Saturday, March 28, 2015

Why Do We Fight Aging?

I’m almost sixty.  It’s a year away, so I figured I should give the age some thought.  Amazing, is the word that comes to mind. I have some gray in my hair, and some lines on my face that I’m pleased to see deepen when I smile.  All about me is older than it was when I was twenty-nine, thirty-nine, and so on, you get the idea.  Everyday, in the media, I’m told about the many ways I can look younger, thinner, chicer, as if there is something inherently wrong with the natural process by which we age, and as if I have nothing else to do but groom.  I submit to the media that maintaining this ethos of fear is very good for sales.  Smoke and mirrors keep us from looking at what’s really important.

When I was young and supple my biology told me to find the best match I could, and it insisted that I procreate, to further my genetic line.  It’s just nature, which I was allowed to reason with critical thought, and then act on, or not.  It was my choice. 

I would not be that younger self again, been there, done that.  There are so many new chapters left to write.  My children would be an experience yet to come, and not the inspiring adults, whom I love and admire, and who have lives of their own.  

But it’s that fertile moment in time, when our bodies want to biologically showcase themselves for a mate, that has been engineered, by the corporations, into a lifelong quest.  Why should a woman of sixty look as if she were still trying to procreate, when what she wants is to live her life, looking at the world, and not into a mirror?  I want a life which includes good food, sex, comfortable clothes, and flat shoes.    

Why do we not celebrate the contour of the sag as a badge of honor, as a right of passage, as heroic?  Why do we want to look as if we haven't lived at all? Why is the look of starvation, visible bones, a turn sideways and disappear aesthetic, considered perfection?   While real starvation is only on view as politics, lest we make the negative comparison on our own, and enlightenment ruin a well oiled marketing machine.  

Corporations want us to be consumed with the amount of hair that sprouts on our bodies, as they supply us with so many ways to remove it, while never mentioning its value as healthy protection.  I challenge the corporations to really market to women.  Have your designer mafia create masterpieces for bodies that don’t look like boys with boobs.  Give us what we want, instead of telling us what we want. 

In the end, I’d rather wait it out in a hole that fits me, my grey hairs, my round hips, and my sagging boobs, than try to smash myself into someone else's square peg.

Friday, March 20, 2015

When the Wind Blows

The Woodstock Writer's Festival Story Slam was last night.  Great good fun!  Exciting to see so many come out for the spoken word.  Thanks Woodstock Writer's Festival for making old arts so super sexy!  Many more events through the weekend.  Check it out:

What I would have read if I'd signed up in time (Must contain the phrase- When the Wind Blows):

When my Papa moved into our house to die, I imagined a sweet old man puttering around, till one day he wouldn’t wake up, and we’d all cry. That’s not what happened, nor who arrived. He was a gale, of hurricane force, that knocked me off course, tempered me, and left me refinished. 

My mother always blamed ill temper on the Santa Anas, downslope winds that originate inland, and drive everyone crazy, while racing southwest to the water of the California coastline.  Devil wind.  Santa Anas whoosh all of the smog away.  In their wake, everything is crisp, blue skies, a desert landscape climbing to snow capped mountains.  During Santa Anas there’s a notable rise in crime, freeway gun battles, Hollywood actors in rehab,100 mile winds, forest fires, sinus infections, and generally bad tempers all around. Some surgeons say that blood won’t clot predictably during the Santa Anas, and they adjust their operating schedules accordingly.

When the wind blows off the desert, hot and dry, or fresh off the mountains, skin blistering cold, beware. This is what I know of my family, and their moods. This is the East wind my father brought with him from the West.  He was a Santa Ana.

My Papa was kidnapped by Lewy Body dementia. Held hostage by its hallucinations, he held us all captive there too.  
Papa had caregivers around the clock.  A revolving cast of personalities that came and went, depending upon their capacity for aggressive insanity.  Papa sent one nurse to the E.R.  
While awake, he was visited by the ghosts of long gone friends and family, with whom he brokered forgiveness, and assigned blame, all while offering them breakfast.
At night, this ninety-four year old, retired rocket scientist, who could barely leave his wheelchair when awake, was a spy on a mission in his dreams. In those dreams turned nightmare, we were all the enemy, unseen voices, ever on the attack. He bit, he punched, he protected himself. He crawled from under his bed, as the wreckage of bombed buildings.  He balanced on the bedside table to wave in incoming aircraft.  We lived at the eye of this storm.

But Santa Ana winds are seasonal, inflaming everything as they whirl towards the Pacific Ocean, to be absorbed and neutralized.  The devil wind always ends.  The crime rate returns to normal, and more blood clots according to routine.  Papa’s gone now, and, as in the wake of the Santa Anas, the atmosphere is recharged, it’s clean. When the wind blows, sometimes the cradle rocks, and the bough does break, and crocuses still poke their heads up out of the snow.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Against Type: The Wicked Mother

by Nicole Quinn

When villains are female they’re often unsexed, or hyper-sexed.  Cast as stepmothers, wicked step mothers, they are rarely maternal.  The bad girl’s tragic flaw often stems from a man who done her wrong, or a childhood trauma.  Seldom is it pure lust for power, a common motivator in the male villain.  

When I went looking for an anti-hero I'd already cast the protagonist as a dreamer.  Her opposite, a nightmare, I found in stories of old, as a she-demon who sits on men’s chests while they sleep, sucking at their dreams.  She seemed tailor made.

Anka is the anti-hero of The Gold Stone Girl series.  She’s the ruler of Winkin, a one city world where human females are bred like cattle, and licensed as domestic pets, while human males fare but slightly better.  She’s the Night Mare, a title conferred on her in the long ago, when she was first given the job to be the negative polarity of the planet, the polar opposite of her sister, Alma, the Dream Weaver.  Anka killed Alma in the long ago, to rule alone and forever.

The Night Mare defies the stereotype of gender, even as she imposes gender strictures on her subjects.  She’s filled with contradictions, as most are when rubbed up against convention.  She’s not nice, she’s not feminized, and yet she’s decidedly female, and also a mother.  She’s someone who exercises the limits of her power with confidence and gusto.  Evil is not gendered, nor is consciousness, and that is the point Anka makes in codifying a world predicated on the one which preceded hers, ours. 

The Gold Stone Girl story is inherently feminist.  I didn’t want to scare off half of its potential readers by making it a them and us society, with an evil man subjugating women.  I’m trying to de-gender behavior with Anka.  I wanted a humanist point of view, where we all have to stand in judgment of the actions, and not the gender of the perpetrator.  Anka subjugates human males as well, but she makes them superior to women, as happens in the world now.  She makes human males abusive, by law, and  human females legally 3/5 human, just as the US government classified African slaves, to rationalize that atrocity.  

Anka employs horrors that already haunt us. She institutionalizes them, she makes them normal. It’s a Nightmare, book 1 of the trilogy, starts a million years into Anka’s rule.  These behaviors are entrenched in the culture. No one questions the dogma of the Night Mare’s government-church now, they just live by it.  It’s been long enough into this nightmare forever, for it to seem like a long time, even to Anka.  Even she’s ready for a change.

I wanted the anti-hero to have the capacity for change, what is a world of extremes without forgiveness?  I’ve given her a child,  because it’s a side we don’t often consider.  It’s the side we trivialize as weak, simply because it’s female.  Even monsters have children.      

Anka never meant to carry her child to term.  Demons normally embed their fertilized eggs into the planet. But when she saw how the humans did it, with all the blood, and the mewling, she thought she’d breeze right through it.  She was screaming for the child to be murdered less than three centimeters in.  

Anka loves her son, Reve, sired by Boreas, the North Wind, in a tempestuous relationship.  Anka worries about her son, the way all mothers worry, is he safe, are his socks dry? Yet, she’s the reason he has never evolved beyond the two dimensional heroic villain he plays, the role he’s been assigned in her society.  He’s a matinee idol who rescues human females from the clutches of his mother’s monsters, on the screens.  Anka wrestles with her motherhood, with her softer side, while her son wrangles with who he might be on his own, outside of his mother’s world.  

Maybe that’s why females love their children so, the old demon muses, because we risk own lives to give them theirs.  The ungrateful wretches.

What I’ve come to, in the writing of these polarities, is that no one wants the job to which they’ve been assigned, no one wants to be categorized by the extremes on a spectrum forever.  The Night Mare wants to dream, and the dreamer must choose to be strong, or be eaten. Both characters are ultimately questing for a place where good and bad can become something less rigid, something more like, not all good, and not so bad, more human.  An interesting quest for demons to take on our behalf.

Are you a writer, likNicole Quinn, with female characters who defy tropes and overturn expectations? Why not submit your own Against Type essay to us? We would love to hear how your #UnabridgedWomen characters are rewriting stereotypes!