Issue 9: Bi the Skin of My Teeth 📿

Writer's block, religion, and general crisis vibes.

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Hi bbs! I love you and I’m so grateful for you!

I’d like to begin this issue with an apology. I know, I know—saying “sorry” is a direct affront to the feminism of Pantene’s 2017 commercial—but this month’s newsletter is very delayed, and I am legitimately sorry for that.

I need to work on getting a regular cadence for this baby. I owe that to y’all. But I promise I have a good excuse, and it’s that I’ve been SPIRALING! This newsletter will now deviate from its regularly scheduled format to tell you why.

First: I’m busy as f*ck. To clarify: This is not a brag—being busy is not chic. Yes, I once considered a booked schedule to be an indicator of success, but I’ve since interrogated capitalism enough to know it’s actually an indicator of being caught up in a system that pretends our intrinsic human value is equal to our productivity. The amount of events on your calendar does not equate to joy. I hate being busy—it’s ruining my skin, soul, and mental health. It’s affecting my relationship, and harming my sleep schedule.

And yet, many of the things I’m busy with are good things! I should be happy—at least a little bit. And part of me is! I’ve spent the last 30-some days:

  • Finishing final edits of my book (pls pre-order if you haven’t already 💜)

  • Getting back into the swing of things at my day job (including some Pride projects I’m pumped about)

  • Hanging out with my BFF Joey for the first time in 1.5 years (we watched Beastmaster at our local Brooklyn gay bar and it was gorgeous, and I’m currently masked on a Delta flight en route to see him in LA)

  • Working out again (and doing so because it feels good rather than because I want to look a certain way)

  • Devouring every word of Milk Fed by Melissa Broder (best book I’ve read in a long time)

  • Introducing my dad to Girls5Eva (he approves!)

  • Surprising my mom with a retirement party (she cried!)

  • Surprising my grandma with a 100th birthday party (she also cried!)

  • Watching my amazing brother do stand-up about his autism (watch it hereTW: su*c*de)

  • Packing to move in with my partner (which happened about two weeks ago and I cannot wait to show y’all the place)

Even with all those excuses, I’m usually pretty good at accomplishing stuff while busy (maybe she’s born with it—maybe it’s Adderall XR!). So I dug a little deeper, and came up with the actual reason this newsletter is delayed: I didn’t know what to say! (Pat Regan’s newsletter sums up the shame of this sentiment better than I ever could.)

I get stressed when writing my newsletter because I’m worried I’m repeating themes from my book (what if I say something twice and my book feels like old news when it comes out?!?). Also, I know I made a reel saying that May’s newsletter would be about bi women & femmes experiencing sexual awkwardness during queer hookups, but diving into that topic has historically triggered my own imposter syndrome and I really don’t feel like doing that to myself rn! (I am, however, gonna write about that in July — I hope.)

Also, my ADHD is firing on all cylinders these days and I can’t pay attention to shit. Last week, while reading Heathline instead of writing (all in a day’s work!), I realized something: A wandering mind is a symptom of burnout! This might seem obvious, but I found it revelatory—I’ve always thought not being able to focus meant I was hungover or didn’t get enough sleep. But burnt out! I’m burnt out! NAMING THE FEELING IS LIBERATING!

The question then becomes how do I fix this burnt-out, shriveled-up version of myself? I’ve felt detached from my personhood for the last year, both in bad ways (depression!) and good ones (eating my feelings is fun!). I’m worried that the stress of writing a book in three months while working a full time job during a pandemic has altered me on a molecular level. I’m not fun anymore. I look at old pictures of me taking shots while wearing fringe jumpsuits and barely recognize the bitch.

Writer’s block makes everything worse. When it’s hard for me to put words on a page, I struggle to maintain my sanity, well-being, and sense of purpose. I catch myself wondering: If I don’t have anything to say, what’s the point? Am I even awake? (Spoken like someone who truly loves the sound of her own voice.) It’s not just about writing essays or extremely long Instagram captions either—I get a small whiff of this existential confusion every time I feel at a loss for words: when something awful happens and I’m not sure what my lane is, or when I want to see & be seen in an Instagram comment section but can’t think of anything witty enough.

But writer’s block hurts the most when it happens surrounding my newsletter. After all, my newsletter is the house I built, the place where I should be baring my soul and sharing my favorite TV shows and talking about bisexuality (the thing I love most in the world tbh). When I don’t know what to write here, I feel truly lost at sea. I can’t find my sense of sense to use as a life raft. I feel unanchored to this earth, as if at any moment I could just float away.

For a beat (aka at 4 a.m. two Fridays ago) I thought I should write about the only thing I could think about: Israel/Palestine. My head is still spinning, because of human rights violations and social media and the fact that I’ve never felt more connected to my Judaism than this past month, which obviously makes for shitty timing.

Fortunately, I can say that my faith resurgence was brewing before war escalated (in large part due to Milk Fed, and in small part due to Shiva Baby). But if global affairs hadn’t made it topical, I never would’ve felt comfortable talking about it.

In many ways, I feel similarly around Judaism to the way I feel (or felt) about queerness—like there was some checklist I couldn’t complete, so I wrote off the whole notion early on. I’ve never felt deserving or worthy of the title of “Jew,” and that’s not entirely in my head: I’m only connected by blood in my father’s side (which famously “doesn’t count”). I attended exactly one bar mitzvah (the only one I was invited to—there were three people under the age of 21). In college, two Jewish friends once laughed at me because I didn’t know what a mezuzah was (I, in turn, laughed at them for thinking “goys” should know, further distancing myself from any sort of religious ties).

Growing up, I knew I came from Jewish roots. I knew my family name was originally “Weinstein” (though given that name’s modern associations with H*rvey, I’m semi-grateful to the anti-Semitic Ellis Island guards who changed it). But I didn’t really discover how deep my Jewish roots went until I was in my late twenties, and in, of all places, Jerusalem.

I was in Israel/Occupied Palestine on a trip for Storytellers that I’d been encouraged by many close friends to attend. They told me it was one of the “least biased” trips—“least biased” being a superlative that meant little, but was, at least, probably true. Sure enough, unlike Birthright which is so famously one-sided that it arranges flirting functions with the IDF, this trip took us to Ramallah, where we listened to Palestinian journalists and experts of public opinion (a challenging logistical feat for an Israeli-led trip to pull off).

(TW: Specifics about the Holocaust mentioned in next two paragraphs)

A few days later, I paced on Jerusalem’s stone sidewalk, FaceTiming my dad after visiting Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Museum. Before visiting this museum, I thought I understood the breadth and terror of the Holocaust. I’d studied the devastation in school, I knew it happened, I’d been to the Museum of Tolerance and the Museum of the Holocaust and the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe and so on. But Yad Vashem was the first time I truly started to understand.

At Yad Vashem, with the help of a brilliant tour guide, I was able to wrap my head around the heartbreakingly massive number: Six million. Six million Jews. I learned that the horrors were so great it’s no wonder it took me multiple decades to fully comprehend them—even the Nazis had to use dehumanizing tactics. It’s a tragedy that’s truly impossible to confront head on. Similar to slavery or other devastating moments in human history, those of us not directly linked to the events themselves need to learn about them in excruciating detail. We need to hear the appalling truths multiple times from multiple sources before they ring true in our bones.

Many of the people I toured the museum with had relatives who’d survived the Holocaust. Some had relatives who hadn’t. I felt an urge to know more about my family. We were Jewish, right? How had we survived?

Standing outside Zion’s Gate, eyes still red from tears cried hours earlier, I said into the phone, “Dad, are you sure we’re Jewish?” His pixelated face nodded. “I need details! Why don’t I know anything about our family?” Frustrated, my dad said, “Jennifer, I don’t know, okay?! I tried asking your grandmother once but I didn’t get answers—she only spoke Yiddish.”

I fell to my knees.

That was two years ago. I’m still interrogating what my Jewishness means to me, and what my meaning of it means to the world, if anything. I’m still unpacking why I never engaged in this faith from the onset—why I felt excluded from it. Part of that was definitely due to the idea of Israel—something about it never clicked with me the way I saw it click with “real Jews,” and I interpreted that as another part of the checklist I failed to complete. (It also took me a year after that trip to work through the fact that having a faith-based revelation in Jerusalem did not come with strings attached—that is to say, it did not mean having any sort of “calling” to any land.)

Now I recognize that Zionism and Judaism are not the same, but also recognize that many ways of discussing anti-Zionism in this moment can (and do) invoke anti-Semitism. I recognize the unquestionable Palestinian right to sovereignty, but also the immense gravity of the Holocaust (and the fact that far too many of the conversations happening right now seem to overlook this entirely). This is not to advocate for settler colonialism or borders of any kind—just to say that it’s not a bad thing to call a situation “complicated.” It doesn’t even mean that you’re sympathizing! We are entitled to nuance in reasoning, and recognizing history doesn’t always have to mean defaulting to a particular solution. (We went through this with bisexual confusion, remember? Multiple truths can exist at once.)

While we’re questioning nation-states (as we should always be), let me remind you that I’m just a white girl on a plane flying across Turtle Island. I’m a citizen of a “country” that absolutely indisputably should NOT exist—a “country” that also happens to be financially responsible for the majority of grotesque injustices perpetuated this past month. So I don’t feel qualified to write about Israel/Palestine.

But I do feel qualified to write about burnout, and that brings us to tangent #2.

Recognizing burnout is one thing. Fixing it is another.

Two weeks ago, I was getting ready to move out of my apartment in order to move in with the love of my life. I’ve never taken this step with anyone before—both because I’ve never gotten to that phase with anyone, but also because I am DISGUSTING. I never take out the trash. I regularly forget to brush my teeth. Until I was like 26, I threw my disposable contacts on the floor and referred to them as “dust.” (If you want to unsubscribe, I understand.)

Yet somehow, Brinley has made it past all my fallacies and floor contacts and loves me anyway. And as of two weeks ago, they’re stuck with me for at least fifteen more months. 🥰

Both Brinley and I have both been feeling off-base this past month and that’s been affecting our connection to each other, so I suggested that before we move, we do a lil’ ceremony to bid goodbye to our apartments in the form of a Shabbat. Shabbat dinners are not a tradition I practice regularly (despite wanting to—again: busy), but I’d planned this one a month in advance, and given the context of the world and the way I was opening up to my Jewishness, it felt right to go through with it.

The schedule I created borrowed some ceremonial aspects from said Storytellers trip. It went as follows:

6-6:30pm – Dinner

  • Eat & unwind

  • Share stresses about the move

  • Make out

  • Etc.

6:30-6:45pm – Opening Statement

  • Jen monologues

6:45-8pm – The Past

  • Artifacts: Each partner shares two 3-5 minutes stories about two objects — one that reflects a turning point in your life, and another that reflects your personal mission.

  • Detox: Each partner writes out five traits we don’t want to bring with us when we move (for me: “my need to always be right during fights”) and then burn the papers so we can leave them behind.

8-9pm – The Future

  • Strengths: Each partner has taken the Strengths Finder test (ahead of time), so we’ll discuss. What strengths of your own are you proud of? What strengths of your partner’s are you proud of? What strengths did you not see as strengths, in yourself and in your partner?

  • Gift-giving: Each partner writes out three statements of things we’ll “give” to the other person. (e.g., “I give you the strength to say no to others, and instead, to say yes to yourself”)

If you’re rolling your eyes, I won’t stop you—but I do love this type of shit. I also truly feel lucky to have found a partner who managed to tolerate three hours of woo-woo programming with me. 💍

I won’t share all the details from the night, but I did want to share one specific part with you—the Opening Statement. Maybe I’m sharing this as a cop out to avoid having to write that bi femmes piece I mentioned (you’ll get it in July! I hope). Or maybe I’m sharing this because writing it helped me process my thoughts and finally feel grounded again.

Or maybe both of those things can be true.

In either case, here it is:

Tonight we will be talking about the past—what we want to leave behind.

Tonight we will be talking about the future—what we want to build.

But it feels important for us to begin by talking about where we are now: The present.

The present, of course, is complex. It is complex in the micro, in the very fibers of our bodies and brains. These bodies and brains are different than the ones we started this pandemic with. They’re different than the ones we started this relationship with. But they’re still bodies that serve us, even when we apply criticisms from the world’s eye onto them. They’re still brains that evolve, expand, and enrich, no matter how much they’ve had to endure.

The present is also complex in the macro, in the broad strokes of our world. Not that settler colonialism is complex, or that children dying is not heartbreaking, but that the plight of the Jewish people can often be complex to those outside of it. Complex in the sense that it’s hard to process generational trauma. Complex in the sense that it’s hard to live in fluidity without first having names, hard lines, and borders to deviate from. Complex in the sense that words mean different things to different people, and ultimately, words always fail.

Complex in the sense that unlearning the systems of oppression we’ve been raised on takes effort. Takes energy. Takes grief. Takes time.

And yet all of that is history. Anything that happened even a moment ago, is history. Because we are here now, on your patio now, staring at each other’s faces as they are now. Not as they were when we first met, or as they were even a moment ago. Now. Now. Now.

We are about to move in together. About to start a life together. About to build something together. We are about to assemble a queer family piece by piece, from the rubble of our own self-doubt. We are about to hold each other up, for a fifteen month lease, and then for eternity. You are my strength and I am yours.

That is beautiful. Yet all of that is future. Anything that happens even a moment from now is future.

Right now, there is only the now. There is only us and the sunset and the air and the dogs. And it’s hard to just be here—to ignore the push notifications or buzzing Apple Watches for once in our damn lives. It’s hard to sit with the bodies and brains that have shifted into things we don’t understand at times. It’s hard to be present and still process the past. It’s hard to be present and still focus on the future, imagining the world we want to behold. 

Recently, I’ve been interested in the idea that a “soulmate” should not make you feel butterflies. A soulmate should make you feel steady, calm, and certain.

You make me feel steady, calm, and certain.

We make me feel steady, calm, and certain.

We’ve spent our lives chasing uneasy joys because we thought catching them might erase the uneasy part, and we’d just be left with joy. 

We didn’t know our worth. We didn’t know that we deserved certainty.

Truth.

Safety.

Stasis.

Peace.

But again, that chase is part of the past. As is everything I’ve already said tonight—behind us. Gone. When the dogs ate your falafel ten minutes ago? Gone.

The now is ephemeral. It is ever-present, always there, but we’ll still miss it if we don’t look for it. And so we always have to seek it out, to return to our breath—and to the now—again.

So before we begin, let’s take four full minutes to simply be...here. To sit in silence and stare into each other’s eyes.

It might seem like a while, but god, what a luxury. To be here.

Together.

How fucking lucky are we.


Thank you so much for reading and subscribing to The Bi Monthly! I love you and I’m so grateful you’re here!

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