Archive for June, 2012

between the shadow and the soul*

June 30, 2012 Leave a comment

The words sit in my stomach like stones, slick and without edges. Because of this, all my notebooks are filled with silences. They are blank with emotion. The pen – my favorite one – has gone dry. I try not think about, or overthink, its significance.

My patience is a shadow that dances, Pan’s fierce counterpart. It is the promise of trouble, ignored. A lie I tell myself in order to forget what I want. This is me, trying to give you what you need. I have swallowed everything, and it was not by accident. Nothing is without purpose, even though these careful transitions ache.

I smile so that no one notices.

It is my best trick. It is my last defense. I wait.


*shamelessly pilfered from Neruda

Categories: Poetry, prose

with the photographs there

June 28, 2012 6 comments


Yesterday, I found myself feeling curious about someone. I am a very curious person by nature. When I’m not being inquisitive, you should worry. I’m either ill, or I’ve stopped caring about something or someone. Anyway, I did what anyone does in this age: I Googled that person. (Cue Amanda Palmer’s I Google You). It’s amazing how much you might discover, especially if that person is a public figure or has an online presence. Or both.

I shouldn’t have done that, because it kind of broke my heart.

Pictures are little semi-false snapshots, memories and myths, held together by technology. I love pictures. I love taking them. I love editing them. I occasionally love being in them. They are, sometimes, posed and packed with false, forced emotions. To me, there’s nothing sadder than a painfully choreographed moment. Or one of those family photos where everyone matches, and it looks like someone’s in pain or just smelled a really appalling smell.

I like candid, real photos. I love shots that are full of emotion, depth, and truth. For a photograph to move me, it has to capture something. (My friend Bekka Bjoke is so very good at that. Her work is so stunning that I can’t believe in. If you live in California, you want to hire her. She’s awesome, smart, and incredibly hot.)

But back to my point: there is something infinitely melancholy about a person who smiles, but whose smile is hollow. The kind of expression that avoids the eyes. It’s a betraying expression, because there’s nothing to it, nothing behind it. It’s like words, without action behind them.

That kind of unhappiness that keeps a smile from being real? It’s a pervasive, stifling, smothering feeling. When you’re just smiling for the cameras, because you HAVE to? God, that is a peculiar ache. And, honestly, I don’t know how people do it. Sure, life can be craptacular and tough. Life is quick to make us jaded. Sometimes, it’s an environmental/circumstantial/geography dependent affliction. Because, let’s face it: some people can be happy mostly anywhere, but there are some places invariably eat your soul for lunch. With fava beans. *Hannibal Lector noise*

Anyway, sometimes curiosity gets the better of us. Sometimes, we just have to know something. If I was Eve, I’d have bitten the apple, without remorse, and not saved any for Adam. I would’ve picked two. If I was in Salem, I would’ve been burned at the stake. I’m the cat killed by curiosity, satisfied as the world goes dark. So, I ask the questions. I want to understand people. It can be exhausting, but it is who I am. No regrets there.

But the thing about the photos. They ache, even though I owe this person nothing. Even though it’s not my problem. And maybe it’s odd to be so struck by a relative stranger, but damn, I am nothing is not overly empathetic. Yet, I wonder if it’s perhaps a photo capturing a truth. Perhaps that is the thing that we glance away from, too often. Maybe smiling all the time is kind of crazy. For me, a smile is my best defense mechanism. Never let them see you sweat or cry. I’m vulnerable with very few people, and it sometimes takes a lot to make it through my façade. Despite what you may think, I’m not an open book, but I am a basket case, Bareilles.

What, I wonder, does a photo really tell us? Is it an artifact or a lie? Can it be both?

“All photographs are memento mori. To take a photograph is to participate in another person’s (or thing’s) mortality, vulnerability, mutability. Precisely by slicing out this moment and freezing it, all photographs testify to time’s relentless melt.”
Susan Sontag

“And I’ll dance with you in Vienna,
I’ll be wearing a river’s disguise.
The hyacinth wild on my shoulder
my mouth on the dew of your thighs.
And I’ll bury my soul in a scrapbook,
with the photographs there and the moss.
And I’ll yield to the flood of your beauty,
my cheap violin and my cross.”
Leonard Cohen, Stranger Music: Selected Poems and Songs

Categories: Random Musings

There is No Right Moment

June 27, 2012 1 comment


Things are hard.

There. I said it. So, why does it feel like I’m admitting something I shouldn’t? I don’t know. I think I’ve always had trouble acknowledging a weakness, no matter how valid it may be. Yes, admitting things are hard feels like weakness to me. Because I cry at animal movies (Old Yeller), but in everyday life, I try to avoid such things like the plague. See minute six in Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken

But ignoring something doesn’t make it less true. Sweeping it under the rug doesn’t make it go away, either. So, yes: things are hard. There’s no point is dressing that up in flowers and lipstick. It’s a fact, and it should be written down. The things we write down are the things that we face. Like Poe, who wrote about his fear of being buried alive (thus, the Cask of Amontillado was born).

I need more patience, more clarity, more understanding. I need a minute to breathe (shout-out to the fictional Olivia Pope, for the symbolism and importance of one minute). A part of me wants to avoid things, a part of me wants to say, can’t someone else step in? That part of me is a effin’ coward, which I am not. That part of me is a shadow, a nagging voice, a hushed whisper of temptation. Yes, things are hard. My mom needs more help than she did a month ago. I have forgotten what it’s like to sleep through the night. I am beginning to suspect that my cats are minions of the devil, sent to disrupt my life whenever it stops spinning. But they are cute, so it’s forgivable.

Things are hard. I know that I am not alone, but I am responsible. That is part of life. That is part of this. Sometimes, the kind of comfort we most crave is the one kept at a distance. Sometimes, for a multitude of reasons, this must be accepted. Occasionally, I rail at that thought, but I always come back to ground. I always come back to center. The instinct to want what we want NOW is that of an impatient, unruly child. Sometimes, the heart is Veruca Salt on steroids and caffeine. Sometimes, the heart rages, wanting to be soothed. That is okay, as long as that want doesn’t steer your life. Or mine.

But that is a digression. The truth is this: I am kind. I am doing everything I can. I worry that it’s not enough. I worry that I should be doing it better. That is really rather stupid. Intellectually, I know that. Intellectually, I understand that we’re all just muddling through, doing the best we can. But having an ill parent is a strange thing. Not only for the grief that goes with it (there is that), but also the revelations it offers.

I learned a lesson, which is one we see on Hallmark cards. It’s one that frequents internet memes. It is a constant, and I think we hear it so often that we do not actually hear it. It’s  carpe diem. It’s the importance of telling people exactly how you feel. It’s telling someone you love them or miss them, without reservation or hesitation. It doesn’t matter if that person says it back, because things like that? They should be said when they are felt. Because otherwise, what’s the point? What’s the point in feeling something, but holding it in? I think that’s just another form of insanity. Or it will lead to insanity, if left to stifle and fester inside your skin.

What is it that YOU want? What do you need, desire, and dream of? Stop putting it off. Stop shoving it to the side. It doesn’t matter if it’s scary. All the important things are. Love, art, risks, promises, hope — these are the things you should cling to. Spend more time laughing and loving, and less time worrying about vacuuming or who ran into whom at the grocery store.

Get it done, whatever it is for you. Because tomorrow’s going to be here before you can draw a breath. Do not wait for the right moment. There really isn’t one. You have to make it the right moment, by seizing it.

Yes, things are hard. But they are not without lessons or merit. All things, after all, are copy. (Thank you, Nora Ephron.)


June 26, 2012 4 comments

So, I recorded an audio for this, cringing every time I came across the word asked. Because I pronounce it strangely. My parents are from NY. I blame them. At least I don’t say idears, instead of ideas. Or yous guys. Trust me, it could be MUCH worse.

Anyway, the audio is here: together. And the text is below.

This silence belongs to us, hanging
in between our bodies, convenient
if only for the sake of purpose –
I wait without prompting
or precedence; I wait
without having to be asked,
because you were trying
to spare me, not understanding
that I am like a crow
in the morning, that I am a song
that never gets old, that I am a poet
and you are the poem. Sometimes,
we switch roles. Sometimes,
I want you to write my rhymes,
draw your dreams across my body,
kiss me until all my consonants
are laid bare, enjambed
over and over again
until we are one long run-on sentence,
grammar (and consequences) be damned.

That is how I feel:
a pause before a promise,
a hesitation before recklessness,
a love note written on a post-it square:
I miss you,
which really means
I love you
(I am sorry that I didn’t say it out loud.)

So, this silence
is something we own, something we made,
something we are offering each other
out of necessity, out of desire,
out of love. I asked you
what do you need
and this is it: patience.
And this is it: silence.
And this is it: time.
And I said okay,
when what I really meant was
you can have everything,
when what I meant was
I will wait for you,
when what I meant was
we’ll figure this out

Categories: Poetry

The Importance of Knowing and Waiting

June 25, 2012 2 comments


Sometimes, knowing the answer to a question is a kind of magic. There’s a tremendous power in understanding, even if what we are told isn’t all sunshine and lollipops. Sometimes, knowing makes it easier to be patient. For me, that’s usually the case. If I understand a situation, I can make peace with it. If there’s too much doubt, I turned into a spastic, frenetic bull in a china shop. In short, I panic. I don’t think I quite realized that until recently. When I cannot grasp what’s going on, it affects me like an electric shock, one that curls up on the inside of my skin with nowhere to go and nothing to ground it. Emotional lightning, if you will.

Lately, I’ve been trying to ask questions, even if they are difficult. Perhaps especially then. I am, honestly, not a natural at that kind of thing. Sometimes, I’d much rather shove my head in the dirt and ignore the world. But I am not an ostrich, and that just won’t do.

This morning, though, I’ve been thinking about the questions we don’t ask. The ones that we think we don’t have the right to say aloud, or the ones we are afraid of because we either know the answer (and do not like it) or we have no idea what the answer will be (and thus, are terrified of the unknown).

The other day, I made a promise. I made it without hesitation and without having to be asked. To me, it wasn’t even a question that was up for grabs. It wasn’t a thing that needed considering. That, in itself, is a kind of declaration. Because I don’t make promises lightly. I don’t venture into the fray blindly and without reason. As to the specific reason itself, well…that is a thing that reveals itself with time.

Even though I am not a patient person, I will wait for something worth waiting for. All things are possible. Sometimes, we have to sacrifice the immediate for the sake of the future. That’s not always easy, but by my experience, it’s always worth it. Particularly in today’s society of microwaveable EVERYTHING, text messages, and instant video rentals. We are being reconditioned, it seems, to think that all things should be instantaneously and immediate. But there’s something to be said for delaying that gratification, for building up that anticipation, and for taking your time. Hell, every time my phone bings, I react like Pavolv’s dog and paw at it. Instant interaction. Instant connection. But there’s much more to be said for a phone call or a conversation over coffee. (Don’t get me wrong, I will NOT stop emailing, texting, or tweeting. I value all forms of communication.)

So (*raises coffee mug*), here’s to waiting — words, I assure you, I never thought I’d say.

When Something is Something Else

June 22, 2012 8 comments


The other week, I smashed my phone on a tile floor. The screen cracked but didn’t shatter. It still works, so I’m dealing with it. But the strange thing is this: after that happened, communication with a handful of people started to take a nosedive. It was as if we were speaking two completely different languages, underwater, with our eyes closed. For a while, I ignored it, tried to work around it, and then it hit me: the cracked cell phone felt like a symbol for all silent, misconstrued, or misplaced words. It wasn’t a comforting fact, because I am a talker. I ask questions. I want honesty. Sometimes, conversations are hard, but I’d rather have them than not.

But you can imagine my displeasure, last night, when I finally admitted that I’d developed an eye infection. This has happened before. I know the signs. It’s been bothering me for a week, but it was nothing more than slightly pink. I blamed allergies. I blamed the heat. I blamed the fact that my animals shed more than should be possible — and fur ALWAYS ends up in my eye. I wanted it to be something else, so I refused to believe that I’d gotten an eye infection. The joke, of course, is on me — since I’m now wearing my glasses and waiting (not-so-patiently) to make an appointment.

If you’re keeping up, first I couldn’t speak well or hear others — and now I’m blind. Well, blindish. I’m 2/3 of the see, speak, and hear no evil monkeys. I don’t think this is a good thing, but this morning, I’m thinking about what these things mean. Let’s pretend that it’s not just a cracked phone or an irritating red splotch in my eye. Let’s say that it’s representative of two major problems: clarity in communication and seeing things as they are.

Lately, it seems like life is full of difficult moments and conversations. Things that I wish were one way, but they are not. Don’t get me wrong — I love the truth. Even if it’s not pleasant, I need it. I can’t stand lies or not knowing. But at the end of the day, what I want and need is sometimes at odds with what is. All efforts to reconcile that fall short of my own two hands. Situations, lately, have forced me to be patient and mindful, to ask the tough questions, and to listen to what’s being said.

The truth is that I’m not as brave as people think. There are days where I just want to curl up and be hugged, forget everything and escape for a little while. Right now, I am wanting six impossible things before breakfast. I want things that either I can’t ask for or I have no right to expect. But I want them anyway.

I’m not sure where that leaves me. I’m not sure what happens next. But I know that I’m stronger than I look, and stronger than I feel on days like this. I’m looking for a spark, a sign, a promise. Something beyond a cracked phone and blurry eye.

The Most Precise Calibration

June 19, 2012 9 comments

Sometimes, I know exactly what I want. Without a doubt. Without a hint of are you sure? This doesn’t happen often, but when it does, the feeling doesn’t waver or dissipate.

There are some people who don’t know how to handle that. Or, honestly, me. I’m not a game-player. I’m nothing if not entirely sincere. I am a unicorn in a world of horses. That’s not me touting myself as Made of Awesome. It’s me, explaining why I can be confusing. I’m just me, no frills. No fuss, no muss. I say what I mean, what I want, and when I care – that’s it. I care.

I am not a naturally brave person. I don’t know that anyone truly is. However, it is my feelings that make me brave. I think that most people are like that, where the heart is concerned. Someone who is a complete coward falls in love – and suddenly, he/she walks through fire without blinking. Our hearts make us who we are. It is not our pasts or our frailties. It’s not our doubts or our despairs. It is our hearts. That is the most reliable measure of a person, the most precise calibration.

I am not a perfect person. I believe that perfection is a myth. We’re flawed, afraid, and forgetful creatures. But I think that we often do a disservice to ourselves and our lives when we don’t jump in with both feet, when we don’t pursue something or someone because of complications or doubts. Granted, jumping in like that? It’s scary as hell. It’s looking down at a hungry lion in a pit and saying, “Well, I *think* I can outrun it. Maybe.” Deep breath, dive in.

Sometimes, that lion is just a figment of our imaginations. Other times, the lion is real. It is representative of problems, difficulties, change, and a thousand different things that often hold us back. Because yes, change is scary. Change can hurt. But you know what hurts more? Staying still. Staying in a place and a situation that is slowly killing you. Not doing anything to better yourself. Not following your heart. Staying put, running in circles, getting nowhere.

I’ve seen people stagnant in their lives, stewing in fake smiles and rationalizations. Look closely enough at a person, and it’s right there in their eyes. The slope of their shoulders. It’s in the shadow of that false smile. It breaks my heart every single time. That is no way to live. It is, to quote Thoreau, a life of quiet desperation. You and I? We deserve more than that.

Here’s the thing about me: I don’t give up. I don’t give in. And I’m the person who believes (with all the tenacity of an unflappable child) that she can do anything. By extension, I also believe that you can do anything. I believe in you. If that sounds cheesy, so be it. It’s the truth.

If you tell me I can’t do something, that it’s impossible, my response is always: watch me. To me, that’s a dare. It’s a challenge. It’s a limit I’m going to smash. I don’t believe in them. So, when someone says no, or it’s too hard, or it can’t happen, or I can’t – prove he/she wrong. Because to do anything less is to live in the shadows, to hide in the dark, to settle for the bleak satisfaction of a routine life. Life should never be routine. It should never be rote. The best things in life are the ones not easily obtained. Anyone who’s ever been in love can tell you that. And I’m telling you right now: stop stagnating.

Sometimes, I am completely frustrating by waiting. Sometimes, I am half-crazy with desire. Sometimes, I know exactly what I want – and I forget that not everyone does. I forget that not everyone knows how to handle that kind of decisive confidence. I forget to be patient, because I am already so sure.

If I were to advise you, here is what I’d say.

Think about what you want. Not what’s easy. Not what’s expected. Think about what you want. Think about happiness. Think about smiling. Think about where you want to go and be. Think about who is on your side. Think about what you need. Consider who might help you get what you’re going after. Do not let yourself settle. Do not give in to fears. Fall. Run. Jump. Do something. It is okay to be afraid. It is okay to worry. It is okay to admit these things. Everyone is scared, sometimes. Everyone has doubts. They don’t make you less. Whatever your passion is, go after it. Whatever will make you happy, seize it. Live and love to the fullest, because this is the only life you get.

In case you need to hear it again: I believe in you.

“The only calibration that counts is how much heart people invest, how much they ignore their fears of being hurt or caught out or humiliated. And the only thing people regret is that they didn’t live boldly enough, that they didn’t invest enough heart, didn’t love enough. Nothing else really counts at all.” —Ted Hughes, in a letter to his son, Nicholas

“I am certain of nothing but the holiness of the heart’s affections, and the truth of imagination.” ~John Keats

The Good, the Bad, and the Blueberries

June 18, 2012 9 comments

Saturday, I went blueberry picking. It’s something I’ve done ever since I was a little kid, if there was an opportunity. Growing up, I’d always go to the same farm, a local market that is awesome. The even have a bakery with the world’s best apple cider donuts EVER. But I digress.

Bright and early, half-caffeinated, I pulled into the Farm. It was a little deserted, but hell, it was early. And on the weekend. I had to drag myself out of bed. But the prospect of pounds of blueberries was totally worth the lack-of-caffeine hangover looming in my future.

Up at the register is a girl who looked both bored and irritated that there are customers. Still, a smile is appropriate, so I smiled and explained I’d like a bucket to pick blueberries.

“Great,” she mutters. “That’ll be four dollars.”

“For what?”

“The tractor ride.”

Let me explain something: the tractor ride takes exactly ONE minute. And up until this season, they’ve never charged you for the ride. Sure, they charge you (per pound) nearly as much as the grocery store, but certain things can be overlooked, if only for nostalgia’s sake. Except I’m not paying FOUR dollars just to pick my own fruit.

Getting back in the car, I googled another local farm. It seemed easy enough to get to – take one road to another, make a turn, and TA DA. I should’ve known then that it wouldn’t be that simple.

I ended up lost in the bowels of another local town that I don’t visit much. Road signs began to vanish, but before they did, there were some interesting street signs. One was called, “Bed Bug Hill Road.” I wish I were kidding. I thought it was a misread. Initially, I thought it read “Dead Bug Hill Road,” which isn’t much better.

After being unable to find the address listed for this mysterious farm, there was a man standing in front of his house. I stopped to ask if he knew the place. He was nice enough, but drunk. It was barely 9 am. Okay, then. Driving in the direction I was already headed, and consequently was also where Drunk Man pointed, I still couldn’t find the address. The numbers skipped from 75 to 400 without notice. It seemed like an episode of The Twilight Zone. Awesome.

In front of an industrial farm site, there were two people talking. One of them was holding a bottle of vodka. It’s a little past 9:15, and it seemed that I was the only sober person in a fifteen miles radius. I haven’t even had breakfast. Blondie and Vodka knew the farm, though. It turned out the address on the website was incorrect. It’s just “down the road a piece.” For a moment, I felt like I should have sweet tea, but I was unfortunately without.

Coming up to the address in question, it was nothing more than the world’s skinniest driveway, leading off into trees. I could not see behind the bend, but I knew enough to realize that a) it looked like I’ve just wandered into the beginning of a horror movies, b) it would’ve been totally normal for a guy with a banjo to pop out of nowhere, wearing an opossum, and c) it was the PERFECT location to be murdered and eaten by a cannibal. Or buried under the produce like in secret window.

Of course, the man who worked there is perfectly nice. It’s a nice, no nonsense farm. No one charged for a tractor ride, and in about an hour, I acquired a nice bucket of blueberries. Granted, there were a ton of wasps and bees – and I nearly picked a few of them by accident. But all and all, I’ve found a new place to go, and I’m glad. While the old farm had nostalgia going for it, the new one has character. It is hidden where no one could ever find it, and it’s like a little secret nook in the middle of nowhere.

This reminds me of two things: I can still get lost in the place I grew up in AND that it’s never wise to judge something or someone based on appearances. Except maybe the drunk guy who looked vaguely like Rutger Hauer in Hobo with a Shotgun.

Categories: prose, Random Musings


June 16, 2012 2 comments


Audio: Oversleeping

Today, I overslept.
No matter what, I get out of bed
at seven o’clock, the light streaming
in like a miracle of persuasion, telling me
that there’s so much to do, I better get started.
Except, today, I didn’t. I slipped past the
finish line I drew with shaky hands,
because I am tired,
because I didn’t want to think
about how much I miss you,
because it is a feeling that extends
beyond rock bottom words
and empty, once-occupied spaces,
because we are playing a game of tag
when it should be a game of cat and mouse,
because sometimes
I am jealous of your obligations
and I don’t want to be.

This afternoon I realized
that you have taught me many things
and I wear them like a cross, like a talisman
from a religion we stitched together
using parts of ourselves, a little heart
a little skin, and a world of hope.
I know what it means
to want something too badly,
to feel like an island
landlocked by circumstance – and no,
that doesn’t make any sense, it is a paradox,
but so am I,
and so are you. I am okay with that.

Today, I trail my fingers
through the water of the pool, light reflecting
on the surface, shining like the questions
I am keeping to myself.
Am I important to you?
How, exactly, do you feel?
Tell me. I want to know. Tell me
so that I don’t have to ask. Tell me
because you can see it in my smile,
that I need to be assured that this real.
(Sometimes I question
the functionality of my own heart.)
I just need to hear you say it –
can you do that?
will you? I don’t know. I am not okay with that.

Three cups of coffee down, I realize
that I am holding too much back,
I am holding myself back,
because when I know what I want
I push too hard, and I don’t look back.
I don’t want to scare you.
I don’t want to say too much too soon,
but I know I will eventually
because I am wide open
and vulnerable
here, because I am seeking
when I should be still,
because I am anything but calm
and rational, even when I look at ease.

Today, I removed the mask
I didn’t know I was wearing; tomorrow
will be the real test
to see if you can tell which face of mine
is true. The catch may be
that they both are. The catch may be
that neither are. The catch may be
that I want you
to figure it out. Make me more
that just an afternoon, more than just
a moment – find me here,
because you want to.

I don’t want to oversleep anymore.

Categories: Poetry

Hey, Guys? VAGINA.

June 15, 2012 25 comments

This is an embarrassing story, but I’m going to tell it anyway.

When I was a little kid, under the age of five, my mom taught me the words vagina and penis. She explained that boys were different than girls. This is something that parents teach their children, right? Except I took it to an extreme, as possibly only I am wont to do. You see, when out in various public places, I would march up to a human being (gender irrelevant) and ask them if they had a penis or a vagina. I should also point out that I was not a very meek or quiet child, that often there were male relatives with me, and that it was probably really difficult to keep a straight face.

My mother, being the wise woman that she is, didn’t want to discourage a) my curiosity and b) my use of the proper anatomical terms. There was no baby talk in my house. We didn’t refer to peeing as ‘making’ or penis as ‘wee wee.’ Things were called what they were/are. There were no ‘owies’ or boo-boos. There was, “I skinned my knee!” There was, “I fell on my head again!” There were perfectly accurate descriptions and descriptors.

So, as a five year old (it may have been a slightly different age, but I can’t say for sure), I knew the correct word for anatomical parts. Sure, it was embarrassing to have this tiny curly-haired brunette skipping up to people and asking perfect strangers what’s in their pants. But my parents NEVER once told me to hush or shamed me for using the correct words.

You can imagine my shock and dismay at THIS. Long story short: Lisa Brown, a female House rep in the state of Michigan, has been barred from speaking on the floor. You see, she was lobbying for medically necessary abortions (when the life of the mother is at stake), which is supported by her Jewish religion. She, boldly and awesome, asserted that she wasn’t asking anyone else to adhere to her religion, so why would her rights be curtailed by the religion of others’?

What actually got her in trouble, so to speak, was this statement: And finally, Mr. Speaker, I’m flattered that you’re all so interested my vagina, but ‘no’ means ‘no.’

After that remark, she was kept from speaking about a bill on retirement of school employees. The speaker of the house cited that what she said (abovementioned) was so offensive that he wouldn’t even speak about it “in front of women. I would not say that in mixed company.” Now, forgetting the fact that what Lisa Brown said has NO bearing on the retirement bill – what, exactly, was so offensive about her statement?

Are we REALLY afraid of the word *whispers* vagina? We do realize that this isn’t Candyman. If you place your hand on the bathroom mirror at midnight and whisper vagina, one will not appear and devour you. This is not a childhood horror story. This is not a character in Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. This is a medical term. It’s no different than meniscus. Or kidney.

Here’s what the incident tells me: first amendments rights seems suddenly, erroneously dependent on one’s audience. Say the supposed wrong thing, and you’ll be silenced. Lobby for what you believe in regarding one issue – and you will be cut off from speaking on the rest of the issues. It also tells me that we have seriously odd issue regarding the body. There is nothing about Brown’s statement that isn’t fit for the mixed company of adults. And last time I checked, grownups run the government. In theory. (Where is Mark Twain when we need him? Oh, wait. Here – “Reader, suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.”)

I don’t understand the fear-worship that seems so pervasive, lately. Saying the word vagina or penis or testicle isn’t offensive, given the context. Sure, calling something a penis *might* be offensive, but that’s irrelevant. We are a country of freedoms and opinions. We are a country where we’re taught to say things as honestly as possible. In middle school health class, we’re taught about anatomy, tampons, and all that jazz. One would think that we’re more mature than a bunch of fifth graders. One would assume that boys and girls don’t have cooties, and that it’s okay to vagina in front of men. It’s just a word. It’s just a part of anatomy. Don’t make it something other than what it is.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m taking a cue from Ray Bradbury. I’m collecting my dinosaurs and my vagina – and leaving the room.