Friday, March 14, 2008

eat your lipstick

Yesterday, I taught Madame Bovary to a bunch of my lovely students at RISD. It's a book I read every year, a book I love, but never taught because I love it. I feel very possessive about certain books, but that's old age for you: I'll pimp out my books now. In any case, I'd been exhausted all week and had a shitty day on Wednesday so I was kind of dreading teaching a three-hour seminar about my favorite book. But things actually went alright, and I credit my lipstick.

Because I was feeling shitty, I decided to put on a bunch of my favorite things on my body for the Thursday seminar. Here is what I wore:

-My current favorite T-shirt: Echo & the Bunnymen (pink Bodoni lettering!) so old that the black has been re-named grey, seams are rolling off, and so soft you can call it Charmin and wipe your butt with it;

-Acne Hep jeans in "Raw": dark indigo that leaves blue stains everywhere, skintight but not peg-legged: very off-duty Bettie Page;

-More on the 50s pin-up-Rockabilly tip: vintage black women's cardigan with jet beading.

...and lathered on the lips of my open mouth that was spewing theory ( "erotics and epistemology of shopping...feminine materialism....structure of tabloid discourse...") like black ink vomit of Emma Bovary herself, was... favorite red lipstick: Shu Uemura RD 134--the champion of all red lipsticks, with just the right balance of red and orange with no pink in it, for that perfect Stop-sign red.

These things I put on my body were not pre-made talismans for me--it's not like I won the lottery or found the love of my life in them--in fact, I don't even remember when I last wore the shirt or the sweater. But wearing them let me come into the skin of my dreams: it's femme realness in the daytime. So I'm not a MTF tranny; I'm still a girl, despite my penis. The clothes had no meaning before Thursday except that I loved them for being themselves: now they have a narrative, which I'll forget eventually, too...(probably too soon!)

Men use symbols, and women create them. And they create them every day. That's kind of what this blog is about. The only thing I wore on Thursday that was iconic was the red lipstick. But I didn't feel like I was citing big red-mouthed dames of the past or nostalgic chicks of the present. Coupling my Shu lipstick with my old tee, and using it as the poster-paint for my lecture on Madame Bovary, I hope I'm giving a different life to the red lipstick that builds upon all that is empowering about red lipstick, and shiftingshakingmixing all that is regressive about red lipstick.

So yeah, I'm a femme fag, but as someone whose male homosexuality was crystalized at age 12 not by any boy-neighbor or pirated gay porn but a ragged copy of Alice Walker's The Color Purple, I'm a feminist (and to me, in America, feminism is black feminism), and that means my femininity has to do with everything that is "fluffy" and rigorous and rebellious about women.

Like Emma Bovary, I was a "wife," for nearly ten years (cue my friends: "Gawwwd please don't talk about him again!"). There were many problems with our marriage/ domestic partnership, but one thing I'll say for my ex-husband: he helped me become the girl I am today. Being with him, his loving me in that particular way, with all my woman's insanity, let me shed all the "expected" male trappings that I felt I had to perform as a fag. With him, I grew my hair long, wore Mod-Siouxsie eyeliner to go teach, learned to love lipstick for everyday use. But when we divorced, and I was single again, I cut my hair: I felt like I was at a loss. Yeah, I lost my man but also I lost my sense of femme self. I thought: Shit, if I'm to get another boyfriend, I have to become more "boy" for who else but **** would put up with my femme shit?

Who cares? But to come back to my femme feminist faggotry has been a bit of a detour. Besides waiting for the hair to grow (I missed it instantly; My mother put the braid in a ziploc bag which creepily began to steam up like a hothouse plant) I had to figure out how to be a femme on my own. My ex and I always felt a bit lesbianic because we were basically a male butch-femme couple, but now I had to figure out how I was gonna be femme without hanging on the butch's arm. And I found it's quite fun. And a little bit of an archaelological project. Because most fags' relationship to femininity is so appropriating and campy and..."performancy" I felt like I wanted to start compiling stuff to put under this f-f-f heading, so I can have a language, a syntax of my body at least. (But I hope I'm not the only one out there!)

So: lipstick eating: to be a femme feminist fag isn't simply about wearing the lipstick, it's about ingesting it, taking it into your organs and fibers. It's to be a boy who makes girliness but also incorporates that into his creative process of daily living. It's not enough that you make dresses or make-up or other "things" for or about girls: the feminine and feminism has to inform how you create, and thus think, live, feel.

The first time I ate rabbit, off a beautiful plate with beautiful wine at a fancy restaurant in San Francisco, I felt a weird kind of love. I thought I'd get grossed out because bunnies were my favorite animals as a kid. But there's a way in which ingesting bunny, I was putting the bunny into my blood, flesh, bones. So that's why I'm gonna go chow down on some disopropyl dimer dilinoleate, hydrogenated polyisobutene, polyglyceryl-2, diisostearate, polyethylene, octyldodecanol, bis-diglyceryl polyacyladipate-2, squalane, simmondisa chinesis, jojba seed oil, ozokerite, butyrospermum parkii, shea butter, vp/hexadecene copolyner, ectoin, 2-oleamido-1, 3-octadecanediol, disteardimonium hectorite, calcium aluminum borosilicate, calcium sodium borosilicate, methicone, propylene carbonate, bht, isopropylparaben, isobutylparaben, butylparaben, benzyl benzoate, limonene, citronellol, germoniol, linalool, benzyl alcohol, and fragrance.


mairead said...

Bundles of congratulations on the new baby, Joony. Glad *you've* got your
layette anyway. Or is it a trousseau???

Brandon said...

loooooovvee it joonny poo

KK said...

What a fabulous Welcome to the World post! Congrats and much love. Can't wait to read more.