I’m lying face-down on the living room floor, as one is wont to do. Stacks of notebooks and novel outlines sit untouched, collecting dust, upon my very nice desk that I am very much not using. Every synapse in my body screams, BEGS me to just write something, anything, literally just write a single damn sentence oh my GOD.
Predictably, my anxiety shrieks loudly and slightly pitchy, perhaps hoping that the more I think about time rapidly slipping through my fingers, productivity will magically surge through the existential dread and prevail: THIS IS YOUR ONE DAY OFF—YOUR ONLY CHANCE TO GET WORK DONE AND YOU’RE WASTING IT! WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU?!
This nonsense is honestly par for the course at this point.
And it doesn’t seem to matter how many times my friends and wonderful support group insist that
- I am not, in fact, a lazy piece of garbage,
- I’m not wasting my life, and
- my writing has value,
…that same persistent voice in my head always, ALWAYS, insists otherwise.
This obnoxious creature—tirelessly spewing recycled insults and suggestions on how to better fit into the box that society has created for me—is the embodiment of the patriarchal vices that I’ve been warring with since birth.
And if names have power, then it seems only fitting to give him a name that shows him for what he truly is: Heteronormative Patriarchy.
HetPat, for short.
Seems like a good name for a spineless, cowardly anxiety gremlin who wears a surprisingly well-tailored three-piece suit. He’s short and stout, like a hellish Keebler elf, cheeks inflamed with vitriol and ill intent, and ears that heinously protrude for no reason, because he certainly doesn’t use them to listen.
Think Smeagol, but somehow even more pathetic.
He’s organized, I tell you, scheming away in his little hovel, plotting his next attack on my self-esteem the second there’s an iota of forward progress. At the beginning of my writing journey, one of his ultimate faves was to remind me of the sage writing advice I think we’ve all heard far too much: “write what you know.”
But as a pre-teen who had only ever lived in one state her whole life, in a sheltered household and with limited access to the outside world, that left me with very few Things That I Knew:
- How to write about an insecure, self-conscious young girl desperate for male validation.
- How to write female characters that only fit into two molds—Madonna or whore—because that was the majority of the content that I was used to consuming.
- How to write derivative, predictable romance that was only ever cis, straight, and white.
BUT YOU DON’T REALLY KNOW ANYTHING NOW EITHER, DO YOU? HetPat screams from the ever-present void. YOU’RE ALMOST THIRTY AND STILL WORKING IN A MINIMUM WAGE JOB, IN THE SAME TOWN YOU’VE BEEN LIVING IN FOR MORE THAN TEN YEARS, AND YOU’VE NEVER BEEN IN A REAL RELATIONSHIP. ALSO YOU’RE UGLY AND EVERYONE SECRETLY HATES YOU.
It’s possible that all of this is deeply not-conducive for my creative and emotional well-being.
HetPat never really shuts up, either. He’s got Opinions about so many things—
Coming up with increasingly creative reasons as to why I’m so unlovable that everyone except me is partnered up, as if I need the help.
Forcing me to second guess every step I take towards a career path, as if I need the help.
Insisting that I’m a burden to all my friends and that their lives would go on as normal without me, AS IF—well, you get the picture.
Why does he even care?
Oh RIGHT, because I’m a young, white, cisgender, able-bodied woman whose biological clock is ticking and who should be focused on getting a man and having babies. Not trying to play pretend for a living.
Except… that’s all eugenic, white supremacist bullshit and so we’re just not gonna do any of that.
Even with a decidedly Catholic upbringing, I can’t say that I’m fluent in whatever exorcism could possibly get this joker out of my brain. So maybe that’s what we’re here to do—to open a conversation about the kind of biases and indoctrination that HetPat and others like him have cultivated in my life and the lives of other queer women just trying to pave their own way.
Maybe just the act of calling him out, of pointing out his hypocrisies, will get him to simmer on down. Maybe having other people know of his existence and knowing that he’s full of shit will cast HetPat back into the fires of insecurity from whence he came.
And maybe then I can finally finish writing this damn chapter.