I have these fabulous legs. My body is unsteady, a rounding of the hip, a crow’s foot tip-toeing at the corner of my eyes, but my legs are unchangeable: curvy pillars that never disappoint. My thighs have thickened throughout the years, but as a result of commanding strength and muscle, not from fat. They could epitomize my life, my legs, and they elicit the most popular compliment I receive: a stranger’s attracted eyes admiring the flirtatious length from knee to calf, swallowing while remarking, “You have really great legs.” Continue reading “On a Limb | Abriana Jetté”
I was in the third grade when I learned how it was done.
The mechanics of it, I mean. I’d had an idea before then, taken clues from the movies and soaps. Bare shouldered people in silky sheets, kissing with open mouths. I used to strip my Barbie and Ken dolls down to their plastic Malibu flesh, and then tangle them together to pretend they were “making love.” That’s what they called it on TV.
The truth is, I learned it from a naughty playground song. Continue reading “Things I (Shouldn’t) Have to Tell My Daughters | Mary Heather Noble”
I am a recovering addict. For most of my life, I was obsessed with approval and beauty. I would look in the mirror and search for proof that a pretty, skinny, happy girl lived somewhere deep inside me, underneath it all—a trick of the light, my ribs protruding, I felt I was getting closer and closer to the life I wanted. I was addicted to starving and puking, to saying yes when I wanted to say no, to numbers and makeup and mirrors and smiling for photos while I withered inside. I was addicted to perfection. Continue reading “How I Stopped Starving and Learned to Grow My Armpit Hair | Rena Oppenheimer”
We played Texas Hold’em when a power line snapped beneath the weight of ice. The generator outside whirred loud and guzzled gasoline while my family hunched over the dining table with the lamp plugged into one of the few working outlets.
Our fingers were chilled and fastened to the cards, joined by the smell of singed hair from when mom burned a few strands on a candle. It was repulsive and reminiscent of decayed fat when burned. The smell loomed and smothered my family. It made the darkness of the house sinister with the flickering candles playing puppet master with our shadows. They glared over our backs, looking at our hands. Continue reading “Ace | Shannon O. Sawyer”
Memory is a strange thing. It revises, omits, reorganizes timelines, and wipes itself clean to protect us from experiences that are too painful to revisit. As I recalled a pivotal incident in my life, I was forced to confront the fallibility of my own memory and consult with my mother, hoping she could fill in the gaps. What emerged is a carefully assembled puzzle with missing pieces; a somewhat scattered true story about the day I realized what it meant to be a black girl in America.
It was a Saturday evening during the holiday season when my mom, two aunts and I met at the bowling alley for a girls’ day out. We were always the group who laughed loud and hard, enjoying our carefree time together. Our expectation of a fun, loose evening was quickly met with a harsh reality. Continue reading “He Called Us N——s | Torri R. Oats”
I wrote it all down. The procedures, the pregnancies, the losses. It’s all on torn notebook sheets and the back of to-do lists, between receipts for fertility drugs and an article about the miraculous power of holy water from Lourdes. In a plastic folder I keep in my desk drawer, there are tens of thousands of words. Begging words. Optimistic words. Defeated words.
I’m a journalist, so I document things, even off the clock, wanting to create a record that my memory will inadvertently alter or discard over time. I savor the mundane details—the brown boots I wore while doctors investigated my fallopian tubes, the smile I faked when a colleague shared she was nearly four months along—because they root me. To write that I questioned and overanalyzed would have been too vague. Continue reading “Faith in a Folder: Words and the Savage Search for Motherhood | Robin L. Flanigan”
This Is How You Lose Him
You walk your kid to the beach, alone, although it’s Sunday, and for the last six weeks or so, Sundays have kinda been your thing—the four of you—your son, three and a half, plopped all gangly-legged, blue eyes glowing in the summer sunlight like freaky marble orbs, into the jogging stroller with its tray sticky from last week’s ice cream, despite the hose-down you gave it; his daughter in tow, five and a half, in her pink, heart-shaped sunglasses, her hipster bikini printed with wall-eyed kittens, her face wearing its perpetually curious expression, brows sloping down in their pitch-perfect imitation of her fathers’: she counts the white stripes of the crosswalk as we trudge along in the heat;
but that was last week, or the week before, or any other sunny Sunday when the two of you were off, together. This week, storm clouds gather on the horizon all morning, so all morning, you fart around—walk on the boardwalk with your perpetually-in-motion mother, who seems, these days, to want to spend her time proving at least one law of physics is #thetroof: she cannot sit still, and even in her lack of sitting still, questions whether she should be moving somewhere else, or moving more, the two of you plop your kid back into the aforementioned jogging stroller, head for the boardwalk to exercise, and you’re not two blocks out, barely over the rickety drawbridge that separates your part of the island—a little funky, a little low-rent—from The Island: St. Leonard’s Tract, Atlantic Avenue, Margate with its clusters of high end boutiques; you live in, have always lived in, “The Heights,” an ironically titled place, since it’s the lowest stretch of local land, and was more or less taken out by Hurricane Sandy—so you trudge over the drawbridge, and silently note the flood tide in the bay, how good it would feel to dive beneath the water and swim for a long, slow length of indeterminate time; writing this, now, you stare at the swiftly running clock, recall you have no long, slow lengths of indeterminate time, recall how only those fantasies feel stretched out and slow, indeterminate: you sink beneath the heat of the day, the salt water is cool and coarse, and the light buoys you up to the top where you begin to swim in long, sleek strokes to no place in particular, delightfully alone—but the reality is your mother, talking over the public bus that roars past you on the drawbridge, so heavy it practically bounces the linked wood planks you’re pushing your son over, and your mother is complaining that you need to pick it up, then cautioning you about the storm clouds, how we’re about to get wallopped, maybe we should turn back– Continue reading “2 Essays | Emily Van Duyne”
Before leaving, I shovel a sidewalk for the first time to make the foreboding ache more real.
To walk downtown, me and the girls pick our legs up high at the knee, try not to step in anything deeper than our boots. You can’t always tell how bad something will be.
This winter is work, all brown grey from the thaw and freeze, thaw and freeze. Where I grew up, winter glowed a more beautiful grey. Where I grew up, winter was a corn pudding with Hatch chilies baking. Vegetables roasting in olive oil on the bottom rack for hours. In the biggest stockpot, curried lentil soup bubbled, a wooden spoon rested nearby, warm from each of our hands having a stir. The mountains were always purple, topped with thick snow. We were not raised on cold. Continue reading “Walking Downtown to Buy a Christmas Gift | Clair Dunlap”
“Now that it’s just the three of us, can I ask you a question, just out of curiosity?”
It’s the moment we’ve been expecting all night, anticipating since my friend invited us to dinner with her host mother—a short, svelte, Korean-American woman who sat expectantly across the table from us as she addressed me. Her eyes, dark and narrowed, flicker between him and I as she attempts to figure us out.
“You called him your boyfriend,” She says. She’s addressing me but turning her attention to his slim form, masked slightly by dark loose-fitting sweaters and bad posture. She continues: “But you’re a…”
She lets the sentence trail off into the air, writhing, heavy, and serpentine between us. It matches the tangle of adrenaline and anxiety I feel in my gut.
I’m on the beach, reading Proust and feeling great. I’m laundered white waves and clean shells. I’m not giving a fuck, grains of sand on grainy skin. I’m on the beach unzipped, knowing my body can’t win any contests anymore, knowing the parameters of the contest are problematic to begin with, thus making winning futile. And none of it matters, because I’m on the beach, feeling great, not giving a fuck. But still, the desire to be out of my own skin, at least in this moment, on this beach.
There are few places at which people are more exposed than the beach, and within the realm of Giving a Fuck, the societal pressure on women to look their best is more prevalent than it is for men. While men merely have to choose from five different colors of board shorts, women are bombarded with styles, patterns, and colors of suits, as well as crash diets and workouts that promise to aid in wearing them. The media revels in breaking it all down for us: Tankinis are safe, but uncool. Halter tops are uncomfortable, bandeaus fall off if you’re flat-chested. Bronzer and wavy hair are essential. And, let’s not forget the creams that promise to zap cellulite. As with all American goods and services, the choices are endless, and making the wrong one threatens to be the difference between looking like an Amazonian goddess and the horrifying prospect of looking (brace yourself) average. Continue reading “Making Room For Love and Hate | Samantha Duncan”