Craigslist confessional: "It's hard to find a housewife sexy"

Justin, mid-30s

I lost my job back in 2013 due to a back injury and now I’m a stay-at-home dad. I love being at home with my kids, but it’s slowly killing me. I’ve never been without a job, and now, because of my injury, I can’t provide for my family like I used to. It’s a pride thing: I can no longer hunt, I can’t take on odd jobs, I can’t play with my boys—I feel like I’m not only less of a parent, but less of a man.

My wife works full time, and she’s very high-strung. Her anxiety levels are through the roof these days. After I was hurt, I filed for disability but I was denied. It takes about 14 to 16 months to get a disability hearing, and when I told her that, she got so angry with me. Ninety percent of the time, she thinks I don’t care about the state of our lives because I don’t react to bad news the way she does. But it’s not like anything would get any better if we were both freaking out.

The thing is, there’s a lot more expected of me now that I’m home all the time. When I was working, I never really stopped to consider what it takes to be a stay-at-home parent; it’s demanding. And I guess my wife isn’t really articulating her appreciation for everything I do for her, the kids, and the house. I don’t want a party, but it would be nice to be told once in a while.

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Craigslist confessional: Atheism caused my divorce

William, 37

During my last year of graduate school, my wife miscarried our unborn child. We were heartbroken and traumatized and nothing seemed to make the pain any better. After the miscarriage, well-meaning people would come up to us and say things like—“God wanted another angel in heaven,”—and I’d nod and say “thank you” but silently, I was livid. The idea that there could exist a deity that, out of its own ego, would take someone’s unborn child from them was abhorrent. The miscarriage was the catalyzing event that led to my atheism. My atheism, in large part, was also to blame for my divorce.

The trauma of the miscarriage cemented my wife’s faith in God. She was raised in the Assembly of God church. Not many people know what that is—for reference, you might have come across some footage online of people speaking in tongues or collapsing after being healed of their diseases—that’s Assembly of God. My wife and I met while we were both away at school, and I knew about her faith but she was never so religious that I thought, “wow, you’re weird.” I think that religion was mostly social for her. For me, a lapsed Catholic, her faith was never an issue, and she never communicated to me that my religious ambivalence was a problem for her.

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Craigslist confessional: "I miss my ex wife," Anonymous, 37

Sam, 37

I’ve been divorced for a few years now. I’ve been dating people on and off, but you could say I’m stuck in the daily routine of life—I go to work, I hang out with friends, or I work out. For the most part, I’m happy. Every once in a while, though, when I’m driving home from work and I take the bridge that used to take me to the home we made together, or when a certain song comes on, I’m reminded of my ex wife. I get overcome by this awful feeling of missing her. It’s not sexual—definitely not—it’s more similar to how I miss my kids, except not quite as bad. She feels a lot of anger towards me and the choices I made, though. So, I very much doubt she ever misses me.

I was 23 when I met my now ex, 25 when I married her, and 27 when we had our first kid. Looking back, I realize that I hardly had the mental capacity to make big life decisions then—and yet we did. At first, I would say things were going well. We did a lot of silly but important things together, like we’d watch movies or TV shows that we both loved, we’d bond over music, or we’d cook together. We had sex probably twice a week at that point. But then twice a week turned into twice a month, and even less. And then, at one point, it completely stopped. We went without sex for two years.

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Craigslist confessional: "Having children ruined my marriage," Anonymous, late 30s

Susie, late 30s

I was introduced to my now-husband at a work happy hour. We dated for about a year, and then I found out I was pregnant. I hadn’t been taking precautions against pregnancy and I was already in my thirties, so it was a sort of foregone conclusion that I would keep the baby. He had options, though. I told him that he could be as involved in the baby’s life as he wanted to. A month later, he proposed.

I’m pretty heavily pregnant in my wedding photos. I’ve been looking at them often lately because I’m searching for some clue hidden in our faces that things would go terribly wrong. Granted, he and I didn’t get married the way most couples do—we didn’t follow the correct timeline. But when I think about it objectively, I do believe that we would have stayed together even had I not ended up pregnant.

The first year after the baby came was really lovely. I took some time off of work and was able to dedicate all of my energy to baby. I felt totally overwhelmed with love, and totally happy. When I finally went back to work, it was with a little relief and a lot of regret. I really wanted to stay home with my son, but I also realized that I’d wrapped my whole identity up around him: I was his mom, his vessel for food, and little else.

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Craigslist confessional: “The world makes me feel like I’m bad at being a woman,” Anonymous, 36

Kelly, 36

The world makes me feel like I’m bad at being a woman. Here’s my reality: I am an attractive and relatively in shape female in my mid-30s. I have young children for whom I employ a nanny and several babysitters. I also have a cleaning lady who comes in twice a month. My husband has a good job that puts us in a high-income bracket. We live in one of the wealthiest zip codes in America. I don’t work. And I don’t want to work. So why do I constantly feel that I need to defend my decisions?

Society has names and labels for women like me: Cinderella, bad feminist, gold digger, “do-nothing bitch.” When that book came out—the one about Park Avenue wives—one of my friends joked that it was written about me. I met my husband in college and he fit the description of the type of guy I wanted to marry—wealthy, ambitious, from a good family, etc. I didn’t grow up with big dreams and aspirations besides getting married and having children. So I went to college, got married, and I had children. I feel like I accomplished everything that I wanted...

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Craigslist confessional: I was desperate to save my marriage. And desperate to leave it

Taylor, 40s

I looked across the table at my wife and smiled faintly. This was the first time she’d seemed happy in months, and I felt relieved. Our kids were with their grandmother for the weekend, and I relaxed into my chair as our friends went around the table, refreshing our drinks of wine. I hoped to reconcile when we got home. We hadn’t been intimate in quite some time, and it was taking a toll on what little stability remained in our relationship.

She was beautiful, my wife — had been even before the plastic surgery.

There was no end to her vanity, though, to her need to be needed and wanted, to her obsession with being the center of every situation.

And even now as we all sat around, she gently nudged a piece of raven hair away from her eyes, and leaned her bosom on the table. It was something she did often — wield her sexuality to steer attention back to her — and it exhausted me. I found her increasingly insubstantial, and the feeling that she wasn’t enough anymore scared me.

“We had a good time, right?” I asked, as we got ready for bed later that night. She wasn’t likely to agree.

“Yeah…” she answered reluctantly. “But that doesn’t mean anything.”

And I knew in that instant that a storm was to follow. She would blame me for our lack of intimacy, I would tell her she is superficial and cold, she would tell me that I’m not a “real man,” and I would tell her she’s a bad mother.

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Some Catcalls Offend Me, Some Don’t (and That’s Okay)

Catcalling and harassment are often mentioned in the same breath. That’s because many argue that catcalling is harassment, no matter the intention. A catcall is an unwelcome imposition, a not-very-veiled command: to feel complimented, to smile, to at least say hello or thank you, to “just ignore it if it bothers you” and “don’t dress that way if you don’t want the attention.” It’s an objectification, sexualization and subordination that often prompts fear, intimidation and discomfort. At least, that’s how it’s typically defined. Some, women included, would disagree.

In Milan, a woman walks into a café and orders a coffee and brioche. She notices a group of men sitting nearby. “Ciao, ma come sei bella,” trails her as she walks to her table. She dismisses the comments as part of the Italian culture, where women are often bella, cara, tesoro, and seldom referred to by their actual names. Later, when she leaves the café, the men don’t notice; they’ve moved on. She feels relieved. In DC, a woman walks past a group of men standing by a bar. They try to get her attention with “hello, gorgeous.” She ignores them and walks away uncomfortably. The next week, that woman is robbed. She tells the police that she remembers the men who did it and that before he’d run away with her purse, one of them had said: “you should have said hello.” Both of these stories are true...

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Craigslist Confessional: “All the men in my family passed away before the age of 62 of a heart attack, and I’m 65.”

George, 65

I’m in my apartment for 95% of my life. I only go out for food and medicine, and that’s only if I can’t get it delivered, or if I need it urgently. I shop for the whole month, so I usually end up having around 85 bags, all in all. I’ve had my car for nine years, and it only has about 40,000 miles on it. I’ve done the math, and that amounts to about twelve miles a day. On days that I don’t feel well, that’s definitely an overestimate.

I wash my clothes once or twice a year. This year, I’ve only showered twice. The longest I’ve ever gone without a shower is 96 days. I’m not really concerned about whether I smell, because I’m seldom around people. If company ever finds me, I keep my distance. But that’s rare, you know. The only person that’s come to see me in the last few years has been my landlord (to pick up checks), and the delivery guy (to drop of food, and pick up checks). Basically, all I’m good for is the money.

My biggest everyday concern is whether I have enough to eat, and whether today is the day I will be found dead in my apartment. I don’t have cats, so at least I know I won’t be partially eaten when I’m found. That may sound morbid, but it’s a practical concern for someone like me. I don’t have a maid because I don’t want anyone coming in to see the state of the apartment. I try to clean up after myself, but that’s difficult seeing as my condition is oftentimes debilitating.

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Craigslist Confessional: “I regret that she got an abortion but I’m also relieved. We wouldn’t have been very good parents to this child.”

Henry, 60s

Ellen and I immediately hit it off. We were working together on a three-month stint in a rural community, and we were each other’s oases. She was beautiful, fun, happy, and outgoing. We had incredible chemistry, and our shared faith deepened our bond. She had several children from a previous marriage, but things between us were casual and I never asked about the father.

We went out for pizza one night and ended up back at my place. I told her I didn’t have protection, but she said something along the lines of “that’s okay; I’m alright.” We saw each other at work the next day and it was really good for a while. About a month later, she showed me a positive pregnancy test.

I asked her what she wanted to do, and she said she wasn’t sure. Deep down inside, I knew that I’d be gone in a month. I didn’t know where work would take me — where I’d be a year later, or even a month later. I knew I’d be working crazy hours and not making very much money, certainly not enough to afford a kid. But if she’d said she wanted to keep the baby, I would have figured out a way to make it happen.

Unfortunately, I can't post the whole story on here, but you can read the rest of it on Quartz.  Also, subscribe if you want to get little reminders in your mailbox when one of these stories is published.

Why Do We Laugh at Sad Things?

The sadness was palpable. My uncle lay in his coffin, pale and strangely lifelike. Suddenly, from the front of the room where his closest family sat, I heard a muffled giggle. I looked over to see my oldest aunt, red in the face and clearly trying to suppress laughter. Her sisters watched, mortified, but it wasn’t long before they joined in — and then the people around them, too, as seismic waves of laughter spread through the room.

“I felt his spirit,” my aunt later explained. “He wanted to lighten the pain we were feeling.” (My uncle was known for his sense of humor.)

Laughter is a great emotional equalizer. We’re often told it’s the best medicine. Deeply stressful or emotional episodes overload our emotional engine and send the needle into overdrive. To release stress, we often respond through inappropriate laughter. It’s not ideal, but it is effective. On top of reducing the stress hormone cortisol and improving short-term memory, laughter has even been found to ameliorate physical pain.

Unfortunately, I can't post the whole story on here, but you can read the rest of it on the magical website known as Man Repeller.  Also, subscribe if you want to get these articles, as well as the stories from my column on Quartz, in your mailbox when they come out. 

Craigslist Confessional: I don’t regret my decision to get an abortion. I regret that it was such a lonely one.

Veronica, 40s

I sat in a wicker chair on our front porch and rested my hand on my belly. The dishes clattered in the distance and I felt a compulsion to yell in and ask if Mom needed help with cleaning up, but I wanted to be alone and so I stayed outside. We’d spent the day at the creek, taking photos, fishing, and enjoying the weather together. As always, my mother had brought the camera.

“Do something silly!” she demanded, holding the camera up to her eyes.

And in that moment, all I had thought to do was twirl my hair with one hand and stick my thumb in my mouth. As I looked at the Polaroid, I thought that I looked like a child myself—way younger than 18. Way younger than someone’s mom should look.

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Why it Pays to Be Vulnerable

Two years ago, during a particularly isolating and low point in my life, I started a project called Craigslist Confessional. Through an ad on Craigslist, I meet with and anonymously speak to strangers about things that they can’t tell anyone else. What I want more than anything is to connect with people on a deeper level, to allow them to be vulnerable and open without fear. I do this because I felt then, and still do now, that there are so many things that we can’t talk about in polite society, so many important things that are shunned, kept quiet or muffled because vulnerability is often met with judgment.

By meeting with over 200 people (even a few from the Man Repeller community!) and listening to their stories, I’ve learned that vulnerability, unfettered communication and fearless oversharing about things usually relegated to the “personal” realm are positive additions to an often emotionally apathetic society. By fearless oversharing, however, I don’t mean the online facelessness that further dehumanizes us and makes easy victims, but rather the in-person connection we make when we allow someone to bear witness to our lives. The stories I’ve heard over the years, and the fact that anonymity is often the deciding factor on whether someone shares her story, only prove how uncomfortable we tend to get with emotional vulnerability.

Unfortunately, I can't post the whole story on here, but you can read the rest of it on the magical website known as Man Repeller.  Also, subscribe if you want to get these articles, as well as the stories from my column on Quartz, in your mailbox when they come out. 

The Truth About Phobias and How I Overcame Mine

I have a dental phobia. When I think about the prospect of going to the dentist, my knees get weak, trickles of cold sweat accumulate on the back of my neck and I feel lightheaded.

There’s good reason for this. I grew up in a post-Communist country where empathy wasn’t exactly a dentist’s strong suit. For much of my childhood, I had dental work done without anesthesia. I remember once passing out in the chair during a procedure. When I came to, the dentist was still drilling away.

This year, my resolution was to address my dental phobia. In preparation, I decided to read up on phobias. Why do we have them? Can they be conquered? How?

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Craigslist Confessional: “Had he made the first move, I probably would have started an affair with him.”

Rita, 30s

I woke up that morning with the conviction that the day would be different—better. I packed lunch for my children and helped my husband steam his shirt. After he left for work, I drove the kids to school, already dreading the emptiness I would feel once at home again, alone.

I hadn’t always been this way. I could remember the days when I’d been my own person, not someone’s wife or someone’s mom, but myself. I hadn’t worried about making lunch on time, or getting the laundry folded, or making sure the kids got their homework done. I’d had my job, my disposable income, and my group of friends, and life had seemed impossibly simple and happy.

Now I found myself wondering who I was once my family was stripped away. I hadn’t worked in years, and the last time I saw my closest friend, we’d spent hours talking about our children and husbands. It seemed like I’d lost myself, and could only define my existence through the people who consumed my time. I’d inadvertently become the woman I used to make fun of — the bored housewife who drank before noon and took anxiety medication to alleviate her existential crisis.

Unfortunately, I can't post the whole story on here, but you can read the rest of it on Quartz.  Also, subscribe if you want to get little reminders in your mailbox when one of these stories is published.

Are You a Highly Sensitive Person?

I drafted an email yesterday and, before clicking the ‘send’ button, I read, re-read and re-re-read what I had written, scouring the letters for errors that would somehow impart to the destined reader the impression that perhaps I don’t have a basic grasp of grammar. I have a Chrome extension that tells me when I’m using “weak” words and phrases, like I think or I’m sorry or just, words that, according to the app’s creator, “diminish our voice.”

I’m like this — highly self-conscious and sensitive to details — when it comes to basically everything in my life. When I enter a conversation, I immediately pick up on subtle, almost imperceptible behavioral cues. I overthink everything, absolutely everything, often to my very serious detriment. Until pretty recently, I thought that I was just neurotic.

Then a friend who is very similar recommended a book, The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You, by Dr. Elaine Aron. A self test in the book’s introduction prompts: I find myself needing to withdraw during busy days, into bed or into a darkened room or any place where I can have some privacy and relief from stimulation. True.

Unfortunately, I can't post the whole story on here, but you can read the rest of it on the magical website known as Man Repeller.  Also, subscribe if you want to get these articles, as well as the stories from my column on Quartz, in your mailbox when they come out. 

This is your brain on social media

Three years ago, I logged into Facebook for the very last time. I clicked the “permanently delete” button, without uploading any of the memories stored therein to my computer. Right now, the only form of social media on my phone is Snapchat, on which I have a whopping fifteen friends.

I’m not going to tell you that you should do the same and delete most (or all) of your social media accounts. And I’m not going to preach to you about the merits of a temporary social media detox, although Kendall and Gigi did it, so draw your own conclusions. (Tongue, meet cheek). But for the sake of conversation, I will tell you how my social media abstention was received by others, and the clever arguments I’ve heard in favor of staying addicted. Because make no mistake, we’re addicted.

Unfortunately, I can't post the whole story on here, but you can read the rest of it on the magical website known as Man Repeller.  Also, subscribe if you want to get these articles, as well as the stories from my column on Quartz, in your mailbox when they come out. 

Craigslist Confessional: I'm in my 40s, never married, and a virgin--but I'm happy

I come from what’s considered a pretty small family in my community. My parents are both Holocaust survivors, but growing up, our neighborhood wasn’t just Orthodox Jewish families like mine. A lot of my friends were Italian, so it was really easy to see the difference between how other kids were raised, and how we were being raised. I went to an all-girls school that had a double curriculum: morning classes were religious, and the afternoon classes were secular.

By the time I was 19, three quarters of my high school class was engaged. The typical age for marriage was in the early twenties, so I didn’t really feel too much pressure at the time. But in our community, you don’t have “boyfriends.” You look for husbands.

Unfortunately, I can't post the whole story on here, but you can read the rest of it on Quartz.  Also, subscribe if you want to get little reminders in your mailbox when one of these stories is published.

American millennials aren't that into God. Are you?

Millennials are officially, at around 80 million, the biggest age group in the United States. We are also consistently maligned. Millennials have been called narcissist, selfish, lazy, materialistic, entitled and individualistic by parents, grandparents, researchers, anthropologists, psychologists and sociologists alike.

Depending on whom you talk to, millennials are also heralded as risk-takers, tech-savvy rule breakers, dare-to-be-different trailblazers. We are the future. And the future, as far as millennials are concerned, is increasingly godless.

Unfortunately, I can't post the whole story on here, but you can read the rest of it on the magical website known as Man Repeller.  Also, subscribe if you want to get these articles, as well as the stories from my column on Quartz, in your mailbox when they come out. 

What your parents' relationship means for yours

On September of 1986, my mother’s aunt set her up on a blind date with my dad. Once divorced, he was almost eleven years her senior. My mom, who was 29 at the time, took one look at him and started running — literally running — away. Had her aunt not lassoed her back and gotten her to go on the date, I wouldn’t be here today. And my parents wouldn’t have an almost 30-year marriage.

By all accounts, this sounds like a success story. In fact, considering that the divorce rate hovers at around 50% (and is higher for second and third marriages), people assume that if your parents are still together, you must have the secret to a good relationship embedded in your DNA.

But just like any relationship spanning 30 years, my parents have had conflicts to which, inevitably, I’ve been witness. The success of their marriage doesn’t hinge solely on their continued partnership, but rather the constant conversations and compromises that keep them on the same page.

Unfortunately, I can't post the whole story on here, but you can read the rest of it on the magical website known as Man Repeller.  Also, subscribe if you want to get these articles, as well as the stories from my column on Quartz, in your mailbox when they come out. 

Craigslist Confessional: "I was 25 years old when I went to prison, and 40 when I was released."

I was 25 years old when I went to prison, and 40 when I was released.

I am one of five children. I grew up in a rough neighborhood and lived in the projects. My mother was college educated, but her husband got her hooked on drugs. Ever since fourth grade, I’ve been trying to make money, go to school, and feed everyone. I always knew how to fend for myself.

When I got arrested, I was working and going to school full time. I had a four-year-old son. I was a first time, nonviolent offender accused of interfering with a federal investigation. The verdict came back in a heartbeat: a 240-month sentence in a federal prison. As far as I’m concerned, that’s a lifetime.

Unfortunately, I can't post the whole story on here, but you can read the rest of it on Quartz.  Also, subscribe if you want to get little reminders in your mailbox when one of these stories is published.