Tuesday, January 27, 2009

"The best measure of a man's honesty isn't his income tax return. It's the zero adjust on his bathroom scale. "

-Arthur C. Clarke (1917- )

Did you see the magazine cover where Jamie Lee Curtis sat in a bra, no makeup no air brushing, freckles and fat rolls clearly on display, in an effort to be authentic? (And more recently, Brad Pitt did one, I hear. But Puh-lease!)

I was thinking of that cover while perusing the shelves of my local book store, I found a coffee table book in the half off bin. It was photos of naked women. All sizes and distinctions. Scarred. Dimpled. Drooping. Au Naturale. Laughing. Smiling. Serious. In pairs or solitary. Some of the older women had opted to use a length of tulle to cover their nether regions or to drape around their shoulders like a mink stole. Some of them wore striking lipstick and necklaces. They were, all of them, beautiful. Rounded pegs sublimely indifferent to society’s wafer thin holes. I was sad that they were in the half off bin. Their courage should be heralded, their beauty lauded. They should have their own pedestal with a sign hanging overhead that declared this the section of “Daring.”

I have mentioned before that I am writing my story, attempting to motivate myself to lie naked in the street. My story is not pretty in places. There are scars and some wounds that have not healed properly so they ooze sometimes. I am used to my scars. They are my own. I think I’ve grown accustomed to their shape. But I struggle with the inevitable winces when others see them for the first time. I have the urge to hide under blankets and nestle the truth somewhere between the folds. Daring, apparently, is not my strong suit. It has been surprisingly difficult to coerce my cheeks to stay in the chair, to manage my attention and will it to focus.

My composition notebook is where the lens begins to rotate and I pull in close. I journal three pages in the morning, a holdover from my Artist’s Way days.

Three pages of dry heave; a hand crank in the morning to get things moving. No makeup. No editing. No strategic lighting. Fits and starts and backfires and stalling out altogether. Some days it is a grocery list; other days, a record of grievances, or a reliving of minutia and then release from it.

Three pages of mind drool.

A naked photo.


The world is lost in the folding hems of a silent snow. It is so lovely, I don’t want to take my eyes off of it for a moment; the way the flakes swish and swirl and dance, each to their own soundtrack.

After writing for a couple of hours on Saturday, I got up from the desk and didn’t return. It’s hard writing these things. Revisiting them like an invalid elder at a nursing home, listening as they mumble incoherently while the acrid smell of waste bites at everyone who lingers. The memories are withered and pale and limping and it is difficult to remember them in the open flower of youth. Honestly, I take comfort in their shriveled state. They are less dangerous that way.

I know I must. I know its necessary, but walking back there has been the hardest part. I drag my feet and then seem to stand on the threshold, peeking around corners to see what I can see from there. Surely I don’t have to go all the way in where the stench could overwhelm.

But I know I must. And eventually do, but instead of sitting down and taking notes, I hurry through or turn around and go back the way I came…

…The snowflakes have slowed to a trickle, no longer fat flakes that fill an eyeball with feathery edges and hypnotic dance. Now, specks that fall in straight lines as if to be less of a disraction. I think they are going away and I wish they wouldn’t.


It is cathartic to write down your story. And I hope you do it someday. It is hard and messy and sometimes so ugly…but hidden in all of that there are moments of honest beauty. I am finding that there is a road map in the laugh lines and age spots and weeping sores of how I got from there to here and how I will make it on the next leg of the journey.

An ode to Schmutzie:
5 things I am grateful for today:
Grande Nonfat Mocha
4 hours to write, uninterrupted
My snow boots
Girls who still want their Mom to do their hair in the morning