I used to call you Sir. When you asked me why, I told you, it was a sign of respect, a form of polite affection. I hope the absence of this title scalds your tongue, that you are branded with the acid in my stomach.
I ask you
If it was good. did my joints crack , did I dig my fingernails into your spine,
Was it missionary?
Did you fold the paper of my skin, did you turn me into a crane, did I crane my neck, and did you crane yours,
Was it slow? Somehow, I doubt it.
I ask you this because you ripped this memory out of my skull with two fingers, a cryptic act of I cannot remember.
Was I your target practice, did you reach your goal, how far did you need to stretch.
You said I convulse. I could have told you that. You did not need to prove me anxious. You slipped inside with dog-chewed fingers and I convinced myself I was rewriting this story.
You gnawed through your own expiration in rug-burned nerve endings. I tell you, that is a feeling. Do you know how to let emotion sink below your surface? When I thumbtacked rapist on the tail end of your resume, did you bleed? I find linear scabs on my arms and dental impressions in my neck. Does the thickness in your marrow make you weighted? You should have waited. Were you not taught to hold hand written invitations? Did you hold me? Was I capable of holding you back?
You tell me that I enjoyed it. That I wrapped my legs around you, an invitation. I do not remember how it happened. I do not remember you. I remember being outside.
I remember three weeks of not yet. I remember wanting the only rhythm in my body to be of heartbeat, to be of shadow. Now I walk through this life half-ingested. I wonder if I made a sound, I don’t know if I fucking made a sound. I am here in the aftermath, the bloodshed. You thought I would leave a bigger stain.
You are a tear-jerking distraction, my ribs are laced hollow. I cannot catch my breath. I can still smell your meat, the scent washes against my frontal lobe in liquid flame. I will not digest the spoonful of fear you fed me, there is no room for resentment in my body. There is no room for you.
My love of house music often feels like a line in the sand between me and my fellow feminists. A line which is drawn along lines of class and racial and sexual identity. How can I, they ask me, love a genre of music that is notorious for being a “boys club” and for perpetuating narrow standards of beauty? Because when I’m down with Riot Grrrl and Ani DiFranco and punk rock (to use some over-worn stereotypes of “feminist” music), my feminist bona fides are not questioned, but mention a love of house music and I get either blank stares or suspicious side-eyes.
House is a brand of music that has been called, variously and non-pejoratively, (at times) “club music,” “dance music,” ”electronic music,” or “electronic dance music” or “EDM.” Before it was co-opted by the current wave of dubstep-centric, corporate overloads like LiveNation and Goldenvoice, “EDM” was sometimes used in the 90s to distinguish house, trance, techno, etc. from other “electronic music” that could be described as more experimental and less melodic (and therefore certainly less danceable), like “noise music” or “future music” (which have roots that stretch back to the 19th Century). Any true house music fan will tell you, though, EDM in general has been much-perverted (and not in a good way) into a soulless corporate money-making machine, with Las Vegas and “superstar DJs” at the center of its cold, dead heart.
We sat in the garden after he showed me the motorcycle he recently bought. He told me that he rode his motorcycle during the summer months but now it was autumn. He said the word “autumn” like it was a problem or a reason to stop doing things. I guess the rain makes it more difficult to ride but then I wondered if he was just more of a seasonal rider. Maybe it was like how I stopped drawing after I graduated from art school but every other weekend or so I take out my supplies and try to make something that looks really good. The people at school had a word for that: “Sunday-painters”. It meant that you treated art like a hobby rather than a way of life.
I wish art felt the same way as it did when I was a little kid. When I would try to draw perfect green trees with my stubby, dirty, little crayons and the leaves ended up with streaks of orangey-red and brown in it. I used to try and scratch out the wrong colors with my fingernails. The picture would be smudged and ruined as far as I was concerned. My mom would see my drawings and say, “Oh, look its fall-time!” as if all my mistakes made everything so much better.
His leather jacket squeaks when he moves, even just to brush some hair out of his eyes. I wonder how he gets around the city if he’s not riding his motorcycle anymore.
“Do you wear your motorcycle jacket on the bus?” I ask, because I wonder if that deteriorates your street-cred. He doesn’t answer me so I ask him if he’s a “Sunday-rider”. He looks irritated as he finally reveals: “When I get enough money together for some winter tires, I’ll keep on riding”.
We sit quietly for a moment. Everything in the garden looks soggy and rotten; it reminds me that I should clean out the vegetable crisper in my fridge. I know that deep down there are a lot of squash and root vegetables growing healthily beneath the ground, but you wouldn’t know it by just looking at it. Then I notice that he has begun talking again. He is telling me a story from the I-need-to-find-myself trip to Europe he took several years ago. He begins the story with a shrug but I can’t help but remember that was the first time we broke up.
your sadness is palpable, it’s heavy and tired and i can feel it as you shuffle around the house, searching for a job in a field you didn’t choose but that your husband deems good enough while he drinks bottles of scotch and complains that your daughter is settling for jobs that aren’t good enough and would you stop putting so much damn salt on the fish and fuck it i’ll just eat more bread this dinner isn’t good enough, a phrase you’ve now internalized.
mother, your sadness is aromatic, and i wish it wasn’t because it smells like blood and i make excuses to go into your bathroom to brush my teeth so i can search for red stains on your bath towels and find you crying in bed like that time i rushed into your room cause clay was waiting outside to take me to a movie and aren’t 15-yr-old girls supposed to be the ones sobbing in their bed, dragging razors to their forearms, watching red stains grow on thin white sheets because no one will listen to them and
mother, your sadness is infuriating, blaming your husband for not letting you invest in dreams you have of owning a farm and selling those strange worms that you whisper to while they digest my apple peels, blaming the government for the lack of jobs and how they outsourced a job you hated anyways, blaming everyone else because you’re too scared of change to live your dreams and you’re too scared of failure to take a change and you’re too scared of everything and
mother, i finally get you out of the house and we get coffee and i try to tell you about things i’m excited about and maybe 24 will be my best year yet and i’m starting a magazine and don’t tell dad he would just deem it not good enough but your eyes kind of stare off into a steam rising from the parking lot because thank God texas is finally getting some rain and you ask me if I know what tiny houses are, because dad made you throw away the strange worms and no one else will listen and yes
mother, buying some land and living in a tiny house with your worms does sound like a dream.
*Trigger warning for sexual assault and victim-blaming.
What an absurdity it is, to lose one’s voice. To lose faith in the belief that you might have anything at all worth saying, worth hearing. To feel that it would be better to remain silent than to risk being told to shut up.
Yet in honesty, your voice is not something you lost, as though it were something you misplaced absent-mindedly, a set of keys that you realized you’d held in your hand the whole time after all.
It is something another person robbed from you and took by force. A man who used the weight of his body to tell you that what you say means nothing and can be disregarded as easily as a mother’s advice. The congregation with their cold shoulders and a message legitimized by a pulpit and priestly stoles, that woman is borne of silence and delivered by servitude. Acquaintances and strangers whose words mean well but say nothing, and maybe if you’d been a little more careful, you wouldn’t be in this situation, would you? Bystanders, as silent then as you are now.
You do not have to listen to them anymore. You can use your voice to tell others that they don’t have to listen and to tell a better story about who we can be as humans.
The old woman was sitting on the beach, her caramelized dark skin baking under the hot noonday sun. The sound of the waves soothed her, their repetitive hum acting as a sedative to her worried and frantic mind. There was something odd, she thought, about a woman in her eighties who still got stress headaches—weren’t her last years supposed to be full of idle relaxation, a last contented sigh into the mouth of the void? But perhaps no one’s last years are that quiet, she reasoned. What with children and grandchildren and finances and estate planning and frugal spending (her pension was measly, and she fretted over the knowledge that her children would have worse), the woman could scarcely get a moment to her thoughts. Not to mention that whenever she did, it was almost impossible not to feel the heavy edge of Death persistently and slowly settling into place. That darkness was always there, looking for the right moment to creep in, like a heavy-handed artist patiently waiting for inspiration to strike. It would come when she was relaxed, usually. Those soft sleepy moments before bed were the perfect time slot for what she thought of as existential depression to rear its ugly head. But it really hit her when she didn’t expect it, and being caught off guard made the feeling a thousand times more hollowing. She would be looking at something seemingly insignificant, like her bank account balance, and realize, with a crushing finality, that she had lived a life devoid of meaning, a life devoid of passion. That she had wasted her life.
When a dear friend introduced me to Samantha Irby’s blog Bitchesgottaeat a year and a half ago, I became obsessed with the author in an “I’d carry a suitcase of drugs into another country for you” sort of way. The blog’s cult following led Irby to get her comeuppance - her first book deal. In her debut novel - cheekily and fittingly titled Meaty - Samantha Irby faces the challenges of adulthood in this collection of essays.
Irby tackles the gross truths of life with dignity spawned from the healthy perspective on life afforded her by her raucous sense of humor. The author doesn’t take life, or herself, too seriously — while still a serious student of her craft. Nothing is off limits from her orphan upbringing to her fecal catastrophes to the overeating meat sweats. While the book can be off-putting, it’s only because it is shockingly relatable, wholly visceral even if it doesn’t hit home. A burning honesty like full-strength comedic Listerine exists in her prose. Meaty doesn’t simply aim for laughs; it tells a story through vignettes, one that is often heart-wrenching with an innately wicked wit that doesn’t come along often.
A: The dental dam can be used by dentists to isolate a tooth being worked on, or to protect your mouth from someone else’s anus or vagina. It’s a sheet of latex (or silicone) that you lay over the anus or vagina while engaging in oral sex. It helps reduce the chances of contracting an STD. It is also beneficial if your partner wants anal play, and you aren’t about to lick an asshole. So dental dam = mouth condom/saver.
If you’re in the Austin area and like what Vagina does, consider nominating the maga*zine for a Best of Austin - Non-Chronicle Publication award!
I started Vagina over three years ago with the goal of promoting women’s creative work and I’m so thrilled to see how the issues have grown from brown paper bags and yarn to barcode-boasting, full-color issues. Keep an eye out for the premier of the Summer ‘14 issue in the coming days!
Ma Jian (马建) is quite the dissident. The Dark Roadopens with a riot. Family planning officials are arresting women and dragging them to be sterilised. Pregnant mothers who do not have a state-issued birth permit are criminals and hunted down for a double punishment – a violent coercion into abortion and sterilisation. In a bid to enforce the One Child policy, even women who are beyond their second trimester are forced to terminate their pregnancies, illegal by international standards.
Neighbours are rewarded for tip-offs, properties are confiscated, rape is prevalent and often goes unreported, and families who cannot pay up fines have their houses demolished. An atmosphere of fear and death has hung over the village.
The central character in the novel is Meili and her husband, Kongzi. The couple already have a daughter but Kong wants a son to carry on the family line. With Meili’s baby bump almost visible now, they leave their village and become family planning fugitives, etching out a floating existence -literally- down the Yangtze River. After Meili loses her 8-month old unborn child in a crackdown, Kongzi is desperate to get her pregnant again (and again and again with each unsuccessful birth) so he can fulfil his filial duty of producing a male heir for the family.
But children born outside the One Child policy also face another set of problems. The child joins the ranks of ‘black children‘ and has no access to medical benefits, free education, a residence permit or subsidised housing. In short, he is stripped of his right to live, condemned to a life as an outcast.
Seasons of Your Day is Mazzy Star’s long-awaited, first full-length release in seventeen years. Comeback records can often be bitterly disappointing, but it’s immediately clear from the album’s opening organ notes, that the duo has lost none of their power. Hope Sandoval’s languid drawl is just as smoky and sweet as ever, and David Roback’s sprawling guitar work is alternately sparse and lush, with a characteristic heartstring-tugging twang. In fact, judging from Roback’s psych-tinged, meandering accompaniment and Sandoval’s rich, hazy murmur, it seems that time has only ripened and enriched their sound. Seasons of Your Day doesn’t deviate much from Mazzy Star’s previous work, instead building upon their distinctively atmospheric, spooky tone. It’s like they picked up right where they left off in 1996, and the result is a dreamy, nuanced record that figures perfectly into their catalog.
This isn’t only about Hobby Lobby. It’s about Hobby Lobby and the 71 other companies that this ruling directly affects — ranging from law firms to manufacturers. And while birth control is plenty welcomed among those of us hoping to avoid pregnancy at any given time, it also treats a number of conditions, some of which require surgery to otherwise handle. And while I’m happy not to work at Hobby Lobby and thankful that I don’t work at the other 71 businesses, this does in fact set a dangerous precedent in which any company can claim religion to avoid paying for employees’ health care — whether that be birth control, blood transfusions, antidepressants, products that involve gelatin, etc. Again, I’m glad that I don’t work at any of those companies but I also know that were I in the position that many of their employees are now in, I couldn’t just afford to quit and assume I’d find another full-time job that pays benefits and respects my healthcare needs.