Much Ado

I want to believe in a collective sense of being, yet we each dwell in a different experience and comprehend the world in unique ways. In a moment of glorious self-pity, a past boyfriend exclaimed as he was dumping me, “How can you know anyone else? I don’t even know myself.” Later, he went on to say that he thought we were the same but realized that wasn’t true. He was hoping to date a vaginalized version of himself. General life experience has led me to determine that it sucks to injure others because you can’t sort your bidness. The vein of identity buried deep within is worth mining. Taking the rickety mine cart into the depths of yourself is dark and scary, but you emerge with shiny stuff. Traysures! I’ve made a small and partial inventory of me for no reason in particular.

Cool. Less Cool.

Cool. Less Cool.

Many times a day I tell myself, “Be cool, Danara. Be cool.” Many times a day I am not cool.

Cat herding skills perhaps came at the cost of people skills.

I have been vegetarian longer than I wasn’t. A bolt of idealism prompted me to try veganism for a weekend. All I ate were Ruffles.

Where undergarments and laundry are concerned, lined running shorts are never off the table.

I rock hard. Like Zeppelin hard, not Megadeth hard. Like Heart hard, not Iron Maiden hard. Like Abba hard…

If you never wanted to wear a top hat and play tambourine after sleeping with all your band mates then we can't be friends.

If you never wanted to wear a top hat and play tambourine after sleeping with all your band mates then we can’t be friends.

After 9 years as last-chair percussionist, the triangle and I had a date with destiny. But an addiction to Stevie Nicks brought on tambourines. That’s a grip you cannot escape.

I’m not saying all knitters are elitist assholes, but… A lady at O’Hare told me that my projects would bore her. I plan to crochet dog jackets like my mom and her mom before her.

I still have nightmares about working at Dairy Queen.

Are determination and strength the same quality? Probably not. I move large furniture, comfort dying animals. I will surprise you with my strengthination.

All roaming turtles will be helped without regard to their opinion on the matter.

Less friendly than most Midwesterners, more friendly than most New Englanders, I’ve finally succumbed to life in rural Ohio and wave to everybody all the time.

Newborns are strange and needy. Toddlers and I share a deep reverence for potty humor.

There were witnesses to the Kentucky State Trooper asking me if I thought I was better than the law. If my French had been better, I might have understood something similar from the Metro security in Paris. My defiant streak is occasionally misguided.

Like you didn't want to get in on that sweet bar scene.

Like you didn’t want to get in on that sweet bar scene.

Best show ever: Cheers or Cheers? Trick question. It was Cheers.

Do you know how there’s that awesome friend who you call when you want a wild time? I’m the friend you call when that douche bag hurts your feelings.

I make a conscious effort to touch people. I wonder if it’s as creepy as it sounds.

For a year of my childhood, I didn’t use my fingers to eat. It would be certain death to touch my food. Around the same period, it seemed likely that the moon had turned to blood and the rapture was imminent. I should have scrubbed my hamburger across the McDonald’s floor before eating it rather than trying to ride out the apocalypse.

My parents were charismatic Christians. There was much laying of hands and speaking in tongues. Revivals. In tents. They just went for it.

I was baptized in someone’s above-ground swimming pool by my father. Still not a fan of water.

My rural Kentucky college required that every student pass Contemporary Christianity and Survival Swimming. When I think I might graduate from therapy, I remember that second semester from my senior year.

You think Ken will ever leave once he experiences the luxury of that pink plastic bed? Good thing Astronaut Barbie doesn't tolerate that shit.

You think Ken will ever leave once he experiences the luxury of that pink plastic bed? Good thing Astronaut Barbie doesn’t tolerate that crap. She don’t need a man.

When I’m a millionaire, I will have a special room for my old Barbies complete with the Barbie townhouse with mini plastic elevator that my mom would not buy. There will be 2 Kens to every Barbie. I will drag myself away from my canopy bed and Casio keyboard long enough to brush Barbie hair every day.

“Hiss! You’ve hissed your last!” Disney’s Robin Hood. It’s appropriate for all occasions.

In 1990, a disastrous earthquake was predicted to impact central Ohio. I fantasized about saving everyone from the rubble of my elementary school. Even gross Carl and boogery Brian.

I carry rocks in my purse. Always one from the Cumberland River. Maybe it’s good to have more than gravity holding me to Earth.

A third wheel makes a tricycle.

A third wheel makes a tricycle.

Sometimes I am the other island in the stream with Dolly & Kenny.

The first time I really kissed a boy, Víctor, I was 20 in an underground gay bar in Mexico. He said he hoped he’d see me again. I don’t know why I never went back.

I want for things to be better than okay for others and don’t know what to expect for myself. It will take me a lifetime to understand how to reconcile.

The people who fall in love with me think no one else will love them. The people I fall in love with are cats.

My Own ‘Merica

Shine on, you crazy diamond. From Putinspiration.

Shine on, you crazy diamond. From Putinspiration.

Yeah, the pole bearing a rebel flag and an American flag on my way to work makes me mad. No, I don’t accept Vladimir Putin as my personal lord and savior, but I don’t think of myself as a patriot, either. I’m not even sure what it means. My sense of entitlement to all good things, contempt for politicians, and dedication to Mountain Dew remind me that I’m all American all the time. As September 11 has rolled around again and the internet is ablaze with ‘merican pride, I started thinking about who I am as a part of this vast landscape and complex culture. What does make me a patriot? What does run in my veins and quickens my pulse?

Love trickled down at least. My older bro and sis.

Love trickled down at least. My older bro and sis.

–I’m a child of Reaganomics. A child of poverty, of parents with mental illness, of Jesus. A child of the hills, of love and bewilderment, of crisis and peace. A child of the 1980s. My mom said my name meant, “Child of our hearts.” I still believe in that.

–My generation went from wandering the halls at school to practicing lockdowns. In high school during a locker clean out, someone threw a piece of fruit at an English teacher’s cleavage and exclaimed, “Bank shot!” I remember that teacher saying that in 30 years she’d never been so maliciously assaulted. Columbine happened my junior year. We didn’t know what it meant at that age. I was afraid of the chaos. Adults were afraid of me as some part of a discontented and isolated youth culture. It made a person miss the simpler days of tornado and fire drills. Natural disasters instead of human disasters.

I have only just realized his eyes were blue. Mom's were brown.

I have only just realized his eyes were blue. Mom’s were brown.

–I didn’t understand why my mother walked out of the theater during Forest Gump. I didn’t understand why she hated anti-war protestors as much as she hated war. But I suppose when all that returns from Vietnam is the body of your brother, the whole world looks different. We didn’t talk about war, and we didn’t talk about Louis. My mom’s mind was bonded to the pieces of shrapnel that tore into his flesh. The memories we don’t have can take precedence over the ones we do have.

–Quiet and bashful, my paternal grandfather was rejected from the draft for being “gouty.” His brother went and returned. Stationed in North Africa. Elmer couldn’t believe in any kind of god after the things he saw, my dad said. I can only see my grandpa in his garden with a milk carton bill stapled to his hat, bending over vegetables to assess the bunny damage, inspecting tomato stalks for signs of the dreaded tomato worm, large gloves on his medium hands. He was a man who touched life gently. There are many humans who are so gentle but have not been as fortunate in the state of their gout.

–My maternal grandfather was a Marine. You’d have known it by his mouth. Filled with four-letter words, empty of teeth. He never wanted to tell me much about the Marines. My mom said the dentists there hadn’t used Novocain.

Playing balloons with my two biggest fans.

Playing balloons with my two biggest fans.

–I went on a mission trip to Russia at 17. Having never crossed a major border, I wanted to travel away from Ohio to see everything else. I had friends whose families visited Europe or the Caribbean for vacation. That wasn’t a possibility for my family. In Russia, I stayed in an orphanage with my all-adult group. To the kids there, I was like a shooting star that had landed in their palms. Nerdy, shy, uncertain me. I was fashion and opportunity and freedom and family to them. When we use the term privilege to deride others in the United States, I think we have failed to see the rest of humanity. Because everyone has a privilege of some variety. Privilege isn’t a dirty word. It’s an obligation to share your own resources as best you can with the world. It took infant-sized 8 year-olds living each day in cribs to help me see. It took tiny arms reaching up to me at a time in my life when I didn’t know how to hold anyone. It took two 13 year-old girls pressing my hands to their cheeks and petting my hair and asking if I had parents. It took the knowledge that one girl’s family likely dumped her because of a misaligned eye that could have been operated on when she was a baby. If she had been here, it could have been repaired. There are more privileges in our lives than we will ever understand. I came back from that trip a lost girl. A rich human, but a lost girl.

–Sometimes I hope the story of Tecumseh will be different. I hope that he will succeed in uniting Native Americans and holding the land. I hope he will succeed where Blue Jacket did not. Blue Jacket signed the Greenville Treaty that gave eastern Ohio to the United States. Tecumseh did not sign. Tecumseh fought on and was killed. We learned about Blue Jacket in Ohio history, and Columbus’s hockey team is the Blue Jackets. And I don’t know if Ohio remembers Blue Jacket to celebrate his effort at peace or his unwitting aide to genocide. Everyone here wants to claim their 1/8 Native American blood regardless of history. Why didn’t we learn more about Tecumseh?

Crisis or no, Tootsie wrestles her bra on one arm at a time like everyone else.

Crisis or no, Tootsie wrestles her bra on one arm at a time like everyone else.

–We all have our own tale of 9/11. My favorite is my friend’s lisping film professor who said something like, “Apparently, there’s some kind of national emergency. Here’s Tootsie!” What collapsed for me that day was my sense of existing in an impregnable nation. That day did shatter the existence of so many humans, not just Americans. I can’t pretend that it was the most meaningful day of my life. The truth is that it’s only a single heartbeat that separates living from dying. But it’s an entire lifetime of forces and impacts and privileges and moments that lead to the choices that lead to the living or the dying. Compelled by occurrences on that day some went to war, some to Canada. I finished college in Kentucky as my heart kept beating. I turned to those things most precious to me and ignored the rest for about a decade. We all have our “here’s Tootsie” moments.

Life should be a frolic, damn it.

Life should be a frolic, damn it.

I am a person who doesn’t understand. But I try. Gender, sexuality, religion, race, avocados. I try to hear the voices of many and to find my own. On Facebook, that land of platitudes and messy quotes superimposed on sunrises, a friend posted this from Elie Wiezel: “We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” I’ve never been much inclined toward speaking, and I’ve ridden many a fence. But I think of it now, the utility of my words and the weight of them. I consider what I return to a world where I absorb so much. My American ideal is finding the balance between speaking loud enough and learning when to listen. My American ideal is a commitment to life—not pro-choice, life-at-all-costs—just quality and equality in that opportunity. Not stuff and money. Not flags and guns. Pulses and leaves and toads and thunder. Oxygen for us all. Enough security and enough love to make each of us the lord of our own heart. Enough security and love to share, to toss into the wind with the thistle down and let take root where it falls. Consider that my unfurling flag and act of patriotism for this day. For each day.