thoughts on empathy and the UVA Rolling Stone scandal

So three guys are suing Rolling Stone for its false article.

Inaccurate journalism? Libel? Bad, bad. Yes, I agree. Bad things.

What I don’t quite understand is the outrage I see from UVA students (especially women) over the whole thing. God forbid our school be tarnished, right?

It would be a major bummer to be in a frat at the University of Virginia and also to be a white, straight male and then have someone accuse you of rape. That would be bad shit.

This would suck: “upon release of the article, family friends, acquaintances, co-workers and reporters easily matched ____ as one of the alleged attackers and, among other things, interrogated him, humiliated him, and scolded him.”

HE GOT SCOLDED.

Give me $75,000 for that, please, please. I need it. I was in a frat at UVA.

You know what would also suck?

Getting raped.

Major bummer.

Oh man but that girl who lied about her story or wait got her story confused or maybe didn’t want the final story to go to press — that girl was a bad person! How dare she lie! We hate her for ruining our reputations. For her words leading to us being SCOLDED. Fuck that girl.

I wonder what it would feel like to be so, so sad that you would talk to a complete fucking stranger and make up something absolutely horrific just to be heard? Say that you were gang raped just so someone could hear your voice? So that one person could connect with you for one second, so that a single human could say, “it’s going to be okay.”

That would probably feel worse than being scolded.

But what do I know.

I’m sorry y’all’s rep got tarnished for no fault of your own. Maybe when you sign up to be a frat boy that just comes with the territory. Maybe “you’ll probably be accused of rape” should be required rush reading. But maybe for one tiny second, just a milli-second you could pull your collective heads out of your privileged asses and not care what people think.

Stop giving a shit what those damn SCOLDERS are saying.

Think about the girl who cried rape. Think about what would make someone do that.

Think about rape. Your girlfriend probably has. Probably more than you even know. Ask her about it. Are you too scared to?

Maybe instead of directing $75,000 into the pockets of your chubbies you could direct a little bit of empathy to rape victims. To people who have suffered real hurt. Start a group for them. Show support. Be bigger than the false accusations.

Just a suggestion.

small things

You can’t walk outside in a Charleston July and not expect to be covered, immediately, with a layer of perspiration. Human dew: tiny rivers of sweat, starting at your thick-haired scalp and running, rapidly, to rest on your lower back, at times swimming down your legs to meet between your toes. “Hello fellow river of sweat!” “Hello!”

It’s the humidity. When I was home in Virginia last month I was hot, melting into the kiddie pool of ice water I’d dragged onto my dock. My dogs licked at me, slowly, as if they didn’t really care one way or the other. A little sunscreen in that lick, some elbow sweat in that one, whatever.

But the humidity is different there. It’s not as heavy. I felt vulnerable in that Virginia sun. It felt hard and sharp compared to the warm haze of Charleston’s orange globe. I missed walking through that fog. I complain about the heat because that’s a human thing that we do and it’s how we make small talk with people in line at the grocery. But I love it.

Emma Louise and I were walking in our neighborhood this morning, turning tentatively down new streets. We haven’t gotten our bearings yet. Our morning walks are endless sniffs and many u-turns. They are, without sidewalks, stepping into yards while large boat-hauling trucks pass. I give the two finger wave of acknowledgement that I’ve watched my father offer for years. Minus the deep ditches, the large fields, and the chorus of hunting dogs barking in unison, these streets are kind of like the ones I grew up on.

Emma and I are looking for water. She may not know that, but I don’t think she would mind if I told her. “Emma Louise our goal on these walks is to find the water. One morning, if we’re lucky, we will find a small muddy beach, and that will be our spot.”

We’ve found water. No muddy beaches. Yet.

I carry a coffee mug on my morning dog walks. Half of it ends up on my forearms and hands, burning at first and then just feeling like warm water. I get home with a small puddle of cool coffee in the bottom of a mug. I’m lucky if I get a couple sips. I like the idea of coffee on a walk, though. So I will always carry it.

I have been going to yoga a lot lately, trying to get in a certain number of classes in a certain number of days. These are my challenges at 24. At 21 I was trying to build a wizard staff as high as my head. Throwing up into a trashcan at the end of the night, I wondered how life changes, what pushes you as you grow older.

All of this yoga makes me stand up taller. It makes me take deep, deep breaths before I jump to conclusions. It centers me. It throws me off balance. You know, all of the yin and yang of life. That’s what headstands will do to you.

In yoga, we practice forgiveness. We forgive ourselves when we fall, hard, out of forearm stands. We forgive our hips when our legs won’t split any further. We forgive ourselves when we miss a yoga class because we were too hungover. Two days in a row.

In the summer I throw myself forward: what will I do this weekend and then next weekend and how much fun can I possibly have.

So much smaller than all of that is the Spanish moss that falls to the ground at the base of the trees on which it hangs.

Today, I will try to remember small things.

My nine days on Tinder

I downloaded Tinder — a dating app, referred to by my mother as “the sex app” — last Wednesday. Last Tuesday afternoon I heard that I may get to interview Aziz Ansari for his upcoming book tour. The tour stops in Charleston tomorrow. I have not heard from Aziz. I still think of him fondly.

Aziz wrote this piece for Time magazine. I read these words: “In this sense, Tinder actually isn’t so different from what our grandparents did. Nor is it all that different from what one friend of mine did, using online dating to find someone Jewish who lived nearby. In a world of infinite possibilities, we’ve cut down our options to people we’re attracted to in our neighborhood.” And I downloaded Tinder.

I can’t say this is my first time downloading the little square with the swirly cut-out of a flame (how suggestive). I had Tinder one Tuesday many months ago. I was at my old job, bored, and lonely. I remember that it was a Tuesday because I have a draft in my blogs titled “Tinder Tuesdays.” I got a few messages, I didn’t quite understand how to swipe yes and no. I deleted it and breathed a sigh of relief.

And then Aziz re-inspired me. Is that a thing? Well, it happened. I have had Tinder for nine days. Before I continue, I’ll share the stats.

Matches: 180.

Messages to which I did not respond: 34.

Messages to which I responded (noting that I already knew one of the matches, we’re friends): 15.

Messages I initiated: 1.

Favorite message: “Do you want to bring me some bojangles? I’m too hungover to get out of bed. Nothing sexual (I’m not a whore) just two people eating breakfast in bed.” July 5, 12:10 p.m.

Dates I’ve been on: 2.

Guys who I gave my phone number to: 3.

Number of guys I think I will date because of the dating app Tinder: 0.

I haven’t deleted it yet. I’m security-blanketing the shit out of it. Ego booster and all that. But, really, it is such a silly thing. My two dates are example enough. They were perfectly nice guys! We may even hang out again. But I still, I don’t know … I just want to meet someone in person. In real life, if you will.

Last night I was sitting at a bar waiting for date number two. The bartender and I talked for a solid ten minutes and I think I fell in love with him. That — that’s so much better than Tinder. I looked at him wistfully for the rest of the evening. He’s a decent bit older than I am and I’m fairly certain he has a girlfriend. But those ten minutes … man, that’s better than staring at my phone.

Which is what I’ve been doing. For hours. My battery keeps dying. I say things out loud like “you look like a terrible person.” (Pro tip: including these lines in your bio, “you need to keep me interested” and “you better keep up” is patronizing and chauvinistic and I have serious doubts about the number of fucking “adventures” you’ve been on). I have never in my life seen so many guys who just want to go on an adventure.

At first I had a lot of matches. I was new, I saw a lot of new faces. And then I ran out. I ran out of people in my area! Is that even possible? Is that sad? How much fucking time was I spending swiping?

I started to feel a pang of sadness when I swiped yes to a boy and in the split second afterward the screen that says “you matched and your existence has been validated” didn’t pop up. “Oh,” I sighed, “he doesn’t like me.”

He also doesn’t know me, but that gets lost in the shuffle.

I believe, wholeheartedly, in doing whatever you please to please yourself. If online dating is your thing and from it you’ve found fun, or a partner, or a bunch of free meals, then hoorah! Keep at it. But it feels unnatural to me. I am so phone-obsessed and also, often, human-obsessed (please see: falling immediately in love with strangers). Why combine the two?

If the rest of my life is composed of ten minute spurts of pony-tailed bartenders leaning in close, I honestly don’t know if I could complain. There’s something romantic there. Fleeting, yes, but more powerful than any “Hey,” “Let’s hook up,” “What’s your dog’s name,” or “Are you a twin?” could ever be.

Over-pour me a beer sample, bartending lovers of the world. We’ll get along just fine.

Love is love is love

I’m going through an I-love-Charleston so much phase. I think it’s a convergence of everything in my life : I moved to a beautiful new house on James Island (you don’t have to be downtown), I love my job (over and over again), and I am free and single and mingling on at least two online dating sites (which I know I’ll get sick of, tomorrow). But for now! In this very moment things are coming up roses.

I question my happiness. Is it the Fourth of July? In the face of the Emanuel AME tragedy I cannot find an excuse for my joy. Their sorrow is not my sorrow. But how badly I want their happiness to be mine.

I cringe at the word “martyr” used to describe the victims. I cry sometimes. Did they want that?

My last Fourth of July was good, until a point. And then. It was very bad.

So this year, I wonder, do I celebrate all that I have — do I mourn all that has been taken from me? And what of those who have nothing left? Those who could God bless America if America gave a shit?

Maybe I’m being dramatic. Again, what do I know. I drank a beer on my back steps i tonight (I have a yard!) and watched my sweet Emma run around. My life, as I’ve always said, is so small. But I cannot ignore what is big, what is there. What can my words do?

I hope that I can interview Aziz Ansari soon. That autocorrects to AZIZ ANSARI because I maybe told all my friends that I was interviewing him.

It has yet to be confirmed.

He wrote this book about love and it focuses on how our generation aka millennials find it.

That’s why I joined Tinder (ok and fucking bumble too). Because AZIZ said that it was like saying hi to a hot guy in your neighborhood. Sort of.

Love is love is love. I tell myself this a lot. It was so appropriate last Friday — bravo equal rights! But I think it applies to everything in life. If I’ve met you, I probably love you. I apolo gize for the inconvenience, but that’s just how I operate.

I won’t get anything from these dating sites. I will move on to real humans. I will say farewell to matches. I will trust a friend to hook it up (hi Georgia, hi Stewart, I miss y’all) and I will march on. But I won’t give up on connection.

Is that what I seek? Virtual or real life?

Connection. I’m young enough to hope for it and too old not imagine it won’t be there.