Tag Archives: relationships

How Does Maggie Rogers Do It?

By Avery Serven

“Cut my hair so I could rock back and forth without thinking of you” might just be one of the most empowering musical lines to come our way. The phrase comes off the song “Alaska” from Maggie Rogers’s debut album, Heard It In A Past Life, which was released on January 18, 2019.

The 24-year-old singer-songwriter has been well-known in the alternative genre since the release of her first EP, Now That the Light Is Fading, in 2017. This EP captures Rogers while she is still a student at NYU, grappling to find her own voice in the sellout world of music. Songs like “Color Song” and “On + Off” show a style of music that is inspired by both folk and pop, with ethereal sounds highlighting her powerful voice.

Heard It In A Past Life moves away from this to signify a new stage in her life. Rogers deviates from her folk/indie roots to produce a record that sounds more like something from Haim or Sylvan Esso. The record seamlessly blends various themes together, such as maturity, heartbreak, and uncertainty. This allows for a personal connection between Rogers and her listeners. The result of this personal connection are songs that can only be described as being “uniquely Rogers.”

An echoing beat calls the listener to the dance floor, establishing Rogers’s distinctive sound in the first track off the album, “Give a Little.” Rogers’s raspy, yet strong, voice admits: “If I was who I was before / Then I’d be waiting at your door / But I cannot confess I am the same.” The upbeat background music, combined with Rogers’s melodic excitement about pursuing a new love, sets a tone for the album that is both nostalgic and hopeful for the future.

Rogers continues to show that she is not afraid of change in “Overnight,” a song about making peace with the fact that people change. “Overnight” is a great example of Rogers’s effortless key changes, which appear in almost all of her songs, giving her a distinctive and genuine sound. The song marks a time of transition in Rogers’s life, with her lyrics emphasizing an acceptance of the unknown.

Rogers’s music is so impressive that the listener should feel honored just to take part in it. This can be felt in “Say It,” a sultry tune about denying your romantic feelings for someone. The song manages to capture the tricky feeling of falling in love despite knowing that it may not be a good idea. A synthesizer beat with a futuristic sound, combined with Rogers’s silky voice sailing through the lyrics, gives the listener the privilege of feeling this emotion at Rogers’s level.

Maggie Rogers is a truly original artist, with both her voice and her words carrying beauty and honesty. She is no longer a young undergrad trying to find her path amidst a whirlwind of emotions. Rogers is mature and reflective now, honing a signature musical style that reveals that she has not necessarily moved past that whirlwind, but rather has come to embrace it.

Curls

Originally published in our Spring 2018 Reader, Dev Blair’s poem “Curls” is one of two prose poems that “tell a part of the story of a young femme wrestling with the ways in which they meet the world and the ways in which the world meets them.”

In their abstract, Blair explains that:

“In Curls, I draw parallels between my hair’s relationship to relaxers and my relationship to men, using the comparison to analyze the ways that I’ve been mistreated by the men in my life. While the terms “queer” and “non-binary” don’t feature in the poem itself, the experiences I describe within are inextricably tied to those parts of my identity, by virtue of how these things influence which men I interact with and how I am seen by them.”

If you are interested in buying a physical copy of the reader, email hoochie@bu.edu ! We are selling them for $5.


[ Content warning: for mentions of depression ]

Curls

by Dev Blair

For a long time, I didn’t quite understand the term “natural.”

See, I knew that curls grew from my scalp naturally and I also understood that I could see my curls intertwine and loc beautifully—if I ever stop tryna cop Britney’s ’‘07 hairdo every time I have a breakdown.

But what I didn’t get was how we could name our curls—something so deeply personal and meaningful—”natural,” as if to make them sound normal, mundane, or palatable.

See, I don’t want my curls to be something you can stomach, another vaguely ethnic dish for white eyes to consume.

My curls are something your combs cannot tame, your brushes cannot beat back, your razors cannot cut down.

My curls are twisted and kinky and they like to play rough.

Relaxers hide their faces in shame when they see my curls, gettin’ clowned on in their workplaces for lack of game, their own failure to play aces, ultimately to blame for their inability to run bases and tame my militant curls.

Like men disappoint me, so too do relaxers disappoint my curls. Inviting them in with promises of beauty and a future, they leave them desolate and lifeless after extracting every ounce of magic and joy from their being. Slinking down the drain, they take my curls’ hopes and dreams and parts of themselves with them.

Capitalizing on my curls’ labor and my curls’ abuse, relaxers are like men to me, suitors that preach and preen over how faithful they’ll be, only to treat our “unruliness” as a liability.

White cream slathered on black curls, like white men slobbering over black girls, suffocating them with their emotional unavailability, then leaving them a little more broken than they were found, even though it’s been years since they were chained and bound to Eurocentricity’s straight and narrow Middle Passage.

Postcolonial as in post relaxer as in post heart break post break up postmodernism, this is a poem posted like a notice on every door and Facebook wall saying that I’m better off without them. And so are my curls.

My beauty is achieved, not defaulted. My strength is earned, but not exalted unless it can be used to turn a profit.

My pretty smells of hard work and healthy routines learned from unhealthy habits and a history of hurt. My curls shine with a radiance not natural nor innate but learned from every trial that turned out to be a mistake. She must learn to love themself, because others don’t care to take the time to learn how to love me.

My curls have got it on loc because when I unlocked my heart for you, instead of with it you ran away with the key and so now only rage spills out, with no kiss to fix it or stop it up.

With each beat of my thoroughly disappointed heart, the rage rushes to my ears, breaking every part of myself I curated like fine art. As I crumble into sadness, the blood pounds with the barking madness of hell hounds bounding after their-query for you: “did it feel good to waste my time?” Before the answer can be found, my innocence dies like the Virgin Hairy, killed by sounds in my head of “you’re undesirable,” and “you’ll never marry,” and I am left limp and wet and barely recognizable.

Solange wrote a catchy song about it, so y’all get it already, right?

But see, you don’t. Because my curls are not just the feelings I wear, but the product of the pain I bear and the parts of myself I refuse to share and the things that I talk about in prayer.

I am not natural. Neither are my curls. We are more than you could ever hope to call natural—after all, what is natural about a body ravaged by the politics of desirability?

See, love is a battlefield and my body is the site of war. Y’all come into my life, fuck shit up, then call me whore so now I can’t sleep. I can’t rest or lay down and neither can my curls, and girls, that’s how we all got our razor-sharp edges-from pain so intense, we can’t even weep. That’s why I shave my head like I’m shearing a goddamn sheep, so if you want my curls, know that the price is steep. Don’t hurt me so deep that I can’t keep myself together. If you can avoid that and ease my bleeding heart, help me heal from the times I fell apart, then and only then do you deserve to look at my curls.

Hidden Noodles

by Thuy Anh Tran from Lehigh University

  Hidden Café, which was located on the lower level of building B in my high school, was an ideal place for anyone who needed an escape. This café was not recognized by my high school as an official dining hall, but it secretly opened to serve the growing demand for a small get-away. For straight A students, they came here with the hope of escaping from the cacophony in the hallway to figure out how to calculate the atomic mass of an element. For teachers, they desperately wanted to get away from all the troubles that students created. For rebels, this place was perfect for skipping classes.
  The owner of Hidden Café was Bac Huong, a middle-aged woman who was a high school teacher but then discovered that cooking was her passion. She had a small and slim figure; her short curly salt and pepper hair was meticulously hidden behind a ridiculously giant chef’s hat, and she possessed one of the most high-pitched voice you would ever hear, probably because she used to teach in many classes with sixty students. I called her “Bac,” which means aunt in Vietnamese, as my way to show my respect as well as my endearment to her. “If I had not been a teacher, I would have become a Michelin-star chef!” – Bac Huong confidently claimed. This café was opened as a result of many spontaneous moments.
  “What do you want today? Mian tiao?”
  “Yes, but it is miàn tiáo.”
  “I’m no Chinese. Wait five minutes.”
  Bac Huong enjoyed using some Chinese words that she picked up to tease me as I was a student in Chinese-English class. “Miàn tiáo” means noodles in Chinese, but it was not just any kind of noodles. It was noodles with beef jerky, sausage, mayo and ketchup. Weird. The combination of diverse ingredients could magically blend together, and it turned out to be one of the best dishes that I had ever tasted.
  I loved watching Bac Huong making noodles. The main ingredient for this dish was obviously noodles, or Hao Hao noodles, which was only ten cents. The fastest way to cook was to pour hot water into a bowl of raw noodles. Bac Huong never forgot to add some spices, some onions and especially her special sauce (soy sauce). She put a plate on top of the noodles’ bowl so that it would keep the heat inside to cook the noodles. After five minutes, she went to check on the noodles. Then, she cut some boiled sausages that she woke up at 5 a.m. every day to prepare, and added some beef jerky. On top of the noodles, she put some mayo or some ketchup, depending on her mood. This dish had such a special smell that I could immediately recognize before I even arrived at Hidden Café. Within ten minutes, Bac Huong made noodles and eagerly interrogated me about my school life.
  “How’s school?”
  “Do you get a 10 out of 10 on your Chinese quiz?”
  “How did you do on your Math test?”
  The most dreadful question was yet to come.
  “Where are your friends? Call them here.”
  I stayed silent.
  You would not think that such a simple question could hurt you internally. Little did Bac Huong know that she played many roles in my high school life: my “Bac,” my emotional counselor, my teacher and my only friend.
  Who was I in high school? I was a fat kid (yes, I use the F word). I was bullied because my body figure did not comply with the standard measurements for a normal high school girl. Who came up with that anyway?
  That day, a girl in my class who was a close friend of mine suddenly asked me to tell her my body measurements for her “research purpose,” and I was gullible enough to tell her. Classic Mean Girl’s prank.
  The next day I went to class, she greeted me with a special nickname that I would try to forget every now and then: “square” (because my height and my weight looked quite the same). Then, there were “fatty”, “pig”, “rectangle”, “girl without curves”, “fat ugly girl”,… At that moment, my body was heated up with embarrassment. I kept looking down to the floor and closed my eyes so that I could keep my tears and my anger inside.
  I was not ready to face with such a challenge as I never knew there was something called confidence. The feeling that I was missing something inside my soul which needed to be fulfilled haunted me. Later, I discovered that it was validation. There was no class that taught me how to stand up against bullies in high school, which I think it should have had. Therefore, I kept myself safe by creating my own bubble, and never dared to step outside. What choices did I have? Many, but the easiest choice was to hide myself in this little corner of the Hidden.
  How wrong I was.
  The advantage of living in a bubble was that it created a strong shield to protect me from getting hurt, but bubbles could pop at any time.
  When I left for college, I chose not to say good-bye to Bac Huong and the Hidden because I did not want that chapter of my life to end. I would never imagine how difficult it could be to give up eating those delicious noodles.
  Six o’clock. Lower Court. Located in the lower level of the University Center, which reminds me of the Hidden. Lower Court is much more crowded than the Hidden, and students come with the purpose of seeking companions, not hiding. I choose a seat at the corner of the room. I tell myself not to think about Bac Huong’s noodles but it is impossible for me to do so as in college, spaghetti with beef sauce is the closest to what I used to have in the Hidden. Right now, the cooks are busy making spaghetti, but the way they make it is far different from what Bac Huong did. Spaghetti is already cooked from the kitchen before being placed in a large tray. The sauce is separated from the spaghetti, and each person will serve themselves with the amount of sauce that they want. I am struggling to calculate how much sauce I need for one dish of spaghetti, while Bac Huong always knew exactly how much soy sauce I needed for a bowl of noodles. All the cooks are friendly, but no one can speak Chinese to tease me.
  I learned the hard way that leaving was an essential part of growing up. As I grew up from a teenager, I left my favorite teddy bear in the basement. As I grew to become an adult, I left the Hidden and my favorite noodles in Vietnam. Growing up means that we have to leave things behind so that every time we look back, we will say to ourselves: “Oh, how I miss those good old days!”
  I guess I have to grow up now. I have to grow up from Bac Huong’s noodles and start to live my life here at college.
  I realize that I am still in the process of stepping outside my bubble.

This is a repost of a story we received in December.

In search for the undivided whole.

by Inès Ouedraogo

For my first blog post I wanted to discuss a topic that is taboo in the US culture and even more so in an academic context: pornography. As a PhD student focusing on porn studies I wanted this post to be read as an invitation for a dialogue on the way porn, especially online porn, affects, moves, inspires or confuses people. I will save here the polemical and never-ending debate on pro and anti-porn feminists. My stance is to discuss topics that are taboo specifically because of that, challenge myself and not approach them with a bias.
For today’s entry I thought of combining porn and relationships and how the former affects the latter and vice-versa. Thinking of current day relationships and porn consumption, there are many ways these two interact. Two possibilities are as follows: for some, porn is an opportunity to let go of frustrations and stress and focus on one’s bodily pleasure without being judged. For others, porn can be a way of coping with loneliness and self-experiment.
What follows is a short story that a very close friend of mine shared with me and that raises a number of questions about the dissatisfaction of relationships with men and pornography.

My Relationship with Porn

At least once a month my mother asks me when I am going to give her grandchildren, but she doesn’t understand modern relationships. I go on dates, but half of the time the men are on their phones. I can bring them home and do what people do when they go home together, we can maybe even call that a relationship, but that’s not what my mother wants from me. I am just as close to porn as I am to those men. Porn doesn’t ask me how my day was, and neither do those men. Porn doesn’t call me before they go to sleep— the last man I saw didn’t call me at any time of the day. My mother has this idea of a relationship that I’m not sure exists anymore. Maybe it does. Maybe if I couldn’t satisfy myself through porn I’d be able to “make it work” with men that I’m seeing. What I’m cheating on these men with pornography before I even meet them— hedging my bets. I’m unwilling or unable to stake my satisfaction on one person, so I get a little satisfaction here and a little there. But it doesn’t add up. Maybe four quarters don’t make a whole. Maybe I need one, undivided whole.

Men Do It

By Madison Frilot

Center stage, there is a stool.
Beside it, Chelsea stands under a single fluorescent light bulb with a pull chain,
wearing all black:
a loose shirt that falls sloppily off her shoulder, black jeans,
and tall black stiletto heels.
On the other side of the stool there is a small table.
Lying on top the table is a pack of cigarettes and a crystal ashtray.
The stage is pitch black.
We hear a lighter strike and we watch a cigarette be lit, unable to see anything else.
She then pulls the bulb’s pull chain and stands under it for a moment,
scanning the audience.
She walks to the stool and takes a seat, legs crossed, takes a few short puffs and puts out the cigarette in the ashtray on the table. She returns to her position.

CHELSEA: I have a prophecy. A motto. A golden rule I’d call it. Everyone has one. Or maybe a few. It’s something you live by- values, morals, what have you. Maybe it’s religious, maybe it’s not. Ha. Mine sure isn’t. (beat) But I’ll get to that.

{She takes out another cigarette, lights it, takes a luxurious drag,
dramatically puts it out, and continues.}

Charles? Charles was a stunner- at least top 12 in the looks category, I’d say. A total stunner. He had the lightest blue eyes, they sparked. I swear I could even see my own reflection in them. Muscular, tan skin, and golden locks. I even called him Goldilocks once. (beat) He didn’t like that. He came and went.

{She takes out another cigarette, takes a drag, puts it out.}

Steve wasn’t as… charismatic. But he was cute, and he was there. He was there a couple times actually. Longer than most… But he had this horrible anxious vibe and grew out a weird mustache so I stopped returning his calls.

{She takes out another cigarette, takes a drag,
changes her seating position to something more casual, knees apart,
puts out the cigarette.}

Oh, don’t forget about Jonathan. First black man I’d ever been with.

{She stands up, lights another cigarette, takes a drag and puts it out.
Then she walks across the stage.}

Charlie. He was older. Much older. He moved slower and constantly nagged me- (mocking) “Honey can you hand me my Rogaine?” and I had to repeat myself over and over. I felt as though I was constantly startling him too, and God knows I can’t possibly tone this down so I blocked his number.

{She turns to the table, hastily walks to it,
quickly lights a cigarette, takes a quick drag, puts it out.}

Nicolas had this… this hardness about him. I was attracted to his decisiveness and agency. But then he hit me.

{After a moment of silence
she picks up the pack and takes out a cigarette for every name she mentions,
dropping it to the floor and moving on to the next.}

Tom. Zander. Marcus. Another Tom. Thor. Jenna… I was curious ok? Cameron. Jack- or was it Zack? Billy. Sebastian. Claire- (defensive) Look, I’m no lesbo I just had to make sure. Wyatt. Asian John. White John.

{She holds up the last cigarette left in the pack and walks downstage with it.}

I’ve been called things, sure. Many things. Some men stay longer than others. I prefer a weekend fling to a one-night-stand after all. But that’s only so I can have the time to figure out something wrong with them to avoid wondering. But I’m not looking for love, not me. Men do it. So why can’t I? Are they given shit? Tom #2 told me I was his seventh girl of the week. Because of that, I don’t ask many questions, nor do I answer them. Would you? (rest) They’re like puppies- the more attached you get, the harder it is to ignore their calls.

{Chelsea then walks to the light bulb and swivels back towards the audience.}

I’ll quit smoking the moment I meet a decent fucking man.

{Standing under the bulb, Chelsea lights the last cigarette.
She then pulls the pull chain and lights go out.
She takes a puff and we watch the warm light intensify,
then she walks offstage with the lit cigarette, heels clacking.}

Why Mother’s Day is a Bullshit Exercise in Appreciating Women

By Alice Elbakian

Let me begin by explaining, as best as I can, an eye-opening, world-changing phrase that I learned about only too recently: emotional labor. It’s difficult to pinpoint it in our lives because it includes a myriad of daily tasks that are easily ignored. But broadly construed, emotional labor means caring; it means taking care of whatever needs to be taken care of, or attending to our daily human and social responsibilities. It encompasses actions and tasks that are necessary for living an independent, functional human life. Typical chores of a housewife come to mind: cooking, cleaning, tending to children. But more importantly, emotional labor applies to the concealed logistics of these tasks: it’s not just cooking, it’s discerning what and when to feed everyone that you cook for according to their dietary and nutritional needs. It’s not just cleaning, it’s being able to tell what needs to be cleaned, or fixed, or replaced, and then doing the needful. It isn’t just driving your children to school, it’s helping them to get ready in the morning, and then listening and speaking with them about their day once they’ve come home.

Emotional labor goes beyond the common strife of housewives in ways that are probably more relevant to the lives of all you people reading. It’s is advising your guy friend for the millionth time about a girl who just does not, and will probably never like him back. It’s being the one roommate who changes the toilet paper and replaces the garbage bag when it’s full. It’s being the one in your partnership who plans social events and actually entertains and interacts with the guests who are kind enough to attend. It’s being the one who chooses, buys, and wraps all the presents, and writes the heartfelt cards to match for special occasions. Emotional labor even includes reminding others of their obligations, like telling your forgetful dad when your mother’s birthday is, or worse yet, the date of their anniversary. If it feels like work and you’re not getting paid for it, it’s probably emotional labor.

Why did I bring this up? Emotional labor is gendered: women are overwhelmingly the ones who are burdened with the stress of emotional labor. Given the large scope of daily tasks and responsibilities that constitute emotional labor, the fact that it’s gendered is a huge problem. Well, for half of the population anyway.

If you’re not on board with me so far, you may be tempted to say that women should just shut up and stop their whining. Sending out a reminder to your partner about their next doctor’s appointment is a task the size of a text message, certainly not a “burden.” Sure, maybe the one visible part of this one example from a whole day’s worth of work takes the form of a single text message. But this ignores the fact that it takes effort, focus, and attention to willingly and extemporaneously consider your partner, and their health, and their next doctor’s appointment, and it takes even more effort, focus, and attention to remember their appointment for them, to know that we will have to remind them, and finally to actually do the task of reminding them. How can women have their own full lives if they’re spending all of this mental and emotional energy on people who can’t do basic tasks for themselves?

Emotional labor is for the most part invisible because it focuses a lot on planning and taking others into consideration, which all goes on in our minds. We all know how taxing it is to keep track of all of our obligations and daily tasks at once, and most of us only do these things for ourselves, without the added burden of performing emotional labor for other people. People are a lot to be responsible for. And it’s true that in most cases, nobody is holding a gun to our heads and forcing us to do things like send out reminders. But women are expected to do so nonetheless. And if we don’t, you’ll probably forget your appointment, and then blame us for not reminding you.

So emotional labor is work that needs to get done but that nobody wants to do, and women are primarily the ones who end up buckling down and getting it done. We hardly notice or even count what women do as actual work. For these reasons, being a woman also means being taken for granted, daily. Don’t believe me? Go ask your mom. Women are the ass-wipers and tooth-brushers of the world. We’ve convinced ourselves, and have therefore grown comfortable with telling ourselves, that women just are the ones to do these things.

We might believe this for any number of reasons. Some people believe women perform emotional labor because they’re supposed to, or they’re just naturally better at it. Either one of those reasonings makes you a sexist prick. If you act as though you are entitled to women’s time, energy, focus, and attention, this is likely the problematic line of thought from which you operate. Work is work for everyone. Being “better” at something doesn’t mean we actually want to do it, or that we should do it more than anyone else does. And, surprise-surprise, getting good at something is a direct consequence of repeated practice. It has nothing to do with natural ability, and certainly not when the task in question is basic caring and taking on responsibility.

Others believe women perform the bulk of emotional labor because “they’re just nice enough to do it.” No. It’s not an issue of kindness, it’s doing what needs to be done and that means staying calm enough to put up with your bullshit. For example, do I want to be the one in my relationship who changes the sheets for the twelfth time in a row? No. Will I? Yes, but not because I’m being nice, rather because these sheets that my partner and I both sleep on are clearly dirty and need to be laundered, and in order for that to happen, they need to be taken off the bed, and when that happens, new sheets need to go on for sleeping.

“Why can’t you just ask your partner to change the sheets for once?” I could, but that doesn’t actually do much to address the problems for women like me or problems of emotional labor in general. Ironically, it would be a further expenditure of my emotional labor to teach my partner about bedding and sheet hygiene, for instance. Shouldn’t an adult know that by now? Do you want to know the secret to adulting? Performing emotional labor. Being responsible for things that you don’t want to be responsible for, but doing them anyway because they need to be done; because you owe it to yourself and the people around you to meet the basic requirements expected of you as a human being so that someone else doesn’t have to pick up your sack of slack, because it is a very heavy and unnecessary sack at that. The point of emotional labor is that you find it within yourself to care, and you take initiative. It is unfair that I should be burdened with even more emotional labor for trying to get someone else, my “partner”, to do the bare minimum.

Second of all, knowing if and when the sheets need to be changed is half of the emotional labor of changing sheets. If I’m going to tell him every time it’s time to change the sheets, I may as well save myself the headache and aggravation and hire a scheduled maid, or just do it myself, since I can’t afford a maid. There’s a pattern to heterosexual relationships: it starts with man-children who never learned to perform emotional labor on their own, probably because their mothers did it for them and they never bothered to learn because they didn’t acknowledge their mother’s work as work in the first place. Then – best case scenario – the man-child conveniently puts in just enough emotional labor in the beginning stages of courtship to reel women into this unbalanced relationship dynamic. Ah, so you do know what’s expected of you, you just stop doing it once you’ve won your prize. Then, the women in the relationship are tasked with raising their own adopted man-child to reach the basic standards of human functioning so that they may now apparently be considered worth their time and effort in the first place. I’m exhausted just imagining that. No wonder so many women simply prefer to be single.

It seems like there are a few options to get away from this kind of pattern, whether in a romantic relationship or not. The one that I suspect is on most peoples’ minds is to get the heck out of that relationship. Friend, boyfriend, family member, doesn’t matter. Just end it. There are some cases where women do have the opportunity to end their role as the free-ride-providing camels of life. We hear and read a lot about ending toxic relationships, cutting ties with people who demand too much of our valuable time and attention without reciprocating much, if anything, of their own. Maybe in some relationships it is possible to walk away like this. Ladies, if you’re his mother more than his girlfriend, friend, or whoever you actually are, if he’s not showing any signs of growth, if you have to pull teeth to get him to do for you what you do for him, dump his ass. Let it be a lesson to yourself in self-respect.

But of course things aren’t so easy and there are complications with this fix. What about women who don’t want to be alone but are sick of investing the necessary emotional labor to keep their relationships afloat, only to finally learn once more what they’ve already learned from all the men before? How much longer should we pretend that the problem is women’s standards instead of men’s behavior? [1]

So walking away from a relationship still has problems attached. It will only succeed in lucky cases, which are mainly romantic relationships and perhaps friendships. For a lot of women – and this is especially true for working, lower, and lower-middle class, colored, and/or multicultural women – the option of leaving the relationship really isn’t there. For example, cutting ties with family members who need you isn’t a “suck it up and do it” kind of thing. Families rely heavily on mothers and daughters to complete tasks ranging everywhere from filing taxes and balancing the checkbook, to picking up and caring for younger siblings after school, to the strenuous task of planning meals for a diabetic in the family. Most of these families would fall apart without the women there to do what they do.

Indeed, statistics show that widowers are 30 % more likely to die than widows (Ferness, 2012). This is likely because without women to care for them, widowers suffer in both their emotional and physical health, and without anyone to maintain their social lives for them, they suffer with no support system. This also explains why widowers are three times more likely than widows to remarry after losing their spouse. (Isaacs, 2015) Men literally die without us there to care for them, because they don’t know how to take care of themselves.

A few things should be relatively clear by now: emotional labor is work that is necessary for maintaining human relationships and a functional life, it is work that is primarily performed by women for both themselves and others around them, and it is work that, if performed by women, is not acknowledged as work at all. [2] I’ve offered a handful of examples and a couple of statistics that show the extent to which men and families are reliant on women and on the emotional labor that they perform. If there were any doubts about it until now, it should be an easy, albeit unpleasant pill to swallow that we are aware of all of the daily labor that women perform, but we seldom acknowledge or consider it as work.

Mother’s Day, then, seems like the perfect holiday for someone like me. How could a feminist oppose a holiday devoted to celebrating some of the hardest working women on the planet? Without saying so, Mother’s Day seems to exclusively focus on the emotional labor of being a mother. Some Mother’s Day celebrations involve performing emotional labor for our mothers while we give them a break, such as preparing breakfast in bed. Other activities serve to finally acknowledge her labor, like writing her a heartfelt card confessing how much we appreciate her and all the little things that she does for us. Still, other activities relieve her of the emotional labor that otherwise would have been expected of her on this day, such as when we gift her a “day off” with something like a mani-pedi or a movie marathon.

I like Mother’s Day in that it focuses on women and honors the impossible task of being a mother. I don’t have a problem with any of these activities. Do treat your mom however she likes to be treated, because she probably deserves it. Do not, however, delude yourself into thinking that this one day of appreciation sufficiently makes up for an entire year (and lifetime) of invisible, unacknowledged, and likely unreciprocated labor.

I certainly have a problem with people who treat Mother’s Day as a one-off holiday. This is on some level a personal decision, and therefore the people making it are at fault and are to blame more so than the name of a particular day. But my problem with Mother’s Day first of all, is that in virtue of being one of the only holidays that acknowledges emotional labor, it attributes all of this kind of labor to mothers only, when in fact most women in general perform emotional labor. Where is their holiday? Moreover, since emotional labor is the responsibility of everyone, let’s stop gendering celebrations of it. Even if the U.S. officially recognized International Women’s Day, we would still end up celebrating emotional labor as part of being a woman. Wrong message. We love that you want to thank us for doing this stuff for you. But if you really want to show appreciation, start doing this stuff for yourself.

My second problem with Mother’s Day is that is allows us to believe that the appreciation that our mothers and other women deserve can be squeezed into one day. We think that because we have this designated day, then on other days it’s not important that we show any (or much) appreciation; we don’t need to help them or lessen their burden on any other day. In assigning ourselves this one day out of 365 to acknowledge, appreciate, and most importantly, reciprocate our mothers’ work, we tacitly absolve ourselves of what is actually a daily responsibility to not only our mothers, but likely all the women in our lives.

If you’re thinking, “This isn’t me, I appreciate my mom on a daily basis”, I’m not doubting that you do. I am doubting however that you even realized how much she does for you and others, and therefore I’m doubting that you’ve shown her the adequate level of appreciation and reciprocation that she deserves, since you probably didn’t have the full story beforehand. I’m also doubting that you realized that women who aren’t mothers perform similarly large and stressful amounts of emotional labor for friends and partners who stay silent about their appreciation, assuming that they aren’t an entitled asshole. Emotional labor deserves daily recognition in virtue of being performed daily. And sheer acknowledgement is only one step up the hill. An important one, but still only one step.

I suspect that part of the reason it’s convenient to hold Mother’s Day annually is because it takes effort, and is perhaps difficult, to show someone that you care about them. It takes more effort to show how much you care when you have more reasons to care and more love to give, because you have so much to thank her for, and so many ways of doing so. But if this emotional labor is so hard, and if our mothers and other women don’t get to take a break the other 364 days a year, then neither should we. Mother’s Day is the only day of the year that we can finally put some name or understanding to what exactly our mothers and other women do for us, daily. But now with the phrase “emotional labor”, we can identify and reciprocate this work year round—for any and all women who deserve it, not just our mothers.

So the next time you celebrate Mother’s Day and feel proud of yourself for sending your mom a fragrant bouquet of roses with a spa voucher strategically slipped in, do your mom one better and actually make a difference in her daily life: if there’s something you can and should be doing for yourself instead of having her do it for you – and there probably is – then don’t wait for Mother’s Day, own up and accept your own responsibility. The same goes for any girlfriend or partner. Educate your lazy little brother (or father!) about what emotional labor is, and tell him to get his act together because your mom (or you) deserves better. Heck, maybe it’s your sisters who managed to escape the load of emotional labor, in which case they could learn a thing or two also. Tell your mom that you appreciate it when she does your laundry for you. And then learn how to do your laundry yourself because you are a grown ass adult. Your mom is not a personal laundry-doer. If your girlfriend does any of this for you, you owe her a paycheck and also probably much better sex.

Perform more emotional labor for yourself so that your mother and the other women in your life can have their own lives. No, scratch that, perform emotional labor for yourself because that is what is expected of you as a human. But also, don’t disrespect your mom and the other women in your life by making your problems and your daily tasks their responsibility. Women have their own lives, too. If you find yourself performing copious amounts of emotional labor with no reward, I urge you to demand the acknowledgement and reciprocation that you deserve. Take note of who stays and who goes.

 

[1] There are of course women who do not perform emotional labor, and this would cause similar problems in homosexual relationships, but since women generally do perform emotional labor, as we are socialized to learn it and perform it, it’s more likely that this is an issue that applies to heterosexual couples and possibly homosexual male couples.

[2] What I mean by this, is that people will jump at the opportunity to acknowledge and praise men for doing the bare minimum, but offer nothing to women. This is because the task is expected of women but not of men, despite the task’s status as ordinary and non-gendered. For example, a father who braids his child’s hair or cleans his home is likely to be acknowledged and admired. A woman who does the same is a prop that fades into its rightful surrounding.

“Daddy Issues”

As a “daughter of a father” I sometimes think it would be hard to understand men, what they want, and why they behave the way they do, if I didn’t have one. I can understand when the daughters of gay parents (moms) — or in the seriously unfortunate cases where dads end up in jail, leave, or die — find it hard to make sense of them. I get that it can be hard to imagine they would have wants, needs, and boundaries similar to those women have, but you know, they’re people too.

Tati, tata, baba, papa, daddy, dad, father, whatever you call him, it is personal. The devolution of “daddy” to a taboo can attest to this. Over the summer, I was talking to my dad while we made the drive to and from my sister’s college in New York City. The trip was long, and I’m sure it made him more aware than ever that he was losing the women in his life that allowed him to function at an unhealthy intensity at work. You will later see why without us it would not only have been unnecessary, but impossible. We talked about a lot, though most of it was redundant and distressing because it clearly lacked any release. Slowly, I began to realize that his incessant criticism about the way people act was dictated by the priorities society encouraged him to accept. Socializing for what seemed to be the sake of talking was reserved for women, or my mom in particular, and his only job was to work in order to take care of his family (parents, wife, and kids — brothers when he feels like being generous.) Speaking to anyone needed good reasons: sharing political ideas, health, information, business, connections, formalities. Of course, these weren’t invariable missions he set out on as he initiated any conversation, but they were definitely reverberating in the back of his mind.

To him, my mom helping her brother by letting him live with us and finding him a job didn’t make any sense, and wasn’t worth it because her brother was ungrateful. But, my dad knows how women work. Even though he’d constantly remind her that giving anything without foresight wasn’t right, he expected her to “act out.” It didn’t stop there. His degree in economics couldn’t be wasted, so he would analyze each relationship to measure how much they’d cost. In this case he owed my uncle nothing except resentment. He would never communicate to someone who “wronged” him because he was sure they were aware of how they were impacting and insulting him. Additionally, they were easily discarded, because they weren’t part of the work/family deal he signed up for. This would happen with people in and out of the family, and he would act as though it didn’t affect his mental health. I was slightly infuriated by his inability to see the intrinsic value of relationships — that can’t be quantified by ideas or knowledge or money or power, but as a woman I was taught to be tactful in these circumstances. I turned to look at him, and I think I was the first to ever ask him sincerely, “Are you happy?” Seconds ago a flaming rage filled the car, but now I was answered with the chill of silence.

The more distance I have from home, the more objectively I can see these situations. My dad’s personal views about how my mom generally handled things shaped the way I view what is considered “feminine.” Because he was both an expert at assuming the dominant and more knowledgeable role, and because she survived on submission, my views were shaped in such a way that I equated femininity with weakness, passivity, lower intelligence, and being overly nurturing (to the point of neglecting yourself.) More importantly, I saw that he deplored of every one of those qualities. I never hated women, especially not my mom, but I did hate what it meant to be feminine.

I wasn’t the only one. As an adolescent, everyone around me seemed to suddenly start hating pink, admiring heartless “Sherlock” characters, judging based on intelligence and aggression (throwback to king of the hill,) and acting as if they were ok with the fleeting relationships they felt they had with people. Yes, the “I hate pink” phase has faded, yes, we have begun to tell men to “embrace their emotional side,” and yes, some have begun to realize how unrealistic and destructive it is to glorify Sherlock characters. Yet, I fear we are still holding on to the tainted ideas that we should welcome feminism by embracing masculinity and rejecting femininity.

I don’t know about you, but “fierce” and “black woman” have nearly become synonyms in my mind for reasons I’m pretty upset about. Among them is that it’s a reminder that they’re too vocal, that it’s surprising they have shit to say, and that whatever they’re doing is abnormal. I don’t know about you, but I still have problems figuring out how to dress, and rarely consider putting on makeup. This is not for fear of promiscuity, because lucky for me that’s not something I’ve internalized (is it because I haven’t been harassed enough or my weight issues? you tell me,) but for looking too “girly” to be taken seriously. I don’t know about you, but I still feel pride knowing I’ve worked myself too hard today or didn’t sleep yesterday. I don’t know about you, but I’m not sure anyone else is more anxious when talking about their feelings than our own generation. In this instance I’m comparing my current experience with my experience in an isolated region of the Balkans, in addition to what I’ve heard coaches say about the 80’s and 90’s. Both tend to be behind in the social scene, but in neither case would people feel awkward saying “I love you” or showing affection in any way. Note: talking about feelings is not the same as sharing personal information, which we tend to do instead. People here and now are more guarded, and superficial things like social media and “hook-up culture” endures, despite everyone being aware of the caveats. Wouldn’t you rather scroll mindlessly through twitter than even attempt to make plans that likely require ridiculous coordination, time spent away from work you should be doing, anxiety about whether you’re worth spending time with, and probably more money than you’d prefer to spend? We are desperately searching for ways to be ok with the deterioration of long-term relationships, and mostly what we have right now is detachment.

What I didn’t realize while marinating in my indignation in the car with my dad, was that women adapted to be exactly what men needed them to be while they were setting out to meet society’s demands of them. For one thing, wives are the single person they are bound to. The single relationship they are obligated to maintain  which should, according to game theory, indicate an optimization of social welfare. Both parties seeking to maximize each other’s outcome to ensure the relationship remains perpetual. Women are not weak, passive, stupid, emotional, or nurturing by nature, but when the only priorities your partner has in life are to work and support the family, the things holding them together are the perceptions that they are strong, aggressive, smart, emotionless, and don’t need support. The same dynamic that may occur in gay relationships leads ignorant people to ask “who is the ‘man’ of the house?” Under the right conditions, these role fulfillment expectations perpetuate themselves. The delicate illusion that gender is related at all to intrinsic qualities continues to wear thin as feminism rises. No gender can be happy with these fundamentally flawed molds they’re expected to adapt to, and moving past them shouldn’t be questioned. But, listen to teachers when they tell you the movement began when women joined the workforce. The implications are significant, because right now we are all facing these ridiculous expectations and have no one to properly fill the shoes of the feminine role — with only a partial exception of pets (insert Rick and Morty reference here.) We can’t forget to analyze what was effective, what wasn’t, and why this discrimination emerged the way it did. Otherwise, we can easily fall into patterns of the past.

Seriously, it’s NOT about the nail.

This video is a pretty accurate representation of how many people explain the differences between men and women in society and why relationships fail.

Interpersonal communication can often be simplified into three different types, depending on one’s goal. There are task oriented, relationship oriented, and image oriented. Often communication between two people will be a combination of the three goals. Research has shown that the cause for miscommunications in a romantic heterosexual relationship is frequently a result of men and women having different goals. While men typically communicate in a task-oriented manner, women are more likely to communicate in a relationship-oriented manner.

In the Youtube video, “It’s not about the nail”, the couple demonstrates an occurrence of miscommunication where the male is seeing the woman as posing a task that she wants him to provide a solution for. He is viewing her communication as task oriented, when it is instead relationship oriented. As a result the woman becomes upset, the man does not understand what he is doing wrong, and nothing is solved.

Jason Headley portrays the subject in a light, humorous way: “Understand this and you’ll save your relationship”. The about section reads:

“Don’t try to fix it. I just need you to listen.” Every man has heard these words. And they are the law of the land. No matter what.”

The video reinforces the stereotype of women acting one way, and men acting the other. It sends the message that women are crazy, and men just accept this if they want t0 keep their relationship. At the end of the video, the man is still not listening, only nodding and agreeing with her so she’ll be happy.

I’d previously had a teacher send me this video and explain how accurate he found it to be about relationships. The teacher was aware that I was involved with this blog and thought I would be interested in it. I was glad the teacher had linked me to this video, but couldn’t stand the video itself. I proceeded to discuss the video for a good two hours with the teacher where I tried to explain why this video is such a poor example, however even after discussing it in extreme detail I don’t believe I made much headway.

The issue with videos like this one is that it stresses gender essentialism. The issue with the communication between this couple can not be reduced to the stereotype that all men think this one way and that all women think this other way. Miscommunication is clearly occurring in this conversation as a result of neither party understanding the goal and mindset behind the other’s comments, but should not solely be explained because one is a man and one is a woman.

I personally have had frequent conversations very similar to this one, where neither person could understand where the other was coming from. This miscommunication has occurred with men and women of a variety of ages. In some of the cases I’ve been the one saying “remove the nail” and in others I’ve been the one saying “don’t try to fix it, I just need you to listen”.

Dear Society,
Stop trying to reduce people to one gender role. Let people communicate how they want to. Maybe instead of simplifying someone into their gender category, you should focus on what they are trying to say.

Isn’t it about time?

It’s not about the nail, but it’s also not about gender and if you go with either mindset there’s never going to be successful communication.