I ask the easy questions: how are you? How has your day been? I talk about the storm, the lightning, prattling on about work. As if that’s really what I’m thinking about. As if I’m not wondering about your hands, your mouth. As if I’m not trying to say I miss you in a thousand different ways, but the words vanish when I open my mouth. I’ve gone soft. That is to say, afraid. That is to say, silent.
I don’t want to be the one who says it again, first. The silence after leaves too many scars. And I’ve gotten really bad at waiting, but I don’t say that either. Instead, I ask about work, if you’re ready for what’s ahead. I know the question has more than one meaning. Neither of us acknowledges the wake of it. You give me the easy answer, but I hear the way your voice dips, that half growl. I picture too many things and begin to stammer.
I wonder what you’re thinking – how loaded is that shotgun in your heart? Do you hear the bullet in my teeth? Every now and then, it whispers: you’re going to have to swallow eventually.
Darlings, the second half of the May/June issue of Uncanny is up, for free, on the magazine’s website. So, if you wanted to read the rest of the content (YOU DO), you can. In particular, if you wanted to read my piece (YOU DO), wander over here: http://uncannymagazine.com/article/from-the-high-priestess-to-the-hanged-man/.
I hope you enjoy the magazine as much as I did. Every piece is absolutely gorgeous, and I’m beyond grateful to have been a part of it. That poem is especially close to my heart, and I’m so thrilled it found at home with Uncanny.
So, the Supergirl trailer debuted yesterday, and the internet went bananas. It seems like there’s no middle ground – it’s either SQUEE or NOPE. I’m in the SQUEE camp, and here’s why: she’s layered and relatable. And she’s a charming badass. Let’s discuss.
The major complaint I’m seeing in that kind of a bumbling goofball, work-wise. But one thing I loved – that I related to – is the idea of working so hard to be normal (aka to fit in). Because I’ve done that. I’ve spent time trying to not rock the boat, to be less. And there’s usually some kind of impetus that shakes a person out of that. For Kara Zor-El, it’s her sister and an entire plane full of people being in danger.
In the pilot, Kara rescues a plane full of people. She flies. She kicks ass. And then has a goofy grin about it. Guys? If I were a superhero, THAT WOULD BE ME. Honestly, she reminds me a lot of Felicity on Arrow: smart, capable, and a badass. When push comes to shove, Felicity rises to challenges. Like Peggy Carter, she knows her own value. And so, when there’s a montage scene of Supergirl’s discarded outfits, I don’t see that as banal or twee. I see it as funny reference to all the crazypants outfits badass women have had to wear over the years – in comics and video games. I see it as a nod to the previous (and doomed) Supergirl pilot that never happened. And I see it as an evolution: she’s finding out how to be who she is. She’s figuring out how to express herself and be herself in a world that sometimes refuses to see strength in a girl who wears lipgloss. Or boots. Or heels.
As a woman, I express my personality through a lot of different things – one of them is how I dress and how I wear my makeup. We live in a world, unfortunately, when beauty is often prized over smarts – and where smarts and beauty are often seen as being mutually exclusive. But darlings, I can wear knee high boots and kick ass. Because while my clothing might indicate facets of my personality, they’re not the sum of who I am.
Yes, the show seems less dark than Arrow and Daredevil. But that doesn’t mean it’s less – less important, less awesome. And you know what? When Calista Flockheart gave her speech about the word “girl” and why it shouldn’t be seen as being a negative, I cheered. I love the word girl. I don’t see it as being an insult or a term that undervalues who I am as a woman. Girls are fierce.
There have been comparisons made to The Devil Wears Prada, and somehow, that’s been viewed as a negative. Devil has been labeled and chick flick and shoved in a corner. But a) chick flicks are not bad, and b) it’s really much more than that reductive assessment would imply. In that movie, the main character not only succeeds at her job (which she has no background in and a terrible boss to boot), but she’s strong enough to walk away from it. She’s self-aware and evolves. She learns and grows, constantly doing the impossible. There are worse movies to use a reference point. But I do want to mention one divergence: Cat Grant is not Miranda Priestly. Yes, Cat is blonde, imperious, and somewhat bitchy. But she also appears to be a feminist with a take-no-shit attitude. Um, yes please. More of that.
One final note on the tone of the show: it’s been criticized for its lightness. Apparently, superhero shows must all now by Daredevil-level dark. Um, no. For one thing, it’d be nice to a have a show that enjoys itself a bit. That is not all angst and drama, that has a bit of fun? A superhero who can stop a MAC truck AND make a joke? I’m on board for this. Light does not equal inferior. You can smile and still get shit done. Or are we now teaching women that the only way to be strong is to enshroud ourselves in misery?
Let me give you a point of comparison: The Flash. It is not all puppies and rainbows, but it is a much more lighthearted show than its counterpart, Arrow. Cisco’s humor is the best. Does his sense of humor and goofy smile automatically mark him as being somehow less capable? Do Barry Allen’s quips and mistakes render him anything less than amazing?
No, I think not. I think these are characters who are fleshed out and imperfect, who charge in for all the right reasons and sometimes hesitate for all the wrong ones. Barry often has crises of self-confidence, where he’s not sure what to do or if he CAN do something. He’s been encouraged and supported by those around him, and that’s not been seen as a negative. There is real potential in Supergirl for Kara to be amazing.
Remember in Smallville, it took Clark the ENTIRE series to SORT OF fly. It took him a long time to grow into his powers. Kara flies and rescues an entire plane in the pilot. To quote Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, bitches get stuff done.
I can’t reshape my heart
without fire and a hammer,
but these mean different things
when I see your face. Tell me
more about heat, about
the shade of orange
when it moves
just enough to bend.
Nothing will change. Then,
everything will. That’s what
I am afraid of. For days,
I stopped moving. No one
has even noticed – you would,
but that’s irrelevant.
Tell me, am I allowed to feel this?
How much water would it take
to hush this flame? A bucket,
a river, an ocean – it’s all
steam and kisses, things I can’t
afford to lose, yet cannot even name.
Give me the anvil. Hand me
the rasp and let me test
the sparks: I can make (and unmake) anything
with enough strength – anything
but this. I never asked you
to change, never thought
you were less than beautiful,
how many nails it’d take
to keep you still – you
were not made
Perhaps you and I
were made for this.
and fierce, nearly too kind
to be paid attention to, almost
shy, but there it is – potential
not untouched but unchanged,
an act of bravery
that looks like luck – I can’t
reshape my heart, so
why would you ask me to?
So, darlings, I wrote a thing. It’s a thing out in the world, right this very minute. Long story short: I have a poem out, today, in Issue 4 of Uncanny magazine (“From the High Priestess to the Hanged Man”). I’m so honored to be a part of that magazine for a multitude of reasons – the first being that the folks who run it are tremendously wonderful. The second being that I feel insanely lucky to be among the authors the magazine has published.
The truth is that I now share a writing credit with some of my heroes. And I’m trying not to fangirl, but…well, I am gleeful and excited. Neil Gaiman had a poem in the first issue. Kat Howard and Maria Dahvana Headley have had stories in subsequent issues. And looking at the table of contents for Issue 4 has made me absolutely Muppet flail on multiple occasions.
What can I say, guys? I’m a nerd. I am excited. And I hope that you will be inclined to pick up the issue, which you can do here: Issue 4 of Uncanny.
Additionally, if you wanted to get a subscription to this magazine (which I highly recommend – I’ve enjoyed all of the previous issues), you can do so here, on Uncanny’s website.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve still got some SQUEEing to do. Perhaps I shouldn’t have had a vente latte from Starbucks this morning…
“A truth should exist,
it should not be used
like this. If I love you,
is that a fact or a weapon?”
― Margaret Atwood
That quote has always been a favorite of mine. It is a reminder, to me, that love simply is – it’s not a machete. It isn’t a thing to be wielded. It’s a feeling, a state of being, a truth. It does not have sharp edges. It should never be used maliciously or manipulatively. If someone does that, then what he/she is feeling? It’s not love. Because while we all sometimes hurt the people who love us and who we love, love is not a destructive force. Quite the opposite, actually.
There is absolutely nothing weak about love. It can appear weak, because it so often yields to accommodate. But weak? No. Definitely not. To bastardize another favorite quote (by Paulo Coelho), the strongest love is the one that demonstrates its fragility. And, to be sure, people are like that, too. The strongest people know how to bend, how to put others first, how to compromise and not act selfishly. Love is not selfish, even in instances where it would be easy and perhaps even just to be terribly self-centered.
When someone you care about asks you for something, you give it. That’s strength. That’s not a small thing. It’s a choice. And choosing to put another person first is like shaping steel: it is not to be done lightly. Or without fire. Or something.
Point is: I’m an affectionate idiot. I don’t know how to not care or un-care about people. Sometimes, I care too much. But I figure in this world full of assholes, no matter what, I’ve never going to be like that. I’m never going to hide my heart, even when it’s hard.
Hello, my name is Alison, and I give a damn.
Get over it.
This is me, for better or for worse. I feel things. I express thoughts. I dance in the grocery store, and I sing in the shower. I kiss and laugh, bake and do shots of tequila. I can say “I love you” in three different languages, but I’ve only ever said it once. I am kind. I am sweet. But if you hurt someone I care about, the dragon comes out. I am tiny, but fierce. Trust me when I say you don’t want to witness that. I love high heels and hate wearing flat shoes. I believe in impossible things, because nothing is truly impossible. I love unconditionally and without any shame whatsoever. I do not suffer fools. I will not let you disparage yourself in front of me. I never give false praise. Once I put my faith in people, it’s incredibly hard to lose it. I believe in more than one chance, more than two. I think we all fuck up, and sometimes, a good hug can ease the pain. I know how to throw a punch, figuratively and literally. I always fight clean. I don’t like the word no. I think we hear it far too often. I rarely lie, but I can fool you with a smile if I feel like it. I hate goodbyes. I cry when dogs die in movies. I still can’t watch Old Yeller, since the one time I saw it as a kid. If you don’t like animals or sarcasm, we can’t be friends. I will laugh my ass off whenever someone falls down, doesn’t matter if it’s me. I think that kindness is the easiest thing in the world, because the small gestures make a difference. I say hello to strangers. I always hold open the door. I don’t know how to quit, even when everything seems impossible. And yeah, when you’re sick and within driving distance, I’ll make you soup. Same goes for when you’re having a bad day: there will be chocolate or baked goods.
Life is hard. If I do one thing in this life and only one, I hope it’s that I make it easier for someone daily. I hope that I make a difference in the darkness. I hope that I make you laugh, when you’re having a shitty day. I hope I listen, when you’ve got no one else to talk to.
Because I care. And that, darlings and dear hearts, is never weakness.
*title shamelessly taken from my favorite e.e. cummings’ poem: http://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/somewhere-i-have-never-travelledgladly-beyond
There’s a terrifying freedom in being the one who takes the first step – who leans in, who kisses first, who speaks. Your entire body might be thrumming with fear. Your hands are probably shaking. And the edges of the world might seem to dim just a little. But none of that really matters in the moment, does it? When there’s only one thing, one person, one truth in focus.
Some people are uncomfortable with feelings. They’re indicative of a loss of control, because if you care, if you show what’s going on internally, someone’s inside your head or under your skin. And, in a way, you lose a little bit of power. You give that other person a bit of leverage, even an opportunity to hurt you – to use that truth against you. Granted, this is a learned behavior. We often shutter ourselves up when, repeatedly, we’re wounded or burnt. We may not even realize we’re doing it, since we’ve been closed up for so long. Bricked up and hiding, such that we forget the particular blue of the sky. Of course, that is a metaphor, but the point is valid.
I’m neurotic. I like routine. In general, I am not a fan of messes. But those are also learned habits, things that can be unlearned or overlooked – for the right person, in the right circumstance. When the heart demands it, because – darling – there is no asking. The heart’s an adorable little dictator, and we’re all just along for the ride.
I’ve never been uncomfortable with feelings. Awkward about expressing them? Sure. The words don’t always come out right, but they’re always honest. I never give hollow compliments. I just don’t have it in me. So, unless I believe something 100%, I keep my mouth firmly shut. Same thing goes for my affections.
I don’t care about making myself vulnerable. I don’t give a damn if I look like an idiot. If there’s a mess, it’s probably because I made it, and I’m dancing around in it. Being in love is like offering a wolf your throat. The person you’re standing in front of may bite your neck. It might go poorly. They might even just walk away.
But here’s the thing about real love: it is offered without expectation. There are no scales to be balanced. It’s not about what you get in return. It’s not some kind of competition. It is a fact. It is a truth. It’s a condition of existence. Love simply is. Period, You might say that it is what it is.
I’ve always believed that love can do the impossible. Maybe that’s a naïve way to feel, but I don’t think so. I’ve seen the way it completely transforms a person. In the past, it’s made me braver, made me the best version of myself. It’s made me forget insecurities and fears and just…do the crazy thing. Moreover, it is without regret.
I think that when we run from love, hide from love, don’t risk everything for love – those are the things we regret at the end of our lifetime. Those are the faces we conjure, the what-ifs that never disappear, the question marks of maybe, of what might’ve been. I refuse to live my life with anything like that. Absolutely refuse. Because at the end of the day, love is not certain, but it is pure. It is miraculous. It is the thing that we get up every day for. Love of something and/or someone. And make no mistake, we are always striving toward that, or we’re just…dead in ways that buck explanation.
Love can be terrifying and difficult – maybe a little unnerving , too. Because it makes us naked in the ways that we’re often running from – not physically naked, but emotionally so. And that’s hard. But it is also raw and beautiful. It’s the easiest and the hardest thing to do, The truth is that you don’t have to pull the moon down out of the sky to make changes, to start walking toward the thing your heart wants.
You know what matters? You know what gets you there? Baby steps. That’s it. Little things. Small gestures, minute details. A phone call. A text. An email. A smile. A laugh. A hug. The crazy thing about love is that it makes you stronger. It makes you braver. It gives you the support to do things you are afraid of. There’s no questioning or debating that fact. It’s a kind of grace, really.
So, for me, I lean in. I kiss first. I ask the questions. I say the things. I don’t know how to act without my heart, because it is the core of who I am. No matter what happens, it’s worth it. Because if you can’t be true to what and who you love, no matter how crazy-seeming or difficult, that what is the point of life?
You deserve love, darlings. Absolutely. It’s time to chase after it.
*shamelessly pilfered from an e.e. cummings’ poem.
“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.” —Lao Tzu