Issue No. 1
Celibacy in the City
Mastering the platonic love affair commonly known as “friendship”
The Beauty of Butterfish A new recipe for a classic local favorite
From the Jungles of Brazil Exposing a long history of infanticide
Can White Rice Really Be Good for You?
Kitchen Medicine Part 1 of 2
Hawai‘i is 1 of 7 states without a human-trafficking law; why this needs to change
Grow so old
Publisher Kathryn Xian Editor-in-Chief Jennifer Meleana Hee Managing Editor Mayumi Shimose Poe Contributing Editor Anna Harmon Art Director Kathryn Xian Photographers Michelle Bassler, Rita Coury, Jasmine Joy, Ryan Matsumoto, Bianca Mills, Lucas Stoffel, Kathryn Xian
CONTRIBUTORS Jennifer Allen Alexandra Armstrong Harmonie Bettenhausen Misty Tashina Bradley Ivy Castellanos Theresa Falk Suzanne Farrell Carmen Golay-Swizdor Jasmine Joy Frances Kakugawa Jess Kroll Nancy Moss Aldra Robinson Jennifer Dawn Rogers Lorelle Saxena Mayumi Shimose Poe Dana Vennen von Hottie Jemimah Wright
MISTY TASHINA BRADLEY
Our Room Is the World
when I am standing over your bones
buried by our earth,
My old heart
will be wise enough
to keep beating without you.
when I first knew my love for you, lying on a black sofa, I envisioned your funeral and wept.
Kristel Yoneda The Hawaii Women’s Journal a project of The Safe Zone Foundation 501(c)3 a Hawai‘i-based nonprofit organization For submission information, e-mail: email@example.com For advertising inquiries, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org www.hawaiiwomensjournal.com facebook.com/hiwomensjournal twitter@hiwomensjournal
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 the HWJ, Publisher, and Editors of the products advertised. photo by Michelle Bassler
Our Room Is the World March/April 2010
Issue No. 1
photo by Rita Coury
poetry & prose 1
A Letter to My Child
From the Editor
The Shape Love Takes
Palm Prints and Post-its
High-Heeled Escapes and Forced Labor
BY MISTY TASHINA BRADLEY
BY JENNIFER ALLEN
Burying Babies in Brazil BY JEMIMAH WRIGHT
BY CARMEN GOLAY-SWIZDOR
BY THERESA FALK
BY SUZANNE FARRELL
BY FRANCES KAKUGAWA
BY MAYUMI SHIMOSE POE
BY HARMONIE BETTENHAUSEN
BY JESS KROLL
from the editor
"Find. The. Bitch." photo by Ryan Matsumoto
If I had a dollar for every time publisher Kathryn Xian told me this over the past three months since we began the Hawaii Women’s Journal, I’d have ... a dollar. She only had to tell me once, because Kathy is the type of person who gives it to you straight and you listen, because she doesn’t have time to tell you again: she’s working for Legal Aid, running Girl Fest, organizing the Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery, growing kale and Mexican oregano, saving Corgis, and launching a magazine to give women writers an alternative platform for their words. You don’t talk back to revolutionaries—or dog-owning gardeners—you jump on their wagon, proud that you were invited along for the ride. As for “finding the bitch,” Kathy wasn’t telling me to hunt someone down and beat her or him—either literally or with a whoop ass sized can of metaphors—but to look through my own thin skin, under years of wanting to please, needing to either give it my all or give it all up. To knock on the dollhouse-sized door of my Inner Bitch and wake her the hell up, because we had work to do. Was I supposed to send my inner Paula to rehab and become bedfellows with my inner Simon? Did I have to stop shaving my armpits? By accepting the position as editor of a new, independent magazine I knew that I’d have to become the hapa face of rejection—stomp-tapping on the literary ambitions of mostly women writers whose beautiful pieces just weren’t the best fit for our pages. I wanted to fit everything between our covers, to accept with abandon until our pages overflowethed with diverse voices, but I knew I’d have to reject. I also knew I would have to deal with more of the world than I was comfortable dealing with. I’m no poster child for this society’s definition of functional living: I don’t call people, meet people, or sleep my way to the top. More than once, I wanted to crawl back into a lacey petticoat and leave literary progress for the Jane Doers of the world. But before I could gracelessly quit HWJ for the sixth time, due to panic attacks from the very thought of having to enter the world as any form of leader, bearing the uncomfortably phallic staff of rejection, writing began popping into our inboxes—names we knew, names we didn’t know, names we hadn’t heard from in forever—and the healing began. Our submissions overwhelmed me with hope for writing-kind. I found myself swooning over the words of our contributors—shouting, “AMEN!” in my pajamas, laughing, crying, wanting to bring all these writers together from worlds as separate as Los Angeles, London, New York, and Mililani to hide in a room together and feel safe and whole. Is that weird? Probably. Instead of a room full of these writers, we have the next
best thing: a magazine full of their words. HWJ is not thematic by issue, yet for our inaugural issue, motifs did emerge, like women sharing close spaces and beginning to cycle together, and not in a triathlon sense of the word cycle. Pieces mirrored each other: Carmen Golay-Swizdor wrote about becoming a mother and Theresa Falk about how she healed from the loss of hers. Kristel Yoneda captured too perfectly the struggle to “form” an “identity” in our twenties. Frances Kakugawa used both poetry and prose to describe the struggle during her sixties to maintain her identity: as she writes, “Neatly categorized under OLD. / They gave me flu shots before anyone else. / They began mailing me funeral plans.” We received two columns on wellness, one by acupuncturist and traditional Chinese medicine practitioner Lorelle Saxena, offering practical information so we could see through the quick fix-it health fads and go back to simple, natural cures. In the other column, “Diet, Interrupted,” Ivy Castellanos tackles our bodyimage and weight-loss misconceptions, so that we may fight the “diet commercials in which depressed, miserable-looking women go from fat and frumpy to fit and utterly fabulous in under two weeks.” Yea, right. In our First Writes column, twenty-something Kristel Yoneda writes about our childhood idealism: “We were dreamers back then: give us a cheap ukelele from Walmart and we wanted to be musicians; give us a playdoh set and we wanted to be chefs; give us an empty refrigerator box and we wanted to be Batman and live in a cardboard cave.” Even as children, we realized one role would never satisfy us. We insist on being everything to everyone:“Domestic Divas” (Jennifer Dawn Rogers), good daughters, amazing lovers, attentive but not oppressive siblings, platonic friends, happy campers, BFFs, Glamour Women of the Year, responsible dog owners, sport fans, neighborly neighbors, and editors of supposedly progressive magazines that should be avoiding the language of misogyny yet use the word “bitch” on the first page. Even at the ends of things—deaths and divorce, or traveling like writer Jasmine Joy to the mythic countries of our ancestors—we are left with more questions than conclusions. Harmonie Bettenhausen closes her poem wondering “how will we connect / without a road leading us back to each other?” We have tried to fight the stereotype of the unstable woman, but how can we not embody uncertainty—for our children, our dreams, our sickly racist and homophobic communities? It is our concern, our questioning of the status quo, with which we move forward, using pages such as these to muster our collective strength.
Hawaii Women’s Journal | 3
We will love ferociously, tend to our gardens, and live in peace. But mess with our shit, our children, our rights, our humanity—and we’ll use the same amount of passion to fight. For a world without trafficking, infanticide, size 0 skinny jeans, and The Secret. Many of our writers are part-time humanitarians. Women such as Jemimah Wright, who traveled to Brazil to expose the truth about tribal pressures on mothers to kill “imperfect” infants—where imperfect can be defined as two X chromosomes. The Honolulu Pen Women president Nancy Moss, who helps troubled girls in Honolulu through the Girls Court program. Women like law student Jennifer Allen, who understands that spreading awareness about human trafficking is the only way to eradicate it. Dana Vennen, a woman whose childhood obsession with horses evolved into a therapeutic horsemanship nonprofit, healing children, particularly young girls, in a way only horses can. We can’t help but try to heal ourselves by healing the world. We no longer want a room of our own; our room is the world. Indeed, in our Venn diagram, our similarities as women and writers overlap, forcing us to define the center—and I’m totally not being sexist, but have you ever noticed how vaginal the center of a Venn diagram is? Our experiences in Hawai‘i, the mainland, and abroad converge. We are the eye of our own storms; together, we are biologically designed to connect—sometimes with a mate but always with places, the children of our loved ones, each other. As you read our inaugural issue, I hope you experience the “pencil breaker.” The pencil breaker is a phenomenon whereby you read something so good the pencil you happen to be holding breaks in your overexcited little fist. The “pencil breaker” has proved to be my favorite editorial screening tool. (Hey—it’s cheap.) Every piece we’ve included in this issue has pencil breakers, but here are a few teasers: The Secret teaches that everything in life that happens to us is a result of our thinking: “thoughts become things.” In the film, Bob Proctor (credentials: “philosopher”) poses the question, “Why do you think that one percent of the population earns around 96 percent of all the money?” My response was: inheritance; slave labor; unfair tax laws; the chance of nation of origin; and an unequal playing field. But apparently I’m wrong. According to Proctor, it’s because “they understand ‘the secret.’” –Aldra Robinson, “The Great Big Vending Machine in the Sky” “I need to be under,” I said. On my health information form, I had explained that I suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. I’d written that lately, since piecing together the scene of my father’s fatal car accident, I couldn’t bear things stuck in my head—ears, nose, eyes, mouth, throat—because it all felt like hoods of cars crunching into my face, or peels of fender sliding into my ears, or shards of windshield puncturing my brain. I’d been having visions of my head with metal parts disappearing into one side and reappearing on the other, like train tracks through a mountain. –Suzanne Farrell, “Hole” But the volcano could only reach so far, so life outside this area would go on and someday someone would dig us up. Our bones would long be bleached dry in their sarcophagus of ash and perhaps when exposed to air they would crumble, but I am sure my marrow would still be thick with love. –Mayumi Shimose Poe, “The Shape Love Takes”
Are manners really passé? I think not. Just because we have iPhones doesn’t mean we can behave like savages. –von Hottie, “von Hottie’s Guide to Navigating a Modern Life” Reading the poetry by Misty Tashina Bradley, Harmonie Bettenhausen, Frances Kakugawa, and Jess Kroll, I broke a whole box of pencils. Thanks a lot, poets—they’re cheap but they’re not free! I’m not good at saying thank you because I don’t like to talk, but I can write it with all my heart. Thank you to everyone who has volunteered their time, words, photography, and art— friends, Family Hee, Family Matsumoto, strangers, Facebook quasi-acquaintances, and Jess Kroll for willingly being the one male voice in a sea of estrogen. Thank you to my boyfriend, Ryan Matsumoto, for understanding when I married the Hawaii Women’s Journal, for taking photographs of butterfish and beautiful produce, and for always knowing how to push my zoomout button. Thank you to Kathryn Xian, I think, for conceiving the idea and not making me cry. Or at least not more than once. Per day. Thank you to Mayumi Shimose Poe for being a full-time editor by day and still carving a huge chunk out of your free time to be the best Managing Editor ever. Thank you Anna Harmon for volunteering your editing and everything-else services when you didn’t know any of us—or what you were getting into. Thank you, Rita Coury, for the stunning cover. And thank you, writers—I can hardly believe how much amazing you all are. I am especially grateful for the many HWJ sloganbrainstorming sessions. Finding a gender neutral, positive, catchy, multidimensional, and meaningful phrase that we’d all be proud to show off on our ecofriendly bags and racerback tanks was no easy task. Here are my favorites: Hawaii Women’s Journal: Come Feel the Love. Hawaii Women’s Journal: Everything and the Kitchen Sink Hawaii Women’s Journal: Say Hello to Womanessence. Hawaii Women’s Journal: Women on Women. Hawaii Women’s Journal: For Women, and Also for Men, but Mostly for Women. Hawaii Women’s Journal: Wit + Grit Hawaii Women’s Journal: What Would Oprah Do? Hawaii Women’s Journal: Let Me Ask the Chicago Manual of Style What It Thinks about Your Appositive. Hawaii Women’s Journal: Never Too Pretty to Take It Outside. (About the bitch—I think I found her.) Hawaii Women’s Journal: Enjoy This. We Did.
Hawaii Women’s Journal | 4
- Jennifer Meleana Hee e-mail: email@example.com blog: www.jennmeleana.com
photos by Rita Coury
Hawaii Women’s Journal | 5
The Pen Women’s Column
The Wellness Manifesto
The Domestic Diva
Celibacy in the City
Pen Women & Girls Court BY NANCY MOSS
von Hottie’s Guide to Navigating a Modern Life BY VON HOTTIE
Are You There Angst? It’s Me, Quarter-Life Crisis. BY KRISTEL YONEDA
The Great Big Vending Machine in the Sky BY ALDRA ROBINSON
Traditional Remedies for Today, Part 1 BY LORELLE SAXENA
Therapeutic Horsemanship of Hawaii BY DANA VENNEN
Diet, Interrupted BY IVY CASTELLANOS
The Road to Heaven Is Paved... with Miso! BY JENNIFER DAWN ROGERS
Just Friends. No Benefits. BY ALEXANDRA ARMSTRONG
Pinay Sabbatical BY JASMINE JOY
The National League of American Pen Women, a professional organization for women artists, composers, and writers, promotes the development of creative talents of professional women in the arts. The national organization has
Pen Women’s Column
over 5,000 members; the Honolulu Branch has over 80 members and affiliated friends.
The Honolulu Branch holds monthly luncheon meetings featuring speakers and musicians, and sponsors conferences, arts shows, seminars, salons, and outings that further the artistic development of its members and the community. Our Girls Court program, now in its third year, demonstrates our outreach. For more information, contact President Nancy Moss at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 808-395-5524.
Pen Women & Girls Court
by Nancy moss
n the multipurpose room of the Circuit Court building in Honolulu, six girls sit around a conference table listening to Alice Ann Parker, author and professional psychic. An elegant, white-haired woman, Alice Ann is presenting a workshop on dreams to the girls of Girls Court as part of the National League of American Pen Women’s monthly sessions on art. Girls Court, initiated by Judge Karen Radius, is our country’s first gender-specific program dealing with juvenile offenders. Today Alice Ann talks about dark and light dreams, which cover the same event but from opposite angles. A dark dream portrays an event as scary; a light dream is positive. “You all have problems,” Alice Ann tells them, and the girls nod. “Something has happened, and you’re stuck with it. You can deal with it as a dark dream or a light dream.” She has the girls write three things that are their dark dreams. The girls write, then talk about what they have written. A girl we’ll call Belle—a confidentiality agreement protects the girls’ names—who is due with her first child any day now says that her dark dream is that “I won’t be able to take care of my child.” Another girl talks about “developing an anger management problem.” Alice Ann points out that, “It’s important to feel anger—people who don’t know anger have a hard time expressing joy—but good not to take it out on anyone.” Another girl says her dark dreams concern her younger brother, who she thinks may be
Completion of the 9’x12’ Victory Mural, a traveling mural completed for Girl Fest 2009 by the Girls Court, led by instructor John Hina. Photo courtesy of Girl Fest.
using drugs. Alice Ann nods. “Which one?” “Ketone,” the girl says. Alice Ann nods. A horse tranquilizer. “That’s a tough one,” she agrees. Quiet intensity reigns throughout the hour-long session as the girls unveil their fears. Alice Ann agrees and points out ramifications to “Alicia,” who isn’t sure she wants to marry the boy who is the father of her unborn child. At the session’s end, everyone, one at a time, puts her hand on Belle’s stomach and gives her baby a blessing, saying it out loud so that everyone leaves filled with good wishes. It’s hard to call this Pen Women session typical because programs vary so, from ecstatic dancing to poetry writing, play writing and performance, collage, making and decorating a cast of a shoe, and painting and taking home a tote bag. Once, a successful graduate of the Girls Court program—we’ll call her Kim—came to talk to the girls about how to apply for jobs. She brought sample job applications as well as some of the outfits she wore to her interviews. But Kim also talked about getting off crystal meth at age 16, how she locked herself in the house and wouldn’t answer the phone. Her audience nodded in understanding: that’s what it would take. The intensity of the girls’ responses to Alice Ann’s presentation is typical: turbulent emotions lying close to the surface. To Pen Women presenters, most of them long past the anguish of youth, this presents a Hawaii Women’s Journal | 6
challenge. The girls’ writing can be raw: emotions on a short fuse. Dialogue in their plays is full of what teachers call “the f-word.” As one girl wrote last year, “Sometimes, you feel like calling up the dealer and asking him for your fix. Yeah, you’ll get high . . . but your problems are still there.” The girl who wrote this missed the next few sessions, which means she was either in DH (Detention Home) or on the run—and Judge Radius has said that being on the run often involves prostitution. The Pen Women’s project of monthly presentations vindicates their belief that self-expression through the arts, in myriad and diverse ways—cutting and pasting paper, writing, dancing—can bring people in touch with powerful emotions and promote healing. Judge Radius has affirmed Pen Women’s efforts: “Through your dedicated group of volunteers, performers, artists, and educators, literary and other creative activities have been offered to our girls, enhancing their lives and increasing their sense of connectedness to the community” (letter of support, July 2008). Pen Women’s programs conclude with the girls’ Power Point presentation at the ceremony marking the end of their year in Girls Court, featuring slides on the topics “Who Am I?,” “What I Have Learned,” and “My Future.” The slides show a lot of smiling faces, a suggestion that their year in Girls Court may have made the girls’ futures more hopeful. v
Jenn graduates this May from the William S. Richardson School of Law. Special thanks to Hawai‘i Immigrant Justice Center (@ Legal Aid Society of Hawaii) for providing her greater insight into the legal intricacies of human-trafficking cases and to Pawa‘a Community Church and Imago Dei Christian Community members for helping us fill the service gaps to victims.
Alexandra is from New York but has been a public school teacher in Hawai‘i since 2003. She enjoys running, writing, and performing poetry. e-mail: email@example.com blog: www.readstrong.wordpress.com
Michelle is a UH Manoa graduate who is currently living in southern California. She first started selling her designs in Brooklyn, NYC, in 2005 after learning how to screen print. In 2009, Blonde Peacock was created. She enjoys growing her company in an ethical and sustainable way. www.blondepeacock.etsy.com
I wrote my first poems when I was very small and we were living in a shitty neighborhood in the suburbs of Chicago. My muses included overhearing our endlessly fighting neighbors, discovering my father’s stash of cocaine, and finding my mother passed-out drunk on the floor. I excelled at high school. Not at grades but at being a part of my own teenage years. I wish I could recapture that rapture. blog: www.ednaseyes.blogspot.com
Misty Tashina Bradley
Misty spends most her days dreaming, but when there is time writing, friends, and ashtanga yoga contribute to her happiness. She is a graduate from the University of Hawai’i at Manoa and is currently preparing to serve with the Peace Corps. www. xanga.com/strewnlight e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org photo: Lauryn Gerstle
Ivy is a freelance writer, currently shopping her first screenplay and finishing two unruly, very insubordinate novels. She has worked in the health and wellness field for over ten years and holds a master’s degree from the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health in health education, behavioral health, and health communications. e-mail: email@example.com
Award-winning photographer Rita Coury finds the beauty in all that surrounds her. She specializes in fine-art portrait photography with an emphasis on the unique and emotional side of her subjects. www.ritacouryphotography.com
Theresa is a writer, director, performer, and educator. She began her writing career at age five when her parents refused to buy her a Barbie Playhouse and instead bought her a mini Brother typewriter and a stack of paper. Theresa’s work has been seen on stage in Creating Face, in Unbinding the Foot: An Asian American Women’s Journal, and Strong Currents. e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Jennifer Dawn Rogers
Suzanne is an MFA student at Vermont College of Fine Arts. A graduate of Trinity College, she also earned an MA at The New School for Social Research, where she edited the interdisciplinary magazine canon. Her nonfiction has appeared in canon, InTheFray, Tiny Lights, and is forthcoming in Muse & Stone. Suzanne lives with her husband in New York City, where she teaches elementary school and runs a writing salon. e-mail: email@example.com
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, which focuses on local, organic cooking and wine reviews. She is currently writing her first novel. e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org www.domesticdivasblog.com photo: Jeri Rogers
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. www.thesaxenaclinic.com
Carmen grew up in rural Iowa and studied Sociology and Women’s Studies in England and New York. She currently lives and works in Honolulu, promoting 4-H Youth Development for military kids. She is a partner to a Navy submariner, mother to Ethan, and dog mom to rescued pitbulls Lucy and Bella. e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Jasmine is a freelance writer and poet in love with shore break sandy beaches. She is inspired by Mother Nature, adventure, and positive vibrations. Check out her eco-conscious organization www.solshredskim.com. e-mail: email@example.com photo: Gregory Heller
Frances is an award-winning author of eight books. In 2000, she was selected as one of the outstanding women of the 20th century in Hawai‘i. A strong advocate for the Alzheimer’s Association, Frances travels throughout the U.S. giving lectures and writing workshops for caregivers, students, and educators and leads writing support groups for caregivers and youngsters. www.francesk.org e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org blog: franceskakugawa.wordpress.com photo: Jason Kimura
Jess was born in Hawai‘i. He has an MFA in Writing from the University of San Francisco. Recently he has contributed writing to 34th Parallel, Gloom Cupboard, Puffin Circus, and Hawaii Independent. His poetry has appeared on stages across the country and he has written one novel. e-mail: email@example.com photo: Chung Nguyen
Nancy Moss’s plays Anna, about the Russian poet Akhmatova, and Hostage Wife, Ring of Fire, and The Last Outpost, all about the Iraq War, have been produced in Honolulu recently. Hostage Wife won Abingon Theatre’s Wolk Award in 2005. As president of the Honolulu branch of the National League of American Pen Women, Ms. Moss runs the group’s Girls Court program. e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Aldra is a Midwestern misfit who feeds her messianic complex as a grant writer in the concrete sprawl of Los Angeles. When not toiling away in the nonprofit industry, she can be founding writing about frugal living and social justice on her blog, consciouslyfrugal.blogspot.com, and telling the truth about “doing something meaningful with your life” at www.martyrsmanual.com. e-mail: email@example.com
Hawaii Women’s Journal | 7
Mayumi Shimose Poe
Mayumi has been published in American Anthropologist, Eternal Portraits, Hybolics, Stepping Stones, the Honolulu Advertiser, the Phoenix, and Dark Phrases and was awarded a 2002 honorable mention in the Honolulu Magazine Annual Fiction Contest. She wrote the libretto for Ka’ililauokekoa, an opera based on the Hawaiian myth of the same name, which was performed at Orvis Auditorium by OPERAtunities on June 28–31, 2007, in Honolulu, HI. She currently lives in Brooklyn, NY, but don’t think she isn’t homesick. e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org www.mayumishimosepoe.com
Dana Vennen has been running the Therapeutic Horsemanship of Hawaii (THH) nonprofit since 2000. She has been an avid horsewoman since the age of six and is now a NARHA certified Therapeutic Riding instructor as well as the Executive Director of THH. e-mail: email@example.com www.thhwaimanalo.org phone: 808-342-9036
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.blogs: www.vonoracle.blogspot.com, www.vonhottie.tumblr.com
Jemimah Wright is a freelance journalist and author based in London, England. She loves spending time in the Hawaiian Islands, especially when it is snowing in London. Get Involved: www.hakani.org/en
Kristel is a writer/photographer/ dreamer currently based in Honolulu. She attended George Washington University, where she learned two important lessons: quarter-life crisis anxiety will find you, no matter where you are and thermal underwear— no matter how dopey looking—is essential. Her blog, Slowdancing with Strangers, centers on the concept of sharing an intimate moment with a stranger and features candid photos from events around town. e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org blog: www.slowdancingwithstrangers.com
Ms. deMeaners von Hottie’s guide to navigating a modern life
ack in ye olden poodle skirt times, every situation had a rule and every person an idea of how to follow that rule. For instance, when “passing through a quadrille, let your arm hang easily and avoid any display of agility or knowledge of steps.” Translation: When walking through a group engaged in a formal dance, don’t dance with them. Obviously, we can let some of these antiquated rules go, but we don’t need to toss out our panties with the petticoats. As our interpersonal interactions have become far less personal, we’ve let a lot of those rules slide. Are manners really passé? I think not. Just because we have iPhones doesn’t mean we can behave like savages. What do we have against manners? Manners let people know we’re not psychopaths and that we’re well worth an invitation to the next cocktail party. Manners mean we’re taking a little extra time to improve the world around us. If we can invent indoor plumbing and wireless Internet, surely we can get it together enough to be nice to one another. I’d like to see a few classic etiquette rules resurrected, but in this modern age, they apply to all genders, all sexes, and all walks of life.
Five Manners That Should Make A Comeback: 1) Hold doors open. Holding doors open for other people is a sign that you recognize you are not the most important person in the world. Hold it open and smile at your neighbor. Just don’t hold it open too long, or you’ll become a doormat for the entire town. 2) Send a stranger a cocktail. This gesture is deliciously Mad Men. A good bartender should approach the other party and say, “So-and-so would like to send you a drink.” That party can then either accept or refuse the cocktail. If you offer a cocktail and it is refused, accept defeat with grace. Don’t hassle or approach the other person. They don’t have to drink your stinkin’ drink if they don’t want to. Likewise, don’t accept a drink unless you want to strike up a conversation with the person who sent it to you. It’s gauche to “sip and give the slip,” as it were.
there. I have a dancer friend who always walks on the curbside when he’s with me. Even better, if he needs to switch sides when we cross a street, he twirls me like a ballroom dancer while in the crosswalk. Protect the ones you love; they’re worth a little street splash.
3) Chat with deli men and baristas. When there were only one or two stores in a town, people would spend lots of time catching up on the town gossip with their local merchants. Now that we have many more options, that kind of daily exchange of pleasantries is often lost. “How are you today, Sandy?” has been replaced with “Following customer, step down.” Ew. Each time you order a coffee or a sandwich, make it a point to ask how the counterperson’s day is going and actually listen for the reply. A few extra seconds of your time gets you a bigger smile from a stranger and sometimes even a little extra treat. You wouldn’t believe how many extra pickles and “accidentally” venti mochas this trick has gotten me.
5) Send handwritten thank-you notes. In many cases, an e-mail acknowledgement is acceptable, but thanking someone only by writing on their Facebook wall is really not trying hard enough. If someone invites you to their home or does you a great favor, you should send a handwritten note. They are a treat to receive and make you look like a superstar. Princess Diana, no matter how tired she was from looking pretty and saving orphans, always wrote her thank-you notes as soon as she arrived home, before bed. It only takes about as long as checking five Facebook updates and makes a much larger impact. To help yourself out, leave note cards on your bedside table and jot down a quick note before you fall asleep. v
4) Walk on the curbside of your companion. Traditionally, gentlemen walked on the curbside of the sidewalk to protect ladies from passing horses and buggies. Regardless of your age or sex, if your companion is a younger person (adolescent or younger) or elderly, you should stay on the side closest to the street. If you’re accompanied by a contemporary for whom you have a great affection, you can also walk on the outside as a gesture of respect and caring. Don’t let it turn into a battle for the sidewalk: the person who made the gesture first gets to stay
If you have pressing etiquette concerns or questions on how to best navigate this modern life, please e-mail email@example.com.
photo by Lucas Stoffel
Hawaii Women’s Journal | 8
by von Hottie vonhottie.com
A Letter to My Child
Before the day-to-day routines of our lives begin to take shape, as we prepare to welcome you into our world, I’m having—as mothers around the world probably do—moments where I consider the long-term effects and importance of this job. As I lay here tonight, over the quiet sounds of the rain, I hear the helicopters again. As I did last night. The intensely militarized nature of the place where we live becomes undeniable. Reading
poems by Haunani-Kay Trask, I ponder our white place in these islands. Could I ever, even with a mind toward social justice, do more good than harm by virtue of my white skin? I don’t know. Is having awareness or even acting out of conscience of privilege enough? Knowing my privilege—the privilege you will be born
with—does not change history, colonization, and institutional violence. I can actively resist racism, but the truth remains that though we may live in the United States of America, in the 50th state, we reside on stolen lands. We are members of the class of people that illegally took these islands, which led to an occupation and then finally legitimization through statehood.
How will I raise you to be aware? To understand, think, empathize, and, most importantly, stand in solidarity with those who have been oppressed?
How does a parent teach justice? If it is so difficult for very intelligent adults to comprehend, how do I instill in you a sense of right and wrong without ignoring history or context?
By Carmen Golay-Swizdor photo by Rita Coury
Artwork by Michelle Bassler
On the surface, teaching justice seems fairly straightforward: treat individuals with dignity and respect. But what about the bigger picture? How, as your mother, do I overcome all the media-scare-tactic cop shows that will teach you to fear black and brown men? How can I compete with movie after movie depicting heterosexuality as the only way that people can be? How do I, without scaring you, break through the fog of U.S. history classes and talk with you about colonialism, imperialism, genocide, and institutional racism? Will you listen to me, or will you refuse my lessons in favor of other views? I felt enormous responsibility to my college students, and they were only with me for a semester. But I have you for the rest of our lives. Parents may not be the only influence, but I must believe we can be the most important one. My task is huge and serious. Shaping the heart and mind of another human being who will be here long after I’m gone is the most important job I’ve ever had.
Just as others around me are assuming that parenthood will instantly depoliticize me, make me more conservative, or assimilate me into the glossy, smiling Parents magazine mommy, your tiny energy makes me read theory again, pick up more challenging texts, and move outside my comfort zone. I need to be equipped for this job—armed with evidence, authors, resources, and stories to back up my claims toward justice. You will be observing the whole world around you, and I’m going to need to be prepared for your curiosity.
As many questions as I have as to how I will ever do this, I know I can. Because I must. I love you, and with that love comes a commitment to educating and opening your heart to all struggles for liberation. As your mother, I will never let you wander through the confusion of our society. I will hold your hand and guide you, the best I can, down a path toward justice. v Hawaii Women’s Journal | 9
Shells by Theresa Falk photo by Michelle Bassler
hen Mom died, I moved quickly. I went to Bank of Hawaii to settle her assets, cancelled her Macy’s card, and packed up her extensive shoe collection for charity. I cleaned out the childhood home that she had so generously left me, renovated it, and moved in. I wrote dozens of thank you cards, organized endless tangles of jewelry, and cleaned out the safety deposit box. I got things done. Each “first” without my mother was predictably painful: Mother’s Day, Christmas, her birthday, and my own passed with the expected grief and tears. However, I surprised myself each time—there was a lack of sharpness to the pain. I would cry for a few minutes and then suddenly stop, the desire to cut the cake or hang ornaments overtaking the grief. I took this as a sign: things were getting better. I was moving on. I was showing a strength that would have made my mother proud. One morning at school, I ventured out to procure some much-needed coffee before having to teach my next class. Out of the corner of my eye, across from our chapel, I spied an unusual sight: two ducks in the middle of the center courtyard. One, brown with lovely mottled feathers, and the other, blackbrown with a brilliant streak of green, waddled for a while across the dew-damp lake of grass and settled themselves down in the shade of a staircase of about thirty yards away. As I stood and sipped, a student revealed that the female had laid eggs in the bushes by the counseling office. I wandered over. There, sure enough, nestled among the greenery at the base of a tree, lay three small eggs. I looked back across the courtyard at the ducks, who calmly surveyed the scene. Why are they so far from their children? I thought. Wouldn’t it make more sense to keep close? You never knew what kind of harm a wayward ninth grader could do. It was clear, however, that Mom and Dad Duck knew what they were doing. They sat comfortably against one another, angled toward the eggs. There was no panicked beating of wings or worried squawking, only patient waiting. My eyes suddenly burned with hot tears as I thought of my mother, who, despite a penchant for her own kind of squawking (in high-pitched Tagalog, no less), could easily break me with a calm yet piercing stare. I soon learned that the passing of the first year without her would not be the end of grief. On Mother’s Day of 2009, a year and a half after she died, I sat in front of Neiman Marcus on the bench where she and I would regularly meet and cried with a ferocity that emptied me. I remember shaking uncontrollably, wanting desperately for her to appear on the bench beside me. The months that followed proved to be among the most difficult of my life. The sadness of each “first” was overshadowed by the grave realization of each “second.” The dull ache of the previous year’s holidays was replaced by the searing pain of a new reality: now my mother was really, truly gone. I became depressed. I could not sleep. I suffered myriad physical problems related to my stress. My body, mind, and heart broke down. I could not understand it. I had been so proud of the strength I had displayed the year before. I thought I had moved through my grief. Why was I falling apart now? It took time for me to comprehend what I thought was an emotional backslide. Those months were so completely filled with every kind of pain that it was nearly impossible for me to function, much less navigate my grief. I lumbered on through life
and work, surviving on the hope that all of this would somehow work itself out. I spoke to Mom often—usually while sitting on that bench outside of Neiman Marcus. I asked her why everything was tumbling down around me, and more importantly why she, in her heavenly place, did not do anything to stop it. It was a selfish question, I know. It was only a euphemism for what I really wanted to ask her: Why had she left me? And what was I supposed to do now? A couple of months ago I was standing in the kitchen. It was the only room in the house I had left exactly as it had been when Mom lived there. The once eggshell-painted cabinets had faded to a dull grey and the metallic gold drawer pulls were tarnished from thirty years of use. I had avoided renovating this piece of the house; it was, in my mind, still my mother’s domain. Due to my chronic clumsiness and lack of common sense (I once attempted to fry Shake and Bake), my mother had, with the frenzied shaking of a wooden spoon, banned me from the kitchen. Now in her absence, I inhaled, expecting to smell her chorizo fried rice—but I didn’t. The weight of that particular moment will always be with me. It had finally sunk in: my mother had moved on. I now had a chance to do the same. However, I wasn’t sure I should. It was a huge epiphany: the pain of that second year was not only about my mother leaving me but also my guilt. I had wanted to move forward, to be free of pain, to forget, but that’s not what a good daughter would have done. A good daughter would have grieved even harder. But that’s no way to live, and it’s certainly not the kind of life my mother would have wanted for me. I decided then and there to take a step forward. The next day I painted the cabinets bright red and installed brushed nickel pulls. As I cross the threshold of a third year without my mother, I find myself healed in a myriad of ways. I know now that I needed to grieve in whatever way was necessary and that to demand a timeline for it was unrealistic. The first year without her was about closing her door, and the second year was about the much more painful process of opening mine. I’ve come to understand that my mother’s transition was and is a reflection of my own: we both let go of one life to start another. The trick was negotiating the space in between. I also now understand why those ducks sat so far from their eggs. It wasn’t that they wanted to leave them—and, indeed, they never really did. They simply went to a place where they could watch their children come into the world under their own power. Their children needed to break their own shells. v
Hawaii Women’s Journal | 10
Are You There, Angst? It’s Me, Quarter-Life Crisis.
I sleep on a bed with no frame. The box spring is still wrapped in plastic, and when I roll around too much in my sleep, I wake up with the mattress at least several inches from where it’s supposed to be. On those days, I forget where I am. For the past two weeks, I’ve been waking up at 3:30am feeling anxious, as though I’ve forgotten to do something important. I’ll tear through my apartment, half-asleep, trying to scratch an itch in my brain that I can’t reach. I’ll check that the stove is off and then press on my front door to make sure that it’s locked properly. Feeling unsatisfied, I’ll sort my mail into two piles: bills I have to pay now and bills I really have to pay now. Reminders of my financial irresponsibility flood my tired mind until I feel overwhelmed and nauseous. The sun peeks its way through my blinds before I feel completely defeated, like I should head back to bed. The last thought that enters my head before drifting back off to sleep is always: when am I going to start feeling like an adult? I’ve been told this restless panic is “the quarter-life crisis,” which will be weighing me down until I’m at least 30. The term, originally coined by writer Abby Wilner, was used to describe her postcollege anxiety after she moved back home and had no idea what to do with her life. A quick Google search brings up an entire website dedicated to my predicament, complete with an ad at the bottom for a job listing site with a picture of smiling women dressed in power suits giving an insincere thumbs-up. Honestly, though, there is comfort in knowing that there are others suffering right alongside with me. Many of us are so busy reconciling the noticeable gap between our childhood dreams and our not-as-exciting lives that we forget these experiences are not unique but, rather, our rite of passage into adulthood. In high school, we spent our time desperately trying to fit in. In college, most of us reinvented ourselves and shed the high school identities we tried so hard to create (or destroy, depending on who you ask). We strutted around campus like pseudo-adults, high on the possibility that we could change the world and certain we’d have our futures printed on the back of our diplomas like treasure maps. Nobody warned us, however, that postcollege life lacked the structure and routine to which we had become so accustomed. Nobody told us we needed to reshape our childhood dreams into practical goals; we were illprepared, thrown out into the world as if from an airplane, clutching onto our dreams as if they were our only parachute. As a child, I dreamt of being a famous violin player and novelist (for some reason, both were connected in my mind). I had a blurry
by Kristel Yoneda
vision of my taller self, playing so beautifully I’d bring crowds to tears. After signing autographs, I’d go home and write novels that people wanted to discuss over coffee with friends. I can assure you at 26, I’m neither of those things. My dreams of becoming a famous violinist fell to the wayside by the time I was eight or nine when I became infatuated with the electric guitar. Now, my lifelong dream of becoming a writer is the only—albeit huge—gap in reality I’m trying to reconcile. Part of the problem with beating ourselves up over our unaccomplished childhood dreams is that as children we had no real concept of age or responsibility. Being a grownup was an abstract concept. To us, adults were giants who ruled the world, having somehow magically acquired the skills and information to become self-sufficient. As children, we could not predict the obstacles we would encounter on our way to adulthood. Back then, our biggest concerns were making friends on the playground and finding clever ways to avoid eating our veggies. We were dreamers back then: give us a cheap ‘ukulele from Walmart and we wanted to be musicians; give us a Playdoh food set and we wanted to be chefs; give us an empty refrigerator box and we wanted to be Batman and live in a cardboard cave. I am not suggesting that we abandon our childhood dreams. After all, there are reasons (whether we understand them or not) why we work towards accomplishing these goals, no matter how outrageous they may seem. Even if we don’t end up becoming the grownups we originally set out to be—a virtuoso violinist, a best-selling novelist— our childhood fantasies dare us to dream bigger and push ahead (even if we lack direction). Our experiences from childhood are what steer us toward who we are now, filling in the essential markers in our journey, markers that we could not anticipate as children. Quarter-lifers, we don’t give ourselves enough credit for getting this far. We lament over our decision to buy an expensive pair of shoes instead of carefully budgeting our paychecks, wondering when we’ll start making responsible adult-like decisions. We are so fixated on waiting for that “adult” light switch in our head to flip that we lose sight of ourselves. We’re meant to be in this chaotic limbo between adolescence and adulthood. We’re meant to flounder in our new freedom and responsibilities, making the wrong decisions in hopes of eventually learning and making the right ones. We’ve focused so much on how much we haven’t accomplished, that we’ve completely disregarded what we have done: survived this far. v
Hawaii Womenâ€™s Journal | 12
High-Heeled Escapes and Forced Labor:
Why Hawai‘i Needs To Adopt Legislation That Criminalizes Human Trafficking
by Jennifer Allen
photography by Rita Coury
“Let Justice roll down like waters in a mighty stream,” said the Prophet Amos. He was seeking not consensus but the cleansing action of revolutionary change. America has made progress toward freedom, but measured against the goal the road ahead is still long and hard. –Martin Luther King Jr.1
ravel to a Hawaiian beach on any given Saturday and you will probably encounter a lū‘au celebrating a one-year-old baby’s birthday. Aunties and uncles gather round to celebrate the importance and value of the new life. Now travel almost 7,000 miles from Honolulu to Cambodia and make your way to a brothel on the outskirts of Phnom Penh in the village of Svay Pak.2 Girls lining the streets may appear to consent to customer requests and pimp demands. But consent seems doubtful coming from a five-year-old sex worker, especially when realizing some prostituted children are expected to have sex with as many as 30 men per day.3 Suddenly the value of a child is defined by sexual gratification and commercial gain, not family love and protection. This grotesque picture of sexual appetite gorging upon innocent victims provides a good wake-up call for international accountability in fighting human trafficking, the modern-day form of slavery. No one should possess the sexual authority to order services from a child, woman, or man forced into slavery. Travel back to Hawai‘i, and you may be surprised to learn that pimps and traffickers enslave victims within the United States.4 Trafficking does not just exist overseas. According to FBI Special Agent Brandon Simpson, the trafficking problem is widespread throughout Hawai‘i, Guam, and American Samoa.5 In Honolulu, one defendant still awaiting trial allegedly offered a 13-yearold girl a ride, tried to rape her, and finally solicited the girl to work as a prostitute.6 This example presents a typical pattern in transnational trafficking: a pimp sexually breaking in the girl prior to forcing her into the commercial sex industry.7 Sex-trafficking
cases often capture the public’s attention as a particularly contemptible crime; however, human trafficking as a modern-day form of slavery is not limited to the sex industry.8 Sexual exploitation paints only one section of the human-trafficking picture. Human trafficking also consists of forced labor, bonded labor, debt bondage and involuntary servitude among migrant laborers, involuntary domestic servitude, forced child labor, and child soldiers.9 The Aloun Farms case epitomizes the classic forced-labor trafficking scenario. Through a scheme of debts, threats, and restraint, the co-owners of Aloun Farms in Hawai‘i pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit forced labor.10 “Based on my experience, my opinion is that human trafficking is ongoing in the State of
Hawai‘i. It is not an easily identifiable crime,” said Bow Mun Chin, an attorney representing some of the Thai labor victims on behalf of Hawai‘i Immigrant Justice Center at Legal Aid Society of Hawaii. “Whether [victims] are or are not legally in the United States, it is difficult to identify the victims, as they are generally afraid of everyone, particularly law enforcement,” he said. While human rights are at stake, characterizing the humantrafficking problem with data and statistics remains a difficult task due to the hidden nature of trafficking in persons.11 The exploitation of workers found throughout Hawai‘i and many other U.S. states reveals the need for multilevel government cooperation and participation.12 Cooperation in Hawai‘i began with the Hawaii Women’s Journal | 13
2005 establishment of the Hawaii AntiTrafficking Task Force I, which laid the ground work for developing local research and introducing anti-trafficking legislation.13 But no comprehensive trafficking legislation has been enacted.
WHAT IS HUMAN TRAFFICKING?
According to the United Nations’ Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, human trafficking is defined as: The recruitment, transportation, harboring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person for the purpose of exploitation.14 The United Nations emphasizes that human trafficking constitutes a crime against humanity and includes three elements: the act, the means, and the purpose.15 Indeed, defining human trafficking requires a multifaceted understanding of many issues, including poverty, vulnerable victims, sexual and labor demands, corporate and consumer responsibility, gender discrimination, and immigration issues, to name just a few. Poverty alone is not the sole cause of trafficking—tragedies are perpetuated by fraudulent recruiters, employers, and corrupt officials, all of which should be considered perpetuators of a vicious cycle of trafficking.16 Forced-labor victims are most vulnerable to exploitation due to “unemployment, poverty, crime, discrimination, corruption, political conflict, and cultural acceptance of the practice.”17 In the garment factory Daewoosa Samoa, Ltd., Kil Soo Lee trafficked individuals from Vietnam, China, and American Samoa to work at his factory. The following is testimony from one trafficked victim:
“It was [like] watching a film where the people are being brutally beaten to the point of like massacre … There was a lot of blood on the line and on the floor of the factory and on the fabrics.”18 This testimony describes the most violent incident, in which Lee gave permission to a Samoan supervisor to “beat anyone who don’t [sic] listen to you. If anyone die [sic], I will be responsible.”19 After this instruction, the guard grabbed one of the workers, choking her to the point of not being able to breathe.20 About 20 Samoan guards used plastic plumbing pipes to attack other workers who came to her rescue, causing one worker to lose her eye.21 Lee is now serving 40 years in prison.22 At Daewoosa, Lee controlled when and whether the victims could leave the grounds, be paid, or even eat.23 In contrast to the large-scale operation of the Daewoosa case, forced labor is generally more difficult to spot. Instead of the large criminal rings often involved in sex trafficking, often a trafficker may be one individual controlling either one other person or hundreds of workers.24
Leilani’s blisters from her high-heeled, five-mile hike to Waikiki were from a desire to check out designer stores off of Kalākaua Avenue.25 Her heels were not a treat for herself or a present from a loved one. Instead the heels were a
“gift” from her pimp—as was her dress. Tourists and locals alike may be shocked to know that Leilani’s unconventional walking route resulted from a desire to flee the sex traffickers holding her bondage in a house and neighborhood she could not identify on O‘ahu. People who are not from Hawai‘i generally find pronouncing, let alone memorizing, street names next to impossible. This is especially true for sex-trafficked victims, who stay for a brief stint of time before being forced to leave and go to another unfamiliar U.S. city.26 The triangle routes that often move girls between cities like Los Angeles, Honolulu, and Las Vegas entrap girls like Leilani, keeping victims defenseless and vulnerable.27 If a victim is unfamiliar with the surrounding territory and if she is constantly moved, then chances of discovery or escape are reduced.28 Another unique aspect of Leilani’s situation is her identity as an American—she is not the typical vulnerable immigrant victim. Leilani met her “boyfriend” in Los Angeles. After gaining her trust, the boyfriend shipped her to Hawai‘i to be sexually exploited. She knew the job he promised her in Hawai‘i might involve some type of sex work like working at a strip club, but she had no clue she would end up a slave. Luckily for Leilani, she was able to escape within about a week’s time. That week’s abuse and degradation put her in survival mode— hence the high-heeled escape. But during that week, she also met other, less fortunate Hawaii Women’s Journal | 14
girls. Some were already brainwashed by the threats of the traffickers, and others were too afraid to escape. Preventing such situations requires both outreach and research to identify the scope of the problem, understand who the victims are, and assess what their needs may be.29 Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in Hawai‘i currently raise awareness about the need for a state law criminalizing trafficking by giving presentations to neighborhood boards and conducting training sessions for interested community members.30 To raise overall awareness, they’ve hosted antitrafficking conferences and continually engage in dialogue with potential victims in Waikiki and Chinatown.31 In addition, a few NGOs— such as Girl Fest, The Domestic Violence Clearinghouse and Legal Hotline, and Hawai‘i Immigrant Justice Center—actively participate in a state-mandated anti-trafficking task force.32 The Hawaii Anti-Trafficking Task Force (HATTF) meets periodically to brainstorm ideas to alleviate the problem in Hawai‘i, compile trafficking statistics, and craft and propose legislation.33 The value of partnerships is revealed in Leilani’s situation, as a member of the Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery (PASS) raised funds through her church to help send Leilani back home to California.34 The state may be limited in funding, but partnering with faith-based and secular organizations can offer a solution to the financial support problem.
The fact that Leilani’s situation and many other human-trafficking violations occur within U.S. borders still shocks many Americans. And yet most trafficking cases are identified by the public, according to a representative from the Department of Justice Office on Civil Rights.35 Public awareness and law enforcement training need to be enhanced. During a PASS presentation at a Makiki Neighborhood Board meeting, a member of the public asked: Why does Hawai‘i even need to criminalize an offense that’s already criminalized at the federal level?36 The scope of the federal law in theory extends to individual trafficking violations throughout the United States. However, in reality, federal agencies are limited in time, manpower, and resources.37 Trafficking cases involving one or two individuals do not garner much attention. Instead, federal prosecutions generally focus on large trafficking rings. When community members run across victims like Leilani, they need access to local law-enforcement agencies that are well-trained and prepared to deal with trafficking situations.38 State criminalization of human trafficking is a fundamental step Hawai‘i needs to take to protect victims. Hawai‘i’s tourism-based economy provides a luring environment for traffickers to set up shop.39 Prevention strategies like educating the public will not solve the problem if local police and
prosecutors do not have a statutory means of prosecuting perpetrators. The Aloun case was handled by federal prosecutors. However, local prosecutors and police should be trained to handle these situations when they arise, as local police are usually the first on the scene.40 This will reduce the trafficking cases flowing into the federal dockets, allow local agencies to follow cases from beginning to end and to increase visibility to anti-trafficking progress.41 Increased visibility could deter trafficking if local prosecution successes are highlighted in the media.42 State legislation will not replace the Federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) or federal involvement in prosecuting cases; instead, it will increase effectiveness.43 The purpose of state legislation creates a tighter partnership with federal anti-trafficking initiatives.44 As more states adopt legislation, less safe havens will be available to which traffickers may flee.45 The federal government alone cannot deter human trafficking as a threat to Hawai‘i’s communities because the federal statutes are not efficient at the local level.46 The Federal TVPA has several weaknesses that make it ineffective at the local level including the following: the absence of “an enforcement arm” makes implementing provisions difficult; the “top-down” approach leaves only highranking officials knowledgeable about how to recognize and help victims; the limited
NOTES 1. King 1965. 2. Haugen with Hunter 2005. Haugen describes International Justice Mission’s (IJM) discovery of Svay Pak, a place he describes as a “small, lawless village where scores of girls, including very young girls, were sold on an open market to be molested and abused by sex tourists.” According to IJM, the most shocking part of the sex market in Svay Pak was how the brothel owners openly sold elementaryschool-aged girls in the middle of the day. 3. World Vision n.d. 4. State of Hawai‘i Department of the Attorney General 2007. 5. Soloman Star 2009. This source notes the trafficked woman is from the U.S. mainland and is being helped at a temporary shelter. 6. Star Bulletin 2009. See also Hawai‘i State Judiciary, Ho‘ohiki Public Access to Court Information. This case does not go to a jury trial until April. 7. U.S. Department of State 2008:32. 8. William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008, HR 7311, 110th Cong., 2nd session. 9. U.S. Department of State 2008. 10. Federal Bureau of Investigations Honolulu 2010. 11. U.S. Department of State 2008:7, 20. Characterizing the problem is difficult because a “wide range of estimates exists on the scope and magnitude of modernday slavery.” 12. Polaris Project: For a World without Slavery n.d. 13. State of Hawai‘i Department of the Attorney General 2007:15. The Hawaii AntiTrafficking Task Force I, which receives funding from the Department of Justice‘s Law Enforcement and Service Provider Multidisciplinary Anti-Trafficking Task Force grant, was one of 31 other task forces across the United States in 2005. Pursuant to Act 176, Session Laws of Hawaii 2008, the sunset date for the task force extends until June 30, 2010. 14. United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime 2004. 15. United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime n.d. 16. U.S. Department of State 2008:8. 17. U.S. Department of State 2008. 18. U.S. v. Lee, 472 F.3d 638, 640 (9th Cir. 2006). 19. Ibid. 20. Ibid. 21. Ibid. 22. Ibid, 641. 23. Ibid. 24. U.S. Department of State 2008. 25. “Leilani” is an alias for the real trafficked victim for purposes of identity protection and pursuant to instructions from the faith-based organization that ultimately helped her out. 26. William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008, HR 7311, 110th Cong., 2nd session. 22 U.S.C.A. § 7101(b)(5) (West 2000). Traffickers take victims away from their home communities to make the victims feel defenseless and vulnerable. 27. Ibid. 28. Ibid. It is important to note that transporting the victim is not a necessary element
of the crime; however, traffickers often take victims from their homes and displace them in an unfamiliar destination in attempt to weed out protection available to the victim. 29. United States Department of Justice n.d. 30. Author’s interview with PASS member in Honolulu, HI, February 24, 2009. 31. The Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery n.d. See also: changeyourworldHawaii. org. 32. State of Hawai‘i Department of the Attorney General 2007:2. See also the NGO websites: www.girlfestHawaii.org, www.kukuicenter.org/index.php/Hawaiiimmigrant-justice-center, and www.stoptheviolence.org. 33. State of Hawai‘i Department of the Attorney General 2007:1. 34. The Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery 2009. 35. State of Hawai‘i Department of the Attorney General 2007:22. I realized the importance of the balance between training law enforcement and raising public awareness about trafficking issues. 36. Author’s notes, Makiki Neighborhood Board Meeting, February 19, 2009. 37. State of Hawai‘i Department of the Attorney General 2007:4. 38. Federal Bureau of Investigation 2008. 39. The Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery n.d. 40. Federal Bureau of Investigation 2008. 41. Kara 2007. 42. Ibid. 43. Ibid, 667. 44. Ibid, 671. 45. Ibid. 46. Mariconda 2009:151. 47. Ibid, 175. 48. UN News Centre 2009. 49. Ibid. REFERENCES CITED Federal Bureau of Investigation 2008 Human Trafficking: Today’s Slave Trade. www.fbi.gov/page2/may08/ humantrafficking_050908.html, accessed February 10, 2010. Federal Bureau of Investigation Honolulu 2010 Department of Justice Press Release: Two Brothers Plead Guilty in Conspiracy to Hold Thai Workers in Forced Labor in Hawaii. FBI Honolulu, January 14, 2010. www.honolulu.fbi.gov/dojpressrel/pressrel10/hn011410.htm, accessed February 10, 2010. Fujimori, Leila 2009 Man Charged in Rape of Teen. Star Bulletin, July 7, 2009. www.starbulletin. com/news/20090707_Man_charged_in_rape_of_teen.html, accessed February 13, 2010. Haugen, Gary, with Gregg Hunter 2005 Young Girls Held Captive and the Daring Undercover Operation to Win Their Freedom. Nashville, TN: W Publishing Group. Kara, Shashi Irani 2007 Decentralizing the Fight against Human Trafficking in the United States: The Need for Greater Involvement in Fighting Human Trafficking by State
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funds and manpower restrict the number of prosecuted cases to those generally involving a large ring of conspirators or large numbers of victims.47 Following the 43 other states that already adopted legislation, Hawai‘i legislators need to prioritize anti-trafficking legislation to ensure that our residents, immigrants, and tourists are protected from traffickers. Visit traffickjamming.org to learn how you can reach out to Hawai‘i’s trafficking victims and sign the petition to support state legislation criminalizing human trafficking. See the following websites for more information: on the national level, www.polarisproject.org; on the international level, www.ijm.org. Rallying public support and awareness through various campaigns provides the ability for ordinary citizens to help solve trafficking problems. The blue heart initiative (www. unodc.org/blueheart/en/about-us.html) is the most recent international campaign launched by the United Nations. The blue heart symbolizes “the sadness of trafficking victims, the cold-heartedness of the perpetrators and the commitment of the United Nations to fight this crime.”48 The campaign aims to end ignorance about modern slavery issues and to harness support by encouraging the public to advertise both the human-trafficking video on YouTube and the blue heart on Facebook profiles, web pages, and Twitter.49 v Agencies and Local Non-Governmental Organizations. Cardozo Journal of Law and Gender 13: 671. King Jr., Martin Luther 1965 Let Justice Roll Down. The Nation, March 15, 1965. [Republished February 7, 2002.] www.thenation.com/doc/19650315/king, accessed February 10, 2010. Mariconda, Stephanie L. 2009 Breaking the Chains: Combating Human Trafficking at the State Level. Boston Third World Law Journal 29:151–188. The Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery (PASS) N.d. “Combating Sex-Trafficking in Hawaii. PASS. www.traffickjamming.org, accessed February 10, 2010. Polaris Project: For a World without Slavery N.d. Domestic Trafficking within the U.S. www.polarisproject.org/content/ view/60/81, accessed February 10, 2010. Soloman Star 2009 Samoan Man Arrested in Honolulu for Operating a Prostitution Ring. Soloman Star, March 16, 2009. www.solomonstarnews.com/index. php?option=com_content&task=view&id=7365&Itemid=26, accessed, accessed April 25, 2009. State of Hawai‘i Department of the Attorney General 2007 Report on the Hawaii Anti-Trafficking Task Force [HATTF]. www.Hawaii.gov/ ag/main/publications/reports/legislative_reports/2007-leg/haw-anti-traff-tsk-frce-1of-2.pdf, accessed February 10, 2010. UN News Centre 2009 UN Rallies Public Support to End Human Trafficking with Blue Heart Campaign. UN News Centre, March 5. www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID= 30096&Cr=Human+trafficking&Cr1, accessed February 10, 2010. United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime 2004 United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and the Protocols Thereto. (See, particularly, Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, G.A. Res. 55/25 [November 15, 2000]). www.unodc.org/documents/treaties/UNTOC/Publications/ TOC%20Convention/TOCebook-e.pdf, accessed February 10, 2010. N.d. Human Trafficking. www.unodc.org/unodc/en/human-trafficking/what-ishuman-trafficking.html, accessed February 10, 2010. United States Department of Justice N.d. What We Do (see Fight Trafficking in Persons). www.usdoj.gov/whatwedo/ whatwedo_ctip.html, accessed April 25, 2009. U.S. Department of State 2008 Trafficking in Persons Report. www.state.gov/g/tip/rls/tiprpt/2008/, accessed February 10, 2010. World Vision N.d. The Child Sex Tourism Prevention Project: Combating Slavery in the 21st Century. World Vision. www.worldvision.org/content.nsf/learn/globalissues-stp, accessed February 10, 2010.
Hole Four years ago, my tooth had a cavity. It was a molar, number three on the chart. Everyone’s number three tooth is the biggest. Along with fourteen, nineteen, and thirty, number three makes up the gang of big, rugged, third-from-the-back teeth that does the grunt work. During the drilling, a root was struck and the pain began. Whenever pain begins, we become violent. Clip out hangnails. Burn off warts. Suck out tooth roots. A root canal took the first three roots, but there was a fourth, hidden root, still providing nourishment to the tooth and pain to me. The fourth root was found and exorcised. The tooth was declared dead. But it still hurt. The pain worsened until this year, when a fuzzy line showed up on my x-ray. “I don’t want to be the bearer of bad news,” said my dentist as she peered at the pictures. “But I think there might be something stuck in there.” “Where? Behind it? In my gum?” “Inside your tooth. See this?” I followed her index finger to the whitest blotch on the x-ray. “I think that it’s part of an instrument. Shanna, show her, OK?” The Russian hygienist opened a shallow drawer and pulled out a skinny metal stick. “Sometimes the tip of the file breaks off during a root canal,” said my dentist, while Shanna modeled the needlepoint end. “It’s rare, but if it happens, you can develop a fracture or infection. That’s what I think is going on here in the white part.” The white part should have been my favorite. Iridescent, it stood out from the hazy gray of my sinus cavity above it. And it was not defined like the sharp outlines of healthy tooth roots nearby. The white part was an enchanting, guarded mist. “I’m sending you to a specialist,” my dentist said. The specialist was a young woman with a powerful microscope. She seconded my dentist’s opinion. “You need to have this taken out ASAP,” she said. “Trust me. You won’t even realize how much pain you’re in until it’s gone.” I called my dentist for a referral, but her guy was booked for days. The specialist with the microscope, however, knew an oral surgeon who would take me as a walk-in. “Open up,” said the oral surgeon, an old, gruff man. A war veteran, Korea maybe. He peered inside my mouth, struck the molar with a probe, and sniffed. “The tooth,” he said, “cannot be saved.” “I need to be under,” I said. On my health information form, I had explained that I suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. I’d written that lately, since piecing together the scene of my father’s fatal car accident, I couldn’t bear things stuck in my head—ears, nose, eyes, mouth, throat—because it all felt like hoods of cars crunching into my face, or peels of fender sliding into my ears, or shards of windshield puncturing my brain. I’d been having visions of my head with metal parts disappearing into one side and reappearing on the other, like train tracks through a mountain. I think I’d even used those words—“train tracks through a mountain”—right before I’d listed that I’m an asthmatic and always carry an Albuterol inhaler. “Here’s the waiver for general anesthesia.” He stuck the first
by Suzanne Farrell
dose of Valium into my left arm as I signed with my right hand. He stretched my lips around a mouth gag. The sedative could not kick in fast enough. I distracted myself with visions of the white mist, my oral oracle. The first dribble of drool spilled from the corner of my open mouth. “What is this?” he asked, noticing the L-shaped inhaler on my lap. He pinched the feed. “We can’t put you under. You have asthma.” “Naw, naw, you prahmised. I sahned. I hah phee klee ehh deee,” I cried around the gag, tears now streaming down my stretched cheeks. I was partially drugged but fully panicked. When he plunged both hands into my mouth and growled “forceps,” I screamed. “Stop crying,” he said. “You’re upsetting everyone, including me.” I was going to die in that chair. My tooth would die first, ripped out and sent to the garbage can casket lined with bloody tissues. I would follow, its broken-hearted lover, dead from fear, from loss. The deaths would cause a local stir. New Yorkers would cancel their dental appointments for a day or two. Then we would be forgotten. There was no pain. But there was. I cried harder. “Your wife is a difficult patient,” he said to my husband, Justin, who’d been called in to extract the shaking, sobbing patient. I would have retorted, or at least gaped, were it not for the gauze soaked with blood and bitter medicine. “We should have a funeral for your tooth,” said Justin when I told him later that night that I missed it. I humphed onto my left side, an ice pack balanced on my right cheek. I complained that I’d never gotten the autopsy results, that I would never know what killed it. Was it a hairline fracture that snaked like a skinny river through the enamel? Was it a crevasse, a blue glacial crack? Was it a cavern? Was a file tip lurking inside? Was the pulp petrified? Why did my tooth analogies all have to do with rivers and mountains and caves? Was the tooth infected? How close was the infection to spreading into my circulatory system and down into my heart, where it would have transformed the muscle into the half-pound piece of rancid meat I sometimes suspect it really is? Now the huge hole on the upper right draws my tongue to its broken rim. The hole is filled with two rice kernels and half a kidney bean. A tooth used to block such things. But now the food swaggers in and thunks into the upside-down lounge chair upholstered with tender red skin. I empty the hole by lightly swishing with saltwater and swabbing with cotton on a stick. I’m skittish about the swabbing, nervous that a wipe one bit too aggressive will poke through the inverted basin and strike my still-aching jawbone. It’s too soon for rice and beans. Tooth number two seems weaker without its neighbor. Even the cool air of breath threatens number two. Threatens all my teeth. They are so fragile. I sense the extraction has opened up a network of holes on the right side of my head, exposing miles of damp, empty tunnels. I can’t keep from exploring what’s missing.
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Why didn’t I make an impression of the tooth when I had the chance? Why didn’t I crown it, at least, and save the mold? My tongue traces the hollow, tasting aluminum. It should be a tooth. But it’s a hole, a functionless one. I can’t suck too hard, or spit, or swish, or eat anything crunchy. To maintain the hole, I’m told, to keep it from breaking down, I shouldn’t explore it with my tongue, shouldn’t prod it with anything, shouldn’t look inside. I should avoid it, let it heal, and move on. I should adjust. I should not think about it until the day, months from now, when it will be filled by an expensive implant. A false tooth that I might someday believe was always there. I should not, absolutely not, treat it like a hole. I like my regular dentist because she has a loud laugh and a debilitating fear of flying. She examined the area. “Does this hurt?” she asked as she pressed her forefinger against a protrusion above the excavation site. It did. “Bone chip,” she said. “The size of a ladybug. It’s one of two that I can see. We’ll have to take those out. Does it hurt to blow your nose?” Everything hurt, but yes, I had
been avoiding blowing my nose. I had been holding my breath, too. “I wish my guy had been available,” she said. “Who did you see? He punctured your sinus.” She pulled out her medical pad to prescribe the antibiotics one normally gets for typhoid fever, gonorrhea, or anthrax. She exchanged a look with Shanna. “He tortured you,” she said. And in what I consider a moment of professional weakness but great personal strength, she said, “What an asshole.” Eight checkups later and I’m still working out the pieces. Left behind, they hurt. My dentist took out two chips so far—one, the ladybug-sized lump, and the other, a full centimeter long and shaped like a shark’s tooth. The rest are floating in my gum, trying to break free. There is no solid bone left above the empty space, nothing in which to anchor a new tooth. Everything—the incisions, the jaw, the sinus cavity, and especially the hole itself—hurts. The more you take away, the more pain you find. The pieces hurt, but so do the empty places. v
by Jemimah Wright photos by Kathryn Xian
he little Amazonian girl in a pink t-shirt emblazoned with a cartoon character came up to me with a smile that encompassed her whole face. Flinging her arms around my waist and pressing her head against my middle, she said in broken English: “I love you!” This was my introduction to Hakani, a girl born in the middle of the Amazon rain forest in Brazil into the Suruwahá tribe, a small tribe of 200 Indians living far from civilization. In the Suruwahá, a pregnant girl will walk into the jungle to give birth alone. She then cuts the baby’s umbilical cord, buries the placenta, and returns to the village with her child if it is wanted. The child is abandoned to die in the jungle if it has any physical disability, if the mother is single, or if the family has too many girls and the baby born is female. This practice could be understood as a “survival of the fittest” mechanism of
the past, but now, in 2010, when medical help is freely available, there is the chance of life for the mothers and families who want to take it. For centuries, many Indian tribes such as the Suruwahá have buried some of their babies alive. Many tribes believe it is a curse to give birth to more than one baby at a time, therefore twins and triplets are also often killed. Burying babies alive is not the only way tribes kill unwanted children: mothers and family members also suffocate newborns with leaves or poison them. In 1995, a woman from the Suruwahá gave birth to Hakani. Hakani means “smile” in Suruwahá. As she grew, Hakani was not developing like a normal child. By age two, she could not walk or talk. The Suruwahá saw this, and the elders told Hakani’s parents she had to die because she was a curse to the tribe. Hawaii Women’s Journal | 17
Hakani’s parents loved their daughter and wanted to do whatever they could to save her life, even if it meant going against the demands of the whole tribe. However, after months of enduring the constant demands for their daughter’s death, Hakani’s mother and father were under so much emotional pressure that, feeling hopeless but knowing they could not kill their own daughter, they decided to take their own lives. Together they committed suicide by eating a poison root called kunaha. The responsibility to kill Hakani now fell to her oldest brother. The tribe elders told him his parents were dead because of his sister, and so, with shaking but determined hands, he hit Hakani over the head with a machete to knock her out. He tried to bury her alive in a hole next to the hut where they would normally bury dead animals.
Hakani woke up before enough soil was put on top of her to muffle her cries. Overcome with emotion, her brother could not go through with the murder and ran off into the jungle, and another brother took his sister out of the soil. Hakani had survived being buried alive, but she was still was not safe. Her grandfather then took his bow and arrow and shot at her, narrowly missing her heart and piercing her shoulder. Guilt also overcame him, and he ate poisonous root in an attempt to take his own life. From that day on, at two-and-a-half years of age, Hakani lived as an outcast. For three years, she survived on rain water, bark, leaves, insects, and occasionally scraps of food one of her brothers smuggled to her. Along with her family’s neglect, other children burned her legs because she could not walk and laughed when she cried. “Why are you still alive?” they’d shout. “You have no soul!” “Why don’t you just die?” Over time, Hakani lost her bright smile and all other facial expressions that revealed any emotion she felt. Only when she was near death did her youngest older brother, Bibi, rescue her by carrying her to the home of a Brazilian couple named Marcia and Edson Suzuki, who had been working for 20 years with the tribe. The Suzukis knew Hakani was weak and very ill. At five and a half years of age, she was the size of a baby—27 inches long and only 15 pounds. The couple began caring for Hakani as if she was their own child, but it was extremely challenging. She responded to nothing, had no facial expressions, displayed no emotion, and would scream and cry when touched because she had gone for so long without loving physical contact and been subjected to constant abuse from the Suruwahá. Hakani needed medical attention that was unavailable in the jungle or she would die. This was and still is the problem—the Brazilian authorities make it almost impossible to save a child. They want to protect indigenous cultures but therefore end up indirectly allowing children to die. Eventually the Suzukis received permission from the Brazilian government to take Hakani out of the jungle. Within six months of receiving love, care, and medical treatment, Hakani begun to walk and speak and her bright smile returned. After a year, she was double her weight and size. Marcia and Edson took Hakani back to
the tribe, and the Suruwahá Indians wept when they saw her. “We thought she was rubbish, now we see she is a princess,” cried the mothers. For the first time, the people understood that children born with physical or mental handicaps and those resulting from a multiple birth had souls and that they, as parents, did not have to kill the children they loved. There was help, and it was available to them. However, the problem of getting help still persists. According to Dr. Marcos Pelegrini, a doctor working in the Yanomami Tribe Health Care District, 98 children were killed by their mothers in 2004 alone. Campaigners say that the true figure is obscured by officials who often record cases of infanticide as simple malnutrition. At the same time, family anguish over infanticide has led to many adult tribal members committing suicide. Today Hakani is fourteen years old, attending a mainstream school in Brazil. She was diagnosed with hypothyroidism, which when left untreated manifests the developmental problems she experienced as a baby. Now Indians within the Amazon are campaigning to change tribal attitudes and save their children. One young man, Matasempe Mayoruna, had been born a twin, but his father, the chief, refused to kill his two sons as custom dictated. When the children were ten, a witch doctor visiting from another village learned about the twins. “They must die, you must kill them now,” he told the twin’s father. “Is there any way I can die in their place?” the father pleaded. The witch doctor relented and allowed him to be sacrificed in the place of one of his sons. Matasempe was forced to watch his brother and father be tied together and burnt alive. The traumatized boy was later adopted by a Brazilian man in the military and taken to live in Rio de Janeiro. In 2008, Matasempe told a government committee in Brasilia that they must help stop the tradition. He decided to speak out against infanticide because he had seen a film about Hakani’s life. He had never talked about what had happened to his father and brother, but now he felt it was time. Hakani and Matasempe are symbols of the fight to stop infanticide in Brazil. And Hawaii Women’s Journal | 18
change is happening. A film was recently made of Hakani’s life by an American film crew, entitled Hakani: Buried Alive—A Survivor’s Story (Cunningham 2008). Miguel Martins, a government official, saw the Hakani film and as a result made an amendment in Brazil’s Adoption Law. He indicated in the law’s revision that “indigenous children at risk of being murdered due to cultural reasons should be put up for adoption, preferably within the tribe, but if that is not possible, anywhere else.” Mr. Edson Suzuki, adopted father to Hakani and founder of a campaign group called Atini (from the Suruwahá, lit., “Voice for Life”), said: “We are fighting against doctors and anthropologists who say we must not interfere with the culture of the people.” This cultural preservationism is exemplified by Dr. Erwin Frank, an anthropology professor at the Federal University of Roraima State in the Amazon. Speaking of the tribes, he said: “This is their way of life and we should not judge them on the basis of our values. The difference between the cultures should be respected.” But when “culture” impedes a basic human right—the right to life—should it still be respected? In a way, the issue mirrors the Western conundrum: Amazonian women want the choice of allowing babies to live; Western women want the choice of allowing fetuses to die. Brazilian politicians are currently debating a bill to outlaw infanticide. It is known as Muwaji’s Law, named after a Suruwahá woman who refused to bury her baby alive. But perhaps the strongest argument against infanticide comes from a survivor, Edison Bakairi: “No child is guilty of being born; all children have the right to life.” v Get Involved: www.hakani.org/en
REFERENCE CITED Cunningham, David Loren, dir. 2008 Hakani: Buried Alive—A Survivor’s Story. www.hakani.org/en/synopsis.asp, accessed February 13, 2010.
by Frances Kakugawa photo by Rita Coury
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Happy New Year. Happy New Year. Yes, Happy New Year. It’s time for new hope. New resolutions. New anticipations. My mother, bless her soul, never liked New Year’s. It meant another birthday, growing older, her own mortality. Her wardrobe was full of lavenders and light blues. “Brown is for old people,” she said when she was 88. I have become my mother’s daughter. The following is lifted from my next book: A Caregiver’s Voice: Breaking Silence through Writing.
y own mortality continues to surface. Why don’t we take a razor and scrape away labels that spell “elderly,” ”seniors,” or “old”? Imagine my shock when I realized numbers were now going to make a great difference in my life after age 65, especially in doctors’ offices. It was no longer my mother’s milieu but my own. The young doctor—and they all look so young these days— looked at my birth date before asking me why I was there. “Oh,” she said, “You don’t look your age.”
After I told her the details of all the pain I was experiencing, she said, “Seems like you still have a few good years left, so I’ll give you this prescription.” A prescription without even touching her stethoscope to my heart? A prescription without even knowing the cause of my pain? Do young doctors know magic? When I asked, “What will this prescription do?,” she responded, “It’ll stop your brain from sending pain to your body.”
“No,” I said, “I can stand this pain. I need to know the cause of this pain before getting a prescription.” She insisted on the prescription, so I took it and left it in the trash can on my way out. Besides, my ten-minute office visit was up.
Aside from feeling angry and insulted (don’t medical schools teach students that calling a woman old makes her feel worse than a diagnosis of avian flu?), I felt very sad that these young doctors see the elderly as people who don’t deserve medical diagnosis. I didn’t have the time nor interest to tell her I have more than a few good years left. For decades, I have worked with the elderly and sick—and have done so with respect, love, compassion, and dignity. I didn’t tell her this. I didn’t tell her about the incredible life lessons I continue to learn from each of these individuals. She didn’t hear me when I told her I had pain; why would she hear me now? These poems speak to those who see the elderly as having lived out their lives after age 65 and who believe that only productivity in the workplace has human worth. Yes, Dylan Thomas, I am once again raging against the dying of the light.
On Becoming 69 How can I be 69 when I feel 49? How can my mother’s daughter turn 69? For God’s sake, children aren’t supposed to age. Not children born out of mothers’ wombs. How can my mother’s daughter turn 69? Four years ago, it all began . . . They called me elderly, Neatly categorized under OLD. They gave me flu shots before anyone else. They began mailing me funeral plans, Nursing home ads on slick colored sheets In large black print, Invitations to free luncheons By long-term care insurance agents. “You are old,” their messages said, “And you are dying.” Shall I tell them Of my plans for my 88th birthday? When I am 88 I will have a love affair that will leave me trembling on a windless day. I will drown in Puccini, Mozart, Verdi, Tidal waves roaring inside of me. I will feel the brush strokes of Van Gogh, clawing, bleeding my inner flesh. I will be Shakespeare vibrant on stage, rivers rushing, splashing over moss and stone. I will become soft, sensuous, wet, against your skin, silk against steel. When I am 88 I will still be woman. Yes! v
photo courtesy of the Lim Family
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Big Vending Machine in the Sky by Aldra Robinson
here has always been a synergy between solidarity and solitude within religious traditions. Christians speak of a personal relationship with Jesus, in addition to the communal context of existing within the metaphorical body of Christ. Jesus told us that the kingdom of heaven could be found within, and that anytime two or more of us are gathered, the divine is also present. The individual and the community have long been interwoven in a healthy balance within religious traditions. But there is something new afoot within the modern landscape of religious life. Within Christianity, the social gospel movement that spurred activists and preachers such as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to stand in peaceful opposition against injustice and poverty has been usurped by something far less noble. The prosperity gospel movement, with leaders such as “Pastor” (an informal title, as he has no credentials in theological studies) Joel Osteen, has galvanized hundreds of thousands of followers not on the basis of justice—as did the social gospel movement—but on the supreme importance of the individual and materialism, rendering community virtually irrelevant. Christianity’s prosperity gospel has found an ally in some new-age spirituality movements, such as the New Thought movement’s popular “Law of Attraction” devotees. The law of attraction ideology attempts to marry science and spirituality, placing the individual and positive thought in the forefront while regulating the divine to little more than a vending machine dispensing various wants (but only if you really want them). It’s not that feel-good spirituality and a deity-as-vending-machine are inherently bad. Positive thinking and a generous God are infinitely more beneficial to the psyche than the hell-fire-and-brimstone theology of fear, backed by a hate-filled oppressor in the sky. Fundamentalist Christianity has long touted an angry, male god sitting on a throne in some ethereal nebula, reigning down blessings on wealthy nations and calamity upon the poor. The supporters of this bipolar Divine One give various reasons for their unjust deity. Pat Robertson most recently attributed the horrors of Haiti’s earthquake to its citizens’ “pact with the devil.” Devil pacts, gays, divine jock itch ... the story changes to suit the prejudice of the messenger. Mainstream media has done much to promote such lunatic
interpretations of God as the one and only voice of Christianity. Progressive religious leaders who advocate equal rights and social justice are given little consideration, while conservatives such as Rick Warren and Pat Robertson receive ample prime-time attention. With devil pacts and the denial of basic civil rights to the LGBT community, it’s no wonder many seekers run screaming to the first warm fuzzy message they can find. The popular DVD The Secret has become a bible for adherents to the law of attraction philosophy and was promoted as “groundbreaking” by America’s favorite oracle, Oprah Winfrey. If the only other option presented is gay bashing and hate, who wouldn’t opt for a lovely trip down Me and My Goodies spiritual lane? But there are significant problems in setting our compasses toward this shiny new star. Prosperity gospel appeals greatly to Americans, as our once rugged individualism has morphed into a hyper-individualized society defined by materialism. Studies have shown that our mantra of equating happiness in the next purchase has left us depressed, disconnected, and in danger of destroying our environment. The law of attraction philosophy has taken a full-stomach solution to full-stomach problems (if you think happy thoughts, you’ll have more positive interpretations of life’s events, make better choices, and create happier life scenarios) to ridiculous proportions, re-establishing an oppressive blamethe-victim paradigm that the civil rights and women’s movement spent decades trying to overcome. Prosperity gospel preachers don’t burden their flocks with difficult questions. Despite the fact that Jesus fought against photo by Bianca Mills oppressive Roman rule and commanded that followers leave all their worldly possessions behind in service to humanity, prosperity gospel adherents are never asked to do more than think positive thoughts and expect that God desires only the best for them and will intervene on their behalf. This selective divine intervention is never questioned in the face of global poverty or violence, because such difficult questions would move followers away from the megalomaniacal focus on self. In mega churches like Osteen’s, it might also siphon money away from church coffers or retailers pitching their products as congregants leave services. In these churches, Jesus isn’t kicking the money changers out of the temple; he’s asking them about cross-marketing potential. If there is any mention of spiritual and
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social obligations to community, it’s only given as an afterthought the greater whole. There is no rapist, no human trafficking ring— (oh yeah, remember to give back once you have all your goodies, just folks manifesting their deepest desires, thus relieving us of any children. Just remember, more is better!). And if you find yourself collective responsibility to change horrifying paradigms. Women jobless in the current economic crisis? Well, just turn that frown don’t need economic opportunities globally, they simply need to upside down and think positive! change their stinking thinking and pray harder. Positive thinking as a primary solution to all that ails is a A friend of mine was raped as a child but clings unwaveringly cornerstone of the philosophy behind the law of attraction. The to such principles. When I asked her how she could possibly have Secret teaches that everything in life that happens to us is a result “manifested” a rapist, she told me: “The soul makes agreements of our thinking: “thoughts become things.” In the film, Bob Proctor before we enter into this material plane. I remember agreeing I had (credentials: “philosopher”) poses the question, “Why do you think lessons to learn and suffering that abuse was one way to learn them. that one percent of the population earns around 96 percent of all It’s part of our duty here on earth.” the money?” My response was: inheritance; slave labor; unfair tax Her belief, sadly, is not uncommon. It is perhaps the most laws; the chance of nation of origin; and an unequal playing field. disturbing kind of internalized oppression. After decades of battling But apparently I’m wrong. According to Proctor, it’s because “they notions like “it’s all in your head, dear” and “you shouldn’t have worn understand ‘the secret,’ and now you are being introduced to ‘the that dress” and “that little girl acted in a very seductive manner,” we secret.’” Nevermind the fact that much of the wealth of the top one have come to accept them as fact by wrapping them in a blanket percent has been built on the backs of the of pseudo-spirituality. What could have been a poor. Unethical business practices didn’t make purely positive experience of adding concepts of Joel Osteen, has the banking executives rich; it was their ability to power of thought and a loving, generous God galvanized hundreds to a more complex system of belief that retains manifest through “the secret.” When the producer of The Secret, Rhonda of thousands of the importance of community and working to Byrne, was asked how such logic could apply ensure that all of us on this spinning blue ball are followers not on the sheltered, safe, and fed has instead become an to something as horrific as the Holocaust, she gave a disturbing answer about how basis of justice—as oppressive force that re-establishes a dangerous cultures of fear can manifest their own paradigm that blames the victim and absolves did the social gospel violent aggressors of any responsibility. Most demise. Byrne insists, “the frequency of their thoughts matched the frequency of the movement—but on the disturbingly, it releases us from any collective event … Thoughts of fear, separation, and responsibility to name the adversary and work supreme importance for change. powerlessness, if persistent, can attract them to being in the wrong place at the wrong time.” It’s time for a new integration of spiritual and of the individual and (Surely this means that the United States, with religious thought that does not rely on simplistic materialism one of the most fearful cultures on the planet, absolutes and rampant narcissism. We must will be razed to the ground shortly.) embrace the positivity of these new movements Right. So, in the world of prosperity gospel, we have no obligation while maintaining the call to activism of Dr. King’s social gospel. to our communities because the spiritual life is devoid of anything Positive thinking and a loving God are important, but we cannot outside of the self and the want of material gain. God no longer calls delude ourselves into thinking that women and children across us to seek justice for our fellow humans; we need only turn to God the globe desire or are responsible for the unrelenting pain of the to help us gain material riches. Got it. poverty and violence that they endure. Nor can we dismiss our For “new thought” adherents, Jews are responsible for the collective responsibility to ensure that all of humanity has a fair and Holocaust and rapists are excellent at manifesting their desires decent chance of living a long, healthy life. v while their victims aren’t actually victims but, rather, people who have attracted the violence they endured due to their funky thought patterns. Darfur? Culture of fear. Global poverty? These folks just aren’t in tune with their ability to manifest. Slave trafficking? Some really talented dudes able to manifest the world’s second largest criminal industry because those trafficked deeply desire their fate. If you want to gang-rape a child badly enough, the universe will set what you need in motion to make it happen. Awesome! Within both of these movements, the adversary is absent. The quest for positivity is so strong, the desire to move from being “against” something to being “for” something so intense, we are absolved of any responsibility on a communal level but are ultimately responsible for every harm and joy we may experience. Megalomania abounds, giving absolute power to the individual with no regard to
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Kitchen Medicine Kitchen Medicine Basics: Traditional Remedies for Today, Part 1 This column is not intended to replace the advice of a medical doctor. If you are diabetic, have any type of metabolic disorder, or have a history of food allergies, consult a health professional before taking any of the remedies listed here. It has happened to all of us. We come down with a common cold, can’t get a good night’s sleep, or find ourselves getting motion sickness on our daily commute. Wanting quick relief, we head to the drug store for an over-the-counter remedy. And while these meds often resolve our symptoms, we are often left with undesired side effects like an upset stomach, drowsiness during the day, or a nervous feeling. Happily, traditional Chinese medicine provides us with gentle, effective alternatives that are easy to prepare and don’t cause problematic side effects. Even better, many of the ingredients are things you probably already have in your kitchen or can easily find in your grocery store. It’s easy to keep some basic ingredients on hand—and that way, if you find yourself or a friend unexpectedly under the weather, you have some good medicine at the ready. Here, in this first edition of Kitchen Medicine, I discuss some of the most useful kitchen medicinals. Whenever possible, buy organic. Because pesticides are sprayed directly onto and absorbed through the surface of plants—and can be present in the soil—it’s especially critical when using produce that has a thin skin (like ginger root), when the surface of the produce is the part you’re cooking with (as with orange peel), or when you’re using leaves (like mint). Getting an organic certification can be expensive for farms, and this is reflected in the price tag of lots of certified-organic produce. Growing your own produce is one budget-friendly way to ensure you’re eating organic without overspending; another is building relationships with local farmers who employ organic practices but may not have obtained a formal organic certification.
FRESH GINGER ROOT Of all the food remedies in the Chinese kitchen pharmacopoeia, ginger is the most commonly used. This unassuminglooking rhizome can be used to address an
amazing variety of symptoms. Boiled into a strong tisane, cooked in a chicken soup, or nibbled in candied form, it helps to suppress coughs, prevent motion sickness, ease headaches, and stimulate the appetite of convalescents. When choosing ginger, pick roots that are fresh and have a high moisture content. The skin of the ginger root wrinkles as the root ages and dries, so look for roots with smooth skin and a strong, spicy fragrance.
TANGERINE OR ORANGE PEEL Tea made from citrus peels can stop that cough that lingers for weeks after the rest of your cold symptoms have cleared up. It can also relieve feelings of tightness or stuffiness in the chest and help to clear out chest congestion, making coughs at once less frequent and more productive. When you eat an orange or tangerine, save the peel. If you’re not going to use your citrus peels within a day or so, preserve them by drying. Just put your oven at a low temperature—about 170 degrees—and spread the peels out on a baking sheet. They can be pulled from the oven after a few hours or when they feel dry but not brittle. Stored in an airtight container, the peels will keep indefinitely.
FRESH MINT A handful of mint cooks quickly into a tea that soothes a sore throat, eases depression, and lifts that drained fatigue we feel when we’ve spent too long working or playing under a hot sun. When making mint tea, simmer your mint for no more than five minutes; if you do it for longer, the mint loses its efficacy. No matter where you live, chances are you can grow mint yourself. Plant seeds in as large a pot as possible—mint likes to ramble—and make sure it’s in a sunny spot. (Unless you’re prepared to exercise serious discipline over your mint, growing it in a pot is recommended. Mint can rapidly become invasive.)
HONEY Besides making your medicine go down a little more sweetly, honey is used in Chinese Hawaii Women’s Journal | 23
by Lorelle Saxena
herbal medicine to soothe a dry cough, benefit digestion, and treat constipation. Some sufferers of pollen allergies report that ingesting a little bit of local honey every day has decreased the severity of their allergy symptoms. Since honey contains small amounts of pollen, it’s thought to help the body gradually build up tolerance. If you are thinking of trying this route, it’s essential to get honey that’s produced as close to your home as possible—look up your state’s beekeepers association to find local producers.
SHORT-GRAIN WHITE RICE This staple of the Asian kitchen gets a lot of flack for being a refined grain, and it’s true that white rice doesn’t have the nutritional density or fiber content of brown rice, its whole-grain counterpart. However, it’s this very lack of fiber that makes white rice easily digestible, which makes it a perfect food for someone suffering from gastrointestinal distress. A simple congee—rice simmered with water in a 1:8 ratio for a couple of hours— is an excellent food for someone starting recovery from surgery or a long illness. More ingredients can be gradually added as the person gets stronger.
PEARS Pears are an excellent source of fiber eaten out of hand, but when they’re cooked into a tea, they can also help with insomnia, constipation, or a dry, hacking cough. The absolute best pears to use for medicinal purposes are Asian pears (Pyrus pyrifolia), but any type of pear will work.
ROASTED BARLEY Cooked into a tea and taken daily, roasted barley can help to alleviate water retention, clear up acne, and stop chronically recurring sinus infections and diarrhea. You can often find this in the tea section of your supermarket; if you can’t, try the “Asian foods” section. Still no dice? Buy uncooked barley and toast it in a dry pan over medium heat for five to ten minutes or until it is dark brown and smells rich and nutty. Keep your kitchen stocked with these basics, and you’ll be well-prepared for most common ailments. In the next edition of Kitchen Medicine, I’ll discuss specific ways to use these ingredients to treat colds, insomnia, and many other maladies. v
nonprofit corner Therapeutic Horsemanship of Hawaii I was born loving horses. I don’t know what it is about them, but when I was young enough to not have worries, horses were the only thing on my mind. I had every sort of horse gear available: books, models, clothes. I would pretend to be a horse, own a horse, and would ride anything even vaguely horse like. My parents didn’t worry about my obsession because they had observed this love for horses not only in me but also in other girls. Much to my dismay, they only indulged my addiction to everything equine on a cost-efficient basis. Lessons here and there. Horse calendars for Christmas. A trail ride on the family vacation. This limitation did not lessen my fascination. But they never would buy me a horse, no matter how I begged. My love for horses continued throughout my life until a bizarre series of events led to who I am today: the Executive Director of a small nonprofit that helps girls like me be around horses. I sit in my office with 15 horses outside and keep wondering what it is exactly that brought me here. What is it that fuels such a desire for horses in young women? The story seems the same no matter how many times it plays out here; I’m always awestruck by my fortune to be a part of it. The story begins when I get a phone call from a mom of a child that is “obsessed with horses.” The young girl will walk into the barn, eyes huge, expression alternating between awe and joy. I’ll hear about the trouble she gets into in school and her lack of confidence. Within a few weeks of spending time with the herd, learning what secrets the horses have to tell and telling them hers, out
emerges a lovely young lady, brimming with confidence, riding her steed. Her muscles develop, her skin tans. Grades improve. She speaks up. She can tell you what’s wrong because she’s already told her horse and he didn’t judge her—now she can tell the world. If these girls stay here with us, they tend
by Dana Vennen Here they learn about life and death. A new foal is born at the end of the field. One of our old horses gets put down. They learn that it’s okay to say good-bye. They learn to deal with change. Despite all my theories, I still don’t know how it all works. I just want everyone who knows a young girl who needs our horses to know that they are here. v
to stay out of trouble. Interest in boys is second to their devotion to their favorite horse. We find ways to keep them moving forward, presenting new challenges and watching them become strong and learn to communicate.
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Therapeutic Horsemanship of Hawaii (THH) has been providing horsemanship and horseback riding to a variety of populations in Hawai‘i since 1983. It is a NARHA Premier Accredited Center that is trained to use horses as tools to improve the minds and bodies of many kinds of riders, including physically and mentally challenged individuals. Instructors are trained and certified to use horses to improve a rider’s strength, balance, endurance, and gait as well as build confidence and self-worth. Through the years, the program has seen the benefits of therapeutic horsemanship benefit virtually anyone who has an interest in horses and has expanded its programs to include not only physically and mentally challenged but also able-bodied riders and wounded members of the military. We even have a popular program for moms and other grownups. Many individuals have found another type of therapy in becoming a volunteer at THH, and the program depends heavily on the support of the volunteer crew. THH offers riding lessons daily, day camps for both adults and children, and also group activities. Get Involved: Call 808-342-9036 e-mail: dana@thhwaimanalo, or check out www.thhwaimanalo.org
The Wellness Manifesto
Diet, Interrupted: An Exploration of Thinness,
Fatness, Self-Loathing, and an Elusive Entity Called “Health” I am face-to-face with a glossy ad containing an airbrushed and highly digitized supermodel in post–stomach flu form. She stares at me through lovely but vacant kohl-rimmed eyes and coyly whispers, “What are you looking at, fat ass? See my shit? It’s flawless.” The model—at least her Photoshopped version—is indeed flawless, and almost reflexively, I notice my thighs are quadruple the size of hers. Before this highly manufactured piece of advertising imagery permeates my subconscious and ultimately convinces me that my cellulite is a medical emergency, I imagine a team of bourgeois corporate suits sitting around, wilily plotting the unraveling of my psyche. On second thought, maybe my thighs are only double the size of hers.
ostfeminists would argue that we, as women, have arrived. Indeed, on many fronts, we have. Yet there’s no questioning the fact that society still sums up of the value of a woman based on her appearance. Thinness—or its present-day vernacular, “beauty”—is the iniquitous yardstick of worth and success, the impervious gauge against which every woman (and, increasingly, man) is measured. You hold a Ph.D. in molecular biophysics? Yawn. You’re fluent in eight languages and you mentor at-risk youth? Blank stare. You’ve managed to fit back into your size zero jeans, two weeks postpartum? You’re a fucking rock star! Interestingly, over the last thirty years, as social pressure to be thin has steadily increased, so has the actual body weight of our nation. The increase in overweight and obesity has been fueled by a complex interplay of factors: environmental, social, economic, behavioral, biological, and genetic. The health consequences of overweight and obesity should not be reduced, but it’s important to note that underlying the issue of weight are social mores and sanctions. “Fatness,” for many people, rouses a set of deeply held beliefs that transcend aesthetics and point to a moral principle. Gluttony is, after all, a cardinal sin, and since ancient times, dieting has been viewed as a rite of purification. Today, there’s still an implicit assumption that equates fatness with overconsumption and being lazy, undisciplined, and unmotivated.
The omnipresent fad diet has been the commercial response to overweight. The diet industry is a multibillion dollar empire, engineered to generate false hope and exploit our insecurities. At its core, the weight-loss industry is less concerned with helping people
than it is with money, power, trends, politics, and unattainable ideals. The obesity epidemic has certainly served some well: food and diet industries, pharmaceutical companies, and federal agencies have all benefited from a fatter society, yet what remains is an everincreasing disconnect between body weight ideals and body weight realities. Dieters (overweight and thin alike) are often left beleaguered, frustrated, and vulnerable, resulting in a vicious cycle of selfloathing and the consequent pursuit of the next diet, the new liposuction technology, or the latest breakthrough product. Inevitably, it’s back to square one. As long as consumers continue finding temporary solace in commercial “solutions,” the diet world keeps on turning. Ka-ching! We live in a shamelessly image-obsessed culture and are saturated on a minute-by-minute basis with images (some transparent, some arguably compelling) engineered to convince us that we are too fat, too skinny, too plain, too old, too bald, et cetera. Essentially, we lack whatever corporate America is trying to hustle. Heading my list of pet peeves are the diet commercials in which depressed, miserablelooking women go from fat and frumpy to fit and utterly fabulous in under two weeks. Implicit in this message is that thinness is happiness. The media tends to highlight, almost exclusively, individual stories of overweight: specific cases where “fatness” is overcome by determination, will power, and a shiny new diet. If the diet fails, however, the onus is on you—your lack of will power and your personal weakness. We are each ultimately responsible for our health and our bodies, but we must acknowledge the fact that there are other forces at play.
As women, our bodies have been vilified, objectified, disregarded, and on rare occasion— when aligned with social prescriptions—lauded and celebrated. In an era of blatant and unapologetic narcissism, we have learned to judge ourselves against others and through the eyes of others. We have learned to look outside ourselves to discover who we are, which creates the ideal environment for promoters to capitalize on what’s “wrong” with us. We are constantly comparing ourselves with others, and this appraisal ultimately determines how we feel about ourselves: Oh, I’m much cuter than her = I’ll be emotionally stable for the next 2.5 hours. It’s a perpetual competition, without a victor. But let me be clear—I am a strong proponent of a healthy lifestyle. What you eat matters. Being active and managing Hawaii Women’s Journal | 25
by Ivy Castellanos stress matter. The media, government, and well-intentioned health professionals urge us to get healthy. But the point is, these messages are falling upon ears deafened by judgment, hypercriticism, false hope, and consequent negative self-talk. How can any degree of health be achieved or sustained when our attitudes and beliefs about our bodies are constantly manipulated, exploited, and undermined? So why do we cling to a beauty ideal that almost no one can achieve? If one-third of our nation is overweight or obese, and a majority of Americans struggle with their weight, why haven’t we moved toward a collective acceptance of larger bodies? The thinness standard set forth by society is decidedly unattainable. The origins of this feminine ideal date back to the early 20th century with the creation of the ubiquitous Gibson girl, the cultural phenomenon that gave rise to America’s first standardized model of beauty. Interestingly, our Gibson girl prototype wasn’t even a real person. She was an illustration—a fantasy brought to life by the pen of artist Charles Dana Gibson. Each subsequent American female archetype was comparatively thinner—from the flappers of the 1920s to Barbie with her anatomically impossible 3918-33 measurements to the slew of models, actresses, and celebrities that have followed.
Don’t Call It a Comeback… It’s a Paradigm Shift
It’s late February—the time of year when wellintentioned New Year’s resolutions typically fade into oblivion. Weight loss is undoubtedly one of the most ubiquitous resolutions and (surprise!) the one least likely to be realized. We live in an environment where it is easy to negate health in favor of looking good. However, we must take responsibility for our bodies and cultivate lifestyles that allow us to thrive. In our quest for total wellness, we must first look inward and examine our attitudes and beliefs about health and about our bodies. When you look in the mirror, what do you see versus what’s really there? The first step is to take inventory of insecurities, weaknesses, and vices, taking time to reflect on them and understand them. Discover what factors play a role in your struggle with your body and resolve to focus on your strengths and assets. At the end of the day, we must learn to judge our bodies for what they are, not for what they aren’t. Stay tuned for the next issue of Hawaii Women’s Journal as The Wellness Manifesto continues its diet-bashing campaign and presents a practical, clever, and decidedly rebellious guide to appreciating your body. v
the domestic diva
the road to heaven is paved... with miso! by Jennifer Dawn Rogers I was twenty-three years old the first time I fell in love…
Japan as early as the third century B.C.E., is a great source of zinc, manganese, copper, vitamin B12, and protein. In animal studies, it’s also been shown to protect against breast cancer, which may explain why the breast cancer rate of first-generation Japanese immigrants to Hawai‘i is sixty percent lower than that of subsequent generations of Japanese born in Hawai‘i. Not to be left out, black cod isn’t a slacker in the health department either. Also known as “sablefish” or “butterfish” because of its buttery texture, the fish is a great source of protein as well as fish oil and minerals such as iodine, phosphorus, magnesium, copper, iron, zinc, and calcium. Wild-caught black cod from Alaska or British Columbia is considered sustainable (less so if it is from California, Oregon, or Washington), meaning that fishing it doesn’t jeopardize future fish populations or the function of the affected ecosystem. While traditional preparations of this dish require at least a 24-hour photo by Ryan Matsumoto marinade, I’ve broken the recipe down to a simpler version that requires no marinade at all by transforming the miso paste into a sauce. I’ve also added shiitake mushrooms, which imbue the dish with an earthy zest that works brilliantly with this buttery, flakey fish. This recipe is sure to impress at a dinner party but is also perfect for a quiet night at home. Give it a try! I promise you’ll also fall in love at first bite. v
Black Cod (Butterfish) with Shiitake Mushrooms and Miso Sauce
with miso, that is! While I was fortunate enough to have met my soul mate in high school, I wasn’t so lucky when it came to Japanese food. My native state of Virginia isn’t exactly the land of bonito flakes and tamari sauce; it’s more like the land of picked pig’s feet and everything deep fried. It wasn’t until I moved to Los Angeles to pursue my lifelong dream of being a Hollywood minion of the lowest order that I went on my first blind date with a hunky piece of black cod smothered in miso. I can still remember it like it was yesterday. The location of the rendezvous? Famed Japanese Chef Nobu Matsuhisa’s flagship Beverly Hills restaurant. The impetus? My unpaid intern, who inexplicably always had more money than I did, was horrified to learn that I’d never tasted Chef Matsuhisa’s famed cod dish and insisted on treating me to lunch. The first glimpse of my date? A delicate slice of deeply caramelized, oily fish presented simply on a white plate. The first kiss? Heavenly! As soon as the fish passed my lips, it flaked apart into a thousand and one stunning flavors, from sweet to savory to umami. It was love at first sight… err… bite! That’s why, for my inaugural recipe, I’m bringing you my take on black cod with miso sauce. Not only is this recipe delicious, it also packs a healthy punch. Miso, a fermented soybean paste that first originated in
Serves 2 people Cooking time: 30 minutes
Ingredients 2 (4 oz.) fillets of black cod 1 cup fresh shiitake mushrooms (or dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked and reconstituted) 2 tablespoons olive oil 1/4 cup mirin 1 tablespoon white miso paste 1 tablespoon tamari sauce 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced 1/2 teaspoon chili flakes
1. Set the oven to broil. 2. Rub the fish with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. 3. Quickly broil the fish for about 5–6 minutes, depending on thickness, until cooked through. 4. Meanwhile, cut the shiitake mushrooms into slices. 5. Heat the remaining olive oil in a small sauté pan over medium heat. Add the shiitake mushrooms and sauté them for a few minutes, until softened. Set aside. 6. To make the sauce, use the same sauté pan, add the ginger and chili flakes, and cook for one minute over medium heat. Add the mirin and simmer for 2 minutes, then add the miso paste and the tamari sauce and simmer for another 5 minutes until the sauce thickens. 7. To serve, place a piece of fish on a plate and top it with some of the mushrooms. Spoon the sauce over the dish. Enjoy!
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The Shape Love Takes MATTIE This is the shape love takes. I am going to see you again. The trains take three hours each way, from my Brooklyn apartment to your home in Jersey and back again, but the journey is worth it. I have my routine now, arriving at Penn Station in time to grab a coffee and the morning Times. I choose a window seat. Once we’re out of the tunnel, New York fades into Jersey, but my mind is already drifting toward you. I have never felt this way before. It’s both funny and awful to think that. You know, you get to be certain ages and you think you’ve felt it all, but you’re wrong every time. Remember that. I sip at the coffee. I fiddle with my ponytail. I lay the bundled newspaper across the aisle seat, and I wait. We’re at Newark—Newark International Airport, Newark now, next stop North Elizabeth. I could work for New Jersey Transit, I know the conductor’s spiel so well. Next up North Elizabeth, Elizabeth, Linden, Rahway, Metropark, Metuchen, Edison, New Brunswick, Jersey Avenue, and Princeton Junction. After that, Hamilton. You’ll be there, waiting, and I can give everything I have to give. Of course, you won’t remember any of this. You’re only a few weeks old. Your eyes don’t focus yet, so these weeks and my presence and most of the rest of it are a blur. All you know is the soft chest against which you nestle and the calming voice attached to it, a voice you’ve known as long as you’ve been her missed period. I believe it, the tiny zygote of you, a cluster of cells swimming through primordial goo, you without ears or eardrums could still hear her. You know this, her, and you know that other—rumpled shirt, stubbled chin, the arms that fold you and the fond-foolish constant touching. They are unable to believe you are here, you are theirs, you live—they hold their own breaths to hear you breathe. She is mother and he is father, but you’re many months from having the words. It’ll be years before you understand who I am. It’ll be years before I understand it either.
by Mayumi Shimose Poe photo by Bianca Mills
HANA She had never thought of them as anything but toys. They had been apples, boobies, breastsesses, chichis, fun bags, knobs, maracas, peaks, pompoms, second base, tatas, the twins, titties, umlauts, and yayas. But now they were teats. Udders. Mammaries. Now they were—well, what were they but food containers, like Ziploc bags but without the patented watertight seal. All it took was a cry of a certain pitch—from any infant—and she could feel the colostrum soaking into her nursing pads, making her grasp at herself in public to check for leaks. Hana had taken to wearing only patterned clothing to camouflage her inability to predict a sudden downpour. But this time, it was her baby’s cry that engorged her breasts full to aching, and she was at home. She was able to settle down onto the couch, whipping up her old shirt with one hand and tucking her son close to her left teat with the other. His mouth was intent on her, a gaping red maw, although he missed at first, gumming her breast’s undercurve before she took his neck in her firm grasp. And when she wasn’t obsessing about the overheavy breasts or her chapped and aching nipples, she was hating the rolls of flesh of her now body, all warm and risen from the oven of her womb. The noticing was inescapable because she has nothing to do but sit here, emptying first this breast, then the other. She saw it all splayed before her, a cornucopia of excess. Her thighs were once so thin they actually bowed away from each other, but now as she sat, they did too, like twin plumped loaves; when she walked, the way they brushed constantly against each other made her want to check for a trail of crumbs. Next, there were her arms, what she used to call “mommyarms” in an unkind tone of voice when it hadn’t been her own flesh that jiggled off her torso, as beside the point as wings on a chicken when faced with the size of the breast. She couldn’t understand how she could possibly have mommyarms when she was lifting things all day, every day, things like a baby and groceries and diaper bags and baskets full of laundry ripe for the washing.
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Then there was her face, the way the lines had curved and softened, the jawline less defined, the sunken cheeks filled, even her lips felt fat. Her once-oval face was now as round and porcine as morning bao, its richness and meaty quality perfect alongside a strong cup of oolong. It was as if, over the last nine months, she had managed to produce not one but two new bodies, one a miracle and one less so. The baby squirmed in her arms almost angrily, pulling her nipple with him as he detached himself. “Fuck!” said Hana, then “sorry, sorry, you didn’t hear that,” as she cradled him with one hand and pressed the other, a flat palm, to her ache. He sounded a pterodactyl cry, as if he were on the hunt, then attached fiercely to her bicep. And she just let him suck. After a few moments, though, she pulled up the other side of her shirt, switched him to the other arm, and began coaxing him close. “C’mon, I know you’re hungry. You barely ate. Except when you nearly took off my nipple and chewed on my arm. C’mon, Tommy. Take it.” His head bobbled like a doll, as his unfocused eyes moved in the direction of her nipple to her eyes to the green ottoman to the window back to her nipple again. Then back to her eyes. “Be a good boy, Tommy,” she said, jostling him, “and eat your freakin’ breakfast.” And then there it was, a smacking of lips closing on her, the slippery inside of her son’s mouth, the pinch of milk starting to flow. She sighed and tried to wiggle the pillow behind her into a better position without unhinging his mouth. It really was no wonder that every way she saw her body now was as food. And not even in the good ways—not apple-bruise hair; not cherried lip; no look in the mirror prompted an involuntary, yet audible, Hello, delicious, paired with a satisfied curve of lip. As once it would have done. Now she was all yeast and grain, vitamin and fiber. She felt like a vending machine of necessity. Hana checked her watch. She mustn’t lose track of the time. Mattie was coming today, and days went more smoothly with Mattie around. But she still had time, so she placed her bare feet up on the coffee table and tried to relax. The tugging at her nipple was insistent and steady. There were slurping noises. She found all of this distasteful. A mother who doesn’t want to be one, she thinks. How fucking original. There had been that woman down in Houston, Andrea Something, drowned her five kids in the bathtub, she recalled. Taking it a huge, gaping step further, there was that San Antonio mother who actually ate her baby’s brain, and three of his toes, and some other unspecified parts in a crime the police dubbed “too heinous to describe further.” Hana completely agreed with their assessment but couldn’t help but wonder: ingesting the brain seemed somewhat logical—in an illogical kind of world—like the account Mattie had told her about, just the other week, of the indigenous cannibals of New Guinea who’d ingest dead tribesmembers’ brains as a sign of respect. But why the toes? And then why only three of the toes? And what were those other parts that couldn’t be specified? And, finally, what the heck was in the drinking water down in Texas? Hana thought of these parents, so disturbed, quite literally outside of their minds, and yet all people could think to ask is why, if they were so depressed, they didn’t just kill themselves. To be fair, thought Hana, people were missing the point entirely. The point was not needing to end one’s life but, rather, to be given a different one—or, in good probability, merely to recover the one you had before.
But oh, god, what was she going on about? “Too heinous to describe further” just about covered it. Hana pressed fingers to her temple as if to massage away such thoughts. She wasn’t interested in any of this, didn’t sit around contemplating the death of her child. She smoothed the wispy top of Tommy’s head. But it was like she couldn’t help it. It was all over the news, and god forbid she do anything as stupid as Google “mother kills child” because of the rash of results that popped up in consequence. She wasn’t interested in these cases; or maybe she was, but morbidly so, obsessed with the horrific details because she wondered how one got to that point. Tommy detached himself again, more gently this time, and turned the steel of his gaze up at her. She wondered for a brief, horrible moment if he could hear her thoughts. There had been a time not too long ago that they had been connected in the most deep, intuitive way—a way only ever shared by a child and its mother. But now he was scanning the room and now he was drooling. He didn’t seem particularly upset. Hana covered herself up and slung him up toward her shoulder, patting at his back with a cupped hand. Small noises caught in his chest as she thumped away at him, but he wasn’t burping. He didn’t seem fussy, so she settled him into the spoon of her, so he could face outward. Together, they gazed out the window. Hana imagined that she was outside, striding up the walk and past the porch swing and looking in, and tried to see what that version of herself would see. The room is dim, a single lamp in the corner lights it, but it beams onto a young woman with an infant on her lap. Her feet are up. The TV is off. The baby cannot hold up his own head. His hair is coming in slowly, but his eyebrows are already thick and wild. The Hana in the room peers over Tommy’s head and uses a spit-wet pointer to smooth each wayward brow. It is a tender scene that the self on the porch observes. Then again, Hana remembers all those mothers in the news were described as mild, even “non-descript,” and then one day some synapse does or doesn’t fire, some thread is snapped, and the boundary between being in one’s right mind and one’s wrong mind is revealed to be mere filigree. Was it all post-partum depression? And if so, why did the body and mind disconnect so abruptly at just the emptying of a womb? Or was it something more sinister, that these individuals, or even all individuals, carried around in them a whisper of violence, the possibility looming silent and large, like a secret identity, like Clark Kent whipping off his stupid glasses to reveal superhuman and unsurpassable capabilities, answerable only to Kryptonite? What mild mothers were capable of terrified her. Besides it wasn’t that she didn’t love her son. She did, but she never knew how complicated love was. That you could feel brisk in its grasp. She was not one of those women who had ever melted at the sight of a baby’s face. And now, presented with her own, she did not coo or bill at him; she made no noise she’d be embarrassed to make if no baby were present. She did not search his body for signs of herself or Jimmy. No, she perched the baby on a hip, she slung him in a sling, she belted him into seat after seat, and in this she could be grateful: even she, impatient with it all, could see that he was a good baby.
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The Shape Love Takes
MATTIE Elizabeth, Elizabeth now. Eight stops to go. Car’s starting to fill up, so I am careful not to meet the eyes of the people seeking seats. When they pass, I encourage my sprawl: coffee cup, rifled-through Times, bottle of water, proofs, red pens—I lay it all out on the seat next to me. I take up the front section of the paper and begin to page through the headlines, hiding behind its large spread. President-elect Obama on clear-air technology. Violence in the Congo. Somali pirates—now there’s a thing I can’t wrap my head around, real live pirates, today. I swig at the coffee, which is going lukewarm. Citigroup to lay off employees. Detroit auto industry seeking government bailout. God, this stuff is depressing. I do let them pay me. Just a little, mind you, and barely enough to cover what I spend on train tickets, coming and going three days a week, and ingredients for the meals I make and freeze into individual servings so that Hana doesn’t have to cook. So, yes, I let them give a little, because I understand the importance of appearances. It’s important to Jimmy that they don’t appear to be a charity case, just as it’s important to me to appear to be offering a service, rather than the entire pulp of my heart. What’s important to Hana? I don’t know, even though I grew up alongside her and have been in love with her about that long, too. Glancing up, I read the platform’s sign as we pull out: Rahway Station. So, Metropark next. I mull it over, decide to take a stab at what matters to Hana. Once, I would have said being beautiful— for this was Hana as a girl, Japanese anime girl hair and glossed lips and clothes that pointed out her tiny figure, and in that vision I see dull, plain me following her about, a moth to light. Later, what mattered would have been achievement. She’d been headed for a marketing career in the “beauty industry”; I was off to the wilds of anthropology; but there was one math class in which we overlapped while at college, Trend Analysis, the one for which she had an uncanny intuition. The one where she’d met Jimmy. Then I suppose I’d be forced to say that he was what mattered—because she gave up everything. And my god, remembering that time is still like a knife to my gut: watching her become his—and, worse, watching it not make her happy like she thought it would. After that, she came to value privacy—turned inward, started writing in her ever-present notebooks, said she was learning to be alone without being lonely. She pulled away even from me. I think now it’s love that matters—just love of a different kind. Hana has her son now, her beautiful boy; she can’t possibly still feel lonely, for now she’s never alone. But that’s the reason I go—well, part of it, anyway. I don’t want Hana to feel alone. She never has been; I’ve always hovered near. I go, and we put away groceries and gather laundry and she asks me what’s what in anthropology these days. Just two days ago I had come out; we went to the Farmer’s Market and I held the baby while she shopped. Tommy leaned against my chest in his carrier, so his eyes were on me the whole time. I gazed back at him and we moved so slow down that dairy aisle that it seemed thirty minutes passed between eggs and ice cream. Each time I saw Tommy, it seemed that he had changed again. I wanted to sit and just watch it all happen: the caterpillar closing into a chrysalis and then emerging, its veins filling with blood and pumping the wings hard with strength, the tentative first flight, then the soaring. Hana was … I don’t know where, in the canned-food aisle or maybe amongst the produce. We were planning that afternoon to make Bolognese from scratch. “What a gorgeous child you have,” an older couple murmured, stopping our slow progress, wanting to stroke the peachy fuzz of his head. And there I was, next to the milk, stammering that Tommy wasn’t mine, exactly. Hana chose
that moment to materialize next to the cart, depositing in canned tomatoes, fresh herbs, and a Styrofoam slab of ground meat. “He’s not giving you any trouble, is he, sweets?” she asked, using her pet name for me, ignoring the older couple. She circled her arms around me, resting the point of her chin on my shoulder, and reached up to ruffle Tommy’s hair before exclaiming, “Oh, motherfucker, I forgot the damned pasta.” She whirled off while the older couple stared. I’m not sure if they were more appalled by the idea of us three as a family or Hana’s ferocious mouth, but without another word, they left. Hana wasn’t there to hear me lie to the next woman who stopped me, wanting a better look at Tommy. She didn’t see me claim him as mine—because it was easier; because I wanted it to be true. The doors chime a warning, then close, and the train begins to leave Metuchen Station. A voice startles me, booming as it does into the relative silence of the car. “A-l-l-y-s-o-n? I’d never name a child with a misspelling like that.” The woman in the aisle has a thick Jersey Italian accent. “Are you kidding me?” Her companion is male and quiet compared to the woman. I wish they’d keep their voices down or move to another car, but they pick the seats across the aisle from me, a coveted four-seater, the two pairs facing each other. “Rex?” suggests the man. “No. Just no. That’s a dog’s name.” The man actually slaps his knee as they laugh—a caricature of how to react to funny. “What else,” says the woman, “what else?” “Monique?” “Ex-cuuu-say-mwa, we’re not French, are we? I don’t think so.” The woman laughs hard enough for both of them. “And as for Micaela?” says the woman. I don’t even know what language that is. What is that, it’s just Michael, isn’t it? It’s a girl version of Michael? Why don’t you just name her Lesbo and get it over with?” There is a cascade of giggles from both, despite the fact that what she has said lacks any logic. How does giving a “boy” name to a girl, or vice versa, determine their sexuality? Does she really believe there is that much power in a word? Am I being overly sensitive or are they glancing at me between giggles? Do I look like I have a boy name? I take inventory—ponytailed long hair: femme; jeans and a henley: tomboyish, maybe, but certainly not butch; no makeup: but that’s because I like to look fresh faced. Anyway, I don’t have a boy name; my full name is Matilda. Am I being paranoid? I prop myself again behind the paper, trying to tune them out. Jimmy thinks I come for the money. Hana thinks I come because I’m a good friend. I tell them, why do I work from home if I cannot help out—“and put a few more bucks in your wallet,” Jimmy assures us all, winking. “Yeah,” I answer. “A few more bucks.” What nobody sees is that I show up for me. That all of this is like playing house, like pretending to belong. I come because Hana is everything her name implies: Arabic bliss; a Japanese flower; the Czech conception of God’s graciousness; the Hebrew notion of favor; and the Hawaiian word for work.
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And, of course, I come for you, Tommy, our son. That’s how I’ve come to see you—as all of ours. You are always Hana’s. You are Jimmy’s when he comes home from work and a silent Hana passes you to him and leaves the room. But you are mine, too, baby, and I can love you out loud as I cannot your mother. I can stroke your head, exclaim over your thick fan of dark lashes, study the sharp little nails on all ten fingers, all ten toes. I can look for where Hana begins and where Jimmy ends— find the places where you are neither her nor him but only you. I can kiss your fat cheeks till your dimples appear, your round tummy till your fists flail, and your small and perfect feet till your toes start to curl. I crumple the empty coffee cup. Edison now. New Brunswick, next. HANA She knew she had to get going but she couldn’t hear herself think. He just kept crying. What time was Mattie’s train coming in, and did she need to change the baby first? Could she afford not to, when he’d been making very concentrated faces ever since he finished feeding and there seemed to be a sour odor coming from his general direction, where he wailed his healthy pink lungs out in the carrier next to the couch? She had put him down in the chair so she could stretch every limb out and across that couch and finish her cup of rooibos tea. Herbal tea was bullshit; it tricked neither her mind nor body into accepting it as replacement for caffeine; but she was shivering and she had wanted something to warm her up. By now, the tea had long gone cold, but the microwave in the kitchen seemed a marathon away. Hana gave up on the tea and scooped Tommy up from the chair. Though she found it distasteful, she sniffed at his diaper. She couldn’t be sure. Maybe he needed to be burped, maybe that was it. She maneuvered him over her left shoulder again, trying to anchor a burp cloth in place with one hand. She cupped her hand and thudded up and down his back, and all she could hear was the small, hiccupy, sobbing breaths he took in between larger swaths of sound. Perhaps he wasn’t gassy; perhaps it really was the diaper. She probably should just change him, but that might upset him further. The air itself smelled a little sour, a little saccharine, like what else but spilled milk left sitting too long and then wiped up with the nearest cloth-like item: a burp cloth, an orphaned infant sock, a mother’s shirt. The laundry piled itself in various rooms, as if conspiring behind her back. The baby was crying, yes, but where were the car keys, her bra, a hairbrush? She was running late. She was forever running late now. Nine-eleven was the train, she remembered now, nine-eleven, a number one always remembered. She had to get going, or she had to make him stop, or she had to reach the right position on this couch such that she no longer saw or heard him or had to think about where she was and what she should be doing. Maybe she should try meditation. Zen stuff. Emptying the mind. Might be good for her. Or might be impossible. He couldn’t possibly still be hungry, could he? She could feed him again, but how could he be hungry? It had only been twenty minutes. Thirty at most, she thought but wasn’t sure. She’d heard that the sound of a baby crying was a form of torture in some countries. They’d pipe it—like music, like airborne disease—straight into the cells. Just hour upon hour of a baby wailing, inconsolable, like it had been left alone, or was scared, or was being hurt. A cry without an answering shush. No rush of adult feet down a hallway. And no baby that anyone could see or help. It was enough to make hardened criminals break. Hana wondered, though. It seemed worse to be looking right at him—the wail, embodied—and see that he wasn’t, in fact, left alone,
scared, or being hurt and still not know how to just make him stop. MATTIE My loud neighbors get off Jersey Avenue, thank god. With only two stops left, I turn to the Science and Technology section. NASA seeks possible new planet in solar system. Scientists discover new method of erasing memories without using drugs. Sulphur dioxide plume of Ethiopian volcano travels halfway around world to dissipate over the Pacific. I’m intrigued by this last article, until I see the photo of four corpses being unearthed—which of course reminds me that I haven’t gotten any of my work done. I feel bad, but I quiet myself with the promise to proofread on the ride home. For now, though, I am drawn into this story. The corresponding article is about how archaeologists have recently uncovered a new cache of Paleolithic graves. Back in college, I majored in archaeology because I saw it as a mystery that could be solved. You dug through the past and then used your most objective reasoning to interpret it. Things checked out: DNA confirmed that we descended from primates. A copper headdress found in a grave revealed the date of interment and provenance of the headdress based on trade patterns of copper in the region. And so forth. There was a tidiness to the logic. I still deal in tidiness, but now it’s the dotting of i’s and the crossing of t’s. Proofreading is pouring meaning into a particular template, making it fit, but I miss the mystery of science. There is no magic of interpretation to commas or style or grammar. It seems Grave 99 is the one scientists and the media are interested in, taking that familiar matrix of adult male corpse, adult female corpse, and two skeletal youths. “Buried in Each Other’s Arms,” proclaims the headline. “Scientists discover remains of world’s most ancient nuclear family.” But what of Grave 90, with its single adult female and small child? And Grave 93, with its adult male and two related children? And what, finally, to make of Grave 98, with its adult female and three unrelated youth? These graves merit only a single sentence, clauses separated by semicolons, a dutiful listing of contents before returning to the meat of the matter: Proof! Of the nuclear family! Goes back to the Paleolithic!! I page forward and back to the pages around the article, hoping for a “continued on…” or a sidebar at the very least. There is nothing. There is absolutely no speculation on whether those other graves formed variations of what constituted a family. As we pull out of Princeton Junction, I wonder: Who is to say we even have the equipment to discern what these graves could mean? Can science discover irrefutable evidence of the nature of family? Can an equation mathematically prove what shape it should take?
Mayumi Shimose Poe
HANA Hana sat in the parking lot of the train station. The baby was sleeping in the back, probably having cried himself out earlier, and all she could hear were the slight sounds of him sucking at his pacifier. She could almost pretend he didn’t exist. She could be a very different kind of woman living a very different kind of life. Perhaps she was a successful businesswoman who had bought a second home in the country so that when she could, she slipped the confines of her city life, indulging her longing for nature and open space and stars in the night sky, for miles on the highway flanked only by these trees, bursting like fireworks of fading autumn leaves. Or maybe she was a much-beloved novelist, whose sheer naked talent somehow excused—even explained—her reclusiveness, as if the two facts about her were in direct proportion, linked quantities, and as one shifted, so must the other.
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Or maybe she was a wife fresh from the altar, such a very young woman, still unaware of how hard it will all be, being a wife, being just a wife, keeping all those vows and expected to have no more secrets. She was any of these women, and each of them, and sitting in the short-term parking lot waiting for the train to arrive. Perhaps it was time to return to her apartment in the financial district before work on Monday—Monday, this she would sigh in despair. Or maybe she had to make her annual and detested few public appearances to promote her newest book, doorstoppingly thick with brilliance. Or it could be that she was meeting her young husband for a date in the city, that being their job right now, everyone had said so, this was the time for fattening their love on these rich first few years, wining and dining that love and escorting it out to Broadway musicals and exhibits of strange art both would be too embarrassed to admit they didn’t understand.
he’s sleeping. He’s fine.” “Hana. Honey. I was just kidding.” I hug her, and she lets me. When I let go, Hana starts up the ignition and rolls slowly through the parking lot. I am belted in, but I turn to look back at Tommy, while Hana keeps her eyes on the road. His pacifier has fallen to the side of his car seat, and sweet drool crusts a path down his right cheek. I lick my thumb and use it to wipe the whiteness away. His mouth puckers and unpuckers and those long lashes flutter, but after a big sigh shudders through his chest, he is back to soundly sleeping. I can’t help the smile that breaks across my face. Those lashes, that pout of lips, that sigh, these are things I have loved about Hana, but they are somehow even more precious in miniature on this boy. We roll up to the longest stop light in all of New Jersey—we’ve sat at enough of them, all around the state, to believe this— and wait. How will they one day interpret us, I wonder. It could happen in seconds. I could be sitting here in this passenger seat, gazing back at the baby, while Hana keeps her eyes on the road. The light could hold red, and hold red, and hold red, and as our attention wanders, it would come to rest on a secret stratovolcano of central New Jersey, one that had successfully passed as a mountain for so many years that people forgot it was only dormant, not defunct. And today, it would show how it wasn’t sleeping at all; it was capable of real violence, spewing forth a cloud of ash and pumice that would spread like a blanket over us, fossilizing this day exactly as it was. Pompeii, New Jersey. But the volcano could only reach so far, so life outside this area would go on and someday someone would dig us up. Our bones would long be bleached dry in their sarcophagus of ash and perhaps when exposed to air they would crumble, but I am sure my marrow would still be thick with love. v
But the baby stirs.
Shape Love Takes
MATTIE Hana is waiting when I arrive. I see the car and wave, but she sits, her head straight forward, near motionless. The car is off, and there are no sounds coming from within. For no reason I can put a finger on, the whole thing spooks me, and I speed my steps to the car. When I open the car door, Hana startles. “Geezus, you fucking scared me,” she says. “Hana dear, we’re going to have to clean your mouth out with soap before Tommy’s first word is a swear word,” I say. “Anyway. What—were you dozing off on the job?” I place my tote bags and the small cooler of food at my feet. Hana replies, “Spacing out, I guess.” Her voice is soft and wispy, as if waking from a dream. Her tone sharpens as she adds, “Anyway,
My first platonic friend
was a new kid to my high school named Nick. Nick was taller than any of the other guys at my school, and he could quote The Simpsons for hours and play “Blackbird” on the guitar. I, meanwhile, had covered every square inch of wall space in my room with retro Beatles posters and magazine clippings. Naturally, I had a life-threatening crush on Nick. Nick liked the attention and actually liked me, too. But I had too much acne and too little social standing to interest him romantically. His MO was to call me to chat about his troubles with the various girls at our school—girls who liked bands in which all the members were still alive, girls who didn’t wear bulky cardigan sweaters that hung to their knees in a vain attempt to camouflage the Nebraska-like quality of their chests. It was worth the subtle sting of romantic rejection just to get to talk to him. Somehow, even back then, I figured out that it wasn’t in the cards for Nick and me. He was too blithe and uncomplicated and I was too conflicted and dark for us to ever make it as a
couple. Plus, he just didn’t like me that way. I got over my crush, and we never discussed it. Since it wasn’t Dawson’s Creek, nobody had to make a dramatic speech about their True Feelings so that we could have a Very Special Episode. We coexisted as friends, laughing our heads off at Comic Book Guy and Ralph Wiggum and ignoring the occasional, vague undercurrent of sexual tension. Really. We took swing dance lessons together because both of us secretly loved World War II movies, but apart from the lessons, we never so much as held hands. I was preoccupied with figuring out how much of a Prozac queen I wanted to be, and he was enmeshed in an on-again, off-again relationship with a girl who had a sunnier disposition than me and way, way bigger boobs. I’m still friends with Nick. (He’s married now.) We chat on the phone every now and then; it’s a healthy, stable relationship that is fine the way it is. Nick may have been my first platonic friend, but he wasn’t the last. Since then, I’ve had at least a dozen close male friends who, for whatever reason, weren’t appropriate boyfriend or husband material. I’m a serial platonic friend. Hawaii Women’s Journal | 31
Chris Rock said that every platonic friend he has is some woman he was trying to get into bed, but he made a wrong turn somewhere and ended up in the Friend Zone. Most of my platonic friends fall into the same category— almost all of them did start off as potential boyfriends. But the friendship zone isn’t a wrong turn, a booby-but-no-boobies prize of love. The friendship zone is a very special place. The friendship zone is where mature men and women recognize that “love” doesn’t really overcome all obstacles. The friendship zone is for men and women who care about and appreciate each other but who also recognize their irreconcilable differences before exchanging sweet nothings and bodily fluids. The friendship zone is for men and women who know that no matter what popular culture has to say about sex and our entitlement to it, it is a profoundly emotional experience with strong, irrevocable implications to relationships. Well, maybe not to everyone. I’m fine with people who can have sex without caring or without caring as much as I do. All I’m saying is that I can’t do it.
There are some men who are wonderful but who you shouldn’t have sex with. Ever. But who says you can’t be friends? I know, I know: Harry (of When Harry Met Sally) says the sex part always gets in the way. The following guide is what Sally should have had all along. If you want to stay platonic friends without the sex part getting in the way, I encourage abiding by these guidelines:
1. Go Slow.
Romantic relationships aren’t built in a day, and neither are platonic friendships. Before you’ve spent some serious time with a man, he’s not a real person. He’s a romantic archetype—the answer to all your dreams and hopes. Do not fall for this. That knight in shining armor is a human being, just like you, and it’s a bad idea to make out with him before you know his flaws and he knows yours. The key to building good platonic friendships is waiting and seeing. I find that the success of a platonic friendship is inversely proportional to the amount of physical passion you allowed yourselves to have prior to figuring out that a romantic relationship was not your destiny.
2. Assess Deal Breakers.
Be honest with yourself about a man’s “deal breakers.” Do not gloss over them. This doesn’t mean you should agonize over superficial differences. My own deal breakers in men have nothing to do with income or physical appearance. I’m looking for traits that I know would cause heartache and disaster down the line if I were involved in a romantic relationship with him. Is he a womanizer? Does he have a radically different attitude about money? Is he fixated on doing things that I have no interest in, such as spending large quantities of time in bars? How does he feel about me—is he emotionally available? (This is a huge one: if a guy “just isn’t that into you,” no matter how perfect he is on every other front, it’s a deal breaker.)
3. Don’t Go Overboard with the Sexual Fantasies.
It’s okay to have sexual thoughts, dreams, or fantasies about a platonic friend, but there’s no point in taking those thoughts seriously. If you’re spending time with someone who you like being around, you find that person attractive, and that person is in your basic age demographic, it’s normal that you're going to have thoughts of sex. Whatever you do, DO NOT tell the friend that you are having these fantasies. As the person turns from a romantic archetype into a real person, the thoughts will dissipate. In the meantime, let the thoughts come and go and see them for what they are: your body’s biological reaction to the proximity of a person with whom you could mate. You are a human being, and you have the ability to override your biological urges for the sake of having a stable, viable friendship with another human being. And, while we’re on the subject, do not allow the platonic friend into your apartment until
you stop having sexual thoughts about him. For me, that usually takes about two months. Use the same rule to determine when you can spend time in the platonic friend’s apartment.
I don’t allow bashing sessions of girlfriends. It’s disrespectful towards the woman he’s dating. She’s number one in his life, not me. If he calls her his girlfriend, that’s my cue to back off.
4. Secret Not-Lovers.
8. PJs = Sexual Thoughts.
Eventually, you will probably have to have a conversation about the fact that the two of you are going to be friends, not lovers. In that conversation, it is a good idea to intentionally outline physical boundaries. I don’t touch my platonic friends. Not any touching. No excuses. Never. No social hugging, no hand on the arm, no playful wrestling—nothing. I’m too passionate to get away with platonic touching. Not everyone needs to be this much of a nun, but be realistic about your limits. Not all men are going to be able to handle boundaries. Some men just don’t make good platonic friends. They don’t see any point in having a relationship with a woman that doesn’t involve at least the potential for sex. There are women who can’t get into the platonic friend thing, either. That’s okay. Just as polyamory, marriage, bondage, and the whole gamut of sexual fetishes aren’t for everyone, neither is a sexless friendship with the opposite sex. (By the way, it is possible for a man to accept a sexless friendship with a woman he’s attracted to without it meaning that he is gay.)
5. Split the Check.
Do not let him pay for you, and don’t pay for him. You can buy each other gifts for birthdays and holidays, but these should be small and impersonal. There’s a blurring of the lines when he pays for you. It feels more like a real date. That’s just what you don’t want. Splitting the check quenches romance. The check negotiation—who’s going to throw in cash? who’s going to use the credit card?—is a horribly distasteful dose of reality, just like bringing up condoms in the middle of a hot-and-heavy makeout session. Even if you were having sexual thoughts, you’re not anymore.
6. Remember Why You’re Not Together.
Because there is a good possibility that there may be periodic, underlying tension in the relationship (You’re so great! Why was it, again, that we can't be together?), I find it advisable to make a detailed list of the person’s deal-breaker qualities and read it to myself at regular intervals. Keep an eye out for those incompatibilities when you are hanging out with the person, and let your imagination linger over their implications in a dating relationship or in marriage. Remind yourself: Man, am I glad I’m not signing up to have sex and thereby form an ill-advised emotional attachment to THAT. Nope, I get to go home and do whatever I want! Woo hoo!
7. Take the #2 Slot.
If you or your platonic friend starts seeing someone seriously, your roles in each other’s lives should decrease dramatically. I will not allow my platonic friends to discuss their girlfriends with me, except very superficially and positively. Hawaii Women’s Journal | 32
Under no circumstances should you stay overnight at the platonic friend’s apartment, even if you have been friends for years and have gotten to the point where it’s safe to hang out at each other’s homes. I always get a hotel room if I’m going to visit a platonic friend who lives in another city. There’s just something too intimate about seeing someone in their pajamas.
9. The Friend Breakup.
If it has been a long time, and you’re still having sexual dreams about the person, and you talk about him to your friends and family constantly, and you start referring to him as your “fake boyfriend,” you have to come to terms with the fact that you’re falling in actual love with him. It’s no longer that shiny lust that accompanies the beginning of most male/female relationships. At this point you have to take inventory. Are the incompatibilities still there? Every time this has happened to me, I’ve had to have a friendship breakup. I did not want to date the person, but if I stayed friends with him, I would never want to date anyone else. So that was it. No calling, no e-mailing, no nothing. Done.
10. Mix It Up.
Make sure you have other friends. And a life. Female friends and married couple friends are important. Even when my platonic male friends are dominating my social calendar, I still have lots of other things going on. That way, if the friendship breakup has to happen, it isn’t as hard. There’s just one rule left. The golden, much coveted rule number 11 is one I haven’t experienced yet, but I haven’t given up hope. It’s the When Harry Met Sally rule, in which the platonic friend evolves past his verboten status and becomes a friend who isn’t so platonic after all. In my opinion, this can happen successfully if and only if the deal breakers have been resolved. In that case, congratulations! If not, don’t be discouraged. All of my platonic friends have brought richness and flavor to my life that I treasure, despite the fact that we couldn’t be together romantically. I’m so glad to know them, but I’m also glad that I haven’t made a bad match out of sexual indiscretion and the fear of being alone. The truth about this guide is that it proposes a different script to dating than the one our current hook-up culture offers. It isn’t for everyone. However, delaying sex in favor of building a strong, stable relationship with a man that is based on mutual affection and respect instead of romantic excitement and hormones is good advice for women in romantic relationships as well as platonic ones. v
photo by Jasmine Joy
“This is our place of humble beginnings,” my apu (grandma) says to me as we walk through the property where her children grew up. It took me 27 years to get to the Philippines. I was apu’s first born grandchild in America. The stories I was raised on about Mabalacat, Pampanga of Luzon, were haunting, superstitious fables. Now, as a grown woman, I am experiencing the reality of my family tree and the roots of its native origin. In the middle of the courtyard, there is a homemade basketball rim with a tattered net barely hanging on to a beaten backboard. While my apu points at each house explaining our heritage, I am greeted by an auburncolored rooster tied up alongside one of the cement walls. His opponent, with golden highlights and a green tail end, responds with a louder “cock-a-doodle-doo.” I mention the word “cockfight”—and my uncles do not hesitate. They release the birds. Long colorful feathers around their necks extend outward to form manes, flaring with their dainty movement. They shuffle back and forth almost beak to beak before one of them starts to violently flap his wings in defense. My apu calls it off when the necking and clawing begins. She thinks I am crazy for initiating such madness, but she smiles and says: “This is where your mom and aunties played.” I stay within the barrios of my family’s hometown during the initial days of my visit. Family members I have never met
By Jasmine Joy before are shocked when they hear me fluently communicate in our native dialect, Kapampangan. My understanding of our culture and the respect I have for it was embedded in my spirit before I could speak any language. As a child brought up in southern California with traditional Filipino values, I never packed an all-American peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch. I was not ashamed to bring a tiny Tupperware filled with my favorite chicken adobo leftovers and have my classmates stare as I ate with bare hands. Back then, home was my hidden village and my relatives were my teachers. What I imagined about my motherland as a little girl goes beyond any faerie tale. The main strip of Mabalacat and its continuous gusts of dirt, exhaust, and burning smoke remind me that I’m in a third world country. I am relieved to venture outside of the town’s fussiness, where the plains open up and the mountain ranges trace the neutral skyline. Sitting in the sidecar of a motorized tricycle, my uncle brings me to a historical landmark known as Bamban Grotto. My Uncle Emer thought I would appreciate an elevated view of the land stretching past the local district. The Grotto is a flight of 162 steps leading up to a sacred monument dedicated to Virgin Mary. It directly overlooks Bamban Bridge, separating the provinces of Tarlac and Pampanga. When Mount Pinatubo erupted in June of 1991, the volcano’s heavy sediment Hawaii Women’s Journal | 33
clogged the river that flowed beneath Bamban Bridge and the bridge collapsed. Before such mishap, my mother, Uncle Emer, and their cousins would swim in that river, but it is now a sad quarry filled with ash deposits. Listening to Uncle Emer elaborate on how things were before the eruption, I start to wonder about the indigenous tribes of Mount Pinatubo’s dense forest. Research is not enough to satisfy my curiosity about these ancestors; I decide I want to meet these Aeta (eye-ta) people, also known as Negritos. On Christmas Eve, another one of my uncles takes me to the Aeta village to spend some time with a datu (chief) who is 100 years old. We find him as he is walking toward the river where his people fish, bathe, and wash their garments. After formally introducing myself in Kapampangan, he tells me his name is Apung Duman. He sits down to share some history with me while puffing on his cigar. In our dialect, Apung Duman speaks calmly of the days when cars did not exist and horses were relied on for transportation. Being in the presence of someone who has lived here for a century to see the rise and fall of nature and government is completely humbling. I feel honored when he invites me to build a home in his community. He does not want me to leave and neither do I. I tell him I will return soon and this is not the end. v
i crept up the stairs to the anne frank room where you had moved all your belongings. our bed, the red-painted table, a chair. stupidly, in my bare feet, i slid across the plank floor dirty, rotting wood emanating attic-dwelling rodent excrement i’m looking for a book. a book i know is packed away in a box— a box you packed when i told you i was leaving, even though i didn’t actually leave. it must be ten degrees colder in this part of the attic i should leave you some arsenic-laced donuts to set beside the day-old coffee the lid to the ice cream the half-bottle of red wine. i look at the studs that constitute your walls interlaced with substance that fills the cracks, it leaks out over itself, forming hard globs of grey matter. on the wooden posts are pictures colored-tacked black and white photographs arranged in a time-line a spiral. i picture you squeaking around on loose floorboards up in that drafty attic, wringing your hands in despair looking at us all through the fingerprinted lenses of your German watchmaker wire-rims. where did we go wrong where did i lose touch with you when you lost yourself. what have you to gain, as you willingly give up everything in an attempt to cleanse to purge, to pick up pieces and assemble them neatly into your next life. how will we connect without a road leading us back to each other?
Palm Prints and
Every morning at precisely nine Amy traces the lines imprinted on her palm with a blue pen to track the time her life will end. Then she exits her apartment door where she glued a paper reading In blue handwriting, “Do something today that you will remember until your last tomorrow.” While in college she read a short story of a woman confined by her husband to a room draped in fading yellow wallpaper who sees another woman trapped in that wall and digs her nails into the wood ripping sheets down in jagged strips until her fingers bleed. So when Amy decorated the interior of her bedroom with yellow post-it notes, sorting all her life’s goals into five-year increments, she left a window in the center that she could escape through. On the first notes she placed at middle top and middle bottom to create a symmetrical frame as the beginning and end points was written “Fall in love, like you deserve to be loved.” She always addresses herself as someone other than who she is. Her affections have been spread between a cat named for a food she quit eating, a series of pretty boyfriends so meaningless their memories have merged into one face with half a dozen names, and a bookshelf sagging from the weight of words written so precisely that they could never be any more than fiction. She records on their covers the exact time it required to read them. It isn’t that Amy is obsessed with dying, she is obsessed with living like she deserves to be living. While I was the boy sleeping in the next room Hawaii Women’s Journal | 34
By Jess Kroll staring at the other side of the wall her escape window stuck on Waiting for her to stop living long enough to notice That my palm print was the reverse of hers And if we’d ever joined them The points would align in an endless circle Like one half of the symbol for infinity Waiting as both our lines slowly wound away Like a lit fuse burning itself to a glowing end I kept my walls bare and white To remind myself that no matter how dark it gets There remains still a tunnel of light to look forward Waiting to be worthy of her notice Like a piece of paper stuck to a front door Or something written in blue pen on a bright yellow post-it. But people like me We write about ourselves because nobody else will Using words precise enough to only describe things that never happened With no idea what we deserve So we pine for the people who flash their brightest, briefest smile While staining doorknobs with the fresh ink from their palms Wishing we could call after them: “Slow down. Life is so big that you miss what’s next to you And following a traced line will only get you from beginning to end faster While we live within the distance between.” I wrote my own note on the sticky side of a post-it reading, “Amy, even your own name is an ignored call for your attention. Asking for you to remember the first person.” And I left it in the center of the other side of her escape window And I left it Waiting to be noticed Like it deserved to be.
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Published on Feb 19, 2010