Story by: Lily Patterson

Bleached and dyed and tugged and straightened and curled and dried and oiled and trimmed and chopped. It’s a cumulative result, a regenerative but at the very least temporally affected font of keratin that can be a vehicle for self-expression, a curtain of self-defense, or somewhere in between. It’s a woman’s hair.

Starting off a series about hair, it’s probably best to reflect on my relationship with my own. It’s said you can’t love others before you love yourself, so I’m going to go out on a limb and venture that you can’t understand others’ relationship with their hair before you know your own. As a white female with thick, brown hair, I’ve been endowed with what could possibly be the most low-maintenance situation possible. As a girl, my hair was long and streaked with blonde from excessive amounts of time in the sun. Frankly, my saving grace was my hair. I might be prone to lobster-red burns and incessant freckles, but my hair was it – healthy, lustrous, and streaked with natural highlights.

My sophomore year, I chopped it all off. It became a bob, just grazing my shoulders. I already went to an all-girls high school, so really, the man repeller aesthetic was coming into its own. Many of my friends were shocked that I just decided to chop off my hair. “But your hair was so pretty – why would you do that?,” was the refrain. I even had people tell me straight-up that they didn’t like it. Having been the utmost type-A kid, me making the decision to cut my hair was very much woven into the fabric of my need for control. My chop (which got progressively shorter and shorter throughout high school) was a kind of ownership that I exerted over myself and my choices. I had the power to transform the way I looked, but I also had the power to directly oppose the very common standard of beauty promulgated by a bunch of high school girls. I wasn’t long-legged, or tan, or blonde, or hyper effeminate. That wasn’t really my North Star, although sometimes I wished it were. I was studious and serious and used a biting wit as blunt as my hair as a coping mechanism. (Still do, actually.)

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Story by: Pinky Hossain

On September 16, 2016, English majors, English professors, and literature lovers gathered together and fangirled because we had the opportunity to see both Junot Diaz and Salman Rushdie speak on the same day (the same freaking day!). Both came for Human Ties, a three-day celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Junot Diaz spoke for a panel discussion entitled “United States of Contradictions: Writing About America,” and Salman Rushdie participated in a panel discussion entitled “Being Human in a Global Age.”

I am obsessed with immigrant stories. I love stories having anything to do with culture and alienation; what life is like for uprooted and resettled people or for a colonized people. Both Rushdie and Diaz have written about migrant people and their experience of isolation in similar styles. For example, the authors have this talent for code-switching. Code switching is when you speak to your mom and dad in Spanglish. Code-switching can also be talking “smart” in class versus shit-talking with your friends, so it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be bilingual. Rushdie has often switched in and out of English and Hindi (among other languages), and Diaz has often switched in and out of English and Spanish. Their distinct styles of code-switching add another layer of authenticity to their fictional characters, which is just mind-boggling because creating an authentic fictional character is a type of sorcery. How can a fake character be real? Regardless of this crazy paradox, their characters are more genuine to me than some people I know. For instance, Diaz makes me relate to Oscar Wao, an overweight Dominican kid in his novel The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao who loves science fiction and comic books and wants a girl to love. You can imagine the various types of loneliness that might come out of Oscar: loneliness from being caught between two cultures, loneliness from being part of a very traditional Dominican community that might reject his his love for science fiction and comic books, and the basic loneliness that he can only relieve with a woman in his life. Oscar’s isolation is one we can understand even if we don’t share his experience.

The narrator, a boy named Yunior, is largely absent from the beginning of the novel, but Diaz, sorcerer that he is, creates such a unique voice for Yunior that I can see him – I can feel what kind of character Yunior is. Here, read the narrator’s voice. You’ll see what I’m talking about:

And the lovely Maritza Chacón? Well, as luck would have it, Maritza blew up into the flyest girl in Paterson, New Jersey, one of the queens of New Peru, and, since she and Oscar were neighbors, he saw her plenty, hair as black and lush as a thunderhead, probably the only Peruvian girl on the planet with curly hair (he hadn’t heard of Afro Peruvians yet or of a town called Chincha), body fine enough to make old men forget their infirmities, and from age thirteen steady getting in or out of some roughneck’s ride.

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The Birds and the Bees


Story by: Madeline Baker

We all remember the scene from Mean Girls when Cady Heron, played by Lindsay Lohan, sits uncomfortably in her high school gym as her sex ed teacher explains, “Don’t have sex, because you will get pregnant, and die.” We laugh at the absurdity of this claim and think “How could sex education be so erroneously preached?” Well, for many young Americans, the reality of a lack of quality sex education is far from a laughing matter. For decades, sex education has remained a controversial topic within school districts. Whether schools should even provide education on sexual health or leave it up to the discretion of the parents or guardians is widely debated. Uncertainty and misinformation still circulates around schools across the United States, begging the question: How can sex education be improved for young adults across the country?

I attended a very conservative, Catholic high school in South Texas. My high school’s policy was abstinence, and because the school was privately funded, sex education was completely out of the question. For the first couple years of high school, I was convinced that everyone around me followed this policy and went about their merry way not having sex. It wasn’t until my junior year of high school, when a friend asked me to accompany her to the drugstore to buy condoms, that I realized this policy of abstinence-until-marriage was futile. Telling an auditorium full of teenagers with raging hormones not to have sex was like telling hungry 4-year-olds not to eat the candy laid out before them. The candy was there, and they were going to take it. Looking back, I realize how naive I was to think that out of the 350 students at my school, NO ONE was having sex. This obliviousness was also accompanied by a lack of knowledge concerning all things birth control. I had no idea how to use a condom, nor could I name more than two STDs. Everything I had learned about sex, which was hardly anything, had come from watching reruns of Degrassi (shoutout to my boy Drake).

My experience, however comical, is not unique. For many middle school and high school aged students in the United States, the policy of abstinence-until-marriage is the only sex education they will receive before graduating high school and entering a less sheltered, and often more sex positive reality. According to the Sexual Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS), over the past five years, Congress has spent over $1.5 billion on abstinence-until-marriage programs, yet no study in a professional peer reviewed journal has found these programs to be broadly effective. So what does that mean for those students receiving this type of sex education? They remain in the dark about preventative measures for unplanned pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.

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Story By: Lily Patterson

Ah, yes. Contraception, our old friend.  Of the host of considerations taken by sexually active college students throughout the years, it’s remained one of the most frustrating, yet important pre-coitus precautions. With so many young, ambitious, libido-charged individuals all in one place, it’s imperative you and your partner strike a balance between enjoyment and protection. There are plenty of stressors awaiting you (sorry), but safe sex shouldn’t be one of them. More pointedly, I’d venture that an unexpected pregnancy at this stage in your life – whether it’s you or your partner – isn’t so ideal. Here’s where contraception comes in.

It often seems as though the pharmaceutical industry is deliberately attempting to flummox us with the myriad options out there. The flowery-synchronized- swimmer-commercial trope of “Which birth control is right for me?” is tired. But with a little digging, it’s a question with a unique answer for all of us, no matter our gender (Roger that: men included).

In short, I’m going to try and make the question of contraception a little easier. Here are a handful of the best options out there, as well as a few resources to aid you in your quest to avoid buns in the oven, minus the actual bread kind.

1) The Condom

4.0 stars

Pros: Old Faithful. There’s a reason they’ve been around so long (the 16 th century, in fact). They’re the package deal: birth control and effective protection against most STIs all in one. In fact, they’re the only method of protecting against STIs, aside from abstinence. Therefore, the condom is an excellent complement to all other forms of birth control. This stretchy little guy acts as barrier contraception, meaning there are no hormones at play here, just a wall. It’s also the easiest existing option for guys to get involved in contraception. Cabbage patch/running man/dance in some other form for equality!

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Strength in Numbers

Story By: Pinky Hossain

Sara likes numbers. She was always great with them. At seven-years-old, she could add big numbers like 38473298 and 9383. She could multiply by 12s way earlier than her nine-year-old counterparts and she could tell you that the remainder of 78143 ÷ 68 is 11 in a matter of seconds without even using pen and paper. Ask Sara to recite the quadratic formula for you. She’ll know it off the top of her head and, no, she doesn’t need the silly song to remember it by. Sometimes she counts in multiples of 6 until the number gets too big for her to keep track of. 6 is Sara’s favorite number because she loves the way it looks, loves the way it curves on the “C” part, loves the way it loops around on the bottom “o” part. Numbers are beautiful.

Sara feels like a number. She is 12, her birthday is on 3/16, she has 32 teeth, her ethnic composition is ½ Black and ½ Chinese. Nobody at school knows that though. At school she is simply the number 1 in most of her classes. Sara is the 1 Black person, the 1 minority, the 1 with the “bright future.” Numbers help Sara make sense of her day. At 8:00am she wakes up and her morning ritual begins with the mirror. She counts the 3 birthmarks under her bottom lip, marks her height as 4 feet and 11 inches on the edge of the bathroom door, and makes a mental note of the 91.3 on the scale.

After getting dressed, Sara eats exactly 250 calories worth of breakfast in the form of 10 grapes and 24 almonds. By 10:00am Sara is in U.S. History. She tries to pay attention to the Boston Tea Party, but her mind turns to numbers instead. She plugs random digits into the quadratic formula and works through it in her head. If x is 87, b is 98, a is 33, what is c? The same thing happens in her other classes that are more liberal artsy. At 11am and 12pm, she thinks about how she might try the new fries that the cafeteria is offering, but then decides against it because she’d go over her 1000 calorie budget. At 1pm, she eats ½ of a cookie (84 calories) and 24 carrot sticks (100 calories), which brings her to 434 calories.

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