Throw the Small Ones Back

Let me preface this post by saying it’s okay to have a plan. It’s okay to stick to that plan or to change that plan or to abandon that plan. It’s also okay not to have a plan at all.

Everybody is different, and there is no one path to love, happiness, or success. I’m not sitting here writing this pretending to know what I’m doingor what’s best for everyone else. I am a human who makes mistakes and tries his best to learn from them. I am a person who goes to bed every night wanting more and wakes up the next day with that same desire for betterment.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let me share with you some things I’ve learned…


Check out the rest of this piece in The Coffeelicious on Medium.

Advertisements

“Replace the bad with good…”

Part IV: Catharsis and learning to thrive

By Ryan Hussey

Edited by Jenna Rutsky


You are in your early fifties now. Emotional scars don’t fade like physical scars do. You get a new job at a law firm — a fresh start.

The first day, you notice the harsh sound the door makes when it shuts. It jars old memories loose, when your stepfather used to come home and you’d sit in your bed, trembling.

Not too long after, you notice the sound your boss makes when he walks up the stairs. The door slamming, the heavy footsteps of a grown man heading toward you — together, these should be enough to break you down into pieces.

You realize you must face the reality head-on, much like when you were five years old and it confronted you without warning. But one thing has changed since then.

You’re bigger now. Older, wiser. You’re stronger in every sense of the word. You’re prepared.

One weekend, you allow your niece to paint your fingernails. She lets you choose the color.

You recall the way teal blue makes you feel — that awful color. The color that represents your cell, the one that imprisoned you for nearly a decade and that’s held you captive ever since. The color that’s tattooed your memories, making you wish you saw only black and white. That diseased color, that monstrous, oppressive color that never fails to make you sick to your stomach. Teal is ugly.

You insist that your niece paint your nails teal blue.

Teal blue — that beautiful color. The color that matches the new blouse you bought for work. The color that brightens up any outfit or party or painting. That vibrant color — a work of art in itself — that now puts a smile on your face just as fast as it used to wipe one off.

Holding your arms out straight, you finally see what’s in front of you. Your hands, teal blue fingernails, your future.


For the rest of this piece, please head over to the full article in The Bigger Picture on Medium. You will not regret it.

Rape4

(Illustration/Kayla Spataro)

“The choices I made were my choices, and I owned them.”

Part III: Choices and consequences

By Ryan Hussey

Edited by Jenna Rutsky


As you stand at your locker, you notice today is different. You feel heavier — not because you had a big breakfast or because you’re holding a bunch of textbooks, but because something else is weighing you down.

Like gravity’s force has tripled overnight. Like you are dragging an 18-wheeler through the halls. Like the weight of a thousand nightmares has suddenly collapsed on top of you, on the verge of forcing your feet through the ground.

You find the strength to walk away from your locker and past your homeroom. If you were playing hooky, you’d scan the area for teachers. Instead, your eyes remain focused on the door.

“Step out that door, young lady, and you’ll be suspended.” A nun sees what you’re doing and tries to stop you. Perhaps if she knew why, she’d rethink. Perhaps if youknew why, you’d turn around and go to class.

You can only pretend for so long.

Cheeks dampened and eyes straight ahead, you walk out of school without looking back. This is the second most important choice you’ll make today. You head for your aunt’s house.

***

The world you knew is no more. You feel branded, and though a weight should have been lifted from your shoulders, gravity remains unflinching like it’s holding a grudge.

As you pack up some clothes to stay at your aunt’s place, Mom says some things she will regret — or at least some things you hope she will.

You spend some nights under your parents’ roof and some under your aunt’s, bouncing back and forth for months at a time, over a span of years.

What began as physical has manifested itself as psychological abuse. Your stepfather has become a man you barely know, yet one you recognize all too well. He routinely follows you when you leave the house, a stalking habit that grows stranger, sadder, and scarier with age.

He sometimes punishes you for reasons he makes up on the spot, to prevent you from going out with friends. This becomes a running joke in your friend group, but it’s never funny. You seem more and more predictable each time you need to cancel plans. There are dishes to wash and laundry to fold. Your friends eventually stop calling.

It takes seven years for your mom to divorce him. You don’t go to college and that is your biggest regret, but not your only one.

***

One of the last times you speak to your stepfather is at your grandmother’s funeral. He tells you to take care of your mother.

The last chance you have to see him is at another funeral — his. You take the day off from work but decide not to go. It is then that you realize you’ll never get the one thing you want from him: a genuine apology.

You remember that feeling you had years back, the feeling that you are a magnet for abuse. You have a daughter of your own now, and as hereditary as sexual assault seems in your family, you vow to do everything in your power to make sure its lineage stops with you.


For the rest of this article, please head over to The Bigger Picture, my publication on Medium. (You’ll like it much better over there, I promise.)

“Most people get money. I got sexual abuse.”

Part II: Acceptance and understanding

By Ryan Hussey

Edited by Jenna Rutsky

His transition from inappropriate to illegal is gradual. It starts with him in the bathtub, asking for you to fetch him a towel. It develops into something that will define you, if you let it.

Your stepfather is handsome — maybe not traditionally, but what do you know? You’re not even six years old yet. He is kind and financially stable enough for your mom — and you — to have fallen in love with him, and that’s what matters.

They are married, so you call him “dad” now. You and your mom have even taken his surname, which is something you will wear as a badge, then as a label, then as a cape.

When mom goes out, you get nervous. You hear dad’s voice in your head, remembering all of the things he’ll nitpick about — Have you done your chores? Your homework? Are you wearing your slippers? Slippers? — then you hear his voice for real.

Trembling, you make your way to the bathroom, or to the living room, or to wherever daddy needs you this time. He’s in his bedroom, with those four teal walls that drown you in feelings that make you want to vomit.

Teal is green and blue. Teal is the monster under your bed. Teal is even darker once the lights go off. Teal is a decade of sexual abuse. If nightmares had a color, they’d be teal blue. It’s everything you hate in this world.

You wonder, Do all of my friends’ daddies treat their daughters like this?

You know they don’t, but you also know it’s because you’re special. He tells you how special you are. Special is a status until it resembles something more of a prison sentence. You no longer want to be special.

You know nothing is wrong with your friends, and you’d never accuse your dad of anything because all he did was notice how special you are. If there is a problem, you think it must be with you.

By the time you’re a teenager, you wonder if you’re some kind of magnet for sexual abuse. Years later, you’ll find out every woman in your family — your great aunt, your aunt, even your mother, and now you — had been a victim of rape or sexual abuse, almost as if you’d inherited it like an eye color or a sum of money.


For the rest of this article, head over to my publication on Medium.

“We are all survivors of something.”

A necessary conversation about rape, rape culture, and sexual abuse

Part I: Introduction and responsibility

By Ryan Hussey

Edited by Jenna Rutsky


You are five years old. You have an aunt who is only nine years older — she’s your babysitter today. You wake up to a strange man raising his voice toward your aunt.

The first thing you hear is: “If you wake her up, I’ll kill her.” The first thing you see is her face, terrified.

The second thing you see is a gun. She tells you to stay asleep, or at least to pretend. He takes her to another room.

You can only pretend for so long.

Like any five-year-old, you’re curious. You hear commotion, but you don’t know exactly what’s going on out there. Slinking toward the door, you peek through the thin slit where light seeps in.

You see the man sitting in the kitchen, gun in hand. Your aunt pours him something to drink.

You pretend to sleep until sleep becomes reality.

When you wake up, the man is gone. Your aunt checks on you and gives you your favorite toy to play with. She calls the police and tells them about the break-in and what ensued after.

Still groggy from your nap, you wonder if it was all just a dream. You step into the kitchen and pause for a second. You can remember every detail about the man’s face and voice. Your Mr. Potato Head drops to the floor; its parts scatter.

Decades later, you’re still picking up the pieces.


For the rest of this piece, head over to my Medium publication, The Bigger Picture.

11153638_10152775839772644_1294149655_o

(Illustration/Kayla Spataro)

Songs You’ll Never Hear

Awhile back, I wrote a fairly in-depth article about art. I wrote about art as an outward expression of our deepest emotions, as well as the various other roles it plays. I explored the idea of “unshared” art — that is, art that the artist keeps to him/herself. I posed questions like What makes something I create valuable to me? and Does that value increase if my art affects others in the same way?

I also discussed the ways I “judge” my own art:

a. How does this help me?

b. How does this help others?

For my art to help others, I need to share it. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be able to judge my art based on both criteria mentioned above. Sure, something I create might help me, but for it to have any affect on another person, I can’t keep it to myself.

I conclude in the article that perhaps it’s time for me to reconsider my hesitance to share things I’ve created, so that I can share that same value with other people.

Clearly, sitting here writing this post makes me hypocritical. If you continue reading below, you’ll see that I directly mention things I’ve created but neglect to actually show them. So, for what it’s worth, I’d like to share my ten favorite lyrics from songs I’ve written because that’s the best I can do right now.¹

 My favorite lyrics of songs you’ll (probably) never hear

10.

I like the way you move

And I can’t shake the feeling

That I could fit into every groove your body has to offer

I accept.

from a song called “Blacklisted”

9.

Objects in mirror are more regretful than they appear.

from a song called “Take One for the Team”

8.

Every word that escapes my lips is met with confusion and amazement,

That glazed look upon your face.

-from a song called “Above the Influence”

7.

Do you think I’m funny?

I don’t know if I’m crying or laughing

All I know is I’m hysterical.

-from a song called “Hysterical”

6.

And if you happen to get cold feet,

Don’t worry — you can keep your socks on.

from a song called “Friend of the Year”

5.

This town’s a museum and you’re every exhibit.

from a song called “The Artist”

4.

Hate leaves bruises, but love leaves scars.

from a song called “The Win-You-Back Song”

3.

The storm will eventually pass

Then I can comprehend her influence on the forecast.

from a song called “Click”

2.

Let’s bury this town in the ash of our homes.

from a song called “Cigarettes”

1.

I’m a paper airplane in the wind, and you’re the wind

Because you can blow me.

-from a song called “Blow Me (Away)”


Footnote:

¹The hesitance is still there because I care about what people think, but I’m running out of fucks.

Point A to Point B

Stories about my first car

My dad drives with both feet. He uses his right for the gas and his left for the brake. I’ve seen him do it for years, and he’s the best driver I know. But you can’t pass the road test using two feet, so he didn’t teach me to drive like that. He didn’t teach me much of anything when it comes to cars. I never really wanted to learn.

I’ve picked up a few things about batteries and tire pressure along the way, and I get my oil changed every five-thousand miles. But I always just wanted something that would get me from Point A to Point B.

The car I deserved but not the one I needed

I got my license in December of 2007. Because of my black 1999 Hyundai Tiburon’s appearance, I named it the Batmobile, even if it couldn’t handle conditions like snow, heavy rain, or strong gusts. My whip sported a black cover on the front-end (sometimes called a bra, or more appropriately a mask) and sweet silver pinstripes across the sides. These, of course, came with the vehicle I’d “inherited” from my father (for the price of $2000).

Once I got more comfortable driving, I took full advantage of my sporty, all-black coupe. Late at night, when nobody else was on the roads, I used to turn the lights off and reenact that chase scene from Batman Begins. I have always been against texting while driving and I realize the hypocrisy here, but this type of danger was a rush for me. Cops and deer aside, I considered this a calculated risk and it made me feel cool as hell.

Train tracks and tow trucks

On the way back from a sweet sixteen party, I got into my first accident. Thankfully, it didn’t involve any other cars — just myself, my passenger, and the Batmobile.

I pulled up to a five-way intersection, on a road that I’d never driven at night. At this point, I had only been licensed for about four months. A few streetlights were out, making it difficult to see the road in front of us. The street forked ahead, split by railroad tracks that ran through the center of town.

As the driver, all I had to do was choose either left or right of the tracks, but apparently I couldn’t make that decision. The Batmobile wound up directly on the train tracks, wedged in a spot I had originally suspected to be asphalt.

My car had to be towed, suffering two flat tires and a bowed front axle. My dad arrived about five minutes after my passenger’s mom left and about ten minutes after the cops showed up.

RRtracksThe police stayed until the tow truck guy hooked up my car to his winch. They didn’t even ask me if I had been drinking — I guess my face told the whole story.

“You’re probably the 40th or 50th person I’ve towed from this spot. They should put more lights around here,” the tow truck guy offered some reassurance. “But then I’d probably go out of business.”

The commotion attracted one intoxicated man from the corner bar, located less than fifty steps from where my vehicle was stuck. “I hope you’re not drunk, man. You’re in a lot of trouble if you are.” I wasn’t. Just young and stupid.

Camera phones and blue balls

We pulled over to a stretch with no streetlights, in between two houses. There were no lights on in the house in front of us, and the one behind us appeared void of life.

This wasn’t the first time she said “I love you,” and it wasn’t the last time I said it back. But it was the first time I’ve tried to have sex in a car—and perhaps the last.

Sliding over the center console, my pocket caught on the E-brake (maybe a sign of things to come). We were veiled in the shadows of the darkest road in town, yet in such a secluded place, I felt anything but alone. She ran her fingers up my leg and undid the button on my shorts. I returned the favor because I’m fair like that. As we began to slip out of our skin, a flash went off outside the car.

“What the fuck was that?!” We panicked.

I jumped into the driver’s seat and turned the key, shorts barely on. The headlights shined on a woman walking a tiny dog. She squinted to see who was in the car, but I sped off before she could make us out. My girlfriend worried that we had almost hit the woman; I worried that we’d almost hit the dog. Then we both wondered if the woman had photographed my license plate.

Low gear

Fresh off a breakup, I was driving around with my best friend. On our way home, I slowed down at the top of a hill. It was one of those nights I wished I could just hit the gas and take flight, to hover over my moonlit town.

My friend looked down at the gear shift. “Dude, what’s L?”

L? I don’t know, I’ve never noticed it before.”

“Maybe it’s levitate…”

Suburban_night_skyWe were both pretty sure it stood for low gear, but neither of us said it out loud. That type of negativity wasn’t welcome in the Batmobile. You know when you’re aware something’s not possible, but you want it to happen so badly that you kind of hope you’re dead wrong?

I took one last look at my friend before shifting into L and gunning it towards the hill.

When we reached the bottom of the slope, tires still on the ground, we shared a laugh and a shrug. He opened the glove box and checked my car’s owners manual to see what L really stood for.

“Is it low gear?”

“Yeah.”

***

I’ve driven two cars since I traded in the Batmobile — an SUV named Sophia and a sedan I call Nancy. The names change, the passengers change, the ways I tell the stories change, but the habits don’t. Things I used to double check, like the positions of my mirrors or making sure my lights are off, have become second nature. Mindless rituals, instilled in me since that first car, force me to think that maybe I’ve learned more than I wanted to. Sometimes I’ll look down and notice I’m driving with both feet.

Do you remember your first car? Tell me a story about it.


A different version of this piece appears in the Medium publication Human Parts.

My Personal Guide to Tinder, Part 3

IMG_2050

After reading Part 1 and Part 2 of my Tinder installments, I realized that the most interesting sections are the stories. Sure, the rules are entertaining to write and read about, but it’s more fun to see those guidelines in action. So, for this third installment, I’ll focus more on anecdotes from my Tinder experiences.

My personal Tinder guidelines (cont.)

Remember: Swipe left for NOPE, swipe right for LIKE.

  1. Swipe right if she has a cute puppy. (<-not a typo)
  2. If she’s holding a cigarette in a photo, swipe left.
  3. Blurry photo? Are you serious? This is 2015. Swipe left.
  4. If she looks like my brother’s girlfriend, hmm…
  5. If she looks like my brother’s girlfriend with a different skin pigment, screenshot and send to him. Swipe direction irrelevant.
  6. If she looks like an ex, swipe right because I have deep-seated issues.
  7. If there’s a photo that looks like it has a story behind it, swipe right. (My curiosity might get the best of me sometimes, so if this rule conflicts with a previous rule, the previous rule shall maintain precedence.)

Playing by the rules

I could claim that I stick to the guidelines I’ve laid out in these three installments. And most of the time, I do consider my “rules” before swiping. However, you know how it goes: Some rules are made to be broken

6. If she likes Weezer, investigate further.

You wouldn’t believe how many girls claim they love Weezer and that their favorite song is “Island in the Sun.” If that’s your favorite Weezer song, you haven’t heard enough Weezer.

17. If all of her photos feature the same pose, swipe left because she’s probably a statue or mannequin and there is literally no evidence to refute that.

Sometimes I swipe right just to comment on how every photo is the same. For example:

IMG_2052

For the record, she does always have headphones in.

18. If I can’t pronounce her name, swipe left.

I’m pretty sure I’ve swiped right for girls with no vowels in their names.

25. If she mentions faith and/or religion in her About Me section, swipe left because ain’t nobody got time for that.

Yesterday, I literally swiped left for an attractive girl solely because there was a crucifix in the background of her photo.

32. Swipe right if she has a cute puppy.

I swipe right all the time for girls I’m not even attracted to because of the possibility I’ll get to play with their dogs.

Pic or it didn’t happen

What’s a good story without some photographic evidence? In this section, you’ll find some of my favorite conversations that I thought were funny enough to screenshot and post on the Internet…

IMG_1991

$60 for a half hour?! What if I only need five minutes?

In the picture above, you’ll see my first encounter with a prostitute(?) on Tinder. I would love to say it’d be my only encounter, but that just wouldn’t be true. Turns out there are a ton of whores on Tinder, or at least girls/women who are looking to exchange sexual favors for money. (It’s fair to call them “whores,” right?)Berenice

Now, these girls differ from the elegant “Ellen” (pictured with headphones above), who just wanted to share her pornographic photos with me — I assume for free.

As I’ve encountered more and more of these girls, I’ve become deft at spotting them out before I even swipe. And if you know me, you know I’m swiping right almost every time to prove my hypothesis.

Usually, when I have a hunch that a girl is fake, I sabotage the conversation to see how far I can take it before she bails. Because if I’m not going to get a date out of it, I might as well get a decent story to tell my friends. Sometimes, these girls don’t answer and all but confirm their nonexistence. Other times, they either play along or are telling the truth and have actually moved from Germany recently (see Isabel screenshots below).IMG_2004IMG_2006

Strictly business

Like I said, I’m getting quite good at picking out which girls will probably have sex for money before I even swipe. I imagine that these accounts get a high volume of messages from guys who simply think the girl in the photo(s) is attractive. From that amount, I wonder what the success rate is for these entreprewhores. I mean, they’re operating their businesses in a marketplace where they already know exactly what the consumers want. So, targeting is not an issue because these accounts probably just swipe right for everybody to maximize their reach.

If a guy has $60-100 to spare, he can get — in one night — what would’ve taken him anywhere between three and five dates, as well as upwards of $100, to obtain. While I don’t want to judge anyone for being that desperate, and while I absolutely do not want to criticize somebody’s business (however illegal it may be), I do understand how and why it can be an effective use of the Tinder app.

Also, I basically just provided free advertisements for like three or four hookers. Happy dating!

IMG_2054

To be continued…?

I Wear Tighter Pants Now

“Something’s different about you,” she says, breaking eye contact. She doesn’t think people change. I agree.

“I just got a haircut the other day.” I step up onto a bench we’re passing.

“No, that’s not it.”

I jump down and stick the landing. “I wear tighter pants now.”

“Why do you do that?” Her eyes roll.

“Because they’re comfortable and more stylish.”

“No. You focus on the physical.” We continue to walk, with each other but not together.

I used to wear baggier pants, the kind that would drag behind my sneakers and rip, the kind whose bottom hems would wear away like a memory. Or a scar. I used to wear jeans that would get wet halfway up the leg just from stepping in a tiny rain puddle. My old pants had crotches that hung down much lower than a proper inseam.

I can barely fit both of my balls into some of my new pants. They’re snug. They aren’t too tight, but some pairs toe the line of skinnies. I can’t fit into real skinny jeans because they’re not made for guys with any type of muscle on their calves or thighs. But “slims” I can do. Slims make my butt look good, and I like that.

“Has it ever occurred to you that maybe people don’t care what you’re wearing?”

It’s funny how things like this work. When I was younger, clothes always had to be loose. Tight was bad, tight was uncomfortable, tight was gay. Then suddenly I wanted everything tight. Not too tight, but fitted. I basically woke up one morning and knew that none of my clothes fit me right. I’d like to think it was the morning after I watched Daniel Craig as James Bond for the first time. The man wears his suits better than most people wear their skin.

“You were always obsessed with appearance,” she continues.

I’m not sure if it’s just one of those things that comes with age, like I’ll fall back into the Loose Pants Club again when I reach my forties, or if it’s something more. Or less. They say “beauty is pain” or “pain is beauty” or something like that. Now, I don’t know if I agree with all of it, but I do know that comfort is overrated.

She reasons, “Just because you’ve changed your clothes or because you look different doesn’t mean you’re a different person.”

Pain is temporary. It either goes away or you can deal with it long enough to make it seem like it has. You get used to it — you get accustomed to it — so you stop noticing it’s there. But the same thing happens with beauty.

“You’ve always been concerned with what’s on the surface, and maybe that’s all you are. A surface encounter.”

Depth is definitely an issue. With tighter pants come smaller pockets. Jeez, baggy jeans used to have such deep pockets. Now, I’m lucky if I can slip my wallet into my front pocket. And don’t even get me started on my phone. Phones are strange, too. First, they were huge and inconvenient to carry around. Then the trend was to make them as small as possible, so brands made them smaller. Now, the trend is larger screens and companies are following suit. I imagine my pant preference will follow this type of viciously circular path.

“You’ve always refused to acknowledge your true feelings and communicate with people. That’s how you alienate yourself.”

I look her in the eyes and say, “Funny how things like this work, huh?”

She shakes her head. “Nice pants,” she says, turning away.

“Do you think people choose not to change, or that they’re just not capable of it altogether?” I don’t say this out loud, of course. But I think it.


Originally published in The Bigger Picture on Medium.