How Very Stereotypical

“I don’t like that dress, Mommy, it’s too girly!” my second-grade self exclaimed as my mother struggled to find an outfit for her daughter to wear to her school’s Winter Concert. Elementary school concerts and formal events were always a struggle for my “tomboy-ish” self, struggling to feel comfortable in my gender expression but conform to my school’s rigid dress code as well.

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Lists

Googling your mental health—depression, let’s say, anxiety—will inevitably bring you to neat lists of symptoms.

 The lists tend to have ten items or less. This seems ludicrous: no human condition, surely, meets the same criteria as a grocery store express lane.

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Julia Nusbaum Comment
Toxic Masculinity Silenced my Battle with Depression

A few years before her death in 1999, my grandmother was slowly ripped away from me. I always loved the time I spent with my grandmother but those days, I sat in idle anxiety until I was allowed to leave the nursing home hand-in-hand with my mom. I didn’t understand what precipitated the change. All I knew was that instead of love and softness, my grandmother began to look at me with a confused unfamiliarity.

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Julia NusbaumComment
Instructions Upon My Death

I would hope you’re reading this with tears streaming down your face, but I doubt it. Our relationship has not always been an easy one, volatile at times, distant at others. But never let it be said I didn’t love you. Very much. I don’t know how you feel about me. We don’t talk about such things, apparently. But now I’m about to die and there are some things you should know.

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Storm Warnings: Beware the Taste of Rain

In 1970 one drop of rain hitting the ground every ten inches constituted a ten-inch rain in Tempe, Arizona, home of Arizona State University and me, my freshman year in college. Wetback referred to a co-ed who made out on the arid soil after the sprinklers ran in the morning, not migrant workers. People spit on soldiers coming back from Viet Nam. The Women’s Movement quaked on the cusp of exploding. And me? Well, before Titanic, before Leonardo Di Caprio declared himself King of the World, I stood atop the footbridge over University Boulevard and surveyed the student-lemmings who marched along the sidewalk.

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Super Power

I am proud to admit that I have a super power. I discovered it at an early age, and have found it even easier to call upon now that I am older and less important in my own mind and probably to the world in general.  

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Out of Control

He was kicked out of our house when I was eleven. To her credit, my mother did this for my sake. He had petitioned her to have me put on the birth control pill—at that age! I had not even started my period yet. There could be no innocent explanation for that request; it was part of the set-up— abusers start their preparation years in advance of the actual crimes against children.

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Julia NusbaumComment
Cousin Carolyn and the Magic Carpet Ride

“Come on Beth, while Urkie’s not looking, let’s do a magic carpet ride even though she told us not to.”  My cousin Carolyn’s magic carpet ride meant my sitting on top of one of our grandmother’s assortment of throw rugs and Carolyn pulling me at top speed up and down the hallways and other wooden floor rooms of Grandmother’s boarding house in Birmingham. 

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All the Ones I Didn't Love

I don’t miss him, but what I do miss is sitting on the cold sand of the beach in October, when the wind shivered my young bones, and I would huddle against him, burying my face into his cigarette, scented pullover. He would cross his arms for his own warmth, with a Marlboro Gold hanging from his blue lips. He never wore a jacket and even after all this time, this is the only way I can remember him.

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