My Legacy is Female

By Jaclyn Jermyn

When I was growing up, my favorite family story was about my Great Grandmother, Christine. She came to America alone when she was in her teens. My only mental image of the small Italian town she left is from a postcard with my Nana’s handwriting across the bottom, noting the significance of the place. It shows a long dusty cobblestone street and a Shell gas station sign.

Christine arrived at Ellis Island with the promise of a man who would sponsor her and marry her. He didn’t show up, leaving her stranded for days—or weeks, I was never quite sure on the details—until my Great Grandfather Mauro showed up.

In my mind, Christine was a firecracker of a woman. She was small and stature and stubborn. She was the first woman in her Italian immigrant community in Lynn, Massachusetts to get her driver’s license, much to the awe and annoyance of her neighbors. She raised five children during the great depression. She would bury four of them in her lifetime.

In her later years, and I mean much later years, she fought off a knife-wielding intruder and pinned her attacker down in her front hallway until a friend could call the police.

When my father started bringing my mother to Wednesday-night family dinners, Christine welcomed this skinny, Irish girl in the signature Italian grandmother fashion: by feeding her copious amounts of pasta.

My mother is one of three girls born into an Irish working-class family straight out of Boston. My grandparents worked constantly to support themselves. My mother and my aunts found their way in the world largely on their own because of this. At 21, my mother got on a plane for the first time to go train as a Pan-Am stewardess. She wore a leather skirt to her interview and told the panel she looked really good in navy blue—the color of the uniforms at the time.

I am the eldest grandchild on both sides of my family. On my mother’s side, I am the only girl. On my father’s side, I am one of two. If this were anything about family legacy, maybe that would mean more. I have no family names. I am not named after anyone. I have spent much of my life thinking of our family as average because their accomplishments seemingly fit the bill of what immigrant families did.

Most people that I knew growing up were 4th or 3rd generation immigrant families. If you follow the pattern of fathers, everyone worked hard and provided for their families. They farmed and built houses, fought in wars, and drank when their shifts were over. They did good things and they did not so good things but lived their lives as best as they could.

If you follow the line of mothers, generation after generations, you see sheer willpower to do something different—to go one step further than their mothers did. To strike out on their own or marry outside of their ethnic group or wear leather skirts to important interviews. That’s legacy in itself. That’s a tradition I wouldn’t mind following for the sake of tradition. 

What’s Your Sign?: On Horoscopes and What the Internet Is Saying About Me

By Jaclyn Jermyn

“What’s your sign?”

My friend leaned closer towards me and squinted, as if my facial expression was going to give away the answer.

“Taurus,” I said quietly, looking down at the drink in my hand. I knew what she was going to say next. Of course I was a Taurus. I am often described as stubborn and possessive by those I am unfriendly with—reliable and fiercely loyal by those who are fond of me—all apparently classic Taurus traits.

I do occasionally glance at a horoscope to see what the world apparently has in store for me. It’s sometimes hard to resist the temptation when the internet is telling me that apparently this will finally be the month that I find true love or lose a lot of money—usually it can go either way. I try not to make a habit of it because aren’t I just unconsciously holding myself to someone else’s standards? Maybe I want to be more of a gentle, peaceful Libra this week.

When I turned 18, or maybe it was 16, my grandmother gave me a folder with a stack of yellowing paper stapled together inside of it. This was my natal chart, otherwise referred to as a birth chart and loosely related to more widely known horoscope concepts. Wikipedia defines a natal chart as “a stylized map of the universe,” that is, “calculated for the exact time and location of the native's birth for the purposes of gaining insight into the native's personality and potential.”

This stack of papers that my grandmother had quite possibly been hanging onto for the entire duration of my life, was supposed to have me all figured out and as I started to read through the descriptions, I couldn’t help but think that maybe the universe did have me all figured out or maybe I was just once again holding myself to someone else’s standards.

I don’t have that original packet anymore, it’s probably in a box somewhere in my parent’s basement, but I did my best to try and replicate it by using astro.cafeastrology.com because it was the first option that came up on Google:

Taurus natives are sensual folk—and this includes sex, but extends to pleasures in all areas: they delight in the sensual pleasures of food, a comfortable blanket, a richly colored aquarium to look at, the smell of flowers or spring rain, pleasing melodies coming from their stereos, and so forth. Some might even say they live through their senses more than most. 

This is fair, I think. I can’t speak to whether I live more through my senses than others but I do take pleasure in moments and feelings and then work very hard to get them back, even after they have passed.

In love and relationship, there is an earthy kind of possessiveness that may be considered jealousy by some, but there is actually quite a difference between being possessive and being jealous. Taurus natives are rarely jealous and petty. They do, however, think of the people they love as theirs—it adds to their sense of security.

This is absolutely true and it tends to get me in trouble. Security is key for me in a lot of aspects of my life.

You are a humanitarian who aims to treat everyone as equals. You seek to be unique and original, and you do your best to avoid bias and prejudice. Social status is less important to you than belonging to a group of diverse personalities. Your identity, in fact, is somehow linked to a larger unit than yourself. You have high hopes and goals, and tend to look at life in terms of opportunities. You have magnetic appeal, as people sense your broad tolerance and openness. The friendships you establish are crucial to your development.

Well, I at least hope that that part is accurate. Can anyone confirm? This would be a nice thing if it is in fact, true.

The thing about reading through these passages is that I got further into the text, I started started skimming over the parts that didn’t fit quite right or those that were a stretch to apply to myself. This leads to an overwhelming sense that “wow, yeah the whole thing was spot on,” when I look back on the experience. But no one person can be fully explained by the time and place they were born. We grow up. We meet new people. Sometimes, in my case, we move far away from where we were born and mix with different cultural values that help shape us. Of course, my East Coast elitism occasionally shines through but that Midwestern niceness has seeped into my life as well.

So, yes, go look at your natal chart. Waste an afternoon trying to twist someone else’s loose astrology to your life experience. Send screen shots to your friends when parts are just too accurate, it’s laughable. But you’re still a complex human being who is far more than what the internet says about you. Or maybe that’s just my stubborn Taurus self talking—I hate not being right.

 

Instagram, Doughnuts, and What it Means to be Popular

By Jaclyn Jermyn

I’ve had my Instagram account since early 2011—I like to think that somehow makes me ahead of the curve since the app was launched in October of 2010. In a way, I’ve watched it evolve and through it, I’ve watched myself grow up. A lot has changed—I started with a first generation iPod Touch in a hot pink case—and some things don’t—five years later and I still take a lot of pictures of my socks and dogs.

If we look at the apps we’ve had for the longest amount of time, it’s not hard to consider the relationship we have with our technology. Like any good relationship, our needs evolve over time. I went from using Instagram to edit grainy photos to put on Tumblr to cultivating and curating my view of the world. And like any relationship, once in awhile, you may find yourself seeking attention.

For the past two years I have had one elusive social media goal—I want to qualify for Popular Pays. For those of you don’t know, Popular Pays is a perfectly crafted marketing ploy that sets small items from local businesses (think a biscuit from Bang Bang Pie or a slice of pizza from Dimos) as rewards for Instagram users posting pictures of their treasures and tagging the store and their company. The only catch is that each reward has a qualifying number of followers tacked on to it. For those of you who do know what I’m talking about, you’re probably either in the same boat that I’m in—pining away for free stuff or you’ve already made it and you’re rolling in free doughnuts. Congrats if so. 

 

 

Why do I want free doughnuts so badly? Well, to be fair, I really do love doughnuts but I’ve bought plenty of doughnuts on my own accord before and it hasn’t done extensive damage to my bank account or my psyche. But with my 460-something follower count, I have been deemed “not popular enough to deserve free stuff,” and damn if that isn’t a weird psychological blow when you think about it.

I will be the first to admit that I probably spend too much time on Instagram but I find it hard not to have plenty of excitement about seeing the personal worlds of strangers and friends alike. These are the things that people want to share. Here’s what people are eating. This is where people are living. If I do something that I think was beautiful, I don’t feel silly for posting multiple times a day. Last year when I road-tripped to 16 states in a week, I was posting pictures constantly. I wanted people to share some of the raw joy I was feeling waking up in the Grand Canyon or playing in the Pacific Ocean. 

So it’s not all bad. I may be crossing my fingers daily that I get a sudden influx of followers and I can achieve arbitrary entrance into the “cool-kids-club” but while I wait that out, I’ve found a way to share my life with people, wherever they are. Screw authenticity—who doesn’t like a little validation occasionally?

Also, follow me on Instagram @tinyhorsestatue and maybe one day I can share my free doughnuts with you. 

Mom, Me, and Reality TV

By Jaclyn Jermyn

Courtesy of FYI Network

Courtesy of FYI Network

I haven’t had cable television for nearly a year. It’s just one of those expenses that seems silly when you have the entirety of the internet at your disposal. But I often feel a small twinge of sadness when I can’t flop down on the couch at any given moment and flip through the channels in search of a Golden Girls marathon. 

I know I don’t need need TV to make me happy but there’s such a (possibly) unhealthy pleasure in old fashioned binge watching, commercials and all. That’s why, I often end up abusing the privilege when I stay at my parents house. Being on vacation and having few responsibilities affords me the luxury of ignoring all of the hiking and biking and mountaineering I could be doing. The real lost opportunity would be not taking advantage of a comfy couch with countless throw pillows, a fully stocked pantry, and a wide array of high-definition channels.

This holiday season, I discovered the wonders of both Esquire and FYI networks. Esquire broadcast marathons of Parks and Recreation three days in a row (including the final seventh season that until today, had not been on Netflix). FYI network created a glorious piece of television called Married at First Sight.

The premise is sort of outlined within the title— so-called “love” experts (in the areas of relationships, sex, religion, etc.) act as matchmakers for six individuals, matching them into three couples that will agree to get married without knowing each other until reaching the altar. Seriously, they have to introduce themselves somewhere between the “sickness and in health” and the “I do.” 

The premise was ridiculous and yet, astonishingly captivating. I was hooked within the first 10 minutes of watching. My mom was hooked within the first 30. 

The important thing to note is that enjoying reality TV wasn’t about the substance, because truthfully, there wasn’t much to go on. It was a chance to hang out with my mom for an extended period of time and talk in coded language about our ideals of happiness, love, and marriage. 

My mom met my dad when she was in her early 20’s, getting married and having me by her mid-20’s. They’re still happily married, unlike the parents of so many of my friends. I don’t know what she expects of me. I can only assume that she wants me to get married someday. I know I want to get married someday. So we watching strangers on TV pick out their wedding dresses and get ready for their big day. She remarked how the backyard, with it’s view of Lake James, a state park, and the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the distance, would be a pretty place for a wedding. I would be lying if I said I hadn’t thought the same thing before. 

As much as people say that reality TV rots your brain, I can’t help but get a warm and fuzzy feeling whenever I get a minute to watch some. I thought about all the times we would watch Say Yes to the Dress together and those wedding design shows—there was clearly a trend happening. I didn’t feel pressured though. I was more than happy to keep watching Married at First Sight with my mom for the rest of the afternoon. I think this is just our own low-maintenance version of mother-daughter manicures or lunch dates and I don’t even have to leave the house. 

A Brief and Personal History of Trees

By Jaclyn Jermyn

Courtesy of Jaclyn Jermyn 

Courtesy of Jaclyn Jermyn 

A tiny pair of ceramic clogs from Amsterdam.

Five different ballerinas decked out in tutus and pointe shoes.

Thick clay angels with rosy cheeks.

American Girl doll Kit Kittredge, decked out in her flour sack birthday dress and missing a hand from the one year the Christmas tree fell over.

My family isn’t particularly religious but like a lot of American families, we celebrate Christmas yearly, if only to gather together and celebrate each other. For every year I can remember, decorating the tree was a heavily ceremonial way to usher in the holiday season.

When my Dad was young, he and his brothers planted pine trees on an empty plot of land my grandparents owned. The planting wasn’t executed very well and only a third of the trees survived to adulthood. The ones that did make it often graced our living room with their presence.

There was one year that Dad would load my brother and I on a toboggan and drag us out to the farm, brandishing a hacksaw in a blizzard to cut a tree down.

Each year on the night we would get our tree, my brother and I would haul out the boxes and lay out each ornament on the pool table, as if we were gearing up for an appraisal and subsequent auction of each item.

We would fight over the Christmas music we would play (I would always find a way to work the Mariah Carey album in there, if only for nostalgic reasons, and the Nat King Cole version of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, which was, and remains, my personal favorite), and we would go about finding the sturdy branches for our favorites, high enough that the dog couldn’t reach.

This year will be my first Christmas in a house I don’t consider my childhood home. Wanting a fresh start, my mother has chosen an animal theme for the tree, meaning there will be plenty of penguins, squirrels, and lambs, but no ballerinas and certainly nothing that says my name.

I get it; I really do.

But it’s hard not to feel alienated from a home that already isn’t my home because I don’t see myself in it when I’m there. My room doesn’t look like a room for me even if I recognize my dresser. I’m at this weird in-between stage of my life where I’ve grown up and forsaken childhood but I’m not established enough to have my own Christmas tree, decked out with snowmen that say “Jaclyn 1995, Love Grammy & Poppy.”

I found myself tearing up in Target a couple of days ago because I couldn’t find a candle that smelled enough like the pine trees I remembered. When I told my Mom about it, she sent my Dad out to cut me down my own tiny Christmas tree. I’m grateful but I can’t help but keep thinking that it’s not really the same.

Courtesy of Jaclyn Jermyn

Courtesy of Jaclyn Jermyn


Wedding Bell Blues

By Jaclyn Jermyn

Yes, marriage is antiquated.

Yes, the ideals of marriage don’t align themselves with the values of my generation.

And yes, I still want to get married.

I don’t know why really. Maybe it’s just a hold over from my childhood. I had two different wedding gowns I could dress Barbie up in. Ken had his own tux (with a bright blue cummerbund—who made that styling decision?).

I don’t know if I ever fit into the category of “every little girl dreams of her wedding day” because I think I dreamed of being a ballerina and seeing the world more than I thought about picking out a china pattern.

But yeah, I’ll be honest, I’ve looked at vintage wedding dresses on Etsy. I follow Married In New York on Instagram (and you should too because it’s cute as hell and city hall weddings seem like the best). I’ve looked at my parent’s backyard in North Carolina, overlooking the mountains and a lake and thought, “yeah, this would be a great place for a reception.” So sue me.

It’s foolish. But I am no one’s property. I would never have anyone “give me away” at the altar because my existence is not a business transaction. Side note: my original post was going to be about the concept of dowries and it ended up being too depressing so here I am typing away about the outdated concept of marriage and how I still believe in it, which to be honest, is not any happier.

The way I see it, I’ve gotten to the point in my life where I see my family two times a year. I see my extended family maybe once a year if I’m lucky. A wedding is a milestone for your later life. It’s probably after the graduation parties and before the more significant birthday parties. It’s something in the middle where everyone can gather together and remark on how you’ve grown up nicely and learned how to care about other people.

I would write my own vows. I don’t need to say “till death do us part” because I don’t want to be 60 and miserable and thinking about death as an escape route. But I would say “in sickness and in health” because if you really do care about another person, it’s not just the good days that you stick around for. And isn’t that level of personal maturity and commitment something to celebrate, if only on a two-person scale?

Oh, and in case my mom reads this, I’m not planning on getting married any time soon so you can stop hyperventilating. Let me finish college and get my life together first. 

Bodily Guilt

By Jaclyn Jermyn

Courtesy of Jaclyn Jermyn 

Courtesy of Jaclyn Jermyn 

I was 12 when I finally got my ears pierced.

It took my aunt gifting me the money for my first pair of earrings for Christmas to convince my mom that I could go through with the process. I don’t think she was ever against the idea but maybe because she thought that would be the only alteration I would ever make to my body, it could wait a little longer. My cousin Julia got her ears pierced as a baby. I chose a sensible pair of gold studs with tiny emeralds—my birthstone.

The needle didn’t make it all the way through the first time. They had to re-try, causing a subtle unevenness in the final product that it’s hard to look away from when glancing in the mirror. I thought I was traumatized enough to keep my body the way it was, seemingly forever. My mother seemed pleased.

Belonephobia is the abnormal fear of sharp pointed objects—especially needles and I developed it sometime in middle school. I think originally it stemmed from my intense fear of snakes (a fear I still very much have) as well as a few clumsy nurses tasked to draw my blood. Funny, I don’t think vampires have ever caused such anxiety in me. As I transitioned into high school and fell into a group getting and giving tattoos at a young age, I was still heavily cautious. I imagined tattoos to feel a lot like 10,000 flu shots. I brought tattooed boys and boys who looked like they should have tattoos home. It caused tension. 

Courtesy of Jaclyn Jermyn

Courtesy of Jaclyn Jermyn

I planned my first tattoo out for two years before I finally gathered up the courage to get it. Some people work on impulse. They go to the tattoo shop the day they turn 18 and celebrate crossing over into the world of adulthood with something permanent. I had to take two whole years to make sure my guilt complex didn’t out-weigh my desire to do something for me.

I settled on Orion’s belt, a simple three star constellation that my dad had taught me when I was young. I remember being on vacation in the Arizona desert and seeing those stars for the first time outside the confines of my backyard. It made me feel at home.

I got it on my ribs, a place no one was likely to see unless I happened to be at the beach or I was undressed. It felt private that way. After all, this was just for me.

My second tattoo happened in the dead of winter. I was six months out of an abusive relationship and needed a reminder that I was still alive. I held my best friend’s hand the whole time and rode the brown line home alone thinking about what my mother would say. My dad didn’t know about it until he came to the city to move me into a new apartment. It was May and I was in a t-shirt. He asked why I got it. I told him it was a reminder of personal growth. He didn’t ask any more questions.

Courtesy of Jaclyn

Courtesy of Jaclyn

The third was impulse. It was a delicate hand and flower piece of flash and it reminded me of Victorian imagery—something I wouldn’t mind having for myself, on myself. I had originally picked it out for my friend Matt but when he changed his mind, it felt like it was supposed to be mine (not that I wouldn’t get a matching tattoo with you Matt). I put an entire paycheck on it and went home the next month, nervous to show it off.

I look a lot like my mother. Everyone says so and I don’t think that is likely to change any time soon. It just took me almost two decades to realize that looking like someone doesn’t mean that I have to be that person. Loving my parents dearly doesn’t mean I quite understood their blatant disappointment with tattoos and those who get them. For so long I dressed the way my family expected me to. I got the haircuts that were approved of and limited myself to the brands they gravitated towards as well.

I don’t think I’m ever going to cover my body in tattoos but I think it’s probably about time I stop holding my own body hostage for the sake of someone, or anyone, else’s preconceived notions of what a daughter should look like. I don’t think loving my limbs is going to stop them from putting me on the Christmas card. 

Daughters Of Salem: The Burden of Spectacle

by Jaclyn Jermyn

I am a Salem Witch.

Not because I heeded a call from my Wiccan sisters. Not because I dabble in hexes or spell-casting. Not because I have a black cat or a rabbit or some wild looking bird that swoops down at night to settle on my window sill.

I am a Salem Witch because of what we yelled at pep rallies and sports games--shouts of “yeah witch!” to match the black silhouetted broom and pointy hat that found its way onto every club and class t-shirt.

I am a Salem Witch by default. I am a daughter of Salem because I was born there, and I got to see first hand the burdens that came with that.

In terms of obvious iconography, there was no shortage of it growing up. There was a witch emblem on the water tower. My brother and I played on streets named Witch Way and in parks called Gallows Hill. We lived in a neighborhood called Witchcraft Heights, and on summer nights, we didn't go to Dairy Queen for soft serve—we went to Dairy Witch.

In theorist Umberto Eco’s essay “Travels in Hyperreality,” he details and explores the fake and extra “real” of America, looking into Wild West Towns and Disney World and everything in between to try and find what captivates audiences about these recreations of the “real.”

Salem is in hyperreality all year long. It only takes one glance down the cobblestone alleyways to wonder if every tourist decked out in pointy hats are also wishing for the hangman’s noose.

The captivation with my hometown stems from the mystery of its greatest tragedy. What made those girls go mad and start pointing fingers at their neighbors? Was it really just a dangerous lust for religion? Was the stifling thumb of Puritanism just pressing down a little too hard?

Or was it Ergot fungus (a mold found in rye bread that is said to have LSD-like properties)?

Maybe it was just a fight over land ownership or the fact that glasses didn't exist and people needed a way to explain what they couldn't see. That's why religion exists anyways, right?

No one knows the spark that led to the hangings of 19 people, and for one man to be pressed to death with stones. Giles Corey would be posthumously excommunicated because his death would be ruled a suicide. His continuous cries of “more weight” must have rattled someone to the bone.

Mystery is the end all, be all allure. Those who flock to Salem every year are the equivalent of the people who stare at car crashes. The American people have a very obvious history of clinging to our past disasters and forgetting to seek ways to move on. Isn’t that just part of our nature at this point?

I am a Daughter of Salem by birth, and for that reason I was gifted the burden of spectacle Something you can never really get away from and something I'm not sure I would ever choose to give up. I am part of that spectacle. I am a Salem Witch.

The Secret Lives of My Upstairs Neighbors

By Jaclyn Jermyn

They moved into the third floor apartment in July, bringing their tiny dog and an old library ladder with them. A young professional couple, both working in creative fields, both had gone to college in the midwest and were moving back after a marriage and some time spent living in Brooklyn. No one can afford Brooklyn anymore. They gave my roommate and I the old library ladder. They kept their dog even though, up until this point, our building had been advertised as “pet free.”

Things I know:

  • I know their names. I really only know this from seeing their mail sitting in the front hallway. This excludes the dog. I do know her name too but she doesn’t get mail.

  • They have an online-shopping problem. See previous explanation. Lots of J Crew boxes keep showing up. Who needs that much J Crew?

  • The husband uses one of those box services where they style you and ship you trendy clothes. Again, I saw their mail. Also, I think he’s kind of a fake because he was featured in Chicago Mag for being one of the most stylish people at Pitchfork and now it all feels like a ruse.

  • Their dog cries constantly and our walls are pretty thin. I'm also a dog person so I can usually put up with a lot.

  • I accidentally saw the wife naked one time. We both pretended it didn’t happen.

Things I don’t know:

  • I have no idea what the layout of their apartment is. They invited me to a cookout once and that would have been a great excuse to scope it out but I didn’t want to go hang out with a bunch of 30-year-olds so now I’ll probably never know. If anyone sees it before I do, please solve this mystery for me: do they or do they not have a washer and dryer in their kitchen? If so, I’m really jealous.

  • Where their bedroom is. See previous query. This is mostly out of curiosity because my roommate and I aren’t sure if it’s above my bedroom or hers and we want to know if the one time we unintentionally heard them having sex, if it was closet sex or not.

  • Why their goddamn dog cries all the time.

  • At this point, I really don’t know who they are as people but I’m also not quite sure if I care enough to find out. Plus, I’ve seen one of them naked so I’m pretty sure that means I can never talk to either of them again.

Maybe I only care because I've watched Rear Window one too many times.  I have these elaborate theories worked out in my head of who they could be but no Grace Kelly figure to test them out. Maybe they're undercover FBI informants and I'm not supposed to know too much. What would happen if I knew too much? And what is it about them that makes me what to know anything in the first place? What's going on a couple feet above my head at all times? And honestly, why won't their dog stop crying?


This Is Why I Stopped Coming To Class

Courtesy of  Jaclyn Jermyn

Courtesy of Jaclyn Jermyn

By Jaclyn Jermyn

Dear Vic,

I took your class, Gay and Lesbian Studies in the spring of 2014. It was my second semester of college and by week three, I was was in over my head. It’s not that the subject matter ever confused me; you were clear and concise and I felt my heart hurt more each week that I showed up 5 or 10 minutes late to your lectures. I felt guilty. That’s never the kind of student that I was. That’s never the kind of person that I was.

What you didn’t know, actually what I didn’t know, was that I was being abused.

I was never a morning person and arguably it was sort of my fault for choosing a Monday morning, 9am class. I remember those mornings. It wasn’t that I was oversleeping all the time. It was that I wasn’t sleeping at all.

When there’s someone that you think is looking out for you and they tell you that it’s better for you to stay home, you stay home—for weeks on end. Sometimes he was there with me. Often he would leave—to hang out with friends or to go to class himself but it became increasingly hard to get up, to shower, to put on clean clothes and drink some coffee and get out the door.

When I could, I felt better. I would come to class and listen to your lectures or to the guest speakers and I would realize that I saw something of myself in the way that they spoke. I would come home and try to vocalize that feeling. I would get laughed at for even considering that I wasn’t straight.

Vic, I need you to know that I’m not a terrible student. Those half-assed papers that I passed in on queerbaiting and Billie Jean King were written in the middle of the night while a drunk boy who stunk of cigarettes berated me and threatened to leave me.

I need you to know that you just caught me at a bad time. You only had a shell of a person sitting in front of you. And if I could do it over, I would.

I would come out as queer a month after the semester ended.
I would leave my abuser for good two weeks after that.

You don’t know me but I know you.
And I feel like you need to know that I made it through.

Your former and grateful student,
Jaclyn Jermyn

 

Staying Soft, Despite It All

By Jaclyn Jermyn

Photo by Jaclyn Jermyn

Photo by Jaclyn Jermyn

Chicago winters are goddamn cold.

I knew this when I packed up two suitcases and moved here two years ago. But I am from Massachusetts, we know cold!
Right? Right!

Remember all of those stories about pilgrims freezing to death during their first winter? You imagine the bones beneath your feet everywhere you walk downtown because that just seems likely. You’ve never gotten the pleasure of hearing my father talk about the blizzard of ’78 and how he was stranded and rescued by a passing snowplow, for the third time in the same evening like I have. Winter sucks because I was never a “winter recreation” person like my brother.

So you pack a big coat and you suck it up because you’re a big girl now and you made the choice to move to another cold city. You could have gone to North Carolina.

The two coldest Chicago February’s on record were that of 1857 and 2015. This past February also ranks as the third-snowiest February on record, according to the Chicago Tribune.
So maybe I was wrong.
I call my mother on Sunday’s and beg for a little extra allowance because I don’t have enough sweaters. If there’s one thing I’ve realized, it’s that you’re never going to have enough sweaters here. This isn’t just “pack a big coat” weather.

Between those lake effect winds and the dismal walks to and from the blue line everyday, I can easily see why city life is enough to make a stone mountain out of anyone.

It’s not just the wind chill that will freeze you up.

Maybe it’s the fact that your friend’s friends don’t seem to like you and you don’t understand why.

Maybe it’s the fact that your boss can’t be bothered to write anything you say down.

Maybe it’s the fact that no matter how hard you scrub, you just can’t seem to get that weird soap scum off of the shower wall.

I hate to think that I don’t belong here.

I hate to think that each day is going to be a fight just to find my place because some days, I’m not going to have that much fight in me. It’s really hard to put on a brave face when there’s icy rain stinging your eyes and condensation has made the inside of your scarf smell like morning breath.

In all honesty, I don’t want the city to make me tough. I want the city to support me. I want to know that despite some bad days, I’m still meant to be here.  Despite the Weather Channel ranking Chicago the “6th coldest major U.S. city” as of 2014, this is still the city where I fell in love for the first time. Despite all those mornings my hair managed to freeze solid on the way to school, I have still managed to find friends that have supported me through my most dismal moments. Despite how bad the last winter got, I know I’m going to make it through another one.

So forgive me for saying this because it may seem out of line but I want the city to always keep me soft.