Take up more space as a woman. Take up more time. Take your time. You are taught to hide, censor, move about without messing up decorum for a man’s comfort. Whether it’s said or not, you’re taught balance. Forget that. Displease. Disappoint. Destroy. Be loud, be righteous, be messy. Mess up and it’s fine – you are learning to unlearn. Do not see yourself like glass. Like you could get dirty and clean. You are flesh. You are not constant. You change. Society teaches women to maintain balance and that robs us of our volatility. Our mercurial hearts. Calm and chaos. Love only when needed; preserve otherwise.
Do not be a moth near the light; be the light itself. Do not let a man’s ocean-big ego swallow you up. Know what you want. Ask yourself first. Decide your own pace. Decide your own path. Be cruel when needed. Be gentle only when needed. Collapse and then re-construct. When someone says you are being obscene, say yes I am. When they say you are being wrong, say yes I am. When they say you are being selfish, say yes I am. Why shouldn’t I be? How do you expect a woman to stand on her two feet if you keep striking her at the ankles.— from A Woman of War by Mehreen Kasana (via pbnpineapples)
My friend who works part time at a bakery says she can’t help but touch the icing on the cupcakes when she picks them up. Each cupcake she hands to a customer has her fingerprint in it, she says, and this is indicative of her failure at life.
“I’m old, I’m 30 years old and I’m working at a job that pays $8 an hour and I’m not even good at it,” she says. She’s driving her boat of a car, a hand-me-down from a deceased grandmother. I’m in the passage seat.
“You’re not old,” I say. “You’re not even 30! You just turned 29.”
“But I look 30,” she says.
I tell her how the guy at the Apple store informed me today that my laptop is now considered “vintage” and that I feel like all my mechanical possessions are breaking down and I can’t afford to fix them and that is indicative of my failure at life and also getting old. I just turned 35.
We chose this life.
“Bohemian,” I suggest.
“Bums!” She says.
We are driving the backroads from our town to the next. Everywhere the trees are lush and green with life.
We agree that it would have been impossible for us to go the other route. The sorority route, for example. My friend is obsessed with sororities this week and with a website called Betches Love This, which is written by and for sorority-type girls. According to this website, she says, “betches” spend their parent’s money on “sick” jewelry and hipsters spend their parents’ money on not having to work so they can sit around discussing Nietzsche all day. She feels like this is a valid indictment of the hipster and, by extension, herself.
“I don’t see how buying ‘sick jewelry’ is better than sitting around discussing Nietzsche,” I say. “Also, we don’t sit around discussing Nietzsche. We’ve never discussed Nietzsche.”
What the Neighbors Say
Please stop burning things at night. We need to borrow some lobster crackers and other lobster eating accoutrements. The current lighting is sparse at best and promotes an atmosphere of fear at worst. When you find your cat harvesting lantana blossoms and brewing up a pot of tea for two, you need to start worrying. Is there a known predator of worms that we could encourage? Is anyone still gathering pumpkins to take to the zoo? Someone has knocked or rolled a very large landscaping boulder into the street on Green. It is huge.
That year the smoke alarm went off loudly and often. It was on the ceiling in the hallway, just outside the kitchen, a few feet from the stove. My boyfriend made dinner most nights, cooked with the kitchen window flung open to let in the cold night air. Poached halibut and braised greens or almond encrusted trout, carefully arranged in the center of square white Crate & Barrel plates. He brought these down the hall to where I sat in the living room, perched on the couch, or in the dining room at the table I had helped him pick out at CB2. He presented these dishes to me like an offering. Some nights I couldn’t breathe.
When I cooked, the window stayed closed and the smoke alarm went off with even greater frequency. One night my boyfriend came home to find me standing on a chair in the hallway, dismantling it. He looked perturbed. “What if there’s a fire?” he asked. And then, “You know that’s coming out of our deposit.” He was the one who had paid the deposit, is what he meant. I ignored him. I felt I had effectively solved the problem. He would have just tiptoed around it indefinitely. Conflict avoidant: it was high on my growing list of his faults.
He’d moved to San Francisco from New York for me. He was a pursuer and I was a distancer—“a classic distancer.” This, according to our couple’s counselor.
We lived there together for just short of a year and we never had a fire, but one night there was a fire in the apartment behind ours. The firefighters came in their oversized yellow suits, spilling through the side gate and over the little stretch of patio that separated our apartments, then squeezing up the rickety flight of stairs and into the tiny apartment like clowns into a car. My boyfriend and I watched from our bedroom window, front row seats. We were spectators by nature, largely ineffectual in the face of crisis. Ashes floated through the air. No flames were visible, but afterward there was a great deal of damage.