Expectations Vs. Reality (An Essay from 2015)

 

This is a new series that I am doing where I find old essays I wrote for college, and I am republishing them here. Some of the compositions are rough, some of them are random, but I thought this would be a fun place to publish some edited versions of these old English papers. I hope you enjoy them!

Expectations vs. Reality

The Cinematic vixen ( Marilyn Monroe) and The Hottentot Venus (Saarrtjie Baartman), both women, were sexualized and fetishized before they could even open their mouths. Saarrtjie Baartman is a woman molded and made into a spectacle because of her black skin, her body on display for the masses. Marilyn Monroe is a woman made by the men of Hollywood studio system, they changed her name (Norma Jean) her “look” (i.e., clothing, hair color) and made her into every man’s fantasy. Poets, Jackie Kay and Sharon Olds poems play with society’s expectation of the sexualized female’s physical body and image; and how society reacts to the reality of these women’s humanity.

In Jackie Kay’s poem, Hottentot Venus the men’s sexualization of her body is menacing, “You can see the moulds of my genitals as the Musee de l’Homme—Paris; the rest of me is here now, Natural History Museum, my brains, my wooly hair, my skeleton.” (Kay 2.1490) The men take pieces of her, break her apart and ship her to different corners of the world; Her identity solely based on how they want to perceive her. “Not so long ago people paid handsomely to see my rump, my apron, my non-European genitals. Two Schillings.”(Kay 2.1490) Kay is showing how this woman is seen only as this exhibit, a thing, a body, that they own and pay for so they can poke and prod. Kay depicts that she is more than that, that she wants more “I said the English words I’d heard them say so often. Money. Freedom. My Boer keeper smiled.” (Kay 2.1490) Its heartbreaking this poem, she wants out, but her lack of mastery over the language of her oppressor is taken advantage of like she and her and her body are held captive. The expectations of a sexualized female’s body in Sharon Olds poem The Death of Marilyn Monroe are based on what’s not said. She was no longer a seen as a normal woman at the height of her fame but became a sex icon. What Olds does in her poem is to take all those preconceived notions and images the reader has seen of Monroe, the idolized figure, and turns them on their heads. The men in the poem represent society’s view “The ambulance men touched her cold body, lifted it, heavy as iron,”(Olds 2.1279) When the men touch her, and the reality of the situation hits them, Olds portrays Monroe’s body as the opposite of sexy. It’s dead, heavy, and burdensome. One of the ambulance men moves her hair out of the way; “Moved a caught strand of hair, as if it mattered,” (Olds 2.1279). He is still clinging to the image of her in his head like if he moves that hair back in place, she will become that icon again, that fantasy. The authors of these poems show that the expectations the men held do not quite fit with the reality that they are faced with.

The image vs. reality. What society puts out for the world to see despite what is there, is something both authors, Kay and Olds decide to play with within their poems. “Let them view the buttocks of the Hottentot Venus. My heart inside my cage pounded like a single drum.” (Kay 2.1491) Kay uses the dichotomy of the Hottentot Venus’ image and the reality of the woman, Baartman behind it, who is scared and nervous of the hoards of men waiting to get a piece of her. All while, still reminding the readers of why the men are there, to exoticize her blackness, Kay pushes this imagery by saying her heart ‘pounded like a single drum.’ In Olds poem, the image of Marilyn Monroe is like a ghost that haunts the text. “These men were never the same.” (Olds 2.1279) The men within the poem are dealing with the way they viewed her before and the reality of what she really was. The old adage “Never meet your heroes” always comes to mind, they are disillusioned by her death disturbed even that she, the woman of every man’s dreams, can also die, and that she wasn’t perfect. That in fact, she was an ordinary woman.

Expectations are funny, they have a way of always leading to disappointment, whether it be disappointment in the crushing truth of said expectation as it was in Olds poem The Death of Marilyn Monroe or the disappointment of when your expectations become a reality like in Jackie Kay’s Hottentot Venus. In Olds poem, they’re broken by the idea that she was in fact human. Just a normal flawed woman. “Their lives took a turn—one had nightmares, strange pains, impotence, depression.” (Olds 2.1279) Seeing her dead body was something that physically wrecked them. The change in so radically different from what they envisioned, rocks them to their very core to the point where they are physically affected. Olds humanizes her by showing her in this vulnerable state. Her previous iconography no longer something important, death makes her like every woman these men know. “One found himself standing at night in the doorway, to a room of sleep, listening to a woman breathing, just an ordinary woman—breathing.” (Olds 2.1279) The sudden awareness of the humanity in women, the fact that Olds is showing an awakening to these men’s psyche’s that maybe there was more to Marilyn than sex. In Hottentot Venus, that realization never comes for the men depicted. They reject any notion that she is any more than what they need her for. “Some things I will never forget no matter how I am divided up: the look on the white lady’s face when she poked her parasol into my privates.” (Kay 2.1490) There is no hesitation to violate her, the white lady sees no problem with her actions whatsoever, the poem goes on; “Her gloved hands. Her small stone eyes. Her English squeal of surprise at my size.”(Kay 2.1490) She lets out a “squeal”, the image of the word “squeal” provokes the thought of delight and astonishment, the White lady takes pleasure in what she is doing. Baartman isn’t ever seen as a woman in this poem. Or even as a human being by the people that come to view her. She is treated worse than an animal, her humanity rejected and treated as if it never existed. Kay, the author, lets the audience see the real her she gives Baartman a voice in which we can see her as she really is. “I was wearing a thin skin coloured dress. Hottentot Venus. Don’t miss the Hottentot. Now, what name have I got? Sarah Bateman. Like a English woman. A great actress.” (Kay 2.1491)

In both poems Hottentot Venus by Jackie Kay and The Death of Marilyn Monroe by Sharon Olds the authors play with society’s expectation of the sexualized female’s physical body, and image; and the reaction of society to these women’s real humanity. In the case of Olds, she takes the death of a sex icon and ignites life to her humanity within the men that handle her remains. While Kay shows the humanity of Baartman through the inhumane things that she is put through. Both women depicted in these poems are fetishized and are seen as nothing more than what their bodies have to offer. But the authors gave them back their humanity with their words.

I Probably Need To Want Something Else…

I’m in pain but I am afraid to text the one friend who gets it cause I always text her about it. The emotional labor I constantly ask for has been building as my pain gets worst. So I don’t text her.

I want to ask my partner to make me something to eat cause it hurts to move but I know he has to watch the store, and he works full time. I don’t want to burden him more with my illness.

I want to post on twitter that this is the worst pain I’ve ever been in and that I don’t think I can take it. But I don’t want to be that girl that constantly whines on the internet about her chronic illness.

It’s not a good look.

I spend 21 hours a day alone in my room. I don’t see anyone, or talk to anyone. It could go like this for weeks, and sometimes it does.

The only human interaction I get is right before my partner and I go to bed.  We talk a little and then he has to sleep cause he has work in the morning.

I spend most of my day on my phone looking for a distraction from the pain. Or reading a book if the screen is too bright that day.

No one told me being sick was so lonely.  No one brought up that I would have to watch other people live their lives from a cell phone screen.

They never talk about it.

I feel like as the years go by and the more disabled and cut off from the world I become I just start to feel helpless.

I haven’t had sex in over a month. My partner is too tired. He’s gotten off in that time tho. even if I am in pain I still try to keep him “satisfied”. But I have to go on wanting. The only time I’m not in pain or aware of the shittiness that is my body is when I am having sex. Something to do with chemicals and adrenaline and science. For how ever long it lasts I get relief, and to feel like I am wanted.

Why is it ok for me to go on wanting?

I wish he could help me cope with my illness. I want there to be more hours in a day so we could spend time together.

I guess I want a lot of things. I want the pain to stop, I want my short term memory/memory to come back, I want to be able to walk without pain, I want to run my business, I want to not be jealous of all the people on my social media feeds. I want my partner to help take care of me more, and share the burden of my illness. I want to be more independent, I wish my surgery was successful.

I want to be able to say all these things and not feel like a burden.

There’s so much more I want to say, but to talk about my illness and symptoms would be to talk forever. There is literally no end to how each disease affects each individual part of my body.

I am an amalgamation of wants and wishes can’t be properly voiced.

Where Have I Been?

I am exhausted, overweight, and in so much pain I can’t see straight (that last part might be because of my rising blood pressure tho).

I haven’t written anything on this blog in months. This was supposed to be the place where I would air my brain out and let it roam free with fanciful tales, and fun like thoughts about my daily, whatever.  Instead, it has been dead for awhile now, for that I apologize. I have yet to master the art of time management, and with my short term memory loss, it’s almost impossible to do anything unless I write it down.

I need to buy a planner. If I can remember too.

I started two new podcasts. One where I review books called The Black Bibliophile and another where I just talk about random stuff called Babbling Into The Void. I’ll leave links on the site. Both are really fun to do I just need to come up with a better schedule cause this week I fucked up and forgot to record.

I really should go get that damn planner.

So I am writing now. In about a week I’ll be going to San Diego Comic-Con and will be participating in two panels. One, I co-created and the other I was invited to a part of. It’s pretty exciting because just a year ago I was attending this con as a fan and now I am going as a professional. Not only will I be on panels but I will be covering SDCC for Women Write About Comics too. It’s going to be really hectic. Not to mention making sure the shop is set up before we go. But I am also very excited.

Speaking of the shop, Visionary Comics is doing well. We are business-ing as usual and trying to plan more events. It’s hard when it’s just the two of us. Nestor has the full-time job and I am chronically Ill so most of the time I feel like crap. So we are pushing through to try and make the shop more successful. We have some things coming up we are really excited about. They are building this retail store front right in front of our business. So that sucks, we wanted to move but Realtors in Riverside are difficult. So now with this new towering building looming over us, it’s a constant reminder that we really need to find a new home for the store.

I think I will try and put up a new blog piece to this site once a week. So look out for that. I might even throw something new up here this week just for shits and gigs. Okay, I should go I have spent way too much time as it is on this site when I should really be doing more store stuff.

Later.

Jaz

 

 

 

Standing Up, For Yourself

I am standing in my store because it is physically too painful to sit. I have 5 herniated disks in my spine and one of my disks is pushing on a nerve that goes down from my butt to my right and left legs. The best way to describe the pain is, imagine the most painful charlie horse you’ve ever had, now imagine that no matter what you do it won’t stop cramping. This goes on for weeks and only gets worse. It’s a literal pain in the ass.

The pain is so bad that I can’t write any fiction. I can’t build worlds because the pain is all I can think about. I am falling behind in all of my duties because my leg constantly feels like it is being chainsawed off.  I go to doctors, they give me pills and stretches, and a recommendation for physical therapy.  I have had this back problem for 7 years. If pills and stretches were going to help I feel like they would have already.

My fiance and I went to see John Wick 2 this past weekend, I love Keanu Reeves, I’ve seen every movie he’s made and the John Wick series is by far my favorite. Sitting down for five minutes is absolute agony. That movie is around 2 hours long and the only way I could get through it was on a cocktail of muscle relaxers and pain killers.  I don’t want to be high all the time. I want to find a way to deal with the pain without medication. But at this point all of my doctors keep pushing medication at the problem and aren’t in any way concerned about fixing the issue. Like they say, there isn’t any money in a cure.

I’ve done injections, physical therapy, yoga, pilates, herbal remedies, acupuncture, and everything else under the sun and nothing helps. I was finally after years of being told I was too young reffered to a surgeon only to be pushed back into the physical therapy/ injections loop. It’s inferiating to be told what my body needs. I have no agency when I walk into the doctors office. I am told what I feel, how I feel it, and that I am basically being dramatic. Even though my X-Rays, MRI’s, and CT Scans say the problem is gradually getting worse and preventative measures are no longer working. But when I bring this up it is just me “not giving the system a chance”. The system has fucked me for my whole life. I have had to fight for every diagnosis, and every bit of mediocre care I have received.

But instead of you know, listening to me, the patient. I am stuck at 25 using mobility aids such as a cane and wheelchair, and in constant intense pain.  This last ER trip I was in the emergency room for 3 hours crying uncontrollably because of the pain. Only to be taken back and be told I should try losing weight ( I had lost 60 pounds prevoiously and immediately dislocated my spine, proving that the fat was possibly holding my back together. Like some kind of burrito fueled glue.) , I should try injections, this told me that the doctor didn’t read my chart but then began to treat me as if I was a drug addict. Like me wanting some kind of relief from the intense pain was a crime. I had to prove to him, in-between tearful gasps, that I  was an upstanding business owning citizen. To make him feel better about easing my pain. In what fucking world does a patient have to convince a “doctor” to do their damn job.

This is my life.

I now I have to schedule an appointment with my primary to be able to convince him to refer me to a neurosurgeon. I don’t understand why I have to negotiate with medical professionals to get help so I can live my life without being in an insane amount of pain. It’s absolutely ridiculous and completely exhausting.

 

Con Fatigue

Every time I go to any convention I know, I will physically pay for every conversation I have and every booth I visit. That’s the price when it comes to my disability. This latest Con, the Long Beach Comics Expo was a special one because we were able to participate in our first panel, but it is going to go down in my memory as the Con I didn’t use my wheelchair.

I am a part time wheelchair user. Now I know when some people hear “part-time” it brings up thoughts like; “If she only needs it part-time why does she use it at all?” or “She must be lazy.” I get this a lot as a person with an invisible illness, and as someone who needs mobility aids part-time. There is a stigma for guys like me who can walk short distances but do need the help of a wheelchair or cane, or any other device when moving about for extended periods of time.

Now with that said, at Long Beach Comic Expo I was unable to bring my current wheelchair because I had outgrown it. That’s just a fancy way of saying I got fat and couldn’t  squeeze into the chair, and can’t really afford a new one. So I decided I would just take my cane and make it work.

I was in so much pain that I couldn’t really think straight most of the time. I had to lean on my fiance, on random booths, and at one point I was slowly hunching forward, subconsciously trying to get some weight off of my back and legs, to alleviate the pain. I looked like Zorak from Space Ghost, using my hands to balance all my weight onto my collapsible cane.

The Convention was fantastic, the people I met were smart, fun, engaging, and I learned so much from the panel experience I had.  But my takeaway was the fact that there was literally nowhere to sit in the exhibition hall. Not a chair or a rest area for disabled people or older people, or just people who need a break from running booth to booth. Every spot to sit was either outside ( it was raining a lot of the time this weekend), the lobby entrance area of the Convention Center, or if you found a well-situated planter out front.

With every convention, I go to I am constantly reminded of how non-inclusive the experience is when it comes to disability. There are no rest points or well-placed signs for elevators,  and no quiet spaces for people who suffer from sensory overload. Now I was lucky enough to know individuals in artist alley who let me sit at their booth to rest. But it’s not entirely fair for those who don’t have that privilege.

Now I’ve heard arguments against this topic that go like “Then maybe you shouldn’t go to Conventions.” I shouldn’t have to forgo the things I love to do because of my disability and the organization’s inability to accommodate me. I think it is in the best interest of any major event to be as inclusive as possible. So whether or not I can fit my big ass into my wheelchair is irrelevant, because there should be suitable rest areas available to me.

It’s a topic that is always in the back of my mind when I enter any convention. It’s always a struggle when in 2017 it really shouldn’t be. But alas it is, and I am sitting here reaping the benefits of not having proper places to sit all weekend. My back is shot, I can’t walk, and I most likely will be spending part of my afternoon in the emergency waiting room.

This is the second time I have written about inaccessibility for disabled people at conventions (See SDCC article for BGN), and I will continue to share my experiences until I no longer have to.  Now with that, I need to lay down.