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”

#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”

Manifesting

Anybody know a writer’s equivalent to the old saw about conquering stage fright by picturing your audience in their underwear? Hmm…

I am deeply grateful to The Manifest-Station for publishing my essay “Body Lessons,” about girlhood, shame, sexual violence, and recovery (revised from a earlier blog post). Also deeply grateful to any and all who read and support my work.

Please know I am picturing all of you in your underwear at this very moment.

After my divorce, I began a long and agonizing journey to reclaim my own sexuality. (continued…)

alice_neck

 

Body Lessons (Genealogy of an Orgasm)

[CN: rape, rape’s aftermath, emotional abuse.]

This piece can now be found at The Manifest-Station.


Origin-of-the-World_modified

 

# # #

Shame thrives in isolation and silence. Thank you for witnessing these stories, and for lessening my burden by doing so. 

I invite all who would like — whether you typically comment on blogs or not — to share in the comments any part of this post that resonated for you, any memories it may have brought up, or any other thoughts you wish to convey. 

❤ alice


“Body Lessons (Genealogy of an Orgasm)” is part of an ongoing memory project. 
The entire series can be found here.

[Image: L’Origine du monde. Painting by Courbet (1866). Discretion by Alice (2016).]

 

Quiet please. The vulvas are talking.

Tacos


In a revelation that will shock exactly zero readers of this blog, I must confess that I’ve always been obsessive about using words correctly. About knowing both literal and connotative meanings. About finding le mot juste for every occasion.

Add gender into the lexical mix? At that point, “obsessive” becomes, well…

Lemme put it to you this way. I still feel pissy about the idiotic joke made by some fellow Unitarians when I was 11 and the UUA was revising the official church hymnal to remove gender-exclusive language: “Maybe we should just call this new HYM-nal an IT-nal, since you hate men so much.”

[Picture here a tween-sized Alice, hands on her hips, fuming at her male peers. . . and more than a few grownass male grownups.^]

In those days, if I heard you call someone a “girl” who was clearly a grownass female grownup? Them were fightin’ words, far as I was concerned.

I’ve since mellowed on this particular issue, though violators still risk getting called out as asshats on my blog. It’s not that final victory has become ours [isn’t that right, Dr. Asshat?], but the gendered-language battle, like language itself, moves as a constantly flowing river. Besides, now that “You’re a girl?!”/”No. WOMAN!”-style exchanges have reached the status of TV cliché indicating “strong female character ahead,” it’s clearly time to set my sights elsewhere.

Like crotches.

That’s right, folks. It’s time for the grand showdown of vulva vs. vagina.

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet. Otherwise, consult your gynecologist.

It’s become almost a handshake by which feminists recognize one another online. A coded knock that earns entrance into the speakeasy. A password that enables members of the resistance to distinguish friend from foe.

“That’s not a vagina. 

[Deep sigh.]

“It’s a vulva.”

It’s the primary reason I wish webpages could be corrected with sharpies. So I could send you pictures of the Great Wall of Vagina Vulva. Or laugh with you at how Snopes pixelated the vagina vulva cookies purportedly brought to snack time by a 2nd grader’s mom. Or pick out our favorite vagina vulva cupcakes together.

Dr. Jen Gunter, OB/GYN extraordinaire, recently channeled her own irritation at how the word “vagina” gets used as a stand-in for everything in the lower reproductive tract of people with uteri by creating this super-useful, highly-technical diagram:

vulva_gunter

As Gunter points out, there are substantive reasons [namely, health and pleasure] why this distinction matters. But even if there weren’t—even if we were talking about nothing more than semantics, and “jeez lighten up / you know what I meant / why does it matter”—I’d still be riding my high horse on this one. After all, people don’t constantly mislabel the other guy’s sexual anatomy the way they do mine.

Nobody goes around defining intercourse as testicles-in-vagina [you mean ‘penis’ / aw jeez lighten up] sex.”

Which is why, when I shared this story about Flirtmoji’s new set of fun, definitely-NSFW emojis a few weeks ago on Facebook, I prefaced my post with a brief “yes, we all know these are vulva-not-vagina emojis” disclaimer, and my friends mostly commented not about the language but about which cartoon vulvae we liked best. (I’m partial to the blue-and-purple chubby one in the top row, myself!) I didn’t think any more about it until a week later, when the story changed.

One of the changes? In the new round of press, every headline now refers to them as “vulva emojis.”

It’s the age-old story of eggplant meets taco, eggplant loses taco…

Continue reading “Quiet please. The vulvas are talking.”