I Smashed a Bunch of Stuff to Get over my Ex, published in VICE

Turns out breaking things really can help you get over a breakup.

I got dumped last summer. My boyfriend ended our relationship of six-plus years with the words, "I don't want to work on it anymore." 

Since then, I've pretty much wanted to smash shit. Sure, part of me wants to take the higher ground, wish him well, and move on. But most of me wants to break stuff. So when I found out about a place called the Wreck Room, where people can pay to blow off steam by hacking away at breakable objects with axes and crowbars, it felt like fate.

The Wreck Room is about an hour from Los Angeles in an outlet mall next to a Bath & Body Works. It works like this: You go in and buy a package. Packages range from $20 up to $150, depending on how long you want to spend in the Wreck Room and how much stuff you want to break. You can even bring in stuff to smash, like things your ex stupidly left at your place. They take reservations for large parties; otherwise, it's first-come, first-served smash-time. Once you're in, you suit up, grab a weapon or two, and start smashing stuff. You make a mess, and then you get to walk away. Just like my ex.

The place is the brainchild of Zack Teperman and Kyle Haman, who are surprisingly sweet for a pair of guys who invoke adult temper tantrums for a living. They said they created the Wreck Room because they saw a lot of anger in the world and wanted to offer a way to vent. What if there was a place where people could smash stuff to feel better? they wondered. Kyle, an ex-Marine, had direct experience using tools to destroy large objects; Zack had the PR background to get the idea off the ground.

Before you can start smashing things, you have to sign a waiver. I didn't read mine carefully, but it had something to do with waiving my rights to sue in case I injured myself. For a few minutes, Kyle and Zack kept using the phrase "if you die." Nothing about hitting plates with a bat made me think I could die, so I probed. They explained that they looked into this from all angles, "We don't know you. We don't know anyone's physiology or preexisting conditions. So we don't know how someone is going to respond in there." 

Next was the "suit up" room. Zack and Kyle put me in a white zip-up jump suit, which made me look like I was ready to cook up some meth. Then came the chest pad, groin pad, knee pads, gloves, and helmet. 

The gear felt transformational. I was now protected, anonymous, and ready to rage. I selected an ax from a pile of weapons that included three bats, crowbars, and a hammer. Then I picked stuff to wreck. For the lowest-priced package of $19.99, you get five small items to obliterate and five minutes of destructo-time. If you upgrade to $39.99, you can add a large item, another small item, and your time goes up to ten minutes. They offer five packages of mixed items and room time. They also have a deal called the "Bring it in Package," where for $24.99, you can bring in your own stuff to wreck—up to eight items, pending their approval.

I chose one of the mid-level packages and selected a mug, some plates, a bottle, and a Donald Trump bobblehead. For a large item, I also got an old computer monitor, which felt so indulgent. I mean, you're never supposed to bash in a computer with weapons. But I was about to. I was getting giddy.

For $6 more, I had also sent in a few pictures of my ex, so Zack and Kyle could print out stickers of his face to put on stuff before I smashed it. I stuck the stickers to a computer monitor and a bottle, both of which I later pulverized.

"You make a mess, and then you get to walk away. Just like my ex."

I swung my ax at a computer monitor. It was surprisingly hard to destroy, so I kept changing weapons. I smashed the claw-side of my crowbar at the picture of my ex that was stuck to the side. After a few hard hits, I realized it was still solid, and no one was stopping me. So I let loose with a hammer. I kept hitting and hitting. Glass on top shattered, there was paper underneath that peeled back, and the back popped open. I hit it with a bat, and it fell to the floor, and I kept hitting until I saw it bust open.

Next I tore into the plates. The first one I smashed, I instinctively closed my eyes. Then I thought, No, take it in. I let my arms reign down on a plate and watched it break into tiny pieces, dust and a few larger shards in all directions. Just like heart did only months before.

I smashed a "Mr. Right" mug to dust with a bat. I smashed plates with a hammer. I annihilated a Trump bobblehead with a bat, crowbar, and hammer.

Was it tiring? Fuck yes. But, oh, so cathartic. 

I was sweating profusely after what felt like about an hour of smashing things when the guys told me I'd been in there for five minutes.

I was already spent, but Zack talked me into one last act of rage: smashing something mid-air.

I tossed a plate into the air, then swung the bat. It connected, then smashed, then exploded into dust. Just like my ex and I connected, smashed, and exploded into dust. 

I called it quits after about 15 minutes. I was exhausted and emotional. Dealing with my emotions head-on, rather than pushing them aside and pretending everything was OK, was definitely healing. I returned my ax, looked around at the mess, and walked away. (Actually I thanked them and said I had a great time, but you get it.) In case there was ever a question, let me be clear: It feels good to destroy stuff, even if you pay for the privilege. 

Afterward, I paid a visit to the last part of the Wreck Room: the Cry Room. Technically, it's the bathroom, but they called it the Cry Room and encourage people to go in, turn on the fan, and let it all out. No judgment. 

On the surface, smashing things seems fun and silly. But directing it toward an ex brought up deep feelings—loss, grief, abandonment, betrayal. For me, I felt relief when I was done. Some lost part of me that I had no other way of tapping into, got to express all the hurt I felt when my ex left me. I cried later, on the way home, but it didn't feel like sadness. It felt cleansing. 

How to Hate Yourself, published in Broadly

How to Hate Yourself

by Laura House, Self-Hate Coach

HUMOR

MAR 6 2016

As an internationally renowned Self-Hate Coach, I teach people all around the world how to hate themselves more fully, more deeply than they ever thought possible. And I can do the same for you.

As I've traveled the world, living and learning, I've found that in one way, people are all the same. Everyone has an inner voice of doubt and fear. We do all kinds of things to quiet it down or get rid of it altogether. We take workshops with gurus, read self-help books, go to psychiatrists, psychologists, and pet psychics. We eat Paleo, raw, and vegan, join the cult of Crossfit, and try to sweat out self-hate in infra-red saunas. Billion-dollar industries are built on "experts" helping us getting rid of this voice and transforming it into self-love and confidence.

Why doesn't that voice go away? Because that voice is right.

As an internationally renowned Self-Hate Coach, I teach people all around the world how to hate themselves more fully, more deeply than they ever thought possible. And I can do the same for you. Stop wasting your time trying to quiet that voice of self-hate and start investing your time turning the volume of that voice up to eleven.

You're born with a mind to hate. Tons of people are smarter than you. And the ones who aren't brighter, are definitely happier than you. You will never be smart enough. Except for the times you're too smart, and it's off-putting.

You have a creative mind in the sense that it can wander and daydream for hours, but how creative are you, really? It's not like you wrote Blade Runner or invented the bacon bowl. Your mind simply isn't that great.

You have a life to hate. Do you have everything you want in life? You would have it all if you were better.

Do you know anyone who makes more money than you, lives in a bigger house, has a cooler job, or drives a Tesla? Of course you do, and every one of these people has a better life than you. Hate yourself for not doing life very well.

Don't fight self-hate; it's a natural way of being. Embrace it.

Here are some easy and efficient techniques you can start using to hate yourself.

Make a List of People Who Are Better than You!

A great way to nurture self-hate is to focus on other people who are better than you. They have more, they do more, so they are worth more. Metaphorically, other people exist to show you what you should be, but aren't. One way to never lose sight of people who are better than you is to make a list of them and keep it handy. Keep it by your bedside and read it before sleeping. Tape it to your bathroom mirror and read it while you're futilely trying to make yourself presentable to the public. Place a miniature version in your wallet, stick it to your rear-view mirror, or tattoo it on your forearm. Look at it many times every day, so you are always focused on people who are better than you.

I'll help you get started:

  • Grimes
  • The female leads of the Ghostbusters reboot
  • Your elementary school friend who married well
  • Everyone in magazines
  • Astronauts
  • People who speak more languages than you
  • Jonas Salk
  • Babies—they haven't made mistakes but you have. Babies are better than you.
  • Pam Grier
  • Once you get the hang of it, you'll be off and running with your own list. Enjoy!

Use Facebook as Often as Possible

The key to getting the most self-hate from using Facebook is to internalize every post and make it about you.

When your best friend posts that she got a new job, hate yourself. You didn't get a new job. You hadn't even been thinking about getting a new job. You're still in the same dumb job you were last week. Even if you like your job, you can hate yourself for not having a new one.

When your cousin posts pics of his family having fun at the park and says "Epic day," think about your day. Was it epic, or was it just sort of a regular day with work, traffic, and microwaved meals? Unless your day, too, was epic, your cousin is living a better life than you. He's better than you, so hate yourself for not living as well as your cousin.

When an ex posts that they're engaged, know for sure they're marrying someone better than you. Hate yourself for not being loveable.

Look at what a girl who sat near you in Honors Government for half a semester in high school had for dinner: Blackened Scrod. Have you ever even had scrod, much less a blackened version? Do you even know what scrod is other than "some kind of fish"? That girl you barely know is killing it with dinner tonight, while you put a handful of cereal on yogurt that's about to go bad. Hate. Yourself.

When an ex posts that they're engaged, know for sure they're marrying someone better than you. Hate yourself for not being loveable.

The ways to hate yourself using social media are only limited by your imagination.

"Er-Than"

Sometimes it's not obvious that someone is better than you. For example, your car is nicer than theirs. How can you hate yourself when you might be as good as or even better than them? It's easy. Imagine ways they're better than you that you can't see, using "er-than." They're probably smart-er than me... They're nice-er than me....Their friends are cool-er than my friends...I bet they're spiritual-er than me... Imagining that a stranger is better than you is a free and easy way to hate yourself. Take advantage!

Double What You Don't Have

No matter how good things are in your life, you can always find a way to hate yourself. So, you can hate yourself even when you feel proud of an accomplishment. Let's say you worked really hard to lose ten pounds. Ten pounds? That's great! But it's not twenty pounds! See what I did there? When you are happy about something, double it, then hate yourself for not having more.

Ex. 2: "Wow! I made $100,000 last year, it's the most I've ever made!" It's true, $100,000 is great! But it's not $200,000; that'd really be something.

Using numbers is an easy self-hate technique. No matter how great you're doing, you can always hate yourself for not doing twice as well.

In Conclusion

Billion-dollar industries prey on people trying to love themselves. Don't fall for it. They just want to sell you tanning sessions, expensive purses, or yoga retreats in Bali.

Big Beauty says you can love yourself after you freeze off your fat, acid-burn away your wrinkles, and take pills to thicken your sorry-ass eyelashes.

Big Fashion thinks you'll love yourself if you can fit into their tiny, expensive clothes.

Big Self-Help offers techniques to get you to love yourself such as standing in front of a mirror insisting to your reflection that you love yourself, which has worked for no one ever. And on and on and on.

They're all wrong. The voice inside of doubt and fear will always be there—it's part of the human condition. And you will only ever be an imperfect you, so you might as well accept it.

I got Pregnant the First Time I had Sex

Published in Broadly, a Vice Channel

 

I Got Pregnant the First Time I Had Sex

 

by Laura House

ESSAYS

MAY 18 2016

And my first OB/GYN appointment was for an abortion. I was 19, loved Jesus, and living in Texas.

I got pregnant the first time I had sex. This was not the plan. The plan was to have sex with a man I would marry. I was not married. I was at the tail-end of 18, living in a college dorm, carrying the seed of a boy I met through church. I became a Southern Baptist in middle school after a friend took me to an all day prayer session at her church. I got super into it super fast: I attended Disciples Now (a retreat for hip Jesus teens), went to church camp and on mission trips. I memorized Bible verses for fun. I soon spent my weekends knocking on strangers' doors to tell them about Jesus and how to get into heaven. Premarital sex with the guy from church was not one of the ways.

Even though my parents were casual Episcopalians, they were just as uptight about sex as the Baptists. "Sex" was not to be uttered or asked about. My brother and I were adopted and I think they vaguely liked us to believe they never had sex themselves. I'm confident they did, but I guess technically, they wouldn't have had to.

In sixth grade I asked my mom about sex while shopping for jeans at Sears.

I said, "Aren't we supposed to have a sex talk?"

She looked at me, then said, "We have cable."

So I was to get my sex info from Showtime and HBO, I guess. And I suppose I did.

By 18 I was horny as fuck and Jesus didn't do anything to assuage this. I had actually lost a lot of my Christian faith once I had my first college history class. Once I learned how Christianity and the Bible were used to control people, especially people who couldn't read, it lost its shine a bit. Meanwhile, I had strong physical urges that I didn't understand. I woke up with physical convulsions, humping pillows or the air. I had wet dreams. I had lots of wet-jeans near-sex with guys. I thought something was wrong with me because nobody told me girls have these wants.

Finally, my body won out over my mind and I had sex with Dan.

Dan and I started going out my senior of high school. He was sweet and goofy, stocky but cute, and I was wildly attracted to him. We'd had epic make-out sessions. We were so affectionate and hand-holdy on church trips and at Dairy Queen that apparently some people assumed we'd had sex already. When I was a freshman in college, he was a sophomore in another college close to where we grew up. We'd grown apart and weren't really together anymore, but I saw him sometimes when I went home to visit.

Finally, a few weeks before my 19th birthday, I drove the three hours to go "home" but didn't tell my parents. I went to see Dan. I didn't even tell Dan, but I went to finally have S-E-X with Dan.

We had margaritas and chatted. It was awkward because we weren't officially a couple anymore and I knew I wasn't going to stop this time. Then we made out. Then we moved to the bedroom. Then we did it.

Oh my god, I was ready to do it. I don't know what I expected from sex, I hadn't really thought it out rationally, I'd just been driven to put him inside me. It was primal. He was on top because it was my first time—there's no need to get creative.

He put on a condom, and just before he entered me, he whispered in my ear, "Just hold on to me."

This was great advice. I wrapped my arms around his shoulders and held on as he rocked inside me. I felt flushed with heat. Mentally I couldn't believe this was finally happening. Physically, I was a fireworks warehouse exploding.

It was over pretty quick, but not too quick. We lay there a while, processing what happened. Then I wanted to do it again. The way you want to ride a roller coaster for the second time: Okay, now that I kinda know what to expect I want to do it again, and not be so freaked out. I kissed him and we started up again. I climbed on top of him. It felt like a defiant feminist act: I'm doing this thing that feels good! Sex is natural! I'm taking my power!

I had not paused to put a condom on him, but I just wanted to feel it without a condom, without anything. I was definitely going to stop and have him put on a condom, but I just wanted to feel it for a second, then another second. Then I felt it. He came inside me and I felt a small sensation, almost right behind my belly button.

I was pregnant.

A few weeks later, I started to wonder if I was pregnant because my boobs hurt, and I felt funny, out of sorts. But I dismissed it. What am I, a human after school special? No one gets pregnant their first time, I'm just being dramatic. When my period didn't arrive, I got a test from a drug store. It said I was pregnant. I flushed with shame and horror. But it was a cheap home test; there was room for denial.

I went to a clinic, peed in a cup, and got a real test.

When the clinic called with the results, my roommate was out studying and I was napping in my dorm room. I lived in the Scottish-Rite dorm, the fanciest dorm on campus. The building was said to be the finest example of Georgian architecture left in the South. You can only go there if you are a descendent of a Mason, and you have to have letters of recommendation to be considered. My letters were from state senators.

I sat on my bed, listening, waiting for the relief I'd feel when they said I'm not pregnant. Expecting to feel silly for making such a big deal out of this. It's just sex, right? Everyone has sex. I'm sure I didn't get pregnant, that's crazy.

The woman on the phone said the test was positive. Time stopped. Everything changed. It was no longer hypothetical, "What if I have this huge problem?" Now I had a huge problem. I hung up and screamed and cried. I knew my suite-mates could hear me but I didn't care. Now it was real. I felt trapped under the weight of it.

Now what?

I'd always felt that getting an abortion was a woman's choice to make, but I never thought it was a choice I'd have to make. I was always a good girl, a straight-A student, a Super Christian. Now I was pregnant. I considered options and non-options.

I imagined having a baby and giving it up for adoption. My birth mother got pregnant when she was in college. She was studying music, I've since learned. She was religious and directed the church choir, then had sex with a frat guy who wasn't really her boyfriend and she got pregnant with me and (obviously) had me. She grew me inside her, no matter the effect it had on her parents, her life, and education. She carried me to term then handed me off to an adoption center. That was in 1969 and she was 19. In 1989, I was 19 and facing the same problem.

My birth mother carried me to term then handed me off to an adoption center. That was in 1969 and she was 19. In 1989, I was 19 and facing the same problem.

But I didn't like being adopted. I always felt weird and thought it was weird and I felt different and didn't like it. It's not something I'm supposed to say. I'm supposed to be grateful and feel "chosen." A lot of adopted kids don't mind it—some, like my brother, never even ask about it. But I honestly didn't like it. And I felt if I ever went to the trouble to birth a kid, I'd keep it.

I considered keeping the baby, but nothing was beckoning me to raise a child. Nothing screamed for me to procreate. Nothing spiritually inspired me to create a life. And I sure didn't physically want to. I didn't feel like having a baby would save the life of an unborn person; I felt it would hurt some lives of already-born people. I didn't want to have a baby.

Then there was abortion: it was the only way to not have the baby and not be pregnant anymore. It was the only option I seriously considered.

I called Dan and told him. His first question, "Are you sure it's mine?" Really, Guy From Church? Does this situation turn every guy into a massive dickhead? I assured him it was his, as I'd never had sex with anyone else ever. It was infuriating and humiliating to have to deal with this.

It cost $300. He said he'd pay for half. In an instant I felt like I went from middle class getting-college-educated girl who was smart, careful, and didn't have sex to the stupid slut who has to shake down a boyfriend for 'bortion cash. I sold textbooks for my half of the money. The semester wasn't over yet, but I sold them anyway.

I felt ashamed, isolated, and alone. I felt stupid. I hated myself for getting into this situation. I hated my body for doing this to me. What a betrayal. I felt punished by God. I'd waited to have sex because I knew I shouldn't, then I had it ONE TIME—OK technically two times—and I get pregnant. Why me? I was mad. People have sex without dire consequence ALL THE TIME!

Weeks before I got pregnant, I'd been at a friend's house when we saw a clinic demonstration on the news. Women had to run past people yelling and shaming them, and fight their way through people blocking their way. My friend said, "Jesus, what a way for all your friends to find out you're getting an abortion. You're on the news." Now I'd be one of those girls.

When it came time for the procedure, Dan didn't pay half. He said he tried to get it but couldn't. I heard an audible shrug before I hung up on him. I borrowed money from a friend.

The clinic was sterile but welcoming. It had the feel of a regular doctor's office, but cast in tan and light browns instead of stark white. I checked in with a woman in her 20s who had funky hair. I paid in cash. She gave me a small smile like, "I know, I'm sorry" and I appreciated it.

There's a myth that abortion is easy. It's not. Even though I knew it was the right decision for me, it was still hard emotionally. What if I am making a mistake? This can't be undone, and I'd never had to make a decision like this.

Physically, the procedure starts like a gynecological check-up. But I had never been to the OB/GYN, so even this was new and uncomfortable to me. I was put in an open-back paper gown, asked to climb up on the exam table, my feet were put in stirrups, and I was cranked open with a speculum. The doctor moved fast; he'd done a lot. He wasn't mean or nice, he was generically professional with little or no eye contact. There was an overall vibe of "no one wants to be doing this but we'll make the best of it."

I leaned back and I guess a tube was put in me. I couldn't see what they were doing and I didn't want to. The doctor announced that he was going to turn on the machine. It made a low buzz in an otherwise silent room. I lay there letting it suck a life out of me. I felt sick. I felt like I could feel it, but there aren't nerves inside my uterus. But with the sound and knowing what the machine was doing, I could mentally picture it and feel it.

It took about five or ten minutes. When he removed all the devices and said it was over, I let the reality wash over me.

I had kept my emotions at bay so I could get through the procedure, but now they hit me like a tidal wave. I just aborted a baby. Maybe I was supposed to have that baby. What if it did have a soul? What if I can never have kids? What if that kid was special and supposed to be born? My Jesus past haunted me. Did I commit an unforgivable sin? Did I just commit murder? What if my birth mom had done this to me?

I passed out, overwhelmed.

A nurse helped me up, handed me a stack of thick pads and told me to expect bleeding and cramping for the next 24 hours. I was guided to a dimly lit waiting room with about half a dozen recliners and a TV. The other two women from the waiting room were already resting there. I waited there until my friend came and got me. Then I went to my dorm room and fell asleep.

For the next few days, I mostly slept, then eased back into my life. But now I had a secret. At 19, I didn't deal with this well. I felt guilty and sad and depressed. For the next few months, I acted out. I drank a lot and took ecstasy and acid. I fucked. I didn't care anymore. There was nothing special about my sexuality or body now; nothing to wait for. I'd had sex and been punished for it, I might as well keep doing it. It's like I was mad at sex. Like I was having revenge sex to get back at sex. I hated myself for letting this happen, and I punished myself for it for years.

As time went on I'd stop and note how old my kid would have been. When I was 23, I got a job teaching seventh grade and started doing stand-up comedy. I would have had a three-year old. When I was 27, I starred on an MTV show. I would have had a kid in first grade. My mom died when the kid would have been 15. I quit counting when it would have been in its early 20s.

Getting an abortion was a big deal. It took an emotional toll. It's come up in therapy; I've worked through guilt and shame and I fully accept what I did and I've learned to live with it. I've also come to believe that the Christian conservative ideas about sex are simply controlling patriarchal bullshit. That's where my shame came from: They taught me that sex was something I wasn't supposed to do with my body. Sex is definitely something 18 year olds should do with their awesome young bodies. And if I hadn't been raised to be so weird about sex, maybe I wouldn't have been so secretive about having it and wouldn't have gotten pregnant in the first place.

They also say that birth is a miracle and every child is special. That's some magical thinking. How many utterly amazing people do you know? I know a lot of assholes. And I'm confident that if I had birthed that kid, it would now be a pretty fucked-up adult. I'm also certain that not having a baby is not robbing the world of that person. I'm pretty great, but if I had been aborted, I promise you would not feel a void in the world. You'd all be fine.

It wasn't easy, but if I had it to do over again, I would have an abortion every time. It was the right thing to do and I'm grateful I had the option and that a safe abortion was available to me. Having a child is a decision that a lot of thought goes into. I was a horny, slightly buzzed 18-year-old who climbed up on a dick in a moment of passion. That's not the way to bring a person into existence. And it's not a mistake you should pay for the rest of your life.