when a body loves a body

There were protesters outside the local Planned Parenthood clinic again this week. And, also again, a group of women in bright pink escort vests arrayed quietly along the front of the building, a buffer to the hate and madness.


These protests have ebbed and waned over the 15-some years I have lived in Philly, but they are clearly on the rise again. When I first moved here from Texas, I remember being shocked to see Planned Parenthood locations advertising on local TV, out in the open and unafraid. It expanded my vision of what became possible when we who believe in equal bodily rights and the full social participation of women were not forced to accept shaming and violence as “normal” responses to our stance. As mere “business as usual.”

On Wednesday​, as I do every time, I crossed the street to thank the escorts for being there. We shook hands and chatted​ for a moment, as I told them how glad I was to see them and how much their service means to us in the community. (We ignored​ the row of dusty old men standing behind me, muttering imprecations related to dead babies and our clearly-frozen souls.) Since this was a weekday morning, the women were all older—retired, or of an age to be so.

A phalanx of grandmas, holding the line.

Window across the street from the clinic.

Writing in a Time of Plague

The first time I wrote on this blog in my truest voice, it was a declaration of independence from audience. “I am done speaking to the bodies of men,” I pronounced; “To the helpmeets of men.” I decided to write first and foremost for myself and, as a distant second, to address an imagined audience of other women who had survived sexual assault. Anybody else who wanted to listen? Was certainly welcome to do so, but I would make no adjustments for their comfort.

As last year began winding down, however, I started itching to leave this stance for greener, less plundered, pastures. Tired of five years of filling-in-the-blank “current occupation: rape survivor-in-recovery,” bored with my own intimate overexposure and the incessant “I… I… I…” of confessional writing.

I wondered what else I might want to say, if I no longer felt compelled to foreground the issue of violation.

And then my country elected a rapist as president.

ratking

Continue reading “Writing in a Time of Plague”

Cold Hands

[NOT A TROMP POST. While this is a post-US-election piece of writing about the weird twists and turns of grief, beyond that, any similarities between my comments here and the Orange Cheeto-led sh!tshow that is our current political outlook is purely accidental. And sincerely regretted.]

* * *

milk_cropped
Alice, pre-trauma. Apparently very excited about milk.

One of the stranger symptoms I have discovered—as I claw my way back from the dissociative fog of PTSD that rotted out my brain over 25 years of squatting there like a toad, undiagnosed and untreated—is a limited ability to notice my body’s sensory input. I have to cook with overwhelming flavors, or I don’t taste my food. I must remember what I expect to smell, before I can detect an odor. If someone asks me whether a room’s temperature bothers me, without also specifying if they think it may be “too hot” or “too cold,” I often start to panic, suddenly aware that I have no idea what temperature the room is—and no clues from my companion to guide me.

But I noticed something interesting on my walk home this evening: I noticed my hands felt cold.

Continue reading “Cold Hands”

#NotOkay

After the Trump video released last Friday, writer Kelly Oxford tweeted about her own experience—at only 12 years old—of having a strange man grab her crotch. While she may not have expected more than a few friends to respond to her invitation to “tweet me you first assaults,” she has now received hundreds of thousands of stories (a million on Saturday night alone), and the tweets are still pouring in, under the hashtag #NotOkay.

I find myself among those unwilling to join this conversation openly. Not because I do not have such memories in my past, but these are encounters that I either have already shared or have reasons to hold private still. So I am thinking instead about the ubiquity of not only sexual violence in girlhood but also the threats of such violence—and how these twin forces shaped the early years of so many women I know, and continue to color our daughters’ experiences today.

With all that in mind (both the said and the unsaid), I decided to revisit and revamp this piece I wrote a few years ago:


parked cars

My Body Is a Car Door

He and I are drinking coffee together, sitting
each in our own maturity and marveling
the kids these days!
when he says:
­    ‏                      ‏ ‎‌‍“I always thought puberty
was so much worse for girls. Breasts, menstruation—
like living inside an alien.
Boys have nothing that compares.”

“Boners,” I retort.

*** Continue reading “#NotOkay”

Once Upon A Time

fairy-hand

SELF-PORTRAIT IN POTENTIA


After the death of memoir, I will write fairy tales.

I desire a purity of language outside the stink of events and memories. Stories I cannot be accused of having invented because of course I have invented them.

Neither full fiction, nor freighted fact.

I would show other bones behind my telling.

*

Fable gifts us fanciful creatures, fanciful bodies, fanciful selves. In the tales, I shall become winged, ogrish, bulky as a mountain, a face all crooked nose and sharpened teeth—by turns witch, killer, a dragon in shadows. I rend flesh. I eat princesses whole. I am wolf and hunter both, my head too full to contain in just one mind, in just one set of teeth.

I am Little Red Riding Hood’s lover.

I pull my feet off the ground and still know where I am standing.

*

I grew up in a gingerbread house, led by a gingerbread man, all of us happy and perfect and filled with gumdrops to our eyelids until at last we bled gumdrops out our mouths, and still we filled with them. I was a princess who gave away her voice for love, who danced in magical shoes until her feet were stumps and slept atop 85 feathered mattresses yet still could find no rest.

All the while being told (small child in a small child’s nightgown) that monsters were never real. The very monsters I could see, could smell.

Monsters whose fur caught on railings, leaving behind tufts that I collected each morning in a pillowcase.

One grows weary of not knowing when to believe the words pouring off one’s own tongue. Over time, one starts to prick one’s finger on every spinning wheel spindle out of spite and desperation.
Continue reading “Once Upon A Time”

the (un)funny feminist crashes an OB/GYN convention: Vaginal Imperialism

[EDITOR NOTE: It has been brought to this unfunny feminist’s attention that during an earlier attempt at sharing this story, the Interwebs themselves were so entertained that they completely snarfled the post. Our apologies for the technical snafu, and we now return you to your regularly scheduled blog entertainment!]


I laugh because I love.
Finally answering the question: “Can a man ever really be funny?”

I realize it’s been quite awhile since my last (un)funny feminist post. But ever since I first watched Matthew Broussard’s recent stand-up performance on Conan I’ve been feeling terribly, terribly sad at the thought of anyone being deprived of this pleasure.

And so, without further ado:

Heeeeere’s Matthew!

[Please join me for a party in the comment section after viewing. Attendees are invited to share your favorite lines and/or your best digital representation of laughter! Adult beverages to be provided at no extra charge.]

Continue reading “the (un)funny feminist crashes an OB/GYN convention: Vaginal Imperialism”