Thoughts on Color

To be a woman is to see a color that not everyone can see, my good friend brilliantly pointed out last night, as we sat by the river, soaking up the second-to-last longest day of the year. I had never heard, or considered, such a metaphor for a human experience (and a corresponding lack thereof), and now I reckon I will never forget it. 

Explaining the experience of being a woman (of any kind) in the world can be like this: [you, me, all of us shouting] “It’s purple! It’s fucking purple! How can you not see that this thing is purple?”

How can you not see it? I ask men silently. I sometimes ask women of other generations, or women of another persuasion (e.g., those who might hold dear very beings that oppress them). 

It’s fucking purple.

Purple is everywhere. I see purple when I walk alone down the street at night. Purple when I travel to certain places in the company of other women (other objects). Purple when I recognize my child is too old to run around naked in the front yard. Purple when my partner and I are out in the wilderness and suddenly realize that together we make one another even less safe.

When did childhood end and purple begin?

I don’t remember. 

Wait. Yes I do. I remember when men’s gazes shifted from something innocuous to something curiously heavy. Even before that, I remember being the object of unwanted attention from male classmates who were themselves children. Children who took it upon themselves to tease me, to touch me, to impose upon me with their wants. 

Purple crept into my vision like a sunset – indiscernible at first, then exploding into rich color.

As an adolescent, I grew acquainted with the color purple. I tried it on for comfort, for confidence, for style. I twisted it into a part of myself that I felt compelled to accept. My experiences seemed so commonplace. My best friends saw, and lived in purple. Why shouldn’t I?

It’s taken me a long time to un-twist all of this.

I cannot escape purple, but I can pull just far away enough to see it clearly. It is a distinct kind of fear.

I am bold and confident and feminist and bisexual and I am afraid of men. Not all of them, but many, if not most, of them – particularly strangers. Particularly strangers who gaze at me, who inhale my scent, who force themselves into my experience, into my story, into my space.

It has taken me years (upon years) to recognize that unwanted attention from men was, in itself, an act of violence. I had employed the coping mechanism of allowing myself to feel flattered, allowing my ego to expand. I didn’t acknowledge coercion, harassment, and unwanted touch as what they are – more violence. And, until I was in my first relationship with a gender queer woman, I didn’t understand, or perceive, the deepest color of purple – the specific fear that arises from feeling observed in a certain way by certain men that somehow communicates their intricate feelings of desire, disgust, hatred, and rejection. 

Deep purple is my least favorite color. 

It will probably take me another thirty-eight years to find better words to describe what I/you/we experience as women. The emotional experience of being viewed as, and treated like, an object by other humans, is complex to say the least.

For now, I’m content just to recognize things for what they are. I’m happy to find words where I can, courage (in moments) to unpack deep wounds that I have tucked away out of a sense of responsibility, and honest conversations with people with whom I feel most safe. For now, I’m grateful to sit on a dock with a dear friend and wax poetic with metaphors for the disgustingly misogynist world we live in. The world that I’m raising my daughter in. 

There’s no way to keep her from seeing certain colors, or learning hard truths. Worse yet, there’s no way to fully keep her safe. But I’m damn well going to try. One conversation at a time. 

 

Brokeback

The exact source of the phrase,“I wish I could quit you,” is fuzzy in my memory, but the sentiment frequently streams through my mind as a parent.

This has never felt easy to me, but four is hard, and feels hard-est in fact, at least compared to whatever else my brain has held onto from whatever preceded this, the seemingly impossible present.

My daughter’s feelings are so big, so strong. I want to be able to hold them for her and find routinely that I can’t. My feelings in response to hers are so big, so strong, that the field in which they meet becomes a battlefield, one in which, under these circumstances, no one is winning.

At the end of a day of single-parenting this spirited, sweet, imaginative, stubborn, creative, loving, sassy, and often incredibly rude and angry child, I want to simultaneously curl up in a ball, scream, throw things, thrash violently, cry, and submerge myself in a pool of warm water (in which I might perhaps scream some more).  I love my daughter more than life itself, which, if I explore the meaning of, really means that now that she exists in my life, there is no life without her. And a world in which she might no longer exist is not a world I want to live in, despite the fact that mothering her is quite possibly the most difficult thing I have ever done and, thanks to this experience, I will be quite satisfied if I have just this one go at it and leave it at that.

It’s so intense. All of it. The love, the struggle, the exhaustion, the wanting to do better, the anguish of not, the joy, the gut wrenching everything. It’s more than I have words for. Clearly.

I recently participated in a breath work group, during which I laid on the floor, in essence, breathing and sobbing among a roomful of others doing the same. It was wonderful and comical. It was uncomfortable and awkward. I had done it before and will do it again, because, for me, there’s nothing like grieving with a room comprised mostly of strangers to feel wholly connected to myself and humanity.

But I digress.

While lying in that space, resting in all of the beauty and discomfort of the moment, my mind, seemingly out of my control (one goal of this particular practice) went to the day I labored, preparing to give birth to my child. In that memory, I watched in my mind, as my daughter moved out of my body and into my arms – and in that moment, one that is etched into being, I recognized her. I looked upon the face of my child and immediately forgot about the struggle and intense pain of moving her through my body. I saw her and felt this strange, wondrous sense that I had always known her – this little piece of my being, entering the world tied with a string to all of my hopes and dreams and bits of myself begging to be a part of something greater.

And so she is. She is like me but not. She is a part of me and living absolutely of her own accord. She is four going on sixteen. She is a magical unicorn and she’s awful to be around. Sometimes the absolute worst. But she is also unapologetically herself, a force to be reckoned with. And I am glad to have been reminded that I knew–as soon as I saw her face, as soon as I held her in my arms–that she would be.