Womanzine

A Poem About My Body
By Total Strangers

 

How tall are you?

Do you play basketball?

You're really tall.

[Open-mouthed stare.]

I'd climb that tree.

You're a tall drink of water.

How tall are you?

How tall are you?

You're tall.

Are you a model?

Can you get that off the top shelf for me?

Do you date shorter men?

 

Hey slim!

Do you play volleyball?

How tall are you?

You stand up really straight.

Are your parents tall?

I'd love to be that tall.

Can I have some of your height?

How tall are you?

How's the weather up there?

Do you play basketball?

How tall is your boyfriend?

Do you ever wear heels?

My friend/sister/aunt is as tall as you are.

You're really tall.

Six-footer!

by Lara Shipley      [click to enlarge]

How tall are you?

You got arms and legs for days, girl.

Could you be any taller?

No really, do you play basketball?

Why not?

You look like you're on stilts.

[Stare.]

My daughter is going to be tall like you.

Where do you buy pants?

How tall are you?

No really, you're beautiful.

 

 

--Ann Friedman

 

Likeness
by Carlea Holl-Jensen

For two years, I was professionally still. Other jobs came and went, but there were always opportunities to take my clothes off in cramped storage closets and stand still for money.

I’m hardly what most people envision when they think of an artist’s model. I’m certainly not what all those hopeful freshman boys were expecting when they signed up for life drawing classes.  Instead of a comely blonde who would turn them into talented artists with the power of her smoldering gaze, they got me: short, rotund, decidedly hirsute, with a trail of pimples and stretch marks running down the backs of my thighs.

Nor was it a job I ever expected I would do. But, as an unfunded grad student, I needed some way to pay the bills and I figured a little irregular work would be better than no work at all.

I discovered pretty quickly that being naked in public doesn’t really bother me. People are always surprised by this fact, but trust me when I say I’m no great libertine. I’ve never been offended by nudity the way some people are—with an artist father, nakedness was normalized for me at an early age—but, with the exception of a phase of childhood nudism, I’ve always been surprisingly shy about my own naked body. The thing is, though, art modeling isn’t really being naked in public the way people think—not naked on a subway car or a city street, but naked in a context where nakedness is appropriate and expected, like a fitting room or a sauna. 

Of course, nudity isn’t really what makes a good artist’s model. Anybody can take their clothes off, but not everyone can marshal their body into perfect stillness. If I was a good model, it wasn’t because I’m beautiful in the nude but because I know almost instinctively how to stop myself from moving.

Admittedly, modeling is a decidedly unglamorous job—all that awkward public nudity is compounded by unscratchable itches, straining muscles, and the cold of drafty studios, which is often alleviated by space heaters placed close enough to scorch the skin. But despite the discomfort, modeling was one of the best jobs I’ve ever had.

(continued at right)

It certainly wasn’t that the money was good. Ten dollars an hour wouldn’t have been enough to keep me coming back if I’d really hated it. Nor did I get some exhibitionistic kick out of appearing naked in front of a roomful of strangers. But the real appeal—the reason I did keep coming back—is difficult to describe. 

Towards the end of my stint as a model, I sat for a figure drawing class led by an MFA student named Dan.  For their final project, Dan assigned his students a self-portrait, explaining: “It’s easier to get an accurate likeness when you’re drawing someone else. The thing about a self-portrait is that you have certain pre-conceived notions about your appearance that, a lot of the time, have nothing to do with what you actually look like.” 

I think Dan’s comment on self-portraiture pretty much pinpoints the crux of my interest in modeling. I’m fascinated with the way other people see me, with what I look like from the outside. Whatever I see in myself is inevitably an imperfect likeness, skewed by my own ideas about myself, too particular to my own skin.

In the opening scene of Angela Carter’s The Magic Toyshop, Melanie, Carter’s adolescent heroine, stands in front of her bedroom mirror, posing as the subject of famous paintings—as one of Toulouse-Lautrec’s slatternly cabaret dancers, as a Pre-Raphaelite maiden, a Cranach Venus. “The summer she was fifteen,” Carter writes, “Melanie discovered she was made of flesh and blood. O, my America, my new found land.” I recognize that posturing, that game of self-discovery through imitation because it’s one I’ve been playing all my life.

In my own way, I’m extremely vain. I’m hard-pressed to ignore the sight of my face reflected in a window, and I sometimes I spend long minutes examining myself in the mirror from every angle.  It’s not that I’m in love with my looks—far from it, in fact.  Rather, what fascinates me about my reflection is that I don’t recognize myself at all. I often feel, like Melanie does, that I’ve discovered some as-yet-unknown country. “O, my America, my new found land.”

I think what appealed to me about modeling, what kept me coming back, was the hope that I might find someone capable of charting that mysterious territory in some way that I could make sense of. I think I almost believed that if I could see my perfect likeness on the page, I would learn something about myself that I didn’t already know.

But in two years on the job, I rarely saw a sketch or a painting that looked anything like me.  Mostly I seemed to be a caricature of myself and sometimes I was downright unrecognizable.  The iterations of myself I saw on people’s easels were, in the end, descriptions of me made by people who, half the time, didn’t even know my name. They captured the shape of me, but they never approached anything I would have called an accurate likeness.

In reality, I’m not sure I’ll ever find that perfect likeness. If modeling has convinced me of anything, it’s that the self is a kind of dark matter. Its gravitational force can be inferred, but never satisfactorily detected.

 

by Kathleen McGlaun

How to Lose a Guy's Boner in Ten Seconds
Chat image and text by Nicole Kern 

This hard-hitting piece of journalism ventures into the seedy world of Chatroulette, a website that pairs random people together via webcams, microphones and live chat. Many dudes on Chatroulette seem to be pretty confident and "in touch" with their bodies. They also really like the ladies and all their parts (bewbs especially), but no matter what a lady looks like, the following questions are sure to make any CR wee-wee frown in 10 seconds or less:

1) Hypothetically speaking, if we were to have children, what would their names be?
2) Where do you go to church?
3) Would you rather watch Mama Mia or Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants tonight?
4) I think we need to DTR before this goes any further.
5) Would you like to see my cat? He's a good boy. Finally potty trained.
6) Aren't you sad that Mad About You no longer exists ... No man could ever measure up to Paul Reiser.
7) What do you think about Elena Kagan’s abortion stance?
8) Do you mind if I eat cheetos while we talk? I'm on my period and really moody. They're the only thing that helps.
9) SHUT THE FRONT DOOR! There's about to be a Life Unexpected marathon on tv.
10) Does your mother know you're doing this?


Proposal
by Amelia Gray, illustration by Rosalind Carnes

Girl, I wanna go on a date with your hair. I didn't want to say it out loud but when I first saw you in the carpeted dining room of the Country Love Ham House, I didn't like your face. If this date is going to involve your face and mouth and your words, I would prefer it if you wore a surgical mask. Do that, and your future will involve one (1) free ticket to the dollar-fifty theater, one (1) small popcorn, and one (1) walk around the lake afterwards, whereat if you are lucky, you will receive one (1) good look at an erection, expressed through slacks and directed at your beautiful hair. 

I'm feeling that hair. I want to send you articles from a glossy magazine about how to wear it in a pony tail. I want to write a song based on a poem about me wrapping your hair around my face. I am the toiling silent artist and your hair is my muse and I have some ideas about art. I wanna taste your hair. I wanna feed you Vitamin E and cocoa butter and eggs until thick, slick strings of hair cover your entire body. 

I want you to become more hair than girl, to the point where if I try to plunge my hands deep down through that hair I just find more hair, warmer hair and then hot, sticky, like the blood is coursing through it, slipping down the strings and pumping through it, your body a mass of matted hair. Strangers and seraphim will take x-rays of your body and the bones will be these tightly packed strands of hair, and the poets will be moved to sing, they will carry you aloft and sing All glory to the hairy muse, all honor in silky perfection, rise and create this perfect world.

 

Embalm
by Sarah Wambold

Before my embalming manager to arrives, I arrange my tools and set up the body for injection.  I've propped it up on blocks so that the feet are slightly inclined towards the torso and shoulders, with the arms bent at the elbows. Between the metal table and the elbows, I've lodged curved blocks to keep them from unbending and the fingers rest on another block in the middle of the bodys still chest.  Directly above the collarbone, I slice a short, thin line over a bulge in the skin.   With metal hooks, I dig through the tissue and find that bulge-the carotid artery, hook it and pull it up through the hole I cut.  I thread two waxy pieces of string-known as ligature in our language- under it and continue to wait.   The blank florescence of the prep room lighting exposes everything on the dead naked body before me. I glance at myself in the mirror and realize it does the same to me.  My manager arrives, eyes the body, then me and asks,

“You got ‘em ready?” 

I nod. 

“You put green eyeshadow on, very nice,” he adds.  

I look away, embarrassed but not defeated. “I guess you’ve got an eye for makeup,” I respond.  

“That’s why they say I’m the best,” he says, his chin raised high with confidence. Turning away from the table he flicks on the radio and shouts, “Let’s do it!” Obliging, I insert the canula into the carotid artery in the neck and clamp it tight to keep in place. The neon chemicals swirl in the machine behind me and I flip the switch 'on'.  I watch as the body slowly fills up with fluid and notice that the blood is rapidly leaving the body, as though it’s being chased out through a sliced vein in the neck that I've forced open with forceps. 

“So,” my manager says as he begins to shampoo the body’s hair, “What’d you do last night?”

“I was on call,” I say, pointing to the body. I know he knows this, but he wants me to ask him, so I do. “What did you do?”

“Got drunk,” he says matter-of-factly, “Got drunk and watched some fucked-up porn.” 

On a glowing TV screen at my embalming manager’s house, an actress lies prone on a similar metal table. Blocks are placed behind her knees and elbows, bending them backwards in an upside-down crawl position. A gag is placed in her mouth. Clamps are tightened onto the skin of her back, pinching it into a grid-like pattern. From behind, a metal rod is rotating on a staff. A man turns around and switches the machine 'on'. The metal rod swirls into the genitals of the girl fastened to the table while she moans and jerks against her bindings.

“You’re into that kind of stuff?” I ask as I begin to massage the limbs of the body, starting out rather rough to ensure that the chemicals distribute quickly and evenly. At the neck, my manager pumps the forceps several times to remove any blood clots and increase the drainage.

“Eh,” he shrugs, “Sometimes. I’ve seen some crazy shit in my day.”

I turn the knobs of the machine to the right so that the pressure increases to force the fluid harder through the system. The skin turns from paper to rubber beneath my hands and the extremities stiffen into their proper position. There is a soothing color that appears on the skin, so that the face begins to appear relaxed, as though in a deep sleep.

“But I mean, they had this chick completely restrained,” My manager said enthusiastically, “She could hardly even make any noise!” The graphic nature of this conversation is normal within the prep room, a place that allows us to manipulate bodies and feelings. This is why I am not at all shocked when my manager continues to describe the scene:                                                

The girl’s muffled moan is ferocious as the man tightens the pressure of her bindings.  He also increases the speed at which the metal staff penetrates her.  Tears run down her face and onto the metal table in heavy, sparkling drops, glossing over her face.  The man stands beside her, messaging his dick and slapping her ass.  All at once her eyes open wide and her face goes white, and then sinks down between her shoulders. The man pulls the metal staff out from her behind and turns the machine off.   

I nod half listening, half watching the embalming machine as it empties the rest of its contents into the body.  

“Sounds impressive,” I say as I pull the canula out from the artery. 

In an interview at the end of the video, the girl, now fully-clothed is asked why she allowed herself to be tied up like that. She explains that she enjoys pushing limits with her body during sex and that what she just did was cathartic. To the interviewer, she says that she gets asked all the time how she got started doing this kind of acting. "I realized I could do it better than the people I was watching could do it," she explained. 

At dinner that evening, with a friend and her friends, I'm asked what I do for work. When I tell them, the familiar cross of confusion and surprise furrows their brow and I anticipate the next question. Yes, I say, I do work with the bodies. I have to embalm them when the family requests it. I explain why I chose to become a funeral director and that touching dead people doesn't really bother me without too much emotion. They ask how I got myself into this and I say it is something I have always been interested in. I say I know that I can do something not many people can and I do it pretty well, so I should do it. “Sort of like being in porn,” I add. Her friends nod along, contemplating. A few even seemed to understand.

 

by Brittany Callender

 

some days I wear a

seventy-year-old hooker

like an overcoat

I found at the back of my closet

I ease her on

my skin sags

experience fills

my tar-coated lungs

I croak out street-wise phrases

at the breakfast table

where my mother,

staring in disbelief,

wonders where her daughter went

I know.

 

some days,

I wear my dead grandmother's libido

around my shoulders

like the fox-stole I found

among her things, after the funeral.

I talk candidly about my grandfather's

perfect, smooth, naked body

  the surprise it was!

my mother shifts in her seat,

avoiding eye contact.

 

by Jen Mizgata

[click to enlarge]

by Lara Shipley           [click to enlarge]

by Christie Young

Guamian Folk Tale
By Lizz Leiser and the Serious Theatre Collective

A bedtime story told to me by my elderly grandfather, Ricardo Delgado.


Gather round children…and I will tell you a tale of great importance and cultural significance.

A long long time ago when the island of Guam was still in its youth we Guamanian lived a simple life. We lived off of the land fishing from the ocean, picking coconuts, and chopping down the palms with which to build our huts. This was long before I met your grandmother, and I still had not known a woman.

I was studying under my uncle the ways of medicine, for as you know, we Guamanians go only to witch doctors and do not hold stock in modern medicine.

One day I was combing the jungle for an herb know as the tiki-tiki plant when I came across a man who was clearly suffering. He was lying in a hammock bleeding from the face and anus. As I approached the man he cried out for me to help him. I knelt beside him in one of the pools of blood and anus fluid that had collected.

“Sir,” I asked, “I will give you whatever help I can as I am a medicine man and have the healing way. Please tell me what is wrong.” He spit forth a great wad of bile, blacker than a moonless island night, and said, “I have a tumor that is growing in my face.” I looked. He did indeed.

(continued at right)

by Christie Young

by Elizabeth Griffin

Syllabus: Feminism and the Body
by Aminatou Sow 

 

Virginia Woolf developed a complex syntax and voluptuous phrasing which she considered to be "feminine" but is it sexist to say that is how women should write when so many late twentieth century female writers write directly and aggressively? How much is biological and how much a part of our society? Does Virginia Woolf live in her sexuality or is she just a brain in a room of its own? 

How does the smoldering, frustrated, forbidden sexuality of Red Azalea enhance the theme and message of self against communist state? How does Maoism actually liberate the woman as man's equal while denying her true sexuality?
How does the Mao woman differ from America's cosmetic woman?

How does El Sadaawi's dessicated post-cliterectomy woman mesh with the dry, baked landscape of the Middle East?

How does Arundhati's sexual joy provide an oasis in the tumultuous, violent world of mid-century India?

James Joyce captures the language of Molly Bloom's soliloquy and the realistic and provocative images of her stream of consciousness, but it's ironical that he will describe every part of her body graphically, including her anus, but always avoiding her clitoris, as if it did not exist. Maybe the Anglo-European woman didn't need a clitorectomy. The rising climax of the monologue also mimics the male rather than the female orgasm.

What do novels smell like? For me Virginia Woolf's books smell like expensive cologne and musty old library books; John Updike's work stinks like an old man who has hiked too long in unwashed clothes; El Sadaawi's work smells like fresh blood, Anchee Min's like salt, and Joyce's like liquor, semen and flowers. How do these novels and plays smell to you? The body's image doesn't smell....


Why are the symbols of femininity breasts and hair when the organs of ecstasy are the clitoris and the vagina?

How do contemporary images of the female body permeate the literature?

How much is our concept of beauty dictated by cultural conformity?

Does our culture worship the body or the image of the body? What is the difference?

How does obsession with the body's image distort the potential of the mindbody itself?

Do wars occur because people look into the mirror and can't agree upon the image? If body parts are worshipped individually, why do we have a corpse when we dissect them?

Do you like what you see in the mirror?

How much psychological damage is done to people whose image does not conform to the cultural norm?

How much medical damage is done by fashion over the years?

How much of character transformation in fiction is achieved through a change in body image?

If you could look like anyone, who would it be? Why?

 

Required Reading

Anchee Min “Red Azalea”
Arundhati Roy "The God of Small Things"
Nawal El Saadawi “Woman at Point Zero”
Virginia Woolf “A Room of One's Own”

 

by Kathleen McGlaun

by Jen Mizgata

 

 

by Aminatou Sow

 

"No one wants to see curvy women. You've got fat mothers with their bags of chips sitting in front of the television and saying that thin models are ugly.” 

and

"There is something distasteful about their inability to control themselves. To be thin takes control and rigur." -- Karl Lagerfeld

 

"It's not such a good thing to show plus-size because it's not really physically healthy and not always flattering to fashion…I think it's too much and almost naive of the fashion industry because it would be nice in a few years that the idea of different body shapes is normal, but right now it's not quite there yet." -- Garance Doré

 

"The Fashion Industry Is Not Plus-Size" -- Janice Dickinson

 

“Models are supposed to be walking coat hangers because the clothes just look better that way, until the model is so thin that it distracts from the clothing itself… they just look better on thinner girls… “ 

and

“Because most clothes are more sellable on a thin person… they are more pleasing to the people watching the runway show. “ -- Tavi (!)

 

“I’m having a fat day” -- You know who you are*

 

Well, FUCK YOU! 

*NEWSFLASH! Fat is not feeling

 

[At left are my top three bodacious babes conquering the fashion world.]

by Sarah Shoemake

by Mercedes Kraus

“What health care provider covers you?” I asked, already beginning to fill out the appropriate paperwork.

“Alas” he whispered through a web of thick viscous mucous. “I have Atlantis, but the deductible is over $15,000 dollars, and I am but a poor coconut farmer who cannot pay it.” I knelt by him, crest fallen, and began to pick up my herbs and remedies.

“I’m sorry sir, but I must be on my way,” I was hurrying away into the bush when I heard him call, “WAIT!” When I returned he had pulled his withered flesh erect and was sitting in the hammock, a flurry of scabs scraping free against the hammock’s viscera soaked rope.

“Please,” he coughed, “Let me make you a trade. If you remove my tumor you may have it for your very own. It is a magical tumor that was placed into my face by a volcano god. If you plant it in the ground and water it for seven days a tumor tree will grow.” There was a long pause. Finally, I spoke, “But why would I want that?”

“Because,” he sighed, “It is well know that if you climb a tumor tree it will take you to the place in the sky that is the home of the volcano gods and there you can find the Golden Brown Tree Snake that lays golden eggs which give birth to tiny baby Golden Brown Tree Snakes which then give birth to even smaller regular colored eggs and from these eggs hatch forth perfect Golden Brown Tree snakes of the regular size that you started with. AND  If you pour water onto the skins of these regular sized Golden Brown Trees Snakes they will give birth to perfectly formed working human organs. And other body parts. Livers, hearts, kidneys, anuses, it even laid a face one time. Would this Golden Brown Tree Snake not be a great boon to a medicine man such as yourself? Think of all the good you could do, all the people whose failing bodies you could renew!” I thought about it, and at last I agreed. I removed the man’s tumor with a dried banana husk and returned with it to my village.

I did as the man had told me and it was not long before I was climbing the tree entirely made of tumors and then descending it, the Golden Brown Tree Snake hissing under my arm.

Then the waiting began. First it yielded a face, which really excited me as I knew that getting a face your first try was extremely rare; I thought my wait would not be long. But the volcano gods were cruel and I had to sit for what seemed like month sifting through hearts and lungs before it finally gave me an anus. Surprisingly soon after that, I received a vagina and my wait was over. I threw the Golden Brown Tree Snake in the garbage and retreated to my room.

It was there that I fulfilled a life long fantasy for me and for possibly every man on Earth. I lined the face, the vagina, and the anus up in a row and made love to them: it was like regular sex, getting a blow job, and ass fucking all at the same time. (long pause) I’ll never forget it.

Goodnight children, pleasant dreams.

 

 

 

 

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