped with my anxiety in the process and also went on a trip to Goliad which was…interesting. The post about Goliad also features a GREAT ghost story if you stick around for it.

June: In June I went to A-Kon  with Carlos and BOY, OH BOY. That was…wow. My ex appeared. I was surrounded by an anime that I hate and faced some of my convention highest highs and lowest lows. June also featured a very honest talk about LGBT pride and a small break while I recovered from the summer everyone decided they liked ice skating.

By now, you’re noticing that I’m sticking to just stuff over here on the blog and in my personal life. By now, you’re probably thinking that’s a little narcissistic. We’re gonna get there. Relax.

July: My birth month! Amber and I went to Austin to see Welcome To Night Vale once more and we had a time and a half! I also reached 100 followers on this here humble blog and I’m still a little in shock that anyone would want to read my rantings.  

August: August was a deeply personal month on the blog where I talked about Pokemon Go, wanderlust and simply baked in the Summer Sun.

September: We split the month between talking about nostalgia and patronage!

October: October marked both of my parents’ birthdays and we discussed the effects of long term trauma, memorialization and putting your life on pause because of grief.

November: I went to OtakuFair with a few friends. It was interesting which is why there hasn’t been a post about it yet. I had started one but didn’t have the heart to finish it. But I think I looked okay.

 

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I was an adorable PomPom Purin.
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When I do a good job as a panelist, I get cake.

Additionally, in November I celebrated my One Year Anniversary with my agency. I also started playing Pokemon Ultra Moon and had opinions

December: IT SNOWED IN SAN ANTONIO!

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My poor car is very confused about the cold, icy nonsense.

And December is still ongoing! Who knows what will come next! I promise to update this post if anything new and thrilling happens in the time before this post goes live!

So that pin I asked you to hold onto about why I’ve only focused on my blog and personal life…let’s take that pin out. Wow, I thought 2016 was a raging dumpster fire. 2017 then promptly said “Hold my drink.” 2017 featured some of the most tragic acts of terror, the most terrifying natural disasters and the continued incompetence of an orange fascist. My heart broke during most of 2017. I cried knowing my friends in Houston may not be safe. I couldn’t sleep knowing that innocent teenagers were put at risk in the U.K. during the Ariana Grande concert. My family and friends had to check on me so many times as Texas faced many of the most devastating shootings in the state’s history and that isn’t even covering the massacre in Las Vegas.

2017 was exhausting, emotional and painful but we made great strides most parts of the worst travel ban were struck down. Many states have kept their promise LGBT people and while hate crimes and domestic terrorism are still concerns: we’ve made a lot of steps. With the continued firing of habitual sexual predators and more, we’re making steps. But god dammit,  was the cost high.

During the year I struggled with friends, with family, with worth and with feeling lost in a world that seemed to only get worst. I watched as my concept of what it means to be American, African-American, LGBTQ, and biologically female rattled to my very core. I battled creative differences, trauma, also made several guest appearances, and had an amazing time retelling the myth of Lilith to a captive audience. I’ve made new friends, lost old ones, kept bonds strong and grown some. I’ve traveled, seen places and done things that I’m proud of and done things that I am a little less than proud of. I’ve made memories that’ll last forever and will be working on forcing some deep from my memory.

Happy 2017. And honestly, I do have a few choice words for this year that was filled with fire, misery, tragedy, bullet casings and utter corruption and idiocy. Burn in Hell. If 2016 was a dumpster fire then 2017 has been an oil fire (not to be insensitive to my brothers and sisters in California). At least in 2016, the fire was contained to a dumpster.

Let’s all try to be better next year.

Blame the Woman, Save the Man

“...her wings are cut and then she is blamed for not knowing how to fly.” ― Simone de Beauvoir.png

It’s been a feminism heavy month, hasn’t it? I promise not every closing of the year will be so somber but it feels appropriate considering the current era we are in. Today we discuss victim blaming, playing devil’s advocate and why imaging women complexly will save the world.

The last few posts have been talking about my adventures in online dating and in my essentially gripes about not having anyone I can talk to about the matter. But there’s a common theme in every feminism post I’ve done (even the earlier ones). There has always been someone saying that the situation is “my fault” or to be less hyperbolic “I made it easy for myself to be in that situation.”

My question almost always is: how.

By existing?

That’s troublesome, isn’t it?

I recently found myself once more in a situation that was less than ideal. I was walking to my bus stop for work. It’s early in the morning on the fringes of the hood here in San Antonio and a man in a van( yes, literally a man in a van) slows down and rolls his window down. That’s already 5 bad signs to a crime TV fan like me. He asks me a question and the first time I didn’t register his question. My music was exceptionally good that day. He had asked me “Do you need a lift?” I promptly said “no” and continued to walk on. I did have a bus to catch, after all. He wasn’t the first person who has asked me if I needed a ride at an ungodly hour mere blocks from my apartment. So, being the bright Southern girl that I am: I asked my friends about the matter. My gut was that it was a very light for of catcalling. Immediately, my more conservative friends chimed in (most of them male) about the matter.

He was just being nice.

Were you rude to him?

He was just trying to help you.

What were you wearing?

How short was your skirt?

Chivalry is dead.

And the counterarguments for a moment made me pause: was I wrong? Was a vicious misandrist harpie? After discussing the matter with fellow feminists it quickly became an issues of “You do not get in a car with strangers.”

I suddenly felt a little more human. I was gracious in my refusal but I’ve watched enough Law and Order:SVU to know that most women that get in the car with a man they don’t know (even with the best of intentions) usually ends up with the woman in a duffel bag dumped off into a riverbed.

It made me recall another incident where a cabbie outside of my apartment slowed down to ask me if I needed a ride and a friend on Facebook asked (likely in jest, but still) “How short was your skirt?”

My dear reader, I was in skinny jeans and a t-shirt. I was covered up and more importantly, even if I wasn’t: am I suddenly more of a target because of what I’m wearing?

When I was catcalled at a public park, immediately the discussion became about what I was wearing and why I was taking the bus anyways. Why is any of that relevant to me being harassed? Does wearing a low cut top or a short skirt or just existing as a female in public somehow mean it’s okay to be harassed?

Victim blaming is real and is a rather sinister aspect of most cultures. Women who report sexual assault or harassment are often times put against a metaphorical firing squad of questions just to “prove” there as a crime.

Were you drunk?

Had you been drinking?

Did you maybe say “yes” earlier in the night?

What were you wearing?

Well, he is a good-looking man. Are you sure you didn’t mean to say yes?

And to mention a point that I will later destroy if you wait a moment or two, there are women who have falsely claimed assault. I won’t say this number is substantial at all but it’s been enough to discredit the majority of women who have filed assault reports only to be sent through bureaucratic hell and having to recount their trauma over and over again until someone believes them. And those little things are ingrained in women from an early age. I know I was always encouraged to dress modestly not just for my family’s Catholic virtues but so that I wouldn’t be so easily sexualized as a teen. But even those efforts didn’t always work. I remember one instance when I was a teenager at Whole Foods Market of all places. I had on a t-shirt that had the Tootsie Pop owl on it (my love of owls even extended to my teen years) and the slogan on the shirt was “How many licks does it take?” (It was the early 2000s. Questionable fashion everywhere). Sure it was a little suggestive but I never saw it that way (I was a potato back then). An older man approached me and said very clearly: “I wonder how many licks it takes to get to your center.”

I don’t remember if I ever told my aunts about it. I didn’t wear the shirt again or if I did it was just with very close friends.

Was it a suggestive top? Sure. Was I too young for such a suggestive top? Probably. Does that mean that I should have had the unwanted advances of an older man? I sure hope not.

Victim blaming takes away the agency of women. It makes them no longer stewards of their own decision making and creates a false slippery slope that makes having a mature conversation about consent, feminism and equality difficult. If I am blamed for getting catcalled based on what top I am wearing it’s difficult to have the real conversation of: why did this grown man feel it necessary to shout lewd remarks at me from his car?

Which brings me back to one of the most unfortunate parts of this whole uncomfortable discussion. What’s even more insidious to me is the devil’s advocate argument. The one of “he was just trying to be nice”. I’ll humor that for now. Even if the man is just being nice, even if he does have the best intentions: unfortunately, there are plenty of men who ruined that kindness for everyone. There’s a reason in most state that hitchhiking is illegal. And are there instances where I am hypersensitive? Of course. I’m a human being and I sometimes get offended when I probably shouldn’t but even that is my prerogative.  

And even doing an entire month of feminism has put a wedge between me and some of my friends and those in my spaces. I’ve been told to be careful what I write lest I offend someone. I’ve been encouraged to be less “misandrist” and I’ve been told that I’m being a social justice warrior. I don’t think in any place I’ve been a misandrist. I rather like men but I don’t enjoy harassment and the fact that even talking about these subjects that it could be even considered man-hating.

I’m sure for more of you then I’d like to admit that this has been a difficult topic to cover. I want to encourage respectful conversation in the comments and I want to also encourage you, my readership, to know that I am here for you not as a woman or feminist but as a human person trying their best to survive in a world that is at times less than kind. Know that you have my support, my empathy and my time if you so need it.

I promise we will cover more lighthearted topics as we wrap this year up.

Thanks for listening.

Double Standard, Double Shamed

-Out of the ashI rise with my red hair And I eat men like air.-Sylvia Plath, Lady Lazarus.png

The last post in this series was about consent, sexual harassment and online dating. Today we’re going to talk about double standards, shaming and how it’s almost impossible for a woman to “win” if love is truly a battlefield.

There’s a funny thing that happens to women. There’s really only 2 ways women are perceived when it comes to sex and sexuality: the virgin and the harlot. And both as far as the average Tinder man is concerned have their pros and cons. The virgin is inexperienced and naive. The harlot is experienced, too experienced. And while some men claim they want the virgin, they shun their lack experience. Others say they want a woman who knows what she wants, while then shaming that she knows herself, her body and her sexuality.

Here’s where I wanted to come back to that argument of “Oh, well you’re on Tinder. What do you expect?”

I expect to not be harassed?

That was the same logic many used against cosplayers back in the day before the “brave” voices like Yaya Han had to mention that cosplay is not consent. For many cosplayers, it was just an understood that well, if you’re in costume, you’re inviting harassment. It took years for many to rewrite these tapes and come to understand that no, a woman or man for that matter can and should demand basic human decency.

I’m even more struck by the whore/virgin double-standard that several men (not all men, I hate that I have to say that but I don’t want a comment section full of “nice guys”) have when it comes to the women they court.

Have you ever slept with someone?

How many men have you slept with?

Are you a virgin?

I want a girl with experience.

Last time I checked, I was not an item whose worth fluctuates by usage. And most importantly: how am I supposed to have experience while maintaining virtue? It’s frustrating that so many men are willing to discard a girl based on a “wrong” answer to any of those questions. And not to say some women aren’t just as critical as men are (again, hate that I have to pull this devil’s advocate nonsense: we’re gonna talk about this soon).

And how confusing is it to be a woman who knows herself and what she wants and is still shamed? I’m not on Tinder looking for the one but if I agree to something that’s casual I’m “easy” but if I demand at least pasta from my date before God know’s what then I am “demanding”. There’s just no way to win. I’m either an easy loose woman running around the internet like a mythical Net Lilith or I’m a chaste virginal Geneviere up in a tower of unreasonable expectations. This dichotomy has existed since man has been writing women. Think of most female characters in media (mostly in classical examples but modern media is just now catching up with some more complex storytelling). The myth of Lilith is all about the first wife of Adam who refused to submit to a life of missionary with the lights off and she literally became a demon because that. Men are told that as far as girls go, there are only two options. What that leaves out is literally everyone else. Think of all the sexually-actualized women who are called out of their name for knowing what they want. Think of all the girls who are choosing to save themselves who are ignored because no one wants to “risk” them catching feelings for them. You know how emotional those ladies get. But this exists in nearly everything a woman does. Too big? Oh well, you know how hard it is a big girl to get a date. Too thin? Nope, can’t have that, gotta have a girl with meat on her bones. Does she work? Oh, she’s gonna choose her career like those Tumblr Feminists. Is she not working? She’s a gold-digger and nothing more! Did she finish school? Well, you know what they say about girls who read too much. 

And none of these are decided by the woman herself. They are burdens placed upon her and it’s just unfair.

I’ve had an on and off relationship with dating apps since my most recent relationship ended and it’s frustrating that any time I have a negative experience and I reach out to friends and followers about it, I am met with the argument above and that’s simply not the case. Why can’t I demand more from others and from myself? Why can’t I be a woman online? Why can’t I hope to find love, a casual hook up or at least a free meal from a dating app?

I also can’t stand the invasive questions that men feel the need to ask. I’m not a prized milking cow or even a middle of the ground show pig. And these aren’t the cute normal questions like:

What’s your favorite color?

What are you reading right now?

Hogwarts House?

It’s more like things I don’t feel comfortable telling you, dear readership. And the amount of unsolicited photos of male parts I’ve received. Heavens. For me, it’s all an issue of being part of a bigger problem. It isn’t a huge issue to get one dick pic, it’s annoying but not enough to ruin my day. The issue is that for that man, this was the best way to get my attention. It isn’t so much about getting asked how many men I’ve been with in a medical way, it’s that my worth to this individual is tied to my virtue or lack thereof. The fact that some men feel the need to talk to a woman like this is vile and the fact that I get blamed for it because I could just “stop using Tinder” is fundamentally the biggest case for feminism in the modern era.

This post was short and I apologize for that. But next time, we discuss victim blaming.

Thank You

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Last year, I set a goal to have my best year ever and I topped that over here on the blog. This year, I made a similar promise: I wanted this year to be better than last year: and overwhelming it was. I don’t have all the adequate words to express how grateful I am to you all. I am overwhelmed that anyone would want to read what I have to say. I’ve had great conversations, made great friends and connected to old friends all over my words and that’s a powerful feeling.

Thank you for liking, sharing, commenting and more.

Thank you for reading and I look forward to next year’s content over here at Amanda.Actually.

 

Thank you.

-Amanda

The Martyrdom of Olivia Benson

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Why do I still watch Law and Order: SVU?

Why do I continue to subject myself to a show that’s been around longer than my little cousin?
And through it all, I only have one question: what the hell happened to Olivia Benson?

Now, for those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, let’s recap. Law and Order: SVU is a crime drama serial that is centered around the Special Victims Unit (a unit in the police force that helps handle sex crimes and crimes involving women and children) and their mostly revolving door of detectives who help bring these heinous criminals to justice. Introduced in Season 3, Olivia Benson (played by Mariska Hargitay) when first introduced was the plucky counterpart to Elliot Stabler (played by Christopher Meloni). While Benson provided the loving “female touch” that the SVU lacked being a group of mostly old white men and then one Ice-T, she was never a central character. The show still focused on Stabler and his family drama, Munch being old and Tutuola being…Ice-T. When Benson did start to come into her own she was brutalized and victimized because hey, how else do you write a female character in a crime drama? Sexualized violence forever, am I right?

After Stabler’s character departed the series, Benson really took over and in time Hargitay expanded her role from just an on-screen presence to a behind the scenes force. She is now one of the producers and writers for the show and boy, has she taken the character of Olivia Benson to a new place. And by new place I mean all the same sexualized violence, misogyny and poor storytelling the show has had since its inception but now with added family melodrama and the occasional nod to her actually moving up in the ranks of the police force. In newer seasons, Olivia has taken on a son, Noah, and she sure does have feels about it. Motherhood is wonderful but Benson’s brand of motherhood cycles rapidly between obsessive and overly protective of her new acquired bundle of joy to dismissive of her adopted child because of her demanding role as the now leader of the Special Victims Unit. And while some of the push and pull she feels as a working mother are real, there are better depictions of that in the same show: Rollins struggles with leaving her daughter at home with one of the most patient babysitters in all of New York.

By now, you may be asking: Amanda: if you are so unhappy with the show, why do you still watch it?

Well, put a pin in that.

Let’s go back to Rollins. I don’t like her character just because we share a first name; I like her because she is given a more complex story-line. Rollins deals with gambling addiction, a premature and troubled pregnancy all while raising a child on her own with little to no complaining. Sure, she has that oh so lovable cinnamon roll that is Carisi to help her with her daughter sometimes but she does everything Benson does with grace. Rollins is empathetic, level-headed, pragmatic but still kind, generous and great at her job.

I take personal umbrage with this turn for Benson’s behavior because of how important Law and Order: SVU is to so many women. Like I’ve said, only in a highly fictionalized New York do crimes get convicted like this. Only in a fictionalized New York is every sex crime at least acknowledged. This series for so many is one of the first empowered women they see on TV. It’s a modern day morality tale. Crimes are punished, the bad guys are bad guys and the good guys always win.

But in all of this I’m still left with questions.Why did they have to sacrifice Benson for the sake of plot? None of the other female characters had to be taken down a peg. Why Olivia? Why did she become our St. Maria Goretti? 

Now to pick up that pin I said for you to hold onto about why I watch this show.

My grandma loved Law and Order: SVU. Hell, on many stations, it’s one of the only shows still on. The show kept my grandma company while dementia kept confined to her bed. The show even contributed to some of the anxiety she had as the illness of dementia took more of her rationality and her mind. We had cameras rigged up in the house not just to watch her while we worked but also so she could see inside. She didn’t want burglars. She felt safer knowing she could see the front door and living room from her bed if she needed to. And when I’d come home from my dead-end mall job or the days I’d come down from my post-graduate ivory tower of a bedroom on my days off from work, I’d sit down and watch an episode or two with my grandma. I could for a moment or two put down my writer’s rage and just enjoy a moment with someone who I knew I wouldn’t spend much more time with. She didn’t care about how poorly the story was. She just wanted to see Stabler and Benson get the bad guy and they usually did. It was one of the few things we could bond on as she declined. I even began to echo some of her paranoia after watching the show for too long. Seriously, ask any of my friends about how squirrely I get after an all-day Criminal Minds marathon.

My gripe with Benson is personal and also from a creative standpoint. I gave up on female characters from an early age because so many were utter failures of storytelling. Law and Order: SVU shows that the writers can write genuine tension for a female character that isn’t a melodramatic custody battle or a John Wu-style parable about the “Good Guy with a Gun” myth. The show has always had issues telling some stories: the episode that was meant to comment on the Paula Deen post-attack racism controversy ended up with such a hyperbolic retelling of the original story that the moral grey area that makes the story so compelling was completely lost. The show still perpetuates concepts and ideas that are troubling while still being one of the best shows on TV for some hot, fast lady justice.

Female characters deserve more. A woman can balance a job, a child and her love life. A woman can have a high-stress job and still be a great parent or even just an okay one. A woman can love without being boring. A woman can be sexually self-actualized and not be a harlot. A woman can have the same stakes as a man and it not devolve into lady issues.  A woman can be just like any other character. Olivia Benson can be more and should be more.

Don’t we deserve that after all these years?

A Casual Date With Consent

Feminism's agenda is basic- It asks that women not be forced to choose between public justice and private happiness. Susan Faludi.png

After a few years of being in long-term relationships and relatively uneventful ones at that, I have found myself a single gal in the big city. So like most Southern girls who are suddenly without a male caller in their lives, I went to Tinder. Now, full disclosure before the string of “Well, there’s your problem.” comments arise. I know full well Tinder is a hookup app. I know what it’s there for. I know what caliber of person Tinder usually attracts. And if you look down on me for going on Tinder, then I accept your righteous indignation. But what I will not and do not understand about Tinder is how men feel they can talk to women and that it is essentially a performance space to watch the slow death of consent.

Now, as a lady, the inherent dangers of being biologically female are not lost on me. I’ve been catcalled, harassed in real life and online and have faced several situations where just  because of my gender, I was put in a compromising situation. Online dating brings all of these to the forefront. It was highlighted for me when I actually considered meeting one of these men for a day in Market Square (the “date” was cancelled). I was thinking about Uber, taxis and driving myself or even public transportation as ways to get there. I wasn’t thinking about what to wear or how to style my hair (I was going for the side part with a heavy front bang, as always.). 

Never did it cross my mind that every other date I had ever been on I had no issue letting my suitor pick me up. But I didn’t want this unknown man knowing where I live. I also didn’t want to be put in a position that could literally be life or death for me if this date went south. How horrifying is that? No other time in my life was I ever this worried about my safety meeting someone new. I met Carlos online years ago and we met for the first time in public around 5 years ago. He’s one of my best friends now so clearly I’m not Static Shock 1990s PSA worried about “meeting strangers from the Internet”.  And in all honesty, it was Taylor, my dear friend who commented on how damn horrifying it was that I said I was more concerned about getting a ride than the consideration of meeting a man from Tinder.

But I want to talk about consent and here’s where I get personal. I’m a cosplayer so I’ve had men sneak hands up my skirt. I’d had people ask me for all manner of lewd act online. I’ve gotten pictures that were not wanted or warranted. I’ve had men try and bully me into acts I won’t perform and I’ve been shamed for not be willing to perform. I am one of many females that have faced a similar struggle quietly and with dignity.  Consent is a tricky issue in the West when it shouldn’t be. If I say “no” that means “no”. There’s not a hidden meaning. There’s not a situation that me saying “no” 4 times really equals one “yes”. There’s not anything more than “no” to a “no”. But time and time again on Tinder, I am bullied or pressured by men to do or say something I don’t want to.

Baby, c’mon.

Baby, you’ll like it.

I’m different.

C’mon, just send me one picture.

I’ll make it worth your while.

Let me see you.

In between each of those messages is usually a terse “no” or silence. And all the while, if I express my concerns, pain or grievances to friends some of them just say “Well, you’re on Tinder. What do you expect?” as if that somehow makes it alright. As if that somehow invalidates the ordeal. As if somehow that makes it okay. And what’s even more terrifying is that because it’s done online, I get all the pain and misery of having my wishes ignored with none of the actual threat of being in danger. What if this was real? What if this was a real situation?

C’mon. Let’s go.

I want more.

Let me see more.

You don’t really mean “no”, do you?

I thought you liked me, baby.

That level of bullying and pressure often times quickly escalates and for so many ends in tragedy when it happens in real life and in real life situations. And the pain of it being a “safe” place to watch the slow and miserable death of consent and the continued rise of the objectified female sex creature is that there isn’t enough to actually say or claim this is an issue. Like with cat-calling or other forms of sexual harassment women face all over the world, it’s difficult if not impossible to “police” male gaze. Online harassment is still an issue of legitimacy for many and I won’t go into the terrible things that have been said to me in forums, comment sections and other online places and spaces. 

The whore or virgin dichotomy is a painful one for women and when coupled with an already toxic male gaze culture, there is almost no safe place to go when trying to find a suitor but avoid sexual harassment. And true, while there are “better” dating apps and better places to find a mate: a woman’s safety or feelings shouldn’t be compromised because of where she chooses to find a partner. My safety in a situation should not be considered within a standard deviation of “safe” because I chose Tinder over Hinge. It also speaks to the issue of the “conditional yes”. That because I’ll go on Tinder and flirt that I should accept all that comes with it. Even if that all means harassment and degradation.

I apologize if this topic was difficult for some of you and I respect that this is an issue close to many hearts. I invite respectful conversation in the comments below.

Next time, we talk about shaming, double standards and how to be a better human being/online date.