You Thought You Loved Me

Sara Benincasa
6 min readMay 14, 2023

I think I was born feeling guilty, which is to say I popped into the world the ideal future Roman Catholic. My parents say that when I was little, I used to cry when I even considered breaking a rule. It was kind of an easy tell, as you can imagine.

They would kindly ask me if I was thinking of doing something bad, and I would wail, “Yes!” and then I wouldn’t do it.

This doesn’t mean I have refrained from sinning throughout my life. I have heard that “to sin” means “to miss the mark,” and I don’t know if that’s true in the etymological sense. But it feels true, and while feelings aren’t facts, this one will suffice for now.

I am, in the main, a decent human being. But I have done shitty things on purpose, and I have done shitty things by mistake, and I have done shitty things just because I had the time that day and needed to entertain myself.

I don’t feel good about any of it. And I do not quite know how to forgive myself for anything ever, although I am trying. I have too often jumped to “forgive” others when, really, I was just making nice.

I am going to break one of my own cardinal rules of writing here, a thing that I tell people when I teach writing (Promotional break: if you need that sort of teacher or coach, here’s info on how to work with me.)

I always tell my students and clients, “Wait a bit after an event before writing about it in a personal essay or memoir. Take some time. Get some perspective. The work will be better, and you’ll protect yourself from writing something thoughtless during a passionate moment. When your nervous system is regulated and calmer, you can still summon the passion of your reaction, but from a safer distance.”

But tonight something happened, and I read a very good memoir after it happened, and I am up late doing laundry, and I cried a little about the thing that happened but have perhaps not cried enough, and so I am going to do the thing I tell my students not to do, and I am going to tell you about something that just occurred.

First, the memoir I read: “I Thought You Loved Me” by comix artist and writer Mari Naomi. Mari created the Cartoonists of Color Database, the Queer Cartoonists Database and the Disabled Cartoonists Database. Mari is very talented.

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Sara Benincasa

Author, REAL ARTISTS HAVE DAY JOBS & other books. Writer of scripts. Host of WELL, THIS ISN’T NORMAL podcast. Patreon.com/SaraBenincasa