What a Girl Wants: An Ode to Women

There are women in this world that I am jealous of. They are women who strike me as interesting, and they are built in all shapes and sizes. I sometimes find myself wanting in the interesting department. Now, my friends will disagree and tell you that I am sapid, but I would counter with – they have to say that because they love me. My jealousy isn’t Rachel and Leah or Cain and Abel in nature; it is more single white female without the killing and identity theft. These women are interesting in a way I want to emulate, which comes across a little creeptastic.

Lesley Kinzel is the senior editor of xojane.com, eats fresh ricotta, has brightly colored lipstick, and was named one of 40 under 40 feminist to watch. I was once named most likely to yell fuck in church. Nope, that is a lie. I was named class wittiest in high school, and I still wear the title with more than a little pride. I follow her on Instagram and Twitter and I check xojane.com to read any articles she posts. She has loudly fought for fat acceptance and appeared on multiple television round table discussions. You want to know what I did yesterday. I watched The Little Couple with Kiaya, went to Wal-Mart, and bought American cheese. I am actively searching for a way to make Kinzel my friend. She will say interesting things and I will nod and listen with near rapture. I need to know if she was born this way, born with a righteous indignation and desire to fight the fat cause or did something happen. When and how did Lesley Kinzel get to be interesting and fabulous?

I compiled a list the other day of things that would make me more interesting. The top two were more tattoos and bourbon. The third was developing a love of Elvis Costello. Interesting women drink bourbon; they swirl the amber liquid around in small glasses and look casual while doing so. Sometimes, when all the plastic glasses are dirty, I put my Diet Coke into a small glass and pretend it is bourbon. I leave it on the counter and let the sticky liquid harden in the glass. Who I want to be is part Julia Sugarbaker, all class, rants, and intellectualism, with more than a touch of foul mouthed tattooed Margaret Cho, calling herself mother to her gay following. Add in the hair and voice of Brittany Howard, the singer of The Alabama Shakes, and I would be the entire package.

Watching Howard play and sing is a thing of beauty. She appears powerful and relentless. Her mouth is wide and expressive. I think she is beautiful and her voice is strong; the night they played SNL, I fell in love. I watched her move, hips swaying to the music. Strong fingers played her guitar and I was jealous. I was jealous of her talent, jealous of her hair, and jealous of what felt like an overt femininity. These women appear strong and graceful. I have no idea what their lives are like nor do I know what insecurities lurk in the quiet spots of their brain. They are my modern day Rosalind Franklin and Sojouner Truth. They are smart and bold. Their femininity is not the womanish of Mad Men, pinched in waists and hands demurely at their sides. This is loud and calls to me; I want to make these interesting women my friends and introduce them to the strong and lovely women of my everyday life.

I want to soak in their intelligence, not just Kinzel, Howard, and Cho, but all my female friends with their stories, lives, and strengths. I want to thank them for being smart, interesting, and openly breathtaking.

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Elvis and Quinton have a Conversation

Elvis Costello said that writing about music is like dancing about architecture, because of course Elvis Costello would say such a thing. I feel pretty sure that he was wearing a black hat and suspenders when he said it. I have made an executive life decision that I would like to listen to a conversation between Quinton Tarantino and Elvis Costello. Due to the unlikelihood this will ever happen to me I have decided to take actual quotes from the two men and create what I believe would be a likely conversation.

Here we go.

Q: To me, movies and music go hand in hand. When I’m writing a script, one of the first things I do is find the music I’m going to play for the opening sequence.

E: I believe that music is connected by human passions and curiosities rather than by marketing strategies.

Q: I’ve always thought my soundtracks do pretty good, because they’re basically professional equivalents of a mix tape I’d make for you at home.

E: Obviously I got known for some other songs early on, and some of those were rock’n’roll songs. Some of them were melodic pop songs. And I’ve done lots of different things, as you know, but every so often I get drawn back.

Q: I’m a big collector of vinyl – I have a record room in my house – and I’ve always had a huge soundtrack album collection. So what I do, as I’m writing a movie, is go through all those songs, trying to find good songs for fights, or good pieces of music to layer into the film.

Q: Movies are my religion and God is my patron. I’m lucky enough to be in the position where I don’t make movies to pay for my pool. When I make a movie, I want it to be everything to me; like I would die for it.

Q: My mom took me to see Carnal Knowledge and The Wild Bunch and all these kind of movies when I was a kid.

Q: My parents said, Oh, he’s going to be a director someday. I wanted to be an actor.

It is at this point of the conversation that I imagine Elvis being highly annoyed with Quentin. If you have ever watched Tarantino in an interview the energy is kinetic. He never stops moving and thinking, his hands wave wildly, and each gesture is like a small lightening strike. Watching the man makes me a damn nervous wreck. I generally enjoy his movies, but he makes me feel like I am on ecstasy while riding a roller coaster that is bound for a hell dimension. Does everyone feel that way when watching his interviews?

Now, back to the conversation:

E: And I don’t feel any form of music is beyond me in the sense of that I don’t understand it or I don’t have some love for some part of it. And over the last ten years, after my work with the Brodsky Quartet, I had the opportunity to write arrangements for chamber group, chamber orchestra, jazz orchestra, symphony orchestra even.

Q: To me, America is just another market.

Elvis would now cock his head to the left and look at Quentin with vague annoyance.

E: I believe that music is connected by human passions and curiosities rather than by marketing strategies.

Elvis has now repeated himself. I cannot help but think that this perceived conversation is making Elvis as nervous as it would me.

Q: I have loved movies as the number one thing in my life so long that I can’t ever remember a time when I didn’t.

E: I used to be disgusted; now I try to be amused.

I have been watching Elvis Costello videos on YouTube for 30 minutes now, and I can see he has integrity and wit. My goal is that by age 40 I will be a Costello fan. Two years, this gives me two years to complete this goal. This week’s blog was actually supposed to be about why people hate Kim Kardashian and how I once had sex against the wall of a gas station bathroom, but it lost focus. I have written 49 blog posts so far, and I worry that I am running out of things to say. So, this week I decided to let two men who have interesting things to say speak for me. All quotes are in italic and came from www.brainyquote.com.

Frustrated: A List

 Here is a list of things that currently frustrate me.

  1. The timing that some people have is questionable at best.
  2. Rape – the world is too damn rapey
  3. My house will never be clean again.
  4. I need at least three clones of myself, and science has not caught up with my needs.
  5. Laundry
  6. I don’t like the show Girls and I feel like I should
  7. Work
  8. An article I read where wealthy people are hiring disabled people to get through lines quicker at Disney World.
  9. OJ Simpson
  10. That giant rubber duck in Hong Kong.

I Was a Teenage Sassy Reader

 While I was growing up, my mom was the queen of subscriptions. Magazines, music clubs announcing, “twelve tapes for 1 penny,” and teen book clubs were just too much for her to turn down. We had subscriptions to Teen and Seventeen and every month we went to Kroger to pick up Teen Beat and Bop. I would tear through the glossy pages and see the clothes I would never wear and pull out the pictures of Corey Haim and River Phoenix, boys who were beautiful and untouchable. My closet door was covered with those smoldering lust-filled boys. Everything was the status quo until the day my first Sassy magazine came in the mail.

Sassy felt different from the beginning. The cover did not feature a pretty smiling blonde girl with just the right amount of west coast charm. The article teasers were not “are you fit to babysit” and “he drops you: how to cope.” Nope, this magazine was totally different. The girl on this cover was tastefully edgy. Her black boots and tights held just the right amount of rebellion. She was cocked back a little with her pelvis thrust just enough. It was sexy, but not scare-your-parents-sexual. This was a siren’s song to me, “Israeli & Palestinian teens tell why peace talks won’t work.” “Yes, this is what I should care about,” I thought to myself. Sassy made me want to buy nothing but recycled paper even though I knew that one erase mark would shred the entire page. However, for me there was a slight backlash.

While Sassy pushed me to worry about the sad life of a 17-year-old stripper, I read Karen Kepplewhite Is the World’s Best Kisser for the sixth time. I was never going to be concerned with being a bearable vegetarian unless that was a secret code for being madly in love with mashed potatoes. I was letting Jane Pratt and her magazine down. The writing style appealed to me, tongue in cheek, with inside jokes sprinkled liberally. If I was ever going to write for Sassy and become best friends with Jane, I was going to need to leave The New Kids on the Block behind and lovingly embrace Evan Dando. I liked REM and The Lemonheads, but I hate The Cure and Morrissey with a passion that cannot be explained. So, what was a teenage girl to do? Fake it. The answer is fake it. I pulled my hair back with an alice band and attempted to morph myself into what I believed a Sassy reader to be. I stripped my doors of Corey and River and covered them with bad poetry and homemade posters about saving the whales and abortion. I pretended to care about the bands and issues listed within the magazine, while at night on the phone with Kristi we tried to tape songs off of 96.9, always angry when the DJ talked over the first few notes. I wanted to love Sonic Youth, but was a dirty little secret Top 40 kind of girl. I hid it with my clunky shoes and baby doll tops.

I was living a lie, but still every month I read my copy with a near savagery. I lined the spines up on my white colonial dresser. The spines were the best part of the magazine. Each spine was a different color and infused with a message: “I dreamed I was assertive,” “Nathan has a boy disease,” “be a lion.” These were obvious inside jokes thrown around a writers’ table, a writers’ table I would never be a part of. The magazine folded around 1994 when I was 19, and by that time, some of the luster had worn off for me. Not because the quality of writing had declined, but by 1994 I had a two year old and was pregnant again. My life was now straight out of the magazine’s pages, but I had long since stopped reading.

When I started writing this post, I Googled past magazine covers to pull off the topics and blurbs and I noticed something. Just like Seventeen was trying to sell me a carefree sun-kissed life, Sassy was selling me something too. Mixed in with the hard hitting articles about STDs, drugs, and rape, ever so casually placed between these teasers, were quizzes about being ready to have a boyfriend and articles called “4 Exotic Ways to Change Your Look. The difference was Sassy had better packaging. Seventeen and Sassy were locked in an east coast – west coast rap battle of wills and the prize was the souls of teenage girls everywhere, and I was Faith Evans forever pulled between Biggie and Tupac.

Two Years

It has now been two years since Mom died. Not passed away or no longer with us. She is dead. And it hurts to the point that I feel like my body cannot contain this grief. It spills out of my mouth when I am angry. I want to look at people and say, “Fuck you my mom is dead.” It spills out of my eyes in a current of tears while I’m driving. The grief is balled up in my clenched fists. It escapes through the nervous tapping of my feet. She is gone and at times that feels unbearable. Even with the grief though, I feel lucky. I am lucky to have had her for 36 years. I am lucky that I got to shave her legs.

Before she left for Arkamecca I shaved her legs. We sat in a cold and dark hospital and I washed her hair with dry hair shampoo. I wrapped her shoulders with towels so that her gown wouldn’t get wet. I filled up a puke bucket with warm water and soaped down her back. Her stomach was swollen with fluid but her back was so thin. I remember being shocked that I could see her bones so clearly and I remember telling myself to not react. We soaped her underarms and chest and dried them with soft pats. I refilled the bucket and soaped up her legs. I scrapped the razor up her legs removing the little black hairs. She told me over and over that I shouldn’t be doing this for her. I said that she would do the same for me. She said that this was different and I said, “No, Momma it isn’t.”

I left the hospital that night not knowing that it would be the last time I would see her alive. Kara was able to see her the next day before she flew to Arkansas. That afternoon I called Mom and she asked when I thought Dad would get to the hospital. I told her that it would be a few hours. She said, “He needs to hurry. I have to pee.” This was the very essence of Mom; she didn’t want to bother anyone at the hospital. She never wanted to be a bother. I told her that I loved her and she asked me to check on Kara because “she seemed upset.” This happened on a Monday; on Friday she was gone. She was gone but at least her legs were somewhat smooth. Even as sick as she was, she remained just a little vain and I not so secretly think that her last words were, “root lifter.” She loved her hair product and her Oil of Olay. I know she was pleased when the funeral director said she had great bone structure. Her vanity wasn’t off-putting, it wasn’t the “I’m better then you” variety. This vanity was pride in neatness and her home. Her vanity was really a pride that comes from growing up poor, and wanting to take care of your things when you are older.

I am sure you didn’t know this, but Mom was convinced she created racquetball. She grew up on a farm she was born to leave. Many hours of her childhood were spent bouncing a ball off the side of the house, catching and batting at it. She joined every school organization she could just for extra time in town. She rotated her dolls out so that no one doll was ever jealous of the others. She was quirky and interesting. As she got sicker, she and I talked one Sunday afternoon. She cried and told me she wanted to go home to see her parents. Her parents had been dead for years. She said that she no longer cared about her things and that she would miss us, but that she wanted her Mom. I was blunt with her and told her the truth. “Momma, you are dying. We are going to send you to Arkansas and they are going to do things that make you sicker, but then they will fix you and you won’t be dying anymore.” While we had the conversation I tried not to react, thinking, “Do not cry. Do not cry.” The hot grief built up in my throat and tasted of bile. Arkansas didn’t have time to fix her, her heart and body were too broken for them to fix. She died with Dad next to her.

This time of year everything is secondary to the grief. I couldn’t give a damn about the news, the house, work, or school. This time of year my panic attacks get a little worse and I want to hurt myself a little because physical pain is so much better than emotional. I will think about tattoos and how the hot scrape will make me feel better. How I will wear my tattoos as a shield. They will protect me from the outside hurt. I will wait for May to end. Kara, Dad, and I will laugh about Mom and then we will cry. May will end and the cycle will start over again.

China Town

My face is hot and my hands are numb.

I scratch at my forehead as if it removes the repugnant thoughts I think.

How can they think this is okay?

How can anyone think that this is okay?

My stomach turns over and the juice sloshes around. It is acidic and burns.

My breathing is shallow, and I try to control my lungs.

If I think too hard about breathing I forget how, and I feel like I’m drowning.

I scratch at my arms and I feel closed in.

The streets are full of people. They all want something.

They are in my personal space. My private space.

A red paper dragon flutters by my ear.

The sound is invasive and spreads into my healthy tissue.

Just a little pain will clear my mind.

Knuckles pressed into my thighs.

Slight red marks on my arms.