He undressed the country and grabbed it in his sweaty palms. As the zipper came down, the country split in two. He inserted his finger into the wrath. He inserted his finger into his following but they didn’t notice. He peeled open the law and banged it into the first half. He abraded the tissue. He promised beautiful garments to the second half. He sweet-talked. The country grew grotesque. It took on an absurd shape. It bulged in strange places. His jack-o-lantern smile assured all that everything was just as it was supposed to be.
A cabinet of little boys who hate women.
They dropped my rights down a well.
Men talking about my body. A frat club making rules about my eggs.
He’s an orange glow – radioactive – and I don’t like him.
A long flight of stairs leads to the past you thought you left behind.
The men are nails.
They hold locks in their hands.
They are telling us to go to sleep.
But we are awake.
We rise up.
We are healthier than them.
When I was growing up, my mother used to put a big X on the calendar to mark the day she expected her period to start. She referred to it as the curse. I never questioned this, later learning that many women from her 1920s generation also used this derogatory phrase. Nor did I question it when I later heard women referring to their vaginas as fishy, as in stinky down there, that nameless place at the meeting of our thighs.
Most of the words used to describe the vagina were crass then and are crass now. Yesterday I had a telephone conversation with my good buddy Panda (nickname) and she told me of an incident that troubled her.
“Some guy at the 7-Eleven just called me a bitch fish taco,” she said. Yuck.
“What’d you ever do to him?” It was so outrageous that I had to laugh.
“He tried to squeeze in line ahead of me and I wouldn’t let him.”
“You’re horrible,” I said. And then: “Did he say it real loud?”
“He said it under his breath as I was leaving the store. I turned around, calling him a bastard dick burrito.”
“I guess bitch fish taco is the new bitch,” I said. She agreed with me.
From there we got to talking about the negative vagina-words floating around our culture. Words like fish taco, slit, gash, bang hole, and axe wound to name a few. Of course there were positive words as well, such as honeypot and muff – I like muff because of its warmth – but let’s be honest – negative words outnumbered them today just like they did in my mom’s generation. This was when she told me that as a writer it was my responsibility to invent new positive vagi-words, as she called them, saying that we needed language that spoke of our vaginas in more respectful terms.
“And this is my job?”
She said it was.
So, I got the idea of creating the ABCs of the vagina, my idea being to go through the dictionary and create vagi-synonyms using each letter of the alphabet. She liked my idea. I did too.
“Call me back later with them,” she said excitedly.
“Will do,” I said. This would be easy, right?
“And don’t make them too corny. They have to be real.” But what was real? How real was honeypot?
We got off the phone and I brewed a cup of tea, plunking down at the kitchen table with my faded red dictionary I hadn’t used in years. I needed something tangible. I leafed through its tissue-thin pages, beginning with the letter A. I reminded myself of the assignment. I would come up with twenty-six positive names for the vagina, one for each letter of the alphabet.
I opened the dictionary to the As, considered the word altar – I could see the vagina as an altar of sorts, but it seemed a bit clichéd. I kept on looking. When I came upon the word “ambrosia,” I paused. I remembered eating this fruity salad as a child, people bringing it to potlucks to everyone’s delight. Pineapple, coconut, mandarin oranges, marshmallows. Whipped cream. Sink your teeth into that! In Greek mythology, ambrosia was thought of as food for the gods. Good enough for me. Therefore, my first vagi-word came into being. I added the adjective sweet and voila! Sweet ambrosia. It had a drunk and dreamy feel to it.
I continued with the Bs, sipping my tea. I came up with Bliss Tap but crossed it off. It made the vagina sound like beer. Hmm…How about Beautiful Surprise? Nah. Panda would say this was way too corny. How about, I thought, Ball of Woman Fire? Nah. Pretty ridiculous. A few minutes later I invented Blessed One, and I liked the holy feeling it invoked, making our vaginas a sacred place. And then I invented Best Attribute.
The pretend-conversation in my head went something like this:
“How is your Blessed One today, might I ask?”
“My Best Attribute? Why, she’s doing fine, thank you.” Fun. I was feeling good about my body.
Fifteen minutes later and I was having a hard time finding a vagi-synonym that began with the letter C. It had to be spectacular to counteract that other famous C-word: cunt. Its positivity had to match the latter’s negativity. Another ten minutes, but I came up with nothing. I decided to come back to it later. I moved on. For D, I decided upon The Most Delicious Meal, and a second choice: Dining at the Vagina Cafe, my creativity blossoming.
I continued. E: The Elastic Wonder. F: The Fantastic Wonder. G: The Gymnastic Wonder. I was on a roll. For H, I decided upon Heavenly Palace, and okay, I admit I was lapsing into the world of corny. The letters I, J, and K breezed by, as did L, M and N. Momentarily I got stuck on O, but came up with Opulent Jewel, which I considered one of my best.
P, Q, R, S ,T U, V. Pretty easy. But X? It took me a while, although Y and Z proved pretty easy.
I’d thought I was finished, but then remembered I had to circle back to the letter C. I mulled over new words, the worst of which was Curvaceous Smile – what was that supposed to mean? – and came up with nothing I liked. And then an idea alighted. What if I took the cunt-word and made it positive? In other words, what if I owned it rather than opposing it? In two seconds flat I had my example – Beautiful Cunt. Yes. Beautiful Cunt. I loved it.
An hour and a half after our conversation, I called Panda back. “Are you ready?” I asked.
“Lay them on me,” she said.
“Some of them have more than one example,” I said. And I read her my completed list of words. Language is so important, the names we label ourseleves with.
Blessed One. Best Attribute.
The Most Delicious Meal. Dining at the Vagina Cafe.
The Elastic Wonder.
The Fantastic Wonder.
The Gymnastic Wonder.
Kitten. Kitty Kat.
Yum Yum Tree.
My friend Panda liked them and I did too.
I watched a documentary with Kenji tonight. He admired the speaker. I thought he was a big ole sexist. I observed what a hothead I can be. I want to learn how to just state my opinion without all the drama.
I observed how I miss Tiger when he’s not with me.
I fell in love with two new dogs at the kennel yday. Both are six years old and surrendered because their person went into a nursing home. How hard that must be.
What did I observe today?
This morning, I subbed for a severely disabled class. Most of the students could not talk and many were strapped into wheelchairs. Many could not eat and were fed through a tube. All could not look at you and give you eye contact. After lunch, I subbed for an orchestra class. I walked into a room of 38 students and they were talking to each other. They were eating chips. Their arms and legs worked. If I spoke to them, they looked at me. what a sharp contrast. I inhabited two separate worlds.
I read where legislation passed making it legal to kill hibernating bears, to go into wolf dens and kill pups. How inhumane we are.
I haven’t felt well all day. I observed how I do more when I’m sick than most people do when they are well. I worked all day, took my grand-dog for a walk, drove downtown to pick up my partner.
I observed how hard it is for me to not look at my cell phone when I eat lunch.
I observed how I operate better in the world when I meditate in the morning.
I observed the rain on the windshield. At red lights I turned the wipers off. I shot the street through heavy rain.
https://entropymag.org/on-weather-dating-deluge/ Read it on Entropy…
The anxieties of senior dating…
I am sixty-five years old and dating again. Way too old for starting over.
The rain lashed down on slick San Francisco streets as I drove across town to meet my fourteenth online date through OkCupid. Dating was the only way I could keep my mind off Kenji, my on-and-off partner for the past twelve years. I missed him fiercely, but he wasn’t coming back. Cheetah, one of my closest girlfriends and the high priestess of advice, kept telling me that the only way to mend a broken heart was to distract myself with someone new. When I complained about the wimpy coffee dates I’d gone on, she explained online dating like this. “It’s a numbers game. You have to put in your time. It’s best not to expect a whole lot. Just think of it as business. That’s the only way to do it.”
I navigated through the streets while hunched over the steering wheel. I squinted, the wipers clacking back and forth. A perfect night to stay at home and read a book or watch one of my favorite French videos. A perfect night for anything but this.
When I’d buckled my seatbelt and left the Richmond district, I stationed my cell phone on the passenger seat next to me. I texted my girlfriends before and after meeting someone. It helped to ground me, helped to give me the confidence I sorely lacked and make me feel I wasn’t all alone. The fab four, of which we called ourselves, would soon be receiving my group text. The three of them would hear from the one of me who communicated thusly: I am going in.
South of Market. Thirty minutes later and the cafe still eluded me. The windshield fogged up and I turned on the defroster and cracked a window. Unfamiliar with the directions of the one-way streets, I kept getting lost. Was it Folsom Street that shot away from downtown or was it Harrison? Or both? And if I was on Bryant Street did that mean that I had gone too far? I drove in circles, looping around the rainy streets while trying to find the Epicenter Cafe. I couldn’t seem to get my bearings.
The guy I was about to meet: Italian, divorced, a New Yorker fairly new to the city. He had written me first, and his email sounded light and funny. I liked his photograph, his dark hair and eyes.
As I drove around, more lost than ever, my mood spiraled. One minute I could be fine and slip into my grief the next. How was I ever going to have a relationship with someone new when I was emotionally unavailable? The idea of having sex with someone new horrified me. Could I really move on? Move on. My hand found its way to my heart. My breath caught.
At a stoplight, someone honked when the light turned green. “Sorry,” I said, as if they could hear me. I hooked a left and once again hunted for Harrison Street. I felt myself sinking, spiraling out of control.
“I can’t do this,” I said aloud. “I’m not ready and I may never be. I have to go home.” I was far too old for online dating and even if this guy was nice, I couldn’t stand the possibility of getting my heart broken again.
Moments passed. I actually found the cafe. Shock of all shock I also found a parking space right across the street. I pulled into it, turned off the engine and unbuckled my seatbelt, sitting quietly for a few minutes while rivulets of rain streamed down my windshield. “You can do this,” I said firmly. “You can do this and you will do this. Pull yourself together.”
With this I managed to open the door. The cold air swirled around me. I grabbed my purse and umbrella, eyeing the cafe across the street. A dark-haired man sat near the front window. Maybe it was him. Poor man. Look at the mess he was about to meet.
I hoisted myself up to a standing position, giving myself a pep talk. I was attractive enough. I could be funny sometimes. I had a lot to offer. As I was almost ready to lock my car I remembered my cell phone. Sitting back down in the driver’s seat, I momentarily thought of fleeing, of starting the engine and driving the hell away. Get out while the getting was good.
I waited a few moments and then reached across the seat. In a burst of courage, I grabbed for my cell phone. I texted my girlfriends. I am going in.
I love you and am so glad you are in my life. You are so sweet and loving and handsome. Your ears make me smile. When you spend the night and I wake up in the morning and see your adorable ears I feel so happy. I love seeing you run up and down the stairs, taking them three at a time. I love your goofy smile when I rub your stomach. I love taking you for walks and watching you smell the flowers. I love how you hang your head out the window of the car. I am trying to understand your fears of other dogs and how you like some and really don’t like others. I am trying to help you with this.
I feel blessed to have you in my life.
Who is the best boy in the world? Who is the most handsome and the funniest? Who gives the best kisses? You are such a good kisser. Who loves to go shopping with me and to the bank? Who loves to go to Walgreens to pick out a new toy? Who goes through my purse for treats? Who, who, who?
I like writing in new poetic and prose forms. Therefore, writing a skinny appealed to me. Here’s the definition of a skinny:
“The Skinny Poetry Journal (TSPJ) seeks new poetry. TSPJ is a literary journal that is dedicated to The Skinny poetry form. A Skinny is a short poem form, created by Truth Thomas, that consists of eleven lines. The first and eleventh lines can be any length (although shorter lines are favored). The eleventh and last line must be repeated using the same words from the first and opening line (however, those words can be rearranged). The second, sixth, and tenth lines must be identical.
The point of the Skinny, or Skinnys, is to convey a vivid image with as few words as possible. Skinny poems can be about any subject. They can also be linked, like Haiku, Senryu or Tanka.”
Here’s my skinny that they published. They are easy to write, and fun. Try one.
She even wears her pussyhat to bed
Even to bed she wears her pussyhat
PS Here’s my first submission, which they rejected. When I looked at it more closely, I realized I hadn’t followed the format correctly. Do you see where I screwed up?
Write a story in exactly 100 words…not easy!
I submitted this to 100 Word Story. It was my first attempt at writing a story in 100 words. You have to get in, make something happen and get out very quickly. Hard to do, but many of the stories are quite moving and definitely an art. Read some and try writing one for yourself. This one wasn’t accepted but I will try again.
Marilee wasn’t perfect but close to it. Her silky black hair, her almond-shaped eyes, and her generous lips. One of her legs was shorter than the other and she walked with a hitch. Her father told her it gave her character. Her mother advised her to use it to her advantage. Marilee exaggerated the movement. She was a human slinky toy. The girls at her school imitated her. The boys thought of her as a work of art. Marilee’s lips pouted as she flung her hair off to the side. She struggled down the hallway, one hip jutting, then catching.
This is for the writing contest given by the 2017 San Francisco Writers Conference. I submitted the first chapter of my novel… Yay!!!!!
2017 SAN FRANCISCO WRITING CONTEST FINALISTS (in random order)
ADULT FICTION FINALISTS:
Cult of Savage Hearts by Amy Lampe
Dead Man’s Shirt by Bruce Campbell
The Upside of Dark by Catharine Manset Morreale
The Man Who Lived In Silence by Chelsey Dannielle Monroe
Only The Lonely at the Geezer Beauty Pageant by Eliza Mimski
Plumb Undone by Kelly Allen
The Taste of Names and Other Things by Masha Sukovic
Bash Chelik by Masha Sukovic
Simon’s Still Point by Scott McGaraghan
Over The Coconut Trees by Shymala