girls talking about boys talking about girls

 

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Well what colour are his eyes?
I don’t know he’s always wearing shades
Is he tall?
Well, I’ve got to look up.
Yeah? Well I hear he’s bad.
mm, he’s good bad, but he’s not evil.

i remember the first time i listened to the shangri-las, in the car with madz. that seemingly nonsensical statement “good bad, but not evil” resonating with both of us as we daydreamed about the good-bad boys we’d known.

when i first became friends with maddy, i was in a very, very long term relationship. the kind where you imagine your futures together and become a “we” instead of an “i”. this had been especially true for me, as i had been so wrapped up in my love for this boy that slowly, without noticing, i’d been erasing parts of myself that were all my own. i stopped writing, at some point. i never really noticed until i’d started again. maddy scooped me out of the comfortable little hole i had created for myself, and i can never thank her enough for it. for the first time in years, someone wanted to know me as an individual, and i was scared when i realised how little there was left of her, of me. that relationship ended and even though it was beyond painful , i still consider myself so lucky to have had a love that was so good and so strong.

it’s been a while now, and the three of us single gals started to spend a lot of time talking and thinking and dreaming about boys. men, really, but i think it speaks to the idealism and the nostalgia that was really driving us that we never said so. it was always about boys. boys who would be exciting but never mean. boys who would make us feel interesting and interested and care about the dumb things we cared about. i think having a friendship like ours means that once we voice our feelings about something and share them with each other, they grow. we feed each others thoughts and emotions till they become bigger than we expected. sometimes, this is like a superpower. when we pool our creativity it turns into something magical, something good. but with this, it became something a little toxic.

thinking about boy gave us something to look forward to. it meant more nights curling up and watching rom coms, more nights out dancing hoping to catch someone’s eye. for me, i thought it was the natural next step, it meant i was moving on. but the time i spent thinking about boys was time i spent once again neglecting myself. i was a teenager, still in school when my ex-boyfriend and i got together. i had never spent time alone with myself, the adult woman, and focusing my time and energy on crushes with my friends meant i wouldn’t have to. despite all the great things we’ve all been achieving the only achievement that mattered to us was finding The Boy.

one by one, we each began to feel the toll of this. i think the key thing we all realised, or that i certainly did, was that once i had found the elusive Boy, i had no idea what i wanted to do with him. when i gave myself the space to think about it, i knew i wasn’t at all ready to be a “we” again. so what was i even looking for? in so many ways my life is better than it has ever been. unlike when i was a kid, i no longer live in fear. i am surrounded by people who i love, and people who love me back in a beautiful, uncomplicated way. there’s no pain in these relationships. but in other ways, i feel like i’m drowning. i feel too loud in my own brain, like i don’t have enough creative output, i feel too smart or not smart enough, pretty but in a fuckable not loveable kinda way. finding The Boy was a way of deflecting the attention from all the parts of myself i wasn’t ready to deal with, and also hoping to find someone who would make them all seem okay.

realising what this was doing to us has meant that our conversations are once again interesting, dynamic and varied. it’s meant that madz is writing some of her best poetry i’ve ever read, and charlie is creating beautiful art and beautiful food just because she can. for me it’s meant learning how to make music and sounds, learning to put pen to paper without tearing up whatever i come up with.

there are still boys. they still make me feel fluttery in my stomach and we talk about that sometimes. but i approach them as aayushi, a person i think i’m happy to know.

all my love,

aayushi

speechless, embodied, hysterical

 

i find myself in

small cracks and

big silences

im filling them as best as

i can.

 

i’m sitting in my room listening to girlpool. my bed is warm and alfie my cat is curled up in my arms making it even warmer. i lit a candle earlier but the scent wasn’t as strong as i had hoped. everything just smells burnt.

i want to talk about hysteria. it’s a word that’s used less and less. occasionally we hear about “mass hysteria” surrounding particular fads, a sports team. we know it means to be wild, irrational, loud, beyond control. but the root of the word is located somewhere very specific. somewhere physical, even. hysteria comes from the greek word “hystera” for uterus. and so hysteria began its life as a freudian diagnosis for the irrational emotionality of women. when women suffered from illness, whether physical or mental, that could not be explained, it was chalked up to that most mysterious of body parts, the womb. they figured that the uterus could move around the body wreaking havoc. uteruses have the unique distinction of being historical scapegoats of sorts.

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of course, this concept of hysteria hugely is sexist, it’s also outdated. the term is for the most part out of use, both medically and colloquially. but it’s important to me. i think maybe it’s the most important word in my world and i want to talk about how my relationship with this word has shaped my relationship with myself, with my body and my femininity.

in 1881, bertha pappenheim (better known under the pseudonym of anna o.) was sent against her will to the inzersdorf sanitarium for treatment for hysteria. anna o would go on to become the poster child for psychoanalysis, her case the most famous of all. she suffered from hallucinations, partial paralysis, anorexia and at times lost the ability to speak.

but bertha was also highly intelligent. when she did speak, she spoke of “profoundly melancholy fantasies…sometimes characterized by poetic beauty”. we know the pathology of hysteria is false. so what was happening to her? as medical science improved and doctors were forced to abandon the “wandering womb” theory, since the uterus was obviously fixed in place, they decided that the uterus must emit some kind of vapour. uterine vapour was deemed the cause of most if not all female ailments.

i know that these ideas are dangerous and worrying. but as i read about bertha i felt a strange connectedness to this woman whose pain refused to be easily pathologised. i knew it didn’t make sense. hysteria has been used as a historical tool for oppression. and yet, sometimes i felt so crazy. i still do. sometimes i feel beyond words. despite all i knew about it, i couldn’t help but feel that behind the dismissiveness of the hysterical diagnosis, there was also a sense of fear, of mystery. throughout history there has been a fascination with the kind of secret power that may be held in the womb. i felt that power maybe existed within me.

 

when i was seventeen i went to a lecture performance called she’s lost control by the all girl art collective hissy fit. they talked about hysteria, the disease i shamefully associated myself with sometimes. but they didn’t talk much about 19th century doctors and women shut up in asylums. instead, they talked about rock stars. they talked about the “hysterical performance” of female musicians like kathleen hanna. they way that she would bare her emotions, defiant and feminine and radical. for the first time, i felt the power of hysteria as something uniquely womanly, as something worth being reclaimed.

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i started reading, then. quickly, i discovered helene cixous. cixous was a french feminist philosopher who wrote extensively about the radical power of hysteria. she put forward the idea that the female experience could not be expressed through “rational” language which is inherently masculine. thus, the hysterical woman seeks to break free of the bounds of male rationality in order to better access herself. she implored women to “write their bodies”. armed with the words of women like helene cixous, luce irrigay and avital ronnell who described hysteria as “an inherently revolutionary power…” i felt myself start to change.

i no longer feel the need to apologise for my emotions. if i’m crying it’s not because i’m weak, but because i am not afraid to cry. i don’t see male disdain for female emotions as power, i see it as fear. i write the way i want to write. my language isn’t “flowery”, it’s true to my experience. i experiment with       the          s     p     a    c    e    s     because sometimes that’s the truest thing i know.

i’m sitting in the library now, girlpool echoing in my ears. i am surging w emotion as i finish writing about the word that has hurt me, taunted me, inspired me and remade me. i don’t know exactly what i’m feeling, but i relish it all the same.

 

i’m 

growing fleshier growing

dirtier

growing.

 

with so much love and admiration,

aayushi

 

reading and reigniting: Chris Kraus’ ‘I Love Dick’ (1997)

the first time i speak confidently about my feelings for Chris Kraus’ I Love Dick, i’m standing at the front of a crowded room. i’m in my second year at uni. this week, everyone’s meant to do a talk on an “innovator” in their field – i.e. i’ve just sat down and watched people talk about the guy that wrote Game of Thrones for thirty minutes – one guy even thought it was a good idea to present on Dan fucking Brown? anyway, after a load of that, i stand up, shove my USB stick into the computer, and pull up my opening slide. this is all it says:

i love dick

the room erupts into laughter. we’re uni students now but i guess the word ‘dick’ is still funny for people who think Dan Brown is any good. i smile politely until the laughter subsides before launching into how important this book really is. the room sits quietly, trying to keep up as i talk my tongue off. once i’m finished, i ask if anyone has any questions – there aren’t any. i’ve startled the Game of Thrones fans into silence and i’m pleased with myself.

i read I Love Dick for the first time in 2013, after seeing Tavi Gevinson speak about it like a shrine at the Melbourne Writer’s Festival. it’s been three years since then and this book still sits on its rightful pedestal amongst every other piece of writing i’ve ever read. the book is an almost-novel, almost memoir (but not entirely, it definitely sticks out somewhere in the middle). the text revolves around a woman named Chris, obsessed with an art critic named Dick: operating as a series of letters from Chris, to Dick, she debriefs her ideas and her obsessions. eventually, this infatuation ends up in rejection, but Chris strives off what she gets out of Dick’s dismissal – instead of falling flat, Chris realises that Dick has been nothing but a surface for her this entire time. her one-sided relationship didn’t require Dick to respond, ever – really, he was just a surface for her to project her art and ideas onto; he worked like a platform for her to find her art again. Dick’s lack of a voice allows Chris to regather her own: to reignite her passion and project it into something.

knowing that Chris’ obsession ends in rejection doesn’t spoil this book – it’s not the relationship between Chris and Dick that makes it what it is. the book isn’t even about her relationship with Dick, it’s about Chris’ relationship with herself – Dick’s dismissal doesn’t spoil how she perceives herself; it fires her up, keeps her going, pushes her harder. as a girl stuck at the beginning of her early twenties, constantly riddled with self-doubt and fiddling with her passions too much, the sound of Chris’ voice in I Love Dick was, and always will be, completely inspiring to me. this book keeps me going when i hit a road block – it taught me how to find my platform; the right way to rip away my privacy for the sake of self-expression.

I Love Dick: i can’t give you a star rating, since you’re the book that’s changed the way i’ve perceived the world for the last three years. but i love you, so let’s hope whoever’s reading this just takes my word for it. read I Love Dick. read it now, tomorrow, next week, this month. read it when you’re done with this. it’s inspiring, igniting, and manages to scare away any Game of Thrones fans (or any other equally immature boys in the wrong degree), through the title alone. what more do you need?

 

all my love,

maddy