September 29, 2009

Trouble with a capital “T”

Posted in Relationships, sexuality at 8:52 am by LadySophie

Our topic this week is body image, relationships and something else…all I can think about these days is my new relationship. I had to remind myself that I am still a PhD student yesterday – seems to slip my mind. The  newness and intensity of those first dates is something worth focusing on. I had just declared to a friend that I was “done with relationships, done with men” and then I met one hot Asian boy the next day. Trouble.

I have had a lot of experience with singleness. I have even taught workshops on it – yikes. People were frustrated that I didn’t have a lot of answers for them. I have been a Christian single, devoted to waiting until marriage for sex. That adds a whole new layer to the mix. I have had significant relationships and even been engaged. But mostly, life is pretty great as a single. I make my own decisions, I choose how I spend my time and money, I have lots of time for my girlfriends. I am the strong, independent woman – because how else would I be?

So this new…thing…is shaking up my world a little. There are things that I have looked for before and not really found. But then I met him. I am not saying this is IT or that he is the mystical ONE – but I have been shocked by my reactions so far. The power of the voices in my head.

“You are too old to get what you want” is the phrase that bothered me the most. My friend calls it an “error of scarcity” and I believe it. Deep down I believe there is not enough love for me. Not enough of me that is worth loving. That I am too much or too little of what I should be. I live under these lies at times and it keeps me from giving a lot of people a chance. This new relationship has reminded me of the truth – that there is an abundant, loving God that never intended that I live a scarce life.

So why is new boy trouble with a capital “T”? He takes care of me even though I am independent. He tells me I am beautiful even though I am too tall. He gives freely even though I expect so little. He does not fit my previous self-destructive patterns. One hot Asian boy can shake things up and make for a LOT of interesting days.  Trouble.

September 26, 2009

Why I’m Glad My Hawk Nose Grew Back

Posted in Body Image, feminism at 9:29 pm by Gaia

caroline-march-2008

When I was a teenager, I agonized over my nose. Large, bold, and bumpy, no one in my family could figure out what ancestor it came from. I often wore my hair down so that with a toss of my head I could easily hide it. I was self-conscious and shy, and it was all due, I was convinced, to my terrible nose.

How I suffered over it. Eventually my mom got sick of hearing about it so she’d say, “Well, why don’t you do something about it?” So we went to a plastic surgeon. A month before my 18th birthday, I underwent surgery to remove the bump, narrow it a little, and make the tip slightly finer.

This is probably a bit shocking to a lot of you, but you should understand my cultural context. Where I came from – an affluent town in So Cal – several young people got nose jobs. My two best friends did. So did a boy and a girl in my congregation who were in my grade. It was not that unusual a thing to do.

The experience itself was terrible. Somehow the plastic surgeon convinced me to choose a local anesthetic. Big mistake. The shots inside my nose were one of the most painful things I’ve ever experienced. And then I lay awake and watched them lean over me and file down my nose. When it was all over, my face was swollen to twice its normal size. I had an emotional breakdown after I saw myself in the mirror that night. Against my bruised and swollen face, my new nose looked like a pig nose – my worst nightmare.

But a month after the surgery, I was loving life. My new nose looked fantastic once the swelling left. I felt fantastic. I went away to college confident, happy, and far more outgoing than I had ever been before. I had absolutely no regrets.

Over the years, however, my feminist sensibilities have made me question this decision I made at 17. Did I just fall into that old societal trap that told me that I had to have a Barbie face to be attractive? Was all that confidence false and misplaced? Did I sacrifice my own distinctive look for something merely unobjectionable?

I think the answer to all those questions is probably yes. If I could go back and have a conversation with my teenage self, I think I would try to talk her out of doing it. I would try to help her to realize that one shouldn’t let fashion magazines make a person so miserable for looking a little different. I would try to convince her to focus on all the great features she had, physical and especially non-physical.

But at the same time, I still can’t deny how much the surgery meant to me at that point in my life, how much it increased my happiness in those heady years between 18 and 23 when I felt beautiful, powerful, and completely in charge of my own destiny.

And the ironic thing? My nose grew back. (Apparently this happens sometimes when young people get this kind of plastic surgery.) It took 12 years of gradual growing, but I no longer have that perfectly straight fine tipped nose that filled me with such relief and giddiness. It’s pretty hawkish these days. And I must say, I rather like it. It’s distinctive. It’s strong. It’s what I should have embraced as uniquely me from the beginning.

September 25, 2009

In a Barbie World: Wanting to Want My “Imperfections”

Posted in Body Image, feminism at 12:57 am by Gina Messina

  • Perfection?

    Perfection?

Okay, so let me out myself.  14 years ago I decided to have cosmetic surgery; rhinoplasty or a “nose job” to be precise.  What brought me to this decision? What made me decide to permanently alter my physical appearance? As much as I hate to admit it…a boy.  I was twenty years old, in my first serious relationship and had been dating this boy (he was adult age, but mentality wise…well, you get it) for about a year when he told me that he couldn’t marry a girl with a nose like mine.  As you can imagine, I was devastated.  Up until that point I felt pretty confident in myself.  Overall I was happy with my appearance; however that one comment turned my negated my confidence and left me feeling ugly.  At his prompting I ended up in surgery and with a new nose that wiped away my father’s genetic marking.  A few months later I caught him with another woman and our relationship was over.

From that point on, body image became a major issue for me.  I contemplated other cosmetic surgeries (although I never went through with any) and obsessed about my weight which has gone up and down (but mainly up) over the years.  I became completely consumed with the “ideal” image of woman and trying to attain that overall physical appearance.  I wondered why I couldn’t be one of those Victoria Secret models. 

I would like to say that 14 years later, as a strong standing feminist, I am over this body image issue and even regret my decision to have cosmetic surgery; but I cannot.  I often contemplate what would life be like if I had not had cosmetic surgery.  Would my now husband had found me attractive and asked me out in the first place?  Of course I want to think that I should have never had the surgery, I want to regret it, but the surgery has given me one less thing to obsess about with my body image.  It just seems impossible to appreciate any of my attributes when I am bombarded with messages that my unique characteristics are “imperfections.”

Every which way you turn society is demanding “perfection” from women in their appearances.  However these demands are nearly impossible to achieve.  I’d like to share some facts about women and body image that I find disconcerting:

  • The average American model is 5’11” and 117lbs.  However, the average American woman is 5’4” and 140 lbs. 
  •  The “ideal” woman that is portrayed by models is 20% underweight.  A study in 1995 showed that 70% of women who looked at models in a magazine for three minutes felt guilty, ashamed and depressed.
  • 40-50% of American women are trying to lose weight at any given time.
  • 25% of women in college have an eating disorder.
  • Nearly half of women smokers choose to smoke to control their weight.
  • 53% of girls are unhappy with their bodies by age 13; this percentage grows to 78% by age 17.
  • In a sample of high school students, females had a much higher level of dissatisfaction with their bodies.  While males reported receiving information of health and diet from their parents, females reported magazines as their primary source.
  • Barbie, as in the Barbie Doll, is 5′9” tall and 110 lbs.  In real life this weight and height would measure a BMI of 16.24 and severely underweight. Her proportions, 39” bust, 18” waist, 33” thighs and a size 3 shoe, would cause her to walk on all fours; it would be impossible to walk upright.
  • In 2007, women had nearly 10.6 million cosmetic procedures; that’s 91% of the total 11.7 million cosmetic surgical and nonsurgical procedures were performed in the United States.  (See  http://momgrind.com/2009/01/28/women-body-image/)

Every day when I look in the mirror I see the small scar on my nose and I am reminded of how I have betrayed my own beliefs, I feel shame and guilt, like I am not a true feminist.  I feel that I have participated in this ongoing abuse of the woman’s self image.  I want to want my nose back and appreciate my “god given” attributes.  However, do I regret the nose job?  Would I go back and change things if I could?  Nope.

September 23, 2009

The Prayer of an Unbeliever

Posted in faith and doubt, prayers at 11:43 pm by Gaia

painting by Anju Walters

The Evening Prayer by Anju Walters

Prayers from various religious traditions uplift and expand my being. Ironic since I haven’t prayed regularly for 5 years now. The patterns of my Mormon prayers feel constrained and empty to me at times. I know the fault lies within myself, that there is a way to connect to the divine in the thank-ask pattern I’ve learned since primary.

But I haven’t quite figured out how to make my Mormon prayers click yet. So I turn to the prayers of others.

I was touched by holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel’s prayer.  In his book Night, he describes his loss of faith as he surveys the bodies of murdered children.  He writes, “Never shall I forget that nocturnal silence which deprived me, for all eternity of the desire to live. Never shall I forget those moments which murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to dust….”

In an interview by Krista Tippett, she asks him what happened after that. What happened after he lost his faith forever.

His response: “I went on praying.”

Here is his prayer:

I no longer ask You for either happiness or paradise; all I ask You is to listen and let me be aware of Your listening.

I no longer ask You to resolve my questions, only to receive them and make them part of You.

I no longer ask You for either rest or wisdom, I only ask You not to close me to gratitude, be it of the most trivial kind, or to surprise and friendship. Love? Love is not Yours to give.

As for my enemies, I do not ask You to punish them or even to enlighten them; I only ask You not to lend them Your mask and Your powers. If You must relinquish one or the other, give them Your powers. But not Your countenance.

They are modest, my requests, and humble. I ask You what I might ask a stranger met by chance at twilight in a barren land.

I ask You, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to enable me to pronounce these words without betraying the child that transmitted them to me: God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, enable me to forgive You and enable the child I once was to forgive me too.

I no longer ask You for the life of that child, nor even for his faith. I only beg You to listen to him and act in such a way that You and I can listen to him together.

My soul resonates with this prayer. In it I find room for questions and answers, for anger and mystery, for faith and doubt. It is transcendent.

This is Why I’m a Feminist

Posted in feminism, feminist journey, our histories, why i am a feminist at 11:42 pm by Gaia

The women were innocent and defenseless. And by the end of the night, they were barely alive.

Forty prison guards wielding clubs and their warden’s blessing went on a rampage against the 33 women wrongly convicted of “obstructing sidewalk traffic.” They beat Lucy Burn, chained her hands to the cell bars above her head and left her hanging for the night, bleeding and gasping for air. They hurled Dora Lewis into a dark cell, smashed her head against an iron bed and knocked her out cold. Her cellmate, Alice Cosu, thoughtLewis was dead and suffered a heart attack….

Thus unfolded the Night of Terror on Nov. 15, 1917, when the warden at the Occoquan Workhouse in Virginia ordered his guards to teach a lesson to the suffragists imprisoned there because they dared to picket Woodrow Wilson’s White House for the right to vote….*

I am proud to embrace the term ‘feminist’. I do so in solidarity and gratefulness to the women who worked so tirelessly and in the face of such antagonism to win me the right to vote. I also do so in solidarity with the women of a generation or two ago that won me the right to hold a credit card in my name, to obtain a home loan, and to participate in women’s sports.

My journey towards feminism has had several seminal moments.

-Reading Ibsen’s A Doll’s House in high school and rejoicing when the main character chooses to leave the husband that infantilizes her in order to search for her true adult self.

-Recognizing the way girls were treated so differently in my Mormon congregation: unable to pass the sacrament, ineligable to receive the priesthood as all the boys did, taught to support and sustain their husbands as priesthood holders who would ‘preside’ over them.

-Attending a women’s college in which nearly every course had a feminist spin. There I met so many other students and professors, whom I respected so much, and who identified themselves as feminists.

-And perhaps most importantly, finding a vibrant group of Mormon feminist intellectuals, who had the bravery and integrity to confront the gender disparities in our faith and work towards a more equitable future.

As the years go by and I meet more thoughtful and compassionate feminists, I become increasingly proud to align myself with them.

*from a newspapaer column by Connie Schultz

Cute Pink Bunny Vibrator: My Worst Enemy

Posted in religion, sexuality tagged , , , , , at 3:08 am by Lakshmi (LaChelle)

rabbit-pearl-vibrator-big. . . well, not really. But it does scare the hell out of me. It’s hidden away in a cozy beige bag in the hallway cupboard, right next to the clear baggie of brightly colored vegan condoms flavored blueberry, strawberry, wildberry, and vanilla, which is next to a goddess-lovely tube of vegan lube. The first time I have sex with the person I love most (me), I want it to be a truly organic experience. (You can get all of these things, well sans the vibrator, here.)

Um, okay, I don’t even know if that last joke made sense. But whatever.

To put it bluntly, nothing has ever gone inside me “down there:” not a tampon, finger, penis, or even the seemingly innocent little vibrator with a rabbit and pearls that someone paid $79 for.

I’m a pretty, blonde, Ph.d, all-around-fabulous person who has done plenty of other things and gone on many dates, but I’m a little over a year away from being 30 and I sort of have a complex about this. My feelings range from OMG-I’m-a-Horrible-Weird-Ogre-Freak to Ha!-Queen-Of-Purity! But mostly, I don’t really think too much about it at all.

Growing up, I was the speaker on “abstinence” at a Youth Leadership Conference because I religiously believed that God had a soulmate for each person and so you should save yourself for him/her until your magical wedding night which would be stars and Bryan Adams playing in the background and a bed that overlooked the Mediterranean Sea while it rained. I’m sure my evangelical tradition had something to do with this idea as did growing up in the Bible Belt. I was even taught that masturbation was a dirty little sin that could send you to hell. I really had little sexual outlet.

All my boyfriends at my Christian college were equally as repressed and so I was never really confronted with the idea that anyone would even want to have sex with me. . . not until graduate school. But we didn’t. Actually, we never really even had the conversation and my boyfriend, another virgin but not a Christian, did not suggest it. We increasingly became more and more intimate though. And with each step I felt increasingly more guilt and shame, and the disapproving floating head of God in my mind looked a lot like my mom’s. I was beginning to be less shackled my traditional Christianity after I moved away from home, but the new world of sexual intimacy, drinking, late night intellectual discussions, clubs, and basically experiencing life was intimidating.

By the time I finished my MA, I went back home and began dating someone else that I eventually moved in with, but he was even more adamant (being a Christian) that sex was for marriage. So no-go there. And finally when I was feeling okay and adventurous! I even remember staying up late one night with my older woman friend discussing how to seduce a man. But Mr. D could not be seduced. My last boyfriend was also a virgin, but he wouldn’t have minded having sex, yet. . . I just can’t. I don’t want to. First it was religious, and mostly now it’s that having a baby would in my opinion absolutely ruin my life (I hate the idea of having children, call me a monster if you will). And partly. . . because pink vibrators won’t get you pregnant. . right?. . . I just don’t want to take the plunge. I’m scared? I don’t know. If you’ve never had chocolate before, maybe you stop caring about trying to eat it. If my religion would have celebrated sexuality and bodies and my mom would have been less BoysOnlyWantSex/ToRapeYouOneThing, maybe just maybe, I wouldn’t now be coveting/idolizing my body-as-temple or, to rephrase someone brilliant, putting the penis on a pedestal. I do understand that I have the ability to change my mind about sex now that I am agent of my life. But I’m honestly just not sure how to do that.

September 21, 2009

Spirituality in Images and Art

Posted in Art, SoCal, Soul, Spirituality at 4:46 pm by LadySophie

When I was in 8th grade, I took at art class and felt I was destined to be an artist. I loved to paint, work with charcoals, and sketch. It’s funny to me now because I am such a verbal person – everything I do in life right now revolves around words. But what I found in art, was a way to express myself even beyond words.

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I led retreats off and on in my last ministry – and I learned about art cards at a conference. They are sets of postcards you can buy that have fine art printed on them in small form. I used them as an introduction exercise. I.e. “everyone choose a card that represents who you are and share it with the group.” It was a way to take us deeper as a group more quickly. You would be amazed at the depth of meaning people found in art.

Since I have been in SoCal, one of my fav places to visit is the Getty. My profile pic is actually the floating labyrinth in the garden there. I’ll attach a few more pics here for you to see. The Getty is such a fulfilling experience. One room is my favorite. It is a room of women. One scene is a wedding in Greece with women dancers. Another frame has a portrait of a regally dressed woman by the beach. Another is a haunting portrait of what looks like a sad wife. I am always stirred in that room.

Not only do I find meaning in images others have created, but I find images inside as well. If I stop and listen, images come to mind of what I am feeling or desiring. In my journaling, I could imagine the place where my soul could rest, could be myself, could be restored. It is a beach house (of course). Huge windows that face the ocean. Crisp white couches – the comfortable kind that you can nap on. A beautiful kitchen. Rooms for different things I enjoy. Only peace lives there. I can walk around without my shoes on. No one else can go there unless they are invited. That image has stayed with me this year in a powerful way.

Even if you are not an art person or a journaling person – try both one time. Go to a local art museum. Sit down for 10 minutes and be still. See what images come to mind. What a gift – that we have this ability to connect our soul to the world around us. Art and images help me see what is inside my own heart spiritually  – and express it in a way words never could.

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September 18, 2009

Finding the Goddess at a Dave Matthews Band Concert

Posted in feminism, Goddess, music, Spirituality at 7:24 am by Gina Messina

  Dave Matthews in concert

For quite some time it is fair to say that spirituality was missing in my life.  I always had questions about God and wondered what spirituality was.  Although I had gone to (Catholic) mass, prayed and focused on developing theologically from a very early age, I never truly had a spiritual experience.  I did not understand the point of prayer, if God didn’t need my prayers, then why I should I pray?  They certainly did not bring me any comfort, instead prayer and mass felt like chores that I had to do in order to make my way to heaven.  Didn’t any of my other deeds count?

By the time I had begun my MA program in Religious Studies, I was an “in the closet” atheist.  Attending a Jesuit University I was quiet about how my religious views had changed as a result of my research.  It was during this time that my love affair with the music of the Dave Matthews Band began.  I had always been aware of DMB’s music and really liked what had been released for air play but did not own any CDs and rarely spent time listening to any music.  Occasionally I would turn on the radio in my car when I was not rehearsing a presentation, reviewing concepts from material I had read for class, or talking on my cell phone and using my drive time as my only time to catch up with family drama and friends.  Other than that no music, much less the music of DMB influenced my life in any way.

It was my husband who first paid attention to DMB and insisted that I attend a concert with him during a trip to Boston at Fenway Park.  I agreed and while I would like to say that it was the best experience of my life, my husband and I had what was probably the biggest fight of our entire marriage that night (over absolutely nothing, by the way) and it left us with a memory that was soured. 

However, it was at that concert that I remembered how much I liked the unique sound of DMB and appreciated the meaning behind some of its songs.  Following our trip I kept a CD in my car and started to really analyze the music.  About a month later we attended a second DMB concert at home in Cleveland and it was truly a phenomenal experience.  My husband and I strongly connected over the music and I felt inspired by its overall message.  Going to DMB concerts became a spiritual event for us to share that offered a transcendent experience of holy community.  What I had been missing in church and did not feel fulfilled in with prayer I found in a concert with a band that promotes social justice through their music. 

It was DMB’s cover of the song “The Maker” that first allowed me to reestablish a connection with the divine.  I experienced the song itself as a prayer, feeling truly in communication with the divine when I listened to and felt the meaning of its lyrics.  When I had lost my mom to domestic violence, it was the song “Grey Street” that allowed me to experience the suffering she had endured during her abusive relationship.  The songs “Stay or Leave” and “Sister” described my devastation and grief over her loss.  Although it may sound odd to say, the music of DMB is what carried me through my grief process for what was likely the biggest loss I will ever experience. 

This past week my husband and I attended the DMB concert at the Greek Theater in L.A.  Of course we had been looking forward to the show for months and were excited for our yearly dose of spirituality inspired by music and community that we have found nowhere else.   The concert opened with “Don’t Drink the Water,” a song that describes the injustice experienced by the American Indians at the hands of the colonizers.  It was a strong and powerful opening, but I was surprised when the next song they played was “Stay or Leave.” I was overcome with emotion and openly wept as I felt a strong sense of accompaniment in my grief and loss.  Later they played “Grey Street” and “Sister;” I was surprised that of the many songs to choose from, including those from their new album, somehow, those that were most significant and comforting to me through such a difficult time were being performed all in the same night.  I felt my mother with me; I sensed her love in a way I had not experienced since her death.

At the close of the show, the band played a song I had never heard live before; in fact, it is a song that is very rarely performed, “The Maker.”  My husband was as stunned as I was; knowing the importance this particular song had for me, he leaned over and held me close as we experienced the melodic prayer together.  It was the perfect way to end the evening. 

For me, it has always been impossible to experience the divine in patriarchal mass and prayer, I felt stifled and unable to achieve a sense of spirituality throughout my time in the Catholic Church.  I was unable to fit into a religious mold that was dictated by structures I believe to be abusive.  Although I struggled for some time and even felt lost, I realize now that I have never been a stranger to the divine, I simply needed to find her on my terms…and I did…at a concert, in the music of an all male band, I found the Goddess.

September 17, 2009

Bonhoeffer is a Secret Feminist

Posted in Faith Transformations, feminist theology tagged , , , at 7:27 am by Eostre

It’s true. Or at least, I believe he is, though he probably wouldn’t agree. And he was my first exposure to ecofeminism. Unlikely, I know, but true. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German theologian who was executed on April 9, 1945 in a German concentration camp, and I have a hard time deciding how I feel about him. I absolutely love most of his writings and his theology. He foresaw the post-Christian era, and he wrote a lot about the importance of community and pacifism and lots of other things that I really like and agree with. However…he also participated in a plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler. This is where the problem comes in. I am a firm pacifist, but I have a really hard time condemning him, he felt that he was saving lives, and if it meant sinning to do it, he valued the lives (and souls) of others above his own. I can’t ever fully condone or condemn him. But that is beside the point.

The point is that he is a very interesting historical figure and theologian, but he definitely had his biases, and would hardly have considered himself a feminist. But I do. You see, I was reading his book Creation and Fall for a theology class in undergrad, and, even though I was enjoying it, I didn’t really expect the spiritual awakening that it brought on.

It is really a stunning book, and I can’t recommend it highly enough. But I was reading and making notes, preparing for an argument I had to present on it, when I came across this passage (please forgive the gender exclusive language, it’s his, not mine):

Man’s origin is in a piece of earth. His bond with the earth belongs to his essential being. The ‘earth is his mother’; he comes out of her womb…from it he has his body. His body belongs to his essential being. Man’s body is not his prison, his shell, his exterior, but man himself. Man does not ‘have’ a body; he does not ‘have’ a soul; rather, he ‘is’ body and soul. Man in the beginning is really his body. He is one, he is his body…the man who renounces his body renounces his existence before God the Creator. The essential point of human existence is its bond with mother earth, its being as a body…He does not come to the earthly world from above, driven and enslaved by a cruel fate. He is…in himself a piece of earth, but earth called into human being by God.

When I read that I felt like my eyes had been opened, that something my soul had been yearning to express was suddenly on the page in front of me. he says it so plainly, we are inextricably tied to the earth, She is in us. The beauty of his language carried me away and I began to type furiously. I suddenly had new passageways open to my mind, and I felt alive and excited in the way that only comes when you read something and say “Yes, that is it, that is what I feel, but didn’t know how to say”, when you connect with an author on a level so intimate that it feels like falling in love. I could never fall in love with Bonhoeffer, of course, he was far too stuffy for me in real life, but his writing is another matter entirely. He had awoken me.

The next day (for I am the constant procrastinator, and had been working on my argument the night before it was due) I walked into class and felt that everyone surely must see the difference. I felt like a goddess, with vines twined in my hair and a gown of leaves and petals. And this is what I presented (abridged, this is just the intro and the conclusion, but it gives you the basic idea):

Introduction: It is essential to humanities created being that we are  creatures of both spirit and Earth. This is a counter to Platonic thought, which would have man’s spirit to be disconnected with his flesh. Common Christian doctrine has taught of the evil of flesh, following Platonic lines of thinking that make the spirit the ultimate thing, which is in some way punished by being linked to a body. The creation story of Genesis does not in any way reflect that. In the Creation myth of Genesis, spirit and flesh do not exist independently, but instead are co-dependent. No where in the creation story, even after the fall, does God elevate the spirit into a position of superiority to the body. Both are essential for the human, made together and for each other.

Conclusion: It is dangerous to try and separate God’s creation. We are tied indelibly to the Earth, and we must conclude that we are meant to be a part of the Earth. This has great implications for how we view our “flesh”, and how we view the world in which we live. If we are truly a part of the Earth than we have a certain responsibility to it. Bonhoeffer aptly states that we are a creation of both Father God and Mother Earth.

I can read it now and see the earnestness and naivete that colored every aspect of my life then, and even now I can remember the triumphant feeling I had, that I had used their own language and arguments against them. But the lasting implications are very different. Bonhoeffer opened my mind to a million possibilities and responsibilities, and it was like plunging head first into the ocean. He gave me the first push, and I am still swimming.

September 16, 2009

A garden and a red-headed eve

Posted in feminism, music, sexuality tagged , , , at 7:01 am by Lakshmi (LaChelle)

tori apple

I love gardens and that the story of creation and the fall is set in one. They are magical and ethereal and constantly changing in their seasons. And I always think it is really interesting when feminists re-read the story to reclaim Eve, because at one time all women were blamed by Tertullian and others for being “daughters of Eve” the woman (and woman is emphasized) who just ruined everything and kept us barred from paradise for a long time afterward.

But gardens can be dark, vulnerable, quiet, secret, secluded, places where we get naked, intimate touches underneath clothes near a bullfrog pond, the humidity, the dark skin and dark eyes, the buzzing, the prayers, wandering in a place that we can almost pretend is untouched but then again touched several times. The wet dirt, the storms and the rain, the shelter the trees provide. The girls that get married there. How pretty the fuschia flowers make your hair look in a photograph. The nature that produces something you can actually bite, roll around on your tongue – you can just take it, pull it off, but it goes inside of you and becomes a part of you and someday you become a part of the earth or just expel it.

I remember going to a garden once, we explored it together. Often I like to go to gardens alone and sit near the steps of running water and close my eyes and let the sunlight press gently into my cheeks, but this time I was with a boy. And it was one of the last times we would see each other for a long time; it was our last week. You can’t help how people make you feel sometimes. He often made me feel depressed and unwanted. I hated the feeling of always longing for someone, but him never quite being enough, even when he did love only me and he was my boyfriend. But the bad feelings drained away so often, and he might have been the only one I ever loved. And that day in the garden, we knew there was passion and warmth and need. The whole garden consumed us, and it was ours, a big vast expanse of tall trees and bridges and cascading water over large stones, and me in my purple umbrella. We took lots of pictures that day, but I don’t remember holding anything that wasn’t ethereal, doing anything that wasn’t hazy and sad and beautiful. We were so communicative that day with our eyes. He was my first awakening, and my only one since. If only he could have been truly a god, then he would have known the right things to say and what to keep silent.

Gardens for me hold memories, some true and some imagined, a reality on some other plane. Why can everything in a garden always be so symbolic? You don’t need the material gems and cars, you’ve got lush flowers and waxy soft leaves and a great blue dimming sky that hangs, hovers, weighs down on you but is suspended so you can never touch it and never get away  from it at the same time, you just swim in it. I love the gardens. They are mysterious whole worlds.

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