Unfortunately I have not been necessarily in the best state of mind to compose a cohesive post this week. I do, however, want to share one of many Margaret Atwood’s prose pieces that really stuck with me. This one in particular resonates profoundly in light of recent events. Do read. This is from her collection of essays entitled The Tent.
My primary concern was my belongings. Not people, not closure, not consequences, but my worldly possessions. I am, and I am not, ashamed to admit it. Stacks of books, knick-knacks, overstuffed folders of papers, everything I collected, earrings and pendants, clothes most of all. I’m a materialistic girl. If I could have, I would have taken everything. Instead all my decisions were mostly practical. The thing with materialism is that what you own becomes what you perceive as what you are, so I chose the things that reminded me I was still me.
The packet of seeds was in the farthest end of my junk drawer. I’d been waiting for this. I chose a bear-shaped flower pot and went out to the backyard to sample unoccupied soil to mix in. Since it was too dry, I found some damper dirt that was reminiscent of the mud pie creations of my childhood. Then for the moment I’d been most excited about. I tore open the packet carefully to reveal flat seeds, like cat’s eyes with dark slender ovals in the center, the rest the color of roasted peaches. I shook out less than ten of these into my palm and deposited them into the pot, brushing them deeper into the dirt with my fingertips.
There are problems so deeply rooted that if you try to truly dig them out, you end up burying yourself alive. My fault, your fault, a troubled childhood, an unstable temperament, the wrong words at the wrong time, the right words at the wrong time, patterns, resentments, something lacking. Pointing accusatory fingers and grabbing her wrists too damn tightly, not realizing how small they were, when we should have held each other’s shaking hands. Desensitized, numb, treacherously apathetic. The opposite of love is indifference. Hate is frustrated love. I ask myself, why was I so afraid to give? To trust?
I set the pot on the windowsill in my room where the bear’s bottom stuck out precariously over the edge, but still in a position where it could balance properly so long as no one disturbed it. I peered at the soil as I watered the seeds with a white plastic cup. I saw some ants and unassuming tiny brown insects scuttling around. I assumed this was normal, although in hindsight I should have consulted my green-thumbed brother who’d nurtured an apple seed until it surpassed me in height. The packet said germination would begin in 15-20 days, so I watched and waited.
What am I leaving behind? I asked myself this over and over. This has happened before too many times. It had to end. But I couldn’t help thinking of my biological father walking out before I was born and my mother walking out without saying goodbye. Even I didn’t give a proper goodbye except for a pathetic line on a sticky note in blue pen. I had no time to deliberate very long and I didn’t want to miss my chance. As I ran I wondered, am I doing the right thing? I can’t ever fucking tell. I don’t have time for regret, but I do think of my hurting brother who closed the door behind me with the most heart-breaking expression on his face. Now I was leaving.
I thought it’d be easy and quick because I was very impatient to see something grow. I checked on the flower pot every day, feeling much like EVE who, too, scanned the desolate Earth for even the smallest hint of sweet green life. Nothing.
I am aware I have chosen a path where I can’t ever turn back. I am so fucking terrified underneath my bravado because I don’t know where or how I’m going to properly look after myself. I am always in survival mode, but that does not in the least mean I’m not clumsy in that area. I am fucking clueless and I can hear it in my friends’ concerned voices: “How are we supposed to help you if you can’t even help yourself? What exactly is wrong? What exactly do you need? What is going on? What are you going to do?” I can’t even pretend I’m looking forward to new beginnings. I’m moving between reckless abandon and hyper-caution. I am fucking terrified and I don’t know where home is, but that is the only place I want to be.
It has been 2 1/2 weeks since planting the seeds and there is no sign of germination. The packet said it was a versatile plant, one that was sure to flourish in both dry and moist conditions. This had given me substantial confidence in my plant-growing abilities. But when I look at the flower pot and brush my fingers across the surface, I eventually uncover the seeds that are as lifeless and dormant as the day I first saw them. I later get reprimanded for keeping the pot on the windowsill where it could potentially cause a fine mess. It was stupid of me, really, to think I could grow a wildflower indoors.
I suppose because it is early spring, eggs are hatching and life is abundant.
I saw the first one on the way to my school’s library before nearly hitting it face-first. It was very small, very skinny, and it was dangling in the air from an invisible thread. The pale worm was just spinning and squirming in the air in a sort of graceful frenzy. Mesmerized, I blocked the walkway for a full minute or two before attempting to take a picture so I could share this strange miracle of nature. I could never get it right, though: the sun was too bright, the worm blended in with the background, my shadow obstructed the view. I couldn’t capture it, but I wouldn’t forget it.
Shortly, I found myself walking behind a tall boy wearing a Giants baseball cap turned backwards when I saw a shimmery line of reflected light blink behind him. I thought it was a spider’s web strung somewhere above us in the trees, but when I saw a glint again it was evident that there was a thread of something gossamer trailing from the cap. I was intrigued.
Naturally, the good Samaritan I am, I casually reached out to wave it off. The guy heard my irregular steps, turned around, and, unimpressed by my sheepish, incoherent explanation, veered swiftly into a building. I looked at my fingers against the afternoon sunlight to check if I’d obtained what I was after. Nothing. Funny how the things you can see but can’t feel don’t get nearly as much attention as the things you can feel but can’t see. Maybe feeling, then, is believing.
I saw the second one while I was filling out the health survey prior to donating blood. It was thicker than the previous worm, and browner. It had crawled up onto my wrist from my sleeve, tentatively peering at this unfamiliar landscape. I promptly went outside to coax it onto a nearby tree’s leaf, wishing it luck, and feeling sorry that it was being deposited in a place that most likely was not home.
I saw the third worm as I was delivering duplicates to the Social Studies department. It was an orange color, again hanging in the air, rotating as it climbed up. The breeze blew at it, and the worm was pushed back and forth, around and around. I strained to keep track of it, swiveling my head and doing a little dance myself. Somehow it hung on, and even made considerable progress up in the air. I don’t know how it got to be so far down this thread in the first place, but I was impressed at its determination and how unaware or uncaring of my watchful presence.
The last worm was near the parking lot, this time green and slim. I stood staring at it go, spinning, spinning, climbing, climbing.
At first I pitied the worms each stuck in their precarious vertical limbo. Gravity, cruel winds, inattentive (or diabolically sadistic) humans were powerful forces acting against them. Still, their spastic ascents on gossamer lifelines is surely a simpler and more beautiful version of our own individual climbs. I should give the worms more credit. They don’t have digital watches or political structures or language or culture, but at least these spiraling creatures have a clear idea of where they’re headed.
- domestic abuse
- drug abuse
- eating disorders
- false friends
- hate crime
- mental illness
- physical abuse
- verbal abuse
I am really getting tired of being called “cute.” It has gone from a sweet compliment to something demeaning.
I understand where it’s coming from. It doesn’t help I’m a short, Asian girl. In a way I have even grown into my outer appearance and this identity. I am the bubbly one, I am the curious, babbling one, I am the annoyingly (oh, but endearingly) stubborn one, I am the restless one. I am the child. I can’t really help that this is a lot of who I am, but I’d like to think I’d be seen as a three-dimensional person and not slapped with a glittery label pinning me to my appearance.
“Cute” is so shallow. Above all, it’s overused. It’s lost any meaning it ever had to begin with. Most of the time, I only get “cute” when I do something impulsively or otherwise stupidly. I don’t think I’m worthy of “you’re exquisite” but at least that sort of compliment has some weight to it. I feel like the only appropriate response to “you’re cute” is “aw, shucks” as I blush and giggle, which is an entirely stupid exchange in itself.
“Cute” is patronizing. All of a sudden I’m being compared to dainty, small trinkets or small, fuzzy animals. It compares me to puppies, yawning newborn infants, floral dresses, happy faces on inanimate objects. Being called “cute” makes me feel I can’t be taken seriously. “Aw, you’re cute” can very well translate into, “Nice try at doing something intended for adults like me, the speaker. But your efforts are amusing and oh, so adorable. Good show.”
A good friend once told me that in one of my posts I was “So dramatic it’s adorable.” I wanted to cast myself out of civilization for eternity. “Cute” reduces my efforts in anything as a novelty. It diminishes everything I do and everything I say into something only worthy of an amused smile and maybe a cursory glance.
I hate “cute” because it makes me hate myself. I don’t want to feel like I have to change who I am or how I act in order to get the minimal respect I know I deserve. I don’t think it’s appropriate when it’s dismissive, diminishing, or when it stems from a part to describe a whole. I don’t want to feel ashamed for what takes a lot of time and effort, plenty of head-scratching and deliberation on my part to complete and feel willing to share with others. I don’t want to feel like I get special treatment the way I often do with male professors who soften their voices with me in class just because I happen to look a certain way.
Being almost objectified is not something I feel I should be flattered by. “You’re cute” begs the question, “So what?”
If you’re taking this personally, good. I’d much rather be called an egocentric, overreacting bitch than cute.
I will conclude with a few words by Jessica Day.