from the magazine

 

  • Briana 0185 b4212

    In our Fashion Nation series, we talk to people about personal style.

     

    Briana 
Hernandez
    Copywriter
    San Leandro, CA

     

    Tell me about this look.
    I love pairing this Forever 21 top with this skirt from ModCloth because the print is similar and the colors clash. The booties are from ASOS. The Rebecca Minkoff necklace is my go-to for high necklines.

    What fashion era are you inspired by?
    I’m constantly looking for ways to reinvent traditional fashion with color and texture, but as a base I love the shape of the midcentury silhouette.

    Briana 0313 2a7d3

    What does body-positive fashion mean 
to you?
    It’s about discarding the mold that doesn’t serve us. Rules that say we have to accentuate a waist or appear taller, leaner—all the stuff they taught us on What Not To Wear can be thrown out the window. Find an aesthetic that makes you feel visible in a pleasurable way.

    Do you prefer to match or clash your lip color with your outfit?
    Clash. My looks can be matchy, but too much monochrome is a pet peeve. I love pairing opposite color primaries, like yellow and cobalt, red and green.

    Has motherhood changed your style ?
    As a new mom, I adapted my style to low-maintenance mode. I did a lot of thrifting to find comfortable things that were still eye-catching. Once I was more independent from my baby, I brought back my less comfy pieces, like tulle and lace. Slowly but surely, I’ve started to reclaim my slightly higher-maintenance style.

    Do you have advice for people who are developing their personal style?
    My inspiration is street style. Go downtown or get online to see what people are wearing. You also don’t have to look at people with your body type. If you see a different type wearing something you like, you can find a way to work it! 

     

    COPYCAT

    Work it your way with some of Briana’s color-clashing picks!

    hernandezcopycat 0bca4

    1. ASOS DESIGN Wide Fit Minny Flat Shoes in Leopard, $29, asos.com
    2. Polka Dot Birdcage Midi Skirt by Who What Wear in Blue/Black,
    $32.99, target.com
    3. Brushstroke Marissa Wrap Top, $59, and Pant, $72, premme.us
    4. The Eugene Pant by ModCloth in Multi Stripe, $65, modcloth.com
    5. The Babysitter’s Sweet Can Dress, $93.24, cuttingshapes.club

     

    By Allie Lawrence
    Photographed by Corina Marie Howell
    This article originally appeared in the March/April 2019 print edition of BUST Magazine.Subscribe today!

     

     

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  • LS6A3969 02511

    In our Fashion Nation series, we talk to people about personal style. 

    Akina Sato
    Designer
    Los Angeles, CA

    Tell us about this outfit.

    The ’40s sailor hat is from an L.A. vintage store, Please and Thank You. I bought the ’50s sunglasses online. I got the Woodstock-print poncho and pants from a Japanese vintage collector, and the pink mirror Tabi boots are from the Maison Margiela store in Paris.

    How would you describe your personal style?

    Vintage mixed with designers, mixed with anything else I like. I go through phases with vintage clothing, picking and choosing pieces from certain eras and adding modern accessories. I also have a tendency to buy novelty pieces.

    Are you influenced by a particular time period?

    As I go through vintage eras, whether that’s the ’40s or ’50s, I get inspired by a variety of things—workwear, rockabilly. Now I’m really inspired by the ’70s—the colors, the shapes of hippie style. I love the mindset of hippies, their freedom to love.

    What about a style icon?

    I really love Erykah Badu’s style and how she evolves. 

    How has your style evolved?

    I’m from Japan and I went to a fashion school in Osaka. At that time I was just into designers. After coming to America in 2011 I got more into vintage. I’m probably having the most fun with fashion now. 

    LS6A4263 a73af

    What pieces in your wardrobe can you not live without?

    The number-one thing that hasn’t changed in my style is my love for Maison Margiela Tabi boots. They’re something I’ve loved since I was a fashion student. And my pink hair!

    Any advice for someone who wants to dress boldly, but is afraid?

    Don’t think too much about what anyone thinks. In America, you can wear whatever you want. Someone will think it’s cool. And the more you experiment, the more you’ll eventually evolve your style. I’m never worried about looking “high fashion.” To me, someone who’s cool is someone who goes all the way with their clothes.

    COPYCAT

    Make the free love flow with Akina's colorful style!

    QSfLLTCZ 95b58

    1. RF X KNC II SUNGLASSES, $250, ROBERIANDFRAUD.COM
    2. ROLLA'S EAST COAST FLARE OVERALLS, $129, SHOPBOP.COM
    3. CREW NECK KNIT SWEATER, £30, MONKI.COM
    4. VINTAGE TURQUOISE JEWELRY, $425 FOR SIMILAR PIECE, GYPSY-HUNTER.COM
    5. SILVER TABI BOOTS, $1,115, MAISONMARGIELA.COM

    By Tessa Solomon
    Photographed by Shanna Fisher
    This article originally appeared in the January/February 2018 print edition of BUST Magazine. Subscribe today

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  • FAREWELL AMOR e49c4

    The feature debut of Tanzanian American writer/director Ekwa Msangi, Farewell Amor, follows an immigrant family from Angola that reunites 17 years after husband and father Walter (Ntare Guma Mbaho Mwine) left for New York to work as a cab driver and establish a home for those he left behind. When he is finally able to bring over his wife Esther (Zainab Jah) and daughter Sylvia (Jayme Lawson) to share his small Brooklyn apartment, expectations shatter as he realizes he is as alien to them as they are to their new adopted country.

    Told in the style of Akira Kurosawa’s famous 1951 film Rashomon, this family drama unfolds repeatedly from the point of view of each character. Father, mother, and daughter all do what they can to reconnect, carefully navigating conflicts that arise surrounding familial love and duty under pressure. A recipient of multiple prestigious filmmaking fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts, the Tribeca Institute, and the Sundance Institute, Msangi proves with this impressive first feature that she is a rising star, and definitely one to watch.

    By Logan Del Fuego
    Header image via IFC Films

    This article originally appeared in the Winter 2021 print edition of BUST Magazine.
    Subscribe today!

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  • janeth1 0c73b

     In BUST's Fashion Nation series, we talk to women about their personal style. 

    Janeth Gonda
    BUST Event Planner and Musician
    Brooklyn, NY

     

    Tell me about this outfit.

    This is one of my favorite shirts. I love how sexy it is, revealing yet mysterious. I really like how much it makes me feel like a woman. I’m just starting to become in tune with my body, my age, and my womanhood.

    How would you describe your personal style?

    Definitely gothic and sleek. I like to wear a lot of lace, a lot of straps. Pretty much everything I wear is black, but also comfortable. I have to be able to feel comfortable in what I’m wearing, which makes me feel confident.

    How has your personal style evolved?

    My fashion over the last few years has just gotten a lot sexier. For a long time, I don’t think I really felt like I could be so bold or sexy. It is only recently that I realized I can, and as I’ve grown into more of a woman, my fashion sense has grown up, too.

    janeth2 d9c77

    What do you wear when you hit the stage with your band, Espejismo?

    It depends on the show, really. I actually have a handmade belly dancing outfit that I wear a lot, but if we’re playing more of our heavier songs, I’m usually wearing high boots with black pants, something that makes me feel like I’m in command.

    Do you have any go-to places to shop around Brooklyn?

    I like affordable things. I have a lot of luck with thrift stores like Beacon’s Closet. Most of my favorite clothes are actually from Colombia, where I’m from. I really love the style that they have in Bogotá, and you can get really high-quality things at a fraction of the price you’d find here. If it looks good and it feels good, then I like it.

     copycat 9e641

     

    Copy Janeth's wild style with these badass buys:

    Faux Leather Satchel, $27.90, forever21.com

    Life II Necklace, from $130, ktferriscreations.com

    NYX Liquid Suede Cream Lipstick in “initiator”, $9 for a set of 3 colors, ulta.com

    Super High Waist Denim Skinnies in Black, $29.99, fashionnova.com

    Alexis Buttoned Up Bodysuit, $19.99, fashionnova.com

    Mossimo Supply Co. Women’s Brianna Platform Booties, $37.99, target.com

    By Lydia Wang

    Photographed by Seher Sikandar

    Hair and makeup: T. Cooper/crowdMGMT using ECRU New York

    This article originally appeared in the February/March 2018 print edition of BUST Magazine. Subscribe today!

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  • altar 4fe57

     I’ve been building altars for as long as I can remember—of course, I didn’t realize back in 1999 that my nightstand covered in journals, a dozen Tamagotchi keychains, love letters to Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and pieces of jade (it is my name, after all) counted as one. That’s the beauty of an altar: it’s an aesthetic manifestation of what you want it to be, look, and feel like—there are no rules.

    Defined simply, an altar is a sacred place one can decorate, visit, and meditate on. If you want to sit at your altar and pray, that’s cool. If you want to sit at your altar and smoke a bowl, that’s cool, too. An altar can go anywhere: on bookshelves, in a kitchen cabinet, on a fireplace mantle, or on a bathroom shelf. Don’t feel insecure about using an “unconventional” surface. If it feels special, that’s what matters. You can build an altar to honor every Moon cycle or every season or whenever you damn well please. It’s completely dependent on what your intention for building it is. I love building altars to charge my sacred items—a new crystal, oracle deck, candle, or book. Using special items charged with a specific intention causes you to use them more consciously, with a higher purpose, so that they become even more magical.

    The intention you have for your altar can guide what you put on it as well, whether that means building a money altar with green candles, coins, and pentacle tarot cards, or maybe a love altar, adorned with pink candles, roses, and honey. If you want to incorporate a sense of spirituality, invite the four elements into your space: use candles or incense to invoke fire, feathers for air, crystals for earth, and a cup of water for, uh, water. If all this seems extra, simplify by working with the element for your astrological sign first. Beyond that, feel free to decorate it with whatever you have that means something to you: Polaroids of your friends, love letters from your boo, stickers, records, plants, knick-knacks—think of it as a scrapbook that lives on top of a surface. My altars are always covered in a lot of special things (my tendencies border on hoarding): a dried rose petal a fellow witch gave me, a freelance check, a brass cauldron—the random list goes on. The only common theme is that the things you place on your altar should make you happy, fill you with light, and bring something energetically rewarding to your life.

    In general, you can also think of an altar as a safe space—an area devoted entirely to you that makes no compromises for anyone or anything else. Be yourself and express your creativity—incorporate colors, textures, and scents that you love—and visit the space whenever you feel the need to reconnect to yourself. But most importantly: Have fun! Did I mention there are no rules?

    By Jade Taylor
    Photographed by Pauline Teel
    This article originally appeared in the August/September 2018 print edition of BUST Magazine. Subscribe today!

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  • XD oHmRx 054c4

    An imperial city with a seedy communist past, Budapest sits directly at the intersection of glamour and grit. By night, the “Capital of Freedom” is an illuminated fairytale split in half by the black waters of the Danube river, animated by partiers both foreign and domestic. By day, it’s a bustling capital boasting Turkish influences, Habsburg history, and the many scars of war. Like any good love affair, this affordable Central European gem is a heady combination of pleasure and history, destined to seduce even the most seasoned traveler.

    Shop
    Budapest has two main shopping centers, the UNESCO World Heritage Site Andrássy Avenue, and the Jewish Quarter. Sandwiched between the two you’ll find boutiques boasting distinctly Hungarian designs. Don’t miss Margot (Irányi u. 10, 1056), a boutique hosting only female Hungarian designers and hyper-feminine looks. It’s staffed by the designers themselves, so you’ll get the chance to chat about the pieces—like a pink velvet wide-brimmed hat or a leather handbag covered in hand-drawn naked ladies—with the women who made them. Then mosey on down to The Garden Studio (Paulay Ede u. 18, 1061) or Lollipop Factory(Király u. 24, 1061) for some seriously eclectic designs that could only be found in Eastern Europe. Think metallic hot pants, jewelry made from AstroTurf, and looks inspired by retro-futurism. For more sophisticated pieces hit Nanushka (Bécsi u. 3, 1052), run by a husband-and-wife team quickly gaining an international following for their satin dresses.

    WmEE5r1W 04536The Garden Studio

    TLfLYpsO 3b870Lollipop Factory

    Bathe
    Budapest is perhaps most famous for its thermal baths, and rightly so. Where else is it socially acceptable, nay, encouraged, to spend entire days soaking in hot water while drinking wine? The Turkish bath known as Rudas (Döbrentei tér 9, 1013) is a true Hungarian treasure. Floating around among the steam, waterfalls, and Medieval architecture, you’ll feel like you’ve been transported to another world where pleasure reigns and wine is cheaper than water. Since it’s open until 4 a.m. on weekends and boasts an on-site bar and nap room, there’s no reason to cut the fantasy short. Gellért Thermal Baths (Kelenhegyi út 4, 1118) is another local favorite. This art nouveau masterpiece is not to be missed by lovers of indulgence or architecture.

    iBkWlqu0 29d0fGellért Thermal Baths

    Eat
    For dinner, stop by Onyx (Vörösmarty tér 7, 1051) to explore Michelin-starred interpretations of Hungarian cuisine. What’s Hungarian cuisine like? It’s basically comfort food whipped up by the most loving grandmother in the world—hot stews, potato dishes, and lots and lots of cheese. If you like a more traditional approach, grab a table at Drum Cafe (Dob u. 2, 1072) for hearty fare and decadent desserts flavored with nostalgia. Hungarians are famous for their sweets, so don’t miss the honey cake or palacsinta (Hungarian crepes). After a night of partying, score some langos—deep fried dough covered in garlic, sour cream, and local cheese—Hungary’s national hangover cure, on virtually any street corner.

    vQ1J509q 3a3f2Onyx

    Drink
    Iconic buildings destroyed by war, then reclaimed decades later by a bunch of aesthetically minded young folks in need of a place to party—what could be more Hungarian than Budapest’s famous ruin pubs? Don’t miss the gorgeous restaurant and ruin pub Mazel Tov (Akácfa u. 47, 1072), serving up artisan cocktails and Israeli fare. Just next door is the grungy, psychedelic Fogasház Kert(Akácfa u. 49-51, 1073). Eastern Europe might not always be the most friendly place for queer folk, but you can certainly find a safe haven at Auróra (Auróra u. 11, 1084), a queer community space, nightclub, and bagel shop. And of course, you can’t miss the one that started it all, the original ruin pub, Szimpla Kert (Kazinczy u. 14, 1075). Go on a weekday to skip the crowd. 

    6VdwhFLY c4ebaSzimpla Kert

    Culture
    Beauty abounds in Budapest. Fisherman’s Bastion, a lookout point on the Castle Hill (Szentháromság tér, 1014), hosts romantic views of the Danube. Art lovers can head to the nearby Hungarian National Gallery (Szent György tér 2, 1014) inside Buda Castle to see the most beloved pieces of Hungarian art. For a more mystical experience, glide over to Gellért Hill Cave and wander around the once forbidden Cave Church (Szent Gellért tér 1, 1111). Conquered time and time again, Budapest still showcases art bearing the influences of its many invaders, while remaining true to Hungarian culture. One of the best examples of the singularly Hungarian cultural legacy is the Museum of Applied Arts (Üllői út 33-37, 1091), which spotlights the architectural elements that have made Budapest so strangely majestic.

    8ZKGQc5B c0c55Fisherman's Bastion

    By Isabella Beham
    Photographed by Anna Illés
    Top photo: Buda Castle on Castle Hill
    This piece originally appeared in the January/February 2019 print edition of BUST Magazine. Subscribe today!

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  • 171117 BUST Northampton Mt Tom 007 bdec7

    “Northampton...where the coffee is strong and the women are stronger.” Pull into the garage of Thornes Marketplace in offbeat Northampton, MA, and you’ll be greeted by this signifying mantra. Northampton has been a bastion of feminist rebellion and counter-cultural activity for over 140 years. Home to one of the first women’s colleges, Smith, it’s a hub of LGBTQ activism, artistic innovation, and revolutionary music. Drop into town and experience a unique, thriving enclave where women rule and creativity is queen. They don’t call it “Paradise City” for nothing.

    171117 BUST Northampton Culture 006 0fb78Northampton Rail Trail

    OUTDOORS
    Northampton is idyllic, and the city offers tons of outdoor activity options no matter the time of year. Bike the Norwottuck Rail Trail ( 446 Damon Rd.) over the Connecticut River on an old rail bridge, hike Mount Tom (125 Reservation Rd., Holyoke) on a clear day and look out over the valley, rent a boat at the Sportsmans Marina (1 Russell St.) just over the river in Hadley and head out down the Connecticut River, or simply stroll the town from end to end.

     

    171117 BUST Northampton NBrew 020 e8e36Northampton Brewery

    BOOZE AND FOOD
    For a small town, Northampton is overflowing with international food and beverage options. It also boasts many vegan and vegetarian eateries, like Paul and Elizabeth’s (150 Main St., main level in Thornes Marketplace), which offers a light-filled, lofted space and absurdly tasty risotto cakes. If you’d like another drink after dinner, head downstairs to Con Vino (101 Armory St.), an intimate, exposed-brick cellar wine bar with an extensive wine list and live music. For the carnivores in your group, grab a bite at the Northampton Brewery (11 Brewster Ct.), where you can have a burger with your flight brewed on-site. If spice is more your style, dimly lit Thai Garden (2 Bridge St.) lays out traditional dishes including massaman curry, pad thai, and beef macadamia. Just up the street, casual Cafe Amanouz (44 Main St.) delights with Moroccan dishes like savory tagine, as well as a delicious Sunday brunch. Once you’ve had your fill, head out on the town to one of the many stylish bars.

    171117 BUST Northampton Culture 002 ffac1Main Street

    The Dirty Truth (29 Main St.) is a casual watering hole with an extensive beer selection. Tucked away down a side street, The Green Room (28 Center St.) harkens back to the speakeasy era, serving delicious craft cocktails with a contemporary twist. To end the night, don’t miss the renowned Tunnel Bar (125 Pleasant St. A), an atmospheric martini bar located through a masonry archway in an old, converted rail tunnel.
    View from Mount Tom

     

    171117 BUST Northampton Smith Art Museum 002 02435Smith College Museum of Art
    ENTERTAINMENT
    Northampton has long been on the map for its indie music scene. While in town, check out the Calvin (19 King St.), a classic theater which has featured musicians including Ani DiFranco and Mary Chapin Carpenter. The Iron Horse (20 Center St.) is a cozier venue with a chill atmosphere, and acts like Dar Williams and Melissa Ferrick make their rounds there often. Another option is Pearl Street (10 Pearl St.), which showcases underground and emerging artists. For those into the visual arts, you can visit all the hot galleries during Arts Night Out on the second Friday of every month, or stop by the Smith College Museum of Art (20 Elm St.) for a small but well-curated selection of contemporary and historic art.

     

    171117 BUST Northampton The Roost 009 cbddcThe Roost

    CAFÉ CULTURE
    Winter brings a need for strong coffee, and Northampton has a cornucopia of indie coffee shops and roasters to choose from. Haymarket (185 Main St.) is a warm, quirky spot (and a central hangout for LGBTQ women), with an art-laden upstairs and a bakery case filled with heavenly vegan and organic confections. The Roost (1 Market St.) sits just off the main drag and provides a rustic modern atmosphere with late hours, when beer and wine join coffee on the menu. If you prefer locally roasted beans, stop by Shelburne Falls’ (124 King St.) yellow hut, which has many fair trade and seasonal varieties of coffee.

    171117 BUST Northampton Haymarket 022 5aaf0Haymarket

    SHOPPING
    Northampton is home to numerous independent shops owned by locals, including many women. A fantastic first stop is Thornes Marketplace (150 Main St.), a multi-level indie shopping center with home goods and clothing stores, the countercultural bookstore Booklink Booksellers, and surplus store Acme, plus chocolatiers and cupcake artisans. Across the street from Thornes, you’ll find Faces (175 Main St.), selling political T-shirts, off-beat home items, and hipster threads. Just a few doors down, Shop Therapy (189 Main St.) has wall-to-wall hippie gear with a head shop upstairs. If craftsmanship is more your style, check out Pinch (179 Main St.) for locally made ceramics, paintings, and glasswork. Or visit Essentials (88 Main St.) for handmade stationery. 

    171117 BUST Northampton Thornes Market 002 6f87cThornes Market

     

    By Lindsay Valentin

    Photographed by Megan Haley

    Top photo: View from Mount Tom

    This article originally appeared in the February/March 2018 print edition of BUST Magazine. Subscribe today!

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  • bust beejohnson chronicillness color hires 7966c

    It was early summer, and I’d been sitting on the sofa, sort of reading a novel, when the text came. “Do you fancy going out sometime?” it asked. I was thrilled; it was from a guy I’d recently met who I was hoping would ask me out. But before I could answer, another text came through. “Maybe grabbing some lunch?” he asked. That’s when I freaked out.

    Severe anorexia had taken over my life for a long while, and although I wasn’t better yet, not by a long shot, I was firmly in the recovery phase. I was just starting to expand my horizons and do all the things a normal woman in her 30s does—including dating. But it was fraught with challenges. Who would want to date a girl who cries over hermeal? And while many women struggle with body image, I struggled with the fear that someone would like my body—I still had weight to gain, so what would they think when I did?

    Meeting someone for lunch, in a restaurant, posed all sorts of additional problems. For one thing, we’d have to meet at exactly 11—after my pre-planned snack, and before my pre-planned lunch. Because my meals have to be prepared by me and eaten at home, we’d have to go someplace near enough for me to get back in time to eat. That left one specific café, where we met for coffee instead of a meal—mine black, the only way I’d drink it.

    As it turned out, the date was great. We soon began a relationship, and I was able to be upfront about my anorexia early on. But my boyfriend faces challenges due to my illness, too. Like the time I had a mini meltdown when he lent me some jogging pants that didn’t fall down, prompting me to panic that I was fat, and him to wonder how his kind action had ended in disaster. He has had to adapt to a much more structured approach to eating, and become more aware of the language he uses around food because the smallest slip can trigger me. And everything we do has to have my meal plan as a key consideration.

    I’m not the only one whose illness, current or past, makes dating difficult. Dating comes with numerous emotional, practical, and social considerations, and a long-term illness can add additional challenges to a relationship—such as making it difficult to arrange a time to meet up due to medical appointments, or not being able to afford a nice dinner out if your condition prevents you from working. That’s not even mentioning the emotional vulnerability that comes with opening up about the effects of an illness. Both physical and mental illnesses can take their toll, but dating while managing or recovering from an illness can also be rewarding.

    Many women with long-term illnesses say that it has a major effect on their self-esteem. It’s this that stops Karen, ayoung woman in her 20s with chronic fatigue syndrome, from dating. “I know that I struggle with internal dialogues of self-worth with having a chronic illness, and the thought of dating—it’s a battle of feeling like no one would want to buyinto that from the beginning,” she says. “When I think about marriage and stuff, even though it’s the whole ‘for better or for worse, in sickness and in health’ thing, it’s hard not to feel like, ‘well yes, that’s true, so if I became chronically illafter we were married, that’s when that would kick in, but to invoke that before you even begin is too much of a price to ask someone to pay.'"  

    “To be honest, I’ve never met anyone who cared enough to be attentive and gentle enough to make sex enjoyable.”

    Clare, who is in her early 50s and has Parkinson’s, does date, but deals with similar thoughts. She has a hard time even getting dressed for dates, she says, “and then when I’m there, things can be going well, but I will start trembling and feel self-conscious and stupid. I’m very aware of my left arm. It hangs in a way that I think makes me look very sick, and I’m so aware of it, that I spend the whole date worrying about it.” Clare has also had to manage depression in the past, and during one low period, she broke up with her boyfriend. That’s probably not a surprise to anyone with depression—it can cloud your thoughts and judgment, leading you to make rash decisions that are not based on the realities of your relationship.

    In a society where we’re often defined by our careers, a chronic illness can have a major impact on identity. One of the main questions we ask anyone when we meet them is, “What do you do?” By that, we don’t mean, “What do you do with your time that lights you up and makes you feel like you’re living?” but rather, “What do you do for paid employment?” Many people with chronic or long-term illnesses are unable to work, or can only work limited hours, and as work is one of the ways that we define ourselves, this can have a significant impact on identity. Karen isn’t a fan of that “very first icebreaker of a question that makes me want to curl up and die—‘So, what do you do?’” she says. “Straight away, you have no other option than to explain that you’re actually sick and can’t properly work, so nothing right now...which ties really nicely into the self-worth stuff, the realities of not wanting to be a burden physically and financially, as well as not wanting to appear weak.”

    Both Clare’s and Karen’s fear that potential dates will judge them based on their illnesses aren’t unfounded; many women have faced prejudice and cruel comments about their illness while dating. Helen suffers from chronic pain, as well as chronic depression (dysthymia) and body dysmorphic disorder. She has tried online dating, and is open and honest about her illness in her profile. Whenever she speaks to someone new online, she tells them that she has to walk with a cane. Not everyone responds, showing how judgments are quickly formed. “One man said to me, ‘So, you are limited—what are your solutions?’ as I couldn’t travel far to see him due to exhaustion,” she says. “This made me feel inferior and an inconvenience.” People form opinions based on her appearance, and not always nice ones. “I recently went to a traffic light party [an event where you wear red if you’re in a relationship, yellow if you’re up for persuasion, and green if you’re single and want to flirt], and was pointed at and called out by men,” she says. “I was embarrassed and hurt.”

    There are also the physical effects of an illness to take into account. Helen’s chronic pain impacts all aspects of her life—to put it bluntly, sex hurts. “To be honest, I’ve never met anyone who cared enough to be attentive and gentle enough to make it enjoyable, so yes, there are struggles there,” she says.

    Chronic illness can test a relationship financially, as well, when one person is unable to work—or is restricted in the length and type of work they can do—and therefore can’t contribute as much to the household budget. It’s not only that people are missing out on working in the present, but also that they won’t be contributing to retirement funds, and so will continue to rely on the other partner. Chronic illnesses also cost a lot to manage, as doctor visits, medication, and support all add up. A smaller—or no—income and increased expenses take a financial toll, and place stress on a relationship that may already feel out of balance. There’s also the emotional toll financial inequality takes on a relationship. Partnerships where one person has an illness can feel unbalanced, and the couple can risk moving from equal partners to the carer and cared for.

    “When you’re sick, 
you spend a lot of time being cautious about who you show the realities of the illness to.”

    All this means that many women may be reluctant to be open about their chronic illness while dating—you don’t want a new and exciting relationship to collide with the grim realities of your limitations. “It feels like, when you’re sick, you spend a lot of time being cautious about who you show the realities of the illness to,” Karen explains, “so it’s a massive vulnerability to have to bare your deepest insecurities very quickly. To let down that mask even a little bit is a real risk. There’s no way around ripping that plaster off early on, and so for me I’d probably rather steer clear of the situation.”

    Dr. Michelle R. Hannah is a relationship coach, and has worked with many people tackling dating with an illness. Hannah’s experience as a cancer survivor informs her work, and she has also had adenomyosis, endometriosis, fibroids, and pudendal neuralgia. After Hannah’s first cancer diagnosis, her partner pulled away from the relationship due to being unable to deal with her illness. This is, unfortunately, not an uncommon occurrence. According to a 2009 study published in the journal Cancer, women who were diagnosed with a serious illness were seven times more likely to become separated or divorced as men diagnosed with similar health problems.

    After a period in which she took time off from work and dating to focus on her own needs and health, Hannah met her husband, and chose to have the illness conversation early on. “It was a tough conversation, but his compassion and commitment made it easier,” she says. “Knowing we could both be transparent with each other helped immensely on the days that I was at a pain level of nine on a scale from one to ten. After four major procedures before we were married, I knew that we were both committed to the traditional wedding vows before we took them.”

    Hannah says that it’s important to consider the status of the relationship before sharing many details. If it’s just about having fun, perhaps there’s no need to divulge, but if you’re planning on long-term commitment, then both partners need to be aware. Once you realize that you are both on the same page regarding the direction of the relationship, it is a good time to introduce the topic. They obviously have to be the right person. Hannah has a few questions that she thinks are important to ask: “Are you both committed to vulnerability? Is your partner compassionate and considerate? Is your partner dedicated to doing the research in order to be educated about your condition? Are you committed to doing the things necessary for you to live your healthiest life regardless of not being clinically healthy?” She explains, “When two people are vulnerable, they are dedicated to honesty; therefore, there’s no need to hide information about your health that is sensitive or that can feel embarrassing to share.”

    Your illness doesn’t have to be something to be ashamed of, and your partner can become a support and help you and your relationship be healthy. “If your partner is compassionate, they will understand the side effects of medicine, your capacity, and your emotional state,” Hannah says. “Two heads are better than one when you’re both dedicated to the goal being optimal health, and that’s why both of you educating yourself is vital to the health of the relationship.”

    Having an illness as part of your life can force you to address issues in your relationship head on, and fast—which can be a positive. “Chronic illness, or recovery from one, is one of the toughest challenges that one can go through,” Hannah says, “but when you have someone who is dedicated to assisting you to achieve optimal health and who wants to love you through, it makes the journey so much more meaningful.” People who are happy to support you in recovery or management are likely in for the long-term. “Oh yeah, I wouldn’t do this if it was just a fling,” my boyfriend said when we were discussing this article. It helps you weed out the ones who matter—and who think you matter.

     

    By Francesca Baker

    Illustration by Bee Johnson

    This piece originally appeared in the January/February 2019 print edition of BUST Magazine. Subscribe today!

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