Friday, February 4, 2011

war paint

(I feel moved to mention that some of this gets a little graphic.  Please tread lightly, and hold your own hands.)

Yesterday I went out to buy some new war paint.  Inside this store with a billion colors and textures and lights and scents, I found the perfect shade of war paint.  It covered the places where my tired and stressed show and made my face smooth and ready for battle.  I also bought some stuff for the hairs that grow out of my head.  This stuff is supposed to make the curls bounce and shine.  Hopefully this will serve to further confuse the enemy.  I did this because I am a woman. 

I want to elaborate here, because part of being in this small room is that I can say what I want... what I seldom get the chance to speak aloud.  I love being a woman.  Everything about being a member of this gender makes me want to jump for joy.  I love war paint.  I love skirts.  I love colors and ruffles and flowers and the swirl of my hair.  I love my perfume so much that I have to fight the urge to drink it.  I love how strong my legs are, and I love the way that all of me curves.  I love that I dream of the scent of babies' heads.  I love communication and estrogen and friendship and nuturing and thongs and justice and brains wired to knit all of that together in a way incomprehensible to most of the men I know.  Men, I appreciate all that you are, but I thank God that He decided to make me a woman.

There is a story of womanhood stuck in my head. 

There is a story of a woman who was walking in the cool crispness of the night air recently, no doubt enjoying the way the breeze felt as it kissed her face.  She walked alone, leaving wherever she was before and using her long legs to carry her wherever she was going.  She was minding her own.  Perhaps it had been a long day, and this was the first taste of freedom after a long, hard grind of her own stone.  Perhaps her car was just up the block.  Perhaps the song in her head was sweet, and she was dancing a little inside, picturing a mug of hot tea and maybe a cookie or two while watching something that would make her laugh...

Three men pulled up in a car. 
One of them pulled out a gun. 
He pointed it at her and instructed her to get into the car.

Maybe she didn't think about how if she just sat down right where she was, she likely would survive.
Maybe she didn't think about how if she ran and screamed, someone likely would hear her.
Maybe she didn't think about how low-life peices of shit don't often shoot the gun they're aiming, that it's seldom loaded, that she could probably get away.
Maybe she reacted to the perfectly natural fear in her gut and not to the logic in her brain and got into the car.

She was raped by all three men and dumped on the side of the road.


This story haunts me.

I am haunted by this story when the wind blows too loudly outside my window, causing branches to move in the trees.  I am haunted by this story when I have to walk from a lit door to my car.  I am haunted by this story when a man walks around me from behind, even in plain daylight. 
This story chases me in my dreams... chases me while I think about my favorite walks in the moonlight... chases me when I think about my sisters and bedtime stories in nightgowns, all piled into a double bed and our travels and our hopes and our dreams... chases me when I think about my neices... chases me when I put on my bra... chases me

into the war paint store

and I'm so sick of being told that the smart thing to do is to not walk alone at night. 
The smart thing to do is to call someone to come and escort me... like my legs don't work, and I'm not smart enough to remember where I left my fucking car. 
The smart thing to do is to be vigilant.
I should remember that I am not free to enjoy my music in my headphones, my hair in a pony tail, solitude, and evening crispness at the same time.
I should remember that you and I do not live in the same world, that I can be as strong as I want and still not safe
that this story is chasing me
always
chasing me

Until I take a deep breath, turn around, and bid it to come on

Where I turn around and fly into its face with the fury of every woman on this earth whose breasts have ever been made darts for the idle fancies of the men around them...
the fury of every woman who has ever graduated from anything...
the fury of every mother who has ever watched her child hurt in any way and proceeded to seek and destroy...
the fury of every girl who was ever touched unwillingly...
the fury of every father who has ever sent his daughter out into the world and had to sit on his hands...
the fury of every bit of what should be strong and beautiful broken down to small and manageable...
the fury that happens when you attack what God told you to protect...

You see, there is a little part of me that wishes that you would sneak up on me in the night.  I have never made someone bleed.  I don't really want to bring that part of myself out because the rest of me wonders if that's what's called tempting fate... if I will really react like I did that time that bee flew into my face and I almost knocked myself out hitting the deck... but I'm going to let that little part speak. 

She needs the exercise. 
She needs to stay ready should danger ever actually come
(which makes me angrier still... why should I have to give harbour to Rage just in case I should ever need it?)
and she needs to speak...
out loud...
too many can't...
and this is a small room, but she

needs

to

speak

Somebody once told me that the violence won't stop until the attacker is afraid of what he is attacking.  I took a class where someone taught me to break bones and expect blood and scream from my guts.

I want you to walk up on me.
I want you to order me into the car.
And then I want you to try and get away.
I will come after you, and I won't stop and I won't show mercy and I won't pause and I won't hesitate.

Think through your decisions. 

I smear on war paint every morning, and the only thing I've got that can't be fixed is my self-respect.

And I keep hearing "Fathers be good to your daughters/ Daughters will love like you do..." and thinking,

"Who gives a shit in times like these?

Fathers,
Teach your daughter to say NO
Teach your daughter to run
Teach your daughter to scream
Teach your daughter what it feels like to break things with her hands
Teach your daughter to fall on her back and kick anything within reach
Teach your daughter to roll and to pin
Teach your daughter to hit a nose hard and from below so that it bleeds and then use that knee quickly… how to do it over and over and over
Teach your daughter that she is beautiful and powerful and worth protecting
Teach your daughter how
NOT
TO
GET
INTO
THE
CAR.

It is of the utmost importance that I add
Sister, I don't blame you.
I don't know what I would have done in your place, and there are no words for how sorry I am for your story... and I don't blame your father. 

I blame monsters. 
I blame monsters that I want to tear to shreds.
I blame a society that doesn't hold its boys enough.
I blame poverty and society and schools and entitlement and gangs and prisons and guns and ignorance and prejudice and history and disempowerment and fear and hate and blame.
I blame a society that taught me to seek protection instead of be protection.

It's what I remember when I put on my war paint.

6 comments:

Kendal said...

I think you should stop telling yourself you're not a good writer though I do understand... that's not the point. Amazing love. And yes, to it all, yes.

lithe_mama said...

wow...love it.

Jarrett said...

Thanks B. This I needed. And I'm sure there are many other sons and fathers that need to read it too. Please keep writing.

levrickards said...

Thank you for posting. This had a profound effect:

"Teach your daughter to hit a nose hard and from below so that it bleeds and then use that knee quickly
"Teach your daughter that she is beautiful and powerful and worth protecting."

I wonder if you've seen Engendering Equality. It's a blog that would certainly benefit from your voice: http://engenderingequality.wordpress.com/

Anonymous said...
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oakritchie said...

Yeah...I don't really have words, but I am so thankful that you gave voice to this...love you, sister.