Still so much rage.
It’s been a long first week of the year. I’ve had a period, a hangover, a 12 hour flu (or maybe it was the old bread I ate), I’ve read 4 books and slept many, many, how many is too many (?) hours. I tell myself I am purging. Expunging, even. My body finally able to sort out the toxins I’ve acquired from the past year and expel them.
I’m reading Emma Cline’s The Girls and I am triggered by her apt description of being 14, of being a girl trying to be seen the world. I don’t want to remember this: “I waited to be told what was good about me. […] All that time I had spent readying myself, the articles that taught me life was really just a waiting room until someone noticed you- the boys had spent that time becoming themselves.”
I don’t know why my mother gifted me a subscription to YM Magazine. That was maybe the beginning of the end. Of finding my own way through womanhood. I thought, well, I know, she did it because she felt inept at guiding me through, disappointed in how her mother had done so, but it wasn’t right. I remember sitting in my room with whoever I was calling a friend at the time, reading aloud letters to the advice columnist and hypothesizing about the meaning of the word blow job. “It’s a sex thing, right?” “What do you think it is?” Is this why she bought me the subscription? So I wouldn’t have to ask her, what is a blow job?
Parenting is fucked up.
I didn’t need it, but I try to forgive my mother, who was born in the early 60s, of thinking it was what all girls needed. How badly she wanted me to know what the other girls knew, even if that knowledge was false. I sometimes think of all the things she can do expertly that I’ve had to teach myself or learn from others: roast a chicken, plot and grow a garden, change a tire, sew upholstery,
sew curtains, repurpose furniture: strip, sand, stain, paint. pickle, can, stew.
Maybe things I will never learn. She has the strongest hands I’ve ever seen. Farm hands, she called them. Meaty, short, stocky, strong. Her rings looked misplaced there, like her fingers would break them, or eat them. [you in danger, girl]
Like, how utterly self-reliant she is, yet how codependent she lives. I try to understand her and I try to forget her. We, my siblings and I, can do none of the things I listed. Not one of us four. What are those odds? What was her theory of mothership? What was her philosophy, her teaching statement?
I’ve forgiven my father for forgetting his Spanish. I can forgive her this.
I read Jill Soloway’s She wants it, and at first, yes, I did want it. I sat down to the opening pages of Soloway describing parenthood and morning with her son and I was in. But then, she shifted, and I started to pull back a bit: “What if everyone just told all college boys that, due to the stress of living on a planet suffering from the gigantic mental illness of misogyny, a lot of girls disassociate when they are learning how to have sex, so please, check in with them a lot to make sure they are still there and consenting?”
And isn’t this, isn’t this the rotten core of white feminism? That the world is this: man v. woman. That women, whoever they are, are the victims, and men should know better. Let’s teach men, whoever they are, to know better. Fuck that, man. We all have to know better. Yes, we all suffer from the gigantic mental illness of misogyny, and we all have to recognize that we are probably all disassociating as we learn to have sex and we have to check in with each other to make sure we are present and consenting. Sex is not something that happens to women, as much as women would like to believe this, as much as women have internalized this lesson. Sex is something that happens with us, because of us, for us, just as much as the person(s) to whom we consent. Sex is actually something we do. We do the sex. We have the sex.
This is what’s up with white women; with feminism on instagram; this is why rape culture continues to exist, because women won’t take responsibility for their part, either. You want sex to be different? You have to learn about it, and you have to talk about it, and you have to do something about it. Stop having sex with fuckboys (fuckfolx?) and learn to have sex with yourself. Then go out and change the world.
And then I read Soloway from a side eye. Not sure where she would take me next, and as it turned out, she took me nowhere, left me nothing. I could not believe, what a psychopath. I shouldn’t say that. But if only gender were so simple. And maybe it is, maybe it is that simple, when you’re that privileged and so many worlds are so accessible to you.
We went to the EAA Aviation museum yesterday. I wanted to die.
It felt like a concept from 1988, put into place in 2000. I’m sure it’s much older than that. I’m sure the doors have been open for 30 years, but god. It represented everything I think is wrong with this country and how much work we have to do in this part of the world. There’s a whole room, an entire “hangar” devoted to WWII. A big world map on the wall with flags over each country, representing the sides. Ally and Axis. Jesus.
how many wars have there been since WWII
There was a small display case full of Nazi memorabilia. Souvenirs from serving soldiers who ventured into that part of the world. No explanation as to why they chose to preserve it, or maybe why the soldiers took it in the first place. No poetry to mesmerize us about the dangers of evil. How evil is like a flame, you know it will hurt but you can’t look away, you’re drawn right in, the train wreck, the car accident, the bad TV. I know it’s bad, but there’s something I want. Something I’m not supposed to see. Nothing to remind us of what the world became. Nothing to explain to children or anyone, as if we all still know everything we need to remember about WWII. As if those lessons are still being taught, still exist, are still accessible. A display of Nazi artifacts but nothing about the Tuskegee Airmen. A small display of Hiroshima R&D, but nothing about the people who died or the after effects of the bomb in Japan. Can you do that? Can you be that kind of museum? I guess so.
One small section devoted to female pilots. A case devoted to Amelia Earhart from 2012. They haven’t even bothered to update the exhibit, in this golden age of girl power. Nothing about Ruth Law. A brief mention of Bessie Coleman, nothing about Willa Brown. I was obsessed with Amelia Earhart in first grade. I wrote a book report about her. Then thought it was fortuitous when I ended up at Purdue, but later I read a biography of her and was disgusted? shocked? not surprised by the author’s evidence that she had not learned proper navigation skills. And since then I swore off Amelia Earhart, who planned to land on such a tiny island without the proper knowledge and preparation.
So I’m at the EAA and there’s this outdated exhibit and white men’s faces all around me, and no people of color and hardly any women and the warning sign about parental discretion advised outside of the Eagle Hangar because pilots or flight crews or someone painted naked women on the noses of planes and omygod parents, naked women, warn your children, the body of women always suspect and corrupt. And I wanted to burn the place down, this empty, cold museum filled with planes but nothing else. No heart or soul or thought to who should be coming here and what the story should be and what we should be talking about now, in 2019.
The flaws of it, you know.
And this is middle America, all these white faces, mostly men, with some women too, because women can do things, especially when the men aren’t around, and the protection of the children and the delirious…the fantasy of living in the world alone, like, this is it.
And if I turn this into a letter to you, it’s much easier to write.