When I returned to the United States after living abroad for a year, I immediately gained what I like to call the “Freedom Fifteen.” The Freedom Fifteen is a phenomenon in which travelers put on about 25 pounds of weight upon crossing the borders of the United States of America, lie to their family and friends by adding 10 pounds to their pre-America weight, and then make remarks about the “shitty portion sizes” in developing countries. We Americans have always had large portion sizes. It’s a cultural remnant of the days when we had to shoot 100 pounds of meat on the wagon trail and eat it all before it either spoiled or the leader of our wagon party decided to ford the fucking river only to lose all of our shit. 

This genetically inbred waste-not mentality made “eating less” an unacceptable weight loss option upon my return, so I began to look for exercise regimens that would allow me to drop back down to my abroad weight while still gorging myself at every meal. The problem, naturally, was that I hate running, walking, biking, lifting weights, swimming, climbing, gymnastics, and virtually every other type of exercise except for chewing. So I was stuck with my newly acquired paunch until I went over to my friend’s house and saw a yoga mat sitting in front of her TV.

“That’s cool,” I said.  ”Do you do a lot of yoga?”

“Huh?” she said.  ”Oh… yeah, I guess.  Mostly I just sit there to watch TV and eat ice cream.”

This sounded perfect. I immediately bought an ice cream eating mat. My new workout regimen consisted of sitting on the mat, eating ice cream, and downloading workout apps. A few weeks after that, I downloaded an app that gives you a bunch of short workouts that you can do when you have a chance throughout the day, and some of the workouts were pretty yoga heavy.  I did them for like, 6 minutes, and immediately had way better self-esteem than I’d had 6 minutes before.

I told my girlfriend about it, and we decided to start going to yoga classes together.

Yoga’s my thing now. I haven’t lost a pound in the year since I started going, but I can do two push-ups. Push-ups in yoga are way more complicated than regular push-ups and are called “vinyasas.” Vinyasa in Sanskrit means, “to place in a special way,” and this is a very accurate description of what all of yoga is like. It is a much better description than the word “yoga,” which means “union with the divine.” I haven’t once met any divinities during yoga, but I have absolutely placed myself in special ways.

Yoga, for those that don’t know, is an ancient spiritual practice used by Hindus and Buddhists that is now used by westerners to get sexier butts. It involves entering many different “poses,” which help your body become, stronger, more flexible, and absolutely drenched in sweat.

Yoga is perfect for me.  I feel amazing at the end of it, and farting in class is encouraged.  It’s also a totally personal sport, which is great, because anything that has a competitive element in it makes me into a horrible person. Also, yoga is led by very calm, possibly stoned people, and it always ends with a nap. The nap (or “meditation” as people who aren’t attending the 6 a.m. class call it) is also known as the “shavasana,” which, translated from Sanskrit, means – and I am not making this up – “corpse pose.” Corpse pose is the best.

Unfortunately, corpse pose comes at the end of the yoga session (or “practice,” as the people who do it more than once a month call it). You have to work through a whole bunch of other poses to get to corpse pose, and some of them are excruciating. Yoga teachers also prefer to refer to the poses by their Sanskrit names, which makes them especially confusing. Sanskrit is a difficult language to exercise in. There are absolutely no Jock Jams that are written in Sanskrit.

Some of the poses are spectacularly easy to figure out. Like Bhujangasana, or “cobra pose,” which you can practice now by yourself by getting on the ground and trying to look like a cobra. Do you look like a cobra? Good. That’s cobra pose. Hissing is not encouraged in class sir, please stop it. Others are less intuitively named, like “downward facing dog.” Downward facing dog looks nothing like a downward facing dog would actually look, which is on your back with legs spread for optimum belly scratching. Instead, you are basically trying to look like a fat fifth grader doing a pushup.  Butt as high in the air as possible, arms locked. 

The instructors are very soft and gentle, making this the most calming workout you could possibly have. All of them are skinny young women who believe the world is full of light and love and want nothing more than for you to get the best out of your “practice” so that one day, you too can’t imagine there being any evil in a world that contains a butt as perfect as yours. If the whole world did yoga, there would probably be world peace, but the psychological value of having a great butt would probably be diminished due to a market flooded with great butts.

At the end of the practice, the instructors lead you into shavasana, and after several minutes of posing as a corpse, they ask you to sit up, and then they bow to you and wish you “namaste.” Namaste is Sanskrit for “the light in me bows to the light in you.” I bow back to be polite, not telling them that I saw that video of my colonoscopy: there’s not a whole lot of light in there. TC mark

featured image – Shutterstock

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Sometimes I wear my big boots to feel big. There is something satisfying about their clunk on the sidewalk, clack in the hallway and quiet power when crossed over my knee. Everyone needs a good pair of tall leather boots.

Even though your grandma tells you that nobody will ever marry you if you’re heavy or have big feet, put your feet down with everything you got. Grace is aimless fluttering without purpose.

Walk with weight. Let gravity and confidence pull your mass through your ankles and the soles of your feet.

My house, creaky and small and old, trembles when I walk. Shakes when I jump. Crumbles around me in a beautiful decay of old plaster and stained glass windows when I sleep, when I dream.

When I say that I am 20 people squint their eyes at me, calculating my inexperience and naiveté. I look back at them wide-eyed in my ferocity and youth. I like to think that my gaze is heavy.

Walk with weight and the people around you will tremble, shake, crumble in your wake. You will not disappear into the cracks because you will be creating them in your wake.

When someone asks you how much you weigh, do not answer with “too much” or “110″ or “295.” Answer with “more than today and less than tomorrow.” Answer with “ambition.” Answer with “as much as I let myself, which is a lot sometimes but most of the time I’m too scared and try to make myself smaller, smarter, older, better, more in-control.”

To be a leaf, to weigh nothing, is to be blown away and crunched under the big boots of the heavy. TC mark

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You are loved. You are worthy. You are enough. You are strong. You are good.

You are an incredible person and you constantly amaze me, and those around you. Please know that you are loved more than words can say.

You are beautiful inside and out. You have such a special light about you and the unique opportunity to change your world for the better. I am in awe of your drive and compassion. I cannot wait to see the positive impact you leave on your community. Please don’t let the darkness of your struggle dim your light.

I know you stumble sometimes, and I know that some falls are bigger than others. My dear friend, I am truly sorry you are hurting, but please know that you are not alone. I am here. I will help pick up your pieces, hold you together or sit and be broken with you. I am here to share your burden. I am deeply inspired by your ability to persevere with positivity and courage. I know you don’t always feel strong, but you put on a beautiful brave face and push through. You don’t have to do this alone. If you reach for me, know that I will be there each and every time.

Please know that your best is enough, even when it feels like it isn’t. You may not feel successful, but know that you are. You may not see it, and it may not be your perfect picture of success, but you are more successful than words can say. You have such a positive influence on your world and on me. You inspire me to be my best self and to help you be your best self. I believe in you, friend. I know you will find your success.

Give yourself some credit. You have made it this far, and you have already done incredible things. My friend, this is just the beginning! You have so much potential; so much love and light to share. Don’t be afraid of failing, be afraid not to try. You are more than capable of achieving your goals. Please, follow your dreams! You want to see the world? Go! You want to work with a special population? Do it! You want to teach? Do it! You want to save lives? Do it! You can. You can do all of this in more. I believe in you, dear friend. Please believe in you too.

Whenever you start to doubt yourself, read this letter. I will always be there to help you find your way; to share in your struggles and celebrate your successes.

You are brave. You are capable. You are inspiring. You are important. You are good.

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How do you know when a relationship is really finished?  Is it after looking over a meticulously compiled list of unacceptable details, or rather one specific incident that pushes you over the edge?  What about an unpleasant combination of both? Does there come a time, in a relationship that we know we’ve been in for too long, when we actively look for reasons to leave, gleefully tally up everything our partner has done wrong? And when we leave, which exit method do we choose?  A no-holds-barred, insult-laden brawl inspired by recent episodes of our favorite reality television show? Or is that new, allegedly kinder thing people are doing called the “slow fade” a better option?

How long does it take us from the moment when we decide to leave someone to actually initiate the breakup conversation? For me, it’s ranged anywhere from two weeks to six months, not only because I hate confrontation, but because I’m legitimately frightened by the other person’s reaction.  Besides, what if I change my mind?  I’ll find a plethora of excuses not to end things, partially because I’m trying to remember what being alone feels like, and mostly because I’m dreading the inevitable confrontation and admission of “real” feelings that will come from both sides.  I wonder when the most convenient time to break up with someone is, and if my partner’s schedule can really handle the month or so of serious recovery that being broken up with often requires. “I can’t break up with him because he’s got a show opening in a week,” I reason, or “Now’s not a good time because he has a final exam, his sister is coming to visit, we were supposed to go to a wedding next month and I’ve already sent out my response card….” As always, there are a million reasons, few of them valid, not to do something.  Especially if that something is hurting someone else.

Once, I waited so long to end it with someone that I ended up breaking up with him on a bench outside of a movie theatre, ice cream in hand, after he’d flown in to see me for a week.  We then had to endure an exponentially tortuous series of events with my family, where well-meaning cousins asked us to pose for pictures and my (former?) boyfriend often left to go weep in the children’s tree house.  It wasn’t a great decision, and while I’d like to think I’m alone in my what’s been described as “cruel and stupid” breakup timing, I know plenty of women, and even more men, who have done the same thing.  Karma got me a few months later when, on the evening of our anniversary, I was sat down on a park bench, ice cream once again in hand, and broken up with in the middle of a Manhattan intersection in a speech so crazy it included the line, “You’ll notice whenever I talked about my feelings for you over the past week, I used the past tense.”  If it’s now (understandably) socially unacceptable to wait until the last possible second to end things with someone, what are our other options?

“Ghosting” is the trendy new thing to do, but what I’ve learned from that is that it’s not always actually an end.  No matter who initiates the radio silence, what it can sometimes mean is not exactly “I’m not into it,” but rather “I’m not into it enough to treat you well or to work towards making this a real thing, but I would like to have a safety in my contacts to text any time after midnight when I’m trying to get some.”  It’s amazing to me how many people allow themselves to be manipulated by the 2 am text because they think sex is the way to “rekindle” someone’s affections – and after waiting up for a guy I really liked until he finally rolled in, wasted, at 3:30 am, I swore that I’d block the number of any dude who ghosted me.  I’ve never successfully blocked anyone’s number, but I walk around yelling at my girlfriends to “have some self respect” and reminding them “they deserve better” than this “idiotic prick.”  Why is it so hard to take our own advice? Why can’t we resist ghosting other people when we know how annoying it is when someone does it to us?  Are we all really that conflict avoidant?  Yes.  Does ghosting someone actually avoid a conflict? No. I’m thinking here of the many passive-aggressive “so…..i guess this is over, then?” texts I’ve both sent and received.

Plus, ghosting someone doesn’t leave much room for the thrill of an explosive fight, the kind of thing that can go on at maximum volume for upwards of three hours with set breaks for sobbing, making calls to friends, and locking yourself in the bathroom for dramatic effect.  These kinds of breakups happen most often at the end of long-term relationships, when you’ve had time to get the really good dirt on people.  These are the kinds of stories you tell your friends, both to make your ex seem crazier than they actually are by revealing their actions when they are at their most vulnerable, or to prove to your friends how “strong” you were, how you didn’t take any shit.  Some of the best ones I’ve heard include posting someone’s cheating crimes on social media and tagging his boss, or the time my friend took a flyswatter to her breakup sparring partner because it was the closest thing she could grab.

What I really enjoy though, is getting myself into situations that I know have a set end date.  As in, his visa expires and he has to go back to his home country, and nobody wants to take this thing overseas.  I’ve heard plenty of stories about long distance relationships, and even had a failed one of my own. This scheduled date of death allowed both me and the man I was with to treat each other like complete garbage, but to excuse each other’s behavior because, hey, there’s only a month left, so why break up?  In our quest to “avoid drama” by ending things before we began to actively, deliciously hate each other, we ended up completely eradicating the possibility of the amicable and inevitable end we’d both agreed upon when we first started dating.

I haven’t yet dated a married or engaged man, but I’d assume his wedding to someone else would be an equally convincing and final end date.  But in today’s world, maybe not.  Affairs seem to be the new normal, egged on by things like online dating and the ability to reconnect with your high school sweetheart from fifteen years ago via Facebook.  Cheating, and the way people react to it, can either lead to an amazingly dramatic breakup or a usually futile determination to hang on and “save the relationship” at the detriment of both parties’ mental health.  I knew someone who, after cheating, was given this ultimatum: either you stay with me and we work this out, or I blacklist you to everyone you know and work with.  Given this anecdote, I can kind of understand why he cheated.

Then there are the couples that don’t break up – at least not initially.  They make an enormous and expensive spectacle of their forever-like-a-diamond love, ask friends to spend money they don’t have on hideously enameled plates, then a few years later they’re crying to you over a glass of Pinot Grigio (it’s always Pinot Grigio) because they’ve realized they just don’t like the person they married.  These breakups are only different from earlier days in that they cost a lot of money and actively involve, even hurt, other people.  Many people say they “don’t believe” in divorce.  These people are either trying to protect their assets, have strong religious or cultural beliefs that guilt them out of divorce, or they’re just stubborn.  I’m being facetious here – of course there are complicated reasons to divorce or not to divorce, but the main thing is that you don’t get to write off the possibility of dealing with yet another breakup just because you’re married.

It’s disheartening to think that society has come up with all these options for telling someone you don’t love them anymore instead of focusing on something worthwhile, like Lindsay Lohan.   What is your preferred method of breakup, if you initiate ending things at all?  (After all, there’s always the option of waiting for the other person to do it.)  What’s your proudest – or craziest – “breakup moment?”  Do you have a preferred setting or time of day? Or, if you truly think you are finished with breakups for good, what hope can you offer the rest of us? TC mark

Like this? Read this: Breaking Up in the Digital Age.

Breaking Up - Alternate - High Res

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The first guy to have ever really broken my heart was bisexual. In addition to being devilishly handsome, he was remarkably in-tune with and upfront with me about his sexuality. For him, our thing was a sex thing and only a sex thing. He could only love women. He told me this point blank and I, like a fool, pretended that I knew better. We were gonna fall in love and have gaybies; it was written in the stars. Our eventual split had more to do with my inability to accept his truth and less to do with the fact that he liked to bang dudes when he was in between long-term commitments to women. For a while rather than directing my misplaced bitterness towards this man in particular, I aimed it at bisexual men as a whole. I became one of those assholes*.

Bisexual guys and gals are experiencing something of a social renaissance right now. A casual search for the term here at Thought Catalog presents you with shit bi folks aretired of hearing, how common bi-oppression is, and the sentiment that bisexual people are fed up with the rest of our collective bullshit. For too long have dismissive hetero and homo-fascists rendered the lived experiences oppressed bisexuals invisible with their snide remarks and dramatic eyerolls.

Generally speaking I’m right there in solidarity with my bi-brethren, but right now in this moment I feel as if bi-folks have some shit of their own to own up to.

The fluidity of sexuality is a common talking point when discussing the legitimacy of bisexuality. As a gay guy I’ve experienced the faintest of sexual attraction to women on a handful of occasions. It’s sort of like a bit of outdated source code in my sexual OS trying to execute a command that my hardware simply won’t support. I don’t think about it too much because the whole man-attraction thing is using up well over 99% of my processing power, but you get the idea. The more important point: Even though I acknowledge past physical attraction to women, I’ve never felt like I had the capacity to be romantically interested in one. Not once.

I’ve never wanted to hold, caress a woman’s hair, or or profess my undying love for one in flash-mob form. The prospect of spending the rest of my life with a woman sounds so downright unfulfilling that it highlights my intense desire for these things with men in a way that reassures me of my homosexuality.

Note that I’m conflating my desire to build a life with a guy with my homosexuality. Strictly speaking “-sexuality” as a suffix refers to one’s physical desire for a particular sex. We tend to lump emotional and sexual desires together in a way that’s socially irresponsible because in doing so we end up miscommunicating what it is that we want out of our relationships.

Of all of the bi guys I’ve known over the years, the majority of them have been what I would describe as bi-sexual but hetero-amorous. That is to say that while they’d certainly get into some sweaty bro-on-bro action at the frathouse, guys simply couldn’t provide the kind of emotional satisfaction necessary for a romantic relationship.

From what I can tell from a handful of informal conversations my research, it would seem as if the bisexual/hetero-amorous thing is rather common but rarely articulated in those terms. It doesn’t seem to be unique to bisexual men, either. Whether people aren’t differentiating between their carnal interests and emotional needs or simply aren’t considering them as being distinct from one another is unclear. Either way, I think it’s a major source of much of the hostility that bisexual people tend to receive–particularly from gay men.

The “cis-” prefix is commonly used to describe those whose gender and physical sex are tidily aligned. Cis-privilege in this particular context allows for the general assumption that gay men have sex with and fall in love with men, lesbians have sex with and fall in love with women, and straight folks do the same for the opposite sex and genders. Bisexuals buck this pattern by not conforming to its discrete rules. Rather than being equally capable of loving and fucking equally I suspect that most bi-identified people find themselves leaning towards one sex/gender vs. the other for different kinds of fulfillment. That in and of itself isn’t a problem. It’s the not telling people that causes issues.

For many people, every hookup, no matter how drunken or casual or initially FWB-oriented, holds the potential of turning into something more. It’s important to disclose at the onset what it is you’re looking for when you start “seeing” someone. I would argue that it’s even more important, particularly when it comes to bisexuals, to be ready to articulate whether or not the bang-du-jour even has the potential to be “more” should that conversation ever need to happen. Bisexuals get a bad rap for not being able to explain their emotional actions that seem so incongruous with their sexual proclivities. That doesn’t need to be the case.

If more bisexual people could express that sentiment to their partners I’m willing to bet that the rest of us wouldn’t be so hostile towards them. A large part of being a sexual minority is coming out as such. If bisexuals want to stop being ostracized, they’ve got to do more than simply coming out and identifying themselves as being bi. They’ve also got to be upfront about what it is that they want and who they want it from. TC mark

*For the record: Tom Daley’s since come out as being 100% gay. Just. Saying.

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