How I Discovered My Sexuality

Read aloud this at Salonathon a few weeks back! The theme was “How I Discovered My Sexuality”. Here’s my story. Thanks, as always, to Jane and Will for having me!

(Please turn on this song and listen while you read this essay. I promise it will be even better.)

Jesus is the reason.

He’s the reason I discovered my sexuality.

It’s October 1996 and we’re on the dance floor at Clinton High School homecoming. “Come on ride the train” by the Quad City DJs is booming through the loudspeakers and I can feel his boner on my leg as we train danced our 14 and 15 year old bodies. I am awkwardly taller though wearing flats and a bit too little, little black dress. My Sun In blonde hair is cut in awkward bangs, resembling a bad version of Drew Barrymore’s in Scream. He is wearing all black, except for his black tie which has green alien heads patterned across it. This is the scene of my very first kiss with a boy.

Well. so maybe it wasn’t Jesus, him directly, but he was the reason that a bunch of high school adolescents got together in the woods for a week every summer. Along with Jesus, came a cesspool of hormones and teenage love and angst. I was much more interested in the teenage love and hormones than Jesus, and hence why I met Will*.

Have you ever seen that documentary, Jesus Camp?  Yeah, that’s pretty much where I met him, just the summer before. Things like crying and testimonies by the humongous wooden cross and more crying and weeping by the campfire and Christian rock music and Michael W. Smith were common place. Blech. Oh except this was far superior to regular Jesus camp, because I went to Jesus SHOW CHOIR camp. I spent a week every summer not only praising Jesus, but learning songs and choreography to perform in front of our parents at the final show. You haven’t lived until you’ve done a song and dance routine with an umbrella singing about Noah and the flood.

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(Me at Jesus Camp. I have been crying.)

Will was blonde, blue eyed and angelic looking. His dad was the Jesus show choir camp director. Will was in a Christian band named Justify. With a cross instead of the T, ya know, for Jesus— JUStIFY. Obviously, I was smitten. I’m not sure how you become camp boyfriend/girlfriends within a few days, but by Wednesday, he was mine.

I even documented it in my journal.

Wednesday, July 24, 1996

Dear Journal, I am at camp. It has been so fun. I have a boyfriend. His name is Will. I think I’m falling in love. I don’t want to go back to Danville. Will is one of the sweetest guys. He is so special to me. I feel so good in his strong arms. I love the warmth of his body heat.

I digress, so here we are back at the Clinton High homecoming, “If you feel like dancing, come on, it’s up to you…” Finally, after months of waiting, he kisses me, “We got the sound to keep you gettin’ downtown…” It’s just as magical I pictured it. I may have to lean in a bit more than he to lock lips, him and my identical blond hair probably touching as the lyrics boom, “The train is coming through.” (There’s a special dance move you should definitely learn if you don’t it already.) I’m not sure I knew what a boner was in my 14 year old jesus camp heart, but I sure found out during this moment. We continue train dancing for the entire 7 minute song, with his 15 year old penis tenting up in his pants, resting on my leg, my ass, and poking me through his pants through the entire dance.

After the dance, we go back to his parents’ house to watch a movie, but, instead, make out, strengthening my virgin lips for two hours. Jesus kept the make out session to PG.

Don’t worry, this was also fully documented in my journal:

We got home and changed, then Will put in the movie The Birdcage. We watched it for like three minutes. Then we started making out. I don’t think we stopped for more than 30 seconds for the whole 2 hours that the movie was playing. I miss his sweet kisses so much. I miss feelings his arms around me. I miss the sound of voice. I miss his smile and his laugh and the touch of his hand and fingers intertwined with mine. I miss his wonderful blue eyes. I miss every little thing about him. I love him with all of my heart, soul, and body.

We’d go to many more dances together, my homecoming a few weeks later, the Sweetheart Dance, Sadie Hawkins, where for some unknown reason, my high school made us wear matching outfits. We wore cloned baby blue Fender guitar t-shirts I purchased at Sam Goody and sitting in the basement cafeteria, he put his hand up the cotton of mine to touch my bra for the first time. I’m sure Jesus did not approve.

We moved slowly, thanks to Jesus. That spring, we both went to a Christian youth conference, where again, teenagers praising Jesus were packed into a hotel room for a weekend. This was my first time touching a penis, of course, in the hotel hot tub.

We broke up not long after that. Soon after, I lost my virginity to an atheist.

Ironically, I got fired from that same Jesus camp four years later for making out with my co-counselor named Buddy**. Buddy was the doppelganger of Freddie Prinze Jr. We kept in touch and later, in college, Buddy went to Africa to save children at orphanages while I spent my time saving beers at Kam’s in Champaign. He became a missionary and minister, while I write risque dating essays.

I’ve lost of my love for Jesus and since discovered my love for telling stories about my dating life.

-Melinda

*Name has been changed.

**Name has not been changed, because seriously, his name was Buddy for the love of Jesus.

Being Single is Okay, Great, and Even Powerful

So as I mentioned in my last post I’m single again. I’ve had some conversations with some people about what happened. But what it comes down to, is that I know I’m happy being single, and if I’m not happy with a man, there is only so much work that can be done before I go back to living a single and fulfilled life, rather than a stressful coupled one.

Part of the reason I’ve been writing about being single, solo, and dating, for all of these years is because I’ve always wanted to help others celebrate and normalize that being solo and unpartnered is not only okay and fine, it’s pretty awesome. I grew up in a place where people get married at 22. While I try not to judge, if you get married at 22, that’s you’re own decision, it’s like if you’re not married by 25, you’re unlovable. And being childless at 32? Oh dear god, I’m sure the whole town is still shaking their heads whenever I visit.

I spent my high school and college years in very serious long term relationships, because mostly that’s what I thought I needed to do. While certainly, neither was physically abusive, I certainly stayed in both my high school and college relationships much too long. I felt suffocated, controlled, and unhappy. My college relationship was a disaster, and I spent the better part of 4 years figuring it out. It’s the biggest regret I have in my life— staying too long and not learning to be happy being single.

And now I’m single again. He banked on the fact I’d stay. He’s a great person, but just never learned to be a great boyfriend or partner, and that’s what I’m looking for. He banked on the fact that once you’re in a relationship, you should stay in one, and I have different ideas.

“I need a partner who wants to come pick me up after I’ve been gone for a week. Who remembers my bday. Who comes to see me when I’m in the ER. I have to stop pretending someday that this will be you. Because it’s not.” This was my breakup text to him.

I write all this today to hopefully continue the normalization and conversation of encouraging you to not stay in relationships when you aren’t happy. That could mean so many things. I don’t claim to know what it’s like to be physically abused, dependent on someone, share children with someone, and I certainly understand those things create complications, but please remember, don’t stay with anyone you’re not happy with. Work hard at making it work, sure, don’t just give up every time things are difficult, but please do not stay with someone, especially someone who is mentally or physically abusive. I promise you will be okay. I promise.

Of course you all saw the Ray and Janay Rice video, and you probably heard about her defending him. This upsets me to the core of my being. I don’t attempt to put Janay down, or understand, but please, if you’re in a bad relationship, get out. Just get out. Live your life solo and safe.

-Melinda

Well you’re like WAY into Black guys

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“Well you’re like way into Black guys.”

Wait? What? I mean, sure I have dated mostly Black men in the last, well, 10 years. But this statement, what exactly are you implying?

The gist: “You’re single and haven’t found the one yet, settled down, �?cause you’re into Black men.”

I’ve heard it all.

Black men don’t like women who are overly sexual.
Black men don’t want to commit.
Black men don’t have good jobs.
Black men will date White women but not bring them home to mom.
Black men don’t like women who are more successful.
Etc., etc., etc.

I have written for the last 5 years about dating, sex, relationships (right here of course and before that at the now defunct singledoutinchicago.com). In that time, I have never overtly written about interracial relationships or the fact that most of the stars of my dating stories were Black men. But I’m doing it now, dammit.

The primary reason I’ve been in the closet about interracial dating is because I write about the challenges, the struggle, and usually not so happy endings of dating. And I never wanted my readership to declare these stories only happened because the dudes that usually ask for my number tend to be African American. And while my friends know and have met many of the men I’ve dated, and I’ve certainly implied in many of my stories, I have always strayed away from the topic of interracial dating, because that was never the point. Because we all know when two people of the same race get together there are never issues or problems (eye roll).

I didn’t make a conscious decision, and still don’t, to have a racial preference in dating. All I know is that when I started dating post college, that’s simply who talked, interacted, and did things like say hello and ask for my number. I look at the simple statistics of my OkCupid messages received from men, in which nowhere in my profile is there mention of any sort of history or who I want to be with based on skin color, and Black men are 90% of who sent me messages. (OkCupid shows some data on this.) That’s just simply who has shown interest and I’ve always been cool with that.

Do I think I subconsciously have made this decision? Sure. At a certain point we all get comfortable (probably too comfortable) with a type. Mine happens to be tall, hipstery dudes donning plaid shirts, tortoise shell glasses, and Black. When I walk into a crowded bar or scan profiles of matches, this is who I notice first.

And sure I can tell you I’ve dated all races of men, blah, blah, blah which I certainly have, but I don’t want to pretend that I don’t have a type and tell people “I don’t see color,” because I do. I just saw Taye Diggs on Seth Meyers and contemplated him naked. Idris Elba is the star of my wet dreams and I picture my future biracial children quite often.

So I may be “way into Black guys” as my half-Black ex said to me, but dude, Black men are way into me. Just like people tell me all the statements about why I am approaching 32 and single because I date Black men, they all tell me opinions on why they’re all about me. I am curvy: “You have an ass.” I have a pixie haircut: “Black men like short hair.” I am tall: “Black men like tall women.” Most of the reasons are physical, none ever having to do with the fact that I am bright, intelligent, grounded, successful, polite, caring, and sincere.

And many people imply I’m “way into a Black guys” thanks to a fetishization and over sexualized physical stereotype (in case you’re considering what I mean here— that Black dudes are well endowed). Damn people, if that’s all I was looking for, I’d just go to a sex toy shop. That’s what dildos are for.

Recently there was a Gawker piece about the realities of interracial dating written by a Black dude. Just like any personal opinion piece, there were a variety of reactions to it. One I read stating “Nobody cares that you date White girls.”

But we do. Until 1967, if I fell in love with a Black man in many states we wouldn’t have been able to get married. The story and legacy of Emmett Till is much too fresh and recent to just pretend we’re living in a post racial place where interracial relationships, the biracial children they at many times produce, and the racism, both subtle and inherent, don’t exist. I mean damn, just last year there were so many racist comments on YouTube about that Cheerios commercial that the comments had to be turned off.

It’s okay to talk about culture and our identities and how it affects all aspects of our lives- dating, sex, relationships, and otherwise- as long as we can understand the micro and macro effects and we don’t make sweeping generalizations about a community or race or people.

So yes, my boyfriend is Black. Yes, I am in an interracial relationship. Yes, I’m going to talk about it.

-Melinda

Talking and ….

The talking and f—-ing stage, where you lock yourselves in a bedroom and do it and discuss and then do it again. Where every stupid song makes you smile to yourself. Where you’ve actually forgotten for a moment about all that heartbreak and hurt and disappointment because it was all leading up to this. This is the reason!

Where he kisses you in public for the first time. When he introduces you to a friend. When he takes your hand to lead you through a crowded dance floor. When you arrive and the girl he’s talking to who you think maybe he was hitting on says, “So this is the girl you’ve been talking about?” And you feel guilty because he wasn’t hitting on her at all (and then she leans over to make out with the other dude next to her.). And you about blush yourself into a puddle but it’s dark so thank god no one can see it.

When he asks if you told your mutual friend about him, and you realize the fact that he wants you to tell your mutual friend. When he texts “I can’t wait to see you again,” and you can’t even wait to see him again so you end up seeing him later that day anyway.

When he snores so loud you want to punch him in his sleep and yell his name but he doesn’t hear you and just snores louder but you don’t care because he’s there. And there when you wake up in the morning.

And when you tell yourself to pull your shit together and not get too excited but you can’t help but get too excited. When you see him after just a few hours and somehow he looks more attractive than you remember.

So that’s where I’ve been this week.

-Melinda

DISAGREED: Anti-Tinder Tries to Solve Online Dating’s Creepiness Problem

You may have seen this article today in the Huffington Post Tech about the new dating app, Hinge. Well, new to Chicago, and that means new to me. Hinge sends you 6 matches a day, based on your larger social media network. So you’re connected to friends of friends who have also signed up for the app.

I’ve been a Hinge user for a few months. I don’t check it all the time, I only have the app on my iPad, and last night I signed on in to look at my daily matches.

So turns out Hinge is actually the creepiest goddamned dating app I’ve ever used.

Because…

It matched me with a kid I used to babysit in 1996.

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A few notes on that point.

A) I’m not from Chicago. I grew up 3 hours south in a small town. There are maybe 30 people in the city from my hometown. This kid and I grew up a block away from each other. My mother has known his mother since like 1989 when she was pregnant with this kid.

B) My first… serious boyfriend… (first. serious. boyfriend. Get it?) is his cousin. They share the same last name.

So Hinge brings to me the people I know, attempting to be anti-creepy, but actually provides maybe the creepiest match I’ve ever gotten.

AND thus provides the story of my dating life.

[drops mic]

Melinda

The Less Than 36 Hour Relationship

This is how a get together, relationship, and breakup occurred within less than 36 hours.

Sunday, 4:09 PM

Browse through Tinder. Swipe right on a 24 year old, 7 years your junior, because against my better judgement, well, he’s cute. Tada! You match.

4:15 PM

Cute kid sends a message. I insist he’s too young, he disagrees.

4:15 – 8:30 PM

Send witty Tinder messages. Exchange numbers. Send witty text messages.

8:31 PM

“Hey it’s D—. It too late to meet up tonight?” Says he’ll be there to pick me up in 30 minutes. Arrives early, am half naked. Throw on some random outfit and run outside to his car in the rain. Head to neighborhood hotspot.

10:00 PM

2 drinks in. Cuter than ever. Discuss music, politics, school, career. Bat eyes in the booth.

12:05 AM

Drives me home. Kisses me in the car. Invites himself in.

1:21 AM

Departs back to the North side.

Monday, 9:29 AM

Receive text message referring to last night’s conversation.

9:52 AM

Add him on gchat.

10:15 AM

Gchat friend about the kid. Explain how he has his shit together more than last ex, though is only 24 years old. Friend reminds me having his shit together more than your last ex isn’t a difficult feat. Ah yes.

10:15 AM – 5:05 PM

Spend day communicating, exchanging music recommendations, sending witty gchats. Looking at his public photos on Facebook, Googling his name.

7:22 PM

Text messages:

D: I know you’re interested in me.

Me: You do huh?

8:47 – 9:41 PM

Launch texting debate/argument about empathy, social justice, and social issues. Get turned off by young Republican propaganda. Stop texting.

11:02 PM

Text message inviting me over. Consider it, but remember parking in his yuppy neighborhood is impossible.

11:07 PM

Reconsider and inquire about his stock in prophylactics.

11:07-11:31 PM

Have argument about using prophylactics. Get accused of having an STI for insisting on using prophylactics.

11:31 PM

Receive the following text message referring to opinion on safe sex:

“That’s the gayest shit I’ve ever heard in my life.”

11:32 PM

Explain that it’s actually the straightest conversation as there was discussion of heterosexual sex.

12:03 AM

Text: “That frat boy persona you got going on is not cute.” Block from Tinder and Google Voice. Go to sleep.

Note to self: Do not date 24 year olds and/or Republicans. 

-Melinda

P.S. We had the whole “where is this going” chat at about hour 20.

Dibs: Girl Code and Hook Up Culture

Most of my friends (male, female, gender neutral alike) have been physical with each other in some capacity. If I made a map of who’s kissed, touched, sucked, licked, flicked, tickled who in the last, let’s say, 8 years, it would be a cluster fuck of a web with lots of squiggles and dotted lines. That’s just the culture we live in. Throw in some theatre school nerds, guys with guitars and other artists and you have a recipe for Hook Up Disaster (read: Confusion)

The rules have changed people. But I’m not quite sure what they are.
How much time needs to past before you hook up with the same guy your friend used to hook up with?

And at what level of hook up is said hook up crossing the line?

Does someone get to call dibs on someone they were never really dating?

And who dates anymore anyway?

What constitutes a date? Dinner and a movie? Grabbing beers after a show? Hanging out at the theatre’s bar after rehearsal? Meeting for coffee on a Sunday afternoon?

I do all of these things on a regular with people I’d love to bang or have been banging and I’m not sure if it means anything. At all.

If you’re like me, you can quote the majority of Clueless, all of Mean Girls, and you still remember some of those Cosmopolitan quizzes your friends used to make you take. All of those beacons of adolescence tells us that you do not under any fucking circumstance ever in the world hook up with a friend’s ex.

“It’s like the rules of feminism”.

But nowadays, the line of who’s dating who is so blurred that it’s hard to know what factors go in to classifying someone as your ex.
Is it the amount of time you’ve known each other?
The amount of times you’ve been inside each other?
The exchanging of those dreaded three words “I love you”
Whether or not the other person cared about you? And whether or not those feelings were mutual.

These are all honest to god questions that are ping ponging in my head. So I’m going to take it upon myself as Single Girl #2 in Chicago to set the New Rules of Girl Code in 2014.
(HINT: There’s not many)

Rule #1: Dibs doesn’t really work anymore. Like a sad stroller in a parking spot in Logan Square, people are just gonna think you’re a douche if you claim it.
Rule #2: Cosmopolitan Magazine is no longer allowed to dictate our relationship choices. EVER. AGAIN.
Rule #3: But Clueless is definitely still on the table.

So that’s where I stand so far. Any insight?

-SB

I Have Enough Platonic Friends

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So this happened today.

I was set to have drinks tonight with a dude from a few years back. He’s popped up now and again. I was actually supposed to meet up with him the day I met the last dude I was dating, but he stood me up. I was pissed, starting dating the last one, and didn’t talk to him again.

But of course now I’m single. So I went for it, Bold Moves, and asked him out. He said yes, lovely, wonderful, we make plans.

Then at 5 pm he texts me this.

I am not interested in forgetting that point. The last exchange we had was relatively in depth about things he was interested in doing, and not just having a martini.

I didn’t respond to him suggesting to forget that point.

For years now, I have stayed friends, sometimes lovers, and drinking buddies with tons of dudes I’ve dated. For the most part, it’s been great. But it’s starting to grate on me.

I see Instagram photos of a dude I dated three times with his new girlfriend at fancy restaurants where he never took me, just a few weeks after he told me I’m the “best he ever had” (duh). I ran into another ex who was on a date at the bar where I work, the same one who a week earlier looked me up and down so hard it made my coworker about spit out her beer. I met up for drinks with one who broke my heart and who was moving out of town, only for him to ask me to come visit him in Michigan.

But never, ever, do these dudes ask me on a proper date.

And it’s my own fault. Because I keep them in my life, mostly for good reasons, but it doesn’t contribute to moving on and trying to find someone and something meaningful. These platonic, now-friends-ex-dudes, hit on me, call me when they’re lonely, and see me as their hot, sexy, cool, ex, but not someone they’re interested in actually dating or being in a relationship with.

And I’m not adding another one.

Instead, tonight, I’m going out with my dude friend who is not an ex boyfriend or anything of the sort. We’re gonna drink whiskey and I’m going to tell him about the aforementioned guy above and I’ll be happy I’m hanging out with a friend who is actually a friend.

-Mel

The Stuff I Leave Behind

Carly and I wrote once about the stuff left behind, by guys. But I haven’t touched on the stuff, the baggage, the things I have discarded in apartments, lost under beds, throughout a multitude of neighborhoods in this city.

I got a text from a dude who I dated for a minute saying, “You will be pleased to know I found your earrings.” (I seem to lose many a pair of earrings.)

I have not talked to this guy in at least 6 months. And just now you have found those earrings that I asked you to search for 6 months ago?

I once started something with an old flame because we met up again so he could return my stuff. Nothing all that important— a scarf, a Bears t-shirt, a hat. But he had that stuff for almost two years. I hadn’t spoke to him in over a year. He moved this random crap from apartment to apartment with that stuff still in hand, so why just now decide to give it back?

Here’s my theory:

Guys (and all people possibly) hold onto the stuff left behind until they decide they want to see you again. It’s held as a type of personal collateral for when they’re feeling lonely, bored, or undersexed, and then BAM, a solid excuse to see you. Currently, a dude is holding onto (yet another) pair of earrings and a hand knit scarf (I’m also really great at leaving scarves around town apparently). Sure, the earrings cost $3 at H&M and the scarf was a Columbia student’s art project, but damn it, I want them back. But I also know sometimes it’s just not worth it, and sometimes it’s better to cry about those super cute earrings you’ll never see again rather than cry because homedude disappointed you, yet again.

What I hadn’t considered is what people hold onto that isn’t physical stuff. The quirks that only a few people know. The intimate details of the sound of my teeth grinding while I sleep or my super ugly toenails. But deeper than that too. The knowledge of the raw details about me as a person— my fears, my scars, my insecurities.

This is the stuff, the collateral, the ransom, much more difficult to leave behind. So when your ex tells you he misses you, this is what surfaces. This is the stuff left behind that you’re not sure you ever want to share with anyone else. Why sometimes it’s easier to want to get it back and in turn, just get back with him.

I’ve evaluated this concept quite deeply today, and while it’s tempting to answer that call of “I miss you” and regain that collateral, sometimes, just like that hand knit scarf, you have to let it go and go back to H&M and buy a new $3 pair of earrings. Or in this case OkCupid and for a new dude. The new ones are more modern, sturdy, taller, shinier, exciting, supportive, and hot anyway. You may have to take some time to search, but don’t go back just to find what you thought you lost.

-Melinda

My First (and last) BuzzFeed Reference Post. (Or, don’t be bashful about your wants)

I know. I know. Buzzfeed has completely taken over your Facebook walls and everyone is finding ways to block the time consuming, brain killing website that overflows with cats, Mean Girl quotes, and quizzes that reveals what Saved By The Bell character you really are. I get it. But something snuck onto my wall a few days ago that I wanted to share with the fam:

http://www.buzzfeed.com/dorieanstevenson/signs-romance-is-completely-lost-on-you

So many of my “friends” (it’s Facebook, ya’ll-let’s not kid ourselves) have been sharing this link that gives you ‘23 Ways You Know You’re Not The Romantic Type’. I finally read it today and by the time I got to the 13th Way, I chose not to gag myself and instead, write about it.

(Side note: I know, I’ve been neglecting you guys. I feel horrible but life is just sooooo busy. How busy? I can give you 13 Ways You Know You’re Busy as Fuck. #1 There is a permanent drool stain on your face from the 2.5 hrs of sleep you’re averaging a night…)

But I digress.

I started reading this just as a way to fill time and I ended actually getting a little upset. The post, however in jest it may be, pretty much scoffs at romance. Because no one likes romance. Because romance is so annoying. Because romance is for LOSERS. But not just any losers, losers who have decided to couple up and become COMBO LOSERS.

Look, I get it. You’re single and your best friend comes to dinner with her boyfriend and they’re practicing their Eskimo kisses and that shit is disgusting. I understand. But think about that last time you were in a relationship (or, at least, a respectable fuck buddy partnership). You went through times when you probably wanted to gag yourself with how in love-or in lust-you were, and what’s wrong with that? What’s wrong with leaning into love and like and lust and sharing that with the person who, at least for that moment, feels exactly the same way? If you’ve ever gone through a break up, you know that time is fleeting and precious, so making fun of people who are going through it seems a bit like Hateration.

I recently had a meeting with this person in charge of a fellowship I received and she told me, after asking me what I wanted in life and making me cry a little because I thought this was just a 15 minute information session but ended up being the Most Real of Real Talks I’ve had in a while, she told me: Don’t be bashful about your wants.
That simple piece of advice resonates with me.
Of course, I think she meant about what I wanted career wise but I’m thinking this can apply in all aspects of life.
Love is good-you can want it.
Being treated nice is ok-you deserve it. (Or maybe you’re a douche and you don’t but I don’t know you personally so I’m just gonna assume good stuff)

No matter how anti-affection you are, I think everyone, deep down inside, wants a little TLC with a lover or lovers and people shouldn’t be ridiculed for it.

I’ll start:
I want romance. I want someone I can depend on and be strong for and do stupid things in public like sit on his lap in crowded spaces and wear matching sweaters. I wanna eat, fuck and sleep in during the week. I want someone I can cook for and buy silly gifts and share dumb jokes that only we get. I’m into all of that.

And that’s ok.

But not now, of course.
No. Now, all I wanna do is bang hot-ish dudes, pass out in my shower with a bottle of wine and eat tamales in bed.

I’m a work in progress.

SB