For Ann and Sammie
Yellow, yellow flower, and
flower of industry,
tough spikey ugly flower,
with the form of great yellow
Rose in your brain!
This is the flower of the World.
– Ginsey the Great
You see, my problem is this, I’m dreaming away.
– Britney, bitch
It was recently brought to my attention that I objectify men very similarly to how men objectify women, in the role of Muse that is. I have and continue to find the men I am physically, mentally, sartorially, creatively and emotionally attracted to, my greatest source of authorial inspiration. Many of my feminist pursuits were fired in the urn of male interest. Why do they get? How do I get? In short, partnership is fun, partnership is great, but for this feminist, it’s always been secondary to what I can get out of my encounters with whichever man I am fascinated by. What harp, quill dipped in the ink of brilliance, spring dance on the edge of a volcano, will come to me under the influence of this particular man? They electrify and excite me. Shimmer before me in sundry states of undress, beckoning closer to the orgasm of creative flow. Once the first sentence has been committed to page, I am cumming. And will continue cum over and over, until the next man arrives, glowing sad and brilliant before my eyes. A new couplet waiting to runneth over.
And if I am to get really diabolically psychoanalytic, this is most likely why I have such terrible and unsuccessful encounters/relationships with men- yes I have been in two long term relationships, each one, meh. I occupy a role most often relegated to the male experience of courtship. I find a target, obsess, make my presence known, confess my feelings then become indignantly stubborn about moving on. In the world of male/female relations, I like to get what I want- this almost never happens. And I’m picky. And I make believe, and project and pursue. If I like you, you don’t have to wonder.
Have a type. Even if it’s not having a type, decide that. Know what you like. Make an affirmative point to look for these physical traits in men/bois/partners. I like men that look like me. Dark hair, on the curly side, dark eyes, nice lip situation, a lil chubby. A good nose. Not small, upturned or delicate. Like, a nose. Moody broody. When someone obnoxious and entitled puts the moves and doesn’t fit your type, roll your eyes, mouth ‘eww’ and turn to the person standing next to you. Or be nice and politely decline. Whateves.
In childhood women are encouraged to look for what’s good and kind, the thing that sleeps inside a man’s soul. A soul is subjective, but never mind that- the encouragement is there, ‘the beauty on the inside.’ It’s why we don’t talk back, second guess when our gut tells us no, take that ride when we are too shy to decline, don’t ask the cab driver to slow down, or speak up in our defense when we are whistled or cat called. And why we have learned to absorb the catcall as the accepted burden of being female. It’s why we turn our heads when we are undermined in meetings, and belittled in classrooms, sometimes by teachers.
The world is a physical place and to deny that beauty, or ignore it in favor of looking deeper, is sometimes as shallow as allowing a prince the power to make a woman his princess, based entirely on what she looks like sleeping, inside a glass box. Buyer, beware!
Surely girls must acknowledge that a man is making strides to lift the bowl to his lips, rather than slurp soup between his grubby fingers. After all, getting what you want is about compromise, and what you’ve glimpsed inside a man, peeking and struggling to get out. He wants you to know that if he could, he would, but sometimes, he just can’t. This is why we must dig deep to imagine the baby bird he used to be, and not the toad pig he is today.
As my corny well meaning mother likes to say, if you believe any of that, I’ve got a something in someplace to sell you.
The thing is, men very rarely extend the same philosophical courtesy. And women, subconsciously know this. Hello, Poo-pourie? The botox industry, the continued mystifying success of Allure magazine. It’s why we have the only woman in the room syndrome in the workplace, it’s why Sarah Palin exists, it’s why we – the American we- vote against our own best interests. Because we don’t consider the idea that the gendered system might be broken, not us. Sure, women ‘know’ this- that the gendered system is broken- we read books, our moms watched Maude, Murphy Brown, Roseanne, but we don’t always, ‘live’ this knowledge. Myself included.
But I have a husband! I have a baby! Great! Those things are beautiful wonderful things. I have a book, will probably get tenure and at thirty-three make more money than my mother has ever made at one time in her entire life. I will probably never have to rely on a man for finances. I will put dollars to donuts that in ten years I will be a homeowner. And in Los Angeles! It’s different, and it’s also great. And to me, it is so much more than great. It’s freedom. This essay is so 70’s! The point is, not everyone will have a baby or husband. Not everyone will want a baby or husband. And some people will have both! Plus a career! It happens! Binaries are dissolving as feminism advances. But if it doesn’t happen, all the things you dreamed of as a girl – I dreamed them too!- Okay, okay, you have you. You have your choices to fall back on. Your. Own. Choices.
Why do I write this? Go there? With the babies and the husbands and the weddings? Because I see people in pain. I see people silently feeling like they’ve failed. And moms, wives, they are your friends and they often don’t articulate this to you, well, because they don’t want to shit on your happiness. But people are hurting. And that’s stupid.
Some of my best lady friends are beautiful warm loving intelligent strong womyn I am proud to know, who are married and mothers. I have participated with equal loving and willing, openhearted pride in their celebration and milestones.
Cultural hetero normative traditions needn’t be dismantled, belittled or undermined, but they needn’t be oppressive either to those who either do not or wish not, to partake in those traditions. When something exists at the cost of another person’s happiness or feelings of self worth, then that thing needs to be addressed.
From a grant application:
“The project (Pussy a Progression) opens with The Pussamble, an inflammatory introduction that seeks to throw the reader into the position of feeling defensive. My writing engages in discussions of feminism, confessional poetry, and so-called intentionally offensive material- i.e. marriage is slavery! Celebrate the abject! A tool used to bring the feeling of otherness to a hetero normative community of readers. This method was adapted from my studies of Gloria Anzuldua and her bilingual book of wisdom, and my personal bible, Borderlands, The New Mestiza. By writing the book in both Spanish and English and offering no translation, Anzaldua introduced mono-lingual, English speaking readers to the daily trauma that inhabits the lives of mono-lingual Spanish, speaking readers, for whom English is often a barrier and weapon. My work neither seeks to tell readers which way to fall politically, or toss aside their hetero-normative inclinations, but rather, to ask themselves to consider another way of seeing, a way that opens the door for other lifestyles, perspectives and theory. To suggest simply, a relinquishing of the idea that just because something is, is because it’s supposed to be.”
Feminism only works if it’s real. That’s the first real true lesson of feminism I learned the hard way. It is more than just declaring a kinship to the struggles of women, but also living those politics in your daily life. Letting them unfold behind you, a yellow brick road for other women and men to follow. Men are just as capable of being feminists as I am capable of aligning myself with the politics of queer liberation. I am not, as this essay will convey, queer, but I am a proud queer ally. As well, although I ‘pass’ as white, I am indeed a person of color, and while I cannot claim the struggle or experience of someone who does not pass, I can at a certain point trust what they are telling me, and live my life in a manner that is least offensive and most in power with their blessed perfect identity. And when I fuck up, listen, and change. For some reason, this small act of trust, believing what one tells you, someone who has proven to be trustworthy, has and is, for many men, elusive and difficult.
The art and academic worlds are filled with men who call themselves feminists but in their private lives, treat women like turds.
It seems to me, that much the way women have been trained since birth to ‘trust’ that there is good in every person, so have people of color, and queer individuals been taught that while not everyone will accept you outright, there is a good person inside these racist ignorant people too, and that good person just needs a little encouragement to emerge. The world sings the words of Axl, patience, patience. We should however, be singing the words of the great goddess Bey: To the Left.
My therapist is a strong proponent of ‘teaching’ people how to treat you. Not verbally instructing them, in fact I’ve made concerted efforts in my recent life, within the past three years, not to tell anyone how they should do anything. It is not my place to do so, and no one owes me anything- when you’re done reading this if you find it to be pre gargled water, please, toss all of it aside-. Rather, instead of hanging around waiting for someone to change, move on to someone already evolved, and let the person behind you follow your yellow brick road of instruction. Or, like men do, and I do in my creative pursuits, pick someone based entirely on what you find desirable and bounce when you’re ready. And if you stumble into what you want, make a lil nest and hang around. And, well good on you. Send me a postcard.
It would be hypocritical of me to suggest that I whip men in to shape and instruct them how to treat me like a queen. In fact, the opposite is true. I hang around, but not waiting for someone to change. I like drama. I’m turned on by turmoil, sadness and creative chaos. Emotional vampires and havoc. It just so happens that being treated like a queen is apparently boring to me. This is because since about the age of fifteen my own professional and creative pursuits have always come before my emotional happiness. Or, let me put it this way, my emotional happiness is derived from my creative pursuits. Men are secondary, a vehicle of creation and escape. Fantasy and construction. You know what never gave me HPV, a black eye or had to share a bank account with? A fantasy. Becoming emotionally involved with someone who is emotionally unavailable is my own way of maintaining that the work stays number one. And this is why men are much less likely to change their behavior, because for many of them, women are simply aspects of completing a full life. Now, not every man thinks this way, some are as agonizingly obsessed with the perfect woman being the sole and only purpose of existence, as women are with men being that mirror, but not quite as many as you would assume. Men are given early on, the option of choice. A glass casket with a sleeping babe, and if you’re not into brunettes, there’s another blonde sleeping yonder up the hill at the top of that castle. Her price as it so happens, is also a kiss.
So it seems the radical act would be then to stop waiting and kiss first, and if you kiss wrong, go yonder up the hill.
But that would be too easy.
In many ways the traditional 1950’s western idea of manhood is intrinsically ‘feminine’ or ‘romantic.’ At its core, the idea to desire, progenerate, provide, protect. But these are simply the answers, Jeopardy style, to the so-called ‘innate’ longings of women. What then would be a truly radical idea of personhood? One in which womyn and men seek, Siddhartha like, fulfillment in non-sexual conquest. One in which the mind and soul are activated by things outside the body, by new ideologies, objects, texts, or nature’s humbling isolation. Where, like in that tired but beautiful airplane metaphor so eloquently illustrates, we put the mask on our own face first, before we assist the person sitting next to us. The reflection of Narcissus, not as a signifier of male born entitlement, but a desire for individualized inner truth; a melding of the earth and sky, in which we are fused in the water, drowning not in our consumption of self but in celebration of it.
In the meantime, the rain in Spain stays mainly on the game.
Suggested reading: Gender Trouble, Judith Butler, King Kong Theory, Virginie Despentes, I Love Dick, Chris Kraus, Borderlands/La Frontera
Joey Lawrence was the first boy I really had sexual feelings for. Everything about him was astronomically outrageously delicious to me, from his dark curly locks to his grubby grunge fashion sense to his smooth way with roller blades. He was also Joey Russo of course, and Russo was the bad boy to Blossom’s good girl sis. He was sort of dopey, but well meaning. He also struggled academically and I felt a deep yearning to let him know he was just as smart as his wise cracking sister, only in another way he hadn’t yet articulated. His gifts were less concrete and more inherently intuitive. I knew this about him and championed his cause. He was also really fucking cute.
Okay I lied. The first man I really had sexual feelings for was Luke Perry nee Dylan Mckay. Dylan was the most tragically broken sad had a bad dad, hottie. The first one I encountered. Little did I know that dark eyed Dylan would be the first in a loooooooong line of addicts I would affix myself to and obsess over, onscreen and later as I became sexually active, in real life. I have had two long-term relationships, but six boyfriends total, and of these six, five have been alcoholic and four were ex or current heroin addicts. All of them were potheads and had domineering disapproving impossible to please fathers. Very hot. This isn’t even counting the innumerable men I’ve had crushes on who fit this same criteria. Here’s to you Dylan, and later Dean and Brando, and I suppose you too, dad, for setting me up with a life long seat at the cafeteria of crumbs.
Chris Cornell, the impetus and brainchild of this piece. Chris Cornell has the face of an angry angel. Blue eyed devil long haired psycho. I fell completely and utterly in lust with him the first time I heard Black Hole Sun, before I’d ever laid eyes on his toned ridiculous physique. Later, when I discovered that the band playing on the radio was Soundgarden I was flabbergasted and delighted to discover I already knew who they were, from my numerous re-watchings of Singles. The movie in which a long haired Cornell, and my favorite Cornell, plays himself and later has a memorable scene as a mime. There’s not much to say except listening to his voice can make me cum with just one finger touch and that his face is like yum. I will tell you this. One time I went to see him play solo at the Wiltern, I was sixteen. I took a hand held tape recorder and recorded the entire show. When he sang Sunshower I screamed and grabbed at my face and writhed around with such lunacy that the girls standing next me stepped a few feet away and I stood alone, freaking the fuck out, screaming louder than was probably warranted or appropriate. As I drove home I set the tape recorder on the passenger seat, hit play and all I could hear was the sound of my own wailing filling the car with unholy yowls. You’d be surprised how often this is true to the narrative metaphor of my life.
Aside from having a strong early attraction to musicians, I maintained somehow a consistency of this before mentioned type. I wasn’t aware then that part of my attraction to these dark haired men was in fact an extension of my own burgeoning vanity, and with it came in many ways, a perverse sense of self love. I wanted a male reflection of what I thought was attractive in myself. At an early age I was pushed into performing. People stopped my mom and told her I was cute, or beautiful- I peaked at six- and that attention and adulation translated itself into the belief that what I looked at in the mirror was in fact, a model of beauty. I briefly modeled in high school and this was it’s own strange twist of torture. I still like to get my picture taken though, the camera and I are cool with one another. This is not to say that I think I’m beautiful. I just enjoy pretending. In fact my relationship with my own image has been one of the defining complicated relationships of my life. I write about it now because growing up I never heard voices discussing this strange and terrible neurotic inducing mental fixation. How one could both be afflicted and blessed with adolescent beauty. I was teased, of course, bullied and yet admired by adults. Leered at by men and all the while living the life of an emotionally neglected child in my own home. I turned into a performer early on and became a working child actor. My looks became in many ways the first thing I learned to commodify. Being attractive has never been a source of comfort, joy or relief, at it’s best it’s been a tool, a weapon in my arsenal of getting the things I want. Afterwards though, there is always shame, embarrassment and feelings of inadequacy. I spend all my time waiting for men I am attracted to, to compliment me, then once I have that compliment I have no idea what to do with it and brush it away as quickly as possible. Nonetheless I wouldn’t trade my face for anyone’s. I know it is not the most beautiful face, there are beautiful beautiful flawless women, but it’s my face and it’s as responsible for how I feel about my inner self and the journey I’ve taken to become the thinker, creator, neurotic insecure weirdo I am today, as anything else I’ve read or witnessed. The fact is, the way I look is not an accomplishment, it’s not anything I had a hand in, just as I can’t account for the porny ridiculousness of my name. I have never felt confident about my looks, I know only abstractly that I am told on occasion that I am attractive. I also have really ugly feet, halitosis, IBS, two fingers on each pinkie that never grew and are now weird bumps that make me insecure about holding hands. I am also terribly awkward to talk to, put my foot in my mouth on a regular basis and am so paranoid about offending other people that I often make them feel doubly uncomfortable in my efforts to put them at ease. As well, when I’m nervous, I can’t seem to shut up or stop talking about myself, exhibiting a strange dysmorphic sense of narcissism. I’m also an inactive alcoholic and an active pothead and write essays like this, so there’s that. Make of it what will, how I feel about myself.
I like to say that if someone put a gun to my head and shouted, ‘who is the most beautiful man to have ever lived!’ I’d shout ‘Marlon Brando!’ but I know this isn’t so, I’d have to shout ‘Cat Steven’s!’ because, my god, look at him.
Master Marlon! At fifteen I enrolled in the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts as a theatre major. I spent the next three years practicing Jerzy Grotowski, Uta Hagan, reading Dos Passos, Eugene O’Neil, and other modernist and post modern strains of thought. I wouldn’t encounter these types of thinkers again until a decade later as an undergrad at the New School. I became enraptured by HUAC, Henry Miller, The Actor’s Studio and black and white noir cinema. Tennessee Williams was my favorite writer and Elia Kazan my favorite director. Of Marlon Brando, Pauline Kael wrote this:
“There was a sense of excitement, of danger in his presence, but perhaps the special appeal was in a kind of simple conceit, the conceit of tough kids. There was humor in it – swagger and arrogance that were vain and childish, and somehow seemed very American. He was explosively dangerous without being “serious” in the sense of having ideas. There was no theory, no can’t in his leadership. He didn’t care he was a big man; for what is less attractive, what makes a man smaller, than worrying about his status?
I am always waiting to write this profile and every time I look for a male journalistic subject, I search for Brando. He’s not always there, but when he is, I go full throttle.
Ugh, please forgive me for bringing professor Franco into the conversation but I must admit that in high school I was unbelievably and without cure, deeply in love/obsessed with Daniel Desario. Lindsay Weir was the first television character I related to in ever way imaginable. I used to get stoned and watch the show in my room, having returned home from my own high school nightmares. To make matters stranger, a girl in my class was dating professor Franco in real life and I would see him around campus. One time I sat next him during a school play and he ate a Hershey’s chocolate bar very slowly and neatly, breaking off one piece at a time and taking small delicate bites. I nearly had a heart attack.
By the time I hit my teens I had finally found a way to be around boys my own age, and had accumulated many guy friends, in fact, at one point, I hung out with one group of druggy rag tag stinkers more than I did with girls. It turned out that my early inclinations toward alcoholism and propensity toward smoking pot all day, plus a ripening sense of humor and down to do whatever attitude, got me in good with the Desario’s of my own high school. But not with professor Franco, he was very studious seeming, clean looking and busy, being on a TV show and all. His girlfriend was the same, they struck me as actor cheerleaders. Really good at stuff. In any event, Daniel was gorgeous and I saw myself reflected for the first time ever in Lindsay, and on those Thursday nights, my life was transported to the screen, where I let myself dissolve with abandon.
Lester Bangs and Hunter S. Thompson
After high school I realized that I somehow had come to inhabit the same characteristics as the men I was attracted to. I was at this point a full blown alcoholic, the music editor at a skateboard magazine, the only woman in that building and the youngest, and liked to frequent bars and an old bookstore in Pasadena called Cliff’s that was open till midnight. I’d sit on the floor drink from a flask of vodka in some get up and look at all the books I could get my dirty thieving fingers on. This is the one and only time in my life I was consistently pursued by men. Much effort was put into looking sexy and ratty. Dirty and cute. I didn’t give a shit about myself except having fun and I hadn’t a clue as to how to keep a guy longer than a night. I was about twenty, but they were good times and it was during this time that I discovered my deep love for opinionated obsessive men. This is when I fell under the spell of the words of Lester and Hunter. Anti-authoritarian, beleaguered by things that seemed so self evident to them, but were bafflingly misunderstood by the drones they walked amongst. Cough syrup swilling, chlorophyll drinking self destructive genius. For many years until I made it to New York at twenty-two, they were the end all be all of the sexy smart man.
By the time I got to New York I was a raccoon eyed puffy party animal and I had to relearn how to be among people who weren’t skateboarders, Hollywood vintage store employees, struggling actors and after-the-bars-closed-back-