“Get yourself out of whatever cage you find yourself in” -John Cage (Nelson 54).
Muffled screams vibrate under the weight of my fatty boobs, who assert their authority. Weight is relative. Sweat, like raindrops rolling down the windshield of Their sportscar, caress their way around, aided by the gentle fingertips of gravity, into the crease, skin-on-skin, between my breasts and stomach. It’s like being stuck under a pile of snow. Frozen, immovable, suffocating, the sweat under my boobs. Fuck, on days like this I feel like I can’t breathe. Or is it just the Florida humidity?
Maggie Nelson helped me question the Personal and Professional. But my boobs don’t feel like Mine anyways.
My feet pad over to the kitchen cabinet, eyes scroll across the jungle of shit growing weekly on a single shelf, packaging selling itself to me a million times over. Be beautiful! Look younger! Guaranteed pain-free! Fingers penetrate the foliage, wrapping themselves around an ACE bandage. Then down the hall to my lonely room. My heart rolls into my throat, with the help of a mirror my gaze rests on a body. The house is empty.
I feel a little punk, like young Marji, wearing my theoretical Michael Jackson (Malcolm X) pin and skin-tight jeans (Satrapi). A rebel, a revolutionary, going against the Grain. “I don’t want to represent anything” (Nelson 97).
Arms moving, I don’t see much. Skin presses into skin, trying to swallow itself. Impossible, yet the fat still tries. Trying has its limits. Small hairs, dead skin, fat cells waving to one another now smushed into an all-too-tight space and I’m not able to move but I can finally breathe better and the water in small pools underneath trapping skin is released and flies into the bandage and I finally feel a little bit more free. Captive, now, but more free.
Just as words depend on who says them (Nelson 8), so do clothes on who wears them, and how could clothes ever be good enough?
Two days ago They left a can of shaving cream and two navy blue razors in my bathroom. As They sprayed sunscreen on my back three days ago They told me to shave my legs and armpits, laughing at the hair that had grown out of them. Four days ago they were used by Them, as a chess player strategically uses a pawn, (trying) to guilt me into shaving. I shoved the cream and razors under the sink. Locked away, I took away their voice, but I could still hear Their voice. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t hurt.
They cried when I buzzed my hair five months ago. I had been dying to lose my hair, my heavy heavy hair. It was one of the happiest days for me and one of the saddest for Them. How can a single event simultaneously empower one person and shatter another who are so close? (“Where does it fit into the taxonomy of life crises when one person’s liberation is another’s loss?” -Molly Haskell (Nelson 50)). I broke Their heart by cutting my hair. “Why do I continue to undo her, when what I want to express above all else is that I love her very much?” (Nelson 140). Hair hair hair! And Them wanted me to shave my hair off (mind you it was from different places on my body). My fucking body.
“It’s not really my shame or befuddlement — it’s more like I’m ashamed for (or simply pissed at) the person who keeps making all the wrong presumptions and has to be corrected, but who can’t be corrected because the words are not good enough. How can the words not be good enough?” (Nelson 7).
And as I’m writing this Their voice cuts across the room that hairdressers must be losing business in this time of COVID-19 and that I should grow my hair out again. “Grow it out like in high school,” and the words bounce into one ear, through my head that by now is used to filtering out the painful bullshit, and out the other side.
“I think I overestimate the maturity of adults” (Nelson 22).
Kai Cheng Thom wrote her dangerous story, and I feel like I am living mine. Throughout Fierce Femmes and Notorious Liars, Thom mentions hair: her hair, Lucretia’s hair, Rapunzelle’s hair, pulled hair, blood-soaked hair, mermaids’ hair, bumblebee’s back hair, raised neck hair as Ghost Friend dusted their fingers across her skin. And here I am, too, aware of my hair. How other people see my hair. I wonder what’s the big deal? And then I look in the mirror and I’m reminded. But I just want to be comfortable in my body. My fucking body.
“Sometimes, to become somebody else, you have to become nobody first” (Thom 21).
The PBS Hawaii documentary “A Place in the Middle” gave me some footing. I loved Kumu Hina, and I loved Ho’onani more. This middle place that I didn’t know how to navigate for so long was made apparent to me. I had an example to show me that this was a possibility, that I wasn’t alone. I kept thinking about how I haven’t found “my people” yet. The documentary made me feel lonely because I want to find my Kumu Hina. I want to dance again. I want to be a warrior and let out my kane for all the world to witness. I want to be a little more free. A little more accepted. I am longing for someone to take my hand and yank me out of the place I’ve been in. My Kumu Hina, where are you? Or my Lipstick Lacerators? I’m ready to fuck up some shit.
Cornfed was painful. Of the parts that I read, so much of it was what I had learned growing up near Milwaukee in the suburb of Order on Obey Street. I was forced into so many of those same situations, a mold that I have been running away from. Reading that book, in LaForce’s (poor) humor, hurt. I felt like I was being chased by my past and it wanted to lock me in again. But that past mold wasn’t any kind of sanctuary like it is for some people, my door only locked from the outside (Thom 42). They, that community, had the key. Shave your legs. Grow your hair out.
Maggie Nelson left me wanting more. Reading The Argonauts was like standing at the end of the high dive, looking into the water. Fear and thrill and desire and hope all dripping off the words, my gaze looking down and blinking, all too quickly, before I fell. Her words were inspiring and the theory is what kept me going, wondering, imagining. I tumbled. Nelson enchanted me with her stories and compelled me with the tapestry that she wove. I flipped. I have been weaving my own tapestry in my head. My fingernails broke the water’s surface. It was a gift to witness the beauty of someone else’s tapestry on paper. Perfect ten.
There was something about “The Illusionists” beauty documentary that brought me back to the body I had eight months ago. Female and 40 pounds lighter than I am now, all too thin and yearning, ribcage showing and starving myself. Long hair tucked into a baseball hat and running running running and lifting weights and running from myself. Running straight into the bedroom of someone I thought I knew. Maggie Nelson and Harry made me jealous of a love so honest and real. She made me think of the “I love you” to Harry, ass-fucking in his bachelor pad. Instead my head was pushed, repeatedly forced to go down on Them. I was Beautiful and Lonely, so Their fingers went in my vagina that’s not even Mine (a lot of the time). Being used implies that at some point It’s Over, the point I was discarded, left wondering how I could feel so much and yet nothing at all. The documentary didn’t mention that part, my part. The pain that comes with Beauty, the pain that is commodified and sold in prepackaged containers, on TV and phone screens, in the ways we talk to and see one another. The pain that kept me running to lose imaginary fat, to look Beautiful; the pain that keeps people running back to the store, credit cards at the ready. The pain that happens after closed bedroom doors, that should be listed as a side-effect. The pain I felt from disconnection, isolation, from feeling — being — Needed as Beautiful. I’ve been performing a part that is not mine for so long. My body is so tense.
I have my own swarm of killer bees (Thom). Desire and anger that swells up in my chest, resting in the tension of my upper chest, back and reaching it’s delicate, gripping fingers up my neck. I crack my shoulders down each morning as I get out of bed. So much tension. I try to breathe through it and sometimes it comes out in salty waves from my eyes, hopeless helpless sobbing, through 4000 calories of sugar falling down my open throat in half an hour or just one more cigarette. Trying to find my safe space. Running to find my safe space.
“I’ve never loved you more than I did then, with your Kool-Aid drains, your bravery in going under the knife to live a better life, a life of wind on skin, your nodding off while propped up on a throne of hotel pillows, so as not to disturb your stitches” (Nelson 81).
Many of these books and ideas have been a pillow to rest my relentless mind. A slow spot to pause, get to know, maybe even (godforbid) be comfortable in my skin. If only for a moment.
“What if where I’m at is what I need?” -Deborah Hay (Nelson 16).
Maggie Nelson's The Argonauts
Marijane Satrapi's Persepolis
Kai Cheng Thom's Fierce Femmes & Notorious Liars
PBS Hawaii "A Place in the Middle"
Melanie LaForce's Cornfed
"The Illusionists" Beauty Documentary