Meditations for Queer Femmes – Situated

I almost didn’t buy the ratty copy of Stanley Kunitz’s book when I saw it at the book sale, but good sense caught up with me and it is now a treasured addition to our library. I almost skimmed over the essay on Walt Whitman when I opened the book recently, but managed to settle down enough to begin to absorb some of Kunitz’s wisdom, and through him, the raw energy, wisdom and love of Whitman. For example, Kunitz quotes Whitman, writing soon after the assassination of Lincoln:

Never was there, perhaps, more hollowness of heart than at present, and here in the United States. Genuine belief seems to have left us . . . We live in an atmosphere of hypocrisy throughout . . . The depravity of the business classes of our country is not less than has been supposed, but infinitely greater. The official services of America, national, state, and municipal, in all their branches and departments, except the judiciary, are saturated in corruption, bribery, falsehood, maladministration; and the judiciary is tainted. The great cities reek with respectable as much as non-respectable robbery and scoundrelism . . . The best class we show is but a mob of fashionably dress’d speculators and vulgarians . . . I say that our New World democracy . . . is, so far, an almost complete failure . . .

How delightful and satisfying, these words from a queer predecessor; how thought-provoking and how close to my own feelings about the time I’m living in! And how close I came to completely missing this delight and satisfaction due to my compulsive hurrying, my not feeling situated in my life and the flow of my life, due to not remembering what my relationship with books and words is. Due to not remembering who I am.

My contretemps with Kunitz’s book and words also got me thinking about how easy it is for me to brush aside my own intuition about what will nurture and uphold me. I get so caught up in hurrying on to the next thing that I can barely manage to take in, let alone process and enjoy, what is right in front of me. FOMA* has always been part of human experience, I’m sure, but now it’s worse than ever because of all our devices moving with such speed that no one can possibly keep up. Even – perhaps especially – on those devices, we clickety-click through thousands (millions?) of pieces of information, never ever giving our brains, hearts and souls a chance to catch up, to ponder, wonder, analyze, connect to our own lives in any meaningful way, in a way that has any depth or chance of longevity. The advertising world figured this one out a long time ago, that humans are challenged by the ability to imagine more more more and that a “never satisfied” condition can be nurtured and encouraged for financial gain.

Dear femme sisters, a moment. The stars and the planets are aligned, you are walking in a holy place, what surrounds you surrounds no one else in exactly the same way, being alive here and now in this essence and assurance is your gift and sacred duty. Today, remember one amazing thing about yourself. Take pleasure in one astounding event, place, person, poem, insight, in the way that you and only you can love into being. Be still. Be grateful. Inhale the aroma. Delight in the music. Situate yourself there.

The pleasures of heaven are with me and the pains of hell are with me,

            The first I graft and increase upon myself, the latter I translate into

a new tongue.

*Fear of Missing Out

All Walt Whitman quoted in the essay, “At the Tomb of Walt Whitman” in Next-to-Last Things: New Poems and Essays, by Stanley Kunitz, The Atlantic Monthly Press, NY, 1985.

Every Monday, I offer a Meditation for Queer Femmes in the spirit of my maternal grandmother, Mimi, who was fabulous, kind, and wise and from whom I inherited her Meditations for Women.

At the Total Femme, my intention is to post three times a week: Meditations for Queer Femmes on Monday, Pingy-Dingy Wednesday on Wednesday and Femme Friday on Friday. Rather than play catch-up in a stressful fashion on those weeks when life prevents posting, I have decided to just move gaily forward: if I miss a Monday, the next post will be on Wednesday, and so on. Thank you, little bottle of antibiotics for inspiring me in this! (“…if it’s almost time for the next dose, skip the missed dose and continue your regular dosing schedule. Don’t take a double dose to make up for a missed one.”)

Published in: on April 1, 2019 at 5:52 AM  Leave a Comment  
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Meditations for Queer Femmes — Queer Femme Body

How often we are told in words and examples and unspoken disapproval from all quarters that the site of wrongness is always in the body. I love Queer Fat Femme’s joyous statement, “Every body is a good body” because it gives a big middle finger to that evil message, and positions us on a path of self-love. Points to the real culprit: a culture that has swallowed ideas like, “The body is a machine,” “The body is a source of foulness,” “The body is to be controlled by any means necessary.”

When a femme friend and I read The Well of Loneliness together, we were struck by how much Stephen loves her physical body when she’s young: “She discovered her body for a thing to be cherished, a thing of real value since its strength could rejoice her; and young though she was she cared for her body with great diligence, bathing it night and morning in dull tepid water – cold baths were forbidden, and hot baths, she had heard, sometimes weakened the muscles.” She doesn’t begin that long descent into self-loathing until she encounters the “civilized” view that the body is gross, sex is gross, and anything other than het sex and presentation is beyond gross. And we queer femmes, although perhaps less gender non-conforming than Stephen and her modern counterparts, are also betrayed and damaged by this entrenched yet deeply unnatural cultural hatred of the body. For girls, especially, this hatred works on us practically from infancy. We’re told we’re too fat, too skinny, too tall, too short, that our bodies exude odors or grow hairs that are unacceptable. Most obscene of all, we’re taught that all these things are our fault, that they are entirely under our control, and if we don’t manage them, we are entirely to blame for being “fat”, “gross”, “smelly”, whatever it is. There’s a spray, a pill, a regimen, a procedure and a course of action for that, and if those things impact the amount of joy and spontaneity and growth of spirit in your life, then that’s too bad. At least you’ll know you’ve done your best to corral your body so that it doesn’t offend other people. As if striving to conform to the soul-crushing status quo is a good reason to expend precious life energy!

At the National Day of Mourning this year, we were told that not only do we need to decolonize our minds, we then need to indigenize them. What would this look like if we did this for our bodies, as well? If we really acted as if Every Body is a Good Body? How freeing for our spirits and minds if our bodies were treated kindly; if we took friendly interest in each other’s differences, if we allowed each body whatever it needed in order to feel comfortable and at ease, rather than forcing a one-size-fits-all straight jacket on everybody! If it was just taken as a fact of life that all bodies are unique, all bodies have their own specific ways of moving through the world, their fascinating needs and multi-faceted desires? Because guess what, that is a fact of life! And that we’re not separate from other bodies, of animals, plants, the earth: we’re all part of the same great patterns of life and death, and it’s all normal.

What do we celebrate about our queer femme bodies, what do we adore? How do we love our queer femme bodies, love with our queer femme bodies? Some of us may start by experiencing such relief that we do not need to package ourselves for the gaze of straight men. We please ourselves, clothe our queer femme bodies with the outfits and pizazz that bring our queer femme hearts pleasure. Through pain and ecstasy, we are never separate from our queer femme bodies, and the Western schools of thought encouraging us to view her as a machine or as irrelevant (“it’s the mind that counts!”) or as a foul burden we must drag around do us no favors. What if we didn’t have to spend so much time re-learning the love of our bodies? Because nobody is born hating themselves in that particular way. That is learned behavior and is imposed on all of us.

Whatever their shape, ability, age, state of health, location and size, our queer femme bodies are to be adorned, honored, loved and held up as the sacred manifestations of the life force that they truly are. Come, now, femme sisters, with your good, queer bodies, and join in with our brother Walt to sing of yourselves!

I dote on myself, there is that lot of me and all so luscious,

Each moment and whatever happens thrills me with joy,

I cannot tell how my ankles bend, nor whence the cause of my faintest wish,

Nor the cause of the friendship I emit, nor the cause of

     friendship I take again. (Walt Whitman, “Song of Myself”)

 Every Monday, I offer a Meditation for Queer Femmes, in the spirit of my maternal grandmother, Mimi, who was fabulous, and from whom I inherited her Meditations for Women.