VOLUME 12 ISSUE 4 NOVEMBER 2012
The body is not to be prayed for - it is to be prayed to SONYA RENEE TAYLOR (2011)
Waking Up Fat
The Naming of Stars
Some Thoughts on Beauty
Don’t Tell Me What To Do
LUIGI DE GENNARO
Why Can’t I Be Ugly? FIORELLA MORZI
Inside Back CELIA EDELL
EDITORIAL Editor-in-Chief Lakyn Barton
THE BODY ISSUE
Production Manager Katie Parkes firstname.lastname@example.org
Literary Editor Fiorella Morzi
My body and I have not always gotten along.
Art and Photography Manager Allie Hincks
I imagine this is a common experience with most people and their bodies. Our bodies do not look the way we want, or do what we want, and people do not see our bodies the way we want them to. We are constantly at odds, whether it be with our weight, our skin, our hair, or the difficulty in clothing them.
Radio Manager Katie Parkes email@example.com
Brantford Manager Carla Egesi firstname.lastname@example.org
Interns Jessica Groom, Ciana Van Dusen Staff Contributors Madison Darwin, Ashley Newton, Andrew Savory, Jody Waardenburg
CONTRIBUTORS Ron Butler, Bennet Catchpole, Taylor Chapman, Sarah Corkey, Amanda Couture, Sara Cristiano, Luigi De Gennaro, Celia Edell, Joshua Howe, Emily Kennedy, Bree Mantha, James McNabb, Katie McNamara, Natalia Smiarowski, Tommy Ward, Jessi Wood
ADMINISTRATION President, Publisher & Chair Emily Frost Executive Director Bryn Ossington Advertising Manager Angela Taylor Vice Chair Jon Pryce Treasurer Thomas Paddock Director Kayla Darrach Director Joseph Mcninch-Pazzano Corporate Secretary Allie Hincks
We spend far too much time and effort worrying about our bodies and trying to change them. There is a need to open up the discussion about bodies and move away from the tropes and stereotypes sold to us in our daily life. Challenge societies standards that only certain bodies are attractive and valued. We should not be judging each other and ourselves on how attractive an ornament we make. We are not here for decoration. Loving your body is an ongoing process. You will not wake up one day and from that moment never have a negative thought about your body again. Just know, that when those negative thoughts do come up, that you are so much more. Your worth is not determined by a number or by other ridiculous qualifiers. Your worth is not dependant on other’s opinions. Value your mind, appreciate your body, and celebrate yourself. Bodies come in all different sizes, shapes, and abilities, and each and every body allows individuals to live in new ways. Dare to accept and love your body exactly how it is right now.
Lakyn Barton Editor-in-Chief
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NEXT ISSUE On the theme of “Truth” Submissions due January 14 On stands January 23
COVER Art by TOMMY WARD My portrayal of the human body is an attempt to show it’s vulnerability. Exposing your back to someone indicates trust and we are at our most vulnerable when we allow people to view our naked bodies. I wanted to also imply the ramifications of the social pressures of the body. Underneath it all we are the made of the same basic structure, and we have a tenancy to forget this.
Waking Up Fat TAYLOR CHAPMAN
I love the way the sun shines through my blinds and onto my skin when I wake up in the morning. The light latches onto each stretch-marked curve in a way that says â€œI love being close to you.â€? I move my fingers from freckle to freckle. Connecting the dots, I see my self-image. I love the way my body spreads, claiming a space for its own. I revel in the warmth at the meeting of my inner thighs. I yawn, stretch, and feel the way my body moves with me. I am malleable, but strong. I am the physical embodiment of my comfort. My tousled hair falls over my left shoulder onto my chest, framing me. There is so much of me to love. I trace the shy blue vein through the pale skin of my arm. I am present. I lay my hands flat against my sides, running them down the width of my hips. I feel at home in my offensive softness. I love waking up fat.
Some Thoughts on Beauty RON BUTLER
What is it that defines you? Is it your ability to blend in with different groups? Is it the way you look in a certain suit or dress? Is it the books you read, the movies you watch, or even the musicians you admire? I’m sure you’ve thought about these things before. I certainly have. These things are all written on us. They determine the way we communicate with each other, our body language, and the way we dress. I’ll be the first one to admit that these things have a huge effect on how we live our lives and how we treat each other. “I like Bad Company! Oh… you like Beethoven…” On to the next person. “Did you see how big that guy’s gut is? How about the size of that girl’s chin?” When I was younger, I used to admire the James Dean characters in Hollywood. They were the epitome of tough and cool, always “getting the girl” in and outside of the film. These were the idols of all boys; something we could all aspire to be. I know guys that spend two or three hours a day working out. I think I’ve worked out two or three hours in the past year. It’s probably why I have a big gut and hanging chin. I’ve never really had much confidence in my abilities or myself. I always had a tight group of friends, but tried desperately to go unnoticed by everyone else. Why did I do that? It seems so ridiculous now! And even more ridiculous is that I still act that way sometimes even today. I’m afraid I’m ugly. I’ve always been afraid of that. I constantly ask myself what beauty is. Is it the way a person looks, feels, acts? At the same time, I should have been asking myself what it was about me that made me feel ugly. Was it my body? My personality? My inability to connect with everyone I met? I tried desperately to always fit in, but I’ve learned that the more you do so, the more of yourself you tend to lose. It starts with bits and pieces, and eventually grows into chunks and wholes. Sometimes I think about all the things I missed out on, like swimming at the beach with my friends because I was too afraid to take my shirt off (I was the one on the sand tanning his arms and face with a t-shirt and jeans on). I find it strange and funny that when
you’re young, the world is so new and fresh to you. You have no idea what different things mean and what to expect from them, yet so much of a child’s life is lived in fear of these experiences and what they will do to them: what their friends will say, or worse yet what the people they don’t know will say. When you’re younger, you have so much confidence, yet none at all. So much of what we do and how we act is based on the way we look and how we think people see us. Do we look the way we want to in that suit or in that dress? Are my teeth straight enough? Can anyone see my receding hairline? One day we will be old, and we’ll look in a mirror and notice that our hair is gone, our teeth are rotted, our limbs are soar, our wrinkles have gotten larger, and our skin hangs lower in places we never thought possible. This will happen to all of us. We’ll stand in front of the mirror and wish we could have our 20-year-old bodies back, with our 20-year-old faces, and our 20-year-old lives, no matter how ugly we thought we looked at the time. I guess that’ll be both the strangest and the funniest thought we will ever have. In December I’ll be turning 23. Not very old by the standards of the Universe, but to me… let’s just say some days I feel like I’m about to turn 83. Though I may only be 22, I feel like I’ve gained some pretty incredible knowledge in this life. I may not know exactly what it means to be beautiful or what it means to be ugly, but I know how those qualities make one feel and what triggers those feelings. To me, beauty is strength of character. Beauty is knowledge and the pursuit of more, not in the physical sense, but within the realm of the emotional and intellectual. Beauty is the power to love unconditionally no matter what wrongs or tragedies have stricken your life. We may read beauty on each other’s bodies, but beauty is written on our strength, our minds and our hearts. Never fear that which you can’t control, and never lose sight of the things and qualities you find beautiful, because those are the things that truly define us.
NATALIA SMIAROWSKI she pulls on her black dress over her head, teases out her hair, and inspects herself in the mirror she’s going out. but she knows she would have more fun sitting under the covers, looking up old friends and eating enough to finally feel full instead she’s leaving her house, hoping for something to distract her, hoping she’ll have those memories she can tell her friends about or maybe she wants to be looked at, because being looked at feels good if you like who’s looking she picks at her nails while waiting in line at the check out, a nervous habit and touches her face too much, fingers to cheek, fingers to pink lips red lacquered fingers point back to her own beauty which she will only remember when she’s older even though it’s stayed all along she thinks about essays while buying a bottle of wine, pulling down her dress when the cashier stares too hard wishing she was away wishing for the comfort of the last third the bottle brings knowing she looks good in these heels, knowing she must look fierce and sexy while also remembering the practicality of cab money and lines to get out of awkward situations pretending this black dress will be the last dress because it hides her big tummy and her thighs just right she wakes up the next morning, her feet aching and her mouth tasting like sin wondering if it was worth the hangover.
The Naming of Stars LUIGI DI GENNARO
Last night we learned about the stars, And sat stone faced Staring at each other. Our faces were like impressionist paintings; It was dark. And we were beaded by the Dipperâ€™s dew, Painted by a nighttime mist, Cool and condensed, our complexions were new.
Last night we learned how to read palms, But only so briefly. My heart was in my head, Yours was in your health. On the left laid Potential, On the right rested Now, I told of Gypsy Migraine methods, All night you wondered, How?
Last night we learned about the constellations, We looked for Andromeda In her empyrean home, Azure and illuminated. She hid behind city lights We both thought she was shy, Ashamed of her body, pear shaped and pale, Wearing the Dipper as a dress, we both wondered, Why?
Last night you learned how to lay down, Resting your legs, Wrapping them â€˜round. We trusted that moment, And we never looked back. We lived our direction With suburban walked streets. We lived our direction Through forest retreats.
Last night we learned how to hold hands Under a blanket, Catching our concerns, And drinking in dreams poured from Milky Way urns. You sculpted my fingers into art of your own. You said yours lacked any definition. Save for your right thumb, shaped from one calloused broken bone.
Last night we learned about the naming of stars We learned about constellations (But of everything else)
JESSI WOOD Light me up fast baby, You know just what to do I’m all yours, baby For a minute, maybe two Burn me down slow, baby Show me how you care Blow hard, baby You can love me anywhere Every place we ever visit in life leaves its souvenir on us somehow. We take with us the environments we inhabit and forget every day that we are nothing more than a product of where we were born. For a little while in youth, we have the luxury of discontentment, boredom, and ignorance toward things we can’t yet imagine. It is only then that we take with us only what we choose—we are pretty and squishy and don’t matter to the world nearly as much as we want. Or as much as we are willing to work for. We have no pockmarks or scars or tired contented eyes. We exist then to grow and whine and spend, and fall flat on our faces. Then, there is the afterward. Soon our faces can’t stay as firm. Our legs aren’t as strong and our spirits can no longer be fueled by sweet denial. You’ve looked up from Utopia one too
many times and have finally been allowed to fail and maybe-just maybe-- you might start to get it. I don’t know what ‘it’ is because I’m not there yet; I share in this in-between with like-minded bodies; we orbit each other out of loneliness. We sit around and pretend to aspire when we’re all really doing the same thing. We fill ourselves with sweet chemicals to make apathy go away and wait for something to happen. Sometimes, the high is all that happens. To melt, to sway and giggle and stare and daze off; it’s a sickening privilege we’ll all either regret or die for. Still, we smoke our cigarettes, watching days fly away. We sit and drink our beer and feel the love swim through our veins. We hit the bong, pass it around, and hope the high will stay. We hit the pretty colored tab, and pray that we’ll stay sane. We sit around in discontentment and burn our bodies away. So take your life’s souvenirs proudly, bear them with the witness of your dignity and try to get past the pain of looking up. You are nothing but another cigarette in the pack, full of poison and barely moving. You light fast and burn but short. You’re everything to someone for the short time you have and, most of all, you will always, eventually, burn out. So just sit back, take in life, And blow.
The Model SARA CRISTIANO
It was an unusually frigid day for early October. The sounds of lively chatter and laughter from up ahead sounded heavy and muted in my uncovered ears that were freezing from the brisk wind. I looked down at myself and sighed with exasperation. My ghostly pale, unattractively skeletal legs were covered in swollen goose bumps and uncovered for all to see. The shiny, rose coloured fabric of the skirt I was wearing fluttered in the wind, threatening to reveal the underwear I was wearing beneath. The tight, itchy fabric of my bleached white tank top clung to my stomach, doing nothing to conceal the emaciated figure that usually remained hidden under my baggy shirts and oversized hoodies. There in the chilly air, with nothing to cover my arms or legs and my entire self relatively revealed for all to see, I felt completely exposed. As I trudged along the dirt path, I silently bowed my head and kept my arms crossed behind my back in an attempt to remain silent and invisible to those around me as well as to myself. As the sun was setting, the few rays of remaining sunlight that were cast among the trees formed long, rectangular shadows against my chest. I was interrupted from this train of thought as I heard the distant sound of people loudly calling my name from up ahead: they had found a spot that they deemed suitable for what we were about to do. My attempts to keep myself out of sight proved to be futile, as I was once again asked to be the first participant. Not wanting to protest, I dutifully agreed and gave a silent nod to my instructors. My vision was beginning to blur and I tightly squeezed my eyes shut in an attempt to block out the rest of the world and secretly hope that when I reopened them, I would discover that all of this was just some twisted nightmare created by my subconscious. Perhaps my innermost being was encouraging me to face my deepest fears and insecurities? I could hear my instructors impatiently assuring me that this time would be better than the last, but my head was swimming with thoughts of doubt and discomfort and their words did not have their desired effect. I sat down on the frost-covered terrain and took off my shoes one at a time at a leisurely pace: I was futilely attempting to delay the inevitable. My instructors, becoming increasingly impatient, rushed over to me and took off my glasses, in the similar manner that a prison guard may haphazardly unlock and discard a pair of handcuffs from a prisoner. They voiced their concern about getting the job done before the sky became completely dark and urged me to head towards a boulder that was located just a few meters ahead of where we were standing. I let out a squeak of compliance and began plodding through the piles of fallen leaves with wobbly, uneven steps, my view of the boulder hazy and unclear due to my poor eyesight. The trek towards the hefty, steely grey, unwelcoming stone seemed like it went on for hours, though reason told me that it only took mere seconds.
I stared at the boulder with intense dread and trepidation, as if I were gazing at my own tombstone. I took a long, deep breath. There was no avoiding this now – I had agreed to do this and was obliged to follow the guidelines that were set before me. My instructors asked me if I was ready but I didn’t know how to respond. Was I ready? I didn’t know if I would ever be, even after having already completed the same procedure several humiliating times today. Nevertheless, I swung my leg over the smooth, startlingly cold surface of the boulder and hoisted myself to the top of it. I slowly stood up and unsuccessfully tried to maintain balance in the same way a newborn deer attempts to stand on its legs for the first time. Though the boulder was not particularly large, when I felt that I was stable enough and dared to look down at the view below me, the ground seemed to be miles away. I suddenly began to feel dizzy again and looked around frantically for something to grab on to ensure that I didn’t fall flat on my face. I desperately extended my hand toward some branches from a nearby tree and pulled them toward my body, covering myself with the bar-like twigs. I exhaled with relief and finally lifted my head to look at the instructors who stood before me. “Are you ready?” they asked me once again. I nodded sharply and examined my surroundings, trying to determine the ways in which I would be able to contort and angle my limbs to their preference. Should I remain standing and extend my arm toward the sky? Or should I lie on my side and attempt to express my emotions with my eyes and facial features, rather than with the position of my body? I was torn. My decision was crucial because, by choosing the perfect position, I would likely be freed sooner. As I stood there in silence, thoughts running through my head, I suddenly remembered the branches that I earlier used for support. I quickly grabbed them once again and arranged them in front of my body in a way that I hoped would look imaginative and artistic enough for my instructors’ liking. I stared at my instructors in hopeful anticipation and nearly shouted with liberation when I saw their blurred heads nod in approval. It was time. I readjusted my position one last time and took a deep breath, turning my head towards the ground and trying to contort my face in such a way that would camouflage my lingering feelings of fear and discomfort. “Get ready,” I heard the instructors say. My body stiffened. “One, two, three.” Click.
Strange Things BENNET CATCHPOLE
The body. I suppose it is a strange thing, particularly for being something we are so accustomed to and yet take so much for granted. We count on our bodies in all we do and never seek to answer to them, and never wonder if they will fail us. The body – and naturally those of others – give us more pleasure than any other facet of life, and simultaneously more pain. Even in this we find question – What pain can there be beyond the physical? And if we say that of emotion, is it not your mind that is in turmoil and is not your mind a part of your body? Answers to these questions could be supplied but might never find satisfaction, and I must admit it is beyond my knowledge to provide any measure of either. Our bodies bear us and from them others are borne. Our bodies wear us, and yet we wear them. We seek to conceal them beneath fabric rich in cloth and colour, and we seek to perfect them upon ideals we never knew or decided upon, but we are merely told to idolize and accept. The body is something taken for granted until it finally fails you, and it is then that we find it lacking, lessened or leased. A man gives no greater regard to the function of his body, prior to its failing, and then the body gives to its ability to function at all. The cripple gave no more thought to the ease with which he lived prior to injury, prior to the loss of that easiness, than did those who made such easiness possible at all. Perhaps that seems a cruel thing to say. Who can say so but he who knows such loss? But I suspect – like so many other unknowable things, unknowable but to those who know them. Who would pay the price of such knowledge? There is a ring of truth in such a statement. It seems to me that the ability to have ability, the capacity for any measure of capacity, the embodiment of health and security found within a body, is perhaps the most assumed gift given to us. Those who have never known it give it little thought, except in regret or wistfulness, and those who have always known it give it no thought at all. Those who have known it and found it lost are consumed in either acceptance or regret of it. Life is a strange thing. It deals many hands. The body is perhaps the strongest medium through which a lot might be dealt, and though whether we accept or reject this lot is up to us, it is not for us to decide the hand itself. It seems to me that this is unfair, but so are many other things. In essence our bodies may either support or fail us. It is down to our treatment of them (with the constant intercession of life – along with all its tricks and sentiments and falsehoods) to find satisfaction, penance or regret, and so we can only take them (ourselves) as we are, and as we were, and will be, for nothing more could ever be achieved.
SARAH CORKERY At sunrise the light shines in Through closed curtains Illuminating sparkling dust Floating in limbo through the air Sepia toned beams Upon your sun soaked dreamy face You lay silently still Your bare arm resting coolly upon my chest Cobwebbed sleep kissed eyes Open and tired, happily examining Your pores, tiny hairs Your freckle painted neck Tracing shapes and patterns Goosebumps shoot up and down your spine A rocket of energy, my love Flowing across your skin Your lips, perfect petals I watch your chest slowly Rise and fall Your body dances so serenely as you sleep
AMANDA COUTURE At some point I stopped kissing your mouth because I hate it. I will kiss your cheek, your forehead, your shoulder, your feet. You care about the wrong things; I care About the wrong things; I had a dream And in it, I stapled your mouth shut.
Body of Water EMILY KENNEDY
Arranging Bodies KATIE MCNAMARA
A school I attended for two years had a strange obsession with rigid sex separation. Boys and girls were never allowed to be on the playground equipment at the same time. Access to the teeter-totters, slide, and creaky, wooden jungle gym was only available every other day. The boys had their “Boys Day” with the playground and the girls had their “Girls Day” the next day. On the day the unfortunate sex were restricted from the equipment, they had to learn to make forts out of leaves or play four-square on the basketball court. If you dared to attempt getting on the sacred jungle gym on an undesignated day, there were more than a few kids willing to rat you out – especially the beastly brats in grades one and two. I remember a time during the winter when there was a layer of ice over the snow - you know, the type of ice that would gash your face if you fell off your sled – and the boys were sledding down the “Boys Hill” on one end of the school building and the girls on their “Girls Hill” on the other side of the building. Both hills met at the same spot and many accidents happened. Not being a very well-coordinated child, I fell off my saucer and hit my head on the sharp, icy snow. Nobody kept track whether it was “Boys Day” or “Girls Day” on the playground equipment during the winter, so I decided to lay down on the jungle gym and rest my aching head. My presence did not go unnoticed by a certain boy in grade two. He waddled over in his snow suit and chewed me out for being on the unoccupied jungle gym when it was “Boys Day” and threatened to rat me out. Did I care? No. I had hurt myself. No reasonable adult was going to discipline me for what I did. This is how aware we were of these illogical rules of separating everything between the sexes.
The swings were another matter. The three swings on the right were the girls’ swings and the three swings on the left were for the boys. We girls were told to swing facing away the playground so the boys were protected from seeing up our skirts. I became an expert at swinging with my ankles crossed. I also recall when a boy in grade one and a girl in grade two landed themselves in trouble for playing together too much. Their mothers were close friends and they often had play-dates after school, so it was natural for them to want to play together at school. They were even in the same classroom! The other boys and girls did not like these two particularly well, so they were friendless after being separated. I was and still am confused at this situation. What was the school’s point in arranging children’s bodies so strictly? As an eight-year-old with an older brother with plenty of friends, I didn’t understand that boys and their bodies were so taboo until I went to this school. Creating such a strong binary between bodies must have had some psychological effects in later years. Although I left the school early on, I distantly watched the kids there as we all grew up. Love-struck highschoolers tried to slither around the rules (maybe sitting five inches from each other instead of the usual six). Sometimes they succeeded, but most times they failed. A number of outcomes resulted as my peers entered into adulthood. Some kids became extremely timid of the opposite sex. Others turned out to be douche bags and harlots. Most kids turned out okay, but a few of them did exactly what the school’s rules did not take into consideration. Those few of both sexes turned their attention completely on their own sex. Oh, if only that school knew who became who.
That’ll Do JAMES MCNABB
You can walk down the road and shed all of your possessions and what are you left with but the body you began with? This bloated, beaten, living corpse whose actions you can only claim part responsibility, Like a defective toy that you can’t ship back to China. Like the crown moulding in the off-white you didn’t order. There is nothing neither you nor I can do about how you or I look, nothing we can do to repair the mistakes that have so carelessly been tossed on us, nothing we can do except pray and hope, (In spite of our educated reformation from the church though, like my mother says, there are no atheists in foxholes) that one day somebody will look at us and say, “That’ll do.” Because that’s what life is, isn’t it? Just a pissing contest with our possessions; though no matter how hard we try we are locked in this one big Problem. It’s the one thing you can’t hide, the one thing that everyone can judge you over, the one burden that will follow you until you die, your face, your body, your legs, your fat, you’re fat, that everyone looks at. Everyone has an opinion over who you are. Intellectual property means nothing. Our physical possessions are all we have. “That’ll do.”
Makes Sense JOSHUA HOWE
What if I told you that I could see and eight inch by eight inch sign from five hundred meters away and not only that, but read it too? What if I told you that I could not only feel a hand when greetings are in order, but feel the fibers that make up the skin cells? What if I told you that I could smell any kind of deodorant being worn from five stories into the sky? What if I told you that I could not only taste the creaminess of chocolate ice cream like you do, but taste through the creaminess, taste underneath it? And what if I told you that I could not only hear voices calling to me, but that I could hear them crystal clear from six city blocks away if I wanted to? You’d probably think I was insane. You would not be alone. Most bland-minded people do. Makes sense to them, I guess. But the truth is, I’m not insane. Far from it. In fact, I’m more sane than you have ever been or ever will be. Why? Because I can really sense things. I don’t mean like seeing the future or anything, I’m not that strange. That’s for someone else to deal with. For now. But when you touch a metal bar in the winter and think, ‘Gee, that’s cold’, I touch it and feel each one of my metaphysical skin cells become suctioncupped to the icy, germ-ridden metal and scream in agony when I have to rip them away. You see, where you think you know the world, you really don’t. I know the world because I can sense it. I can truly sense it. And because I can sense all of this, like it was meant to be sensed. I know things you will never know. You are going through life blind by simply looking into the sky and seeing blue. Or looking at the moon and seeing perhaps, if you’re lucky, the faint outline of one or two craters. Because of this, you can’t know what the earth is. And to me, this makes you absolutely, horrifically insane. You don’t know the senses like I do. To you, they’re just there. You don’t have to try and calm them down when they cry out in pain, nor do you have to keep them focused on the task you wish to accomplish when they get side-tracked from the roar of an airplane far up in the air. They don’t complain to you constantly when sad or yip excitedly at you when happy.
To you they’re just there. But I have to deal with every single one of them. Every single one of those five. But I really shouldn’t complain, I suppose. Those five give me life. They make me the most important creation in existence. They make me number six. And that’s nothing to scoff at. And yet, I’m so under appreciated. I could liven everything up all the time if the world let me. There is nothing out there like me, nothing that has such control over the things you use every day without even realizing their importance. I could make each passing day the most exciting you’ve ever witnessed. I could bring your attention to things you would never have noticed otherwise and improve your understanding of the universe. But you trap me. You decide to keep me held in chains for almost every hour of every day. Oh, I get my chances. But they are few and rarely do I even get the time to build up to something truly great. You treat me differently, and so you should, but you do so in the incorrect fashion. You can’t understand my brilliance, what I could bring to the table to make everything become infinitely clear. This is all your fault, really. The worst thing is you don’t even notice or even care. Even when I try to show you how fantastic I am, you exclude me. I’m tired of being forgotten. You only think of the five. The five are the ones that matter to you because they give you instant response. But they’re truly dull and not as glamorous as you think. They’re pale in comparison to me. I need you to recognize me. To accept me. Number six. I am imagination, your imagination, and I will no longer remain silent and forgotten.
MADISON DARWIN The rules to faking confidence replay in her head through her mother’s malicious voice as she walks down the street. “Shoulders back. Head up. Stomach in. Chest out.” She’s conscious of people staring at her as she passes them, but she refuses to look them in the eye. For if she does, she knows what she will find. She will see their criticism, their judgment shrouding her appearance, repulsed by her imperfections. Yet, she can’t help it. She sneaks a peek at a man, who upon seeing her curiosity, tentatively smiles at her in their passing. His smile seems friendly and interested, but she knows the truth, so her eyes drop immediately. She understands his smile; he’s mocking her. She rushes the rest of the way, ready to bolt into the solitary confinement of her house. She calls out with no answering reply, and feels relieved that nobody’s home. Her stomach growls and she suddenly feels dizzy. She tries to count the hours since she has last eaten, but she runs out of fingers. She walks into the lavishly decorated kitchen and reaches for the fridge. It’s locked. She doesn’t check the cupboards because she knows they’ll be locked too. She doesn’t even bother to read the accompanying note on the marble counter. She knows they only lock up when she needs to drop a few pounds. She drags herself to her bedroom and begins flipping through the stack of freshly placed magazines on the edge of her bed. With a sigh, and almost routinely, she strips down to only her undergarments. Dreadfully, she pulls the sheet off her threepaneled body mirror. She analyzes, measures, pokes and prods, but nothing satisfies her. She begins to cry, softly at first, until the conjured images of herself makes her shake. Through her blurred tears she notices her metal makeup kit, and without thought she smashes it into the mirror. Shards of glass burst from the frame, falling lifelessly to the floor. One jagged piece catches her eye and she thinks of its unique beauty. Its sharp edges glint in a peculiar way, and as she presses it to her flesh she thinks of how uncommonly soft it feels… In genuine regret, a stranger whom upon reading the obituaries, commented “What a shame. She was such a beautiful girl”. That’s just what her mother would have wanted to hear.
The Floor BREE MANTHA
Slowly, as if my bones and joints were thawing, emerging now from a long and dry winter, I extended my knees and pointed my toes toward the ground. Pressing into my frail wrists, I inched my way off the bed and down to the cold, dry ground below. I crept away from the frame until I had clearance to stretch my body back. I felt each of my vertebrae greet the ground until finally the back of my head settled there. Slowly I let my gaze drift upward as I bid adieu to my bony, bruised knees and said hello to the off-white, dustcovered ceiling. How did a ceiling get dusty anyway? My descent down to the floor was undoubtedly an act of self-loathing. I did not deserve a place on my bed. I did not deserve to be elevated above anyone. Or anything. With a pitiful, flimsy extension of my arm I grasped the quilt from on top of my bed and pulled it toward me. I draped it over myself as it fell lifelessly, less a soft source of comfort in my rut of child-like self-pity and more like a thick and stiff body bag. Wrists wilting, I gripped the quilt and pulled it up over me, up, up, up until it covered my nose and eyes. I stared through the fibers of the blanket and to my disappointment found that I could still see my ceiling, walls and windows, just with a red tint, as if I was gazing through cherry cellophane. I squinted. I saw red. It wasn’t a hot, hellish red, but a once-rich, now-faded red that underwhelmed me so that it left my stomach feeling cold. A small – small as in petty – part of me envied people who were depressed but had no idea why they felt depressed. Though the sensible part of me knew enough to logically say that the overwhelming confusion would have certainly been a unique kind of Hell, I was convinced in this moment that nothing could have been worse than knowing exactly why you were upset. My body, while not particularly fleshy or fatty, felt soft, as if tenderized underneath someone else’s heavy hands. I literally felt like meat. My hair stood stiffly away from my scalp where it had been clutched in his hands. My clothes, which I had pulled onto myself no differently than I did any other day, were simply hanging on my body like clumsily-hung portraits on a wall in a midwestern living room. I pried my right arm off of the ground and traced along my left arm. It didn’t feel like meat to the touch. But as I exhaled and let my vertebrae each flatten down against the floor, I felt like there were few, if any differences between myself and a chicken breast. I had woken up alone in the coldest bed anyone could imagine. My body didn’t even belong to me. It belonged to this floor. I wondered how long it would take for my body to become the floor.
Don’t Tell Me What To Do ASHLEY NEWTON
I remember how sharp the needle was as it pierced my nose and made it bleed. My eyes watered for a brief moment, and the dramatic moment of pain that made my skin feel like it was being completely separated was finally over. “Congratulations,” says the piercer, “you’re done.” That’s what I thought, too. It turns out something as simple as getting your nose pierced can become someone else’s business quite quickly. How? I was told by someone that the piercing made me look like a... Well, let’s just say it wasn’t a nice thing to be called. What really confuses me is how the decisions I make about my body—which do not put my life or others’ lives in jeopardy in any way—can so easily become the topic of discussion and argument for other people. I was seventeen when I had my nose pierced and already subject to heavy criticism from the people around me about the way I look. I’m five feet and one and a half inches tall; I don’t exactly have much to work with here. And I’m alright with that. Four years later, the discussion regarding what I choose to do with my body has come up again. I have received relentless attention for my decision to get a tattoo in the coming months— something I have been thinking about for a long time and holds considerable value and meaning to me. I ask this again: Why is it anyone’s business but my own? I’m told that getting a tattoo will ruin the way I look when I wear something nice or when I get older. What is it about my own decision to have artwork put on my body that degrades it or ‘ruins’ it? Do I suddenly become damaged, ugly, or lose value as a person because of what I choose to do with it? No. Should I yield my decisions about my body because of others’ conservative beliefs? No. Neither should you. Another problem I have with the way people attempt to manipulate your own thoughts about your body concerns what they think you can or cannot do with it. When I began to play guitar at age fourteen, I will admit that I gave up for a while because my hands are so small. But I eventually got back into playing and became quite good. I even began to learn to play the keyboard; that is, until someone told me I would never be good enough at it because of the size of my hands and fingers.
We live in a world where people are constantly telling us what we should or should not do with our bodies—and worse, what we can and cannot do with them. A negative comment concerning something as simple as my hands made me look down at them for weeks and think they were everything I could ever hate about myself. Someone else claimed power over me and made me believe I had a reason to hate my hands and fingers because of their size. Now I hold pride in their size considering how far I have come with practicing music as a hobby. My fingers are very quick at typing on a computer and I love them for that. I would be a horrible writer if I couldn’t appreciate my hands. Now I realize they are one of my favourite things about my body. Of course, I don’t fully accept my body. How can I? How can anyone, for that matter? We have people everywhere telling us their opinions, beliefs, and values concerning our bodies. If someone doesn’t believe in tattoos and piercings because they are ‘ruinous’ or ‘ugly’, does that mean we should all be trained to hate our scars? I could never hate my scars; half of them are the product of hilarious circumstances, and they certainly do not make me less of a person for having them. So why should I be taught to think I should feel guilty about tattoos and piercings? They are just as much a part of my body as the interior and exterior parts that constitute the person writing this right now. The same thing goes for body size. Why is it anyone’s business but yours what you look like? At age twenty-one, I finally realize how problematic it is for people to make value judgements about my body as well as others’. Find the aspects of your body that you love, and love them even more. Find the aspects of your body that you hate, and try to love them, too. Of course, it’s hard to do that when we have so many people around us dictating what we should do with them. Your power lies within everything you are. All that matters is the way you feel about your body. After all, it’s the only one you’ve got.
I could never hate my scars; half of them are the product of hilarious circumstances, and they certainly do not make me less of a person for having them.
ANDREW SAVORY Arms wide, Head to toe, Chin held high, This is my body. Thinning blood runs through my darkened veins, Thickening hair atop my scalp, Itching feet below it all, This is my feeling. A room neither wide nor narrow, The sky stretching vastly, The ground running freely, This is my domain. Clocks winding down, Eyes are solely upon me, My hand trembles slightly, This is my time. My consciousness grips reality, My mind holds me to be true, Never shall I abandon either, This is my code. Never questioning myself, Serving to triumph above the odds, And the doubts of others, This is my belief. A spotlight begins to shine, While a crowd gathers, Letting out a raucous roar, This is my audience.
Muscles aching, Chest heaving, Fingers shaking, This is my chance. The shadow of another approaches, In many ways he is superior, In many ways he is inferior. This is my equal. One last spectacle is what they want, The opportunity to see a battered man fall, Die trying in the act of honour, This is my realization. He shares the same fear in his eyes that I have in mine, I begin to charge onward, Gazes locked we are aware of the outcome, This is my clash. Within the confines of my mind the battle ensues, Me against myself, Spiraling towards what I fear most, This is my decision. Regardless of anyone else, There is only one individual who rules this land, And none shall corrupt his aim, This is my direction. For every action I make, And every step that I take, Reflects all that I have at stake, For this is my arena.
Why Can’t I Be Ugly? FIORELLA MORZI
I look in the mirror, noting the curves of my hips, adoringly feeling the bulge of my tummy with my hands. My body intrigues me. I observe the meeting point of my thick thighs, letting them touch each other, flesh encountering flesh. I ponder what their conversation is about today as I eagerly bend myself toward my knees in hopes my ears will detect any details. I want to know about my body. The skin on my arms hangs defiantly, an inherited characteristic passed down from my mother, swaying to and fro, declaring boundless freedom. Using my fingers I press into my left cheek, rosy and round, and follow it until I reach my double chin. I don’t recognize its shape, but it belongs to me: my spirit beckons me to familiarize myself with these new forms, to engage in a radical selflove with my physical body, to redefine perfection. My body is bold. I trace the lines of cellulite on my legs and smile because I have come face-to-face with an honesty so unashamed, a mark so meaningful, a life so genuine. This makes me blush. I look in the mirror, slowly guiding my hand through messy locks, untangling strands of hair, staring curiously at a chestnut mane that makes me want to roar like a lion. The ends of my hair fall onto my armpits and remind me of my beloved, not-so-secret treasures, patches of underarm wool grown with care. My decision to let them grow remains important to me. I want to know about my body so I like seeing what it can do. Challenging societal ideas of feminine beauty helps in the creation of an understanding of beauty that is all my own. I study the purple hue of my oval nipples and quirky droop of my olive-colored breasts. I stand in front of the mirror, naked and vulnerable, skimming my arms, legs, hair, cheeks, chin, chest, and stomach. I contemplate my imperfect shape. I feel beautiful precisely because I am uneven, saggy, marked, overweight, and complex. I embrace my body in all of its “ugliness” and celebrate its remarkable distinctiveness. I embrace my body because it does not lie: all of my truths are bound in its many miraculous intricacies and I, like you, have a story to tell.
Volume 12, Issue 4