Recently, I made some new-neighbor-friends and one of them decided to actually check out my writing. When people ask for my website, especially over drinks, I don’t expect much. The next time I saw him, he had read two of my pieces. One of them, which he wondered about is titled “Boots.” He is a nurse practitioner at Highland Hospital and from Louisiana, so everything he says is in a calm drawl that starts with “these mother fuckers.” He tells me, “I don’t know where the fuck your head was at, but it’s interesting.” Then he shows a picture of someone who smoked bed bugs and nailed through three of their fingers and adds, “poor motherfucker.”
This prompted me to take another look at “Boots” to remember where the fuck my head was at. The piece was for “Altered Barbie” an annual event that includes a collection of writing, a reading and art that all center around different experiences with Barbie. I wrote the piece because I was asked by a then writer friend to do so. I had to get the piece in for a deadline and “Boots” is what emerged. Re-visiting boots meant a bit of revising boots, but mostly, the words that I wanted to be there are there, in the order I wanted them to be in.
Where the fuck my head was at is another story. I know I started A Spy in the House of Love by Anais Nin around the time I wrote this, though I stopped pretty close to the beginning. I can see the bar setting parallel and the sexuality that trickled in, as well as the anonymous woman in the boots, like Sabina, an anonymous woman that it seems people are curious about. There is also the outside of myself but talking about myself point of view, though my narrator talks about herself through talking about this anonymous woman, who is physically other than her. I was also reading short stories by Miranda July at the time. Her awkward nonsensical sense making has definitely made its way into “Boots.” As it turns out, starting A Spy in the House of Love and reading short stories by Miranda July, plus the constraints of a soon-approaching deadline and the task of writing a story “about Barbie” yields interesting results.
Recently, I re-started and finished A Spy in the House of Love. I found the same thing that was frustrating about my story, the lack of clarity around who this woman is, or wants to be, at the beginning of the book. I guess since I found it frustrating, I put down the book and re-created it. On this second read, I got past the ambiguity of the opening of the novel, which was then replaced by a heavy guilt that alternated with a raucous sexual freedom. I loved the image of the painter with all of the disparate parts that she didn’t appreciate when she first saw it, but came to later, when it paralleled her insides. I found myself annoyed with the guilt, with the cycling, with how much she looked to men to help her find her, or hide her from herself. Then there was Djuna at the end, who told her how it was. But at the last moment, the lie detector had to come “as if to rescue her.” The book was so close to a triumph of truth and through a woman character! The truth that was unveiled instead was Sabina’s truth, her dependence on male attention and saving, the truth of where she was, though we got to see the glimmer of what was possible through the character of Djuna, a head-strong, self-possessed woman in her body and self.
I also recently finished reading Nami Moon’s Miles from Nowhere, another novel I had started at one point and abandoned. I think I abandoned this one because it was about New York and Heroin and at the time was not ready for the heaviness of it, as I had a quick and intense relationship with a New Yorker who did Heroin. He died a completely random and unrelated death years later and I cannot hear about the drug or New York and not think of him. We had some of the best sex I’ve ever had with a person. It was just a perfectly natural act with him and he was just a perfect example of a born-and-raised New Yorker. Sex that leaves me feeling in possession of my body and self is rare, so sharing this with him, and so easily, is something I will always remember.
Nami Moon’s novel had a raw honesty to it as well. Her characters were young, their lives were woven candidly and without apology, dark and destructive though they were. Her character’s coming to truth was a familial truth, the legacy of what her parents could and couldn’t do for her, and it wasn’t a solution either.
I liked that neither of these novels solved the characters “problems.” That made them real and poignant and brave. Is this what writing like a feminist is?
This week I also read the short story “If I Were a Man” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman to which there was a solution to the inequality between men and women. When the character wished to be a man and then became her husband, she was exposed to the conversations about business, the truth of what men thought of their wives, and the sense of camaraderie that comes from having familiar people to take the train with, but what was really standing in the way of women feeling the same comfort, pride and power that men feel was— POCKETS!
Possessing and carrying your own shit on your person is the answer. The key to feminism is POCKETS! Yet so much of the clothing marketed to women is still pocketless. WTF? I found myself annoyed this week at the lack of functional pockets in my wardrobe. I protested by wearing a pair of fleece pants over my tights that I wear to Aerial, which were left by an ex, are several sizes too big, but comfy and with FUNCTIONAL FUCKING POCKETS. I stuck my hand in them to feel the satisfaction of how deep they went, checked myself out in the mirror with my new empowerment pants on and went out to Walgreens feeling sexy as hell.
Keep reading, keep writing, keep telling the truth. But for the love of whatever higher power you believe in, sew some fucking pockets into your clothes.