May 27, 2011

Last few days unable to stop reading Yvonne Rainer's Feelings are Facts: a Life. SY had already discussed her inability to stop reading it with me a few years ago. Then DB handed it to me to read. I felt as if he was assigning me work, I was to return it to the library, but I took it. Then began the last few days in which I do things like drop child off at babysitter early so I can read more. And wake up at 2 am and say to self, I can go back to sleep or I can get up and read Feelings are Facts and decide to get up and read. Unable to describe to others why I can't stop reading it. Something to do with the stuff about the body in the book? And something to do with her relentless examination of the back and forth between ambition and abjection? It all culminates in the list "Shameful Conditions and Occurences" (on p. 436-7). SY had already talked to me about this list before and she mentioned it again the other night. It begins "To live alone. / To arrive at a social gathering alone. / To go outside in clothing not suited to the weather." ... Then there is this "The dispirited humor of the above inventory probably originated in the dissolution of a relationship with 'my last man' around 1980 and the beginning of ten years of celibacy." p. 437 At the end, I am disappointed. By the turn to poetry. By the poetry.

Legs, along with breasts, hair, and buttocks, are parts of the female anatomy that continue to be fetishized by mass culture despite years of feminist resistance and struggle. For me, aging and illness have been sure-fire catalysts, enabling me to jettison whatever internalizing process gave me grief in my younger days around my physical attributes. Now with one breast gone and the other shrunk, my hair shorn to one-inch spikiness, and legs sheathed in trousers, I can walk the streets in dignity. Being addressed as "Sir" is a minor inconvenience. But it was not only aging and breast cancer that hastened such change in consciousness and appearance. Beginning in the early 1980s my association with lesbian friends and culture led inexorably to a weaning from the vanities and bodily obsessions I had absorbed from the worlds of dance and heterosexual social imperatives. p. 162

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