I’m So Fine by Khadijah Queen

Cover of book: I'm So Fine by Khadijah Queen

I’m So Fine: A List Of Famous Men and What I Wore by Khadijah Queen

This book is hypnotic and gorgeous and it is so good to be alive right now and be living at a time when this book exists. My friend Melissa loaned it to me, and I am ordering a copy for my shelf, because, well, if you’ve read it, you know why, and if you are yet to read it, you will soon discover why.

Queen builds a rock-solid feminist narrative—a memoir formed by tight, crystalline, lyrical fragments, whose accumulation seems as effortless as how iridescent shells appear and gather on the beach, carried by waves of awareness and poetry, to shine in the sun…

Here are some of my favorite fragments.

On page 27:

“I never met Bill Cosby but I met Beverly Johnson at Magic Mountain with my dad & my sister one summer in the mid-1980s & she had on an oversized cardigan & jeans casual but lovely my dad chatted her up while we rode the Colossus with her daughter he said he asked for her number & she politely declined I remember her grace & regality & lace-up boots she sat on the beat bench with her feet crossed at the ankle so when she went public about Cosby drugging & trying to assault her I immediately believed her & not him I have seen enough of powerful men by now to know she had nothing to gain by going public & the truth of beauty means both spotlights & shadows find you & it takes more than instinct to know where to stand on the stage & I don’t mean looks all the time I mean all women are all beautiful and I wish we knew it in ways that make us realize the relative insignificance of the arrangement of external features so we might as well not get so caught up & my dad had a lot of nerve right I mean some men have a lot of fucking nerve in general & I think my sister & I had on matching Hawaiian shirts that day & wore them tucked in I didn’t wear that shirt again & not long after that I fell in love with fashion & asked my dad to start buying me issues of Vogue”

On p. 53

“At the end of summer I met a guy who looked like a six-foot-two Lenny Kravitz but he turned out to be another narcissistic sociopath & where is the law against men that fine &  that messy but at least I could tell within the first 30 minutes of conversation which included tales of his multiple cars &  failed pro football career &  travels to China where he had adventures with sex traffickers &  drug dealers &  later (because I had to finish my raspberry cheesecake &  glass of rose) the break up with his Chinese baby’s mother who he called his former weed bitch & his switch from Christianity to Judaism because he said he wanted to be rich & what in the world happened to this man to make him think it’s okay to reveal all of that to a stranger what kind of man does that I thought but it’s the kind who makes sure you arrive at the restaurant in time to see him speed into the parking lot in a black on black Porsche &  the kind that wears not one but three diamond rings not one but three gold chains & after he hugs you hello reaches back into the car to grab his Louis Vuitton man purse & the zing of attraction crackles to ash because when I met him at the bookstore he claimed to be a small-time restaurateur he had on jeans &  Frye boots &  a worn Jimi Hendrix T-shirt no gold no chains just a leather cuff & a zillion tattoos & his arms were CUT so when he asked to buy me a drink later I gave him my number I had on zero makeup my 20 post-surgical pounds & an orange & white maxi tank & raffia wedges & I should have known better because he was 10 years younger & chose one of those self-published looking wealth management books & wandered to the money-oriented magazine aisle but his attention made me feel lovely at a time when I needed to feel lovely but I’ll be damned if I get dumb so I blocked him & changed his name to Red Flags & avoid making eye contact with men at the Barnes & Noble”

On p. 68:

“When I saw John Singleton buying a bean pie at Simply Wholesome I knew I had done the right thing cutting off all lover & ex-lovers all man candy & even decent prospects & coming to L.A. for my 40th birthday to hang out with my best friends & also who doesn’t love bean pie if they’ve had some bean pie & my son came with me his face all smiles because spicy Jamaican patty & cream soda heaven & even the live music at Simply is perfect & even though I’d had two surgeries & my newly cut up gut prone to protest I was alive in my hometown & seeing celebs just like old times & when I was young I could in equal measure celebrate & take everything about living for granted but 40 is so cool 40 is seeing & knowing not seeing & wanting 40 holds beauty as the accumulation of bliss & survival 40 widens its arms 40 seeks all the June sun instead of shade & flies with more than usual mechanical luster & says yes to all the right things because 40 knows what it wants & mostly gets its every fineness”

Please read this book!

Sex Object (by Jessica Valenti) (& walking down the street)

Sex Object by Jessica ValentiI’m woefully behind on posting about books. There are piles of gorgeous books waiting for me to have time to tell you about them. (I hope the books forgive me!) Catching up a little, at least today.

I don’t even recall how long ago I read Jessica Valenti’s book SEX OBJECT—it’s been months and months, maybe a year. My friend Ashley loaned it to me a long time ago. (Thanks, Ashley! I can return it to you now.)

So much within these pages resonated. Here’s one passage from p. 64 that articulates how it can feel to walk down the street—not just in NYC but also in my small, friendly home town—while female.

“There is a look that comes over men’s faces right before they are about to say something horrible to you.

Or make a noise at you, or whistle in your general direction.

By the time I was fourteen years old I could spot this look a half a block away. In the same way I can tell if someone is a tourist by their shoes or if a person has recently done heroin, I can predict that a man is going to be an asshole on the street—sort of like a depressing New York City sixth sense.

And the moment when you take those few steps before crossing paths with the man who you know is about to say or do something is the moment when you look down, or turn your head to face across the street, or put your earphones in—as if to signal that you won’t see them no matter what they do. That they are invisible to you.

Of course, they do it anyway. And you see it, or hear it.

Sometimes it’s not as bad as you thought, it’s a Hey, beautiful or a simple hello. But more often than not it’s a lascivious intake of breath or a clicking noise, or sometimes just a smirk while they stare at your breasts as you walk by. Once it was a man who came close to my ear and said, I want to eat you. No matter the content, the message is clear: we are here for their enjoyment and little else. We have to walk through the rest of our day knowing that our discomfort gave someone a hard-on.

We are trapped in between huge bodies unable to move, too afraid to yell or bring attention to ourselves. We are trapped on the train, in the crowd, in the street, in the classroom. If we have no place to go where we can escape that reaction to our bodies, where is it that we’re not forced? The idea that these crimes are inescapable is the blind optimism of men who don’t understand what it means to live in a body that attracts a particular kind of attention with magnetic force. What it feels like to see a stranger smiling while rubbing himself or know that this is the price of doing business while female. That public spaces are not really public for you, but a series of surprise private moments that you can’t prevent or erase.

And so you put your headphones on and look straight ahead and don’t smile even when they tell you to and just keep walking.”

 

Black Wave by Michelle Tea

Black Wave by Michelle TeaThis book. So beautiful. A delectable collision of intelligent prose with the viscera. So visceral, and so smart—the sentences hold an intelligence beyond any I can think of, even, in a way, beyond Didion’s. But the sentences aren’t overly smart in a told-you-so kinda way. They’re smart in a way that has faith, more faith than most sentences have, in the reader. The book, the story, is so dark and so light. It’s a gift, really.

Black Wave was my first encounter with the work of Michelle Tea, and I can’t wait to read more of her work. For now, all I can do is urge you to read Black Wave—knowing that it’s written for adults, and has a lot of very specific, intense detail about sex and drugs—and today I offer this passage.

Michelle Tea, Black Wave, p. 151:

“Where did your own story end and other people’s begin? Michelle wrestled with this question. After her first book came out she’d been invited to give some lectures and teach some workshops, and always the people who came were females, females who wanted to tell their stories. Their stories being female stories, there was a lot of hurt inside them—abuse, betrayals, injustices, feelings. They were all worries about getting in trouble for writing the truth. They didn’t want people to be mad at them. It’s Your Story, Michelle would insist.

She wanted to free them all, all the girl writers. Girls needed to tell the truth about what the fuck was going on in this world. It was bad. It was brave of the girls to let themselves stay so raw, though Michelle worried that some of them had had to conjure personality disorders in order to cope. Sometimes the girls were too much even for her, Michelle wondered if she could handle another piece of writing about sexual abuse or sex work. But it seemed that this was to be her job upon the earth. If you don’t tell your story, who will? It was important. Our stories are important.”

**

Read the whole book and you’ll understand its uplift.

 

 

How can we move beyond misogyny?

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shrine for dead fish, arranged by children (July 2016)

Last Saturday on a road trip, I stopped for lunch at the Globe restaurant at Truck World in Hubbard, Ohio. As I filled my plate from the salad bar, I heard two men (and maybe a woman, it was hard to discern) conversing about the presidential candidates. Here is what I captured:

Man 1: Who’re you voting for?

Man 2: Oh, Trump, all the way. Everybody in this area is voting for Trump.

(Someone, then others, chiming in): (Benghazi, Benghazi, sick of these liars, etc.)

Man 1: About all Hillary’s got going for her is her looks.

(Someone, maybe a woman): She hasn’t even got THAT going for her, she’s getting older.

As I listened, nausea filled my bones, my gut. As I type the words now, I feel it again: fear, vulnerability (as a woman, traveling alone, and also myself “getting older”). Part of me wanted to say something to them, but I sensed that nothing I could say (nothing I could think of on the spot) would change their minds.

I did not feel safe to speak. (This is too often the experience for many women.)

But this is my blog, and I’m speaking now:

I am finished with misogyny.

I am done. Overt hatred like at Truck World, or subtle slights like in places where I work with people who might consider themselves liberal yet (due to ignorance or passivity or whatever reason) perpetuate the notion that women are lesser. No matter its shade or flavor, misogyny tastes like ash in my mouth.

It is the flavor of bullshit. A dead flavor.

I voted for Bernie Sanders in the Ohio primary, but when he did not emerge as predicted to be the Democratic nominee, I immediately planned to vote for Hillary Clinton in November. I have no patience for those who equate Hillary Clinton with Donald Trump, saying there’s really no difference.

BULLSHIT.

There are HUGE differences between those two humans that go deeply to the core of who they are. Reading this blog post from Tribe of Dreams helped me reframe the importance of this moment in history, and made me feel even more right about supporting Hillary Clinton. Some of the post:

This is a medicinal moment for humanity.

This statement is not an ignoring of Hillary Clinton’s sins or ignorances or dangerous choices or allegiances

nor is it a free pass for her to lead without continued immense pressure from those of us she leads to make choices that honor life, peace, people, and planet

but even with all of her shadows out in the light

Hillary Clinton is holding within her body right now an apex of the return of the Feminine

a center point of the tipping of the scales back into balance on planet Earth.

Here’s the thing that we (especially, I think, women) who are lefter-leaning and progressive can do: Help Hillary Clinton. Forgive her. Allow for the reality that—as least in her version of the journey to this point in her life—if she had not made a million compromises, she would not have made it to be, potentially, the first American woman to serve as President. She would not be poised to help us heal. (p.s. I would not want that job.)

I intend to do what I can, even if it’s just on the energetic plane. I intend to encourage Hillary Clinton to trust, deep inside herself, what Clarissa Pinkola Estes and others call The One Who Knows. Because that deep, feminine power is some awesome medicine. I have experienced its wings. The kind of transformation we would like to see takes a long time, takes patience and work, but as the song says, “One by one everyone comes to remember we’re healing the world one heart at a time.”