My new internet policy

My desire to be informed is at direct odds with my desire to stay sane. I’m paraphrasing a comic I’ve seen around, but the sentiment rings true. What some people might not know about me, or might forget about me, is that I have pretty severe depression. Not the kind that makes me unable to get out of bed, but the kind where if I don’t take my medication, I get suicidal thoughts creeping through my brain.

It’s especially bad during the winter, at least when I live in Chicago. It still was present when I lived in Atlanta, but it wasn’t as severe.

These past few months have been full of anxiety and stress and depression, and Facebook wasn’t doing me any favors. I’ve taken a week or two off of Facebook, and it’s made me feel better. Lots better. I’ll not leave it entirely anytime soon, because that’s how I keep in touch with a number of friends and family. And I will be coming back in a bit, but it won’t be the same.

I’ve decided that I’ll only look at it when I’m at home, when I have a browser that can use the FBPurity browser extension — something that lets me filter by keyword and source. I’ve already started configuring it to block the fear-mongering and fake news sites. I may have snuck onto FB to read through a few things here and there, to see how I handled it before I said anything about coming back.

It’s really important for me to focus on the positive. If I wanted to be melodramatic, I’d say it was a matter of life and death, but to be even-keeled about it, it’s a matter of okay and suicidal. I’m not being melodramatic when I use that s-word. I swear on the soul of my grandmother that I’ve got no interest in acting on those thoughts, but I also swear that it’s a really damn miserable way to feel and live. I have to take care of myself if I can be able to take care of anyone else.

So I won’t be (re)posting, (re)tweeting, or otherwise putting up any content that isn’t either original to me, or somehow positive/encouraging/thoughtful/expressive. (I reserve the right to post about my issues and random bullshit, lol.) If something makes me feel anxious, I’m going to filter it out, because I have to. I’m doing it because I want to still be around to like your pictures and posts about dinner and puppies and dates and birthdays and kids and babies and wine and coffee and all that other great and amazing stuff that’s just a part of our daily lives.

Yes, the state of our country is incredibly important to me. But if I want to be around to see it turn back around, I’ve got to take care of myself. I can’t stress that enough, mostly because I’m afraid that people might be tempted to judge me and say that I’m complicit or compliant or indifferent or any other number of horrible things.

Stay safe. Stay sane. Stay alive.

The story of my hair

When I was a baby, my hair was very blonde. It grew into golden ringlets when I was a toddler.

I have very early memories of having to duck my head under a sink every morning, to wet my head and take the frizz out of my curls.

It started to go darker as I got older, and it did it in streaks, which it continued to do until it was a full brown. For my early childhood years, I had chameleon hair – it was blonde ringlets and brown waves all at once. The darker it got, the straighter it got, and it did it in bits and pieces.

My mother was fond of putting my hair into two very tight braids, right behind my ears. I hated the braids because they were always uncomfortably tight, but also because whenever she was angry, she used them like they were handles – something she could grab and drag me around with.

My grandma (my father’s mother) wanted to try to help keep my hair curly, so she would take me to a hairdresser and get it cut shorter, to see if having less weight on it would help it stay curly. At least, that’s what she told me; in retrospect, I wonder if she was trying to keep my mother from grabbing me by the hair. The problem was that whenever I came back home with short hair, it would make my mother incredibly angry, and that never ended well for me.

But my mother also missed my baby curls; her solution was cheap home perms, which invariably went about as well as those things ever do. Which is to say, I spent a few months/years with a mess of horribly frizzy hair. Combine that with braces and big 80’s glasses, and that makes for some hysterically awful pictures of me as a child.

My hair was always something that other people fought over. I daydreamed about cutting it all off; I wondered if that would help it grow back in with curls.

By the time I was in high school, my hair was past my shoulders. It was brown with the occasional natural highlights, and while mostly straight, it had a tendency to get wavy/stringy. It’s always been very thin and fine, like baby hair.

My first paying job was as the shampoo girl in a fancy hair salon downtown. I got really good at washing hair and giving head massages. But I also got really good free haircuts. That was the first time I chose to cut my hair above-the-ears short. It was short on the sides and back, but longer on top, which let my hair get back some of a springy wave.

When I met my first girlfriend, we both had a fair amount of hair; while we were dating, she buzzed it all off, which I thought was awesome. But it was one night not long after that, that we were threatened on the street by some homophobes who called us names. We ran, and weren’t hurt, but that incident left a deep imprint on me.

When I was in college, I cut it chin-length and started dyeing it, and my hair — still thin and baby fine — didn’t really like that.

And then,  one fateful day in 1998 when I was living in Atlanta, I started to dye my hair while I was watching a movie. I got distracted and left the dye on too long. My hair was fried. It was done. For a few weeks I tried everything – hot oil conditioners, protein treatments, everything. No matter what I did, it was breaking off and falling out and would crackle when it moved.

That’s when I first decided to buzz my off. I bought a wig then, too, with the intent of wearing it until it all grew out. (Side note: it was a terrible wig, looked horrible on me, and I had no idea how to take care of them.) But the man I was dating at the time, bless him, said I was so damn hot without hair, and that gave my insecure self courage to keep it that way. Women in grocery stores would tell me how great it looked, and how they envied me: it kept me cooler in the heat of Atlanta and was the ultimate no-maintenance ‘do. Just wash’n’go.

But the response wasn’t all positive.

One day, two teenage girls behind me in a store were snickering at me; I whirled on them and said, “Have you never heard of the effects of chemotherapy?” They stopped, gaped, and I think one of them looked like she was about to cry. I turned around and left without another word. No, I didn’t have cancer, but I wanted them to think twice the next time they tried to judge a woman without hair. I’d already had plenty of women with head scarves tell me they envied my courage, and couldn’t wait until their lost hair had grown back.

One night, when a friend of mine was drunk, he started calling me a skinhead and a nazi, and wouldn’t drop the accusations. We never spoke again. I would get some nasty stares from strangers, but I was never sure if it was because of my hair or the birthmark on my neck (the one that people sometimes think is a hickey).

I’m still not sure what some people on the street are thinking when they look at me with abject horror or disgust, but it’s always been clear that people have strong opinions about the appearances of strangers, especially when hair is involved.

There were times when I would try to grow my hair out, and in the early 2000s it got down past my chin again. It varied in lengths, but I noticed that whenever I got upset or scared about something, I would have the urge to cut it all off again; I felt safer with no hair because it meant that no one could grab me by the hair again. Not that I was in a position where anyone I knew would grab my hair, but this is just one of the remnants of my abusive childhood. The scared little girl in my psyche feels safest with no hair.

But for the last few months, I feel like some of those looks I’ve been getting from strangers have been ramping up. As the homophobia in this country ramps up, I feel the stares getting worse. I wonder how much of that is actually not people making assumptions of my orientation, but assuming that I’m part of some fucking white power bullshit nonsense. The old skinhead thing.

Being afraid of how other people feel about my hair is nothing new to me. It’s something I have literally experienced since I was a toddler, in varying forms.

But here’s the thing: hair grows, and can be cut. It can be covered with scarves and wigs, and it can be left to blow in the breeze. It’s just hair. While I know other people — friends and strangers alike — make a big deal about it, it’s my hair, and I know that it grows. I know that when I feel safe doing so again, that shit’s coming all the way off again.

In other words: it’s all temporary. This, too, shall pass. I just want to stay safe until it does.

Have you tried turning it off and back on again?

I’ve left Facebook, which may or may not be a temporary thing. I’ve been hanging out on Twitter, since I found an iPhone app that allows me to filter tweets by text and hashtag (Twitteriffic, if you were wondering). In the last 24 hours alone, I realize just how much time and energy I was putting into Facebook, and I’m not really happy with how that feels. So I’m processing that and will see what happens. Anyway.

I went through the “Add people you know by your Gmail contacts” thing on Twitter and found that a friend of mine had blocked me. Which, to be completely fair, they’re a very private person and may have done aaaaages ago for reasons completely unrelated to anything recent.

I decided, this morning, to see if I could use FBPurity to make Facebook at all tolerable again, so I went to tinker with that while I ate breakfast, and FBP gave me the notification that another person (not the one above) had disappeared from my friends list. And it could be that they deleted or deactivated their account — again, could be nothing to do with me.

I know a lot of people are just exhausted from recent events. Hell, I’m one of them. This blog used to be a place where I reviewed stuff… because I thought people might care about that? I dunno; it was an excuse to write, which I desperately needed at the time, and couldn’t think of anything else to say.

But I need to write. I need to have a safe place to express myself. What I really want is LiveJournal as it used to be about a decade and a half ago. It’s still there, but it’ll never be for me what it used to be. Which is fine, because that’s how life goes.

But again: I need to write. Writing is how I get stuff done in my head. It’s how I think things through. It helps me process. It’s therapy and creativity and so damn important — too important to limit to 140 characters.

So I deleted all of the previous posts and categories on this blog and am starting afresh.

I have no idea what it’ll be. I’m not going to define it. I don’t expect anyone to pay any attention to it. It’ll be me, shouting into the void. But sometimes, the void shouts back? I dunno. We’ll see. If it helps me work through a handful of things, if it gives me something to do on my bus rides to and from work, it’ll be maybe a helpful thing.