Much to the chagrin of a strict and Puritanical Catholic school upbringing, and with no apologies whatsoever to Sister Madeline, the nun who educated my third grade class on the horrors of war,
but also ironically taught us to accept the shame that follows “attention-seeking” episodes of histrionic post traumatic distress,
here I sit at this desk composing a post on a topic I can’t even say without having to put a hand over my mouth and mumble .
And in the interest of helping you understand why I chose to do such a thing, especially with someone like the ghost of Sister Madeline looking so disappovingly over my shoulder, I will first explain that I was never really one to surrender to the conventions of conformity. And by this I don’t mean to say I actually chose the path less traveled. . .instead I am saying that I more or less had noplace else to go.
And so consequently, and despite everyone’s best efforts to mold me into someone who looks and behaves like this:
Image by mharrsch via Flickr
I ended up a person who makes art that looks like this:
And tragically somehow, I suppose you could say I seem to have managed to evolve into this embarrassingly
unquiet person who writes and makes art about taboos, ones including but not exclusively limited to: mental illness, feminism, sexuality. . .
and as I type, the one thought I have spinning upstairs in the lost attic of my brain is,
“Oh, man my priest is gonna kill me in the confessional with a buttload of puragatorial “Hail Mary‘s” if he ever finds out.”
I felt the same way about my seventh grade journal though. The one I kept under lock and key.
And in admitting this, I am not really looking to cast aspersions on any of our formative oppressors; it doesn’t help anyway. . . just leads to more defensive arguments about how we need to do as we are told and soldier on. Besides, we are people whose ancestors were schooled by the Great Depression, persecution, what have you. . .so if we start pointing a finger of blame, we just end up having to point it at ourselves too, if only for the modicum of conformity we embrace just to keep peace at times. ..to protect ourselves from further pecking and scratching at those open wounds trying to heal themselves. ..
At any rate, in light of the knowledge that every role model and scholar in this journey has had something to offer, and out of my own need to honor them for trying to keep us safe from harm, I am just going to embrace that part of my past for what it was, a learning experience.
To be fair, I also feel a need to acknowledge that silence and lying was the way of past generations, men and women who had no idea for themselves how to heal from their own awfulest of traumas.
And in spite of it all, we manage to find ourselves in an age when the boundaries have been stretched a bit; even so, it’s still there, that little dark cloud that envelops our private parts.
And if I had the hours to write a paper on the negative effects of puritanical shame and other abominations committed in the name of religion, and how that shame has ultimately led to the abuse of innocent victims of all ages, shapes, sexual orientation and sexes, I would gladly go there, but to save space I will just try to make do with the time I’ve got.
But back to what I was saying before, let me just reiterate and remind myself that sadly and tragically here in America, girls are still implicitly taught to walk a wide path around impure thoughts, unfresh scents or anything else remotely connected to normal and healthy bodily functioning and perception,
not to mention overall good health and normal development.
It’s a dirty job, but somebody has to tell us keep our butts out of the gutter, right?
Bad things happen down there and maybe if we keep our mouths shut about them, they will just go away.
And what about those cliches that people said to us, the ones that made us so creeped out we slipped on three pairs underwear each day to keep it bottled up inside.
“Knees together please. Nobody needs to see what you have in there.”
“Don’t sit like that. People will get the wrong idea.”
“Pull your skirt down, for Chrissake. You are adverstising something you do not want to sell.”
And to that, you just know we all wanted to scream:
“I am eight years old. I have no idea what that means.”
It has taken years and years of invasive therapy to even begin to process this stuff for a very large segment of the XX population, but there you go.
And if reading words like “therapy” and “private parts” makes you feel uncomfortable,
I am sorry for that. Sorry for your discomfort, a discomfort that has become the default for all of us when people bring up sexual violence and/or exploitation taboos. I am sorry for such discomfort, but not sorry for the words.
And please know that I am not trying to embarrass anyone. I write for a lot of reasons, but mainly towards the end of a universal healing process, language passed from hand to hand to hand,
and nurtured by beloved teachers, one in particular who let me bleed and bleed all over the pages of my fifth grade looseleaf, bringing fists and fists of fresh pages, which I was also asked to read to my classmates.
It’s funny how the title embarrasses me still. “Laugh at Me if You Want.”
I wrote it the year I also pushed my head through the window glass playing outside. . .my rabbit fur hat bloodied a little and the shard of glass plucked proudly from my forehead, its indent as prelude to parting my hair to the opposite side and barretting it to make sure everyone saw the scab.
It’s been a few years since I saw “The Vagina Monologues,” and I remember being incredibly moved throughout.
It inspires me still. Not only for the narratives that were so engaging and validating, but for giving me permission to write and make art that challenges the status quo for exploratory works.
This is the place where our stories come from. Here is the light that shines from the center of us, the entranceway through which we all must pass.
First I am going to share something to make you laugh perhaps, and that is a little gem found on a friend’s facebook page this morning, the link attached to a site that advertises something called a “vagisoft blanket,” which in theory is something we need to wrap around ourselves anyway although perhaps not commercially.
But still, I feel the need to point out the advertising and marketing is really quite genius, with slogans saying things like:
“soft as the marshmallow womb of a mermaid”
“the cotton fields of heaven”
“the **** of a silkworm”
And can you imagine the impact of that kind of advertising on the minds of a next generation of independent sexually empowered and safe men, women, transgendered and transexual folks from all over the place?
So anyway that was the part of my blog (with thanks to Charles Colyott, sci-fi fiction and horror writer, for posting it on his status today)
that was for the sake of making light of a difficult topic. . .
and here, dear friends who have stuck with this awkwardest of topics thus far, is the end of this journey, but for many of you, the beginning of another.
As a precautionary measure, I must warn you that it’s not my style to set something up so playfully and then switch to a serious topic, but these are the layers of who we are, all shades of the rainbow in healing ourselves.
This next passage is called “My Vagina is My Village.” It is a very short film of Eve Ensler performing a piece from her book, “The Vagina Monologues,” and it is not easy to watch, but validating of universal struggle and suffering I promise you. If this doesn’t break your heart and make you wish we could change the shame and insanity that leads to such tragedies, tragedies that also occur outside of wartime, then nothing will.