The girl with the light eyes said, The girl with the light eyes said, “I would never have the courage to marry another woman.” She’s staring at me in awe, though I don’t know why; her light eyes even lighter after she speaks and then waits, enduring the space of silence between us, though I don’t know why; I’m a lesbian, I love women. I’m a lesbian who sleeps with men every now and again or so it seems in 15-year increments; who is curious about others’ disbeliefs sometimes distorting the face from uninteresting, from mediocrity, from youthfulness, from gullibility marring the face of commonplace society of man plus woman, of white against black, of old envying young, of bigotry and misogyny. Still I am a lesbian, I love women, could love all women, prefer the company of women, would live and die for a woman, would give all I have for a woman, because I am a woman and am worthy of being loved by women, of being able to commit myself to one woman for the rest of my life. * Words that pass absently through mind. It’s a library where we're standing by a copy machine and I am photocopying in entirety a book that I have no option but to read like the face of this girl standing before me and my face becomes distorted as I search for mockery or untruths— “Why not?” -db
In the beauty of our imperfections…
(Disclaimer: This posting is written in generalized terms. It is not to meant to state that all men and all women believe, think or act in the following ways. Rather I have written in this manner to emphasize the significance of the issue at hand. Thus, please understand that I am quite aware of the shades of grey in how men and women relate to one another. Watch the videos, read my words, and contemplate. Many thanks in advance.)
Think again, if this is all that you believe or understand about women (or yourself)…
or what we (or you) must be or become for you (or others)….
Learn what is real…
Learn who women really are…
and what makes us beautiful…
what makes us worthwhile…
and the perfection in the beauty of our imperfections…
A very belated Happy International Women’s Day(8th of March, 2012)… Celebrate a woman today, and if you are a woman, then celebrate yourself!
Until next time…
P.S. : Don’t worry, your time is coming…
And men, while you are busy worrying yourselves about how we, women, ought to look, why not begin to consider your own reality and the mounting body image issues that are to be your lot… because certainly you realize that the real image of yourselves and the image presented by the fitness and beauty industries certainly do not agree. The disparity will only increase as time presses on…
Now honestly, just how many of you, men, have bodies like these guys? And just when did you find the fountain of youth to freeze your ages to somewhere between 17 and 26?
- “Imperfections” That Really Aren’t (bellasugar.com)
I am not a beautiful woman. At least, this has been the feedback in one form or another that I have received since the start of the year. You may wonder why I would choose to write about such a topic. Well, the reason is simple.
I am amazed by 1) the audacity of people to believe that they have the right to give feedback, whether positively or negatively perceived, on other people’s physical appearance, and 2) the ability of men (specifically in this case, Italian men) to reduce a woman’s worth to the rating that they believe they have the right to give her physical appearance.
I have decided to present this image on the right of myself, without make-up and with my face fully exposed as well as others in the posting in order to explore the issue of my physical appearance. After all, if the point of this blog is self-exploration. So then let’s have at it. Indeed I have, time and again, written about my feelings and thoughts, so why not my physical self.
Some say “Ugly…”
Yes, my nose is wide, and my lips are full, and my forehead is indeed a Tyra Banks four-finger, possibly five, high. My eyes are almond-shaped and my left is smaller than my right eye. My right eyebrow is seemingly permanently arched, because I am always arching it in response to something or another. Of course, my features may have something to do with my mix of African and Asian ancestry.
I have scars…
I have a visible scar on my forehead on the right side. I have scar marks by my left ear from when I had the chicken pox at age sixteen (a horrifying and mortifying experience, I can tell you ;)). I have scars under my chin from having fallen as a child and also as a teenager from once when rollerblading. I even have a small scar on my nose from when I was 18 and felt a need to be rebellious and got a nose ring, which didn’t end up being such a great idea in the end. I decided to stick with tattoos thereafter.
Imperfect teeth…. oohh and facial hair
If I were to smile, you would see that my top two front teeth have small chips on either sides from when I had fallen during a field trip to the pirate city of Port Royal. I am predisposed to facial hair and like most women I tweeze my eyebrows–no, they don’t just grow like that! Thankfully I do not have a moustache like some women do–that would be extra work that I would rather not deal with.
Kinky, Nappy hair… Now short!
Until November 26, 2010, I had very long dred locs, which I had been growing since September 1999. I cut my hair in mourning the loss of my dog, Petie, who died on Thanksgiving Day 2010. Being without my hair has made me painfully aware of the existence of a “hair bias” in the world against women with short hair. I do not believe I had ever really noticed it before. My hair grew over the course of the past year, but I chose to cut it again on January 1, 2012 to the previous length in order to start the new year fresh.
Tattoos, cellulite, muscles, stretch marks, flat-chested, large thighs, and an ample derriere… I like saving the best for last!
I am a person who believes in change and in letting go of the past and of that which not longer serves a purpose. I am also a person who has undergone many changes, some self-imposed, some that have been imposed upon me. Due to my genetics, age, health, my love for tattoos and changes in my lifestyle (see my c.v.), my body has changed and I have had to adjust to these changes. That’s life and I do not make excuses for the way that I have lived it.
The reality is that our bodies will all age. What “beauty” others may perceive that we possess will change or be perceived as having “faded.” It is no wonder that cosmetic companies, plastic surgeons, health clubs, diet programs make so much money. They prey upon the insecurities that have been planted within the minds of women (and men) about their appearance and its relation to their worth as human beings… Truly, given the onslaught of advertisements in a variety of forms of what one ought to look like, no one really needs to spend their time giving feedback to anyone else about their appearance (unless this person is actually an undercover agent for the ad company, or for the beauty industry, or any of the others already mentioned… then drumming up business by destroying self-esteem makes perfect sense).
D. for dichotomy
Thus, this body is the canvas upon which I paint everyday… because, in reality, I see dressing oneself as a process of creating art. After all, why bother going through the process of dressing if not to make it interesting for oneself?
I call myself “D.” One of my professors says that I am a minimalist. Perhaps, perhaps not. “D, ” however, is a construction of myself. It is an aspect of who I am and not my entirety, because it is only recently (in the last 8 years) I began calling myself “D.” It has been an evolution (see pictures below). One that has resulted on an image of myself that is to my liking and which I find most representative of who I am. It is unfortunate that it is hard for some people to balance the seemingly dichotomous images of “D.” and “Diedré.”
But who or what is “D?” Simply “D” is my expression of happiness, whether felt or not. I dress in bright colours to bring a smile to my face when I feel like doing anything but smiling. I put on make-up to remind myself that even the bleakest of days can improve. I wrap my hair in bold scarves, shape them in intricate fashions and wear them like a crown to remind myself to hold my head high with self-pride throughout the day.
Every article of clothing I choose, from my undergarments to my dress, or my skirt, my shirt, or my pants, is chosen with care and consideration for the body with which I have been blessed. Some people have been endowed with an ample bosom, I was not. This is why there are stores like Victoria’s Secret and things like the miracle bra and the wonder bra, etc. Some people have been granted rock hard and narrow legs and can wear freely the short skirts and shorts that are craze of modern fashion, I was not. This is why I wear vintage clothing from the 1930s to the 1980s. Some people have small feet, I do not. I wear an Italian 39, US 9.5. Thus, it is typically harder to find shoes in my size and also in the styles of my liking (typically vintage-styled). Constructing “D.” is an act of self-love and care, and an expression of joy as well as celebration of my body.
Learning to love and laugh at myself and life in general…
The journey of my life has been the process of learning to love myself through learning how to accept myself in all aspects, from physically to emotionally to psychologically. I believe each day that I take a step closer to achieving this. At the very least, at this point I am quite happy with who and how I am, imperfections and all. So, for those people out there who find me either ugly or beautiful (some have even said “spooky”), truly there is no need to offer me feedback as I am quite aware of what I look like and of who and how I am. If you do choose to give me feedback, please think about from where within you and your own “stuff” your feedback is coming, and consider well if your judgement is wise and your feedback constructive enough to share.
Images from starting from top left to bottom right, ages 16 to 33.
“My idea of the perfect woman is… A) she’s gotta be hot!…”
(from the documentary “America the Beautiful”)
— Please, visit the link. Unfortunately, I could not embed the video…
and please notice the man making this comment!
Until next time!
Self-deconstruction and self-foundation
“Generally, one’s sense of self is formed by observations of oneself and of others’ reactions to one’s actions. Emotional consistency and predictability, across time and similar situations, are prerequisites of identity development.” This quote by Marsha M. Linehan summarizes well the process through which each individual goes in constructing a sense of self, beyond the issue of temperament. It begins from our earliest movements and continues as we move through our lives. Ideally, our self-identity or self-construct is one that has developed from an initially positive foundation and continues to develop along the same lines, being reinforced by healthy relationships. The reality, however, is that life may not have afforded many of us such an initial positive foundation and/or the positive experiences thereafter, which would have enabled us to have a current healthy and positive self-construct.
Why not deconstruct?
In reflecting on the intricacies of my life history, I remember distinct moments, especially as a teenager and young adult, when I longed to have a kind of “rewind” or “erase” button, to redo or eliminate some experience that I thought should have been different. This type of thinking kept me for a long time in, what I call, the “mistake” or “error” mode. I was constantly looking for where or, how, or, when or, why I would make my next mistake… After all, I knew that it was only a matter of time! 😉 And of course, with my thinking constantly and consistently in this mode, I constantly and consistently “believed” I was making mistakes and that everything was my fault. After all, everyone else was perfect. Who I was… was in error. My self-construct was in the negative.
It took the encouragement of some older, wiser women and men (I call them mentors), during my undergraduate studies, to help me to realise my potential and to acknowledge to my positive traits. With these new influences, I was able to begin establishing a positive self-construct.
It would be a lovely story to say that all one needs is the encouragement of some nice people, and wham! there you have your positive self-construct. Having encouraging, supportive, and wise people around me was one part; the other part came later: I had to self-deconstruct.
No… I didn’t write self-destruct. Self-deconstruction is what I have chosen to label the process by which a person has chosen to thoroughly examine his or her life. That is, to take apart one’s self: one’s memories, one’s beliefs about one’s world, one’s values, etc. In essence, to go through the process of continuing to ask yourself the question Why? over and over and over…. Why do I believe this? Why is it so? Why must it be? Until you have answers that are truly your own and/or that you can see more plainly why you believe as you do about yourself and about the world around you.
It is not an easy process – I will not say that the process can ever be completed, because I believe it is a process that should be ongoing… just like self-construction. It is in my opinion a type of yin yang: Self-deconstruction and self-construction are interdependent and interconnected, enabling us to reach a state of self-actualization.
And what have you found?
As I mentioned above, self-deconstruction is a process of stripping away, and looking plainly at the self. What is found there, however, may be deemed positive and/or negative.
In English, we often speak of “laying a solid foundation.” You could substitute the word “solid” with “good” or “strong,” etc. The point is that we believe that the start or base of something, whether organization or actual building, should be made of the kind of stuff that will not be easily shaken, or fall apart. I believe the same is important when laying one’s self-foundation.
In making the decision to undergo the process of self-deconstruction, with the inevitable self-reconstruction process to follow, one must consider self-foundation. What type of person do I want to be? How do I want to be understood by and engage with the world around me? Self-deconstruction offers the opportunity to lay a new foundation through acceptance of self and establishment of healthier relationships, both with self and others.
Acceptance of self means taking the core aspects of the self, i.e. both what is considered positive and negative. The key factor is find a useful/effective application for all aspects of the self in the world. Simply put, allow your strengths to continue doing what they do best, and work on understanding how your weakness (negatives) can become strengths.
Acknowledge who, what, and how you are
Challenge yourself to see the positive in all aspects of you.
It is a path to building your strongest foundation.
Best of Regards,
Monday, 5th of Sept, 2011: Strengths and weaknesses: How we let others divide and conquer us.
Photographs are by Croatian photographer, Dolores Juhas, whose work has been featured in such magazines as Italian Vogue. You can visit her website at http://www.dolores-juhas.tk or email her: firstname.lastname@example.org. She has her own blog at http://themax.bloger.hr
Una bella dama…even when feeling anything but…
In general, I am a quiet person… seemingly almost bordering on withdrawn, especially when difficulties in my arise. The last two months have been somewhat of a testimony to this aspect of my personality. For the most part, being quiet helps me to be more observant of the world around me. On the other hand, it is not always easy for me to express myself when I am experiencing difficulties. At this point, the question “What’s the point, D?” might be on the tips of many tongues. The point is that during this period of solitude, someone made me aware of a simple observation. The observation was about me.
Una bella dama…
I am a fairly routinized person, and being in Rome does not change this fact. Each day, I get up and go out for a walk. Usually, I end up in the historic centre. On Easter Sunday, I found myself in Campo de’ Fiori, sitting alone at a familiar café (you know the one…the one where I was gratefully accused of being a feminist). I was engrossed in writing while simultaneously eating (because I, too, can multitask… mindfully). I was not aware that a man was observing me at the table across from my own.
Concluding his meal, this man came over to my table and said to me, “I wish you a happy Easter. You seem so sad, but know that you are elegant and una bella dama. I hope you know what that means.” And with that he was gone.
And I, who felt anything but beautiful (bella) or even much of a lady (dama) in that moment, smiled.
Sometimes the universe provides us with unexpected but necessary solace in moments of sorrow. For that I am grateful.
Even when feeling anything but…
The poem below is one of my favourites to share and to explore in group therapy work with female adolescents and young adults. I find that Maya Angelou strikes an important chord within the self as she speaks about her ability to embrace all aspects of who she is that, in totality, make her a “phenomenal woman.”
Some people have expressed their awe to me, especially lately, because of their perception of my fearlessness, courage, and spontaneity. It is true that I have courage (I believe most people do) and that I can be spontaneous (I believe most people can). It is, however, not true that I am without fear (and if you have read this blog, then you already know how much I write about my fears).
The presence of fear gives me courage… Without fear, why would I have need for courage? I am sometimes spontaneous, but perhaps more accurate is that I believe in achieving my dreams, and I make necessary decisions to fulfill them… I suppose these decisions and my actions can seem spontaneous, because I am not always forthcoming with my thought processes. Then again, who is? 😉
I believe in the principles of Maya Angelou’s poem whole-heartedly. Regardless of emotional ups or downs, by practicing self-acceptance and pursuing self-actualization, I am continually embracing myself as a phenomenal woman (even when feeling anything but). This, I believe is an important aspect of self-growth, i.e. to be able to appreciate, accept, make space for and use of the multiple dualities of the self. We are all shades of black and white, and gradients of grey… Let’s not even get into colour schemes!
These past weeks reminded me that each person is unique and thus a phenomenon in his/her own right. It’s a matter of whether or not one is willing to embrace it… After all, no one is better at being who you are. So, what’s preventing you from embracing your inner and outer phenomena?
Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
It’s in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
It’s the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I’m a woman
Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them
They say they still can’t see.
It’s in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman
Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
It’s in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need of my care,
‘Cause I’m a woman
Hunting for Valentine’s Day! Plus, a woman eating alone = Feminista!
I will admit it. I forgot.
Upon waking this Monday morning, I had only two thoughts: one, call April and wish her a happy birthday; and two, finish my blog entry for yesterday. I completely forgot that today happens to be Valentine’s Day. As I mentioned in my very first post, I am usually late… and apparently, not just with time.
So, it was that I received excellent electronic reminders that today was indeed the day to run out and get your beloved all sorts of treats and flowers galore! And I thought, “Wonderful! I am in this city that is supposedly filled with romance. I am bound to find red and pink heart-shaped decorations, chocolate fountains, and dozens of roses just littering shop windows and even the streets!”
I actually threw on a pair of jeans and sneakers (and for those of you who have been around me more recently, the fact that I am not wearing heels is perhaps amazing), and ran out the door, ready to be greeted by amore and strains of “‘O Sole Mio.”
What I got, however, was this (image on the right).
Life in Rome was simply going along as though the day had no particular significance. I couldn’t believe it!
I decided that I must be in the wrong section of town, and walked back over towards Campo dei Fiori, where I was certain I would find evidence of Valentine’s Day! Or, at the very least, some tourists showing excessive amounts of PDA.
Campo dei Fiori did not disappoint me! Although sadly, in comparison with the commercialization of Valentine’s Day (V-Day) in the U.S., the V-Day efforts of Campo dei Fiori seemed quite mediocre, if that.
I was pleased to see the evidence of V-Day celebration being displayed by some of the vendors in the marketplace and also by some of the stores (well, one store).
One woman, in particular, was really in the V-Day mood as she made her way throughout the marketplace. Another woman was selling flowers (or hoping to) with a beautiful array of roses amongst other equally attractive flowers. A male vendor sold carnivale masques and some V-Day theme items. (Although I am still not sure what they were… I just saw the sign.) All in all, Campo dei Fiori had a pretty good and promising vibe for V-Day, especially as the weather was bright, fairly warm and sunny.
The experience at Campo dei Fiori left me feeling very hopeful. Thus, I made a mad dash towards Largo di Torre Argentina, camera in hand and at the ready to snap pictures of V-Day in the making.
Well… to cut a very short story even shorter. There was nada, or niente (for the sake of adding an Italian flare). I did, however, discover that there were expressions of love for other things… like Birkenstocks (I think Germany will be happy to know this on V-Day.)
Oh! And I almost forgot! There was also the random couple that actually showed some potential acknowledgement of V-Day…
Side note: Yesterday, Giuseppe told me that “love is the most important aspect of [Roman] life. After all, Roma spelled backwards is ‘Amor,’ which means love.” Really? You could have fooled me.
I eat alone. Therefore, I am a feminist!
After my long and emotionally taxing (Yes, it is quite emotionally draining to search for love – You and I both know it’s true!) morning spent walking around the apparently anti-Valentine’s Day city of Rome, I decided to head back to my neighbourhood of Campo dei Fiori for lunch. Recently (as in, last night), I discovered a wonderfully inexpensive, but quite good, bar/cafe very close to my home. It was to this cafe that brought my tired self to enjoy a little V-Day lunch before heading home.
I had been thinking much about yesterday’s demonstration by the women of Rome, and wanted to find a way to talk with some Italian women about their experience of gender roles in Rome. Luckily, the night before I had met a young woman named Janet, who works at the cafe. She also happened to be working today. I decided to ask Janet if I could make a time to speak with her about her experiences.
At the conclusion of our very brief conversation to exchange contact information, one of the male servers asked Janet a simple question in Italian. Unfortunately for him, he assumed that because I spoke in English that I could not understand Italian.
He asked: “Lei è femminista?” (Is she a feminist?)
I answered him, “Sì. Io sono femminista. Perché?” (Yes. I am a feminist. Why?)
In English, he responded, “Because only a feminist would eat alone.”
And so there you have it… If you do not want to be seen as a feminist in Rome (per this Italian man), best not eat alone. As for me, eating alone is equally as comfortable and appreciated as eating in the company of others.
I wonder what he would think if he knew that my grand plan for this evening is to watch the movie “Gladiator” and to write?
In Rome on Valentine’s Day
Love I will not write
The cold of my heart like snow
Words of my mind – death
Just when I thought hell would have to freeze over… Demonstrations in the streets!!
I will tell you, there is nothing quite like thousands of women and men shouting the English word “bullshit” all in unison! No… really! Especially, when this is done with strong Italian accents, it really makes you smile, and feel proud to be an English speaker! 🙂
Okay, there were many other reasons to feel quite proud today, and they had nothing to do with being an English speaker. They, however, had everything to do with being a woman! Yes, that’s right! The women of Italy must have heard about me complaining in my blog, or somehow psychically felt my ever-growing disgruntled pms-ing energy pervading the universal ethers (because everything is really all about me – No, really, I know! 😉), and decided to show me that the women of Italy knew what was up! And what was up was their dander!
The very same thoughts that I have been sharing over the last few days about my observations on the behaviours of Italian men, or at least the structure of the Italian patriarchal society that so highly influences its men’s behaviours, was being reflected back to me by these angry and highly organized as well as mobilized women! They shouted for respect and equality! They asked not to be seen as just sexual objects to be used and abused by men such as Berlusconi, the current Italian president. They asked for all Italian women to be united and to stand up for themselves, and to demand their place in society, rather than be treated as second-class citizens!
I was amazed, dumbfounded, and humbled. I realized that I have had the misfortune of only having had the acquaintance of Italian males, and did not understand at all the experience of the average Italian female. In my independent, liberal-minded, feminist, American arrogance (Yes, I said, “arrogance,” because it was true.), I had made the assumption that the Italian woman was okay living in this system, and had quietly acquiesced to her place of submission – I was wrong, and am truly glad for this discovery.
What is equally amazing is that I would not have known anything about this demonstration had it not been for a man. Enter Giuseppe: a politically-minded, middle-aged, professional. He along with a number of many other Italian males were participating actively in the demonstration and screaming and shouting along with the women, and applauding the female presenters! This was highly encouraging to see. After all, up until this point, I had all but decided that Italian men were… well, let’s just say, not quite enlightened.
The cynic in me, of course, is always able to point out the many people who are, what I call, “token” activists. That is, they come to a demonstration here or there, but otherwise do nothing, or actually do everything to thwart whatever the movement is.
These “token” activists are able to say, however, that they believe in the movement because they went to a demonstration. It is like people who say they do not exhibit any racist behaviour because they have minority friends, yet still they may make stereotyped commentary about minorities (all under the guise of “It’s just a joke.”)
I suppose this is my fear – That these men might just be “token” activists,
and do not actually believe in the cause, or will not actually do anything to help the women further it. That these men, in essence, are there just for lip service and to be a “token” display of gender alliance. Well… I will choose for today to look at the glass as half-full however… and be happy for these women, and happy for myself too, to have been witness to this event.
It is not lost on me that the women chose to hold this event on the day before Valentine’s Day… Especially as I have been told, Valentine’s Day is not much celebrated here.
Rome is in-love… with Viagra. Plus, who knew? Io so come parlare nell’italiano.
Ah…. Love. It gives you that warm and
queasy fuzzy feeling in the pit of your stomach… kind of like menstrual cramps (For the men out there, think of a bad bout of the stomach flu – It’s basically the same thing.) By the way, just for the record, my sister, Michelle, told me this morning I was a bit of a cynic. Though for the life of me, I cannot fathom why! Now on to more truthful statements. 😉
Yesterday I thought I was emitting pheromones. It turns out that I wasn’t far off, because today I discovered the source of the pheromone-emission: Piazza Navona. That’s right! With its centrally located and overbearingly phallic Bernini fountain shooting sprays of water for all passersby to enjoy and be potentially sprinkled by, Piazza Navona acts as some type of Roman pheromone repository to be accessed just in case the sexual tension eases even ever so slightly in the Eternal City. And apparently with my arrival, the heaping amounts of asexuality that I normally drag around with me like an untamed and hungry elephant (I had to trade the lioness in – She really didn’t take up quite the right amount of space and didn’t cause nearly enough damage.) was just enough to set off the alarm bells from Campo dei Fiori to the Piazza di Spagna.
Thus, upon my first visit, my asexual powers were neutralized as I stood (like any good tourist would) close to Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s Fountain of the Four Rivers aka Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (that’s right… four) to take a picture!
My subsequent visits only resulted in a type of dousing that has left me… Well, you know already… (And if you don’t, then read the last post and catch up!) By the way, there are three fountains in Piazza Navona: one on either entrance (Fontana del Moro, located at the south entrance & Fontana del Nettuno, located at the north entrance; both by Giacomo della Porta) and then the above-mentioned granddaddy of them all. So, truly, there is no getting around the pheromone emissions, ladies… So, deal with it and carry a fly swatter, or a baseball bat, or a can of mace – Whatever your fancy… Unless you like the attention. If you do, then have at, because the men surely will!
Ahem, but actually, this section was about love… That’s right! The warm, fuzzy, yada-yada…(and I never watched an episode of Seinfeld in my life)… Couples, couples everywhere and evidence of breeding to spare!… This was the situation in Piazza Navona (and I have the pictures to prove it)… On the one hand, in the overcast gloominess of the morning, it was sort of sweet (in a cloying way) to see these happy young and old couples walking hand-in-hand, pregnant women, and children playing… After about 30 minutes though, I was quite sick of the public displays of affection (PDA).
I know… You might wonder, “D, why can’t you just appreciate and enjoy the wonder of love?” Well, I guess, as I said above, I did… for a brief moment. It is, however, things like the following situation that just kind of… well… kill it for me.
I am emitting pheromones… and a night of Italian punk
There are certain things I have come to realize about myself during my brief stay in Rome: 1) I more of myself than I ever was, and 2) who I was is now gone, and I am not quite sure if I existed. With that said, let’s talk about today (Just so you are with me, it’s actually Thursday, February 10… Nevermind the posting date if it’s different.)
Middle-aged Italian men have “ginormous balls.” What I mean by this is they have the amazing ability to dismiss whatever non-verbal social cues, such as the ABW scowl or head-turn (you know, you know what I’m talking about!), one might be displaying, which might mean something along the lines of “Now, really? Do I look like I want to talk to you?” Apparently, the sarcasm is completely lost them, or they choose to ignore it, because they always answer what is a truly rhetorical question with “Why, yes, D! You do want to talk to me.” (Read/go watch and learn, young Italian men! Cat-calling is not the only way: Sheer and dogged questioning, regardless of language barriers – This is how you do it!)
So, it was that I encountered no less than 4 of the above-mentioned men in a span of what amounted to less than 2 hours… And what was I doing? Was I sitting still? Standing stationary somewhere, looking desperately in need of company? Nope! Actually, if you talk to anyone who knows me, I keep a military pace when walking. It’s double-time, baby, when you’re with me! Hop to it! So, I ask you… How, in all that is beloved, did they manage to catch up to me? (I have a sneaking suspicion it has to do with those 3-inch heels I have been marching around in! Thank you, Mudd shoes!)
Now, you might say, “D, why didn’t you just ignore them?” Well, first, I hate being rude. Second, the image of myself, a semi-tall Black woman, being chased by a rather short Italian man was too comical for even me, and so I thought it better to spare everyone the scene – Please, don’t get the wrong impression here. I am far from egotistical. Actually, I think I am quite ordinary/plain-looking. So, I have actually chalked this whole Italian-men-chasing-me-thing up to pheromones, exoticism, and a serious need for a more cosmopolitan society. In the interim, however, does anyone know if there is any kind of “Pheromone-off” spray I can use? Please, send to Via dei… Oh, forget it! Do you know about the Italian postal service? (Let me put it this way: It will probably reach here after I am back in the States.)
The Art of Punk
Let’s just continue with sex… I mean, The Sex Pistols, and the rest of Punk movement, which lasted how long? Um… Is it actually over? Someone really needs to tell some of the people I know back home… And apparently, some of the people here in Rome too, like the ones at tonight’s exhibition on Punk art (to be followed by an 80s dance party with intermittent moments of punk, doo-woop, and surf music – That’s right…“Surfing U.S.A.”).
My courageous companion, Isobel, to whom I offer many thanks for the invitation to this very entertaining event, looked shell-shocked as we watched the parade of young and old “punk” Italians break out their best dance moves to the Bet-you-can’t-guess-what-beat’s-coming-next music offered up by the brilliant and talented DJ (who I know, for a fact, possesses mad skills, because he exhibited these prior to people actually coming on to the dance floor). I suppose, however, that I should stick to mentioning the art exhibition.
Well… Hmm…. I am not really sure what I can or should say about the exhibition,… and that about sums it up. It’s best to leave well enough alone. No, really – It was less of an exhibition and more of a reason to get together, drink, dance, show yourself, and be a part of the in-scene. Perhaps that’s the exhibition I should actually talk about. 😉 So, let’s!
There will be a day (perhaps tomorrow) when I will actually devote some time to describing what I call the “peacock” trend of the Italian male. Italian men are not merely metrosexual… They are something beyond this (I just can’t think of a word.) I mean it is like taking every single gay male stereotype regarding grooming and tossing in healthy dose of another stereotype, i.e. the high-maintenance, gold-digging ex-girlfriend/boyfriend in the mix (It’s simply not enough to be high maintenance, in my humble opinion, gold-digging is a must!) You know? Well, we’ll get into that another time. For now let’s talk about the attendees of tonight’s exhibition.
I love the word “fop” and am quite dismayed that we do not use it more often in the English language to describe men and have now resorted to “metrosexual” (Wait just one minute!…. This is the word I was missing earlier! Aha… “Welcome, to Era of the Italian Fop!”) Well, my version of the Italian fop was nowhere present at this event. Isobel, however, made the comment that these men, more than likely, “spent more time in front of the mirror before coming [to the exhibition] than she did” (and the beautiful Isobel is no slouch in putting forth her best self ).
It was hard for me to understand what she meant, however, because all I could see was some sort of cross between a sort of “roll-out-of-the-bed-welcome-back-to-the-90s-grunge-look” meets the still (apparently) popular “emo” look, which was born out of punk but isn’t true punk. Then again… I am no fashion expert.
My lack of knowledge, however, was quite okay. Isobel let me know that I was graced to be in the company of Rome’s trendiest of scenes – I was actually attending a gathering of some of the ‘It’ people of Rome, who the rest of Rome actually looked to, in order to understand the latest trends in fashion. Ah hah!… I wondered why their grungified and emo’ed clothing was so highly fragranced in Eau d’Euro… It was all coming together for me. Did I mention that this event took place not a stone’s throw away from Via dei Condotti, a rather famously fashionable, always busy, and disgustingly expensive shopping street? Actually, I make it a point to walk down it whenever I go to the Spanish Steps… just so my two favourite stores, Goodwill and Buffalo Exchange, have some free international advertising. 😉
Speaking of advertising, why is there a free drink stand for Absolut Vodka at, what seems like, every social event (usually they are lgbqt ) to which I have been over the last few years? Is it not enough that Italians have to deal with wine? Must we now add vodka to the mix? Furthermore, and not saying that this event involved lgbqt people whatsoever (besides myself), but the prevalence of alcoholism in the lgbqt community is an enormous problem, and having free drink stands at any such event only serves to increase it.
Side note: Oh, by the way, my gaydar says “I see gay people…” Now, if I could only find the cats…
An old gypsy woman, Italian men… and renewing my “Bitch” card.
I realized today (…Am I caught up yet?) that unbeknownst to some men (and I am sure some women too), third-wave feminism did not die out in the 90s when it began, but is actually still alive and kicking its very high and pointy stiletto-ed heels as well as steel-toed combat boots (both of which I happen to own, even if I am more partial to the pointy variety at the moment)! By the way, I am generally inclined towards ignoring the outline of my headlines and just plunging into whatever topic most interests me first.
What a way to start? The topic that most interests me first is Italian men… Right! Well, it’s perhaps not in the way that you might think. No… This is not the “Eat. Pray. Love.” – version (Yes, there may be many more references to come… Deal with it) of some handsome, young, Italian man with an unpronounceable (at least, for me) name such as “Massimiliano” sweeping me off my very queer-loving feet into some fairytale love-land or even love-fest. Actually, this is a two-part observation: one of two men I know personally, and the other of the Roman men I have observed so far… or should I say, who have observed me?
Part 1. I have two friends here. Fortunately, or unfortunately, they both happen to be male and Roman. One, I believe, is more accepting of his Roman-ness and wears it as a badge of honour (Friend A). The other, well… We’ll just say that he thinks of himself as a sensitive type of man (Friend B), which I am not quite certain fits in with my perception of the Roman male… Then again, what do I know? I have only been here a couple of times in my life, and only know these two guys. So, what the heck.
Without going into very long and rather tedious stories, I will simply state that both Friend A & B demonstrate a similar behavioural pattern, i.e. the when all else fails, “women-are-at-fault-all-times-no-matter-what.” Curiously enough, this behavioural pattern has manifested only when I was engaging in an assertive act, such as expressing my own position on a topic, or my own right to act independently, or my own right to be heard and not be demeaned. Immediately from both of these men, I was told that I was somehow injuring them by being assertive. That by actually standing up for myself, I was actually being “rude” and “aggressive!” (Insert “Angry Black Woman Syndrome” because that is what it surely sounded like they were suggesting to me.) I am in therapy. I know for a fact that I am certainly not a sufferer of ABWS. (Now,where is that certificate of proof?)
Part 2. Beyond my two friends, I have been subject to the scrutiny of the general Roman male population, whose members, I can tell you, are not shy about making their assessment of your sexual appeal known. Between the catcalls (“Bella!”), the stares (up and down, and up and down, and up and down, and call the friends over to stare up and down again and up… you know), the polite hellos (“Buonasera“), the direct one-on-one pretend conversations (“Hi, are you American?”or “Where are you from?”), and the pull-the-car-over-to-the-side-of-the-road-to-stare-and-try-to-engage-in-conversation (yes, this actually happened on Sunday); life here in Rome has been quite simple as a woman to enjoy.
I don’t at all feel like a walking vagina on a daily basis whatsoever. Nope. Not at all! I don’t at all feel like I should try to scrub away the filthy, grimy looks I received all day long as soon as I get home – Mind you, one never knows if the looks are due to lewd thoughts, or racist thoughts, or some whacked combination. Either way, it does make leaving my little studio each day quite an adventure! It could be enough for a more reserved woman might want to resort to wearing a burka, were she permitted to do so.
Back in October as well as now, I wondered how Roman women have been able to deal with this kind of crap (what I deemed Roman male chauvinistic attitude towards women’s equality and sexuality) for generations. Then, I thought about the rapidity of the language of Italian… and how for the most part, it was pretty hard for anyone to get a word in edgewise… and I had the answer! The women didn’t listen to these whining,complaining, and seemingly sex-starved men -The women just talked over the men! (Okay, maybe I am being a bit simplistic, but…)
I suppose the therapist in me had prompted me to have the patience to listen to them, or even to pay mind to them. In the case of my friends, the reality was that they just did not like having a woman stand up to them… once again. In a patriarchal society, what’s new in that? And in the case of the general Roman male population… Well, men always desire what they esteem highly, but can never have.
Renewing the “Bitch” card
So, I renewed my “bitch” card, put on my name tag “Bitch Numero Uno” and wore it proudly today as I walked out of a bookstore, leaving Friend B behind, who thought that I should spend my time chasing after him (after he walked off and left me without letting me know where he would be going… I imagine he did this because of the small lecture I gave him on feminism… Oh well!). Side note: I am beginning to think I need to pick better Roman male friends.
Being a “bitch” is a necessary mode that all Black women must be able to access in my humble opinion. When I say “bitch,” I mean that you are quite capable of showing even deeper levels of your personality, that you too are a “beautiful, intelligent, talented, courageous hellion,” and will serve all of that up with a smile. 😉 All you need is a reason. Right?
Black women have for too long been subject to the bottom of the totem pole. It is in our best interest, therefore, to thwart anyone who tries to get in our way from upward movement… At least, these are my beliefs. I could also apply the same thoughts to a whole slew of minority groups to which I also belong (general women-folk, foreign-folk, gay-folk, chronically-ill-folk…you get the picture). In essence, down with the man!… Did I just write that? Well, what I mean is… Power to the people! And the people, in this moment, happen to be me. And I happen to be a Black woman living in Rome, albeit for a short time, where minorities are not well-liked or respected (no matter how nicely it’s put – Thanks, Francesco and Catherine)… and I am not sure exactly what the position women exactly hold… and if it is actually seen as vertical (of course, I am quite new to Rome, so don’t hold this against me… My opinion might change).
Old gypsy woman
There are many beggars here in Rome like many cities around the world – This is nothing new. Guidebooks, natives, embassies, your friends and even parents warn you against them. Don’t give them your money. While one distracts you, others will come to rob you. Darn right! It’s true… It is equally true, and not surprising for me, that a majority of the beggars that I have seen in Rome have been women… And of course, minority women. From what little I can tell, my assumption is that they are gypsies, who have been notoriously stereotyped as thieves and who live in fear in Italy due to their minority status, especially as the level of intolerance for cultural and ethnic diversity increases throughout the Italy’s major cities. Sadly, it seems to me there is a lot to be feared by the Italian male, if you happen to be female and a slight shade darker than White… At least, this is my opinion for the moment. Who knows what experiences and new insights 17 more days will bring.
For the most part, I like beggars. I always have. I should actually rephrase that. I like to help the homeless. I was brought up that way. It is not in my nature to look askance at someone, or to turn my nose up, or to shift my eyes away from that which makes me uncomfortable. I learnt this from my mother, who I watched when I was a child give to many strangers bags of food when we, ourselves, were quite poor.
Distinctly, I have a memory of an old man who came to our home in Jamaica asking for food in exchange for work. My mother would have been happy to have given him the food without having him work, but he insisted to cut the grass in the back of our house. I watched him all day cut away at the tall grass with nothing but his frail body wielding, what seemed to me then, a giant cutlass. This image has never left me.
So it was that I found myself today standing atop the Scalinata della Trinita dei Monti (“Spanish Steps”), located in the Piazza di Spagna, looking down at an old gypsy woman holding her hands clasp together as though praying. She called to each passerby and to those who stood above her, “Ho fame.” (“I am hungry.”) I stared at her for a long time. I did not think much about whether or not she were telling the truth. I only thought that I liked the look of her face. Her face told many stories as she had seen many things – Stories I would never know. So I took pictures of her – Several. And for that, I placed a euro in her jar. Still afterwards she called to me, “Bella, ho fame.”
I smiled at her, and thought, “So am I.”