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The Joy of Pinking

by AlexisB about a year ago in Short Story
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Cutting the Ties that Bind


Mother left me her pinking shears. I say left, it could be argued that I tore them from her dying hands. I say dying, but we all know that's just a very loose term for someone who's given up. Like she always told me, the last words on her lips in fact, "don't be so sensitive, it does you no good to take things so literally."

I had a pattern in mind you see. A very distinct pattern. A pattern that would outdo, outmanoeuvre and outlive the most kinked mind that ever poisoned my will. 

Fluffy clouds and pink hearted unicorns I thought, that'll finish her off. How would she be able to keep fighting off mythical creatures, relentlessly flying above her, mobbing her en masse, the embodiment and most innocent expression of all that was missing from a childhood that never was?


More importantly, after the fact, who would ever say, "it was the bunting what done it, Guv!"

It all started with the urge finally to plant a flag, somewhere in our life, hers and mine. After half a century spent being slashed to pieces and hung out to dry for as long as it took for her particular game 'du jour' to bear fruit, one day last year, locked down without escape even to the shops, in the midst of a worldwide loss of ultimate control, I felt a sudden exhilarating connection with the rest of humanity's powerless. If we can get through this I thought, changes will need to be made, irresistible changes, for all of us. I took heart and decided to fight back, quietly.

The sewing machine had come up as a possible item of value we could sell to fund the thing that needed to be fed to keep all the rest of them out there at bay. It was in the room she'd always called the junk room as if every house had one, like a dining room or indoor toilet. 

We grew up with junk and then it outgrew us. It spread into spaces abandoned or unwatched until one night, there was only just enough room left for us to sit, on the part of the sofa that wasn't housing all the things that had to be kept in a safe place.

Something had to give. 

I was tasked with locating the machine. Of course I was, I don't think Mum had moved in months. I dug deep and, true to the tales of yore, I found the old girl, nested since the eighties in her own case, amongst tall towers of many, many just-in-cases. 

It was quite a battle to tear them down, but I slashed away and then heaved and hoed everything apart until I got her out onto the landing. Camera and cleaning materials at the ready, I opened her up expecting plenty of dust and at least one scrunched up spider body. But… she looked pristine. Like new, never used. Like a baby snuggled up there under piles of silky satin, and bright pink netting folded up with silver strings of sequins that had once held my ballet school dreams, just out there, shining ahead of me, somewhere.

She had to go, but I knew right then, that I could never let her go. She was mine now, my only friend and living witness to how things were supposed to be. 

"You know," she seemed to say, "you can fold away a lot of things, to preserve them at their best, but aren't they best worn loud and proud and out, in time with their contemporaries?"


I began bunting. Bunting is a wonderfully fun thing. From the word 'bunt', German for colourful, it connotes the opposite of our home life, hers and mine; festivity, jollification, parties! Bunting is a creation born of celebration, an invitation to dance. It marks out a happy zone, watches us play, sweeps up positive vibes and flutters them back down to us, refreshed. A virtuous filtering system, bunting is there to capture and prolong the making of good memories. I've never seen it used for scoring points, delivering blows or threatening all invaders. 

You and it know it is impermanent, so it encourages the relishing of the moment. As such, it looks pretty harmless. You might not notice its steady, stealthy encroachment. You may even feel tempted to keep it hanging around long after its appropriateness. To comment on it would be unnatural. Because it's not in your face, like her, jab, jab, right hook, tell you how it is. 

From where you're standing, if you did notice it, fading away up there, you would hardly be able to make out the message or original design. But you would know, quietly, that it came from an intention to be happy at some celebration of life way back when and you might breathe a little easier and walk a little lighter, if just for a while.

Especially when you keep adding to them. They benefit from numbers you see. I've found that you can confuse the part of you programmed to keep watch night and day for threat, the instinct of self-preservation that cannot allow you to ever lower your shield and join in with the rest of the world who just seem to be gullibly 'enjoying'.

How could that instinct, I hoped, keep up with all the subtle variations if the bunting were to breed? You see, the more they self duplicate, the prettier the effect. Bunting is gentle, it catches the breeze and makes sense of the word on the street. Even if the word on the street is that you are less than you might have been, it whispers it with bonhomie, not spite. It strokes the air you heave with a "courage mon amie!"

After all, it once lay down like you and endured the repeated stamps of a foot heeled only for your education, stabs to make you stronger, wiser, better prepared for what's out there, and constant needling to keep you reminded. But now it flies, kind of. 

Bunting is entry-level, stealth if you would, flag flying. I wasn't quite ready for a full-blown flag in your face type confrontation. It never worked with mother. But a covert smother, that's another thing…

Bunting is a call to arms but one that barely whispers. Like the tinkliest chandelier in my mother's living room, you register its presence, you know it's there, it's always been there and although it may be a work of art, you don't think to comment on it. It's just there, always there, hanging between us, breaking down the collected white light into lasers randomly spewn around the room, beaming into any shadow thrown up by my defences. And it all feels, at the time, natural, just physics. It's how things are. Broken and strewn.

But, unlike my mother's razor-sharp crystal wit, my shield of bunting is soft. It absorbs her shredding beams and smiles back. It is made of material and designs of my choosing. And my material, the machine and I made a pinkie promise, will be felt. 

It was an uphill struggle at first. You enter every battlefield from the perspectives sewn into you, and from those angles, all of the above hoped-for lightenings of the burden of existence can appear a futile effort; the subtlest change is met with a slam back to the old feeling of it just being so much easier to lie down and relet her tread all over me, exact another ritual bloodletting to be strung up, a washing line of deathly shame that proves her point with every small innocuous little triangle of mine gained, tipped upside down and left to hang. Quietly. They may have been pyramids full of ancient savvy but now we'll never know. Left to hang there, hollowed out, empty. All that's left is the faded pattern their potential made as it dripped away slowly over time. 

No, we decided, that wouldn't do anymore. We would muster our newfound resources, take the musty pink scraps of my dancing days and hang firm. Our flags would never alter their position on a whim, change shade to suit a misremembering. A bobbing buoy, it might appear to be, to survive her altering tides, but our bunting would run deep and fixed, as it floatingly flicked away the warp and weft of her machinations.

So I hung it at first to reclaim the colours lost in battles past. To catch the confetti she made of me in the name of keeping me safe. 

My father, God rest his soul, was an aviation freak and used to tell me about a chap called Pegoud in 1910 who took his Bleriot monoplane, pushed his stick forward until the aircraft was going completely round, further and further until it was totally upside down, and then proceeded to climb all the way back up again completing the outside loop in what came to be also known as a 'bunt'. Amazing, when you consider he only had a leather strap around his waist to keep him safe. You don't get anywhere worrying about staying safe.

Our bunting began as a gentle insertion behind enemy lines. I started to hang it between all the tripwires she'd laid, that, dodged or not, eventually floated up to hang with all the other things up there, out of harm's way, but available to drop at any time, like a grenade in arm's reach. They had to be disarmed with flanking manoeuvres for the encircling of the enemy, the loopy encapsulation of what was once precious and the hoped-for eventual folding of the hand that rocked the cradle.


What hangs between us now has a soft landing.

Dangling has taken on new meaning. Fuzzy soft is the new strong. My material will be felt and hung up for all to see in memoriam. No longer used to wrap my feet from the same arctic draft that swept in each evening as we settled, it gathered the blows between us up into a gentler ebb and flow.

And so it hung for a while flappily absorbing our ups and downs, the comfy slipper type way we learn to wear our shame and grow into it.

But then, as with all movements that just keep going, however quietly or slowly, a joyous thing happened. The joy of bunting spread. It fluttered downwards to become a row of steel teeth, slicing through the tension in my material, freeing it to be that little bit more than it previously promised to be.

It became the Joy of Pinking as I discovered the happiness that flows from taking patterns repeated like lies oft-told lies and altering them, disrupting their flow, cutting them dead.

Pinking means you can start to cut things out.

Cut straight through to the bone without fear of loss. Cut straight through all the confusing cross threads and still preserve your material from the pull and thrust of wear and the tension of the fraught. 

You do have to be so careful with seams. Fold too much away and seams start to bulge and fall apart. Try to keep too much material on show and you make weak measly hems that will ultimately fail to keep it all together. But zigzagged pinking, it can take you to the edge and back again.

Better to let go of seams altogether. It's putting up with seemliness mum that does you no good.


The great thing about pinking is that if you're in a hurry to make your point it's as simple as snip snip. You can cut straight through to the heart of a matter. And there, you're done. No need to labour the point just get on to the next one and snip away. Snip away as fast as you can. Cut the apron strings and your trajectory is altered forever. No more being caught on a loop Dad, just horizons to head for!

There's a lot to snip away at. You can get quite furious with a pair of pinking shears. The more you cut the more you see that needs cutting. There can be years and years of stinking thinking needing pinking.

The more you cut out and away, the freer your sight for new grounds to land on and new delicacies to savour. Harsh filters make a refined palate for which I will always be grateful, Mum, thank you. It wasn't all bad and the material you left, well it's mine now and it will continue to be felt long after I've rejoined you. 

My material is now posted to the world, tales put up and out there in an order that cannot be undone, yet appear free-floating. Their mission to untwist the twisted, break the bonds of those who fear the cut, and let them embrace flight. Their purpose, to dangle and decorate by design, celebrate or whine, it's all bunce to me.

My bunting may sometimes appear dagger-like but I think the unicorns make up for it.

What's next as the world opens up?

The Joy of Not Knowing What's Next.

For now, I just want to stop fraying at the edges.

Short Story

About the author


Mother, lover, educator, escapee. Obsessed with finding ease in relationships, health, wellbeing and the juggling of life. @alexisbehrend.

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