Eight Years

Year One

Rules:

(1) Don’t touch my face or

(2) Watch me shower or

(3) Slap my ass in public or

(4) Open pickle jars for me or

(5) Wake me up before I’m ready or

(6) Let me oversleep or

(7) Say anything about working out or

(8) Buy me flowers when you know I like plants or

(9) Open doors for me or

(10) Tell me not to cry.

DO YOU UNDERSTAND? 

I don’t like tree bark or pomegranate seeds or when roots cling to plants that are already dead.

DO YOU UNDERSTAND? 

I can’t think about space. DON’T MAKE ME. There are too many little parts in one picture; too many small things swirling together. Dark Matter. Gas. How did you even find me?

I DON’T UNDERSTAND.

I like birds because they are bovine. You are the only one who knows that. They are not feeble or angelic! Eight hollowed bones in each wing and they spend all day nesting. MORONS.

NO ONE ELSE UNDERSTANDS. 

Year Eight (365 days times 8 plus 2 leap years and 3 hours)

Rules:

(1) Never leave me.

DO YOU UNDERSTAND? 

You are my star; my nested bird in chaos.

signiture

Advertisements

Take Up Space

When I feel nervous or scared or intimidated by the brawny world around me, I close off. I leave whatever goals or tasks were on my to-do list and about-face back to my comfort zone, shrinking several inches from my already small 5’2″ frame as I watch the busy world continue on around me. My text inbox racks up to 300+ messages, my emails pile as high as the caffeine I’d need to read them, and I fall down a dark hole of self-questioning and doubt (think Alice and Wonderland, but less drugs).

This is too big for me and everyone knows.

The pressure of my own expectations pile on me one pebble at a time until there’s suddenly a boulder resting on my chest. I feel small. I feel trapped. And I start wrapping everything I write, do or say with these two main fears:

Why does this matter to anyone

This doesn’t matter to anyone

This self-mutilating thought process is rough, and though I don’t find myself in that position everyday – I often struggle with letting doubt and insecurities control my ability to produce thoughtful, creative work.

I don’t have a method to break the confines of doubt, but I AM TRYING. So far, my only success has come from this realization:

The first way to fight feeling small is to TAKE UP SPACE

I’m sure its true in any instance of oppression, but the only way to fight pressure is to push against it. This concept seems pretty self-explanatory when you’re looking to fight against gender roles, racism, or other glaring issues because the need to be noticed is crucial. Taking up space becomes a means for pushing back, a way of fighting against limitations from any person, cause or agenda.

Fighting for what is right for a group comes easily for me. I can support you. I can fight against oppression from misogynists or bigots. But when I am the enemy, and the oppression is coming from my own self doubt, that’s oppression I just don’t know how to fight.

Can I have a solo protest against myself?

A dance instructor in the city recently told me I am afraid to take up space in a room. He was talking about my ability to chasse across the floor, but if you know me – you know I took that shit wayyy too personally.

Here’s the scene: I was taking a solo lesson with a contemporary dance teacher named John. I was dressed in a purple leotard in a fluorescent lit room with mirrors on every wall. Things were already too intimate for my liking, but in the middle of the lesson, when John realized that I was scared to “take up space”, the intimacy became too uncomfortable. I felt found out. I thought John knew I’d been faking this whole confident bit, and I was weirdly mortified. Does he know? HOW DOES HE KNOW?!

I slowly felt all of the little pebbles began to roll off my chest.

The truth bomb hurt, but John was right – I am afraid to take up space. I am afraid to be an inconvenience, afraid to be noticed, afraid to be judged.

As the pebbles fell by the wayside, I couldn’t help but get teary eyed. John noticed (because teary-eyed Cap actually means I have a lobster face with snot flowing out of every hole in my face), and he confidently declared that he was going to get me “out of this shit!” We spent an hour and a half practicing moves that were out of my comfort zone. I wish I knew enough dance terms to express how freeing it was, but you’ll have to just trust me – BABY WAS OUT OF THE CORNER.

baby

I left that class feeling two feet taller. My shoulders were broad, by posture was straight, and I was somehow existing outside the border of my own skin. I felt I understood my place, and claimed it. Maybe that was just on a sidewalk, or a subway seat, but it was mine. I realized I was heavy. Not from burdens or pressure, but from the simple acknowledgement that I am rooted in my goals. They are a part of me, just as I am a part of this world. We are together, slowly claiming our spot amongst the chaos. I guess that probably sounds weird and trippy to anyone who has never felt displaced in their work, but for whatever reason – it is the only thing that has made sense to me these past few months.

It seems, at least at the early stage of “finding oneself”, that you must first realize you are already there. You are found in the very notion that you are you. If you trust your ability to take up space, you can not only push to the border or limitations – but past it.

So, here’s me begging you to claim your own spot, your home, your own significance.  Let the world see you’re here.

signiture

New York Beauty

NY Beauty

In the center of me is happy

colored and layered and taut.

Like the first stitch in a scrim quilt

pulled through layers of scrap.

“A blithe event!” said one.

It is indecorous.

“We’ll need tulips for proof!”

Tack them loose.

“Stitch here with yellow!” said the little bee.

Whiplash is best.

“I have blue. Should I put that in, too?”

On the Gambesons.

“No! Layer on layer of happy!” the little bees circled.

“Until we craft who you are!”

And who I am Not.

 

signiture

 

1.

I recently heard of something called automatic writing. In short, automatic writing is writing with intent to free your unconscious mind. It’s very Freudian and weird and cool.

I found a photo and sat for three minutes on the subway today, quickly jotting down every word that came to my mind after studying the patterns and red shoes on my little phone screen. I didn’t worry about grammar, or form, or how it would come across to anyone who read it. It was freeing and weird and oddly spiritual. I’m sharing below in hopes you join my hippy bandwagon:

1.

I am here.

I do not know why or how or what purpose my life entails but

I am here.

I have wounds and scars and marks I’d like to hide but

they are here.

One perfect. One flawed. One body. One mind.

I will not divide. I want to split.

I am one.

Be Good if You Can

My grandmother, Corrine Cotten, is shockingly aware and vocal about her human finitude. When I visit, she writes my name on little sticky notes and attaches the yellow squares to items of hers I may want one day. If you open a closet at her house, chances are you’ll see a pile of old quilts, pillows, hand-made vases from her sister Norma, or jewelry from her “wild days” labeled with the names of my cousins, aunts and uncles on the same little yellow squares. You can even see the various family names etched in sharpie marker on the back of larger items that are still in daily use throughout the house. Like packing up for a big move, her house is always on the cusp of that final transition. It is a weird mix of death and life, past and present, memory and moment, and I am uncomfortably aware that nothing she passes on will ever feel the same without her around. The kitchen table, for instance, is only special if we are playing SkipBo together with a cup of coffee in hand, and the jewelry from her “wild days” is only fun when she wraps it around her body and shows me the best way to move my belly so that each metal string shakes and chimes. Heirlooms won’t have that same Corrine spirit when she’s gone, but I love her gifts that give insight into her past – even if they are tinged with acceptance and muddled with final farewells.

At age 16, she sent me off with a rad, 1970’s gold belt and the most beautiful blue and crystal screw back earrings because, as she said, “you never know what will happen”. Last year at Thanksgiving, Corrine was wearing an old shirt from a church revival that said “Riot ’88”. 1988 is my birth year and I’m obviously a riot, so I LOST MY SHIT. I raved about how cool it was for a solid ten minutes until Corrine snuck off into the back room, changed into a pretty blue sweater with blue heart appliqués, and handed me the “Riot ’88” shirt that was just on her back two minutes earlier. This is who Corrine is. She is selfless, but strong with a firm voice and a soft heart. She is the cliché perfect grandmother that every child reads about in YA novels.

Riot 88

Visiting my grandmother is my favorite part about going home, but saying goodbye is always difficult – mostly because all the talk about dying and sticky note placing makes me aware that any normal “goodbye” could turn into the last. One of our latest goodbyes came after she packed my bag full of paintings and vases. I fought back tears as she assured me in a very calm, nontheatrical manner to “always appreciate the time you have with someone”. Her acknowledgement for the end is the weirdest representation of bravery I’ve ever witnessed. Two years ago, before going into open-heart surgery and after fighting breast cancer, she told the doctor, “If I go to sleep for good – don’t try to wake me up.” She doesn’t seem afraid of death, but the thought of losing her is terrifying for me.

At age 29, driving to her house feels the same as it did when I was four years old. I still hold my breath as I cross over the Mississippi River Bridge into Vidalia, I still smile when I see the streets in her subdivision all named after fruit, my heart still swells when I cross the threshold that divides her front porch and the pink carpet in her living room, my eyes still perk up when I smell the fresh pot of Community Coffee brewing in her percolator, and no matter what time of the day it is or when I ate last – I still get hungry when I see the ingredients for corn chowder laid out on her kitchen workspace. But now when I visit, all of the traditions and comforts of her house are shaded with sadness. There’s a fear buried in my heart that is actively soaking in every moment and transferring it into a collection of memories. Each visit becomes a quest to record her – to smell everything, to write down the random snippets of wisdom, to go through old photos and learn as much as I can about her past, to fall asleep on the couch with the safety of knowing she’ll be there when I wake up, to coax my grandfather into telling me those stories of meeting Corrine in the little diner in California. My mind becomes a sort of jump drive, collecting each moment in detail so I can access them later – when the day comes that I have to walk into her house and rummage through all the sticky notes without the comfort of her coffee, her soup, and her there.

Even though Corrine talks about death freely, I’m still not ready to say any sort of goodbye. But in the spirit of Corrine’s planning, here’s a few things I’d like to tell her just in case (consider them my own little yellow sticky notes):

I skinny dip because of you.

I dance because of you.

I love harder because of you.

I am stronger because of you.

I am brave because of you.

I understand loss because of you.

I believe in hope because of you.

Thank you for making me a good human and strong woman.

signiture

On Repeat

My whole day has gone and I’ve got nothing to show for it. I sat in front of a computer at 5am to write and, here I am; watching night fall with only a sentence or two down. I’ve done nothing to justify the adderall, three cups of coffee, leftover Indian, and three melted chocolate Lindt truffles I’ve consumed, but I keep up with the flow of bad habits in hopes that a life of monotonous suffering will somehow produce a prosperous return. What have I done all day?

I want to be a writer, or at least that’s what I’ve told myself for the past ten years. I want to be a writer, or a bird, or a duck, or even a band-winged flying fish. I tell myself I am a writer like there’s an optimistic guru hidden somewhere in my soul, but when the time is finally carved out to write I’ve got no authority. I am beat down and pessimistic. Which perhaps is a valid feeling for a writer, or a fish. I said one day I’d write about this giraffe that’s been walking around my head or about a kid named George being scared of the shore, but I can’t persuade those thoughts to leave the hidden corners of my mind. They’re trapped in a tangle of expectations, weighted with heavy soil-less potting mix like seedlings in a ten dollar garden kit under prefabricated light. I can’t force them out, so I break from the business of doing nothing to buy a bottle of wine in my sweatpants. On my way back to writing I watched dusk fall and street lamps flicker on; a whole day gone again.

signiture

 

The Haughty Humanitarian

Today I walked a blind girl to class. I’m not saying this for you guys to think I’m a good person and I promise not to post a discreet FB update letting you all know I’m perfect and I do perfect things for humanity. The truth is, I only offered to help guide her because the thought of being blind in a crowd of college kids made me sick with anxiety, and I could not bare to see her attempt to be independent and fail. Plus, her hijab and dope shade of red lips somehow made me think we were star-crossed boss bitch lovers. She was cool. She had confidence and she walked with power, but she got stumbled up at the college gate because a school of freshman were hanging in a circle unaware of her walking cane. I offered to make a path for us. She smiled because she was genuine and grateful, but my compassion was tinged with self gratification. I walked her for me. I walked her so I could feel better about who I am and not be forced to standby awkwardly while the Parting of the Student Sea didn’t happen. Nonetheless, she held onto my arm as I trambled through the crowd of privileged freshman and whispered how fierce she was into her ear.

I felt like Gaga guiding a group of her misfit monsters through life with that we will conquer this world together attitude and a side of haughtiness.

gaga flying
Disclaimer: Gaga is perfect in every way.

I steered her toward the direction of her destination with about fifteen or so feet left to walk a (somewhat) straight line to her classroom door.  Just as I looked back with pride at the sea of privileged flesh we rummaged through, my new blind friend missed the doorway and walked directly into a brick wall.

(I never said this story had a happy ending)

I took a long, hard, tear inducing fall from my high horse when I realized my good deed now seemed like a cruel trick. I was Regina George and I hated every second of it. I walked away in shame hoping aforementioned sea of freshman somehow missed my humanitarian denouement. Tears were flowing out of my eye sockets like pellets of fancy Lionhead rabbit shit and I just wanted to poke both of my eyes out so I could A) make the crying stop and B) live in solidarity with all of the fierce AF blind people in this world.

lionhead rabbit

It’s a weird feeling to feel fortunate for my luck to be born a middle class white chick with 20/20 vision while simultaneously being ashamed for having said luck. After my encounter with my friend at school, I became haunted with the fact that I am me, and even more frustrated that I have some hidden superiority that thought she needed me.  My failed Gaga compassion didn’t embrace the independence, courage and bravery my new friend exudes everyday. Instead, my haughty walk established a perfect norm and perpetuated it. I made her an outsider, some form of otherness that needed me to grant them entrance into the cool crowd.  It was as though I walked her while chanting, WATCH AND LEARN – like a distant friend that says “I got you”, but does’t actually have a clue.

Attempting and failing to help walk my friend to class made me realize I don’t actually have any understanding of the life she lives. I’m an outsider to her norm. But that doesn’t make me less normal – just as her being an outsider in my norm doesn’t make her any less normal.

I do believe there is still good being done, whether it’s with that tinge of self gratification or a pure heart for others, but can’t we do better than that? Can we help without creating some schism of normality?

I know I can. I can do good better.

 

signiture

Now, my newest addiction:

 

 

 

 

What’s Your Husband Think About That?

A couple of months ago I wrote a paper during a visit home to Louisiana. It was a midterm about Hillary Clinton and the haltering statistics that kept her from the presidency. I’m an all-star procrastinator in general, but the 15-pages about Hill drug on for an unusual amount of time, mostly because the topic proposal I submitted months prior was geared around Hillary winning. You know, because I LIVE DEEP IN THE BROOKLYN BUBBLE.

I had loads of articles proving America had shown significant signs of progress (ie: increased percentages of career women, number of women in the Senate, the lame ass statistic guru over at FiveThirtyEight, my own personal outlook of Clinton being the political version of Beyonce, etc. etc). Equipped with some dope quotes from Judith Butler and Luce Irigaray, I planned on showing how Hillary’s win was an inevitable step in furthering the trend of gender equality. But Hill didn’t win (cue cries), and instead of writing about America’s progress my paper shifted to a dark depiction on the social restraints that still hold the female race back.

In the midst of my writing delirium, I ventured down from my hideout spot overlooking the bayou to refill my coffee cup and steal a few more sugar cookies. While I sat in the kitchen, a sweet friend of the family asked what I’d been doing all day:

“Writing”, I said.

“Writing what?” he responded.

“A feminism paper.”

“What’s your husband think about that?”

I could talk for hours about the irony in that line, but I’ll let Bey take care of that shit.

Image result for beyonce with bat gif

Before the Women’s March on January 21st, I thought men were holding us back, but after a few scans through social media – I realize us girls are pretty guilty, too. Yesterday I saw loads of comments from females claiming there’s no need to march, because they are already equal. My mind was blown, but again – that’s mostly at fault to the bubble I live in. Still, I have some stuff to say:

(cue drama)

If you feel that way, if you believe you are fulfilled and whole and worthy and equal and substantial and powerful and independent and not talked down to and not belittled and not gawked at and you don’t receive smirks when you’re caught doing a man’s job and you don’t get told that you’re too pretty to work, or that you just need to marry rich – then girl I AM HAPPY FOR YOU. If you actually believe a woman’s place is behind her husband, and you honor that lifestyle – THEN GET IT, GIRL. If you a trifling hoe and just wanna live off your sugar daddy – GIRL, I FEEL YOU. 

But there are people, outside of your bubble, who needed to march. I’m not suggesting you support them, but I am suggesting you stretch your comfort zone a little. Maybe take a real look at your day-to-day interactions and see, even in the subtleties, if you truly feel there’s no barrier.

I know I live in a liberal bubble. My friends are liberals, my friends are feminists, my friends need free healthcare, my friends need planned parenthood, my friends need birth control to be covered under insurance, and my friends need equal pay. My friend’s are marching to make a change, and these changes never come easily.  They don’t come with opened arms, or with sideline cheers. They come with resistance, with angst and with a shift from what is normal, a shift from what is customary and safe.

Maybe you posted about your privileges as a female on Facebook because seeing the “p” word blasted everywhere got you in a bad mood, maybe those graphic posters with pink vaginas made your stomach curl and you just weren’t ready for that at 8am, or maybe you thought those girls were nasty – that they weren’t someone you’d bring home to momma. I’m not sure what ran through your head, but if it was discomfort –  the march worked. If the media coverage and posts from the march shifted you from your norm, if they pushed you to think – if only for a second – about how unbalanced our society is, then they did their job. In the short seconds you cast judgment on the march, the signs, or the protesters, your norm of the idealized 1950’s version of the female race is either vindicated or broken apart. The stark juxtaposition forces you to stay in your bubble, or stretch just a little bit outside of it. Protests are like a tug-a-war with traditional thought; they may not win the battle, but they’ll make you dance around your safety zone.

Whether we all want to admit it or not, we live in our own bubbles. We allow ourselves to take in news we want to read, friends we want to agree with, and even religions we want to abide. Uncomfortable situations are meant to divide a further line between the ideal and the modern. They show up on all news streams because they are provocative and easy coverage. Aside from the commentary surrounding protests, the actual events are the only chance to see an unfiltered take on politics. Marching is a raw act meant to raise question, cause you to think, search for meaning, and help you reach a new outlook on a movement – even if that newfound understanding is a mere centimeter’s distance from where you stood prior.

I will admit we’ve come a long way since the 19th amendment in 1920, but that doesn’t mean we are finished. Women didn’t march for voting rights on January 21st. They marched for the subtleties, the what does your husband think about that. They marched to break the ideal. They marched for a new formation. Maybe you don’t completely agree, but I hope you moved a centimeter or two.

signiture

Now, a small dedication to my dope ass hubs. Thanks for being you and letting me be me.

 

Wildly Grounded

I recently heard someone say, “they belonged” in New York. She didn’t mean she deserved to be here, rather she couldn’t survive anywhere else. After roaming across the country at a young age, she landed in East Village and fell trap to its charm. She’s been here 15+ years and now calls NYC home. When I met her, she was celebrating the anniversary of her move to the city. While she basked in the empowerment of her growth and independence, my heart hurt. I felt an urge to exonerate my roots – a strange deviation from my usual mindset.

Processed with VSCO with c1 preset
#BKNY

Sometimes roots feel like a trap. They meander around each other like a snake – coiling in a stationary wheel and wrapping with it a wistful nostalgia that you belong. Some people stay – some escape; nature has no preference. Life still grows from the dirt, leaves wither and bloom, branches break and rebuild. Sure, to anyone in the whimsical leaves, the roots are stifling, but that’s because you know their power. You have explored the crisp air, experienced the roughest part of seasons, and learned to mold and reform in the feeble stability of your freestanding stem. You are adventurous in your careless evergreen, but the roots are charming and infectious. They are you; you are one in the same.

There is comfort in the absolutism of my roots. I understand now that they are part of who I am, and my desire to roam is a desire to expand – not escape. Because there is no escaping. The past is where it belongs. It is planted as a means to stabilize your future. Growing into something wilder doesn’t mean you are any less you, you are just a little bit more.

 

signiture

 

 

How Selfies Ruin Everything

 

I woke up the day after the election to a text from a friend that said, “I didn’t think this was possible.”  I opened CNN, along with all of my social media accounts, to make sure this was really happening. I thought for sure someone was going to let us all know something disastrous happened at the polls. Maybe they miscounted 49% of the votes? 

As the reality of a Trump presidency started to breathe itself into existence, I set out to blame everyone. I blamed the third party voters for wasting their ballot. I blamed the black community for not showing up like they did for Obama. I blamed the DNC who ruined us when they pushed for Clinton instead of Bernie. I blamed the Christians who voted against abortions, but for misogyny and rape. I blamed the working class in America who wanted change – no matter who gave it to them. I blamed the liberal media for deceiving us into thinking Trump didn’t stand a chance. I blamed SNL for sensationalizing Trump’s persona by mocking him, subsequently drawing more press and attention to his campaign. I blamed Fox News for turning him into someone relatable; someone a guy could chat with in a locker room.

I turned into everything I hated about Trump, blaming everyone but myself. Because after all – I was the progressive thinker who voted Hillary. 

In my state of naivety, I scrolled through Instagram for a break from the news, but my heartache deepened. In my feed I saw Khloe Kardashian bragging that her Lip Kit sold out in 6 seconds, I scrolled through selfies of intelligent women with Snapchat puppy-dog noses and flower crowns, spotted Kyle Richards advertising a hair vitamin with over 10k likes, and watched Kate Upton share her secrets to “the perfect brow”. Is this what ruined us? Do we not believe in ourselves? Are we too caught up in the hype of media, the hype of selfies, of being pretty? Are we too afraid to think independently? Are we afraid of taking charge? Are we afraid of being powerful, instead of sexy? How else could 53% of female voters elect this man? Do they not know their own value? 

I wanted to throw my phone across the room, or anywhere that could magically make the female race look more like it does in my head. 

I am not insinuating that the state of our country rests solely in the hands of our Instagram feed, but if you’ve been wondering what is keeping us from being seen as the next president of the United States – It’s your selfie, it’s my selfie, and it’s our need to promote our beauty more than the authoritative person that lives behind what the world wants us to be. Why is this how we choose to represent who we are? Why is this the norm for women? If we want to be perceived as powerful, we need to start representing that in our feeds instead of doe-eyed selfies with porcelain skin. If we want the media to stop placing us on an impossible standard – we need to stop trying to meet that standard. There are lots of reasons we lost and there are copious people we can fault, but it is hard to deny the fact that we lost because Hillary Clinton was compared against an ideal version of what society thinks a woman should be. She lost and we will continue to lose until that depiction of women is shifted.

When the results started rolling in Tuesday I felt threatened. I felt lied to, betrayed and even undermined by a nation that could actually vote and side with a man so bitter towards progress and equality. On Wednesday, when I  had to continue on with my life, everything seemed pointless. Why go to school when no one will ever see me as a leader? Why educate myself when I’ll only ever be seen as a number between 1 & 10? This isn’t the life I voted for. 

This election, if nothing else, has given me a strange urgency to tell you your voice is powerful. You are powerful on your own accord. You don’t need me, or any sensationalized media to derive self worth. I hope you know that.

lenny
Image from Lenny Letter

Trump winning is not the female race’s fault, but maybe we can take this election as a growing pain that pushes us to a higher, more authoritative mindset. I’m not saying we can’t feel beautiful, dress well, or wear makeup. We are beautiful women, and I love the desire to express that, but we need to focus on flouting the image 49% of the United States have towards women. This win says a lot about our nation, about our gender equality, and about the female race not being taken seriously. It’s time we change our mindset. It’s time we change the mindset of everyone who can’t see past the girl. We are powerful. Let’s make everyone else think that too.

signiture