Check out my new piece for the Bold Italic detailing the ideal mixtape to get your neighbors to stop having sex so you can carry on with a pleasant evening.
Originally written for Write Club SF
When I was 9 I was in a terrible accident involving radioactive chemicals and thus grew to an enormous height. It happened in New Jersey which is drenched in hazardous waste that has been known to cause abnormalities in local wildlife, generally the squirrel and fish populations, and has been cited as the cause of Bipolar Disorder, Attention Deficit Disorder, Depression, and Obsession with Computers by scientific papers funded by survivalist organizations and parenting councils that advocate spanking.
When the chemicals seeped into my system my body stretched and contorted. The pains of growing at this rate had me sobbing. I’d hit my head on door frames, disturb nested birds, and have to spread my limbs out over two seats in the back of the car. I’d outgrow clothes within weeks and my feet hung over the end of my twin bed. I developed these strange lumps on my chest and I had to get a special contraption to rein them in that I wore under my shirt. I got this strange skin rash on my face. I had no idea how to handle it. All these changes are happening and you’re 9, 10, 11, like can you imagine my struggle here?
Up until this point my relationship with my body had been virtually nonexistent. It was only when I fell out of trees or scraped my wrists that I was reminded that I had a body. I was happy with my physical presence. I could run, ride my bike, and do handstands. I felt tenacious and powerful. There was peace between the nations of my brain and my body. We were a team.
Alex Mack was a television show on Nickelodeon and was the only contaminated person I had seen outside of comic books. Unlike the majestic grace of She Hulk and the brains and strength of Wonder Woman, I related much more with the awkward hijinks of Alex Mack. She had also been involved in an accident that gave her the ability to liquefy and seep under doors and through sewer grates and disappear when need be. I would inch closer to the television screen and think Alex Mack was lucky. I wished I was able to disappear. I was always on display.
When your body mutates it starts to exist without you instead of alongside you. It takes up more and more space and leaves you with more weight to carry and less room for every other piece of you. It dominates. It imposes. It edges into every situation. It’s all people see. You’re screaming from the inside of your exoskeleton, looking so tough, but feeling so larval.
My body destroyed things, shattered glasses with its brute strength, hugging people became dangerous sport. lt struggled to fit into photos, pants, and airplane seats. I sat in the back of my 5th grade classroom at a table because all the desks in the school balanced on top of my legs. My teachers were afraid of me. They didn’t say that. They didn’t have to. They kept using me as a threat that if Brian or Chris don’t straighten up they’ll make Lauren step on them and squash them flat. When they said things like that it felt like a strange type of approval. My body laughed. My body for once felt powerful. What doesn’t kill you makes you twisted.
For the first time I start getting mail, catalogs from Pottery Barn Kids and Limited Too and Delia’s and I circle all the clothing I want in red permanent marker. Deep groves of Sharpie around jeans with applicays on the back pockets and boxy tank tops with butterflies fluttering on the straps. These clothes don’t fit my body, they stretch over my frame and gap in weird places. My hips begin to widen and people comment on the size of my feet. Marks show up around my thighs and back, my skin fighting to contain my bones.
The brightly colored pullover sweaters and knee length skirts that come printed on glossy paper are for the me that exists separately from my body. The separate me is little, and cute, and exuberant, it is scrappy and feisty and smart. The me that exists in my new, molten body wears stirrup pants that my mother orders from Lands End because they are the only thing that will fit. It wears men’s white sneakers and drab turtle necks in faded reds and purples. It wears a skirt to school and gets sent home because its legs are too long and is constantly reprimanded from being distracting. Standing out is a distraction. Freaks always stand out.
In another year the phosphorus acids do their job, I try to be tough, ready to fight, I want people to take me seriously. Headlines run in local papers Mutant Freak Angry and Violent. They suspected it all along. How can someone take up so much space and not be dangerous? How can you not be damaged from an accident like that? How can you not be mad cellular chaos?
The torches and pitchforks in this story are metaphorical. The townspeople don’t all unite at once. They poke and burn as rogue individuals, seeing themselves as lone heroes and fighting the big established enemy.
My body and I just want to be left alone. We just want to go back to our books. My body and I stop talking. It carries on without me. It stops telling me how it feels. It tells me to toughen up. It tries to become more accommodating. It is observed and commented on by older boys and men. It cannot walk home from school without someone commenting on it. It tries to be sexy. It tries to learn to like the men touching it on the street. It tries to be smaller. It tries to be strong. To not need other people. It tries to be the monster it’s been made into. It fails. My body cannot manage to learn the hero or villain script. It is passaggio, the transitory space between the registers of my personality. It is constantly shifting between the dark and the light, aping control. It gives up on belonging. It skirts the fringes, learns to not trust, takes in strays. It doesn’t require loyalty of people because people fail; it doesn’t expect what it doesn’t think people can deliver.
My body gives up. It accepts it can never be a child again. It can never be normal. It embraces its weird, grotesque, freakish capacity. I ignore my body. I distance myself from it as much as possible, apologizing for its actions. Controlling it as much as I can. My body loses trust in me.
Then one day, I am no longer a monster. I am no longer a freak. I no longer tower above my fellow citizens. I no longer stand out. I blend in. My face rash fades, the roar of my body settles, and the things that made me special, that made me abnormal don’t register. My body is confused. It is poised ready for attacks that don’t come. It doesn’t know what to do.
My body and I haven’t talked again. We see each other at parties and nod politely. We aren’t a unit. We aren’t a team. We are science. We are chemistry. We are fulcrums and pulleys and angles and the square root of something.
Jetta and I have started going through the Bob’s Burgers Cookbook and we’re making burgers, ya’ll! Okay so we’re making them vegan and talking about intersectional politics while we do it but it’s a ton of fun. Check it out!
The houses are: Thunderbird, Horned Serpant, Wampus, and Pukwudgie
I’m going to give you a very condensed version as to why this is a problem since there is already and will continue to be much wonderful analysis on the topic done by people more educated and brilliant than I.
The Hogwarts Houses are called Hufflepuff, Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, and Slytherin. Of these names the only one that is not a made up nonsense term is Ravenclaw. Actually that’s untrue, ravens have talons. So there you go.
Hufflepuff is a nonsense word. It is very fun to say.
Native American mythos is not nonsense. The oppression and appropriation of Native American cultures (not a monolith) isn’t nonsense. We put a genocidal monster who aimed to exterminate every single tribe left in North America on money, we continue to not acknowledge the displacement of First Nations, and then there is my hometown of Cleveland
Before you dash off to the internet and tell everyone to lighten up, and that they are reading too much into this, and that this is being overly sensitive and politically correct, this is something you need to consider:
JK Rowling made up names for the Hogwarts Houses that were meant to be whimsical and fun. These names are associated with frivolity. By associating real aspects of Native American culture with these terms she is saying that a culture that has been ignored, appropriated, illegalized, and then fetishized by white people is whimsical nonsense. She is supporting the American Origin Story that cites Native American tribes as this relic from the past instead of members of our country who have been abused and whose culture has been cherry picked. She is giving Europe an out for colonizing America and she is giving current Americans permission to not reflect on how we became a nation and what we continue to do within our nation to people belonging to Native American tribes and living on reservations. In an election year where Donald Trump is running for president, you cannot maintain that white supremacy is Not A Thing.
I do not think JK Rowling intended to do anything wrong here. I think she was trying to be inclusive. But impact versus intent must be considered.
I would gladly take a Pottermore quiz that sorts me into Guineasniffles, Tigerfart, Toejam, and Slurpee. I would love to have long battles about whether Jumpsnorkel House’s prioritizing cleanliness is meant to be symbolic of class warfare or if Finklesnoot House produces better domestic Dinglehopper players but better international Quidditch players. I want Rowling to create the world she wants to create. I just don’t want her to do it at the expense of Native Americans.
I sincerely hope that the leaked names are not the names of the houses and that Rowling finds a different way to incorporate Native American culture without being a part of the problem. I hope she is able to give representation rather than participate in appropriation.
But frankly my hopes aren’t that high.
Hi. I see you have trotted into my mentions or instigated some sort of internet discourse with me. I see you disagree with me about feminism. I see that you are wrong. I tell you that you are wrong and all the ways that you are wrong. I cite you sources you do not read. You send me back “sources” from Return of Kings or cite your own frustrations as empirical evidence of biology, sociology, and ideal masculinity.
You say if I was a “real” feminist I would care about men. I detail my concerns about toxic masculinity. You counter about female genital mutilation or some other distraction topic because you’re mad at me. Your emotions have left you scrambling for a place to direct your frustration and you’ve decided that “conquering” or “defeating” me is how you’re gonna do it. I’ve met you before. I’ll meet you again. Consider this your form letter.
I care about men. If I didn’t I wouldn’t be bothering to interact with you at all. I would lobby to form some sort of separatist colony. I have very important relationships with a lot of really wonderful men. None of them are you. They are open to education and discourse and giving me new perspectives. You’re an angry, spiteful person who doesn’t really want to be challenged. You want to spout your bile and then feel edgy. I would remind you that holding up the narcissistic status quo of White Male Patriarchal Masculinity is not how you be edgy. As for advocacy for men, I don’t presume to know your experiences (unlike what you’ve done here in this conversation) so I recommend you start some volunteer work to show young boys positive role models of masculinity. Write some new narratives. I support that. But no I’m not going to prioritize that over the safety and equality of women.
Yes, I think being a White Man is basically the best gig on the planet. Sorry. White Men are out earning everyone else. You make the majority of political decisions. You dictate the bulk of the culture. And you have luxury of being incredibly dull. That is not to say that a lot of White Men don’t struggle. Perhaps you grew up in the wrong side of the class war. Perhaps you’re dealing with mental health challenges or emotional trauma. These experiences are valid and I honor those struggles. You’re still functioning at like an 8/10. White Women are at about a 5/10 and everyone else trails far behind that. Sorry, you’re not really my priority. I never said being a White Man was the perfect gig, but it is the best gig. It’s the most privileged gig.
I see we have reached the point in the conversation where you are telling me to “deal with it.” To put on my big girl panties, put my hair in a ponytail, pull myself up by my bootstraps, and Deal With It. Confronting you on your privilege is dealing with it. Challenging your ideas is dealing with it. Blocking you after you call me a “cunt” or some variation is dealing with it. Demanding your respect is dealing with it. You just don’t like it. You don’t like how I’m dealing with it because you have to see it and hear it and, forgive my repetition, deal with it. This is how I am dealing with it. If you don’t like how I am dealing with systematic oppression, that’s your prerogative, but I don’t care. That is also how I deal with it. In order for me to get anything done, I am required to not care about your feelings. I don’t make the rules. I’m pretty sure a man told me that once so take it up with him. I know you’re not used to women not caring about your feelings. It’s a strange place for you to be in. Especially since you consider everything that women do, including dancing with our friends and leaving our house, as performative for men because women having a good time without you is so beyond your social narrative, but alas here it is. While I understand your pain, I’d remind you that men don’t really care about my feelings as evidenced by internet comments and whatever Twitter fight you pulled me into. You have that delusion of the “greater good” and writing women off as “too emotional” so you never have to take them seriously. So, I’m telling you to deal with it. You have to deal with how I’m dealing with patriarchy.
In conclusion, I am sorry you are wrong. I am sorry you are upset. I’m sorry that you don’t like what I’m doing. And when I say “I’m Sorry” it means I am sorry FOR YOU. Because you are missing out. But I don’t care about your feelings.
When people say Daddy Issues they are overwhelmingly referring to women. And it’s a cutting move to comment on their value. Women with Daddy Issues have a greater likelihood to be ‘sluts’ according to male sociological analysis (and zero data). Women with Daddy Issues seek male company because their goal is to earn male approval because their fathers were absent or awful. Male deflection of responsibility is so profound that if a woman has had a terrible father, it reflects poorly on her and not on her father.
It also puts the fulcrum of female sexual desire or sexual inhibition around abuse and trauma. Only broken women enjoy or want sex…pledge to my Patreon to read the rest!
- Your Mom is a Bitch, Shooby Shooby
- I Can’t Believe I Ever Gave a Damn About You, Oy Oy Oy
- You Think You’ll Get a Second Chance
- I Can’t Believe I Ever Gave a Damn About You (the Kanye Remix)
- Hey Hey Hey, You’re a Bastard!
- I’m Really Glad I Never Slept with You
- (I Know You Miss Me but) I’m Too Busy Dancing
- I’d Rather Drink Alone (Than Waste My Time on You)
- Friendzoned Again, Naturally
- Fun for 2 Years feat: Drake
- Unfuckable in the Midwest
- Ska is Terrible (but Not as Terrible as You)
- Our Friends Like Me Better
Bonus Track: Blues cover of We Are Never Getting Back Together