Hawaii Womenâ€™s HWJ's Final Issue 2011
Relaxation Response How to Jedi Mind Trick Yourself to Relax
Issue No. 5
Helping Refugees Survive the Transition to Living in the U.S.
Kingdom of Wonder
The Family Meet
von Hottie's Tips on Introducing Your S.O. (Significant Other) to the Fam
Bakingphobia The Domestic Diva Conquers Her Fear
100 Ways You Are Awesome
Are You Embracing Your Nurture Quota?
The Quiet Visionary: Maya Soetoro-Ng
HOW TO REACH HAWAII WOMEN'S JOURNAL HAWAII WOMEN'S JOURNAL
a project of the Safe Zone Foundation 501(c)3 a Hawaii-based nonprofit organization
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Hawaii Women's Journal c/o Safe Zone Foundation 4348 Waialae Avenue #248 Honolulu, Hawai‘i 96816 DISCLAIMER The Safe Zone Foundation (SZF) dba Hawaii Women’s Journal (HWJ), its Publisher, and Editors cannot be held responsible for errors or consequences arising from the use of information contained herein; the views and opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the SZF, HWJ, Publisher, and Editors, neither does the publication of advertisements constitute any endorsement by HWJ, Publisher, and Editors of the products advertised.
Our Room Is the World PUBLISHER Kathryn Xian EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Jennifer Meleana Hee MANAGING EDITOR Mayumi Shimose Poe EDITORS Andrea Devon Bertoli, Suzanne Farrell Smith, Anna Harmon, Noël Norcross PROOFREADER Suzanne Farrell Smith PHOTOGRAPHERS Manal Abu-Shaheen, Michelle Bassler, Tommy Shih, Lucas Stoffel, Christy Werner, Kathryn Xian INTERN Chelsea Wendroff GRAPHIC ARTIST Lezlie Kiaha CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Stuart Bridgett Jennifer Brody Rachel Ana Brown Ivy Castellanos Joe Cervelin Andrea Devon Bertoli Theresa Falk Jaimie Gusman Richard Hartshorn Jennifer Meleana Hee Joan Kane Jess Kroll Maya Leland Lauren Markham Doris Segal Matsunaga Jen McClanaghan Noël Norcross Lorelle Saxena Mayumi Shimose Poe Ali Stewart-Ito von Hottie Khaliah Williams Kathryn Xian Kristel Yoneda Special thanks to artists Jason Teraoka, Michelle Bassler, and Lezlie Kiaha
Our Room Is the World HWJ's Final Issue 2011
Issue No. 5
Maya Soetoro-Ng talks to HWJ about education, literature, and family
Page 15 poetry & prose
features 15 31 37
The Quiet Visionary:
A Heart to Heart with Maya Soetoro-Ng BY KATHRYN XIAN
Kingdom of Wonder BY ALI STEWART-ITO
BY JAIMIE GUSMAN
For Joy, of Faith and Fallacy BY JESS KROLL
At Bridal Veil Rocks
Creative Works and Comments BY JENNIFER MELEANA HEE AND MAYUMI SHIMOSE POE
Every Which Way But Loose
BY JOAN KANE
BY NOËL NORCROSS
Stepping into a Furnace BY JEN MCCLANAGHAN
Until the Heart Stops Beating
BY KHALIAH WILLIAMS
Dear Hawaii, It's Not Me, It's You. BY KRISTEL YONEDA
The Last Day BY DORIS SEGAL MATSUNAGA
Hawaii Women’s Journal | 2
Bread and Milk
Silence of the Douche
BY STUART BRIDGETT
BY JOE CERVELIN
contents columns 13
Bridges Between Here and There:
The Domestic Diva
The Wellness Manifesto
43 54 55 57
Meeting the Family: How to Make Sure Your Family Meets Your Beloved S.O., Not an S.O.B BY von HOTTIE
Refugee Transitions in the San Francisco Bay Area BY LAUREN MARKHAM
The Muffin in the Closet - Or Who's Afraid of the Big, Bad, Baked Good? BY JENNIFER BRODY
Activating the Relaxation Response: An Essential Stress Management Jedi Mind Trick BY IVY CASTELLANOS
The Hundred Ways You Are Awesome BY LORELLE SAXENA
The Feminist Housewife
Maya Soetoro-Ng cover and insets photographed by Tommy Shih www.tommyshihphoto.com
The Green Dream: Can We Save the Planet by Shopping Greener? BY ANDREA DEVON BERTOLI
The Pen Women's Column Coming Out of the Closet BY MAYA LELAND
The Feminine Critique REEL REVIEW A Beating Black Wing: Aronofsky's "Perfect Metaphor" BY RICHARD HARTSHORN
The Balancing Act Otherworld Walking BY THERESA FALK
The Feminine Critique REEL REVIEW Black Swan: Darren Aronofsky's Modern Manhattan Fairy Tale BY RACHEL ANA BROWN
From the Founders - Mahalo Nui Loa
Hawaii Womenâ€™s Journal | 3
Hawaii Womenâ€™s Journal | 4
[from the founders]
n old friend once reminded me about the wonder of how things are simultaneously destroyed and rebuilt and humankind’s tendency to misunderstand this sort of “mandate of heaven.” In the Chinese language—philosophy reflected in their calligraphy—the kanji for crisis includes both symbols for danger and opportunity. While we as a global community grapple with the concept of duty within our short life spans, we are constantly reminded of our mortality and the significance of others through crises: the earthquakes in Christchurch, New Zealand, and near the coast of Honshu, Japan—catastrophic events that literally sent ripples felt throughout the world. And the youth-led revolutions sparked in Egypt and Libya in protest of decades of poverty and tyrannical rule—in particular, the women of Egypt seizing opportunity during the collapse of their oppressive government, publicly demanding equality in the streets, amidst the threat of sexual violence and humiliation. Our kind of ladies. These are milestone reminders that what happens to one affects all—terrible struggle, death, and destruction laced with the opportunity of social responsibility. The dangers are more than the media images we see of the victims, the depths of which we are blessed to not have to fully understand as we witness them on the news. For the victims, these dangers are nothing less than the rape of the soul— broken hearts begotten from such earthly losses of homes, family, personal safety and sanctity, social structure, and overall way of life—a life they thought they controlled. In this present-day climate, on the day of Lent 2011 just before Hawai‘i’s most significant tsunami warning to date, which left the streets empty for hours and the entire community in fear of the worst, the founders of HWJ decided to end the publication. The reasons paled in comparison to the massive destruction taking place in Japan at the same time. As publisher, these occurrences offered great perspective to share with the rest of you in what I hope you will see as “opportunity out of crisis.” In the Torah, the Hebrews tell the crisis story of a great towering golden structure built by a wealthy king who orders all to submit themselves to it in
worship. Only three persons out of the entire kingdom refuse this order: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These rebels hold true to God and their principles and go against a government that demands their genuflection to this symbol of wealth and power. The king publicly sentences them to be thrown into a furnace as capital punishment for their love of God. Though the three rebels are unsure if God will save or martyr them, they remain steadfast in their loyalty to what they feel is right. Their faith supersedes their fear of death, their public humiliation, and their societal duty to their coercive government. Indeed, they are thrown into the fire—but God saves them. This story’s message is thusly delivered not only to their king but to the ages throughout history. The message? That in crisis you have the opportunity to discover the integrity of your heart in the tug-of-war between what you must do out of what is the rule and what is right. HWJ was created to inspire the women of the world to write, to know that communities of others wanted to hear what they needed to say, to encourage women, and to create responsible media. These things are what we see as right against the societal rule of global oppression of women, minorities, and the impoverished. But just because HWJ is at its end does not mean that we failed or that this cause is not worthy or well-received. It means that we are sharing the opportunity with you to carry this mission on in your own lives. It is entirely possible. All the women involved with bringing this magazine to reality are a testament to that. And that is a wonderful thing. HWJ was a wishing well of wonderful things. As editors and contributors, we threw our pennies in, making our deposits into this savings account of shared hopes. But it’s your turn. After you finish reading this final issue, our last hope as HWJ staff is that you have the inspiration, metaphoric penny in hand, not only to make your own wish but also to take an active part of making it come true. Mahalo nui loa for supporting HWJ and aloha kākou. Sincerely, Kathryn Xian, Publisher
Hawaii Women’s Journal | 5
ear Readers, Writers, Artists, Like-Minded and their banter made us die of laughter. Their words Publications, Youth Poets, Righteous Causes, also resurrected us, only to kill us with another jabPhotographers, HWJ Staff: cross-wit-gutpunch combo to the soul, because they are just that complex, brilliant, and good at literary This past year, I fell in love with all of you, wanted to CPR. Amber and Mindy—not even hyperbole is spin a hundred bottles and hope they’d defy physics sacred. and keep spinning; there is so much inspiration in the wonder. Falling in love with the editorial aspect That young and genius is the new older of HWJ was much harder. By all stereotypes, I am a and wiser. I watched Jocelyn Ng perform at First hyperneurotic writer, and as an editor I couldn’t help Thursday’s poetry slam in Hawai‘i; she had me but demand as much from other writers as I demand shaking from the fierceness in her words. She is a from myself, which is—if you were willing to risk living manifesto—her body gives the vulnerability of tearing your metaphoric perineum shoving a piece out youth an inspired voice and a megaphone. We featured of your braingina, then I was willing to read it, share it, her on our third issue’s cover in addition to publishing give it my last name, and by last name, I mean HWJ. her poetry and featuring a video of her performance, I never did fall in love with editing, but I was and hoping the next generation will be inspired by the will always be in awe of HWJ, because we became example she and others from Youth Speaks Hawai‘i something bigger than me and my obsession with provide to constellate their words, or sing praises to rubbing two cold, dark thoughts together and hoping one’s diversity, or dig a dark tunnel straight into what they’d create fire. We created a tribe, and we didn’t scares them about the world. need fire because we could huddle together March of the Penguins style and survive the blizzard together. That fashion is not unfeminist. I may not have In his 2005 Stanford University commencement known as much about high fashion as I did about speech, Steve Jobs said, “You can’t connect the dots turning old T-shirts into ecobags, but we had all heard looking forward; you can only connect them looking that Lynne Hanzawa-O’Neill had managed to spread backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will her own “aloha zen” approach to fashion shows. somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in When she spoke about her work, I heard only a love something—your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever.” I for creation, for the theatricality of fashion, and a look back on the dots of last year, everything that HWJ wholehearted approach to life and love—and knew made me believe: that the fashion world was a kinder, more gorgeous place with her heart behind the curtain.
That you can actualize a dream, and it has nothing to do with The Secret but, rather, with That we are all more amazing than we think Kathryn Xian and her superwoman powers. I we are. We wanted to interview Maya Soetoro-Ng and was in my pajamas at 2:00p.m., watching Paper Heart, when I texted Kathy: Hey, that Charlyne Yi woman looks nerdy/awesome, can we interview her for the journal? And get her to perform genius quirky-sweet shit that makes everyone girlcrush on her brain and talent at Girl Fest? And maybe she’ll eventually collaborate with me on orphan-saving endeavors in the third world? And Kathy, and her belief in the possible, could make it all happen.
feature her on our cover since we launched HWJ. Being able to do so in this, our last issue, inspires and teaches me that we should always take the risk of reaching out, even to those who seem beyond our reach, because we will often find that they too are tribe. Time may be linear, but how we inspire and affect each other is multidimensional, multigenerational, and resembles an Escher drawing of hands drawing hands.
That surrounding yourself with amazing That inspiration has nine lives, if a lifetime people is the key to success. As editor of a truly is defined by 2,000 words, and if dying is a nonprofit publication, I called in a favor to Tommy Shih metaphor. We asked the gifted poetesses Mindy of Tommy Shih Photography, my favorite photographer Nettifee and Amber Tamblyn to take the time out of in L.A., to shoot Charlyne Yi’s feature. After Charlyne, their amazing art-rich lives and interview each other, he photographed Amber and Mindy in exchange for Hawaii Women’s Journal | 6
[from the founders] a dozen of my Death by Mocha cookies. And then he covered Maya Soetoro-Ng in exchange for coming to Girl Fest and working more for us. Of course, we will always be indebted to Rita Coury of Rita Coury Photography for our unforgettable inaugural cover of anti-trafficking marchers from the Martin Luther King Jr. parade and Ryan Matsumoto of Hawaiian Ryan Productions for capturing Jocelyn Ng, in one of her quintessential powerful/vulnerable moments in the spotlight. HWJ was truly a labor of love as well as a love for someone else’s labor of love—a chain of love’s labor.
We also reached out to all our favorite writers and artists, and they reached back, and before we knew it, we had an online publication. This is important, because to me HWJ was a crucial part of the emerging radical homemaking movement that encourages both women and men to return to their homes and utilize community. Every time we punched words into our computers to reclaim the issues that were lost in other publications, we hoped that this tribe of critical thinkers, of movers, refurbishers, and shakers, would in turn feed us with their words, ideas, and actions. While radical homemaking has many feminists readying their protests signs to read, “I didn’t burn my bra so you bitches could preserve pickles,” radical homemaking to me is not about devolving and demurring our way back into the kitchen; it is about dismantling the capitalist and consumerist structure of our society that sets us up for failure. I refuse to feel like a “bad” feminist because my highest aspiration is to take care of people and create a community where we support each other with our DIY dreams. Where we share our ideas and recipes for better health and life. Or because I look for the glass ceiling and instead see us—both genders and those transitioning or existing between them—in a snow globe, only it’s not necessarily snow that’s flying around but GMO “veggies,” potential nuclear anything, and seemingly indestructible weapons built from ideology that get in our way. We can feel trapped or we can choose to see that we are all in this together. We either collaborate or go crazy competing for ever-limited resources. I refuse to whine any longer about not being able to emotionally afford the newest trend of hope for education, food, health care, and human or animal rights reform worn by the mannequin behind the curtain. Nothing stops any of us from ripping
off our clothes and wearing that hot piece of hope forever, because hope is timeless. I want to make domesticity sexy and subversive, and when people ask me what I do for a living, I want to say: I nurture. With my words, my vegan cookies, and my TRIBE that fucking kicks your TRIBE’s ass—not that there is a competition, but yea, it does anyway, with its heart, smarts, wit, grit, and T-shirts that say: I’ve got a big brain, and I’m not afraid to use it. And this year at the Hawaii Women’s Journal, our kickass tribe did the following: We got married. We divorced. We got a TRO against our abusive inner selves. We said this was the last, last time. We reconciled. We moved across the country. We moved across the ocean. We moved back. We started growing our own food. We started growing. We marched. We lobbied. We published books. We got really angry and overdosed on cortisol. When we woke intolerance still existed, like a STI on the unwaxed taint of humanity. We used the word taint in a progressive women’s magazine, what? We stopped using products that were toxic. We stopped loving people that were toxic. We lied about how we stopped loving people that were toxic. We took our metaphors too literally. We became vegan for real this time. We ate dead flesh, and by we, I don’t mean Jennifer Hee. We miscarried. We ate optimism for breakfast, and it tasted like tempeh bacon, surprisingly not inedible. We interviewed artists, editors, poets, activists, a filmmaker, and a fashion-show director. We checked ourselves before we wrecked ourselves. We got our Girl Fest on. We got PhDs, MFAs, and new used bikes.
Hawaii Women’s Journal | 7
We survived. We moved on. We wrote about it. All of it.
and accept that we may not always have the same causes—sometimes a woman you love, for example, may jokingly send you articles about pig slaughter and find it hilarious—but fight with the whole of your heart for the part of existence that is the I don’t know what shape our dotted lines are forming, shard of glass in your white-swan belly. Let us teach but what we did in this publication in its one year tolerance, let us not always agree, because a whole of life fills me with hope—the homegrown, non- lot of people blinddeafdumbly agreeing is clearly GMO kind. Let us continue to make creation our only what causes genocide and gang rape and probably obsession. Let us gather in writing salons and cheer is related somehow to earthquakes. I don’t know for each other’s words like they are the slam dunk in which metaphor, which tool, will dismantle every the touchdown part of the rink in the bottom of the world/local/neurochemical problem—I just believe ninth inning, bases loaded. Let us see one another’s that there are tools. And when the screwdriver fails, names on book covers, in magazines, anthologies, pick up the sledgehammer. The peaceful, peaceful and newspapers and proudly recognize a win for sledgehammer of righteousness. one of us is a win for TRIBE. Let us take care of ourselves, each other, and the parts of the world that Sincerely, can’t take care of themselves. Let us have our causes Jennifer Meleana Hee, Editor-in-Chief
et’s not talk of endings but beginnings.
single person in it, even the ones that got crabby at me. It was a family, and I am heartbroken that it is Let’s talk about what Hawaii Women's Journal no more, but I move forward, knowing that this is was in its glorious one year of life. It was an equal- the end of a journal but not a family. That the people opportunity publisher. It wanted to hear everyone’s we met and brought together will continue to gather deepest story. It wanted to attract emerging writers their firebright minds and grace the world with their (female and male) and take them by the hand and passionate words. say that their words were beautiful and vital and necessary. It wanted to work with the gems, to work I am humbled by and grateful to the entire HWJ staff through the rough, to praise what was on the page for devoting so much of themselves to this endeavor. and ask the hard questions, you know, the ones you This goes out to you, Jennifer Hee, Kathy Xian, Anna curse even as you know they’re necessary, the ones Harmon, Andrea Devon Bertoli, Noël Norcross, and about what wasn’t on the page and perhaps needed Suzanne Farrell Smith. This goes out to the authors to be. It wanted to fight the good fight, to talk about of our regular columns—Ms. deMeaners, The all the ways that we can empower ourselves and Domestic Diva, The Wellness Manifesto, The Feminist one another and the wider world. It believed in the Housewife, View from the Moon, Kitchen Medicine, power of women, it fought for the equality of women, The Balancing Act, and reviewers for The Feminine but it wanted to do so without having to remove men Critique—as well as our occasional contributors, our from the equation. It wanted you to love yourself just feature writers, photographers, and the poets and as you are, and it wanted to inspire you to always prose-icians who contributed their gorgeous poetry, want to keep learning and evolving into the next creative nonfiction, and fiction. And this goes out to draft of yourself. It wanted to fling itself to the widest you, readers, who embraced us in all of our diversity, corners of the world and gather like-hearted people all of our varied interests, all of our wildly divergent and bring them all into one room: HWJ: Our Room points of view. You got us. You embraced us. You made Is the World. It wanted to create community and to us a part of your lives, and for that we can be nothing celebrate the lives and work of each member of that but grateful. community. It was a family. It was a family. It was a family. I repeat that three times because it is so true. Sincerely, It was a family, and it was my family. I loved every Mayumi Shimose Poe, Managing Editor Hawaii Women’s Journal | 8
Our Room Is the World
Mahalo nui loa! Kathryn Xian, Publisher Jennifer Meleana Hee, Editor-In-Chief Mayumi Shimose Poe, Managing Editor Hawaii Women's Journal
Hawaii Womenâ€™s Journal | 9
contributors Michelle Bassler
Michelle is a University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa graduate who is now living in Southern California. She started selling her designs in Brooklyn, NY in 2005 after learning how to screen print. In 2009, she created the clothing company Blonde Peacock. She enjoys growing her company in ethical and sustainable ways. www.blondepeacock.etsy.com
Stuart Bridgett is a mechanical engineer and writer living in Brooklyn. He grew up on the Isle of Wight off the south coast of England, attended the University of Warwick, and moved to the United States in 2004. His writing has appeared in The Very Best Weblog Writing Ever by Anyone Anywhere in the Whole Wide World and Cringe, a collection of embarrassing teenage diary stories. blog: www.autoblography.co.uk email: firstname.lastname@example.org
A graduate of Harvard University and a former film development executive, Jennifer cooks and writes in Los Angeles. In 2009, she launched her blog Domestic Divas (www.domesticdivasblog.com), which focuses on local, organic cooking. She is currently writing her first novel. e-mail: email@example.com blog: www.domesticdivasblog.com photo: Jeri Rogers
Rachel Ana Brown
Rachel Ana Brown is a native of the Big Island of Hawai‘i but moved to New York to fulfill her childhood dream of becoming Catwoman. She currently resides in Brooklyn. Her work has appeared in the Allegheny Review, the Susquehanna Review, Honolulu Weekly, Plenty Magazine, and Bamboo Ridge. Scribblings deemed too naughty for publication can be found online at bigislandrachel.blogspot.com
Ivy Castellanos has worked in the health and wellness field for over ten years as an instructor, consultant, and health educator. She holds a master’s degree in public health from the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, and when she isn’t advocating for women’s health issues, she writes freelance and fiction. She’s currently finishing her first novel and lives in New York City with her husband and therapy-dog-in-training, Mick. email: ikcastellanos@ gmail.com
Theresa is a writer, performer, director, and educator. Her work has been seen on stage in Creating Face, in Unbinding the Foot: An Asian American Women's Journal, and Strong Currents. She teaches English, speech, and women’s literature at ‘Iolani School.
Jaimie is a Ph.D. student and instructor at the University of Hawai‘i, runs the M.I.A. Art & Literary Series, and is the Poetry Editor for the Hawai̕i Review. Her work has been published in Spork, Anderbo, Juked, Barnwood, DIAGRAM, Dark Sky Magazine, 2 River Review, and The Dirty Napkin Review. She likes to make collages, play Scrabble, dress up as various yet-to be-invented superheroes, and harass her neighbors’ pets (in a friendly way, of course). blog: www.poeticvetanda.blogspot.com
Richard’s work has appeared here and there. He lives in the northeast United States, where he writes fiction and screenplays, teaches in a community education program, and works on small films. He has often been told his professional and educational accomplishments are “impressive” by companies that subsequently refuse to hire him. For more work in film reviews, see www.aheadonourway.wordpress.com
Jennifer Meleana Hee
Jennifer Meleana Hee is a vegetarian cook and baker at Kale's Natural Foods and the editor-in-chief of the Hawaii Women’s Journal. She has been published in The Smart Set, Worldview Magazine, and innov8. She is the proud owner of the only Bulgarian street dog in Hawai‘i. blog: www.jennmeleana.com email: firstname.lastname@example.org photo: Ryan Matsumoto
Joe Cervelin’s work has appeared in SF Bay Guardian, Fourteen Hills, Bay Nature, The Rumpus, Switchback, Bang Out, and elsewhere. He’s currently working on a screenplay and graphic novel, “SMASHING CHARLIE.” Originally from Brooklyn, he lives in Los Angeles. For more info, check out: www.midnightpudding.com
Andrea Devon Bertoli
Andrea has a graduate degree in political science and women’s studies but is more interested in the kitchen and the garden. She spent the last few years playing with food at a French bakery, an organic farm, and a café. She currently teaches vegan cooking classes for Down to Earth on Maui, where she lives with her boyfriend. She writes about food news, vegan baking, and feminist housewife life at www.bakerymanis.wordpress.com
Joan Kane is Inupiaq with family from King Island and Mary's Igloo, Alaska. She won a 2009 Whiting Writers' Award for her book, The Cormorant Hunter’s Wife (NorthShore Press). She lives in Anchorage with her husband and sons. Jess Kroll was the first male published in Hawaii Women's Journal, and that’s enough. But he also has an MFA in Writing, contributed fiction to 34th Parallel, Gloom Cupboard, Puffin Circus, and Blinking Cursor, has been a member of the Hawaii Slam team, and mentors for Youth
Maya Leland is a professional writer whose portfolio includes annual reports, articles, newsletters, magazines, and marketing collateral for her clients. She also enjoys writing poetry and nonfiction. These days, she’s exploring a new voice in her blog, Maya in the Morning: Musings about Whatever at www.mangomorning.com/blog
Hawaii Women’s Journal | 10
Lauren Markham is a writer, educator, and refugee advocate living in the SF Bay Area. With an MFA in Creative Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts, her work has been published in Drunken Boat, The Providence Journal, Two Hawks Review, Third Wednesday, Sleet Magazine, and www.change.org, where she is a contributing writer.
Doris Segal Matsunaga
Doris Segal Matsunaga, born in Washington D.C., has made Hawai‘i her home for 37 years. Working by day in the field of public health, she compulsively writes creative nonfiction in her spare time, blogging under a pseudonym because Honolulu is such a small
Jen McClanaghan earned her MFA from Columbia University and her PhD from Florida State University. Her work has appeared in New England Review, Indiana Review, AGNI online and The Iowa Review. Currently, she’s practicing banjo in Baton Rouge where she’s a resident scholar at The Southern Review.
Noël Norcross grew up in upcountry Maui and currently lives in San Diego. She has a BA in English from Harvard University, an MFA in Poetry from Columbia University, and a PhD in English from the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. Noël has worked as an editor of all sorts of things for over a decade and is currently a yoga instructor at CorePower Yoga. www.noelnorcross.com
Lorelle Saxena, M.S., L.Ac., is a licensed acupuncturist and practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine. Originally from Honolulu, Lorelle now lives in Santa Rosa, California, where she maintains a private practice. She welcomes any questions at email@example.com
Photographer Tommy Shih is based in Southern California but shoots in Hawai‘i, New York, and Las Vegas, and would probably even travel somewhere remote and exotic, like Arkansas, for the right gig. He specializes in commercial beauty, music, portfolio, editorial, advertising, lifestyle, agency testing, corporate and executive, product shots, and portraiture of a shih tzu named Leo. This is his third cover for HWJ. www.tommyshihphoto.com e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org twitter: @tommyshih
Mayumi Shimose Poe
Mayumi is managing editor of HWJ and American Anthropologist. She has fiction, essays, and poetry published in American Anthropologist, Dark Phrases, Eternal Portraits, Frontier Psychiatrist, Hawaii Women’s Journal, the Honolulu Advertiser, Hybolics, the Phoenix, and Stepping Stones. She currently lives in San Francisco with her husband. email: email@example.com blog: www.mayumishimosepoe.com
contributors Ali Stewart-Ito
Ali Stewart-Ito currently teaches high school English and coaches at a private school in Honolulu. Despite a general state of rootlessness (she’s lived in three different countries and several different states), Hawai‘i gives her warmth in her belly. A lover of travel, sport, and creating, Ali writes to clear the utter mayhem that rocks her skull. email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Christy is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She was born and raised on the island of Maui. She has worked in the field of sexual violence prevention and treatment for the past 10 years. She also has worked in domestic violence intervention services for the past 5 years. She currently works as a therapist at the Sex Abuse Treatment Center providing services for survivors of sexual abuse.
von Hottie is performer, pinup, and guru living in New York. You can follow her many adventures at vonhottie.com as well as on Twitter @askvonhottie and Facebook (www.facebook.com/pages/vonHottie/6585027468). www.vonhottie.com blogs: www.vonoracle.blogspot.com, www.vonhottie.tumblr.com
Khaliah Williams is a graduate of Sarah Lawrence College and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. She currently lives in Baltimore, MD, where spends her time knitting, writing, and teaching English to a group of awesome ninth graders, as well as running The Hampden Writers’ Workshop (www.hampdenwritersworkshop. blogspot.com). You can read about all of those things at: www.writesreadsknits.blogspot.com
Organizer and filmmaker Kathryn Xian is the non-executive director of Girl Fest Hawaii and the executive director of the Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery. Both are volunteer positions. Xian was awarded the 2005 Ellison Onizuka Human and Civil Rights Award by the National Education Association and is the recipient of the 2006 Soroptimists International of the America's Women Making a Difference for Women Award and is a delegate for the Vision 2020 project of Drexel University.
Kristel is a freelance writer living in Los Angeles. She was recently interviewed by the Pacific Citizen to discuss her contribution to the It Gets Better Project and LGBTQ teen safety in high schools. The transcript from her video will be included in the book version of It Gets Better due out in March 2011. www.kristelyoneda.com email: email@example.com.
Special Fitness Promotion! Hawaii Women's Journal supports local movers and shakers who are invested in the health of others. Check out Team Move and see how they can help you kickstart your wellbeing! Their classes really work. www.teammovehi.com
Hawaii Women’s Journal | 11
Every Which Way But Loose Based on the artwork of Jason Teraoka, an exhibit from The Contemporary Museum in Honolulu, 2010.
by Jaimie Gusman I thought it was you making boxes out of stars. Fold the light just so to disturb the neighbors. Your radical head, a tunnel where the fisherman may catch that which is still-alive. The tunnel somehow arrives, but we omissions are breaths under the sewage of a human’s forget. It’s been thirty-years for some of us, sleeping in a stranger’s home. Underworlder, collector of eyes and spines, he puts us in compromising situations. Without remembering how to run, we are told that we have five minutes before the explosion. Someone will assemble our assets, and draw new specs from our leftovers. We will be found with our legs open, some torn apart like roses. Windowless, we figure it’s somewhere between Winter and Spring, as our joints crack. However,
time is under discussion. I will find her, three A.M. friend, it’s time to hold hands and never blink. Fear is not something we are born into. The tunnel somehow disappears. Looking around, as if we all came to a similar conclusion, oneeyed, mono-glazed. She is gone. Our suspicions heighten—what about the failed hero, a dogooder too good to be true. What did you do with the girl? I ask, I shake the toy out of him. Sweet Dreams, she is down there, Lost Again. After her disappearance, we searched, thinking she would be hiding in the tunnel. Arms adroop, as if assembled backwards in the womb. Body adrift, I opened. I opened her like a can of plastic smoke, cranking her edges raw, hoping for a signal. Someone will eat her if she is left out all night. I know this experience—assemble sky first, let the sea fall into place. Now it feels more like Winter than Spring, after waiting. The tunnel is empty. We bash our knees and pray for two-minutes of self-sacrifice. I open her, my dreams too have full spectrum arteries. He hangs on museum walls, pretends not to notice the loss. Assemblage works differently here. In the tunnel, everything moves quickly. He dyed her hair orange as she was drowning. Yarn in her yawn, switchblade to her throat. All this to make it believable. But I could feel her old stitching in wires. We traveled to find her intact. We opened when we could not. Plaything of positionality. The original weeps through her. Now she’s programmed to weep. To shit her pants. To ask for a mother she could not recognize. How we all turn tunnel and darkness into livable boxes. Stars if we so make them. v
"Every Which Way But Loose" Acrylic and India Ink on Cotton Vellum H: 9" x L: 8" - 2010 Jason Teraoka Hawaii Women’s Journal | 12
Meeting the Family:
von Hottie’s guide to navigating a modern life
How To Make Sure Your Family Meets Your Beloved S.O., Not an S.O.B
ou’re in love. It’s beautiful. It’s time to tell the world. Then you realize that telling the world means telling your family, and sooner or later, there’s a milestone birthday, a holiday, or other grand occasion, and it’s time to introduce your Significant Other (S.O.) to the family. Stop right there. Don’t cue the Jaws theme song. von Hottie is here to help you navigate the murky waters of family versus lover dynamics.
If You’re Doing the Introducing: • Don’t bring your S.O. home unless it’s truly serious or at least monogamous. You don’t need your future spouse seeing endless pictures of your one-night-stand at the 2011 Thanksgiving family reunion. • This may seem obvious, but tell your family you’re bringing your S.O. home. The normal amount of family chaos is overwhelming enough without that kind of surprise. • Settle on a term of address with your S.O. beforehand to make introductions smoother. For example: “My partner,” “my girlfriend,” “my fiancée,” “Amazon queen of my heart,” and “surprise mother-to-be of your grandchildren” are all useful pieces of information for you and your family to have ahead of time. • Be sure your family is aware of your S.O.’s special requirements—for example, dietary needs, pet allergies, and so forth. While you’re at it, tell them three things you love about your S.O. • Confirm sleeping arrangements. You’re an adult—if you don’t like the rules of the house, get a hotel room. • Warn your S.O. about what to anticipate during family time, especially traditional activities they might be expected to participate in and appropriate clothing they will need. Also warn them of etiquette that is specific to your family’s dynamics: don’t actually pull Uncle Johnny’s finger, don’t ask what happened to Aunt Wanda’s first husband, and never ever use Mom’s special coffee mug.
If You’re the Family: • For the love of all that is buxom and sparkly, be nice! Have a little sympathy for the S.O. After all, one man’s family is another man’s lion den.
by von Hottie • If it’s a holiday, have at least one small gift for the visiting S.O., like a gift certificate or small trinket. • Refrain from asking large awkward existential questions, like when they’re getting married, when they’re having children, whether they want to be buried in the family burial plot, etc. • Do show embarrassing baby pictures of your family member. It’s tradition. • Remember that it’s not your relationship. It’s not your business if your family member’s S.O. has forty-three tattoos or collects creepy dolls as long as they love each other and treat one another well. Everyone is free to love however and whomever they want, provided that person is of a legal age and/or is not a felon.
Five All-Star Tips To Be a Rockstar S.O.: 1. Never [let them see you] drink more than Mom. 2. If you’re staying with one family member but celebrating with another, bring a host/hostess gift for each. 3. Ask Grandma how she met Grandpa. 4. Play with the kids. Bonus points for giving them wacky hair makeovers involving lots of hair gel. 5. If things are rough, there’s no shame in sneaking baby spoons of chardonnay, especially if you’re sharing them with Grandma. v
Hawaii Women’s Journal | 13
photo courtesy Lucas Stoffel
I have laid hold of a hunger. I had Skinned myself and extracted a splinter. He shoots low and fails to reach. Inside of my coat I fold My arms. I omit you. Elsewhere, a body inflects High above the waterline. The sun bows low, hides As from an animal while stalking. I am remorseful and have moved To another dwelling. I turn over, Change, and repent, wanting That which is more valuable. With Hope of finding an instrument for boring
I heap stones to stand on, and in this way Manage to make a hole in the roof. v
At Bridal Veil Rocks photo by Manal Abu-Shaheen
Hawaii Womenâ€™s Journal | 14
The Quiet Visionary A Heart to Heart with Maya Soetoro-Ng
irst and foremost, Maya Soetoro-Ng proudly acknowledges herself as “Suhaila’s and Savita’s mother” when people recognize her in public. And a wonderful mother she is, juggling the responsibilities of being a mom of two, a budding literary career, and her many innovative projects to improve the public school system. We first met outside an art gallery in downtown Honolulu a few years before anyone had heard of her brother, Barack Obama. She was a high-school teacher, and I was a violenceprevention activist. We chatted about getting her students more involved with preventing gender-based violence, and I could immediately tell that she
photos by Tommy Shih www.tommyshihphoto.com
was a collaboration-centered educator. Since Obama’s historical presidential election, she has become more private in the face of glaring politics, opting to focus on improving Hawai‘i’s educational system rather than on fielding questions about her high-profile brother. Indeed, her beautiful family is a priority to protect from scrutiny through the politically influenced looking glass. And her genuine passion for creating a better education system is an underacknowledged cause during these challenging economic times. Maya’s life has been blessed by two very strong female role models: her mother and her grandmother. Her mother passed away from ovarian cancer at age Hawaii Women’s Journal | 15
54 and her grandmother passed years later, just days before Obama was elected the 44th president of the United States of America. These extraordinary women had a profound effect on Maya, which is exemplified in her relationships with the community, friends, and her two precocious daughters. Maya is a quiet yet persistent visionary, one who has the foresight to fight for better public education now, to prevent even more severe societal problems in the future. We at HWJ are honored to provide this glimpse into the life and convictions of a truly inspirational woman. ~ Kathryn Xian, Publisher
HWJ: You went very quickly from being an accomplished high school teacher to a public figure. How has this life change affected you?
me spread myself thinly around many different causes, and I grew overwhelmed. Then I decided that, rather than say yes to good causes that newly crossed my MSN: My brother is a remarkable path, I’d try to reserve my energies and hardworking man, and I am grateful for the love and care that has been shown to him. I I believe that a big understand that part of that love means that people are curious part of what ails about my brother’s personal us in education development and background and that I am in the rather unique is that we don’t position of sharing information remember that our about the people, places, and destiny is shared, events that helped to shape him into the man he is today. that our lives and This doesn’t make me a public our stories are figure, though it sometimes makes me a storyteller. I have intertwined... to balance the recognition that people’s curiosity about my brother’s family sometimes makes it possible for me to shed light on (or give stronger voice to) those for causes that have long stirred things that matter to me, with the my passions—namely, education, strong desire to be valued for those youth advocacy, mindful living, things that I alone bring to the peace, and nonviolence. table as an educator and citizen. Some people have asked me if At first the desire to do good for I will ever run for office, and my so many people in need made answer has always been “never,
Hawaii Women’s Journal | 16
ever”; I’m sure about that. Honestly, I would scarcely survive the scrutiny of my wardrobe. My life is and has always been rather too messy, and I don’t apologize for that, but I have become deeply protective of my family’s privacy and would not ask them to be exposed to the loose judgment of others. I have also deliberately limited my involvement in politics lest people equate my support for a candidate or cause with my brother’s. So, in some ways, I have become less public than before. As much as I admire some people in positions of governmental leadership, I prefer to work from the ground up through nongovernmental organizations. We need people to work at every level, and some will do great good upfront while others will work from the center, side, or back. I prefer a less visible role. That noted, I am doing my best to engage in grassroots diplomacy for the sake of greater understanding and goodwill; I’m eagerly involved in coalitions and nonprofits working to improve public education; and
individuals working to advance of connection with other human human rights. beings here, for the laid-back attitude, for the warmth of so HWJ: Why is Hawai‘i so special many friends who love us, even to you and your family? in our imperfection. MSN: Hawai‘i is a powerful place, replete with spiritual strength, human artistry, serene energy, and complex history. I like the fact that little is fixed or simple here and that the presence of so many people requires that dialogue and mediation be used to negotiate understandings and solutions. Sometimes this diversity is challenging but more often it’s a gift that leads to the kind of open-mindedness that I want in a community. It is important to me that my children grow up in a place where they don’t have to struggle too much with basic questions of ethnic or racial identity. Here in Hawai‘i where so many people are mixed and where pretty much everyone sits with a dozen cultural pieces in their laps, my children will think about who they are as young women and human beings and let the cultural pieces fall around them in fairly effortless, interesting patterns. They are American and certainly must embrace many of Hawai‘i’s different immigrant subcultures. They have much to learn from the indigenous culture here, too. My brother feels healed by the ocean, land, and sky when he comes here, and we all feel nourished by the ‘aina in ways that are profound and unavailable to us in the other places that we love. We feel grateful for the ease
HWJ: As a former high school teacher, part of your work has been centered on improving education in public schools. What can we do about improving education in Hawai‘i? MSN: I do grow disheartened by the split between public and private education here in Hawai‘i.
There is no doubt that nonviolence [will require] courage.
While I don’t think public schools are where they need to be, by and large, to best serve Hawai‘i’s keiki, I have seen pockets of rigor, excellence, and imagination. Ordinary teachers have harnessed their imaginations in their classroom practice and in supplementary programs. In Waikiki Elementary, they have emphasized mindfulness education through Art Costa’s Habits of Mind and pushed productive inquiry through a program called “Philosophy 4 Children.” In Palolo Elementary, they are readying three new garden plots and implementing environment, climate, and Hawaii Women’s Journal | 17
sustainability programs at every grade. At Farrington and Wai‘anae, they are merging social studies and science in conducting experiments on agriculture and botany. Language and Cultural immersion programs have given Kānaka Maoli [indigenous Hawaiian] and immigrant students alike great leadership skills through fostering a sense of reverence and dignity for self, culture, and community. I have seen student-centered film programs that build valuable new-media skills at Roosevelt and Wai‘anae. Peace gardens have been designed and built at Campbell and Lab, and literacy programs are thriving in Kalihi. The After School All Stars and other afterschool programs are offering important enrichment for public middle schools. And I could go on. Unfortunately, many of these programs are conducted in relative isolation, and there’s not enough sharing between schools and teachers. That’s why I joined with others last year to start Our Public School (OPS), an educational nonprofit connecting schools with the communities and individuals that surround them. There really aren’t any other local organizations that effectively focus on getting the whole community actively engaged in public education so there is a strong need. The goal is to work together with educators and schools, as well as other places of learning, to focus on effective school-community collaboration at the local level
photos above of Savita, Suhaila, and Maya, courtesy of Maya Soetoro-Ng
in order to change perspectives on public education nationally. Through social media, we offer example, inspiration, and guidance to teachers, administrators, and families. We also engage community members to support, contribute to, and work for the system of public schools and the children who attend them. I’d love to see private schools share resources with and support public schools. If we can get individuals in the community to realize that the well-being of these schools matters to each and every person, regardless of where they send their kids or of even if they have kids, both school and community will benefit greatly. There should be more pushing into schools to offer resources and assistance, and we should be expanding the classroom to include learning opportunities throughout the community. I believe that a big part of what ails us in education (and in general) is that we don’t remember that our destiny is shared, that our lives and our stories are intertwined ... that what happens to one person does
and should matter to a stranger. [Barack] and I were fortunate to be raised by a woman who had great feeling for others, who chose to participate in life’s greatest adventure: loving other people, not merely through abstract feeling but through action and service. Many of the old reasons that kept people together in the past no longer apply. Now we come from all over, and we can hide from one another. We can live in physical isolation from one another, communicating only through our computers or not at all, so feelings and actions that acknowledge interdependence become all the more important for peaceful coexistence on the planet. Again, this requires moral imagination of the kind that can be developed through storytelling, literature, and discussion. Through literature, we learn others’ umbilical stories and get to know the hearts, minds, and landscapes of other worlds, and because I think that is such a gorgeous thing, I wrote a children’s book called Ladder to the Moon. The book was inspired by my mother’s bountiful love.
HWJ: How has motherhood changed you? MSN: To tell you the truth, motherhood has made me a little crazy in ways that surprise. From the moment my eldest was born, detachment became very challenging. In [Suhaila’s] first year of life, I would bend low to feel her breath against my cheek and, overcome with fear about the fragile creature’s ability to survive, I would whisper, “stay, stay, stay, stay …” Suddenly, mortality seemed like an affront. Suddenly, I was terrified about not having control and was full of fear about not being able to protect her from all conceivable harm. But I also became braver about fighting for the world that she would grow into. She’s far from fragile now; she’s tall and thick and sturdy of character, but she still makes me feel both vulnerable and courageous. Both of my daughters push me to test my mettle and be slow to quit. HWJ: Who were your mentors and/or heroes in your life growing up?
MSN: Gandhi and [Martin Luther] King [Jr.] are still very impressive to me. Nonviolence requires enormous imagination. It’s awesome that nonviolent means have been used to bring down dictators, stop armies, and halt entire industries … that something so soft can overwhelm metal and stone. It shows us how we can change when we are moved by courage, how the political landscape can be transformed by internal emotional changes.
...nonviolent means have been used to bring down dictators, stop armies, and halt entire industries. . .
I’d like to see young people feel empowered and become visionary in reframing the world’s problems. I’d like to see them be inspired anew by Gandhi and King, [working] to build a vision based on our preferred long-range outcomes rather than what would satisfy us for the moment. Nonviolence can’t offer instant remedies, but it can offer lasting results. There’s no doubt that nonviolence [will require] courage. v
SIDEBAR For more information on Maya’s book Ladder to the Moon visit Facebook: www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=1677779549102 You may also visit your local bookstore. Our Public School is a part of the Hui for Excellence in Education, a coalition which emerged after the crisis created by Hawai‘i's now repealed school furlough mandate. VIDEO: www.youtube.com/watch?v=MZYRHfbtSlo
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Medicine Wheel For Mahealani
When she washed with sage smoke, her hair rang. Beneath eucalyptus stretching up into sun and black spots that could be leaves or burning,
A tiny tree drank the thick yolk she couldn’t finish. This, at least, is what I heard. I rarely saw you, but was told of your blindness,
my child hands made everything hot—amethyst crystals, more hands, a bowl holding blue corn flour for offerings, the cowry shell
the gray cloud growing over your eyes, the shrugs, her faith. My shells and amulets collected dust, the pheasant feathers frayed.
at the end of my braid. I was twice as old then as you will ever be, when she thought it was too late to have you and gave me your gifts.
Three summers later, I heard you asked for me, that you were sorry everyone was waiting on you again. You died on my birthday,
Our mothers were both waiting when you were born, almost praying to her brown belly resting in your father’s hands.
scattered days later into August and a stream in ‘Iao, your father cradling the empty gourd, her hair stiffening in the shadow. v Hawaii Women’s Journal | 20
photo by Christy Werner
Bridges Between Here and There: Refugee Transitions in the San Francisco Bay Area
hen people ask me what I do, I say “social worker,” “I work with refugees,” or “I support newcomer populations in the Bay Area.” Really, though, the best way to describe it is this: I am a matchmaker. I’ve worked at a nonprofit organization called Refugee Transitions (RT) for two years. Our mission is to support newcomer families in the Bay Area toward self-sufficiency. A lofty goal, perhaps, but we have a relatively simple and cost-effective method: we pair newly arrived refugee youth and adults with trained volunteer tutors. As a matchmaker, my job is to determine who works with whom. Refugee Transitions began in San Francisco in 1982 as the Refugee Women’s Program, working primarily with refugee women who were homebound and thus often linguistically and culturally isolated. After being matched with a volunteer who would come to their home each
by Lauren Markham week and teach them English regardless of the home climate— screaming children, loud television, pots simmering on the stove—these women developed confidence and language skills that allowed them to talk to their children’s teachers, communicate with healthcare professionals, and eventually find jobs. Over the years, Refugee Transitions’ work has expanded to include men and youth, but the core activities remain the same: teaching English and building strong, lasting relationships that encourage students to move toward self-sufficiency. In the camps from which these refugees hail, self-sufficiency is a distant dream. Families build their houses with tarps that brandish the bold United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees logo, sleep under blankets printed with the words “gift of Japan,” and cook with oil from tins that read “USA” in bold red and blue. Their lives are thus branded with the names of the organizations and countries to Hawaii Women’s Journal | 21
whom they owe thanks for their survival. Life in a refugee camp is also an idle one, which can lead to severe hopelessness. After decades of such dependency, resettlement to the U.S. offers refugees the opportunity to finally be in control of their own lives and destinies. Although coming to a new city like Oakland offers opportunities for upward (if slow) mobility, the realities of life are often grave disappointments compared to the mythic image of America and its gilded dream. When refugees arrive here, financial support and case management runs out after a handful of months, and refugees are often left to navigate their way through foreign customs and thick bureaucracies. Refugee youth may arrive with only a handful of days in a formal school setting. Parents struggle to keep up with their children who are more immediately immersed in American culture, whose brains are hard-wired for language acquisition, and who often resent their parents’ disempowerment.
photo courtesy of Refugee Transitions
Particularly in today’s economic climate, children’s hopes of going to college or parents’ dreams of rebuilding a lost career get put on hold as families fight for basic survival. Long before I joined the RT staff, I volunteered for the organization and was matched with two teenage sisters from Liberia. Orphaned as young girls, they were being raised in Oakland by their grandparents. Florence and Patience struggled with school and lacked confidence in their intellectual abilities. “I can’t do it,” they would say, or “I don’t get it,” or “I’m just not good at school.” We continue to work each week on homework
and reading and talk a lot about making healthy choices—getting to school on time, making friends who can support their growth, and being careful who they date and where they spent their time. Due to their traumatic background and their desire to fit in, these things aren’t easy. New to high school, Patience and I recently reviewed her report card. Nevermind the F in PE and Math or the D in Science, she earned three As this semester. “I’ve never gotten an A before!” she shrieked. Because of them, I’ve learned how important it is to remain a consistent support person. I’ve also been given some really sweet hair-dos and Hawaii Women’s Journal | 22
am now hooked on the Twilight saga. Of course, Refugee Transitions cannot come close to meeting all the needs of these families amidst their challenges of building a new life in a strange cultural landscape. However, we believe that English as a Second Language (ESL) is the core pillar of self-sufficiency in the U.S. and that with a trusted, individualized teacher–support person, newcomers can develop the skills and confidence they need to start building a new life. Our student waitlist grows by the day because potential students know that a tutor can help bridge the canyon-like space between what they know and what they
photos courtesy of Refugee Transitions
need to learn to reach their goals. You see, then, why the matchmaking is so important. When interviewing volunteers after in-depth training sessions, my coworkers and I agonize over who we should match with whom. Would this tutor be too energetic for this shy girl, or would she help bring her out of her shell? Do we have a volunteer who speaks Swahili? This volunteer should be matched with someone who has a big family. Can we find a strong math person to work with this high schooler who needs to pass the math portion of the high school exit exam? From personality traits to language skills and travel experience—just as in any relationship, the more compatible the partners are, the more successful the outcomes will be. A few weeks ago, I matched a new tutor with a woman from Iraq. When we asked Salima
to introduce herself, she burst into tears at all she had lost. Her family currently has no relatives or friends in the area and no Iraqi community nearby. That night we stayed at Salima’s home for two hours, learning Arabic words, eating Salima’s homemade cookies, and drinking
impact on our students, and as I have personally learned from my time with Florence and Patience, it is a life-changing relationship for volunteers, as well. I have the good fortune of not just supporting these two students but of making the matches between and among all of these committed, dedicated individuals who are building bridges between here and there, new and old, this and that—the lives we’ve dreamed of and the lives we hope to live. v Refugees living in the U.S. are in need of supportive teachers/ mentors—it doesn’t matter if you speak another language or where you’re from. If you live in the SF Bay Area and would like to get involved with Refugee Transitions, visit: www.reftrans.org
tea. “Please come again,” she told us as we left. “We never have visitors anymore.” Salima’s tutor has been going to her home on a weekly basis since then, and Salima’s language, confidence, and general hopefulness have significantly improved. It may If you live elsewhere, there may by Elizabeth Kuelbs be a simple model, but it is be a program similar to RT in one that has a remarkable your own photo bybackyard. Christy Werner Hawaii Women’s Journal | 23
Hawaii Womenâ€™s Journal | 24
[the domestic diva]
The Muffin in the Closet
—or Who’s Afraid of the Big, Bad, Baked Good?
hile I don’t suffer from claustrophobia, arachnophobia, or mageirocophobia (the fear of cooking)—I do suffer from the rare and debilitating fear of baking, classified and known only to me as bakingphobia. When faced with a baking challenge, whether it’s for a charity bake sale or simple dinner party, I break out in a cold sweat, my hands get clammy, my heart rate speeds up, and a worst case scenario montage flashes before my eyes, all set to the Jaws movie score. What if my cake doesn’t rise? What if I leave out a key ingredient? What if I did the math wrong when I doubled the recipe? What if I added baking soda instead of baking powder? And what the heck is the difference between them anyway? It’s a baking-induced panic attack, and it isn’t becoming of a food writer and cook. The fear arises from the inability to change the outcome: with cooking, I can always taste the dish and fix it. For example, if a soup needs more salt, I can sprinkle some into the pot, and if it’s too salty, I can dilute the soup with stock. But with baking, the ingredients have to be mixed together in correct proportion, in the proper sequence, and in the perfect way and can—gasp!—be overmixed—before finally being foisted into the oven to undergo a mysterious and magical transformation. One misstep, one slight error, and it can all go horribly awry, like in a science experiment when your test tube explodes, singeing off your eyebrows
and causing your chemistry teacher to ban you from ever laying a finger on a Bunsen burner again. It’s often said that baking is a science whilst cooking is an art—and here’s where I’ll mention that I was an art major in college, as far from those test tubes and burners as possible. In November, as part of my exposure therapy to get over my bakingphobia, I spent an afternoon at Kale’s Deli in Honolulu with their kickass vegan baker,
normal circumstances, I would have been shaking in my Ugg boots. However, having built up my confidence at Kale’s Deli, I reassured myself that it was unlikely that I’d blow up my mother-inlaw’s kitchen. Repeating the mantra, “I will not set anything on fire unless the recipe calls for it,” I whipped up a batch of my Bacon Brownies with Bourbon Caramel Sauce without even breaking into a cold sweat (recipe available at http://bit.ly/epmTBU). Even more shocking, I actually enjoyed baking for the first time, setting out the ingredients, measuring them, mixing them together into a chocolaty sludge. I found myself sashaying around the kitchen like a regular Martha Stewart—albeit one who likes to put bacon in her chocolate.
photo by Jennifer Brody
Chef Jennifer Hee, otherwise known by her incarnation as the editor-inchief of this journal. Under her careful mentorship, we baked up a batch of her “Xmas in Your Mouth” vegan gingersnaps. To my surprise, there were no explosions or eyebrows singed. The cookies turned out fabulous—sweet and flavorful with a powerful ginger kick—and I even lost my glazing virginity, proudly drizzling the sugary concoction over the entire batch (recipe available at http://bit.ly/eIIRw0). Continuing to face my fears, for Thanksgiving dinner, I volunteered to bake dessert for my in-laws, a boisterous, opinionated bunch. Under Hawaii Women’s Journal | 25
By Jennifer Brody
“I am the Domestic Diva, hear me sift,” I proclaimed proudly.
To share and honor my newfound love for baking, here’s one of my favorite recipes for Apple Walnut Corn Muffins, a great place to begin conquering your bakingphobia. These vegan muffins are made with whole grain flours—medium-grind cornmeal and whole grain spelt flour—omega-3and protein-packed walnuts, and vitamin-filled and fiber-rich apples. Despite their lack of animal products, the muffins remain moist thanks to the apples, almond milk, and olive oil. They’re a delicious and simple breakfast treat that won’t cause you even a hint of anxiety.
How to Have Your Cake, and Vegan Too: Yet Another Sidebar From Our Editor-In-“Chef”
Apple Walnut Corn Muffins (Vegan) Baking time: about 20 minutes Makes about 8–10 small muffins
Ingredients 1 cup medium-grind cornmeal 1 cup whole wheat flour (preferably whole grain spelt flour) 4 teaspoons baking powder 1/2 teaspoon salt 1 cup almond milk (or rice or soy milk) 1/4 cup olive oil 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 1 teaspoon cinnamon 1 apple, diced (approx. 1 cup) 2 cup walnuts, chopped
Directions Preheat oven to 425o. Grease or line a muffin tin. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. In a separate medium mixing bowl, whisk together the vanilla extract, milk, and oil. Slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry, stirring to combine but being careful not to overbeat the mixture. A few lumps are okay. Add the apples and walnuts and gently fold them into the batter. Spoon the batter into the greased muffin tins. Bake for 15–20 minutes or until the muffins are golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. Allow to cool before serving. Enjoy! v
ost people are surprised to find out I’m a professional baker, perhaps because I’m skinny. Compulsive exerciser? People ask. Superfast metabolism? Do you burn up all those calories by being so angry inside? No, no, and maybe. I’m healthy inside and out because my diet consists primarily of raw vegetable and grain salads, macrobiotic soups, dal curries, tofu a hundred different ways, and to quell the bottomless stomach of my emotions—a (usually) well-managed amount of vegan baked goods. Because no matter how healthy my meals are, I always crave comfort sweets: warm banana bread, chewy mocha-hazelnut cookies, a crispy-soft muffin that smells like summer on a farm. But I want to have my cake and be über-healthy too, so I pack nutritional superfoods into my treats, enjoy them moderately (except on days when the angst banshee on my shoulder is shrieking directly in my ear), and as consciously and vehemently avoid dairy, eggs, refined sugars, and white flours as I do arsenic, cyanide, and hope. While I’ve tried to trick my loved ones into eating tofu by dying it a fleshy pink and molding it to look as though it just popped out of a SPAM can, they have yet to be doing cartwheels over consuming my meatless meals. With baking, however, I have converted many to the glories of egg- and dairy-free baking. Eggs and dairy are completely unnecessary and are not missed in baked goods—we are just used to relying on these products as baking staples in the same way we are used to gas fueling our cars or Oprah telling us what will make us happy. The Domestic Diva’s motto is “Food Is Love”—and that’s exactly what the act of sharing and consuming vegan baked goods is: wholesome, homemade love. What to Keep in Your Vegan Baking Cupboard and Fridge Flaxmeal: Holy Omega-3 Awesomeness! Flaxmeal is my egg replacer of choice, but I usually use it when the nutty flax flavor enhances the baked good, such as in Pumpkin Bread. Grind flaxseeds in a coffee grinder to make a fine meal, then whip 1 tablespoon of flaxmeal with 3 tablespoons of nondairy liquid and let it sit for 5 minutes. This creates Hawaii Women’s Journal | 26
an incredibly gooey flax “egg.” You can also toss flaxmeal in your smoothie or oatmeal—2 teaspoons for an Omega-3 super boost! It’s best to grind flax fresh and keep in the freezer to prevent it from going rancid. Nondairy Milk: I’ve used almond, soy, and rice milk with equal baking success. I love unsweetened almond milk in my gingersnaps, vanilla soymilk in my banana bread, and rice milk in my zucchini muffins. Ener-G Egg Replacer: This popular ingredient is simply potato starch, and it works as a quick egg substitute in baked goods, especially when you don’t want the nutty flavor of flax to disrupt the pure perfection of, say, chocolate. Simply mix with water and whisk it into a smooth froth that resembles a beaten egg white. Get Nuts! Add nuts and/or nut butter to your baked goods for nutrition and energy. You can blend nuts to a fine flour and swap out a cup of white flour for a cup of fresh nut flour. Better yet—toast the nuts first! Coconut Oil: It’s true that coconut oil’s health benefits are controversial due to its high fat content, and if your diet is largely SPAM based, also consuming coconut oil, which is high in saturated fat, is not the best idea. But if your diet is rich in raw vegetables and other whole foods, a little fat won’t hurt your earthfriendly temple of a body. Earth Balance: Nonhydrogenated, nondairy, transfat-free “butter”—what more can I say? It comes in convenient sticks, and the strange chemistry that is baking will never know the difference. I use the Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks in cookies, oatcakes, and quick breads. They also make a nonhydrogenated, palm-oil shortening for frostings and pie crusts. There is absolutely no need to buy genetically modified Crisco. Go Greaseless: Instead of greasing the cookie sheet, pick up some 100 percent unbleached parchment baking paper at your local natural foods store to line your baking pans. v
[the wellness manifesto]
Activating the Relaxation Response:
An Essential Stress-Management Jedi Mind Trick
ne frigid afternoon on the plains of Pleistocene North America, Homo neanderthalis Betty found herself confronted by a large and dreadfully ravenous sabertooth tiger. In an act of evolutionary fortuity, Betty’s fight-or-flight response kicked in and propelled her—Marion Jones–style—to the refuge of a nearby cave. Today, the stress we experience is far less acute than it is chronic, giving rise to an interesting impasse. Whereas Homo neanderthalis Betty’s ordeal was immediate, intense, and quickly resolved, modernday stress is often a series of overlapping, unremitting stimuli. Modern-day Betty is hunted by “predators” of a different, more contemporary order: rushhour traffic, Frankenfood and GMO world-dominance, schoolloan repayment, and men who erroneously believe it’s socially acceptable to adjust their balls in public. What’s modern-day Betty to do? Pop a Xanax? Pacify herself with an insane amount of ketchup-imbued French fries and thus commit carbicide? Rent a guru?
by Ivy Castellanos STRESS: AN EVOLVED STATE OF NORMAL? Understanding stress is crucial to changing the way we manage it. When we experience stress (positive or negative), a host of physiological changes occur, activating our bodies’ internal alarm systems. Heart rate, blood pressure, respiration, blood sugar, and metabolism increase to prepare and mobilize us for the perceived threat (substitute vicious prehistoric carnivore for domineering, micromanaging boss or bitchy barista). These symptoms are collectively known as “the stress response” and are governed by the sympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system. When stimulated, the SNS, like an accelerator, releases surges of adrenaline and noradrenaline into the bloodstream, causing a heightened state of being. Moderate amounts of stress are healthy and productive, giving us the boost we need to accomplish a task or meet a challenge, but when the stress response is continually activated, the body remains in a constant state of stimulation (and if you’re familiar with erectile dysfunction advertisements, you know that even good things must come to an end). Essentially, the stress cycle Hawaii Women’s Journal | 27
works like this: a stressor occurs, the body experiences the stress response, the stressful situation resolves, and the body recovers, returning to homeostasis. What’s key is that the cycle ends. Chronic stress, conversely, is catabolic. It disrupts normal body functions and destabilizes brain and endocrine chemistry. The result? An overworked sympathetic nervous system and an outward persona reminiscent of Ren Hoek (of Ren and Stimpy), replete with copiously dilated neon-pink eyes. Physical manifestations of chronic stress can be debilitating and, in certain instances, life threatening. Headache, fatigue, insomnia, depression, tinnitus, muscle tension, back pain, upset stomach, nausea, and diarrhea are all common symptoms. Stress can also exacerbate underlying conditions and create an environment of susceptibility for other illnesses. Over time, stress can affect the immune system and the heart. Stress can also affect emotions and behavior. This gives rise to an interesting quandary: What good are our instincts if they don’t serve us well in the context of the present? Are we, as a species, simply victims of an outdated and inadequate set of self-preservation instincts?
THE RELAXATION RESPONSE In the 1970s, a Harvard physician by the name of Dr. Herbert Benson hypothesized that if the stress response can be “turned on,” an opposing mechanism must exist to counter it. Indeed, he discovered the body’s intrinsic capacity to restore calm and promote self-healing. He devised a set of techniques to elicit what he coined “the relaxation response,” a deep state of rest and repair activated by the parasympathetic nervous system. When triggered, the parasympathetic nervous system (the complementary branch of the sympathetic nervoussystem)canmitigatethe effects of stress by functioning as a footbrake, “switching off” the stress response. Neurotransmitters such as acetylcholine are released into the bloodstream, aiding relaxation and consequently restoring equilibrium and physiological balance. So, what is the link between the PNS and relaxation?
DEEP BREATHING: IS THERE AN APP FOR THAT? Ill-evolved and outdated protective instincts? Hardly. In fact, the evolution has gone live: as we learn more about navigating the mind/ body connection and employ clever Jedi mind trickery to elicit optimal health outcomes, we are actively contributing to the evolution of a new generation of welladapted, stress-checked Bettys— of the genus Homo serene. Deep breathing, or belly breathing, may not be the panacea to twenty-first-
first, then your chest. If your tendency is to suck in your gut and shrug your shoulders (shallow breathing), refocus your attention on expanding your abdomen, filling it completely with air. 3. Exhale slowly through pursed lips, as if you’re blowing out a candle across the room. 4. Repeat. Consider this description of modern-day Betty applying the deep-breathing technique: Stressor occurs: Betty runs into debauched ex-boyfriend at a party. On his arm, replacement Betty (generic brand). Intervention: Betty excuses herself and begins controlledbreathing exercises.
century stress, but it can be used as an effective coping mechanism Applied breathing techniques allow to diminish its effects, allowing the airways to fully expand for a greater body to halt the stress cycle and exchange of oxygen and carbon restore homeostasis. dioxide, releasing tension and activating the relaxation response. Try this simple exercise: The power of the breath has long been championed by eastern 1. Place one hand on your cultures and remains the hallmark of chest and the other on your myriad meditative practices including abdomen. yoga, qui gong, and t’ai chi—all of which are associated with stress 2. Slowly breathe in through reduction and increased vitality. your nose, allowing your abdomen to expand Hawaii Women’s Journal | 28
Result: Betty’s stress response is successfully attenuated. Postscript: Betty re-enters the party tranquil and unruffled, which in turn perturbs the ex and launches him into a remorseinduced stress response of his own. PERSPECTIVE AND CONTROL Indeed, stressors have changed through the millennia, but the stimuli are in fact irrelevant. It’s our perception and consequent response to these stimuli that matter. An
individual's reaction to a stimulus is highly relative, and two fundamental factors are perception and control. For example, let’s assume you encounter a frenzied tiger shark while paddling on your long board. For most people, this situation would elicit stress. Now assume you encounter the same shark, except you’re at an aquarium behind a threefoot-thick plexiglass wall. Arguably less intimidating. The difference, of course, is perception. Prehistoric Betty might find it odd that in contemporary society we seek out and even pay to
experience stress: we love a good horror flick, flock to haunted houses, and bungee jump off anything we can tie a rope to. We are fascinated with risk and are addicts of the high. But even in these intrepid instances, we’re able to choose our stressors and retain control. Without control, the stress response would be triggered continuously, resulting in a chronic stress cycle that, if left unabated, would manifest physically, emotionally, and behaviorally. Lucky for Betty, whether she’s faced with stressors of the X-sport, savage-feline, predatory-fish, or
romance-gone-awry variety, she’s equipped with pocket relaxation. Indeed, she’s learned a skill set that’s simple, portable, effective, and free: inhale, exhale, relax, evolve. v
REFERENCE CITED Benson, Herbert, and Miriam Z. Klipper 1975 The Relaxation Response: The Classic Mind-Body Approach That Has Helped Millions Conquer the Harmful Effects of Stress. New York: Harpertorch.
The Hundred Ways You Are Awesome
by Lorelle Saxena
woman lies on my exam table while I take her pulse, and tells me about a conversation she overheard the day before. A man had been telling his friend about a traditional funeral ceremony in his country. The man explained that the family and friends of the deceased take turns washing the body with a cloth, and then they wrap the body in a soft, plain shroud before burying it with nothing between the body and the
earth but that single layer of cloth. The woman tells me that when she overheard the detail about the washing of the body, she was so moved that she started to cry. The crying turned to sobbing, and she felt embarrassed, but she couldn’t stop. Relating the story to me today, she stares at the ceiling as tears slide down the sides of her face into her ears. She says she isn’t sure what exactly triggered her then or what is triggering her Hawaii Women’s Journal | 29
now. The expression on her face is one of longing—not for death, I am certain, but to feel the sort of care and nurturing she pictures loved ones lavishing on that deceased body. This woman came in for treatment for insomnia, fatigue, and mood swings, symptoms she’d been coping with for many years. They didn’t fit conclusively into any Western medical diagnosis but were very troubling to her. She,
like many of us, is a caregiver who works beyond the call of duty in a helping profession, in addition to being a single mother and providing nurturance for her parents, friends, even strangers. Some basic facts about human beings: to survive, we need a scientific quota of water, food, light, and warmth. But we also require a quota of nurturing; it is less quantifiable but no less crucial. When we don’t get enough nurturing, whether from the people around us or from ourselves (in terms of setting boundaries, treating ourselves well, and maintaining functional support networks), we get sick, become injury prone, forget how to fall asleep. We become less and less okay. With this in mind, it makes sense that, to avoid a system fail, we need to make sure we are getting nurtured. Of course, a primary step to being healthy is deciding to take care of yourself. Before taking that step, however, we have to believe we are worthy of care. This leap of faith is really, really hard work for a lot of us. Caring for other people is almost always seen as the right thing to do, but start thinking about taking care of the self and immediately the term undergoes grotesque mutations into words like “selfish” and “selfserving.” Let’s clarify right away that taking care of yourself does not and should not preclude caring for others: building a mutually caring community around yourself is an essential part of being nurtured, as is the privilege of caring for someone else. But because you can only care consistently for others if you are cared for yourself, the act
of nurturing yourself—and allowing others the privilege of nurturing you—is actually the first step toward caring for your community. Letting others care for you is not selfish. Rather, it is a mature act of recognizing your limitations and allowing your potential to care for others to be restored and replenished. Here’s a simple, straightforward technique to help you recognize and become comfortable with how much you deserve nurturing: take a week
...to survive, we need a scientific quota of water, food, light, and warmth. But we also require a quota of nurturing.
to write a list of one hundred things about you that are awesome. The rules for writing this list are:
1. You can’t qualify any of the things. You can write, “I can play the ukulele,” but you can't write, “but I can only play four chords.” 2. You can ask friends for help, but you can’t qualify anything they say, and you have to write down all the reasons they say you’re awesome. 3. It has to be one hundred things, and you have to finish it in a Hawaii Women’s Journal | 30
week or less. During this week, practice selfforgiveness. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t finish your entire to-do list, don’t get around to calling that friend back, or eat an éclair even though you were planning to be gluten-free (or dairy-free, or sugarfree, or egg-free) this week. Then practice self-forgiveness some more. And then some more. When you feel like the well of your empathy is running dry, pay attention to that feeling and be proactive about restoring it. Be gentle with yourself. There are so many simple ways to replenish: Get a massage. Spend an hour reading a book for pure enjoyment. Buy a tin of fancy tea and spend ten minutes sometime in your day brewing and drinking it. Take a day to do absolutely nothing. Reread the list of The Hundred Ways You Are Awesome. Go for a walk somewhere beautiful. Ask for help when you need it, and accept that help when it comes. Cook the kinds of foods for yourself that you usually only make for company. But right now, this minute? Sit down and start your list. Try for just ten things today. Struggling? E-mail some friends for suggestions, and send them each a few things to help them start their own lists. Notice how much easier it is for you to write down things that are awesome about your friends than it is to write down things that are awesome about yourself—and then be your own friend, recognize your own awesomeness, and let it carry you all the way through to number 100. v
Cambodia: Kingdom of Wonder
by Ali Stewart-Ito
he Cambodian Ministry of Tourism claims that presentday Cambodia is a “Kingdom of Wonder, a “treasure trove of cultures and heritage in a multifaceted, single destination.” The country boasts ancient temples including Angkor Wat, the largest religious structure in the world; the elaborate Royal Palace in Phnom Penh; quaint coastal villages; and the quickly disappearing smiling Mekong river dolphins. But these “wonders” are juxtaposed with a convoluted, dark history that resulted in millions of deaths, corruption, and an estimated 35 percent of the current population living below the poverty line. Before 2000, visiting Cambodia didn’t cross my mind. The country was unsafe and unstable as the government struggled to regain footing—Khmer Rouge leaders lingered both literally and ideologically. In the 1970s, Pol
Pot and the Khmer Rouge, in a deliberate attack on colonialism and capitalism, sought to relieve Cambodia of any external influences. The country had endured years of occupation by the Thai, Vietnamese, and French, until gaining independence in 1953. Sihanouk ruled over the new “free” Cambodia, facing challenges such as the Vietnam War. He gradually lost support and power and was deposed by his own government in 1970. At this time, antiAmerican sentiment was rampant, and Sihanouk joined forces with various Communist leaders to oust American-backed regimes. Though formerly an outspoken opponent of the Khmer Rouge ideology, Sihanouk joined Khmer Rouge leaders to help overthrow the government that had displaced him. What the Western world knows as 1976, Communist leader Pol Pot dubbed "Year Zero" Hawaii Women’s Journal | 31
as he attempted to wipe the slate clean of anything deemed foreign while spearheading an ambitious agrarian revolution. At least twenty percent of the Cambodian population died under his brutal cleansing. Those who did survive were either affiliated with the movement or managed to flee the country. During my college days, I worked with a group called Help Each Other Reach the Sky (HERS) that sought to socially, emotionally, and academically support teenage Cambodian girls who were daughters of refugees. Most of the girls’ parents escaped during Pol Pot’s regime, spent time in refugee camps, and finally relocated to Seattle. The girls created an anthology of their stories and poems, many of which focused on what they had been told about their country. We went on field trips, hikes, and camping
trips, forging friendships that continue to endure. Volunteering for HERS reinforced the utter importance of human connection—the inspiring resilience of girls and their families, their unimaginable personal and cultural history that illustrates how humanity sometimes needs saving from itself, how those of us who are able to must use our hands to repair damaged lives. Now, as a high school teacher, I volunteer locally and, during my summers off, seek to volunteer internationally. In the summer of 2010, circumstances enabled me to finally experience the land from whence the young women from HERS hailed. Though still wrought with residual issues, such as corruption and a lack of basic services for its citizens, Cambodia has grown increasingly safe for travelers. For the majority of my journey,
I traveled with a small group of educators sponsored by an organization called “Where There Be Dragons” that enabled us to volunteer with local organizations while learning about the culture and history, specifically exploring the causes and impact of the Khmer Rouge movement. Upon arrival, disparate divisions are starkly apparent. Incredible poverty juxtaposed with headshaking wealth serves as a testament to the sticky residue the Khmer Rouge left behind. Each day in Cambodia, humidity slows my step, or is that the weight of collective memory? A week on my own exploring and volunteering at a local orphanage passes before I meet up with the Dragons group. We begin by discussing “development” and how NGOs have helped and hindered cultural Hawaii Women’s Journal | 32
rebuilding. After visiting various NGOs and having meaningful conversations with Cambodian leaders who understand the needs of Cambodian people firsthand, the time has arrived to visit the place that to many symbolizes the country’s dark history: the Killing Fields. Though I know this visit will be emotionally taxing, the importance of understanding what a country has endured is paramount in gaining a fuller perspective of cultural mores and norms. No matter how many books I read or how many stories I hear, it is always more powerful to stand on the ground where events came to pass, to take in the surroundings while allowing all senses to activate, to breathe, and be present, as the claws of history dig in and take hold in my memory. A man named Vira has taken on the task of sharing his history with photos courtesy of Ali Stewart-Ito
us. On a typical day, he rides his moped to the former-high-schoolturned-genocide-museum, parks it under the banyan tree, and sits on the bench, donning his faded baseball cap, waiting for his first group of the morning. He wonders if these visitors will really hear what he has to say, or if they will look over the top of his head, and allow the words to slip beneath their earlobes as they gaze toward home. For Vira, this is home— despite the atrocities he has witnessed, despite the losses he has suffered, despite the absence of an entire generation. Today, Vira meets us at our hotel and we ride in the tuk tuk to Tuol Sleng, the genocide museum just ten minutes from the heart of downtown Phnom Penh. As a survivor, he is allowed to serve as a tour guide at Tuol Sleng, or Security Prison 21, a former high school that, in 1975, shortly after the Khmer Rouge won the civil war, was transformed into a detention center for individuals suspected of treason. According to the Khmer Rouge, treason had a very broad definition and included being educated, nonCambodian, Buddhist, politically affiliated, or having a “connection” to somebody with such an affiliation. No one was safe; the paranoia was so rampant that even individuals within the movement were questioned, tortured, and often killed. Detainees had two options: be tortured to death or confess to the charges, in turn indicting several others and perpetuating the cycle of violence. Either choice trapped the victim in Newton’s Cradle, propelled by an endless transfer Hawaii Women’s Journal | 33
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of momentum and energy, stuck on the corner of some executive’s desk. Many do not realize that Tuol Sleng and the Killing Fields are just a couple of the countless sites across the country formerly used to question and dispose of dissenters. These death traps were scattered throughout the country, each holding captive the spirits of those who should not have gone before. Vira corrals us in front of the first site: torture rooms where the Vietnamese found the final Tuol Sleng prisoners in 1979. He explains the significance of the site, details the instruments used, the time of day, the name and age of the victims, but when asked a political question, he blames a poor memory. “I’m sorry, I don’t remember. I cannot answer that question.” He looks pained, like he’s trying to keep from vomiting. We nod and reassure him that it’s okay, then exchange glances of confusion and worry. Restricted to sharing information that reflects positively on the current Prime Minister, Hun Sen, he refrains from voicing his truth. I later learn that he has been in trouble for his honesty before and has learned to hold his tongue, at least here. Hun Sen and several other government officials have ties with the Khmer Rouge, and it is in their best interest to downplay what came to pass in an effort to protect themselves from indictment. We move to the next station, where we are faced with an elaborate torture device coupled with the rules of the camp, such as
rule number seven: “Do nothing. Sit still and wait for my orders. If there is no order, keep quiet. When I ask you to do something, you must do it right away without protesting.” And rule number ten: “If you disobey any point of my regulations you shall get either ten lashes or five shocks of electric discharge.” My breathing grows increasingly
shallow and my vision blurs. I am an outsider, this is not my history, yet my brow furrows, tears dampen my cheeks, and my stomach spins. I can understand a desire to return to a culture’s roots, but I cannot fathom such appalling cruelty. Vira continues to guide us through the horseshoe-shaped prison for another twenty minutes then sends us to visit other parts of the complex on our own. I wander from room to room, catching the frightened stare of each of the thousands of photographed prisoners. They seem to watch all Hawaii Women’s Journal | 35
who pass, pleading for a moment of our time, hoping we will see them, recognize that they were human. Vira waits outside, leaning against the banister and staring into the center courtyard spotted with trees and flowers. Ransacked by images of inhumane cruelty, I decide to take in the nature alongside him. Illformed questions stumble through my mind; I don’t even know what to ask aside from why did this happen? How can Vira give this tour day after day, reliving the destruction of his people again and again? I ask him. He tells me that there isn’t a day that goes by that he doesn’t cry himself to sleep. “Even if I didn’t work here, I would still be haunted. I do this because people need to know what happened. This history is not taught in our schools,” he says. “It is my duty to educate, to be sure that something like this never, ever happens again.” I nod and quietly thank him for taking on this monumental task. “And by talking to people like you—educators,” he continues, “people who seek to influence young minds—maybe then the world will remember, and this,” he sweeps his hand in front of him and shakes his head, “this will stop.” A short tuk tuk ride later, we walk through the Killing Fields. As I walk alongside Vira, he shows me the Chankiri tree that children were bashed against before being tossed into a mass grave. He shows me bones protruding from the earth. He leaves me to walk into the glass temple filled with display cases of labeled skulls—woman eighteen years old, child two years old—and I
am crushed not only by the narrow passageways but by the tangibility of terror. How does a country recover? How does a culture recover? How can an individual find the will to persevere? How is it that these atrocities still occur all over the world while we sit at home and shop for the latest gadget from our laptop computers? The questions rage and race and easily outweigh any plausible answers. Why do we do what we do? How can we continue to feign ignorance to justify inaction? I say good-bye and thank Vira and think I see his eyes dim slightly. The daylight is fading and night obscures the fields, transporting the recurring nightmares he has endured for the past thirty-five years. He shares the realities of Tuol Sleng and the Killing Fields with visitors daily, and the visions of his own losses, his family and friends, plague his allotted sleeping hours. After visiting Tuol Sleng and the Killing Fields, all subsequent experiences carry new weight. I cannot imagine having lost my loved ones, let alone an entire generation. Yet everywhere I turn, I see children laughing, women working the rice fields, orphans completing homework together, and smiling families riding a single bicycle. I do not encounter one Cambodian who wants to leave Cambodia, never to look back. They all hope to help rebuild their country, despite suffering by the hands of their own people. The younger generation has only heard stories, and for all they know, the Khmer Rouge may just be a monster of lore tip-toeing through landmines left behind in obscure forests. The children’s eyes are
bright and they are ready to bury would not have been able to have this mythological monster and look such intimate conversations with to the future. those seeking to make Cambodia a better place. Though I believe I generally And after exploring just a few succeed in maintaining perspective facets of what is Cambodia—from and appreciating my privilege, this genocide and arsenic-infested past summer’s journey to Cambodia drinking water to bathing cattle in afforded some incredible insight the river and drinking iced coffee and a revisioning of what it means from a plastic bag—one common to serve. The dictionary defines human desire revealed itself yet “service” as “an act of helpful again: the desire to be respected activity” which, in turn, implies and connected. The connections inherent need. In our current forged with people I meet while environmental and economic serving last a lifetime. We dispel climate, the call to respond to this stereotypes from both sides as need is even more urgent. we learn about and embrace our Throwing money at causes— cultural differences—all in an effort although it might ease our to improve quality of life for people conscience—is not necessarily as and the planet. v beneficial as we’d like to think. It is difficult to know how the funds are being used, and if they are For More Information: of Tourism, Kingdom of in fact serving the needs of the Ministry Cambodia: www.mot.gov.kh community or cause in question. Documentation Center of Cambodia: There have been instances in www.dccam.org Cambodia, for example, in which New Internationalist Magazine: Stop for Global Justice wells to provide drinking water First Cambodia: Year Zero on Trial Issue 415 were funded. Unfortunately, http://bit.ly/fWDyzf inadequate research and education resulted in these wells tapping into NGOs Seeking To Make Cambodia water poisoned by arsenic—in Sustainable: Where There Be Dragons: turn, killing thousands. www.wheretherebedragons.com How then, can those of us who Bridges across Borders: have the means give in a way that www.bridgesacrossborders.org Junk: will actually help? Careful analysis Funky www.funkyjunkrecycled.com/storyindex.htm of causes, asking questions, and Epic Arts: www.epicarts.org.uk/cambodia investing not only money but also Neymo: www.nyemo.com time will inevitably ensure an Development International outcome that ultimately supports Resource Cambodia (RDIC): http://rdic.org the community in need. Hagar: www.hagarcambodia.org The Dragons program not only (With So! Nutritious and taught us about Cambodia’s history www.kamworks.com) Rural Development Team: and development, it allowed us Cambodian http://crdt.org.kh to examine the current push of Sustainable Cambodia: various NGOs to enable Cambodia www.sustainablecambodia.org to become sustainable. Without PEPY: http://pepyride.org their guidance and facilitation of www.heartsandhandsforcambodia.org discussion and deep learning, I Hawaii Women’s Journal | 36
Creative Works and Comments by Jennifer Meleana Hee and Mayumi Shimose Poe
hat is tradition? What is place, language, hunger? What exactly is a journal billing itself not as a literary magazine but, rather, a “creative works journal”? Finally, how can online publishing revolutionize the entire writing process? Vice-Versa: Creative Works and Comments raises, deftly, each of these questions. What its editors and contributors offer in answer is an innovatively designed “vice-versa” journal process: Author publishes piece. Author includes questions about published piece. Readers comment. Authors respond. Erasing the traditional separation of author and reader, this back-and-forth betwixt the two is as important as the original texts themselves, truly creating “a conversation piece.” Vice needs its versa. And vice versa. Vice-Versa bravely acknowledges the neverfinished quality of all creativity—that publication is merely a snapshot in the lifespan of a creative work. We met Vice-Versa’s co-editor Anjoli Roy via her
creative nonfiction submission, “Walls,” which was published in our third issue. Through Anjoli, we encountered Aiko Yamashita and the magazine. When we pictured doing this interview, we found ourselves inexplicably imagining a football game, with two smartfoxy lady editors going toe-to-toe with two other smartfoxies. Helmets, “eye black” drawn thick and greasy, shoulder pads worse than in the eighties, the whole deal. Only, when someone yells “Hut!” or blows a whistle or whatever the hell it is they do in football … we come toward each other and cross that line of scrimmage to form one huge all-star lady team, compare notes and playbooks, and walk off the field on each other's shoulders, knowing the game we play has a different nemesis. A good competition it perhaps does not make, but never does the room that is our world seem more intimate than when we come across editor-women like Anjoli and Aiko.
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HWJ: Why Vice-Versa? Tell us about the vision percent of the good ideas. behind the title. Aiko: Hehe, good question. I’ll just say that Anjoli Anjoli: While we’ve had fun re-envisioning the and I need each other to make this journal work. journal based on the title, we actually inherited it. Pat Even the word “vice-versa” looks a little like a Matsueda, who founded the journal and created the seesaw, yeah? There’s the idea of balance, but also original site, came up with it. She considered a few the idea of momentum. I definitely wouldn’t want titles for the journal but says she doesn’t remember to do something like this alone—the collaboration why Vice-Versa stuck. is so fun. And the third essential part of this is our designer and artist, Mark Guillermo, who makes our Aiko: It’s an interesting exercise—justifying a name’s crazy ideas concrete (see www.folio.inmydna.com). significance after the fact. To me, Vice-Versa captures some of that back-and-forth interaction that we’re HWJ: How did you two come to Vice-Versa? trying to accomplish between author and audience. And the name is still versatile enough to be defined Anjoli: I was working at Mānoa: A Pacific Journal of as other things or [as a concept] to grow into. International Writing, where Pat Matsueda is the Unfortunately, if you Google us, some strange sites managing editor, and she offered up the journal! (It might come up before our journal. had gone fallow since V-V’s first editor Tim Denevi graduated from the University of Hawai‘i sometime HWJ: OK, now, tell us the truth: Which one of you is around 2006.) I was stoked but had no idea where to vice and which is versa? begin. That’s when I turned to Aiko, because I knew she’d know what to do. Anjoli: HA! Erm, I’ll take “vice.” I’ve been known to get wacky/pushy/neurotic, and Aiko always gently Aiko: With all of Anjoli’s previous experience as an reels me in. And she’s the versatile one with 99.9 editor for the Feminist Press, I was really excited Hawaii Women’s Journal | 38
photos courtesy of Vice-Versa
when she asked me to work with her and completely confident that she was going to have the energy and brilliance to really run this. One of the things that really attracted both of us to the project was the freedom of not having to answer to somebody else’s creative vision. We were ready to try out things we were fascinated with at the moment. And maybe make wrong decisions along the way. But they would still be our decisions.
HWJ: Yes! Indeed, one of the most innovative things about your journal is this forum setup of putting authors’ questions alongside their work. Two things strike us here. First, what a wonderful way to encourage conversation between the author and reader! And, second, what is the significance of having the authors’ questions precede the work? In a way, it seems to me to reveal the never-finished quality of all literature—that really publication is just a snapshot of time in a piece’s life. Is it your intention that authors HWJ: You “re-envisioned” the ʹzine about a year ago. revise their work from the responses they receive to What are the major departures from Vice-Versa’s their questions, or is it more of a discussion generator previous incarnation? for readers, like a book club for example? Anjoli: As Mark applied Anjoli: With Issue 5—Aiko’s, his brilliant artistic knowMark’s, and my first issue— how to the design of the we’d thought we might have journal, we had the idea of a workshop section where having comment boards authors who had taken their for readers. Because we pieces as far as they could wanted to reach out to at the moment could have novice writers/artists in their pieces “published” particular, we figured it’d along with questions for be dope to offer a forum the audience. This was sort where readers could of a half-baked idea—mine, interact with the artists and I’ll admit—and while we artists could get feedback liked the idea that authors from their readers. While could get feedback (then the previous incarnation of they’d be able to submit the journal also had visual their revision, which would art—which our version also take the place of the draft has—we thought we’d take we’d posted previously), we advantage of being on the web by hosting videos and found that the process was a little too complicated. Plus, multimedia work, too. not many folks want their unfinished business all over the web. So, we adjusted the idea so that contributors Aiko: I love the video and multimedia potential that could post discussion questions with their piece, in the comes with being online. We have an awesome hopes that the questions might spur discussion in the poem by Ida Yoshinaga in Issue 6: “Tradition(s)” that comments. Re: whether contributors can revise based uses hyperlinks. The hyperlinks were not part of the on reader commentary—I’m totally fine with that. The original text but something that Ida thought would be nice thing about the web is that we can make these interesting to experiment with after we started talking kinds of changes almost seamlessly, no? with her about it. I think the hyperlinks add an energy to her poem that opens up her topic and politics in Aiko: Anjoli’s initial idea was a great one, and we both a different way. I feel so anti-technology sometimes agree that workshops can be amazing and helpful and (I resisted smartphones, Facebook, and Twitter for a inspiring and terrible for your ego too, but in a good long time) but the kinds of innovation creative people way. One difficult thing about trying to create that can accomplish with technology is inspiring. I’m workshop dynamic online is that it takes a long time learning a lot from the people we publish. to give really good feedback on something, and why Hawaii Women’s Journal | 39
would you exert that kind of effort for a stranger? Anjoli: Exactly. Aiko: The web invites really casual reading, quick clicks, instant gratification, etc. So figuring out how to nurture a community that trusts each other and wants to talk to each other online is something we’re still working on. I like the author questions because I like to get a sense of what the author or artist is thinking/feeling about their work. Sharing something you’ve made can be a very intimate act, and I think our questions remind us a little bit about that relationship, that interaction between people via art and literature. I like that you got the “neverfinished quality” of artistic works out of that. I am working on this poem on the Ko‘olau mountains right now, and I seriously think I’ll be working on it for the rest of my life. But it will hopefully get published a few times along the way.
up picking coffee in Kona (see konacoffeeart.com). There’s so much talent all around us. That’s where I get my inspiration from. HWJ: In at least three of the pieces in a recent issue on “Tradition(s),” authors delve into their right to write/speak tongues long denied to their speech communities: whether Hawaiian or pidgin. To the noninitiated, pieces written in these languages, especially pidgin, may seem “uneducated” or “exotic.” Why do you think it’s important to publish works in other languages? What are the pitfalls of doing so? Have you come across cases where you think the language is not serving the work? Anjoli: If I had to answer this question on my own, I’d probably say something clumsy about how writing in the language that best expresses what the author is trying to get across is just as important as writing in voice. Writers/ artists/etc. shouldn’t have to self-censor because of the imagined audience, uninitiated or otherwise. But … Aiko?
HWJ: You’ve started doing “theme issues,” such as “Tradition(s)” (Issue 6). What are the challenges of grouping by theme? Aiko: Oh … language is What are the advantages? so important. I don’t Do you have any strange editorial brainstorming understand why the U.S. cherishes monolingualism. rituals? Hawaiian and Pidgin are two languages that are really important to Hawai‘i. And Hawai‘i is really important Aiko: Strange editorial brainstorming rituals . . . Anjoli to us, so it makes sense to publish these languages is a marathon runner, and she used to make me go if we can. To the noninitiated … well, maybe reading running with her and then try to have an intellectual some of the stuff in our journal is a great opportunity conversation about our next issue of Vice-Versa. to learn something! Meanwhile all I could concentrate on during those Yes, it’s important politically for me to encourage runs was how to keep breathing and not collapse… writing that explores the kinds of issues tied to We are enjoying the structure of themes. Variations language prejudice—racism, colonialism, etc. I’m on a theme is one of my favorite ways to write. interested in broadening the definitions of art and Sometimes we just think of our friends and what lit to include all kinds of creative acts: shopping lists, they’re working on or other cool stuff we’ve seen and Facebook status messages, etc. We’re not pioneers think, “Wow, that’s great, how can we feature that?” in this; people have been publishing this kind of stuff Like today, I met this woman artist who creates these for a while. really beautiful folk art ceramic tiles about growing I think that if you truly appreciate language, you Hawaii Women’s Journal | 40
should be open to the unique viewpoints different languages offer and the stories they tell about a people and culture. There’s something so poetic about “da kine” for instance. What does that even mean? There’s an emptiness and fullness in that phrase, an emphasis on immediacy, shared knowledge, and a relationship. That’s a pretty intense philosophy if you think about it.
don’t think it counts as “real” art or lit. I met a chef one night at a bar and he showed me a piece of paper with a menu that he created all by himself—his first menu as a new chef starting his own kitchen. It was full of handwritten notes and edits back and forth and ingredient lists. So much care and attention went into that piece of paper. To me, that’s a great example of a work of art. I wanted other people to see that. He might have thought I was a little strange HWJ: What are a few must-read pieces that you . . . think reflect the heart of Vice-Versa? HWJ: In the editors’ introduction to Issue 6: Anjoli: Agh, that’s hard! Hm, I’d probably point to Tradition(s), Anjoli writes, “Are traditions lost when Sean Connelly’s alternative postcard photoessay; they are changed, or do they gain new life in the the interview with Jamaica Osorio about her and transformation?” Aiko suggests, “Stories move Ittai Wong’s spoken-word piece, “Kaona”; Christina differently in new skins.” Can you talk a little about Low’s, Cheri Nagashima’s, Ken Quilantang’s short the decision to be an online journal in contrast to stories—can I just name everybody? The issues are the tradition of print journalism? Does this “enrich” short and—while I’m biased—all of our pieces are or “sully” tradition? Neither? Both? How does wonderful and worth a read. Check ʹem out! literature itself move in the skin of paper versus the skin of screen? Aiko: And if you read something, please leave a comment! Our authors and artists Anjoli: I think that digital publishing really appreciate comments, and they is a new tradition. At the risk of being do read them. The comment doesn’t terrifically self-referential, as our have to be something you carefully craft submission page says, The Internet Is for hours. But also, be thoughtful: if it’s Your Business Card. When you’re at a careless, cruel, or spam, we won’t let it go fancypants social event and someone through. sidles up to you because you’re an amazing writer/visual artist/activist/etc., HWJ: If you could have any writer in the s/he will probably go home and Google whole wide literary world write a piece for Vice- you before s/he has time to track down your in-print Versa, who would it be, and what would you want work. And when s/he does Google you, your stellar, him or her to write about? thought-and-comment-provoking Vice-Versa work will be near, if not at the top, of the search results. Anjoli: Having some pieces from Jenn Hee and Print can’t do that for you. We’re just saying. Mayumi Shimose Poe would be dope. Have you read them? Aiko: We are always going to be in the process of figuring out what our medium means to us, I think. Aiko: Haha, yes, we’d love to have you folks submit And we both still love the medium of print and tactile something. things. There’s plenty room in the world for both/ and/all to converse with each other. We can always HWJ: Aww shucks, ladies. get rid of other stuff in the world to make room for more art and literature. We don’t really need Aiko: I’ve been proud to have a hand in publishing legislation that treats drug use as a crime instead everything we’ve done thus far. I have a special of a disease, homelessness, inhumane food factory affection for people who’ve never been published production and working conditions, drilling for oil, before and people who do really beautiful stuff but landfills, etc.
Editors on Editors
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HWJ: We are also all about making room for art and literature. In that regard, do you take unsolicited submissions? If so, what kind of submissions do you seek? Anjoli: Absolutely. We just ask that folks look out for our call for materials, since they’ll be themed. Generally, we look for fiction, poetry, visual art, interviews, nonfiction, and reviews, and we get really excited about multimedia work like videos, e-literature, and moving poetry. Also, submissions with titles that start with the unlikely letters—you know, Q, X, Z—always go to the top of my reading list. No, I’m kidding. I do have a special bias for pieces that are actually submitted with discussion questions, though. That just shows me that the submitter has actually been to our site. Read our submission guidelines. Believe me, I know how easy it is to skim submission directions when you’re sending out your latest darling to dozens of hopeful homes in a day, but editors appreciate when folks pay attention to guidelines. Aiko: We’re contemplating something in the near future featuring creative work from the Hawaiian-
language newspapers from the nineteenth century and other kinds of creative acts against colonialism from all over the world. But send us an e-mail if you have something really good. Maybe we’ll theme an issue around you. HWJ: What do you want readers to take away from your ʹzine? Anjoli: A reason to write. To read. To create and consume art. To live. All of the above. Aiko: A sense of possibility and wonder. And a sense of community. Like you’re coming into our house and meeting some fascinating people. We encourage you to brew up a fresh pot of coffee, sit down with a steaming mug, and explore Vice-Versa (www.uhviceversa.wordpress.com). Let your eyes feast on the interactive bits; let your soul digest the stories and poems, interviews and reviews; and let your mind chew on the questions raised. And then let your fingers type your way into the conversation. v
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[the feminist housewife]
The Green Dream: Can We Save the Planet by Shopping Greener? by Andrea Devon Bertoli
re you green? Do you buy recycled toilet paper, sip from five different Klean Kanteens, and use your canvas bags? Of course you do! I bet that most of us would claim that we are making efforts toward a greener lifestyle. But what does being green really mean—beyond these Kanteens and canvas bags? By what factors are you measuring yourself to be ecoconscious? Regardless of where you are on the green spectrum, ecoconsciousness hinges on what and how you choose to purchase. We have increasingly been instructed to think about our impact on the planet. Implicit in this push toward a greener lifestyle is the idea that we must continue to acquire new things—but greener, recycled things. At first glance this “green consumerism” seems logical: buying recycled-glass bowls, organic dresses, or recycledwool mittens is better for the environment. But most of the push behind this type of consumerism is a marketing scheme created to pacify our desire to live green(er) while fulfilling our desire to shop. Green consumerism encourages us to shop and save the planet at the same time. There are many green-living magazines, lifestyle websites, and
stores that are ready to sell us all manner of green household products. It’s often annoyingly clear that women are the target audience for this green consumerism push. Magazines such as Whole Living: Body and Soul and Yoga Journal follow the common women’s magazine directive that tells us our hair, skin, clothes, furniture, and yoga mats are ugly, uncool, or toxic. Of course, as also common in women’s magazines, the solution lies in purchasing new products to repair or revamp everything in our life to make us skinnier, prettier, healthier—wild-harvested seaweed face scrub, goji berry–infused conditioner, organic comforters, handcrafted jewelry from a fairtrade women’s cooperative in Kenya, ad infinitum. The message is the same, but with a green tint: we can (and should) improve ourselves through shopping. Buying green(er) goods is better, absolutely. But we must be aware that these goods are still a part of the materials economy: the system of extraction, production, distribution, consumption, and disposal that supplies our goods (recycled or not). As explained in the amazing web cartoon The Story of Stuff (www.storyofstuff. com), this materials economy is “trashing our planet.” The idea Hawaii Women’s Journal | 43
that you can simply shop to attain a greener lifestyle—without seriously changing your lifestyle—is simply not plausible. Being green means not purchasing anything at all. At the very least, it means purchasing a lot less than we currently do and instead fulfilling our needs with clever, crafty homemade things. To be truly conscious consumers, we must reconcile our daily needs with our desire for shopping— and consider the precarious state of the planet—all while we are embedded in consumerist lifestyle that tells us constantly to buy. Of course, our modern lives make it almost impossible to stop consuming completely (I have not yet figured out how to conjure toothpaste or chocolate). As a living, breathing, non-naked member of this consumerist society, I too face these shopping conundrums. I love new teeny t-shirts and really want some new shoes for traipsing about town. We will always “need” something. We must face our constant need to procure ever more stuff while trying to not kill our planet with our crap. Here I propose some commonsense, earth-friendly answers to the conundrum of being green in a modern, consumerist world. (Don’t worry, I promise not
to tell you to grow, weave, and sew away coffees, premade foods, and your own cotton for t-shirts or to household products; then think fashion shoes from coconut husks.) about how much of this you could eliminate. By preparing homemade Don’t buy stuff you don’t need. snacks, lunches, and taking a few Think about all the pretty things at extra minutes each morning to stores like Whole Foods or those brew your coffee or tea, you could advertised in green mags: yes, their cut down all that waste—not to products are recycled or organic, mention all that money you spend but are they really necessary? As at Starbucks. Besides food, think our ecogroovy editor-in-chief said, about the products you buy at the “Do I really need another reusable drugstore and all of the chemicals water bottle or recycled shopping and packaging that goes into those bag?” If you already have one goods. Did you know that you could (or more) at home, the answer is use simple and healthy kitchen “probably not.” One of the most ingredients to make ecofriendly striking statistics from The Story of Febreeze, Draino, or Windex? Stuff is that only one percent of all I was always a big fan of that purchased goods are in use after six famous apricot scrub, but the list of months. One percent! Think about ingredients is too long to love and stores such as Pier 1 Imports. Do we I got tired of those unrecyclable really need things like throw pillows containers. Now I make my own and table runners? They’re pretty, face scrub from foods found in my yes, but unnecessary for daily living baking cabinet! and completely expendable—a.k.a. Try this recipe: Simply stir likely to become trash. together the following until it forms Reuse everything you can. a soft paste. 3 tablespoons fine Instead of spending money on turbinado sugar, 3 tablespoons a nonrecyclable plastic coffee brown rice flour, 2 tablespoons tumbler, I use a small jar for to- coconut or olive oil, and 1 teaspoon go tea and coffee. Despite the each warm spices (like cinnamon quizzical looks it garners, I love and cloves). Use about a teaspoon that I use something free, reused, as a gentle scrub for your face and and eventually recyclable instead body—with nary a chemical or of something purchased and plastic container in sight! trashable. And if you have enough Consider secondhand options. sewing skills to fix a button, you can Before you run to the mall to probably make your own curtains purchase something you really or throw pillows from old sheets do need (like some sexy new or scarves. What about old dresses jeans before you meet a certain you don’t wear anymore—wouldn’t someone), question that “mustthose make cute pillows? Not only have-now” impulse. Instead, check is it geeky fun, it makes your house out garage sales, yard sales, and beautiful and totally unique, with church rummage sales for clothes no shopping trip to Pier 1 required. and household goods. I know it Prepare easy edibles and seems daunting, because I face cleaners at home. Think about this all the time. When I moved how much paper and plastic from Honolulu “cold” to serious waste goes into your weekly take- Maui cold (below 50 degrees at Hawaii Women’s Journal | 44
night), I desperately needed more sweaters. There was a cute grey one at Old Navy for fifty dollars, but I resisted (barely) and headed to a secondhand clothing store. I ended up scoring five gorgeous sweaters for the same price. Ta-da! And for your home, check out the household, appliance, and garden sections of Craigslist or find used furniture and appliance stores. They are always cheaper, and your cat is going to scratch up a brand new table in the same way as a used one anyway. As a veteran thrifter, I know that shopping secondhand can be frustrating—precisely because we are accustomed to getting things we want immediately. But seeking out secondhand options is a foundational step to really living green(er)—and you will likely find something better than you bargained for. If you really cannot find what you need secondhand, choose the most organic, recyclable, and fairtrade product you can afford. Say your sheets are full of holes or your shoes are flopping apart—choosing the least-toxic and longest-lasting product available will allow you to fill that need in the most environmentally responsible way possible. Often, but not always, green-themed products are made of higher-quality materials, which do cost more but often last longer. Not ready to head to the Goodwill for those sexy jeans or to reuse jars to cup your morning coffee? There are a million ways to green your life, and I encourage you to seek them out. I hope this column will inspire you find ecologically friendly solutions to your daily needs and guide you along your path to be green(er), should you choose to follow that flower-lined trail. v
Dear Hawai‘i: It’s Not Me, It’s You. by Kristel Yoneda
ix months ago, I planned on listening to “Honolulu City Lights” on repeat while crying into my complimentary issue of Hana Hou. I imagined the Beamer Brothers’ warm-milk voices swirling in my ears while I watched the picturesque Waikiki night skyline slowly disappear into darkness. My exit from Hawai‘i would be like the climatic montage in an indie movie in which images of the main character’s epiphany are played over an obscure instrumental version of “Far Too Wide for Me” with that strings section that perfectly captures Peter Moon’s yearning for home. My life would be neatly summarized in the span of three and a half minutes, easy to digest for the coming plane ride to Los Angeles. While in the security checkpoint line, I imagined, I’d receive an emotional sendoff from everyone I knew in Hawai‘i: family, friends, ex-girlfriends, old teachers, and maybe even the bank teller who knew me by name. There would be leis and tearful hugs. The TSA employee standing guard nearby
photo by Michelle Bassler would be so touched that he’d throw his hands up and shout, “Screw protocol,” signaling everyone through security so they could wave goodbye at the gate. While boarding the plane, there would be one of those slideshows I frequently see at family weddings, except my memories would play on the offwhite walls of the jetway and only for me. Images of riding bikes in the neighborhood with my sister, last-minute Christmas shopping at Ala Moana, making strawberry slushies for my Grandma and aunties at their delicatessen on those miserable summer days, the driveway of my ex’s house where I told her “I love you” for the first time by tracing it in the palm of her hand. The reality, however, was much more pedestrian. Since my flight was scheduled for mid-afternoon, the airport was crowded, sweaty. The security checkpoint line overflowed with irate passengers with rolling suitcases in tow, spilling over into the area where I was saying goodbye to my sister and best friend. People crowded around us, listening in on our Hawaii Women’s Journal | 45
inside jokes, staring at us without looking away until reaching the TSA agent checking boarding passes and IDs. We had to talk over the sound of plastic bins dropping on the floor, quietly crying in the terminal together. I sobbed as if I were the one being left, as if I had forgotten that it had been my decision to move. And in the end, my cat, Chompers, and I went through security alone. It was hard to believe that, only the week before, I had driven to see my childhood house, the one my father designed for his growing family, for one last time before I moved. The drive into the Pacific Palisades valley curved wide like it did when I was a kid riding in the backseat of my parents’ old minivan. Even though I got my driver’s license long after my parents were divorced and the house was sold, I was able to find my way without a map. Three houses down from the weededover lot, past the old baseball field, on the right, there it stood. It was still what I called “sky blue” as a child, with a dirty white trim and a sandpaper brown roof. The gardenia bushes in front had been
replaced with tall, unruly plants, and the red stains on the driveway from New Year’s firecrackers had been scrubbed away. In the months before my parents’ separation, to avoid hearing them arguing, I spent my weekends exploring the neighborhood. With my walkman tucked in the front pocket of my backpack, I wore out my mix tapes from constant use, and soon many of my favorite songs started to sound like drunken versions of the originals. I pretended to be the star of my own movie, exploring the world (which really meant the half-mile stretch of Akepa Street) with a musical soundtrack that offered distraction and comfort from my chaotic home life. I rarely found reason to drive to Pacific Palisades, but I liked the idea that the house still existed there, as a physical reminder of my childhood. I remember once taking this drive to the old house with my girlfriend years ago and how I stared at the kitchen window, almost hoping to see my mother spreading the thin metal blinds with her fingers to get a better look outside. My girlfriend had cautioned against parking in front of the house for too long, apparently afraid that two Asian girls in a rusted Honda Civic would be mistaken for burglars. We blocked the entire driveway, humming quietly in neutral, and I searched for the familiar bend in the kitchen window blinds. I told her about how my father used to cut gardenias for me every morning to bring for my teachers, wrapped in paper towel
and sometimes still covered in black ants. His Thunderbird always smelled like flowers, even on the weekends. We sat for a long time in silence, and I leaned over the steering wheel like a child searching for their mother in a crowded department store. My eyes strained, fixated on the kitchen window, but the blinds remained sloped downwards. The flight to Los Angeles was far from movie-like. It felt more like holding my breath through the Wilson Tunnel—but doing so for five and a half hours, desperate to taste the air again. Chompers was agitated for most of the flight, using all her strength to pull apart the locked zippers that secured the front of her carrier. At one point, she even escaped (using super-cat abilities like those of panicked children flailing in a pool, fighting their way to the shallow end where they can reach bottom again), only to freeze in the row in front of me. A startled passenger nearby pointed at the otherwise empty row, and I jumped up to see Chompers sitting there, her eyes wide with fear. I scooped her up and pushed her back into her carrier, leaning over in my seat for the next four hours, holding together the zippers and coughing over the sound of her cries. In her tiny growls, I heard, “I hate you.” She didn’t care that my new apartment was much closer to the office than my place in Hawai‘i had been, which would mean that I would be home earlier to spend time with her as well as to write in the evenings. She didn’t care that my moving Hawaii Women’s Journal | 46
expenses were covered by my company or that my new place was pet friendly and could house more cat toys than she could ever imagine. She didn’t care that, for me, Hawai‘i was an equally suffocating cage, where I spent most of my time slouching to avoid hitting the ceiling. While she had been feeling claustrophobic for the last few hours, I had been clawing at the walls for years. She cried all the way across the ocean, like a child who hopes she’ll get her way if she’s loud enough, and kept crying until the plane finally taxied in to LAX. For my first week in Los Angeles, I slept on my living room floor in a sleeping bag. My car wasn’t scheduled to arrive for at least ten to fourteen business days according to Matson, so with the remainder of my paycheck I opted for cheap food and a rental car instead of a proper bed. I felt like a squatter in my empty apartment, using my luggage as a makeshift desk and dresser. One night I was awakened by the sound of my high-heeled neighbor and her date stumbling down the open hallway. She was laughing much too loud to be sober, clunking past my apartment, at one point even banging into my front door with a muffled thud. Pieces of their conversation filled my apartment, bouncing off my living room walls. I found myself pressing my face against my pillow, trying to lie as flat as possible, as if their words traveled toward the ceiling like smoke. Now, months later, I still wake up feeling as if I haven’t heard my
voice in a long time. My throat feels raw, as if someone has burned a hole through my windpipe, and when I make small talk with people, I almost don’t recognize myself. Although I wake using the same clock radio I’ve had since childhood, nothing about the apartment feels familiar. Even the water comes out of the faucets smelling like chlorine and lead. Sometimes I forget why I moved here. The Hollywood sign loses its novelty and I hide under the covers until mid-afternoon. I am now a short flight away from my mom and stepdad in Seattle, but it sometimes feels like rain in the middle of July. The skies are dark, crowded with bloated gray clouds, and it’s just pouring down. I see the heat rising from the concrete, and the rain somehow smells moldy, humid, jerking me back to reality. Missing Hawai‘i and missing home are different types of heaviness, although for most of my life they were the same. My decision to leave was ultimately tipped by the opportunity to experience my life without being weighed down by my baggage. Back home, my head was cluttering with decades worth of mental Polaroids. I felt suffocated, running out of room for new memories, as my experiences overlapped, piled, and spilled all over the floor. Memories of love and self-destruction were tangled together; a simple trip to Ala Moana Shopping Center frequently turned into an exhausting venture through my past relationships. I desperately needed to get out of Hawai‘i, if just for the opportunity to
breathe without thinking about anyone else. It was too exhausting organizing all the clutter inside my head. I hadn’t evaluated my relationship with Hawai‘i in years, but without even realizing it, we had become strangers living in the same house. Like two exes pushing through a painfully uncomfortable meal together, I realized the only thing connecting us anymore was our baggage. The idea of getting swept up in Los Angeles rush-hour traffic felt like a welcome break from my life. A few weekends ago, with
Kristel Yoneda no real destination in mind, I turned off my GPS and followed a passing tour bus through the San Fernando Valley onto winding Mulholland Drive. We passed rows of beautiful multi-level houses and waif-like joggers who looked like they were about to topple over from a small gust of wind. The tour bus snagged the last free stall at the lookout point, so I parked in the dirt nearby behind a long line of cars. The tourists huddled around their guide, and I was relieved that I didn’t recognize anyone in the group. A few looked at me briefly, a quick acknowledgment while I walked past them but with no recognition or weight behind their polite Hawaii Women’s Journal | 47
smiles. While their guide briefed everyone on the history of Los Angeles, I was reminded of Pali lookout, except L.A. stretched much wider than my peripheral vision. No matter which direction I turned, the city was always in front of me, full of possibility and longing. I found an empty spot next to an unoccupied telescope and thought about throwing pennies into the wind to see if they would whip back at me. Lush Kaneohe was replaced with long stretches of steel and concrete. The freeway traffic below was a whisper in my ears, like the quiet hum of a shy “I love you.” I drove home that day feeling like I had just gotten my first kiss. I never felt connected to Hawai‘i while growing up. In high school, girls wore clay flowers in their hair and made regular plans to go longboarding in Waikiki. I scoffed at bright aloha print and lamented over how summer always lasted through October. As a teenager, I daydreamed of living in an apartment in an unspecified metropolitan city. I realize now I didn’t feel displaced in Hawai‘i but in my own life. In L.A., I cherish the few reminders of Hawai‘i scattered in this city. Like sunlight catching on fishing line, an invisible tug illuminates something real. One day I trailed an SUV up the 405, following the familiar white outline of turtles with plumeriapatterned backs swimming across the dark tint of the vehicle’s rear window. I followed the driver until he forked right at the 101 merge and disappeared into traffic. A seemingly trivial coincidence pulls
us together; we are hooked. Here, I listen to Hawai‘i radio online at work. Kathy with a K’s smooth voice reports the traffic, and for a second, I worry if the School Street exit is closed or if there’s heavy traffic at the H1/H2 merge. Then I remember where I am. Now I am surrounded by freeways, wide roads that reach around and through Los Angeles with their strong concrete arms. If
I drive for an hour in any direction, I won’t reach the ocean or loop back to where I started. For the first time, there are endless possibilities to where an hour can take me. On some days, I still feel like I could be swept up in a strong gust of wind, disappearing into the smoggy gray clouds of the San Fernando Valley. The air pushes up against the soles of my shoes,
and my stomach drops as I fear I’m about to be carried away. I almost fall, my legs scissoring to maintain balance, but then I feel the invisible, loving pulls at the front of my shirt. The dirty Los Angeles sun reveals hundreds of thin, translucent lines anchoring me like a balloon flailing in the wind from all the way across the deep, blue ocean. v
Hawaii Women's Journal supports smart cats.
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The Last Day by Doris Segal Matsunaga photo by Kathryn Xian
ruddah died today on the bus stop bench that was his home. The bus driver reported he was sitting in his usual spot at ten this morning reading a crumpled newspaper, but by afternoon he was dead. I had passed him almost every day on my way to work, dragging my wheeled plastic cart filled with files, books, lunch, coffee thermos, water, and professional shoes. As a recent hire, I’d gotten the newbie parking in the back of a dark and airless church basement and had to trek fifteen minutes to and from work through heat and rain, past the Honolulu Academy of Art and the bench that Bruddah occupied day and night. Often, a small dark cloud hung over my head during these walks, a cumulus of job stress, adjustment anxiety, the indignities of finding myself at age fifty-something in a new position, “on probation” with no paid sick leave, vacation, or retirement benefits, and a parking situation that made the logistics of attending community events complicated. As my bus-riding teenage daughter often reminds me, those who travel by car have no idea what city streets are really like. The world has a grittier look and feel to habitual pedestrians
and those who rely on bus transport. Forced to walk, I learned to quickly close my eyes when a bus or truck drove by, spewing jets of hot particle-laden air. Pulling the cart taught me that some curbs are inexplicably not wheel-chair accessible, requiring long or dangerous detours. And to avoid bodily injury, I dared not step off a curb on a green light before making eye contact with right-turning drivers, pausing to see if they would actually stop. Bruddah, on the other hand, avoided eye contact with everyone. He sat or slept all day on one bench, surrounded by bus riders who made do with the second cement seat or stood as far from him as possible, avoiding eye contact in return. Bruddah appeared totally out of it, never acknowledging or talking to others—mentally ill, one assumed, though he didn’t seem to talk to himself either, aside from occasional muttering. One day I offered Bruddah a small bottle of water from my cart, and he accepted with a simple “thanks.” A few days later, having noticed his face turning lobster red under the intense summer sun, I brought him an umbrella. Several snacks and water bottles later, we were on waving terms. If I had something to share, I offered it. If not, I just waved and called out,
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“Hi, Bruddah.” I never learned his true name but began addressing him, affectionately, as Bruddah, and he responded. Though he habitually sat with eyes downcast, this large man would look up at me from under bushy eyebrows and give a quick, secretive, almost dainty wave with one hand, looking for an instant like a small, shy boy. Sometimes I wondered whether he was disappointed when all I had to offer was a greeting but I saw no sign of it on his face. If I brought something he always thanked me. As far as I know, Bruddah never asked me or anyone else for anything. The folks in homeless outreach said he was on their list, but perhaps they weren’t on his. Over several months, he gained weight and grew enormous. At some point, he acquired a walker, but movement of any kind became increasingly difficult for him. I figured he had diabetes and tried to bring mostly healthy things. The only thing he ever refused was star fruit. On a rainy December evening, seven months after first passing Bruddah’s bench, I began a final journey along Beretania Street to the parking lot. It was the end of a long day, my last one at this job. A dusky orange sky was quickly growing dark, and I assumed the air of heightened alertness
women wear when walking alone at night. As I wheeled my overflowing cart past Bruddah’s bench, I offered some food snagged for him from the workplace snack table. To my surprise, he declined, adding, “I’m really thirsty. Do you know where I could get some water?” Anxious and selfabsorbed, I replied that I had no water—then blurted out, “I have a new job, and I may not see you anymore” to which he responded intently, “I want water.” Feeling foolish, I stammered an apology and moved on, worrying about the deserted church basement and the new job that lay ahead. A few steps later, I took in his words and realized, hey, the man only wants water. I can do that. Locating a nearby gas station mini-mart, I bought two big water bottles, and walked back to Bruddah’s bench, handing him the water plus a five-dollar bill. “You answered my dreams!” he exclaimed, reaching for the water. I demurred that it wasn’t much and wished him well. I returned to the car, released from the trance of the trivial, buoyed by this small surprising gift of kinship. My steps were light and fearless, as nighttime enfolded both Bruddah and me in her timeless embrace. v
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For Joy, of Faith and Fallacy Cognitive Behavioral Theory states that human behavior is learned through context and environment and that personal problems can be solved through conscious action and confrontation of logical fallacies. You embody pretty like someone who hasn’t decided to give up yet. When patients see you the first thing they notice is your smile, the kind of carefree stretched-back cheeks seen on people planning to hurt them. They mistake therapy for judgment and claim that no one who hasn’t fallen to their level of abuse could ever understand them. But you know the results of addiction like the back of a hand with a nail driven through it.
You have seen fathers who demand their daughters martyr themselves for the sin of seeking independence. Mothers who view purse strings supporting their children as piano wire to garrote them with. Ex-boyfriends who cling to their better halves like the last shot of heroine smuggled into rehab with shaky fingers digging nails deep enough to shred skin. But you remain so committed to mercy you think the addict is just searching for something to love him back. That the zealot just wants someone to believe in her word. And that sacrificing yourself is just a way of renewing another’s faith. You know that human consciousness is the creation of a network of electronic impulses firing through billions of synaptic connections and that Heaven’s Reward is a common cognitive fallacy resulting in bitterness when that reward never comes. But still you pray every night that our smiles will one day be bright enough to light a path with our own reflections. For you cognitive dissonance is another form of freedom. You toe the line between science and religion like a ballerina performing pirouettes atop a high wire Hawaii Women’s Journal | 51
suspended between two swaying skyscrapers. Balanced. Like the crossbeam of the crucifix hanging from your neck. You know that understanding means facing people in the eye instead of looking down on them. For you therapy is another form of confession without the sense of shame. You and I met in the sky between paradise with the city of angels, places neither of us can anymore call home. You smiled like you wanted us to be the brightest memory I’d ever possess and told me that one day you wish to have a tattoo with the kanji symbol for balance, hoping that you will never again fall. I told you that the secret of flight is to aim for the ground and miss. Our knees are shaky from maintaining this balance, nervous for the imagined impact of our collision. Your scars are still fresh. I know you’re scared because I am too. I’ve been racing between high-rises for so long that my own reflection is a blur. You are descended angel dancing without the weight of wings I am zealous addict desperate to become your eager martyr. Wrap your fingers around mine. Take this leap. Let’s confront our fallacies together. I promise I will never cling so tight as to drive my nails through the back of your hand. We will embody beautiful like people deciding to jump instead of waiting to fall. I have never prayed, but in St. Paul Cathedral last summer I lit a candle to the Virgin Mary in your honor, bowed my head and whispered, “Joy, may you never again know the bitterness of fallacy or the taste of fresh blood, only light and the embrace of open palms.” v Hawaii Women’s Journal | 52
STEPPING INTO A FURNACE I was going home for Christmas, the idea finding me uneasily and leaving me like the heat which mostly didn’t work. In this way I comforted myself while pushing on. It was dark for many miles and then, in the headlights moving past, I glimpsed wings in the bed of my truck. Somehow I was unsurprised as though the angel appeared by appointment. I stopped. He climbed into the cab (his wings so yielding), and fumbled with the line of his seatbelt. The radio played holiday music but I could only hear something like wind held in a box. I dropped him
at a small motel. I went too—the music of ice machines, the lobby’s blank face— and gently folded his wings at the door. We opened the bars of soap. I touched the iron and the hangers, the small foil of a chocolate bar he bought from the front desk. It would all, as we already knew, be a part of the last poem of the year: the edge of land outside the window, the dark collar of fur where lone water rubbed up against it. We stepped into the furnace, forging our own wings over and again, I flew above the Gulf, felt with one free hand, twin gardens of stars, an obdurate coast, the velvet alphabet of pines. v
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[the pen women's column]
Coming Out of the Closet by Maya Leland
’ve always been easy on my clothes. And because they’re usually in mint condition, I tend to hang on to them way past their fashion due dates. Since I work out of my home office, my trendiness now tends toward tank tops and pants. Meanwhile, preserved in garment bags in my spare closet are outfits dating back to the days when I was a serious corporate type. Stacked in boxes on the shelf are glamorous and treacherously high heels, which really belong in the Smithsonian under “Instruments of Torture.” Looking good trumped pinched toes and aching feet. In deference to a bum knee, my shoes are now sandals and Fitflops, the biomechanically engineered footwear said to reduce knee joint stress and other ailments while giving your gams a good workout. “Gams,” if you’re too young to remember, are what movie gangsters in the 1930s and 1940s (remember Edward G. Robinson and George Raft?) liked in their women—long, shapely legs. Because “Hey baby, it’s not the face they remember, it’s the gams.” The last time I dressed like an ambitious professional was in 1993, just before I quit my job as corporate flack for a big development company, hung up my high heels, and took off to Europe for three months. I went in search of a new me among the ruins of Greece and in the rainy streets of London. I didn’t find her. I ended up coming back to Hawai‘i because it turned out that the new me was the old me after all. And place wasn’t going to change a thing. So here I am, nearly two decades
later, looking at these artifacts of a younger self and wondering why I’m still hanging on to them. The truth is, I still get a charge when my eyes hone in like lasers onto some really fabulous little number in a boutique. Mentally, I’ll step into it and do a flirty twirl to see how it looks. Then I’ll remember that I’m no longer a sweet young thing. That I would look ridiculous. I always cringe at the sight of a woman of a certain age doing just what I considered for that split second, only to end up looking silly and just a bit sad. I definitely don’t want to be that woman. It’s not to say that you have to be style challenged (dowdy and boring is dowdy and boring at any age). It’s more that you should use a discerning eye and the good fashion sense you developed over the years to create your own signature style. Ladies, it’s OK to have wrinkles and less-than-resilient bodies. And it’s OK to employ judiciously applied artifice to enhance your good points. Not OK, though, to try to be what you’ll never be ever again. Juicy and oh-soyoung. In honor of women everywhere, here’s a poem I wrote, probably after walking through one of those boutiques. Body Type Oh my god, when did my ass get so big? Used to be I could sit on a barstool without oozing over the side like unbaked dough. Hawaii Women’s Journal | 54
Lord knows, I was never a dainty girl. Told myself I had big bones—my excuse for having a generous behind. Besides, I was young, and plumpness, if not overdone, could be kind of cute. I learned how to dress for my body type. The fashion rags never called me “fat.” I was just a nicely rounded pear. Now this old pear has passed her “sell by” date, squirming on a barstool as younger, fresher fruit perch their firm little bottoms on ridiculously tiny chairs. With this cautionary verse in mind, I’m going to gather up and let go of the relics of my youth and come out of the closet. Because here’s what I am: A 70-year-old woman in pretty darned good shape who is still learning how to be comfortable in her aging skin. I’m actually getting to like this old broad. It’s time to give up this obsession with being young. Such an illusion. v
[the balancing act]
Otherworld Walking by Theresa Falk
hen I was a little girl, my parents set up a tiny table in the middle of the den. On it lay three stacks of paper: lined, plain, and colored. There was a set of 64 crayons (the one with the sharpener on the side of the box), colored pens, a butcher-paper-covered can filled with five sharpened Snoopy pencils, and a child-sized Brother typewriter. It was dubbed my “imagination station.” I loved my Barbies and teddy bears, but that little desk served as the beginning of not only my inner writer but also my most intimate and sacred self. I would sit for hours and write stories about dragons, princesses, and castles. I, of course, was always the princess—I believe her name was Everlight—and inevitably ended up saving some forlorn character from a horrifying demise, usually while riding on one of my herd of imaginary creatures. Napoleon Dynamite’s liger had nothing on Evenstar, my hedgehog with fairy wings. Across from my imagination station was a shelf filled with my most treasured possessions: my books. While curled up on the sofa, I visited the most amazing places. I romped with the Lost Boys in Neverland. I fought the Witch King alongside Eowyn in Battle for Minas Tirith. I sat contentedly on the branch of a tree and asked the great lion Aslan questions about wisdom and the world. And as I continued to read, something fascinating happened—I found that the stories would magically continue long after I had closed the
books. It started one day during Mrs. Richardson’s third-grade math class, when Gandalf pointed his staff at my homework to remind me to carry a two, and continued on through dinner, when my mother remained unconvinced that Tumnus the centaur needed my serving of brussel sprouts. My former solitary, only-child world suddenly exploded into an ambrosial, dragon-filled bliss. Even now, at the decidedly adult age of 41, I often find myself in my head, visiting magical places. In line at Whole Foods, or on the walk home from work, I’ll see pixies peeking around cans of soup and mounted Rohirim warriors galloping across my street. Dumbledore helps me with lesson plans. Friendly vampires will often wave from cars. So, yes, I proudly live in a space in between reality and, well, alternate reality. I still visit Ted at Gecko Books for comics on Wednesdays. For Christmas, my husband gifted me not with Tiffany & Co. jewelry but with all four seasons of the reimagined Battlestar Galatica series. We are planning a family trip to Comic-Con someday— with our future children, Strider and Ember (Chief of the Wolfrider Elf-Clan) Falk. Some might find my penchant for fantasy irresponsible—even crazy. I am, after all, a grown adult with a job to do, a husband to care for, and a bathroom to clean. But I hold onto my alternate worlds as tightly as I would a good friend. I believe that the ability to imagine is an essential skill, and writers are not the only ones who should use it.
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Imagination is necessary no matter what road another. The accomplishments and adventures in life one ends up walking—teachers, doctors, we have in the world of our imaginations are scientists—even politicians need to dream before real, and these other selves serve as support they problem solve. Think about our modern for one another. I often consult my Dungeons inventions. Remember Uhura’s earpiece from and Dragons alter ego, the half-elf mage Star Trek? She’s basically wearing a Bluetooth. Starbreeze, when I need advice or strength. I’ve As a teacher of both middle- and high- borrowed her Amulet of Power many times in school students, I feel a warm my life: during my first winter solidarity with those who join in Michigan when I broke the me in a love for fantasy and space heater and had to figure imagination. They’re easy to As children we see out how to fix it on my own; recognize: they walk into my when my father died and I had endless possibility: classroom for the first time, to choose a shirt and tie for see my vast collection of we draw blueprints him to wear in his casket; and Dragonlance books, and their just recently when I turned eyes light up with joy. They’re for new worlds on a in our completed adoption amazed at my knowledge of paperwork and my whole daily basis. As adults Lord of the Rings and go giddy body shook at the prospect of when I reference Star Trek we are told to stop being a mother. I ride through when teaching a vocabulary life more securely knowing word. They’ll sometimes stay daydreaming yet also that my bastion of support after class to discuss the latest extends beyond this world— come up with ways to episode of Dr. Who. It’s as if that when I need it, the Horse we share a secret: this is not Shadowfax will let me improve the economy, King the only world in which one cling to his great white mane can live. feed the hungry, and and carry me on roads too And there, perhaps, exists difficult to walk on my own. heal a dying Earth. the hazy yet solid border I am by no means saying that between childhood and we should all be playing World We are asked to wave adulthood. As children we see of Warcraft in our parents’ endless possibility: we draw magic wands we are basements for hours on end. blueprints for new worlds on No one should sit on a sofa a daily basis. As adults we are no longer allowed to (or specially designed gaming told to stop daydreaming yet chair with beer siphon and wield. also come up with ways to catheter feature) for that long. improve the economy, feed the There is a difference between hungry, and heal a dying Earth. visiting other worlds in our We are asked to wave magic wands we are no imagination and taking up full-time residence longer allowed to wield. This, as Spock would there. But I do think that our “otherworlds,” say, is illogical. whether on literal paper or on our own mental We all have inner narratives, whether they parchment, can peacefully coexist with the exist in this world or another. These narratives world that holds our laundry and property taxes. serve as not only outlets for escape but also Each serves the other, and we should cross their as a much-needed “rehearsal space” for the borders without fear. performance of our daily lives. “Slaying a Damn. The gnomes got into the dishwasher dragon” in one world helps us to slay problems in again. v
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[the feminine critique]
Black Swan: Darren Aronofsky’s Modern Manhattan Fairy Tale
lack Swan is a movie you can and should argue about for hours. Darren Aronofsky’s latest mindbender about a ballerina uncovering her sexuality and descending into madness in the pursuit of artistic perfection is either the most or the least feminist film you will see this year. It’s gruesome, lurid, and somewhat campy, occupying that dangerous and familiar cinematic territory between misogynistic and empowering. Regardless, it is a riveting piece of cinema about art and obsession, with a hugely talented (and mostly female) cast, well-worth the gross-out moments and well-deserving of the intellectual somersaults you’ll experience after the credits roll. ** PLEASE NOTE: SPOILERS AHEAD** Natalie Portman stars as Nina, a shy and fragile New York ballerina whose life is restricted by her demanding career and her overbearing mother (Barbara Hershey), exemplified by the childlike stuffed-animal collection and flowered wallpaper in her bedroom. Her sweetness and timidity accords her a chance to perform the role of the White Swan in the ballet company’s production of “Swan Lake.” But according to Thomas (Vincent Cassel), the sleazy choreographer of the company, she is unable to channel the raw sensuality and abandon needed to play the Black Swan, the darker aspect of the pure White Swan. When she is granted the role, the choreographer threatens to replace Nina with a lustful newcomer, Lily (Mila Kunis), who offers Nina friendship and release from the pressures of work and family but may actually be trying to sabotage her. To make matters worse, Nina is being stalked by vicious doubles of herself and seems to be morphing into an actual black swan. It would be so much easier to write this review if Black Swan had been directed by a woman. Artwork created by men about female sexuality runs the risk of fetishizing the female experience, and there is something initially creepy and infantilizing about the character of Nina, who is obviously meant to be a little girl in a grown woman’s body: her high, breathy voice, her twee pink bedroom, her meek deference to the authority figures in her life. It’s also more than a little irritating to see yet another career-driven woman being portrayed as sexually repressed onscreen, as if women only develop ambition when we don’t have sex, and success is merely a coping mechanism for our crippling penis deficiency.
by Rachel Ana Brown
Aronofsky was already treading on shaky ground when he chose a professional ballet company for his setting. Ballet is the girliest of the girly, and the ballerinas in this movie seem to embody every negative stereotype about women: hypercompetitive, manipulative, beauty- and youth-obsessed. The former star of the show, Beth (Winona Rider), blames Nina for usurping her place in the company; Nina, in turn, becomes paranoid that Lily is trying to steal her role as the Swan Queen to the point that she doesn’t even want Lily to be her understudy. Lily herself is just a shallow, slutty party girl. Nina’s mother, Erika, is a psychotic example of bad stage mothering, pushing Nina to make ballet her sole focus in life while resenting the confidence and freedom Nina finds as a result of her successes. And Nina herself is a submissive, bulimic wreck with a history of self-mutilation, cut off from her sexuality and so consumed by her neuroses that she can’t even relax long enough to successfully masturbate in the bathtub. If Aronofsky was trying to create positive female role models, consider me one distinctly unempowered viewer. On the other hand, Black Swan challenges sexism by highlighting its negative effects. Feminism isn’t always about celebrating the awesomeness of womankind; sometimes it’s about taking a hard, honest look at the actual state of gender relations and acknowledging that women are still shackled by the patriarchy’s impossible-to-meet standards of perfection. Nina’s goal in life is to be “perfect,” and she literally drives herself crazy in her pursuit. When she’s her mother’s “sweet girl,” she’s not sexy enough for her boss; when she tries to be a sexy bad girl like Lily, she shows up late for work and loses the support of her mother. No matter how much she tries to please the authority figures in her life, she falls short because the roles she’s expected to play, Black Swan and White, are in direct opposition, and neither describe her true inner being. Evil Princess against Good Princess, Virgin versus Whore— it is the central conflict of the ballet Swan Lake, this film, and the lives of women everywhere. This dichotomy has fueled feminist discourse for thousands of years, and the genius of Black Swan is how flawlessly it integrates modern anxieties about femininity with ancient folklore motifs of womanhood and sexuality. How many women today developed our views of femininity and gender relations from the Disney princess movies, themselves sanitized versions of the fairy tales that used to usher young girls through their sexual awakenings? The Good Princess is beset on all sides by jealous queens
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and monsters—all thinly veiled references to virginity, which must be carefully guarded against the sorcerers and witches who lure her away from marriage and chastity with promises of raw, untamed sexuality. Fairy tales send the message a girl can be good and have societal worth if she’s a virgin, but if she wants to be sexy, she has to be a slut. There’s no room for ambiguity or exploration. Modern society takes this one step further and says that for a woman to have worth, she has to be both: the sweet virgin who never argues or gets angry because she’s good through and through; and the nasty slut who never argues or gets angry because she’s only out for a good time. In between the virgin and the whore, where is the space for a woman to just be herself? Nina literally drives herself crazy careening between the roles, lost because she can’t be all things to everybody, even if that’s exactly what’s expected of her if she wants to be “perfect.” There’s a lot to like and dislike about Black Swan, but one
thing in particular tips the scales in its favor for me. It departs from the standard fairy tale plot by presenting a princess with no prince. Nina has no man to save her or romance her or show her that there’s more to life than her career. Everything she does is motivated by her desire to be the perfect dancer, the perfect ballerina; she is only happy on the stage. At its core, this is a movie about a woman bleeding and sweating and suffering for her art, and Aronofsky treats her goals and ambitions with the utmost respect and dignity, without stooping to suggest that her inability to conform to society’s impossible standards is the problem. He makes us feel every split toenail and sore muscle in Nina’s body but also her sense of soaring liberation when she finally allows herself to be completely consumed by her dancing while her enraptured audience roars for more. In the end, Nina is neither White nor Black, neither a virgin nor a whore, but an artist, red and raw and bloody from the effort of showing us the truth about her life. v
REEL REVIEW A Beating Black Wing: Aronofsky’s "Perfect Metaphor"
y experience with ballet goes this far: (1) I once did a very basic ballet-influenced warm-up for a workout that required heavy legwork, and (2) I have heard a close friend who danced ballet as a child describe the grueling training as “foot bondage.” My experience with Darren Aronofsky’s films goes a bit deeper. In Aronofsky’s domain, beauty is dangerous, and perfection often leads to destruction. It’s a simple formula, and at the outset of Black Swan, we are all but handed a cheat sheet. ** PLEASE NOTE: SPOILERS AHEAD**
“You all know the story,” says Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel), the handsome director of a large dance company, before relating the major details of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake to a troupe of hopeful young dancers. “It must be real!” he goes on, in reference to the dance. “It must be visceral!” Having already gotten to know Nina (Natalie Portman), a young woman quiet in voice but fierce in her dancing, who lives under the rule of her overbearing mother (Barbara Hershey) and who desires perfection, we can safely infer that the film’s story will become a contemporary idiom of Tchaikovsky’s fairy tale as soon as Cassel speaks the words pure, virgin, and kills herself. Aronofsky achieves his colloquial metaphor by
by Richard Hartshorn
working with various visual motifs. Nina’s feet are featured: twirling, slipping into tiny shoes, cracking, popping, and bleeding. Aronofsky also makes very deliberate use of color: Nina, our little Odette, is clad in white through most of the film, while Lily (Mila Kunis) becomes Nina’s “alternate” in both the show and in life. She always wears black or combinations that feature black enveloping white—for example, a black hooded sweatshirt over a white top. Nina is innocent and only leaves her brightly lit bedroom for rehearsal. Lily frequents bawdy clubs and experiments with dangerous drugs. In addition to broken nails and the limitless ankle damage Nina sustains during her rigorous training, she also begins to collect seemingly sourceless wounds. While washing her hands, she discovers her fingers bleeding under the nails, and her cuticle peels all the way down her finger like string cheese. She also discovers an inexplicable rash on her left shoulder, with little protruding bumps. Given her obsession with proving she can dance the seductive Black Swan part … no, she can’t be growing a wing, can she? There are no straight answers; the “real” becomes foggy. The finger wounds vanish, but the shoulder rash remains and is noticed by Nina’s mother. Occasionally, when at home, Nina sees her mother’s bizarre paintings moving; even Nina’s own reflection begins to move on its own. She has vivid dreams and even more vivid hallucinations. A possibly
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imagined sexual encounter with Lily, her double and opposite, illustrates Nina’s simultaneous attraction to/repulsion with herself. Is she mentally ill? This question finds little relevance in Aronofsky’s tale; best to leave it at the door. Natalie Portman's portrayal of Nina is staggeringly passionate and thunderously mature. The lens through which we view her is akin to Jennifer Connelly’s character, Marion, in Aronofsky’s Requiem for a Dream. Though Marion doesn’t start out as innocent as Nina, she travels a path that leads from constant (not “happy,” just constant) to emotionally crippled and endlessly dependent. In fact, Aronofsky borrows a good amount of material from his older films in Black Swan, not least of which is the theme of women as objects of perfection and their apparent fixation on retaining that position. Nina’s pursuit of professional success at the expense of a personal life and her quest for sublimity echo The Wrestler, Pi, and The Fountain, in which Aronofsky’s characters pursue stardom, search for the universal mathematical language, and seek to conquer time and space, respectively. Ballet is an art in which performers dedicate their lives to defying gravity and their own bodies. Aronofsky’s ballerina (and Portman’s portrayal of her) certainly do that. While the film comes close to offering a moral lesson, it wisely knocks it aside in favor of storytelling. Long crawls of suspense end with shadowy movement and guttural crescendo. Nina becomes perfect only after becoming promiscuous, ruthless, and physically deadly, a perfection that means she can ascend no further, as implied in the film’s gorgeous (but not absolute) final shots. “What is this film about?” some will ask. The impossibility of perfection? The expectations of women in a world controlled by misogynistic men, and what happens when
a woman sacrifices her innocence to embrace these expectations? Or is it just simple obsession? The thought that the pursuit of transcendence in any form will destroy you? If so, what is this transcendence? Must perfection always lead to destruction? Nina’s struggle in Aronofsky’s fable-world mirrors the Sisyphean struggle of life: she tears her body and mind to pieces in the name of art, but her art provides no relief from pain. We cringe at her self-mutilation in the form of bleeding fingers and vomiting, but her broken toes and rail-thinness are portrayed as victories in the name of art. Her struggle, then, is also an unconscious search for duality, which in addition to dual personalities, involves dual realities: Nina must embody both the black swan and the white swan (her subjective perfection), though it seems impossible to do so and survive. Beth (Winona Ryder) embodies only the white swan (beloved, successful, respected) and is driven mad as her former perfection fades. She lives on but is dead inside. Lily embodies only the black swan (sinful, jealous, unchaste). She is killed in Nina’s created reality, but in the real world, she, like Beth, is very much alive. Are we to understand, then, that a woman must choose one or the other to survive? Or is it the suggested paradox that every young, middle-class woman in our society is pressured to do both—remain delicate, pure, and selective in lovers, yet sultry, selfish, and aggressive? Is the lesbian encounter in Nina’s created reality part of the “white swan” or “black swan” path? Is this duality limited only to women? Aronofsky’s “fable” metaphor and use of mirror imagery may seem simple at the outset but beget these sorts of unanswerable questions. Behind this cloud of conjecture, however, there is a very good film, which also offers this option: don’t worry about what it says. Just listen. v
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Until the Heart Stops Beating
by Khaliah Williams
mir knows two things about the girl sleeping beside him. One, he knows that she will never allow him a good night’s sleep when she is there with him on nights like this one. Her snoring, though light, will keep him awake, and her movements, though gentle, will jar him from any sleep into which he may have fallen. Two, he knows she shouldn’t be there; he has things more pressing to think about than to the ways her body curls into a ball while she sleeps. He should be thinking of the family he must take care of, and more importantly, his mother, whose body is slowly disintegrating after a series of illnesses with no diagnoses of which to speak. It is to his dismay that he finds himself only thinking about the girl sleeping soundly next to him. When his mind should be on Long Island, with his family, it drifts across the slow-moving waters of the East River to his Twelfth Street apartment where all he can think about is the rise and fall of her chest. He looks to his left where her body covers the side of his bed that is usually empty. He wants to tell her to leave and not come back. He wants to make her understand that the impending death of his mother is what must consume him, that she cannot not be more than a lover who comes and goes, who acts upon his will, not on her own whims and pleasures. Not now. He can’t be present with her. He thinks about the unfinished music composition on the floor of the bedroom next to his instruments. They too have had to wait for his attention, and they are his passion. The time that has passed since he last plucked their strings seems immeasurable, even though he has counted the days. He has come to understand certain truths: that his mother’s heart could stop at any minute and that the girl will never fully understand him. She doesn’t believe in God. Much less have an inclination to convert.
Not that he is devout. Things that are Haraam soothe. She is Haraam. A month ago they had lain in bed under the duvet whispering about when they would take their vows. “I think May,” she had said, “the city is warm in May but not too warm. And there will be flowers. We could do it outside, maybe Prospect Park or something.” They were lying side by side in his bed; their naked brown limbs tangled in the heavy folds of the dark green quilt. He took her hand, which had been lazily resting in his thinning black hair, and intertwined her fingers with his own. Earlier, they had held up their arms above their heads, high into the air, reaching for the ceiling, and she’d smiled when he grabbed her hand and traced a line over the bare skin where they imagined he would one day place a slim gold band. “Anything you want, baby,” he told her, “But then we get in a car and drive.” “Where to?” she asked. He shrugged, “Anywhere. Why does it matter?” He hadn’t wanted to tell her he had it all planned out. That, in his mind, they would marry and then take off on a cross-country trip in an old car from the fifties, a Chevy or Ford, maybe some other American brand. That he envisioned them having the same comfortable, uninventive sex they always had, but this time they would be in small motels off major highways, far from his responsibilities to his family, far from the inhibitions that a decade in New York and girls like her hadn’t cured. When she drifted off to sleep, he wrapped his arms around her as if to assure her of the reality of their future together. It hadn’t felt like a lie, it had felt like love.
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That night as they lay side by side, waiting for sleep, he almost told her. He wanted her to know what burdens came along with that ring she seemed to want so badly. He started to open his mouth to say that sometimes he cannot bear to look at his mother, the way she is now. How her disease covers—almost suffocates—her. That he wants to remember the mother he had back home, when she was the kind of woman who had the strength to devote the hours of her day to the upkeep of her family. The last time he had brought a girl like the girl beside him home, his mother had told him how sad it made her feel to see the sickness of the West seeping into their lives, killing them, like it was no different from the illness that was killing her. He thought she should know these things about him so that she didn’t confuse the physical for the emotional. Though sometimes, even he makes that mistake. In the morning, over rushed cups of tea, he again tried to tell her. “I love—” he began. She looked up at him expectantly. I love my mother more than anyone, anything. I love other things better, more than you. He wanted to say this to her, but the only word that follows love is you. “I love you.” She smiled, hugged him, and kissed him all over. She’d waited a year to hear it; he is afraid he might have meant it. He watches her breathe in and out—soft shallow breaths—waiting for her to wake so that they can begin their morning. She’ll shower first. He’ll put the water on to boil for tea. She’ll dress quickly because they always run late when she spends the night. They touch each other constantly, grasping hands as they pass through the room, a kiss on the forehead by the refrigerator door; neither ever wants to leave the other. While he’s in the shower, begrudgingly washing her scent from his skin, she’ll come in, sit on the toilet, and brush her teeth. He will peer out from behind the shower curtain and ask what she’s doing. She will laugh and say, “Getting ready!” after she spits out the toothpaste foam. He likes it when she is this close to him. After they’ve dressed, they’ll check the time and see that again they’re late so they will quickly swallow hot tea and complain they’ve burnt their tongues, kiss, and put their coats on.
But he won’t hold her hand when they walk along Twelfth Street. He says it’s silly and knows this hurts her. To make up for it, he will kiss her on the corner of Fifth and then watch for a moment as she heads west before he turns back towards the east. When he’s left her for the day, he will try to clear her from his mind, bring his thoughts back to where they belong. To make it easy, he will conjure an image of his madar. When he closes his eyes, he’ll see her brown skin that has begun to reflect the fatigue of illness and her black eyes that are now a duller mirror of his own. He likes to watch his lover sleep, smiles when the muscle under her right eye twitches. He loves her imperfections. She used to sleep on her back, and he would rest his hand on her stomach and watch it rise and fall with her breathing. Two months ago, she was ten pounds lighter. He told her she was too thin, that a woman needed flesh a man could hold onto. He was silently happy when the softness came back, but she furrowed her brow angrily when he pushed her shirt up above her navel so he could place his hand on her belly. Now most nights she sleeps on her side, turned away from him. But he is happy. Her roundness reminds him of the shape of his mother before she began to shrink towards nothingness. They sleep on the same pillow even though there are several others on the bed. He likes the scent of her hair, the smell of her soap. He marvels at how clean she smells even at the end of a city day, the fading trace of jasmine still lingering on her skin. After they’ve made love, he likes that he finds his own scent mixed in with hers. He studies her hand lying next to his head, limp with sleep. It looks soft and warm. He wants to take back his love from her. He’s afraid that there isn’t enough to go around. He already feels spread too thin. It’s as if his music has become toneless—who will listen to it now? He hasn’t written a note since he told her he loved her and she accepted it, she swallowed it whole and now there is less love to give. Yet he misses the sound of her voice when she isn’t there, just as he knows that too soon he will be missing the soft timbre of his madar’s voice when she says “Amir jahn,” calling him to her. Amir reaches for the girl lying next to him. He takes her hand in his. She awakes when she feels his
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and he squeezes her hand gently, lovingly. He thinks about his mother’s last breath. He’s relieved she hasn’t taken it yet. He thinks about tonight, their last night together, that it will be sad for her when she realizes it. She sighs contentedly in her sleep; what looks like a smile is forming on her lips. He pulls her body closer to his and she opens her eyes. They’re both awake, both silent. She’s a full hour early for the appointment. The waiting room doesn’t look at all like she expected it to. It’s decorated in warm shades of red and brown, and there isn’t a hard, metal chair or stark white wall in sight, just two couches and a shabby, plaid arm chair. The room resembles a living room more than anything, and she tries hard to be comforted by the space. She leans back into the sofa and wiggles a little bit, settling in as if she is preparing to watch The Late Show with a bowl of popcorn instead of this plastic clipboard in her lap. Still, she wishes the decorator hadn’t tried so hard and that they would change the music. She’d rather hear elevator jazz or the latest Top 40 hit. Instead, as if the universe is playing a cruel joke on her, pumping through the invisible speakers is the rich rhythm of drums coupled with the fast-paced strumming of what sounds like a sitar. The music makes her think of Amir. If she were with him, she’d still be in bed, her body molded to his. He would be sleeping soundly while she struggled with unwanted wakefulness. She rarely sleeps through the night in the small studio on East Twelfth Street. At first, it had been easy to reason that her sleeplessness was caused by the steady stream of traffic on the street below, the intoxicated NYU and New School students making their unsteady way to dorms, the car horns that sounded even at two and three in the morning. She would attribute her restlessness to any number of things, but at night, when it was just the two of them, lying side by side in the dark, she knew it was the mere presence of his body that kept her awake. He looked most peaceful when he slept, he looked happy. She liked to watch him, listen to the rhythm of his breathing; she waited for him to wake up
so that she could be there for him. He seemed to need someone to be there for him. And it gave her a surprising surge of pleasure when she was that someone. Whenever she climbs the flight of stairs to his apartment she thinks of the first time she spent the night. They met on a cool spring night in a dirty eastside lounge. There was music she couldn’t dance to, a line of coke in the bathroom, then his lips on her mouth, her body in his bed. One night stands were supposed to be just that, one night, but in the morning, he hadn’t wanted her to leave, so she stayed. And now things have gone too far. There had been a peace to their togetherness, a rut too easy to fall into. Initially, their relationship was based on a mutual fondness for alcohol, the occasional line of coke, and sex. He would call her at the office and beg her to leave, to say she was sick. She complied because it was fun. She liked feeling as though she didn’t have a care in the world except Amir, his happiness and his pleasure. Giving up her wants had come so naturally. She liked the idea of romance, of having a man to fall asleep with and then wake up next to. She wanted her friends to make plans with their partners and ask them join in so that she could tell them “No,” they were already busy with each other. “No” because he had made it clear that he only needed her. She willingly stayed in on weekends, became adept at knowing his preferred meals, ordered from specific neighborhood restaurants. She knew the CNN programs he watched regularly and the Knicks schedule: pre-season, regular season, and, God willing, the playoffs. She didn’t forget what she wanted, just pushed it aside and thought, this must be what love feels like. She liked knowing that she could call him at two o’clock in the morning when she couldn’t sleep, and he would sing to her in a language she didn’t understand, and when she woke the next morning the phone would be silent, but his music would stay with her throughout her day. But this was before his mother became ill. After a year of daily conversation, there came a week of silence, then a second. She left frantic messages afraid of the worst, because her paranoid mother had taught her to believe it was always the
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worst. When he finally called her back, he sounded tired. “It’s my mother, the doctors think it’s her heart.” “Why didn’t you call?” She demanded before feeling the heated shame of her selfishness. “I was worried about you,” she added quickly. “I’m sorry, baby. I was in Long Island. I had to be there.” Then they were silent for a minute. “I should let you go, you sound tired.” “I haven’t slept at all. I’ve been working in Yorkville and then going to Long Island in the evenings. So I’ll talk to you later?” “Wait … How is your mother doing now?” “I don’t know. The doctors don’t know what’s wrong,” he said, his voice laden with exhaustion and defeat. “I’ll call you later. Okay, baby?” “Okay,” she said quietly, and the line went dead. When it wasn’t his mother, it was his music that kept him away and kept her waiting for his return. She forced herself to be happy with any time they did spend together. She would wake up periodically during the night to watch him sleep, which he did effortlessly, as if she weren’t there at all. It seemed to her that he began to sleep all the time, in the middle of the day, before she came over and immediately after sex—that their relationship existed only in between power naps. There were no more late nights, and the early morning phone calls were met with annoyance. He seemed content to have things this way. But she felt herself growing sadder when she was without him and even more so when she was with him. During their time apart, she would ease her loneliness by listening to a playlist that was comprised only of music he had written. The peaks and valleys of the melodies made her wonder which song had been written with her in mind. She knew the songs by heart as if they had lyrics to accompany the rhythmic beating of the drums. As she listened, her fingers moved as if she were the one plucking the instrument. She could anticipate the allegros, the lentos, and the fortes with ease, but when it came time to anticipate the man she loved, she felt tone deaf, and for that there was no cure. Perhaps he had noticed, because one morning, as he passed her a cup of hot tea, he squinted his eyes as if to get a better look at her. He opened his mouth and leaned into her ear as though he had a secret to
tell her, something just for the two of them to hear even though they were the only two people in the apartment. He began with “I,” and soon followed with “love” and “you.” After this, despite their problems, she didn’t feel so sad anymore. As his mother’s health deteriorated, he slept in fits until he didn’t sleep at all. And when he was awake, she found that she could sleep, next to him, and she snored, oblivious to his wakefulness. When she woke up in the middle of the night to pee, she was surprised to find him staring at the ceiling, or sometimes looking at her, sometimes touching her as if she were the one who needed to be soothed back to sleep. The lack of sleep made him unpredictable. He came home way past midnight and crawled into bed with her fully clothed. When she woke up, he pressed a sloppy kiss onto the side of her mouth. His breath was hot and sticky with cheap whiskey. When she pushed him away, he climbed out of the bed and stumbled about the room. He screamed about his mother’s failing health before turning his rage onto her, telling her she was suffocating him. She pulled her knees up to her chin and stared at him, held back the tears she knew would not move him. He said nothing, and in the silence she thought she could hear his heart beating at a speed that frightened her. Still silent, he sat on the edge of the bed. When enough time had gone by, he lay down beside her. They stayed in bed the entire next day. She called in sick and watched him sleep off the effects of his night. When that day turned into another night, she resolved to pretend the previous evening had not occurred—even though there would be more nights like it, this she knew. She thought that it couldn’t go on much longer anyway, the two of them, like this. He was awake when she closed her eyes to sleep. She awoke in the middle of the night to feel his hand covering hers, his fingers intertwined with her own, and knew it was coming to an end. Two weeks before she made the appointment, the last happy night she spent with him, she found herself alone waiting under the heavy blankets that keep her warm in his bed. The sound of the running shower filled the small studio apartment, just barely
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drowning out the noise from the street below. There would be at least five minutes before he came back to bed, wrapped his arms around her, and held her until he found comfort to take with him into his dreams. She pulled herself out of the bed and stood in the empty room. Shards of moonlight pierced her skin through the blinds. She thought it would make a pretty photograph; she even gave it a title, Dark Woman in Moonlight. She stood in front of the only mirror in his apartment looking at the curves of her body, so different from the jagged edges of the mirror; a simple slab positioned at an angle near a window across from the bed. He liked to watch himself while they were in bed together, a habit she found boyish and silly. She only looked into that mirror when she was alone and there was a moment to keep all to herself, to breathe in their night, to let his scent linger a moment longer in her nostrils. It’s what she missed most about him when he was not with her. Naked, she stood in front of the mirror, cupping her belly in her hands, and wondered what she should tell him. What hour of the day did he love her most? What time did she know him best? The last thought jogs a memory from the first days of their affair. She thought back to when she first inquired about his origins. She liked the way he spoke—his accent made every word sound musical. She was sitting on the bed, cross-legged, and he mirrored her pose on the floor in front of her. Before him sat an instrument that looked something like a mandolin, which he plucked absently, composing his next masterpiece in his head. The notes, he sounded out with his fingertips. “Where were you born?” she asked him. When he looked up at her, his fingers fell silent, resting on the strings, the only place it seemed they truly belonged. “I’m Persian, baby.” His fingers went back to work, and this time, the notes he produced formed a melody, and he sang along with it, putting her name to music. “Iran?” she asked. He nodded. It was the first lie he would tell her. Months later, when she looked at the liner notes of the album he had recorded, she saw Kabul as his birthplace. When she questioned him, he shrugged it off, laughed a bit, and told her to turn the light off. She too tried to make a joke of it, and when her
friends and family ask where her boyfriend is from, she laughs and says “Iranistan.” The joke only she understands. The second lie was his name. He has said his name was Andy, but she doubted that a name as Anglo as her own could belong to him; still, she continued to call him by the only name she knew for him until another materialized: a stray piece of mail, a ConEd bill addressed to his apartment with a name she did not recognize. “Amir Sahar,” she said out loud, letting the letters roll off her tongue. This name belonged to him in a way that Andy did not, and she preferred it to the one he had trained her mouth to say. She wondered how it was that she had come to trust him, to love him, when she didn’t even know his name. The memories faded as quickly as they surfaced, but she didn’t hear the shower turn off, nor did she see him emerge from the bathroom wrapped in a towel, his thinning black hair plastered to his forehead. She didn’t even notice that he was standing behind her until she looked up and saw his eyes in the mirror. “Baby? I thought you were asleep already. Did I wake you?” he rested his chin on her bare shoulder, her body shivered at his closeness. There was something unsettling about his touch, it felt foreign; it was if she didn’t know him at all. “I was waiting for you to finish.” He gave her shoulder a light squeeze and turned away. In the mirror, she saw the reflection of him looking for clean soccer clothes, the ones he sleeps in when she stays over, an event that is becoming less and less frequent. “I think I’m getting fat,” she had said, climbing over him to lie down. He patted her stomach. “Mmm … I like it,” he said. Before she can say another word, he is already far from her, snoring quietly as if to not disturb her. Two weeks later, she finds herself in an Upper West Side dive, sandwiched between two girlfriends drunkenly shouting over the loud music. “A downward spiral,” they cry out, raising their shot glasses above their heads and throwing back the amber liquid in a matter of seconds. She hasn’t seen or spoken to Amir once in the last two weeks. Everything feels heavy, her heart and especially her body, but she knows it’s mostly in her head. “We knew it!” they exclaim over watered-down vodka tonics. Earlier in the evening,
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when they were still sober, she calmly and quietly told them it was over, leaving out the major details. Deciding not to mention that in the end she has walked away from him more bruised than she’d expected to be. Lisa, the friend who has known her the longest, offers a sympathetic smile and the standard consolation “You were too good for him anyway. He never treated you right.” And then they raise their glasses in another toast, this time to “Freedom! And no more loser boyfriends!” What else could they say? She has made it a point to keep him all to herself and far away from what would surely have been a summary judgment against him, like the one she just heard. She didn’t need a reason to hate him. She took the lime from the side of the glass and squeezed it into the drink, wishing she had asked for extras to mask the taste of the tonic she ordered minus the vodka. It was a meaningless gesture, but it seemed like the right thing to do. There’s no point in being sad. It happens to us all. She’s used to things being hard.” Amir tells his younger brother Sharif, whose name means the noble or the innocent. Although Amir thinks he should be known as Sharif the lifetime responsibility that he will inherit when his mother leaves them, his words are meant to comfort one or both of them while they sit outside their mother’s hospital room, their backs against the corridor wall. Sharif stuffs his hands in his pockets and nods in agreement. Nurses and doctors shuffle by, throwing glances of sympathy their way. “Those poor boys,” he hears the nurses sometimes say to one another, “They’re always here. She’d be a lucky woman otherwise.” “I’ll be back. I’m going to take a walk. Tell the doctor to wait.” Sharif the silent says nothing. Amir walks through the corridors of the hospital, past the maternity ward to the ICU. He presses his hands against a glass window, separating himself from a man whose breaths come and go with the help of a machine. One day soon this man’s heart will stop beating; standing there so close to death, he thinks about the girl and how her breasts seem to have grown larger in the last two months. The new curve of her hips both pleases and worries him.
He began to notice the curves of the girl’s body grow as his mother’s heart beat more slowly. But he cannot take the time to think about her, be bothered with the changes in her movements and moods, because he learns now that it is cancer that is ravaging his mother’s body and weakening her heart. She had always seemed stronger than him, invincible even. Now the girl is also changing, consuming everything with such rapaciousness that it startles him. She moves slower and is always tired, as if she is carrying around a great weight. Their last fight, the last day they spent together, he felt tempted to say something, compelled to perform his duty or at least acknowledge what they had done together even though he feels nothing that is remotely paternal. He knows she will not keep his son or daughter. He doesn’t want her to. Their relationship has been made of many mistakes, and this, he thinks, would be another one. But he hadn’t meant the things he had said on the day he took his love back from her. “It doesn’t matter. None of this has mattered to me. I told you, you weren’t that important in my life. You couldn’t be. There are too many other things I have to think about.” He ignored her as she sat at his desk and cried, pretended not to see her body shake, went deaf when she ran to the bathroom to throw up again and again. And when she screamed “I love you!” he lit a cigarette and faced the window. And then she had stopped. There was silence and the slam of the door behind her. From the window, he could see her struggle with her arms full of things she had gathered in her hurry to leave. He watched as she hailed a cab with shaking hands, getting in without ever looking up. And even though he won’t see her again, it doesn’t feel finished. She’s taken part of him with her, and he’ll never see it again.
Home from the hospital for what everyone says will be the last time, his mother lies in bed, at home in Long Island. When she speaks to him, her voice is quieter than he’s ever heard it. She wants to know why he is so sad. As if she has years and not days
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left, she asks him when he will get married, whether he’ll give her a grandchild before she dies. He appreciates that she still thinks of him first. She is tired and weak, but still his mother. “Time is running out, Amir jahn. You should settle down. I won’t worry so much then. Some nice girl to take care of you and your brother.” He wants to tell her that it’s not too late for her to have the grandson she wants, maybe a granddaughter. A baby that he imagines would look like both him and the girl, fair brown skin, curly black hair, almond-shaped eyes like his but colored dark
brown like the girl’s. His mother coughs and asks again what is making him so sad. “Nothing’s wrong,” he says, “I’m here with you.” He turns the lights out, waits for her breathing to become shallow, the troubling sign that nonetheless tells him she is asleep at least for a few hours. Amir watches his madar sleep, each short breath making him feels as though time is moving faster than it should. And in a rare moment, when it seems that time is standing still just for him, he thinks about the girl and wonders if he should call her and grant his mother a dying wish. v
Bread and Milk by Stuart Bridgett “Apple,” says the computer. I try. “Eppool.” The software approves. I try not to think about how ridiculous I must sound to my wife in the next room, as I sit, declaring childish words to myself. The computer pings. It’s time to break it down. A. A. Pple. Pple. Apple. Arpool. I am learning Portuguese—Brazilian Portuguese. Six years after marrying into a multilingual
Brazilian family, I am going to upgrade from “gringo” to “enthusiastic gringo.” In December, my wife and I will attend a big Brazilian family gettogether. With some family in the U.S. and others in Brazil, we are meeting in the middle—Aruba— for the holidays. I have three months to ensure that I don’t sit in the corner smiling politely with a caipirinha for the entire week of Christmas. I studied French and Spanish in school, and the Gallo-Irish nun who taught me French lambasted me for choosing Spanish over German for my second language. She thought very little of the romance languages. “Thee are all the seem!” she said. As a habitually lazy student, I saw this as a rare opportunity. Learning Spanish would get me to Italian and Portuguese with very little effort— and, by great coincidence, very little effort is my specialty.
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Fourteen years on, there are some linguistic dregs still sloshing about at the bottom of the memory glass, and while my remaining stock of Spanish phrases is starting to consolidate around the ones used to complain about late takeout, I still try to follow along when conversations with my wife’s family slip into Portuguese—accidentally, I am sure. Sometimes the topic of the conversation seems so obvious that I join in and comment in English. This never works. I’ve always completely misunderstood. When I am learning on the computer, this is what I must sound like to my wife, who speaks both English and Portuguese: Yellow. Helloo. Yell. Hell. Ow. Oo. Yellow. Jello.
disappointed looks from my wife. I worry that, after five or six attempts, the computer takes pity on me, and we move on. Last summer, my wife ridiculed a British character on television for his accent and attempted to mimic the way he said “milk.” There is no real L in the North London “milk.” It’s a dead vowel sound instead. We spent a while in conversation about the finer points of this. Miuhk, I said. Moiiik. Miuhk. Moiiik. And this carried on until my wife got annoyed and challenged me to say “bread” in Portuguese. It is spelled p-a-o. Apparently the end of the word is not just o. It’s a dead vowel sound instead. We walked to the subway.
Moiiik. No. Pow. No. Moiiiik. No. Powwoo. I sound so patently ridiculous that the only other No. Moiiik. being I am comfortable having in the room with me when I’m doing this is the dog. Portuguese is This went on for some time. A young man who was fucking hard. If you read it, it looks like someone clearly also walking to the subway crossed to the was typing Spanish really fast on a keyboard with other side of the street, lengthening his journey no interest in correcting mistakes. If you listen to time by one traffic light but ultimately relieving it, it sounds like someone is urgently recounting a himself of the pressure of being too close to the fairy tale to a child, perhaps a child with attention cut and thrust of scholarly linguistic exchange. deficit disorder; every sentence contains exciting, looping high and low tones that dance giddily with Pow. inhalations and exhalations, coming to an end with Moiiik. long, drawn-out zzzzzzzzh and oou sounds, giving the impression of skidding to an exhilarated halt. Now that I am properly learning Portuguese, my If you try to mimic it ... well, let me change that— vocabulary is expanding but my pronunciation is when I try to mimic it, I fail. Deep vowels requiring still terrible, and the fear I have, as my crude skills lots of breath, like OOOOO, require sudden hand- expand, is that confidence and delight in learning brake turns into top-of-lung vowel sounds like OI, will lead me to completely ignore pronunciation with nary a consonant to bounce off, and the whole because it’s insanely difficult. I am haunted by affair is sprinkled with Js that are alternately zhees one of my childhood favourite TV characters from or nonexistent but punctuated by breath and/or Allo Allo!, a rompy 80s sitcom set in Nazi-occupied Hawaii Women’s Journal | 67
France, over a garish laugh track. The character Crabtree was an undercover English spy whose French was perfect—apart from the vowels. He would walk into the café and draw the owner conspiratorially aside: Good moaning. I am the bronger of bod toadings. The Brootosh Air Farce have dropped their bums on the witterworks. This is exactly how I sound in Portuguese, but I’m getting a little better—I don’t have a completely inflexible accent. When precisely drunk enough and in the company of not-too-many people, I can do an English countrybumpkin accent. When slightly drunker and in the company of just my wife, I can apply my six years of living in these United States and do a passable American accent, as long as a gravelly 1980s movie announcement qualifies as an American accent. Due to the intricacies and myriad subtleties of human expression, the tiniest shift in tone can change a phrase’s meaning. Any language student needs to be sensitive to this, and above all patient with himself (and with the natives). I once bought a train ticket from a window booth in the South of France without getting arrested: “Good morning!” I said, in French. “I would like a ticket to Grenoble, please.” The salesman looked at me, eyebrows raised and nostrils flared, as though I was urinating into the little ticket slot. “Where?” “Grenoble?” “Again?” “Grenoble.” “I do not know this place.” “Grenoble ... it’s one of the largest cities in France, in the mountains—” The salesman, triumphant, cut me off. “AH-HAH! You mean Grenobble!” He grinned at me as he printed off the tickets with a flourish, happy to have educated another visitor to mother France. I restrained the sudden urge to
urinate into the little ticket slot. And so it was with my wife’s family. My initial “Alright?” (Todo Bem?) and “Hi!” (Oi!) were big hits, and the smiling “very pleased/my pleasure” (muito prazer) after we were all introduced earned a round of approving glances. After that, things got a little tricky. I found that my understanding far outstripped my ability to speak. As tenuously Spanish-sounding words cropped up, I could follow along, but trying the trick in reverse did not work—if I did not know the Portuguese word and instead tried to put a Portuguesey spin on the Spanish, I was invariably met with confusion. One magical evening, though, I was alone in the kitchen with my wife’s sister-in-law and elevenyear-old niece, neither of whom speak English. We had just finished washing up and were sitting at the table. “You have a dog?” asked the niece (Você tem um cachorro?). “Yes. He is called Nano,” I said (Sim. Seu nome é Nano.). “What colour is your dog?” she asked (Que cor é seu cachorro?). “My dog is yellow,” I replied (Meu cachorro é amarelo.). After this exchange, I fled the kitchen in order to maintain 100 percent comprehension on both sides.
The big success of the week occurred when everyone was getting ready for a long drive, rushing all over the house looking for a car stereo cable. In the confusion, I was able to take a minute to run the sentence through my head a few times, and then my “I think it is on the table under the television” brought the house to a surprised standstill. My three months of patient work with tongue-twisting pronunciation and struggling with esoteric syllables deep into the night had paid off! We found the cable and I beamed at everyone with a grin that said ‘How about that, huh? Pretty good, right?’ in the universal language of self-congratulation, but the conversation had already moved on to just how amazing language software is these days. v
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Douche by Joe
t has recently come to my attention that I may be a douchebag. I find this term hurtful and offensive. Now I’m afraid to leave my home. If I am, in fact, a big douchebag floating down the boulevard like a balloon at the Macy’s Day Parade, you have left me deflated. Maybe you gag at the machismo, the posturing. You see a man lifting his shirt in a car window reflection, studying his abs, his core. You catch him jogging shirtless on Thanksgiving morning, and he grins at the smells of cooking and the chatter emitting from the doorways and windows. He kicks aside an empty can of cranberry sauce. Your friends ask, “Is this town being overrun by douchebags?” But they don’t wonder why he’s running or what tugs at him while he stretches on the fire hydrant and the stop sign, as if getting dragged backwards. Because of the D-word, shame has wormed its way back through my shoulder blades, just as it did when I was cursed to be a “nerd” in junior high, that dim locker voodoo, a hex that gave me glasses, then acne. At night, I spackled cream across my face and fantasized about a life where I’d never been doomed a “gaylord.” Fire fighter or parking attendant, as long as I wasn’t a gaylord. In those days, success was still a hot topic at home. My father drew pie and flow charts on our paper tablecloths, and I colored in the arrows while we waited for the pasta to boil. He staggered and leaned his forearms against the dining room table, and I kept coloring. I peeked at the purple and green dashes under his eyes. They called him the Happy Hour Life Coach at the pub, where he offered premature advice, seeing problems from afar. He tended not to notice when these problems came his way. He pressed a bag of frozen peas against his puffy cheek and illustrated on paper why people acted like bullies,
sketching the shriveled little creatures inside of them. What we didn’t discuss was that I felt shriveled inside, too. Nearly a teen, I listened for clues in Ozzy Osbourne’s songs about what to do next. The guitar licks only distracted me from the shrivel for a bit, and I felt more ashamed after, imagining how I must have looked shaking my head and pressing my lips together. Clearly, still a gaylord. Now an angry one. I never excelled at much, and I followed my father’s legacy of tacky passion and untimely insights. I received no praise for math, sports, art, or fighting. I resented my genetic mediocrity and lit my high school diploma on fire in a sandpit by the edge of the airport. I sat against the fence and watched it burn. Shaking off a decade of self-doubt wasn’t easy, but I managed, clocking in hours upon hours hanging from a pull-up bar, pounding my knees against my chest. The physical exertion plumped up my shriveled core, like hot water poured over oatmeal. I blew off steam at the gym and kept a low profile. I was never a grunter, never a dumbbell dropper. I paced the corner. Pumping out pushups as if I were giving CPR to the blue mat. Sometimes I woke slumped on an incline bench, wearing a striped collared shirt, my hair still gelled, after the dance club, my mouth tasting of tequila. Many of my peers never made it to the gym, and their bodies became round and slow. When my father was in the hospital for the final time, I didn’t know if I wanted to live without him. I intended to trash his hospital room, to make a scene. Just doing ornamental damage, you know, flipping chairs, writing on the wall, I would never touch a plug or button. But my explosive energy pulled a no-call no-show that night. I wasn’t athletically in the zone or I could have made him
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proud. He would have enjoyed waking up to some our fathers were. Do you see all the things we mayhem, courtesy of my power and agility. That drag around? The invisible shackles: a kiss, a evening, he didn’t snore. I tiptoed out and went punch, a phone call, a guest rescue dog that bit to work. our hamstring in homeroom, a crucifix, all tangled I became a baggage handler at the local in a knot, a mile-long tattoo. These are the things airport so I could work my way up to pilot. Doing we’re trying to shake off when we stretch at the shoulder shrugs and dead lifts with the luggage stop sign, scraping the crud from our sneakers. kept me relaxed while I loaded and unloaded the And that’s why we’re checking our abs in a carcarts. Out there on the runway, you wonder what window reflection—because there are days when people are escaping in the sky. Arrows blinking, we wake and it feels like they’re gone, like they lights streaking off the lake. The planes roar, and just ran away in the middle of the night. you perform mundane tasks with flare, in case a I’m wiping sand from my over-napped eyes. talent scout lurks in the shadows. You could be No, I won’t say cheese. Our baggage scans at the discovered. So I modeled on the airport remind me of my father’s runway. I tossed a few bags and x-rays, as if he were full of duct yelled, “Who’s the gaylord now?” Got grunting at tape and balled-up socks. As if his It’s an illusion. Unlike slapping a heart pumped toothpaste. But loose-leaf binder out of someone’s your gym? Think it doesn’t mean anything, and I hand so that the rings bend. don’t mention it. People would of it as a bird call: So this is what it’s boiled down rather chat about the weather, to, an entire life accumulated in the sound of the or point out double rainbows at my duffel bag, gym towels and dusk. So I took a leave of absence men we want to waffled exercise sheet, the talley from work, and I passed a group marks smudged. Life flashing become, who we of ballet dancers on my way out and it’s all douche. I see the the revolving door. They carried unsuspecting clown douching thought our fathers the weight of the world on their away his life. See the douche child were. toes. They stretched their legs growing up so fast, eager to inflate on top of the vending machines. into a bigger douche, a glowing I wanted to say, Good hustle. douche, stringing up a big douche Give that validation. I went home flag in the morning. A real Douchie Howser. He instead. wants to empower himself, and the years funnel Doing incline push-ups on my windowsill, trying together, clogged, snagged. My kitchen reeks of to reinflate, I’ve heard women talking outside at old cologne and vinegar. If you snapped my picture the bus stop about emaciated models, and they right now, Photoshop couldn’t make me smile. All laugh, and they bicker, because they each have the special effects in Hollywood couldn’t pry my an idol who gets the anorexia-free pass. Yet they jaw open. don’t excuse the living-dead chicks that surround The D-word is a weapon without redemption, them on the elliptical machines, the energetic plundering our trophies, vandalizing our glory. skeletons with little white towels. One holds a We’re all “those people” to someone else, only cigarette, the other holds a yoga mat. I have to trying the best we can. Be careful, it can destroy squat and hold it for three minutes, until the burn you too, that douche blade. It will swing back drops me to the floor, just so I don’t think about your way. this. The negativity doesn’t motivate me, but the But if by “douche” you mean “human striving panic to avoid it does. to survive,” then maybe we can talk. Got grunting They speak of superficial people, so concerned at your gym? Think of it as a bird call: the sound with their looks. Don’t you understand the face, of the men we want to become, who we thought the hair, the outfit is a battle ground, ancient
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struggles played out upon their skin? The walking wounded, only a few steps ahead of whatever snaps at their ankles, the skeletons on the Stairmaster, climbing forever. I’ve heard douchebag used with such venom that it stung my own flesh: “Oh I don’t wanna go there, they’re all a bunch of D-bags.” Are you still retaliating for the “bitch” and “ho” days? When will we break the cycle? This hamster wheel of hostility. Must I claim “douche” for my people? Nature or nurture, our wounds get passed on like heirlooms. The people who focus on our personal battlefields, they are the superficial ones. They are the ones who only look skin deep. You want the douche? You can’t handle the douche! This is not my final answer. Hanging upside-down on the pull-up bar, it’s the best I can come up with right now. I could’ve been an astronaut or a pilot. Until my balloon burst, I never knew what a truly small creature was inside me. Is it like that with everyone? Or do they lock that creature up, just a shred of living veal, and grow something new? I’ve tried to rehabilitate that creature, to heal it, but I fear I’m just dressing it up in costumes, tying balloons and
flag bandanas, slapping on sponsorship stickers, just adding water to protein shakes and vacuumtinned space-food. The frail creatures whimper, and we do what we can to keep them alive. Like pushing a car on the side of a slightly inclined road, shoving the fender, your calves flexing in the golden rushhour sun. People are rubbernecking, and they say, oh it’s him again. But your car really does break down twice a week. You’re not faking it. You have paid for every tow, haven’t you? They’ll never have to boot your tires. They’ll never stop you from making it out here. Feeling vulnerable and stupid and trudging forward anyway, hoping to find that safe spot where you believe in yourself again, like playing Manhunt tag. The big tree by the condos is base. That “Ollie Ollie oxen free” where you’re safe. Where you can’t be tagged, where you’re invincible. You haven’t been called inside for dinner, because your dad still hasn’t found his way home with an ice cream bar pressed against his swollen eye, sweating and panting, and the sun is still up, and it’s summer. I’d love to find my way back to that tree. v
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THE PROMPT IT'S ALL ABOUT YOU THEPROMPT@HAWAIIWOMENSJOURNAL.COM
We all have something about which we feel of people who can contentedly immerse themselves crazyblindjealous. What is that thing for you? in feelings of discomfort. I can only awkwardly flap around in it like a duck covered in something sticky. Your Words: Make it stop—now! Hurry! More than people with too much money, people who –Anna-Bain Reynolds don’t seem bothered by slow cashiers, or people who look elegant in silvery hair, I get crazyblindjealous of The thought that I can love someone passionately people who have a seemingly congenial “let’s-have- and dearly but never really have their heart. I can coffee-and-shoot-the-shit” relationship with God. I only imagine then who has their heart and want to have none whatsoever, and the highest power I’ve stab out my eyes in an Oedipal sort of way. met is Bill Clinton. Seems like a God kind of friend in –Annie Kamiya your life could really mean something. –Debbie Nelson
People who can study full-time without having to I’m crazyblindjealous of those who don’t have an answer for this question. work. People who want everything they have. –Mayumi, Managing Editor and Literature Editor –Meg Tanglao I am crazyblindjealous of people who can hold onto happiness and appreciate all that the amazing people and opportunities and nonmaterial wealth they have, and not be constantly halfpacked for a move into Wallowland, thanks to daily obsessing about what they lack. And also of anyone who can watch When a guy I’m dating gets texts from other women. the movie Earthlings and not be addicted to sleeping On the date. People shouldn’t check their phones on pills because of images that will haunt them for the rest of forever. dates. Where are your manners? –Jenn, Editor-in-Chief –Kle Thune Full-time mothers who have large houses, new cars, vacations, cleaning ladies, landscapers, and have the kids in daycare so that they can get their shopping and mani/pedis done. –Beth Sullivan
I’ve got a list … and I try to shorten it every day. One is couples who are truly, madly in love with each other and would follow each other anywhere. Another is people who travel without limits and create something amazing from it, like the founder I am jealous of people who can match rooms or of the nonprofit Falling Whistles. clothes, or individuals that do not seem to be matched –Anna, Contributing Editor at all. How exquisite! … And I am crazyblindjealous Easy …When a “competitor” is doing better than me. Like a business in the same industry that is getting more publicity or being frequented more than my business. –Anonymous
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Terrible authors like Elizabeth Gilbert that write contrived, obnoxious, racist, self-helpy shit and are loved and emulated all over the world. –Andrea, Editorial Assistant
Human-Trafficking Isn't Just an International Crime. It Happens in the U.S. Everyday. Know more.
The ocean. Its vastness, power, and secrecy. I’m jealous of ocean-dwellers, and of those who make their living on, near, or from within it. I’m jealous of those who run full-tilt into the surf, their skin happily succumbing to the rough, cool wash. On the beach, my jealous skin prickles and itches, my jealous eyes tear with the only saltwater they can tolerate. –Suzanne, Literature Editor and Proofreader I am jealous of the women that make life look easy, from the stylish ones having wine with lunch at a charming café as I walk by with my suddenly unappealing sandwich, to the ones always posting fantastic photos from amazing trips abroad with their significant others. I get a tinge of jealousy every time I see a facet of the woman I want to be ... and then I take a deep breath and head back to my rewarding work, glance at the photos from my amazing trips, and offer the sincere congratulations we all need to hear. –Noël, Literature Editor When a friend, enemy, or total stranger has a weird/vague connection to a wealthy benefactor. And for some inexplicable reason, the philanthropic-benefactor type person decides to finance said person’s world travels. That tends to drive me into crazyblindjealousy. WHY CAN'T I HAVE A WEIRD PHILANTHROPIC-BENEFACTOR PERSON?!?! –Chelsea, Intern I get crazyblindjealous when I see carefree puppies rolling around in the grass. I’m not jealous of their owners, though I’d love to have a furry best friend live with me in LA. My landlord says dogs are not allowed though, that's that. Yes, I’m jealous of the puppies themselves. And only partly because I’m sorta allergic to grass and would end up with itchy red welts if I rolled around in it. –Tommy Shih, Photographer
Photo by Kay Chernush, U.S. Department of State
Death is not the only way to lose your life. Be alert. Be strong. Be free. Stop Human Trafficking You have rights in the U.S. regardless of your visa status. • Did someone take away your ID or documents? • Is someone forcing you to work for them to pay off a debt? • Is someone forcing you to work or have sex against your will? • Is someone threatening or hurting you or your family? If yes, don’t be afraid to ask for help. CALL TOLL-FREE, 24 HOURS:
Trafficking vs. Smuggling Human Trafficking is defined as: • sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age; or • the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision or obtaining of a person for labor or services through the use of force, fraud or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage or slavery.
Human Smuggling is defined as the importation of people into the United States involving deliberate evasion of immigration laws. This offense includes bringing illegal aliens into the United States as well as the unlawful transportation and harboring of aliens already in the United States. These are not interchangeable terms •Smuggling is transportation-based •Trafficking is exploitation-based Report Suspicious Activity:
1-866-DHS-2-ICE (1-866-347-2423) www.ice.gov
For more resources: www.dhs.gov/files/programs/gc_1298391518163.shtm
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