I agree, it’s a hot topic. But only one? Look around, there’s a wide range. Take my own, for instance.
I get up in the morning. My topic feels like hell. I sprinkle it with water, brush parts of it, rub it with towels, powder it, add lubricant. I dump in the fuel and away goes my topic, my topical topic, nearsighted topic, my topic with back problems, my badly-behaved topic, my vulgar topic, my outrageous topic, my aging topic, my topic that is out of the question and anyway still can’t spell, in its oversized coat and worn winter boots, scuttling along the sidewalk as if it were flesh and blood, hunting for what’s out there, an avocado, an alderman, an adjective, hungry as ever.
The basic Female Body comes with the following accessories: garter belt, panti-girdle, crinoline, camisole, bustle, brassiere, stomacher, chemise, virgin zone, spike heels, nose ring, veil, kid gloves, fish-net stockings, fichu, bandeau, Merry Widow, weepers, chokers, barrettes, bangles, beads, lorgnettes, feather boa, basic black, compact, Lycra stretch one-piece with modesty panel, designer peignoir, flannel nightie, lace teddy, bed, head.
The Female Body is made of transparent plastic and lights up when you plug it in. You press a button to illuminate the different systems. The Circulatory System is red, for the heart and arteries, purple for the veins; the Respiratory System is blue; the Lymphatic System is yellow ;the Digestive System is green, with liver and kidneys in aqua. The nerves are done in orange and the brain is pink. The skeleton, as you might expect, is white.
He said, I won’t have one of those things in the house. It gives a young girl a false notion of beauty, not to mention anatomy. If a real woman was built like that she’d fall on her face.
She said, If we don’t let her have one like all the other girls she’ll feel singled out. It’ll become an issue. She’ll long for one and she’ll long to turn into one. Repression breeds sublimation. You know that.
He said, It’s not just the pointy plastic tits, it’s the wardrobe. The wardrobes and the stupid male doll, what’s his name, the one with the underwear glued on.
She said, Better to get it over with when she’s young. He said, All right but don’t let me see it.
She came whizzing down the stairs, thrown like a dart. She was stark naked. Her hair had been chopped off, her head was turned back to front, she was missing some toes and she’d been tattooed all over her body with purple ink, in a scrollwork design. She hit a potted azalea, trembled there for a moment like a botched angel, and fell.
He said, I guess we’re safe.
The Female Body has many uses. It’s been used as a door-knocker, a bottle-opener, as a clock with a ticking belly, as something to hold up lampshades, as a nutcracker, just squeeze the brass legs together and out comes your nut. It bears torches, lifts victorious wreaths, grows copper wings and raises aloft a ring of neon stars; whole buildings rest on its marble heads.
It sells cars, beer, shaving lotion, cigarettes, hard liquor; it sells diet plans and diamonds, and desire in tiny crystal bottles. Is this the face that launched a thousand products? You bet it is, but don’t get any funny big ideas, honey, that smile is a dime a dozen.
It does not merely sell, it is sold. Money flows into this country or that country, files in, practically crawls in, suitful after suitful, lured by all those hairless pre-teen legs. Listen, you want to reduce the national debt, don’t you? Aren’t you patriotic? That’s the spirit. That’s my girl.
She’s a natural resource, a renewable one luckily, because those things wear out so quickly. They don’t make ‘em like they used to. Shoddy goods.
One and one equals another one. Pleasure in the female is not a requirement. Pair-bonding is stronger in geese. We’re not talking about love, we’re talking about biology. That’s how we all got here, daughter.
Snails do it differently. They’re hermaphrodites, and work in threes.
Each female body contains a female brain. Handy. Makes things work. Stick pins in it and you get amazing results. Old popular songs. Short circuits. Bad dreams.
Anyway: each of these brains has two halves. They’re joined together by a thick cord; neural pathways flow from one to the other, sparkles of electric information watching to and fro. Like light on waves. Like a conversation. How does a woman know? She listens. She listens in.
The male brain, now, that’s a different matter. Only a thin connection. Space over here, time over there, music and arithmetic in their own sealed compartments. The right brain doesn’t know what the left brain is doing. Good for aiming, though, for hitting the target when you pull the trigger. What’s the target? Who’s the target? Who cares? What matters is hitting it. That’s the male brain for you. Objective.
This is why men are so sad, why they feel so cut off, why they think of themselves as orphans cast adrift, footloose and stringless in the deep void. What void? she asks. What are you talking about? The void of the Univers,e he says, and she says Oh and looks out the window and tries to get a handle on it, but it’s no use, there’s too much going on, too many rustlings in the leaves, too many voices, so she says, Would you like a cheese sandwich, a piece of cake, a cup of tea? And he grinds his teeth because she doesn’t understand, and wanders off, not just alone but Alone, lot in the dark, lost in the skull, searching for the other half, the twin who could complete him.
Then it comes to him: he’s lost the Female Body! Look, it shines in the gloom, far ahead, a vision of wholeness, of ripeness, like a giant melon, like an apple, like a metaphor for breast in a bad sex novel; it shines like a balloon, like a foggy noon, a watery moon, shimmering in its egg of light.
Catch it. Put it in a pumpkin, in a high tower, in a compound, in a chamber, in a house, in a room. Quick, stick a leash on it, a lock, a chain, some pain, settle it down, so it can never get away from you again.
You want a physicist to speak at your funeral. You want the physicist to talk to your grieving family about the conservation of energy, so they will understand that your energy has not died. You want the physicist to remind your sobbing mother about the first law of thermodynamics; that no energy gets created in the universe, and none is destroyed. You want your mother to know that all your energy, every vibration, every Btu of heat, every wave of every particle that was her beloved child remains with her in this world. You want the physicist to tell your weeping father that amid energies of the cosmos, you gave as good as you got.
And at one point you’d hope that the physicist would step down from the pulpit and walk to your brokenhearted spouse there in the pew and tell him that all the photons that ever bounced off your face, all the particles whose paths were interrupted by your smile, by the touch of your hair, hundreds of trillions of particles, have raced off like children, their ways forever changed by you. And as your widow rocks in the arms of a loving family, may the physicist let her know that all the photons that bounced from you were gathered in the particle detectors that are her eyes, that those photons created within her constellations of electromagnetically charged neurons whose energy will go on forever.
And the physicist will remind the congregation of how much of all our energy is given off as heat. There may be a few fanning themselves with their programs as he says it. And he will tell them that the warmth that flowed through you in life is still here, still part of all that we are, even as we who mourn continue the heat of our own lives.
And you’ll want the physicist to explain to those who loved you that they need not have faith; indeed, they should not have faith. Let them know that they can measure, that scientists have measured precisely the conservation of energy and found it accurate, verifiable and consistent across space and time. You can hope your family will examine the evidence and satisfy themselves that the science is sound and that they’ll be comforted to know your energy’s still around. According to the law of the conservation of energy, not a bit of you is gone; you’re just less orderly. Amen.
I can’t remember which class I heard it but I once heard a presentation that was so jarring at first and eventually became one of the most romantic stories I was ever told and one of the reasons why I take great offense to people who believe science is without romance or spirituality.
If I remember correctly the presentation started off with, ”What’s the most important thing in human biology? The ocean.”
Quite a hook. The lecturer went on to explain that early life was of course aquatic and once multicellularism arose eukaryotic life started evolving systems that were more and more complex. However at every stage chemical transport was still largely dependent on saltwater bathing the cells of the organism at all times. Additionally seawater is slightly alkaline so it acts as a buffer that maintains protein in a way that pure water cannot.
So how did we move to land and how could Homo sapiens have appeared? The evolution of circulatory systems and blood. You see, blood serves the purposes that the saltwater did when it came to supporting cellular transport and stability. The beautiful and romantic thing the lecturer suggested is that we carry our evolutionary history wherever we go.
The blood in your veins is your body’s remembrance of the sea from which we all came.
In the warm months, I imagine Hades sitting in the underworld, peeling pomegranates and popping arils, waiting for his girl to return.
While he painted her back, Jean remembered the first time — in the cinema in Morrisburg — that they’d sat together in the dark. Avery had touched her nowhere but her wrist, where the small veins gather. She felt the pressure move along her arm, his fingertip still touching only an inch of her, and she decided. Later, in the bright foyer she was exposed, an invisible disarray; he had crawled a slow fuse under her clothes. And she knew for the first time that someone can wire your skin in a single evening, and that love arrives not by accumulating to a moment, like a drop of water focused on the tip of a branch — it is not the moment of bringing your whole life to another — but rather, it is everything you leave behind. At that moment.
It was as if, long ago, a part of him had broken off inside, and now finally, he recognized the dangerous fragment that had been floating in his system, causing him intermittent pain over the years. As if he could now say of that ache: “Ah. It was you.”