Posts Tagged ‘feminism’

Boob job

May 11, 2010

I’ve made peace with my breasts. This happened about five years ago in an Indian dress-shop in New Hope. I was flipping through a rack of Bandhani skirts, when I noticed my then two-year-old son groping the plastic bust of a naked mannequin. I whisked him away, a little disconcerted that I had given birth to a boob man. Not another one, I thought. Until I realized then and there, that an attraction to breasts is as inherent to the human psyche as food, water and shelter. And whether they be for the sake of sex, symbol or sustenance, I was blessed with the ability to provide all those things, not only to myself, but others. This realization, however, was a long time in coming.

A girl, who materializes Cs at age eleven, then Ds, then DDs at such a rate of growth as to portend alien-like peculiarities doesn’t look down one day and say, “well, hello there, aren’t you perky?!” Double Ds aren’t perky. And they don’t feel like the “gift” that smaller-chested women make them out to be. They’re cumbersome, they’re heavy and they draw far more attention than they should. They set their owner up for an existence of dodging spit balls to the cleavage, darting random and unexpected gropes and nipple tweaks in the hallway and bearing the unbearable when it comes to name-calling. “Nice rack,” I could handle. “Look at the jugs on her,” I couldn’t. Not to mention that bras are almost impossible to come by, especially if you’re only a 32 or 34 back. And running is completely out of the question. My survival in high school, for the most part, was therefore reliant on baggy clothes and walking around hunched over so as to avoid drawing any unnecessary attention to my so called “gift.”

Adult-life wasn’t any easier. I had my years of being overly sexualized because of my size. I suppose I let society define me, which can easily happen to a twenty-year old girl looking for approval. And then again, they were right there in front of me, unable to be ignored. So, why not make the most of them? When they were perfectly round double-Ds that hovered midway between the bra-line and my upper chest, I have to admit, I could look at myself naked in the mirror and say, not bad. I could cup them in the palms of my hands and they’d pour over my thumbs and forefingers like a push-up bra from Frederick’s of Hollywood. I kinda looked like a porn star back then. And when breast implants had become all the rage, I didn’t have to worry. There I was, naturally curvy and well-endowed with these, dare I say it, cantaloupes.

In a sexual way, I felt like I had been blessed, instead of cursed, the latter of which I normally felt. But the truth is, I was insecure. I didn’t have much confidence or self-esteem and so, I easily identified myself as a sex object- not because I believed I was sexy, but because I believed others expected me to be sexy. I mean, let’s face it. Big breasts do have their benefits. One tight little V-neck sweater with appropriately placed cleavage goes a long way. Never any speeding tickets. Never turned away from pretentious nightclubs. Never lost an opportunity to flirt my way out of a variety of trouble. You can’t beat that. And that’s not to say that big breasts gave me carte blanche, but I am a firm believer that they got me a heck of a lot farther than my flat-chested counterparts.

But imagine a lifetime of white, thick-strapped, old lady bras, (forget about matching panties); or bending over only to have a nipple pop out at a rather inconvenient time; or not being able to run or jog. Forget about jumping up and down in an aerobics class without proper support. And men, young and old, and even women rarely look you in the eye or take you seriously. Worst of all large breasts have a way of making horrible first impressions. Why is it that chesty women are automatically assumed easy, dumb, sex-crazed or superficial?

After my own personal sexual revolution, I segued rather clumsily into the other alternate purpose for breasts: breast feeding. My double-Ds turned to triple-Es overnight after I had my first child, and started doing insane things: leaking, spouting, spurting, turning lumpy, bumpy and veiny and other unspeakable things. I felt like a cartoon character; a tiny host of a body attached to and dragged around by these two massive life-giving blobs that just kept getting bigger and bigger and seemingly had minds of their own. I was trapped. Imprisoned by the cycle of supply and demand. Forced into the hard labor of lactating. It’s no wonder women are so tired after giving birth. It has little to do with the baby.

And God help the hubby if he approached me in any kind of sexual way or wanted to touch me. What are you, nuts? Back off. Go to hell. My breasts were for one thing and one thing only: food. There was nothing sexy about lumpy, bumpy and veiny. And while the act of feeding my newborn was a miraculous and beautiful affair, and I did feel rather delighted at the thought of sustaining a life, I was at times quite fearful that I would smother the poor child with the breadth of my bosom.

Shortly after I divorced, and long after breast feeding, and after experiencing my mother fight breast cancer and win, and after experiencing my friend’s mother fight breast cancer and lose, and after turning 40 and accepting that gravity and life had done more than their fair share of vitiation, I had come to the sad conclusion that my breasts no longer had any purpose. They took on the aura of two weather beaten domes upon a rocky shore and I figured their future was a decidedly catastrophic one: they would either sink below my knees like stretchy, warm silly putty, or they would succumb to a cancerous fate whereupon they would ultimately be removed, thrown in a red plastic bag and sent to an incinerator.

With such a fate before me there was but one option left: I would have a breast reduction, or a lift, or some sort of plastic surgery. I would avoid the inevitable, or maybe just postpone it. Isn’t that, after all, one of the perks of contemporary American culture? If you don’t like the way something looks, augment it. With that being decided, I began my plan: interview doctors, make appointments, look for new B cups (how exciting!); and then, start the process of saying goodbye to the two objects that, like it or not, stuck with me, through thick and thin.

What was inevitable was that I wouldn’t or couldn’t go through with it. And the reasons were quite simple: For one, I loved bragging that my breasts were real. OK, so they were never perky and they were starting to droop. But I hated fake-boob culture and prided myself on being au natural. Why anyone would want to go big was beyond me! And even though a reduction wasn’t as superficial and offensive as implants, in my opinion, augmentation was superficial all the same (save in cases of disfigurement). It was glaring and expensive proof that I hated who I was, and that simply wasn’t true. Frustrated? Yes. But I believed (and still do) that many who undergo surgery to permanently change the inherent structure of their bodies do not particularly like themselves, or perhaps they have been misled to believe that “once this aspect of me changes, everything will be wonderful,” which is rarely the case. I didn’t want to be branded as having subscribed to either of those beliefs. Above all else, I wanted to be able to accept myself as is.

Second, what message would I be sending my sons? That Mommy is superficial? That I wasn’t capable of growing old gracefully? Or that it is conscionable to spend $10,000 on a nice rack when there are children living in squalor all over the world? And I couldn’t forget my youngest son, groping the mannequin’s breasts in New Hope. What message would I send him who seemed to have a penchant for mammarian protuberances? How could I instill in my children the idea that breasts are beautiful, of all shapes and sizes, and that healthy sexuality, if I had any hope of fostering it in my children, meant that as a woman and a mother I have a responsibility to celebrate my body, not condemn it or try to change it.

My breasts have placed me on a pedestal and they have knocked me off. They have given me great joy and have caused me back pain, embarrassment and unsolicited attention. At times, they’ve been fun. They have fed two human beings, got me into a couple night-clubs for free and have given hours or pleasure to one husband, two fiancés and numerous boyfriends. And despite the fact that, for the most part, they’re retired from having to “work” as laboriously as younger women’s breasts do, they are all mine, they are very much loved and they are still (yes, I’m about to brag) one-hundred percent real.

A Girl’s Life (excerpt)

November 9, 2008

The below is a brief excerpt from the screenplay “A Girl’s Life,” a film about a girl’s coming of age as told by the girl through a rather shameful string of lovers and various bizarre events of her childhood that seem to lead no where but despair.

The film takes the audience through her whole life, from age five when she is approached walking home from school one afternoon by a loan shark who pins a note to her jacket that says, “We know where you live,” all the way to her late forties, through an ugly divorce, the death of her father and a slew of random events that change her life.  

The overall theme of the film is the girl’s tragic and irreverent inability to make peace with her father (an alcoholic bank robber) and to recognize the fact that she is a love addict– As she lives through it, suffers with it and learns what it is– she ultimately outgrows her old, deleterious beliefs about love, sex and men to become, for lack of a better term, real. 

Int. Church Basement

June and her father sit beside each other in a group meeting for Alcoholics. About 40 others sit in a circle in tiny chairs. Smoke from cigarettes is thick in the room.

(V.O) Narrator

My grades were always bad. I barely made it out of eighth grade into high school. And I spent a ton of time, by this point, attending AA meetings with my dad who was now a “recovering alcoholic” on the 12-step plan. He and I and a bunch of other seedy looking rehab guys would congregate in the cafeteria basement of the Pinelands church to hear “confessions” of all the miserable things the alcoholics did to everyone else and how they wrecked everyone’s lives. The room always smelled like coffee and stale smoke and men, and everyone was always laughing and telling jokes. My dad, being the narcissist that he was, would stand up and tell everyone how he too, wrecked our lives, and because his stories were so dramatically sensational as compared to everyone else’s bumbling crimes of neglect and the occasional car crash, the group idolized him. He was like, the famous bad guy who told tales of stealing million dollar oil paintings from the Philadelphia Museum of Art, kiting checks, and scamming investors into believing he was going to jump the grand canyon. I sat there beside him, the wreckage, so proud of how many people applauded. I felt like the daughter of a movie-star.

My mother, who went to the Al-Anon meetings down the hall (for the families of alcoholics) used to think it was a bit odd that the ones who caused all the trouble were having more fun than the victims. The victims called themselves co-dependents, and sat in a circle holding hands, reading from books entitled, I’m OK, You’re OK , Co-Dependant No More and Women Who Love Too Much. Women mostly. Telling sad, pathetic stories that included words like, “pain” and “disappointment” and “longing” and “loss.”  Trying to pick up the broken pieces of their lives. It made no sense. It was all too intangible. So I stayed in my dad’s meetings. More boys, more laughs, more donuts. Stories were told there too, but they were concrete. First person. Visual. Action words. I smacked her. I stole the money. I ran out of the house and left her. I crashed the car. I couldn’t stop. No use for metaphor. My mother even agreed that I’d have far more fun over in his meetings.

Cut to

Int- Church hallway

Mother

“No, honey. You go on over there. Our meeting tonight is only focusing on how to break free from a co-dependent relationship without divorcing.

June (smiling)

Thanks, Mom.

(V.O.) Narrator 

I didn’t even know what co-dependent meant. And besides, I loved being with the bad ones. There was just something about a 16-year-old boy sipping coffee out of styrophome cup and telling a room of drunks that he’d do just about anything for a bottle of JD and a George Thorogood song. And besides, Curt Jones had a drinking problem.

Cut to:

Close up shot of a seedy looking 16-year-old kid with a cigarette between his lips and a styrophome cup, looking into camera.

 (V.O.) Narrator (con’t)

Curt Jones. My first. The man of my dreams.

Skinny little, half-Italian Curt Jones with the Members Only black jacket and the parachute pants. [Sigh]. I don’t know if he made me fall in love with Prince first or if Prince made me fall in love with Curt. Either way, they both went together like purple and rain. I was awakened and ready for both. Although, looking back, Prince loved me far more than Curt.

Cut to:

Int- girl’s bedroom

Steamy, low-lit scene of girl making out with framed picture of Prince to “Do Me Baby” playing loudly on her record player.

Stay

August 15, 2008

 

Stay

 

I keep watch under the ceiling. It’s not really a ceiling. It’s all pipes, vents, beams and wiring. And I’m on my back, on the bed looking up at the innards of the ceiling. Ceiling guts. Listening to the water running through the pipes. And when Pop gets up in the middle of the night to use the toilet, he flushes and water comes pouring down real loud through all those pipes, like a river, and there I am. Lying underneath this river, and I can’t move. I’m stuck at the bottom of a septic tank. Watching and listening and scared to death that one of these days, one of those pipes is going to blow, and I’m going be covered in shit.

So I stare up and keep watch.

I live in the basement. It’s one of those finished basements that was never finished. And I’ve been here most of my life—past the time when everyone’s supposed to be out. And five years past the time my younger brother Michael moved out with his woman Anne. And here I am. Still. Watching the pipes and waiting tables on the Pike.

There’s a curtain separating my side of the basement from my brother’s side, where he used to sleep. We called it the “Russian peasant room.” And he’d fall asleep watching CNN or golf and he’d snore and I’d push back the curtain and reach in toward his bed and give him a nudge.

“Shut up,” I’d say, “You’re snoring.” And he’d roll over and keep snoring. And I’d say, screw this shit and wish that someone two-flights up would flush so that it would drown out the sound of his clogged breathing.

And outside the not-so-finished part of the finished basement, there’s the cardboard construction of a row house. Flimsy wallboard. Refrigerator box, really. And the clutter of all the stuff that got left behind when everyone packed up and moved out.

            I’m the last to go. When I go. If I go.

* * *

            It takes exactly sixminutesandsevenseconds to walk to the Pike. Another 22 seconds to open the door of the restaurant, walk past the bar, pick up my apron and head to the back bar to clock in. Clocking in is this: “Hi Ro, I’m here. You got any tables for me?”

            “Section four, front,” says Ro, “But have a coffee. I just sat ‘em.”

            We drink percolated coffee. We pass around the twenty-pack of Virginia Slim Super Slim menthols. Ro and Jeanie and me. Ro and Jeanie stand in front of the mirror by the back-bar, touching up hair, lips; diner-style. Hardcore waitresses. Career waitresses. They never forget the side of tartar. They always remember to bring the steak knife with the Surf & Turf. Their tips always exceed $120 a night. And they never tell the IRS they earn more than fifty-bucks a week. Pros.

            Ro, short for Rhonda, tells stories.

     “When I tell you that old man was in my pants, I mean it.  The sonofabitch chased me around that room every single goddamn day . . . Get this,” she says, “the old shit rents me this room for two-fifty a month, tryin’ to be all sweet an all. So, I ain’t got no place to go and I says yeah, sure. I move my stuff in and it’s, like, real close to where I work so I ain’t got no problem living there. And so I’m there about a month and the Tiffany Lounge burns down – yeah, that’s the one.” She catches me pointing Southward with the tip of my smoke. 

“And so I’m living in this dump and I ain’t got no job.  So I tell this guy that I ain’t got no money, and he says to me, ‘no problem.’ I’m like, cool, maybe he ain’t such an old shit after all. ‘You can stay for nothing,’ he says,  ‘so long as I can use your phone.’ No problem, I say, I can handle that.”

     She coughs. Lights another menthol.  Applies more red to her lips. It’s slow. We have time to talk before the dinner rush. Jeanie says, “Sugar, you never let a man in your business.”

     “Anyway,” Ro says, “he starts coming up to my room and talking on the phone to some guy down in AC. Then he calls Vegas and who knows where the fuck else. And each time he’s asking for cash—telling everyone that he’s broke an’ all. Then, y’know, when he gets off the phone he starts drinking, and looking around in my ‘fridgerator for another beer. And he drinks like a goddamn fish. And then he just ends up sleeping on my fucking floor. Asshole. This was happening every night. Finally I told him to go back to his own place because I wanted to watch TV, or something—anything to get him outta the room. That’s when it starts. ‘I let you stay here for nothin’, bitch, and yer kickin’ me out? Fuck you!’ That’s what he tells me. ‘Fuck you.’” She extends her arm and pops out her middle finger.

     I watch her and I wait. The smoke from our cigarettes swirls around us. Smog over Atco, NJ.  I can’t see anything but us.

     “And then. Oh man. Git this. One night he comes up to me, all messed up, and starts putting his hands in my fuckin’ crotch. I’m like, get the fuck outta here. Ain’t no old man gonna get a hold of my pussy ‘n shit. And with that I packed up and moved out.” She exhales. The host calls her to pick up table 32.  “You gotta survive, y’know. You gotta.”

Three of us pull a swing. We rage through the dinner hour like flame throwers. Passing off hot plates of lit and smoking fajitas, steamed vegetables, lobster tails, baked potatoes, with dollops of sour cream and chives until our eyeliners bleed. The kitchen is 112 degrees. The fans turn slowly. We bitch at the cooks for fucking up orders. They bitch at us for not giving them our asses to grab. “Your ass makes the night move faster” Leon says, with a smile, a giant of a black man whose sweat beads drip from his forehead and christens every dish on it’s way out. Jeanie picks up two more stations at last call.  “Sugar,” she says, passing me with a tray of martinis, “I’m gonna meet the man of my dreams tonight. I can feel it in my skin.” But I know that’s not gonna happen. Not here. Not tonight. Not that skin. Only regulars left now. Only old martini drinkers and make-up wearers, and trash-talkers and pipe watchers. It’s too late.

* * *

I take the dirt path through the weeds, through the backyards, through the stars to get home. It’s two in the morning. Moving. Looking up. Pegasus is high above a half moon. Andromeda falls northeast to Perseus then to Taurus in the East. Everything’s connected.  I close my eyes, pack my bags and leave. I follow the course of Orion only to end up back here the next night. I open my eyes and keep walking. The flat earth rolls me homeward through the stars. To the pipes. Not a very long walk to lie under the flush of a toilet. Not long enough to know it’s time to go.

Word Riot Press

Word Riot Press

Leap Year

June 5, 2008

He used earth words and planted gardens and liked going down south and road trips to nowhere. He had tattoos of the Devil on his forearm, and looked like God, with big blue open seeing gentle eyes that had a spirit steady and true beyond the simple human spirit. He was a great kisser. Like me. But quiet. And deep. Not deep in a click-your-fingers-at-a-coffeehouse deep; not even the kind of temporary deep you think you see in the face of a student of philosophy. He was deep like rivers that cut through canyons as old as the brachiopod lingula and the horse shoe crab.

 

I met him when I was young. In a bookstore.  Buying war novels for my father. I liked to call him Mr. Smith, but his name was Steve. His hair was long and kinky and I remember I could smell his clean, hippy, 25-year-old smell as he flushed spines in the history section.  He said to me: “You see, you have this calming affect on me. I actually want to struggle with you.” And I thought to myself, I want to run my fingers through the algebraic recipe that cooked up the lines of your hair. I was on fire. I perused picture books of the American desert and listened to Navajo tunes. I bought a dress with flowers that came down to my ankles and I wore sandals.

 

He struggled with me. And then he took off. Restless. One day in May. He rode with some friends in an orange VW bus out to a reservation in New Mexico to study art and history and eat mushrooms and pledge a vow of celibacy to the Great Spirit in hopes that one day he would understand the difference between love and lust.

 

I waited. But he didn’t come back. The Spring was over. The warm, tired, lovesick days of August too, and eventually the fall and then the winter…

 

I fell for a waiter. I made love to a Jew who became a Rabbi. I danced meringue with Paul Garcia in a club named Brazil. I kissed Doug, Scot and Eamon and the Twelve Apostles and a Moroccan named Arie. And I sold my soul to a drummer one Leap Year because I lost count on how many times he said: you are so beautiful, baby.

 

I married a Spaniard who barely spoke English and barely brushed his teeth. He was tall and lanky and had a long face like El Greco and chased me around the bedroom, “Come here, wife. My sex is hard for you.” We lived in a piso on the 4th floor of a rundown building in Vallekas, a gypsy suburb of Madrid. I made tortillas and arroz con leche and sometimes crouched on the terraza under the hot sun and watched stray cats fuck on rooftops. I cried for home. And dreamed of humidity and the green, oxygen pine trees and grass that grows with dew stuck to each blade like a rock climber descending a cliff.

 

I became a woman. Desired. Pedestaled. Unwoven. Torn. Shredded. Real.

 

I made two babies. Moved to Jersey. Bought a home. Divorced. Years passed. In the Spring of ’04 I spread my father’s ashes across the jetty down on Nebraska Avenue. Saying goodbye to the man who taught me how to love. Boyfriends came. Boyfriends went. Sons grew up.

 

I bumped into Mr. Smith at a record store one night in February. He was buying vinyl and I was perusing the Cds. I barely recognized him without his long hair. But he still talked smooth and his tattoos were all black and green. And I thought, if I had my own they wouldn’t be the face of the devil. They’d be words. Words that save me from my self, where God, not man, is the Second Coming and the Third and Fourth. Words when strung together become the only thing in life that’s real—forming a straight line like Time to a Westerner.

 

We talked about books for a while. The west.  He didn’t remember much. And so I shrugged when he asked if I wanted to go for a drink. No, I said. Maybe another time.