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I think that’s the first new thing I’ve said in a long time.
It had gotten so bad (anxiety) that I was afraid of memories. Every time I started to have one I thought my life might be flashing before my eyes, another precursor to the causeless death.
I want to be alone.
Among all the things I am unqualified to teach a course on: frozen rivers. My mother used to go ice-skating on the damn things. Her mother would drive the car out onto the river first to test the thickness of the ice.
Just over Detroit: Device was on fire in terror suspect’s lap, passengers say.
I come from a dynasty of women who have taken extreme measures to ensure the safety of others. A ton of danger on the ice in order to reassure the children. Talk about overkill _____.
I have lost track of when and whether I am the suspect or the passenger. I am certainly always the witness.
In the bath (over a stack of my favorite books) I realize that I am waiting to be a middle-aged, divorced woman trying to regain her life. Only when I articulate that thought do I understand the irony of the situation. To feel human I want to recognize myself as something the world is always casting aside. I’ve actually only known about those women through pep-talk romantic comedies geared toward them. And perhaps I’ve known through my own mother– who felt circumscribed by those parameters and tried desperately to buck them.
In the bath I remember that when I was a child I always expected to be arrested for a murder that I had committed. Obviously the suspect was a passenger, too. He is a special kind of passenger like a square is a special kind of rectangle.
Similes (which feel like cheating) are evocative but ultimately a form of cheating.
I want my adult children to be a little shocked by my sexuality. I want my friends to think I’m fierce. I want to be whole. But at 25, I am my only child.
Those women have done it all and have earned a selfish moment. A whole selfish decade. I don’t even want that. I want cohesion throughout. I want to remember whether I was the suspect or the passenger. I literally cannot remember whether I was the one to try a new type of explosive. It seems unlikely.
I nearly make it out of the house a step at a time. I nearly cross the street, the city line, the river. I successfully navigate the floes against the curb and then turn abrubtly in the center of the crosswalk to return home.
I am about to say something but falter. Then later: I am about to say something but must stop myself.
I am about to say something and I realize I’ve forgotten what I was going to say, or that I was just planning and had nothing to say after all.
I already had Chanukah and so am canceling Christmas.
I guess I wrote a Missed Connection to no-one or to myself.. Except I got responses and they were cryptic and exact. How could anyone else have known to say those things to me? Four-letters, Nick and Nora’s dog?
But it didn’t come from anyone and I begin to wonder if all those times I might have actually said all of those things– emailed myself in waking dream and awoke with no memory. I’m responding to my own love letters.
I don’t want to complain about the sentences. I’ve already done that so much and I’m sure the rest is self-evident.
I’m sorry. Please stay tuned.
I smell like half a dozen people– the 5 train, Hermes D’Orange Vert, jasmine, a week of sweat in Clinton Hill. Two men (separately) asked to buy me coffee on the way to China Town. On the bus I ate string cheese and texted my brother as we watched the same shows.
Thank god for Ms. EM and my Ladywife who diligently came home every night after work, tolerated me for a full futon week, let me borrow the duck mug, accompanied me to the cafe and the ATM, and split entrees so I’d never have to decide. We lit four nights of Chanukah candles together and thought we were sounding remarkably well until we realized it was because we were all tone deaf.
I didn’t get to play any Scrabble but my PhD applications are in.
I keep turning quickly to the left to try to catch a little of the scent.
No candles tonight because of the travel during key hours but tomorrow they’ll be back.
We talked about what food we’d like to be completely submerged in. My Ladywife said, “macaroni and cheese, but I’d like to be tiny.” And Ms. EM explained, “whenever he’s submerged in food, he wants to be tiny.”
He wants to swim through the cheese. He wants to have some privacy inside the noodle.
“Oh the noodles could be giant, that’s the other option.”
I keep emailing myself photographs from my phone then forgetting I’ve done it. Then I see the new message in my inbox and get momentarily excited about it. But it’s just me. It’s no one else.
I want to have some privacy inside the noodle.
On Thanksgiving day my Aunt Me called to tell my mother a story about my youngest cousin. At three she asked my aunt what “coincidence” means and after her initial attempt at a definition failed, my aunt tried an example. “You know when you and your mom were at the super market last week and you ran into me there? That was a coincidence. We didn’t plan to go at the same time but we were both there.”
“Oh,” my cousin replied, “can we have another coincidence sometime?”
Later I told my Ladywife that maybe I’d like to be in a bowl of Cherrios.
“So you could use one as a flotation device?”
But he’s the only one who wants to be tiny.
I fell asleep driving through Back Bay and dreamt you had somehow raced me home, arrived before I had– would be waiting in my apartment. Instead I returned home to a naughty little bunny who had procured and gobbled up half a dozen Ginger Chews. But my home is warmer now and I’m stretching out in a full-size bed without a crease.
“… if the ability to effect change in the world and in oneself is historically and culturally specific (both in terms of what constitutes “change” and means by which it is effected), then the meaning and sense of agency cannot be fixed in advance, but must emerge through an analysis of the particular concepts that enable specific modes of being, responsibility and effectivity” (15).
In Saba Mahmood’s book Politics of Piety she works through and beyond the works of Leila Abu-Lughod, Judith Butler, and Talal Asad to investigate questions of religion, feminism, and secularism. I found the first chapter of her text, in which she outlines some of the problems produced between feminism and the communities which feminism deigns to analyze really helpful. I really appreciated the way she articulated not only the complicated relationships between understanding agency, freedom, and resistance across communities—but also the political import of understanding these relationships. She identifies that one of the key issues of this problem is that feminism is both an analytical framework and also a prescriptive one (10).
Drawing on the work of Abu-Lughod (who is, in turn, critiquing/revising her own older work) Mahmood produces a genealogy of agency. Or, at least, she does something similar to produce a genealogy, locating it in a contemporary cultural milieu and then situating it historically through Western discourses about freedom. By suggesting that we recognize agency not only in moments identifiable as politically-organized resistance, Abu-Lughod jars historical treatments of agency and freedom (8).
I am excited by Mahmood’s treatment of Butler’s work. The way that she integrated Butler into the text served to situate her own work vis-à-vis post-structuralism and contemporary, American, continental-philosophy-based feminism. By pointing out Butler’s emphasis on acts which tend to challenge norms, she highlighted a problem I’ve had with Butler before (but never been able to adequately express.) This is a compelling problem in her work and something, which, I think, has sexist repercussions. By privileging transgressive gender acts as more radical than ones which seem to reiterate normative gender, Butler implies that female masculinity and male femininity better articulate agency than female femininity and male masculinity. I think this is a dangerous assertion because it means that in order to be radical, one has to embrace masculinity in a way that is outwardly apparent. This is well and good for people who do perform gender in these ways but it makes a whole group of people invisible and also makes them appear complicit in gender oppression of others. Using this criticism to look at the piety movements clarifies the various complicated political effects of description. In that case women perform acts which appear like ascription to normative strictures but are instead imitations or nuanced iterations—personally significant and, therefore, both meaningful in a larger political context and also individually fulfilling.