Last Five Cents
I’d love you more if you weren’t mine
You tried so hard
And wanted so bad
To make me yours
That I convinced myself I could leave those vices behind
But every new croon at the bar, and freshly rouged lips
Erased that mental picture of your face
I’d love you more if you didn’t love me
If I weren’t the chest your head depended on
Or the arms your body needed to keep warm
I’d love you more if your heart wandered, off to the man who promised you the Paris dream and kisses even on the busiest of streets, the man who wasn’t me
I’d love you more, if darling you hadn’t given me your last nickel
Because I soon found you weren’t the only one willing to give me their last nickel
And maybe if you had hesitated, made me ask for it, I wouldn’t have spent it all
Things She Loves: Author Scott Lynch responds to a critic of the character Zamira Drakasha, a black woman pirate in his fantasy book Red... →
The bolded sections represent quotes from the criticism he received. All the z-snaps are in order.
Your characters are unrealistic stereotpyes of political correctness. Is it really necessary for the sake of popular sensibilities to have in a fantasy what…
I’m sitting on the train, and I’m thinking about my run. I was supposed to do 3, key words supposed to, but I got half way and call it quits. I can always call it quits when it really matters. When it’s something that really matters, I can always call it quits. I don’t even know why it mattered. I know getting to 13.1 is not going to change anything about my life. People won’t turn and whisper “She ran a whole 13 yesterday and she’s not even beat” when I walk down the street. No. I’ll be the same ole body that leaves home, goes to work and comes back at the end of a long day. So I don’t know why it mattered but it did. It mattered so much so that I was sitting on the train thinking about the fact that I did 1.5 when I was supposed to do 3. Then I glanced down at the silver check on the upper thigh of my tights. Suddenly I felt like the elephant amidst those washed out amber lights. The girl to my left with her tightly wound ringlets was sneering at me. I could tell she was sneering at me. If a man were holding a pint of ice cream I would imagine he’d want her as his spoon. That’s just the kind of girl she was. She probably could outrun my 1.5. Her bad days probably revolve around the number 6 at least, not that it should have made any difference to me. But it did.
Especially because the Jake Gyllenhaal look alike sitting two rows down never once looked at me. If I had pushed past 3, if maybe I had just done 3.2 he would have looked at me. Not that I cared because somewhere in the underground of the city was a boy roaming the system looking to get some extra change just so that we weren’t living in poverty. Or, somewhere in BedStuy streets he was rolling another without me ever coming to the surface. I wished the look alike would glance at me. In my reality, he’d fall for me. Beg for my number and pursue me even after mention of that boy whose heart I keep. He’d make it hard for me, confuse me into saying no and yes all in one breath.
Instead, he walks out on 86th street leaving me to tend to scars I should not have or wounds that go far deeper than a look alike.
I’m laying in my bed, and I’m singing. I’m signing and from the deepest recesses I feel pang. My face becomes hot and I ball up into myself, not knowing why or from where or for what only that armed tears are here like American soldiers on their way to war. I’m thinking about my run and the boy whose heart I keep and the store that made me start running again and the dream career looming in the shadows that made me apply to the store and the abysmal summer job that introduced me to this boy and the institution that certified me ready to go out into the world to find nothing but failure and sorrow coming up right in the middle of my bed.
“If there’s specific resistance to women making movies, I just choose to ignore that as an obstacle for two reasons: I can’t change my gender, and I refuse to stop making movies. It’s irrelevant who or what directed a movie, the important thing is that you either respond to it or you don’t. There should be more women directing; I think there’s just not the awareness that it’s really possible. It is.”Kathryn Bigelow, on being a woman director today.
You’re Prettier When You Blow Me
15% of rape survivors are under the age of 12.**
I was sitting in the back of a darkened auditorium, surrounded by nearly 100-150 professional women, when the statistic slapped me across the face. Not even an hour before I had shown Katie Makkai’s “Pretty,” alongside a couple of other spoken word poems on culture, gender and race to a group of 15-16 year old girls who laid out on the table all of the times they had felt ugly or fat or worthless because of—not surprisingly—images in the media. Even less surprising was their retelling of times when their mothers, fathers, aunts and uncles had told them they were ugly, fat or worthless because their hair frizzed due to a morning’s dew or their thighs failed to squeeze into precious size 2s. In multiple conversations with young girls and older women alike I find that our closets are full of moments when we felt being worth something amounted to the lack of food on our plate or the array of colors splayed across our faces. Thinking back I can’t even remember a time when losing 50 pounds wasn’t one of my New Year’s Resolutions, or having curly hair has made me feel beautiful and edgy and worth it. And in that moment I think, can I be a positive female role model when I still falter to see the beauty that everyone else sees?
At age 12 I was still new to sex in the sense that I was a virgin, and would be for another 7 years thereafter. I had though, to my brother’s horror I’m sure, stumbled upon what was then simply deemed “channel 35.” There were nights when, as my grandmother shook the entire apartment complex with her snore, my cousin and I watched as our young eyes were assaulted with shaved vaginas and extremely veiny penises for countless hours of the night. After my brother caught me sex became mysterious, wrong and dirty. In a way, it became alluring because it was something I wasn’t supposed to be doing. Looking around at the kids in my class, I begun to understand that good girls—smart, studious, virgins—were not desirable. If good girls were anything like me then they were chubby, with frizzy hair and really bad clothing (because their mothers were still making the fashion choices). I was Ugly before anyone even knew of Betty.
But I had crushes. And I always crushed from afar because in 3rd grade I got the message very clearly that I was not anything to be looked at when the only Valentine I got was from my mother. I could not be me and expect boys to like me. So when at the age of 12 my crush gave me the opportunity to be anything but me, I ran with it. I had been chewing on a pen in Art class that afternoon when I glanced up and saw my crush looking at me from across the hall. Chewing on my pen wasn’t exactly a highlight in my day so I shrugged it off until my crush circled me after school with a group of his friends. The story went that by chewing on my pen I had been offering to blow my crush. Stunned that he had even noticed me I didn’t do much to clear up the story. He was finally interested in me, ME!, that ugly little 7th grade duckling with the acne scars and dominating mole right smack on the side of her face. But I wasn’t ready the next day after school when all four of them coaxed me to their building lobby, and after 15-20 minutes of saying “No, I will not go upstairs with you” I said okay because one of the boys had taken my book bag and I feared my mother would yell her head off if she found I had not only gotten to the bus stop where she normally picked me up on foot but with no book bag.
I used to wake up in sweats, ashamed and in tears remembering that naive day before I finally confided in a high school friend. Every time I closed my eyes I would think about walking into that apartment with those 4 boys, and having at least 1 boy sit in the living room with me—watching me, to make sure I didn’t try to leave. I sat in a corner, unaware of the fact that this would be a defining moment for me and my childhood and my relationship to sex. I sat in that corner, scared that I’d still have to go home without a book bag. Scared that my father would want an explanation as to how it happened and I would have none to give. I wasn’t aware of the minutes going by as I sat in that corner. All I was aware of was that I had no book bag and I could not go home without one. As I sat in the corner of one of the couches the boys would sit next to me, pleading with me to give them head. Channel 35 had not prepared me for this. Let me explain that I did not even understand what a blow job was until Sophomore year of high school, so at the age of 12 I was lost as to what these boys were asking me to do. One of them had no qualms about giving me an explanation, despite the fact that I had not asked for one. Rather than ask, he simply laid his penis out on top of his jeans and grabbing me by the back of the head, tried to introduce me. He even tried pressing it against my lips as if maybe I just needed to be even closer to his pale flaccid self for him to be pleasured. I didn’t let any of the boys sit on the same couch as me or near me after that.
My book bag was returned to me only after I was shoved into the closet because keys could be heard wrestling in the lock. When I was questioned by the police I would hear that one of the boy’s sisters—who had found me in the closet where my book bag was being held hostage— had found them masturbating and watching porn in the bedroom. When I reached the outside I was swarmed by a group of 8th graders, shouting “Whore” and “Cock sucker” and “Wipe the cum off your face!” I wanted the entire thing to be over so I lied to the police on my case about what happened because I couldn’t handle having the principal of my junior high school tell me I was asking for it or not being allowed to go out for lunch or being continually heckled and physically shoved by an 8th grade bully every day after school. My crush and his 3 friends didn’t speak to me or look my way afterward. If I wanted any ounce of attention I had to spread my legs and at the age of 19, after years of crying myself to sleep because no boy found me pretty, I did. I pushed my breasts up and out, I cut 4” off my skirt and heavily made up my face to erase all of my ugly. Forget pretty, I wanted sexy. I wanted boys to see me walk down a hall and want to fuck me. If they fuck me, I thought, they’ll like me. And they did. They fucked me. And every time I would think “Finally, someone who likes me. Someone who’ll wake up in the morning and say have lunch with me. Someone who will fall for me.” They all fell—prey to my advances but not head over heels.
So I cut my hair. Because short hair was not pretty, and after discovering “pretty” and being made to feel like a cheap blow up doll the last thing I wanted to be was pretty. I cut my hair. Maybe this way I can get someone to see me. But boys still wanted to fuck me, and just fuck me so I gave up and decided if that’s all I was to be then at least it would be on my own terms. I could forget love and being wanted and not worry if a guy asked me to lunch the next day. In the midst of forgetting about pretty, I became confident and bold and even carefree. When I stopped worrying about pretty, boys began to like me but in the back of my head pretty still amounted to sex and I didn’t want to be just another hole for a guy to place his penis in. I no longer wanted to be pretty because I didn’t want to just be discarded after a night in bed the same way a vegetarian passes up on a chicken leg. So when my boyfriend tells me that I’m pretty or that he prefers me without endless amounts of layers on my face or when he’s perfectly content watching a movie than rolling around in bed with me I can’t help but in the back of my mind think that he’s lying or that he’s bound to find a girl worth spending time with. Despite the fact that he doesn’t flinch at the blaring 12 on my jeans or kisses me when my hair is all types of frizz and curls I still feel the need to be society’s ideal of pretty—lined eyes, long legs and all. Even with a boy by my side I still think that pretty meets at the v between my legs, and anything less is only temporary.
I say, ‘I am fat.’
He says ‘No, you are beautiful.’
I wonder why I cannot be both.
He kisses me
My college theater professor once told me
that despite my talent,
I would never be cast as a romantic lead.
We do plays that involve singing animals
and children with the ability to fly,
but apparently no one
has enough willing suspension of disbelief
to go with anyone loving a fat girl.
I daydream regularly
about fucking my boyfriend vigorously on his front lawn.
On the mornings I do not feel pretty,
while he is still asleep,
I sit on the floor and check the pockets of his skinny jeans for motive,
for a punchline,
for other girls’ phone numbers.
When we hold hands in public,
I wonder if he notices the looks —
like he is handling a parade balloon on a crowded sidewalk;
if he notices that my hands are now made of rope.
Dear Cosmo: Fuck you.
I will not take sex tips from you
on how to please a man you think I do not deserve.
He tells me he loves me with the lights on.
I can cup his hip bone in my hand,
feel his ribs without pressing very hard at all.
He does not believe me when I tell him he is beautiful.
Sometimes I fear the day he does will be the day he leaves.
The cute hipster girl at the coffee shop
assumes we are just friends
and flirts over the counter.
I spend the next two weeks
mentally replacing myself with her
in all of our photographs.
When I admit this to him
we spend the evening taking new photos together.
He will not let me delete a single one of them.
The phrase “Big girls need love too” can die in a fire.
Fucking me does not require an asterisk.
Loving me is not a fetish.
Finding me beautiful is not a novelty.
I am not a fucking novelty.
I say, ‘I am fat.’
He says, ‘No. You are so much more’,
and kisses me
How he makes me feel every day.
Our boys matter. Our girls matter. Our youth matter. Take the time to shape and educate our tomorrow.
The Girl Effect: The Clock is Ticking (by girleffect)