Raise your hearts if you thought someone was going to sweep in and save you one day.
I did. I thought it was going to be a boy. I thought I was going to one day look across a crowded bar or a frat house and lock eyes with a stranger who would tell me — only through his eyes — that he knows all my secrets. Then, the internet and Lady Gaga told me that I had to slow down, be a little cautious and that I had better start learning who I was before fulfilling my hopes of love. You see, it’s that neoliberal self-help mantra of “no one’s going to save you if you can’t even save yourself.”
And I decided to give a big, fat, earnest shot at it. Love the sickest, darkest and deepest parts of yourself, I was told repetitively, before you dare ask anyone to love you wholly and impressively. A hefty challenge, sure, but I’ve grown used to the idea of thinking of myself as formidable. So I decided to talk louder and more carelessly. I decided to stop wincing at the idea of how attractive or unattractive I could be. Freshman year, within the confines of a beautifully bad Bingham suite, I threw away the Target mirror I had bought only a week ago. Whether or not I like it, whether or not I think it looks cute — I am going to love myself.
When that didn’t work, I prescribed to talking loudly, still, but smartly. Someone told me carelessness and frivolity are not self-love, they’re indulgence. I believed them: When has arrogance ever been helpful? I shuffled myself between home in Lahore and home in New Haven, finding solace in the movement of love because I convinced myself that if I could learn to like being in this mind and body, I could like being anywhere. I dyed my hair blonde and my heart green, forgot about all the kids I thought were too cool for me and started respecting my right to sing whatever god-awful pop song I thought was intelligent under the trees of Old Campus shamelessly. I had wanted to rush LEO my first year here, revel in the petty validation that the boys would direct my way, but I saw in myself the power and optimism to create a world in which no loser runs into the arms of his enemy for love. No frat or exclusive social space will buy my heart and no social inclusion would tempt me to assimilate. I did that! Fun fact, it worked! I danced wildly at Partners and kindly in the arms of my friends, cigarettes bummed and shared, to show some other freshman loser that kids like me could exist happily.
And that boy I was waiting for never came — not just for me, that is. I never saw that boy exist or pull through. All the squash team boys my friends dated turned out to be exactly as they had feared they would turn out and all the super nice softboys were as emotionally destructive as the women around me had been warned they were going to be. I grew mad at Madonna and “Pulp Fiction” and “Fight Club” and Michael Jackson and Freddie Mercury and David Bowie and the plethora of artsy fartsy fighters who were supposed to reimagine the world. But didn’t.
Had the feminist mothers and fathers of the first, second, third or whatever wave of feminism been so unsuccessful in raising a new generation of boys? The waves of feminism were supposed to fix this for me, no? Feminism, for me, had never meant the restructuring and rewiring of women as much as the stoppage of a masculinist supremacy. In 2018, I see women of all forms and kinds around me at Yale. When I am comfortable with them, I blurt everything in unabashed sincerity. We’re holding back nothing. Where are the boys of the same strain? It seems that the global project of feminism has armed women in such clever ways and still provided so few avenues for men to let their identities escape the grasp of manhood.
On a rainy afternoon last week, a couple Bretts from different DKEs probably trudged their way to the Aziz Ansari show and felt petty amounts of guilt. Some frat president probably heard about their brother masturbating on an unsuspecting stranger and voiced their helplessness in catalyzing any action or change. In a Directed Studies section somewhere, I’m sure one pompous thinker claimed for the valor of the words of Darwin, Plato, Aristotle, Martin Luther or Kanye West despite their holistic claim for the biological, cultural or intellectual inferiority of women. After all, it’s A$AP Ferg’s world we’re living in, not Cupcakke’s. He says, “I will normalize violently assaulting all them —” and the High Street army echoes, “hoes!” Only the lucky few reminisce the joyful utopia of Cupcakke’s few moments of queer glory at Yale.
Where is the boy who exclaims irritatingly about syllabi that only read men? Where is the boy who storms through the door of his rebranded High Street fraternity to tell them that he is disgusted by the number of girls who come forward about needing to be protected from another brother? The magical, mystical boy of my dreams has remained so painfully elusive, and I am so mad that the revolutionary boy has yet to exist because if he’s not here at Yale in 2018, where is he?
Anyway, sis, I’m fully pressed and can’t wait for the real, real, super real slim shady to please actually stand up. These half-cool, high school rejects of cooldom who reinvent themselves at Yale are just no longer cutting it for me. I have my eyes open and focused. I am done trying to reinvent myself and ask all the queer or nonbinary or female-identifying people to do the same for feminism. Listen up boys, bleach the Kavanaugh out of your souls.
Zulfiqar Mannan | firstname.lastname@example.org