Perfectionism and the Danger of Thinking

Today I had an altercation with a friend (I even hesitate to put the label “altercation” on it because he probably doesn’t even realize what happened and has forgotten all about it.  That’s how sensitive I am.)  I couldn’t believe how upset and angry at myself I was.  And this is after proper medication and counseling.  There are some parts about myself that aren’t symptomatic of a particular disorder, they’re just … who I am.

And part of the joy of being me is being terrified of being wrong.

hate being wrong, no matter what I am wrong about.  Until I got to senior year of high school I was never wrong about academics.  I aced every test and project and people came to view me as sort of a walking encyclopedia – not a person.  I didn’t have very many friends in middle and high school, and when my only close friend transferred to a different high school I was devastated.  So all I really had, for a long time, was my academic success, and my propensity for rightness.

Now that I’m in college there are a lot of things I am wrong about.  Academically and socially speaking.  My fear of imperfection and wrongness has started to seep into things like the clothes I wear and the food I eat.  I am very picky about the appearance and texture of my food and will prefer going hungry over eating food that is not to my standards.  I hand-wash my clothes (the ones that need hand-washing) and my dishes in water that is so hot it scalds the polish off my nails.  

A lot of the problems I face socially stem from the fact that I try so very hard to make people like me, and so it hurts proportionally more when people don’t, or when, in my overzealousness, I overstep my boundaries.  I tend to latch on to people (see the person I mentioned in my first paragraph) and place much more value on their companionship and opinions than I probably should.  Last year I did this to a whole group of freshmen and they will probably never realize how much I wanted to be friends with them, and how sad I was when I realized they didn’t want to be friends with me, because they really don’t care.

Sometimes I feel like I have been lied to and taken advantage of multiple times.  I try very hard to believe in the inherent goodness of people, and I feel like certain types of people can sense that and will tell me things like “But I really do love you!” or “I think you’re really pretty!” or “You’re my best friend!” just to get me on their side.  It’s gotten to the point where I am not sure who or what to believe anymore.  Which is scary, because I used to pride myself on my ability to trust, but the passing years make it harder and harder to trust people, especially those I do not already know.

One of the most difficult situations of all for me is when I am wrong and then someone gets mad at me for being wrong.  I tend to associate those two things, so when I am wrong I expect someone to get mad at me, and when someone is angry (not necessarily at me, even) I figure it must be because I did something wrong.  I used to have full-blown panic attacks and flashbacks whenever I sensed negativity from other people.  These days I just feel like crying (it has gotten much harder for me to actually cry since I switched medicines.)

The way I currently deal with all of this is to shut down externally.  I can generally control my outward expression so that no one knows how upset I am, and I take a certain pride in being able to do this, to still be polite and collected.

I would like, one day, to be able to fully express myself again.  I wish I could find other, similar people, who overthink things and write bad poetry and will give me hugs whenever I need them.  But for that I will have to wait.

And waiting, thank goodness, is one thing I am really, really good at.

TMIM: In Defense of the (17?!) Hour Semester

Dear lovely little lab rats,

I am writing this during a lull in my biochem lab.  Things are definitely picking up around here, as is evidenced by the fact that I didn’t have a chance to write this this morning!  However, all of my classes are still really fun, so there’s that.

Yesterday was my very first 14-hour day.  I had five classes, two hours of physics work, and three hours of rehearsal (a readthrough, really, at this point, and I’m ridiculously excited because I have three lines instead of the one that I thought.)  I got a sneak peek at my costume and it’s incredible.  I would like to wear that dress in public, depending on the material it’s made out of!

Last weekend was Screw-Yer-Roommate.  If you don’t know what that is, here’s a quick summary: you find a date for your roommate, but instead of contacting them, you contact their roommate, and the two of you create a crazy costume set for your roommates.  Then you put them, along with about 500 other people, in a room, and let them find each other based on their costume.  It was crazy and fun and difficult.  My date was the second guy from CRU I’ve been set up with in two years.  And the second guy who goes two-stepping (steppin’?)  Should I attempt to learn two-stepping?  These are the questions I must ponder.

Also, Saturday was the ’80’s themed party, one of the biggest parties every year.  I had this fabulous rainbow dress.  Literally.  Fabulous.  My friend pointed out that I looked like I was going to a Pride party, so I went ahead and put on my Q+A button.  No guys hit on me (although several stared.)  Success?

I did a test-run of the recipe I’m going to teach this weekend.  It turned out REALLY good.  I’m excited to eat – I mean, teach it 😉

And finally, since this seems to be the most important thing every week, another committee had a chocolate tasting on Sunday night.  Did I take pictures?  But of course.

The Culturals had a classy AF chocolate tasting tonight!  Food lovers from all over Brown rejoiced.  :D

On that sweet note, I must end.  It’s time to pull off the SDS-PAGE gel we’ve been running (my favorite lab procedure thus far!)

With love always,


Why I Am A Feminist (A Privileged Science Major’s Story)

A/N: I am writing this post primarily because I plan to join the “Who Needs Feminism?” movement on Facebook and I’d like to clear a few things up here, first.

A couple of months ago (about three, I think) I did an “Unpopular Opinions” dump on Facebook about all the opinions I held but was afraid to discuss in everyday life.  One of them was, “I think most feminists are stupid.”

“BUT AMBER,” I can see some of you preparing to type, “HOW DARE YOU SAY THAT?  YOU KNOW THAT ISN’T TRUE.”

And it’s not.  The reason I wrote that, and the reason I believed it at the time, was because I had a really bad experience on Tumblr a couple of years ago, in which I got into a disagreement with a really popular feminist blogger.  She had an army on her side – it really was intimidating – despite her blog being nothing but fights with various people.

(Being older and more experienced now, I can understand a little of her massive, sustained, seething anger.  But only a little.)

At the time, I had my name and face plastered all over my blog, so she and her supporters immediately began attacking my privileges.  The fact that I was white and Caucasian (they knew that just from looking at me, of course.)  The fact that I was thin.  The fact that I was neurotypical.  The fact that I was rich (again, they knew more about me than I did.)  The fact.  The fact.

Finally, I started to get upset.  They had won.  And that’s when the blogger threw in a last dig.  She called my reaction – all of the emotions I was feeling, the anger, the sadness, the confusion – “privileged tears.”

Privileged tears.  Two words summing up everything I was.  My depression, my anxiety, the concern I felt about my body, my PTSD, my perfectionism, all of the things that might possibly cause me to cry.  In two words they were invalidated and dismissed.


And it’s taken a few years to process, but that trivialization is exactly what most feminists are upset about.  The trivialization, not just of women, but of people in general.  Not just of minorities, either.  Women can’t be trivialized into empty-headed maids just like men cannot be trivialized into sex-hungry idiots.  That’s the kind of feminism I believe in, the kind that respects the feelings and opinions of all people.

As I begin my third year of college, I know many different types of people.  Those who claim that their lives have been ruined by feminism.  Those who claim that their lives have been saved by feminism.  Those who have labeled me a “radical” because I produced The Vagina Monologues.  Those who call me naive because I still believe in the inherent equality and goodness of people.

For the most part, I’ve learned not to care too much about what other people say.  At this point, I am well aware of my many privileges.  I also know that I will never know enough about social inequality and feminist theory, mainly because I’m not a SWGS major, and because there are just not enough hours in the day to learn everything I would like to.

But here’s the bottom line about me and feminism:  I need feminism because I believe that men and women have equal worth and intelligence, and because I believe that I have the right to safety and autonomy.  That’s all.  It’s that simple and that complicated.  

In Which I Write As Many Short Poems with Obnoxiously Long Titles As I Can in Five Minutes

About The Nature of the Universe

They say the observable universe is only

14 gigaparsecs wide.  I never knew

how wide that was until I looked into

your eyes and saw galaxies

that were already billions of

years old by the time their light

reached me.


Amino Acids, Or The Fun of Naming

With amino acids you can spell


Or you can just spell DICK.


also an option.


I Guess That’s Okay Too

You weren’t as big of

a jerk about it as you could

have been.  In my mind

that’s cause for champagne.


Why I Like Bruises

Turns out the human body

is much more delicate

than anyone could have imagined.

Even the strongest people

with the purest of hearts get 

hurt sometimes.  It’s one

of the things that makes us

different from fairy tale characters.


Men Named John

There are way too many men

named John in Jane Eyre.  Even

Jane is the feminine version

of John.  And don’t even get

me started on Bertha Mason.


Actually, I Will Talk About Bertha Mason

“I wanted her just as a change,” says

Rochester.  Would you marry a man

who called you a change?  And don’t you

think Bertha Mason misses Jamaica?

Even I do.  And I’ve never been there.


Apologies To The Theater Director

After seven college classes and no

dinner, I’m pretty tired, tired enough

that I no longer resemble a fairy, or

an elf, or even a human but just

thing constructed of biological

molecules that really, really



THE DEAD by Billy Collins

Age of Jahiliyah

The dead are always looking down on us, they say.
while we are putting on our shoes or making a sandwich,
they are looking down through the glass bottom boats of heaven
as they row themselves slowly through eternity.

They watch the tops of our heads moving below on earth,
and when we lie down in a field or on a couch,
drugged perhaps by the hum of a long afternoon,
they think we are looking back at them,
which makes them lift their oars and fall silent
and wait, like parents, for us to close our eyes.

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The Mowgli’s – San Francisco

I’ve been in love with love
And the idea of something binding us together
You know that love is strong enough
I’ve seen time tell tales about that systematic drug,
Yeah that heart that beats as one
It’s collectively unconsciously composed

I lost my head in San Francisco

Waiting for the fog to roll out
But I found it in a rain cloud
It was smiling down
Do you feel the love? I feel the love
C’mon c’mon, lets start it up!
Let it pour out of your soul

I’ve been in love with love
And the idea of something binding us together
You know that love is strong enough
I’ve seen time tell tales about that systematic drug,
Yeah that heart that beats as one
It’s collectively unconsciously composed

Do you feel the love? I feel the love
C’mon c’mon, lets start it up!
Let it pour out of your soul