I’m starting something new under the rubric of the tiny event. It’s an experiment in cartography – the mapping of associations and memories connected to different parts of my body. This is the beginning of the project. I should perhaps have started at the top and worked down. Instead I started at the root.
1. He grabbed me as he rode by on his bicycle – “phat ass for a white girl”.
2. I had realized that he had ridden from behind me, past me, multiple times before he grabbed me.
3. I remember what I was wearing. Turquoise, shiny pants with a responsive, light drape, that I had made and which must have made it all better from his perspective, and worse from mine.
4. I had been asked before by men if they could photograph my ass. The first time it happened I refused until he said “it’s for art” at which point I relented. The second time I was wearing black and white vertically striped leggings and I figured they must look pretty cool so I stood and let him squat down and photograph my legs and ass though it must not have been very satisfying for him. I don’t think he got the shots he imagined were possible. I didn’t help.
5. Boys in middle and high school used to grab the girls’ asses. Our asses were a locus of vulnerability. It was confusing at the time. We were supposed to wear tight jeans and worry about how our butts looked in them. We learned that our butts had an attractive power but weren’t prepared for these unwanted results. It wasn’t specific – the desire of a particular boy for my ass because he wanted me. It was free-floating. So it was a humiliating game the boys played with each other and we were the dares, and depending on our value, the grope or poke was an accomplishment for the boy, who rose in status. Or it was a denigration and a joke of which the girl was the butt (!). I was not a high-value girl. I did not elicit the competitive desire of the boys. And if there was one who found me special I didn’t know about it.
6. J tried to fuck me in the ass without talking to me. It hurt like hell and I screamed and left the room, sat naked on the kitchen floor, leaning against the cabinets, my knees pulled to my chin and cried. He came and sat next to me. We must have talked but I don’t remember what about.
7. I try not ever to lean over but instead to squat.
8. I have eczema on the left side of my perineum and anus. This means I sometimes wake up scratching, sweet musk on my fingers. I find this shameful whether I’m in bed with a lover or not. Why do we hide such things as if eczema (or worse, scratching at it) could represent some moral failing?
9. I have always wanted a small smooth ass.
10. I have to weigh close to 100 lbs to approach the young boy’s ass I have failed my whole life to possess. Why does this, too, need to become a daily regret even now in middle age? Should I, as I have vaguely castigated myself I should for decades now, develop an exercise regimen aimed at transforming my ass (the same ass that has garnered wanted and unwanted attention most of my life)? For whom?
11. A said that there was a flat place on one of my ass cheeks. More regret. It didn’t mean he loved or desired me less. But it added to the list of daily micro-criticisms to which I subject myself.
12. I know I’m supposed to be concerned with how my ass looks in jeans.
13. I watched a video of an Instagram influencer (link from the new york times) with a Rubenesque body and lavender hair. She was dancing in her underwear (bikini line and armpits pristine) with her (single?) bed in the background. She was whipping her hair and gyrating, twerking and shimmying. She’s a body-positivity spokeswoman – from anorexia to celebrating her jiggle and shake. And I was feeling confused, looking at this newspaper-generated roster of full-figured figures arguing for happiness in any size. They were all models, all posing in swimsuits or lingerie.
14. So they think they have escaped the cultural frame equating thin with beauty, thin with sexy, thin with love, success, happiness. But the frame that none of them escaped is the notion that a woman’s worth is in her sexy. A woman’s worth is in the desire she elicits with her body. And millions lean in to catch a glimpse of this display of proud and unashamed, happy gyration, twerking in rainbow lame fringe boy shorts pulled partway into her ass-crack.
15. Does body positive have to be body-obsessed?
16. I want to forget about my body.
17. I want to become one with something else – a place, a creative process, an idea explored in conversation.
18. I don’t want skin to fold against skin – belly, top of inner thighs, thighs where they meet ass cheeks. I don’t want to feel the jiggle and shake. There is a line I don’t want to cross and when I do I hit a mix of distraction and self-loathing. It’s not a number on a scale. It’s a feeling in my body, sensation, the fit of my clothes; my focus gets siphoned off to my ass or belly, I doubt this qualifies as body positivity.