“Hot Girls Wanted” Sucked

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Last night I was introduced to the new “Sundance” movie Hot Girls Wanted and it sucked all over the place, so much so that I don’t even know where to begin. Forgive me, it’s been a stretch of time since I’ve written a long-winded angry feminist article on the Internet – but given my roots having graduated from an expensive feminist liberal arts college – I assume it’s like riding a bike.

I guess I’ll start at the beginning. Right off the bat the movie is going to be somewhat interesting – just because it’s about porn – and porn is interesting. I think it’s a mistake to discount the power that sexuality, taboos, and therefore porn has in our culture. We’re obsessed – and maybe that’s because we like sex and hot girls. That’s normal, they’re pretty to look at and sex feels good.

This documentary feels like it’s exploiting “porn” just as much as the girls are being exploited by porn.

Hot Girls Wanted has only two and a half stars on Netflix which already begs the question, “Why though?” Is it because the music throughout is so shitty and mind-numbing? (and is that the kind of music these girls are listening to?) Is it because one of the first stats posted is “most amateur porn stars either come from small towns or big cities”. Wow no shit sherlock. Young girls in the United States generally from from small towns or big cities!? Who knew!?

Is it because there isn’t enough actual porn shown in the movie, just some general – PG-13 these days – tit shots? The physical abuse the girls participate is described in gruesome detail and is never actually shown. it leaves a Horror movie effect, where the insidious violence escalates in the mind because what we can imagine is far worse while the reality is left hidden in the shadows. Although given the content it’s hard to imagine seeing the real thing would make matters much better. Especially considering this kind of abuse is apparently readily accessible to those who view it as a means of getting off rather than an act of object horror like I perceive it. Point basically being — it’s terrifying to be a girl in any circumstance in your life – porn star or “normal” — and to know that half of the population that we generally look to for support and strength actually really wants to abuse us.

Hot Girls Wanted showed us glimpses of these horrors but truly did nothing to educate and inform us about what we were witnessing. It’s one thing to make an objective “slice of life” documentary when the topic is something more benign and stupid like Dog Shows. But I’m literally watching girls who are getting raped in this documentary – and the amount of brainwashing present in the scenes is so intense that I’m actually watching girls who don’t even know they’re being raped get raped. I think that kind of documentary deserves a little more careful analysis of the situation. This documentary is showing me a problem so big that the least it can do is offer me some hope or ideas for solutions or deeper understanding about what I’m seeing. Stockholm Syndrome is high in this movie – and I’m definitely not reading in between the lines here or insinuating anything. One girl literally says, “I didn’t really want to fuck him, it was kind of gross and I was dreading it” and then she rationalizes it to herself “well, it’s just work” then asking the thoughtful question slash desperate plea for clarity, “That’s kind of funny to think it’s just work. I mean it’s just sex, right?”

Well, no, sex is not just sex, is what we seem to learn slowly after the film slowly tries to penetrate (pun intended) the message into the movie. The point is really driven home when one girl compares having sex to two pieces of paper that have glue on either side of them – and when you put the two pieces of paper together, even once you tear them back apart, have the other one’s glue on the other side. And these girls seem to be fucking hundreds of dudes per week (though the stats are never made perfectly clear – we’re just lead to believe they’re getting fucked a lot … especially since one girl develops a cyst she needs to get drained in her vagina from “too much sex”). I think we’re definitely supposed to feel frightened for these girls, right?

Again, that’s the thing about this documentary that really makes me hate it so much. I don’t know what it actually wants me to feel. This is definitely demonstrated by “Tressa’s story” which I find infinitely problematic.

This is what I know about “Tressa”. She is 18, from a small town in Texas, she was a cheerleader in High School, involved in a lot of activities there, has a mom AND dad who truly love her unconditionally – not to mention a super sweet boyfriend. What I’m lead to believe about Tressa is that she “has so much going for her” and “is not really like this so her becoming an amateur porn star is a huge surprise”. She’s the quintessential “girl next door” or “good girl gone bad” which this movie is absolutely sure to promote. What we’re witnessing is supposed to be shocking – not just because of the porn aspect of all this but because the subjects themselves are “someone’s girlfriend” and “someone’s daughter”. (Of course, HGW never really bothers to emphasize the other logical point SHE IS A HUMAN BEING. It begs classic feminist questions such as “why does this person have to be a man’s girlfriend or daughter before we can acknowledge that she has humanity? — Why is the definition of her humanity still so dependent on the context of her relationship with another man?)

Cue the huge shame spiral, where the “good” parents feel shame for their daughter and shame for themselves wondering anxiously “where did we go wrong?” The “good” boyfriend begs his girlfriend to have a modicum of self-respect (and hell, as the audience, I’m nodding up and down right alongside him and agreeing, “YES GIRL! GET SOME SELF-RESPECT!”) and he questions why he’s with her. Tressa herself struggles to leave her toxic addiction, realizing somewhere in the deep recesses of her soul “this isn’t right” but we see her fight against herself the whole time, continuing to rationalize her disease as most addicts do “well, but, I like the ‘freedom’. I like the money. I like being able to travel.” The Good Boyfriend and Good Mother astutely point out, “well how free are you really? Aren’t there other, better ways to earn your freedom and travel and have money than to degrade yourself so much?”

What I hate about this movie is that so much blame and shame is still put on the girls themselves. Well they GOT themselves into this situation. They CHOSE porn and abuse. By the end of watching this documentary I’m left with not much else to conclude but, “Wow that girl was kind of stupid and obviously hated herself. She had so much loving support in her life and totally betrayed all the people who cared about her by letting herself be treated like a slut. She’s dumb and an idiot and thank god she stopped being a complete moron and got a shitty job as a manager at a trashy restaurant and moved in with her Good Boyfriend.”

I really did love the boyfriend in the movie, don’t get me wrong. He was a total sweetie and said all the right things and I agreed with everything he was telling his porn star girlfriend. Basically, “I love you! Get out of this! It’s not good for you. You deserve better. Care about yourself more because I care about you.” I take no issue with a man being a hero in this situation, but I am also still shocked by the absence of a stronger empowering female voice in the picture. For example, it would have been nice to hear from a former porn star who could say these things to the girl too – who could share her experience of having once been abused herself but overcoming it. Isn’t that really what we need here? Someone who has been transformed by this misery – who can give a little hope to us at the end?

Otherwise, all I’m left with is shame and disappointment in this girl and her choices, again considering I’m given no context for her choices other than what I’ve described above. “She should have known better” and “isn’t what she went through awful” is all I know.

However, being a woman myself, and having grown up in the times I have, and having been in some fairly shitty circumstances myself (not porn, although honestly at this point the lines of abuse feel fuzzy sometimes which the Good Boyfriend in this movie ALSO points out “what difference does it make if a camera is there and turned on or not turned on? What makes it okay and what makes it not okay? Where’s the line?”) (Stay tuned for my web-series “Shitty Boyfriends” probably coming to you sometime in late fall!!!)

I know for a fact that choices like the one Tressa made come from a much more deeply insidious place rather than “she was bored and wanted to get out of Texas and needed the money”. Good Boyfriend and Mom DO both make the solid point, as I mentioned, “why doesn’t she just leave and do something else?” Tressa hesitates a lot but I know deep down in my bones that her hesitation has nothing to do with money or travel – it has something to do with a terrible addiction rooted in some kind of former abuse (that we DO NOT KNOW about because the documentary never does any deep dish research to find out).

I’ve been in rooms with other girls where we somewhat casually each share our rape story. Some girls have more than one, and the constant consensus seems to be, it’s not that weird if you’ve been raped. I love Amy Schumer who says, “Haven’t we all been a little bit raped?” Yeah, it seems that most girls have on some level. So watching this – even though I’ve definitely never ever done a porn – and even though I’m definitely fortunate to have never experienced anything “quite as bad as that” can’t help but feel that at the root of things what Tressa is going through isn’t that much different than what a shocking number of girls go through in their earlier years.

The problem here is that girls are subconsciously not taught the self-esteem we all think they should have in the first place. Everyone, especially older folks it seems, like to shit on young girls and shake their heads at them in disappointment. “Why don’t you know better???” “What’s your problem???” “Have some self-respect!!!”

The SHAME is just so prevalent in everyone. Older women feel shame for young girls — perhaps because they feel like they’ve failed them on some level, or maybe just because they simply view young women as “stupid” and “not knowing better” or “not having listened”. Either way, the documentary does not shy away from this kind of judgment — or even if it keeps things “objective” there are still subliminal tones of this phenomenon lingering. Let’s not forget that Hot Girls Wanted was produced by “our savior” Rashida Jones.

The porn girls themselves feel shame, but then again, theirs is more of the DENIAL variety. It’s a lot what Kimmy in Kimmy Schmidt says about being in a bunker underground for 15 years, “I’m not really here! I’m not really here!” Sometimes living in a cloud of fog is a lot easier than looking hell in the eyes.

The men here, well just the “good” ones, also feel shame. And it’s definitely in my opinion got something to do with this madonna/whore complex that’s become so prevalent in our entire culture. “Oh no, if she does porn that defiles MY little girl and makes her ‘LESS PURE’. That reflects poorly on me too!”

Whereas in my mind I’m just screaming for the porn girls in this movie because it is indeed like watching a horror movie – having experienced that horror movie myself. “GET OUT OF THERE!!!”

If anyone is shameless it’s the porn guys – because I think in their minds the girls “deserve it” and are “asking for it”. The “consent” here is so blurry, but the guys obviously have no problems raping girls because to them what they are doing has been so completely normalized that no questions are really asked. “Just make sure you never get a “YES” from her” is literally a direction a porn director gives to a porn male actor in this movie. Yeah, “Just make sure you RAPE her. That’s hot!”

Hot Girl Wanted only scratches the surface of issues that are SO MUCH FUCKING BIGGER than it even does us the decency of formally acknowledging. Women are being ABUSED and RAPED and it’s pretty much now COMMON KNOWLEDGE and still LEGAL! I am definitely not one for telling people to repress sexual desires, but I think something is deeply wrong when it’s completely normal for guys to get off on watching forced blowjobs where girls are being called “dirty sluts who are asking it”. It’s rooted in a hatred of women. Women who hate themselves and the men who hate them.

Why do these women hate themselves? Why do men hate them? Why is it so common for a woman to say “sorry” for something that isn’t her fault whereas men never apologize? Why is it so insidious that almost all women, including myselfdo it at least from time to time even when they consciously know “not” to? Why do we sit around the campfire with each other and tell our scary “ghost” stories about the time(s) we were raped? Why is “abuse” porn so normal and accepted as such for the most part, or otherwise swept under the rug? Why did I just watch a documentary that raised so many of these questions and more, but did nothing to address even one of them?

Why did I leave a documentary about several women getting raped and abused where the general feeling in the room afterward was “wow what an idiot she was?” Why are the men here STILL not accountable for their part in their abuse, and hardly even talked about? Why does the entire burden of our shame around sex and femininity still fall completely on the shoulders of women who are, for no other better word, victims themselves? Why do we not know more about what awful disease it is that these women have been infected with at large which causes them to “allow” themselves to be in situations as terrible as the ones we’ve witnessed?

Obviously these are all rhetorical questions at this point, but I so wish Hot Girls Wanted had been at least brave and conscientious enough to ask them. For now all I can guess is that something is wrong and out of balance in the world. Femininity is largely feared by both men and women. Women have difficulty accepting it in themselves and look to the masculinity of others to define them. I think these girls are fucking a lot of gross dudes and making money off of it because it’s an easy (yet toxic) source of validation and attention. It’s also something on some level they are subconsciously taught they “should” be. It’s “cool” in our culture to be “cool” with the porn system. I’m sure these are the kind of girls who think they can just be “one of the guys” and “have sex like a guy”. (Even though if nothing else all I’ve learned from this documentary is that everyone feels much differently about a girl that’s fucked 100 guys versus a guy that’s fucked 100 girls.) The porn system gives small but fleeting boosts of self-esteem, then takes it away, leaving the victim sticking around waiting for more of the “good” validation. That’s how abuse works. It hooks you in and keeps you begging for more. The men who engage in this porn generally seem to hate, repress, and deny the femininity within themselves and look to unleash the consequent self-hatred by abusing women instead. This again, has been normalized and viewed as not a problem within themselves, but something that women are “doing” and that they are rightly getting “retribution” for. At least, those are my guesses for now.

All I really know is that it’s not so simple as Tressa “had everything going for her and made a bad life choice”. There is something toxic in the air around all of us that Tressa inhaled – like so many others – and she just so happened to catch a particularly bad case of it. I wish more of this had been addressed or even acknowledged, because otherwise all I’m left with is this Madonna and Whore dichotomy which feels like a spiritual STD in and of itself. All I’m left with is judgements of women I just witnessed being abused. And all I’m left with is a blurry question of “what did I just watch?” and “what am I supposed to feel?”

I hope there’s some hope, but I guess I’ll just have to wait for the next porn expose for some of that and in the meantime sit in my questions.

An Open Letter to Pitbull and Ne-Yo

Dear Pitbull and Ne-Yo,

I’ve listened to your newest song, “Time of Our Lives” numerous times and as such feel compelled to address some of your concerns.

First, I completely relate to the troubles that you describe. I too, have worked my ass off and yet still fall short of rent each month. It is a difficult economy, and especially for those of us, like yourselves, pursuing a creative field, it is common to work very hard but to fail to receive financial gains for our efforts. It’s a shame that we live in a world that doesn’t necessarily value monetary compensation for our art. In this sense I find your strife highly relatable.

However, I am concerned by the manner in which you’ve been dealing with your (again, understandable) stress. You have just enough to get up in this club? Are you sure this is the best manner in which to spend the limited income you have? I personally, am not. While I fully endorse living a well-rounded life that includes time for extracurricular activities, I am not sure that “the club” is the best use of your time and money, especially since – again – you are falling short on your rent.

To start, while I again agree in the notion of “having the time of our lives” have you considered that there are numerous free activities that are not only highly enjoyable but also spiritually and physically rejuvenating? Examples that come to the top of my head are, the beach, hiking, volunteering at a local animal shelter, etc. This is a great way to get out in the world and even give back to the community.

I also feel, that if you do have a little extra cash which you are currently spending on “the club”, that perhaps you would be wise and better off to financially invest in your own future. You seem interested in a music career, from what I can tell. You are obviously talented, so perhaps you would be better off to use your “last $20″ on producing music tracks which you could upload to SoundCloud? This way you’ll have material to show people who might be interested in developing your career further, at which point you will hopefully then have enough money to “get up in da club” AND pay your rent!

I am also a little unnerved by what I might consider to be a bit of an alcohol problem. While I am certainly no prude or square myself, I have seen how drugs and alcohol can distract, interfere, and otherwise destroy the lives of young creative artists who otherwise would have a very bright future indeed. I think you’ll find that, while difficult, it is possible to overcome these addiction demons, and that the efforts are well worth the promise of your future. It might be a simple matter of drinking less, in which case you’d both save money to pay for your rent and open up some creative space in your head to really go for your true dreams. This club business honestly seems like it is a cause of the problems you are having – in which you can’t pay your rent and are struggling to make ends meet. Life doesn’t have to be such a struggle if you just channel your energy and efforts into more productive means.

Last, I am also a little concerned about your attitudes towards women. Certainly, it is no business of mine whether you are seeking a long term relationship or not. That is a personal journey and something you are of course entitled to decide for yourself. However, I am not sure that you need “da club” to meet women, and you might find a free app like Tinder helpful in connecting you with like-minded women who are not interested in pursuing love, as you say, but instead “lust”. Additionally, if a woman has just broken up with her boyfriend, I might suggest you be a little more cautious and considerate of her feelings. She is probably in a vulnerable and emotional state and so when you describe yourself as “like Rodman, ready on deck” I can’t help but express apprehension that you might be taking advantage of a troubled and lost soul. She probably needs support and compassion in this time, and so I just want to make sure you are being delicate in the manner in which you are proceeding with the situation. Of course two consenting adults have every right to “ride out”, but please consider the emotional consequences.

Otherwise, a very catchy song and you obviously show promise. I just hope this letter reaches you in time to hopefully make a positive impact and direct you towards achieving your full potential. I truly believe that one day you might be able to pay rent AND get up in da club occasionally, but all of this again probably requires balance and a reevaluation of your priorities.

Wishing you all the best,

Jessica

#12 – A Review Of These Shitty Cheetos®

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It has come to my attention that I am now an “adult”, and as such it seems one of my responsibilities is to feed myself. This has proven to be a considerable challenge over the past few years, and so as of late I have taken it upon myself to improve my efforts and visit the “grocery store” (if you will). 

I’ve performed a number of experiments in this vein, and being an intelligent young woman I have concluded that it is no longer a conducive choice to purchase bags of kale. As it turns out, I don’t really eat the kale. 

However, because I theoretically value my health, it is important to me to make decisions that cater to my long term well being*. This is indeed why I got this stupid shitty bag of Cheetos®. 

These particular Cheetos® suck. This bag was full of false promises. First, I was under the impression that the “puffs” aspect would provide a lighter snacking experience to again, ensure my health*. In retrospect, and after having consumed the Cheetos® first hand, I’m not so sure that this is actually the case. I was also drawn in by the word “simply”, inferring that the Cheetos® would be a fairly organic snack. Again, in hindsight, I guess they aren’t because they’re still Cheetos®. The “white cheddar” label, to me, also implied that I would be taking care of my health* by sticking to all-natural cheese flavorings. Upon opening the bag, I think they would have been more appropriately labeled “white chalk”. 

Basically, they tasted like shit. The puffs part of it made it gross, the white cheddar part was also gross, and, to top it all off, after some careful analysis, I realized the health* aspect of this snack was all in the marketing and not a reflection of the actual product. 

Will I be purchasing these Cheetos® again? No. Do I recommend these Cheetos® to anyone else? No. If you’re going to eat Cheetos® should you just go for the real deal, only slightly worse for you, toxic bright orange colored ones that are still shit but at least taste pretty decent when accompanied with a poisonous beverage like Diet Coke®? Yeah, probably. 

*low calorie count to stay kind of skinny

#7 – A Blost Pog a Day

It’s day seven of my attempt to write a blog post a day. So far, I’ve done it. Was I lacking inspiration this week? Sure. Were some of my posts a bit of a stretch for material? Yeah, maybe. Were others overly sappy and emotional for no reason? Hey, we all have our bad days.

I’d like to thank everyone who helped me get here today. First I’d like to thank my parents, for hopefully not using the computer very often and presumably not reading anything I do on the Internet. Remember, ignorance is bliss! I’d also like to thank many of my friends, for probably also not reading my blog. I genuinely appreciate you looking the other way when I post embarrassing / mediocre shit in an attempt to refine my skills, so your indifference means a lot to me. I couldn’t do it without you. Third, I’d like to thank the random Internet strangers and two close friends who probably did read my posts this week. I guess I couldn’t become a better me without embarrassing myself in front of you all of the time. Your appreciation and praise of my work inspires me to keep going, but is simultaneously difficult for me to internalize and accept, so, well, thanks I guess.

Most of all I’d like to thank the love of my life. The wind beneath my wings, my baby boo, Rita Roo.

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Rita, your continual presence and support in my life is something I do not take for granted. You are there by my side all the time, toughing out the rough times of trying to come up with some shitty blog posts and lightening the mood by being adorable. Words can’t express how much you mean to me. We’ve been through a lot together, and I can’t think of anyone I’d rather sleep the entire day away with. You never even bark. You are just too awesome. Even though sometimes I feel lost in your shadow, because you are the best dog in the entire world and it’s hard to beat that, I am still awed by your greatness – you inspire me to try and be a better human.

Thank you.

#6 – A Review of the New TMNT Movie Based On Having Not Seen It But I Mean Come On This Is A Pile of Shit

This is a review of the new TMNT Movie based on my not having seen it personally but, I mean, realistically, I don’t need to see more than this to know that this movie is a big ol’ steaming pile of crapola. In fact, I’m probably insulting your intelligence right now by even bothering to explain the situation. You have eyes. We can all see this abomination for what it is. 

I am pretty sure there are dementors rampant in Hollywood, as is evidenced from the fact that the public is literally having their souls SUCKED FROM THEIR BODIES with garbage like this. 

“Hey,” a bunch of jackasses wearing business casual and pretentious sunglasses at an overpriced shitty bar like Pink Taco in Century City said to themselves. “We have a great idea. Remember the beloved classic Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? What a great franchise. How about instead of carrying on and honoring TMNT by following in its footsteps and creating a new, original, inspiring set of animal-like action heros based on a wacky and goofy premise, we’ll just rip off and ruin it by completely eliminating any charm or heart it used to have, giving the script to a fucking monkey to write, throwing lots of money at it for no reason, and slapping the worst possible CGI renditions on top of the package just to give the finished product the feeling that you’re really just subliminally watching us jerk off to how much money we’ll make off this bastardization.” 

The worst part is in this one trailer, not sure if it’s the one I linked to (who cares), but anyway, Michelangelo DROPS SOMETHING and says, I shit you not, “Uh, I MEANT TO DO THAT.”

“I MEANT TO DO THAT!?!” A five year old could write better, more compelling, interesting Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle fan fiction than whoever barfed up this mess to waste our time with. I am serious. A small child who has no life experience would be infinitely more inspiring than Michael Bay. He should have to go to jail for this, it definitely qualifies as murder.

#4 – Poor and Procrastinating

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Right now I am poor and procrastinating, and as is my tendency I am actively ignoring the pressing realities of life in favor of pretending that real world concerns don’t exist. Unfortunately, they do. Some of these practicalities include: not going into debt, getting a “real” job?, etc.

I’ve also been living and breathing this one project that is very important to me for the past six months, to the extent that it’s been hard to see the forest from the trees.

I don’t think I even know how to be a normal, real, functioning, contributing member of society anymore. Plus, as I said, I’m really poor, probably because I spend a lot of money but also do not make any. So it’s really just a matter of time before I become completely homeless.

Weirdly, I’m not too worried about it. Being homeless is going to be stressful, sure. I’m going to have to make some compromises. But first of all, let’s be realistic. I’m not gonna be homeless, homeless. I’m a girl. Girls don’t get like, sleeping-on-the-sidewalk homeless usually. We’re kind of like a high class of homeless… Like living-out-of-a-car homeless.

Plus, after I have to sell all my belongings and trade in my prius I’d probably be able to get like, a nice mini van or something, so I’d still have some space to lie down, etc.

The other good news, I’ve realized, is that part of the reason I am about to go completely bankrupt is because I spent a good chunk of money on a DELUXE DISNEYLAND PASS which, let me tell you, I do not need at all and conceivably might never get a chance to use again.

The other reason I’m going to be eating literal garbage in a few weeks is because I spend, mmm, ALL OF THE REST OF MY MONEY on books. I buy a lot of books. So many books that I probably don’t actually need because I have so many books I can’t get to them all quickly enough.

But, I remember one time this homeless guy asked me for a cup of coffee. I went to go buy him one and when I got back someone else had already gotten him one. I guess the point is, I feel like people are generous if you are desperate and charming. That guy had two more cups of coffee than I do, FOR FREE.

So I guess when I started thinking about it, I felt okay about everything. Sure, I could potentially blow an amazing opportunity by never coming up with anything good enough and also never address the aforementioned “real world realities” (“money to pay for things”) and end up completely destitute…

But in that scenario I’d still be living at Disneyland and having enough time at night to read all these books I’ve been wanting to get to, drinking coffee, and that sounds even better, to be honest.

#3 – Kaisa

I have always been a weirdo, but when I was younger I’d try to hide this fact as much as possible, which just made things worse.

Of course, my weirdness could not be contained, so sometimes it’d reveal itself in overt ways, like the fact that anyone I was friends with in high school called me “Kaisa”.

The origins of this nickname are pretty dorky. I was obsessed with “The Golden Compass” when I was 13 and told my friend Julie that I thought it’d be cool if I could change my name to “Kaisa”, after one of the daemons in the book. Julie, being inarguably cooler than me, agreed to this idea and introduced me to pretty much everyone I knew as “Kaisa”. Pretty quickly it got to the point where “Kaisa” actually felt like my name.

I was proud of the nickname. I always thought Jessica was boring and there was something special about my friends who called me “Kaisa”. It made me feel like they knew the “real” me.

When I got to college I considered my options. I could be “reasonable” and just introduce myself to people as Jessica, because technically that’s true. But I felt remiss to let go of the comfort of that nickname – the one that made me feel more like my true self. So I started introducing myself as “Kaisa” at Vassar, and because it’s such a pro-weirdo school anyway the name took off and I think everyone on campus knew me as “Kaisa”. I’d even go by that name in classes.

It was at that point that I thought maybe I had hit on something. Like I could be “Kaisa” for the rest of my life, and then I’d be unique or something.

Things got weird for me when I started to enter the internship world. I experimented and at an MTV internship decided to go by “Kaisa”. This raised a lot of questions when I was filling out my paperwork. “Wait, your name is Jessica? Where does Kaisa come from? How do you say it?” I could tell people felt uncomfortable and awkward saying it.

It started to feel like too much to explain. Something felt inorganic about fabricating my name over and over again. It was one thing when I was organically introduced in high school as “Kaisa” amongst close friends, and it was even fine for trying to reinvent myself at college, but it became another, weirder, way more awkward thing to try to carry it on for the rest of my life.

I weirdly felt relieved when I went back to being “Jessica”. Maybe it was nice to not want to be a different person for a change and to be comfortable enough to just be myself.

I do have a few very close friends who only ever knew me as “Kaisa” and they still call me that to this day. For all the weird things I’ve done to find myself (including a brief lesbian phase in which I looked like a little boy) I think being “Kaisa” for a while was one of the best because that nickname grounds me in my past. It’s nice to have friends who have been through it all with you and to feel like they really know you because they refer to you by a name that, no matter how far you’ve come, you can still respond to as if no time has passed at all.

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