Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Maya & Leah





My secret relationship with Maya Angelou began when I was a young girl, decades ago. Ours was a troubled friendship, if you could call it that. Maya, of course, never knew Leah.

She was such an obviously grand woman, I know this: someone whose words, whose lovely interesting face, whose very presence on this earth brought comfort and hope to so many people it's almost hard to grasp the meaning of such a multitude. Yet to me Maya Angelou--the name, the face, the words--threw down the gauntlet of a fierce and hurting challenge that I have not been able to meet.

In a middle school English class we were given her autobiography "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings." In what seemed at the time I am sure, to the teacher and probably other students, a silly and overly precious move, I took a stand and insisted, along with a classmate, that the book contained material inappropriate for my age, and I refused to read it. My school being what it was, a place where children were listened to and (albeit haphazardly) taken seriously, the teacher agreed that I could substitute another book.

In reality though, my reason for rejecting Maya's book was not silly, though I could not honestly articulate the truth behind this angry and willful rejection, even to myself. Now I know: I didn't want to, I didn't want to discuss in a room full of children, the rape scene that lay at the dark heart of the book. I had, in private, looked through the pages and I had read the words. But I wanted to undo it. Make it unread. I couldn't read it, I wouldn't. I wanted to rip, to burn, that book. I wanted to kill that book. I wanted to stamp my feet in a baby tantrum and cover my ears and eyes and throw myself down on the battered linoleum floor of the classroom and scream, "NO!" And I wanted to keep screaming until someone finally thought to ask me why I was screaming; and at the same time I wanted them to ignore the screams and look away from my terror.

Such was the mind of a child who had herself been raped, who had lived in a trembling silence of gutting shame and fear for years.

I hated that book, and I hated Maya, almost as much as I despised the one who had abused the small me. I hated her confessional, because it wasn't my confessional. I hated her bravery, because it wasn't my bravery. I hated her hope because I had none.

As so often happens, abuse followed abuse. There were other men who took opportunity to hurt me sexually. By the time I was 13, I had been sexually used and abused to varying degrees by more than one grown man. By first grade, I truly saw myself as a seductress. And by early adolescence I knew it had all been my fault.

But I never did tell anyone.

Through the dark secretive years, Maya's words continued to haunt my thoughts, and to fill me with a confused fury. Her luminous and open and generous existence was a living reproach to my own lies, my tiny fearful life, always so tightly controlled and full of self-hatred.

Phenomenal woman, and rainbows, and kindness, grace, courage, self-reckoning and insight. Living the best life possible, ultimately undefeated. A powerful self and a powerful self-acceptance. I have always realized, of course, that for Maya, all this was hard won, and then only through extreme adversity.

But still, painfully, my own story to date doesn't come fully to a place of hope.

I cried, when I read that Maya was dead. She has been my companion for so long, though I can hardly read her words and have to look away from her strong face. But I have a certainty that she would accept the notion of a woman-in-progress, always in progress. As I am.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Sweet Cold

Espresso soda, fitting for the vernal equinox: like dark earth fizzing up with sweetness.





Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Beautiful Hound

100 Happy Days
25/100

Remus Love








Decided to move back to The Weather in the Streets...

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Mixed Metaphor






I think that sometimes I see my life as a series of meals, and I have never learned to eat properly. My pacing is poor: one minute, I'm desperate and starving, gobbling experience as fast as I can, cramming myself full, too full, scared that someone will rip it away before I have had a chance to finish. I can almost see myself, hunched protectively over that portion, eating with my hands, barely able to catch my breath.

The next minute I'm feeling frail and tummyacheish, staring at a platefull and not knowing where or how to begin on it, overwhelmed by the textures and tastes and even by the utensils. How do I use my fork? Do I remember how?

I've been working for years on a pieced yoyo quilt. I don't have stamina, but I come back to it whenever I want it and without worry. Open the box, look at the bright circles and the thread and discs and feel good. It's in different stages of creation, from piles of uncut fabric to yoyos to a yard or two of finished quilt. And for some reason, that's okay with me. I can see what it is now, what it was and what it will be. It has accepted my pace without judgment. When I work on it, I accept my pace.

The quilt is separate from the rest of my life; that is, I don't take it in as general metaphor. It just seems to exist. The yoyo box is a place I go whenever I feel like it. Wholesome and tangible. Easy. Welcoming. No gobbling, no tummyache. No one will snatch it away, I'm certain, because who else wants a box of cotton fabric? And who would deny me the humble pleasure of it?

I haven't yet found the way to reconcile my life to itself, one part to another, pace to pace. I could say, mixed-metaphorically, that I vow to spend more time in peaceful piecework and less time in alternating glut and starvation.

I hope I will.

I will try.











Friday, January 3, 2014

Ten Little Things for 2014





1. be quiet
2. be present
3. be nice
4. think calmly
5. go slow
6. quit whinging
7. write dissertation
8. tell the truth
9. be with friends
10. make music

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Guilty Pleasures





A facebook meme. I had to think about this, what constitutes a "guilty" pleasure, because on the one hand, I feel vaguely guilty a great deal of the time about most things (so Jewish). On the other hand, I'm old enough to be unashamed of my slightly shameful predilections.


1. Overpriced pedicures. At the all-pink salon, where they bring tea in rosy pink cups or, in the evenings, a pink cocktail. Having my feet dominated by Iris, whose deceptively fine hands bring on a sort of twilight sleep of deep delight.

2. Taylor Swift. But I have to listen on my headphones. Guiltily weeping.

3. Lindor truffles. Sucked not chewed.

4. Bingeing on those pithy-yet-specious list articles all over the internet: "6 surefire ways to get your man to give up his soul to you," "8 unmistakeable signs that you're a psychopath," "12 ways to get out of a speeding ticket." I like my world reduced to lists.

5. Being a pathological fantasist.

6. Lingerie catalogs

7. Memorizing complex rap lyrics and rapping along. Alone in the car. Latest "achievement": DMX's Get It on the Floor ("you motherfuckers wonder why I start shit")

8. Taking selfies. Using filters.

9. Lottery daydreams

10. Writing micro erotic
creative nonfiction.


Saturday, December 14, 2013

Zionist Girl






The term Zionist Girl puts me in mind immediately of the sturdy rosy-cheeked antiHolocaust antivictim of the early Palestine Propaganda posters.

But when I got called that in a "conversation" (I use this word loosely, very) on facebook, it wasn't meant fondly, nostalgically, as a compliment, or even a matter-of-fact description; rather, it was offered as a scathing indictment, as sneering as any indictment could be.

A "friend" of mine (and again I use this word loosely, very) posted a speech of Mandela's about the wickedness of Israeli policy toward Palestinians. Said friend likes to post a great deal about Israeli Apartheid. I had held my tongue, but finally commented, one short paragraph, uttering that fateful word, the word that never fails to unleash the hellhounds of anti-Israel absolutism: "antisemitic." (let me add, I really won't weigh in on whether or not I think Mandela was antisemitic, I wouldn't have the energy; it was the repeated and pointed posting of anti-Jewish State material that seemed suspect). Anyway, there followed a virtual firestorm of anger toward me.

The immediate reply to my comment was typical: "anti-Zionist doesn't mean antisemitic."

To which I say: anti-Zionist doesn't mean antisemitic. Except when it does.

A German chick called me "stupid," after which ad hominem attack I left the conversation. But being the compulsive person that I am, I snuck back to the scene under cover of the deepest night to see how the thread unfolded.

It was not so much an unfolding as a foaming-mouthed effigy burning. Having never before been burned in effigy (or called a Zionist Girl, or, for that matter, been called Girl much at all recently--that went out at the same time as "Miss" was replaced by "Ma'am," but that's a whole other story of heartache), my interest was greatly piqued.

The discussion can be boiled down handily: "That Zionist Girl can't handle the truth of Israeli Apartheid. She is racist. She is ignorant. And she left the conversation because she can't defend the indefensible." There were several people agreeing on these talking points. Angry people.

First let me say, this isn't exactly about specific Israeli politics, only tangentially. Or symbolically.

The problem is:

a lone Jew speaking up in a hostile crowd of people who are angry at the Jewish State and not just its policies but, I would argue, its very existence. The problem is that surge of intense disgust/ire that passes for discussion. The problem is the rapidity with which this discussion degenerates into an attack on that lone Eponymous Jew. The problem is tone and meta-message. The problem is a lack of self-awareness in the angry mob.

The thread, after I left it, was notable for one glaring characteristic: a repeated use of the words "Jew" and "Jewish," coupled with the words "racist" and "fascist" in a simmering and barely contained group rage. The term "Zionist," opaquely layered, quite obviously, with the word "Jew."

People get exercised on social media sites all the time. But this felt different, it felt more significant and far more threatening than anything I have experienced before. It left me nearly shaking, teary-eyed and scared.

There is a real darkness in that moment when you realize you are the only one of your Kind in a group, when that group calls you by the name of your Kind, and that name is spoken like a curse. That darkness presses in on you. You can feel it in your very bones. It isn't paranoia and it isn't over-sensitivity. It's a truth that can only be known in the feeling of it, a truth as old as old mass graves and charred prayerbooks. And even older still.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Merry Christmas, Ya Big Jew




It's that time of year once again. Time for the passionate arguments over denominational Solstice holiday greetings. Sympathy seems to run low when The Dreaded Other demands "special treatment."

Facebook is always a place to gauge the social temperature, and popular memes specifically are the thermometer. I am unsurprised this year to see a jokey flow chart posted and reposted all over my wall, which I will summarize: "Don't be a fucking bitch, accept whatever holiday greeting is offered, and accept it nicely."

I suppose this meme is aimed at two distinct groups: on the one hand, those hardcore Christians (a specific group of them) who balk at the idea of kowtowing to Muslims/Jews/Atheists/Pagans/assorted Freaks who don't celebrate Christmas, and offering a non-denominational holiday greeting. On the other hand, those very Outsiders who don't celebrate Christmas and want a nondenominational holiday greeting.

The problem with this frightening demand for a universal standardized Christian greeting is that now, perhaps understandably, there is a backlash against any requirement of special consideration, hence the exasperated tone of the meme.

Yet I must point out that there is a big difference between those who would insist that their Christian belief system take precedence, and those who simply want it acknowledged that we are not all practicing Christians.

In the wake of this incredibly hubristic movement to coerce obeisance (even if only tacit) to a single religion, desire for a universal nondenominational holiday greeting has become tiring to many, another demand made on them as they try to suck whatever joy they can out of the various festivals of lights.

So I'm going to come right out and say what's on my mind. Please, religious Christians, don't make me accept your Christian greeting, for I'm not Christian. And please, kind but weary friends, don't make me accept just any old holiday wish on the grounds that "come on, the offerant was well-meaning and for goodness sake, enough already."

So, no, I don't live in a country with a national religion. No, I do not celebrate Christmas. Yes, I am Other. Yes, I'm asking for special treatment and yes, I am an inconvenience.

Sometimes expression of tolerance is inconvenient: it requires thought, it requires awareness, and even vigilance.

I am a big Jew who just doesn't want to hear the words: "Merry Christmas," over and over. I don't want to be gracious. I don't want to accept the spirit or the sentiment behind it, willy-nilly.

Then again, I'm not a total bitch, and I do wish you well. May the Winter Solstice bring light and warmth and longer days to us all.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Blackout

The strangest feeling: I have no memory of this day, none whatsoever. Yet, it looks memorable. I look pleased; I look like the little girl I hope I was.

Mommy, Daddy, Liv, and Leah. A trip to the zoo, a ride on a dromedary. Sunshine. Possibly a picnic. There is even a yellow balloon.

I can only believe there must have been, there must have been, this beautiful day, because here is the proof.


















Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Pimms Cup

Possibly it is better on a hot summer afternoon in England. In my daydreams I'm there, the long interval picnic at Glyndebourne Opera House, bare feet tucked under me, pale blue dress to match the pale blue sky, a lazy conversation, but not much of it. Condensation drips from the cold fruit-filled glass...

But on a rainy spring evening in a Brooklyn apartment, I can happily report, Pimms Cup (virgin for Ella, alcohol for me) is delightful.