Monday, March 29, 2010

Fragility: My Own and Other Peoples

Fragility: My Own and Other Peoples

What I once looked upon as the most stunning object I'd ever owned, I would now count among horrors: that doll. That doll, who I saved up all my allowance for fourteen months to buy. Who just stood there, in her cake-pink dress, in vulgar scallops of lace and satin, in the requisite blonde sausage curls, mandatory creampeach skin, wounded blue eyes under crisp black curls of lash, and every quality that equals fainting. I craved her fingers, each one as ephemeral as a hair. I craved her lips. Not to kiss, I mean, but to have as my own, and her cheekbones, and her will to do nothing but just stand there, emanating frailty.

A woman that beautiful would be protected, that much I understood. I knew with dead certainly that nothing terrible ever happened to a woman like her. There would be no chaos around her, no hitting, no midnight rages, no broken bottles and sliding down walls and definitely no blood, no shouting, no hunger, no loss. I suppose we all know by instinct that beauty is power, and hers made me feel safe, or at least, far away. After something happened, I would twist the music key on her plastic base and watch her turn around, around, around. She was my comfort and I thought if I kept her close enough, I would transform into something beautiful and worthy, too. Someone with some hope of being loved.

I think these days about fragility and toughness. How some girls, beautiful or not, seem to be born with toughness in them, rough girls, tumble girls, hearty, loud,, squint-eyed girls, and how some, beautiful or not, trail through the world like baby's breath, shimmering and blinking and offering up a soft space in their eyes and voices. I wonder who, if either one, is stronger, who lasts longest. Which kind, if either, needs protection. And in which girls either way is not innate, but taught; cultivated. Rewarded well enough to make it stick. I wonder which kind I am now, and if I was ever really either. I fear sometimes for gentle girls, this much I know: every instinct in me wants to stand watch before them, and ward off any threats. Because there was a time when I could not protect myself. There was a time when I didn't understand my strength. When I did not inhabit my body. When I was owned by everything outside me. There is a moment when I lose my own self in their gentleness, forget that they are them and I am me now. And that to protect any one, in the end, is a disservice.

I was embarrassed by that stupid doll, years later. Now little girls are dressing up like her again in droves. And I wonder if maybe this much-reviled trend really isn't so tragic, so bad a thing. Maybe it's like practicing for a sort of death. A way to pretend at fragility, to inhabit, for however brief a time, sheer breakability, to enter the underworld and prepare yourself for what it will feel like to be helpless. To be desired. To have power over, then, finally, loss. Then finally full inhabitation of our vessels.


Dale said...

I always think the people who want to stop kids from having the toys they desperately want have hold of the wrong end of the stick. Sure, we'd rather they didn't have the terrors and obsessions to deal with, the fear and aggression, impulses to domination and submission. But once they've got them (and are human beings ever without them?) it's better to let them work with them, in symbol and fantasy.

Morwalk said...

Amazing, breathtaking, heartbreaking! There is so much to say. I'm not sure I know where to begin. Having also grown up in the kind of household with the chaos around us, with the midnight rages, broken bottles (and faces), blood, etc., I do feel the perfect, pretty little dolls were a protection, kind of a comfort that there was something different. I also thought maybe my parents were robots and that is why things were askew.

Then there is my son who is, unfortunately, drawn to guns. I actually did let him have a nerf gun, once. It was taken away after he was in a bad mood and shot at Oliver when he was five. So I tried, but now he has to make guns out of sticks and toast.

As your friend, I don't know if you ever knew. You may know now how incredibly beautiful you are, in all ways. You have a brilliant talent in writing. Everything of yours I've read has captivated me. I look forward to continue seeing you on Facebook.