For the first episode of “Below the Fold,” we interviewed Michelle Zheng, who you may know as last semester’s Sex on Tuesday columnist. We covered several topics such as self-love, abusive relationships, honesty, writing and polyamory.
Within the first few minutes of interviewing Michelle, we began to understand that the former sex columnist held a powerful, if not admirable, sense of self that many of us could learn from. Michelle opened up about her journey to discovering self-love, which resonated with the both of us. Premiering on Valentine’s Day, this episode explores the complexity of human relationships between people. In a society that romanticizes turbulent romantic relationships, Michelle brought to our attention the importance of the type of self-love that fulfills us from day to day.
She even opened us to us about her parents. Her mother, a three-time published Chinese author, and her father, a self-made businessman and CEO, are unaware of her column, in part because of the lack of internet availability in China. Michelle feels that they would support her writing, especially her mother.
Michelle also spoke to us in-depth about an abusive relationship she experienced in her past — a topic she wrote about in a column last semester. For us, it was interesting to hear her explain the oftentimes undetectable nature of abuse and how she brought herself to leave that situation. She talked about finding the strength to leave the toxic relationship while forging a better relationship with herself throughout the process by attending therapy. One of the most powerful insights she shared, from a therapy session with her counselor, was that when it comes to relationships, things are rarely an emergency and you should refrain from ever acting on impulse.
In an age where sexual harassment allegations are flooding the news, we also talked about the complexity and importance of consent. Michelle stressed the importance of nonverbal cues during a physical act and how within the context of consensual sexual acts, there is still space for discomfort.
Towards the end of our interview, Michelle talked about her polyamorous relationship with her boyfriend. For her, the road to understanding polyamory was initially filled with guilt. As she explains in the interview, however, attraction is a complex force, and refusing to acknowledges those emotions can be problematic later on.
Something we wanted to recognize is the empowerment Michelle felt from owning her experiences by writing about them. There’s something to be said about the honesty prevalent in Michelle’s articles. Her bold attitude is as evident in person as it is in her writing. Her honest tone remained present throughout our interview, and it’s in this no-games, nothing-to-hide philosophy that her message thrives.