13 Partly-Feminist Ideas for What to Write About When You’ve Decided to Do a Cleanse


I’m supposed to be doing a cleanse this week.

Nothing quacky or dietary-related—I promise I am not going all-juice or detoxifying my elecrolytes or any other form of woo approved only by the Dr. Oz School of Better Health Through Gargling Snake Oil—just a one-week poetry cleanse organized by a writer friend that I leapt to volunteer for. I’ve got too many unwritten words jamming up my brain right now, like rotting leaves clogging a suburban home’s gutters, and an accountability system encouraging me to get at least a few of those words out and on paper each day sounded like just what the doctor^ ordered.

[^Again, not Dr. Oz.]

According to the rules of the cleanse, I agree to write one poem (or bit of a poem, or even one single line of poetry) each day, and send it out to the group by midnight. That’s it.

We’re on day 4 of 7. I’ve managed to write only once.

Sometimes a clog is so acute that low-commitment sluicing is insufficient to break through. Daily venting ain’t enough to get the job done. In these cases, best to take a roto-rooter to the whole situation—and brace yourself for whatever mess results.

And in that spirit, as my offering to the great and terrible gods of Roto-Rootering and Writer’s Clog, allow me to present:

Alice’s Listicle of Things She’d Be Writing About Right Now If Only Her Head Were Feeling A Bit More Cooperative and, Yknow, Language-y 

~ ~ ~

1) “I Am Uterus. Hear Me Roar.”

I am still over the moon about the US Supreme Court’s decision this week to knock down two horrifying, egregious, discriminatory, and misogynist Texas anti-abortion laws that threatened to close nearly all abortion clinics in that state. More than half the clinics have already been shuttered following the passing of H.B 2 back in 2013.

This week’s ruling has profound implications not only for women, and others who can become pregnant, living in my home state, but for people nationwide. In her short concurring opinion, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg tied this decision to the fate of so-called TRAP [Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers] laws nationwide, warning other state legislatures that such regulations “cannot survive judicial inspection.”

In other words: Don’t even try it.

via giphy.com

2) Nuh-Nuh-Notorious

Oh please lemme say it. Just this once.

I am dyyyyying to say it.

Okay, here goes.



*grins like a maniac*

2016-03-08 19.04.03
A young RBG, reimagined as Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Thank YOU, cartoonist Tom O’Leary!

I don’t do much hero-worshipping fanfic here on CaaBP—but for the Notorious RBG? Consider me up to the challenge! If I were actually going to write tonight, that is. Please accept this photo of my Justice Ginsburg coloring book instead.

3) Brave AF

[CN: domestic violence]

Something I’ve been pondering lately is the meaning of “brave.” What looks brave to us in other people. What we do, or don’t, recognize as brave in ourselves.

Have you noticed too, how often we admire someone for an act that looks brave from the outside—while the one being commended, from their own perspective, considers it not “brave” so much as having run out of options or energy to do anything else? I have been on both sides, the admiring and the admired, often and recently. I am fascinated and have no answers.

When I think of what constitutes “brave,” I never see my own face.

Twice over the past few years, I have stumbled by chance into an opportunity to directly help a woman fleeing a batterer. Women who are ashamed, and desperate, and terrified—and free.

I will never forget the woman I met this spring, as I helped her get to a train station for the next leg of her long journey to the shelter that had promised her a bed. She talked a mile-a-minute, her eyes darting about, hyper-vigilant of her surroundings even as she began allowing herself to feel hope. She paused a moment on the sidewalk, took a deep breath, and turned her face to the sky.

“It gets better now, right? Everything gets better now?”

I nodded slowly. “Everything from this moment forward—is YOURS.”

She turned towards me, her face shining triumphant.

4) Paying It Forward

[CN: suicide attempts]

As I was buying this same woman her train ticket, and handing her the cash she would need for the cab ride that came next, she asked several times for my address. She would, she swore, pay me back just as soon as she was able.

“Here’s how you pay me back,” I said. “First, you focus on you. You get well. You get back on your feet. And someday—when you’re ready, when you’re able—you are going to help someone else. You are going to pay it forward.

“That’s what someone said to me too,” I told her. “When I was at my lowest, someone helped me. Someone helped me so I could be here today, helping you.”


Three years ago, June was the month when I knew I had to die. When I laid down my life three times, only to awake again each morning, my floor freshly covered in bloody vomit I didn’t remember heaving. When, frantic at my failures, I finally called my oldest friend—who bought herself a ticket out on a red-eye flight leaving that night, even as I was still telling her what was happening.

“You don’t have to worry,” she would later shush me, when I wondered how to ever pay her back. “You are going to pay it forward, when you are able. Just like this is me paying forward all the times I got help from someone else.”

Three years still feels too soon to tell that story in its entirety.

Too soon even to make sense of all that happened.

But not to soon to have started paying the gift of my life forward, every chance I get.

5) Why I celebrate Independence Day on June 30th instead of July 4th

Five years ago, June was the month I took a bus from Philly to NYC, met up with the man I had met and married seven years before (in what would turn out to be our very last encounter, though I didn’t realize it at the time), and signed the papers for our divorce.

Last year, the city even helped me celebrate by painting brilliant rainbows into the crosswalks in my neighborhood!

not you

Okay, so maybe not so much for me as to commemorate LGBT activism and that week’s achievement of marriage equality.

Still looked pretty damn cool, though.

6) The Gay Divorcée

I have not dated in the five years since my divorce*. I have not wanted to date. I have not believed it was possible for me to ever want to date again.

And yet now, today—drum-roll please—I am willing to concede the probable possibility that spending an evening in the company of another human being, as both of us partake of romantic feelings, semi-formed intentions, and/or snacks…does not in fact sound like the worst idea in the world’s history of bad ideas!


Take that, crippling relationship-phobia!

In fact, I have already decided my new standard for what makes a date “successful”: if I can get through the evening without upchucking on my shoes? Then it went well.

My date’s shoes neither?

Extremely well.

sequin shoes
Not the shoes I expect either of us to be wearing.

[*Unless one counts as a date that one time I went for coffee with a dude I met on OKCupid. Which I totally and completely don’t. Though it totally and completely was.

Maybe I’ll tell y’all that story one day, provided I can find a way to make it come across not as the embarrassing sequence of weirdnesses it actually was, but rather as a resonant tale of how to tell when one is—or most decidedly is not—ready to date again, post-abusive relationship. I’m already confident I can tell it so you all laugh at me until your coffee comes out through your noses.

I’m super-generous like that.]

7) Nuh-uh. Still not ready to write that one.

If you’ve been following for any length of time the unfolding of my memory project and the personal stories I share here, you may have noticed that I talk more gently about my mother than anyone else in my family.

Or…maybe you haven’t.

Maybe only in my own head is this blog written as a love letter to my mother, a pleading with her to please please see events from my perspective…and forgive me for no longer being willing (or able) to act as a lockbox for family secrets she wants hidden even from herself.

It’s not that I’m not angry. It’s that owning the anger that I feel towards my mother—and recording it in a way that seems fair and respectful towards both of us—continues to feel complicated and fraught in a way that anger towards, say, my father or my ex-husband does not.

I have been drafting and redrafting a certain mother-story for years now. I may share a version of it someday; I may never.

In lieu of that bedtime tale, tonight I offer you the poem “The Daughter,” by Shevaun Brannigan, another writer whose mother-stories resist, persist, resurface, remain.

8) Gratitude Beatitudes

I love the idea of noting at least one thing each day that I am grateful for.

There are many ways that people maintain this practice of deepening their attention to small gestures and details, of practicing compassion and generosity to themselves and the world around them. Gratitude journals. Gratitude letters. Memories jotted on slips of paper and stored in a jar. Giving at least one sincere compliment each day.

Should I ever evolve into a person with the patience to commit to such a project, I promise to gratitude the hell outta my daily grateful.

9) So, uh…got any poems yet, Isak?

10) . . .

11) . . .

12) . . .

13) Nope.

*shuffles back to her drawing board*

33 thoughts on “13 Partly-Feminist Ideas for What to Write About When You’ve Decided to Do a Cleanse

  1. Rotor-Rooter Brain Cleanses (and writing challenges) can be a form of self-harm for me. Shaming? Check. Failure? Check. Writing crap just to say I wrote *something*? Check.

    Here’s to letting that verbal evacuation commence without need of laxatives. This post was a pot-filler!


    1. Yes, I can see how that could easily turn into your brain telling you mean things about yourself! Eep!

      It’s one of the most valuable things journaling has done for me: developing my sense of what works for me, and what just makes me feel loose in the screws. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I’m so glad that the thought of going out with a human isn’t icky anymore! Even if you don’t act on it for a while. You deserve company.

    My favorite poem may inspire you. “‘Twas brillig in the slithy toves, did gYre and gimble in the wabe…” There! All better. It cures poetic constipation better than prune juice and mineral oil. If you can’t poetize about a THING, you can poetize about a non-thing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. zomg I ADORE Jabberywocky!!! My brother and I (who did much of our communicating through the exchange of favorite quotations!) had the whole thing memorized — we probably recited it together as kids hundreds upon HUNDREDS of times.

      The version we liked best was this one. Which has a few extra sound effects added in for embellishment. *burble-burble burble-BURBLE*

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This is incredibly well-written and thoughtful. I feel a little discouraged because you only have 14 likes. This should have thousands of likes. Seriously. I especially appreciate the “paying it forward” part of your life and am glad (seems such a silly word but I can think of no other) that you didn’t die from your attempts. I was meant to read this. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hellz yeah, RBG is bad-ass AF!!! I dig your listicle and your writing. Ever since the ruling, I’ve been collecting images of her to use as a reference for the fangirl portrait I want to paint of her. You’ve inspired me to start sooner rather than later while the ruling is still hot.

    And good luck with that whole dating thing. It’s a vulnerable place so I’ll send encouraging joo-joo your way.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Encouraging joo-joo always gratefully accepted!

      And yes. Paint her. PAINT HER NOW. While I’m sure any ruling she gets in on is bound to be white-hot and fabulous, gurlfriend _is_ 83 years old. :/

      Liked by 1 person

  5. If I still had a uterus it would definitely be roaring and doing that fallopian tube F-you fist (fimbria) pump thing you so wonderfully posted. I had just finished watching a PBS documentary about TRAP and the Texas clinic closings that made me roar and screech and cuss and applaud the owners, doctors, and staff that have been doing EVERYTHING humanly possible to remain open, when the decision came down. I admit, some days are GOOD DAYS, even with my pessimistic outlook standing in the way mostly…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Were you aware of Wendy Davis’ filibuster against HB2 when it happened back in 2013? It was this absolutely electric process (I was following it all day), where the Republicans used every tiny parliamentary bit of niggledy detail they could to cut her off before midnight (when the senate session ended, causing a de facto tabling of the law until the senate reconvened). And the Dems were united and absolutely electric in support of her all day.

      At the very end, Sen. Leticia van de Putte — who had raced back early from her own father’s funeral to be present — makes her inquiry. And just as the leadership declares the filibuster broken, the collective rage of the women gathered in observation and protest scream them past the deadline.


      I get teary-eyed every time I watch this clip….

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Although I didn’t follow the process, I was keenly aware of the actions that day. They used part of the footage in the documentary so I did catch a glimpse of the reaction from the balcony as midnight came and went. AWESOME.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. The filibuster laws are pretty strict in Texas. [As in: Teddy Cruz could NO WAY have gotten away with his little Green Eggs And Ham stunt back home!] Everything that Davis said had to be deemed directly relevant to the topic at hand — which, for a filibuster of that length, meant needing a shitton of abortion- and abortion access-related stories. All through the day, Texas activists on Twitter were putting out the call for women to send in stories for her to read aloud on the floor.


  6. Sigh. There is so much awesome here, where does one start?

    Yay for possibly considering maybe dating! I used to love dates, that shiny, new feeling of possibilities when things spark, or even that sinking feeling when first seeing your date and knowing already that “this will never work, and OMG I have to sit through dinner with this schlump.” The former was like watching real magic happen, not just sleight-of-hand; the latter was a true test of my patience, boundary-setting abilities, and conversation skills in the face of dead, awful silence.

    GQB and I still talk about our first date from early last year. We chuckle at the sparks, like flint and iron striking, and my first thoughts which were, “HOLY SMOKES SHE IS EVERYTHING GOOD AND AMAZING AND BUTCH AND ALL THE THINGS!!!” and hers which were, “Please, dear god, don’t let her be crazy because OMG HER, she is STUNNING with the silver hair and those eyes and those DIMPLES.” (I believe her previous two first-dates had turned out to be nutters) So, yeah, there’s hope for all of us, even for you. 😉

    Mothers. Yes. I finally, via therapy in the past two years, let go of my anger that mine didn’t keep me safe as a child, despite my very clear calls for help, which were met with shush we don’t talk about that. It was a different era, a different world back then. I sometimes wonder just how much potential my life would have had if I didn’t have the trauma, the PTSD, the fear, the anger, depression, anxiety, mind-numbing, all of it. But it can’t be undone. I can only limp forward and work on myself and provide my little girl with the tools and safety that I did not have. Now that my mom has progressive dementia, the time for confrontation is long, long past, and I’ll never have that outlet. It wouldn’t serve anyway. She’s my second child, now, and I keep her safe in ways she never did for me. Such irony.

    Funny how the suicide attempt date sticks in the brain. I’d like nothing better than to forget it, but I can’t; it is with me all the days since. I think, “Okay, it’s been two months…12 months…2 years, 2 months, and 26 days,” and I realize it may never leave me. Just another thing to learn to live with, I guess. I make sure I’m not alone on April Fifths, to be on the safe side…

    People tell me I’m brave. I shake my head and think, “Me? Brave? Nah. This is just life in my world,” but I suppose from the outside I must look like a goddamned super hero, sometimes. Perspective is a funny thing, too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey, Butch! Good to see you!!

      I used to love dating too, first dates especially, with all their new-and-unknown-person energy. I learned from doing a whole lotta internet dating, back when Match.com still had that new car smell, to limit first dates to nothing but a cup o’ coffee or an afterwork drink. If that seemed to go well, always the option to invite them to something more — and if not, then I figured I had saved us BOTH from that “oh gods I have to sit through dinner with this shlump!” feeling. 🙂 And even on the very worst of the worst occasions, I generally got out with at least a funny story to tell friends later.

      Glad to hear you and GQB had a first date that still gives you warm-n-fuzzies to remember! May we all have at least one such date, to look back on fondly.

      best, alice ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Perhaps you need to think of this post as a poem? One with your own rhythm and stanzas and meter. I liked it and if you tell me it’s a poem, then it is.

    Hadn’t thought of the RUTH BADER GINSBURG MESSED WITH TEXAS aspect of the Supremes decision, but I LOVE IT. Made my day with that one.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Holy crap I can’t keep up but I’m going to try! Being an novice I’m in awe how real your writing is I’m such a baby lol! Looking forward to reading about each subject in full overtime and spraying coffee out my nose. To be honest It is awesome as is.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Aw, thanks! Remember I’ve been doing this a while, though — it can take a time to get your blogger’s sea legs under you. And, uh…let’s not talk about the unsteady voice in some of my earliest posts, mmmkay? 😉

      Liked by 1 person

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