God Hates Phags
The editor of this fine publication initially asked that I share 1600-1800 words on the history of durophagous terminology. He hoped for a brief examination of why many of us feel it’s perfectly acceptable to call ourselves “cray” and “Homa” and, of course, that most contentious “phag,” but then we get our cockles in a bunch when the non-durophagous—even our close friends!—refer to us in the same fashion. However, as I began writing about my own experience of moving within and around these terms, rejecting some, accepting others, ultimately forming strong opinions on most of them, a very different essay emerged. Being a good little writer, I naturally communicated my concerns to Oscar at the journal, apologizing profusely over my inability to complete the task as assigned. He, however, encouraged me to run with it, to follow the words in whatever direction—and length—seemed appropriate. So please excuse the self-indulgent nature of this exercise, but you must of course blame him if this is not the essay you were looking for.
Naturally it’s well-known that eaters of shrimp and crab are called phags. Most people know this is a shortened form of Durophag, itself shortened from durophagy or durophagous, but few care to know any more than that. The word combines the root duro with the word ending –phage. Duro comes from the Latin durus meaning “hard.” The word endure derives from the word: to make hard, harden, to last. The ending –phage indicates “a thing that devours.” Durophagy, then, is the term that describes animals that consume hard-shelled or exoskeleton-bearing organisms, such as shelled mollusks or crabs. To be durophagous is to be able to crack crustacean or mollusk shells in order to eat what’s inside. As I assume you’re aware, the shortened form “phag,” has come to be a pejorative term referencing a person who eats mollusks.
The term “Homa” has a shorter history, as it’s taken from Homaridae, the family classification for many lobsters. A quick sampling of other slang terms include shritter or shreater (shrimp eater), lobver (lobster lover), blimp (short for blimp greeter, rhyming slang for shrimp eater), mobster (presumably combining monster/lobster), clacker (term for oysters full of sand that make a distinctive noise when tapped), crushed Asian (homophone for crustacean), cunny (collective noun for a group of shrimp), duro (short for durophage), Maggie (after the famous crab-eating macaque), and Matilda (mussels are edible bivalves of the marine family Mytilidae).
See also: bivalve, blue blood, chowder, clammer, conpoy, crab gobber, crawdaddy, filter feeder, lusc diver, pearl, pearl muncher, scallop, shrimper, shucker, snailer, soft-shell, trawler, winkle, and yabby. I could go on. In fact, I was supposed to. I feel what ultimately prompted a change in direction for me is understanding that the history of the people is much, much larger than any one word.
Studies generally indicate that the number-one determinant of whether a person will be accepting of durophagous peoples is simply this: do you know any? And so, for those of you who do not—or, as is more likely, don’t know that you know—I write this in hopes that you will get to know me just a tad better. So there it is. My agenda. Out in the open so you can choose to stop now, if you wish, choose to ignore me and my words and go back to your comfortable existence. Hell, maybe getting to know someone just through their words doesn’t count anyway. So maybe this will change nothing. But Oscar is giving me this space, so I’ll take it.
First, some background: 1988. Summer between fifth and sixth grades. On Saturdays, my best friend Jimmy Baldwin would come over and we’d play games with a bunch of kids from the neighborhood. Games like kickball or hide-and-seek or, most often, a game called Grab the Crab. Whoever has the football is the crab and everyone tries to tackle them and get the ball and then whoever has it becomes the crab and the guys pile on to get the ball.
I remember thinking at the time there was something taboo about the game’s name—such that afterward, while I was eating my Little Debbie snacks and drinking my Kool-Aid, if Mom asked what we’d been playing, I’d be evasive. Sure, if we played anything but, I’d say right away: kickball, soccer, baseball, manhunt, freeze tag, H-O-R-S-E. But for that one game, I’d offer a general, “Oh, we were just playing ball.” I didn’t know why it felt weird to say it, but I didn’t really give it more thought. Then I’d eat my Zebra Cakes.
Fast-forward to 1991. Mostly the same guys, but instead of Grab the Crab, we’d shoot hoops or play tackle football in the mud until someone said they were hungry—usually Gregory Maguire—and then we’d go raid the kitchen for Cool Ranch Doritos and root beer “on the rocks.”
One time we had just finished playing some basketball, six or seven of us. I had to pee and wasn’t paying attention to who was where. The bathroom door was shut but I gave the handle a try and pushed it open. There was Jimmy hunched over, stuffing something in his mouth.
“Augh!” he screamed, rushing to close the door on me, but my foot blocked it.
“What is th—”
“Shhh!” He pulled me in and pushed the door closed and played with the lock. “Fuck, this is broken.”
Meanwhile I was trying to read the letters on the bag in his hand. “Are those shrimp crackers?”
“Shut up, goddamnit! Do you want the guys to hear?”
He set the bag down to fiddle more with the lock. Shrimp Flavored Chips. Under the name were some strange characters, at the time I assumed Chinese, though now I’m pretty sure they were Korean.
“Where did you get these?”
“Just chill out, Walt. I can totally explain.”
But of course, he couldn’t. Not in any real sense. Not without offering me one. But I wasn’t ready and walked out. I was too upset to tell the guys. Over the next month, Jimmy came out to play less and less. At the end of summer, he went on to the local public school while the rest of us started high school at St. Isaac Jogues. I saw him just one time senior year and I didn’t say a word to him then.
It wouldn’t have been so bad if he hadn’t been my best friend. I still remember all throughout middle school and junior high playing Masters of the Universe in his backyard. I’d bring all my figures and he had all his. We both wanted to be He-Man, but eventually I switched and played the bad guys. I pretended my He-Man was an evil bizarro version, enslaved by Skeletor, though now that I think about it, his was the real Skeletor while we pretended mine was the devil. I even colored him with a red marker.
Growing up in Ohio, God was a big part of our life. Or rather, the idea of God. Religion class each day at school, church every Sunday. In high school, Mr. Auden stated clearly what our beliefs should be: It was okay for people to like shrimp and crab and clams, just as long as they never acted on those impulses. The Bible was clear on this. And so I prayed for the molluscivores, that they would learn the evil of their ways and convert to a non-shellfish diet. Mostly I prayed for Jimmy Baldwin.
As time progressed, my thoughts on the issue continued to evolve. By college, it didn’t seem nearly so bad to me, though I still felt it was wrong. There were a few out Homas in my dorm, though of course we weren’t friends. I did know they passed Friday nights at the Cray Bar down on High Street. Occasionally I’d pass the bar, wondering about the goings-on behind its blackened windows. The music was always good, I do remember that. One time I was walking past with my friend Edward. We were noshing on corn dogs from the nearby Hot Dog On A Stick when the door swung open and a man fell out, his bag of popcorn shrimp spilling onto the sidewalk. He looked up at us, horrified, before hurrying back in, leaving little fried shrimp bits everywhere.
Rather loudly, Edward said to me, “You know I have nothing against Durophags. What they do in their own dining room is fine by me. I just don’t know why they have to be so open about it.” I nodded in agreement and took another bite of corn dog. Then, mouth full of processed meat product, I added contemptuously, “Phag.”
It’s funny to think of the huge power these simple words can have. But words do matter. Writing this essay reminded me of a quote attributed to the Buddha. “Whatever words we utter should be chosen with care for people will hear them and be influenced by them for good or ill.” I like the big guy’s thought, but I think he’s only half right. I think there’s also a large percentage of people who won’t be influenced at all. Who won’t care one way or the other about the fight over these issues. It was Betty Davis who once said she wasn’t against cray rights, she just didn’t see what was in it for her.
She wasn’t alone in this opinion.
Again, college. One Sunday before mass at the campus Newman Center, I asked Father Eliot about it while we were setting out cupcakes and coffee for an after-mass reception.
“Remember Deuteronomy, Walt. Chapter fourteen, verses nine and ten: ‘These ye shall eat of all that are in the waters: all that have fins and scales shall ye eat: And whatsoever hath not fins and scales ye may not eat; it is unclean unto you.’ God calls it an abomination. Not just a sin, Walt, but an abomination.”
“But Father Eliot, doesn’t Leviticus say it’s wrong for a man to lie with another man as he would a woman. Why aren’t we against that too?”
“Assuming they are in a loving committed relationship, why would we be against that?”
“I mean, it’s part of the Bible. And if we’re against one thing the Bible says is an abomination, shouldn’t we be consistent and be against all of them? Aren’t they all abominations?”
“Walt, Walt, Walt.” He smiled but shook his head. “Listen. The side of Satan will try to sway you with their rhetorical arguments. They will quote Matthew, chapter eleven, and say, ‘See: God hated figs yet today we enjoy them, so why are Christians against bivalve mollusks?’ But it’s important that you know in your heart that this is an absurd argument.”
“But why? I’m sorry, I’m honestly trying to understand.”
“Well, because what’s next—eating garbage? Eating human vomit? Eating other humans? Is that also natural? It’s a slippery slope when you start saying that eating certain non-food items is okay and not others. And so all acts of eating non-food must be considered sins. Only through eating food can we find salvation in the Lord. Here, have a cupcake.” He started to hand me one, but remembered the prohibition against eating during the hour before mass. “Actually, better to wait.”
I nodded and smiled, though I remained less than convinced by his arguments. And please don’t take this as an insult, dear Reader—though I expect many of you will—but it really made me wonder about the people who bought it all, no questions asked.
It’s true that many of the terms are considered acceptable when used by members of the Luscivore-Cray-Bivalve community and our allies, but are not so appropriate when used by outsiders. SCA’LOP, the Society of Cray and ‘Luscivore People Opposing Prejudice, states on their website that the preferred term is either the more scientifically boring “durophagous” or the traditionally accepted “cray.” In contrast, the more radical group CLAAM, Cunnys and Luscivores for the Acceptance of All Mobsters, advocates reclamation of any and all derogatory terms. And yes, for the uninformed, the differing apostrophe usage with Luscivore is correct here—SCA’LOP goes so far as to feature it prominently in their logo while CLAAM believes “Luscivore” should be claimed as a new word, not merely a contraction of a term used by Needers, which, if you don’t know, is what we call all you non-molluscivores. It’s a homophone for “n’eaters,” which is short for “non-eaters,” itself short for “non-shellfish eaters.” Are you surprised that we have words for you? Don’t be.
But to these groups and others, I think the important thing is not necessarily the term itself but the way it’s used. Intent matters. When SCA’LOP says “cray” is accepted, they aren’t referring to times when Needers toss around a phrase like “That’s so cray” to describe things they don’t like. I’m not sure why this is a radical idea, that you can say “Yo, bitch” to your best friend, but that it could be considered offensive if someone used the same word to describe your mother. It seems intuitive to me, but then I’m not the one trying to protect or rationalize my usage of the term.
One night, a few years out of college, I bumped into my friend Marcel. We’d been in the university men’s chorus together and since then, we’d see each other periodically at dance clubs or just around—I’d just seen him the week before, in fact. He was eating something wrapped in brown paper and thrust it into my hand, saying “Here—try this.” I was chewing it before he said, “It’s crab meat. What do you think?”
“You mean. .imitation crab. Right?”
“Heck, no. Real crab meat. Isn’t it great?”
I spit it out. “My god, why’d you do this?”
“What are you, some kind of S.O.E, pushing your crab on me? You think I’m some kind of phag?”
“I, I thought you knew.” He wrinkled his forehead as he spoke, confused. “Last week. You saw me eating—”
“First of all, I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Friday night. The crabcake sandwich. Over at—”
“And second of all.. I. .I thought that was fried chicken.” Now I was the one confused.
“Get out of here,” I said, feeling betrayed. Feeling that even if I had known it was a crab sandwich the week before, that still gave him no right to do this to me.
“Walt, I didn’t mean—”
Only later, after I’d had a chance to cool off and was replaying the moment in my mind, did I realize something. I had had my first taste. And it wasn’t so bad. Actually, I liked it. A lot. After a lifetime of greasy burgers, soggy fried chicken, and steaks so tough I needed to saw them with a knife, the soft and delicate sweetness of that crab just felt right. It made me wonder—had I always been this way? Had that mere bite awakened a long-dormant biological desire to appreciate crabcake sandwiches? And what about other shellfish? Shrimp, lobster, clams, and—oh God—Oysters Rockefeller! How would those taste? My eyes and taste buds felt open for the first time.
Or was I giving in too soon to this desire, to sin? Maybe it wasn’t too late to fight the urges and return to my previous state of blissful ignorance. Perhaps Marcel had manipulated me, was somehow converting me to his kind, influencing me in much the way Gary Failwell warned us about. Who can forget the controversy when Failwell claimed that Pokémon characters Shellder and Cloyster were secret durophagous role models for children, based on the characters’ hard shells, which some claim as symbols of the cray pride movement? In an official statement, the CBC, producers of the program, indicated “Cloyster and Shellder are simply bivalves. They are not durophagous. They are not not durophagous. They are just characters in a children’s series.”
The fear is that the durophagous are trying to get kids to fall in love with shellfish by exposing them at a young age to cute oysters. What did Failwell say? “It’s well-known that oysters have an aphrodisiac quality, which our children may be too young to fight off.” But this is plain silly. Besides the fact that Cloyster and Shellder are cheeky bivalve characters and would hardly encourage people to eat themselves, studies show that children of shellfish eaters are just as likely to reject the food—to turn up their noses and shove away plates of cooked mussels—as the children of Needers. In the end, all children are going to cry for mac n’ cheese or peanut butter n’ jelly or chicken nuggets and French fries. Or ice cream.
Alright, the story I didn’t want to tell, but in all honesty, the real reason I began writing the essay. To work through the shame or regret or at least confusion over my own past. To come to terms with one of my darkest moments.
Back to high school. Senior year. Sitting with the team on the benches outside the Dairy Queen. More than three years past Jimmy Baldwin hanging with our group, we spot him walk up. Edgar drains his large kiwi-strawberry Mr. Misty and says, “Dude, we’re going to get that mobster fucker.
Francis: “I’m in.”
Roy: “Shit, yeah, let’s tear out that digestive track.”
Edgar: “How about you, Walt? Or are you going to wimp out, you lil’ blimp lover?”
Roy snorts, nearly choking on his Hot Fudge Brownie Delight.
Me: “I don’t know, guys. I mean, so what if he likes shellfish?” I see Jimmy in profile, standing at the outdoor counter.
Edgar: “A ha! You are a shreater! What is it—clams? Popcorn shrimp? Hey, everyone—Walt eats little fried shrimp.”
More laughter. I look at them.
Me: “I do not. Geez, whatever, Edgar. I’m in, alright?”
Edgar calls out. “Hey, Jimmy. I hear you enjoy a little of the shellfish.”
Jimmy actually comes walking over, actually comes right up to us. I think to myself, Run away from here, Jimmy. Licking a cherry-dipped cone, he says, “Hi, guys.”
Edgar: “So is it true? You enjoy some shell with your fish?” Edgar hops up and the others follow, circling around Jimmy. I join.
Jimmy: “Naw, guys. It was one time—but it wasn’t for me. What, did Walt tell you that?”
Edgar: “What? Walt here?”
Jimmy: “Yeah, when I tried the shrimp crackers.” Jimmy frowns. “I assumed he told you.”
Edgar: “Well this is news! You’ve been holding out on us, Walt. Looks like we got us a regular John Swifty here.”
Jimmy looks at me: “Tell them.”
Edgar: “Yeah, Walt. Tell us.”
Let me interrupt a moment to comment on a general misconception regarding one of the heroes of the movement. It’s true that as early as 1738, Jonathan Swift wrote, “He was a bold Man that first, eat an oyster.” Non-crays hear the quote and somehow believe Swift himself was the first person to eat oysters, which would make it a relatively recent phenomenon. In reality, the enjoyment of oysters has a long and glorious history in numerous cultures around the world—oyster middens have been found dating back into prehistory; one shell mound on Dulawat Island in Humboldt Bay dates back more than 7000 years.
In point of fact, Swift wasn’t even the first to make the point about oysters. Swift borrowed from Thomas Fuller’s Worthies of England, published a full four decades earlier, which attributes this quote to James I: “He was a very valiant man who first adventured on eating of oysters.”
Swift’s version is found in a book titled A Complete Collection of Genteel and Ingenious Conversation: according to the most polite mode and method now used at court, and in the best companies of England. Throughout the tome’s three sections, Swift mocks the banality of polite English conversation. So perhaps we should hardly consider him a hero, he who steals a quote about oysters and uses it as an example of the trite and dull conversation to be found at British tea parties. Swift redeems himself, however, by virtue of his 1726 Gulliver’s Travels, the first novel known to feature a protagonist gathering and eating shellfish. In the book’s fourth part, “A Voyage to the Country of the Houyhnhnms,” the titular hero tells us:
I found some shellfish on the shore, and ate them raw, not daring to kindle a fire, for fear of being discovered by the natives. I continued for three days feeding on oysters and limpets, to save my own provisions; and I fortunately found a brook of excellent water, which gave me great relief.
Hence, today you find pro-shellfish societies with names like Gulliver’s Gatherers and A Gathering of Gullivers (unrelated), and of course the infamous S.O.E., short for Swift’s Oyster Eaters. So people have been eating oysters and other shellfish for thousands of years—and writing about it for at least hundreds. Tell that to your congressman the next time he says it’s not natural.
But here I am going off on my high seahorse. Or maybe I’m going on here in an attempt at avoidance, to refrain from writing more on the event that’s haunted me since that day in high school. But face it, I must. We’ve come this far.
Back to Dairy Queen.
I remember the sun had dipped below the horizon, dragging a deep red-orange sky in its wake. Edgar has just turned to me. “Yeah, Walt. Tell us.”
I turn, raise my eyebrows to Edgar. “I don’t know what he’s talking about.”
Edgar considers Jimmy, but speaks to me. “You sure about that, Walt. You really don’t know what
Jimmy here is talking about?”
Edgar turns to me, pauses. “Really?”
“Yes, really.” Three times.
“Alright, then.” Back to Jimmy. “Sounds like you’re calling our boy Walt a liar. Now that’s not very polite.”
Francis snickers. Roy tosses the remains of his brownie in a nearby trash receptacle. Edgar balls up his right fist and punches it into the palm of his left, cracking the knuckles of his fist. Then he does the same with his left hand. He raises an eyebrow to Roy, Roy now directly behind Jimmy, now grabbing Jimmy’s arms, now fighting to hold Jimmy’s arms as Jimmy squirms. Jimmy’s cone lands dip side down.
Edgar starts with a punch to the gut, causing Jimmy to double over. Roy pushes him to the ground. Francis kicks him once, then Roy. They all laugh. I notice Jimmy’s shirt and hesitate.
Back when we played Masters of the Universe, we were so excited when the movie came out with Dolph Lundgren as He-Man, we ended up seeing it three Saturdays in a row. And now, outside the Dairy Queen, Jimmy is on the ground staring up at me, while I look everywhere but his eyes. That’s when I see his Dolph as He-Man t-shirt.
I glance quickly at Edgar who bears a slight resemblance to the villain Skeletor as he laughs. I see beefy Roy and think of Beast Man, Skeletor’s buffoon sidekick. Maybe it’s his Cardinals baseball cap but Francis reminds me of Stratos, the leader of a race of bird people who gain powers from a sacred relic. I then think of He-Man’s catchphrase, “I have the power.” Or maybe I’m making this up. Maybe in looking back, this is how I want to remember it—that Edgar was the evil villain and we his minions and if only Jimmy would call on the power of Grayskull, he could seize victory. But maybe it was I who should have called on the power.
I hesitate, but not too long. I think Edgar almost catches on—out of the corner of my eye, I see him turning toward me—to see what I’m doing. I don’t look back or acknowledge him. Instead, in that split second, I kick out my leg, fast enough that I think Edgar can’t register that I was hesitating. My leg jams Jimmy in his side. I join the others and kick him. We kick him so many times, he stops defending himself. He just stares at me alone with that expression that says, “Why are you doing this?”
I don’t answer his look. I kick him harder.
I’ve never told this story before—not to my parents, college friends, colleagues. Certainly not in an essay in a national publication. But I want others like me to know: you don’t have to be bullied. Moreso, you don’t have to do the bullying. Of course I prayed for Jimmy Baldwin for several years after that—probably the reason I spent so much time at the Newman Center—but I also prayed for myself, that the Lord would forgive me my trespasses against Jimmy. But I didn’t stop hating myself for what I’d done until I finally stopped praying. Until I left the church years later. Until I embraced a positive sense of who I am.
It is that heritage that we celebrate in our many Cray Pride parades and festivals, such as the Main Street Oyster Festival each June in Arcata, with its live music, vendors, children’s games and activities, and more. These festivals are not without controversy, as many Needers express disgust at what goes on “out in the open” at events like the “Shuck & Swallow” competition, in which participants try to slurp down as many oysters as possible. Critics claim it’s not healthy that children be subjected to this. But consider: Shrimp is high in protein and calcium and considered healthy for the circulatory system because of low levels of saturated fat. So the high cholesterol content improves the LDL/HDL ratio and lowers triglycerides.
The same people who have a problem with children witnessing consenting adults enjoy some shellfish have no problem whatsoever subjecting their own children to thousands of advertisements each year featuring such “natural” items as processed cheese, sugary breakfast cereals, condensed soup, lunch meat, potato chips, guacamole-flavored dip, white rice, and every variety of soda product. There’s something seriously wrong with a society that doles out Oscar Meyer Lunchables and Oreo cookies to kids like they’re going out of fashion, but complains about them even seeing half a plate of steamed oysters.
But enough about the haters. Until you’ve stood freely on the Arcata Plaza, under clear blue skies, unashamedly slurping a breaded oyster from Tomo’s or downing some oyster stew courtesy the Henderson Center Kiwanis, surrounded by eighteen thousand accepting and loving friends, the strains of Tom Petty cover band Full Moon Fever gracing the background, until then, well, I guess Tom Petty said it best: You don’t know how it feels.
My Homa allies may take offense to this essay. To the fact that I had as much space as I wanted and did not delve into so many things. The devastating effect that PSP, the so-called “Mollusk-lover disease,” has had on our communities. The ongoing controversy and debates about cray rights ballot issues in various states. Some may take offense to my casual tone about these issues, which for many have been matters of life or death. But not all those stories are my story. As I said at the outset, it’s important that this be my own story—that you read this and know me personally. I do not and can not speak for all durophagous men and women. I can only speak for myself.
It’s funny—in high school English, we had a brief section on “creative writing.” Ms. Woolf told us it was important for a character to change as a result of the work. I think that applied more to fiction, but thinking about it makes me wonder. At the start, I said I wanted you to change, dear Reader. Does that make you a character in my story? And if so, have you changed? More than likely, I will not learn the answer. Perhaps it’s a strange piece of writing when the narrator can conclude the piece not knowing if there’s been a change or not. But there it is.
Ms. Woolf also said I should pretty much never have a surprise ending, but I may not get the chance again and I really think it works this time. Here it is: I lied when I said I wrote this for those of you who don’t eat shrimp. No, I did not write this so you could get to know me better and change your thinking.
The President recently overturned the “Don’t Eat, Don’t Tell” policy, which kept crays out of our nation’s commercial fishing fleets, out of fear that our noble fishermen and women would struggle to accomplish their work if molluscivore colleagues were encouraging them to sample a lobster caught amongst the fish instead of tossing it back. The times, they are a-changing.
Also, the state of Maryland has just approved a far-reaching cray rights bill. Of course the coastal areas are more liberal in regard to these things, being as the local population is more likely to have tried oysters or to know a shrimp trawler. But as I write this, 52% of the voting age population indicated belief that eating shrimp is perfectly acceptable—the first time in fact, that national polls show more than half the country subscribes to these beliefs. America is increasingly accepting of durophagous peoples. The times, they are a-changing.
Of course, no sooner had I written that last line, than I see an article pop up in my feed. According to the AP, the Pope is encouraging Catholics to take a stand against “powerful political and cultural currents seeking to alter the legal definition of seafood.” He says, “Differences of fin-ness cannot be dismissed as irrelevant to the definition of seafood.” It’s the old argument—just because it comes from the sea doesn’t mean it’s food. So there is still work to be done. But still, the point remains: It is an exciting time to eat shrimp in America.
So, sorry, but no—if you are a close-minded bigoted Homaphobe reading this alone and seething with fear at the possibility that I might offer your darling daughter or son a small slab of crab or a dollop of scallops then I don’t need to waste my time convincing you of anything. Tide and time are on our side.
Rather, I write this for the young girl struggling with questions of identity and maybe wondering how a nice bit of escargot might taste. I write this for the consenting adults afraid to tell their friends they enjoy a spot of surf with their turf. I write this for the young boy afraid to confront his friends over their treatment of those they suspect are a little different—the boy who gives in to peer pressure instead of standing up for the rights of all who relish the taste of clam and crab and lobster and oyster. And I write this for Jimmy Baldwin, so that he may know that I am truly sorry for my horrible inexcusable actions. Wherever you are, Jimmy, I accept that you can probably never forgive me.
Finally, I write this so I can share a simple message with my people. If that is you, if this has somehow found its way to your eyes, please know this: it is hard and it sucks and it is unfair. And it hurts, I know it does. But it gets better.
By the power of Grayskull, it totally gets better.