Tag Archives | loss

The Violence Is Always Now

Last week I wrote an article for The National about the newly ironic question of “where do you feel safe?” That’s the second question people ask when I tell them where I live, as if Abu Dhabi is some terrifying city “over there.”  But this question in the context of America’s gun insanity, now has to stand on its head.

I was in a movie theater yesterday, watching Ghostbusters (yay, women are funny! and smart! and don’t need a boyfriend to be successful! IMAGINE THAT), and herd of loud teenagers walked in: big kids, unlaced sneakers, yelling and teasing each other.  There was some kerfuffle over who was sitting where, and you know what went through my mind?  “Oh, shit, I hope no one has a gun.”

Yep. Sitting in a movie theater on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, at 11AM, with my kids and father-in-law, I thought for a split second that maybe we were all going to become statistics.

Ask me again where I feel safe.

And then, the day my column came out, Nice. With the additional irony that when you write the name of the city, it looks like, you know, nice.

Another tragedy–what an empty word–another instance of ideology trumping respect for human life (and god, it’s awful to have to use the word “trump.” We are going to need some synonyms, stat).  More bombs, more death, more loss. Endless loss.

It’s an entire summer of loss, of memorials and funerals and devastation.

The violence seems never to recede, only to accrue; it billows outward, covering everything.

It’s a sunny day in New York City right now, but somehow the light seems very far away.

prayer flags in Bhutan

prayer flags in Bhutan


Continue Reading · on July 16, 2016 in Abu Dhabi, Politics, religion, The National, UAE

The Color Purple

I read Alice Walker’s novel The Color Purple when I was about fourteen, probably too young to understand its full complexity. All I understood was that the world conspired against Celie–and at fourteen, that’s sort of how the world felt to me, too.

With each re-reading of the novel, I saw more: the way that the form–an epistolary novel–drew on centuries of (white, European) literary tradition and challenged it at the same time; the fact that love between women challenged (and eventually dismantled) structures of male power; the joy and power that comes from finding work that matters, whether that work is singing jazz or making pants that fit women.

I’ve taught this novel a few times, and I love listening to students talk about what they discover in the novel, which still resonates, even now, more than thirty years after it was first published.

I was reminded about the novel’s power today, when I watched Jennifer Hudson and the cast of “The Color Purple” pay tribute to Prince, whose album “Purple Rain” came out two years after Walker’s novel.

I’m not alone–I’m one of millions, I suppose–when I say that Prince’s songs were the soundtrack of my youth. At the time, of course, I thought I was very, very adult, singing along to “I Would Die 4U,” or “Raspberry Beret…”  There was childlike joy in the music–the sheer ecstatic pleasure of making something–married to the very adult pleasures of the flesh.

His music floated out of dorm rooms and dance parties when I was at college in the early 1980s. College, for me, was a small women’s college outside of Boston, where The Color Purple was on lots of reading lists: all that female empowerment! On the weekends, the school held “mixers” — ghastly dances that drew men from surrounding colleges. Sometimes men from specific schools would be invited, sometimes men just showed up, but all of the men (okay, most) seemed certain that as inhabitants of a female-only world, we must be starving–nay, near unto death–for the lack of male company.  The standard conversation at a mixer often went something like “hey, how are you, my name is Jeff/Pete/Charlie/Biff…” and then after a few pleasantries, the question: “Is your roommate home?”  And that meant: would you please take me to your dorm room and let me see your little red love machine?

Much to the chagrin of Biff, Charlie, and Pete, we were frequently quite fine, thanks, without the pleasure of their company. Which is not to say that sometimes we didn’t make like darling Nikki and get ourselves a lil’bit of fun, but just as frequently–and often jump-started by Prince–my friends and I would dance towards each other, ignoring Biff’s entreaties. We danced, god did we dance; the boys couldn’t keep up and we didn’t want them to. Prince gave us permission to dance without worrying about what we looked like or who was watching; he gave us permission to move for the sweet pleasure of moving.

I haven’t remembered those dances in a long time. It took Prince’s death to remind me of the freedom we felt as we danced; the music made me feel like I could do anything.

Somewhere in The Color Purple, Celie writes “Everything want to be loved. Us sing and dance and holler, just trying to be loved.” Maybe that’s what Prince wanted to do in his music–be loved–but maybe, and more likely, I think he wanted us to remember to love each other–whenever, whomever, and however we wanted, in whatever fleshly and passionate fashion we could find.

Celie also tells us “I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it.”  We couldn’t not notice Prince–not just his purple, of course, but the marvel of the creativity that streamed out of him, an amazing gift that I, at least, thought might never end.

Goodnight, sweet Prince. Nothing compares 2U.

 

Continue Reading · on April 22, 2016 in aging, Feminism, pop culture, sex

My Hope for Newtown

A quandary: to be featured for a post you wish you’d never, ever ever have to write.  But here it is: my post about Newtown, which was the featured post today at Studio30 Plus, a community of writers who know that life only starts to get good when you hit the third decade. So while I am delighted (and flattered) to be the featured post, I wish to god or gods or whatever-powers-that-be, that this post had never been written.

(posted 21 December on Studio 30 Plus):

I hope that on the day the world ended in Newtown, every family had an easy morning. I hope that first-graders happily completed their young independencies: brushing their own teeth, fastening buttons and snaps with determined small fingers, retrieving shoes and socks. I hope families ate breakfast (oatmeal? cereal? pancakes?) together, with no spilled milk or burned toast, that lunchboxes and school projects and maybe a class treat were all gathered up without a mad last-minute rush. I hope the drive to school was filled with singing along to whatever was on the radio, or with conversation about holiday parties or Santa or Hanukkah or going to grandma’s house. I hope none of the parents were running late, stressed out about workholidaysmoneytime; I hope no one snapped hurry up we’re late.  I hope siblings didn’t bicker in the backseat, that there were no moans of he’s on my side she pushed me I hate you no I hate YOU.

I hope that kisses were given and hugs received; I hope the morning was remarkable only for its unremarkableness.

I hope the morning was easy and smooth, sliding by like a pearl slipping off a string; I want it to have been beautiful for them, this last morning, the day that no one knew would be the end of the world.

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Continue Reading · on December 22, 2012 in family, Kids, Politics

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