Idle, slightly freaky, musings:
In a few years’ time now, I will have lived for half a century. If I’m still alive, that is, or, in my mother and my grand-mother’s words, si Dieu me prête vie, if God keeps me alive. I’ll have lived for fifty years and banging my fist on the table I could already swear that when I turn fifty the question will still be there, peering from behind the multi-tiered, pink and pale green Marks and Spencer birthday cake: oh dear, what am I supposed to do with the old buddy?
(Fifty tiny wriggly candles proudly sticking out of the pink-icing top of the monument to my wisdom and I’ll be inebriated with despondency, or will it be intoxicated with dejection? at my dye-needing cropped hair, dodo’s feet giving my eyes a vaguely Asian look, my lips pursing like decaying quinces and a friend or two wondering, jeez, why doesn’t she wear any make-up?)
What am I supposed to do with this body of mine? When I first asked myself that question, I honestly don’t know. I remember complaining – was it in my thirties? – that my mother had not told me about periods; instead, her sister did. Was I scared when it happened? I don’t remember. Still, writing this now, I might give the impression that it could, should, have been some coming-of-age event. Memory serves our present purposes; it wouldn’t serve mine to say that my first period was, well, you know, something that mattered. Thinking of that, and mentioning blood, losing my virginity, being deflowered… The metaphor is barbaric, isn’t it? bringing to mind some innocent soft-petalled nasturtium being crushed underfoot and weeping its precious juices, leaving a coloured stain where its lovely fragrant dancing-in-the-breeze body should have been… Well, if anywhere, the silken nasturtium left an imprint of its juices at the back of my mind as a butterfly would leave its powder on my fingers if I did not take great care not to touch its wings, knowing as I do that it would cripple it, dooming it to a ground-bound (yes, I know, but I like it better than earth-bound, for my own reasons) most likely short, life. At least, that I know: you’ll kill the butterfly if its magic powder is left on the flesh of your fingertips. The magic pollen. At least, that I know but I still don’t know what to do with my own flesh, more than a hundred and twenty pounds of it, flesh and sinews, the phrase in English is.
Let me ask: who, for God’s sake! first told me that I had a body? According to our family legend, a none-too-clever trainee doctor told my mother, a look of concern on his face, with crossed eyebrows: oh, your daughter is hydrocephalic, she is… That was before my formidable maternal grand-mother stormed into the room and scared the shit – of which apparently he had large buckets in his crammed brain-shell – out of him, giving him her skull, and maybe my grand-father’s too, to measure up with his tape-worm-like measuring tape, saying: we’re from north-eastern France, you twit, our heads would be big!
Don’t assume too much by that story: again, this is family myth, serving the purpose of defining our family as… As what? Let me give it another try: defining our family for whatever it was meant to define large-headed people from the north-east of France.
Well, it looks as if I’d just given, by way of a definition for my family and taking my late grandmother’s cue, something that conjures up the blank face of Dr Frankenstein’s monster as collective imagery has him. The monster’s scarred faced and, supposing Polichinelle wears Nike tracksuits, one of those as a body… To stamp as coat-of-arms on the family shield.
Am I getting anywhere?
Well, at least, I’m in motion.
Movement: is that how I became aware of my body? Wet moments, as, with a friend of mine, we told each other hot stories, whatever was hot for six- or seven-year-old school girls. Incidentally, if you come to that, Freud was probably the one who taught me that I had a body, when I read for the first time and in my early twenties that around seven, children enter the latency phase, leaving me wondering, with a groan to boot: oh, but I never experienced this latency phase, I must be a freak! Sexually latent my body never was. For as long as I can remember, it’s been longing for something. Hey, maybe that’s what it is all about, to be flesh and blood: the longing.
During their latency phase children are supposed to be free, or so I understood, from sexual urges and interests, for them to be better able to focus on learning. Maybe I didn’t get it right though. From six to eighteen I almost always came top of my class. So, was I a freak indeed, focusing hard on school subjects while still craving for whatever it was that was turning us on, as young as seven or eight, squeezing our crotches on the skating board we sat on, pressing and rocking and rolling while spinning our lewd tales of teeth-rowed mouthfuls of cucumber?
Is this taking us anywhere?
One hundred and twenty pounds of quivering flesh, my throbbing brain a dandelion on its tender stalk trying to keep an uncertain balance in the gusty whirling winds – gales, no zephyrs – of hunger.
Yes, a bit of unpleasantness there, as I don’t care to realise now that my budding body should have given me a break and that it hasn’t, really. Why not?
Well, now I know: I misunderstood Freud, my daughters are healthy gals and if latency phases they ever went through, they went notably unnoticed, quite the contrary! But at that time, in my late teens, I took everything I read for granted: in there, the musty-smelling or crisp-cover books, was truth.
Unpleasantness, discomfort, pain: now you’re talking sense, now we are on well-mapped territory: our bodies as sources of suffering. I’ve been super lucky so far: no major ailment, only small complaints that I’m not too bad at living with. Menstrual pain wasn’t the start of it: before that there’d been slapping and spanking from parents, tough human love, kicks and blows from siblings, falls from low walls, big bikes, speeding roller-blades… and as bashful as a virgin my body will still bruise at the lightest unguarded contact: with the intention of writing this I eased myself down before my computer, accidentally pushing my thigh against some lone iron bar under my desktop and I can feel the thrush-egg bruise forming, we’ll meet tonight when I undress…
To be continued.