Wednesday, March 30, 2011

purple, turquoise, and yellow stitching

Dear Tomato Red Dress with the Purple, Turquoise, and Yellow Stitching,

You make me feel wistful.

Dress, I know that you don't remember, but I can still feel my fingers tugging through what I didn't know then were curls, pulling at knots the wind had created to smooth my unsmoothable tresses into a thick braid held together all day all by my corkscrew hair made screwier by Southern summertime humidity rendered nearly unbearable when coupled with my own nervous tension at the knowledge that the cool breeze now finding the back of my neck made the mole, also on the back of my neck, visible to the other students sitting behind me who would soon point out, oh-so-politely I'm sure, that I (snicker) had a tick (giggle) stuck to the back of my neck (guffaw).

Thanks. It's called a mole. But thanks, you know, for... noticing...

Dress, it was called "middle school." I always wondered what the "middle" was for... middle of what? Hell? Self-destruction? A hormonally-induced mad house? Why couldn't I play with dolls anymore, and why was playing outside getting so boring?

Dress, I was the eternal new kid, and I was alone until I suddenly found myself in the midst of writers and feelers and dreamers and crusaders. I flirted with the Beatles, long skirts in beautiful colors, exchanging notes in the hall with a boy who was a little shorter than me, and my first pair of heels, brown sandals which made me taller but didn't stop me from running. There was something magical about coffee and sleep-overs and laughing through class together.

Dress, I remember thinking that I could be happy, very happy, if only my nose was smaller and I didn't have to wear glasses. And if my hair would just be straight and orderly like the other girls.

Dress, I think I got lost sometime around the bra. The memory that steps forward when I ask my mind what the first one looked like is the raging embarrassment I felt when my mother pushed me into Victoria's Secret, and a woman with a measuring tape pushed me towards a drawer filled with the horribly uncomfortable things made of humiliatingly smooth lace and shine. My unfailingly delicate and feminine mother bought the Sprite bra, a satin number printed with lemons and limes. Teenage angst forced me to rage further against my mother, the measuring tape, the underwire, and the grave injustice of the system in general, but I modeled Sprite alone in the bathroom after the house went to sleep. I outgrew it much faster than I wanted to. It lived in my drawer unworn for years just because it was so delicate and feminine.

Delicate and feminine.

Dress, I don't know why exactly, but my skirts got lost in a sea of over-sized t-shirts and dragging jeans hems. My eyebrows grew. My skin exploded. My nose seemed of nearly epic proportions. I cut off my hair, determined to divide what I had failed to conquer. I worked very, very hard at disappearing. I tried very, very hard to pack all of my delicate and feminine into a box and put it in the attic. Delicate gets broken, and feminine appears to be conquerable. I was determined to yell, "Don't touch me," with my every step... with the way I held my shoulders. My voice was too afraid to come out when I was asked to sing solos.  Pictures from that period testify.  You could see how I kept my light covered.  How I watched it closely so that it never got big enough to see.  How I couldn't see how many of the point-and-laughers were fighting the very same battle.  How I couldn't see how impossibly hard the world conspires to be on girls at that age...

These days I wish that I could scoop myself at 15 up, wrap my arms around her, look her dead in the eye at 2 inches from her nose, and say,

"Stop it.
Stop trying to pretend that you're the smallest thing in the room.
Stop trying to go where you will have to fight to find yourself.
Stay away from the shadows.
You were created to sing to the sunshine."

Dress, I'd be wearing you because your tomato redness would be the only color for the armor of my fierce, fierce love for her just as God made her, your purple, turquoise, and yellow stitches the color of every bit of life that knitted together into flowers blooming just because.

Just because she was beautiful.
Just because she was beautiful.
Just because she was beautiful.

We would stretch our arms to the sun and twirl in circles until we fell down.



Rae of Sun :) said...

So beautiful. You write with such vivid images...I can hear you reading this to me, with pauses and inflections in your voice. I love your voice. You can read, sing, scream, talk to me anytime. I know you probably get this a lot, but you would write an amazingly powerful memoir. I love YOU.

Mary said...

Bahiyyih I'm crying and getting tingles. Thank you so much for your victories. I'm glad to have been there to witness some back then and to know about them now.

lithe_mama said...

I can completely relate to the feeling in adolescence of wanting to shrink into the background. I'm so glad that in your case it didn't stick! You are amazingly beautiful. xoxoxo

Jarrett said...

I'm so glad when I see a new post here. Thanks again B. I'd love to hear you recite this. Your words scream to be released into the air. I think the world would change for the better just by letting them out.

Anonymous said...

BOOM. Flow, sista...

Anonymous said...

You know what, bump that. I don't think I'd thought of that part of my experience since then...fearing that all of the sentiments would rush me like the memory of falling down the bleacher stairs in the gym in front of all of my peers...quite a trip you took me on...