Angela Natividad's Live & Uncensored!

18 July 2022

A pointless story

When I was about five years old, we lived in a small apartment on a street called Sierra Road, which I always remember as a mysteriously contoured woman with flowing hair. 

It had stairs. I placed a plastic fish on the floor, then went upstairs, sat with my legs swinging through the bannister directly over the fish, and released the end of my jumprope. I did this for several afternoons, waiting patiently to catch the fish.

My father walked by downstairs. I heard him laugh. There was some bustling, then a violent tug on the end of my line. I looked down. Nobody was there. I pulled up my jumprope. My fish was tied to the end of it.

For a long time I was convinced that my experiment worked and I had effectively caught the fish on account of my clear understanding of how fish are caught, nourished by patient men on television. I told my parents; my mom congratulated me warmly and my father just laughed for reasons I didn't get, but in any case I didn't care.

Time went by. I realised I could never have "caught" the plastic fish, it being inert and me having no bait, so I decided it was magic. "God," my mom said. This seemed viable. Someone once pushed me into a fountain and my mother said it was the devil, so it tracked. Later that same day I found a squashed banana I had forgotten about in my backpack, further proof that the devil existed, and thus the divine spectrum upon which he resides.

More time went by. I mostly forgot about this event, and maybe things would have ended there—with me thinking this was divine intervention. Then something made me remember it again, I don't know what. It was only then, years later, that I saw it must have been my dad tampering with the line, because he doesn't respect my the scientific method. It also explained his mysterious laughter and the violence of the tug (he never quite got the measure of his own strength relative to ours).

The end.

20 April 2022

On finding new ways to exist


I started a Ko.fi page, and here is everything I have to say about that.

10 April 2022

Loose reflections on voting, and also getting older

I don't have a lot of time to write at the moment, so I'll try to be quick.

I just went to vote for the first time in France. I stood in my line for my voting bureau, which is tied to my address, with neighbours I have never seen. We entered a school. It's the first time I've been inside a French school for children. I observed the high bannisters, the carefully painted walls, the sign along the stairs that said "I keep to the right, and advance quietly!" 

The tall, heavy doors reminded me of my own school halls. Memories collect in these places. I felt I could almost touch that potential; my memories of school mixing and mingling with the everyday sights that accompany long days here.

Behind me, a little girl sighed beside her mother. "The line is too long," she said. "We should just go home." She was impatient for the rest of her day to start.

Her mother laughed. "This is something we have to do," she said. "It will be over soon. Someday you will be proud to stand in this line."

A few people brought dogs. My quartier has the highest concentration of dog owners in the city. A soft-spoken volunteer tried to tell them that dogs are not allowed. One woman asked if an exception could be made because they were not aware until now. The line was long. It was a hassle. He said, "This time we'll close our eyes to it."

We let older and less able people advance ahead of us. "We can't just let them stand there for an hour," a woman said, and no one disagreed. We made way. This is what we do for each other.

People were cheerful in the voting room, but there was also a sense of officiation. I entered the isoloir and folded my choice into a small envelope: oiling the Republic. Is that a bad metaphor? Is the Republic's problem that it is too oiled? I stepped out and toward the man at the ballot box. "Please cast your vote," he said.

I placed my ballot inside. Another man looked for my name in a registry. He pronounced it, my full name, with care and gravity. It gave me a frisson. Then he pointed to a place for my signature. A transparent ruler sat over my information, ensuring I did not sign in the wrong place. I signed with a Kaweco Lilliput pen that is very scratchy. "Thank you," he said. My voting card was stamped.

Then I walked back out into the sun, cutting through the lengthening line and home again. The act took 45 minutes.

I was in college the first time I voted in the American elections. It felt important. I took it seriously because that's what I was educated to do: You're an adult now, your liberal education tells you about the importance of this act, you go and vote and do it infused with the sense that this small gesture may bend democracy in the direction you prefer.

It is different doing it as an immigrant. I've been in France for 13 years. Regardless of how I felt about the leadership, the impact of presidential shifts rippled through my life in ways they did not, not quite, as a de-facto American citizen. Under Sarkozy, my visa renewals were more arduous. Under Hollande, they felt more like formalities. But in renewing a visa, there remains a distance between you and the person on the other side of the table. 

You need to be careful. You are, ultimately, a guest.

This sensation disappeared when I received citizenship. The ceremony explained our rights and responsibilities (we can be called to war, not just for France but for Europe!), but there was also a sense of levity. When we sang the Marseillaise, they gave us the words and said, "We won't sing the whole thing. Just the parts that are used for football." It felt good to sign the citizenship book. France has cared for me, and I felt myself folding into her, weaving into her tapestry.

There have been moments that really reminded me what it is to belong to a country. When the November 13 attacks happened, I remember Romain did something odd: The day after, he got up early in the morning and did groceries. There was a purposefulness to this.

Once he returned, I walked outside our door to lace up my running shoes. But I just sat there, letting the automatic lights go dark before remembering to hit the switch again. One of our neighbours, who'd also done morning groceries, stepped out of the elevator and encountered me there.

"Are you all right?" she asked.

"I think so," I said. I was twisting a lace around my finger and releasing it.

She kept on staring. The lights went off. She switched them back on. She put her groceries down.

"I have a daughter about your age," she said. "She had friends at the Bataclan and friends trapped in restaurants. She keeps watching the news over and over. She can't get out of bed today." Her lips thinned. "It is a trauma, what happened. But to go on replaying that moment for yourself is to live it over and over." 

I switched the light back on.

"If you're afraid about running today," she went on, "run in the gardens of the hospital Salpétrière. You'll feel safer. But I think if you are sitting out here, you have to go outside."

I went. In the end I ran along the Seine. An older couple was feeding swans. A younger couple pushed a stroller. Teenagers lay across concrete benches, photosynthesising in silence. 

The sun was bright. There was a kind of tentative bravery to being outside, trying to welcome a day marred by blood drying on the cloak of an evening that had grown sinister. 

When the attacks happened, I was at a bar with my cousin and his wife. 

It happened I was there again last night, or across from it anyway, smoking a cigarette and staring at where I was sitting when something anomalous tore through the fabric of the terrace's cheerful reality.

Hours before the attacks, Romain and I had been PACSed at the Mairie du 5è. We'd meant to have drinks in the area surrounding the Bataclan, but he didn't feel like it, so my cousin and I changed our plans and I took them to Montmartre. I'd managed to catch the last Uber running; the guy tried dropping us off halfway through Paris, while the shooters were still roving, and I'd screamed, "I just got married and my husband is not picking up the phone!"

Later the next day, a cousin texted me: "Time for you to go home? LOL"

I winced. What a crass thing to say. He immigrated too, from the Philippines, when he was very young. Did it occur to him to "go home" when 9/11 happened?

On November 14 I could feel how Paris' knees buckled and how difficult it felt to get back up. We were only a few months out of the Charlie Hebdo attack. Things feel real as they draw nearer to you, and these particular attacks weren't only a matter of proximity; they hit worlds I inhabit, touched people I know, bleeding into my profession and social circles. I had my first French date at the Petit Cambodge, which was also attacked on the night of the Bataclan. 

I still remember that date. I had bird poo drying on my head and Gaël, who became my first boyfriend, didn't tell me until after dinner.

You don't abandon your family in times of difficulty—or, well, you do your best not to. I could not imagine leaving Paris like a thief in the night when I could feel her fragility.

So today I voted. I voted because after that night and those bleak, traumatic times, we curled closer together instead of moving apart. When I received citizenship, I felt the country recognise me as one of its own. Rights and responsibilities. This isn't just a matter of having a new passport, or more mobility in the Schengen area. It's a matter of what I owe to my country, who folded me into her in the peaks and valleys of our shared life.

This also doesn't make me less American. I still vote in the US, and sometimes it hurts. My last ballot never reached the counting stage, joining the many mail-ins mysteriously lost in the last election. 

This upset me. A relationship to a country is also a contract: I will take my responsibilities seriously, but you have to, too. I am not saying this because I want to compare whose democracy is better; my feelings about democracy are, it's an ancient model, and it's generally been known to collapse. It requires a rigorous upkeep that, neglected, renders the model fragile as power begins to concentrate and pool ... making the powerful more inclined to accumulate and hoard it, siphoning strength from everywhere else.

Time is passing. Last night was a good friend's 40th birthday. Everyone, mostly all parents now, was committed to getting drunk and dancing and staying out as late as possible. We don't have nights like this often anymore, and people threw themselves into it with resolve. It felt like New Years. 

But I also noticed how we have changed. Tentative friend groups have hardened with time. People I barely speak to, but spent years just kind of "around," feel intimate to me now; our presence in each other's lives is taken for granted, and we've come to take solace in the familiarity of our faces, the casual brushing of our hands over one another's bodies—layers of contact we lost in nigh-on three years of a pandemic. I used to think intimacy was a matter of intense face time. Now I know it can blossom, surprise seeds sown and germinated, just because you keep showing up.

We used to start drinking and keep drinking, letting the alcohol sweat itself out with dancing. Now we alternate alcohol subtly, with diet Cokes and menthes à l'eau. Shots of hard liquor don't dance around the room. We dance a little, but mostly just sit and mill together, weaving in and out of each other's conversations. We make space for how we have all gotten older, for the ways our lives have changed.

I am getting older and as I get older I am also increasingly aware of how young the concept of a country is, and how much I still have to learn about what we owe to one another. We are never truly safe. We can never be enwombed again. But I get it now: Rigid control over variables is not the move. The move is dispersed indebtedness. The move is stepping closer to each other and breaking bread. It always requires courage. But I think it gets easier. I think we just have to keep trying.

Okay, this took a really long time, and I've still got a dissertation proposal to wrap. 

06 April 2022

Pleasures

  • Going to bed in linen sheets, in a gigantic bed that is only mine, and that I sometimes share with a few books and notepads.
  • Riding my robins egg-blue bicycle through this mad city. I feel so connected to it. And there is so much I know now about how to care for and love it!
  • Coming home and listening to Mark Ronson's "The Bike Song," which no longer makes me sad now that I have a bike again.


  • Drinking peppermint-infused water from my fun but reasonably subtle jungle-themed water bottle, which replaces the one I lost when I slid down the cliff last month. RIP, sweet Zojirushi thermos.
  • Thumping on my drum, which always kinda makes it feel like something is coming, but actually nothing is coming, I just don't know how to drum in any way besides the one that sounds like a T-Rex is heading toward you.
  • Reading books on sunny terraces.
  • Just fucking being in Paris, frankly. It's home. It's a very serious lover. (But I'll also love being back in Italy, and I'll also feel home, etc.)

05 April 2022

A funny sidenote

All these years, all this change, and you know what? I've never gotten sick of the design format I chose for this website.

Things I'm trying right now

I just need to put this list somewhere, and here's as good a place as any. 

Things I'm trying right now:

  • Seed cycling. This is meant to naturally balance hormones at different moments in the menstrual month, and accompanies other food choices that should be favoured to reinforce this, but the seed bits are easiest to remember. I'm getting this from a book called Eat with the Moon, which is mostly a cookbook but explains seed cycling in a For Dummies kinda way that's sufficient to kick me off.
  • Managing my hair in an Ayurvedic manner. Okay, that's a big way to convey the small lazy thing I'm doing. I'm just massaging my head more, and also moisturising with coconut oil for just a few hours once a week instead of overnight, to avoid what the lady I'm following on Instagram calls "abuse." It feels like it's working. Basically I'm just trying to stress my hair out less.
  • Putting my shed hair outside, for the birds. I've been doing this for awhile. It feels like a subversion. The thought that my hair is helping make nests, or even provide nutrients to natural space (if it finds any), is a good way of remembering that my existence mattered today. It's a vote for a different world.
  • Kundalini yoga? Sometimes. Not lately. 

Things that are harder to do right now:

  • Barefoot walking. I started this in Devon, but now I'm back in Paris and it's complicated.
  • The professional gig stuff I've spent the last 16 years doing. I'm different now. I'm not sure how that happened, but it did, and I'm glad. I can't do this anymore. 

Things I should be doing, come on Angela, you're at gunpoint:

  • Working.
  • Completing my family project.
  • Re-reading The Homeric Hymns and Gaston Bachelard's The Poetics of Space (both for school, not that either of those books require a justification to reread).
  • Prepping my dissertation proposal, which is due NEXT WEEK ANGELA COME ON
  • Prepping my PhD proposal, which still requires a lot of back-and-forth before it's turned in END OF MONTH ANGELA COME ON
  • Advocating better for my own creativity. I'm going to buy watercolour paints today. That counts, right? Like, in a kindergarten way. Not to hate on watercolours; I meant in the sense that it's a way of appeasing this need to advocate better for my own creativity without actually doing the things I know I should be doing to advocate for it. But I'll get over this. I have to, otherwise it'll be gig work all the way down. 
My profession has been good to me. More than good. If I hadn't changed, I'd be happy to go on doing it into infinity. But I've spent the last few years reconnecting with desire—initially, letting my desires dilettante around. Then nurturing the ones that stuck, until a few grew strong and sharp like knives, and cut my spirit out of my skin. I realised she's strong and wild, and has a lot of desires. It's a compass I can follow the rest of my life. And I have much terrain to catch up on, those years I mostly kept her in a box under Persephone's throne.

For awhile I had to demonstrate that her function in my life was not to support me in the market; I would love her, and prioritise her, anyway. But now I've initiated into a different relationship with her. Now I want to marry her. 

I'm making this sound more woo-woo than it is in practice, which isn't to say it isn't still woo-woo:
  • Part of prioritising my spirit is understanding that cleaning my space, including bed-making—something I've had no fucks available for in the past—is a way of administering to the altar of myself. 
  • As a person who now lives between three places that speak three different languages and, in fact, host three different Angelas, maintaining stable rituals between all three, however small, is work I'm taking very seriously.
  • My days are no longer organised around what I do for work. They're organised around relationships—to myself, to my space, which is alive and in constant conversation with my body; to the people around me; to past and future. I've spent most of my life shirking all the big-deal stuff to run on the treadmill of an abusive capitalist system that's incentivised to separate me from my desires and keep me working until I die. The Nap Ministry is right: Rest is revolution, and that's my priority now.
To clarify, I love what I do for work. It's my relationship to it, or rather my relationship to the market's treatment of it, that became corrosive. I've also expanded my sense of what work is. The work that's important in my life is a lot bigger than what I do for money. And it is increasingly my suspicion that what I do for money is not the most important thing I have to do in most moments. 

The latter discovery isn't something our market is designed to value in any meaningful way. And that's a problem, because market value has somehow become married to our intrinsic value in the larger social world.

So I'm uncoupling this stuff. I suspect a lot of people think this is a midlife crisis of some kind. That's okay. We're all trying to get a grip on different things. There's room for all of it.

19 February 2022

"If you love Jesus..."

 I’ve been thinking about those chain letters from the early days of the internet.

“If you love Jesus, don’t be ashamed to proclaim it! Send this to 10 people…”

I used to take those letters really seriously. I had all these thoughts, like, Wow, I really do feel hesitant to send this around. What differentiates me from Judas, or Thomas, or Peter? For awhile it felt brave to forward them. I was proving something to myself—that I wasn’t afraid who knew I was a Christian. I’d say it loud and proud when called upon! All that kind of nonsense.

Those chain letters migrated into social networks alongside us. I still get them from time to time, in new variations, from religious aunties, usually, in the Philippines. They slide into my DMs, utterly disinterested in me, strangers really, unless they’ve got a holiday GIF or a chain letter to bomb me with. I started removing them from my contacts. Blood and shared names don’t mean relationship.

The internet still functions like in the early days, but faster and more efficiently now. Social media amplifies our every writ thought and emotion, finding traction for them like a magical loudspeaker, locating more sympathetic (or antipathetic) readers. Lately I’ve been feeling pressure to say something about myself—reveal a position, make some kind of stand. About vaccination, about magic, about animism, about science and technology, about my work, about the latest race killing, about Asians supporting Black brothers and sisters, about what people get wrong…

And there are new pressures now, memes that ominously read, “We are taking note of your silence.”

I get it now, about the Jesus chain letters. Sharing them with ten people doesn’t mean you’d be more likely to hide a Jewish family during the Third Reich. It doesn’t mean you recycle, or that you’d reach out to help someone having trouble in the street. It didn’t mean you pray, refuse to masturbate, take communion. 

Really, it was a pressure game: if we push this button inside you, do you comply? Will you go on amplifying beside us? Are you in or out?

That’s what so many of these hot takes feel like on the internet. It really doesn’t matter what you say, or how often you say it; everyone is saying too much, thinking it’s important in ways most would be hard-pressed to explain if asked. No one is listening much. They’re all just waiting their turn to show whose side they’re on—for you, against you, seeking to educate you. We are just itching to clarify our positions on the broader stage to other actors on stages.

But this isn’t the move. It isn’t really a move at all. It’s just forwarding the chain letter.

It matters more to know when to speak and when to act, and to speak and act when it counts. Sometimes we’re going to fuck up, to misfire, to fail to read the nuances of the moment. It’s all right. It’s part of the messiness of being human.

It’s not that I don’t think the hot takes matter. Sometimes they’re good therapy and expiation. Sometimes you learn something, find the words for something you’ve suspected and felt, but didn’t have time to fully think through. Some of that stuff needs to be said, and needs to be read.

Sometimes they just seem designed to make a few targeted individuals feel bad about something. Mobile, viral Puritanism.

I don’t think the idea of hot takes matters as much as anybody thinks they do (assuming anyone does). Sometimes even clever, thoughtful people get addicted to them, convinced it’s part of the service they provide to the body public; another product, then, to reliably get out the door on time.

Most of the time, I don’t think anybody needs me to weigh in on anything. This is not a lack of confidence, or some kind of judgment call. It’s also a way to conserve my energy, to save it for what I think matters, and when it does. I often find that the private moments matter, between me and one or two other people. You have time, then, and space, to exchange on the nuances of what you’re saying, to think it through, to change your mind, to change someone else’s, to add to each other’s inner constellations.

The larger stage, the broadcast platform? Less so.

It's helpful to remember when I believed in the Jesus chain letters—oh my God, I need to share this or I’m just as bad as those fallible disciples! It was an immediate reflexive reaction to what I thought was a moment of conviction, but what was actually a transparent and childish social pressure play. The chain letters had no meaning. They delivered no value. They won no souls to Jesus. Their entire function was to go on being passed on, ostensibly until every person on earth had seen them and meaningfully interrogated themselves (or deleted them, thereby dooming them to hell, I suppose, where Judas would be waiting to weep with them).

These days when I feel a hot conviction to say something—and truly, it’s constant, practically a plague—I stop and ask myself what my motivations are. Quite often I find that the motivation is something to the effect of, “To show where I stand!” 

And that’s when I know I’m 13 again, knee-jerk reacting to a chain letter that’s just gotten subtler, more insidious.