About a month ago I got dinner with a friend who I have known since high school. At some point the conversation turned to what it felt like to support me when my PTSD emerged for the first time during our undergraduate years together, about six years ago.
“Yeah Thomas, it was rough,” she said. “I remember I had to set super clear boundaries with you, because if I didn’t pick up the phone when you called, you’d freak out.”
When my friend told me this, I felt mortified. Continue reading
Growing up with an emotionally unstable mother, I developed a strong preference for planning and control from a young age. By eight, I knew I wanted to be a psychologist to help others. By middle school I planned out the one college I wanted to go to to escape my family. Now, as an adult, I am one of the least spontaneous people I know. I plan almost every day out by the hour; I once had a near-breakdown in undergrad when I thought I had lost my planner. A friend who I’m kinda on pause with once characterized me as “regimented” on her blog, a word that Google defines as “very strictly organized or controlled,” which fits me embarrassingly well.
This desire for control and planning emerged the other week when I ranted to my therapist about my typical life conundrums: men, friends, the men who date my friends, etc. Continue reading
The other day I had a breakdown in my car on my way back home from a super fun tennis match. This breakdown began when I started to reflect on a friend breakup that happened throughout the latter half of 2019, about a kind, soft-hearted friend who dated a man and grew to depend on him. Continue reading
I grew up as a pretty girly guy. Ever since a young age, I liked pink and floral colors and designs, gravitated toward female television and video game characters, and hung out almost all the time with girls. I derived a lot of benefits from this association with the feminine: empathy, communication skills, valuing softness over brute force. At the same time, I also encountered the message that I should want boys to like me, or that desire always flowed in one direction: other boys did the desiring, whereas I desired the desire of other boys.
Until I grew into my own social justice awakening and until I met my bff Bri in undergrad, my female friends and I would often interpret a guy’s rejection as a fault of our own. If a guy did not exhibit interest in us, we took it as a sign that we did something wrong. Maybe we cared too much. Maybe we should weigh less. Maybe we expected too much communication. Some of my friends and I analyzed the motives of men with the ferocity of rabid chihuahuas, bloodthirsty for emotional intimacy and care. We gossiped about whether their past relationships and traumas inhibited their capacity to connect. We strategized on ways to conduct ourselves to maximize their comfort and openness.
Things more iconic than spending time on emotionally under-developed men #313: eating iconic Asian food while reading in San Diego during a conference! This took place in October, at the restaurant Underbelly. The pork belly bao buns were iconic.
Imagine my surprise when a cisgender, heterosexual white male acquaintance of mine in undergrad did the exact opposite. Continue reading
A couple of weeks ago I caught myself worrying about whether one of my closest friends will abandon me. I have mentioned this friend on this blog a lot over the past year. I read some of her poetry before she submitted it; she took me out to dinner in DC when she visited; together, we’ve talked about how we feel about our friends, we’ve eaten Jeni’s ice cream, and we’ve shared our hopes for the future as well as for our friendship.
What is this friend and I break up? I thought to myself a couple of weeks ago. Continue reading
“The guy for me doesn’t exist,” I told my therapist during one of our Tuesday morning sessions. “I’ve been alive for 24 years and not one guy has sustained my interest, so he just doesn’t exist.”
“So many of the men in your life have disappointed you,” she said. “It must feel really disappointing.”
Um, yeah, I thought to myself. All the men in my life besides like, my iconic former therapist, one mentor, an ex-friend, and my author crush Adam Haslett though I don’t actually know him so he could be garb-
“You are 24 though,” she said. “That’s pretty young. Maybe it’ll take time.”
“Yeah, like maybe if I existed in 3019 instead of 2019.” I leaned forward on her couch. “Like in 3019, maybe as a society we will have conquered toxic masculinity and men would actually be worth dating. I mean, we’ll probably all be dead because of climate change, but dead in like, a potentially non-toxically-masculine and emotionally intelligent way. Like in 3019, maybe men-” Continue reading
In 2019, I visited my closest friends who live in Charlotte and Seattle, danced to “break up with your girlfriend, i’m bored” on a tennis court, and read 81 books! As I get older, I want to keep trying my best to live a full life, where I value myself based on a combination of what I contribute to society, my relationships, my hobbies, etc. So my love for reading contributes to that goal. It’s not about the number really – I don’t want to glamorize reading more or less for the sake of it – it’s about how it fits into what feels healthful and revitalizing for me. Amidst defending my master’s thesis and attaining my master’s degree, providing more therapy, and learning more about what qualities I value most in my friendships, reading these books have provided a safe and intellectually stimulating solid ground for me to fall back on. While this year’s selection does not feel quite as stellar as past years’ top tens, I still love all these books for the emotions they evoked within me and the lessons I learned from reading them. As always, I included links to my full Goodreads reviews of each book as well as links to past years’ top ten lists for easy reference at the bottom. Please let me know what you’ve read, what you haven’t read, and what you’d recommend. Here we go! Continue reading