—From EF—

I would like to have a t-shirt that says “feral.” I realize I would be proud to wear it, and this is new. The thought came to me during what I like to call my pre-dawn crepuscular time. (I love that word.) I don’t know what triggered it, maybe thinking about Order vs Chaos, and how to honor and empower both. I have been having one helluva time attacking the chaos of my desk, a palimpsest (another word I love) of receipts and unfiled invoices and a terrifying collection of who-knows-what. It has become an existential hangnail.

Recently I read something online that rang a bell. It had to do with erasing the scars made by shaming, how they distort aspects that might actually be valuable, lovable, or both. I have read many a piece that advises “learn to love yourself,” and muttered right, sure, yeah. This was different: something clicked, and I started deliberately recalling the most scalding shamings I could remember. Wow. The worst of them were all inflicted by my mother, and a great many of them had to do with my body. All of them concern aspects of me that by now are things I respect, admire, and for which I can admit pride. And every one of them is part of my feral self.

When I was a little kid I was strong, athletic, and happy in my body. The era of glasses, braces and ugly orthotic shoes was yet to come. I was always barefoot when possible, had unruly hair that grew long and loose, and I rambled far and wide in the hills, fields, and woodlands close to our house. I loved to convince myself that the little woodland pond with a moss-covered fallen log was a magic place that only I knew about: it was my secret. Often I escaped the anger and rigor that filled the daytime household to flee to the comfort of the little apple tree that was my refuge. There I could whisper to the little jewel-like tree frog that hid in its hollow core, feel the embrace of its sturdy branches and be safe. I knew all the nearby plants, and carefully gathered and kept their seeds in treasure troves.

I read this and think, Wow, I would have loved to be that kid. And then I remember. I was. Then my eyes were wrong and I needed glasses. My teeth were wrong and I got braces. My feet were flat, and I narrowly escaped the plans to have them broken and put in casts. (Eventually the barefoot years produced lovely arches.) My strong muscles produced a nice round butt, and I had to wear a girdle. My strong legs didn’t have slender ankles. My dad worked in the meat industry and loved my appetite for raw beef, which he indulged, but I think that might have brought on the shame of “bad breath.” Well, yes, I was a carnivore.

But the worst, longest-lasting shame was that I learned very early the path to pleasure. I was orgasmic at age five. It was my solace, my comfort, and I was told it was something scummy and awful, and nobody decent touched themselves. I had a tonsillectomy at age twelve, and the docs had to grapple with a sudden tiger and hold me down. (I’d heard that all secrets would be disclosed under anesthesia.) I carried this nasty secret for all my childhood and adolescence, and it played hell with my later sex life. Betty Dodson, bless her soul, gave workshops in female self-pleasure, and eventually I attended one. At moments I was sure I couldn’t get through this, my psyche would self-combust and I would blow away in flames, but it changed my life.

I want to hug that little girl and say, yes, you’re beautiful. Talk to the earth, roam the hills barefoot, climb the apple tree, revel in pleasure, love the beautiful chaos of a bowl of pebbles, acorns, and seashells. Go ahead, take time to be alone, let your mind roam free.

I’m blessed. I have a mate who saw me sixty-three years ago and said, “I want her. She scares the shit out of me.” He has ridden my highs and lows and silences and explosions and has often written them into things I can share on stage. It’s time I look back and love what made him say, “I want her.”  


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