Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Real Women Don't Listen to These Guys

Okay, I had to laugh when I first saw this anti-sex trafficking campaign from the Demi and Ashton Foundation. Some Hollywood heavyweights bandied together for a purpose. A good publicist makes sure his or her client has a sturdy cause to plaster a face to.

But this one? With these guys? Well hello, hypocrisy! Come sit a spell.

I'd bet, let's see, MY LIFE, that all three of these men have used the services of sex workers in the past (month, maybe). Have they all been of age? I'm sure they weren't fretting over it at the time, what with the champagne, cocaine and stuff.

"You want entertainment, get yourself a couple of hookers and an eight ball." - Sean Penn

But then there's this critical aspect that's more cringe-worthy: confusing sex trafficking with sex work. This campaign mindlessly muddies the two, but that's nothing unusual. Many anti-prostitution campaigns will do just that.

A few years ago, Craigslist was "forced" by 17 attorney generals to remove their adult services section of their website due to fears that it harbored sex trafficking activity.

 "They're buying and selling children out there. Better arrest the hookers on Craigslist or they'll buy and sell more children!" roared the battle cry.

Of course, they arrested women. Working women. Lots of them. Whether you agree with the moral choice of a sex worker is not the issue. They arrested the "lowest hanging fruit" according to sex work activist and author Amanda Brooks and not sex traffickers:

If you want to fight sex trafficking, go find sex traffickers and put them away. Be my guest. I don't know a single sex worker who will stop you from doing that. Arresting consenting adult sex workers isn't going to stop a sex trafficker. It has nothing to do with actually saving those who need help.

There are plenty of consenting sex workers who have been radically affected by these dubious crusades. And the religious right love this kind of double speak:

Sex work = sex-trafficking
Anti-trafficking = anti-prostitution
Pro-life = anti-life

Is sex trafficking a problem? Yes. Human trafficking is a tremendous problem. (I guess Ashton is not as concerned about the children used for labor, which constitutes a substantial 20% of all trafficked individuals worldwide.)

Kutcher claims that "once someone goes on record saying they are or aren't going to do something, they tend to be a bit more accountable." If he's means worldwide trafficking rings, this will not be brought up at their next board meeting, I promise. If he's speaking directly to pedophiles, guess what? They're not listening to advice about their severe sexual predilections from a glossy playboy celebrity. 

And while I love me a little Justin Timberlake, do we truly think that this campaign would have an iota of effect on human trafficking, where massive rings extend worldwide? A cute t-shirt is not reaching them. As a matter of fact, that cute t-shirt insults and undercuts the extent and extremity of the problem. (And let's hope that underage forced labor isn't making said cute t-shirt.)

What this "campaign lite" does instead? Shames prostitutes. Shames Johns. Shames the oldest profession that ain't going nowhere, whether you like it or not. And conveniently, does not shame (nay exalts) the guys who have used their services. (Please trust me, they have.)

Interestingly, I've seen several feminists and feminist groups proudly post this ad on Facebook, which seems so obviously contradictory in its messaging. Filmmaker Iari Lee and A Girl's Guide to Taking Over the World (whom I truly respect) parrots this rhetoric without seeing the possible hypocrisy or outright damage. Jumping on a bandwagon for sake of jumping.

I've often heard male friends say, "I'd never pay for sex. I don't need to." Well, kudos to you. But some choose to. And in countries all over the world, it's a fine and legal working arrangement. So I can't help but note the underlying message:
"Real men (like us) don't have to pay for sex. We get it for free. Because we're Sean Penn, Ashton Kutcher and Justin Timberlake." 
But that doesn't fit on a coffee mug as easily.

I have a new slogan: 

"Real women don't take shaming, hypocritical instructions from Hollywood playboys."

Monday, June 18, 2012

Life, Not like the Movies...Again

In the movies, I’m at my dying aunt’s bedside, a band of loving cousins surrounding me. I’m singing a song she used to sing with my mother and other aunts and uncles a long, long time ago. When they’d sit around the kitchen table, harmonizing, laughing and simply embracing life. And I, a little girl, would sit on rotating laps, listening or trying to sing along.

[Me at 5, singing with my family.]

In the movies, when I sing this old song to my dying aunt, there wouldn’t be a dry eye in the house. When I finished, she’d lovingly touch my hand and whisper, “I’m so proud of you, Bethy."

In the movies, after she died, it would propel me to work harder, to take what I learned from my upbringing and blaze my own trail, kinda like Coal’s Miner Daughter. Wild success would follow and when I accepted my first Grammy, I’d thank my aunt. And I’d get choked up, which would only endear me to the public that much more.

But life is not like the movies…again.

I know, I know.
It rarely is. That reality check has been delivered to my table time and time again, thank you very much. But sometimes, I’d like to catch a fleeting glimpse of that dreamy Technicolor world before reality smashes through my screen yet again.

In reality, I’m at my dying aunt’s bedside, a band of loving cousins surrounding me. I’m singing a song she used to sing with my mother and other aunts and uncles a long, long time ago.

In reality, earlier that morning, I worked on one of those old tunes so I could make her happy during her dying hours. Hoping desperately I wouldn’t cry when I sang it, I gave it my best shot, while sitting on her bed. She sang with me a little and filled in the words when my mind went blank from grief and sadness.

In reality, when I was done, the room was silent, with one cousin sniffling in the background. (So far, so good. Kind of movie-like, right?)

Then my aunt, with her eyes closed and a weak smile on her face said:

“You never really did much with that voice of yours, did you?”

In reality, I laughed. I laughed at the inappropriateness of her response. The timing. The incidental cruelty of it.

“You know what your problem is, Bethy?”

“What, aunt?”

“You start things and then you just go phhhtttt.”

“Aunt, you don’t really know about anything I do. I’ve been performing and creating for a long time now. And I….”

And I went on to explain the myriad of ways I’ve “succeeded” that would fit her limited mental picture of success. The weird little TV show I produced with a band of amazingly creative friends, the years of fun and freaky experimental theater, my online writing success, my band, my extensive choir work. But somehow I knew she didn’t quite conceive it because she hadn’t seen me on American Idol or Dancing with the Stars. 

On a bad day, I wonder if I buy my own story. So hard it is, to be an artist. Nobody really understands your stupid little path, including yourself at times. And unless you’re part of the 1% that succeeds, you’re forced to cling to some fading bohemian dream, insistent that it must mean something, right? Right? That it matters to express yourself. On a bad day, it seems like an act of great futility and grand self-delusion.

On a good day? On a good day, you believe in yourself more than anyone could because you’re forced to; there's little to no external validation to bolster this search. You begin to express yourself not for recognition or notoriety (because you’ve given up on that ego trip a long time ago) but because, like a real artist, you feel you must.

You are your own rock god and super hero. You become star-struck, even if it's just for one fleeting moment, with yourself.

Even you can’t imagine you could reach such depths. It's well-earned self-respect that no one will ever be able to take with a careless comment. Ever.
In reality, my aunt died. And she’s not a bad person. She actually cared deeply about my "success" and my creative abilities. She did believe in me somewhere amidst her limited perception.

At least I’d like to believe that. That's how the movie ends in my mind.

The song I sang to my aunt:

Related Post:

Karaoke as Cheap Therapy

Sunday, June 03, 2012

The Story I Started in Bed

So you and I were groggy, lying in bed, waking, touching one another. My thoughts were sleepily wandering from one topic to the next. I started telling you a story from my past that I never finished.

It was about a necklace and my old boyfriend Robert.

Robert, a tricky and wild sort. Compulsive liar. Addictive personality. Suffered from PTSD from his time in war zones. Former Navy Seal. So he says. (Turns out that was a lie.) Good-natured but with a definite dark side.

He's the type who should be immediately removed from the life of anyone with a modicum of common sense but like that gum stuck to your shoe, he stuck on and we've strangely morphed into friends. Or family. Or something in-between.

Even amidst all of our "issues" (and my god, do we have them), I guess we care about each other on a very basic level that can't be that easily undone. Trust me, I've tried.

Anyway, I got that far into the story. And maybe you started touching me in just the right places. Or maybe the wine and the stars from the previous night still held me captive. But the story was lost, somewhere, lost in soft kisses and warm, inviting arms.

So now that you're not here to distract me so pleasantly, I'll finish my story:

I asked Robert to give me a gift several months ago. In the years that we were together, I don't recall him ever buying me so much as flowers. Not that I live for that stuff, but it's still welcome, of course. And while we're not together anymore, a romantic gesture from any guy in my life would be appreciated.
I told him I wanted a silver necklace with a pendant. Nothing fancy. Something I could wear and feel protected by. Connected to. Something I could touch to feel loved.

Last month, Robert sent me a text telling me he got me a gift. When I asked him what it was, he replied a bracelet. Hmmm...I don't really wear bracelets, but hell, I guess I should be appreciative anyway, right? 

When we finally saw each other in person, he handed me my "gift" wrapped in brown tissue paper. I opened it and there it was: a pair of men's aviator sunglasses...what?!
I mean, it was a good pair (and strangely reminiscent of the kind he normally sports)...but still.
"Um...wow. What happened to the bracelet? Or for that matter, the necklace?"
"I just thought you needed something more practical. You'll get more use out of these anyway. You probably don't have any real sunglasses."

Living at the Jersey shore, I wear real glasses all the time. I have to, being an outdoors sort. But I didn't bother telling him that. I said thank you and tried to be happy with the gesture, not the gift itself.

So happy that the next day, the following item was placed on Ebay. 
As the days went by, my mood darkened when I thought about it. I remembered Robert picking up a broken, cheap bracelet on the sidewalk prior to giving me the glasses and saying, "Here's your bracelet." He had been joking but I didn't laugh.

Over the phone, I told my dear friend Amanda in California about my necklace that turned into a bracelet that turned into a pair of men's aviator sunglasses on eBay. We laughed and sighed.

"Amanda, why would it be so hard for him to give me something, even now? I just wanted a simple gift. It's not like I get a ton of things from the men in my life. This turned into a...mockery."

"Aw, honey. I'm so sorry that happened."
Tears rose in my eyes, thinking of how I easily and readily I give myself to others. Why I can't be the recipient more often? Am I just a romantic workhorse that others perpetually ride?
Of course, I could be oversimplifying. Robert frequently takes me out to lavish dinners (even now, as friends) and more than that, he adores me, even amidst his profound limitations.
But like other men (and I suppose women as well), he has great difficulty in professing his feelings. And a gift, (perhaps jewelry in particular), is that kind of pronouncement.

So what comes in the mail a week later? A necklace. With a key on it. "A key to my heart" a hand-written note reads.

Surrounding the box were romantic little notes detailing my wonder, beauty and ravaging sexiness. And how worthy I am of the most magnificent gifts in the world. Hearts and kisses drawn all over it. It was a gift of love, wrapped in love.
And it was sent by?
(Scroll please.)

My friend Amanda.

That's the story I was going to tell you. It was a story about friendship and kind gestures. And women taking care of each other, even romantically sometimes. That was the story I was going to tell you before we made love in the dancing daylight.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

The Positivity Police and the Good Weather Gangbusters

The Good Weather Gangbusters

The Good Weather Gangbusters: I can't stand this rain. It's supposed to be 85 degrees tomorrow and sunny. Can't wait.

Me: Hmm...it's March. I find those temperatures disconcerting this early.

The Good Weather Gangbusters:  Really?? I LOVE it.

Me: Do you wanna marry it?

The Good Weather Gangbusters: What?

Me: Nothing.

And I walk away, wondering why the world is so damn fanatical about "nice" weather. It's almost cult-like, how people treat a sunny day. Yes, Virginia, there are clouds, rain, snow...sometimes even sleet. Hell, hail! It's neither good or bad; it just is.

Radio Announcer: It's another beauuuuutiful day today out there, folks. Looks like we'll hit 80 degrees, if we're lucky! So you better get outside and enjoy the sunny day because it's sunny and sunny is good and I'm positive because I love the sunny weather. Back to you, Joan. Sunshine!

Dark, rainy days always offered me the luxury of doing nothing guilt-free. Its suddenly alright to roll into fetal and mindlessly zone. Besides, clouds are amazing natural works of art. Strong winds possess a haunting sound that stir the soul. A storm rolling in makes me believe in dark powers. (Yes, dark powers - the scary ones that are mean and wild.)

The Positivity Police

The Positivity Police: How are you today, Beth?

Me: Pretty irritable today. And rife with existential angst. You?

The Positivity Police: Oh...well, I'm not that. I'm good. I'm better than good. I'm great. I'm delirious from feeling the best I've ever felt.

Me: Well, happy days for you, Mary Poppins!

The Positivity Police: Excuse me?

Me: Nothing.

And why is negativity so frowned upon? I mean, you'd have to be deaf, dumb and blind not to feel negative in this day and age.

A quick recap of our dire condition:

Our environment is pretty much ruined. The corporate interests have taken over and barring a revolution, they'll screw us toward an untimely death. And we're too gluttonous and lazy to do anything about it, except watch it happen from our beige couches.

And come on...what about relationships? Can people get anymore lame? After decades worth of TV and Internet hypnosis, we're emotional vegetables. Go ahead, just try to get your needs met by the zombies banging around out there. Flatliners, the whole lot of us.

But it's more than just the slow, torturous downward spiral of our civilization and the slow deterioration of our ability to relate; it's this positivity contest we seem to be caught up in. As if we're all trying to prove to each other how we'd never be caught dead with any of those nasty, ugly emotions.

The Positivity Police: But don't you understand, Beth? When you feel negatively, you bring more negativity into your life. What you put out into the world comes back to you.

Me: Ah, I see you've read that piece of New Age bullshit called The Secret.

The Positivity Police: Yes and it's sooo true. When I radiate positivity, only positive things happen.

Me: Sounds terribly simplistic. Do you believe in flying purple unicorns too?

The Positivity Police: What?

Me: Nothing.

Ah yes, The Secret. When you're negative, you're a walking misfortune magnet. Cancer? Your fault. Car hit you? You and your bad thoughts! Dog peed on your leg? You asked for it.

Interestingly, that kind of dogma doesn't sound that different than many types of religious rhetoric, where you desperately try to eschew dirty thoughts from your mind in an attempt to be pure. Can't do it? Burn, baby, baby. It's emotional propaganda and just plain annoying.

Quick Quiz:

Do we really want to think nothing but positive thoughts?

Do we have little capacity for the dark side of life, and if so, why?

Are we be trying too hard to be positive as a defense for the tremendous amount of fear and pain we carry?

Can we ever feel okay about feeling shitty?

Could our constant need to appear upbeat be making us chronically depressed?

Can we sit with the negative feelings of ours and others without the perpetual need to fix it?
Negative emotions, just like "bad" weather, serve a purpose. Anger can propel you out of a bad situation and into something new and healthier. Jealously can remind you of the deep vulnerability you feel when you love somebody. ("I don't get jealous!" Oh yes, you do. Or you've denied yourself the opportunity to, for fear of weakness. Or you don't really care what your partner does, which is a whole other problem.) Sadness and grief...what feels better than a good cry?

Don't get me wrong: I do believe in the power of positive thinking. I believe that you can make wishes come true by envisioning, requesting, chanting, praying, screaming, drawing a picture of it...all of that mumbo jumbo. But I also allow space for the other side of life, which possesses its own dark and regal strength. 

Weather and emotions don't always need a happy face stamped on it.

Besides, I'm a little creepy and hollow anyway!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

When you Look at Me that Way

When you look at me like that, I don't know what to do. It's too stimulating, too exciting.

For such a shy man, it's such a bold act, the way you stare. Audacious. It makes me admire you. Makes me think you're a surprise. And I like surprises.

I try to maintain eye contact with you for as long as possible. But it's so hard. Your stare is intense, overt, sexual. I can only take so much of that laser-focused attention before bashfully averting my eyes. I want to stare back at you longer because I know, I know, it's like fucking you, maybe more.

Do you like it when I look away? Do you realize the effect your eyes have on me and relish in the power? I submit to you when I look away. I surrender. Do you like that?

I can't help but wonder how this electricity between us would translate sexually. I'm sure you wonder the same thing. (We wonder a lot about having sex with one another, I have a feeling.)

Until then, the pressure continues to build.

Perhaps that tension will become too much to take. This attraction needs to manifest itself physically, doesn't it? Its a protracted tease and I feel myself getting weak, dire for more. Or so frustrated, I could scream.

But we can't. We can't follow through on it for a number of banal reasons.

And sometimes I think I'm okay with that. Because the feeling in those fleeting seconds when our eyes meet, it's almost beyond sex. It's human electricity. High voltage. A very magical, deeply sexual sensation that stops my breath.

Thank you for that. Thank you for looking my way.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

How John Cusack Ruined Valentine's Day

When I saw the stupid scene years ago, I knew I was in trouble. Tears welled, heart expanded, etc. Romance did exist and John Cusack was living proof. Sure, it was the movies...but it could happen, right?

Say Anything came out in 1989, over 20 years ago. Yet that scene has done a number on me ever since. I was lead to believe that grand romantic gestures were possible, like Lloyd Dobler standing there proudly, defiantly, with that boom box, in front of the house of the woman he loves. The man in your life could break through all the internal and external bullshit and boldly stake his claim for you. (Or hell, even lustful interest!)

Yet I've rarely seen such valiant statements when it comes to love - unless I exhibited them! Most of the time, I feel like I'm excavating for love, like some heart-heavy archaeologist, digging for a boom box that doesn't exist. Or, if I find one, it doesn't play "In your Eyes" but "Crazy Train" instead.

So far, on this Valentine's Day 2012, my ex-boyfriend Robert has sent me a picture text of a rose. Very sweet. But no boom box. (And I can't escape the haunting feeling that he probably cc'd it to a few other females in his life. Cold, this virtual world we live in!)

What else? A woman I know sent me the prettiest animated e-card, where birds fly and horses trot and cats chase. They finally reach a house and the bird opens the door for me. There awaits a table full of pastries and ribbons and stuff. Guess what? I'm still hungry.

Years ago, I decided it was better to simply ask for what I wanted. "Hey [fill in the blank], make yourself useful. Go find a boom box and play it outside of my window." But you know, you lose a little something when you're being a bossy bitch about romance.

A few days ago, I sent several texts and emails to some guys I like. Who I think like me too. Nothing too over the top, but certainly the message was there. "I'm sending you a romantic and/or sexy email."

So far, no response. Can you imagine that? Even if you're not interested, be flattered and share that with me. And basic etiquette dictates that you should at least respond. Come on! That's me playing the boom box and no one listening to the music. My arms are tired, boys!

Emotional dwarfism prevails these days. People (I'm trying really hard not to say men, I swear) seem to have forgotten how to express themselves in a loving, valorous way. They try very purposefully to never feel jealous or vulnerable. Hell, they pride themselves in boring self-protection.

They stutter, overthink, avoid, conveniently forget, distance, make excuses. They tinker with the boom box for hours out in the driveway while I lay fast asleep, unaware that anyone is even there. Too much deliberation, not enough boom box playing!

So here's to the scene that ruined it for me. That made me think that people step up to the plate romantically. Because our hearts are healed a little when such proclamations take place. When someone admits feelings for you, no matter how big or small. When someone gives you a personal gift that isn't of the e-variety. When someone takes a stand instead of sitting this one out. Say anything!

Dumb movie.

Dumb John Cusack.

Smart Peter Gabriel.
All my instincts, they return
And the grand facade, so soon will burn
Without a noise, without my pride
I reach out from the inside

- In Your Eyes

Friday, January 27, 2012

A Drug-Fueled Modern Day Cinderella-like Fairy Tale

I walk by the same house on my way to the beach every day. Your average Jersey shore McMansion — needlessly large, expensive and nondescript. But it overlooks the ocean. And here, that means everything.

Last week, I noticed several cars parked in the driveway. Expensive cars. Black tinted windows. The kind for diplomats or rock stars. Strange. Hmm…maybe it’s just a realtor or a homeowner checking in on things. But why so many them?

As the days passed, the cars remained, as if some secret affair was being held there. My curiosity increasingly piqued and my imagination began to roam a little far.
On one fateful afternoon last week, only a half of me went for a run. The other half split from my body and walked right up to that faceless house, knocked on the door and experienced a strange and surreal adventure that she wouldn’t soon forget.
She knocked hard, with conviction.

A tall man opened the door, dressed in a shimmering blue tux. A servant of some sort. Young and shockingly handsome. Tousled blonde hair and plate-sized blue eyes. Or green. Or pale purple. Like a prism in the sunlight, they seemed to change a little every second. His voice, deep and resonant spoke:

 “May I help you?”

 “Is there a party or something here?”

 “May I ask you the password, madam?”

 Strange words fell from my mouth. Apparently, the right words.

 He gestured grandly. “Miss Beth, enter. We’ve been waiting just for you.”

 Me? I thought. No one waits just for me.

Bion lead me upstairs. (He whispered his name when I entered the house. I shuddered with pleasure; whispering is a lost sensual art.) Strangely I didn’t hear any party sounds. Dead quiet. Just the thud of our footsteps, in perfect sync with one another, up a stairway that never seemed to end. We just kept climbing and climbing, beautiful Bion in the lead.

 Finally, at the top of the stairs, he stopped and turned around.

“Are you ready, Miss Beth?”
“Yes, very much so. I’ve been dying of curiosity. What goes on here?”
“Ah…what doesn’t?” he laughed.

 He opened a large white door and boom! A cacophony of sounds and sights hit me. Exotic looking people, strange music, glasses clinking, corks popping, flirtatious laughter and voices, voices, voices…so many of them, like a sweet and strange choir.

What a grand room. Made entirely of glass, it looked as if we were standing right over the ocean. And while it was cloudless and sunny when I arrived, the sky now looked threatening, roiling, with shades of silver, violet and gray.

Everyone looked at the natural wonder performing for us, oohing and ahhing as the storm rolled toward us. Some of the spectators were clothed, some naked. No one really seemed to care. 
“Beth, my love. You are here, you are finally here!”

I turned around slowly. A tall, striking man with long, dark hair suddenly approached me, as if he had entered with this storm. Impeccably dressed, I knew him from…somewhere. He had the same piercing, ever-changing eyes as Bion. Yet this man possessed a look of madness to him, gently simmering underneath. He frightened and enticed me. 

He planted a kiss on my lips and I pulled back, unaccustomed to such forwardness. This did not deter him. He touched the back of my neck and pulled me forward again.

“Relax, Beth. Now.”

And I did as I was commanded. He kissed me again, for what seemed like forever, our tongues entwined like dangerous vines. I remember falling into a dream state at one point during the kiss — that’s how long it lasted.

When we stopped, he was gone. I was kissing the air. Embarrassingly, I pulled myself together and took a better look around.

Drugs were everywhere. White powder, blue powder, red pills, green pills. Bion appeared next to me, with a drink “made especially for you, you most divine creature” He handed me this massive wide-mouthed glass, almost the size of a fish bowl, full of pink and gold effervescence. I took a sip without question.

“Bion, who is the host? What is his name?”

“I call him Sir. But you can call him whatever you please. He doesn’t have a name, per se.”
As Bion spoke, his ever-changing eyes pulled me into a deeper state of consciousness than I had ever known. Did he drug my drink? I could only hope so.

Dazed, I wandered back to the window with the other party-goers and looked out. I couldn’t believe my eyes. There I was, running on the beach! I knocked on the glass, hoping she could hear me. But she just kept running, red-faced and determined.

I felt badly for her. She works so hard to be good. Stays at home, cooks her sad little dinners, watches her dull TV shows, talks to girlfriends about boyfriends that will never really matter. She takes baths, makes tea and cleans dust off things. She’s dutiful. And boring.

I, on the other hand, was living. I took a drag from a long cigarette that suddenly appeared between my fingers. The smoke came out a crimson red, then purple, then green. I felt dangerous and deeply content.

 Sir was suddenly standing behind me, watching me run on the beach.

“Good thing we didn’t invite her” he laughed. He pulled my hair back and gently kissed my neck. “Now go meet your friends. They’re waiting to feel you.”

I proceeded to mingle with the beautiful people. They looked so crisp and perfect, as if they walked out of a magazine. Normally I might feel inferior, “less than”, but I looked amazing too, donning a crimson red dress made of a fabric that felt like kittens and smelled of fresh raspberries. Glass heels on my feet and shimmering gold dust falling from me, with each movement I made. I was alight.

And these people couldn’t keep their hands off me! Women, men, (and some, a strange and captivating in-between) were attracted to me like bees to honey and I to them. We kissed, we hugged, we dipped and danced, we molded lovingly into one another. We were one. I couldn’t imagine better friends. They knew all of my darkest thoughts and liked me, in spite of them…no, because of them.

Things got blurry after the second drink. Bion brought me powders and pills that instantly cleared my head. Then I’d drink more, sink again and come back to life, over and over. We all danced this dance for days it seemed. Our thorny, perverted sickness was so gorgeous, I couldn’t dislodge myself if I tried. The high was staggering.

Sir and I would occasionally sneak off to his pitch-black bedroom and do the most unspeakable things to one another. It was so splendid and dark that I can’t remember it now; my mind won’t let me. At one point, the energy we created raised us off his bed. This went beyond fucking into a state of pure transcendence.

Afterwards in the warmth of our bed, we whispered warm and wicked things to one another, cleansed from the shamelessness of our wanton acts. These words I can no longer remember either. It was an eternal, strange language created from the most profane place in our souls. Even when we fell asleep, we continued to speak via our dreams. We were living and dying, over and over again, and it was absolutely perfect.

Then Bion opened the door and ruined everything. Everything.

“She’s here to pick you up, Miss Beth.”


“The one who runs on the beach. She’s here for you.”

My heart sank. My time here was over. Looking at Sir, his head hung down and I could hear him crying.

“I can’t live without you. It’s been too long. You must stay,” he whispered.

“You’ll be fine, I’m sure. There are so many pretty women who long to be close to you. They’re all waiting for you.”

And truly, they were. I looked around the bed and we were surrounded by the most stunning women I’d ever seen, naked and in wait. They began petting and pawing Sir, knowing my departure was near. Gorgeous vultures. Was I that replaceable?

As I climbed out of our bed, Sir grabbed me, his hand squeezing mine so tight, I began to bleed.

“Come back. Please. You know that woman on the beach will just ruin you. She’ll bore you to death!”

“I know but she’s all I have.” And I began crying too.

After our final kiss, the vultures attacked him. He screamed in pleasure at first, then in agony. Looking back, I could no longer see him, just bodies writhing, biting, eating, melting.

Bion showed me to the door, where the woman on the beach stood, drenched in sweat and rain. She had that dumb look of pleading in her eyes. I hated her.

“Why can’t you let me have this? I’ve been waiting for this my whole life!”

She just held out her hand, like a knowing mother.

I begrudgingly reached for it. The loss of Sir suddenly hit me, like a thunderbolt in my soul.

 “I loved him. I really did.”

 “Don’t worry,” she said. “He’s not going anywhere. He waits.”

She led me home in silence. I looked down and my dress was gone. I was ugly again, old, worn clothes, drenched. The party was indeed over. I had books to read, clothes to clean, gardens to tend, vitamins to swallow, checks to write, problems to solve, help to offer, blood to bleed.

Lowlives and Hotsprings

A final blow to the head and he’s out cold, face down, a string of drool seeping from his cracked, nicotine-stained lips. And I did it. I warned him, leave me alone. But he didn't listen.

He should have listened.

When we arrive at the hot springs in the Nevada desert, we’re dusty and tired. My friend Amanda, her teenage daughter, and I had planned this 6-hour road trip months ago. Recovering from a particularly crushing break-up, I felt emotionally vacant, like a hollowed out building. This hot spring will be my rebirth, my scalding hot baptism.

When we complete the mile-long trek to the hot spring, I drop by backpack and gasp. What beauty. Several large hot spring pools, right next to one another. And what a view. Yes! This will do the trick.

There are a few others in the pools but no matter. Of course, I want the springs entirely to my friends and myself, others needed their spiritual cleansing too. We'll share the experience together.

My friend and her daughter quickly undress and make their way into the fizzy magical waters. I take my time. With each article of clothing I drop, I let go of another emotional weight.

When I finally place my foot in the hot liquid, I feel instantly transformed, as if the magic flew through my feet and up my naked body. As I submerge, it’s all I can do not to cry. The goodness hurts my poor, aching heart. I close my eyes and let the healing begin.

Then I hear him and his gruff asthmatic laugh.

I slowly open my eyes and see a man on the other side of the pool, staring at me in that unwanted, lascivious way.
No, no...not this now. Please, God, not this now.

I return his stare aggressively. But he won’t be dissuaded. I can’t let him ruin this for me. Closing my eyes again, I try desperately to block him out, but every time I open them, his eyes burn my flesh and soul.

"Hey, can you stop staring at me?"


"I said stop staring at me."

"Fuck you. I'll look at what I want. It’s a free world."
Trouble in paradise. I look over at my friend and her daughter. Their look of relaxation has quickly turned into concern.

"It's just rude and I'm trying to relax."

"That's your problem."

"She's got a hot body, man. I can't help it," he jokingly tells his beer-drinking buddy next to him.

What a scrawny fuck of a man. Yellowed teeth in a broken face, greasy hair, swollen red eyes. The smell of stale cigarette smoke and cheap booze drift my way.
I approximate his size so I can make my decision. He’s only an inch or two smaller than me. This guy is an easy takedown, especially because he’s drunk.
I'm a woman who studies fighting. My years in martial arts have taught me to spar me all different types and sizes.
For years I've countered the argument that a woman can never beat a man in any physical altercation. Because I have. But obviously, many factors come into play.

The most pressing concern is size. If a man is much bigger than me, then sure, there's a good chance he'll beat me. But if a man is my size or smaller, then the odds shift. After years of fighting in competitions, I stand a better chance than most.

I can take him. I’ll destroy him.
In my mind, when I go back in time, that’s exactly what I do. I put on my clothes and heavy hiking boots on and kick his ass resoundingly. He’s left lying facedown in a puddle of his own blood and spit while I grab my friends and leave.

But I can't go back. And that's not what happened.
Instead, I went to an adjacent pool, fumed quietly, and died a little death.

If life were fair, that little runt of a methhead is dead, rotting in a worm-ridden cardboard box somewhere. If life were fair, men would realize that unwanted stares can feel as invasive as an unwanted touch.
Those stares weren't sexual; they were an act of dominance and aggression. He spat on my spirit during a time when I desperately needed the world to envelop and comfort me.
One man's desire to “eat his candy” trumped another woman's need for peace of mind. And it's a spiritual crime, one that can't be undone, ever.
Oh, you did the right thing, everyone says. You should just walk away. Fuck the right thing. Because I still live with that experience. I should have kicked his ass or died trying…and I regret it.
But there was no justice that day. There was no cleansing, no baptism. Just more soul death.

Friday, January 06, 2012

Unhinging the Bitch

“The cabbage is 69 cents a pound.”

“Well, I’ll have to have someone check it…”

“You can’t just trust me on it, huh? I don’t tend to lie about cruciferous vegetables…just a rule.

“Well if I took your word for it, I’d have to...”

“Oh fuck it. Just take it off my bill.”

As I bag my groceries, the raging goes on inside my head. I decide to let the words fall out of my mouth instead:

“Seriously…in all of the years I’ve come to this damn megastore, do you think I’ve ever been undercharged for anything?

At this point, other cashiers and shoppers are staring at me. My face reddens but instead of looking down, I look back at them. Everyone quickly looks away, one at a time.

"Your system is designed to overcharge me. Hence why I know the price of the damn cabbage in the first place. So you don’t overcharge me.”

I walk out, head up. But in my car, it’s a different story. My hands are shaking and I’m on the verge of tears. I begin to feel badly for the cashier, who was a clueless recipient of my ire.

Apologize. I should apologize.

Ah, that tired, old mantra. As a woman and recovering Catholic, I’ve apologized well beyond my fair share. And if I didn’t apologize, I experienced the wrath of its ugly stepsister: guilt.

What if I lived without doling out apologies? What if I just allowed myself to be a full-fledged bitch?

I reflect back on the supermarket scene. It did feel good to simply raise my voice. To be loud and express.

It also felt decadently defiant to look back into the eyes of everyone staring at me as if to say, “What are you looking at bitches?” My personal Clint Eastwood moment.

What if unhinged the bitch even more? What if I truly spoke my mind?

Just what we need, right? Another rude and entitled person thinking the world should accommodate them. But I don’t think the world should accommodate me. Frankly I’m shocked when it does. My natural state is caring and sensitive. So why not be a caring and sensitive bitch? Can those two live together?

My gal friend is upset that her family didn’t contact her over the holidays. I asked her if she relayed how she felt. Her conversation with them went something like this:

“Wow, you guys must have been really busy over Christmas. I didn’t hear from you and I thought something might be wrong. Then I figured, you just must have been busy. It is the holidays, afterall.”

But this is how she told it to me, over a few drinks:

“Do I fucking exist or what? They couldn’t show me the respect to even call me? I’m the only living daughter on my side of the family. Why do I have to do all the reaching out? I’m fucking sick of it.”

A substantial difference in the two versions, you'll note. Should she have opted for the latter version? Not necessarily. But the first version is much more nefarious and soul-sucking--and that’s the one we “good women” often choose.

As “good women”, we often do the opposite of unleashing. We internalize. We question and admonish ourselves over the slightest infractions. Many feminist theories postulate that those socially-induced insecurities are meant to keep our mouths shut and our feet fixed in one spot. We’re too busy yelling at ourselves to make demands of others. Too busy internally debating to take a step forward and make a change.

Like many others, several people close to me have died of cancer. I have no damn clue whether internalized anger manifests itself in the form of cancer. But I’ll take my stab in the dark and say that it sure doesn’t help in the health department either.

In their honor, I continue to unhinge the bitch. She is allowed to roam free, express herself and breathe a little easier. She gets to laugh in the face of a difficult situation instead of caving in on herself like a flimsy house of cards.

Could I ever utter the following?

“I don’t like talking to you. I wish you’d go away.”

“Don’t ignore me. I don’t appreciate it.”

“Stop interrupting. I’m speaking right now.”

“I think you’re lying.”

"Stop staring at me. It’s invasive and annoying."

“Don’t tell me what to do.”

"I wasn't asking your opinion."

One could argue that these statements are cruel or could be delivered in a better fashion. And one would be right! But what if I don’t feel like being right? I’ve been right for decades now and still feel wrong entirely too much of the time. Being “good” is a never-ending battle which women are predetermined losers.

A bitch is a female dog, right? A dog is an animal. And when I become a bitch, I'm closer to my animal self. And I like it. It feels impulsive, raw and primal. Fight-ready and messy. And dare I say (oh yes, I dare), sexy and unbridled.

Two of the biggest insults that can be hurled at women? "You're a whore" or "You're a crazy bitch." I've yet to figure out why being called a whore is so horrible, since it seems like a perfectly reasonable profession where women get paid more than men for once.

You're a crazy bitch then! The underlying message: Stay tame. Shut up. Don't act wild. You might be a force to be reckoned with. You might get somewhere.

The last time it was hurled my way, I responded, "You ain't see nothing yet." And they hadn't. Because I haven't. She's evolving. She's new.

At heart, I will always be a kind person. It’s my nature. But there’s more to me than kindness. And this seemingly backward path to transformation fits me well, like a coat of fur or a set of bloodied fangs. Like ragged claws or a gutteral growl. Like a bite on warm skin.